Saturday, July 14, 2012

Normal is a Setting on My Washing Machine

So, I’m human, a normal, a regular person.

I’m not sure why I thought that would solve all my problems with my boyfriend, my job, my family and my life goals. Some weird part of my mind actually thought normal people didn’t have problems like I did.

I know. I know. Sometimes, I can be unbelievably dense.

Life just whacked me with a clue by four. But at least one thing went right.

I’ve made it through another two weeks of firefighter training. I got a demerit for being late that first day that I woke up freaking out in human skin, and I’m barely skating by now. The learning and tests are still the same level of tough, but doable. It’s the physical requirements that are killing me. Switching from dragon to human meant that the physical stuff went from a walk in the park to a marathon run in a hurricane, in heels.

Oh, and I nearly got myself killed a couple times.  I’m not used to being so… fragile.

I told Liberty what happened, that I wasn’t going to be able to be a Protector after all. I was stunned at how much that hurt. I don’t think I understood before how much being a superhero meant to me. Now, I get it, now that it’s too late.

Liberty was really understanding about the situation. She said, “Power losses are surprisingly common among supes. Sometimes they’re temporary, so don’t give up hope. Just keep training.”

She told me to keep taking the self-defense classes with Tamara at the Protectors headquarters. I was still officially a Protectors adjunct, powers or no powers. And now that I was normal, I was even more likely to need fighting skills to stay safe.

Liberty is really an awesome friend.

Ma barely blinked when I came out of my room looking all human. She just handed me my usual omelet, gave me a huge hug, and said I looked lovely. It was like she expected me to suddenly turn human one morning.  Maybe she did. Maybe she thinks I just figured out Dad’s trick for switching back and forth between human and dragon form.

I got to try some of the tomatoes Ma has grown fresh all my life, and eaten with such pleasure. I’ve always wondered what fresh home-grown tomatoes tasted like to normal people.

Wow. I have to say that’s one thing I was really missing out on. I’d be excited about trying a bunch of different foods, but I haven’t really felt much like eating.

Jack didn’t magically start talking to me again just because I turned human. He didn’t even know until Friday.

I kept trying to tell Jack what happened, but he wouldn’t talk to me. I’ve barely seen him for the past two weeks. Brad told me Jack was looking for an apartment so he could move out.

Finally, on Friday, I got a chance to talk to him. We were at the firefighter’s academy heading out for another tortuous session of physical training. We were all clumped together, so Jack couldn’t completely avoid me.  I grabbed Jack’s arm. “I need to talk to you!”

Jack twisted his arm free in a move I recognized from Tamara’s Krav Maga class, and followed it up with a hard palm strike to the chest.

It knocked me on my ass.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Jack’s eyes go that wide.

Dave hadn’t been looking when Jack took me down, but the commotion got his attention. “What’s going on?”

Jack was still too stunned to even answer. He’d hit me with a car once and it hadn’t done anything but dent his bumper.

I coughed a little until I got my breath, then said, “Nothing, nothing. I just … tripped.”

Dave said, “Hmmph.” He looked at the frat boys and asked, “Is that really what happened?”

I pleaded with my eyes for them not to rat Jack out. He would get fired on the spot for hitting another cadet in anger.

“Um, yeah. She tripped on a crack in the asphalt.” said the black guy with the broad shoulders, who I now knew was named Roy. I’d helped him out a couple of times when he was struggling with some concepts he had to know to pass the next test.

I nodded a thanks to him.  I owed him an extra tutoring session for that.

The blond guy, who went by Bo, shook his head and started to say something.

Roy stepped on his foot.

I put a hand out to Jack.

Still a little in shock, he helped me up.

“I see,” Dave said. “Well, next time, be more careful.” He looked pointedly at Jack rather than me.
Jack nodded sheepishly.

He and I dropped back and let the rest of the crowd get ahead of us so we had a couple minutes to talk.
“What’s going on, Dee? I barely hit you hard enough for you to feel it.”

I rubbed my chest. “Oh, I felt it, all right. You’ve been paying attention in Tamara’s classes.”

“Yeah, she told me, in particular, to use open hand strikes if I ever needed to hit someone who was armored, so I wouldn’t break my hand.”

“I’m not armored anymore.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Jack, look at my hand. Really look at me. No sunglasses in broad daylight.” I showed him both my hands, my normal human hands. I lifted my uniform shirt a little around the belt line to show him my abs, which all this crazy intense physical training had looking quite spiffy if I do say so. The point, though, was that they were actual abdominal muscles covered in skin, not shiny silver ab armor.

“How long have you been like this?” Jack asked.

“About two weeks. I kept trying to tell you, but …”

Jack shrugged. “It doesn’t change anything, Dee. You and I are over. I can’t trust you. Every time I turn around, you’re kissing some other guy.”

“Dragon. Some other dragon. Dragon chemistry isn’t a thing anymore, Jack. It won’t affect me. I’m human now.”

“How is that even possible?”

“How is it possible that my centuries dead grandmother talks to me? How is it possible that I can bite people and they heal faster?” I waved my arms. “I have no idea. I had a dream where I told one of my ancestors that I wanted to be human more than anything, and poof, I woke up human.”

“Why in the world would you wish to be human?”

“Because I thought …” I swallowed and looked at my feet as I realized how stupid this sounded before I even said it. “I thought if I wasn’t a dragon, you would want me back.”

“It wasn’t you being a dragon that made me walk away in the first place.”

“The thing with Knight wasn’t even what you thought. He found out Fafnir was his father and he was all devastated because Fafnir despises him. I hugged him, because, you know, he really needed a hug right then.”

“Yeah, like he needed to be kissed at the hospital disaster. And before him, it was Vlad you always had reasons to kiss, and hug.”

“It was just dragon chemistry.”

Jack rolled his eyes, and I realized something he clearly already knew. I was lying to him.

And if I didn’t stop, I was going to lose him forever. Dragon chemistry hadn’t made me kiss Vlad until he’d very nearly sacrificed his life to protect me. And it hadn’t made me cry when I saw how bad Knight was hurt at the hospital.

“Ok, it wasn’t just dragon chemistry.”

Jack nodded, vindicated. “Finally. I was getting really sick of hearing that excuse.”

“Vlad and Novak are both attractive to me. I can’t help that. Beyond the hormone thing, they’re good, honorable, brave dragons and they want me. That’s hard to ignore. And ...” I took a deep breath. Once I’d started to face the truth, a lot of it spilled out. “I needed Vlad. I wouldn’t have survived my sudden transition out of fledgling dragonhood without his help. And Novak, he needs me now, in a lot of the same ways, because I’m his only link to the heritage he was denied; the only one who can help him survive his transition from man to dragon.”

Jack’s lips twisted. “So, basically, you’re telling me that you’re strongly attracted to White Knight, and he needs your help, so you’re going to go right on spending time with him, and hugging and kissing him periodically. Even though you’re human now, and the dragon chemistry thing isn’t a factor anymore.”

I sighed, defeated. He was right. If I saw Knight hurt bad physically, I’d kiss him to heal him, if that was still an option now that I didn’t have fangs. If I saw he was hurting emotionally, like he’d been last time I saw him, I’d hug him. I wouldn’t be me if I ignored that kind of pain. “I guess, yeah.”

“And how is that supposed to convince me that if I go back to being your boyfriend, you won’t cheat on me again?”

“I never did.”

Jack’s lips pinched so tight together, they almost disappeared.

I got angry and hurt at once that he didn’t believe me. It was the truth. “You are my only boyfriend. Vlad knew that. Knight knows it, too. Yeah, two attractive dragons want to be my lovers. They’ve both kissed me and done their best to convince me to choose them, but I chose you. I always chose you. There is only one man on earth that I want to give myself to so badly I would give up my wings. And that’s you.”

Jack looked down at his feet. A muscle jumped in his cheek as he clenched his jaw again and again. “The thing is, Dee, you shouldn’t have to give up your wings. I’m just a guy. White Knight is a Protector and Vlad is a freaking billionaire, and they’re both dragons like you.”

“I don’t care, Jack. I want you.”

Jack looked up and met my eyes. It was the first time I can remember him looking unsure of himself. “Why?” he asked me.

It was the same thing he said the first time I asked him out. For the first few months we were dating, every time he did something particularly wonderful, I told him, “That’s why.” I hadn’t said it in a while. “Oh, Jack,” I wanted to hug him so bad, but was a little afraid he’d slug me again. “I’ve told you why a hundred times, and if you let me, I promise I’ll keep telling you every day.”

“Every day, huh?” Jack grinned a little and my heart soared.

“I promise, every single day.”

“You better.”

So far, it’s only been two days, but I’ve kept my promise.

D. Dragon