I was going to have to talk to that girl.  I just didn’t know how.  I mean, yes, she was my sister, but in just the past (I checked the computer clock) 10 hours or so I had learned things about her that changed my understanding.  When it’s an understanding of your sister, it’s even more odd; she was always just background, that annoying girl who spied on your dates, went through your stuff and always seemed about to catch you masturbating or something else that would temporarily paralyze you with humiliation.

Um.  I realized that I had run out of the bathroom when the books fell wearing just a towel.  I mean, I always knew where my towel was, but I was far too comfortable with Wrecks.  How long was he staying?  Why was I letting an obvious Dragon spy hang out?  And was it that I was comfortable with Wrecks or was it just that I didn’t perceive him as enough of a person to really care about whether or not he saw me in the altogether, or not quite together.  (I think I would have been concerned if he’d seen me falling apart.  Which, I guess, is the opposite of together.  Maybe.  We put a lot of emphasis on control in our society, which I think has a magical aspect to it as well.  We maintain the reality we want through will, right?  Magic and will were so entwined and inter-related that control has to have a similar effect.)

I had had a perfectly good conversation with my gay friend about his new boyfriend while I was basically naked.  I decided that that was some kind of feather in my cap for acceptance and supporting the cause.  I needed a gold star for being a gay ally.  I looked around in my desk drawer for where I kept the cheap dollar-store star stickers to be sarcastic during game nights and stuck one onto the back of my hand.

Wrecks got up, leaving the mess on the couch and the television on to some kind of Spanish soap opera.  After a few minutes, I heard my shower start.  I didn’t know if he could reach the soap, but I also wasn’t going to try and help.  I guess he had managed.  In fact, I didn’t know what those Beyond did for plumbing.  I guess I supposed they had chamberpots or urinated rainbows and passed perfumed gases.  Any or all of these things were possible.  As long as he didn’t pee in corners or on books, and if his hygiene was otherwise socially acceptable, I wasn’t likely to remark upon it.

My gold star started peeling as I got up and returned the oatmeal bowl to the sink.  I went in and got dressed in jeans and the ubiquitous black t-shirt style of my geekhood and general generation.  (This one said, “Can’t Eat, Clowns Will Neep at Me.”)  I put the peeling star on the wall, and went back to my e-mail.

It was getting dark outside. Once I had actually checked my accounts and decided I was painfully behind on my various social media, I realized that I’d have to see what the new hotness was. No one seemed to be on MySpace or LiveJournal.  I mean, I’d known they were dying, but it seemed so sudden.  I even remembered my Friendster password.  Facebook had always been unruly.  I decided to check on some of the news sites and read up on the fires.

In my e-mail induced haze, I hadn’t caught Wrecks’ return.  He had made a microwave meal for himself and was busy reading a well-thumbed copy of Foucault’s Pendulum.  I wasn’t sure if I approved, but at least he’d replaced the soaps with the Discovery channel.  I realized with an amused grin that this meant I had plenty of new Mythbusters to watch.

I was stalling.  I knew it.  I picked up the phone again.  I decided I wasn’t going to have this conversation in the living room, so I went into the bedroom.  I turned on the light.  I stared at the wall, and then hit the right buttons.

“Um, hi.”

“Hi yourself.”  She’d answered between the first and second rings, which was encouraging, but her tone was guarded.

“So.  If I told you I’d been kidnapped by a Dragon and offered a contract marriage that I denied but still kept me out of the real world for almost a year, would you believe me?”

Silence.  Breathing.  “I think you need something better than that.”

“What if I threw in dinner, any place you like?”

Her tone was slightly more positive.  “I’d say you were getting warmer.”

“It’s all true, you know.”

“Yeah.”  Rohana sighed.  “It’s always the weird stuff with you, E.  I don’t think you live in reality.”

“I have for the past,” I glanced outside, “seventeen hours, at least.”

“I’ve moved on, E.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, reflexively.  “I didn’t mean to drop off the face of the planet.”

“I heard.  Kidnapped.  By a Dragon.”  It was colder.

“How much ‘moved on’ is it?  Married?  Kids?” I asked.  I tried hard not to sound desperate.

“I’m not the marrying type,” she said, and while it had the ring of truth, it also had the ring of something sad and repeated in her head.

“So, kids?  Polyamorous girlfriends?  No, wait, you got some cats?”

“Wishful thinking much?” she teased a little.  “No, I’ve just been…” a pause, “dating.  You know.”

I knew.  I’d done it myself once or twice.  Or three, four hundred times.  I’d lost track.  “Serious?”

“Kind of,” she admitted.  “Kind of getting there.  Feeling it out, trying to see where we are.”

“I know the feeling,” I said.  “Before I was, you know, beamed off the planet by alien succubi or whatever, I thought I had that with this girl I knew.”

“I see you’ve learned a little passive-aggressiveness,” she said, and this was warmer in the death-ray thermometer kind of measure.

“Hey, I’m the one who didn’t answer calls.  I’m the one who was kidnapped and is left adrift with almost a year’s worth of amnesia to the real world.  You’re just being sensible.  There was no need to wait for me.  No need to trust that it had to be a really big deal if I disappeared.”

“Am I supposed to feel sorry for you now?” The death-ray in her voice continued its countdown to explosion.

“No.  Hey, can I invite you to my pity party?  It’s bring your own tears.”

She chuckled, out of politeness, probably.  “That was good, but I’m washing my cat’s hair.  Or something.”

“There’s an innuendo in that that would probably not be good for me to hint at, I bet.”


There was silence for a long time.

“I need to go,” she said.

“Yeah,” I repeated what she’d said.  “Hey, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah,” she echoed.

“Is that, ‘Yeah you are,’ or ‘Yeah, I believe you?'” I asked.

She chuckled again.  “Can it be a little of both?”

“Yeah,” I said.  We both kind of chuckled.  “Alright.  Look, if you ever want to talk.” I started again. “I mean, just talk… well, I guess I can’t promise not to disappear again, but I’d, I guess, I’d like that.”

She was quiet.  “I’ll think about it.”

“No pressure. I promise.”

“I said I’d think about it.  That’s not a hard ‘No.'”

I took a breath.  “Then this is a goodbye, but it’s with a hope to talk to you again.”

“Goodbye, E.”

I dropped the phone onto the bed next to where I’d sat.  Well, what could I expect?  Heartache, pain, that feeling of disconnection that comes from not being able to access my emotions for fear of being overwhelmed that is endemic to my half of the species… yeah, all that.

“Hey, Wrecks,” I called out to the living room.

“Eh?” he grunted.

“I’m ordering pizza.  I don’t feel like going out.  Want some?”


“Good.”  I had that number in my phone, too, and it was a heck of a lot easier a conversation, even if I had to find out if garlic would repel Spriggans.  (“More likely jalapenos,” he suggested.  I didn’t like them on my pizza anyway.)   I even got the bread sticks.

I picked up some comics and turned pages.  I wasn’t pretending to read them, or even do much besides look at the pictures.  Apparently I picked up a collection of X-men with Lockheed in it.  I closed it after a moment and picked up the next graphic novel.  Something about a supercriminal organization run by a Mr. Lao.   I tossed it aside.  Ah, the Kakaranatharans.  Fine.

I got up and sat on the coffee table facing the futon.  The TV was off.  “Which Dragon?” I asked.

“Which witch?” Wrecks retorted, putting the book down.  He kept a finger in it as a bookmark, as if he didn’t expect this conversation to last too long.

“Non-sequitur,” I said.  “Which Dragon are you working for?”

“Do I work for anyone?”

“Do you not serve your King?”

“Is my King a Dragon?”

“Is your King a witch?” I asked, testing.

“Would you have slept with her if she was?”

“Would I sleep with anything not human?”

“Was your relationship with Angharad’s shell that innocent?”

“Do you mean Doloise?”

He paused.

“Hesitation,” I murmured.

He frowned.  There was a knock and I went to pay for the pizza.  I parceled us out some pieces, and sat back on the table.

“What do you really want to know?” he asked, gently enough.  He put the book down to eat.

“I asked.”  I shook my head.  “Why are you here?”

“You need a bodyguard, and my kind have been that.”

“Do I?” I was alarmed.

“I would rather not have to fight,” he admitted with a wry tone.  He chewed the crust for a moment.   “Especially the things you tend to get mad at you.”

“I don’t think one run in with a Dragon is a tendency.”

He enumerated with his fingers.  “Naul. The Magdalen.  Muak-lal, a Shadow King.  Asheralat.”

“How come you know the names of things I don’t even know?  Who is the last?”

“A … you would probably know her as a succubus.”  He shrugged.  “On the other hand, your companions are pretty puissant.  The Questor has sided with you, where he is normally neutral.”  He named the Questor’s wife.  “Peredur.  Artur.  Sir Darius.  Even your Rohana is a power.”

“She’s not my Rohana anymore.”

“A shame.  You need a healer.”

“What, is this a band of heroes?  I need a fighter, a cleric, a bassist, that kind of thing?”

He laughed a short bark.  “Well asked.”

“Who’s side is the Seven King on?”

“Ah, well, the Small Kingdom and the Large both arm against Muak-lal, yet your mark does not make them your friends.  Perhaps you could have persuaded the Seven if you had given in to that Majesty’s charms.”

“Not your Majesty?” I asked.

“I am Nen Wave-crasher.  No King can command the tide, though they may dam against it.”

“Is that just the structure, or is there a hidden ‘n’ at the end of that word?”

“Like a monster at the end of a book?” He grinned.

“She stole almost a year from me already,” I said, suddenly loud.  I hadn’t meant to be.  I didn’t really even realize I’d been that angry about it.  I didn’t know which part hurt most…that I could be gone a year and not notice, or that other people didn’t really notice.

“Aye.  The King owes you much,” he said.  He looked very serious, and something about him was different.  The strange deviation of his facial structure, the weird shaping of his mouth, it looked different for a moment.  Less feral, more noble, I guess.  Like I’d seen something powerful in him.

“I’ll collect with interest,” I said.

“Ah, I thought your interest wasn’t for sale,” he teased.

“What did the Small Kingdom gain from me?” I asked.

“The King cannot abdicate her decisions, for which you reminded the Court. You released their seer, their war-guide.  You had Rayya open the gates and awakened the hall of hands from darkness.  You did not offer yourself as sacrifice.  You had the King lead you through time back to a beginning.  It was quite a statement, Door-closer.”

“Huh.”  I thought about it.  “I did all that?”

“And more.”