“An’ to what Karmic good deed that I’ve done, do I owe this singular pleasure?”
It was just another Friday morning in Dallas. Though freshly showered, Conor was again exhausted from a ridiculously taxing Insanity workout. Fortunately it was his last of the week. He’d have the weekend before he’d have to report to the local slave driver again on Monday… Ashley Davis. He was still highly impressed that mortals were able to create something that taxed his resilience. He also wished that someone had introduced him to Insanity back when he was a mere mortal prize fighter.
He listened to the speaker on the other end of the line. She was a fellow supernatural he’d only met twice before; a werewolf of all things. They’d each gotten the attention of the other previously, but had never had much of a chance to talk due to the circumstances of their prior meetings. “I’d love to join you for lunch, somewhere between Grapevine and here?”
A listened to the reply, “Meat is easy, no vegetarians here. There’s a place I like in Carrollton, right there in the Old Town just off I-35 an’ Beltline, Babe’s Chicken? Oh ye know it? Good. See ya there?”
Conor hung up the cellphone. The other advantage of Babe’s in Carrollton was that it was right off the DART rail. Since he still didn’t have his own car; it tended to make things more difficult. Well, unless he wanted to go gallivanting through the Nevernever just to arrive at a lunch date on time.
Conor took a long sip of his iced tea, crooked grin firmly in place. He looked around the place; the lunchtime rush had already cleared out. Everyone left in the place appeared to be typical “gringos” so he decided to try out his dearly acquired and horribly accented Spanish.
Leaning forward conspiratorially – a move mirrored by his lunch partner – he spoke softly (but loud enough to be heard over the jukebox playing George Strait’s ‘Amarillo by Morning.’) <Marisa, did Ramon put you up to this?>
<Your Spanish is pretty good for an Irishman.> Her deep, rich brown eyes were stone cold steady now, after a momentary flash of surprise at the switch to her native language. <But what do you mean?>
Conor nodded slowly, more to himself than her. <So here’s the bottom line. No tricks or subtlety are necessary. If it’s in my power to answer any question of yours, you’ve only to ask. Just… not in a restaurant eh?>
<Why would you do that?> Now her face was alive with suspicion and confusion.
He took a forkful of buttery mashed potatoes, “You know, for several reasons. First, I’m Irish, and I’m eating potatoes, so I’m genetically predisposed to be in a good mood right now.” He grinned, a chuckle escaped Marisa’s lips in response.
“Second, being direct is just my way. I was a simple Connemara man first before anythin’ else. Right?” He took a bite of the creamed corn.
Smiling, Marisa took a sip of her water. <If you say so.>
“Sweet Mercy this creamed corn is delicious!… an’ I hate the stuff usually.” The non-sequitur had them both laughing.
“An’ third… why would any man do anythin’ a phenomenally intriguing young lady asks of him, at anytime, anywhere, ever?” He took another sip of his sweet iced tea… a barbaric custom he’d acquired living these long years in Texas amongst the tea heathens.
Marisa just bemusedly shook her head, but said nothing. There was, however, still the smile.
“Shall we go somewhere with fewer ears? A park or something similar if you’d rather; you pick where.”
Her deep brown eyes just looked into his for a long, long time. “Ok. Vamanos.”
Conor stood as she did, motioning for her to walk on ahead of him. After he paid at the front register and they left the building he looked around, “So… em… You’ve a car right?”
Marisa let out a deep throated full laugh. <You’re like a magical cavalier of some dream world… and you have no car?>
“One thing at a time; before we go traipsing aroun’ Dallas my way, you’ve a trick or two to learn first, eh?”
“Well, as you get more in tune wit’ the supernatural it’ll become easier. It feels a bit like… walkin’ through jelly as you enter without bein’ invited. What you leave outside the door is some of your power. For instance, if you tried to change into your wolf right now, it would probably be more difficult.”
Marisa nodded, <I suppose I felt something like that, just didn’t pay attention. As for becoming a wolf, it hurts like the devil, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t test it out.>
From the kitchenette, “By all means, try it a couple times. See if ye can start to recognize it. I’ll make some tea.”
Conor watched as Marisa passed in and out of his doorway. It was a singular pleasure to do so. She wore a pink T-shirt, black yoga pants, and a pair of raised heel black leather sandals. Between the interplay of the thin cotton fabric, gravity, and physics, it was clear she wore nothing else but what was visible. It was also clear that being a werewolf had provided her with a physical workout regime that diet gurus and personal fitness trainers would kill for.
She stepped outside again, <I think I recognize it now.>
Then in Spanish, <Then by all means, Marisa, do come in with my permission. The tea should be done in just a bit.> He then leaned against the counter to watch as the blonde werewolf slowly re-entered.
<Interesting. Now I understand, I recognize it now.> She came over to stand next to Conor; perhaps a bit closer than propriety and social norms generally allowed upon first acquaintance. <Thank you.>
“It was my pleasure entirely to assist. So… allow me to be crude an’ direct for a moment.” At this Marisa’s eyebrow cocked in suspicion. “Either way you answer we can have a laugh…”
“Did Ramon put you up to this?” Conor was studying her face without much success. She was giving absolutely nothing away. At least, nothing he could detect.
“Does it matter?” She inquired, as her eyes glanced around his facial features. The overwhelming bulk of the time, she spoke with no discernable Spanish accent. However, from time to time, like now, it flavored her words.
“It does to me. Call it a principled deference to free will. Tea?” Conor moved around to the kitchen side of his counter to retrieve the beverages.
“Ramon doesn’t take away our freedom or anything like that. He doesn’t have any power like that.” She sat on one of the barstools.
Conor handed up one of the mugs of tea, a small ramekin of sugar with a miniature teaspoon, and cup full of cream. "Sorry, never meant to imply that he did. I just want you to know, if you’ve a question, just ask. I’m not an eejit; it’s not unreasonable to expect that Ramon would want… eh… call it ‘independent’ confirmation of whatever Erica’s tellin’ him."
He paused long enough to get his tea the way he preferred. “As ye know, Erica’s a… packmate… of mine as well, so I’ll back her play whatever ‘tis. But as for givin’ you whatever knowledge I can give, it’s free. No need to try an’ play me at all. Fair play?”
She finished stirring her tea, taking a sip. “This is delicious! And yes, eh… fair play… more than fair. So this is a musician’s grotto? Care to show me around?”
“Sure, take about two seconds.” Conor chuckled as he began the tour.
A short time later, they were both seated on his couch. Conor was strumming a complicated bit of Spanish guitar.
“I’m impressed Conor. Where did you learn El Porompompero? It’s not exactly a song I’d expect to be in an Irishman’s repertoire.”
“Here an’ there. I’ve been in Texas a few years now. I’ve played backup guitar in a few bands, sat around a few vacant lots waitin’ for day work with my fellow illegals; heard a few tunes blarin’ from the cab of pickup trucks as I’m in the back. You know.” He then switched, <It’s where I picked my little bit of Spanish.>
Marisa just shook her head, laughing, <Ok, I give, you can dial down the charm now. A lovely lunch, you speak my language, you know my people, and you’ve serenaded me with music. Take me I’m yours, Casanova.> Both were enjoying the humor of the moment.
<Yes, Ramon did put me up to this, just as you suspected; independent verification. That ok?>
Conor nodded setting aside his guitar on the couch. <It is, so long as the reason you’re still here is because you want to be.>
<I am. Though I’ve done my research on you and your ways; Don Juan. I should just ask you the questions I need and head for the hills.> Marisa’s eyes seemed pensive.
<Ah, so that’s why I got the phone call. The stunning beauty would charm the information out of the lecherous womanizer eh? >
<Yes; something like that. Though I’m hardly the stunning one of our pack.> she snorted.
<You’ll forgive me if I disagree there. So, now the cards are all on the table between you and me, yes? Eyes wide open. My offer still stands, you’ve only to ask, and I’ll answer what I can whenever I can. If I can’t answer, I’ll direct you to someone that might be able to.>
Conor’s crooked grin was back in place. <You can even tell Ramon that your mission was successful, you have, in fact, successfully charmed the Don Juan.>
Marisa looked out one of the apartment’s windows, <Yes, but I made a tactical error in that I think your charms are starting to work on me. Rookie mistake.>
He got up, taking up his guitar to replace it in its regular cradle. “So, how long do ye have? When will Ramon want his report?”
She also stood, walking around the small living room touching the various knickknacks, “Whatever. Whenever. I’ve a cousin’s Quinceanera tomorrow, if you’re willing to come to that, then you’ll have me all weekend.”
Conor paused, “Interesting word choice.” The tips of Marisa’s ears and cheeks flushed crimson, but she said nothing. “And I’d love to be your escort for your cousin’s Quinceanera. I’m guessing casual since you were able to invite without confirming first?”
Marisa laughed, “How do you know anything about a quince? You’re a gringo!”
“Like I said before, a lot of hours spent sittin’ in empty lots with the lads waitin’ for day work.” It amused Conor greatly to keep throwing her off her step. “Proud dads always talk about their daughters an’ the like.”
"Yeah, ok… I guess so." She had stopped her circuit of the room by the stairs. "Yes, casual – which means a step down from Sunday best – but if you know all this I guess I don’t have to tell you. Actually I already RSVP’d and told her I was bringing someone, I just didn’t say who. I figured, worst case, my packmate Brett could just come in with me. He knows how to dance. You can dance right? No point in taking you if you can’t dance."
Conor bowed, “Yes indeed. I can, in fact, dance.” He straightened back up, “You said ’Come in with you,’ so other packmates will be there?”
Marisa put on a stern look, ruined somewhat by the mirth in her eyes, “That’s right, so don’t you go trying any funny business Don Juan.”
Now her expression became fully serious. “Yeah, we do that all the time, provide behind the scenes security for our various families, just to make sure nothing goes wrong… what with the world being… how it really is, you know?”
He nodded, “I do know. I know it well.”
She resumed her leisurely walk about the room, Conor was fairly sure it was so she could see him watching her. “This will be interesting. It’s been a long time since I could talk with anybody outside the pack about what I really am and what’s going on; years.”
Conor, “Another thing I know well.”
She ran a fingertip along his vertical blinds across the back wall of his apartment, “So any girlfriends I need to worry about showing up to ruin our weekend?”
He bobbed his head for a bit, trying to figure out how to phrase his reply. "I’ve lots of friends that are girls, some are even friends with benefits," at this Marisa laughed. "But no – no girlfriends. Not anymore anyway; not for a while now."
The she-wolf turned away, speaking over her right shoulder. “What happened, if I may ask? You said any question right?”
Conor nodded, "Aye that I did. Eh… short version, she gave an article of clothing of mine to one of the most powerful Fae of the Winter Court in the area. This Fae witch then used the item in a magical ritual that nearly stole away my mojo. The only way to prevent the spell was that I had to travel through the Nevernever, kill a centaur, and bring her the magical treasure he was guarding that she wanted… you know; typical ex-girlfriend stuff really."
She turned on her heel incredulous, speaking in rapid-fire Spanish, <Are you being serious right now?>
He couldn’t help it, he started laughing. In short order the infectious laughter spread. “Yes, every word that I just said is true. Alright I’ll concede maybe the ‘typical’ bit was a stretch.”
Conor could almost see the information slowly getting parsed by her mind and filed under ‘need to look into this’ instead of the ‘crazy talk’ rubbish bin.
“So what’s the Winter Court?” The expression on her face was like a television reporter that had just stumbled upon a juicy story.
Conor motioned back to the couch, taking a seat for himself. “Short description, the heavy metal, black leather wearing, BDSM, Goth Fae, that dig snow, ice, pain, violence, and might makes right.”
“The bad guys.” She sat down right next to him, directly in contact.
“Not so simple as all that, even in the heart of winter there are lovely days, snow angels, an’ in the summer we enjoy ice cream after all… But yeah, for the most part, the bad guys.” Conor put his right arm around behind her muscular shoulders.
She leaned into him, “Are there more courts? Spring, summer, and fall?”
“There’s the Summer Court aye; the other side. Militant pro life sorts, wild and free love, tree hugging, growing things, kissing babies and dancing around bonfires in forest glades at midsummer.”
“The good guys. What’s the bad?”
Conor had to think for a moment, “Cancer is growth, fire burns, and stampeding cattle sure look wild and free as they run you over and destroy everything in their way.”
“Spring Court? Fall?” Marisa was in full information gathering mode now.
He looked down at her face. She was staring off at the far wall. Gathering data, cataloging it; it was interesting to watch. “There are various lesser groups of Fae that may call themselves by such titles, but they’re just puttin’ on airs. The Summer an’ Winter Courts are the axis upon which the world of the Fae spins.”
She nodded, “And which are you?”
“I’m what we call, Wyldfae, I haven’t picked a side. I do my own thing but for the most part, I’m on summer’s side. But let’s just say I have a difference of opinion in regards to proper treatment of others, at least so far as the Duke of the local Summer Court is concerned.”
Marisa nodded, “Politics?”
Conor agreed, “Politics.”
“So tell me more about the Nevernever. We do have all weekend after all.”
Conor puffed his cheeks and slowly exhaled. “It would take all weekend at the very least. Short answer, that’s the ‘Other Side’ in quotation marks. It’s where monsters an’ faeries are born an’ where they go back to when they die. It’s where the shades of the dead roam free.”
He continued, “It’s a void where ideas, dreams, an’ nightmares all take shape. Likewise it gets shaped by the mortals that dream that stuff up in the first place. Time, distance, an’ the rules of reality mean very little there. It’s beautiful an’ terrible; enchanting an’ deadly.”
She furrowed her eyebrows, “Sounds confusing.”
Conor snorted, “No disagreement here.”
“Can anyone go there?”
He thought for a moment, “I’m no expert on other supernaturals mind, but I think any supernatural can, aye. For sure I know you can go if you’re taken by someone that can open The Way. Someone like a wizard for one, or me for example, I could take you.”
She turned to look him in the face. “Will you?”
He nodded, “If you put on your war face, aye. It’s a dangerous place most of the time; need to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.”
“Always dangerous?” She seemed slightly sad.
Conor nodded, “Always. But from time to time so beautiful as to bring tears.”
“I would very much like to see the Nevernever,” she said with a smile. “What is your favorite place?”
“Both in this world an’ the other, stepping out of the fog an’ placing your feet onto the Mountains of Mourne; right in the Silent Valley near Ben Crom. Everythin’ is alive with emerald verdure an’ dark stones, yet great works of mortal men are there to be seen. In the rain, all nature’s creatures are silent and the only sound is the roar of the rain on the water an’ the land. All is in balance there… well to my eye anyway.”
Marisa sighed, “I’ve never been outside of Texas and Nuevo León. Sounds pretty.”
He nodded, “It is. Would you like to see it? With the help of a bit of Fae magic?”
She looked at him a bit suspiciously, “How do you mean?”
He smiled, “If you’d like to see it, I can show you, right now, from this couch. Think of it as the latest in ancient 3D surround sound. Would you like to experience my memory, as if you were there yourself?”
After a moment, “Sure.”
Conor closed his eyes, calling forth his strongest and clearest memory of Ben Crom. His living room was transformed into the sights and sounds, smells and sensations of the Silent Valley.
Her eyes flew open wide, “¡Hijole!” She clutched at Conor tightly. In her mind’s eye, she was sitting on a ratty old couch in the middle of a gentle Irish springtime rain surrounded by emerald green mountainsides.
<This is amazing.> She stood up and looked all around, basking in the sensations of Fae Glamour. It seemed so real, she even began to shiver from the cold. <I had no idea magic could do stuff like this. I had no idea.>
Conor said nothing, focusing on maintaining the illusion that gave form and shape to his memory. However, the spell was broken when Marisa leaned down to kiss him. Though to be fair, concentration would have been difficult to maintain for most anyone through that sort of kiss.
When it was over, after a long silence heavy with raw emotions, she pulled Conor to his feet as well, “The Winter witch tried to steal your mojo eh?”
Conor simply nodded.
“Did you succeed and keep your mojo?” She was grinning, enjoying herself.
Conor nodded again, “I did.”
She gently poked randomly at his stomach with her index finger, “Did you ever get yourself medically checked? I’ve got nurse training you know?”
He raised an eyebrow, “No, and no I didn’t. Are you offering? I’ve no insurance, but I’m pretty sure everythin’s in proper workin’ order.”
She pretended to consider carefully, “Always good to double-check, and I’d be happy to inspect everything as a courtesy.”
“Fair enough, so what would this checkup entail?” Conor slid his arms around her muscular waist and back.
She cocked her head to the side, pretending to think hard about the question, “I’d need some space. This apartment is tiny. What’s upstairs? Your tour earlier didn’t include it.”
“Just the bed an’ bath is all.” Conor’s signature crooked grin was firmly in place.
Mainly I just wanted to play around and write. This is Conor, having bought off Item of Power, actually enjoying using his OWN Glamour. So I wanted it to show him using Glamour to do something very personal, his first use of his own magic as it were.