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lover caught me off guard

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The door swings open, and Hector K. Hordak’s first thought is, Christ. The IRS really is going down the fucking drain.

 

The girl who opened it is maybe five or ten years younger than he is. She stands in the doorway with a calculating look on her face. Her hair is purple, far too long, and she’s wearing the most disgusting, oversized, stained, grey MIT sweatshirt Hordak has ever seen. She’s basically some PhD student who looks too overworked to do taxes, not a – not a fucking criminal.

 

She blinks at him, waiting for him to speak.

 

“Are you Miss Entrapta Hernandez?” Hordak wearily holds up his badge and peers into the darkness of her apartment. He’s pretty sure that the whole place is crammed from top to bottom with – computer parts? And books? And – he shakes his head. Best not to ask. “I’m here on account of the tax evasion.”

 

She clicks her tongue and begins to shut the door. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m too busy for taxes, I’ve been scanning this old pottery shard–”

 

Hordak reaches out and stops the door from slamming. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he grits out. “But you’re missing five years of taxes.”

 

The thing is. The thing is, Hordak’s fucking good at his job. He’s got a perfect track record. He fixes every situation old Skeletor throws at him, and God knows billionaires can be sticky people. Hordak knows what he’s doing – but it took him five fucking years to even track down this girl’s apartment. There is no way he is letting her go now.

 

She just blinks at him. “Five years…?”

 

“Yes,” he says. “Tax evasion is a very serious crime.”

 

“I don’t follow,” she says, and then something whistles in her apartment. She doesn’t even acknowledge him the moment she hears it – she goes ramrod straight and disappears into the maze of her living room and Hordak just turns stands there and grits his teeth. It’s like she doesn’t even care about tax evasion and possible jail time. He sighs, balls his hands into his fist, swallows.

 

It takes him twenty-three seconds to decide that Ms. Hernandez isn’t going to sue him for trespassing.

 

And then he walks in.

 

 

 

 

 

“Why don’t you have any lights in here, Christ,” he says, once he locates her kitchen and finds her sitting at an overcrowded table with a couple of – mini grilled cheeses? He decides to be gracious and not unpack that. In fact, based on the doggy-eared books and fucking priceless pottery shards and artifacts he had to dodge to even find her kitchen, he’s being incredibly gracious not to question anything, really.

 

“You’re still here,” says Ms. Hernandez with obvious confusion on her face. And then, “I couldn’t find my electricity bill.”

 

“Five years of tax evasion is very serious, Ms. Hernandez,” he repeats, trying to keep himself from dragging his face down his hands. She couldn’t find her electricity bill. What sort of functional human is she?

 

“Hm,” she says. “I haven’t done my taxes?”

 

“No, Ms. Hernandez,” says Hordak as pleasantly as he can. It comes out biting and rude, of course. “Not for five years.”

 

“I don’t go by Ms. Hernandez,” she responds. And then, “Can you do them for me?”

 

Hordak decides he wants to die. “No, ma’am,” he says. “I’m here to turn you in to the cops.”

 

Entrapta seems to consider this, calculate it. She pops another mini grilled cheese into her mouth and carefully wipes her fingers on a napkin before passing the plate to a – robot, maybe? – that begins to wash it for her. “I don’t really want to go to jail,” she says very calmly.

 

“What the fuck is that?” he says.

 

“Oh, just Emily.” Right, of course. And then, easily, “And you really aren’t as nice as you think you are.”

 

He must be getting frown lines. She’s going to give him wrinkles at a young age. He forces a smile, smooths a hand through his hair, takes in a sharp breath of air. “Thanks,” he grits out.

 

 

 

 

 

He does not leave with her in handcuffs. They end up in the ER instead.

 

It’s not exactly his fault. Hordak isn’t sloppy, that’s all, and she wasn’t using her arm because of a massive rash she’d been apparently ignoring for weeks – how, he wonders, is it possible she actually managed to evade taxes for five fucking years? It doesn’t matter: Hordak drove her to the ER himself.

 

On the way, she didn’t shut up, either. Hordak barely remembers his Classical education from Cambridge, back when he thought he was going to return to the US as a politician and diplomat, and Entrapta really stretches his knowledge. She’s the closest person to figuring out Linear A.

 

(Hordak knows everything about her. He has a well-researched, well-documented file on her. And he’s taking her to the fucking ER).

 

“Thank you,” she says as an afterthought, right before she gets treatment. Apparently money isn’t an issue.

 

“Don’t,” he says. “I’ll be back tomorrow for your arrest.”

 

The doctor gives him a serious look. He smiles back, all teeth. Entrapta seems unbothered. “So you think that my method of linguistic analysis will work?” she says, and then, before he can answer, “It doesn’t matter. Whatever I can learn is important. There’s no failures in research.”

 

Hordak screws his eyes shut, counts to ten, and takes in five deep breaths. “See you tomorrow, ma’am,” he says as pleasantly as he can manage.

 

 

 

 

 

Entrapta has three degrees. She did her undergraduate at fucking MIT. She’s done four digs and builds her own research equipment. She’s written thirty-seven papers and fourteen of them have gained global recognition. She’s practically a celebrity in the archeology field. And she doesn’t fucking do her taxes.

 

 

 

 

 

“I have to arrest you, you know,” he tells her the next day. She hums and offers him tea.

 

“If you have to,” she says.

 

“It will affect your standing.”

 

She frowns. “People won’t listen to my lectures…?”

 

As if that’s the most important thing. Hordak sighs deeply. “You committed a federal crime, ma’am,” he says.

 

“Don’t call me ma’am,” she responds, popping a tiny cookie into her mouth. She’s still typing with one hand. Hordak found the rash cream, unopened, on the kitchen table this morning. He tripped over that damned thing, Emily, on his way over to the counter and ended up at the table instead. He knows she uses some medicine, or something, because he found some empty pill bottles for estrogen just lying around. Either way, he’d had to tell her to put the cream on himself. He’s half sure he’s gone to Hell, and this is the devil’s way of torturing him: a woman just as much as his equal as a nightmare.

 

“Do you really not have electricity?” he grunts as he holds his cooling tea.

 

She shakes her head. “I built a generator. The bill is...somewhere,” she says, and shakes her hand at her mail.

 

Hordak’s left eye twitches. He can’t help it: he moves to the mail pile.

 

 

 

 

 

Three and a half hours later, and his back aches. “Thank you,” says Entrapta, when she sees him combing through her bills.

 

“You got an award,” he says. “For your research.”

 

She smiles, wide, and snatches it, quick to open it and even faster to read it. Her chair spins with the motion and Hordak’s struck by the worst possible thought in this situation, paired with a blush and a warm feeling in his chest. Oh fuck, he thinks very eloquently. I’m not going to fall for a fucking tax evader.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a week and he hasn’t arrested her.

 

He comes back to her house on Sunday and she opens the door at exactly the right time, makes him tea exactly like he likes it, and chatters on about her research. Sometimes she makes him lunch. Hordak’s going stir crazy. He should just arrest her. That’s his fucking job. He promises himself he will, once he goes through all her mail. Once he reshelves her dishes. Once he reads the draft of the paper she’s working on. Once–

 

She lifts up his wallet. “Who’s this?” she says, innocently. Hordak flushes bright red.

 

“No one!”

 

He can’t believe he’s embarrassed by some – some PhD student who never changes out of the worst, most gross hoodie he’s ever seen. (He’s going to do her laundry next, he swears). Not to mention – he can’t believe he nearly forgot – she doesn’t do her fucking taxes. Who doesn’t do their taxes?

 

She rubs her thumb over it. “She looks pretty,” she says, with a – are her cheeks getting darker, or is it just the miserable lighting?

 

Hordak scowls. “She’s no one,” he says, and snatches the wallet.

 

Entrapta looks shaken. “You’re angry,” she observes, and then, “I’ve made you angry.”

 

“You can’t just – just poke around into other people’s belongings!”

 

“Oh,” she says.

 

“I think it’s best if I leave,” he says.

 

“Oh.”

 

 

 

 

 

He doesn’t go back for two days, and instead spends his time digging up her file. He reads over the pages and pages of old, but ever-surprising information: her age, her parents’ death date, her birth name. He decides he prefers the name she’s got now, feeling oddly uncomfortable with the old one. He resolves to forget it.

 

Old Skeletor calls him down from his office.

 

“What’s holding you up, Hector?” he says, and Hordak allows the usage of his first name only because it’s his boss, and Hordak himself uses a much uglier nickname for the older man. Skeletor may not be a nice name, but he’s not a nice guy, either, and this is coming from Hordak.

 

“Paperwork,” grunts Hordak. “She changed her name in 2013.”

 

“Ah,” says Skeletor. He nods sagely. “Always the paperwork, huh?” He leans over into Hordak’s space. “But it’s never stopped you before, isn’t that right?”

 

“No, sir,” says Hordak nervously.

 

“And it won’t stop you now, will it?”

 

“No, sir.”

 

“Good,” says old Skeletor. His smile is a little too toothy, a little too unhinged.

 

 

 

 

 

“Her name was Shadow Weaver,” said Hordak two days later. Entrapta’s made him tea. She’s careful with him, though – asked if he wanted any tentatively, didn’t answer the door right away. She must have thought he was gone for good, like he wasn’t the IRS agent sent to arrest her.

 

“Hm?”

 

“The girl in my wallet. My–” Hordak pauses, loosens his collar, gulps. “Ex.”

 

“Oh,” says Entrapta. “With the long dark hair.”

 

He nods.

 

“I’m sorry,” she says, quiet. “I know how it is to lose someone important to you.” And then she’s humming like a machine again, typing on her computer. She’s still heavily relying on one hand, but Hordak notices with some smugness that the swelling has gone down on the other.

 

“Using the cream?”

 

She blinks.

 

“For your rash.”

 

And then, “Yes, like you asked.”

 

He can’t help himself. He starts to laugh. “I’m supposed to have arrested you by now,” he says gruffly, too affectionately.

 

Entrapta clicks her tongue and nods. “But you haven’t.”

 

“I haven’t,” he repeats. And then, before he can help himself, “If I got you a dress, would you have dinner with me?”

 

 

 

 

 

She wears a suit instead. It’s got a purple vest, too, like her hair – Hordak’s not sure when she finds time to dye it. He manages to get her to wear flats, though, and earrings, and it’s bizarre, really, to see her all dressed up, but he likes it. He likes her. And he has to arrest her. It’s all very complicated.

 

He learns some things about her that aren’t in an IRS file. She separates her foods out and refuses to eat them together. She doesn’t like to be touched (neither does he). She’s loud, and talkative, and single minded in her interests. She prefers tiny foods to big meals. And he likes her.

 

And she, apparently, likes him back.

 

Hordak has never been one to question a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

“I found her taxes,” he tells Skeletor after two weeks. “They were filed under the wrong name.”

 

“So it was paperwork,” says Skeletor.

 

“It was just paperwork,” Hordak repeats. He smiles, too toothy, too unhinged. “Name changes, gender marker changes, all that confuses the average intern, you know how it is.”

 

 

 

 

 

He manages to steal the sweatshirt to clean it after three weeks, and finds it doesn’t stink at all. In fact, it smells of laundry detergent, like it’s been freshly washed, and he gawks at it for a while before marching into the kitchen. “I don’t understand,” he says to her, holding out the sweatshirt.

 

“What?” she says. She’s wearing his shirt. He doesn’t have time to process this.

 

“It’s clean!”

 

“Yes…?” Entrapta blinks owlishly at him. “In order to be a functional, independent individual, one must wash their clothes.”

 

“I don’t understand. I’ve been cleaning up – I’ve been washing up for – for weeks!”

 

She nods. “Yes?” she says. “You destroyed my system, but.” She opts for a halfhearted shrug. “You seemed happy to have all these chores to do, so I let you do them. I even reprogrammed Emily so that she no longer had that function.”

 

He opens his mouth, closes it. “You mean I didn’t need to do all that for you,” he says. “And you can take care of yourself. Then what about – what about the rash?”

 

Entrapta shrugs again. “It didn’t seem urgent. It’s important to tidy a kitchen or do your laundry,” she says. Hordak frowns. But a rash isn’t? “I just left the dirty dishes and all that for you to do, since it made you happy.” Made him happy. She did all that because it made him happy. Hordak runs his hands down his face.

 

He hates that he’s weirdly endeared by the gesture.

 

 

 

 

 

Hector K. Hordak turns forty six and gets married two weeks later. He finds that the only person he likes to touch is Entrapta, and vice versa, though the amount of physical contact they share is below average. It works. Emily grows on him, too, the way a dog might, if your wife programmed a dog and then refused to part with it. He’s still an IRS agent. He still has a perfect track record. Only now he has a perfect wife, too smart for her own good, still wearing that horrible hoodie.

 

He does her taxes, of course.