Pas De Deux


colette_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Pas de Deux
Synopsis Pas de Deux; noun: 1) a dance or figure for two performers, 2) an intricate relationship or activity involving two parties or things.
Date March 4th, 2012 through March 4th, 2017

March 4, 2012

Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto, Ontario

Spring is a time of awakening, renewal, new beginnings; this inherent nature is keenly palpable in the atmosphere of the park, in the budding-out of new leaves on all its trees and the vibrant colors of early bulbs in blossom bedecking the greensward. Overhead, the azure dome of the sky is crystalline clear, its air crisp with a hint of lingering chill; the sun peeks between urban edifices of glass and plaster, painting the landscape in hues just beginning to shade towards amber.

The park has quieted from its afternoon bustle, most people having retreated home — or to a restaurant — for evening meal. There's still two small children running circles around a picnic bench under the eye of their mother, whose manner suggests she might soon be packing them out as well. At the far side of the triangular park, a blonde woman seats herself on a bench, for once unaccompanied by her dog; she wears black pants, a dark green knit sweater, a black-and-green striped scarf. A bag is set at the foot of the bench, cartons of Chinese takeout withdrawn from it one-by-one and placed in a rather unnecessarily meticulous grid at Tamara's side.

She has the air of someone who doesn't expect to be sitting alone for long.

Her expected date comes jogging up with a bag of her own under one arm, long hair brushing her shoulders and brow streaked with sweat. Colette feels as though she's late — and she is by six minutes — but to Tamara she's precisely on time.

Sorry,” Colette exhales the apology, setting a canvas shopping bag down on the bench before doubling over with hands on her knees. Taking in a few rapid breaths, Colette’s face is flushed red and plastered with an ear-to-ear smile. Blind eyes find the takeout boxes after her nose does and that smile grows fondly.

Sliding an elastic hair tie off of her right wrist, Colette ties her hair back into a messy ponytail. She steps in, pressing a kiss to Tamara’s forehead, then nose, one cheek, and then a brush of a kiss across her lips accompanied by a positively jubilant bubble of laughter. “Happy birthday, love.”

Colette traces a finger at the blonde’s jaw, and then she settles in beside Tamara on the bench with the takeout between them both. Her own bag is set down on the ground at her feet, and an unwrapped canary yellow wool scarf is pulled out from within. The fuzzy scarf has bands of green and blue at the end, matching the colors Tasha and Colette have often associated with one-another.

Flushed with color, Colette offers the scarf out over the food and drags her teeth over her bottom lip. “So I officially knit now. I'm a knitter.” Her nose wrinkles. “That's weird, right?”

Tamara laughs softly in response to the apology, shaking her head. She smiles up at Colette, resting one hand briefly over hers, then goes back to opening boxes as the brunette settles onto the bench. "Thank you." The simple phrase could be applied equally to birthday wishes and to brightly-colored gift — or, given the seer, to anything at all.

Collecting the bundle of yellow knit, Tamara drapes it over her own shoulders like the shawl it isn't, holding up one of the ends to trace the colored bands. "Is it?" she asks, looking over the fabric at her companion. Her smile broadens into a grin. "I was the last one to call anything 'weird'," she points out, a fact true for more than one reason alone.

Silverware is retrieved from the bag as well, and handed over to her partner along with one of the boxes. "Happy birthday," Tamara echoes, even though it isn't so for Colette; but irrespective of technicalities, what makes this day important is the fact that they share its observance, creating meaning together where none would exist alone.

March 4, 2013

X52-ROOK Crew Cabin

Colorado Air Space

Buckled in to her seat with the dull roar of jet engines thrumming through the soundproofed bulkhead, Colette Demsky fumbles with a Velcro pocket on the front of her flak jacket. Across the way, Scott Harkness sits with a dog-eared paperback book in one hand, quietly reading. Up in the cockpit, Hana Gitelman and Avi Epstein quietly discuss their next destination. Colette, left to her own devices, finally fishes a cell phone out of that pocket.

Punching in a number from memory, a message reading No Service pops up and her heart sinks. A moment later she catches a gesture up in the cockpit, Hana with one hand raised. When she looks at the phone again, she has full bars. “Thank you!” Colette calls up, eliciting a briefly startled look from Scott and a sheepish smile from Colette.

As she punches in a number from memory, Colette sweeps back her long hair behind one ear and waits for the expected voice on the other side of the line. She's anxious, heart racing, knee jittering. She misses them both so much.

The phone barely starts to ring before the connection is made. "Hi, kitty," is spoken into a receiver a very long ways from Colorado. On the other end of the line, Tamara stands beside an upstairs window, not really watching a pair of sparrows fuss over their nest in the tree immediately outside. Green-dappled sunlight filters through new leaves, glinting off the ring on her left hand, highlighting the contrast between bold yellow scarf and unadorned white shirt.

"Leaving it a little late, aren't you?" Tamara remarks, a gentle tease that implicitly has more to do with lack of standard cell service on the caller's end than actual time of day on hers. From one perspective, the call could even be termed early, as there are a few minutes yet before Tasha returns from classes.

Though Tasha isn't the point of this particular call, on this particular day.

“Oh my god, it's so good to hear your voice.” Colette’s cracks with a touch of emotion as she hunches down as much as she can in her seat aboard the jet, plugging one ear with a finger so she can hear more clearly. “I was gonna call yesterday — I've got some great news — but I wanted to save it for today.”

Threading another lock of hair behind one ear, Colette manages an anxious smile. “First like, I'm on a jet! And this is the most — I've never felt so good in my life!” Her excitement is infectious, and Harkness cracks a rare smile across the aisle as he flips the page in his book.

“But— but that's not the news. I'm going to be done with my combat training at the end of the month! I'm gonna actually be able to help out first hand.” There's pride in Colette’s voice, even if it's tempered by fear. “Once I'm done I'm gonna get a month of leave before I transition to the combat role, so I'll be home in April!”

Colette’s lips slowly spread into a smile, and with her free hand she pulls the ring she has to wear around her neck with her identification tags while in the field. That partial puzzle piece is rolled between forefingers and thumb. “Happy birthday, love.” Colette shakily says into the phone. “I can't wait t’see you…”

Switching the phone to her other ear her other hand, Tamara steps away from the window, padding down the stairs and taking a sharp turn into the kitchen. She grins at Colette's enthusiasm, though the expression can only go unseen by her distant partner. "You had to tell us about it," she says, which is true in more ways than one. "What you could share," the seer adds.

Around the continuous noise of the jet, Colette might hear the sounds of cupboards being closed, the clink of dishes on counter. "April," Tamara echoes. Colette can't see the shift in her attention, the way she turns towards the door, but she can hear its implication in the tone of the seer's voice. "We were here," she promises with another smile.

A smile that takes on a hint of mischief. "I had a present for you, too. But you would just have to wait…"

Colette’s smile is likewise hidden from Tamara, but it's evident in her voice over the hum of the engines heard behind her voice. “I got you something too,” she says with a fond smile, looking down to a backpack on the empty seat beside her, partly unzipped and containing an intact snow globe depicting the Manhattan skyline.

“Well,” Colette pinches her bottom lip between her teeth. “Two things, but you've already unwrapped one of them before. Repeatedly.” Teasing laughter flutters at the end of that statement, and elicits a look from Scott over the top of his book. Colette catches the expression and that he overheard her and ripples with a shimmering haze out of sight. Still buckled into her seat.

“April. It's a date.”

March 4, 2014

Toronto, Ontario

The world around them has gone quiet in one sense, the peace of bated breath, of hope still young and standing on shaky legs. The house they share is quiet too, office door firmly shut to block out distractions as Tasha studies for her midterm exams. It was perhaps in that spirit that Tamara told Colette, firmly, not to make any plans for today…

…or perhaps not, as the woman who slips into Colette's room is not quite the one who left her there an hour before, communing with colorful yarn and pointy needles. Somewhere in that intervening time, Tamara dressed up: sleeveless ivory cardigan over pale blue blouse, black pleated knee-length skirt with embroidery weighting its hem in blue and white, black flats on her feet.

Though her steps are quiet as she crosses the room, Tamara knows better than to expect Colette doesn't see her coming. She rests her hands on Colette's shoulders, leans down to press a kiss against the dark strands of her hair, lips curving in a slow smile. "You didn't go making any plans, right?"

Colette startles just a little bit to the kiss at her hair, fumbling with the tangle of yarn in her lap, all knotted wool and needles. She looks up to Tamara, still in her sweatpants and tank top from earlier in the day. But Tamara is radiant, and as Colette reaches up to take one of Tamara’s hands in her own, she also leans back just a bit to get a better look at her.

On the bed beside where she sits cross-legged, her cell phone is out with a text message received but not responded to:

Nambiza: We've got new target leads. Will you be coming back?

Colette flips the phone face down into the bed, sets the tangled ball of yarn aside, and slides her legs down off of the bed and presses bare feet to the floor. She slips around to Tamara’s side, an arm around her waist and one hand up to her cheek, knuckles delicately brush against the curve of her jaw with a warm, lingering kiss following.

“You have my undivided attention,” Colette says in a whisper against Tamara’s lips, letting her forehead touch Tamara’s and come to rest there. “Except for— I maybe need to put on something appropriate?” One dark brow raises slowly, and Tamara can feel the tension ebbing out of her body in their embrace.

That smile lingers as Colette regards her appearance, as Tamara leans into the subsequent embrace and the kiss that comes with it. The lip gloss is not a surprise; that it tastes of cinnamon is — different. Face to face with Colette, one hand curled over her shoulder, the other at her waist, Tamara smiles again, distinct approval shaping the contours of her expression. "Maybe you do," she murmurs, breath tickling, before leaning in for a reciprocal kiss… and then stepping back, raising her hands as if to release Colette.

"I'll just let you do that," Tamara comments as she turns away, moves back towards the door. She pauses on the threshold, casting a glance over her shoulder that is seen only in profile; then she slips out of even Colette's supernal field of view.

As she walks down the stairs, the seeress considers the phone she'd palmed during that exchange; the words on its screen are beyond her present understanding, but the weight of their meaning is inescapable… and the answer that will be given to them, inevitable. All Tamara might do is postpone it a little longer — and make every minute of that delay worthwhile.

Despite its brevity, the reply tagged with Colette's name is obviously not anything she would write:

She will. In due time.

Colette doesn't come downstairs for several minutes, though when she does it's as though another person walks in her place. There's few times, given the life she leads — will lead — that she's ever looked this way. But today is special, the woman she's meeting downstairs is special, and it calls for things pulled out on special occasions.

Flats are never usually in Colette’s fashion vocabulary, but the sole black pair she owns go well with everything else. Patterned gray cotton tights with vertical striping, serving as a neutral base for the sky blue sundress over which she wears a light spring jacket of black satin with a floral pattern panel down each arm. Her hair is — well not everything can be fixed. It's tied back at least, messy as always. Her smile is infectious, her excitement too, she feels pretty tonight and that confidence radiates off of her as much as light often does.

As Colette comes down the stairs, having forgotten her phone, the call she has to make, everything other than the moment she's the picture of nervous anticipation. Offering out one hand to Tamara, a hand with a familiarly glittering bracelet around her wrist and ring to match, her smile is one of genuine adoration.

“Where are we going?” Colette asks with a sheepish voice, palm up in wait and fingers curled slightly.

The phone is disappeared before Colette descends, tucked away where it won't intrude on their evening even by mere fact of its presence. By the time Colette is ready, she finds Tamara standing near the front window, her gaze directed idly outside through the blinds. The blonde turns as her partner approaches, linking arms and interlacing fingers with the proffered hand, lightly bumping shoulders. Her smile is slow, broad, distinctly playful; Colette has seen that expression enough times to fill in the associated blank even as Tamara reaches over to open the door. Still, the seer answers aloud:

"You'd just have to find out when we got there."

March 4, 2015

Rochester, New York

Dust is kicked up from the downdraft of twin duct rotors whining with a banshee wail. Blown clean of debris, the cracked asphalt of an abandoned parking lot becomes a makeshift landing pad as a dark silhouette spreads out across the ground.

When the Tlanuwa touches its wheels down the rear hatch is already opening slowly. By the time it's full weight is settled, one passenger is already hopping down with booted feet clapping on the ground. Colette Demsky walks backwards away from the jet, short-cropped hair fluttering in the downdraft.

She stares up over the jet’s silhouette to the enormous industrial building looming in the distance. Home. As Epstein steps down off of the ramp with Devon Clendaniel at his side, Colette feels a distinct buzzing in her pocket. She steps away from the jet, sliding a phone out of a pocket in her cargo pants.

Demsky,” Colette answers the number not programmed into her phone, offering a side-long look to the Tlanuwa as she considers Hana’s ear on the call.

"Hi, Colette."

Two timezones and an international border away, Tamara leans with her back against a tree, looking up through its new-grown leaves in the general direction of an upstairs window. Somewhere behind that window is a fledgling lawyer hard at her books. They'll go out for dinner later, because Tasha is thoughtful like that, and making some observance of the day matters to her.

The observance that matters to Tamara carries six years' weight behind it, an impression the substance of which she cannot enumerate yet still feels quite tangibly. More tangible still is the uncertainty of its future, a cloud of potential that could yet take many shapes, all of them contingent on the person at the other end of her call.

Colette can't see her fidget with the fringe of the green scarf she wears, or the way Tamara closes her eyes and leans her head back against the trunk of the tree. She might infer something of these in the pause between one sentence and the next, a pause a shade longer than conversational. In contrast, the tone of Tamara's voice is carefully neutral, yielding nothing — and her diction is the kind of deliberately precise she's been practicing in public settings, around strangers.

"I just wanted to say hello. I won't keep you long."

Tamara can't see Colette stalking away from her team, brushing the side of her hand across her eyes and smudging dark makeup to her cheeks. Sand kicks up around her ankles, blown from the cracks in the asphalt, and Colette’s silence comes with an anxious knot of tension building in the pit of her stomach.

“Hey,” is small, mostly audible over the distance between the whine of the engines and the static on the line. “I um, I just touched down in New York. I'm gonna… probably be a while longer.” The gone someone uses when they're making excuses, or excusing themselves. But she closes her eyes and shakes her head, curls the fingers of one hand into her hair and frowns at herself.

“It— might be a couple months. We’re just getting set up here and…” Colette looks back over her shoulder, watching Devon levitating heavy supplies out of the Tlanuwa. “They really need me…”


One word, two syllables. Still spoken with reserve, but Colette can fill in from memory the smile that should go with it — affectionate, tolerant, patient.

Tamara isn't smiling, not really — a hint of curve tugs at the corners of her mouth, but only a hint. Her gaze drops, and she opens her eyes to look at the ring on her free hand, its stone turned inward, resting above her palm. Her fingers close over its glinting light.

"You forget who you're talking to," she says into the phone; there's a thread of amusement underlying the carefully enunciated words, a gentle chide leaching through. A while longer… a couple months… someday. The seeress knows the shape of that pattern, can fill in the span of time with far more accuracy than any guess — any excuse — Colette might make.

"I understand," Tamara says, that thread banished now, the words a simple statement of fact — though their truth is fundamentally incomplete. Pushing herself off the tree, she walks in the direction of the house's front door. "You'll do what you need to," recalls in distorted echo the error that now lies between them; need is just as much the wrong word as understand, and yet seen in a certain light, the only one that applies.

Pausing on the porch, Tamara hesitates over two words; fails to speak them. That silence is nearly a statement in its own right.

There's tension in Colette’s silence. She stares into the river beyond the makeshift landing pad and wipes at her eyes again. Teeth press into her bottom lip and she looks briefly over her shoulder to the old electrical plant. Then, after breathing in deeply she slowly presses a breath out through her nose.

Swallowing audibly, Colette looks down to her feet and fills the silence with a noise in the back of her throat. “I'm— ” sorry falls into the river, floats away in the beat between. “I've gotta go, there's a lot going on. Tell Tasha I said hi.” Colette pulls the phone from her ear and ends the call abruptly, then steps awkwardly behind view, occluded by the corner of a large bay door garage.

She claps a hand to her face, lips pulled back into a grimace, and tries to restrain a sob into something more strangled and quiet. Something that can be lost in the background noise.

The phone goes as silent as the woman holding it to her ear; Tamara lowers it, looks down at its screen, smiles wistfully. Closing her eyes, she breathes out a sigh, letting her shoulders sink. Whispers two words to the unhearing air. And then she picks herself back up, pushes open the door, goes inside.

Tamara has a message to deliver, and the rest of the day still ahead of her.

March 4, 2016

Galveston, Texas

Moody Gardens used to be a spectacle in its time, with three towering glass pyramids housing aquariums jutting up from the glorified sandbar that is Galveston. Today little remains except the demolished and algae-streaked ruins. Wild palm trees and ferns grow uncontested across the smooth and open expanse, and the approach of a black motorized zodiac raft cut black shadows across late afternoon light.

As the raft hits the beach, Colette pulls herself from within, splashing into the shallows and dragging the boat to shore. Muscles flex under tattoo-covered bare arms as she hauls the raft up, then retrieves her long rifle from inside. More boats are approaching, the rest of Strike Team Wendigo, but they're at least ten minutes out.

Taking a knee in the underbrush, Colette rests the barrel of her rifle against her shoulder, stock on the ground, and removes a cell phone from the chest pocket of her flak jacket. No new calls. She breathes in deeply, shakes her head, and tucks it back in the pocket.

"Don't. Move."

Two words in an astonishingly familiar voice, heard not through a phone speaker but carried plainly on the humid shoreline air. Almost prosaically, except — guns, warnings, Texas. This is anything but a prosaic situation.

Footsteps in the brush, not silent but quiet; they begin from a palm copse off behind Colette and to her left, approach at an angle. The woman who comes into view is as familiar as the voice, since it was hers… and yet unfamiliar at the same time. Her blonde hair has been tied back in a braid; she wears cargo pants, a simple tanktop, a small hiking backpack; and none of her habitual jewelry is in sight.

She also carries a walking stick, the end of which Tamara uses to poke at the underbrush as she closes with Colette. There's a rustling noise, and then a sleek dark shape can be glimpsed streaking towards the water, retreating away from them both.

A sidewise glance is cast towards the Hound. "Don't tell me you weren't warned about the snakes."

Threads of blue light dance around the fingertips of Colette’s right hand, sinuous filaments of light woven in reflexive panic at a voice that isn’t immediately familiar. But the sight of Tamara causes Colette’s ability to sputter out, the threads of intense light dissipating into the afternoon ambience. She breathes in a shuddering breath, and wonders what Monkey’s Paw she’d been gifted to have this subconscious wish granted.

Words make sense after a moment of blood pounding in her ears, and Colette looks down to the wild undergrowth, then over to Tamara. How is a stupid question, one with years of experience and volumes of notes as to its unimportance. Why is so much more palpable in the moment. Opening her mouth to talk, Colette only finds a hush of breath and an unsteadiness to her jaw. Her stomach turns, knots, face flushed red and eyes water. She’d come all the way out here. For her.

Colette is still, both from shock and from the warning. Uncertain of how rhetorical the latter one is, Colette keeps her arms at her side and looks down again, then back up to Tamara. “Why’re you here?” It isn’t accusatory, it’s something more like self pity. All of her physical tells show that she’s beyond relieved, and yet her words come out so twisted. She just wants to embrace her. Might have, were it not for the threat of snakes.

She’d been warned. She’d also let it slip her mind.

Tamara watches the snake go, then looks over at Colette. "You can get up now," she allows, tone faintly wry. She braces her hands against the stick, leaning into it; turns her gaze from the operative, sweeping it across the beach and towards the glass pyramids that once upon a time were a tourist attraction. Why, she is asked, a query so natural to make, so rarely easy for the seeress to answer.

Time passes marked by the murmur of air past palm leaves, the susurrus of water lapping against shore; not too much of it. "A thumb on the scale," Tamara says at last, gazing down at her own hands, fingers splaying out and then reclosing over the stick. She falls quiet for another moment, then shakes her head, offers Colette a rueful smile tinged with apology. "That's not much of an answer, I know."

She looks ahead once more, her attention going distant in more ways than one. "Whatever it was, isn't, because I am here." Such is the nature of ever-changing possibility, continually warped and reformed by the very pieces on its board. That choice became certainty; the ones that remain weren't the original catalyst. Tamara shrugs, casts a glance over her shoulder. "But I also wanted to." For all that it's spoken offhand, she's quite certain of that truth.

Even though the snake is gone, Colette is still frozen in place. She looks up to Tamara with glassy eyes, once that quickly flick to the dark silhouettes of other rafts approaching on the horizon. When her attention sweeps back to the seeress, the emotion playing across Colette’s face is so barely restrained. Words gone unsaid, spoken words long regretted, a misunderstanding tangled into an argument, balled up into a mistake rolling downhill. Colette swallows, trying to steady herself, breathe in, breathe out. No.

Seven minutes until the rest of the team gets here, seven minutes before she has to be on, and Colette springs up not into the presumed action of her profession but into the action of hearts. She throws her arms around Tamara, one hand at the back of her head, rifle falling away into the underbrush with a soft thump. Her grip is adamant, strength gained from years in the field now employed to ensure that the woman in front of her is just as tangible as the lump in her throat at the pit of her stomach.

I’m sorry,” should have been said years ago, and from Colette’s perspective it’s been impossible to let go of that moment. To Tamara it’s as gone as the fish that once lived in those pyramid-shaped aquariums. Pressing her nose into Tamara’s temple, Colette is trembling. Regret is a heavy thing for her, a yoke over her shoulders that she keeps putting on herself time and again. “I’m sorry I’ve been— I’m sorry I haven’t— ” she falters. But Tamara is here, in the now, in the flesh.

Oh my God, I love you.” Is said through a couple of shoulder-shaking sobs. Whatever is was that had driven the wedge between them was — still is — a reality yet to come. But Colette’s obstinance and frustration is an obstacle of her own design. One she chooses to deconstruct. Six minutes left. Make the most of them.

Tamara has warning, in the moment between decision and action — warning enough to set her heels, to brace against exuberant impact, to let the stick fall aside and clear her hands. She folds her arms around Colette's shoulders, her embrace gentler; she leans her cheek into the line of Colette's jaw, breath whispering softly past her ear.

There are a thousand conversations they could have, a thousand iterations of that six-minute span wherein Tamara might tease out what Colette is sorry for, her regrets, her reasons. The conversation she cannot remember, retold more than a year later from someone else's perspective. Seconds pass, time measured in breaths and heartbeats, as the seer listens to those possibilities, draws shape and meaning from them. It is only an approximation of understanding, as ephemeral as the seconds that slip by, but — sufficient to this moment, this conversation.

"You are who you are," she murmurs, pressing a kiss against Colette's hair. "You are who you will be." Recognition, permission, benediction. Tamara leans back, just far enough to meet her gaze with serious, somber blue eyes. "As long as you wanted. I know what that means."

One hand lifts, presses light fingers against Colette's cheek, thumb resting across her lips to forestall any reply just a moment longer. "It's simple. And it's difficult. We live in different worlds, only meeting on the shore. But that shore will always be there for you."

Swallowing noisily, Colette reaches up and cups Tamara’s cheek in one hand. Her other retrieves the chain from around her own neck, showing the ring with her dog tags. She can't wear it on her hand in the field, but it's always beside her heart. Colette lets the necklace go to lightly bounce against her flack jacket.

“Until the end,” Colette reaffirms, regret painting her expression. “That's how long,” her hand at Tamara’s cheek moves down to her jaw, and Colette leans in for another kiss. Eyes flutter shut, her heart races, and there's four minutes left. Wendigo is likely within sight range by now, and she's standing backlit by the setting sun kissing Tamara rather than doing her job. She'll take the good-natured chastisement from them all. This is more important.

As she leans back from the kiss, Colette’s blind eyes see Tamara in the setting sunlight in ways no one else ever will. She feels the light reflecting off of her, sees the woman she loves with two senses. “I'm probably going to screw up. I know I am. But just— I promised.”

“I'll always come back to you.”

March 4th, 2017

The Bunker, Rochester NY

Spring is a time of awakening, renewal, new beginnings; this inherent nature isn't obvious in the industrial parklands of western Rochester. But scrub grass grows up around the edges of crumbling asphalt, the old overgrown shrubs outside of the Bunker have fresh buds on their branches, and a family of sparrows has come to nest somewhere over the side entrance door in a structural crack in the stone wall. Overhead, the azure dome of the sky is crystalline clear, the air crisp with a hint of lingering chill.

Colette steps out of the Bunker’s side entrance, reaching into her pocket to retrieve a battered old lighter and a half empty pack of cigarettes she'd borrowed from Dearing. She'd always heard people say it helps with nerves. Shaking the pack in her hand, Colette flicks a cigarette out into her palm.

The cigarette disappears from Colette's palm in the very instant it lands, plucked out by someone else's hand — a hand wearing a familiar ring. The woman that hand belongs to stands in the lee of the door, regarding Colette with fond exasperation. "I don't think so," Tamara declares as the door swings shut behind them. Stepping in closer, she plucks the pack out of Colette's other hand, sliding the cancer stick back into it. "You can't do that at home, and not here either," echoes words spoken long ago, but with far different tone: playful then, emphatic now —

— but for all that, not completely free from mischief. "Besides," Tamara murmurs, nose to nose, breath a cinnamon-scented whisper across Colette's lips, "they tasted terrible."

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