Paolo went into work today and was greeted by chaos. During a training exercise, some of his colleagues managed to crash their tanks into the base's wall. Without being aware of it, his training took over and he helped evacuate the building and sent his co-workers to the hospital. He then got promoted on the spot for his quick action and given the rest of the day off.
Life is weird.
So he decides to make use of his free time and exercise. His muscles burn, but he ignores it.
He's gotten good at ignoring things.
But, like always, he is pulled out of his reality avoidance. Someone always needs something, or wants to talk, or do something with him. This time it's a text from one of his co-workers, Private Miller. She was next to the tank when it crashed and thus was sent to the hospital for a checkup.
Hey, I'm fine! But I won't be coming into work for awhile; apparently I'm pregnant!!!
Paolo blinks at the message, then chuckles as he types a response, Congratulations!
The next text is almost immediate, btw my housemate works at the science lab. Saw her at work today when I came in to the hospital.
The Appaloosa Plains's science lab is attached to the hospital; Running into a scientist on the way to a doctor's appointment was a common occurrence.
His phone pings with another message, She said she thought all the guys in uniform were cute soooo I gave her your number! She'll call you later tonight.
Paolo's fingers fly over his phone's keyboard, Greta what in the actual fuck.
Don't thank me too much :D
Greta wisely goes offline after this. Paolo rolls his eyes then sighs. He hopes this woman doesn't actually call him; he doesn't look forward to possibly hurting this woman's feelings. Greta didn't even give him her name, so he has no way of contacting her first and letting her down gently.
Paolo gets home soon afterwards and sits down for a snack. Persis joins him, noticing the stewing look on his face. Had Marko been there, he would have said "like mother, like son".
"Something the matter?"
Paolo makes a face at his cookie, "I'm fine mom."
Persis resists the urge to roll her eyes; it's like he's a teenager again.
"This will be over faster if you tell me about it."
Paolo puts his cookie back onto his plate. "I..." he suddenly feels ridiculous. What is he going to say, that he's grumpy because a girl wants to call him? What is he, 14? "It's really nothing."
Persis looks at her son skeptically, "Uh huh."
"It's really not a big deal."
Paolo's face flushes, "Stop saying that." It reminds him of Xara teasing him about Krista all the way back in high school. The memories make him feel a bunch of things he's not ready to think about.
Seeing his growing discomfort, Persis relents. "Fine, Paolo. Just don't stew for too long." She gets up to clear her plate, but pauses to ruffle Paolo's hair. Paolo doesn't resist.
Paolo sighs. Looks like he'll just have to face this head on.
At almost seven o'clock sharp, his phone rings. Unknown number- it must be her.
"Hello?" a woman's voice says uncertainly, "This is Paolo Winterly, right...?"
"Yeah, yeah it is." There's a heavy silence. Now would be the time to tell her- politely- that he's really not interested, but instead he finds his voice caught in his throat.
"Hey I'm sorry about Great being all...weird, I really just meant the cute uniform thing as a joke. I guess I let it go a bit far," she apologises with a nervous laugh, "I'm sorry to have bothered you like this."
"No, really it's fine, uh..." He realizes that he doesn't even know her name, "I just realized I don't even know your name."
"Sun, Sun Sheperd-Pinkerton. We had chemistry together in 10th grade-," she cuts herself off as she seems to realize how this could be interpreted otherwise, "Er um not that I mean you and I were attracted to each other-not that you aren't attractive! Ah..."
Paolo feels a smile spreading across his face at her stumbling over her words. Then the smile falls; her awkwardness reminds him of Krista.
"Don't worry about it, I get what you mean. So, uh, I guess we might see each other around sometime."
"Yeah, sure. See you later..."
He hangs up with a sigh.
That could have gone better.
The next day he goes to see Greta. With her so suddenly on maternity leave, she left a lot of things at the base. For whatever reason, Greta insists that he be the one to bring her things over.
"I don't see why your husband couldn't have picked this stuff up," Paolo grumbles, nudging over a bag with her work computer, work pass, and wallet.
"Becauuuuuseee my husband doesn't want to help you out," she hisses, taking her things and putting them on the couch behind her.
"Help me out?" he repeats.
Greta almost face-palms. "Your phone call with Sun! She told me about it, and I know you two can get along." She neglects to mention that she's been trying to help Sun get a boyfriend for years. Sun will go on a few dates, then complain about the guys not being like this or that. Paolo is the smartest, most responsible single guy Greta knows. This can't possibly fail!
"Come on, we're mature adults here, we don't need this...cliched high school-esque stuff," Paolo waves his hands around in frustration.
Greta snorts, "Real articulate there. Just talk to her- she's a scientist, you're a huge nerd- seriously. Please. For me. I can't take much more of her "I'll be single forever" schtick." When Paolo begins to object, Greta makes her eyes large and sad, "Then think of the children, Paolo. My baby shouldn't be exposed to such... negativity. My child should grow up surrounded by love! As a parent, you should-,"
"Oh. My. God. Please stop. Fine, I'll talk to her. Where is she?" Paolo acquiesces. Greta smiles and points behind him.
"Shit, was she there the whole time?" Paolo hisses.
Greta just pushes him towards her.
"Paolo, hi!" Lakeisha greets cheerfully. Inwardly, she can't help but feel a bit uneasy. She hasn't gotten many calls during her career as a paramedic, and Krista's stands out. Watching her flatline was one of the worst feelings in the world.
It's been a long time, and she knows it wasn't her fault that Krista died, but seeing Paolo here brings some of it back. The huge pool of blood, the metallic smell that hung in the air, Krista's lifeless body...
And now Paolo is here.
Trying to put the moves on her sister.
"I'm pretty tired from my shift, I think I'll go lay down..."
Sun and Paolo barely notice her leave.
Greta's insistence that they have a lot in common turns out to be true. Paolo is hanging on Sun's every word about her job.
"So do you prefer the botany aspect of your work or the mechanical?" Sun is a fertilizer analyser, but has been called in to help the robot-fish crossbreeders from time to time.
"Definitely the mechanical. Hardware for me is a lot easier to...control...than plants, and way safer." She shudders at the memory of a particularly rowdy Cow-Plant. It was hungry for meat. Didn't matter what kind. It's a minor miracle that the incident didn't leave any scars.
Paolo arches an eyebrow, "How can a plant be more dangerous than electricity?"
"Ah, the uninitiated... I too once thought like you," she laughs to herself. She glances at her watch and gasps, "Oh shoot, I need to leave for work."
She throws on her lab coat, then turns to him seriously.
"I'm a Gemini, if that kind of thing matters to you. Call me sometime."
Paolo drifts back towards Greta after Sun leaves.
"Told you so," she says, smirking.
"What are we, 5? Can I have some waffles, by the way? I didn't have time to eat breakfast because someone asked me to get here before 7."
Greta scoffs, "Sure. I set you up with someone and you thank me by taking my food. I see how it is."
"Can't hear you over the smell of these waffles!"
Behind him, Greta smiles. It's so nice to see Paolo acting a bit normal for a change.
She hopes it goes well between him and Sun. She really does.