Neon Noir: The Fourth Beat

Vash hasn’t always operated out of Capital City. She appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, three years ago. But just because no one knows her history, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Vashti Kianian

The world fades into focus as Vash opens her eyes. She hears the calming beat of the morning gently nudge her awake. The soft tapping of the city’s heart is punctuated by the click-clack of the rail car passing by.

Vash turns to check her clock, when she feels pressure on her arm. Her mind snaps to attention as she looks over at the person lying next to her. Anastasia was still sleeping.

How much did I have to drink last night?

She tries to slowly edge her arm out from under her guest, being careful not to wake her. There is slight moment where Vash nearly catches her bracelet on Anastasia’s bright red hair and she freezes.

Anastasia takes a deep breath but continues sleeping in the morning sunlight.

Vash breathes her own sigh of relief and unhooks her arm from her lover’s hair. She slides out of bed, taking slow steps to her door, ensuring it closes quietly behind her.

Oh Vash. How did you end up sleeping with her? Again.

She moves through her apartment, heading for the kitchen. She pulls down the coffee grounds onto the counter, vaguely aware of what she was doing as she stared unawake at the back of her couch in the other room. As she moves throughout her morning ritual preparing the coffee, she notices a card out of the corner of her eye.

It was plain. White. A series of numbers scribbled on the front. As her coffee brewed, Vash couldn’t keep her mind off it. When was the last time she dialed a phone number manually?

“Hey there, stranger…”

She freezes upon hearing the voice. She turns to her hall where Anastasia stood. The woman had already gotten dressed, wearing the gown she had on the night before.

Vash stared, unmoving for what felt like an eternity until the redhead spoke.

“Vash, I-“

“Would you like some coffee?” Vash quickly interrupts.

She moves to her cabinet, pulling down cups. As she pulls cream and sugar out of her kitchen, Anastasia crosses over to her.

“I think we should talk about this. This is the fourth time we’ve woken up in each other’s arms.”

“In my defense, last time I was gone by the time you woke up.” Vash mixes a splash of the cream into her coffee. She sniffs the aroma wafting out of the mug before taking a slow sip.

Across from her, the woman takes a few steps forward, taking a seat at the table just outside her kitchen.

“Am I a joke to you?”

Vash takes another sip, considering the question.

“I don’t do relationships. You know that.”

Anastasia shakes her head.

“No. You just sleep with one woman for weeks on end. You buy her things. You make her feel like the only woman in the world. That is, until she gets fed up with you and moves on.”

“It’s not like that Ana. You know I can’t-“

“Can’t what? Take me with you? You’ve been here for years. Why would you think you’d have to run this time?”

Vash remains silent. She’s had this conversation before. She’s explained how dangerous her job is many times over. But she couldn’t bring herself to fire her. And Ana couldn’t bring herself away.

Vash looks up, staring into the gorgeous green eyes of Anastasia. She remembers the feel of her skin. The contrast as their bodies mingled. The taste of her lips as they got out of the car…

Wait a minute. How did we get home last night?

“This is probably a good time for me to leave,” a deep voice sheepishly says.

Vash and Ana turn their heads in the direction of the man. Ryan sat up from the couch in the other room, visible over the kitchen counter, his presence made aware.

“No, no. I’ll leave,” Ana says. She stands and crosses to the door, grabbing her coat hanging next to it. “You two have a good day.”

She leaves with the door latching back into place.

“So… do you drink coffee, Mr. Shane?”

Ryan looks perplexed at the woman. He was probably sure she’d be upset at him for interrupting their very personal conversation. At the same time, his boss just offered him a drink, and he wasn’t sure if he should turn that down.

Vash takes the initiative and pours him a cup.

“Cream and sugar is on the counter.”

He stands and crosses to the kitchen. He was wearing a white, sleeveless undershirt and his suit pants from last night. For just waking up, he surprisingly didn’t look too disheveled.

“I figured you’d be mad at me,” he says, taking the offered mug. He takes a sip without adding anything to the drink.

“I would be, but you probably just bought me another week of not having to have that conversation.”

Ryan’s eyes go wide studying Vash. As she drinks her coffee, she notices him staring out of the corner of her eye.

“If you keep that up, I will be mad. And you’ll be out of a job.”

“Sorry!” he says and goes back to drinking his coffee. “I just, well, I didn’t know you were, uh, like that.”

Vash could feel her face get red, though not in embarrassment. If it weren’t for the fact she had used such good beans this morning, she might have thrown the mug on the ground.

“Like what, Mr. Shane?” the words were asked with venom.

Ryan could feel the tone shift and considered what he should say. Surely, he can’t say what he really meant.

“Nothing. I was dumb. I’m so sorry.”

Vash takes a deep breath.

“Thank you for getting us home last night. I assume it was late?”

“We left at four in the morning. Didn’t think I could make it home after dropping you off.”

“Then I’m glad you stayed the night. I’ve already invested money in you, and I can’t stand to see an investment die out of stupidity.”

She takes her last sip from her mug, looking out the window. As she sets her cup on the counter, she once again sees the card.

“Besides. I’m going to need you today. Those extra duties I mentioned start now.”


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