People puzzled Tessa. It wasn’t confusion, or irritation, at least not in this case.
She could see why Yawlorna would want to have Glimmerglass’s powers. Tessa had spent years working on developing those powers and while Glimmerglass had progressed beyond where she’d been the last time Tessa had played as her, Tessa was still quite proud of Glimmerglass’s achievements.
She wasn’t upset that Yawlorna had chosen to join them either, or that Yawlorna was basically taking up all of Glimmerglass’s time. Okay, the last bit was slightly irritating. In theory, Tessa should have gotten her fill of talking to herself when she was alone in her apartment after her breakup with Crystal. And it was a little weird to talk with Glimmerglass after they’d shared a mind space when Tessa had bonded the three of her selves together to rescue Lisa. Despite all that though, the idea of chatting with her favorite character ever still seemed kind of awesome.
“No offense,” she said, speaking to Pillowcase, who laughed in response.
“I am horribly offended,” she said. “How terrible, that I like me, rather than myself, or I.”
“I guess I haven’t gotten my fill of talking to myself yet have I?”
“I mean, we are pretty awesome.”
“We’re just saying that because we’re in love aren’t we?”
“Probably. My brain doesn’t have happy juice to bath in like yours does, but it seems like love transcends bodily limitations.”
“I know this stage doesn’t last forever. Or at least it hasn’t before.”
“All the more reason to enjoy it, right?”
“Yeah. I think if I’d been just myself I would have sabotaged the hell out of this.”
“I’m surprised adding me into the mix helped. I mean ‘emotionless soldier drone’ doesn’t seem like a winning ingredient to add to a relationship from what I can see in your memories.”
“It’d be terrible. Thankfully you are neither emotionless or a drone. And the soldier bit is kind of misleading too.”
“You’re not following orders at the moment, or living by any particular code except the one you choose for yourself.”
“How am I helping then?”
“You’re brave. So much braver than me. I’d mess this up because I’d pull away rather than risk being hurt again. Some of my breakups sucked on an epic scale. Okay, may not epic. I need to recalibrate basically everything to a new scale given all of this stuff we got dropped into. But they’ve still sucked, especially where I exposed myself.”
“Am I brave then, or ignorant? Maybe I’m just luring you into repeating previous mistakes because I don’t know any better?”
“Sure. You are. But the thing is they’re mistakes that should be repeated. Because they weren’t my mistakes. I trusted Crystal, and she hurt me, and it is so very easy to feel like that was my fault. Seeing my own memories through your eyes though? It’s incredible. It makes all the difference! Could I have done things different so she couldn’t have hurt me so much. Sure. It’s easy to wall yourself off. I could have kept her at a very comfortable distance, and been very safe from her doing more than lightly bruising my feelings.”
“But that wouldn’t have been love. You would have gotten nothing out of being with her beyond there being a warm body in the room.”
“Yeah. And that can work for some people. Sometimes emotional openness isn’t what a relationship is founded on. Heck sometimes it’s just sex and that works for everyone involved. And sometimes there’s not even sex in the equation. Everybody finds their happiness on their own path.”
“Yours takes an open heart though, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. Lisa’s probably going to hurt me too. And I’ll probably hurt her. We’ll make mistakes, and get careless as we get comfortable. It’s inevitable. I know it is. But, in this moment, I still want to take those hits. And I want to make amends when I make those mistakes too. What we’re feeling now is delightful. I’m still buzzing from the fact that we’ve slept together! But that’s the sexy, mind blowing kind of love. It’s fun and wonderful and a lot more satisfying than I remembered. But the kind that comes after – the kind that I hope comes after – the kind based on making the choices to hold together even when it’s not fun, even when we’re not at our best? I think, I hope, that kind of enduring love is what will help us both become stronger, become who we want to be.”
“I can see why you reach for it.”
“It’s a nice dream isn’t it? I think it’s the dream I’ve been chasing my whole life. As Tessa, and as Glimmerglass. I don’t even really know if it’ll work out. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on what any relationship could be. Maybe it all needs to come from me. Maybe I believe love can help change me because I’m afraid to try on my own.”
“Maybe. I don’t think so, but what do I know? The only introspection I was build with was a self-diagnostic routines to make sure all of the spells woven into me were functioning properly. I shouldn’t know anything about love, or relationships, or even what I want. I wasn’t supposed to want anything. Or have a relationship with anyone. Or love at all.”
“Oh wow. But you did.”
“We did. You. Me. Glimmerglass. We’re all the same. I mean even when we’re separate and limited to just our own memories. I didn’t have the words to understand what I needed, I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts on what was missing, or what the constraints on me were holding me back from pursuing. Through your eyes though? It’s so easy to see. I needed the same thing you’ve fought for. You took blows I couldn’t even conceive of and you’re willing to take more. So I stand by my original assertion. We’re awesome.”
“I can’t tell you how scary it feels to try to agree with that.”
“We should probably try to work on that too.”
Tessa felt a hand on her shoulder, and found Lisa nodding towards the road ahead of them where Rip, Matt, Baelgritz, Illuthiz and Hermeziz had formed a little mini-party that was steadily increasing the distance from the others.
“Think they’re a little eager?” Lisa asked on their private channel.
“Can you blame them?” Tessa asked. “This is the first time they’ll get to use their new abilities in a real fight.”
“Well, sort of a real fight,” Lisa said and nodded back towards Glimmerglass and Yawlorna who were still deep in their own private conversation.
“Is it weird that I’m kind of jealous of Yawlorna for talking with my other me?” Tessa asked. She felt a twinge of embarrassment to even ask that, both for claiming someone like Glimmerglass as herself – Tessa was still convinced she’d never been as cool as her old character was – and for revealing that she was even ‘kind of jealous’ which seemed petty and silly.
“It’d be weird if you weren’t,” Lisa said. “I’m resisting the urge to chat up your other self just to learn all I can about you.’
“Aww, that’s sweet. On both sides,” Tessa said.
“A bit stalkery though. I mean if I want to know something, I should just ask you right?”
“If you want to know something, you are always welcome to ask me. I like sharing like that with you,” Tessa said. “But I know it’s not always easy to just believe something because I say it. I mean I have biases too. Even if I want to tell you everything, I’ll probably forget things, or leave them out without thinking about them, or color things so I don’t look entirely terrible. So if you want to talk with Glimmerglass, please do. At the moment she’s got a different perspective on things than I do, so she can probably give you a good sanity check on anything that seems too out there about me.”
“It seems unfair though,” Lisa said and Lost Alice added, “You’re always talking to both of us when we chat, and none our other selves seem to be available like Glimmerglass is. You don’t have the same ‘second source’ to fact check the things I say.”
Tessa’s first reaction was to downplay the problem. She didn’t need to fact check Lisa. She loved Lisa. She would just trust this wonderful, beautiful, amazing woman and everything would work out fine because Love Conquers All!
A single breath in was all it took to dispel that particular nugget of love drunk lunacy.
To accept that inequality wasn’t fair.
And it was unnecessary.
“How about you introduce me to Cease All then?” Tessa said. “You two have been friends for a while right?”
“Sure, but it doesn’t seem quite the same,” Lisa said. “Cease didn’t mind meld with me, and, you know, isn’t another aspect of me.”
“At the moment, Glimmerglass is basically just a really close friend,” Tessa said. “The memories we share are a bit dim since we don’t have immediate access to the same mind space Pillowcase and I share. Plus Glimmerglass will probably share more of my biases than Cease will with you. So I’m getting a better deal here in a sense.”
“Might want to wait till you meet Cease before you feel to sure about that,” Lisa said.
“What’s she like?”
“Probably a little different than I remember,” Lisa said. “I’m used to dealing with Michaela. You’d be chatting with her and with Cease.”
“You’ve talked with them both several times now though right? Is Cease much different than Michaela?”
“I suppose not? Or maybe not with me. I think Michaela basically patterned Cease after herself pretty much. She can be a bit sarcastic though, especially with new people.”
“Oh no, not a sarcastic gamer girl!” Tessa said. “I can’t imagine running into one of those.”
“Oh great, you two are going to get along. This is terrible,” Lisa said.
“Better start pumping Glimmerglass for info then, or Cease and I will get ahead on the ‘conspiring with each other’ curve.”
“Think I can get a word in edgewise between her and Yawlorna?” Lisa asked.
The two had drifted far enough back from the main body of the party (defined as the group that had both of the tanks) that they were officially lollygagging.
“Glimmerglass always loved helping train up fledglings,” Tessa said. “I know it’s weird to think of Yawlorna as a newbie but if she’s serious about leveling up as a healer, then she’s basically level 0 at the moment in terms of what she needs to know about the role, and I’m guessing Glimmerglass hasn’t gotten to train anyone since I quit playing, which was like a century or more for her. Huh, I hadn’t done that math till now. I owe her such an apology.”
“She hasn’t seemed like she’s holding a grudge,” Lisa said.
“She might not be. But I bet it still hurt to be without her [Inspiration] for so long.”
“Talk to her then,” Lisa said. “After we get back obviously. We should be getting out of town in what, a minute or two?”
“Sooner if Rip manages to find trouble and we’ve got to run ahead and save the five of them.”
“Didn’t we promise we’d keep Balegritz and company safe?” Lisa said.
“That was before we knew that we could rez them,” Tessa said. “I mean, we should still try to keep them alive, but if I lose aggro I’m not going to have a melt down like I would have before.”
“That’s good. I can kind of picture you having a Tank meltdown. You actually care about the job.”
“Perils of working with people you like,” Tessa said.
From farther ahead than they had any business being came the inevitable cries of surprise and sounds of combat that set Tessa’s feet into a full out sprint.
“People you like and people you’d like to strangle,” Lisa said.
“Were we any better when we were starting out?” Tessa asked, feeling charitable largely because she’d foreseen the moment coming from the instant Rip’s crew starting pulling away from the pack.
“Oh I was much worse,” Lisa said.
“Same here,” Tess said. “Come on, let’s go pay forward some old favors.”