Dancing with the Faeries

DANCING WITH THE FAERIES

 

THE FAERIE GLEN NIGHTCLUB

BOULDER, COLORADO

 

It’s Saturday Night and the Faerie Glen is busy, but not crowded. No special performances are planned for the evening, though go-go kids and oiled-up cuties of all genders and body types flit from table to table, serving drinks and food.

 

Nat is already here, flitting about more literally than the other employees; ey’s literally swooping through the air to give big hugs to regulars and employees ey hasn’t seen in a week.

Continue reading “Dancing with the Faeries”

A Stitch In Time: When Doors Open

From: Nat

To: Fi, Chad, Jess

<mms> hey loves

<mms> can u meet me on the rooftop garden near Fi’s

<mms> 23:00

<mms> theyll let u in

 

It was a bit breezy, that night, but warm and clear. The Damselfly floated at the end of the rooftop garden path, hands clasped behind eir back, and watched sparse clouds scud across the waning gibbous moon, squinted to try to make out the colonies on its surface.

 

What an amazing universe we live in now, ey thought.

 

Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: When Doors Open”

Snuggle Party

THE FLYING FORTRESS

INFIRMARY, ROOM 212

 

“So this game is apparently not, like. You don’t ‘win’ it? You just pay your mortgage. To a raccoon.” Nat explained, tilting the game system so Fi could see it.

 

“I don’t. Understand at- … at..” She kind of hushes, shrugs. “..why am I mortgaged to a raccoon?” She settles into her chair, brow quirked.

 

“Everybody in the game is an animal except the player, I guess. That’s why it’s called ‘animal crossing’. The raccoon is, like. A merchant guy.”

 

“Why.”

 

“Why what.”

 

Chad and Jess showed up hand in hand, and Chad blew kisses before running off to get the food ready!

 

“Why what what?” Jess poked her head in. “Heya babes!”

 

“Hiya! And ey’s – explaining … Animal-walking…” She glances over at Nat, unsure, “To me.”

 

“Jess! Hi!” Nat smiled. “Look, I’m conscious! For now!”

 

“It’s exciting! I’m excited. Are you excited?”

 

“Animals walking what?” She nudged the door wide open, and leaned on it flat against the wall, holding it open for Chad and his eventual armful of foooooddds.

 

“It’s very exciting! And animals crossing… I dunno, your path? It’s really about buying furniture, picking fruit, and paying your mortgage. Scott hacked it so I don’t have to play as a boy or girl.”

 

“Neat! That’s so great of him!”

 

“It is. I’d rather be flying around, honestly, but this helps. Also, they took off the straps on my hands and feet, finally, tho I’m still tied around the waist so I don’t float away in my sleep.”

 

“It was kind of funny the first night they let you out of the restraints. Bumped the ceiling constantly.”

 

“I don’t know why they didn’t keep me on at least one tether. There’s a reason I either sleep in a hammock or tied to Fi.”

 

Fi shrugs. “No idea, honestly. Was still kinda funny.” She hmhs. Opens her mouth. Stares blankly and slowly closes it. “i- .. I lost my train of thought.” Fi… does look awful tired.

 

Jess slid the door jam under the door and went to Fiona. “Snuggles, smoochbuddy?” She held her arm out.

 

“I mean- I like those, yes?” She kinda. Traps Jess in a big hug.

 

“Oh Fi, you… you gotta go home, sweetie. You’re not sleeping well here.”

 

No.” It’s quite firm. It’s also probably surprising in that Fi sounds sure of anything.

 

“I can tag you out and stay for you? Heck, you can even have my bed here. I don’t use it. And it’s all right for a bunk.”

 

“Fi, it’s all right. I’m all right. It’s just one more procedure, and I’ve had it done before once. Barely invasive. I… I really love having you here but I can see you wearing down.”

 

“I’m fine!” She punctuates this with a rather large yawn. Promptly looks annoyed.

 

That yawn prompted a squeeze hug.

 

Suddenly, an imposing figure appeared in the doorway: a brown-haired woman in a pantsuit, with her hair tied into a neat bun with ornamental hairsticks. She looked… serious.

 

“Adam Nova is visiting Madame Prestwich in the next room over, kids,” Tabitha said, “so no loud orgies, all right?”

 

And she strode away.

 

“…I’m not sure how offended I am right now. I’m going with “pretty”.”

 

“I heard loud orgies. You guys heard loud orgies? I sure did.”

 

“I’m busy being miffed right now, sugar.”

 

“Why’re you miffed? It seems like a reasonable request.”

 

“It’s also an incredibly presumptuous request that basically says a lot about how we’re viewed collectively.”

 

“Young and horny?”

 

“I think she was joking, but like. We kind of are a thing, and the earth staff around here is kinda thin so word travels fast.”

 

Fi grumbles.

 

“Okay but. Adam fucking Nova?”

 

“I guess?”

 

“Is it…is it like bad manners to gawk at Adam Nova?”

“she didn’t say we couldn’t. just no fuckin’.”

 

“I think I heard the door close, actually.”

“Damn.”

“They’ve ruined your plans.”

 

“does this mean the orgy is back on”

 

That’s an interesting shade of red Fi just turned. “I’m trying really hard to be mad why won’t you let me be mad?”

 

“Because being mad is bad for your health,” Nat smiles, “and I want to be a positive influence on you.”

“Since when is it bad?” … she does seem, if only slightly, mollified.

 

“Hey Jess.” Nat’s grin gets a distinctly evil cast to it. “Do you want to see something extremely adorable?”

“I don’t trust this.”

 

“Hah! Always!” Jess grinned.

 

Nat reaches up and places two delicate fingers on Fi’s jaw, gently turning her head so that their eyes meet.

 

“Hi, Fiona,” ey says, “I love you.”

 

Fi turns a brilliant shade of red. She also makes several very interesting, though probably nonsense sounds. Sputters. “uh-i- we-” … “loveyoutoo”  It’s.. kind of hard to tell what she said, since it was a good octave higher than her voice usually went.

 

Jess let out a soft yet high pitch squee. “eeeeeeeeeeee you two are so adorable!”

 

It gets worse. There is literally no way to describe the sound Fi makes after that, other than high-pitched and mortified. She also looks a bit woozy from all that blood taking up, apparently, permanent residence in her face.

 

Nat giggles, blushing a little bit emself. “Isn’t she absolutely darling? You should have seen how she reacted when I said I’d never fallen in love with anybody before.”

 

“why is the room not staying still?”

 

Jess gently gives Fi a squeeze, eeeing softly.

 

“Don’t faint, sweetie,” Nat puts a hand on Fi’s arm. “Deep breaths, okay? Have some water.”

 

“‘m not gonna faint…” She maybe did. Or maybe she just forgot how to words.

 

Nat and Jess both catch Fi at the same time and ease her onto the hospital bed; between the two redheads, about a normal human’s width is taken up on the bed, possibly less given how close Nat snuggles her.

 

“So, uh, yeah,” Nat smiles and shrugs a little sheepishly at Jess. “We’re a thing. I really like it.”

 

Jess held up her hand for a high five. “Hun, I’m like so happy for the two of you.”

 

Nat grins and returns the high-five. “Thanks. Me too. You’re an awesome metamour. Or whatever the kissfriend equivalent of that is.”

 

“….what’s a metamour?”

 

“Oh it’s a polyamory term,” Nat explains, petting Fi’s hair, “it means the person who’s dating a person you’re dating. Your love’s love. Some people use the term OSO, which means other’s significant other.”

 

“Ah, okay. Will remember it.” Jess fondly patted Fi’s shoulder. “You okay with her on the bed with you? I can move her to my room…and hope she doesn’t get lost when she wakes up.”

 

“I like her being on the bed with me. Now that my limbs are free I can snuggle properly. I just wish there were room for you on her other side!”

“i’m awake.” “That’s nice sweetie”

 

“Heyyyyyy better behave you guys.” Chad comes back in with his hands full of treats and food and games. “Then again…” he leans in to Nat and offers his cheek for smooching. “Long as it’s not a loud…uh…” a huge grin.

Nat rises from the bed a little and pecks Chad’s cheek, grinning.

He smooches her back and eyes Jess just in case she might smack him. He’s still pretty sure she might.

“Shhhhhh!” Jess said, with over exaggeration. “Adam Nova is next door. We can’t be too loud.” She winked.

 

“We got all the best shit for our sickie here.” he announced and spread food in front of Nat. “I hadta get mean to get them to heat it up right! You can’t just toss it in the nuker!” he scowled, then grinned at the others. “And after you eat, check it: SMAAAAAASH.” he held up a game disk looking super proud of himself. “I’m gonna kick alla your asses!”

 

Jess gladly grabs a handful of snacks and starts munching.

 

“I bet you will, cuz I’ve never played!” Nat laughs. “I got like no friends at college.”

 

“You got your XDS right?” he looked suddenly worried. “I can run an’ grab it if you don’t”

 

“Um, yeah, actually! Emi bought me one! I’ve been playing Animal Crossing, and like. It’s kind of fascinating how far games have come.”

 

“Blegh, Animal Crossing. No way.” He teased as if he didn’t like that game. “Check it – I got Monster Hunter 8 day it came out!” He looks in his bag. “Ok, we got enough controllers.” he sneaked a sneaky look at Jess all excited but thought he was being really subtle.

 

“An this is for you Nat.” he pulls out a gift bag and hands it over. Inside are Monster Hunter 7, Pokemon Yang, and LEGO Guardians of the Galaxy. There was also a Nintendo Eshop card for so Nat could grab some games.

 

“Can uh. Can I just watch? I’m not very. … good at the video game thing.”

 

“I’m not either!” Nat grinned. “I barely played ’em at all until today. I usually just go clubbing or read about bugs. I do wanna eat first, though, I’m finally back on solid food.”

 

“Yeah that’s cool. Eat up yo you gotta get better.” he started to set up the WiiMo and got the projection up on a bare wall. He had a few controllers and then pulled a package wrapped in orange paper out of the duffel. He got a big goofy smile. (There was a grandiose amount of food. Almost like the person that brought it had no idea other people didn’t eat as much)

 

Fi abruptly remembers her promise, scooting to the edge of the bed and giving both Chad and Jess pecks on the cheek. (Also big hugs but that’s kind of a given, one may surmise.)

 

Nat grins. “You’re all the best.”

 

Jess grins, grabbing a controller. “You guys are the best too. And, Cutey, I’m going to smash you.” Her grin was huge when she looked at Chad.

“I’m in a paranormal polycule and that is so cool

 

Fi, after a moment’s contemplation, picks up a controller. She stares at it like it may actually bite her.

 

“Aww you think you’re gonna. Ain’t no way!” He stuck his tongue out at her and noticed her controller. “Uh…actually that one’s for Fi and…”  He shuffled for a second and got all bashful. “

This one’s for you.” he handed her the wrapped box.

“oh my gosh”

“Isn’t he cute?”

“this is the greatest. yes he is.”

 

Jess made a little meeping sound. “For me? But why?” She took the box with both hands.

 

He scratched at the back of his neck. “Well I noticed when we were at your place the other night you ain’t got one.”  he admitted. The words kinda spilled out of his mouth. “Anyhow you were sayin’ you wanted to try Fire Fates and I had like a million points saved up and Black Ops 12 isn’t out til next month soo….” he got more and more shy until he trailed off.

 

“Nerd.” Jess was smiling fondly, then pulled Chad over for a quite detailed kiss.

Nat squealed, delighted.

Fi covers her eyes. Yes, really. Nat immediately sings, “don’t you daare close your eyes!” a la aladdin in her ear.”I swear to God, Nat. I- .. I don’t know what yet but you’ll regret this.” “maybe I can make it up to you.”

He went all droopy and tangled one of his big hands in her hair.

 

Jess giggled. “Dope.” Then in his ear. “I’m so gonna whup your ass.”

 

When she bit his ear he shivered and made a high little whuffle noise then blinked rapidly so he wouldn’t embarrass himself!  “Guuuurl.”

“Heeheeheehee.” She sneaks in a grope.

Evidently finding the scene inspiring, Nat nuzzled Fi’s cheek. “Look what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

 

“..a place where we’re all affectionate with each other and nobody feels slighted by it, and everyone is actually enjoying themselves?” It’s a little flat, like she’s trying to be properly sassy, but hasn’t mastered the right tonality, exactly.

 

“Mm-hmm,” Nat agrees, getting real close to her face. “Terrifying, isn’t it? I’m told it’s the kind of thing that’ll bring down society.”

 

Nat is far too close, bee-ess-oh-dee imminent. “Um. Yes it is definitely the scariest thing?

 

“So scary…” and now Nat’s kissing her deeply for the first time in days.

 

“Oksoyeahsmash….?” Chad was trying not to get distracted, the only problem was Jess was incredibly distracting. He was about to disappear into makeouts land.

 

Jess grinned. “Let’s go get some chairs in here.” She moved out the room, slapping Chad on the rump as she passed.

 

“You break it, you bought it!” he tossed to her as he grabs a whole stack of three chairs to bring back in.

 

Nat and Fi are still kissing when they come back in.

Yep.

 

This Closure

This Closure

FIONA’S APARTMENT

 

“Fionaaaa, let me innnnn I have to hug you really hard,” Nat drummed against the window, whining loudly enough to hear through the glass. “Also, stop locking this window!”

 

“Fiiiiii, I’m here too!” Jess’s head popped right beside Nat’s. “Fiiiiiiii! Let us innnnnnn!” She tapped on the window.

 

Chad came to the window and stuck his tongue out. Then pushed his mouth against the glass and made smooshy faces.

 

He opened the window and welcomed them in. “Heyyy it’s my hotties! C’mon in. There’s cake!” he pulled them in. “Fi’s um, busy but c’mon c’mon.”

 

“Whelp!” Jess clambered in after Nat. “We’ll get some coffee too, yeah?”

 

“I’ve still got some whole bean that was roasted on Sunday,” Nat zipped through the window without touching it; nothing but net. “I’ll start a press.”

 

Chad nodded and followed them in, grabbing Jess up for some righteous makeouts!

 

Nat giggled and started prepping the coffee, watching the makeouts intently as ey did.

 

“Hey.” he wrapped Jess up in his arms. “Man I’m glad to see you.” he whispered sincerely.

 

Jess grinned. “Missed you too, cute stuff.” She kissed him on the nose. She looked kinda nervous under her excitement.

 

“You guys,” Nat wibbled, eyes kinda dewy. “She said it on TV. She said that being queer was okay on TV. The Oathkeeper.”

 

“Glad nobody got too mad.” Chad said. He clearly didn’t get it but he was happy for everyone all the same. He cuddled Jess closer. He knew she was nervous and was pretty sure he knew why so he made sure to give her lots of love.

 

“Oh, they did,” Nat murmured, “the ones who were mad just weren’t in the room. I’m sure that… my parents are just fuming, wherever the fuck they are. Unless they’re dead, that’d be nice.”

 

He peeked at his twitter. “Yeah, some people are kinda being dicks about it.” a shrug. “I lost like 200 followers.” a shrug. “My moms’re happy though.”

 

“Moms!” Nat squeaked. “Chad I didn’t know you had multiple moms!! That… well, it at least contextualizes how you’re so chill about all this.” Gesturing at the assembled cuties.

 

“Haha! It’s…kinda a new thing but…” he shrugs. He didn’t seem to understand how he’d not be chill. “Hey Jess?  Come help me in the kitchen, huh?”

 

Once they were there he gathered her into his arms. “You’re pretty nervous, babe.” he said, voice low so only she can hear. “You gonna tell em today?”

 

Jess shifts. “Yeah. Think I’m gonna.”

 

“You afraid they’re gonna freak out?” he rubbed his thumb against her cheek.

 

“Dunno.” Jess shrugged helplessly.

 

He nodded. “Even if they do, I got your back. All the way.” he cupped her face so she knew he was serious. “Got that? I got you.”

 

Jess smiled at him. It was a little crooked, but it was there. “Okay.”

 

He smiled. “I l…I care about you a lot Jess.” he was trying to say something else but too shy. The others were here. “Lots. Ok? I got you.” He gave her a warm sweet kiss and hugged her close.

 

It was about that point that Fi, dressed in a shirt about five sizes too big for her wandered through the kitchen. She blinked once. Squinted. Rubbed her eyes. Turned an odd shade of red, and slowly backed out before reappearing in her customary hoodie-and-slacks.

 

“Um. Hi. Everyone?”

 

“Sweetie!!” Nat nearly knocked over the french press as ey zipped across the room to Fi, scooping her up and snuggling her. “Alice just came out as poly and bi! On television!!!”

 

She blinked. Once. “Uhm?” It’s entirely possible that she is not awake enough yet to truly comprehend all of those words in those sentences.

 

“Let’s… get some coffee in you.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Nat floated over to the kitchen with Fi still in eir arms, peering around it to smile at Jess and Chad. “Look who I found!” Ey chirped.

 

“Was I missing?”

 

“We were missing! You!” Ey nuzzled her cheek, then set her down.

 

“Aww there’s my Fi-bee.” he grabbed them both up in his big paws and cuddled them close.

 

“I was not missing. I was in bed. I wasn’t even moving.” She said defensively- Oh no! A Chad! She laughs, returning the hug. Kind of. She can’t quite properly hug Chad because size differences but she’s trying, damn it.

 

Jess clutched her mug with both hands, making nervously noisy slurps. She looked like she was getting more uncharacteristically jittery the more that she realised that it was getting close to the time she had to tell her cuties Her Big Not-So-Secret-But-Really-Yeah-It-Kinda-Was-One. “H-hey, Fi!” Sllluurrrpppppp.

 

“Hi-hi, Jess!” Pause. Squiiint. “Everything alright?”

 

“P-peachy!” Sluuurrrpppppppp. Okay. Maybe coffee was a bad idea. Now she was nervous and full of caffeine jitters.

 

“Hey.” Nat zipped over the kitchen island and gave Jess a close hug (though careful not to make her spill her coffee). “I know this stuff is real nerve-wracking, okay? But you don’t hafta be afraid. We’re your friends and partners. We’re not gonna judge you.”

 

“Okay, okay, okay.” Jess put the mug down. She rubbed her hands on her jean legs and took a deep breath.

 

“MymotherisnotfromEarthshelivedwithmydadhadmethenabandonedusandIfoundoutlikesixyearsagothatshe’sfromthePlanetJupiterandthatmeansI’mhalfalien.”

 

Jess stood there, doing that thing where she was trying to figure out if she need to lighting blast someone in the face or just run.

 

Chad snugged her closer and kissed her neck and whispered something secret in her ear. He looked at the other two, watching how they’d react. He definitely wasn’t holding her so she couldn’t run away! Ok, he was.

 

Nat blinked. “Oh, that’s it?” Ey said, then thought about it for a minute. “That’s kinda super cool, actually.”

 

What the crap did Jess just say? Fi lowered her head, mumbling what she thinks Jess said at a slower speed. After another minute she kinda blinks at Jess. “…Um. If I understood that right, that’s neat. If I didn’t, can you repeat that? Something about Jupiters and aliens.”

 

Okay, okay, chill reaction so far. Bolstered by this, Jess took another deep breath. “Okay, like my mother, she’s from the Planet Jupiter. She came to Earth to have me, then went away, then just left me at dad’s doorstep. That’s how I figure I have all these powers.” She shrugged.

 

“Dang,” Nat murmured. “Are you trying to find her now?”

 

Jess shrugged. “Dunno. But Scanner confirmed that I’m half alien. A ship to reach Jupiter is in the works. But, like. She abandoned us. Earth is totes home.”

 

“Why’d she do – well, I guess you don’t know. But um. If it’s worth anything, I’m really glad you are here…?”

 

Chad hugged her protectively and just listened for now.

 

Jess shrugged again. “She left a note on me. Dad could read half of it, but there were words only I could see. Something something, I’ve got no limits beyond the skies, and she thinks I’m going to Jupiter. I dunno. It sould like a bunch of Sailor Moon crap.”

“Hee hee I smooched sailor Jupiter.”

 

“Well like. I hope you get that you don’t have to do anything an absent parent says,” Nat’s voice is adamant. “But if you want to, Jupi, we are right behind you. We love you and we’ve got yer back.” Nat didn’t bother to check with anybody else. Nat rarely bothered to check with anybody else when it came to offering support.

 

Jess beamed like a ray of sunshine. “Thanks you guys. I was like ninety percent sure you weren’t going to run screaming, but like…I dunno, it’s so weird, still. Dunno if I want to go to Jupiter, but Scanner and Alice are excited.”

 

Jess then paused, scratching the back of her head. “And, uh, yeah. This is dumb. Mom called me the last princess of Jupiter in her note. So I’m fifty percent sure she’s just cray cray.”

 

“But Jupiter sounds like all kinds of fun. All that crushing atmospheric weight and-” Suddenly Fi blinks. “…Huh. I wonder if you’re a special case as far as Ju…jupiterians? Jupitites? Goes. I mean… you can fly and you have lightning.”

 

Jess shrugged like it was going out of fashion. “I know crap all about Jupiter. It’s a gas giant? It’s huge? There’s loads of storms? How do people even live on a gas giant that’s a total storm ball all the time?”

 

Fi shrugs in agreement.

 

Chad spoke up. “So the point is, Jess is a alien and we don’t care cause we like her anyway. Right?” he looked to the others.

 

“Obviously,” Nat nodded emphatically, “none of us have any problem with that. She’s cool and a dynamite kisser and just a really kind and cool person.”

 

“See, babe? Di-No-Mite.”

 

Jess grinned big and wide. And that was that.

 

Where There’s Smoke: Smoke and Mirrorballs

Smoke & Mirrorballs

 

THE FLYING FORTRESS

 

Someone had taken the Damselfly.

 

The whole point of the Damselfly, of Nat in the Legion, was to be bait. The problem was that a Legionnaire had given into the lure.


“This shouldn’t be…” Alice said, white in the face. “We screen people. We only recruit heroes. Villains go for Nat.”

Smokescreen, the Legionnaire who had taken Nat, was leaving a trail. She was tweeting as the Damselfly.

 

“It’s not that simple, Alice.” Tabitha said, trying to be reassuring.

Continue reading “Where There’s Smoke: Smoke and Mirrorballs”

Where There’s Smoke: Second Album Syndrome

SECOND ALBUM SYNDROME


Chad listened to the challenge from the loud speakers, took a breath and made to set Fi down. “Okay. I’m gonna…”  

 

Good enough for Fi. She stormed right inside.  

Continue reading “Where There’s Smoke: Second Album Syndrome”

Where There’s Smoke: The Hangover

A pool of flames and boiling blood erupted outside, and a tall figure in plate mail arose from it. He was carrying two figures – one over his shoulder, and another under his arm. He handed the smaller figure over to Gretchen, and then began to walk away with the unconscious Smokescreen.

 

“Drop the rogue agent!” Someone shouted. A poised woman in a flak vest, brown hair done up in a neat bun, ran onto the scene. She raised a stun pistol and fired it several times, but the bolts just bounced off the figure’s armor.

 

Callister ignored the bolts, not even deigning to smile at Tabitha Armitage. His bloody pool bubbled at his feet, and with each step, he disappeared. The bolts ting!ed off his armour, hitting the pavement. And then, he was gone.

 

Sawbones was there, with a kit at the ready. She went to Nat instantly, ignoring everything else.

 

The combat-suited woman holstered her stun pistol, cursing under her breath. She ran to where Sawbones was already attending to Nat. She looked like she was about to say something, but hesitated, nodded, and left her alone. She turned and strode toward Alice and the medic vainly trying to calm her down.

 

“Alice. Please.” Gretchen mumbled, settling Nat onto the ground so Sawbones can do her thing, and returning her attention to the panicky Paladin. “I do not think se-” She trails off, noticing her new company.

 

“It’s ANATHEMA, SHE IS BACK GIVE ME THE PHONE I NEED IT ARE YOU LEGION I AM A LEGION GENERAL GIVE ME THE PHONE -”

 

Alice Elizabeth McGowan,” Tabitha barked sharply, and Alice froze stock-still.

 

“T-T-T-T-T-T-Tabitha!” Alice said, hands frozen in panicked grabby motions around Gretchen, her face transfixed in a mixture of horror and an awkward grin as if it was possible to play this off.

She paused for a moment, thinking about her next line.


“Tabitha!” She repeated, this time less high pitched.

 

“I’ll… take her from here, Gretchen, thanks,” Tabitha shifted the infrequently-worn stun pistol’s holster further to the side and crouched down beside Alice. “Okay first thing, hon, let’s do a hug. Okay?”

 

The sound of music could be heard emanating from the club. Instead of dance music, it was the Sound of Music’s So Long, Farewell. Soapy bubbles carried the club staff, the Damselfly, and eir heroes to the club entrance with the rest of the Legion.

 

Nat stirred, groaning and coughing.

 

Fi ran in her bubble like it was a hamster ball before realizing that she could pop it, then kneeled next to Nat. “Nat?” she asked, cautiously.

 

Ey seemed to react to that.

 

“Nat? Yes?” Fi tried again.

 

With eyes closed, Nat reached out to touch Fiona’s face. “Fi. Fi. Fiona. Fiona, Fiona, Fiona.”

 

“Shh. Shh,” Fiona says, taking Nat’s hand. “Hey. Hey, I’m here, alright? Not going anywhere. And-” she looked around. “There’s like sixteen people here. You’re safe,” she said, trying to sound soothing.

 

Nat gripped Fi’s hand and practically tried to climb her arm, drawing her close. “The… she said, she—I thought I’d never see you again…”

 

The Legion gathered around, arguments and frustration forgotten. Nat was one of theirs, one of their family, and ey was safe.

 

Bugs, Drugs, and Electro Soul

THE FAERIE GLEN NIGHTCLUB

BOULDER, COLORADO

 

Excitement hung in the air, an electric tension that vibrated through the speakers, stage, and patrons alike. The Faerie Glen was reopened, its previously-hospitalized employees were ready to work, and after weeks of being gone, the Damselfly was coming back to perform again!

 

The lobby bar was nearly empty, but the dance hall was not; there was enough space to travel the room as needed, but the crowd got very thick at the edges of the stage. The Damselfly wasn’t mingling yet, but eir friends Alex and Adam were winding through the crowd, serving drinks and flirting with their relieved regulars.

 

((roll call! Once you’ve chosen a color, please feel free to write your character’s entrance below.

Narration is, as always, black. The Damselfly is fuchsia!

Chrys is a sad, wilty moss green.

Kay Washington is a classy hunter green.

))

 

Kay strolled into the club, full of excitement. Boulder’s famous para strip club, finally open, and she had finally managed to carve out the time to visit. She surveyed the crowd and chose a seat at the bar. When did the show start?

[appearance notes: Kay’s a young white woman wearing pressed black slacks, a flattering blue blouse, and snappy glasses. Her light brown hair is in a pixie cut.]

 

Chrys, and her ever-present, unfitting Not-Victorian Dress sauntered into the club, peering around. After a moment of contemplation, she figured that the people sitting near the stage surely knew something she did not, and headed that way, settling in at an empty table.

 

Shouldn’t- Shouldn’t there be like, menus and stuff? This is confusing. Wait. Should she have waited for someone to seat her ughh society. Fortunately, Chrys being Chrys manages to forget all of that in about the space of thirty seconds, and settles for staring off into space, rocking a bit to music that surely was not coming from the speakers.

(Chrys wears a black* dress that looks vaguely victorian in design, but hasn’t got nearly enough ruffles or ribbing. She always looks vaguely pleased about something, too. Just because. Said dress being nearly floor-length means the rest of her outfit is a mystery, and she has reddish hair tied back into a braid ‘roundabouts halfway down her back.)

 

As Kay gets settled, a baby-faced young man dressed in a revealing tuxedo-themed leotard and fishnets sweeps by. She notes a transgender symbol tattoo on his collarbone, and a fading bruise on his cheek. “Have you been seen to, honored guest?”

 

Around the same time, a Greek Statue of a boy with black curly hair appears near Chrys. “Oh my goodness, I just love your outfit!” He gushes.

 

Kay smiles at the server. “No, I haven’t, and I’d love to be. Does this place have a cocktail menu?”

 

“Absolutely. While our bartenders are amazing, and can whip up just about anything you can ask for, here are our themed drinks this season.” The young man hands Kay a laminated card, then beams. “I’m partial to the Firecracker, but that’s cuz it’s named after me.” Wink.

 

“Cuuute. Tell me what you’re made of, Firecracker.”

 

“Snips and spice, and some tails are nice. But the drink is cinnamon whiskey, sour apple schnapps, and cranberry mist soda… with a garnish of pop rocks.”

 

“Ha! Pop rocks in a drink? Okay, I’ll try it. Can you open me a tab?” She fiddles with her wallet and hands him a card. “Also … do you know when the Damselfly’ll be dancing tonight? I’m a huge fan of eirs.”

 

“Yeah, ey’s getting ready now. Should only be a few minutes. I’ll put in your order!”

She stops her constant rocking, smiling. “Why, thank you,” she chirps. “I find myself fond of it as well … maybe I should-” And she just trails off. Right there.

 

“You really should!” He agrees. “May I get you anything? Food or drink, or if there’s a dancer you’d like some private time with, the champagne room is open.”

 

“Oooh. Well! I’ve never been here before. Maybe you could suggest something?” She glances about once more, then shrugs. “I’m er. Not particularly familiar with most things I suspect are served here.”

 

“We love introducing people to new things.” His smile was just so darn genuine. As genuine as his pectorals were shiny. “Come right this way! Do you have any dietary restrictions?”

 

He leads Chrys toward a seat at the bar, only a couple of seats away from where Kay sat.

 

“I only have dietary restrictions if I eat too much,” is her simple reply. “Oh. And silver. But I don’t think that there’s some sort of liquor with silver in it. That seems a waste.”

 

“Silver!” He exclaimed, showing her to a seat two away from Kay. “Are you a real fairy, then?”

 

Chrys grins bright. “Usually I’m asked if I’m a werewolf.” She does not actually answer the question. And of course, she takes the offered seat.

 

“Fairy or werewolf alike, you’re certainly welcome here. After all, one of our performers is a predatory insect!” He grins. “I’m going to start you off with the Zygoptera cocktail. It’s named after the Damselfly emself. Elderflower liqueur, berry-infused vodka, and a touch of limoncello. I’ll also put in an order for our hand-cut potato chips. Does that sound all right, mythical guest?”

 

“Perhaps not so mythical! Mostly. I think.” She trails off, then nods. “But yes! All of that sounds quite lovely.”

 

“Great! The chips will be a bit, but I’ll try to make sure you have your drink before the Damselfly goes onstage.” He slips behind the bar, whispers to someone, and continues on his route, leaving the two new guests alone for the moment under the club lights and gently pulsing music.

 

Chrys waves cheerily and resumes swaying to whatever it is that she hears – it’s certainly not to the same beat as the music.

 

Kay turns in her seat to greet the newcomer. “Hey there. Come here often?” Her ever-so-slightly-smirk-like smile says “yeah, I know it’s an old line, but it’s a good one”.

 

She glances at Kay – this time, the not-quite-synchronous movement does not stop. “Oh. No. Unless something happened I am unaware of, I have never been here before. It seems nice. I may make it a habit.”

 

“Oh hey, it’s my first time too. I’m Kay.”

 

“Chrys. Or Chrysanthemum. I do not particularly care. A pleasure to meet you, Kay.” Another brilliant smile. It’s a bit hard to imagine her doing anything else, really.

 

“Nice to meet you, Chrys. So … you got the flirty treatment from your server too, didn’t you.”

 

“Oh, yes. Or.. I think so? He asked if I was the sort of person who lives under hills. Quite the compliment, I suppose. Fairies are supposed to be quite fetching.”

 

“Hmmm. Well, are you?” She leans a little closer, propping one elbow on the bar.

 

“One Firecracker and a Damselfly,” the Greek Statue beamed, setting cocktail glasses in front of the two. “The Damselfly is about to perform, but we’ll have those chips out for you soon, and if you need anything, ask for Adam. That’s me. Or Alex, who is the other fellow serving this area. Anything more I can do for you two before the stage lights darken?”

“Ooh, thank you!” Kay takes her drink, watching the pop rocks sputter in the liquid. “You’re a sweetheart, Adam, I think I’m all set. D’you need anything, Chrys?”

 

A shake of her head. “No, no thank you. This looks lovely.”

 

“Wonderful. Then—oh, there go the lights. See you soon, dear guests!”

 

Sure enough, the lights were going down on the room, and the crowd got a bit more hushed. A minute later, the lights focused on a point in midair and the Damselfly emself descended from the ceiling into that focus, lit on all sides and in a costume that appeared to be made of rope, with weights dangling from the sleeves.

 

To a thrumming electro beat, Nat danced. It was a fairly new routine, and very complicated; the weights spun, ropes coiling and uncoiling around different parts of eir body. Each new trick elicited cheers from the audience, and when ey finally cast the weights up into the ceiling, barely clad in anything at all now, the crowd roared its appreciation to the Damselfly’s bow.

 

Kay had been about to say something to Chrys when the lights went. As soon as the Damselfly made eir appearance, her mouth fell open and whatever she’d been thinking was completely gone.

 

She was transfixed, barely even aware enough to clap or cheer, but when the last moment came and the Damselfly made eir last flourish, she clambered onto her barstool and screamed as one with the room.

 

Chrys makes an odd little noise and becomes incredibly interested in her drink, until about halfway through the performance. Her clapping is much more subdued than most, inaudible above the cheers, whistles and considerably more enthusiastic applause.

 

Occasionally she cants her head this way or that, seeming to make a note of something the Damselfly just did, but for the most part, she goes between looking at her drink and looking at the performance.

 

At the end, the most audible thing from her – that is still probably lost in the crowd – is a loud “Well done!”

 

Once ey’s taken eir bows, Adam walks up to the front of the stage and beckons Nat over. Ey zips down and listens to him, then perks up, smiles, and grabs an appetizer basket from the young man.

 

Three seconds later, Nat is hovering just over the bar, setting the basket in front of Chrys, mere feet from Kay. “You came!” Ey exclaims.

 

Kay’s dropped jaw closes, just enough for her to let slip a high-pitched “fuck”. She takes a slurp of her drink

 

Chrys nods quickly. “Yes. I said I would.” Beat. “At least, I believe I did. Gia was attempting to learn whether or not Assmaster – our bird. Her bird? – wanted us to help wizards, or wanted us to help with problems caused by wizards.” Chrys sounds absolutely, utterly serious.

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Nat says, smiling broadly, “but I’m happy you came to see me! Who’s your friend?” Indicating Kay.

 

“The bird – it only says “Help wizards.” She starts to introduce Kay, but–

 

Kay grins and extends a hand to the Damselfly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Damselfly. I’m a huge fan. Kay Washington. I absolutely loved your performance.”

 

“I love huge fans!” Nat hovers a little closer and shakes her hand. Eir hand is small and delicate, just like she imagined, but has a rigid strength behind it too. God, ey smells good. What the fuck, is that eir sweat? Fuck! “Lovely to meet you, Kay! Thank you for coming to my welcome-back performance!”

 

hhhhHHHH, get it together, Kay, you’re not a teenager anymore. She grips eir hand firmly and then returns her hand to the Firecracker. “I’m a bit of a…” – don’t say collector don’t say connoisseur FUCK – “… fan of paras, in general. So. You caught my attention.”

 

“I can see how that could happen. Yes.” Chrys nods. “You are very…” And then she just trails off again. But actually picks it up this time, wonder of wonders. “…Impressive. Grace and control.”

 

“Aw, thanks Chrys. It’s my calling, honestly. I feel more comfortable up there than anywhere else. And Kay, you’re a para fan? That’s great, you’re in the right place. Paras from every faction come here! In fact—Chrys, you’re a Paranormal too, right? I know you’re a Legionnaire.”

 

Chrys inclines her head slightly. “That is correct. Perhaps not the most notable or interesting, but certainly … mh. Unusual.”

“Aw, c’mon. You’re noteworthy and I don’t even know what you do.

“Does that work that way?” Sounds like an honest question.

 

“Yes, I’ve been enjoying myself a lot. The…” She swallows. “The service is incredible here. Y-you’re incredible. Nat. Can I call you Nat?”

 

“Aw~ Kay, sugar, please do. You’re too sweet. I wish more of my friends were here so I could introduce you.”

She shakes her head. “Hah, not a problem – I’ll be back. Soon. For sure.” She’s … focusing very directly on Nat, making eye contact with em.

 

Chrys does not seem especially inclined to interrupt the little chat, resuming her little swaying-dancing once more, now that she’s not being jarred out of it by confusing thoughts like “Do I look at the Damselfly?”

 

Nat returns the gaze for a moment, then something weird happens. Ey seems to… see something in Kay’s expression, something behind her eyes, and the flirtatious expression pulls back, the sincerity pulls back, replaced by a… a caution. Eir face is still openly friendly, but ey noticed something that gave em pause, and when ey speaks again, it’s to Chrys.

 

“Didn’t you say you might bring your girlfriend, Chrys?”

 

“Oh, yes. That would be Gia. She was arguing with our – her – .. the bird again.” Her voice lowers a bit. “I personally suspect the bird is mocking her because of the name she gave it.” She takes a drink from her cocktail. “That, and she was feeling under the weather.”

 

Kay takes a long sip, then stands up, pushing back from the bar. “I think … I should get some air, for a second. But don’t go anywhere.” She grins and walks off.

 

“That makes sense! Lovely talking to you!” It was genuine, just… reserved. As Kay walked away, Nat continued speaking to Chrys. “I guess I would be pretty irritated if somebody named me Assmaster…”

 

“Assmaster Nine Thousand, in full. No. I do not know why. … It seems nice enough, and I’ve never seen it command a mule.”

 

“Um, ‘ass’ also means butt, Chrys.”

 

“Can one truly be a master of posteriors?”

 

“I do my best, but no. Not really. Gia seems like an interesting person.”

 

She clasps her hands a bit. “You would probably enjoy meeting the rest of me. I like to think most people do.”

 

Nat opens eir mouth, closes it, squints, then drifts down to the barstool. “So tell me more about how you’re more than one person.”

 

Chrys blinks. “Gia does all of the other things. The things I don’t do.” It’s not a very good explanation, but it seems perfectly sensible to the theoretical half-a-person. She eyes her cocktail, drains it. “Well. We do some of the same things. Gia is very good at video games.”

 

Someone pokes his head out into the room. “Yoooo.”

 

“Chad!” Nat grins and waves him over. “Chrys, have you met the Brozerker?”

 

“Not as such.” She inclines her head at Chad  “Good evening.”

 

((Tag)) [hey all it might be time to merge the streams? – tili]((yeah let’s all skip to the bottom. -inu))

 

[THIS SCENE MERGES WITH THE OTHER AFTER THE NEXT SECTION]

 

 

On the street outside the club, Kay leans against the wall and hugs her arms to herself. What in the fuck is this?

 

She pulls out her phone and starts googling:

“Damselfly secret powers”

“Damselfly pheromones”

“Damselfly magic”

 

The results are… inconclusive, but suspicious. Lots of creepy men’s rights rhetoric, a trail of arrests, weird stalkers, and a truly stunning number of very, very obsessed people. It wouldn’t be hard to extrapolate that there is something… paranormal about the Damselfly’s ability to draw people in, but there’s just no proof.

 

A woman strides down the sidewalk, sizing up the Faerie Glen’s entrance like it’s the entrance to something truly terrifying. She takes a few steps forwards, then back. She’s a slender blonde, and at first you hardly notice her, but her third rotation finally draws your eye.


Wait, that face. The hair is wrong, but…

 

Kay looks up. Oh, my god. This is her lucky night. She pockets her phone and strides up to her. “Hi there. Are you looking for something?”

 

“Uh, haha, me? Well, y’know, I got a friend who works here, as a… dancer? I think that’s the right term. And I was thinking about, y’know… saying hi… as a friend, just dropping in to see my friend.”

“Oh sure! Uh … please don’t take this the wrong way, but I follow the news, and … are you Alice McGowan?” She smiles in what she hopes is a disarming fashion.

 

“…I am. Please tell me you’re not taping this.”

“Oh, jeez, no, I’m sorry.” She holds out a hand. “Kay Washington. I’m not press, don’t worry, just a fan.”

 

Alice shakes it. Her grip is firm. “Nice to meet you, Kay. Always great to meet a fan. Um, is there anything I can do, like, sign something or…?”

She laughs. “No, thanks. Ah, if you were hoping to catch Damselfly’s performance, I’m afraid you’re a little late … though ey might dance again tonight, I guess? I’m not sure what the schedule’s like.”

 

“Oh, that’s perfect, it’ll mean ey have clothes on.” (editor’s note: no it won’t) Alice breathes a sigh of relief. “I’m going to head in. Are you on your way out for the night?”

“No, no, just getting some air. It’s a little … close in there. But I was just talking to Nat when I left – I can show you right to em.”

 

“Fantastic! Thank you so much.”

((tag -transition?)) [yes I think so -Tili]

 

((MEANWHILE BACK IN THE FAERIE GLEN))

 

“Well, okay! Chad, this is Chrys. Chrys, Chad. Chad is a Legionnaire too, goes by Brozerker. He’s a great party guy, and he’s dating Jess, I think, and me too. We’re kind of like this… polycule thing.”

 

Fascinating.” And Chrys seems to mean that.”I’ve not heard of such things. Well. Outside of fiction.” She throws another smile at Nat.

 

“Hey Chrys!” he grinned. “That’s a word Nat made up but I like it cause it don’t mean nothing.” Chad said, very confidently, and grabbed Nat up for massive makeouts.

“Mmf!” Nat is swept up and kissed before ey has time to react, but leans into it pretty quickly.

 

A pleas-ohmy.” Chrys sort-of-sputters. Oh no. Her drink is empty. What to do what to do. Uh. Back to sort-of-swaying-and dancing. Just do that more intently. Safe plan. Grand plan.al

That boyish guy that was serving Kay earlier sweeps by and murmurs, “Another?” At Chrys’s nod, he sweeps away to comply.

 

Kay walks back into the club with a new friend in tow, and quickly rejoins Nat and Chrys at the bar. She waves hello to Chrys and … blinks, seeing that Nat is now … busy.

 

Alice looked at Nat and Chad, looked at the stage, and turned to the nearest employee. “Do you have wine?”

Chrys pretty much falls out of her seat, then turns it into a rather impressively intentional leap to her feet. She curtseys. “Ah. Good evening!”


Nat squeaks, then wriggles out of Chad’s grasp. “Okay so first of all, I didn’t make the word up, it’s totally a thing. Second: Alice!!”

 

Ey swoops over to the off-duty Oathkeeper and gives her a big hug.

 

Oh god, ey smells like emself and Chad. It’s like if Axe Body Spray actually did have pheromones in it.

 

Alice makes a face over Nat’s shoulder, but pats the Damselfly on the back, before realizing how few clothes ey is wearing. “Yes. Um, hello, I… wanted to thank you for come seeing me in the hospital, and…” She makes eye contact with the server and mouths: Bring the bottle.

The oiled-up greek statue of a boy winks and moves to obey.

 

Kay is breathing. Breathing. She looks at one of those drink-menu cards and realizes what she must do. Beckoning over the bartender, she orders a Zygoptera.

 

“Of course I came to see you in the hospital, you– you’re like–” Nat huffs, finally releasing Alice and folding eir arms. “I care about you, okay?”

 

“I care about you too, bug, and that’s why I’m… here.” Alice gladly accepts her first glass of red wine.

 

“Oh my gosh, you’re even using the Boss’s nickname for me. Um. Are you and Tabs okay yet? That was like. Awkward for a while.”

 

“Don’t worry. We made out. UP. We made up.” Alice finishes her glass of wine and pours another.

 

Nat gaped, then covered eir mouth with both hands, eyes glittering with poorly-suppressed glee. Fannish excitement and the desire to keep her eyes on Nat are as one in this moment filling Kay with joy.

 

“Those are very different words,” Chrys says in a tone that suggests this is useful information, and then she goes back to her delicious drink, and her not-quite-dancing.

 

“It’s the wine. Ha ha! Chad, how are you?”

His eyes went wide. SO wide. “Sexy…boss….ladies.” his brain is just a mess of mice running about very excited.

 

Alice poured herself some more wine and shook her head, lips pursed.

 

Kay takes a deep breath – wait, god dammit, that doesn’t help, stop doing that – and says, “So, Nat, who’s the boy?” Did that sound nonchalant? It sounded nonchalant, and not infuriated, right?

 

Chrys. Sort of scoots over a few chairs. Just in case people feel like they gotta get their makeouts on again.

 

“Oh, uh. Kay, hi.” Nat squints, like he didn’t expect her to… look the way she looks now? It’s not clear what ey was expecting but it wasn’t the Kay of right now. “Well, um, this is Chad. He’s one of my partners, and he’s also seeing my primary’s girlfriend. Oh shit, sorry, do these terms make any sense to you?”

 

Alice listens in, and it’s clear she’s mentally taking notes.

 

“Man Nat is so cute talkin like that.” Chad says, all starry eyed. It’s not really clear if he understands it all.

 

A man in black full body armor, along with an adorable german shepherd with a fabulously shiny coat walk in. He seems kind of awkward. “Uh. Don’t panic anybody. The big guy is new here and comes in peace.”

“Markus!”

 

“Markus mah MANNNN SUP BRAH!?”

“Uh, yeah, no, you’re … poly? I guess? Cool, good for you.” “…thanks?” She’s definitely still staring at Nat, but at least it’s a little less intense now. “Nice to meet you, Chad. I’m Kay.”

 

“Yo, sup.” he offers his massive hand. His handshake has hints of being practiced so as not to accidentally crush anyone.

 

Through the doors, a gigantic snake thing slithers through the door. There are muscles that seem to be without skin on the upper torso, a wide bone structure around the head. Its upper and lower jaws are so full of teeth that it looks like a great white’s wet dream. Eight eyes cover the massive skull, tilting this way and that as a number of humans, staring at it, and its staring right back at them with the cats eyes.  Two gigantic forelimbspikes made of alien steel help it slither along. Tiny little millipede like legs help the slithering, sinous movements of its tail as it rears up to its full height 8 feet, looking around.

 

Mentally, it broadcasts. “This is the breeding ground? So many lights.”

 

Nat stares at the creature, then at Markus. “I hope this doesn’t violate our fire code,” ey murmurs.

Kay frowns, staring at the monster in the door. To the group of people nearby, she asks, “Did you all just hear that? About … lights?”

 

Markus waves at his friends. “Nat! BRO! How’s it hanging!” And then his friend slithers in. He hears it’s call and just turns to him, tilting his head. You could only imagine the look on his face. “That’s so rude Ten. “Ten that asshole kid from twitter?”  You need to study earth culture more. So rude.” He shook his head. “This is a….uhhhh….Nat. Can you help me educate. Pretty please?”

 

“Nah he’s the space ambassador man.”

 

Chrys brightens – yes, brightens. Her swaying continues apace, but she waves. “Oh! Hello hypothetical predator. It’s a pleasure to properly meet you!” Even the Ambassador gets a brilliant smile.

 

“Um,” Nat stammers, mind racing. Explaining weird stuff to people who didn’t understand it was kind of eir thing, though, and so it only took a few seconds: “Well… Ten? This is a multi-purpose entertainment venue. It’s not used as a mating ground, but sapients seeking mates may find suitable candidates here and then take them elsewhere for actual mating. In addition, controlled ingestion of psychotropic and mood-altering toxins, consumption of indulgent sustenance, and bright and loud stimuli can create a heightened emotional state that many people find exciting. I guess that’s sort of… a start?”

 

“Yeah we come here to PARTY!” Chad whooped with a fist pump!

 

Markus clapped his hands together and then pointed at the two of them. “Yes! That and that! You guys do have like….concepts of fun where you come from right? I’m happy to explain earth customs but sometimes I need some insight on how…the whole. Hive mind thing works. Yeah.” Markus scratched the back of his helmet.

 

The Ambassador lowers itself to its normal height of about six feet, the snakelike lower body coiling slightly. The eyes focus on Nat, and then one to the side focuses on Markus as they speak. After a moment, it broadcasts what can be translated into words, something like “We do not understand the concept of party. And it is a type of Earth Plumage. Interesting. To attract mates, and ingest artistic design enhancements. Our *untranslateable* design and commune with unique designs, sharing their visual and sensual experiences with the One Mind.” It slithers closer to Nat and the rest of the group, lower mandibles clacking and separating.

 

“That is our fun. New creations to be shared and sensed. As well as the Hunt.”

“Whoa, that’s…deep, man.”

 

As Ten approaches, Kay looks more and more agitated, fidgeting with the swizzle stick in her drink and tapping her fingers on the bar. When it finishes … speaking? She stands up, looking more than a little unsteady. “God, I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling well – where’s the restroom?”

 

“I gotta get out of here myself,” Alice confines in a low voice to Markus. “I’m drunk, and this is an alien race I haven’t met – this is a major diplomatic incident waiting to happen. Where’s the back door?”

 

The Faerie Glen staff appears from nearly out of nowhere to assist.

 

“Right this way,” Alex coos to Kay, leading her about toward the back of the club.

 

“A discreet exit for the discreet hero,” Adam smiles, guiding Alice in a similar but slightly different direction.

 

Chad shoots Nat a concerned look and an unspoken message, and stands quickly to escort Alice. “Oh, um. Hi,” the Greek Statue of a boy also escorting her looks up at Chad appreciatively. “Hey. Aaaa…..dam right?” he tries and winces a bit anticipating a fuckup. “I got this, you prob’ly wanna…keep a eye on things.” he almost runs into a pole. “Lookin’ good bro!” he blurts. Dammit!

 

Kay makes it into a stall and locks the door. There’s a horrible squelching, ripping noise from inside it. Alex, waiting outside the restroom, feels a cold shiver and doesn’t know why.

 

“Oh uh…right.” Markus says as Alice and Kay flee. He had gotten kind of used to this reaction when touring the big snake shark around town. “Huh. Well if you want to learn the concept of the party….I bet Chad can help us out with that sometime.” He frowned a little anyways though. He doubted the big alien dude would get it even if they tried. Worth a shot though.

 

Chrys is an excellent metronome. She keeps watching Ten and Markus, occasionally taking a long drink from her cocktail. And then it’s gone and oh no so are the servers oh noooo. She makes a small noise of sheer despair.

Chris to the rescue! Another employee, not quite as cut as Adam but still quite fit, swoops in and asks, “What are you drinking, honored guest?”

“Damselwhatsits.”

“One Zygoptera, coming up.”

“Yeh.”

 

“Alice!” Nat hisses after eir boss, then makes a ‘call me!’ gesture. Ey casts a concerned look over at the bathroom and receives a helpless shrug from Alex in response. After a moment of discombobulation, ey turns to the Tenebrian Ambassador. “Please don’t hesitate to ask about anything you want to know. I’ll be dancing again in a bit.”

 

The Ambassador clicks its mandibles together once, and there is a general feeling of agreement broadcasted towards Nat. One eye looks towards the exiting Alice. “That one smelled of one of your champions. And alcohol.” Another eye notices Chrys, whining about the alcohol. “Have we caused another incident?” “No. I am just not the best at crowds.” The ambassador sways like a snake, eyeing the humans. The massive forearm spikes help draw the ambassador over towards Markus. “We would appreciate seeing Earth artistry. The color mix is pleasing to the senses.” It settles a little in a coil near one of the bars, shaking its head.

 

“It’s impolite to talk about people’s smells.”That is how we identify your species. You all look the same.” Especially when they are in earshot.”  Markus scolded, a tone of voice the ambassador was no doubt at this point used to. “And I don’t think that was a general, I mean sure they look a little like alice but….I don’t think she’s ever had her hair that short.” He shrugged. “Let’s find a table with chairs we can move out of the way, and I will buy you a drink my friend.” As he walks by he quietly thanks every server dearly for being so cool about him possibly scaring their customers away.

 

Chrys and her swaying halt – rather abruptly. She seems almost alarmed by her own stop. She blinks, noticing Alex. Waiiiit. Wait. Hang on. Kay went that way. Now that fellow looks concerned. She slides out of her seat and strides over to Alex. “….Is ah. Is there a problem? You look–” She gestures. Vaguely. Surely Alex will be able to interpret her hand-waving.

 

“Just, ah, keeping track of the nice lady who’d been sitting with you. I think she might be sick?”

 

There’s a noise from the stall like claws on the tile, or scraping against the door.

 

“..That is the most impressive bout of sickness I have ever head,” Chrys says somewhat flatly. “..I. Believe I ought to check on her, yes?”

 

“You’re both– Nat’s friends, right? Yeah maybe you should. Yes.”

 

“Yes.” It is completely impossible to tell if she’s agreeing that they’re Nat’s friends or that she should be checking. If the door’s not locked though, she’s gonna head straight in. Nothing bad could ever come of busting into a (rest)room unannounced.

 

The Tenebrian slithers after Markus, hissing quietly to itself. “These drinks are your mind altering substances?” It questioned mentally as it curled itself around the table, forearms clacking into the floor to guide it. “And our senses are usually not wrong. We were made to be able to identify and adapt to your species.” The ambassador sounds almost huffy.

 

Nat fidgets nervously, eyes flickering between Markus and the Ambassador. Ey doesn’t seem to know whether ey should clarify or keep quiet about the ‘champion’ comment.

 

The door to Kay’s stall is locked, but shortly after Chrys knocks [or walks up to it, if she doesn’t knock], she hears a horrible squelching, ripping sound and then, Kay’s voice:

“Chrys? What’s up?”

 

“That. … is what I was going to ask. Are you feeling well?” She seems surprisingly unshaken by the horrid noises, voice as even and chipper as can be. “That is – We were thinking you were, perhaps sick? And there were” What do you even define the stuff you just heard as, Chrys? “…Noises.”

 

“… oh, god. I’m so sorry. Hang on, I’m just getting dressed, I’ll be right out.” There’s the sound of someone pulling on clothes. “It … uh … I’m actually a Para too, and something about the … atmosphere in here just -” She opens the door. She looks completely fine, though her hair’s a bit mussed. “Didn’t agree with me,” she finishes. “But I should be totally all right now.”

 

“Ah. Very good, then.” She hmmms. “If the atmosphere continues to trouble you, perhaps we could step outside? Proper fresh air – … well. As fresh as one can get in the city – may do you good?” There is the distinct feeling you just became her ward for the evening, Kay.

 

Kay sighs, and moves past to adjust her hair in the bathroom mirror. “Yeah, you may be right … it’s a shame, I was really having a good time! I just …” She shivers. “Eh. I wanna go back out for a bit at least, anyway. But don’t worry, I won’t overdo it.”

 

“Oh, yes, yes. Absolutely. Let us see how it goes!” Chrys seems content the suggestion. “Er. Would you prefer I wait for you outside?” Yes. Good question. Good job, self.

 

“No, no, let’s just head back to the bar. I’m all set.”

 

A brilliant grin, and she holds the door open for Kay.

 

“Yeah yeah adapt to our species sure.” Markus chuckles and takes his seat next to the strange beast. “Let’s get something easy on the alcohol percentage to start off with. Don’t want the guy thinking i’m trying to poison him. Or girl. Or. Uh.” He scratched his helmet again. This job was really weird. He kind of missed escorting Summer around. At least she was….sort of human. Ish. He shook his head a bit. “Shouldn’t think that way!” He silently reminded himself.

 

The Tenebrian Ambassador looks at Markus with all eight eyes. It gives off the unnerving impression that it knows what Markus is thinking. Plus, it looks like it might eat him. But it looks like it might eat everyone. One eye turns towards Nat. It brodcasts to Nat,  “Our people indulge in artistry of sense of eyes, smell, taste, touch, and share them with each other. Your people do the same with your…. Internet, is this not true? But it is limited. How does one share an experience over long distances?”

 

Kay and Chrys emerge and return to the bar, where Kay orders a beer.

 

Alex scurries after the two of them, making sure that they’re all right and have all the drinks and food they need.

 

“We use the tools we have,” Nat shrugs a little, “language to describe our feelings and sensations, art to summarize it. It’s imperfect, but in some ways that communication becomes its own entity in our culture. The imprecision of our communication informs the art we create. Welcome back, ladies!”

 

Kay smiles and waves. “Hey, Nat. Ah … hello again, Ten. Hi Markus.”

 

Chrys waves, too. “Hello! Again, I imagine.” She slowly seems to come to a realization, and turns to Alex. “Do. … Are milkshakes a choice?”

 

“Absolutely,” Alex confirms, then places a hand gently on Kay’s shoulder. “Are you feeling all right, now? I realize that the Damselfly can sometimes have an, um. Effect on some folks.”

 

Chad pops back in, seeming pensive.

 

Markus doesn’t really seem to be afraid of the ambassador despite that look. He just seemed tired from the long hours his job demands. Hell, that was why he brought them here. “Yeah…honestly I couldn’t imagine living in a perfect world. It’d be….boring.” He shrugged.

 

The Ambassador clicked its lower jaw mandibles twice. It seems to be some kind of recognition, or greeting, Markus might realize. Then it broadcasted back to Markus, as its eyes focused on the man. “We have never claimed to live in a perfect world. These new experiences bring more information into our Mind, and we adapt and change. Perfection is a goal, that can never be achieved.” It thinks at everyone… diplomatically. A few eyes focused on Kay, and it rose up a little in its ‘coil’. The jaws moved a little wider, and the forearm spikes moved solidly in position against the floor.

 

Markus poked a finger into the folds of the ambassadors snake skin. “Hey. Staring is rude. Stop that.” With each sentence he added another firm, but unthreatening poke.

 

Over her shoulder to Alex, Kay says “… ah. That’s a known bug? I… I guess … is it all right, though, if I stay in the bar? I really think I’m feeling better now. You don’t have to worry about me.”

 

Her brows furrow as she sees the Ambassador … squaring up at her? She takes a pull on her beer.

 

“Kind of,” Alex says, uncertain of how much he should say. “You should probably ask em yourself.”

 

Chad throws looks between the two, moving subtly into a space almost between them, but he doesn’t say anything.

 

Chrys shifts very subtly in her seat, after spotting what’s caught Chad’s attention. Better safe than sorry. “…So- So. You said something about yes milkshakes, right?” She hesitates, then with far too much enthusiasm blurts, “is there mint chocolate chip?”

 

“What is a Milkshake?” The thought broadcast of the Ambassador is unperturbed.

 

“Do you want the earth definition or the kind of definition you are probably going to look up on the internet later?” sacrilege.”

 

The Ambassador turns back to Markus, then with definite defiance, looks at Chrys. “We, too, would like a Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake.” Arrogantly defiant and mildly curious in its thought broadcast.

 

“Yes. This is a correct choice. At all times.”

 

“Alex, why don’t you just bring a whole bunch of shakes. Malted vanilla too, okay?”

 

“Yeah, okay.”

Chrys may never live down that “eee” and clap. “Make mine malted chocolate, and thank you so much!”

Alex smiled and… blushed a little? “Happy to!”

 

“Oh sure, ignore the guy who is paying.” Luckily the mask kept anyone from seeing Markus roll his eyes. Meanwhile Frank walked in, munching a hotdog. “How’s it going boss?” Markus rolled his head in his hands. “Frank aren’t you supposed to be doing weapons training right now?”

 

Kay smiles at Nat. “That was a good call. When you’re finished being a stripper, clearly you’ve gotta start a new life as an alien negotiator, Nat.” She rests her elbows on the bar and her chin on her hands, looking at em.

 

“Uhm,” ey scratches the back of eir head. “You’d be surprised how useful it is in this job.”

 

“Ha … yeah …” She swallows. “I’m … I should ask … Alex mentioned you sometimes, well, have an effect on people, and …” She trails off, then re-boards her train of thought. “God, my point is, I’m sorry, and if you’d like me to leave I will.”

 

Nat blinks. “That’s…” ey knits eir brow. “No, you don’t have to– you’re kind of different, aren’t you?”

 

The Ambassador nods politely to Frank, picking that up from humans. It appreciates the human who always is eating.

 

“Uh … different how?”

 

Frank shrugs off Markus’s question. “Want a bite? It’s meat?” The ambassadors past experiences with frank have been most pleasant.

 

“We would consume this.” The Ambassador’s thought process is humorlaced. Everything is meat, clearly. Silly human.

 

Nat lowered eir voice, so it was only audible to Chrys and Kay. “I can tell that my Lure hooked you, but you’re… walking away, and shaking it off on purpose. And then coming back.”

 

“…yeah, I mean …” Kay tries to … breathe normally? Shallowly? It is incredibly inconvenient that normal relaxation breaths don’t work here. “I don’t … want to eat you, or something, that would be awful. But I’m really enjoying hanging out. So.”

 

“Do you typically want to eat people?” Chrys sounds genuinely curious, as opposed to mocking or joking. “I suppose you probably don’t. You did say awful.”

 

“Not normally, no.” Very emphatic and flat. “I’m not some kind of … predatory monster. Jesus.”

 

“I get that that’s probably a given for you,” Nat says, “but it kind of isn’t for me. I’ve been targeted by some… real predatory monsters who looked a lot like people. But I believe you when you say that.”

 

Chad’s arm slipped casually around Nat’s waist and snugged her close; he didn’t’ seem to be paying much attention.

 

Frank hands him a piece of his hotdog. He plops it in the shake. “Tastes better that way.” He assures. He is completely earnest and sincere. Markus just looks in shock. He is being Frank.

 

The Ambassador’s eating habits leave something to … be desired. In that it consumes the shake, the paper cup it was in, the straw, and the hotdog piece in two large, lightning quick bites. There’s a loud gulp and one can see the powerful throat muscles roll down towards the stomach area.

 

Chrys hasn’t said anything, completely engrossed in now having a milkshake. Life is complete. She peers around at everyone else with her wide, permanently surprised-seeming brown eyes. Slurp.

 

“God, yeah, I get that.” Kay sits back and rubs her temples. “Sorry. I know you can’t tell the difference by looking between a safe person and a creep. I mean, I work in tech, there’s a fuckload of monsters in suits.” She sighs. “But – I mean, is there an … antidote?”

 

Nat averted eir gaze. “No idea.”

 

“… well, would it be all right if I came to your next dance night?” She can’t hide the desperate hope in her words, alas.

 

Frank watched as the shake was devoured, almost with a chunk of the table. “Maybe now you can help me with something. You had two bites. One with hotdog, one without. Which one was better?” Markus just stared with his mouth open inside his helmet. So this was Franks plan all along. To prove to Markus once and for all that hotdog in milkshake was a good thing. Classic Frank.

 

“I think that’d be okay, yeah,” Nat replied, then thought about it, then asked: “what if we, like. Went out for coffee or something, and I brought some friends, and they sat kinda close but not super close. I feel like we should talk about this more.”

 

“Oh. Wow, yes! Honestly, I’d love to meet more of your friends regardless – Chad seems like a ton of fun – yes, please!” The words come out in a rush.

“Huh what?” he’d been distracting gnawing on Nat’s shoulder. “Yeah let’s party! We should…should totally party.” a pause.  “Right?” He totally knew what they were talking about. Yep.

The Tenebrian Ambassador stiffens suddenly, spines rippling along its back. Which promptly garners Chrys’ attention It’s thought tone, once laced with humor, is deadly serious, as it turns to Markus. “There is an issue. We must return to orbit.”

A vague, muffled sound. Chrys waves slowly. “ave-un-n-sps”

 

“He’s very dear,” Nat pats Chad’s shoulder, “though you should probably meet our other two partners at some point. They have… other strengths. Oh!” Nat noticed the Ambassador’s change in demeanor late. “You’re leaving! Um, thanks for coming by! Hope it was a good time!”

 

Politely, the thought broadcast is to Nat and the general area. “It was enjoyable to experience and share this with the Mind. We may return for more perspective.” The mandibles click three times loudly, before it begins slithering out towards the exit, not minding its handlers.

 

“Kinda weird guy. Cool, though.” is Chad’s verdict now that the Ambasador was not longer steppin’ up.

Kay decides to start alternating drinks of beer and milkshake. It’s a good combo. She smiles at Chad. “I’d so love to go on, I guess, a … double date? Or something? I’ve got poly friends but I haven’t really done it myself.” “Haha poly’s a weird kinda word isn’t it what does that even mean.”

 

“This sounds much more like Jess’s jam than Fi’s,” Nat nods thoughtfully. “How bout it, Chad? You, Jess, Kay, and me. Double date. I’ll talk to Fi, but I’m learning that I can only drag her out of the apartment so many times a week.”

 

“Yeah, our Bee is kinda a homebunny.” he nodded. “Man I useta have the worst time tryin’ to get her out dancin.” he took another sip of beer and then blinked. “Yeah yeah totally! Let’s do it! We can go to that place with the huge stuffed pizzas.”

 

Faintly: “Did- Did someone say pizza?” “You’re not even in this scene, c’mon.”

“Where is that? I live in Rock City, and I work a lot, so I might not be able to make it out to Boulder all the time.” It’s as though some connection has slotted into place, and the vague pauses and awkwardness are gone. She takes out her phone and opens a calendar app; it’s jam-packed.

 

His business being done, Frank left. Markus now approached the others, taking off his helmet to reveal a somewhat sweaty and tired face. “Hey guys how’s it going?”

 

“I can get to Rock City pretty easy, though I should check with my– other job. About what my legal status is there, and teleporter licenses and stuff. Oh hey, Markus. Your friend is… interesting.”

 

“He’s…..kind of more of a job than a friend?” Markus grimaced. “Rock city though…I hear that place is like. Really fancy or something? Got a cool rock monster man who has an awesome voice.”

 

“It’s a great place to live, but it’s expensive as hell. My apartment is, like, big enough to fit me and a fridge and nothing else,” she jokes.

“You should come hang at me and Markus’ place! It’s TOTALLY SWEET.”

 

…SLuuuuuurp. “How sweet is totally sweet,” inquires the milkshake addict

 

“Not everybody has unlimited teleporter access, gang,” Nat chides. “It’d be a lot easier for us to get to Rock City than vice versa.”

 

“I was only asking. I am not so presumptuous to assume the invitation extended to me.” …That god-awful sound  a straw makes when there’s not that much liquid left. Chrys looks heartbroken.

 

“Like SUPER sweet! I got a big hookah and a huge bed I built in college and a huge plasma tv and Markus just got us a 3-bit 20K VR setup, it’s tight!”

Nat swiveled in midair and, with the placid air of someone who was used to cracking jokes like this, said, “Chrys, if you wanted to date me too, you only had to ask.”

 

“Oh, heavens, darling. I’m married on the astral plane.”

 

Kay smiles. “Teleporter’s pretty doable for me, actually. The real issue is work – speaking of which, I should head out. I’ve got a meeting tomorrow morning.” She hails down a bartender or server to settle her tab.

 

“Oh no, don’t even,” Nat shook eir head. “Leave a tip if you’d like, but this is my treat. For all of you.”

 

She whistles quietly. “Damn, Nat, thank you. I’ll just get my card back and make sure to tip well, then. Like I said before – great service.”

 

Chrys fishes in her pocket and deposits a tip on the counter that’s probably about twice as much as what she would’ve paid.

 

Yes. She just went around your rule.

 

Nat smiles, not seeming bothered by the exorbitant tip; it’d go straight into eir friends’ pockets, which suited the Damselfly just fine.

 

She hesitates. Peers at the bartender. “..do. Can I- Get milkshakes to go?” The woman has priorities.

 

The bartender looks down at the tip, then up at Chrys. “Yes. How many and what kind, we’re on it.”

 

“Two? And mint chocolate chip again. Ohh! Do you think some of that mint stuff you have would be good in them?”

 

“Creme de Menthe? Absolutely. We have an alcoholic milkshake, actually, we call it the frozen grasshopper. Creme de Menthe, Creme de Cacao, and mint chocolate chip ice cream. You want it?”

 

“Um yes.”

 

“I’ll have the horchata spice boozeshake, actually,” Nat piped up. “Me too.”

 

Kay gets her card back and scribbles on the receipt, then stands to leave. “Thanks for a lovely evening, Nat. And it was really great meeting you all.” She takes off.

 

“Bye! Talk soon!”  And then Chad scooped up Nat and tossed them over his shoulder and hauled off this most excellent prize!