Friday, January 31, 2014


That night, as I slept, warm and safe and happy in the arms of the man I loved, I found my way back in time to my great, great grandmother.

I stood beside her where she sat in a massive, ornate stone chair. She wore bright gold jewelry around her throat and wrists, and little else, her long hair like a thick, raven river around her shoulders.

Beside her, I was delighted to see Agmund sitting tall and handsome beside Cuicatl where he belonged, with his cloak of bright feathers in place.

I had the oddest feeling that a great deal of time had passed since I was there last. I looked out at what the couple were watching. Definitely, a lot of time had passed. The stadium that had been in the early construction phase when I first met Quetzalcoatl and his wife was now in use, and already showed some signs of wear, so it had been in use for many years.

What looked like a few thousand people screamed and hollered and urged on their favorites, as the game played out below. Food sellers hawked their wares up and down the aisles. It wasn't all that different from a UT game at Texas stadium.

I grinned. In some ways, people just don’t change all that much, no matter what time period or part of the world they lived in.

I watched the game, contentedly for a while, in the shadow of Cuicatl’s massive stone throne. She hadn't noticed that I was there yet. I decided to just let her watch the game. I remembered Agmund saying that there was no higher purpose than to play, since without joy, what was the point of life? Let them have their fun. I’d say my hellos when the game was over.

The athletes wore nothing but tiny loincloths, showing off beautifully fit bodies, their thick black hair braided and bound out of the way. They ran and bounced the ball with every body part but their hands. It was sort of a combination of soccer and basketball from what I could tell. The high, vertical goal was barely bigger than the ball, though. It looked crazy hard to hit.

I saw two near misses that had the crowd gasping in unison. Then, finally, one unusually tall, beautifully built man practically ran up the barely tilted wall like it was flat ground, a teammate passed him the ball. I held my breath along with everyone else, and ... Bam! He smacked that ball with an elbow right through that crazy difficult goal.

The crowd went crazy jumping up and down and making so much noise, it washed over us in a wave.
With an ear-to-ear grin, I looked over at Cuicatl, expecting to see her cheering like the rest.

Her hand was over her mouth in an expression of absolute horror.

I blinked. My smile faded. Why was my great, great grandmother upset? Did she have some kind of huge bet on the other team winning?

I looked over at Agmund. He had a satisfied smile on his face, like nothing I’d ever seen before. That expression had a cat that ate the canary smugness that just didn’t seem to fit what I knew about my great, great grandfather.

My first thought was to ask either Cuicatl or Agmund what was going on, but some instinct held me back. Maybe if I just watched a little more, I’d understand.

The game went on for a bit longer, but no one even came close to scoring another goal. It was clear, when a man in a tall, feathered headdress walked out and dropped a huge red flower to signal the end of the game, exactly who had won.

The winning team didn’t seem nearly as jubilant as I would have expected. They all reached out reverently one by one to touch the tall man who had scored the goal. The losing team all at once, dropped to their knees and covered their faces in front of the man.

Wow. I've heard of worshiping sports heroes, but these guys really went all the way.

The tall hero of the day walked, head high, to the end of the stadium where the Aztec god and goddess sat with the best view of all. He climbed the steep steps to stand in front of us.

Cuicatl and Agmund both stood. The boisterous crowd went silent.

“Well done!” Agmund said. “It pleases me immensely that you all compete for this honor with such zeal!” He laughed, as if at some marvelous private joke.

I heard his voice echo back from the other side of the stadium. Agmund’s stadium design clearly included awesome acoustics. Everyone in the stadium could hear him.

The dragon in the feathered cloak walked forward and laid his hands on the man’s shoulders. Compared to the tall, Norwegian dragon, the Aztec champion looked a lot shorter than he did standing next to his teammates. “You have proven yourself most worthy of all this day!”

“Thank you, oh great one.” The handsome man’s chin trembled, and he blinked a few times, emotion threatening to overwhelm him. He knelt down, covered his eyes, then held his hands upward to Agmund. “For all of eternity, I will cherish this honor.”

Agmund chuckled darkly. “Of course you will.”

The man laid face up on the stone front of the dais in front of where the two stone thrones sat, in full view of the entire stadium.

Cuicatl knelt next to the champion, her face filled with sadness. “You will feel no pain. I promise you.” She shifted into scaly humanoid form. It was the first time I’d seen her in her humanoid form. Her vivid, shimmering purple wing feathers ran down her back and under her arms. They looked a lot like a feathered cloak. I could see where the feathered cloak style for royalty came from.

The gold necklace around her neck looked more like a collar on the larger form. The ornate design actually aimed spikes toward the shimmering iridescent purple scales on her neck, spikes that glowed softly. I’d seen that glow before somewhere.

It took me a moment to remember where. I’d seen it on the weapons that the Georgians used to try to kill Vlad, weapons that could pierce dragon scales.

With a twist in my guts, I recognized that necklace as a pretty, but very deadly, form of slave collar. If Cuicatl shifted to her massive panther/eagle battle form, those spikes would kill her. She could attain only two forms while wearing it, human and scaly humanoid, or what I tended to think of as normal, everyday dragon form.

I swallowed. And took another quiet step back into the shadows behind the thrones.
Agmund would never do that to Cuicatl.

That wasn't Agmund.

Cuicatl popped claws on one hand, and gently inserted one, like I would a hypodermic needle, into the crook of the ball game champion’s arm.

His body went limp, and his eyes, while still open, lost focus. The quiver in his chin that the stoic champion had been unable to control, relaxed. His beautifully toned body lay stretched out on the stone as if comfortably sunning himself.

Cuicatl put a hand on the champion’s shoulder. To those watching, it might look as if she was holding him down, but the courage of the champion made that unnecessary. She was simply offering him comfort.

The man who wasn't Agmund shifted to his normal humanoid dragon form.

He stepped forward with a fanged smile that made me wonder how I EVER could have mistaken that man for my jovial great, great grandfather. The dragon with Agmund’s face put one foot on either side of the champion’s legs and knelt down astride him.

His hand had the normal sharp, but venomless claws that all dragons, other than the Aztec Purples, had. He smashed his hand directly through the champion’s rib bones, and ripped free the man’s still beating heart.

I couldn't tear my eyes away from the champion’s face. He was alive and conscious for a few seconds, long enough to see the dragon that had ripped away his life stand and hold aloft his beating heart for the thunderously cheering crowd to see. Long enough to watch as the monster that had killed him took a bite from his heart.

The Agmund-faced beast ripped into the lump of still wiggling muscle with a dragon’s sharp teeth, relishing the gushing scarlet blood that dripped down his chin, like the juice of a delicious fruit.

My stomach heaved. I covered my mouth and fought the urge to vomit. I couldn't help but make a gagging sound. The sound of the crowd would have covered for me, if not for the perfect acoustics.

Cuicatl’s head whipped round. Her catlike eyes narrowed as she struggled to make out my shadowy form. “Daughter of my daughter,” she whispered. “You have been gone for a century. You should not have come back. I am ashamed for you to see what I have become. You gave me my freedom, but I was unable to keep it.”

“Who is that?” I asked her.

The blood-soaked monster that looked like Agmund turned around to face me, clearly having no trouble seeing me.

Cuicatl stood, and introduced us formally, her eyes on her toes. “This is Smoking Mirror, the Obsidian One, the dark reflection of the one I once loved. He is my husband now.”

“The dark mirror of the benevolent Quetzelcoatl,” I said softly, as all the dots connected in my brain. Agmund’s evil twin. Alrek? Had I invited this horror into my house? Had I just had Christmas dinner with this monster? Could Agmund have more than one twin brother? “Alrek?”

“Yes, I am Alrek.” He bowed, while licking the blood from his chin. “And you need no introduction, since my stupid wife has already given away who you are, daughter of our daughter. It seems that our mating WILL eventually produce offspring. Although I would prefer sons, if my children gain the ability to travel in time, as well as claws, then my line will prove truly powerful beyond all others. Welcome, future child of my line.”

I lifted my head and wrinkled my nose. “I’m no child of yours, for which I am very thankful. Agmund was my ancestor. What have you done with him?” I growled.

“I killed him, of course,” Alrek said with a satisfied smile on his blood-smeared face. “Stabbed him in the back as soon as he told me he’d fathered a child with claws that could paralyze or kill. The idiot actually seemed surprised to see my blade come out of his chest. Of course, I couldn't allow his children to have an ability that mine didn’t. That would make his line more powerful than mine.”

I blinked tears for the laughing god who asked that his worshipers release butterflies in his honor, not give him the beating hearts of their champions. Then, the anger hit. This monster was raping my great great grandmother regularly to try to make babies with claws. I popped out my own claws. “Release Cuicatl.”

Alrek laughed, really laughed, a lot. Like the time when I told Agmund that Fafnir was a wise mentor. He laughed until he had to set down the heart and hold his sides. “Do you threaten me, fledgling?” he chuckled again, as if that were the funniest thing he’d ever heard.

It was insulting. I’d fought giant robots and flame-throwing super-villains. I could handle an elder dragon. Sure. Yeah.

Okay, not a chance. But I wasn't going to let him keep Cuicatl, the woman who looked and smelled like my mother, as his personal sex slave, and do nothing. “Yes,” I said softly. “I do threaten you. Take that collar off of her and Let. Her. Go.”

Cuicatl looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “You must not defy him, child. He can kill you before you ever even have a chance to be born.”

Alrek casually back-handed my great, great grandmother in the face. “Silence, female. At least this one shows some spirit.”

Cuicatl fell backward onto the steep stone steps and rolled down a few steps, grunting with the pain.
Alrek’s burning red eyes narrowed on me. “How can you be my brother’s descendant? I killed his child.”
I swallowed. If I wasn't careful about what I said, I could get my little great-grandmother killed. “Maybe Agmund is not as dead as you think.” I’m a terrible liar. I never regretted that so much as now.

Alrek rolled his eyes. “I ate my brother’s heart, chopped him up into pieces and buried him in different parts of the jungle.”

“There are powerful magics that can bring a dragon back even from beyond death,” I said truthfully. “Merlin knows these magics.”

“The wizard who travels in time,” Alrek said, thoughtfully.

“Merlin’s power sent me back in time.” That was sort of true. “You have no idea what I am capable of.” That was true, too, thank goodness. “Now, set Cuicatl free.”

“Or what?” Alrek said, with a mischievous smile.

Cuicatl had crawled back up to the dais, but she stayed on her hands and knees, eyes on the stone floor in shame as I spat reckless defiance in the face of her captor.

“Or I will cripple you,” I said softly, thinking of Alrek’s limp. It’s possible that he got that limp here today. Likely even. I saved my great grandmother’s life last time I was here. I wasn't just coming back by chance. Something was drawing me back exactly when I was really needed. It had to have been Cuicatl who drew me back today. I didn’t know why she needed me so badly, but I would do whatever I could for her. “Today, you will be crippled for life, if you do not free Cuicatl.”

Faster than I could react, Alrek's right hand, coated in the still warm blood of the human champion, flew out and grabbed me by the throat. He lifted me right off my feet.

I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even gasp or choke or try to breathe. My mouth opened wide, trying for air, but nothing came. His grip all but crushed my neck.

“Merlin is a fool to send a fledgling back in time to try to change what has already been written. My line will destroy his one day, along with all the inferior dragon lines with only one power. That’s what he’s trying to prevent, isn't it? Once I have what I need from them, I will destroy all other clans. Only my descendants will continue. One day, all dragons will be Obsidian.”

I clawed desperately at the hand holding me, and was surprised when I actually scratched through the dark shimmering scales to draw blood. My claws were a combination of the unmatched strength of the Silver clan, and the powerful venom of the Aztec Purples. It was ironic really. I was exactly what this maniac was trying to build, a dragon with the powers of multiple clans combined.

His arm dropped limply by his side.

I dropped in a little heap, and tried to remember what air felt like through the burning in my throat. I coughed and coughed, and nearly threw up.

He looked alarmed for a second or two, then chuckled again. “This will heal in minutes. You don’t even know how to use the venom to full affect.”

I swiped toward his legs, weakly.

He stepped back a few feet, almost casually. He sighed. “I tire of this game. I thought, perhaps, you might prove a worthy opponent. But you forget, little fledgling. I have the blood of Eric the Red in my veins.” He started inhaling hugely, like a kid about to blow out birthday candles.

Oh, shit. Reds breathe fire.

I was sort of fire resistant, but only a full coat of silver scales like my grandmother had, charged with the power of lightning, could withstand a direct blast of Red dragon flame.

I curled in a tiny ball, and thought, Now would be a really good time to wake up.

But instead of a blowtorch blast, Alrek’s mouth let out a scream.

Cuicatl had bitten him hard on the ankle. She may have given up on fighting for herself, but she would never just watch that monster kill me and do nothing. Her fangs didn’t pierce, but she bit hard enough to make him hurt. She tried to claw him, too, but her claws were black, not silver, not hard enough to pierce his scales.

He kicked her in the face.

I heard her cheekbone snap, but she just shook her head and bit him again.

I leaped to help her, without bothering to get to my feet. My silver claws ripped a long gash in Alrek’s leg scales.

Rage. My great, great grandmother had told me the key to the intensity of the claw venom was rage. I hadn't been pissed off enough when I clawed Alrek’s hand to do any real damage. The horrible things he’d done hadn't really sunk in yet in my mind, so I wasn't angry enough.

Oh, but Cuicatl was. She had rage to spare.

She sank her claws into Alrek’s leg muscle through the slash I’d made, and ripped for all she was worth. Her yellow cat eyes blazed fierce, angry red in the center with berserk hatred for the man who had murdered her husband and her child, imprisoned her and raped her repeatedly. “You will not harm any more of my family!!”

Alrek fell.

Cuicatl ripped his leg open from knee to ankle. The venom from her claws made the flesh swell with huge blisters that oozed sluggish black blood with a foul smell. 

Alrek's eyes widened. His pupils expanded, the darkness rapidly swallowing his own red glow. For a moment, it looked like he might lose consciousness.

Then Alrek shook his head, roared, and shifted to battle form. A sinuous dragon’s body as long as a freight train car filled the dais. He curled clear around the stone thrones and surrounded us in his coils. He blinked his softball-sized reptilian eyes. They gained back their focus, and immediately honed in on the dragon who had hurt him.

The collar on Cuicatl’s neck trapped her in her far smaller, weaker humanoid form. She faced the massive dragon, with teeth as long as her forearm, head high with the feathered cloak of her wings giving her a noble aspect. “I do not fear you. I will never fear you again.”

“No, you won’t, you barbaric little whore.” Alrek’s one functional hand lashed out. He pierced through her chest scales with his claws and shattered her ribs with the unmatched power of an elder dragon, as easily as his humanoid dragon form had pierced the chest of the human champion.

He ripped Cuicatl’s beating heart from her body.

She smiled at him triumphantly as she collapsed to her knees. Blood bubbled through her mouth as she said with her last breath, “I carry your son in my belly.” She dropped limply to the stone beside the dead champion. Her lifeblood spread in a wide pool, mixing with the human’s.

“NOOOOO!!!” Alrek howled, as the dragon’s heart he held in his hand beat once more, then stopped forever, taking his dream of a powerful son with it.

“No!” I whispered, weeping for Cuicatl, my courageous great, great grandmother who had died a thousand years ago, fighting to protect me. Her desperation to be free had called me back to her.

Now, she was free.

The morning light of the modern world dragged me back to my own time, still weeping bitterly.

D Dragon

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Night

As time passes, details fade. I have a dragon’s long memory for detail, but still, the edges soften as the memories get further away, like soft focus on a camera. For some memories, that’s good. They can’t fade and blur fast enough. If I could wipe them from my memory like an ugly stain, I would in a heartbeat. For certain memories, though, every loss of vivid detail, ever single second that blurs together with the second before and after it, is a loss. Like a grain of sand, taken by the wind, slowly turning my beautiful sand castle into a shapeless lump on the shore. Time keeps stealing those seconds from me, from that night. The longer I wait, the more I lose.

I can’t let that happen. No matter how much it aches to live it moment by moment again, at least I know that if I write it down now, no more seconds will slip away from me.

So, here goes.

Not long after dinner, everyone went home, except for Brad, Ma, Jack and me, since we were already home, and Donovan. He went back to his monitors, looking freshly determined to keep me safe from my unknown enemy.

With Jack, Brad and I all helping Ma, cleanup was quick and easy.

Brad hugged Ma before he went to bed with suspiciously watery eyes, and said, “Thank you, maam. That was the best Christmas dinner I ever had.”

It occurred to me in that moment that I didn’t know much about Brad. I hadn’t known him at all before he moved in, and I hadn’t really learned all that much, since he moved in. Brad wasn’t a big talker, especially not with women. I mean, I knew what brand of beer he preferred, that he could eat an entire box of cereal for breakfast, and that he not only had a full pelt of back hair, but moles in odd places under the pelt. What I didn’t know was anything at all about where he came from, his family, his life before he became my unintentional roommate. At this point, I didn’t even know what he did for a living.

Jack knew a lot more than I did, although even he was mystified by Brad’s new job. If there was one person on earth Brad talked to, that was Jack. The fact that Jack had taken him in when he didn’t even know Brad’s name had earned him a LOT of points with the big guy. It didn’t hurt that Jack was just the kind of guy people talked to. He had a sort of approachable air that just made people trust him.

I trusted Jack, practically from the first day I met him, and I have some serious trust issues.

As Jack and I walked up the stairs, holding hands, I asked him, “Why don’t I ever hear anything about Brad’s family?” I realized, somewhat belatedly, that he hadn’t had so much as a cousin send him a present, or come to dinner.

“Brad doesn’t have any family,” Jack told me. “He was turned over to the system when he was barely a toddler. Apparently, his parents were normals, and they had no idea how to raise a supe with his level of abilities.”

“Where was he raised?”

“In the Box.”

I stopped half way up the stairs. “He was just a baby!” The Black Box was a euphemism for the ultra-maximum security prison where the worst and most powerful supervillains were housed. It was definitely, without a shadow or trace of any doubt, no kind of place to raise a kid. 

“He got his powers pretty much at birth. He doesn’t remember, and no one ever told him, but it’s possible he might have killed someone, or seriously injured them, when he was too young to control his strength.”
“But that’s … that’s just … barbaric. You can’t put a baby in prison for life.”

Jack shrugged. “There’s a section for juvenile detention, for supe teenagers who get in trouble mainly, but some kids like him, too. It’s not like they tossed a toddler into general population.”

“But it’s a temporary thing for the kids in juvy. Most of them have a home to go to once they’ve served their time.”

“Brad didn’t. It wasn’t like they could just place a kid who could pick up and chunk the family car if he had a tantrum into any old foster home.”

“So, my roommate was raised in prison, surrounded by juvenile delinquents and a stone’s throw from the most dangerous criminals on this continent. Kind of explains his lack of social graces.”

“Yeah. Pretty amazing that Brad turned out as decent as he did, when you put it that way.” Jack squeezed my hand and we finished our climb to the second floor where his bedroom was. We’d gotten into the habit of walking each other home each night. If he went to bed first, I’d walk him to his door, and we’d kiss good night. If I went to bed first, we’d do it the other way round. “He said some of the guards were really nice to him when he was the youngest kid there, but he was raised more by the older kids than anything.”

As we walked, I leaned into Jack’s warmth. It made me feel cold to think of a little boy having to grow up like that, just because he was born different. Novak’s childhood hadn’t been much better. His mom died in childbirth and his dad never knew he existed. He grew up in the foster system, not getting adopted because he was “deformed.” The man who finally took him in secretly despised him, and refused to even let the young dragon he raised refer to him as family.

My dad was murdered when I was little, but I’d always had Ma. She’d always made sure that I felt loved and wanted, even when I accidentally tore the car door off its hinges, or crushed Ma’s brand new cell phone back when those things cost as much as a month’s rent. She’d shrug and say that they were just things. Things could be replaced. “I forget how lucky I am sometimes.”

We stood in front of the door to Jack’s bedroom. He smiled with enough warmth to melt quartz crystals and pushed a stray lock of dark hair back from the side of my face. “Don’t we all.”

I’d have had to be made of stone not to kiss him right then.

Our lips touched gently at first. We’d gotten the hang of kissing over the nearly two years we’d been dating. Our lips knew each other as well as we did. I tilted my head just a little and he did, too, as if we’d choreographed it. It was a dance we knew the steps to intimately, from hours of passionate practice.
Without thought, our bodies moved closer, our arms enclosing each other in warmth, swaying and shifting together to find the perfect fit. Our mouths opened in the same moment, and the familiar taste and texture of his tongue touched mine.

I moaned softly. It just got better. Our first kiss had been awkward, with bumping teeth and blushing, and one hand barely touching my arm. With every time we practiced this dance, we moved together more smoothly, and it got so much better.

His arms around my waist pulled me in close.

I melted against him and felt exactly how much he was enjoying the dance.

He twirled me around and pushed my back up against his bedroom door, trailing hot kisses down my jaw and neck. One hand buried itself in my hair, pulling it away from one side of my throat and ear so his tongue could work magic unhindered.

I threw my head back and ran my hand down his back to squeeze his tight backside. I wasn’t the only one that had put on muscle from firefighter training and Krav Maga classes. He would never be bulky, but Jack’s body was a work of art that would shame Michelangelo.

My hands plunged under his Dragon Ball t-shirt and up the skin of his back, nails tracing along the skin.
He shivered and moaned into my mouth, goosebumps rising on his back, and pressed harder against me. Jack’s leg slipped in between mine. His body matched mine perfectly from hip to chest. I don’t know what ever made me think our height difference mattered.

This was going way beyond a simple good night kiss.

The hands I knew so well ran up the smooth, human skin on my sides that still felt strange to me, thumbs caressing just under my bra, silently waited, asking if I wanted to take the next step in the dance.

Oh, I did. I so did.

I “Mmmph,”ed a yes, and pulled him harder against me in case the message wasn’t clear enough.
His hands cupped my completely human, normal, unarmored breasts, thumbs rubbing across both nipples.
My knees got warm and squishy like they didn’t have any interest in holding me up anymore, not that it mattered. Jack’s body held mine almost painfully hard against the polished wood of the door. I panted like I’d run a marathon. “Jack,” I whispered. “I want …”

His mouth that had been burning a trail down my throat from my ear, kissed the mound of my right breast and I forgot how to speak. All I could do was make little keening noises.

Jack leaned his leg into me, and I rocked my hips against him instinctively, shuddering at how indescribably good that felt.

“Jack!” I gasped.

He looked into my eyes from inches away. His eyes had turned from deep brown to black as midnight as his pupils blew wider than a drug addict’s. One trembling hand came up and cupped my cheek. “Are you sure you’re ready?” His voice was gentle, and ready for my denial, even while his body pressed me against the door like he wanted to go through me.

I’d never gone beyond this point, with anyone, ever. I licked my kiss swollen lips. I hadn’t planned for this to be our night. I’d been thinking about Christmas and dinner and people coming over and helping Ma and getting people the perfect presents. “I’m not wearing the right underwear,” I wailed softly.

Jack chuckled. Most guys would have taken that as a no, but fortunately Jack spoke fluent Dee. “You can wear the green lacy ones next time.”

Next time.

I touched his face. I pushed his shaggy bangs back from his forehead, feeling the fever heat in his skin. I traced his dark eyebrow and cupped his cheek in my hand, thumb stroking the sharp angle of his cheekbone. There would only be one first time, but I thought maybe, like kissing, it would be something we just got better and better at as time passed.

It was the next step in the dance.

Jack was the one partner who made me truly want to finish the dance. I trusted him completely. And I wanted him completely. I nodded. “I’m sure.”

Jack’s hips bucked a little against me, and his eyes fluttered shut. He swallowed hard. His eyes opened, and I’d never seen anyone look so … hungry.

He kissed me like he was drowning, and needed my mouth to breathe.

I rocked my hips on his leg again, craving that electric heat I’d felt before.

His hand slid down and cupped me through my jeans.

“Oh!” I gasped again. I grabbed onto his shoulders as I my knees actually gave way.

He turned the knob on the bedroom door, so I lost my support. His strong arm took its place behind me. Jack would never let me fall.

My sexy firefighter hooked his other hand under my thigh and lifted me, our bodies still fitted perfectly to each other.

When my hips rocked again instinctively, I rubbed directly against the hardness that strained the zipper on his jeans, and he groaned right along with me.

He carried me to his bed.

We fumbled and giggled as we added these new unpracticed steps to our dance. There was even a little pain, since this was all new to my completely normal human body, but Jack made it all perfect.

Jack made that night the best night of my life.

D Dragon

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Damson Christmas

Liberty’s been hassling me again to talk to someone. I got a little rough when we arrested a supe criminal today. I've been pushing the edges of the “excessive force” laws a lot lately. Writing in here seemed to help let some of the stuff in my brain out, so I guess I should keep going.  I left off just before I confronted Tamara.

While I watched from behind a 2-way mirror, Jack gave Tamara a quick, delighted kiss on the cheek after the massive, swing off the feet hug. She blushed as he left, still grinning with happiness.

Tamara turned her back to the mirror as she stretched to get a CD of old Christmas music off a high shelf.
I wiped the tears out of my eyes, pasted on a smile and opened the mirror. I reached over her head for the CD just as she was looking around for a chair to drag over and stand on.

“Whoah, didn’t see you there!” Tamara chuckled. “You enjoy those secret passages way too much.”

I handed her the CD. Tam showed no sign of shame or concern that I might have seen her with Jack.

“Thanks, Dee. Being vertically challenged can be a pain,” she said, still grinning like a maniac. She was practically glowing.

I tried to smile back. “You’re sure in a good mood, Tam.”

Her grin faded a little. “And you look like someone just ran over your dog. What’s up, chica?”

“Knowing Rocky’s luck, it wouldn't surprise me.”

Tamara didn’t let me re-direct. She grabbed my hand dragged me over to a comfy little old-fashioned settee and said, “Something’s bugging you, big time. Spill.”

I had no idea what to say. “You first, and I promise I’ll follow. Tell me about the happy glowy face.”

Tamara had a dusky brown complexion as dark as mine, but still managed to pink a little on the cheeks. Her short dark hair fell forward, the blue streak touching her forehead, when she looked at the hardwood floor. “I’m sort of, in a relationship.”

“Is this recent?” I asked, as if I didn’t know.

“It’s someone I've known for a while, but we've just recently, …” she shrugged, with a crinkle-nosed grin. “Become more than just friends.”

I swallowed the big lump in my throat. “You seem happier than I've ever seen you.”

“I've been alone a long time,” she said. “Since before my tour.”

Tamara had been in the military, stationed in Afghanistan for four years before she became a firefighter. 

She’d been stateside for more than three years. “That’s a long time.” She was only twenty-six. She’d spent most of her adult life without anyone to love. I knew how she felt.

“It’s tough, you know, to find the right match, someone who really gets you.”

“Yeah, I know.” I blinked hard, determined not to cry. I could be an adult about this. “I’m happy for you both.”

Tamara squeezed my shoulder a little. “Thanks. Your turn now. What’s eating you?”

“I … I just … wanted you to know that, I’m happy for you, both of you. I already knew about it, and … it’s okay.”

“I got that already. But what’s bothering you?”

“That’s it. I can’t pretend you two being together like that doesn't bother me. But, I want you to be happy, so …” I shrugged and couldn't look her in the eyes. I was not going to cry. I refused to cry.

Tamara pulled away from me a little. “It didn’t occur to me that you’d have a problem with it.” She got up and put some distance between us. “I forget most of the time, that you’re a lot older than you seem. I guess I should have expected a woman in her sixties from a small town in Texas to react that way.” Her smile was wiped away.

“Hey, times haven’t changed that much.” How dare she bring my age into it. I might be older, but I’d still look twenty-three when she was covered in wrinkles. “I don’t know any woman alive who wouldn't have a problem with her best friend and her boyfriend hooking up.” The anger overwhelmed the hold I had on tears and one escaped. So much for being an adult about this. “I thought you were my friend!” I hurled at her and stormed out, slamming the door in her face as she stood there with her mouth hanging open. I had to get out before the tears got away from me completely.

Tamara chased after me. “Wait, Dee!”

I ignored her, ran blindly down the hall and slammed right into Jack.

He caught me by the shoulders before I could knock him down. “Hey, what’s wrong, partner?” Jack asked.

I snorted, and it turned into a sniffly sob. “Like I’m still your partner.”

“Huh?” Jack glanced over at Tamara, who had caught up with us. “What’s she talking about? What’s going on?”

Tamara blushed again, and a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “She thinks you and I are together.”

“Together how?”

“There’s no point in trying to hide it now, dammit.” I pulled free of Jack’s grip. “I saw you in there just a minute ago.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “Like I saw you hugging Mark Novak without his shirt?”

“That wasn't what it looked like. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know.” He raised both eyebrows.

I rolled my eyes. “This is pointless. Tam already told me you two are more than friends now.”

“Hang on, Dee,” Tamara said. “You totally misunderstood. It’s not Jack I’m involved with. It’s Jerica.”

“Jerica? Jerica Peters in dispatch?” I knew they were friends. Tam had been making all kinds of excuses to hang out with the shy, pretty dispatcher. “But she’s a girl.”

“I like girls,” Tamara said, with an amused smirk.

“What has that got to do with you and Jack? I've seen the way you two are together. You’re so much more touchy feely with him than with me.” What the heck did Jerica Peters have to do with anything?

Jack chuckled. “Dee, you’re being dense.”

Tamara put a hand on my arm, then pulled it back. “Look, you’re right about me acting different around you.”  She looked at her toes for a second, then back up, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “I like you, and I know you don’t swing that way, and I wouldn't do that to Jack anyhow, so …” She cleared her throat. “So I've been a little more reserved around you.”

“I don’t understand. What has that got to do with …?”

Tamara sighed and rolled her eyes a little. Then she grinned in Jack’s direction, and he nodded as if giving her permission.

Tamara went up on tiptoes and kissed me, right on the lips. “You’re a lot more my type than that pain in the rear.” She indicated Jack with a thumb.

I think I made this big OH thing with my mouth after she kissed me. I've never been kissed like that by a woman. Which was the point, clearly. It took an actual, physical kiss for me to finally get it.

Jack socked Tamara in the arm, playfully. “Hands off, princess. Try to kiss my girl again and I’ll taser you in the rear.”

Tamara shoved him back, chuckling. “You’ll try.”

I just stood there blinking for a few minutes as my world re-arranged itself in my brain. Eventually, I remembered to close my mouth. “Jerica Peters is really nice.”

The big, goofy grin that Tamara had been wearing earlier made a reappearance. “Yeah. She’s awesome. She’s going to introduce me to her family tomorrow. She’s Jewish like me, but her family has time off this time of year, so they do a big get-together on the 26th.”

“That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you.” I really was. I’d been hoping she’d find someone special, and she finally had. And it wasn't my Jack, naturally, because she wasn't even attracted to guys. “I’m a complete idiot.”

They both laughed at me.

“We love you anyway,” Jack said, and put an arm around my shoulders.

Tamara put an arm around my waist on the other side, apparently no longer shy about touching me, and they both walked me down to dinner, poking fun at me for being so slow on the uptake. Maybe being from a tiny Texas town had affected my outlook a little. I refused to think it had anything to do with my age. I’m still a teen the way dragons count things.

Christmas dinner was spectacular. I sat between the man I loved and my best friend, and smiled until my face hurt. All around me, my friends and family laughed and ate great food.

Liberty, at the other end of the table, thankfully, hesitated a little, looking at the magnificent spread of food. She inquired if the produce was locally grown. Ma crinkled her eyes and heaped sweet potatoes with pecans on the slender heroine’s plate. “It doesn't get much more local than my garden in the courtyard.” Catherine looked relieved and ate more than I would have thought she could hold.

Brad ate enough for four people, of course. He seemed a little quieter than usual, though. He’s always polite around Ma, but he seemed especially formal that day. He kept calling Alrek “sir” and Ma “maam.”

Donovan joined us about half way through, blinking sleepily with his dark hair ruffled in the back. Even groggy from several hours of nap, he still looked better than he did that morning.

Flynn and Donovan got along like a house on fire. Flynn had been trading the occasional jibe with Tamara and looking uncomfortable with so many supes. When Donovan finally joined us, Flynn found a kindred spirit. They spent half of dinner in their own little gripe session about having to regularly deal with supe opponents without the benefit of supe abilities.

Alrek was the new face at the table. He was family, sort of, but he was also a stranger. He told some interesting tales about his travels all over South America, and a fair amount of Canada and Alaska. He waxed a little nostalgic about northern Europe. He hadn’t been back to his homeland in more than a thousand years.

Ma seemed unusually reserved with Alrek. She treated him with her impeccably polite hospitality to a guest, but she didn’t warm up to him, at least not like she did to Mark Novak.

Donovan and Jack might treat the guy like he had leprosy, but Ma, once she’d accepted the former Georgian as no longer the enemy, practically smothered Knight with love. She knew a soul desperately in need of mothering when she saw it. She put extra helpings of food on his plate, patted his arm periodically, asked him about his health, called him “dear” and gave him the first slice of pie.

Novak, the world famous Protector, accustomed to having cameras and microphones shoved in his face, still blushed at all the extra attention. He made noises like he didn’t want Ma to go out of her way for him, but it was pretty obvious that he was soaking up the affection like the desert sand soaked up rain.

I soaked it up, too. It was possibly the happiest day of my life.

And it got even better that night.

I can’t write about that night yet. That night was too perfect. Too … special. It hurts just thinking about it. Maybe I’ll manage it some time. But not today.

D Dragon

Sunday, September 8, 2013

For Friends and Family

Friends and Family

I just found my journal stuffed under my bed. I haven’t touched it in so long, almost a year now, that I had to brush a layer of dust off. What would I write in here? I eat, I sleep, I work, I train. I go through the motions. I try to act like everything’s okay, but it’s not okay. It’s never going to be okay again.

It’s funny. I read through the things that happened last year, and it’s like it happened to someone else. Someone … younger. As if one year can make such a huge difference. But it can. I didn’t realize. It can.

I started this whole journaling thing because it seemed to help. It was a way to get some of the swirling maddening thoughts and feelings trapped in my head out of my system. Catherine keeps telling me I should talk to someone. I can’t. I just can’t. But maybe I can write.

I left off right after Smoking Mirror’s goons kidnapped me. I’ll just go from there. Things were quiet for a while after that.

It was clear as glass by then that I really was the target of Austin’s new enemy. Smoking Mirror had some kind of personal grudge against me. Not my city. Me. My city was just collateral damage. I didn't know why, though. Not then.

After the kidnapping, Detective Long questioned the three prisoners with the skull tattoos.  They refused to say anything when he interrogated them, absolutely nothing, not one word, and one by one, they committed suicide as soon as they saw an opportunity. The lady who used too much lipstick was the last to die. Long had her in a padded cell in a straight jacket, and she still managed to strangle herself with her own braided hair.

Long told me to take some leave from work so the police could protect me more effectively, but I refused. 

"No way I'm going to risk losing my job again," I told him.

He rubbed his hand through his close-cropped brown hair. "Look, we're up against some kind of fanatic religious cult here. They're not going to just go away. If you don't cooperate, I might have to put you in protective custody."

"I'm a Protector, now. You can't just treat me like a helpless civilian," I told him. I even showed him the handy dandy badge Liberty gave me.

He sighed. "Technically, maybe. But you've got no powers now, and this "Smoking Mirror" knows it."

I crossed my arms. I just wasn't going to do it. I'd lost one job I loved because of superhero absences. I wasn't going to lose another one just because a bad guy MIGHT try to kidnap or kill me.

Detective Long's eyes narrowed a little. "You do realize that this guy's MO is to blow up buildings that either you're in, or that have a connection to you. Everywhere you go, you're a hazard to the people around you. What if he follows you to the firehouse?"

I swallowed. In my head, I saw a brief flash of the building where I worked suddenly reduced to a pile of rubble with the crushed bloody remnants of my friends buried inside it.

So, I took a couple weeks off. 

Everyone understood. After all, my whole crew had been there on that street corner when I got grabbed. And, I’d gotten the medal of valor before I even made it out of training by stopping a nuclear bombing. No one so much as questioned it. After all the flak I’d caught from Dexter, my old boss, it felt pretty weird to have the higher ups be so completely cool with superhero life related absences.

Donovan pasted himself to my side like a second skin. He even, wonder of wonders, made an uneasy truce with Mark Novak. White Knight spent every moment when he wasn't on duty at the fire house hanging around with me, in full armor with sword at his side and shield on his back. He tried to act like he was just being friendly, asking me questions about dragon stuff, but it was hardly subtle. Jack wasn't any keener than Donovan was on having Novak around so much, but he knew Knight would be handy if it came to a fight. So, he settled for treating the big shiny superhero in our living room as if he didn’t exist. Donovan pretty much did the same. Novak accepted that. Sadly, he seemed pretty used to being treated like a necessary evil.

Brad and Ma just went on about their business. Ma was worried, of course, but worrying was like breathing for her. It was nothing out of the ordinary. And Brad didn't even seem all that worried. I knew the big guy had my back, but he didn’t take any time off from his new job, and he didn’t stop heading out to clubs and music venues for a few beers and some dancing when it suited him.

For my part, I spent the whole two weeks jumping at shadows, wondering when Smoking Mirror would come after me again.

But he didn’t. The one thing we should have learned about the enemy was that he was very patient. He’d already spent most of a year just drawing me out, testing me, finding out what kind of person, hero, fighter, whatever I was.

Absolutely nothing happened for a month. I went back to work. Everyone started to relax. Except Floyd Donovan. He tried not to show it, but while everyone else became more and more certain that the enemy had moved on, or given up, Donovan became more and more certain that I was in serious danger.  While everyone else relaxed their vigilance, he looked more and more haggard and worried.

Detective Long thought Donovan had the right idea, but after a couple of weeks, he couldn't continue to justify the expense of a 24/7 police presence on my tail. So, the cops went back to their normal routines. I went back to my normal routine. Novak stopped following me around looking like he was waiting to throw himself in front of a bullet for me. And I stopped dropping into a Krav Maga defensive stance every time I saw someone with a tattoo or someone in a car looking at me, or when someone made a noise behind me that I wasn’t expecting.

Tamara told me she was proud of how my reflexes were improving, so I guess that was good.

Then it was almost Christmas, and I just wanted to feel normal again. So I went shopping. Jack and Tamara went with me. It was fun. We laughed and plotted what we were going to get for people, and acted like we didn’t have a care in the world. Just three besties on a shopping spree. We completely ignored Donovan, the tall, grim bodyguard dogging our steps, looking like he hadn’t slept in a week and would shoot anyone who looked at me funny.

We lucked out on shift timing at the fire house. Novak, Tamara, Jack and I all worked Christmas Eve, a full 24 hour shift, but then we were off on Christmas day and the day after. Everyone came to our house for Christmas. One nice thing about living in a castle, there’s plenty of space for a party. Novak didn’t have anywhere else to go, so when I told him he was invited, he came. Tamara did Christmas morning with her sister’s kids. Her two little nephews were five and seven, so Christmas morning was still magic to them. Then Tam headed to our place for Ma’s awesome Christmas dinner. Brad got the day off. Liberty had some charity appearances to do, but she made it back in time for dinner. I invited Detective Long, and Officer Flynn. Flynn came, but Long begged off to spend the day with his wife and kids. Who knew the guy was married?

I even invited Alrek. He was Agmund’s twin brother, which meant he was my great, great some-odd grand-uncle. And he was in town alone as far as I knew. He had no other family. I would have invited Jupiter Joe, but he’d flown home to his family a week before. It was in his contract, apparently, that he would always be home with his wife and kids at Christmas time.

For Novak, I thought about inviting Fafnir, who was at some Renaissance Faire that had just closed down in Louisiana. But Novak wouldn’t let me. He said he wasn’t ready to face the big red dragon out of legend who just happened to be his dad. He wanted to be the one to tell Fafnir about their relationship, so I hadn't breathed a word. That was between him and Fafnir. Christmas was a really emotionally charged time anyway. I could understand why dealing with his estranged father just then was too much.

I ordered Donovan to sleep. I mean, literally, ordered him. He’d been up watching the monitors all night, waiting expectantly for someone to come to get me, or plant bombs around the house or something. He’d been waiting, expectantly, watchfully for over a month. He looked like death warmed over.

The house filled up with guests, half of them supes, including Knight who followed me like a big shiny guard dog, and Brad who could rip most people’s limbs off, and I wasn’t planning on leaving the house all day. I dragged Donovan out of the security monitoring room to one of the guest rooms, shoved him on the bed and told him he wasn’t allowed to leave the room until dinner at the earliest. That was an order.

“I can’t protect you if I’m asleep,” Donovan said, jaw set stubbornly. His eyes were a vivid shade of pink, nicely set off by the purple smudges under them.

“No, you can’t. So, get some sleep now while I don’t need you.”

“You don’t ever think you need me,” he griped. It was an old complaint, but particularly bitter now.

I thought about Donovan shooting the man who had a .45 pointed at my head. I hated feeling helpless, and needing someone else to protect me. While I’d done the best I could to just move on with my life, I knew as well as he did that Smoking Mirror wasn’t done with me. And I was a normal now. Being human had its advantages, but knowing that someone powerful and cruel genuinely was out to get me made me miss being mostly bulletproof. Donovan shot me the first time we met. I barely noticed. Now, his gun and his trained, vigilant eyes might be the only thing between me and an ugly fate.

“I need you …” I hesitated, just long enough for him to hear what I couldn’t say. “I need you not to fall on your face and snore in the rice pudding.” I winked at him. “Ma worked hard on it.”

He snorted. “Fine.” I think he got what I was trying to tell him. His shoulders relaxed some and he started pulling off his cowboy boots. “Wake me when dinner’s ready.”

One important mission accomplished, I took the secret passage down through the closet to the study, since it was the shortest route. Vlad’s house is kind of a maze, but once you learn your way around, the extra passages are really handy. This meant that I ended up behind a full length 2-way mirror. I reached up to push the hidden latch that opened the mirror, then stopped.

Tamara and Jack slipped into the room holding hands, giggling and looking over their shoulders to make sure no one followed. They talked for just a moment. I couldn't hear them through the thick glass. Tamara did most of the talking. I’d never seen her so excited, bouncing on her toes and grinning like a maniac.

Jack smiled back at her, wider and wider as she talked. He laughed and hugged her, picking her up off her feet and swinging her around.

He’d never done that with me. I’m too tall, but Tamara was just the right height for him. She was just right for him in so many ways.

As I watched, I felt a weird mix of keening pain and joy. I loved them both. They looked so happy together. Tears trailed down my cheeks without me even noticing at first. If this was what was best for them, then I knew what I had to do.

I can’t write anymore right now. I think this might be helping, though. I’ll write more later.

D Dragon

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Was Dragon-napped!

So much happened, I haven’t had a chance to write until now, but I know it always helps me make sense of things when I write them down. So, here goes.

When I woke up, I was tied to a chair and the guy with the curly hair and the broken nose had just slapped me. That’s what woke me up.

If I had still been a dragon, that chair would have been usable as vampire stakes, the ropes around my wrists would have been knitting yarn, and that guy would have had a black eye to go with his broken nose. As it was, all I could do was glare at him. It just wasn’t as satisfying.

I remembered what my great-great grandmother Cuicatl said, that I was just human because I wanted to be, and tried to change back. I squeezed my eyes shut and focused really hard on scales and wings, claws and fangs.

The curly-haired guy slapped me again.

Wow, that got old fast.

“Keep it up, jerk, and I’ll rip your heart out and eat it.” It had scared me into almost wetting myself when Cuicatl used that threat on me, but the thug just laughed. 

“Ooh, I’m shakin’,” he said, but he wasn’t, unfortunately.

I guess the threat had more impact coming from a room-sized dragon with six inch claws and fangs.

I tried to get my bearings, figure out where they’d taken me while I was unconscious, but between being slapped twice and whatever they’d drugged me with, my brain wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders.

The polo shirt wearing guy with the huge biceps, the really ugly Hispanic guy with the scarred face, and the woman with too much lipstick were all there, whispering to each other a little ways away in what appeared to be a large, empty warehouse.

I tried to listen in, caught something about “I thought he’d be here by now,” and “Don’t question the will of the Obsidian one.”

That really made my ears prick up. Cuicatl had called the monster who murdered her daughter and kidnapped her, Smoking Mirror or the Obsidian one. Bingo, I finally understood the connection between my ancestor and me, and why I kept getting pulled back to her time. She and I were fighting the same enemy.

How the heck was that possible, though? From what I could tell by searching Google and Wikipedia, Cuicatl and Quetzelcoatl had to have lived in Central America more than a thousand years ago, maybe more like 1500 years ago. How could Smoking Mirror be a threat to me now, today, in Texas?

Curly Hair smacked me in the face again hard enough that I knew my cheek would be red for hours and involuntary tears started in my eyes. It kind of broke my train of thought. “What the heck, dude? You get your jollies popping women in the face?”

“Not women,” he said with a grin twisted by the plastic and tape on his nose. “Just you, bitch. Doctors said my nose will be crooked for life. If the Dark God hadn’t specifically told us not to, I’d bust you up good.”

“And if my hands weren’t tied, you’d have a few missing teeth, but we can’t all get what we want.” He smacked me again.

I growled, and started focusing again on being a dragon. I really, really wanted claws and super strength right then. I felt a little tingly weird in my skin. I thought maybe it was working. Then there was a shattering bangy overwhelming crash, kind of like a pickup being driven into the side of a metal building and taking down a fair amount of one wall.

The pickup was Donovan’s.

The thugs all whirled around, putting their backs to me to face the new threat.

Donovan stuck his pistol out the open driver’s window and shouted, “Everybody freeze!”

For a second, everybody did.

Then, Curly Hair crouched behind me so I was a human shield, and stuck a .45 in my ear. “Back off or the bitch dies!”

“Really? You’re pulling that old sock out of the drawer?” I said. Then I bashed the back of my head into his broken nose.

Blood gushed. He fell to his knees, moaning and crying, and mumbling something like, “Kill you, you bith, kill you, …” It was a little hard to understand him through the gushing blood and the hands, but I got the message when he blinked tears and aimed the .45 at my head with a wobbly hand.


I did the only thing I really could do. I tipped the chair over on its side. I banged my elbow hard enough to lose some skin on the concrete, but the bullet missed me.

Donovan shot him. Three shots, center mass, very close grouping. Curly Hair no longer had to worry about what shape his nose was.

All hell broke loose around me.

The bad guys opened fire on Donovan’s pickup while running for the big hole in the wall, trying to escape.
White Knight jumped out of the back of the pickup in full armor. Bullets pinged off my grandmother’s impenetrable silver scales, making little sparks, as Knight chased the bad guys, and gal.

Knight caught the woman with the bright lipstick first. He just tripped her, took her gun and kept running. He caught Scar Face next.

Just when Big Biceps thought he’d made it out, Jack stepped out from beside the warehouse wall and hit him in the ribs with the taser. Big Biceps spasmed, jerked and went down, all that muscle turned against him. Jack kept the taser on him for a while, just to make sure he stayed down.

Donovan covered Lipstick with his gun, while backing toward me to untie me. She raised her hands, showing the black and yellow skull tattoo on her palm, but got to her feet and made a run for it when Donovan looked down at the ropes for a second.

She threw a clothesline punch at Jack as she ran past, but he ducked. He got her in the back with the taser and down she went. Two for Jack.

Only Scar Face still stood. He fought Knight like a demon, got a couple of really good hits in, but the armor took a lot of the sting out of them. Knight finally hit the guy, open handed, hard enough to launch him off his feet and into the metal wall.

He left a smear of blood on the sheet steel wall as he went down.

Knight checked Scar Face’s pulse to make sure he was still alive, but it was clear he wasn’t getting up any time soon.

I’d been rescued. In between feeling elated and grateful and kind of freaked out, I have to admit I felt a little miffed.

Donovan gave me a hand up. “You okay, boss?” He asked it as a real question, not just a standard thing to say.

“I’m good. I’ve just always been the dragon. I’m not so keen on this damsel in distress gig.”

Donovan nodded understanding. “I’d prefer you didn’t make it a habit.”

“Don’t worry.”

Donovan grinned. “I always worry. That’s my job.”

White Knight scooped me up in his arms and hugged the stuffings out of me.

“Knight,” I gasped. “Human … ribs…”

“Oh, sorry.” He let me breathe, and I gracefully pushed away from his well-muscled, sexy-scented shiny-armored seriously hot body. Not that I noticed or anything. “I just. I was so scared that we’d be too late, that they would have …”

Jack got there, face as frantic with worry as Knight’s voice.

I threw myself into Jack’s arms, and started sniffling. Embarrassing, but true. I’d been holding it together pretty well until then.

Jack stroked my hair and held me tight. “That’s why,” I whispered into his ear, and he squeezed me tighter.

“Are you okay, Dee?” Jack said softly while I got his collar wet.

“I’m okay. I was just scared that one of them might have hurt you. They didn’t do anything worse to me than a sunburned cheek.”

“I’ll kill the bastard who hit you,” Knight muttered through clenched teeth.

“Too late. Donovan beat you to it.” I wiped my nose on my sleeve and pulled myself together. I might be the damsel in need of rescuing this time, but damned if I was going to act like one.

Big Biceps groaned and looked like he might get up.

Donovan and Knight covered him and Lipstick until the cops got there. Jack stayed with me. I wouldn’t let him go for a while.

I knew Detective Long was going to have a field day with those guys.

He did, too, but it didn’t do us any good.

I’ll write more later.

D Dragon

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I woke up on an uneven stone floor in pitch darkness. I couldn’t see a thing. Not one speck of light leaked in. The strong scent of damp stone, the complete lack of light, and the moldy, stale air gave me the impression I was somewhere deep underground. As I shifted, I was surprised to not feel any sort of ropes or anything. I wasn’t tied. I also felt the scrape of scales against the stone.

It felt like I was a dragon again. It felt really odd. I’d been human for months, except for that one time when I travelled back in time and saved my infant great grandmother. I extended the claws on my left hand and felt the click, like the click of a pen. Yup. Dragon.

I blinked tears. I wouldn’t be one of the guys anymore at the fire station. People would give me that look on the street. I’d have to wear clothes that covered me from head to toe even in the heat of summer, and cover my eyes in the day time. Damn it, I didn’t even get a chance to make love to Jack.

I’d been kidnapped, was locked in a stone room underground in total darkness, and I was crying because I’d gone back to being a freak. Sometimes I wonder about my sanity. And my priorities.

A hand touched my shoulder in the darkness. I yelped and about jumped out of my scales.

“I am sorry,” a familiar feminine voice said softly. “I did not mean to frighten you. I heard you weeping and meant to offer comfort.”


The voice chuckled bitterly. “No, daughter of my daughter. I am still not your mother. I am no one’s mother now.”

“Great great grandmother?” But if Cuicatl was there, that meant I had travelled back in time. My body was still in the year 2012, probably unconscious from whatever chemical had been on that rag the bad guys stuffed in my face, but the essence of what made me me was a long, long way from home.

“Why were you weeping, child?”

“I thought I’d turned back into a dragon. I’ve been human since the first time I met you, but each time I come back here, I’m always a dragon. I didn’t realize I wasn’t in my own time.”

“This,” she touched my left shoulder, covered with thick metallic scales, “This is the truth of who you are. The body of a dragon changes with every mood and whim. The spirit is constant.”

“I don’t know about the mood and whim thing. I’ve been stuck as a human for months.”

“Then you have not truly wished to be anything but human.”

“It sucked when I was trying to dig Jack out of the rubble and when I got shut out of the bomb threat thing because I was a normal. Not to mention when those guys were trying to blow up the nuclear plant. I would have loved to have been a dragon again right then.” It would have been a lot harder for those goons to kidnap me, too.

“Perhaps. But your deepest desire is still to be like others. A dragon cannot lie to her body. It will respond only to what you truly feel, not to what you think you should feel.”

That was a little hard to accept. “I don’t think it’s that simple for me. I’ve wanted to be human my whole life, but I never became human until you touched me.”

“You believe I am the one who altered your body?”

“It happened when you kissed me. I keep wondering if I need you to change me back.”

My great-great grandmother was silent for a while. In the total darkness, it was like I was alone if she didn’t touch me or speak. I scooted closer to her so we sat side by side, leaning against the damp stone wall. I could feel the warmth of her smaller form beside me.

She put an arm around my shoulders. I scrunched down and leaned in so she could snuggle me like Ma does. I barely knew this woman but every instinct in me responded to her as if she were my own mother.
Her instincts seemed to react the same to me. “You wept when you thought your body had changed. I do not think I would change you back, even if such a thing were in my power.”

She stroked my hair while I thought about that. “You seem so much more real here in the darkness,” she murmured almost to herself. “Here, my eyes do not tell me you are insubstantial. I feel the warmth of your body and the texture of your scales. I smell the scent of the strange oils you cleanse your hair with. You are as real as my own children.” Her voice caught. “Except that you yet live.” She shuddered and her arms tightened around me.

I wrapped my arms around her waist to hug her, and felt a thick chain trailing down her back from a heavy collar around her throat. I’d been so busy wallowing in my own self-pity, it hadn’t occurred to me to wonder why my great-great grandmother was in a dank, lightless underground cell.

After a moment, her voice shaky, she asked, “Did you truly save my baby girl?”

“I got her to your sister before I was pulled back to my own time. She should be okay.” If my baby great-grandmother wasn’t okay, I probably would be a ghost, or nothing at all.

“Thank you, child. My sister’s husband has three fierce and loyal brothers. The Obsidian one will not dare to attack them. My child is safe, and my sister will raise her as if my baby were her own.” She squeezed me a little. “Alone for so long in the darkness, I despaired. I believed my little one dead just like her sister, and that you were an illusion I dreamt in desperation. It seems you have come again, when I most desperately need you.”

“I’m real.” I thought about the fact that I technically wouldn’t be born for centuries. “Well, I will be real, eventually.”

We sat quietly for a while, just enjoying the warmth of each other’s company. I wondered if my great-great grandmother might still be alive in my day. Dragons lived a long time. Maybe I could look her up. Yeah, like in the dragon yellow pages, or I could just Google Cuicatl and see how many hits I got.

I heard a noise, footsteps, muffled male voices. A trace of faint orange light that seemed far brighter than it probably was flickered around the cracks of what I could now see was a thick stone door.

The cell we were in was an eight foot featureless stone cube of space. It looked like it might have been carved right into bedrock, rather than built.

“Smoking Mirror comes for me, daughter of my daughter,” Cuicatl whispered. “It will not be safe for you here. Go back to your own time.”

“I don’t really have much control over it. I seem to just come when I need something from you, or you need something from me.”

“The only thing I need is for the Obsidian one to die an agonizing death.” Cuicatl’s eyes glowed red in the darkness.

“Well, if he can’t see me, maybe I can …”

“No, child,” Cuicatl interrupted me, her hands squeezed my arms hard. “You stay far away from him. I would not see him harm another of my family.”

“Where the heck is Agmund? I thought he would have sent this jerk packing by now.”

“I do not know what has happened to my husband. I fear the worst.”

The footsteps approached the door. Stone ground against stone as it ponderously swung open.

I stepped to one side of the door and flattened against the wall, so they wouldn’t see me, not thinking about the fact that I was already invisible to nearly everyone in this time.

Three men came in wearing loin cloths and a bright yellow stripe of paint across the upper half of their dark faces. Their eyes were wide and frightened. They reminded me a little of the tattoos that the men in my time wore who kept blowing up pieces of my city. Black skulls with staring eyes and yellow paint stripes across the forehead and cheeks.

While one held a torch, the other two men restrained Cuicatl. One pushed her to the wall by her collar with a 6 foot long forked pole. He twisted and the pole latched onto the collar at her throat. The other warily circled her as far as he could in the confined space and unhooked the long chain from the wall.

The man with the torch led the way out the door and up a flight of narrow stone steps. The pole man followed with Cuicatl walking behind him at the end of the pole. She had no claws in her human form and the collar was too small for her to shift into battle form without strangling herself, but these guys weren’t taking any chances. I’d seen her kill a couple of them with her bare hands the last time I was here, with one arm full of baby. It made sense for them to be careful.

The last man picked up the rear carrying the long chain that had held her to the wall. He held tightly with both hands to the center of the chain about four feet behind Cuicatl, letting the last four feet dangle down loosely.
I crept behind him. None of them gave any indication that they saw me. The only light came from the torch bearer at the front of the line. At the back, the man I followed probably could barely see the stairs he put his feet on.

I wrapped the loose end of the chain around his throat as quickly as I could. I lifted him off his feet with my other arm and carried him up the stairs at a steady pace. He frantically squirmed and fought in my arms, unable to make a sound with the chain around his throat.

He was wiry strong, but I was back to the strength level that meant I didn’t need a jack to change a tire on my Jeep. He didn’t stand a chance.

When his eyes rolled up in his head and he went limp, I unwound the chain from his throat, dropped him quietly on the steps and kept walking. He wasn’t dead, but I only cared a little bit.

I wound up the chain carefully, and handed it to Cuicatl as I passed her. Her eyes got big. She put a hand on my arm. She couldn’t see me clearly, but she knew what I’d done. She shook her head frantically at me, trying to stop me from doing something that might put me in harm’s way.

I squeezed her arm back, reassuringly I hoped, and ignored the warning.

The narrow stairs turned sharply enough that the pole guy had a hard time getting around the corner. The torch guy got a little bit ahead of him. I whacked the pole guy on the back of the head. He went down immediately, but the pole clattered before I could stop it.

The torch guy looked back, saw his friend down and Cuicatl standing over him with the chains in her hand, and ran up the stairs like a monkey with his tail on fire.


I started to chase the guy, but he was way faster than me.

“Damson!” Cuicatl whisper shouted.

I came back down. “What?”

“You must get away from me. Smoking Mirror will be able to see you. You must not be here when that one fetches him.”

“I think you must not be here either. Let’s get this collar off you.”

I twisted the pole to unlock it from her collar. There was no lock on the collar itself. From what I could tell, it had been made around her neck. That must have been incredibly unpleasant.

I crumpled the metal into a crease, which made it almost tight enough to choke Cuicatl. She didn’t so much as flinch, just waited for me to do what I was going to do. I bent it back out and crimped it again, over and over, weakening the metal. It didn’t take that long, but it felt like bad guys were going to pour down that stone staircase at any second.

Maybe we should have just gotten out of there and removed the collar and chain later.

Finally, the fatigued metal cracked. I grabbed it with both hands and pulled as hard as I could. I got it open enough that Cuicatl could slip her neck free.

She spat on the thing as soon as it dropped to the stone. Then she grinned fiercely in the general direction of my face. We ran up those stairs as fast as two sets of bare dragon feet could run.

We came out into a maze of carved stone corridors filled with men and spears.

“Get behind me, child,” Cuicatl said. The tone of her voice made me think I shouldn’t argue with her just then.

She shifted into battle form, filling the corridor with feathery scaly angry beast.

I couldn’t see very well around the snarling creature in front of me, but there were a lot of screams and blood. She kept running up the slanting corridor on all fours at nearly full speed, killing men as she ran.
I was really glad she was on my side.

We turned a corner and ran out into open air. The ground dropped out from under my feet into one of those steep stair-steps leading down.

Cuicatl launched herself into the air.

I squeaked as I tumbled ass over teakettle. There are times when being naturally armored is a really, really good thing.

The men who were trying to stop us chunked spears at Cuicatl but she had launched with pretty good speed. She could have gotten away clean.

She turned on a wing tip and came back, for me.

Her huge eagle’s wings swooped over me, dodging thrown spears as she flew down the steep face of a step pyramid. Her feet reached toward me, but she couldn’t see me clearly, so they grabbed air next to me.

I grabbed onto her ankle. She dragged me for a few steps flapping furiously, then we made it into the humid night air.

Once we’d gained some altitude, I let go.

“Damson!” she shouted, afraid I had fallen.

“I’m all right. I can fly on my own wings. The steps just caught me by surprise.”

Spears no longer followed us. We left the village rapidly behind and flew over a canopy of trees.

“Thank you, child. For my freedom and for the life of my baby. I owe much to a woman not yet born.”

I felt the awe shucks urge and changed the subject. “Why did Smoking Mirror have you captive anyway? What does he want from you?”

“My claws.”


“The Obsidian one has the blood of many dragons in his veins. This has given him great power. He seeks to mix his blood with the blood of the ancient kings of this land, my fathers. He wants me to give him a son with venomous claws like mine.”

“I have claws like yours. What does the venom do?”

“Do you not know, child?”

“It seems to numb and maybe paralyze folks, but I don’t know the extent of it.”

“The claws will paralyze, yes. The deeper your rage and the greater the venom dose given, the longer and more extensive the paralysis will be. If you use your claws lightly when calm, they can give surcease from pain and sensation. It can be a mercy to an injured friend. If you use them in a killing rage, a deep wound from your claws will slowly kill. The paralysis will spread from the wound until even your enemy’s heart will freeze.”

“Wow. I guess it’s lucky I only scratched Domina Death and Bobcat. I don’t want to kill anyone.”

“You have a gentle heart, daughter of my daughter. If I could kill Smoking Mirror, …”

Her voice vanished in mid-sentence as I felt a slap on my face.

“Hey, cut it out.” I tried to reach up and swat away the hand, but mine were tied behind my back.

Oh, crap. Fire alarm. I’ll have to write the rest later.

D Dragon