Smoke knocks on my door before I manage to open it again, and I start not quite guiltily, but heading towards that direction, and awkwardly tug it open from across the room instead of just saying it’s unlocked like a normal person. Not that Smoke cares. He’s a fairly laid-back person, generally speaking. It’s actually very relaxing to talk to him, you know, as long as he stays out of your radius.

I wonder if it still bothers people without any esper traits.

He watches me calmly, and it takes me a while of watching him back before I realize he’s waiting for me to do or say something.

I motion him inside. “Coffee?”

He glances over at the machine. “Sure, I’ll have a cup. What flavors have you got?”

“Uh,” I say, looking through the capsules, “mocha. Everything else is just coffee, but I have a lot of syrups, if you wanted me to add some.”

“Sure, mocha,” he says. “You can add syrup if you want to, though.”

I stare at the syrups for a while, until I remember that I’m making a cup of coffee, for fuck’s sake, I do this every day, it’s not that hard. I head over to my mug shelf, avoid the bird one in case Darren wants it back, and try to decide what mug Smoke would want. Or at least won’t hate. Will be willing to use. All my mugs are terrible. Why do I have such terrible fucking taste in mugs? Hurry the fuck up, this isn’t – I pick out one with the agency logo, because you know what, if he just runs off with that one and never comes back, it’s not like any of our lives will be the poorer for it. You can get one of these everywhere. He can take his coffee and never have to speak to me again. I’m not even sure this one is mine, anyway. I turn back to the annoyed little machine and stick the mug under it. I almost forget to check the water level, but it’s fine, it’s always fine, I can’t even make a fucking cup of coffee today.

I fit the capsule in on the second try. “Cherry?” I offer.

“Cherry sounds good,” Smoke agrees, continuing to watch me from across the room.

Awkward silence slowly expands to fill the space between us.

“You know I’m not going to turn your powers against you, right?” he asks, frowning slightly.

“It’s not the TK, it’s the ESP,” I tell him, swirling my field around a little to illustrate, but it’s a vague, half-finished motion to follow a vague, half-finished thought.

“Oh,” he says. “Feels too similar to…?”

I squint at him in confusion for a second, and then my last cup of coffee settles hard in my stomach while I picture myself having a panic attack. Yes. A breakdown, in my office, in the middle of the day, this is exactly what I need. My hand is gripped too tight around the handle of my mug by the time I realize I’m not actually having a flashback. I sit down.

Smoke walks towards the coffee, still skirting my sensory radius as well as possible. He brushes up against the edges, but it’s not the same, not intrusive the way…it doesn’t matter. Smoke takes his mug, pours a little of the syrup into it, and starts swirling it with a coffee stirrer.

I should order more of those.

“I can put on a cuff, if it would make you more comfortable,” he says, like he’s said it a million times before. He probably has. I would hate to be a mirror. Nice to be used to cuffs, though.

I shake my head when I notice I’m not responding.

“I can come back later,” he adds.

I thunk my head back against my chair. “Later won’t help. Later I have the kids.”

“It’s Monday,” Smoke says, slowly.

“Fuck,” I say.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “I hate Mondays, too.”

I watch him give me a concerned once-over, and I’m not even sure how angry or annoyed or frustrated I sound when I say, “did someone send you over to check on me?”

“No,” he says, “but are you sure that’s a bad idea?”

I glare.

“Okay,” he says, holding up the hand without the mug in it, “I just wanted to know if you wanted to do any of the recruiting bullshit.”

I shrug.

“Yeah,” he says, “that’s about how I feel. But they send me to talk to the marines every year, getting them to specialize and getting them in the joint programs both.”

“Trying to get them to retire into our ranks, you mean,” I say.

Smoke grins. “You’re much more pragmatic than Coach Domino.”

“Did they usually send him with you?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “But, then, they also aren’t usually sending me to talk to kids.”

“What?” I say.

“Military brats,” he says, “the powers that be want me to talk to them.”

“Oh,” I say. “For the kids’ program?”

Smoke shakes his head. “For internships, I have to figure. You did the college program, though, right? And you’re good with kids.”

“I did the college program,” I agree.

He laughs. “They haven’t killed each other, yet; more than I expected I could achieve when they asked me about it.”

I grin. “Just out of curiosity, where were you in their list?”

“Towards the bottom, I think,” he says, “they won’t admit it, but they hate military trained extras. Think we’re about to go all drill sergeant on the kids.”

“Well, you know, you try to channel them,” I say, “hard habit to break. I can’t even stop conceptualizing it that way, and mine was a teddy bear by the time he got to me.”

“I think I’d have the opposite problem, actually.” He sips his coffee contemplatively. “I mean, they’re just little kids, really. I’d be scared to push them too hard.”

“Oh, believe me, they make perfectly clear when they’ve done enough,” I say.

Smoke smiles at me. “I think you’re doing pretty well with them.”

I make a noise of disgust.

He shrugs. “Well, I think it’s better to have a couple perspectives, you know, someone who’s gone through the military programs – Psychobitch if we can get her – someone who did the college track, someone who picked it up as a second career.”

“Vector Analysis,” I suggest.

“Hmm?” he says, “the architect, you mean?”

I nod. “Powers reconceptualized sort of, uh, sideways of obvious.”

“I usually like someone who spent a little longer in their other career before they switched over,” he says, “but the kids probably won’t know the difference. Maybe.”

I nod. “Well, let me know when it’s going to be set up, so I can fix my schedule.”

Smoke nods, placing the mug in the sink. “You take care of yourself, buddy.”

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