Nova has left the nest (the hive?) and struck out on her own. Thus far it has been exciting for her: she has launched a career as an acrobat, signed a contract with a vampire (Gaius Gallus) to work in a burlesque show, clobbered a mugger, and met up with Mercury, a mysterious man from her past. Despite her zeal for life, she has been struggling financially and has felt lonely and isolated.
Last time we left our heroine, she had awoken to a mysterious noise coming from the first floor of her apartment…
Nova wishes she had a baseball bat. That’d be very handy right now. She’s pretty sure she could take her intruder’s head right off with enough force.
She takes a deep breath before descending the stairs. She’s careful to walk slowly and deliberately in the hopes of sneaking up on her intruder. She sneaks halfway across the living room before she stops in her tracks.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Nova shrieks, “and is that my apron?!”
“Oh,” Mercury barely looks down from the stove in front of him, “I needed to borrow it to cook.”
“I wanted to make breakfast for you, roomie. But I didn’t want to wear my pants because they’re my only pair and I don’t want to get them dirty. I haven’t washed them in a week and, well, I kinda want to see how long I can go without washing them.”
“And where’s your underwear?!”
“Underwear feels weird.” Mercury is very matter-of-fact in his response.
Nova gags, “Put your effing pants on!”
“Fine,” Mercury grumbles as he unties the strings of the apron. Nova covers her eyes reflexively. “Here,” he tries to hand the apron to Nova.
“No thanks,” she peeks between her fingers, “you can keep it. Or better yet, burn it.”
“Oh. Thanks!” Mercury tosses the apron on to the counter, making a mental note that it now officially belongs to him. It’s his first gift in years. “Well, the pancakes are ready.” He slides the pancakes out of the pan and onto a couple of plates, then offers one to Nova with a grin.
Nova is hesitant to touch the pancakes at first. Seriously, what if his dingaling touched them?
“That’s why I wore the apron, dummy--I didn’t want to contaminate the food with my goods,” Mercury grins.
“Oh,” Nova blushes. She must have said that last part out loud.
Nova is pleasantly surprised by the pancakes. “These are pretty good,” she admits, “You used some of the fresh fruit from my garden?”
“Thanks. So hey, I’m going to crash here for awhile. You cool with that?” Mercury is nonchalant, “Yeah, we’re cool.”
“Wha? Yor na gunna be shtayin heah,” Nova’s--mouth full of pancake--can hardly articulate the words.
“Great! I’ve already brought my stuff,” Mercury gestures to a knapsack and a bedroll propped next to the front door, “It’ll be great! Like a prolonged slumber party.”
“No,” Nova finally manages to swallow her food and speak, “No! I hardly know you.”
“That’s nonsense! I helped you find your dad, right? I’m practically family.”
“And then you dropped off the face of the planet,” Nova snaps, “so yeah, sorry if I don’t really trust you.”
Mercury is quiet for a moment, “Being homeless makes it kinda easy to drop off the face of the planet.”
“Oh,” it takes a moment for that to sink in, “Oh my maker, I had no idea! That’s terrible. For how long?”
“Off and on since we last met. But that’s not important. You mentioned last night you needed a roommate. Well consider this,” he gestures to the pancakes, “my formal application.”
“Oy,” Nova holds her head between her hands and thinks of her swiftly dwindling checking account, “fine. Fine! You can stay for awhile. But we’re splitting the bills halfsies.”
“Yes,” Mercury pumps his fist, “Agreed. We’ll be great roomies!”
They are indeed great roomies. Mercury sets up his sleeping bag on the floor of the bedroom. Nova is a little surprised that Mercury decides to bunk on the floor, considering the other night, but she appreciates that boundary. She’s not quite sure to make of their relationship--he’s done so much for her, but she isn’t certain she wants him any closer than arm’s length.
Their sleep schedules are quite different, which is the only bump in their roomie-relationship. Nova tends to get up early in the mornings so she can exercise before her gigs, but Mercury stays out late. When Nova asks what he’s doing, he replies only with “running errands.”
“Do you have to do that so early,” Mercury complains one particular morning, “I need my beauty sleep.” Nova had turned on the treadmill at six, and she had been running nonstop for at least an hour.
“Can’t talk, making good time, Nova gasps between pants. Mercury groans and covers his face with his pillow in an attempt to catch a few more moments of sleep.
In the end, Nova can’t complain about Mercury, despite his presumptuous application to be her roommate. He helps tend the garden, chips in money for bills, and is surprisingly clean despite his previous experiment to see how long he could leave his pants unwashed. Meanwhile, Gaius keeps pushing back the date for his burlesque show with no explanation, so Nova continues to hunt for gigs around town and perform for tips at the park. She finally gets lucky and manages to snag a gig at a park. It pays and everything!
Mercury accompanies her to the performance. Sensing her nervousness, he gives her an awkward high five before she goes on stage.
“You’ll be great!” His voice is upbeat and sincere.
“I know I will,” she manages to smile through the nerves. Nova jogs up the stairs and onto the stage while the small crowd applauds politely.
“Welcome,” Nova projects her voice confidently, “I’m Nebula von Cheekrouge the Effervescent!”
“That name sucks,” someone heckles from the back of the crowd.
Nova ignores the criticism and smiles wide as she attempts a backflip, her opening move before her mime act. As she lands, she loses her balance. Her ankles slip and she falls to the side, barely stopping herself from hitting the ground full-force.
“Boo!” Someone jeers. Tough crowd.
“You’re doing fine,” Mercury calls, grinning widely.
“No she isn’t,” a woman standing behind him says, rolling her eyes.
“Shut up, Judy,” he hisses,” no one asked you.”
Nova picks herself up off the floor and smiles as if it never happened. She decides to skip the mime act and move on to the bigger stuff, the kind of things audiences seem to really enjoy: fire. She lights three torches on fire and begins to toss them into the air, juggling them with ease. She’s done this trick a million times. As she juggles, she watches Mercury, who is standing at the front of the crowd. He’s goofily dancing along to the music and grinning while giving her reassuring nods. She smiles at him, giggling a little. Mercury had always struck her as the kind of person who was too cool for school, so to speak. Yet her he was, trying to cheer her up, trying to make her laugh. She’s so focused on him, she hardly notices...
“Nova,” someone calls her name, snapping her back to reality. “Nova, your hair is on fire!”
“What? Oh, oh! OH MY MAKER,” Nova drops the torches and begins to pat her hair with the palms of her hands. Luckily she quickly extinguishes the fire, but the embarrassment lingers.
“Get off the stage,” a heckler yells. There are murmurs of agreement amongst the crowd. Undeterred by her fiery crash, Nova decides to end her show with her most exciting trick: the fire baton. It’s actually easier than juggling the torches, but it looks much more impressive. Although she still feels the sting of pain from the heckler, but her actions are smooth. This part of the performance is flawless, but the audience is unimpressed. Spectators begin to trickle away, complaining loudly about the amount of money they wasted on the performance.
“Thank you, thank you,” Nova says to the crowd as she takes a bow. The few remaining audience members politely clap, while Mercury jumps up and down and cheers her on. At least she has one fan.
“You were great!” Mercury says as Nova clambers down the stairs.
“Not really, but I appreciate the enthusiasm.”
“Well, you had a few setbacks, but it was entertaining. It was exciting! Fun for the whole family! Two thumbs up! Five stars!”
Detecting her annoyance, Mercury changes course. “Wanna get a drink? My treat.”
“Not really.” Nova just wants to go home and bury herself in her bed.
“Please? It’ll make you feel better.”
“Fine. But I won’t have fun and you will regret forcing me to go.”
Mercury chatters the whole walk to the bar, which is several blocks away. “It’s a really chill place. Cheap drinks, pool table, and good music. Attracts a weird crowd, but that probably won’t bother you.”
They finally arrive at the bar after what seems like a ridiculously long walk. Nova groans at the bar name: “The Public School.”
“So I figure we can have a couple of drinks, and then play some pool? It’s up to you.”
“Sure, whatever,” Nova can’t muster any enthusiasm. As Mercury gets the two of them drinks, Nova glances around the bar. Her eyes scan the room, glossing over the paltry number of patrons. The bar is a little seedy--the floor is covered in dingy carpet, and the lighting does little to hide the scratches on the wall. She peers through the back door and sees a grungy patio, complete with a dance floor.
“Here you go,” he offers her a drink, and she downs it in one gulp. “Whoa. Want another?”
Nova nods. She’s not looking to get hammered, but she would like this feeling to stop. She can hardly even name it--failure, maybe? Electricity seems to be running through her bones, leaving her hair on end. She’s never felt this way before. Her life feels like it’s on a downswing.
“Feel free to take some time to at least taste this one,” Mercury winks as he hands the next drink to her.
“Pool?” He gestures to the pool table.
The pair awkwardly take turns shooting in silence. This goes on for several minutes before either party speaks.
“What do you do for Gaius? I mean, I saw you in his office that one time.” Nova has been curious about their relationship for quite some time. She has her suspicions about Mercury’s late night excursions, but she doesn't want to voice them.
“He sends me to get stuff,” Mercury says absently, “and I get it.”
“So you’re an errand boy.”
Mercury looks thoughtful for a moment, “sure, I guess that’s an apt description.”
Every time anyone insults him, it rolls off of him, never leaving any sort of impression. Nova is envious of him for that. It must be nice to be able to ignore what people think and say about you. But for some reason, this nonchalance infuriates her.
“Hmm,” she scoffs, “You didn’t strike me as the kind to be okay with being someone’s pet.” Where is this coming from? In that moment, Nova hates herself.
Mercury’s face tightens as he lines up a shot at the pool table. His eyes focus on the cue ball. Nova has always been fascinated by his eyes. Heterochromia iridum--she looked it up online after she had met him. From what she read, fewer than 1% of the population had it. She stares at him, but he avoids her gaze. It seems to take him forever to line up the shot, and she can feel the air become heavier and heavier with each passing moment.
“Pet,” he finally says, “I don't like that.” He takes the shot and misses.
“Sorry,” Nova mumbles, “I didn’t--I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” She knows it was uncalled for to call him that, but she’s surprised at how serious he became.
“Hey, let’s hit the ol’ dusty trail,” Mercury says suddenly.
“What?” She wishes he would use normal language.
“Let’s go home. We can watch a bad movie or something.”
“Yeah,” Nova softens, “yeah, this place is dead. And we both suck at pool.”
Once home, Mercury grabs a couple of beers from the fridge and searches for a suitably bad movie on TV while Nova changes into her pajamas. He settles on a movie about a man-eating plant just as Nova sinks into the couch. A couple of tense moments pass. Awkward silences seem to be a hallmark of their friendship.
“Are we cool?” Nova breaks the silence, “Or did I totally break things tonight?”
“Of course we’re cool, roomie,” Mercury cracks a smile, “I mean, that was 90% on me. I thought going out would cheer you up. I’m wrong. A lot, actually. Most of the time.”
“But those things I said--”
“I’ve heard worse,” He shrugs, “you were in a bad mood. I pushed going out, and you got a little bitchy. Whatever. I’m over it.” Those words would have sounded insincere coming from anyone else, but his cool demeanor imbues them with an air of truth.
“I just suck at this,” Nova doesn’t mean to sound so whiny, “Being an adult--it’s freaking hard. I thought I could just do what I love. But here I am, barely scraping by, struggling to find work. I hardly hear from my best friend because she’s too busy with some creep, and I miss my parents but I’m afraid to talk to them because every conversation is just a reminder of how little I’ve accomplished. I mean, Elysia is an award winning reporter and Solaris is a doctor. Luna has her family and Zenith is always so happy. Me, on the other hand--I’ve just fizzled out.” She pauses to sob before continuing, “Life sucks!”
“Yeah,” Mercury agrees, “it does.”
Nova was expecting words of encouragement, or at least a few compliments. For some reason, though, the simple agreement makes her feel better. She inches a little closer to Mercury and rests her head on his shoulder. He’s surprised by the show of affection. Besides the awkward kiss several weeks ago, they’ve not touched.
“Things will pick up, right?”
“Yeah,” he responds, “Of course.”
With Nova’s emotional outburst out of the way, they sit in now-comfortable silence. She keeps her head on his shoulder, her eyes occasionally drooping during the duller parts of the film. Mercury sits as still as he can, lest he disturb her. He's never been good at the hard parts of relationships. In fact, that's usually when he calls it quits. But he wants desperately to cheer up this strange, blue creature. Being attached to someone is a curious feeling.
Once Nova goes to bed, Mercury slips out into the night. It's a quick walk to Panem et Circenses, and he moves silently. The club is closed for the night.
“It's just you and me, bear,” Mercury growls and cracks his knuckles. It's a large undertaking, but he's intended to make this acquisition for weeks now, ever since Nova mentioned in passing that she liked the ceramic monstrosity.
In what is becoming a somewhat routine occurrence,Nova awakes in the morning to quite the surprise.
"Steal Away" -- Murder by Death
Author’s Note: This took forever. Seriously, sorry about that. I really want to get back on track with writing, though. I'm so out of practice. I write for work, but it's technical writing and that's so different.
So, Mercury is now living with Nova. And that means it's time to reveal this generation's secondary income: thief! I'm really excited by my rolls and I think there'll be some fun things coming up, if I can manage to carve out time to play! I want to focus on Mercury a bit more in the future since he’s part of the household and he’s a barely defined character. I just need my life to comply with my desire to sim. :)