There are times when we can stand alone and times when we must depend on our friends. Times when the challenges before us are too great to be overcome by any one person’s skill or power. It’s then that we have to rely on the bonds that we’ve forged, the friendships we’ve made and the good will that our many kind and charitable acts have earned us.
“No, Mel, I can’t read his mind for you!” Fari said.
“Not even a little bit?” I asked.
“No! I mean, I wouldn’t even if I could, but I’m telling you, I can’t do that. As in I’m not capable of it,” Fari said. “I don’t get why you would even want me too? Isn’t this supposed to be a special ‘alone time’ for you two tonight?”
“It’s just dinner,” I said.
“Then what are you nervous about?”
“I don’t know!” I tossed my robes on the ground and clenched my fists at nothing in particular.
I was still wearing my hospital robes despite having been discharged and relocated to a “recovery clinic” (which was nicer than any hospital I’d ever seen or been in). After a week of resting and daily healing sessions I was starting to feel like my old self. That would be the “old self” that couldn’t cast anima spells though. I could still sense the magic that I had in me. It felt cold and bright and tingly but I was under strict orders not to use any of it. I’d pushed myself too hard and too far and been hit with too strong an series of magical attacks to risk doing further damage to myself while I healed.
That should have meant that a quiet dinner for two was exactly the kind of thing that I needed. Somehow though my guts felt worse than they did when I’d had a spear of Void anima rammed through them.
“You’ve already kissed him. A couple times right? What’s one little date?” Fari asked.
“Those were spur of the moment things. I didn’t have time to think about them.” I said. I hadn’t meant it as an excuse, which was good because as excuses went it sounded pretty lame.
I plopped down and sat on the edge of the bed I’d been lying in for the earlier part of the day. Fari floated over in her ghostly blue form and settled on the foot of the bed watching me.
“Are you worried about him?” she asked.
“No,” I said right away. “I mean, I’m sure that’ll be fine. He’ll probably be here right on time and everything.”
“Are you worried about you then?”
“No. Maybe?” I said. “I don’t know. This just feels weird. And it shouldn’t. But…”
I dropped back to lay on the bed and felt the low level healing spell it was enchanted with kick in. The warmth of it was familiar after a week of R&R but it didn’t do anything to settle my stomach or my mind.
“There’s something different about this date. Something that’s bothering you,” Fari said. She hadn’t phrased it as a question, but I knew what the answer was anyways.
“It’s stupid,” I said.
“You’re afraid Makkis’ supporters will attack you while you’re eating?” Fari said.
“No, but now that you mention it…” I said and smiled at her.
“I’m not going to guess anymore if it’ll just give you more ideas to worry about.” Fari said. “But come on, what’s bothering you about going out with Darius tonight?”
“It’s stupid. It’s really stupid.” I said.
“Not if its bothering you like this!”
“It’s just…” I started to speak but shut myself down. It even sounded stupid in my head. I couldn’t imagine how much worse it would be to say it.
“Trust me.” Fari said and waited.
Her silence and patience was a gift to me. My silence would have been an insult so I took a breath and said, “It’s just kind of my first one.”
“Your first date?” she asked, tipping her head to the side to consider the information.
“Yeah. I mean, at least my first real one,” I said.
I expected her to explode with laughter, or agree that I was stupid or try to comfort me. She did none of that.
“I can see why you’re nervous.” she said.
“I can’t.” I said. “I’ve kissed him, I’ve saved his life and I can probably take him in a fight even without my anima. I’ve got nothing to be afraid of here!”
“You’re doing something new, and there’s a real chance you’ll get hurt. I don’t think you’re wrong to be afraid,” Fari said.
“He’s not going to hurt me,” I said. “I know that. I mean, he’s had the chance already. He could have shot me when we first met.”
“I don’t think you’re worried about him shooting you,” Fari said. “You’re worried he won’t show up right?”
“I…I know that’s dumb. He’ll be here. And he’ll probably find me in my hospital robes at this rate,” I said.
“He might like that you know. He did come to visit you pretty often this last week while you were recuperating.”
“He wasn’t there yesterday though when they let me out,” I said. It shouldn’t have hurt for that to be true. It was greedy and ridiculous, but that didn’t stop the twinge of pain that I felt.
“He was called before the negotiating committee,” Fari said.
“I know. I know!” I said. Darius had talked with me after the committee session was over to check on how I was settling in at the recovery clinic. It was more than a week after we’d disarmed Hellsreach but the real problems that plagued the planet still had a long way to go before they were resolved. I understood the need for Darius to help in that however he could. Hell, I’d have punched him if he’d tried to hang around with me while the rest of the planet descended into chaos. At the same time though I had to wonder if getting away from me was a difficult choice for him at all.
For the most part, I’d been the one who’d drawn him in. I’d talked about getting dinner together. I’d been the one to kiss him. He’d seemed happy enough with the idea of getting to know each other better, but maybe he was just going along with what I wanted to be nice?
I knew that was the wrong way to think. I knew I should just trust him. It was hard though. I knew I was being stupid but my emotions didn’t care about what I “knew”. They seemed to only remember what I’d experienced, and only the bad stuff for the most part. I remembered people telling me I was ugly, but I couldn’t remember anyone ever complimenting me. I knew they had, I just couldn’t remember them as clearly.
“You’re going to go,” Fari said. “And you’re going to enjoy yourself. Don’t think about how you’re going to make that happen. You don’t need to worry about it. I’ve seen you two together, you’ll be fine.”
“It’d be a lot easier to believe that if I could hear what he was thinking,” I said.
“I don’t think it would be.” Fari said. “Choosing to trust someone is a big part of showing them what they mean to you.”
“What if its wrong to trust them?” I asked.
“Then you can get really hurt,” Fari said. “So, choose carefully I guess? I’m not exactly able to throw stones if you don’t though.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I trusted the people who made me whatever I am now. I was supposed to be very smart, brilliant for my age, but that didn’t stop me from doing something very dumb.”
“So I should call the date off?” I said. It wasn’t what she was suggesting, but I wanted to see where her thoughts lead.
“I don’t know. You might get hurt, but I think the dumbest move is hiding from life.”
“That reminds me of Master Hanq,” I said. “He was big on the whole idea of ‘if you get into a fight you’re going to get hurt’. I guess the same is true with dates right?”
“Combat training might not be the best thing to apply to your love life,” Fari said. “Think of this as a whole different area of study. You’ll trip and stumble and wind up laying on a bed when you should be getting dressed, but you’ll find your way in time.”
“You seem to know a lot about this sort of thing,” I said as I got up and reclaimed my Guardian robes from the floor. “Was there a Jewel of Endless Night dating club that you folks had going on back in the day?”
“We weren’t exactly the ‘dating’ sort,” Fari said. “I’ve just watched people for a long time.”
“So what does your experience suggest then for my date? Should I call it off?” I asked.
“If I said ‘yes’, would you want to ask me more questions and make me justify my answer?” she asked in return.
“Yeah, definitely,” I said.
“And if I said ‘no’, would you accept that and finish getting dressed?” she asked.
“Probably,” I said.
“Then you have your answer don’t you?” she said. “For the record though, I think you should definitely get dressed.”
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“First, because you and Darius are adorable and could use some time together outside of a hospital room. Second because the experience will be good for you,” she said. “And third, because he’s here and on his way to your room now.”
I squeaked in shock, which is not a sound I normally make, and started throwing off the clothes I was wearing.
I know. Not exactly the brightest move.
I was halfway dressed when I heard a knock at the door to my room. I turned to look at Fari and found that the evil little blue ghost was cracking up in laughter.
“Hello! Umm, Mel?” I heard Darius say.
“One second!” I called back and hastily threw on the rest of my garments. One nice thing about Guardian robes, they’re easy to get into quickly. That was probably a design goal since they tend to carry a lot of battle enchantments. Whether intentional or accidental though, I was glad to be able to open the door before Darius wandered away.
“Sorry I’m early,” he said as I let him into the living room of the suite I had at the clinic. I’d slammed the bedroom door behind me so that he wouldn’t see the maelstrom of clothes I’d left in my wake.
“No, I’m glad you made it!” I said and winced inside. I still felt off balance, but seeing him was nice. Comforting in a way.
“I brought you these,” he said and handed me some plants. I’d never gotten flowers before and I wasn’t sure I could claim to have received any yet with how the plants he handed me looked. They were plain green stems with small thorns along them, and each of the dozen bits of vegetation ended in a brown lump that looked like a realistic depiction of a human heart.
“Thank you.” I said, trying to take the gift in the spirit that it looked like he was giving it.
“Those are Fauni Amurala,” he said. “They’re sensitive to anima and bloom in the most amazing colors. I thought you could use them for practice in your recovery.”
I felt a warm glow lift me up as I looked again at the ugly green and brown plants. I fed one just the barest hint of Physical anima and watched colors sparkle down its length and collect on the edges of the tightly curled heart bud at the end. Even the green and brown ones looked beautiful in light of that.
“Thank you!” I said again, this time with honest joy in my voice.
“I hoped you’d like them,” he said. “I kind of had to ask my father what variety to get and he can have some weird ideas sometimes.”
“So this isn’t your standard gift to all the girls you take to dinner then?” I asked.
“Uh, let’s just say that you’re on a very prestigious list and that it’s been awhile,” Darius said.
“How long is a while?” I asked, curious even though I’d been so unwilling to answer that question myself.
“Well, we were six, but we were very serious there for a while,” he said. “I’m talking two straws in the same fruit juice serious here, so, like I said, it’s a prestigious list.”
I laughed again.
“I’m honored to be included in it then,” I said.
“There was one other thing I wanted to check on before we left,” he said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
And then he stepped in and kissed me.
When we came up for air a few minutes later, I saw him relax and smile as he watched me. His pupils were huge as I stared into his eyes.
“Yep. That confirms it. Going a few days without seeing you is way too long.”
I had to punch him. But not too hard. The last thing I wanted to discourage was things like that after all.