My name is Way. For the last four years I’d been a student at the Parliament of Time. That was changing. With our general schooling behind us, my classmates and I were moving on to the real training for the roles we’ve chosen for ourselves. For the longest time that terrified me. I’d thought that “moving on” meant “moving on from the relationships I’d formed with the people there”.
I’d been wrong and there was a band of pink light on the ring finger of my left hand to prove it. I held onto that and treasured the reassurance it offered. I’d given away a piece of my heart to be near the one that I love, and received so much more in return.
I smiled as I felt the warmth of Jin’s ring dance under my fingers. Exchanging the rings had been a symbol of what we’d forged between us. The truth though was that I’d given her my heart the first time we’d embraced. She’d pulled me back to myself when I was crumbling to pieces, and yet in all our our time together after that, she’d never held it as a debt against me.
I loved Jin from the first day that I knew her. It wasn’t love at first sight though. The first time I saw her, she confused me because she tried to help me. Then she scared me because she wanted to talk to me. And finally she terrified me because, at my most destructive, she embraced me. She saw who I wanted to be and offered me the chance to be that person. It sounds simple but believing in someone, especially someone who can hurt you deeply, can be the hardest thing in the world. Jin had done that for me, and I almost couldn’t help but fall in love with her.
Somehow, in falling in love with her though, I hadn’t seen how much she was falling in love with me. She saw me as beautiful and she made me see myself that way too. We’d always been open and shared how happy we were to be together, but I don’t think either of us had reflected on what that meant until we were faced with being parted. When it came time to put into words what I knew inside, it had been easy to admit how I felt about her to myself. What had been hard was listening to the voice that told me I might mean as much to her as she did to me. Maybe it had been too much to hope for, that I could make anyone as happy as she made me.
I can be quiet, and scary sometimes. I’ve destroyed things that can never be replaced. It’s easy for me to see why someone who really knew me would want to run and run and never come back. She’d never turned away though. For as terrible as I can be, she’d never let me go after that first embrace, and I’d never wanted her too. I think I gave her my heart because even from the beginning, she’d invited me into hers.
“You have a nice smile on your face. Happy thoughts?” Jin asked. We were sitting together on a big comfy beanbag chair, with Jin on my lap, resting her head on my shoulder.
“The happiest.” I said and wrapped my arms around her. A warm and gentle night breeze was blowing across the balcony of her parent’s home but she snuggled in closer as though seeking shelter.
“I think I understand why some people want to freeze time.” Jin said with a contented sigh.
“Don’t you dare!” I warned her. Meddling with time was one of those ideas that sounds good and yet rarely ever works out well in practice.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” she mumbled before giving me a light kiss on the neck. “It’s too nice a night to spoil with another trip to the Auditor’s office.”
We’d each spent the day being “debriefed” by the Parliament’s official auditors. Jin’s debriefing had taken longer than mine for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that she’d kind of broken the world we supposed to be protecting. To be fair, she’d also come up with a novel solution for fixing it.
“Speaking of the Auditor’s, what did they say about ‘Guy’?” I asked her.
“They weren’t all that happy that I’d invited a dream creature into a real world, but they had to admit it was an effective ploy.” she said.
“So they think Madelaine will be ok with him?” I asked.
“I think so. They were at least talking about monitoring her where she was rather than extracting her back to the Parliament before she wrecked the world.” she said.
“Did they say anything about how that will affect Kari’s project?” I asked.
“Apparently this counts as a gold medal success. Her fate weaving has changed the fate of the world for the better, including identifying a latent dream weaver and arranging for one of the least disruptive resolutions on record. The idea of using creatures like ‘Guy’ has been considered for a while but no one was willing to risk it before us, so Kari gets some bonus points for arranging the situation that required it.” Jin said.
“Where did you even find ‘Guy’ by the way? When Kari said he didn’t exist I thought that part of the fate weaving was going to turn into a chaos vortex or something.”
“Believe it or not Peri led me to him.” Jin said.
“Your sister? Wait, did she awaken too?” I asked.
“No, she just sort of fell into a rift that had formed under her bed.” Jin said.
“Oh, you mother had mentioned that. That wasn’t a rift to one of the Faerie realms?” I asked, feeling a bit guilty. I’d noticed it when it was pointed out but it had been tiny and there was a barrier in place so I’d assumed it was something minor.
“Nope, it was a full rift into the dreaming. Belle looked into and probably could have handled everything but once Peri followed her in I wanted to make sure they both made it out ok.” Jin said. “Oh, and do you mind if Peri kind of ‘borrows’ Belle for a while?”
“Borrow Belle?” I asked. Belle had been my familiar when I met Jin. In freeing me, Jin had freed her as well. Without the need to attend to my every whim, these days Belle was closer to being my kid sister than a servant. We were still close but it wasn’t uncommon for her to go off exploring for a week or two if something new caught her interest. If either of us were in trouble we knew we could call, but with the safety offered by the Parliament that hadn’t been necessary in years.
“Yeah, Belle made the mistake of appearing before Peri in her ‘puppy form’ and now Peri is convinced that she’s the best puppy in the world.” Jin said.
“Belle? How are you doing with this?” I asked via dream speech.
“I think I can tolerate it.” Belle sent back. The undercurrent of the dream speech carried the sense of how wonderful it was having Peri scratch right behind her ears while she was in ‘puppy form’.
“Thank you Belle!” Jin said in dream speech too and then added in regular speech, “I think she’s happy to have someone to protect again.”
“I shudder to think what would happen to someone who tried to mess with your sister.” I said. Between Jin, her mother and her brother, Peri was probably the best guarded four year old in the world. Adding Belle to the mix was an invitation for Peri to go out seeking trouble, but I didn’t mention that. I wasn’t worried the two of them would get into anything too bad and what trouble they did find probably deserved what it was going to get.
“It’s funny to think how much older she’ll be before I get to spend much time with her again.” Jin mused.
“Having second thoughts?” I asked.
“No. I’ve had enough of those and you banished them quite wonderfully.” Jin said.
“No second thoughts about us either?” I asked. I already knew the answer but it was nice hearing her say it.
“It should feel weird to be married right? Or at least different? But it just feels…right.” she said.
“I know what you mean. It’s like nothing changed between us. I love you today and I loved you yesterday. That feels the same. The only difference is that now other people know too.” I said.
“Speaking of letting other people know, my mom asked if we’d like to have a reception.” Jin said.
“Oh.” I said and felt a warm bubble of new happiness float up within me. I knew Jin’s family but I hadn’t ever spent a lot of time them. The thought of her mother welcoming me into their circle was nice. I blinked and felt my throat get a little tight.
Family was something I’d been without for a long time.
“We don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Jin offered.
“No, I’d like to. I’d love to in fact.” I said and then blurted out the idea that had leapt on me. “Do you think we could invite my parents too?”
“Your parents?” Jin asked. She looked confused and I could understand why. My parents didn’t exist. Not in any proper sense of the term. My father had destroyed himself utterly seeking to restore the girl I’d once been and my mother had died in a forgotten and lost age of the world. Despite that I’d met them both four years ago, deep in of the Unreal
“I know it’s a crazy idea. We can’t go back to the shores of Oblivion. I’d just like to share this with them.” I said. Jin and I could go almost anywhere, but the far ends of the Unreal, where all reality, even dreams, gave way to nothingness, that was a place even we couldn’t venture to lightly.
“I’d like that too. I thought they moved on though?” Jin said. The last we’d seen them, they’d been together but where they’d been heading had been unclear, except that it was somewhere I couldn’t follow.
“I know. It’s just a crazy thought.” I shrugged. Jin’s family would be plenty for me.
She kissed me quickly on the lips, brushing away the melancholy of my words.
“I wouldn’t be much of a dream lord if I couldn’t make crazy wishes come true would I?” she said.
“I can’t ask you to do that though.” I said, shaking my head.
“You don’t have to. Do you remember Pen?” she asked.
“Yes, he was the first dream lord you met, wasn’t he?” I asked in return.
“Actually just a remnant of one. He went into the Parliament’s research division after a teaching for a little while. He’s back to teaching now and Professor Haffrun recommended him as my mentor.”
“Is that good?” I asked. I knew they’d parted well and had remained loosely in touch, but I didn’t have a sense of how talented a mentor Pen might be.
“I think so. He knows a lot, and he knows me well enough to not start me off with baby steps. In fact, the first project he’s given me is to pick somewhere that I would consider ‘dangerous’ and we’ll work out a plan for how to approach it safely.” she said.
“I don’t think he meant Oblivion.” I said uncertainly.
“Then this will be a good lesson for him to provide better parameters on his projects won’t it.” she said with an evil grin.
“I assume there’s going to be some oversight on this?” I asked, wondering what sort of insanity I was letting my beloved wander into.
“All vetted by the Parliament, meaning in this case Professor Haffrun.” she assured me. That eased my worries. However crazy Jin might be, she’d never managed to weasel her way into anything truly dangerous under the Professor’s watchful eye.
“Still, you don’t have to…” I started to say, but she put a finger on my lips to cut me off.
“Give me a letter for them. Just tell them what you’d like. You’re right, I probably won’t see them, but if I do, I’ll make sure they get it and they know that you’re still thinking about them.” she said.
I sighed and relaxed.
“How about you? Have you gotten your first assignment yet?” Jin asked.
“Yeah, my mentor is a woman named ‘Wry’. I think she comes from a world like this. Our first assignment is safeguarding a diplomat who’s trying to negotiate a peace between two parallel worlds.” I said.
“That doesn’t sounds too bad.” Jin said.
“The one problem is that the diplomat is the one who started the war in the first place.” I said.
“I take back my evaluation. Do you think you’ll be ok?” Jin asked.
“Wry has said I’m along to learn etiquette and poise. Supposedly if there’s any fighting to be done, she’ll handle it.”
“Do you think she’ll be able to?”
“I’m not sure. She was hard to get a read on. Either she’s kind of delusional or she’s really good at hiding her full power.” I admitted.
“If you need a hand…” Jin said, and ran her fingers over the pink ring she’d given me.
“The same for you.” I said, resting my right hand over her left. I felt both of our rings beating with a soft warmth. Together.
I’d been afraid of losing her. I’d been afraid of what I’d become without her. I could still lose her, and I could still become something terrible, but I wasn’t afraid anymore. Wherever we were, no matter how many worlds lay between us, we would never truly be apart, and as long as we were together, nothing was impossible for us.