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Sometimes It's Just

Susanna closed the door gently behind her guest. “Please, come on in, make yourself comfortable. You can put that…” She gestured awkwardly at the sword the woman had slung over her shoulder. “Well, wherever you’d like.” 

Maggie smiled a warm smile, hoping to put Susanna at ease.
A short time later they were seated on the balcony of Susanna’s apartment building, smoking cigarettes and drinking tea. Susanna had started smoking socially after some of the local gigs she had played.

“I really appreciate this,” she said.

Mags exhaled a line of smoke into the warm spring air. “It’s no problem at all. Are you sure you don’t mind putting me up?”

“I’ve decided that pampering my bodyguard is a smart idea.”

Mags laughed; she liked Susanna, she could tell right away. Some people collapsed in a crisis, and Maggie had sympathy for them. Others let fear become anger or bitterness, and Maggie had little patience for them. And some, like Susanna, stayed strong when things went out of control; Maggie always admired them. She herself had been each type of person at different times in her life.

“Well, breakfast-in-bed is always a classic form of pampering,” Maggie said with a smirk.

Susanna came back quick. “It’ll be breakfast-in-couch I’m afraid. Struggling musician means tiny one-bedroom apartment.”

Maggie laughed again. It had been a while since she had felt relaxed like this. Chatting. Fun. The balcony overlooked a wide park, trees and paths, a fountain. Children playing, dogs being walked. It would be easy to start pretending that this was her life, visiting with a friend, having tea. Easy to let her guard down, to let the Professor down and Susanna be taken by whatever enemies shifting had earned her.

Maggie asked her about her music, they talked about leaving teaching to pursue her art. Mags called her Sue, and for some reason it didn’t bother Susanna like when others had done so.
He used to tell that she could have this, that it could be her life if she wanted it. She would never be free of everything else, of all the darkness and the fighting, but there could be room for this too. He had tried, in his way, to help her find that. But of course he could never make it work for himself…

“You ok?” Susanna asked. Maggie looked at her. “You looked troubled all of a sudden.”

“I’m fine,” Mags said, fishing another cigarette from her pack. She didn’t like it when people got a glimpse behind the armour.

“I hope that sword is better at deflecting than you are, or I’m in trouble,” Susanna said lightly.

Mags felt the urge to lash out; she always did when she felt vulnerable. Susanna had a sweetness though, that cooled the sudden fire. A crow cawed from a tree in the park. Susanna saw Maggie look sad for a moment, then focus. Summon a playful smile.

“I could always practice my forms with it, if your apartment wasn’t so cramped,” Maggie jibed.

They kept talking and laughing, and for a while everything was peaceful.