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

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