In his blood

“Just like a bobcat. Stalking, then the short chase.”

“There are other predators like that,” Robin replied thoughtfully. “How were we to know?”

Jay shrugged. “There were probably other signs.” In the meantime, they would sit in this cell until the chief came for them. They were likely to wait for a while, the chief didn’t like them very much. Robin thought it was only Jay, but Jay knew Robin was an acquired taste.

“You aren’t really a jay, are you?” Robin asked. “You don’t seem to like eggs that much or have any talent for mimicry.”

Talking about beast blood was new. It caught Jay off guard more than most other topics Robin had surprised him with. Past, Robin referred to occasionally. Family? Neither of them had broached that. He cleared his throat. “No. I didn’t really have anything manifest in me. Nor can I say that there is much avian in my ancestry. The name’s… a coincidence, I suppose.”

Robin nodded, head bobbing up and down. “Me too! I mean, nothing ever showed up. There are plenty of robins in my family. It’s even a family name! Robin, son of Robyn, daughter of Robin… Goes on and on!”

Jay’s lips twitched. “I can only imagine.”

“But I never was much of a robin. You know?”

Jay considered his flighty friend and shook his head. “You… well, you would know best.”

And they waited.

Top of the shopping list

“A library.”


“No, just a library.”

“If you were rich, you would… buy a library. That’s all?”

“No. I would make a library. From the ground up. Every single tome would be my choice. Every librarian my pick. That is what I would do if I were rich.”

“…remind me not to have an overdo book at this library of yours.”

Sometimes, it happens

“Get down here this instant.”

He ignored her, like he usually did when he was irritated with her. She supposed it was an upside to his backtalk. He was too much like his father, at any rate. Mule-headed. She wished her son had been more balanced out with her own genes. Though her husband would be the first to tell her that she was rather stubborn too.

“Don’t make me come up there after you.”

Far gone were the days when she could climb up trees with a struggle, but do so little less for wear. Her ability was certainly nowhere near those who could almost run straight up the trunk, using hands only to help propel themselves directly up the surface. Nonetheless, she prepared herself.

“Your last warning!”

She could still see the edge of the fabric of his shirt, so he definitely was up there. With a sigh, she began to climb the tree. Groundwork had truly slowed her in this regard, but she wouldn’t let that stop her. When his father came home, he could be the one to drag their ungrateful brat down when he decided to get in a mood. Perhaps there was a better way of doing this, but she couldn’t back down now. She had already said she was coming up there after him.

Then her hand slipped.

He grabbed her wrist. “Mom!”

She directed her wry smile up at him. “Still in trouble, mister.”

His shock was replaced with relief, instead of any lingering irritation. In any case, he wasn’t ignoring her. She considered this exercise a success.

The moment before

All she had to do was knock.

Her best friend lived here. He had been her best friend for years. Everything they had shared together outstripped any fights they had ever had. In fact, sometimes the fights had been the most important parts. Removed all the problems from their systems. Put them back on equal ground, where they both belonged.

He had been the cornerstone of her new life. There was absolutely nothing that they couldn’t face together.

Of course, that required for him to face her first. All she had to do was knock. We need to talk…

Surely it would be fine. Out of all people, he would accept it. It changed nothing between them. This she had to stress. Everything is the same between us. This is nothing to do with us.

Just to do with her.

“I’m a girl.”

He would accept it. He had to. He had to accept her.

Taking in a deep breath, she knocked on the door.

The Baroness of Castlehaven

When Nemissa moved into her husband’s castle, she knew she might get in trouble.

The bed was huge and the mattress even more exquisite than the ridiculous ones her parents had always bought for her. Of course it was for two, there was that impression her new husband had to make. She supposed it was new, just for this fact. Probably even more comfortable than it had any right of being.

All she wanted to do was jump on it. She sat down on the edge of it and carefully removed her shoes. Fortunately, her dress came down far enough that no one would be able to tell, if anyone were to come in. Pulling her legs up on the bed, she pushed herself to stand upright again and bounced a little bit.

She could never do this with her previous beds. Her body went up and down, the fight against gravity real. Nemissa couldn’t help but smile. This was what she had wanted when she was a girl. Other than all of the swimming and climbing… bouncing on a bed. She bent her knees and jumped as high as she could, repeating it as soon as she hit the mattress again. Her dress flared out around her, probably showing off her feet and ankles to anyone who came in. Which was no one. A giggle escaped her.


Nemissa was not easily embarrassed. It was not in her nature, nor in her station. As she stumbled and turned to the door, where her husband stood. Was he appalled? Amused? She flushed.

Then she said the only thing she could think of to salvage the situation. “Care to join me?”

Two degrees of separation

“Put that back please.”

Ling did as Kun asked, because he’d asked nicely. “Can we get this?” he asked after, pointing at it.

Kun shook his head. “I’m sorry. We’re on a limited budget this time. Be patient, Ling, we’ll have dinner when we meet back up with the others.”

Ling nodded, contrite, and followed after Kun. Then a thought occurred to him. “Then we’re buying just… food?”

“And the other necessary travel supplies.”


Kun stopped and looked at Ling. Ling could have sworn a very pleased looked was there, but looking closer Kun looked as he always did, simply content. “I don’t think I consider that necessary travel supplies.”

Jin and Shui were going to be livid. Kun was the only one who could get away with this. Ling smiled. “Yeah!”

More for food.


Jay forced his eyes open. The frequency of his being knocked out lately was both ridiculous and couldn’t be good for his health. Proximity to Robin had this effect on everyone around him.

Speaking of Robin, Jay looked around himself. The shorter man was nowhere to be seen. Jay pushed himself to his feet, rubbing the side of his head. It was still dawn, he hadn’t been out long. At least that meant he didn’t have to worry as much about brain damage. At least, not through blunt force trauma.

After taking a moment to compose himself, he saw it laying on the ground. A blue and gold fountain pen, bleeding into the dirt. Pressing his hand against the building wall, he squatted down and picked it up. It stained his fingers black, but he recognized it. There was a particular smell that this ink had that he had never smelled from any other pen.

Thimba had made it here. Where was Robin?

Jay knew he was beginning to panic. Hand gripping tight to the pen, he began his search. He found Robin not all that far away, sitting on a pavement bench, blinking as if that would keep him awake.

“Robin!” He knelt down in front of him, trying to see Robin’s eyes in the dim light.


“Jay.” Robin’s words were slurred. “He took… the… I couldn’t…”

“It’s all right.” Jay slung Robin’s arm over his shoulder and helped him to his feet. “Let’s go.”

Perhaps it wasn’t proximity to Robin this time which had gotten them into trouble.

Within the haze

Lizbeth choked, waving her hand in front of her. There was too much in the air for her to dissipate with that simple motion. “I can’t see anything.”

“Keep walking forward,” Paramesh said.

“I can’t see.” Despite repeating this to him, she continued forward. At one point Paramesh put his hands on her shoulders to steer her in a different direction.

She began to feel light headed. “How does anyone sit in this?”

Lizbeth was referring to the crowd of people, all lounging about in the den. This was by choice. They had worked up to the point where they needed this much to get whatever effect they wanted. Lizbeth wasn’t going to judge them for what they wanted, but the fact they all had reached the point where they could barely see anything in order to get that high… There was something wrong about that, to her.

“The question is, how do they leave?”

Paramesh was right. Nevertheless, all Lizbeth could think about was the relief as they opened the door and returned to the cleaner city air.

When the not-worst happens

They grit their teeth, glaring at the remnants of their home.

He stood beside them, his own unhappiness also resonating. They knew he was going to say something even more annoying though. Something they didn’t want to hear right now. They considered tuning him out, but didn’t manage in time.

“We can build another one.”

“Don’t try to reassure me now,” they snapped.

He put a hand on their shoulder, much to their annoyance. They scowled at him, but as per usual their displeasure didn’t seem to affect him much. Instead, he slowly pulled them into his chest, sliding that arm around them. They considered pushing him away, but eventually decided against it. Instead, their attention returned to what remained of the residence.

“I’m not reassured.”

“I know.”

They sighed and pressed into his side. If this had been the worst thing to ever happen, they might have been more devastated. But the two of them had survived it. “Me too.”