Warnings: Sexual references and sexytimes, profanity, bopping with a lace fan
“I knew it!”
“A non-practicing wizard,” Mike added.
“I still knew it! You realize you have to tell me everything now, right?”
“It’s kind of a long story.” He looked around at the many windows, a worried crease in his brow. “Would you mind going someplace private to talk about it?”
Dina grinned. “Okay. But no hankypanky ‘til you tell me.”
Don awoke to the smell of iron, leather, and dripping candlewax. His head was aching, but strangely there was no pain in his jaw or hand. He was thankful not to have lost his lucky tie in the rumble; stapling it to his blazer had been a smart move.
Of all the interesting artifacts in the room, the first thing to catch his eye was a red satin dress and the figure it was vacuum-sealed onto.
“If this is hell, I ain’t complainin’.”
“Do you have moral objections to magic healing?”
He couldn’t make sense of what physics were holding that dress up or how’d she gotten into it in the first place. “You think a guy like me has moral objections to anything?”
“That’s good, because I already healed you. If you have a problem with that, you’ll have to find someone else to re-break everything.”
Don looked down at his hand. “You magically fixed transverse, distal, and angulated fractures in the fourth and fifth metacarpal necks?”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Is that satisfactory?”
“Circulation’s good. No sign of pain, swelling, deformity, or loss of function. That’s freakin’ amazing.” But there was a bittersweetness to the sense of wonder. “Everyone tells me it’s stupid to go into med-school now that you witches are coming out. They say the entire profession’s gonna be obsolete in a few decades.”
“Not necessarily,” she said, the faintest hint of a smile on her face. “Magic can just as easily speed up an infection as it can the healing process. The non-magical aspects are just as important, often safer.”
“Yeah, at school they always tell us horror stories about everything that could ever possibly go wrong, but I don’t buy into the propaganda. Ruling it out doesn’t save more lives.”
“You’re Bella Goth, right?” he said. “I’ve heard about you; mostly from Nina.”
She frowned. “I told Nina I’d fire her if she used violence in front of me again.”
“What? You can’t do that! I threw the first punch; she was just protecting her man.” He winced. “Her metal man.”
“Exactly. He doesn’t need her to protect him; he could have pulverized you into pink slime or stood there and let you do it yourself. Nina’s actions were in anger and inappropriate.”
“Seriously though; I deserved it!”
She shook her head. “It’s not about you.”
“How goes it, Bella?”
“All yours, Jennicor,” she said. What a badass name that was; like something out of a high fantasy role-playing game that he’d never admit to knowing anything about.
“Uh, hey!” he called after Bella. “Thanks for fixing my brawler’s fracture. You’ll have to show me how you work your magic sometime.”
She stopped to give him an incredulous look before making her badass exit.
That witch was totally showing off for him. Or else she just didn’t want to climb three flights of stairs in a hobble dress.
“My eyes are within my head, fool. It would do you well to put your gaze there.”
“Is it understood what brings you here, Don Lothario?”
“I’m a naughty naughty boy and you’re going to punish me?” It started off confident but his voice wilted under her stare.
“Outside these iron gates you could bully that poor little robot and the masses would laugh and line up behind you.” She spoke melodically, stressing the rhythms of every word like she was in a play. “But my home is a safe haven, and Servo, having been bitten by one of mine, is one of mine. One that you have insulted and assaulted within my very home.”
“I wasn’t bullying him! I was just mad because he stole —” He tripped over his tongue. “Hildy from me!”
“I don’t believe Bonehilda was ever yours to steal. In her own words, she finds you to be … creepy.”
“She said that?” That word pierced him like a hypodermic needle. “Wait, how could she say anything? She doesn’t have a larynx.”
“She said you made a devil’s dozen worth of bone puns within half an hour, which may in fact be the true crime here.”
“Has anyone ever told you’re a bone-a-fide babe?”
“Tibia or not tibia? That is the question.”
“No bones about it!”
“I guess she did not find it...” Jennicor paused, lips parted and eyes twinkling. “Humerus.”
“I thought she liked me. I mean, she never stopped smiling!”
“To be fair, Bonehilda behaved poorly as well in her harassment of Servo, but not one among you took her to task for it.”
“I don’t get it. Why him?” It felt like the events of the night were pressing down on his chest. He replayed everything in his head, seeing it for what it was now. “What’s this guy’s secret? Does he transform into a Hunka 711? Does he have a hidden rice pudding dispenser somewhere? There’s gotta be more than meets the eye!”
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”
“I’m not jealous! I’m confused! I mean, for all I’d heard about this guy I thought he must be cooler than me and better looking than me and more of a lovable asshole than me and then... he’s like this one-eyed robot with no discernable genitalia. And he still steals my date!” The words were coming out faster than he could check them now.
“And for a vampire robot, from what I saw he’s not even that cool. He’s just like ‘Good day ma’am, would you like some tea?’” It was hard to mimic a servo voice without a synthesizer on hand, but he did his best to convey it through warbling. “And all the ladies are like ‘Yes, and your cold metal body. Make love to me, robotman!’ ‘Making love’ she said. Nina has never used that phrase in her life!” He stopped himself, panting, feeling less suffocated but more embarrassed.
“I’m not well-acquainted with Servo’s fiery-haired lady. Might she be a past lover of yours?”
He put his head in his hands, not breathing through his nose so he wouldn’t sniffle. “That has nothing to do with anything. I don’t care if she wants to screw a freakin’ toaster as long as he’s not moving in on my action.”
“Then why do you weep for their happiness?”
“It’s my contact lenses! I probably have a corneal ulcer from sleeping in them!” He took one out and held it up on his finger, where it immediately fell off onto the dungeon floor. “See?! It’s just a freakin’ eye infection!” he cried, taking out the other lense and blinding himself to the unconvinced look on her face.
“In my day they’d have turned you into a frog for this. Or a hairy beast, as redundant as that would be.” She tickled her fingers across his chest just briefly enough to perk him up. “But that’s no longer the done thing, so I asked Servo what should be done.”
“Spanking?” Just throwing that out there.
“Nothing,” she said. “He wishes no punishment upon you, which may be a punishment in itself, I think.”
“He’s what my brethren would call ‘pure of heart’. What others might call a ‘mealy-mouthed
ninny.’ Point being, you have nothing to fear from him but the guilt in your belly.” She illustrated this point by poking him.
“Huh.” He blinked.
“I believe that you’re sorry for what you’ve done. You are free to go. Let nothing bind you here unless you wish to be bound.”
“I guess I should go apologize to the, uh, mealy mouth.” Don gave a futile glance to the dungeon floor, where he would never know what became of his contacts, and started towards the stair-ish looking blur next to the medieval torture implement shaped blurs.
“Last I saw he and his lady were in the cemetery, making the beast with two backs. And other shaped beasts.”
“WHAT?” He missed the first step. “Here? Now? Cemetery?”
“Where my husband is buried,” she said wistfully.
He rolled over on the staircase, not bothering to get up. “You don’t have a problem with that?!”
“Whatever with? That they did not ask me to join them?”
“How—” He realized he was setting himself for another snarky remark. “What were the mechanics of the, the... beasts?”
“‘Tis none of your business unless you wish to lie with a robot.”
“I would, but I’d probably strike out there too.” He pulled out his glasses from his jacket pocket. “Maybe I should just give up on women at this point. I mean, everyone hates me, everything I ever believed is wrong. I thought Hildy would at least appreciate my attention, but... nope! I should just move to Takemizu and become a monk.”
She stared down at him for three slow flicks of her fan. “That is the self-pitying moan of one who’s been had by a fairy.”
“Had by a what?”
“You’re at fault for your own actions, but it is my fox of a cousin who’s to blame for the circumstances. It would not have come to this had she not planned it so.” She was lacking in laugh lines for one so silvery of hair. “Titania has not the proper understanding of the human condition, not like one who has loved and lain with and lived among you.”
“You lost me, but keep talking. My brain works in sprints.”
“If you’ve not learned your lesson it is for lack of an understanding teacher.” She leaned forward in that dress, but he found himself unable to look away from her golden brown eyes. “And there is much you need to learn, boy.”
“How to unlace corset.”
He quickly ran through every possible thing she could mean by that. “Are you for real, lady?”
She laughed. “You think me a trickster?” If she leaned any further she was going to topple over and smother him with her decolletage.
“Methinks you a... cougar?”
“I’m not a feline and you will not refer to me or the parts of me as such.”
“But I am a huntress.” She pushed him back against the steps, lowering herself on top of him. “A she-wolf. So ‘bitch’ would not be inappropriate, if you so dare.”
He was sandwiched between whole lotta stairs and a whole lotta woman, not to mention a whole lotta dress, and yet it really wasn’t uncomfortable. Everything was kind of hitting the right spot, though not in a way that could be described as gentle.
She was otherworldly. Long shiny hair was at the top of a long list of things he could not resist, and while running his fingers through it he couldn’t help checking for ear pointiness. Whatever she was, it was the real deal, and that was a cornucopia of questions and revelations that he would have to think about later.
She broke the kiss to say, “You remind me of my dead husband.”
“That’s probably a red flag.” So was the bracelet made of teeth, come to think of it.
“He was pathetic too,” she whispered. “Before I got ahold of him.”
Mike led Dina up through The House of Fallen Trees, holding her hand tightly and muttering calm reassurances. He was the scared one. She had trouble fearing this beautiful, old, expensive house. A worst it was just dark, which gave it the appeal of mystery and stories to be told.
The threat of the Reaper hadn’t shaken her. She didn’t know much, but she knew when a person knew what they were talking about, and Mr. Specter struck her as someone who knew just about everything. She’d be scared when he was.
“So, I found out when I was a teenager,” Mike started. “Back when I was an abject reject.”
“I don’t know if it was some of calling or just a coincidence... but I found a secret passage in my house where my mom kept everything she didn’t want my dad to know about.”
“A magic room full of the strangest, most amazing things I’d ever seen in my mundane suburban life.”
“In a moment of curiosity and desperation — going against everything I’d been taught to believe — I decided to try casting a spell.”
“A spell called Corpus Athleticus.”
“I think I’ve heard of that,” Dina said. “Wasn’t there some sports controversy or something?”
“Yeah, and there should be. It’s not right.” He bowed his head. “And I have no excuse for it other than that I was a stupid kid. I had no reason to think I wouldn’t fail at this the way I failed at the rest of my life.”
“But it worked.” He gulped. “Perfectly.”
“I didn’t take Mom long to figure out what I’d done, but being guilty of the exact same thing she really couldn’t stop me.”
“I did other spells too. No curses or anything; I never cast spells on other people. I just did stuff to help me clean my room or mow the lawn or...gradually alter my DNA.”
“So I went from a pudding faced, cowardly loser to a confident, athletic schmoozer. Dad just thought I was a late bloomer.”
“Soon enough, my sister caught on too, and freaked out over the ‘conspiracy’ Mom and I had against her. She more or less blackmailed her way into learning magic before she was ready.”
“This was back when they had all these magic secrecy laws and performing magic in front of a non-witch could get fined by the Spell Checkers. It didn’t take Bella long to get acquainted with them.”
“It’s no coincidence those laws are no longer in place.”
“Dad noticed something was up with Bella, he wasn’t that oblivious, but he just assumed it was Morty’s corrupting influence leading her to the dark side.”
“And he couldn’t stop her. She was the only one in the family brave enough to stand up to him.”
“If it had been me falling in love with a ‘weirdo’ it wouldn’t have gone anywhere, but my sister managed to find the one thing that the Goths and Bachelors had in common: old fashioned views on teenage pregnancy.”
“So she and Morty got married with Dad’s blessing. Though he certainly didn’t hate Morty any less for it.”
“That was right after I graduated high school. I was getting ready for college and a promising future full of lies.
“It started to rain, and I jumped on the chance to make myself feel like a hero by saving the reception.”
“The most important part of witchcraft — for someone who wants to hide it — is balance. Imbalanced magic has it’s side effects. Physical side effects that some people are more predisposed to.”
“That one little spell was what finally tipped the scales.”
“I didn’t realize what had happened until I saw the look of horror on my father’s face.”
“What was it?” Dina asked.
“A weird, weird skin condition. Not contagious or anything. Just weird, and embarrassing, and not something someone like my dad ever wants to see on his son.”
“And by my outing myself, I also outed my mother.”
“Dad walked out on us that night.”
“Don’t say it’s not my fault, because it really, really was.”
“It’s not only your fault; it’s everyone’s fault. You didn’t get to that place on your own; you can’t take all the guilt.” She scooted over close to him. “And it’s not the magic that was wrong, it’s the lying and cheating. Especially with people you love.”
“I know, but I can’t trust myself with it.” He shook his head. “And I can’t risk the side effects again. I wouldn’t be able to go out in public. I’ve already had students complain about my sister....anything more could literally ruin my life. Again.”
“I gave up magic entirely as soon as I got my skin back to normal. Eventually I gave up sports too because I still felt like a fraud. I’d built up enough...confidence, I guess, to get me through college, but by the time I ran into you it felt like I’d stretched everything as far as it could go. Like without magic I was just gonna rubberband back to being a loser.”
“You’re not a fraud, Mike. Or a loser. I’d have spotted that right away. I have excellent intuition about people’s personality traits.” She threw her arms around him and squeezed, hard, until he started to relax. “I don’t listen to it half the time, but I listened to it with you.”
“I have secrets too.”
He tilted his head. “Yeah?”
“I was going to tell you tonight, after the party, but I think now is the right moment.” She untangled herself from him and stood up.
“If you think so.”
“Well, um...” She couldn’t look at him and talk at the same time. “My grandfather was abducted and pollinated by aliens. And then he had my dad, who’s half alien. And I’m a quarter alien, even though I don’t look like it.” She’d given so much power to those words that she’d forgotten how simple they really were. “B-but I don’t pollinate people! And I didn’t abduct Ocean; I don’t know why that happened but I didn’t want it to. I’m not in contact with them or anything — I’m terrified of them!”
The response was dead silence. She turned further away, putting him out of her peripherals.
For all the trouble it had been to start talking, it was even harder to stop. “I never actually lied about it, it’s just not something that comes up. I mean, Ocean sure as hell didn’t care about my grandparents; he never listened when I talked about my family. Until he found out, and then - and then he wouldn’t even touch me. And the sad thing is I knew he was like that. I knew it from the beginning, but I made it happen anyway.”
She could have been talking to an empty room for all she knew now. “And that’s not the first time. I never had a boyfriend in high school because there were all sorts of rumors going on about me. I couldn’t even flirt without being accused of trying to trick everyone into carrying my alien larva...” There were worse examples but she felt drained enough as is, her brain was practically making slurping sounds.
“Well, that’s not what I’m going to do.” His closeness surprised her, she hadn’t noticed him get up.
“I know,” she sobbed. “I always know. I just...have trouble believing it.”
“Well, Dina...baby...” He held her tightly, rubbing her back and burying his face in her neck. “I kind of already knew about this.”
“What?” She broke the embrace. “Who told you?”
“No one. I just put the pieces together.”
Her eyes widened. “It’s that obvious?”
“No. It’s just because I was there after the whole abduction thing happened, and then when you scared Brigit...” He shrugged. “I didn’t know all the details; I just figured it was something like this. And I knew you would never...you know...”
“Well then why didn’t you tell me?!”
“It just seemed like a really delicate issue to pry into.”
She stared at him. “So...you still want me?”
“Dina...” he sighed. “I love you.”
Cut-text is from Beyonce’s Halo. My apologies for this taking so long, thank you to everyone who beared with me.
The Goth Mansion from the flashbacks is from Zeussims here.
Bella's red flag is a reference to Les Miserables. She just grabbed that one off that playground set.