Texas frowned, reading over the mission roster. It seemed like Lappland would be joining them for a raid on a Reunion base in the scrublands outside of Great Lungmen tomorrow morning.
Ugh. Again? Really? The dark-haired lupo thought to herself. She didn't mind having to fight alongside Lappland, despite their history. Hell, even after years apart they still worked together like it was second nature.
But in the weeks since her old partner had shown up at Rhodes Island, Lappland's constant bothering had really started to get on Texas's nerves. And it was one thing being on missions together, but having to spend hours in the trading post together? And nearly every day? It wore down on her. She seriously needed a break from Lappland.
Thankfully, Exusiai was a bit of a mediating presence. She and Lappland had even become acquaintances, making work a little less exhausting. But even with her there too, there was only so much Texas could handle.
Lunch was a much-needed break for Texas after the early-morning mission. Thankfully, the Rhodes Cafe was fairly empty today too, so there weren’t too many others around. Quiet, just the way she liked it, and she had a chance to catch up with Exusiai too.
"Hey, look on the bright side," the ever-optimistic angel had said, walking over to the corner booth with her drink. "At least you're assigned to dorms on different floors!"
"Yeah, I know Exia," Texas sighed as she stared at the ice cubes bobbing in her near pitch-black columbiano, watching them slowly melt. The angel had a point; that was, at least, some small comfort. "But still. It's bad enough having to be around her all the time. Between missions and the trading post, I’m seeing her almost every day."
Exusiai loudly slurped down her drink, thinking about what to say. It was iced as well, but topped with an absurd amount of whipped cream, caramel streaks and chocolate chips. "Really though, what's even with you two anyways?” the angel asked. “I mean, she's a little weird, sure, but she seems nice enough-"
Texas cut her off, frustrated. "That's the worst part about it though! It's like she can act like a fucking normal person around everyone else, but whenever she sees me? It's like she can't go five seconds without trying to get my attention.”
Exusiai's wings folded down, suddenly aware she had struck a nerve. "Oh. S-sorry, Tex. I shouldn't pry. You don't have to tell me about it if you don't want to."
Texas sighed, taking another sip of her coffee. "No, Exia, I’m sorry. It's alright. You don't need to apologize, it's just... complicated. I'll tell you about it another time, promise." She pulled out a pack of nicotine gum from her coat pocket and carefully unwrapped a stick before popping it in her mouth. The mint didn’t go well with the coffee aftertaste, but she needed something to take the edge off.
“How’s quitting going?” Exusiai asked, trying to break the awkward silence. She knew Texas didn’t really mind, but it still bothered her.
Texas gave a noncommittal shrug. “Not the easiest habit to break. Thinking about Lappland doesn’t help.”
She scooted over in their booth, putting an arm on the lupo's shoulder and giving a comforting half-hug. "Well, if it bothers you that much, I could ask the Doctor not to schedule you for shifts with her? I'm sure they wouldn't mind."
"Tried that already," Texas says, ruminating. "They said no. Seem to think we work well together. Something about order efficiency."
"Well, I could put in a good word for you! I'm the assistant for our floor, after all. I'm sure they'd reconsider. I mean, worst case scenario, they say no, then we can give something else a shot, right?" She punctuated the pun with a finger-gun motion that lifted up the dour wolf's spirits.
Texas wanted to say no, that it was alright, and she could deal with it herself, but Exusiai's smile was beaming so brightly, and she was so eager. And once again, she had a point.
"Alright, alright," Texas conceded. "Might as well try."
"Great! I'll talk to the Doctor tomorrow morning. We have a shift with Lappland in the afternoon, right? So if it all goes well, you won't have to deal with her then!"
"Hm. Yeah, I guess. Thanks, Exia," she said, planting a kiss on the angel’s cheek.
"Wait. Trading post B 3 ? Are you sure there's not some kind of mistake? I'm usually in B 2 with Texas and that angel. Exu... Executor? Yknow, the redhead? Sorry, my memory isn't so good." Yet another thing she had lost to oripathy.
Lappland's tail wagged - out of anxiety, not excitement - pointed low to the ground, her ears folded back. She fidgeted with her fingers as she waited for the small bunny girl seated at the desk across from her to find whatever she was looking for on the computer.
Amiya stared back at her, puzzled, before realizing what she meant. "I can’t seem to find any... oh, you mean Miss Exusiai? Mr. Executor is-"
"Yeah, yeah! She's the one." Lappland cut off the cautus assistant. "Her and Texas. We always work in the trading post together. B2. Every Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday.
"I know I've only been here for like, a week, but I made extra sure to memorize my schedule in advance, since that's when I get to see Texas!" Her ears had perked up, tail wagging similarly at the thought of getting to see her old partner again after all this time.
"I'm sorry, Miss Lappland, but not that's what the schedule says," Amiya replied sheepishly. "At least not anymore. You're right, it is a bit unusual for your work assignment to be changed on the day of," she said, turning around the monitor on her desk, "but the Doctor did sign off on it, as you can see here-"
"Okay, okay, whatever." The white wolf cut off the nervous rabbit, disregarding the spreadsheet or document or whatever the bunny was pointing to. Her eyes shifted to the office doors down the hall. "Look, can I speak with the Doctor, then? It's, uh, urgent," Lappland said, convincing no-one.
Amiya's brow furrowed. "Uh-huh." Being the Doctor's personal assistant had its ups and downs, and this was certainly one of the latter. "I'm sorry, but the Doctor is very busy," she said calmly. "If you'd like, I can schedule you in for an appointment in the next few days." Hopefully, the little white lie would be enough to shake her. And the Doctor really did have enough to worry about, between Reunion and Lungmen and Rhodes Island. She figured that they probably didn't need to deal with whatever this was about. At least not right now.
Lappland clenched her fists, claws digging into her palms. Days? No, no no. That's not going to work, she thought. She wasn't going to wait that long to see her Texas again. Not after all the waiting she already did. She wasn't going to let her run away. Not this time. She'd deal with it on her own.
"Y'know what?" Lappland said, trying to keep calm for now. "That's fine, actually. Don't worry about it. Where am I working today?"
The naïve bunny smiled to herself, proud of her small victory. "Glad we could get that sorted out! Let's see here... you’re in trading post B3, with Captain Fang and Miss Matoimaru. Do you need me to show you there?"
"Nope. Thank you, you've been very helpful." As Lappland walked back to the elevator, she thought about what the girl had said - it was unusual that the schedule had changed so suddenly, wasn't it?
"Are you sure you don't want me to help?" Exusiai asked.
"Yeah, we don't mind! C'mon Texas, it'll be faster if we all work together anyways~" Sora added, in her usual bubbly tone.
"It's okay. Besides, it's the least I can do to thank you, Exia. And you, Sora, for picking up on such short notice." A day without Lappland's constant nattering was a welcome relief for Texas.
"Well, if you insist." the angel shrugged.
"You'll come catch up later though, right?" The idol's eyes were almost sparkling. "Wanna get boba? You, me, and Exu!"
"That does sound nice," the angel added. "It'll be just like old times at PL!"
"We technically do still work for Penguin, you know," Texas replied. "We're just subcontracted-"
"Okay, whatever!” Sora cut in. “You know what I meant! No need for the contract talk, I hear enough of that from my agent as it is already. Just text us, okay?"
Texas laughed, feeling warm and nostalgic. "Sure. See you two later."
As the two girls headed out, Texas was left alone with the low hum of the warehouse machines and conveyor belts. As she started to power down the computers and clean up the workstation, she took a second to breathe. A small respite, a moment alone. A day without Lappland. She convinced herself that she'd be able to move on, that things were looking up.
Unfortunately, she didn't get to enjoy that thought for long.
A familiar voice called to her through the door. "Wow, are you really this much of a bore now? I mean it's only, what, 10 PM? Is that too late for you to go out now, Texas? You're softer than I thought."
The darker wolf sighed. "It's nice to be alone sometimes. I don't think it's that hard to understand."
"Oh? You think I don't understand you?" Lappland sauntered into the room. "I understand that you're a damn coward."
Texas put her hand to her face and sighed. She turned around, confirming her fears. This again. Great. "What do you want, Lappland?"
The white wolf got closer. She was tense, tail down, baring her teeth. "I want to know why you can't even talk to me. Do you honestly think I'm stupid enough that I wouldn't figure it out?"
Texas turned back towards the computer. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said, disinterested.
Lappland laughed. "Really? I can't believe you, Texas. The old you would've at least had the guts to own up to her shit and talk to me to my face. Are you gonna make me spell it out? I know you got me kicked out of the trading post here. I don't know how you did it, but that bunny said as much."
Texas’ fur bristled. "Okay, fine. I wanted a few days where I didn’t have to put up with you. What’s wrong with that?"
Lappland snarled. "Are you fucking serious? You couldn’t just talk to me? And I thought I had issues. "
Texas scoffed. Despite the intruder, she continued her work, determined to get out as soon as she could - walking around the room, sealing boxes that needed to be shipped out the first thing tomorrow. "What am I supposed to get out of that? You threatening me? Trying to act like we’re still in Siracusa? Get over it. I’m not that person anymore."
Lappland was getting closer now. Dangerously close. Texas could almost smell the sterile bandages covering her oripathy lesions, the minty shampoo that she still washed her hair with after all this time. The dried blood under her claws. Wait, blood? Was she even on a mission today-
Her train of thought was interrupted by Lappland slamming her hand against the wall. Texas turned around to find herself face-to-face with her partner. Former partner. Close enough to see her fangs, to hear her heartbeat. Both of the wolves' hearts were racing now.
“Are you really so sure about that, Texas? Can you really look me in the eyes and tell me that? Maybe you’ve gotten so good at lying to yourself that you really believe that, but I know you.”
Texas grabbed her, kissing her deeply. It was loving, but spiteful. Years of buried love came out, mixed with grief, joy, anger, a million other feelings. Finally having Lappland in her arms again. Finally getting back at her for being such an annoying brat.
Deep down, she knew it probably wouldn’t end well. That they’d probably just hurt each other again.
But bad habits are the hardest to kick.
[10:15 PM] tex: hey sorry i cant make it tonight
[10:16 PM] ✨Sora✨: Awww ;-;
[10:16 PM] pie in the sky 😇: But i already bought u a milk tea and everything 😔 u ok?
[10:22 PM] tex: yeah yeah dont worry!
[10:22 PM] tex: something came up. next time
[10:22 PM] pie in the sky 😇: okayyyyyyyy. im gonna drink ur tea tho >:T
[10:23 PM] ✨Sora✨: Im gonna hold you to that!
Seen 11:07 PM by tex