Archive | March 11, 2012

Inter-cultural relations, a continuation of Dragons Next Door for the January Giraffe Call

For the January Giraffe Call’s donor-perk continuation, after Exterminator (LJ)

The client stared at Steve, stared at the Tiny, and screamed.

She had a window-shattering caterwaul that would make stronger men than Steve wince; he sheltered the Tiny man under an insulated cup and waited for her to be done.

“Kill it,” she screeched, “kill the horrid little thing, what is it, don’t show it to me, no, just kill it!”

He stared at her. The Tiny stared at her. He was pretty sure the cat was staring at her. Cats did that, though. “Ma’am, this is a sentient being. Tinies are covered under the Finch-Thompson-Harris Convention.”

“The what?” She’d come down to a low yowl by this point, but she still couldn’t bring herself to look at the Tiny.

Steve boggled. “You really haven’t heard of the FTH? The Convention of 1949 that dictated the direction of human-nonhuman relations? The laws that state that, for instance, killing a dragon has the same legal consequence as killing another human?”

“Or a Tiny,” the Tiny man piped up.

The woman stared at them. “That piece of toilet paper? You can’t seriously expect me to know that shit.”

“Mrs. Anderson,” Steve replied, as patiently as he could make himself be, “the FTH is one of the most important documents in the world. And, if you don’t expect to follow it, then you can’t very well expect the ogres and dragons to mind it, either, can you? Did you know that, before the FTH…”

“Are you a history professor or an exterminator?” she interrupted. “Look, I hired you to deal with the problem in my walls.”

“You hired me to kill bugs. These are not bugs.” He set the Tiny man down near the entryway to his home. “They are sentient species. At the worst, they owe you rent, or you can move to evict them for non-notification. Sorry,” he added to the Tiny man, “but that’s the law.”

“We notified,” the man squeaked. “My grand-dad notified, he did. We have a hundred-year lease, as is standard.”

Mrs. Anderson sat down in her overly floral settee with a thump. “They have a lease? The crea… they have a lease? There was nothing about that in the paperwork when we bought this house. What can we do about that?”

Steve shook his head. “Ma’am, you need a lawyer, a good one. And, like I said, a co-habitation councilor or a cross-species translator. And maybe a read up on the FTH.”

She looked over at the Tiny man. “My father… I really shouldn’t say that, should I?”

“Probably not,” he agreed. His job was clearly done here; he began packing up his tools.

“Ey,” the Tiny called up to him, “ain’t you gonna help?”

“I’m an exterminator. There’s nothing to exterminate, is there?”

“What, like bugs or mice? No, we don’t tolerate that kind of shit in our walls. Begging your pardon, ma’am.”

“No offense taken,” Mrs. Anderson answered weakly. “You really have a hundred-year lease on my walls?”

“Just this wall. There’s another family living over by the bedroom.” The Tiny man leered at her. “Pricey land, Upstairs. My grand-dad couldn’t afford all that.”

Mrs. Anderson looked like she was going to cry. “There’s more creatures… in my bedroom?”

“In your bedroom walls,” Steve corrected. “It’s fairly common practice. I have three clans living in my house.” He smirked, amused at himself. “They like the quiet.”

“It’s not all that quiet here,” she offered weakly.

“Nah, but we’re willing to overlook a little bit of shoutin’ now and then on account of the low rent.”

That got Mrs. Anderson’s attention. “Rent?”

“Well, of course. You don’t think we just freeload, do you? Now, there are those that do, but they’re not what you’d call respectable Tinies. No, no, We pay rent, first of every month, have since my granddad’s time.”

“To whom?” She stood again, pacing. “I would have noticed, I think. If the man who sold us this house, that horrid creature, has been collecting rent all these years after not telling me there were ‘Tinies’ in the walls, I will take him to court and not stop until he hasn’t a single red cent to his name.”

“Hey now, hey now, no need to get nasty again. Maybe he thought you knew? There’s Tinies in every house in the neighborhood. We have a carpool.” The small man smiled hopefully up at Mrs. Anderson. “We can move out, if that’s what you want, but it will be hard for us to find a place as nice as this one.”

She sat back down, and then sat further down, on the floor, so she could look at the Tiny. “You think my place is nice? My walls?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, it’s ancestral land in there, which helps, but you have a lovely set of walls here, ma’am. We’d hate to move.” The Tiny paused. “And about the rent. We been dropping it in the drop box all these years. You never went to look?”

“The drop box?” She shook her head slowly. “No, I never knew of such a thing.”

“Well, then, I oughta show you.”

Steve stood up, content that his work was done. “I won’t bill you for the trip, Mrs. Anderson, if you can promise me you’ll work things out with this nice man and his family.”

She stood, shaking his hand. “Oh, no, at least let me pay your mileage. They pay rent,” she added, “that’s hard to find these days. And he thinks my walls are nice.”

“They’re very nice walls,” Steve agreed. He wasn’t going to work too hard at turning down money. “I’ll send you the names of some good inter-species translators. I know a gremlin who does good work.”

“I’d appreciate that. And, Mr. Canson… Thank you.”

Steve felt a grin spreading across his face. This one would turn out good, he knew it would. “The pleasure was all mine, ma’am. The pleasure was all mine.”

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For Rix_Scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of Damn List (LJ).

Addergoole has a landing page here.

I should really get around to figuring out what Ahouva’s Changes are.

Basalt sat down under the shade of an apple tree, at the edge of a beautiful little orchard, and patted the ground next to him. “So, that list. Let’s talk about it, okay?”

Ahouva sat down where he indicated, smoothing her skirt under her. A little dirt would come out in the wash, and she didn’t want to make him any unhappier. “Okay?” She wished she could just burn it. She wished he’d never ordered her to write the stupid thing.

“Let’s start with that last one.”

She winced, and pulled her knees to her chest. “I’m sorry! It’s…” It wasn’t fair, forcing her to be honest like that. She could do so much better if he let her keep things to herself.

“It’s fear. It’s a natural emotion, but it’s not exactly a fun one. And I can’t blame you for not liking it.” He took her notebook from her and looked at that last item again. “‘I don’t like being scared of my Keeper.’ I wouldn’t, either, Ahouva.”

She peeked up at him. He didn’t look angry. Yet. “I can’t imagine you scared of anything.”

“I was scared when I was Kept. I wasn’t scared of Brydan, but I was scared of not having any control over anything. I get angry when I’m scared, though.”

She nodded, gulping a little bit. “I just get worried.” That was almost true, at least. She could remember, Before, getting angry about it. But that was another world.

“I don’t blame you. So…. how can I help you not be scared?”

“You could order me not to?” she offered in a tiny voice. The don’t-feel-this-way orders were the worst. But it would stop the problem, right?

“No, honey.” He was frowning, but it was gentle somehow. “I mean, why do I frighten you?”

“Oh.” She quailed, but the truth bubbled out. “Because you’re scary!” When he didn’t yell at her or even frown, she hurried on. “You’re big and you’re stronger than anyone I know and I have no idea what you’re going to do or when this kid-gloves thing is going to be over and Basalt, I don’t know what you want!”

As soon as it had been said, she regretted it, slapping both hands over her mouth and flinching back. But he, he was smiling.

“Okay, that’s fair. I’m kind of big and rock-headed, I know that. Hunh. If I promise that I will tell you if you are doing something wrong, and give you a chance to fix it, before grumbling, will that help?”

She moved her hands away from her mouth, peeking at him. “You’d do that?”

“Honey, if it will help you relax, I’d promise a lot more than that.” He patted her shoulder. “I don’t like making you scared either.”

She relaxed a little, feeling as if she’d managed another hurdle. “Okay. Okay… yes? Yes, please?”

“I promise,” he smiled. “I’ll tell you and give you a chance to fix it if you’re doing something wrong, before I get angry with you. Okay?”

She blinked at him, feeling as if a giant weight was lifted off of her chest. “No secret mistakes? No tests?”

“None. I’m not bright enough for that.” He offered her an arm and, relieved, she cuddled into it, pressing against him, thinking her new master might be a lot brighter than he thought he was.

She relaxed, there, snuggled against his warmth for a bit, thinking maybe he’d stop there. And for the nicest five minutes she’d had in weeks, maybe months, he did. And then…

“So, the rest of the list.”

“Um?” She peeked up at him. “I’m fine.”

“I know you don’t like talking about it. Can you tell me why?”

“Because you don’t like it,” she answered quietly. “You’re always frowning.”

“Oh.” He frowned, and then, catching himself, made a gruesome grimace, and then another, before settling on something like a smile. Catching sight of her expression – she couldn’t tell whether to laugh or be terrified – the smile turned real. “That’s the face I make when I’m thinking, Ahouva, that’s all. And you make me think, a lot.” He pressed a finger to her lips. “That’s a good thing.”

She nodded, blushing. “So…” she offered, as he moved his finger away, “you aren’t angry when you do that”?

“No,” he shook his head. “No, not at all. I’m trying to figure out how to get to a place where we’re both happy.”

“Oh.” She blinked at him. “You could tell me what you want. That would make me happy.”

He laughed. “I want you to be my girlfriend, Ahouva. I don’t want you to just do what I want all the time.”

“Then let me go.” She slapped her hands over her mouth, but it was too late, the words were already out. And he… She peeked over her hands. He was smiling. Grinning.

“Atta girl,” he laughed. “That’s my Ahouva back. C’mon, let it out.”

Let it out was a very vague order, so, since he was smiling, and since he’d promised to warn her before punishing her, she poked him in the chest. “If you want me to act like myself, you can’t order it. Ordering is all about being a good pet. Being an obedient Kept. Ordering me to think about myself is counter-productive and it’s confusing.”

He looked startled, but he didn’t tell her to stop, so she didn’t.

“If you want me to be myself, Basalt, stop worrying about being a good Owner and just be a good person around me. You want to date your Kept… date me. Or something. Talk to me like a person and not a project. I’m not a broken window.” She wrinkled her nose, as her brain caught up with her mouth. “Or just Keep me,” she added, flinching a little bit, “but not like… ordering me to be honest. It sucks.”

He blinked. “Brydan…” He shook his head. “Right. That was different. And you… all right, Ahouva. I’ll try. May I kiss you?”

That seemed like a nice start. “Can I stop letting it out?” she countered, feeling more like herself than she had in a long time.

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Humanity, a continuation of Dragons next Door for the January Giraffe Call

For [personal profile] anke‘s commissioned continuation of Parent-Teacher Conference (LJ). Have no fears, there is twice this again in the queue to write!

Dragons next Door has a landing page here.

Audrey watched the woman’s expression, her hands, the way one long curl of her hair was trembling like a seismometer. She waited for a count of three, and then, because she wasn’t sure she trusted her own voice, she counted to three again.

“You seem to be under the impression that Juniper is completely human.” She used “completely” not for clarity, but because it clouded the issue. There were many human-hybrids out there, not many by percentages, perhaps, but enough that 20/20 had done specials on them, enough that most people had heard of someone who had met one.

In her line of work, Audrey had met more than one. Possibly more than a hundred; there were some she wasn’t sure of. Whatever the tv shows liked to suggest, one couldn’t always tell that someone was non-human by looking at them.

“And how would you have come to that impression, mmm?” Sage asked, seeming to, as he often did, read Audrey’s mind.

“She looks human,” Miss Milligan whispered. She stared at her tea in concern. “She looked like a normal little girl.”

“Except the overactive imagination,” Audrey pointed out sweetly. “Now, Juniper is a very imaginative young lady. She enjoys flights of fantasy and make-believe as much as the next child. But, Miss Milligan, there is a difference between that and making up stories.

The teacher looked up at them with a bit of steel. “Are you telling me, then, that your daughter has actually had dinner with ogres? That she babysits a dragon?”

“Yes, and yes.” Audrey raised an eyebrow. “Did she tell you about the time she slept over with the Harpy hatchlings? Smokey Knoll is a diverse neighborhood, Miss Milligan, as you clearly already know.”

“Yes, yes,” the teacher frowned, leaning forward. “I do have students here from some of the more… easily integrated races.”

Audrey smirked, reading “easily integrated” as “fits in a student-sized desk.” “I’m aware. So why the surprise? We’ve told you we live in Smokey Knoll.”

“You let your daughter spend time with ogres!” the woman exploded. “They are one of the most dangerous races around, and you willingly brought your daughter within their grasp! If Juniper was human – and I don’t entirely believe you that she’s not – I’d be calling child protective services on you! Babysitting dragons, indeed. Are you trying to get her killed?”

“There are plenty,” Sage answered quietly, “that would willingly do that. And plenty who protect her. The Smiths – those would be the dragons – as well as the tribe of ogres, the Euton, who used to be our neighbors, and, more than once, the harpies down the road, have each stopped or put off a hunter who was seeking to harm one of our three children.”

Audrey picked up the thread. “I can’t think of a safer place for our children to be than in the protection of the dragons next door.”

The woman shook her head, clearly out of her league. “It doesn’t seem right. But then again, none of this does.”

Audrey raised an eyebrow. This might prove interesting. “Whatever do you mean?”

“I used to know,” Miss Milligan sighed, “what was real, and what wasn’t. Now I don’t have a clue.”

“Well, then,” Sage smirked. “Ignorance is a good first step.”

Next: Human Town (LJ)

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