We Meet Again (Strangers in the Stream)

For my birthday weekend, I challenge(d) people to leave me prompts that would be fun for me to write and also that the prompted would enjoy reading enough to give me fun feedback on. 

Tall order, right? 🙂


“Shit, Dorian.”  Gianne eyed the bank of the overflowing river and then stumble-skipped down it, holding on to every branch and rock study enough to be a handhold; Dorian, an oversized golden retriever, stood at the top of the bank and barked helpfully.  “Shhh.”

The river was flowing fat and high, clearly over its normal banks, full of detritus, but none of that was what had caught her attention. The black hair with the single streak of white and the ashen face under it, barely held out of the water by the fork of a branch; it could be a corpse.  She was hoping it was still alive enough to save.

Dorian finally got over his ridiculous fear of water to come closer, finding a good place to plant his feet.  Gianne threw him the knotted end of a rope she’d been carrying since she’d first fled home, and he grabbed it and held the way only Dorian could.

She was pretty sure he’d either come with the fae or been altered by one of them; as far as she knew, Golden Retrievers did not normally weigh in at more than people or have heads that came up to one’s shoulder, even if she was a bit short.

She wasn’t complaining, though; he’d decided he was her dog, and he was more useful than, well, than almost anyone she’d encountered.

She used the rope to get down into the water while Dorian made a little growl noise that told her he was still paying attention.  The body in the water was moving, but that could have been the bobbing of the river trying to dislodge the pile of debris.

She got the rope around his shoulders with skill born of more practice than she’d ever have thought she’d get in rescue (if not Search; she didn’t so much look for people as rescue the ones she came across), kept his face above water as she detangled the detritus from around him.  Him, she thought, although the hair was long and the chin was beardless.  Something about the shape of the face.

She and Dorian got the man out of the water, Dorian providing much-needed stability against the current, and then up the bank far enough that they wouldn’t be washed away any time soon.

He was breathing, that was her first good sign.  Breathing, although soaked; at least it was summer.

She was checking him for injuries – lump on the back of the head, shoulder dislocated, ankle twisted, some basic bruising – when he woke up with a gasp and tried to kick away from her.

“Dorian, restrain.”

Dorian set a very firm paw on the man’s chest and another one above his head and panted down at the man.  He blinked.

“Hi,” she told him, trying to pull his attention away from the giant dog.  “I’m Gianne. I pulled you out of the river – I hope you weren’t too fond of it in there?  And I’m assessing your damage.”

“Gianne?  Gianne from Springfield Central?”  He blinked at her like his eyes weren’t quite working right.

“Here, can you track my finger for me?  She moved her hand, watching his eyes.  “You’ve got a bad lump on your head.  You should rest-”

“It’s Thom.  Thom Martin.  I know, I left junior year.  But-”

“I remember you.”  She looked away.  “You got, ah.”

You got even better looking.

She looked back.  “Dorian and I – this is Dorian – we spotted a place that’s still in good shape.  If I can rig up a stretcher, Dorian can get you there no problem.”

“I can walk,” he protested.  “I just can’t-  Well.  Stand up well.”

“How much do you weigh?”

“That’s a hell of a  – hundred and twenty-five, last time I weighed.”

“You can ride Dorian, then. You shouldn’t put more weight on that ankle, and I’m not sure you can walk at all.”

“Can he – can he handle my weight?”

“This dog is an epic dog.  He can handle me when he has to, thus he can handle you.  We’ll help you walk up to the road and then you can ride from there.”

“Why – you helped me before you knew who I was.”

“Well, yeah.  That’s what we do, Dorian and I.  We find people who need rescuing.  I was an EMT, or at least, I was training to be one, and then the world – ”  She made a broad gesture that was something like an explosion.  “So I’m still being emergency medical.”

“And – what about -”  he looked at the dog and back at her.  “Are you fae?”

“Come on, here, let met get you up.”  She eased him into a sitting position and then into half-standing, leaning on her arm.  “I’m not, but I think Dorian was touched by the fae.  He decided he was mine.”

“So would you, uh.  Rescue fae?”

“Didn’t you listen?  I rescue people.”  She caught from his sudden tension that he’d probably taken that exactly the opposite way she’d meant it.  “Yes.  Yes, I rescue everyone. ”

“That could be dangerous.”

“Yeah, so can going into a burning house to pull someone out.  Rescue work is dangerous. We’re going to take our time going up this hill, okay, and if you have to stop, tell me.”

“I can-”

“You can listen to me.  So, you went away in Junior Year.  Some sort of private school, you said?”

She’d had something of a friend-crush on him back then; she’d been devastated that he’d left and done her best to hide it.

“Yeah, I – I tried to write to you.  But this place, they…”  He sighed.  “I did miss you.  I’m glad you found me, and not just because – shit, ow, okay.”  He paused, catching his breath.  “Um.”  He looked away from her.  “Not just because you just saved my life.”

“Me, too…. really?  You really wrote?”

“No e-mail.  No contact with the outside world.  It’s really isolated.  It’s, uh.”  He looked over at her cautiously.  “A school for kids who are becoming fae.”

She didn’t stumble, Dorian pressed up firmly against her other side, but she did blink.  “So you’re… you’re a fae?”

“Yep.” He closed his eyes for a moment; goat horns seemed to curl out of his skull.  “See?”

“That’s – that’s pretty amazing.”  She wanted to touch the horn, to assure herself that it was real, but she was still supporting him.  “Here we go, couple awkward steps.  So- how did you end up in the river?”

“I was stupid.”  He cleared his throat and the horns vanished again.  “So you don’t care about, uh, about the fae thing?”

“Well, I mean, I want to ask you a million questions but you’re drenched, bruised, sprained, and possibly concussed.  So I figure we can worry about the million questions over the next … um.”  She looked away.  “Well, as long as you want to hang around me.”

He cleared his throat.  “So.  I owe you my life.  And I’m fae.  And – uh.”

She interrupted him, not because she didn’t want to hear it, but because she was started to feel exposed.  “Here.  Dorian – Ride.”

She pulled her packs off of Dorian’s back and slid them over her shoulders.  Dorian eyed Thom and lowered himself carefully.

“Really?  You really want me to ride your dog?  I won’t – I won’t hurt him?”

“You don’t weigh anything.  You’ll be fine.”  She helped him on to Dorian’s back.  “So.  From what I hear you saying, you’ll hang out with me for a bit?  At least long enough to answer the first million questions?”

“I-  He looked at her, looked at the dog, looked at the road, looked back at her.  “First million questions.  It’s a deal.”

She shook his hand, grinning.  “It’s a deal.”

4 thoughts on “We Meet Again (Strangers in the Stream)

  1. Oh I like this a LOT. I am happy to hear he tried to write her. That’s sweet, and it’s cool that they met up again.

    Also her dog is awesome. Well, the dog that picked a human is awesome.

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