Riposte. Chapter 9

by D'Artagnon

Out of the Into, Sorta

I had this really weird dream. Er, okay, that was kinda general and random and stupid. Lemme try again.

Even to a creature who lives on dreams, I don't know where this came from or what was going on or even if this stuff was my own weird imagination or some crap I'd read in a book or seen in a movie or watched on YouTube or something like that.

I just re-read that sentence and it makes even less sense to me than if probably does for you. Oh my, where to start?

Capricus used flicker-flash to get us back to outside of the morgue, since having the Tannagords leave their car behind would make no sense at all. Kenny quickly came up with a cover story. That I was upset and ran out of the cold room, which, I guess, is technically the truth.

This gave me a chance to see the damage I'd done. Poor Keith's face looked like he'd been on the losing end of an MMA cage fight, a testament to what even my little horns can do. Thanks to my hooves, Dan and Mitch both moved gingerly and I noticed Mitch's limp more. That limp was the reason he was a fencing teacher instead of an Olympic champion. And I'd somehow made it more prominent with my little temper tantrum.

Suddenly, my own quest to get onto the Olympic fencing team seemed very petty and meaningless.

I vowed, silently, that I'd make it up to all of them. God, what a lousy shit I've been, to people who have been far better friends than I could ask anyone to be. Not exactly what is expected of a leader, much less a would-be king. Certainly not the behavior of the kingdom's top cop.

As if I didn't feel bad enough already.

Mitch took control of the situation, signing forms and things with the police. We were escorted back to my house to pick up some clothes. It was odd to be back there so suddenly after all the crap that had just happened. The place seemed darker, somehow. Dust particles hung in the slanting sunbeams through the windows, giving it an almost shimmery-shadowy feel.

"You're folks was good people, son," one of the cops said, his moustache drooping sadly. "They's gonna be missed round these paaarts." All I could do was nod as I headed up the stairs with Kenny close to my side. Mitch engaged the cop in conversation in the front room, which allowed Kenny to quietly clean up the small pool of blood from when I'd stopped in the kitchen by the knife block.

Up in my room, I sort of turned off. It's like all my energy suddenly dropped to nothing. The last time I'd been in this room, with the wolves and Kenny, I felt safe. I was in my parents' home. I was a kid with his buddies and his secret boyfriend. And now...

I was an orphan.


And the full gravity of that smashed completely though whatever else I had left. The rug was tugged out from under my feet and thrown completely over my eyes and I was all wrapped up.

Kenny came up the steps and looked at me, sitting in my computer chair. I didn't see the look on his face but I could hear his voice. I could hear him gasp at seeing me.


I looked up and it's like I could feel the tears that were already all over my face. I hadn't realized I was weeping like that. I wasn't huffing and crying out or anything like that. I was just... flowing. Like the tears had built to the top of a dam and spilled over the top, dribbling down my face.

"Hey, Bu," he said, drawing my face to his chest. And for once, the autopilot did the right thing and just held on to Kenny's waist, luxuriating in the feel of his solid, warm belly against my face. He clutched my head and I could feel his chin brush into my hair.

I don't know how long I stayed like that. Time becomes sort of stretchy when you aren't paying it any mind. All I know is that just that moment, with the tides of emotion and sorrow passing over me, Kenny being there was just what I needed.

"I'm gonna pack you a few things, okay?"


"Anything you want to bring over?"

"Nothing right now," I said as he pulled away from me and started grabbing some of my clothes, tossing them into my backpack. Although I did turn around and pop a flash drive into my computer. I copied some files quickly, made a quick word doc with my passwords on it and copied my favorites list. I didn't plan on being online much in the next few days, but I also had no idea how long it would take me to... to... I wasn't even sure what would happen next. All I knew was that this morning this had been my home and now it was something... else.

We packed, quickly, or rather Kay did, and I was sort of in the room, glancing around at things. Posters, pictures, a calendar, some sports pennants. My mirror.

I found myself staring into my own eyes a lot in that moment, seeing Robyn and Robby flickering, overlapping. It was screwing with what was left of my brain. It's like my eyes were the place where Robby and Robyn were pinned together, but the two aspects of myself were out of sync. Vibrating differently and bouncing off each other while occupying the same space.

"I'm goooing sliiightly maaaad," I heard myself partly sing. I had a sudden urge to giggle and found I couldn't stop giggling once I started. The autopilot was stuck on stooped and I wasn't sure what to do to stop the giggling. Poor Kay looked at me like I was already wearing the "I love me" jacket, twittering away in the padded room with my name emblazoned on it in letters two meters high, three meters deep and painted up like playground stuff, lit alternately, in sequence.

"Bu, are you okay?"

"Nuthin's okay, Kay. Kay, Kay, Kay," I kept repeating, feeling myself start giggling again, my arms doing some sort of trance-like, short karate chop motions.

"Beloved," Kay said, walking up to me. "You need to sleep now."


"Yes. Sleep." And he reached a hand forward towards me and I felt the world melt away, tiredly.

The Dreaming is a comforting place at times. Well, that isn't really the truth. It can be, and for changelings, it's like home. Or at least home away from home. So finding myself there wasn't such a bad thing.

Kay Neth had decided that I'd be easier to deal with as a sack of potatoes instead of a bag full of nuts. Can't fault him. Besides, with his father nearby, they can just lug me around easier than having me fall apart on the way down the stairs. After all, there's a good chance I wouldn't be back in this house until after...

After my parents' funeral.

Just because it's all a dream doesn't mean that you can hide there. In fact, it's probably an even more vulnerable position. In your dreams, sometimes, you're all alone with yourself and your own worst fears. Your own past. Your own nightmares.

And in the Dreaming, Nightmares sometimes are capitalized.

So, I guess I haven't really dealt with the Dreaming itself in all of this. I mean, I talk about it all the time and I have that bad habit of making oaths that the Dreaming intends for me to keep (heralded by trumpets and lightning crashes and little tinkling bells, no less). Guess I ought to do it a bit of justice.

If you think about the human mind as a computer, then the Dreaming is one type of internet connection. Everyone reading this has some connection to the Dreaming. Even those who've given up on their dreams still have it, but it is a matter of actively living in their dreams. Those who still have that connection strong in their lives are creative, alive, imaginative people. The artists, musicians, leaders, writers, philosophers, explorers, inventors, people like that. People we need a lot more of in this world.

It goes without saying that kids are usually, usually, more connected than adults. As you get older, your mind builds protections for the raw power of the Dreaming. Glamour affects humans strongly. For those who can control their dreams and can plumb the depths of their own imaginations, Glamour acts like a drug. No, seriously. It can send you on euphoric highs of creativity, insight, even occasional psychic flashes can happen in the face of Glamour's pull. Sadly, you folk aren't really capable of dealing with that kind of raw creative force for too long. The mind can't deal with it and the brain isn't able to take large amounts of the energy itself.

So, you may be thinking, how the hell do we not continually go freakin' ape-shit nuts all the time, since Glamour flows through the Dreaming and the Dreaming connects us all? Nature provides a way to deal. Your minds like things to be predictable, orderly... boring. Like clockwork. Changelings call this Banality, and in the easiest way to think of it, Banality and Glamour digest each other.

Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic. They cancel out, would be more accurate. Different people and places have more Banality than others. Elementary school playground, rather low Banality. Science lab? Forget it, brother! Place would be so Banal that none of my cantrips would work, not without an awful lot of Glamour to counteract. Think of it like fire and water. You can use a squirt gun to put out a candle, but you wont do crap to a bonfire without a garden hose, at the least.

As you get older, Banality builds within your body and mind. It's a defense against things that are quote-unquote "impossible," or "highly unlikely." In a way it's good. It keeps people sane and makes the world go round so much easier. In some ways, it's bad. It destroys dreams, prevents people from using their imaginations, and, well, makes it harder for changelings to survive in this tough world. That internal Banality shields you from some of the nastier things the supernatural world can do, but it blinds you to the beauty of that world as well. And it doesn't just work on changelings. I hear the werewolves, mages and other magical types are affected by Banality as well, although they call it different things. The clash of Glamour and Banality causes an effect we call the Mists. Woofers call it the Veil. Don't know what my parents would have called it. Never got the chance to ask them.

You know, sometimes it sneaks up on me that they're gone...

Steady, Robby. Just keep typing. Don't let the tears win, man.


Seems I let the autopilot go into professor mode. I seriously need to bring that in to the shop to get it fixed. Maybe upgrade a bit.

Anyways, I was being a basket case, so Kay Neth used one of those universal changeling abilities and invoked the Dreaming in me. It's not easy to do, and a lot of our kithain never develop the ability much because it's not easy (hey, we can be just as lazy as you folk). But he'd basically opened me up to the Dreaming, which can put people to sleep if they're an emotional mess. Which is pretty much where I live most of the time.

It was weird that he could use it on me. Other changelings are often immune to that power. Usually, waking people who've been "opened" just become daydreamers or lost in a thought, like an epiphany (like when a changeling uses his powers to stimulate the creativity of humans).

Wow, I keep saying it, but I don't go into what happened to me next. Well, since I was in the Dreaming, I was swept up into a dream. D'uh! Only in this case, it was weird, twisted. Very awkward. I guess since I was in Bedlam, my dreams got skewed as well.

The dream was dark, but in a comforting sort of way. Sunlight is fun and fine and I enjoy it, but there are just times when the cool shadows of evening are like a well broke-in comfortable blanket that you wrap yourself up in while watching movies on TV late at night. And just like the blankets on the bed, because you wrap yourself up in it, you know that you're safe from the monsters (oh yes, there are always monsters - haven't you been reading?).

I was standing on a large flat rock that had moss growing at the boundary of stone and grass. Not an uncommon sight for New England. It was the sort of rock that you lay on while staring up at the stars after chasing fireflies and eating hotdogs in the back yard on late spring nights. I felt the soft scrape of a fleece sweatshirt against my bare chest, no shirt underneath, and the airy feel of baggy shorts with huge pockets. At least in my dreams I dress the way I normally do. No socks, but my canvas shoes on, one of them partly untied.

The darkness wasn't total, however. There was a sort of glow, very subtle, that lit the sky at the edges of the horizon, like light pollution from the city. Overhead, the stars were dancing in place, yet with such intense sharpness that their colors were distinct and bright. The constellations were alive with all of the hidden, smaller stars sprinkled among the more well-known points of light. The occasional firefly or lightning bug, or whatever they're called drifted by, leaving a trail of bioluminescence in its wake. The soft, cool air brushing through my hair and wafting lazily over my skin was like the touch of a parent or lover, gentle, confident and familiar.

Everything felt safe for me. Relaxed and comfortable. At ease.

Which set my teeth on edge, right away. I was in such an emotional state that I knew it wasn't real. It was too ideal, like dozens of nights while I was growing up (okay, I heard that, you! I meant up til this point), family picnics or cookouts with some of my Dad's clients. I wasn't the only kid there, in this dream. There were lots of other kids around me, chasing bugs, talking as they stared up into the heavens, chewing down cookout food. The smell of partly burnt hotdog and potato salad was heavy in the air. And somewhere in that yard there was a blueberry bush with ripe fruit waiting to be picked and popped right in your mouth.

And as perfect as that seemed, as much as I wanted that to be real in that moment, I knew it was all dream. Which kinda pissed me off. A lot. I mean, who doesn't like a cookout? And here I was, knowing it wasn't real, but completely smelling all the food.

Food I wouldn't need if I'd succeeded in killing myself.

That thought hit me like a punch to the gut... with a Louisville slugger. I still wasn't feeling much like living. Almost everything important in my life had ended. Only Kay was left.

"This really sucks," I said out loud, hearing it echo around. Dreaming time is different than real time, so I had no way of knowing what was going on since Kay put me to sleepytime. Not that I was completely active while awake. Or sane. Or not a danger to myself.

"Everyone! Dog pile on Robby!" I heard a younger voice say. I looked around and three little kids, dressed like Huey, Louie and Dewy, except with pants, ran at me at top speed. They were giggling like little kids do when up to mischief, and they gang tackled me. We wound up rolling around on the ground in a wriggling heap, wrestling. I was stronger than them, but three kids going "body-on" to you has some weight. I was struggling, but I found myself giggling like an idiot again.

I don't know how long we rolled around in the soft, finger-deep, tickling grass, playing like kids do. I don't know because sometimes the Dreaming makes things last longer than you remember them to be or it compounds whole lifetimes into a couple of ticks of a second hand.

Funny, innit?

Eventually, we all decided to just stop for a moment and catch breath, lying about like a pile of kittens trying to keep warm. And for some reason, I didn't object to them using me like a beanbag chair. Oh, I know, someone will say that it kinda turned me on, but to be perfectly honest, I was so far from thinking about sex that I might as well have been a eunuch.

"Oh cool!" I heard one of the triplets say, and I felt him messing around with my necklace. Weird, I'd forgotten I even had it on.

"Whoa!" one of the others said, looking at the small thing that I couldn't see in his brother's hand.

"What is it?" squealed the third, trying to get a look of his own, but having to bull his way between his other brothers' shoulders.

"It's a crystal," the first boy said, and I could feel the second boy reaching in to let his fingers see better.

"Nuh uh! Crystals is clear. This one's all blue. It's a fake."

"Lemme see!" brother three said, still trying to wedge in.

"No, it's real. Tell 'em, Robby! Crystals can be blue, too. Just like his eyes."

"He's right," I said, laying back to let the little guys check out the necklace without my big skull blocking what little light there was to see by. "Crystals come in all sorts of colors. Some even have parts that change colors."

"No way!" the first one said. I let my hands drift up behind my head, relaxing. Which is kinda weird since I normally don't hang out with younger kids, or let them just use me as a couch cushion.

"Way!" I replied. "That's a special crystal. It's been in my family a long, long time."

"Lemme see! C'mon, guys!" the third brother said, finally getting his sibs to give a little space.

"Is it famous?" number two asked.

"Or cursed?" number one asked with evil enthusiasm.

"Sometimes it is. It's called the Tear of Cerulean," I said, making my voice go all monster movie-like, sitting up to start the grand melee again. The triplets giggled and pounced, and we rolled around for a while, each of us making monster growls and howling like werewolves. God, it was fun!

Something about that thought made me stop resisting and the three of them quickly had me on my back again, pinned, chest heaving, sweat making my skinny ribs cling to the fleece pullover at odd places. I lay there, recovering my breath, wondering why I felt so drained. I mean, I physically felt fine, great even. Since discovering and reawakening my changeling side, I'd come to enjoy rough and tumble a lot more than the average nerd. Maybe it was just a Satyr's nature to be physical like that. Maybe it's because I became a super athlete fencer. Maybe it's just a consequence of all the sex Kay and I have.

Hey, where is Kenny? He should be here to help me fend off these little beasts.

They lay against me, the scent of their little boy sweat thick and clean in the air, little more than water at this point. I felt a slick neck settle against the crook of my arm, could sense their heaving chests recovering breath as well. Kenny must be over at the food end of the yard, enjoying some watermelon and strawberry-rhubarb pie and cold tonic. He's probably laughing himself silly watching these three leave me on the grass in a wreck. Some mighty warrior, eh, Kay. I'll have to remember to get him later for this.

That thought brought me around a bit. Where were Mom and Dad? Something about that seemed out of place. Wasn't this a welcome home picnic? Kenny and I had been gone so long at the Olympics... I remember showing off my gold medals, didn't I?

"I got your crysal," number one sang out, like triumphant little brats often do.

"It's called a crys-tal, dumbass!"

"I know, dork!" One and two started a shoving match against me and each other, making number three move around to where he could get a better look at my necklace. I wasn't sure what the big deal was. It's just a cheap blue, faceted crystal tear drop on a silver chain. Not like they couldn't just run out to the mall and buy one for themselves with a week's worth of allowance. Probably only half a weeks, if these were kids of my Dad's clients; buncha rich bigwigs he works for.

"I like it," three said, his fingers gathering up the crystal and turning it by the chain in his hand. It must have been filtering light into tiny rainbows, because the simple action of that caused the other two to stop rough housing and look on with fascination.

Clouds, little puffy ones with tiny sweeps of cloud leftovers drifted gently across the face of the moon as I lay back, feeling everything was right with the world. I let it all flow around me. It was like I was part cloud and feeling drifty as well.

"Oooohhhh," they cooed as one, and I felt their weights settle onto me as if I was a cheap lounge chair. The whole situation felt odd, but somehow I wasn't worried. My lazy streak reasserted itself with force. I felt the warmth of their bodies, the dull pressure of them leaning on me, even the soft yet pointy feel of the grass under me, all just sort of felt, I dunno, content. Empty of pain. Without a care. Comfortably numb.


Then, wouldn't you know it, but the three little bastards up and bit me! Not all at once, but it was like they traded looks long enough to grin at each other, nod and dive in, as if I was some sorta buffet. I felt them each bite independent of the others, one, two, three, chomp!

Color's shifted in my vision, became less vibrant, less deep, muted. The sweet chirping of the crickets or cicadas or whatever went flat, like shifting from FM radio to AM. The pain of the bites seemed to fade out, too. Like the bites sort of spread a lack of feeling.

And for some reason, that lack of feeling worked for me. I just completely laid back and let it happen. All my energy just fled, pulled out by those sucking mouths. For some reason I could have sworn there were more than three mouths latched onto my flesh. I suddenly felt so weary, and I didn't care to fight anymore.

Of course, it couldn't be that easy. As soon as I lay back and let the null take me, they showed up. It's the nature of the Dreaming that it pulls at the things in your mind and makes weird combinations of them, sometimes. It acts at the emotional level a lot more than the intellectual, and it responds to emotions wicked fast.

So naturally, when I was feeling weak, when I gave in, when I was most vulnerable, it hit me with the pale, zombified faces of my parents. They looked unnaturally pale, Dad actually a bit gray. He hadn't shaved and the fine gray stubble made his chin look indistinct. I was horrified. Mom's face was still smooth as porcelain, but so pale, so cold. They looked down on me with contempt.

"What a waste," my Dad said, shaking his head slightly, a flap of skin on his balding head dripping down.

"You had such potential, then you started hanging out with that sword boy. Now look at you. Sexually confused, weak, pathetic. Unworthy!"

"Unworthy," Dad agreed.

I was shocked. Mom loved that I was fencing, and that I was good at it, didn't she? And Dad... the man that had called me joy and light, his joy and light... said I was... a waste?

"He wont need your eyes anymore, my dear," the gray thing that was my father said. His hand seemed to melt into my flesh, penetrating through my all-too hard head and simply scooped up the eyes, right out of my skull, like picking up twosies in jacks. Immediately the world went dim. I could still see, curiously enough, but it all became blacker, darker. And it was plenty twisted enough.

I tried to cry out when I felt his hand pass through my head, my irises cradled in his decaying palm. But the autopilot had decided to take a fiver just that moment. I felt too weak to even draw breath to breathe much less scream.

"Your nose shouldn't be his either," my mother said, her ice queen visage showing scornful contempt as she reached down to pick my nose right off my face. It was as if she were trying to pull her car keys out of a mud puddle without having to get her fingers wet in the silty water or pasty goo. Like touching my skin would somehow be demeaning to her.

"And we should take his tongue as well. He can't have our words, now, can he? Not a vile thing such as this. These things belong to our new son."

"Yes, our new son!" my mother brightened. Together they held my jaw open while my father pulled my tongue out, like a stretchy dog toy, and my mother simply slashed her hand through it near my mouth, somehow both severing the tongue and sealing my mouth over. In my father's glasses I saw the reflection of my face. No features, the eyes in flat gray, without even little shiny spots. Blank. Empty. Inhuman.


"Come now, Robert," my father spoke, looking down at me as I felt tears start to run over what was left of my face. "You can't really be upset by all this. After all, it's your fault this is happening at all."

"Don't call it Robert, Dennis. This thing isn't our boy. This isn't worthy of our love." I couldn't believe my mother had just said that.

"No, you are right. Come, new son! We have parts for you, so you will be perfect and loved."

"Thank ye, father," came a gruff voice. One I knew all too well. One that in the world outside the Dreaming belonged to someone who'd been trying to kill me for centuries. But I could not shout or even speak his name. I felt the terror grip me, realizing that I was unable to move, unable to see, completely and utterly defenseless. I felt my mind struggle, trying to swim back up from the dark pressure that had been comfortable moments ago, but now was drowning me.

Korbesh stood beside my parents. He looked like he probably did when he was my physical age, like a shorter, leaner, more wiry version of Croaker, but with longer hair, greasier somehow. Less clean. And a huge gap between his teeth on the lower set, big enough for SkyFire's tip to slip in.

"Son!" My mother said, leaning over to embrace young Korbesh. "We have treats for you."

"Yes, son. Delicious bits."

"Ooooh, can I have them now?" young Korbesh practically cooed, giving me an evil grin.

"Certainly! You are, after all, a growing boy," my father said, holding my irises over Korbesh's head. His flip-top head practically split in half under my father's hand, mouth open, his serpentine tongue wiggling up to taste the air under my father's hand.

"We love you, son," they cooed, and then let my irises drop into Korbesh's mouth. I tried so hard to scream, to surge, to call SkyFire to my hand, but the wash of total emptiness kept me silent and still.

"Ooooh, he's still hungry!" Mom/Notmom said as if talking to a baby. "Open wide!"

Korbesh opened his mouth up like he's getting spoon fed and my mother pops my nose into his gullet. Just for fun, the bastard chomped down, splitting my nose in two bits and then used his teeth to pop the part outside his mouth up into the air and caught it like popcorn before swallowing.

"More! Gimme More!" young Korbesh said, grinning, bouncing and clapping like a little kid at Christmas time.

"Oh, I think you'll like this, my boy," my father said. He and my mother started pulling my tongue back and forth between them like an old fashioned taffy pull. Korbesh positioned himself under the twisting ropes of my tongue and started taking tiny leaps up, snapping his jaws into the flesh of my now taffinated tongue, biting out huge chunks of it. In short order, he'd eaten it all, his face splattered with the gore and blood of my shredded tongue.

Then these zombie versions of my parents walked over and group hugged the younger version of Korbesh, together. A family sandwich. They kept repeating, "we love you, son," to my greatest enemy, even when he began taking bites out of them, slowly digesting them like some weird version of praying mantis mating. I couldn't feel my body but my soul just felt so sick.

Which got worse when Korbesh looked right at me and smiled, pointed at me and started laughing.

My body was suddenly wracked with immense pain. Like "organs squishing out between your ribs," pain. "Burning from the inside out," pain. "Twisting whole body through a rotating fan backwards," pain. You get the picture. I felt the mouths rip off of me and all those sensations of agony passed into me so fast I could barely inhale. I tried to scream, but it was like my throat and chest were locked in place, mashed hard down into some soft surface.

My senses were still drowned in pain, blunted by numbness, and some thick pressure still quashed all my motor functions. I couldn't even flex my toes or consciously blink. In a very weird sense, I felt like my eyes were closed, yet I could see through the lids like they were transparent. Through all of that I heard growling sounds and noises like giant crows calling out angrily.

Time distorted for me but suddenly there was a melting sensation, into my body. I tried to rebel, to push whatever was sinking into me out, to strain myself back out of whatever is trying to filter into me.

And then I felt the Glamour flow. But not flow out of me, or to me. It was flowing inside of me, but not going to me. It was going to some thing... other. Something deep within.

Strangely, I looked on all of this as if it had already happened. Like, it was sorta like I could see it happening from the side at the same time that I was feeling it happen, and the whole thing felt like it was pre-recorded somehow.

Things suddenly sped up, flickering. Mostly seemed like I was just lying there on our water bed in Kay's house. How I went from that picnic to the waterbed, I don't know.

Then there was purple light, and fire, and pressure, like painful pressure, pulling at my insides, pulling things from inside out, all centered on my chest, on my thin rib cage and the heart beating around inside there. Felt like stuff was moving around in my body in ways it wasn't meant to, things that weren't even supposed to move in there at all. My brain was like drilled with icicles driven in by jackhammers. Everything felt hot and cold at once. Wet, squishy, disconnected. Broken. Snap, crackle, pop!

Vacuum! Suddenly, it was like all the pressure shot out of me and my whole body rebounded like a broken elastic band contracting in on itself at the moment it ruptured. And it hurt, like having a tooth pulled. It was a little hurt compared to all the stuff I'd been subjected to prior to this, but still, it was a more normal feeling.

Time passed. For some reason I could hear my brother, Sherwyn, whispering softly, echoey, "wake up, little brother." I opened my eyes to darkness and knew that I was awake this time. The water bed beneath me was a consistent warmth, but it did nothing to mask the presence of Kay beside me. For once, we were spooning the other way, him behind me. I still had my boxers on, but I could feel he was naked. His hand lay on my hip, hanging over and brushing skin and cotton.

I slowly rolled free of his sleeping embrace and made my way to the bathroom. I smelled funky, like I hadn't showered in days. My body felt overly warm in an itchy and uncomfortable way. I started up the shower and dropped my boxer-briefs. Which started a different biological need, so I promptly sat down to pitch a log. Didn't' take long. There was a lot of pressure behind that floater. I don't mention this to gross you out, just to try and give you an idea of how long I'd been physically out of it.

When I stood up from doing my business, I found myself confronted with two images that fairly rocked me to the core. The first was a reflection of myself in the mirror over the vanity. My hair was all out of sorts, dull, lifeless, almost colorless. My eyes had tinges of red in the white parts. There were track lines down my face where tears had run and dried. I looked pale, weak, dormant.

The other image was of Kenny, leaning on the doorpost to the bathroom. He stood there completely nude, yet with the confidence of someone wearing the best armor in the world. He was strong, resilient, supple, untamed yet civilized, and above all else, focused. As he stared there, looking at me just standing up from the john, he seemed to be the wisest, calmest person I'd ever known (and that's saying something, in a former life, I routinely shared tea with Confucius).

"You feeling better, Bu?" he asked. I felt an urge to sit and found the commode was still warm under me when I did. He walked forwards and we sort of melted into each other, my arms going around his waist, my legs opening up to let him press close to me, his arms drifting tight onto my head as we hugged. I felt him lean over my head to lay his ear against my hair.

We stayed like that a short while, steam from the shower starting to build in the small bathroom. Kenny broke off the hug long enough to switch the shower off. It was like odd yet comfortable.

"I think you need some help," Kenny said, his voice slithering into my hair.

"I'm probably capable of handling the paper work," I purred against his chest. My arms cinched a little tighter around his waist. His hands teased over my shoulders, for some reason paying particular attention to the spot on my left shoulder where that Cold Iron scar had been.

"I meant the shower, horns for brains," he said, nearly giggling. "I just got you back on your feet, so to speak. I'm not about to have you become another nasty bathroom slip-and-fall statistic."

"You worry too much," I said, giving his chest a kiss.

"Humor me."

"I'll have you know, sir, I have a very jealous boyfriend."


"Why yes. Absolutely."

"So how will he react to finding out I'm about to bathe you?"

"Well, idunno... He can be a bit... possessive."

"Really?" Kenny said, running his fingers through my hair.

"Oh yes," I replied, matter of factly. "And aggressive."

"Aggressive?" he asked, wrapping his fingers in hair at the back of my head.

"And sometimes, he even has control issues."

Kenny suddenly pulled my head back by my hair, his face coming over mine, close. "Shut up and kiss me."

"Sir, yessir," I whispered at his lips. His lips came down and dominated me. I could bore you with how we spent the next several minutes checking each other for cavities with our tongues, but I think you get the gist of it.

When we came up for air, he started up the shower again and assisted me to get in. We spent a while washing each other. It is amazing how many times you can find tickle places with a soapy wash cloth. There was more giggling than actual washing getting done, but we managed to get completely clean just as the water started losing heat.

After drying off and getting the bathroom back into order, we climbed back into bed, sort of lying side by side. That in itself is sorta weird, since Kenny is a snuggler and I am a spooner. I still felt kinda weak, but that shower did wonders for my spirit.

"How long was I... you know, out of it?"

"It's been a few days," Kenny replied solemnly. "We'll have to go shopping for suits tomorrow." Which meant...

Which meant we were going to my parents' funeral the day after. As I realized this, I realized that I hadn't really been part of that process. I had no idea how such things were done, all the "arrangements" that are always talked around in movies and TV shows. And that reminded me that when Robyn's parents had been slain in Cerulean, he didn't have the chance to bury his parents.

Kenny's hand slid under the covers and took hold of my hand. I gripped his fingers back with a sudden desperate strength. I looked over and saw my Kay's awesome gray eyes staring back at me through the dark. He gave me a grim smile, letting me know that he understood how I felt and that he was there.

For some gawd-awful reason I started spouting off about the dreams I had after he sleeped me. About all the weirdness, about Korbesh, and the purple fire and the triplets and the strange cook out. He listened intently, not interrupting. I don't know why I just started talking, but it all sort of drain out of me without completely leaving. Like I'd turned into a naked photocopier.

When I'd finished, he reached up and drew my head to his shoulder. I lay there, one hand pressed on Kenny's chest while he had an arm wrapped around my shoulders, holding me close. I don't know how long it was that I lay there before sleep finally took me again, but it was just Kenny and me again. Kay Neth and Robyn.

We. Us.


I woke briefly, feeling him softly stroking my hair.

"Do we do more than shop tomorrow?" I asked, suddenly not sure why.

"Final plans. Poppa will do most of it, but you can be there if you want to be. I'll be with you, no matter what."

"I think I want to be there. I don't know how I'll be, or even what to do, but I think...."

"Think that you need to be part of it," Kenny finished.

"Yeah. Time to face up."

"You always do."

"Just wish I didn't have to."

"I know."

I let a long pause stretch between us. "I'm going to get Korbesh for this."

"Just for this?"

"This is only the most recent thing he has to answer for, but I'm going to make him pay."

"First thing first, beloved," Kenny said. "I'll be by your side through all of it."

"Good, cause I really need you, Kay."

"You don't get rid of me that easily, milord."

"Neither do you," I said. "Cause I kinda love you just a little bit."

"No words," Kenny said, turning on his side to spoon me. We adjusted for a bit until I was lying inside the cavity of his arms and chest and thighs.

"No words," I agreed, feeling him kiss the back of my head.

And somewhere in all of that, we drifted off to more peaceful, naughty, warm dreams.

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