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Morning, Day 2, Iteration Two

Agent Nari Love is scheduled for a post-Reset appointment with Dr. Judeline Gravett. Either she will attend like an obedient little agent, or Dr. Gravett will drag her kicking and screaming into the Site-107 Medical Wing.

The thoughts sink into Nari's stomach, and with every attempt to bring it back to her frontal lobe she can feel it catch in her throat.

Lunch, Day 100, First Year

There were two kinds of veteran field agents in Foundation employ. One of them was eminently careful, eminently prepared; those agents who anticipate death at every corner, and live to appreciate when their paranoia is vindicated. Agent Osman, 38, stirred his cup with the carelessness of the latter.

"Well, there's always that one person, every site I've been to." Osman was tall and broad-shouldered, if a little underweight, with a face ten years older than his body. He drank too much coffee and ate about as much as Nari. "It's… it's usually a medical doctor, or an engineer, something technical technical. Always level-headed, very soft-spoken." Osman took a sip of his coffee. "For some reason, though, all the old-timers seem to hate them."

That made sense to Nari: medical doctors and engineers were some of the most insufferable people on the planet.

"I think I noticed it, you know, for real at -02." Osman paused to take a spoonful of chili. "Food's great, by the way, does that seem weird to you?"

Nari shrugged. "I'm not gonna complain."

"Okay, it's just… alright, so, Dr. Cunningham. They were always, you know, real cordial, but any time they came up in conversation, half the room would get a sour look on their faces. I'd… you know, I assumed it was because they were Black, and Site-02 was…" Osman smacked his lips. "… British."

"Uh, yeah." Nari paused for a slice of chicken and a sip of water. "I spent a year in Britain. Bad place to be the wrong kind of Asian."

"Is there a 'right' kind of Asian for… you know what, I'll drop that." Osman took a quick look over his shoulder, like he was watching out for someone, before turning back and continuing. "Thing is, a lot of the seniors were also Black. There were more than a few Nigerian immigrants who hated Cunningham as much as the worst racists on staff."

"You sure he—"


"Shit, sorry. But you sure they weren't just a prick?"

"I mean, maybe." Another turn. "But… okay, I've noticed this with more than just Cunningham. Dr. Chen and Technician Baker in 56, Director Graham in 17, 107's Dr. Gravett… I mean, there's a lot of them."

"Sure." Nari nodded, and took another bite of her chicken.

Late morning, Day 2, Iteration 2

Dr. Gravett barely looks up from her papers as Nari walks into her office. Even after the Reset, she's the very picture of composure, someone who could fasten a man to a chair one minute and comfort a vomiting fuck-up the next. "Good morning, Agent Love. Have a seat, I'll be with you in a bit."

If you're not Dr. Gravett, the only place to sit in her office is the examination table. It's clean and papered, sterile literally and figuratively, and reminds Nari of when she was a child. She hates it on the table.

Dr. Gravett spends a few more seconds looking at her papers before she gets up from her seat and goes to Nari's side. "Now, let's start with your blood pressure."

Nari wishes she could tell Dr. Gravett to go fuck herself.

Morning, Decemberish, Year 4

Agent Cazalla had introduced Dr. Judeline Gravett (had she heard that name before?) as "the scariest motherfucker in Site-107", and after meeting her in the Site Orientation, Agent Love was inclined to agree.

Let's start with her eyes: Dr. Gravett's pale-brown eyes had a way of piercing through whatever she directed them to. Nari would've likened it to being "undressed", except as the orientation went on it felt more and more like vivisection. That was probably an asset in her capacity as a physician, but that hardly made it better. The small keloid scar under her left eye only accentuated that cold violation.

Drawing back, Dr. Gravett cultivated an appearance that was better suited to a federal interrogator. Beneath her white coat she wore a crisp button-down the color of dried blood, olive cargo pants with a suspicious number of pockets, and steel-toed boots. Her manner was sharp, her every movement purposeful, her words utterly without accent. If she'd given her age and it was anywhere between 26 and 66, Nari both would and wouldn't have been surprised.

Nari barely remembered anything else from the orientation. Something about "SCP-6320". Some shrink named Lancaster she was supposed to talk to if things got heavy. Basic info on the person she'd be guarding.

When it came down to it, though, it was either dwelling on an off-putting doctor, or obsessing over the feeling Overwatch had stuck her in 107 to rot.

Noon, Day 4 since the Campout, Year 5

"I'm thinking of quitting."

The shrink got that look on his face. It was the look everyone seemed to sport when the prospect of resignation came up, that uncomfortable mix of pity and worry that was never quite put into words. Like a terrible inside joke that nobody could bring themselves to laugh at.

He coughed, and adjusted his papers. "Well… that's unfortunate, Agent Love. You've been—"

"Oh fuck off." Nari rolled her eyes. "Look, I fucked up. Bad. I don't… I don't know why this fucking place wants me around so badly, but I'm clearly…" Her words tangled in her throat. "… fuck!"

Something shifted in the shrink, and the look was gone. "The Foundation doesn't expect you to be perfect, Agent Love, especially not off-duty."

"Am I even good on-duty?" She laughed. "Like oh my god, doc, have you looked at my records? I barely pass written in each exam, and I bet I've bombed more emotionals than they need to kick me out. Why don't they?"

The shrink's face shifted again, back to that look. "You have to be useful to them, if they've kept you around for, for five years."

And what a nice five years it's been. Cleaning up after other people's fights, getting tricked into snapping at D-Class, working her ass off to graduate from Security only to find a glorified retread of her past duties, losing what little friends she could keep every time Foundation Overwatch knocked her to a different site. The last few days had been little more than a more honest reenactment of Nari Love's anomalous career.

So yeah, like Nari was of any use in the business of "Protect". She was an explosive fuck-up that'd been stuck in the middle of Nevada where the only things coming for her client were ~spooky rock patterns~ and something the shrink insisted she'd never had a chance against, anyways. Good. On. Her.

Like a shark that had just sniffed blood, the shrink's face returned to professional concern. "There's tissues on the shelf to your left, if you need them."

Nari had barely noticed she'd been crying.


"You don't have to blame yourself, Agent Love. There was nothing you could do."

Later morning, Day 2, Iteration 2

"109 over 71. A bit low, but well-within a healthy range." Dr. Gravett undoes the strap over Nari's arm and, despite the very real chance she might lose it again, records the result. "Have you noticed any changes since your last physical?"

"Like the Shift?" Something almost like a chuckle escapes Nari's clenched teeth. "Or do you mean longer-term, like how you've treated me?"

If her words get to Dr. Gravett, it doesn't show. "I mean with regards to health, Agent Love."

"Oh, oh no, Dr. Gravett! I'm actually doing very good, thank you for asking. Aside from a few scrapes I got from your fucking lemon tree, I'm doing fine."

Dr. Gravett nods. "That's good to hear." 'Good to hear' doesn't stop her from looking Nari over one last time. She shivers, and hates that she shivers, and hates that Dr. Gravett raises an eyebrow at her shivering. "Are you cold, Agent Love?"

"No." Just remembering something.

Dr. Gravett remains silent for a while, before jotting something else onto her clipboard and nodding. "Alright, then. Let's move on to the next phase of the exam."

She walks back to the desk, opening one of the cabinets above it and retrieving… oh god no.

"For the next part of the exam, I'm going to ask you to change into this gown. It'll be easier to check your vitals that way." Dr. Gravett lays the gown in Nari's lap; she's too stunned to grab it herself. "Knock on the door once you're done changing." And with that, Dr. Gravett leaves the examination room.

When Nari comes back to reality, she wants to scream. She doesn't, of course, but she wants to.

Night, Day Whatever, Year 5

Contact: Dr. Judeline Gravett


"Hey Jude"

do u get that a lot? "hey Jude"? seems like the kind of thing lanc would say

i don't actually talk to him much, now. feel a lot better

anyways, ur getting off for lunch soon, right? i was wondering if u wanted to meet up in the cafeteria

lemme know what u think


anything interesting in the clinic?



sorry, forgot about patient confidentiality

ignore that


god, what a shift

so i was guarding the dude im supposed to gaurd when, finally, someone actually gives me something to protect them against

in this case, falling cart on the sector b ramp

pushed my guy out ofthe way and everything

felt cool


are you ignoring me

you seem distant


Pardon me, I was working late today.

shit, no worries!

was wondering if i was being *annoying* back there, how much i texted you

It's not a problem. I enjoy hearing from you.

u 2! ☺️

I think I heard something about the cart. One of the D-Class was transporting samples for Dr. Klein?

theyre samples testing?

Something about the copper, I believe. It's not classified, which is why we're allowed to speculate over text.

nobody tells me anything!

*I'm* telling you. 💁🏿‍♀️

Alright, I need to get ready for bed. Talk to you tomorrow, Nari.

u 2


i love you.

Noonish, February, 11th Grade

Nari Love wasn't a good student, in more ways than one.

For one thing, she was… okay when it came to academics. She could tell you Beloved was a harrowing book, but she couldn't say why in 500 words. Given a geometry question she could intuit the angle of something, but might not remember a few steps in the proof. If you asked her which president was famous for trustbusting, she'd definitely think back to the early 20th century, but might answer Hayes. You could even get her to remember a few physics equations, but good luck reading her lab book scrawl. It felt like the only things she excelled at were JROTC and track.

Student as a… social class? Nari wasn't too good at that, either. Moving had never made her good at friendships, and her brothers' friends were too creepy to count. It didn't help this was her first year at a non-military school.

Maybe she wasn't suited for school. Maybe she wasn't suited for anything.

Night, The Campout, Year 5

You know what was nice? The Great Outdoors. Brownhorn Canyon Paranatural Park, or at least the part of it that fell under treaty law, was an excellent place for Nari to stretch her legs, tan her hide, and overall just relax after weeks in cramped 107.

You know what sucked? Sleeping in a tent. Could you see the stars from a tent? The moon? All of them had been vaccinated against rabies and Brownhorn wasn't diamondback territory. The only thing they had to worry about were those big robotic "yaoguai", and almost all of them were on the Indigenous end of the Park.

"Who give a shit, Nari?!" But somehow, one Agent Laura Cazalla-Aguayo was finding reason to take offense. "We're a goddamn desert, and you need to sleep in a fucking tent."

Nari would've thought friendship meant not having pointless arguments about tents. If Agent Cazalla wanted to sleep in a cramped piece of flimsy cloth, so be it, but Nari Love had been a fucking marine, and she didn't need to be talked down on the matter of outdoor survival. It wasn't as if she was unprepared for the desert; on the contrary, she planned around her ideal sleeping arrangements.

You'll have to forgive Nari: she's run through this memory so many times, and the easiest way out is self-justification.

Nari crossed her arms and scoffed. "I know what I'm doing." And she'd survived, hadn't she?

But Agent Cazalla hadn't seen it that way. "Do you know how cold it gets at night? Because—"

"—I know how cold it gets!"

"—it's gonna get way colder, dumbass!"

Agent Cazalla had been so hung-up on Nari's so-so intellectual skills that she kept trying to play babysitter for her. If she'd only paid less attention to Nari and more attention to the horizon, neither of them would be where they ended up.

"Look, Nari, it's not a big deal, alright?" She was doing those nose breaths she did when she was angry. "There's enough room for you in my tent."

"And I don't want to go in your fucking tent!"

How did the argument go? Nari remembers that it was particularly circular, but when had it started to bite its ass?

Agent Cazalla's problem was that, like Nari, she refused the back down when presented with an emotionally-unsatisfying opportunity to do so. Cazalla couldn't trust that Nari would be okay on her own, and so she went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about Nari's health and comfort and things she would only ever be wrong about. Why did she have to pay so much attention to Nari's "safety"?

Nari knows that, eventually, one or both of them realized the argument was going in circles, and Nari excused herself to use the restroom.

They'd set up camp in a depression in the landscape, and for as much as two of them had seen of each-other, piss would naturally flow back to the "campsite". That gave Nari the opportunity to go away and dwell on the issue in silence; why wouldn't she have taken it?

Brownhorn Canyon didn't have many restrooms, but it didn't have many watering holes either. It meant that Nari had little trouble finding a place to do her business.

What was her thought process? Nari knows that she spent a lot more time away from the camp than necessary to clean up after herself, and that most of that time was spent inside her head. Had it been the same retreads over their argument that blanketed Nari's recollections? Whatever the case, she knows that she was preoccupied for a significant chunk of time, and that, more than anything, might have been what saved her.

Once Nari finished, she buckled up and headed back to camp. She'd picked the far end of a nearby ridge to do her business, positioned so you could look over the campsite on the way over; it's how Nari noticed something amiss before she got too close.

Nari would like to say that the sight of the camp is burned into her brain, but to be honest the details are still a little hazy. How would you memorize something the human brain was never expected to see? Perhaps you'd file it in your head as an animal attack, along with the dozens of liveleaks you subjected yourself to in the aftermath, but animals didn't shake and leap like the "yaoguai" did, attacked with claws and teeth rather than bludgeoning, moved like, you know, animals rather than possessed service drones.

Lancaster, to this very moment, tells Nari that it's not her fault, that there's nothing she could have done to protect Agent Cazalla. But there's no way to prepare yourself for seeing your only friend murdered by a robot dog, and so you ignore that lizard-brain absurdity, disregarding that personal responsibility has no place in such a situation, and turn your memories into an exercise in who was right and who was wrong.

It's an exercise that always fails Nari.

Later morning, Day 2, Iteration 2

Nari hates the way the paper crinkles and shrinks, hates the way her skin sticks to the vinyl, hates her itchy gown. She hates how cold Site-107 is today, how it makes her shiver like a scared little lamb. How, despite the fact that she was fine thank you, Nari dragged herself to the infirmary for a physical. Mostly, however, Nari hates the pretense Dr. Gravett puts up, the ways she pretends she doesn't already know her inside and out.

Nari knocks on the door, and Dr. Gravett comes back almost immediately. "I do apologize for asking you to do this, Agent."

"Couldn't someone else do this?" Nari crosses her arms. "Shouldn't someone else do this?"

"The others are busy with the wounded, I'm afraid. Take a seat."

Dr. Gravett begins the exam by taking a stethoscope to Nari's heart and lungs. It's nice to know she still gives a shit about Nari's heart, or whether or not she's still breathing.

Next is the oral exam: Dr. Gravett has Nari open her mouth, and shines a small light down her throat to check for abnormalities. It's not the first time she's been in there, and Nari's blood boils knowing that despite everything, it might not be the last.

Eyes. Dr. Gravett has her following the light. Nari tries not to follow her own eyes.

Abdominal is next. The good doctor taps and squeezes and presses and listens and Nari fights her most basal impulses with every touch.

Next are the nerves, and Dr. Gravett is ever-so-clinical in her approach. For her part, Nari plays the role of a healthy and obedient little agent, trying best as she can not to let her brain betray the both of them any more than it already has. She might not be winning: Gravett pauses at one point, then repeats a certain test several more times.

Limbs. Dr. Gravett's hands run over her arms and legs, working her joints like a marionette in servicing. If she notices the shivers running down Nari's spine, she doesn't mention them.

"Now," and Nari can't believe Dr. Gravett can ask what she's about to ask with a straight face. "I'd like to conduct a breast exam. Would that be alright?"

No, and fuck off, asshole. "Sure."

There is, of course, nothing tender about the way Dr. Gravett examines Nari's breasts, nor should there be. Such intention would be even more of an ethical nightmare than the fact that Gravett was conducting the physical. Does that stop Nari from tensing as if the context were different, as if things were different and Gravett wasn't a fucking two-face?

Nevertheless, Dr. Gravett continues without a word, and doesn't speak until she's done with Nari's breasts. "All clear. Now, before we get to—"

"How could you treat me like this?"

There is no surprise on Dr. Gravett's face. Exasperation, maybe, but no surprise. "Do you mean right now, Agent Love? Because for all our history, you are my patient, and I am—"

"And I don't a shit about Doctor-Patient. I mean 'How can you look me in the eye like a stranger after everything we've done?', Gravett. How the fuck can you just pretend?!"

Dr. Gravett rolls her eyes. "I have better things to worry about than a brief fling, so if you're done being recalcitrant, I'd like to move on with the exam."

"A 'brief fling'!" Nari finds herself cackling. "A fucking 'brief fling', holy shit! Is everyone in Medical as fucking ghoulish as you are?!"

"Some of us. Now, can we—"

"You're the reason I'm trapped in this fucking site, Judeline!"

She doesn't even raise an eyebrow, and that only gets Nari madder.

"You trapped me here!" Nari bangs her fist on the vinyl. "I was all set to leave this stupid fucking organization and you, you fucking trapped me here! You said what you, what you fucking said, did what you fucking did, and, a-and look where I am! Some dark and stupid prison in a fucking mine when I could be out there doing literally anything fucking else!

"And you have the balls to pretend you didn't get way, waaay into my heart, like…" She cackles again, a sob nearly catching in her throat. "You told me all, all those… fucking things, Judy. Told me you needed me, they needed me, and then when you didn't y-you just fucking… you just strung me along."

It's getting hard for Nari to maintain her composure; Dr. Gravett, meanwhile, hasn't flinched.

"You strung me along, text here, touch there… and then the site just eats us and it's like I never fucking existed. So yeah." Nari bites back a sob. "Yeah."

For a few seconds there's only the buzz of fluorescent lights as neither of them speak. Then Dr. Gravett groans, drumming her fingers on her clipboard as if she honestly believes she can talk her way out. Nari tries not to think about how she absolutely can.

"… that will conclude the physical, Agent Love." There's nothing on her face to indicate she's heard anything. "I'll let you change into your clothes." And without another word, Dr. Gravett turns to the door and makes her way out of the office.

And then, at the precipice, she stops.

"… I don't hate you, Nari." She looks back. "I don't feel anything for you, and I don't think I ever did."

Dr. Gravett leaves, and only then does Nari allow herself to cry.

Night, Day 11 since the Campout, Year 5

"Good evening, Agent Love. Do you need a ride?"

There are some choices you don't necessarily 'get to make'; certainly, you make them, but it isn't strictly a conscious one. The chemicals in your brain, both natural and narcotic, may drive you to perform a decision that feels inevitable. That decision, then, might lead to other decisions, or require other decisions, or even wall other decisions off. These, in turn, lead to a kind of butterfly effect of decision-making, a never-ending kaleidoscope of decision after decision after decision, until Agent Love was walking down the only road out of 107 with only the clothes on her back, some personal belongings, and a forty of fireball.

Nari was too drunk to be thinking.

That someone would see her walking away was almost assured; there was, again, a single working road in and out of the site. Someone stopping to "help" her was another matter. Dr. Lancaster might have, perhaps. Simmons, maybe. Maybe even Cazalla, but she'd been the last thing keeping Nari around in the first place.

Dr. Gravett, though?

The good doctor painted a remarkably surreal image from behind the wheel of her SUV. That aura of menace was still there, but it was tempered, grounded by the air freshener that hung around her mirror, or the stubborn remains of a bumper sticker on the back.

Nari managed a grimace. "And what do you want?"

"Are you… leaving?"

"What the fuck d'you think I'm doing?!" She howled with laughter. "Yeah, I'm leaving!"

Dr. Gravett paused, letting Nari exist in her own bubble of hostility, before speaking again. "It's going to get cold, Love. Would you like a ride into town?"

Nari wished she had the balls to tell Dr. Gravett to fuck off… but it was getting cold, and it would only get colder as the sun continued to set.

Without another word, the passenger door opened, and Nari stepped inside.

Dr. Gravett's car smelled like pine freshener and old leather. Water bottles and old papers dotted the floor of the passenger seat; behind them, forgotten toys and school supplies. The engine did not hum like Nari remembered.

Nari— "You can keep the bottle, but please don't drink in the car." Nari put the bottle away. "Thank you." Nari nodded, and closed her eyes.

The disappointment set in almost as quickly as the nausea. Nari was such a useless fuck-up that she couldn't even quit properly, if you could even call what she did "quitting". If she didn't even have the patience to book an appointment with HR, why the hell did she think she could just walk away from 107? She's lucky it was Gravett that found her; Needle wouldn't have been as delicate about it.

The fireball was burning in her stomach, and the drunken shame was beginning to get crueler than her little flashes of sobriety. She'd almost gone AWOL. Nari Love had almost gone AWOL, and if it'd been her shift it'd definitely have been AWOL. She was a disgusting little coward who couldn't stand to be alone for more than a day. Don't go to sleep, coward. Dr. Gravett should've taken her off to the side of the road and cut her throat, leave her churning innards for the cougars and coyotes, let the last thing she ever taste be alcoholic bile mixed with her own blood as—

Oh god damn it, not in Gravett's car.

Nari scrambled to open the window, and almost got her head outside until her stomach violently gave and she, her belongings, and the passenger side of Dr. Gravett's car were stained with puke. She barely had time to realize how fucked she was before her stomach gave again.

For her part, Dr. Gravett stayed remarkably calm, throwing Nari a pitiful look but otherwise continuing as if nothing had happened.

Neither of them would speak until about twenty minutes later, when Dr. Gravett pulled up to a nondescript townhouse (when had they made it to the city?) and stopped the car. "Would you like to come inside?"

"Sure." As if we have a choice.

Dr. Gravett nodded, stepping out of the car and circling around to help Nari out of her mess. As her arms curled around Nari's to help her up, the thought occurred to her that she hadn't been touched by someone in years, and her stomach almost gave again.

Nari barely situated herself in time for Dr. Gravett to hand her a set of keys. "I'll clean the car. Help yourself to anything in the fridge."

That's good. Nari was hungry.

The dormitories of Site-107, though not strictly "spartan", had a sterile feeling not even a mess could distract from. With this in mind, Dr. Gravett's townhouse was a disorientating breath of fresh air. The walls were textured, brown on white, hung with kitschy paintings and photographs of Gravett and what might've been her family. Its furniture felt hand-picked — a benefit of not having to fit through an underground labyrinth — and contributed to a homey atmosphere that, despite the limited space, could never have been achieved in 107. And… and she had a kitchen, not a bachelor pad kitchenette but a fucking kitchen!

Nari left her boots by the door, but even in bare socks she couldn't help but feel like she was desecrating the house. Lazy traitors like Nari didn't deserve this modicum of comfort. Dr. Gravett may have offered her anything in the fridge, but it suddenly didn't feel like hers to take.

Christ, her head was spinning.

Nari barely noticed as Dr. Gravett entered the house, and almost startled once she actually spoke. "Would you like a clean pair of clothes? You're about my daughter's size."

Right, she was covered in her own vomit. "I'm… I don't want to impose or anything." Nari turned back to face Gravett, and almost toppled herself trying to follow her movements. "You never told me y'have a daughter."

Dr. Gravett stopped at a coat rack, where she doffed her labcoat. Her arms were… well-defined. "She's Boleyn, so I don't see her as much as I'd like." She smiled; it struck Nari that she'd never seen Gravett smile before. "Her name's also Judeline. She was my sister's, before the earthquake."

"… shit. I'm sorry."

"It is what it is." Dr. Gravett made her way into to the kitchen, straight for the kettle. "Judeline and Antoine are doing Firewatch Scouts, so we'll have the house to ourselves for the weekend." She glanced back. "I'm assuming you'd rather not stay in 107."

Nari grunted in affirmation. "Mind if I, uh—"

"Go ahead. I… don't expect many guests." Spoken like a true vampire. What would her teeth feel like?

Nari fumbled onto the couch, slipping off her backpack and retrieving the forty before it spilled. She hadn't drunk much, not yet — one of the few benefits of being short. Would it be bad form to offer some to Gravett?

"Hey, Dr. Gravett."

"Please, call me Judeline." It sounded like she was starting some tea.

"Judeline, sure. Want some fireball?"

Dr. Gravett Judeline made her way back to the living room, taking a seat on a nearby couch. She looked at the glass, squinting slightly, before looking off at a clock, then back to Nari. "I think I'll try some, yes."

"Tiiight." Nari leaned over to hand off the bottle to Judeline. She looked it over — looked back to the clock, too, weird — before getting up to grab herself a shot glass. Judeline was… weirdly methodical about her shot, but that might've been Nari reading too much into the woman. Regardless, Judeline calmly resealed the bottle and walked back to the couch. "So?"

"Interesting choice. Very… festive." It didn't look like Judeline appreciated the taste. "I don't normally drink. I've seen what it does to people."

Nari chuckled and shrugged. "I'm still hot."

Judeline nodded. "I suppose. Are you still hungry, Love?"

"Heh, don't worry about me, Judeline."

"It's hard not to worry in my line of work." Her eyes looked over Nari, like she was checking for something. "You're shivering, Love."

Had she been shivering? "I'm… fine. I, uh, don't know why, the house isn't cold."

"Here." Judeline got up once more, circling around the sofa to retrieve the pale-brown throw blanket to hand off to Nari. Her timing was convenient: the tea kettle had just begun to whistle.

Nari took another look around the room, and once more contemplated its weird humanity. She couldn't afford to live outside the Foundation dormitories, which meant she rarely thought about life outside its walls. It never struck her that it might not be the case for everyone. Must've been nice.

Her train of thought was interrupted once more by Judeline, handing off a cup of some floral-smelling tea. "Drink."

It tasted nice.

Judeline sat back down, this time on the other end of Nari's couch. "How is it, Love? It's a rose blend."

Nari chuckled, and opened her mouth to tell her it was great, but her intentions had no bearing on her next words: "… you're one of the only people to call me 'Love'." Another chuckle. "Just 'Love'. Makes you sound… British."

"Would you prefer I call you something else?"

"Heh, it's cool. Love works."

Judeline chuckled. "It's not a bad name."

Love would have responded, but it was at that moment that the delay passed, and it hit her that she'd just seen Dr. Judeline Gravett laugh. Dr. Gravett never laughed; even accounting for the deathly seriousness of Medical's work, Dr. Gravett was as serious as they came. Even so, Judeline just laughed, and laughed in front of Nari of all people.

The next sip of her tea was a little cooler.

"Do I scare you, Love?"

It was, however, still hot enough to distress Love as it splashed down through her clothes.

Judeline got up immediately, heading for the kitchen and coming back with a bundle of paper towels. She didn't ask before she began to dry Nari off, and…

… does Nari have to explain herself, to herself? That seemed to be all she did these days, between starting fights with her coworkers and panicking at the thought that the walls were getting smaller. Fine, then:

  1. Nari was drunk. When she'd set out from Site-107, she'd planned to either fight her way through her own mistakes or die trying. Alcohol took her mind off the pain and doubts; simple as that.
  2. In Nari's line of work, hostility was a constant. Military or Foundation, you were broken down into something obedient, because how else were you supposed to be able to kill someone when the command came? Kindness had no place in combat.
  3. Working for the Foundation was fucking lonely. You were stuck in the barracks outside of deployment, and those barracks were usually several meters underground. All of your coworkers were just as broken as you, but in radically different ways that were impossible to relate to; even the shared trauma went away once your squad was redeployed to different sites.
  4. And, and Judeline was just so tender in her touch, so considerate as she wiped the mess from Nari's clothes, she just…

Nari gasped.

Of course Judeline noticed; how could Nari have expected to hide her physiological reactions from a doctor? "Sensitive, are we?" It was unclear whether her words, sudden tonal shift, or the way her expression remained neutral was the most off-putting part of the exchange.

"I'm not…" Nari swallowed, and realized too late that Judeline would notice that too.

For the second time that night, Judeline smiled. It's a smile still stuck in the folds of Nari's memories.

Instinct moved her closer, but Judeline was faster, deftly pinning her against the couch. "You've gotten so dirty, cheri." Her normal affectation was gone, now; in its place was a distinctly French accent, smooth as bourbon and dripping with sweetness. "Would you like to use my bath?"

Judeline had a hand on Nari's chest, just over her heart, and it almost looked like she was savoring every beat; she may as well have had her free hand on Nari's throat, because all the muscles in her neck could only nod weakly in agreement.

Neither did she speak as Judeline pulled her off of the couch by her shirt, took her hand, and lead her through the house to the master bathroom. Why ruin the moment?

(Judeline's bathroom is wonderful, by the way. Lots of clean white marble surfaces, shower with a ledge, fancy two-person tub. There's a common stock photo of flowers Nari can no longer look at without her heart curdling.)

Judeline let go of Nari's hand and turned to look at her, eyes examining her clothes with pseudo-clinical interest. Even through the buzz, her intentions were crystal clear, so there was no surprise when she pointed to the vomit stain and, with that familiar accentless clinicality, spoke: "You should change out of those clothes."

Nari often tells herself that not even Dr. Gravett could've hidden the smirk on Judeline's face. It didn't stop her from stripping down.

Judeline watched her, of course. There was definitely something thrilling about being admired as Nari had been; in retrospect, Nari wonders if it was even sexual. Genuine affection was hard to come by, and Nari had never been more certain that Judeline was genuine than when she smiled at her naked body.

"You're an obedient little agent, aren't you?"

Nari's heart felt like it was pulling taught on her vocal cords, threatening to fall out with the slightest nod.

Judeline briefly turned her gaze to start the bath, before sitting at its edge and patting her lap. "Sit. Let me touch you, cheri."

No sooner had Nari sat herself on Judeline's lap that her hands began exploring her body, poking and prodding for her most sensitive spots. It was nothing like Nari had ever experienced: Judeline hands explored her with a doctor's touch, teasing out her secrets with a paralyzing precision. At once, however, it was tender, of a tactile kindness unknown in quick barrack lays.

How long had she been like that? Judeline was so obscenely good with her hands, it was hard to tell where time began and Judeline ended. Time almost seemed to steady itself as she settled into a rhythm, but even that was muddled as the heat built up in Nari's core, clouding her mind with thoughts of release, release, re

And then her hands were gone. "The bath's ready. Would you like me to wash you?"

Nari whined, and nodded.

"Excellent, amou." Judeline turned Nari's head to kiss her; she tasted like tea and mint and everything Nari needed. "Get in the bath."

The high took Nari sliding into the bath, no doubt splashing water over the marble. She didn't mind; it gave her a nice view of Judeline stripping out of her own clothes, a few more seconds to appreciate her muscles and stretch marks before she climbed into the tub.

Judeline's hands found Nari again, bringing her into a passionate kiss before melting in her body's most sensitive spots. Her manner was relentless, almost possessive, as if every part of Nari but especially her neck, thighs, and cunt was staked in Judeline's name. Fuck, she probably misses that most of all.

Reason broke down in lightning, and quickly threatened to break down again. Coming to, Judeline was already soaping Nari's skin, but her free hand, mouth, and knee were ill-content to stop their disorienting ministrations. Only when she moved to get behind Nari was she granted any sort of respite.

Judeline sighed into her ear. "Beautiful, beautiful." She soaped Nari's arms — "Such beautiful muscles," — Nari's chest — "impeccable form" — Nari's legs — "you can't know what you do to me, amou." — and every kiss behind Nari's ears was punctuation on the notion that — "you are appreciated, amou, you are appreciated."

By the time Nari was fully cleaned off, Judeline had made her cum at least twice; they would not leave the tub for at least two more.

Like all things feel-good, the weekend Nari spent with Judeline shot by in a blur. Before the Shift she would've given anything to make it last forever. Now, every time she tries to linger on the good times, her thoughts always come back to a single moment:

Having done a number on Nari's body, Judeline had to carry her to the bed. There, she set her down, tucked her in, and climbed inside to cuddle.

(Dr. Gravett had never struck her as the cuddling type, which makes it all the more painful in retrospect.)

"Cheri," Judeline whispered as she pulled closer, wrapping her legs around Nari's thigh. "Please don't run."

Nari wonders where she'd be if she'd just gotten up,

"You are appreciated, your work is meaningful."

put her clothes back on,

"Mon cheri,"

and walked away forever.

"Don't leave us alone."


But the idea that Nari could be loved was just too intoxicating.

Iteration 3

Officer Raddagher is going to take Agent Love onto her shift. Despite everything they've been through, Raddagher wants her on her shift. Is this some twisted plot? A ploy by Dr. Klein to make sure Love plays nice? Some prank? Who the fuck would want Love on their shift?

She won't fall for it. Not again.

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