Here you'll find
Scott & Lancer in town. It's Scott's first visit to Trelissac after the events of "Mount Robillard".
New Places, Old Friends
For the past half hour or so, the fingers interlaced with Lancer's own had been gripping him so tight that he'd thought his hand must have lost all feeling already. Yet he had to bite back a wince when the grip tightened enough to cut circulation off for good. And here he'd been thinking that Scott might be beginning to unwind...
"What is it?"
The clone was breathing hard, lips pressed into a tight line. Lancer resisted the almost compelling urge to tear his hand away, gently grabbed Scott's wrist with his free hand and squeezed it a little. "Scott? What's wrong? Tell me!"
"The vehicles," Scott ground out, jerking his head upwards.
Lancer frowned, raising his gaze to meet the curling tentacles of a multi-level junction that crisscrossed around and above them. "What about them? Ordinary ground vehicles, Scott, there's noth--"
"They are above us," Scott interrupted tightly. "Lancer, can we go elsewhere?"
Traffic overhead... Lancer suddenly wanted to kick himself. A fighter pilot never, ever lets anyone above him, because that's where danger and threat and death comes from. Yet here they were, right next to a place where vehicles of different sizes and shapes were moving in a steady stream along multiple lanes, some of which rose several stories high above them. They could see glimpses of them, and even though the noise wasn't bad, it was there.
Scott had to be struggling against all his instincts and training to even be standing here right now. How could he overlook such a thing?
He wiggled his fingers to make sure they still belonged to him, and smiled reassuringly. "But of course, Scott. I'm so sorry, I didn't come to think c'mon, let's go this way. It's all right, they are just vans and such, like the Sprinter, or smaller. And maybe there even are some Martinez bikes like Corinn's and Vanya's Mustang, what do you think? No planes around there, the spaceport isn't quite next door, remember? We'll go over here..."
Lancer was babbling all right, but he managed to keep his voice and tone soothing enough to keep Scott from panicking completely. A tunnel provided temporary relief, and some time later they reached the spot he'd been headed for: a park, surrounded by buildings that shielded away the noise of traffic. Here only the sky was above them, looking slightly dusky blue and shedding a soft light on the masses of plants and many winding walks.
"Look, Scott," he said enthusiastically. "Isn't this beautiful?"
"Yes," Scott agreed with a deep sigh and looked around, then nodded. "Yes. This is good."
"Let's sit down over there." Lancer pointed towards a comfy-looking bench. "Come."
Some of the tension seeped away from Scott as the clone settled on the seat and at last loosened his death-grip of Lancer's hand.
"I am sorry," Scott said quietly. "I believe you, that we are not in any danger here, but..."
"No, don't apologize," Lancer put in and huddled a little closer. "I was thoughtless, really I was. We should've started a bit more cautiously. You're not used to all these multitudes of people around, all this hustle and bustle and traffic."
"I wanted to come here, did I not?" Scott insisted. "But I did not realize that it would be so big. And that everything looks so different from, uh, all the things next to it."
"It's all right," Lancer assured and wound an arm around Scott's waist. "And you've done wonderfully, you really have. Not your fault if you're overwhelmed."
Scott's arm gratefully snaked to hug Lancer's shoulders, and for a while they just sat there, pressing against each other Scott in search of familiarity and support, Lancer basking in the warmth of that wiry body that was relaxing at last. He smiled dreamily. This had always been one of his favorite spots in Trelissac, and back then he'd often come here to dream of sitting on the benches with his boyfriend. Only, back then he'd dreamed of Turner... The thought stung, very faintly, and Lancer rubbed his head on Scott's shoulder.
"Are you hungry?" he asked. Scott tilted his head in thought and nodded. "Right, then we'll go and find a place where we can have some lunch."
"Will there be lots of other people?" Scott sounded wary, and Lancer cringed.
Poor Scott, raised with hundreds of his identical twins and even now only used to seeing only the relatively limited number of different people around him. Used to the Robillard base and Plains Base, now in the city really for the first time. Every restaurant was bound to be brimming full around this time, and what Scott really needed now was some safe place where he could unwind and recover from the past hour's strain... An idea struck Lancer.
"I know! We'll go to Maurice. He'll have a place somewhere high up and indoors, where you'll feel comfortable. Come on!"
Radysson Estates, the huge office and residential building owned by the drag show magnate, wasn't far away, and after a moment's peaceful respite in the park Scott's composure held rather well during the short walk there. Lancer grinned to himself as he saw the entrance to the building, and the uniformed man guarding it. Maurice liked the personal touch everywhere, including a live concierge looking smart at his post. When the two young men approached the door, Lancer could see the guard perk up, and he had to fight hard to keep his face neutral.
"Rob?" the concierge gasped as soon as they were within hearing distance. "Rob, is that really you?"
"You still remember me, Pat!" Lancer was surprised but more than a little pleased. "Is Maurice available?"
"Always for you, I bet," the dark man grinned and winked fondly before turning to his comm. "Let me contact him..."
Lancer squeezed Scott's arm reassuringly while they waited. Not very many seconds later the concierge nodded with a broad smile and the door opened in front of them.
"Go right ahead, gentlemen! The boss is waiting for you."
Lancer whisked himself and Scott inside the building and into an elevator. It sighed softly into motion, and he felt Scott's tension melt off at last.
"Yes." Scott nodded and pressed a little closer to Lancer, taking a deep breath. This was more familiar an enclosed space, everything visible and tangible and understandable, without a multitude of unpredictable, random stimuli each following their own intents and purposes. His brain was still only learning to filter away the unessential and to react just to the necessary ones, and right now he was on the verge of exhaustion. He nuzzled his face into Lancer's hair and closed his eyes. Familiar, sweet, reliable, safe. His Lancer. "Oh..."
The elevator stopped and doors opened with a low hum to reveal a luxurious office lobby.
"Rob, my dear Rob! How wonderful to see you!"
Maurice embraced his blond ex-star, and Scott swallowed. He did like Maurice, very much, and at the same time there was this something about the man that made him feel just a little on edge. Or rather, something about the way he looked at Lancer. Scott didn't know what it was, but again he felt this need to move closer and take Lancer's hand no, actually wind an arm around Lancer's waist. But he did smile to Maurice who beamed at them both and gestured for them to come in.
"Rob, and Scott, so great to see you! What brings me this pleasure? I had no idea you were in town!"
"Corinn's getting some supplies, and we took a ride with him," Lancer said and sank into the velvety embrace of a sofa, Scott cautiously following him. "My parents have asked us many times about when we'd come to meet them in Sanherno, but Scott needs practice before we can even dream of going there."
"Practice?" Maurice cocked his head questioningly and Lancer glanced at Scott. His tender smile made Scott's heart beat faster.
"Yeah. Remember, Maurice, Scott here has lived all his life in the bases. This is really his first time in town well, apart from the time when we, ah, took André with us. But back then there was no way we could've actually gone out of the van. Today we're exploring, and right now Scott felt like having a break. So we came here, hoping that we wouldn't disturb you too badly."
"I see I think," Maurice said, eyebrows knitting slightly. "Though, what do you mean by 'practice'?"
"Maury..." Lancer shook his head. "You don't see. Scott has lived most of his life in the Plains Base, with other clones, and then with us in Robillard. He's never been in the city before, with loads of people around, everyone looking different, all the buildings, traffic, random and unregulated things. Think about sensory overload, big time. This is all pretty overwhelming."
Scott flushed slightly red, displeasure at his own inability to cope making him uncomfortable, but Lancer squeezed his arm tighter. Their eyes met again, and Scott's throat went tight at the pride and reassurance that the green-gray gaze radiated at him.
"I think I'm beginning to understand," Maurice said slowly. "When you put it that way... well, I remember that you were pretty awed by Trelissac yourself, when you first came here little Rob Lancer from little Sanherno!"
"Now you're on the right track," Lancer chuckled. "Yeah, like me back then but multiplied quite a few times over. But really, if we're being in the way just say so. We can go somewhere nice and quiet to relax for a moment."
"No, no, there's nothing urgent I should be doing right now!" Maurice sat on the edge of his desk. "Except that Jacques will be here in a moment, there was something he wanted to talk to me about. Do you think he'll be too much for Scott to handle?"
Scott frowned, uncomprehending. "Jacques? Who is he, and why should he be too much "
Lancer grinned and opened his mouth to explain, but was interrupted by the elevator doors that opened once more and let in a minor tornado. Scott blinked, trying to take in the sight. He recalled having seen something similar in the advertisements of some clothing shops that Lancer had described as 'the poshiest they get', but this was really the first time when he saw something like that live and in close-up.
The apparition was slim, and would probably have been about Scott's height without the dangerously high stiletto heels that added quite a few centimeters to the grand total. The figure-hugging dress was cut in the hem so as to let generous amounts of very well-formed legs to show when the wearer of said dress turned in just the correct way. Scott blinked again and looked at the face. Strong, sharp features, impeccable makeup (he was proud of his ability to actually tell that there was makeup), and dark hair tied high up at the back of the head, from where it fell in a curling mass over the left shoulder.
She was beautiful, Scott thought, beautiful in a way that made him want to poke at her with a finger just to see if she was real.
"Maury my dear, there's " the newcomer began in a flowing contralto, but Maurice raised his finger to interrupt.
"Hush not yet, not yet. First of all, turn around. There's someone you might like to meet."
The apparition spun around and black-outlined eyes widened into incredible proportions. "This can't be no, it can't be, but it is! Rob! Oh Rob baby, sweetheart..."
Lancer jumped up from the sofa and hugged the burgundy-and-sable phenomenon tight. "Yes, Jacques, it's me, alive and well! And you're just getting more gorgeous all the time!"
Scott frowned as he watched the newcomer embrace and kiss Lancer enthusiastically. Jacques had to be a man's name, for Lancer and Maurice had been talking about 'him'. Of course he knew that Lancer was also Queen Marie, had seen the transformation himself, but that was when Lancer was performing. This, though, was no performance, and yet there she was, straight from a fashion designer's ad, standing in Maurice's sumptuous office, and answered to the name 'Jacques'. Scott didn't understand.
"Awww, what do you mean, you're not coming back? You can't mean it, Rob!"
"But I do," Lancer insisted. "It's... ah, it's difficult to explain. But I'm one of the rebels now, and I'm not coming back to live here. Maybe just maybe I might guest perform, one day, but that's all."
"Never say never, sweetheart," Jacques cooed and shook her head. His head? Her head? Scott's face drew into a slightly desperate little grimace.
"Okay, but in any case it's no, for the time being," Lancer stated. "But Jacques, please let me introduce you to a very special person. Someone who's very very important to me."
He reached his hand to Scott who, somewhat hesitantly, got up and took it, then glued himself to Lancer's side. Jacques looked at Scott, carefully shaped eyebrows rising.
"Mmmm... delighted to meet your very special person!"
"This is Scott, my partner." Lancer's hand was warm and sure in Scott's, and he smiled proudly. "Scott is a fighter pilot. And Scott, this is Jacques, an old friend of mine!"
"Old? Robbie baby!" Jacques shook a finger at Lancer. "Never refer to a girl's age -"
Lancer shook his head with a twinkling smile. "Old, Jacques my dear, in the sense that we were colleagues back when I still worked here!"
"Ah, now that sounds better!" Jacques shrugged delicately. "And I'm absolutely thrilled to meet you, Scott. I say, are there by any chance more of such cute young pilots around?"
Lancer's lips twitched. "I'm not quite sure if I should tell you this or not, but oh well. Scott is originally a Union clone."
"Clone?" Jacques' dusky blue eyes went round. "Clone? Do you mean that there are... ohh, my poor heart!"
"Jacques," Maurice put in with a wry smile, "let's go easy on Scott, shall we? He's in town for the first time in his life, and his life so far has been... rather different from what we're used to. Right, Rob? So, maybe you shouldn't tease him too much the very minute you've met him for the first time."
"Oh. Right." Jacques smiled apologetically. "I can behave too, honestly I can. It's just that seeing you, Rob, has made me quite forget what it was that I wanted to see Maury here about. What are the three of you going to do now? Could I possibly join in, since I don't have anything special at the moment? Pretty please?"
"I was thinking about a lunch with Rob and Scott here," Maurice said and cast the guests a hopeful glance. "Maybe you'd care for something to eat, and maybe you wouldn't mind if me and Jacques joined you?"
"That'd be delightful," Lancer assured. "To be quite honest, we were getting hungry but didn't feel like jostling for space in a restaurant. So I quite shamelessly hoped that we could take advantage of you, Maurice."
"Please do," Maurice said gallantly. "This way, if you please, my dear friends."
As they followed Maurice and Jacques to the adjoining room, Scott nudged Lancer's arm.
"I do not understand!" he hissed into the blond's ear. "Is Jacques really a man? Why does he look like a woman?"
"Jacques is quite as much a man as you or me," Lancer assured. "He just likes to dress as a woman. He usually does... no, wait, in fact I'm not sure if he ever dresses as a man. He's always like that, on and off stage."
"But why?" Scott insisted. "Is he not supposed to be different from his everyday self when he is performing on stage?"
"Ah, but that's not the way he's on stage!" Lancer grinned. "What you see now is Jacques. On stage he's Queen Dianne."
"What was that? Who mentioned Dianne?" Jacques perked up and glanced over his shoulder. "Let's not invoke The Bitch right now, please!"
"Better not," Lancer agreed. "Scott, love, I'll try to explain later, okay? Just try to relax right now."
Scott sighed but nodded, feeling Lancer's slim fingers give his hand yet another reassuring little squeeze. This was all very puzzling, all right, but at least they were indoors and there were only four people present, and right now they seemed to be headed towards an airy room with wall-high windows that showed a splendid vista over Trelissac.
The dark clone looked around himself and decided to do what Lancer had told him to: relax. This looked like a place he'd have no trouble dealing with, and besides, Lancer had promised to explain everything to him later. No use trying to puzzle things out on his own, now he could observe and file things away until later discussion, and it would all become clear in due time. Lancer always kept his promises.