Stef stared at Milla’s back, smiling as her HUD calculated the distances and angles between all of the freckles there. There was beauty to be had in a world that could be covered in tooltips at a thought. You always knew how warm it was outside, how far it was across your office, or how to perfectly turn your hand for the best high-five possible.
Or, you could use it to stare dozily at your lover, and come up with a set of measurements that served no other purpose than to colour her low-powered, dozy state. She loved the “low power” mode that she found herself slipping into when she was tired – it wasn’t the proper sleep that agents had, which was still a shallower form of sleep than she’d had a human, the low-powered state was simply a recognition by her software that there were no pressing needs, nothing taxing her processes, so dialled down accordingly. It was as refreshing as a nap, with the added bonus of consciousness.
Lover. You thought “lover” without freaking out.
Huh. Guess I did. I mean. If I was going to freak out, it would have been…well…But I did it. Achievement unlocked.
Milla stirred, and Stef curled closer to her, the warmth of Milla’s skin soaking through her T-shirt. Spooning, as Milla had rightfully predicted, was fun – and it was fun, no matter which spoon you were.
‘Morning,’ Milla said. ‘Is it morning, or is it still night?’
‘It’s, like, six,’ Stef said, pulling herself out of low-power mode so make conversation easier. ‘I usually don’t like acknowledging this time of day, but I’m seeing it more and more since I became an agent. It’s not a good trend.’
Milla groaned, then shuffled around, punched her pillow, and flipped over to face Stef. ‘You still doing okay? You didn’t shift away during the night. But- But I still want to check in and make sure you’re okay.’
Stef released a breath. ‘I- I’m kind of ecstatic at how much of a big deal it wasn’t. It- It was nice,’ she said, trying not to insult Milla. ‘And it was something I enjoyed. And I’m liking this after bit as well.’ She shrugged. ‘I guess I’m a post-coital cuddler. But it’s- It’s not a big deal. I don’t feel like a different person. I don’t feel like I’ve been changed by it. It happened, and that big scary cloud in my head that used to represent sex is gone.’ She smiled. ‘It happened, and I don’t feel the particular need for it to happen again. I think it’ll take a couple of days for it to fully sink it. But. Um. To answer your question.’ She leaned close, and kissed Milla’s cheek. ‘I’m okay, Princess.’
There was a knock on the door, and Stef instinctively pulled the sheet up over her head, wanting to hide from whoever was coming to pay a visit.
‘Come innnn,’ Milla called.
The door opened, and there were carefully measured footsteps – an agent. Probably Williams. Probably…the father of the girl she’d just had sex with. Millions of images of various TV and movie dads going crazy at the idea of their little girls having sex made her cringe.
‘Is your dad the shotgun type?’ Stef asked, her voice a stage-whisper, hoping TV was once again exaggerating what happened in real life.
‘I trust my daughter with the autonomy to make her own decisions. Good morning, Agent Mimosa.’
‘Good morning, Agent Williams,’ Stef replied, and slowly pulled the sheet from her face. Williams – in contrast to Ryan, seemed to be capable of wearing clothes that weren’t his uniform. This morning, he wore a long-sleeved, stonewashed red shirt over casual trousers. ‘I wouldn’t have disturbed you, Milla,’ he said, ‘only the waffle cart is going by, and, sweetheart, I know how much you hate it when you miss it.’
Milla squeed and flung herself from her bed, her pink shorts and top being replaced with clothes that would be fine to wear outside, feet stamping on carpet because the more muffled sounds of sneakers. She only paused long enough to kiss her father on the cheek before running from the room, shouting encouragements for them both to join her.
‘Must be some pretty good waffles,’ Stef commented idly. Williams smiled and turned his back while she got out of bed. A thought had her uniform in place, and she quickly ran a hand through her hair, tidying it enough for breakfast.
‘There’s a hob man,’ WIlliams said as she stepped up to him, ‘who runs a cart. He only comes by every few weeks – most of his customers are in Fairyland, so he doesn’t feel the need to wander human streets. And when he does, it’s early enough in the day so that many people don’t question his business model.’ Williams smiled down at her. ‘Feel like breakfast, Agent?’
‘Always,’ she said, and followed Williams towards the elevators.
The walk from Milla’s room to the elevator was a short one. ‘Can I- Can I ask you a question that’s entirely not my business?’
Williams gave her a quizzical look. ‘I reserve the right not to answer, but you can ask.’
Stef swallowed. ‘Does- Does it bother you that Milla doesn’t call you “dad”? She refers to you as her father, and to herself as your daughter, but I haven’t actually heard her call you-’
Williams raised a hand as the elevator car appeared, and she fell silent as they stepped in. ‘It doesn’t,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t have a problem if she did, I’d welcome it, because as yet, I don’t have any other children. On the other hand, in a lot of ways, I view my position as that of a step-father. Her parents didn’t abandon her, nor was her upbringing anything less than one full of love and affection. I am her father, she is my daughter, but there was already a man she called “dad”.’
‘Thanks,’ she said as the doors slid open, ‘like I said, I know it wasn’t my place to ask.’
‘Agent,’ Williams said, ‘if I didn’t expect a number of strange questions, I wouldn’t have offered to host your external training. You’re actually behind on the number of apropro of nothing inquires I expected.’ He put a hand on her shoulder. ‘I am glad you’ve made friends with my girl though, life is far better with friends.’ The lobby door burst open and Milla came running in, holding a small card container – with the top of a green waffle poking out. ‘Hurry up!’ she encouraged, ‘he’s still got some matcha ones left!’ She skidded to a stop in front of Stef. ‘Get the salted caramel sauce,’ she said, ‘it’s so good it should be illegal.’ Milla smiled, and held out her hand. ‘Come on!’
Stef grinned, took her friend’s hand, and ran with her, out of the lobby, and towards breakfast.