A Time

by v_voltaire (v_voltaire at livejournal)
For: Andy B (jarodrussell)
Requested characters used: Sister Superior (JL: Elite)

"Once upon a time," Manchester said, because that was how the story always began. "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess and her name was..."

"Vera!" Vera would always crow.

"And she had a brave and noble brother and his name was..."

"Manchester!" she chirped and tugged on her teddy bear's ears.

"Right. And together, they were supposed to be the king and queen of the world. But some evil people didn't want Manchester and Vera to rule the world, so they stole them away and gave them to a poor seamstress and her mean husband."

"Why'd they do that?" Vera asked.

"Because they wanted to rule the world instead." Manchester leaned in confidentially and whispered, "But they didn't do a very good job of it."

Vera stuck her fingers in her mouth and giggled.

"What they evil people didn't realize was that Manchester had special powers. He used his magic and found out what the evil people had done. So he and Vera packed up all their things and left to find their real parents. They traveled for many days until they met a dragon!"

Vera gasped, mainly because this was the part of the story where she was supposed to gasp.

"The evil people had sent the dragon to eat poor Vera and Manchester! But Manchester was very smart, so he cast a spell to make him and his sister invisible to the dragon. They tiptoed past," he walked two fingers up the blanket, heading to Vera's knees, "step, step, step, step. But then, Manchester realized he was allergic to dragons! Ah-choo!"

A door slammed somewhere in the apartment. A few unsteady footsteps, a low, deep slur of words, and then, thankfully, silence.

"Then what, 'Chess?"

Manchester smiled a shaky smile and lowered his voice. "Well, then Vera Lynn walked right up to that dragon and said, 'Mr. Dragon, if you promise not to eat me and my brother, I will give you a kiss.'" Vera made a face. "And when the dragon leaned down to get that kiss, Vera went and gave that dragon a great big kick, right in its nose!"

Vera cheered and mimed the kick, knocking the blanket aside. Manchester's book slid off the bed and hit the ground with a hollow thud. From down the hall, they heard the sounds of quiet cursing and slow, unsteady footsteps heading towards their door.

"'Chess, 'm sorry," Vera whispered.

Manchester tucked the blanket back around her. "S'okay, luv. Sorry, I'm going to have to skip over the rest of the story, but long story short they beat up the dragon, then they beat up the evil people, and then they realize they don't need any sodding parents after all, and they rule the world all by themselves and everyone is happy. Except for the bad people. Does that sound good to you?"

Vera nodded, her violet eyes barely peeking over the tattered edge of the blanket.

"Good. 'Night, V." His kiss brushed the top of her hair, and for a moment he's outlined against the doorway, and then she's alone. She wiggled free of the blanket just enough to slip her hands out and press them against her ears. She tried to fall asleep.

***

"Once upon a time there was a dashing, powerful, and may I mention ridiculously handsome prince named Manchester Black, who also happened to be the be the best brother in the world to a beautiful princess named Vera Lynn, who said:"

Vera swiveled around in her chair, her face lit with bemused affection. "'Chess! Aren't you a little old for fairytales? Dictaphone off," she added when her computer beeped at her.

Manchester shuffled up to her station. "Never too old when it comes to my dear, sweet baby sister! Come, give us a kiss."

She rolled her eyes but obediently pursed her lips and pressed her cheek against his.

"Give us a hug." He squeezed her tight and didn't mind the metal she pressed into his back.

"Give us a dance." He pulled her bodily from the chair and only her quick footwork allowed her to remain upright. He smoothly sashayed her across the room, holding her metal claw as gently as he would an antique vase.

"Manchester, what has gotten into you?" she gasped, coming out of a spin. He attempted a fancy step and was rewarded with a steel-plated heel on his toes. "Sorry, luv. You know I only know how to lead."

Manchester threw his head back and laughed. "That's right! That's just what I told them! I said, 'Boys, my little Vera's got more balls than all of you army blokes put together!'"

Vera just stared at him. "You've gone completely loony, haven't you? Totally 'round the bend. 'I knew it was going to happen,' I said. 'Lad can muck about in other folks' minds but he can't find one of his own.' Light me a cig, will you? Still can't work a lighter with these things." She tapped the tips of her artificial fingers a few times for effect.

"You don't smoke," Manchester pointed out as he expertly shook a single stick out of the pack. He lit it with a flourish, taking the first drag for himself before popping it between Vera's lips. She smiled around the smoke.

"Ta, 'Chess. I only give in when things are a little too stressful." She sank back into her chair, all liquid hips and curves against the stark lines of her arms. "For instance, when my dear, darling brother has gone completely barmy. What's this about you talking to army folk? I thought you hated them as much as the idiots in costumes."

Manchester's face tightened for just a moment. "We all must make sacrifices for a greater cause." Then he relaxed and shrugged a little. "So they tell me, anyway. Remember those silly stories I'd tell you when you were a kid?"

Vera blew smoke in his general direction. "What was it? 'Arms big enough to hold the entire world?' Those ones?" She gestured pointedly with her cigarette. "These will do just fine, ta very much. Any longer and I won't be able to reach my mouth."

"Vera." He leaned over her and didn't flinch when the cigarette's glowing tip brushed his nose. "I'm talking about state of the art, very hush hush, science bloody fiction come to life. It makes Area51 look like a sodding sandbox." He pulled some files out of his pocket and flipped them onto her lap. "They want you, V, 'cause they think your brain's like mine."

He turned away from her, not looking while she skimmed through the pages. "Of course, they'll expect you to work for them, got to sign some contracts, buy into the whole truth, justice, and steak and kidney pies, or whatever they're trying to sell today. Once you get tired of it, just say the word and we'll burn the whole place and go off to do some real good, just you and me. What do you say?"

Vera raised her eyes from the pages. "Tell me, doctor, will I be able to play the piano?"

Manchester placed his hand over hers, gently thumbing its tip. "V, any pianos you can't play you can atomize."

Then they were laughing, and then they were spinning, and then nothing else mattered in the world.

***

"Once upon a time," Vera drawled to the sun-warmed stone, "there lived a deluded, psychopathic, self-important bastard named Manchester Black. Eventually he figured all that out and he offed himself, like the overdramatic crybaby ponce he was."

She rolled onto her back and looked up at the clouds. "Honestly, 'Chess, did you accomplish anything at all with your little band of thugs?" She stretched one arm out to the sky and admired the way the unlit cigarette balanced between her fingers, the way her wrist flipped noiselessly back and forth.

"We're going to undo everything you did, and then we're going to make things even better, and then I'm going to come back and tell you every last detail about it." She rolled back onto her stomach and poked at the stone. "I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got to go meet the Justice League so we can save the world." She leaned in close and whispered. "I thought you should know: I baked Superman a pie. Because I'm domestic."

She rolled to her feet and flipped the unlit cigarette onto the grass. "And except for one definite exception, they all lived happily ever fucking after," she announced as she strolled away. "The end."