Once a year

The mail was stuffed full with envelopes. Jay struggled to get them out without crumpling any of them, wondering how they had gotten in there in the first place and how this possibly could have happened. Every single envelope had Robin’s name as the intended.

“Why do you have your personal mail being sent here?” he demanded, dropping the avalanche on Robin’s desk.

Robin jumped, then began to look through them. “I didn’t! I’m sorry Jay, this happens all the time. I suppose the mail person decided to put the rest of it here, instead of having me come to the post. They never can fit all of this in my mailbox at home.”

It was an answer that bewildered him. “How often does this happen?”

“Once a year. My family, my extended family, all of my friends and their friends… It’s my birthday, you know.”

“No, I didn’t.” Jay gave him a look. “You didn’t mention.” Which was odd. Jay would’ve been certain Robin might use his birthday as an excuse to go out for some meal.

Robin was unaffected by his forgetfulness. “Well it is!”

Jay sighed, sitting down in his chair. “You know this many people?”

The shorter man nodded. “Not all very well, but it’s just the way birthdays are celebrated back home. I send out letters all the time too, just for that.”

Now that he mentioned it, Jay did remember seeing Robin writing letters often, though he hadn’t thought it was that often. “Well… happy birthday, Robin.”

Robin beamed at him. “Thank you Jay.”

Jay considered the current contents of his wallet. “Did you have dinner plans this evening? Or would you like to make some?”

The expression on his partner’s face was the only answer Jay needed.

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Sometimes you don’t know, even when you do

His lungs were still filled with air, but his mind blanked.

The piano stopped. “What happened?”

He cleared his throat. “I… nothing.” He had forgotten the words. The words he had memorized backwards and forward. The words he had to present to the entire auditorium tomorrow. The words he couldn’t possibly have forgotten now.

“Then let’s start from the refrain.”

Not from the chest, but from the stomach. He reminded himself of this simple concept. The words had to be there. It was nerves. “All right.”

From amateur to professional, stage fright always found a way back to him.

The first child

Kyung-soon had printed out the photo and placed it in a frame on the dining room table. Lilah sat down and turned the picture toward her. The child’s hair was short and red and curly, freckles painting their entire face.

This child would be arriving tomorrow.

“What do you think their name is?” Lilah asked when Kyung-soon entered the room behind her. She listened as Kyung-soon stopped right behind her chair, placing her hands on Lilah’s shoulders and looking down upon the face of their child.

“You mean the real name?”

Lilah nodded. “Not what the agency decided to give. That wouldn’t be fair. Unless they like that name.”

“We will have to ask.”

Potion drinkers

“What do you think it is?” she asked.

He stared at the flask, sitting oh so innocently on the shelf, and tapped a finger against his chin. “No idea. Half-full, but is it because that is the amount or has someone already taken half of it?”

“That would be dangerous.”

“Potion drinkers usually are.”

He always said that, but she had come to ignore his feelings against alchemy. With as many crimes that came about because of potion misuse, it had become too hard to defend them. She kept that to herself. Instead, she pulled out her identification kit. They were running out of supplies, it was really too bad neither of them could recognize what the potion could be.

While she began that process, her partner continued to examine their surroundings for anything else. No other supplies, no other potions. Just this one here, in the dorm room of a missing person.

“I’m going to bet on it either being something for schoolwork or relationships. What about you?”

He snorted. “I told you, I’m not betting on this.”

“Well, it gives me a direction to angle for while I attempt to figure this out. Help me out here.”

“Her grades don’t suggest she’s gotten much help from it, if that were the case.”

The category of potion making she hated the most. “Relationships it is.”

Behind the silence

Beating his head against the sounds, Shui
realized that the only thing he’d accomplished truly
entertained the dismal creatures which had long hounded him.
“Accept my help, you fucking prick,” Jin snarled,
keeping a firm grip around the handle of the unbarreled
tequila, a drink he hadn’t even heard of. He watched the rim
hover too close to the edge of the table.
“Even if I thought you were able,
screw that. You couldn’t help me even if you really wanted to.”
“I am fucking tired of your bullshit.” Jin ignored his lie,
lingering on the true fact of the matter. An eye
expecting such refusal, Jin once again saw through
nothing Shui had expected, only for
casted light to remind the two that the door
erased                     all                     escape

Secret weapons

Deston looked out over the road. Kya remained down in the brush, waiting for his signal. She knew Roland had to be nearby still, but whether he and Shields would be able to see Deston was another matter. They could not afford to mess this up.

The caravan began to pass them. Deston shifted his position, his leg pressing against her shoulder. She did her best not to move.

“Deston! You can’t!” Vidvan whispered, at the very least. Kya glanced back at him, quizzical as to why he would protest now. “This will cause a backlash to heights you cannot comprehend. We have to find another way!”

Deston looked at the old man, then looked down at Kya. She realized that Deston was leaving it up to her.

Hauke. Not that it mattered, not if Roland and Shields acted.

“We can’t afford to miss this opportunity,” she said to Vidvan.

He nodded several times. “I know, I know. It has to be done during the movement, but not like this. Not a grab and run, even if you could accomplish it easily with that surprise.”

Kya closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Opening them again, she looked up at Deston.

He trusted her judgment. The corner of her lip twitched upward. “I might have something to help with that.”

The last fight

He saw the danger in the distance. There was no time to get the others, to help them that way. Ling knew the only thing he could do was head straight into it himself.

“Out of the way, boy!” Jin’s assassin snarled.

Ling grit his teeth and jumped on him. He might have been a child, but roughhousing had always been his specialty. The assassin was expecting a child’s strength, not Ling’s. He bit the man on the arm, putting as much pressure through his jaw to get through the sleeve, to break the skin. He tasted blood – both his victim’s and his own as he lost a tooth in the ensuing struggle. He used a leg to block the assassin’s other arm from trying to rip him off.

He started swinging, knowing that Shui would have a few corrections to make about his form, but Ling didn’t want to think about it right now. Reaching out, he grabbed the assassin’s head and started to twist.

At some point he let go. Probably because he couldn’t hear the commotion where the others had been. Because the assassin had crawled away and Ling was fine with that. As long as he couldn’t hurt anyone else.

His chest hurt. Ling pulled the handle away from his chest, but it didn’t make it better. In fact, there was even more blood then before.

Falling to the earth, Ling watched a shadow descend upon him, as the dragon arrived.