The Hub Ch. 03bySinisterSpiders©
Author's Note: This story was originally a Role Play between Dungeons of Dread and myself (Sinister Spiders). It has been edited for the story format, but is still on the Online Role Playing forum in its original glory. If you've read this far, we hope you are enjoying it- there is plenty more in store for Flit and Scraps!
The next week passed by so quick Scraps barely had a chance to keep up with the torrent of training and learning he needed to complete. His training with Swipe progressed well; no more exploding cups. He still had clumsy moments but he was most definitely getting a handle on his unrestrained abilities. They had progressed onto much larger objects and by the end of the week he was able to move several of the large storage cabinets simultaneously, it was a feat he could not previously achieve.
He wasn't just training his own abilities during the week. It was a requirement for all Derivates to undergo survival training as well. Unlike the surface, this brand of survival training involved more enclosed spaces and underground navigation. He still had not memorised the myriad of tunnels and passageways but the he could at least identify most of the markers.
Although Swipe had been extremely helpful in all aspects of his training he couldn't help but feel slightly suffocated by her presence. She insisted on being close to him physically almost all the time. He was getting used to the continued presence of the other Derivates around him as opposed to the surface but her specific attention toward him was becoming tedious. In the week he had observed the interactions between males and females more closely. He was beginning to understand it more fully the longer he spent underground and he suspected that Swipe was exhibiting some of those behaviours.
He only managed to see Flit two times during the week and only during dinner. On both occasions she attempted to initiate conversation with him but Swipe's over charismatic personality always shone through. Scraps felt an overwhelming need to speak to Flit again, he didn't even know what he would say just that he wanted to talk. Toward the last day of his training with Swipe, Acumen pulled him aside to discuss something he considered private.
"So buddy how are you going?" Acumen asked brightly.
"Don't you already know, reading my mind and all?" Scraps thought. He, like the others, had become accustomed to talking to a mind-reader.
"Well yeah, I can read thoughts pretty well, but emotions are harder to decipher." He explained. It was an interesting comment because Scraps knew that mind-readers on the surface weren't taught to read emotions.
"Good, actually, the training is hard but nothing I'm not used to. I think I am getting used to everyone here and knowing where everything is." Scraps responded contently.
"That's good to hear, to be honest when you first arrived, Control had many interesting discussions about you. Did you know that you are the freshest Registered Derivate ever to come to us?" Acumen asked.
"I did not know that. Is that a positive or negative thing?" Scraps returned.
"Both I guess, on the upside; there was a high likelihood of you adapting to our way of life quickly. On the downside it means that you may be utilised in our operations a lot more than the others that have changed. Unlike you a lot of them resent their old life, so much so, that they wouldn't set two meters on the surface again. Unfortunately the best intel and espionage is done on the surface. It's how we know what The Government is up to and how close they are to finding us." Acumen explained gravely.
"I see. So you mean they will request that I do mission for them on the surface?" Scraps inquired.
"Maybe. I wouldn't worry about it too much though....... One more thing, what do you think about Swipe? I don't need to be a mind-reader to know she's pretty interested in you." Acumen asked.
"Swipe? Interested in me how?" Scraps asked, slightly confused by the notion yet not entirely surprise based on her recent behaviour.
"Yeah, I suppose you're not used to that kind of attention. Swipe is the kind of girl that latches onto anything she likes the look of. In your case, tall and exotic. She's been putting out all the signs and you haven't caught on, it's kind of frustrating her. At the same time however she does like a challenge once in a while, so don't expect her to back down too soon." Acumen explained.
"It does make sense now, I did suspect something but now that you have cleared it up for me I understand. Even though I respect her intentions I just can't seem to return her affection, there's just something else. I can't explain that is holding me back. I am very new to interactions with the opposite sex and have no idea what it is." Scraps explained as best as he could.
"I think I do, but it's something you're gonna need to work out on your own." Acumen told him. For the next ten minutes of the conversation Acumen went through the finer points of what he knew about women. He did admit that even with his ability there were things that he just couldn't explain. By the end of it Acumen told him that he needed to let Swipe know he wasn't interested, but perhaps not during a training session or with others around. It was something he needed to tell her when they were alone.
The next week went painfully slowly for Flit. Her work on the surface was just as dull as always, and as usual she found the excess of time she spent in the Hub was terribly draining. Every afternoon, after a long, tiresome day at work, Flit would head back down to the Underground for a shorter yet equally tiresome time in Supply, counting stock with her father. The only reprieve was when Hawkeye would come down before dinner and give her a hand and updates on what she was missing out on in the Security Team.
After counting stock together, Flit and Hawkeye would head towards the nearly-empty dining room. They had only made it on time to catch their friends twice. Both times Flit had tried to talk to Scraps, but whenever she attempted this Swipe would talk over her and glare at her. She and Scraps had apparently been spending the better part of their days together, with her retraining him intensively. It seemed to Flit that Swipe's extra time with Scraps gave her a sense of ownership over him. She acted as they were a couple rather than training partners. It made Flit's blood boil.
It wasn't until Friday evening that Flit finally managed to get a word in. She'd asked how Scraps was going, and he responded with; Good, I've been-... Then he had been dragged off by Swipe before Flit could talk to him any more.
The only good thing about the week in Supply was that it had given Flit plenty of time to think. She had come to the conclusion that she had made the right decision to save Scraps. If she had waited to get the others before she went to the Nest he would be dead. She also didn't see what the big deal was about taking him swimming. She had learnt that Swipe had been the one to tell her mother, and that she had greatly exaggerated the state in which they had returned to his cell. Flit had come to think that her mother was worried about her getting too close to someone who was still relatively unknown to them.
The other thing that Flit had realised was that the butterflies she felt whilst in the River were not an isolated thing. The two times that she had seen Scraps at dinner she had been unable to put the strange feeling down in her stomach down to hunger- she had eaten a lot those nights, just to be sure. The other telling sign was her increased lack of tolerance for Swipe. Even thinking of the other woman's name made Flit want to claw her own eyes out.
Late on Saturday afternoon Flit had been sent down to the cold rooms. The locking system on one of the large refrigerated vaults had gone haywire and required someone from maintenance to come down and have a look at it. While waiting for someone to arrive to fix it, Flit's father had requested that she begin a stocktake of the different types of food they had in there. With so many people to feed and provide for it was important for them to have accurate stock numbers. So Flit stood, wrapped in a thick thermal coat, counting off all of the stupid heads of lettuce.
"Thirty five, thirty six, thirty seven..."
The sound of her name and that now-familiar voice made her jump and lose all concentration. Shit, she thought, knowing she'd have to start again. She turned around and her anger melted around. Scraps. She smiled at him and put her tablet on a nearby shelf.
"Hey Scraps!" She said, probably a little too enthusiastically. "Finally managed to ditch Swipe, eh? What brings you down to this hole?"
The last training session with Swipe went by mostly without a hitch. Although he lacked finesse he had developed enough control now not to accidentally destroy anything. Swipe continued her usual physical contact even though he no longer required as much assistance, Acumen had warned him that it was all she could get away with while being observed during training.
Just before end of their sparing session Swipe was accidentally injured, she fell down and hurt her ankle. Acumen went through the medical supplies and bandaged her leg.
"Hey Scraps, can you go down to the store room and get some ice, we need to keep the swelling down." Acumen requested. Scraps nodded and made his way down to the lower levels.
He arrived at the cold storeroom and was shocked to see Flit inside, apparently busy counting stock.
"Yeah, she got a little hurt during training today. I need to get some ice for her leg." He responded. Flit quickly hid her face of disgust.
"Over there, second shelf on the left, oh don't let...." she tried to warn him about something as he followed her directions. The door behind him slammed shut after he let it go and the room went pitch black.
"...the door shut." she finished unhappily.
"What? Why not?" he asked speaking through the dark.
"Because half of the electrics are fried and I was waiting for maintenance. Now we are probably locked in." Flit explained, her disembodied voice sounding eerily short in the coldness. Scraps could hear her shuffling around in the dark. He had only been in the store room once before and did not feel confident moving around.
"Sorry, I didn't know, is there an emergency torch or something we can use?" he asked apologetically. He knew that if he could see the door he might be able to force it open however without having a set direction he could very well demolish part of a wall, destabilise the structural integrity of the room and bury them both in rubble.
"I can try to see if the emergency lights will work but they probably went out with the locking system." Flit said thoughtfully as she fumbled around in the dark. "And you'd be best off staying where you are, I'll make my way over to the panel which is by the door- and do my best not to run you over."
Flit could feel the shelf to her left and then closed her eyes, trying to picture from memory where Scraps was standing. Luckily, Flit had very good spatial awareness thanks to her ability, and slowly but surely made her way forward. Just before she reached where she thought Scraps would be she raised her right hand out in front of her and slowed her approach.
"I should be right in front of you now." She said, and the next second she felt soft fabric over hot skin. In the frigidness of the vaults his chest felt as hot as molten metal but as solid as stone.
Flit's breath caught in her throat and she jumped as she felt Scraps's hand cover hers, and his arm wrap around her shoulders and bring her closer. Their bodies pressed together and she could hear his breathing in the darkness. As much as it frustrated her, her own breathing was slightly ragged as he slowly turned her around so he could get past him. Because she was so close to him she could smell his musky masculine scent and it sent a wave of appreciation through her. She had to try very hard not to sigh longingly.
Then it was over almost as quickly as it had begun. His arm slowly dropped down from around her, but his hand held hers to his chest for a few moments longer than he needed to. When he did take his hand off hers she moved at away and turned around regretfully, reaching out for the left shelf again and walking towards the panel.
The wall of the vault was icy to the touch as she felt around for the control panel. After a few seconds her fingers brushed the smooth glass screen. Flit messed around with it for a bit, but the lights would not come on. However, the faint glow of the panel was just enough to help her eyes adapt to the darkness.
"Right, well we have the light of the panel at least. Let's see if we can get the door open, shall we?" Flit tried a number of different combinations of commands to get the door open, but it remained firmly closed. "Looks like we're stuck." She eventually conceded, her shoulders drooping.
Although she was wearing a large overcoat and her warmth was mostly self contained he could certainly tell the difference between when she was pressed against him and when she had moved away. There was a strange spark of awareness that had shot through him when she had touched his chest. After a few moments he heard her frustrated sighs, it seemed she was having no luck with the emergency lighting. She was now attempting to get the door open. Although Scraps wasn't an expert in electrical devices he did have minimal training from the surface which might suffice in this situation.
He moved toward the sounds of her voice slowly, cautiously with his hand extended in front of him. After a short while he made contact with her right shoulder, again she started at his surprise contact.
"Sorry, I wanted to see if I could help." He explained. He could now see the faint glow of the panel in front of her but still needed to use her body to get his bearings. He slowly moved his hand down her shoulder along her extended arm toward the panel, she remained completely still. By the time he reached the end of her fingers, he was pressed up against her back. Using her fingers he was able to feel around the panel. Now more confident with his positioning he manoeuvred his other arm around her other side so he could work with both hands. He tried to reactivate the system but to no avail it seemed it did require the scheduled maintenance.
"Hmm, I don't think I can fix it either." He stated flatly.
Don't move, don't move, don't move.... Was the mantra going through Flit's mind as Scraps slowly ran his arm along hers. Despite the toasty warm over coat her body erupted with goosebumps and he shivered under his touch. He is only using me as a guide, she told herself as she felt his body press against her back. Two times in as many minutes was too much for her to handle. Her stomach was churning and she had that wonderful build up in her lower regions. Stop it, she snapped at herself, he is trying to fix the damn panel.
Even though Scraps had admitted defeat he remained against her, his arms resting light on top of hers.
"I told you so." She puffed. She meant for it to come out petulantly, but instead it was just a nervous squeak. Damn it, she thought, get your act together. Her internal monologue was interrupted by the feeling of his body shaking ever so slightly against hers. "Oh Scraps! You're freezing!" She said, turning in his arms and slowly bringing her bare hand up to his face. It was indeed cold.
He didn't actually notice the cold until she mentioned it. She turned in his arms and he felt the warmth of her hand rest against his cheek; an inferno against a wall of ice. With her so close to him now he could also feel the warmth of her breath hot against his face. Her scent which he had paid little attention to before was strong in the air, a subtle scent that caused a tingle in his lower regions. It was not a familiar feeling but at the same time it wasn't a negative experience. His arms had fell naturally to her sides after she turned, he placed them gently on her lower back, something gesture seemed right.
"It's not that bad." He tried to explain unconvincingly. Where she was fully suited for prolonged exposure to this environment, Scraps was still in the light training gear, a singlet top and thin pants. His voice and body shivered uncontrollably against her.
"You won't get any points for being tough if you freeze to death." Flit said, rolling her eyes in the darkness as Scraps tried to deny the physiological evidence. "Well, the bad news is that I only have one coat." She said, looking up at the outline of his face and trying to make out his features.
Flit tried hard to remember the layout of the room despite the distraction of Scraps's body so close to her own.
"The cooling vents are at the back, so that area will be the coldest... And we can't hover near the door, because if it opens it will his us. Here, follow me." She ran her hand down his cheek, then over the muscles of his neck, before tracking over the curve of his shoulder and down his firm arms. When she finally reached his fingers she doubted that she would need the jacket to keep warm.
Flit slowly entwined her fingers with Scraps's and stepped away from him, careful not to release a disappointed sigh. She led him carefully about a meter away from the door. She felt around with her foot and was pleased to feel that the floor was covered there with old packing boxes.
"There are some boxes on the floor just in front of me. Sit down on them." She directed, using his hand to pull his body around hers so that he was standing on the boxes.
Flit felt Scraps's hand slide, somewhat hesitantly, out of hers as he lowered himself down onto the floor of the freezer. When he was settled she moved so that she was standing in front of him. She reached up and grabbed the zipper tab, then pulled it down slowly, gasping as the coldness of the room played with her skin through her thin clothing. The sound of the zipper was loud against the dull hum of the cooling fans. Slowly Flit lowered herself, reaching her hands below her and placing them carefully on Scraps's thighs as she sat down.
"Open your legs slightly so I can sit between them." She said. She moved her hands off him and he complied. When the noise of his movement stopped she sunk the rest of the way and peeled the coat off her body. "I will put this jacked over the both of us, it should be able to keep us both warm if we stay close enough." She explained, doing as she said.
Luckily the jacket was made for people that were a variety of sizes, and, unzipped, managed to sit over their huddled bodies easily.
Scraps could now feel the searing heat of Flit's whole body without the barrier of the jacket and he was sure it wasn't just the slight skin to skin contact that warmed his centre though. She positioned the jacket around them to preserve their combined heat. Flit leaned back against him with her head now almost directly next to his, her pleasant feminine scent filled his nostrils again. He placed his hands around her mid-section and although he would later convince himself it was to generate more heat, the truth was; the gesture felt natural, almost as if his body subconsciously knew what to do even though his mind didn't.
"Are you comfortable?" He asked, the question seemed pointless as sitting in a freezing cold room on a pile of boxes was probably the least comfortable situation he could think of at the time, but he felt the need to inquire about her well being.
"Yes- thanks... So, are you enjoying it down here?" She asked in the most light and conversational tone she could muster.
"Yes definitely, I mean, I believe I am. I can honestly say that I'm learning something new everyday." he responded, changing words quickly realising he initially answered a different question unintentionally.