Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Not in Texas Anymore, Toto

I stood in the middle of frantic activity, wondering what I should be doing to help. All around me short, dark-skinned people wearing little but bright jewelry worked, carving fanciful creatures in large stones in one area, covering walls with what looked like plaster in another. They painted every finished surface with brilliant colors to rival the brilliant greens of lush foliage and vivid splashes of tropical flowers.

Children ran everywhere, playing and helping in equal measures. They carried water to the workers who paused gratefully to ease their thirst in the oppressive heat. A tall man had his back to me as he knelt beside a sort of miniature model of the long roofless building. He was much taller, and his skin and hair were lighter than the other people. He seemed familiar. He pointed to various parts of the model, and up to the building being constructed around us.

The men with him nodded and discussed the fine points of the structure. They spoke a language I shouldn’t have understood. The sounds of it were so strange, I didn’t even know what language it was.
I leaned over the big man’s shoulder to look at the model.

It looked a little like a rectangular sports stadium, like a football field, but narrower, and with the decorated stone walls on either side of the field. The chaos around me made more sense. Now, I recognized the stone benches going up on the hillside above me. The long wall beside me didn’t look like it was built for any sport I knew of. A stone hoop, mounted vertically, stuck out of the slanted wall like an elephant’s big ear, clearly a goal of some sort. It was so high that I couldn’t imagine a human jumping high enough to even touch it from the ground.

The wall was as long as a neighborhood block. Workmen stood on temporary wooden scaffolding to reach all parts of that wall to carve elaborate scenes into it. This wouldn’t just be a functional space when it was completed, it would be a beautiful one.

I stood fascinated by the wonder around me. I didn’t notice that the tall, white man had finished his conversation and stood beside me until he spoke. “It is magnificent, is it not?”

I recognized him as the man I’d seen in my dreams before. Last time I saw him, he’d been wearing a cloak of feathers. He was a dragon, a purple dragon like me, except he had red and gold markings. “It’s amazing. What is it all for?” 

The man smiled warmly. His dark blue eyes twinkled. “To play ball in, of course.” Something about him reminded me of Fafnir, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was the thick beard, or the wide smile.
“It seems like such a huge effort, just to build a place to play.”

He winked. “There is no more important endeavor in life than to play. Without joy, life has little point.”
I chuckled. I liked his attitude. “Who are you?”

“In my youth in my homeland, I was called Agmund Drage. But here, they simply call me the feathered serpent.”

“Quetzalcoatl,” I said to myself. I understood the meaning of what he said, but the sounds in the strange language were also familiar. “My mother’s grandmother was one of the daughters of Quetzalcoatl.”

“Ah, well, that explains why you have been drawn to me across time, young one. We are family.” He hugged me hard enough to threaten my ribs. “Welcome, great great granddaughter! What is your name?”

The male dragon scent was strong on him, and he wasn’t wearing much. Strangely, I found the scent less disturbing to my mental processes than when I smelled it on Jack, Vlad or White Knight. “Damson Dragon.” I told him my real name without hesitation. It was pretty clear I was a long way from Texas in the 21st century. All I needed was a little dog and a picnic basket. This might have been a dream, but the humidity and heat, the scent of sweaty humans, rock dust, and strange plants seemed as solid as that hug. “How did I get here?” I didn’t remember getting my house swept up in a tornado or anything.

The big man shrugged. “I have no idea. None of my descendants have visited me from the future before. But you have a faint glow around you, and no one sees you but me, so I knew you were misplaced from your own time.”

I paid more attention to the people bustling around me. No one looked back at me. They walked past me as if nothing existed in the space I took up. “Whoah, that’s weird. I’m a ghost.”

The Aztec god chuckled, and started walking, inspecting the work in progress. “Not a lost spirit of one dead, you are the imagination of one who has not yet been born.”

“And that’s not weird at all.” No one tried to walk through me. It was as if they avoided the space I occupied without realizing they were doing it. “You hugged me, though.” I bent down and picked up one of the small chunks of stone fallen from the busy stone carvers. It felt solid in my hand. I could feel the weight and the grainy texture. “I feel real.” I tossed the stone into a pile of other stone chips. It caused a few other rocks to tumble down.

A young woman working nearby looked up at the sound, startled, looked around, shrugged, and went back to chipping away at an unfinished carving.

“You are quite real,” Quetzalcoatl assured me. “You have probably been drawn here for a reason. Some great need has pulled you to this place. It is an extraordinary gift. I have heard of only one other dragon who could send his mind across time.”

“Who is that?”

“A gifted wizard of the Green clan. His abilities are approaching legend as he matures into an elder. I have heard that he can also change his body into birds and beasts.”

“Are you talking about Merlin?”

He laughed. “I am. Do you know of the Green wizard in your time?”

“He was my grandfather.”

“Really?” He cocked his head to one side. “My descendants mixed with the blood of the Green wizard. Imagine that.” He fell silent for a moment, thinking. “I have the blood of Gold, Black, Red, and Blue. My brother and I were the only dragons to mix so many clans in my time. If you have my blood, plus that of Green, you are a mix of nearly half the dragon clans of the world.” He looked at me, almost sympathetically for a moment, then shook his head. “Well, then. Merlin should have taught you to expect such drifting in time. Does he not know that you inherited his gift?”

“Merlin died centuries before I was born. My dad didn’t have any time related abilities. Even if he had them, he died when I was little. My mother raised me most of my life, and she’s more human than dragon.”

Quetzalcoatl put a huge, gentle hand on my shoulder. “I am sorry, child. It must be difficult dealing with such a gift without guidance. I fear if that is what has drawn you to me, I will be no help.”

“I have no idea what drew me to you, um, sir.” I wasn’t really sure what to call him.

“Call me Agmund, young Damson. No one remembers my old name in this land but my brother.” His face that had seemed so cheerful the rest of the time, darkened a little when he mentioned his brother again. He smiled after only a moment. “It will be good to hear my birth name again.”

“How did you get here, Agmund?”

“I sailed on a very long journey around the edges of the world. Leif, son of Eric the Red, travelled alongside us, but our ships were separated in a great storm. I do not know his fate.”

“Leif Ericson did fine. He explored North America, according to most historians, and eventually settled in Greenland.”

“That is good to know! I spent many a day with Leif, fought and sailed beside him. He was a good friend, and a strong steady man for the most part, unlike his half-brother Fafnir. Eric was mad to make Fafnir his heir. That boy is rash and foolish, but he has pure lineage.” Agmund shook his head. “I fear he will lead his people to a bad end. I was banished for trying to make Eric see reason.”

I coughed uncomfortably. “Fafnir’s been a good mentor to me. He’s the eldest and wisest of us now.”
Agmund’s eyebrows shot up, then he laughed, then he laughed some more. He laughed until tears streamed down his cheeks. He leaned against the carved wall to support himself. People looked at him funny, but didn’t question why their god was laughing so hard at nothing. “Fafnir. Old and wise.” He chuckled again. “The world has changed greatly in your time, young dragon.”

I thought about how many dragons were dead in my time. Fafnir may not be that old by dragon standards, or all that wise, but there simply weren’t many of us left. He was what we had.

Agmund’s laughter died as he watched my face. “Don’t tell me, child. I do not want to know what tragedy lies ahead. I prefer to face darkness as it comes, and take joy while I can.”

I nodded. His world was filled with sunshine and smiling, industrious people building a beautiful place to play. I didn’t feel the need to spoil it for him.

“And speaking of joy …” He smiled until his blue eyes were nearly lost in crinkles.

A lovely woman of the native people, with black hair so thick it was practically clothing, approached and smiled back at Agmund with the same happiness. “This, young Damson, is why I have made no attempt to sail back to my old friend, Lief. This is my wife, Cuicatl. Her name means song. She and our daughters are the song of my life.”

The couple embraced, the tall white man all but engulfing the petite dark woman.

“Who is it that you speak to, husband? I see only an odd glow in the shape of a woman.”

Her scent and her face both seemed incredibly familiar. “Ma?” She looked just like I remembered my mother when I was little. Ma was a little taller, and didn’t run around wearing hardly anything but her hair and some jewelry, but that woman looked enough like her to be her sister.

She looked in the general direction of my chest. “Does the shadow think I am her mother?”

“You look so much like her.” The tickling scent that I had always associated with my mother filled my nose. I inhaled deeply to get more of it. It reminded me of home and safety. This woman was the only female dragon I’d ever been around other than my mother. “And you smell like her.”

Agmund said, “Damson is the great grandchild of one of our daughters. She is also related to the wizard whose mind drifts across time. She has drifted here from far in the future.”

“Why have you come here, daughter of my daughter?”

“I don’t know. But this isn’t the first time. Something keeps pulling me back.”

She reached up, trying to touch my face, but missing by a few inches. I guided her hand to my cheek.
Cuicatl stroked my cheek with her thumb. She could touch me, even if she couldn’t see me clearly. “Think, child. Deep inside you, there is a desire that has sent your soul seeking. Of all things, what do you want most? If you could have anything, what would you ask for?”

I blinked and noticed a tear as it dropped. The answer stunned me even as I spoke it. “I want to be human.”
My ancestors, both of them dragons, gasped.

“Why?” my great great grandfather asked me. “Why would you want to give up your heritage, to give up the sky?”

“I love a human man.” Jack wouldn’t even speak to me because he thought my dragon nature had led me to betray him. I couldn’t give myself to him completely because of our incompatible anatomy. He couldn’t believe that I, a dragon, truly loved him, that I wanted to stay with a mere human forever. We couldn’t live a normal life together in any case, work together, be just us. My abilities made me feel obligated to fight injustice, which kept us constantly apart. I didn’t feel like I had any choice.

And, to be honest, it was more than just Jack. I couldn’t have any man. I also didn’t belong in any crowd. That moment when Liberty looked at me with shock and a little horror. I’d seen that look on other faces. I’d spent my whole life hiding from that look, running from that look. I didn’t just sympathize with White Knight, cutting away his scales to try to be more human, I understood that desire. On a level deep enough to drive me far across time, I shared it.

I covered my scales up every day, and pretended it didn’t bother me.

I lived in Austin, Texas, for goodness sake, where it was sunny 295 days a year, and over 100 degrees for half the summer, and I’d never been able to go swimming at a pool or a lake where anyone might see me. I didn’t even own a bathing suit.

“I just want to be normal.” Another tear escaped. It got my great great grandmother’s hand wet.

“Oh, daughter of my daughter. You are very young, I think.” She pulled my head down where she could kiss my forehead. “What you ask for is easily granted, but one day, your heart will yearn as much for scales and wings as today it yearns for soft skin.”

I looked into her large brown eyes and felt like I was falling down into someplace warm, dark and safe.
Her voice, the gentle feel of her hands on my cheeks, and the spicy sweet scent of her faded.
I woke to the sound of my alarm.

I reached out with my left hand, very carefully, to turn it off, and froze, staring in disbelief at my own hand. There were no claws, there were no scales. My left hand looked just like my right, soft pale brown skin. Human skin.

I whipped the covers back and looked at my slender, normal feet, with only five toes each. I touched my arms and legs and chest. No scales. None. Anywhere. A sense of wonder filled me until I felt the back of my arms.

My wings were gone, too. That gave me a jolt. What had I done? What had I given up?

I was human.

D Dragon

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dragon Knight

I made it through my first week of firefighter school without a single demerit! And I passed my first written test with flying colors. Go, me.

Jack did, too, but I expected him to do fine. He has always been a model employee. I’m the screwup.
I’m feeling like it, too. Jack has barely spoken a word to me all week. He sat on the other side of the class and partnered with someone else for all the physical stuff. He took his own separate car to work, and went out with Tamara afterward every single day.

Jack’s a great guy, the best, but I pushed him just a bit too far this time. It was that conversation with White Knight on Sunday that did it.

While Jack, Ma, and Brad went back to watching TV. Knight and I took a couple of glasses of iced tea to the library, a cozy room with a  fireplace that rarely gets used. It has floor to ceiling bookshelves covered in old leather bound books and weird stuff, glass eyes, windup panoramas that dance, shrunken heads from Africa. Vlad left most of his odd collection behind when he skipped town. Ostensibly, I’m supposed to be house-sitting, and eventually, he’ll come back and want his stuff. In reality, I suspect he’ll just collect new weird stuff wherever he settles next.

I sat down in an old-fashioned high backed leather chair with wings, and set my iced tea on a celtic knotwork coaster, to protect the antique carved mahogany table next to me. Living in Vlad’s house was a bit like living in a museum.

White Knight, aka Mark Novak, pushed Excalibur to the side in a practiced movement as he sat down. He looked distinctly uncomfortable. He sat on the edge of the seat like he might leap up and run away at any moment.

“So, did the trip to the hospital convince you to put the armor back on?” I asked him.

He downed half his tea. “Actually, it was something you said.”

“What did I say?”

“That a maniac was blowing up our city and I was needed.”

“You’d have to be Captain Oblivious not to have already noticed that.”

Novak cleared his throat and played with his tea glass. “Yeah, well, I was a little …”

“Self absorbed?”

“I was going to say pre-occupied, but yeah, self-absorbed fits.”

“Why are you here, Novak? You had to know Donovan wouldn’t exactly be glad to see you.” Donovan’s entire security team was killed by the Georgians Novak used to hang out with.

“Yeah, I um…” Novak drank some more tea. “I’m not entirely sure why I came.” He ran a hand through his sandy hair. It had grown out some, like he hadn’t bothered to cut it in a while. “Everything I’ve been taught about … what I am … I know it’s a lie, but I don’t know the truth.”

“You’re a dragon, Novak. It isn’t a dirty word.”

“Dragons have wings and fangs. They fly, change shape, things like that. I can’t do any of that. I guess I’ve been trying to figure out where I fit. When I put the armor on again, I felt a really strong urge to come see you, like you might have some of the answers I needed. I thought it must be guidance from the Lady of the Lake.”

“Thanks, grandmother, just what I needed,” I muttered. My grandmother, Lady Nyneve of Avalon, aka The Lady of the Lake, had voluntarily allowed her spirit to be trapped in the silver arms and armor that Novak wore as White Knight.

“My old mentor, Angus MacDougall, used to warn me to resist the evil influence of the dragon scale armor. He said that the scales that grew on me were contamination from wearing the armor too much, that I had to cut them out of my skin to keep the dragon spirit from taking me over.”

“That is seriously messed up. Those were your own scales.” I shuddered just thinking about Novak slicing his own scales off over the years, fearing "contamination."

“Yeah, I get that now. Even before, it seemed odd to me that not all the scales were silver like the armor.”

"Only females of the Silver clan get pure silver scales." It saddened me to think of Novak being raised to think his own heritage was evil. "MacDougall was one sick bastard.”

Novak’s jaw tightened and his back straightened. “MacDougall took me in, trained me, and paid for the operation to make me look more normal.”

“He used you. He mutilated you and taught you to hate your own kind. He had to have known you were a dragon, Novak. Only someone with dragon blood of the same line as King Arthur can wield your weapons.”

Novak looked like he was going to argue with me some more, then he just deflated. “I know.” He shrank into the high backed chair. “MacDougall always kept his distance. But he was the closest to a father I ever had.” Novak’s voice broke a little. “I was devastated when Fafnir the Red killed him. Then when I finally faced my mentor’s murderer, I failed to avenge him. I disappointed him one last time.”

“I’m sorry.” I drank a little tea, the icy sweetness soothing my closing throat. “I know what it’s like to have your father murdered.”

Novak’s eyes met mine, and looked down. “It’s not the same. MacDougall wasn’t my father. He never let me call him that.” He fiddled with his tea glass, staring at the swirling liquid like it might tell him something. “That’s why I came.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I need to … to know where I belong. I want to know who my father was. If he was a dragon, he might even still be alive. If he was human, perhaps his other children or grandchildren are alive. They would be my cousins.”

“Oh.” I only knew what little I knew about Novak’s ancestry from my telepathic grandmother’s spirit sending me pictures while I was wearing his armor. “But I don’t know anything about your father.”

“I need to know anything you can tell me about my family.”

“Well, um …” I thought about what I knew. “Your mom had some Green and Silver clan blood, same as my dad. At least, her great grandfather, Sir Gawain did.” And that was it. I paced the library a little, not wanting to look at Novak’s big, pleading eyes. The guy was going through a really bad time, and I didn’t know anything that was likely to help. “Beyond that, I don’t know if your mother was mostly dragon, pure dragon, or mostly human. I don’t know anything about your dad at all, not even if he was human or dragon.”

I risked a glance at Novak. He looked as disappointed as I expected.

“The Lady of the Lake sent me to you for answers. I thought, maybe …” he shrugged in defeat. “Thank you for the tea, in any case. And for not letting your security man shoot me in the face.” He stood up.

“Hang on. Don’t give up that easy. Just let me think.” Maybe I could figure out more from Novak himself. “If you hadn’t cut out your scales as they appeared, how much of your body would they cover now?”

“About half.”

“That tells me something. You’re close to the same age I was before I got accelerated. I was only about a third covered then, and I’m a little more than half dragon. If you’re half covered, that means you have more dragon blood than I do.”

That raised his eyebrows. “I’m more dragon than you are?”

“Yes. That makes it very likely that your father was a dragon!” I grinned, delighted with my little bit of detective work. “What kind of venom do you have? Healing or paralysis?” Greens had healing venom. Silvers and the sons of Silvers usually had paralysis venom.

“Venom?” Novak looked confused.

“From your fangs.” Novak was really dense sometimes.

“I don’t have fangs.”

“What do you mean you don’t have fangs? Did MacDougall have them pulled or something?”

“I’ve never had fangs.”

So much for my theory that he was mostly dragon. “But you had wings when you were a kid. I saw the scars where they were cut off.”

“Yeah. They never worked or anything, but I had them.”

“You were too young. Wings take time to mature. Just like your feet and scales, they change with time. But all dragons have fangs except …” It occurred to me, finally, that him being mostly dragon, but not having fangs was a clue.


“Novak, you said that not all your scales were silver.”

“Yeah, I stopped cutting them out after … that day. Some of them grew back, and a few new ones have come in. Only a few of them, on my pecs, belly and shoulder are silver. Those scales are bigger.”

“Let me see.”

Novak set his tea glass down, peeled off his gauntlets. He skinned his mail shirt off over his head to reveal his beautifully muscled chest. The mind scrambling spicy scent of male dragon filled the room. I managed not to shove him down on the floor and ravish him. It was an effort, though. It might be easier to resist that scent if it didn't come in such an amazing package. Knight's habit of saving lives and fighting the good fight, and the way he moved like a hunting wolf, all added up to make keeping my hands to myself an extreme effort of will.

Knight stared at me, his breathing a little heavy. He didn't make a move either, but I think his brain fought the same battle with hormones that mine did just then. And maybe more than hormones. Nah. Just hormones. It was Knight after all.

I already have a wonderful boyfriend, I told myself. Think of Jack. I pictured Jack's quirky smile in my mind, the feel of his arm around me when we cuddled, the tingle his fingertips made when he ran them across my scales. Um. No. That wasn't helping.

Scales sprinkled Knight's side and shoulder like spots of scarlet blood and shiny coins on the edges of the mass of scars. I remembered why he took his shirt off in the first place.

I gave in to part of my impulses and touched one of his shiny new red scales. It was smooth and cool. The feel of it under my fingers made my pulse race.

Knight inhaled sharply.

I cleared my throat, so I could speak normally. “Red clan. You have Red clan somewhere close in your lineage. The Reds are the only clan that have no fangs or venom. They breathe fire.”

“Are you saying that I can breathe fire?” Novak looked simultaneously horrified and a little intrigued by the idea.

I put some distance between us. The books on the other side of the library seemed terribly fascinating right then. “I have no idea. A lot of dragon abilities come with age. So, maybe in a few centuries, you’ll be able to breathe fire if you can’t now.”

Novak chuckled. “I can’t say that I’ve ever tried. Or would have a clue how to go about it.”

“If it’s anything like flying, you don’t want to learn by trial and error." I faced him and made sure he knew I was very serious. "That will get you killed. You need another dragon to teach you.”

Novak ran his hand through his hair, eyes on the floor. Shyly, he asked, “Can you teach me?” God, the man was adorable when he wasn’t being a royal pain.

I thought about how nervous I’d been when I asked Vlad to teach me how to deal with the sudden acceleration of my dragon nature. Vlad had had good reasons to say no. But if he had said no, I probably would be dead now. I owed him a tremendous debt. Not only was turning Novak down like kicking a wounded puppy, but I felt like a traitor to dragonkind as well. “I’m sorry. I can’t breathe fire. You need a Red clan dragon to teach you that. If you had wings, I could teach you to fly, but …” I shrugged apologetically.

Novak sat back down again, looking even more defeated. “I don’t understand why the Lady of the Lake sent me here.”

I slapped myself in the forehead. “Duh. I’m being stupid." Dragon hormones and sensible thinking don't mesh all that well. "I'll just ask her. Give me your gauntlet.” I slipped it on, and felt a familiar warm presence. “So, Grandmother, what can you tell me about Novak’s family?”

Images flowed into my head, the same as before, the chain of Novak’s ancestors, from Sir Gawain, my grandmother’s nephew, down to Mark Novak’s mother. This time, the pictures showed me two things I hadn’t known before. I saw Novak’s mother as a young dragon, flying off a chalk white cliff over the ocean. She was huge, as big as Lady Nyneve. No human blood there. “Your mom was all dragon, a Silver, like my grandmother.”

Beside the Silver, an equally huge red and black dragon flew wingtip to wingtip with her, teaching her as Vlad had taught me. The other dragon looked painfully familiar. I knew that if that was who I thought it was, it was really going to be hard on Novak. I thought hopefully to my grandmother, Is there more than one giant half Red clan, half Black clan dragon in the world?

Grandmother answered by shifting the images in my head. The two great dragons landed. They changed to human form and embraced, giddy with the joy of a first successful flight. The red-bearded giant of a man was unmistakable.                        

I swallowed, screwed up my courage and faced the adolescent dragon who had been raised to hate all that he was. “You’re pure dragon, no human blood at all. And I know who your father is.”

“Is he alive?” The hope in Novak’s eyes was painful to look at. Mark Novak had always been unwanted. Even the man who took him in had secretly despised him. Now, he had living family. But it was the last person on earth he would have chosen.

“Yeah. He’s alive.”

Novak grabbed my arms like he wanted to shake the information out of me. “Tell me. Who is he? Where can I find him?”

I took a deep breath, and said what had to be said. “Fafnir is your father.”

Novak staggered back a step, like I’d hit him. “That … that can’t be right.” He went to sit down as the chair hit the back of his knees and missed. He landed on his butt on the floor.

There wasn’t anything I could say. The first time I’d met Fafnir, White Knight had been trying like hell to kill him, not caring if it cost his own life to do it. Avenging his mentor’s murder was more important to Novak than breathing. Mark Novak had been taught that Fafnir the Red was evil incarnate, the worst of the worst, a monster who had slaughtered thousands of innocents.

I went down on one knee next to Novak and put a hand on his broad scarred shoulder, my thumb stroking his skin. “Fafnir’s not the monster you thought he was.”

“It’s a mistake.” His eyes begged me to tell him it wasn’t true.

“Fafnir probably doesn’t even know, himself, but Lady Nyneve wouldn’t lie to us.”

“He hates me,” Novak whispered. I recognized despair, the same look on his face he'd had when he asked me not to save him.

Novak’s opinion of Fafnir wasn’t the issue to him. Novak had been despised by the only father figure he’d known. Now, he had a real father, but he would still be despised.

I hugged him. I couldn’t see that much pain and not want to help. “He doesn’t know you. Not really.” I pulled Novak’s head against my chest and stroked his hair. He wrapped his arms around my waist. “Give him a chance. I’m sure once Fafnir knows the kind of man that you are, he will be proud to …”

The door opened right then, with me all snuggled up on the floor with a half naked Knight.

Jack said, “Dee, come on. They’re re-running that Doctor Who episode you ...” Jack took in the scene. His jaws tightened and his eyes narrowed to tiny slits. “Right. Sorry I interrupted.” He slammed the library door.
I yelled at him. “Wait, Jack. It’s not what you think!” I chased after him.

Jack ignored me, went straight to his room, and slammed the door in my face.

He hasn’t spoken to me since.

D Dragon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unwelcome Guest

It was my last day free before starting my new job with the fire department. It was a couple hours after dinner. Jack, Ma, Brad and I had been watching Leverage, the one show we all liked, when the alarm went off. Not the fire alarm that practically makes my ears bleed, the more subtle alarm that Donovan put in to warn of dangerous intruders.

Donovan came through the living room from the security monitoring station upstairs. He had a gun in his hand, another on his hip, and I knew he had two or three more somewhere on his person. “We’ve got unwelcome company. I’ll take care of it.”

I stood up. “Jack, get Ma to the back elevator in case ya’ll need to leave fast.”

Brad got up too. “I’ve got your back, Dee.” Brad’s as invulnerable as Liberty and damn near as strong. The only reason he wasn’t a superhero was a lack of the right kind of self-sacrificing mindset. He was also huge. He looked dangerous. Sometimes, that intimidation factor could stop a fight before it started.

“Thanks, Brad.”

Jack took Ma’s elbow and helped her with her knitting basket. She wouldn’t hardly go anywhere without it.
“What are we up against, Donavan?” I asked him.

“One of the bastards who tried to kill Mr. Tchovsky,” he said grimly. “And he’s armed.”

That confused me.

Jack stopped trying to help Ma to the back of the house and said what I was thinking. “I thought all the Georgians who came after Vlad Tchovsky were dead?”

“All but one,” Donovan said. He yanked open the big solid oak front door and stuck his gun in the face of the man who had one fist up, clearly about to knock on that door. “What do you want?”

“Um … I wanted to talk to Dee.” White Knight said. Novak was in full armor, shield strapped to his back, sword hanging from the belt at his hip, Donovan’s gun barrel in one eyehole of his helmet.

“Donovan, chill. It’s just Knight. He’s not a threat.”

“Then why is he armed?”

“Why is he here at all?” Jack asked, voice nearly as hostile as Donovan’s.

Ma sided with them. “You have no business here, Georgian,” she spat.

Brad just crossed his tree trunk arms and growled menacingly.

White Knight swallowed. Donovan’s gun barrel still rested on the cheek guard of his helmet. When he blinked, his lashes brushed the barrel tip. “Um … maybe this is a bad time.”

“It doesn’t matter when you come, I’ll be waiting for you.” Donovan snarled through gritted teeth. His knuckles were white on the pistol grip.

“Donovan, chill.” I put a hand on his gun hand and gently urged it away from Knight’s face. “He’s just here to talk.”

“Why does he want to talk to you, Dee?” Jack asked, still sounding as hostile as Donovan. Jack seeing me kiss Novak on TV hadn’t made White Knight one of his favorite people.

“We have nothing to say to men like him.” I was glad Ma didn’t have a gun.

I stepped forward, turned my back to White Knight and faced my family. “He’s not an enemy, guys. He’s as much a victim of the Georgians as we are.  Even more so.”

“Victim, right.” Donovan snorted.

“Go back to monitoring, Donovan. He’s not a threat.”

Donovan gave me a sarcastic salute. “Yes, maam, you’re the boss.” Then, he stalked away, boot heels cracking against the hardwood floor with each step.

“Are you sure I don’t need to have a talk with him, Dee?” Brad cracked his knuckles, making a sound like pecans being crushed under boots.

I smiled at Brad, who I used to think of as a troll. “It’s cool. Thanks for the offer, though.” I’m not sure when Brad became someone who would stick up for me, but it was nice to know.

Brad nodded and went back into the living room to watch the end of the show.

I shifted to the side now that no one was likely to murder Knight. “What are you doing here?”

“Like I said, I wanted to talk.”

“What do you have to talk to Dee about?” Jack snapped.

“About … um … our similar ancestry,” he said, clearly struggling for a way to put things without giving away any of my secrets.

“My mother and my boyfriend both know I’m a dragon. You don’t have to be cagey.”

“Oh, you’re Jack, then.” Knight checked Jack out. Jack was a few inches shorter, and nowhere near Knight’s muscle bulk. I could almost see Knight dismissing him as a non-threat.

Jack bristled. Knight didn’t even know that Jack had already taken him out in a fight once. “Last time I saw you, you were drooling on yourself on the floor of a theatre. I’m not surprised you don’t remember.”

The bottom half of Knight’s face flushed pink.

Jack nodded in satisfaction at the score, and went back to sit with Brad in front of the TV.

“All right, you want to talk. Fine, let’s talk.” I went to lead him into the house, but Ma planted her diminutive body firmly in the way.

“I will not have a Georgian in my house.”

“Ma, he’s a dragon. The Georgians got him when he was just an orphaned kid and brainwashed him.”

Ma’s determination faltered a little. “He’s a grown man. He’s responsible for his own decisions.”

“Ma, please.” I struggled for the right words. I could live with everyone else hating Novak, but it felt important to me that Ma understand, that Ma realize like I did, that Knight was … well, that Knight was one of us. “Ma, they cut off his wings.”

“Oh!” Ma covered her mouth with her hand. Her dark eyes shone. “I’m so sorry.” She pulled Knight inside by his other arm.

She fussed a little. “Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? Iced tea?” Once she accepted him as a guest, she went straight into hostess mode like she hadn’t wanted to toss him out on his ear a moment before.

Knight took off his helmet and coif as soon as he stepped inside. Hat etiquette. I guess some folks still remember. Since we already knew his secret identity, the mask aspect wasn’t needed. “Don’t go to any trouble, maam.”

“It’s no trouble at all. Are you a coffee drinker or tea?” Ma can be pretty persuasive.

Novak relented with good grace. “Normally, I’m more of a coffee guy, but today, iced tea sounds good.” 

He’d been stuck outside on a hundred degree day in full armor with a gun in his face.

Tea sounded pretty good to me, too. Something told me the conversation was going to be a doozy.

I was right, but I’ll have to write about it later. I’ve got to crash. I can’t take a chance on being late on my first day.

D Dragon

Friday, June 8, 2012

Passing Tests

Jack and I took our written civil service tests the other day. We both aced them. It was a pretty tough test, but after 50 years of taking tests, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Jack’s just smart. He always aces tests. He got his paramedic certification faster than anyone else I know of. 

Only forty-five out of three hundred or so applicants did well enough on the written exam to get as far as the physical exam.

A short pale guy in his early fifties with a perpetual smile named Dave ran us through our paces for the physical tests. He had arms as big around as my thighs. He told us only twenty of us forty-five would be chosen for the academy, based on our performance. The exam had several parts, carrying a heavy weight up a ladder, running up ten flights of stairs in a fire tower and back down again, running an obstacle course, and something called a “rescue relay.”

Dave watched the whole thing, nodding encouragingly. There were a few people who couldn’t make it up the ladder with the hundred pound weight, and more who couldn’t run all the way up the stairs. Dave patted them on the back. “It’s okay. Most people can’t complete this course. No shame in trying your best. By passing the written exam, you’ve earned the right to come back and try again one more time in the next six months.  Spend some time at the gym, and when you feel like you’re ready, give me a call.” He gave them his card and sent them on their way. We were down to forty.

Jack struggled with the weight on the ladder. It was damn near as big as he was, but he set his jaw stubbornly and made it. The run up and down stairs was a breeze for him. Jack runs marathons in the hill country. For fun. He runs five or six miles every day when he gets up just to shake out the cobwebs.
I made it okay, but my thighs told me about it for days afterward.

The obstacle course was next.

There were a couple of big football frat boys fresh off the UT campus, a huge blond guy and a black guy with shoulders as wide as an axe handle, who seemed to think Jack and I didn’t belong. They were determined to make sure misfits like us didn’t make it into their new club.

The black guy with the shoulders “accidentally” bumped into Jack on the obstacle course, and laughed when he stumbled. Jack’s kind of a small guy. He has such an air of cheerful competence that most folks have the good sense to let him be. These boys weren’t real big on good sense, though.

I heard Jack grunt as he stumbled to one knee.

Jack got right back up and kept going.

I slowed down to get in between the jerks and Jack so they couldn’t mess with him anymore.

That made the big blond guy laugh. He gave Jack crap about hiding behind a girl as he left us in his dust on a field of tires that we both had difficulty navigating. Jack’s jaw tightened. He told me not to wait on him. But I wasn’t going to leave him behind where they could pick on him again.

We caught up with the football boys at a high obstacle wall that was just the first of six similar walls.  I gave Jack a boost over, then jumped each wall in one clean leap. There was an open run after that. Jack’s fast, so we pulled way ahead of the jerks while they struggled to get over the walls. That made their laughter die.
As the last person finished the obstacle course, I noticed we were down to thirty-eight. Two more folks couldn’t finish the course. That meant that nearly half of us would be eliminated in the last event.

I stayed in between those two frat boys and Jack as we moved as a group to the parking lot next to the fire station. That just made them crowd my personal space instead of Jack’s. The leering looks and off-color jokes made Jack look as pissed off as I felt.

I had to restrain myself from slapping the smirk off those smart mouths. Jack is a lot more cool-headed than me generally, but I don’t think he’d have tried to stop me.

Dave’s cheerful pale blue eyes watched it all, but he didn’t say anything.

He explained to us that the last test was called the “rescue relay.” Each of us needed to choose a partner. The first person had to run to the end of the parking lot, pick up a two hundred pound punching bag, roughly the size and shape of a large man, and run back with it over a shoulder. The partner then had to run the bag back to the other end of the lot, drop it, and sprint back.

Dave stood there with a stopwatch. “You’ll be graded both on individual run times, and team run times.”
We all paired up. Jack and I were a team, of course. The two football frat boys teamed up, of course. Everyone else paired up as they chose. While the first team ran the relay, the rest of us were left to mill around aimlessly in the parking lot until it was our turn.

I felt very conscious that this was essentially, a job interview. I’d already blown interviews at nearly every emergency service in town. If I wanted to be an EMT again, this was the only real chance I had left.

Consequently, I didn’t smack the big blond college boy, even when he goosed me in the ass while we were waiting.

Jack growled, and started toward the jerk. He’s a very patient man, but Jack is still a man. And messing with his woman was waaay out of line.

The college jerk’s broad-shouldered buddy closed ranks with him. The two big frat boys clearly intended to intimidate the little Asian guy.

The thing is, Jack doesn’t intimidate.

Jack had been studying Krav Maga with Tamara for months. Jack getting beat up was the opposite of the likely scenario. I would have felt sorry for the idiots who made him mad if they weren’t acting like such assholes.  I just hoped Jack didn’t bring his taser. Things could get really ugly really fast.

 “Jack,” I put a hand on his shoulder. “These guys aren’t worth it. We need this job.” I nudged him and rolled my eyes toward Dave, watching another team run the rescue relay.

Jack’s eyes darted to Dave, then back to the frat jerk. Jack’s lips tightened until they disappeared, but he stepped back. “Keep your hands to yourself,” he said.

The big guy snorted. “Like you’re going to do anything about it.”

Jack smiled a cold smile with no teeth showing. “Maybe I’ll just let her do something about it.”

Me? Um, what could I do without getting us in trouble? Jack grinned wide at me and touched his tongue to his teeth. Aaah. The light bulb went off.

I grinned at the frat guy, and did something I’d never done before. I deliberately popped out my fangs in front of someone, and let the anger boil in me, so I knew my eyes would go red enough to glow through my dark glasses.

The swaggering, blond big man on campus blanched and took a step back. His dark, broad-shouldered buddy stepped behind him.


Jack extended an arm to me and I took it. We walked off arm-in-arm to the other side of the waiting crowd, leaving those two behind.

Dave’s sparkling eyes were on us when I turned around. A smile played on his lips. I wasn’t sure if he saw what happened and approved, or if it was just his usual cheerfulness.

The rescue relay was tough. Four people couldn’t do it at all. Two people couldn’t get the bag up to their shoulders, and two only managed to stagger about half way across the parking lot under the weight before dropping it and giving up. That left thirty-four. Fourteen people were going to be eliminated, even if they completed the test, because their times weren’t good enough. We not only had to finish, we had to finish fast.

Dave told the folks who couldn’t finish the same thing he told the folks who couldn’t complete the earlier challenges. “It’s okay. You can try again.” But they were done for the day, test failed.

I wasn’t sure what would happen to their teammates who completed the course, but would have no team score. Dave didn’t ask them to leave at least.

The football guys went. They both aced the relay. High fives and chest bumps ensued ad nauseum.
Dave nodded and smiled. “Excellent time.”

We were next. I knew this test would be a breeze for me, but the hardest challenge of all for Jack.
“Maybe you should team with someone else,” Jack said.

“Not a chance,” I told him. “You can do it.”

Jack and I decided that letting me run first would give us the best chance of a good team time. If I ran like crazy, all Jack would have to do was complete the challenge.

Dave said go and I ran, practically tearing up chunks of asphalt with every stride.

My super duper hearing heard the muttering behind me. “Goddam supes. Not fair for regular guys to have to compete with freaks.”

I broke stride a little. The comment hit me like a slug in the gut.

Jack’s voice muttered softly, “You’re right, Dee. They’re not worth it.” He knew I’d hear him.

I threw that bag over my shoulder, spun and ran back. I barely noticed the weight difference. I turned over a semi truck once, with some help.

Instead of throwing the weight down on the ground when I got back like everyone else had, I carefully transferred it to Jack’s shoulder, saving him the difficult task of lifting it from the ground. It cost me on my individual time, but would speed up both Jack’s time, and our team time, assuming Jack made it. Which he would. I’d never seen Jack give up.

I glanced at Dave to make sure transferring the weight was allowed.

Dave’s pale blue eyes sparkled with almost laughter and he nodded encouragingly.

Apparently, it was allowed. No one else had thought to sacrifice a few seconds of their own individual time to help their team time.

Loud protests came from the football boys. “Hey!” “That’s not fair!”

Dave chuckled. “You’re just irritated you didn’t think of it.”

Dave clicked the watch as the weight was transferred to end my time and start Jack’s. “If you were a normal, that would be a new record,” he told me.

A wave of fear hit my belly. Was he going to disqualify me because I was a supe?

“We keep different records for normals and supes.” He patted my shoulder. “We’ve got a speedster in the fourteenth precinct who can run it in half your time.”

“Oh. Well, I’ll just have to get faster then.” Competitive? Me? Nah.

Dave chuckled.

Jack staggered under the bag that was more than his own body weight. He couldn’t run at all. He could barely stand.  He walked as fast as he could manage, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other. Toward the end, he wobbled, staggering like a drunk, but he kept going. He let the bag drop gratefully when he finally stumbled to the other end of the parking lot. He took too panting breaths, then ran back like the wind.

Dave clicked the stopwatch as Jack ran past and collapsed, gasping for air. “Well done,” he said with a smile, but he said that to everyone who finished the test.

A couple of teams who ran after we ran did the transfer the weight instead of drop the weight thing to shave a bit off their team times.

Jack’s individual time was way low, but our team time was the second best, right after the obnoxious football players.

Dave announced, “The top five teams are accepted into the academy. In addition, the top five relay runners whose team time didn’t already qualify them, and the top five obstacle course runners who otherwise didn’t qualify.” He read off the names of the folks who were in. It included me and Jack. It also included the two college jerks. For everyone else, he told them the same thing. “You can try again once more. Just call me when you’re ready.”

Dave smiled at Jack and I. “You two qualified twice. Team relay time, and obstacle course time. Well done. You showed some excellent teamwork in both tests.”

That was it. We were in!

We had paying jobs again and we’d get to work together again.

I hugged Jack hard, careful not to hurt him.

Dave turned to the jerks. “You two qualified three times, team relay time, individual time, and obstacle course time.”

More nauseating fist bumping macho BS.

“However,” For the first time, Dave’s smile disappeared. “If you hadn’t done so well, I’d have disqualified you both. You now have one demerit on your records each. Three demerits before completing the ten week academy course and you will be out. No excuses.”

“What the heck?” “Disqualified? What for?” The two boys both looked outraged.

“Sexual harassment will get you fired. Fast.” Dave poked the blond guy in the chest with a finger, his neck arched to look up into the big boy’s face. “Touch another female firefighter or cadet inappropriately and you’ll be gone so fast your shoes will have to catch up later.” Dave’s normally cheerful voice had a nasty bite. “Do I make myself clear, cadet?”

The blond college boy swallowed hard, clearly terrified of the short man in his fifties. “Yes, sir.”

Dave transferred his finger to the broad-shouldered boy’s chest. “If I see you deliberately sabotage another firefighter or cadet again, you will find yourself out the door just as fast. Our lives depend on the people we work with. If a fellow firefighter stumbles, you catch him, if he can’t carry something, you grab an end and help. Clear?”

The dark-skinned boy cleared his throat before he spoke. “Crystal, sir.” He had the grace to duck his head in embarrassment. “Sorry.”

“This is your only warning. If you had already been on the payroll, you’d have been fired on the spot.” Dave added. “Dismissed. You start Monday morning, 7 AM sharp. Bring better attitudes.”

He grinned at us as the chastened boys left. “Don’t let them get to you. They’re just young. They don’t realize yet that the world doesn’t owe them anything. They’ll learn, or they’ll wash out.” He shrugged as if it didn’t matter one way or the other to him.

“Um, Dave, sir? You said three demerits and we’re out. How else can we get demerits?”

He chuckled. “Well, fighting is one thing. If either one of you had taken a swing at those boys who so richly deserved it, you’d both have demerits. If you’d done it after you were hired, you’d have been fired instantly. We can’t afford hot-heads in the ranks.”’

I swallowed. We dodged a big bullet. “Got that. No fighting. What else?”

Dave held up his hand and started listing on his fingers, “Misconduct, failing a test, missing a day of work, being late.” He shrugged. “Just show up every day on time, do your best and you’ll do fine. The toughest part is the tests. The learning pace is pretty intense. You have a test every Friday over the week’s material. If you fail one, you get a demerit, but you can take the test again the next week. If you still can’t pass it, you’re done.”

“Okay, thanks.”

I looked at Jack. I felt defeated even though we’d just won a big victory.

Missing work. Being late.

Those were the things that got me fired from my last job. Those were the reasons no one else would hire me. As long as I kept helping the Protectors fight crime, there was no way in hell I could go ten weeks without being late or missing work.

Jack took my hand and squeezed it. “You can do it, Dee.”

That’s what he thinks. I am so screwed.

D Dragon

Monday, June 4, 2012

Waffles, Lacy Underwear, and a Monster Truck

I am never going back to a sex store if I live to be 10,000 years old. Those places are just too disturbing. I’m jumping ahead again, though.

Jack and I decided to take some time for ourselves. No job hunting and no superheroing, assuming nothing blew up. We needed some us time. Tamara had seen more of Jack lately than I had, and that was starting to worry me. Jack and I both took the opportunity of a free day to sleep in really late, well past noon. It made our former night dwelling bodies feel much refreshed. When we finally dragged our groggy butts out of bed, Ma made waffles with strawberries and bacon for her and Jack, and a bacon and cheese omelet for me.

Ma then announced loudly that she was going to the senior center in Round Rock for an all afternoon quilting circle with her lady friends, her way of telling us that we had the house to ourselves, more or less.

I blew a kiss to Donovan, then switched off the security camera in the living room. He would, no doubt, switch it back on later, but he had the good sense to not bug us about it in the meantime.

We turned on the home theatre projection system, Vlad’s billionaire idea of a TV. While the screen slowly dropped from the ceiling, we snuggled on the couch discussing what we might want to watch. I let Jack have the remote. It was his turn. The TV came on to a random channel. It was some news show talking about the recent local disasters.

Clips of the hospital and highway devastation came on behind the serious news anchorwoman. Liberty let tears stream down her face unheeded as she lifted dead bodies out of wreckage. TakeDown held the hand of a weeping child. Jupiter Joe shouldered aside boulders to clear a path for fire crews.

Then the screen flashed to me in my new purple superhero garb carrying Novak in firefighter gear through the flaming hospital wreckage. I looked pretty cool. The anchorwoman referred to me as “Austin’s newest Protector, the superhero known only as D.”

Jack nudged me in the ribs. “Ooo, can I have your autograph, Miss Superhero?”

“How about you come here so I can give you that personally, pretty boy,” I nibbled on his neck, right behind his ear where I knew it gave him goose bumps.

“Looks like you already gave someone that autograph,” Jack said. His tone said that he was not nearly as amused as he had been a moment before.

I looked up. The screen showed me, passionately kissing Novak, his hand fisted in my hair.

“Um, I was giving him healing venom?” I said, but it sounded completely unconvincing even to me.

“Right.” Jack stood up. He paused the TV on that image. “Dee, what’s really going on between you and White Knight?”

“He’s going through a bad time. I feel sorry for the guy.”

He looked back at the TV. That kiss was clearly not a pity party.

Jack switched the TV off. The screen slowly reeled back into the ceiling. “You’re not obligated to stay with me, you know. If you want someone more like you …”

“It’s not like that, Jack. You’re the only guy I want.” I put my arms around Jack from behind, resting my head on his shoulder. “It’s that dragon chemistry thing. The scent of a male dragon messes with my hormones. I can’t stick my face that close to a dragon and not … feel a pull. Even when it’s a dragon who spent most of his life trying to kill other dragons, and who pisses me off every time he opens his mouth.”

Jack was pretty good with honesty. He saw right through anything less. But if I was honest with him, he could handle just about anything. He was human, though. He had barely a trace of dragon blood. “Do you ever … feel that pull around me?”

“All the time.” I fit my body to his back and inhaled the scent of his hair. Faint traces of the same intoxicating spice that I smelled on male dragons heated up my blood. I closed my eyes and whispered into his ear, punctuating each sentence with a kiss on his neck. “When you tease me and make me laugh. When you hold me after a hard day. When you work beside me like a perfect complement. When you touch me …” I shifted around to face him, and kissed him on the mouth, deep and passionate, a kiss to make him forget I’d ever kissed anyone else.

Jack’s hands slid under my long t-shirt, caressing the smooth scales of my back. “What happens when I touch you?” He whispered against my mouth.

I shivered under his hands. “I want things I’ve never wanted before.”

Things got hot and steamy after that. We made it back to the huge cushy sectional couch. Clothes went flying in every direction.

Jack was my first and only boyfriend. He and I started dating nearly a year ago, and we’ve been living together for about half that. He was the only man who had ever seen me naked. I’d explored his body and he’d touched me everywhere. I could no longer say I was less experienced than the average nun, but I am, still, a 64 year old virgin.

When it comes to sex, Jack and I have some … issues.

Essentially, being a young dragon, most of my body is very well-armored, with bulletproof, impenetrable, metallic scales. When I say most of my body, that includes all the relevant parts for sexual activities. And Jack, being more or less human, does not have armor on those relevant parts, just very sensitive, delicate human skin. Skin that could be badly damaged by said metallic scales. Cross species dating has presented some unforeseen challenges.

It worked okay for my mom, who is mostly human, and my dad, who was a dragon. But dad could do this handy trick where he changed his body to be completely human at will. He died before he could teach me that trick.

Jack and I tangled up on the couch, cool scales against hot sweaty skin, hands and lips touching, breath panting, and I wished, really, really wished with every fiber of my being, that dad had taught me that trick. Jack pressed his hips hard enough against my scaly body to hurt himself. He clearly wished the same thing.
In the middle of a hot makeout session, I got so frustrated, I started to cry.

“Hey, hey,” Jack said softly. “What’s wrong?” He held me close while his thumb stroked a tear from my cheek. “I’d ask if I hurt you, but I haven’t hit you with a car lately.”

I laughed a little, which was undoubtedly what he intended. I sat up on the couch and fiddled with the seam on the cushion between my knees. “I just … I want … I can’t … Damnit, Jack. I wish I was human.” I buried my face in the crook of his neck, and got his shoulder wet. “I would give anything to be a normal right now.”

Jack squeezed me tight. “If you were human, you wouldn’t be you. I love you, Dee.”

“I love you, too. That’s why this is so … grrrah!” I growled a shout, and wished I could hit something without putting my fist through it. “It’s something girls think about a lot, you know, who their first will be, what that first time will be like. I’ve spent half a century wondering if I would ever find that one special guy. Now, I’m completely sure, you’re the one for me.”

Jack pulled my chin gently toward him. He kissed me tenderly. “I’m honored.”

“But I can’t. I want to but …”

He put his fingers over my lips. “It’s okay. There are lots of things we can do …”

“I know. And it’s fun and I like it. But I’ve never … you know, had that moment.”

He didn’t understand what I was getting at. He gave me the lifted Spock eyebrow.

I sighed. Why does sex have to be so hard to talk about? I would rather have fought Bobcat again than said the things that kept swirling in my head. “Imagine how frustrated you would be if we had sex all the time, but you never got to, you know … finish.”

“Ah.” To my great relief, he understood what I was getting at. “Well, we could try a vibrator maybe. Lots of women get there without, um, going all the way.” I got the impression that Jack didn’t find this conversation nearly as awkward as I did. My twenty-seven year old boyfriend was way more experienced than I was in certain matters.

“I’m afraid with my anatomy, I wouldn’t need a vibrator, I’d need an electric can-opener.”

Jack squeaked as he tried to suppress a laugh at my expense.

That made me giggle. A lot of the frustration leaked away. I snuggled up to him. “I feel like such a little girl sometimes. I worry that you’ll get frustrated with my limitations, too. I don’t even have any sexy underwear or anything.” My closet was full of oversized t-shirts and sweats. Nothing lacy or revealing at all. I couldn’t even wear my pretty purple dress anymore now that scales covered so much more of my skin.

Jack got a very interested, speculative look on his face. His eyes raked up and down my body in a way that made me shiver as much as his hands did. “I think we can fix that.”

So, that’s how we ended up at a sex shop.

I had never in my life seen the inside of one of those. I was raised to be an old-fashioned “good girl.” Good girls didn’t go in places like that. It was like entering enemy territory.

As I looked around, I revised that thought. It was full of weird bio-technological devices like something from an Alien movie, except these weren’t half hidden in shadows. They were lit with garishly bright fluorescents that made every latex vein and silicone nipple stand out starkly.

Looking at some of the price tags on these alien items, I thought of another good reason why we had no business there. “Jack,” I whispered, afraid to offend the denizens of this alien land. “We can’t afford any of this stuff.”

“It’s all right,” Jack said. “I’ve still got a fair amount in my savings account. And we’ll get jobs next week.”
I looked at him like he’d grown a new head.

“We’re both scheduled to take the firefighter’s civil service exam next week. All we have to do is ace the written and physical tests, and we’re in.  The written test should be a breeze with our backgrounds, and you should ace the physical with your abilities. I’ll do okay. Tamara has been working out with me.”

“You signed us both up?”

Jack grinned. “Tamara’s idea. I don’t know why we didn’t think about applying to be firefighters before. They always need people with paramedic skills. We can work together again. And we can work with Tamara, too. Won’t that be cool?”

“Yeah, that’ll be great.” That’s what I said out loud. I hope I even sounded enthusiastic. Tamara was awesome, a really great person. She was also a normal. She could do the things with Jack that I couldn’t. They got along like a house on fire, no firefighter pun intended. I knew it was totally selfish not to just let the thing with Tamara run its natural course, but Jack was mine. The idea of losing him made rational thought vanish in a wash of desperate emotions.

Desperate emotions call for desperate actions. I pointed at something shiny and black that would cover so little, it seemed pointless. “Would I look good in that, do you think?”

Jack looked at the shiny black corsetty bikini thing, back at me, and his eyes sparkled with suppressed laughter.

Not the reaction I was going for.

“Only if you had a whip and tall boots to go with it,” Jack said.

Oh. Right. Not quite my thing.

I spied a lacy emerald green one piece sort of bra and panties in one. It looked like something you could wear under normal clothes, but feel really sexy because you had that on underneath. It was a beautiful color too. I must have made a sound when I saw it.

Jack squeezed my hand. “That is much more you.”

“It’s not really me. But it’s the me I wish I was when I’m with you.”

Jack looked like he wanted to kiss me after I said that, but kissing in that disturbing alien land surrounded by disembodied body parts and weird electric gadgets would have ooked me out too much.

We made it back home without getting attacked by any face sucking aliens.

When we pulled into the driveway, there was a huge jacked up black pickup with monster tires parked by the front door.

I tried to push Jack behind me as we got out, thinking it might be more Georgians looking for Vlad.
A six foot four wall of super strong, invulnerable muscle and hair walked out from behind the black pickup with a wicked grin on his face, and I relaxed. It was just Brad.

“Check out my new wheels! “ Brad shouted, bouncing on his toes like a happy eight year old mountain.

Jack whistled in appreciation. “Wow, Brad, you really scored.”

“It’s got a six inch lift kit, rally tires, an eight cylinder 426 hemi, and a sound system that’ll vibrate windows a block away.” Brad actually petted the hood a little.

“That must have put you back a pretty penny, Brad.” I could see my reflection in the shiny chrome bumper.
“Yeah, I got a bonus from my new boss. He says I’m doing really well.”

“Heck of a bonus. What did you do to earn it?” I asked.

“Well, you know, just did what I was told is all.” Brad’s eyes shifted around and settled on the black plastic bag in my hand. “Were you guys shopping? What did you get?”

“Uh, well, just some clothes. Girly stuff. Nothing you’d be interested in.” I fled into the house before he could ask any more questions.

It was ages before Jack finished looking under the hood of Brad’s new toy while Brad pointed out all its wonders. By then, Ma arrived home from her quilting circle, and Donovan showed up to turn the security camera in the living room back on.

No telling when I’ll actually get to wear my new lacy green underwear for Jack. Soon, I hope.

D Dragon