[identity profile] nekonexus.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] if_i_trace
(Steve, Val, and talk of jobs. Ficlet, post Wrap-timeline.)

~*~*~

"...I could get a job," Val offered spontaneously, one morning.

Steve didn't even look up from his paper. "No." It seemed obvious to him that the subject had BAD IDEA written all over it. But Val didn't remember....

"Why not?" Val asked, frowning. "I mean, I know you'll get to go back to work, but I don't want to just freeload, and it wouldn't hurt to have a little extra, right?"

"You can't," Steve said. Because you're not really human....

"But --"

"Val," Steve interrupted, in that tone. "You don't have a public identity." You don't really exist....

"Oh." Val drooped for a moment, propping his chin on his fists and his elbows on the kitchen table. "How do I get one, then?"

Folding his newspaper closed with an irritated rustle, Steve stared at him. It was obvious that the kid wasn't going to give up on the idea until he got an answer he could live with. It would be easy to say "you can't" but it wouldn't be true. And worse, Val would know that it wasn't true, and might even try figuring something out on his own. Which was a worse idea, obviously.

"Fine," Steve growled. "Get your shoes."


If the elderly Indian man was surprised to see his once-protégé turn up on his doorstep with a young man in tow, he didn't show it.

"Valin," Steve said, around his cigarette. "Meet Val."

The two stared at each other, appraisingly, until Valin (the elder) tipped his head sideways and gave the younger a closed-eyed smile. "A pleasure to meet you," he said. "What brings you to my humble home?"

Steve dropped his cigarette and crushed it out beneath his heel, then stooped to pick up the butt. "He needs an identity," he said.

"Ahh," Valin murmured, eyes opening again. "I see."


Nothing was discussed until tea was served, of course. It was chai, really, and Steve never had been fond of the milky taste, but he tolerated it.

"You do not remember?" Valin asked.

Val shook his head with more energy than he needed to. "Nope. Well, bits and pieces. Music helps, sometimes. But I don't remember having a name, or going to school, or any of that stuff that seems like... well... normal."

Steve wouldn't smoke in Valin's house, but he wished he could. "You're not normal," he muttered, though his tone was not unkind.

"Yeah, but... couldn't I be? Couldn't I maybe pretend to be?"

Valin studied them both for a long moment, hands wrapped around the thick-walled mug that held his chai. "You realize it is not legal," he said, to Steve, though his gaze lingered on Val.

Steve snorted. "Since when has that bothered you?"

Valin's eyes turned to him, darkly serious. "It does not bother me. But given your current circumstances, it should perhaps bother you." Play by the rules when you need to.

Raising his mug, Steve nodded. "It should. But what the hell else can I do?" He's a hybrid... not human... manufactured lifeform... what do I do with him?

Wisely, Val stayed silent, gaze moving from one man to the other as he watched the unspoken conversation.

"Leave him with me," Valin said quietly.
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