Summer, 1984

They’d met on the beach. Lily was there on vacation with her family, laying in the sand and listening to her walkman. Her little brother was splashing in the water and her parents were off somewhere beachcombing. She had better things to do, like listen to her new cassette and try to get a tan. That was when she suddenly got a face full of sand and sat up, spluttering as she pulled her headphones off.

“What the hell are you-…you…”

She trailed off, lowering her shades as she looked at the short haired girl standing sheepishly in front of her. There was a frisbee laying in the sand between them. The brunette was tall and lithe, with a wry little smile on her face as she reached for the errant frisbee.

“Sorry. I missed the catch.”

Lily brushed her hair back out of her face and hoped she wasn’t blushing.

“It’s okay. Really.”

The girl with the frisbee looked Lily over and then held the disc out.

“Want to join us? I’m Charlie.”

Hesitation. Lily was unsure. She wanted to. She wanted to so badly. Then she tucked her walkman into her bag and reached for the frisbee.

“Sure. I’m Lily.”


Despite the darkness, the air hadn’t cooled off at all. It was sticky hot and Lily leaned out the window of the summer cottage, watching the stars and wishing for a breeze. Then she heard something small skip off the roof just in front of her and looked. Charlie stood below, her hand holding another small stone. She grinned, letting it fall back to the ground as she waved. Lily chewed her lower lip. The rest of her family would be asleep downstairs. Only she had the attic. She beckoned and Charlie reached for the low porch roof, pulling herself up. She crawled across the roof with care until Lily reached to help her through the window and they met with a kiss like the crashing waves against the shore.


The photograph was taped up on the mirror in Lily’s new dorm room when the semester began. Two girls side by side on the pier, laughing and smiling. Written across the bottom was the date in stark black marker: summer, 1984,

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Magic Lessons

“Hey! Songchaser!”

Thomas turned, a pen in his hand and a splotch of ink on his cheek. Charlie came jogging towards him across the school grounds, waving and laughing.

“I was hoping I’d find you out here. Working on the paper for Markov’s class?” The blond boy dropped dramatically to sit down and opened a notebook. When Thomas nodded, he grinned. “Think you could help me out? I really don’t get this whole…temporal injunctive thing.”

“Temporal injunction,” Thomas said immediately and then blushed. “Sorry.”

“No, no, do go on. This might explain my confusion. And anyway, I betcha I’ll learn way better from you, oh glorious teacher, than I ever have in class.”

“That’s only because you pay more attention to me.”

“I’d pay more attention to Markov if he was a handsome devil like you, Tom, but sad as it is the only professor on this entire campus worth ogling is Fenrirson and I’m not into tails.”

Thomas chucked an apple from his snack at the other boy. Charlie just caught it with a wry thanks and took a bite out of it.

“Anyway…the paper. Temporal Injunction is really simple-“

“…Simple…”

“It is!”

Thomas flushed, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, Tommy-boy, but not all of us spent our entire lives studying at the knee of the most powerful mages in two dimensions…”

“Sorry…”

“No, no, do go on.”

Charlie scooted closer and leaned in to get a good look at Thomas’s notes. Thomas inhaled deeply, trying to get back on track with his explanation and entirely lost his focus. Had Charlie always smelled so…good? That thought stopped him entirely in his tracks. What was he even thinking? He needed to breathe, needed to focus. Temporal injunction. Explain it. Come on, idiot. Mouth in gear and expound on arcane theory. You do it all the time. Thomas looked up at Charlie and his heart nearly stopped. Slamming everything that felt odd down, Thomas started to explain the theory as in-depth as he could. He tried to focus on literally anything other than the pounding of his own heart and other such confusing physical symptoms.

Jackal and Turbo #1 : A New Kind of Justice

Turbo zipped through the back streets, laughing as the wind rushed past him. He was a blur of color to the people on the streets, but a shadow high above on the rooftops tracked his position. Jackal always knew where his partner was, always kept one eye on him to make sure he was alright. After all, they’d been together a lot longer than they’d been doing this hero thing, long before they’d made the change from friends to boyfriends. Jackal adjusted his jet black armor and lowered the visor of his helm. It was the best way to hide the glow from his eyes as the night grew darker. It was almost time to call their patrol for the evening. There were other heroes out there who stalked the night more effectively than a pair of inner-city teens who had to go to high school in the morning. And anyway, they had a nice stay-at-home date planned for tonight. Jackal began making his way down one of the fire escapes, pulling a phone out of his pocket.

“Hey, babe, ready to bounce?”

Turbo touched a button on the headset he wore under his light helmet and grinned when he heard Jackal’s voice.

“Ready. Just need a minute to get back to base. Meet you there?”

He was already turning, changing course with ease. Honestly, he’d probably be there before Jackal had a chance to respond. That was the upside to his powers. There were downsides of course. Heightened metabolism was a bitch and a half for a teenage boy. When you already want to eat everything in sight and then you need to eat even more everything? Yeah, it gets hard to explain and harder to manage.

“Yeah, sure. Mind if I borrow your jacket for the walk home?”

Turbo laughed, skidding to a halt in front of the abandoned warehouse they used as a homebase.

“Do I want my super hot boyfriend wearing my letterman? Does the moon orbit the Earth?”

Jackal was laughing as he came walking up a few minutes later. Turbo, now in his normal jeans and a t-shirt and known as Terry Walker, was leaning against the wall inside waiting for him. Jackal changed quickly, stowing his armor back in his duffle bag to take home and turned. With a grin, Max Jackson pulled Terry’s letterman jacket on and reached for Terry’s hand.

“Let’s go, babe. I’m so ready for movie night.”


They were on the train home when they heard the crash outside and exchanged a look. There was someone hovering over the tracks ahead of them. Terry sighed and unzipped his backpack.

“Looks like we’re going to have to postpone movies, handsome.”

Max looked out the window and nodded, reaching for his duffle bag.

“Yeah, this looks like the real deal. Give me a second to suit up and I’ll be right behind you.”

Spanner in the Gardens – Part 3

It was the middle of the night and she woke to the sound of something shattering and a scream. She nearly fell out of her bed, the blankets twisted around her in her mad scramble to get to the door of the workshop. She touched the door, laying her palm flat on the wood. It was cool to the touch, despite the smoke coming from around the edges of the door.

“Evandrus?”

She could hear him coughing and drew up her courage, pulling the door open. He was on his hands and knees in front of his burning workbench. There was blood all over his shirt, what was left of it. Quickly, Dorothea moved to help him back and to douse the flames before they could spread. Then she had to turn and see him, see what this explosion had done to him. His chest and arms were burned, but not too badly. He’d thrown his arms over his face before the blast could reach him, but she knew from long experience that the wounds on arms and chest would scar. She hesitated with her fingers mere centimeters from his bare flesh. Then she overcame her uncertainties. He had to be helped and she was the one here to do it. His expression was pained but there was trust in his eyes as he looked at her.

“Evandrus, what were you doing?”

“I…I slipped. The wrong vial.”

He coughed and she brushed his hair back out of his face, quietly soothing him.

“Lay still. I’ll get something for these.” She hesitated again, the adrenaline leaving her system and being replaced with something entirely other. Fear and relief, mirroring each other in their extremes. He would be alright, he would live. But this could have been so very much worse. And she knew something else now. She no longer wished for him to deny the whims of his heart, for she shared the same desires as he. As she reached down the jar of salve, her hands were shaking. She had very nearly lost him tonight, and it was in this moment that Dorothea truly realized just how much she loved Evandrus.

Remember

Remember. You have to remember.

The words spun in her mind as Alycia fell again and again. It seemed like nothing would stop this torment. Every time she tried to get to her feet, another set of hands would push her to the ground and she would have to summon her strength and courage again.

Remember. Please.

She didn’t know what she was supposed to remember, who that voice was, anything. She didn’t know anything. Another fist met her face and she crumpled again. She wished there could be darkness. Darkness would make the pain stop, at least for a while. But the voice wouldn’t let her. The voice was so insistent. Who ever they were, they wanted her to remember, to live, to keep fighting.

Remember, Alycia. Remember who you are.

Who was she? She was Alycia. She knew that much. But who was she really? An elbow clipped her cheek and it flared with pain, blotting out the thoughts. She had to remember. She had to do what this voice said. She didn’t know who they were, but she trusted them. She had nothing else.

You have to remember so you can come home.

Home. That one word surged through her mind like a blazing fire. She turned and slammed her own fist into the face of one of her attackers. She was Alycia. Her knee met the side of another and then she kicked up into his neighbor’s gut. She was Alycia and she was trained for this, trained to fight like this for the sake of her world, her home. And the voice. She knew that now too. She landed a solid palm strike, knocking an opponent back a few feet and grinned. She would recognize Cassidy’s voice anywhere. She could even picture the other woman’s face now.
“Don’t worry, love. I remember now and I’ll be home soon.

Tracks

She knew he was from the wrong side of the tracks. But, honestly, when he gave her that cheeky grin and his eyes went all warm and tender just for her, it was hard to care. It didn’t matter that she was from the best part of town and owned dresses worth more than the entire building the apartment he shared with his family was in, not when she lay in his arms and they spent the night looking up at the stars. She wished, sometimes, that he had been born into her world, but she knew in her heart that he wouldn’t be the same person if he had been. He would be like the other boys, the ones who spoke only of things he derided as frippery and pretended they knew how the world really worked. She didn’t care that he was from the wrong side of the tracks, but her mother and father would. They wanted her to make a society match, to marry for the betterment of the family. But she looked into his dancing eyes and then leaped wholeheartedly into them, drowning in a sea of soft green. They promised things they couldn’t and believed their own lies. The railroad tracks had never seemed all that wide, but they were worlds apart. Two worlds that collided and threatened to keep moving to part again. Until the day she appeared at the door of his apartment with a suitcase in her hand, tears in her eyes, and his child under her heart.

Power Dynamics

The Patriarch's Ball was upon them. 400 strong, the elite would gather to display their marriage-bait like so many cakes dressed in silks and lace, sending the girls from gilded cage to gilded cage without so much as a by-your-leave. Cora wanted none of it. She was no pretty songbird to be caged, to be sure. Betsy stood nearby, head down and hands clasped before her.
"Miss Cora, your mother was insistent."
Cora turned away from the window and her musings upon the sea and sighed.
"Bess, if she's so insistent on dressing up a doll and sending it off to the ball, then someone ought to tell her to go to the store. I hear they have new ones that walk about and don't talk back."
Bess raised a hand to cover her mouth and tried to hide her giggles as Cora fell into a chair dramatically. Bess let Cora pull her in and smiled sadly.
"Your mother would throw a fit. And we both know where that would lead."
Cora kissed Bess gently on the forehead and sighed, her melancholy returning.
"I wish I could at least pretend it wasn't true for a few hours. But I suppose the dreams would only make the cage worse."
Pulling away, Bess went to the gown on its stand.
"You'll look delightful in this, Cora. I'm jealous of the men you'll dance with tonight."
Cora stood as well and went to stand beside her maid.
"I'll look like an over-decorated pastry and I doubt I'll be able to breathe."
"Will you tell me about it this evening?"
"If I don't fall asleep on my feet, you know I will." Cora brushed her fingers against Bess' hand and smiled. "I will say, if I had a sensible gown and could bring anyone I wished, then I would enjoy spending an evening dancing with you, Bess."
Bess looked down and demurred, a blush on her cheeks.
"I don't know the steps."
"I could teach you."
Bess shook her head less in disagreement than in bemusement.
"Your mother will be looking for you soon, Miss Cora. Let's get you ready."
When the formality returned, Cora's shoulders slumped.
"Only to keep you out of trouble, Bess."

It seemed like forever before Cora returned home sweaty and exhausted, but flushed with excitement.
"You would never guess the gossip, Bess. Scandal positively abounds."
Bess smiled, coming to help her young mistress with her gown.
"Is it political, financial, or social this time?"
"Social." Cora raised her arms to let Bess get to the laces on the side of the corset. "A married man caught with an unmarried girl. Worse yet, he'd been lying to her about the state of his marriage and the state of her future."
Bess paused in her unlacing for a moment.
"That's…cruel of him."
Her tone was soft and surprisingly emotional. Enough that Cora turned to look at her.
"Bess?"
"Miss Cora," Bess paused uncertainly and Cora turned, letting the open corset hang.
"Bess, you don't need to call me Miss. You never have to be that kind of formal when it's just you and me. I love you. You know that."
Bess looked away.
"Do you?"
Cora reached out to pull Bess into her arms and Bess pulled away.
"What's so different between what you say to me and the lies of that gentleman to the young lady? You tell me you love me when you and I both know we have no future together. You have to marry one of the young men of Mrs. Astor's court and I'm nothing but a maid." Bess was crying and she didn't even realize it. “You have to find a husband that suits your station. Even if I were a man, I could never do that and we both know it.”
“And we both know I don't want a husband.”
Cora tried again to gather Bess close to her but Bess was having none of it.
“Do you plan to tell your mother that? Or your father? How do you suppose they would take that news from their eldest daughter? You would end up in a marriage as soon as your mother could arrange it and I would end up on the streets or worse. Women who admit to this kind of thing end up in asylums, Cora.”
Cora’s hands dropped to her sides. Opening and closing her mouth a few times, the words that always came so easily failed her. After a long moment of silence, she spoke uncertainly.
“We could run, live together in freedom.”
“And poverty. You know nothing outside these walls. The best we could hope for would be millwork in Massachusetts.
Cora tried to open her mouth again, tried to protest, but Bess was already working on her laces again.
“Bess?”
For a moment there was only the sound of fabric rustling and quiet concentration.
“Will you be needing anything else before bed, Miss Cora? If not, I’m going to pack this away and start in on the mending.”
Cora felt like there was a chasm stretched between them, one she didn’t understand. And yet, she could the more she thought about it. She hung her head, trying to keep from crying.
“No, Bess. Thank you. I…I think I’m going to turn in early.”
Maybe in the darkness, the realization would hurt less.