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All of the Protectors packed their gear and flew in their government provided jet to Japan to help after the earthquake and tsunami. Even a bunch of the adjuncts and part-timers went. I’ve seen the devastation on Youtube and on the news. I know they’re needed. The Japanese heroes are doing the best they can, but they’re overwhelmed. I’d seen some sort of radiation absorbing hero get blown to bits on the news just the other day, when an explosion happened at one of the nuclear power plants.  I know my healing venom in particular could be a huge help. White Knight called the hospital where I work to try to talk me into going with them.

 I told him to take a long walk off a short pier.

If the supes had just slipped off quietly, it would have been fine. I might even have been convinced to go with them. Remedy’s an amazing hero, but his healing abilities have their limits. My gift could save a lot of lives over there. The thing is, the Protectors left in front of all the cameras. The president announced, “We are sending our greatest heroes to aid our friends in Japan.”  Made a big production about it.

Even the All American Alliance heroes went, while their corporate sponsors talked about how they were citizens of the world economy, etc. It’s good PR for them, and they do a lot of business in Japan.

So, every criminal, super-villain, and low-life on this continent now knows that the heroes that normally keep them in check are all on the other side of the world. Peachy.

Not everybody went. Some of the independents saw the writing on the wall like I did, and stayed behind to try to pick up the slack. I didn’t don tights or anything, but when I saw TakeDown on a live news report trying to fight off three super-villains at once, by himself, I realized I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines anymore. These guys were robbing a bank in broad daylight, and just walking over the cops, not three blocks from my apartment. I decided to keep my wings under wraps, so I had to run over there, but the fight was still in full swing when I arrived.

A big guy with disproportionately long arms, and a lot of body hair that reminded me of a gorilla was holding TakeDown in an arm lock while some jerk with porcupine spikes all over his body was seriously messing him up.

I got the spikey guy around the throat with my left arm, making sure only my scaly parts got close to him.

TakeDown broke free of the arm lock by dropping to the ground and slinging the gorilla over his head. Stoically ignoring a half dozen spines sticking out of his less armored arms and legs as well as his armored torso, he tossed a glue grenade at spike-boy’s legs. That took him out of the fight, I thought. But he drew back and did this motion at me like he was throwing a baseball. I put my left arm up to cover my face out of reflex, and it was lucky I did. About ten of those spikes stuck in my favorite denim jacket, and I felt them scritch against my scales. I had to pick three more out of my hair later. Only one hit flesh. It stuck in my neck, just above my collarbone, and went in about an inch. Burned like fire. I yanked it out fast, and the nasty thing was barbed. It ripped a hole as big around as my pinky.

Can I just say, OW! That hurt. Really hurt. Being hit by a car was more fun.

I punched the guy in the face, the one place where he had no spines, and he went down like a tree broken by a hurricane, his feet still glued to the ground.

Porcupine’s buddies saw what was happening, and the next thing I knew I was bouncing off a car door, and pieces of the pavement were flying all around me. One bit of concrete cut me over the eye, and blood ran into it. I had to keep blinking to see what was going on.

This guy with spikey blue hair was holding his hands out like an anime magician in TakeDown’s general direction. TakeDown was like a red and black streak as he leapt out of the way just before a big crater appeared in the pavement where he’d been standing, and concrete chunks went flying.

That gave me a bit of a clue as to why I was lying against a tire, and there was a hole six feet away where I’d been standing just before.

Well, okay then.

I got up, dusted my butt off with my hands out of reflex where I’d been sitting on the ground, and wiped the blood out of my eye.

The guy who knocked me on my butt was aiming his hands at TakeDown again, who had gotten jumped, and was fighting hand-to-hand with the gorilla-looking fellow. They were both moving like greased lions, but it looked to me like TakeDown was getting the better of it. The blue-haired blaster was going to hit TakeDown from behind.

“Hey!” I shouted at Blue-Hair. “Try that again when I’m looking, jerk!”

So, of course, he did.

He aimed his palms at me, wrist touching wrist, fingers curled around a ball of wavy light distortion. I almost stood there a half second too long, just watching him fascinated, as he warped thin air into something that hit like a wrecking ball.

At the last possible moment, I jumped. I didn’t want anyone to see my wings, so I couldn’t flap to assist and make it up a couple of stories, but I can still jump like a pole-vaulter, without having to mess around with a pole.

I landed on blue-hair’s chest.  He went whumf when he landed on the ground, then coughed, gasped and choked. I put a tennis shoe on his throat, and held him down. “Aim those hands at me and I’ll practice my clogging,” I told him.

He was too busy trying to breathe to answer.

I checked on TakeDown. He had the big gorilla in an arm lock and slapped a cuff on him faster than I could blink.

TakeDown thanked me for the assist while he was cuffing the blue-haired guy, and Spike.

Once the criminals were cuffed, my brain shifted gears to EMT mode, and I started checking the six inch long needles sticking out of TakeDown’s arms and legs. The spikes had bounced off his knee pads, and shin and forearm guards, stuck harmlessly in his torso armor, but his upper arms were bare, and his thighs only had black and red spandex over them.

“Don’t those hurt?” I only had one, and it had been like a red hot poker in my skin. There was some kind of acid or irritant on the surface of those things, no doubt. I couldn’t imagine how he had kept fighting so effectively with those things buried two inches deep in his flesh.

He grinned and grimaced at the same time, “Like heck.” Yes, he actually said heck. TakeDown works with kids a lot.

I told him they were barbed, and would rip flesh when they were removed. He said he’d go to the hospital to have them removed.

 I almost said something then, but didn’t.

The special police van showed up, and the armored SWAT team took custody of the super criminals, and offered to drop TakeDown at the nearest ER.

TakeDown was no Georgian. He was a working class hero who showed up and took the punches to protect the rest of us. While the glory hounds went to the high profile, world-is-watching location, he stayed here to protect his home town.

I made a decision, and told him to stay while the SWAT van left.  I took him around the corner, out of sight of the crowd that had gathered.

He followed me, even though he was starting to limp from the pain. I guess helping a guy stop super-bads a couple of times earns some cred.

I told him I could pull the spikes out, that it would hurt like a word he wouldn’t say, and rip flesh, but I could do something afterward that would make the pain go away almost instantly, and the wounds heal completely with no scars within a day.  Or, I could give him a lift to the hospital, and he could have them removed surgically, under anesthetic. And, he’d be in the hospital for a week or more when we needed him on the street, and probably lose muscle and be badly scarred.

“That’s quite a choice,” he said. But he opted for quick pain and quick healing. I’d have made the same choice in his shoes. I had, actually. The hole above my collar bone and the gash over my eye had already started closing up. By tomorrow, you wouldn’t be able to tell I’d been hurt. Somehow, my venom seems to transfer that healing ability to other people.

We yanked out all the spikes as fast as possible. I left the one in the crook of his arm till last. It was right in the vein, and I knew it would bleed when I yanked it. As soon as I pulled it, I put pressure on the wound with my thumb, and bit him, with the back of my head toward him so he couldn’t see the fangs.  I gave him a full dose, then pulled back. And watched the blood flow stop, and the wounds start to close.

“Better now?”

He nodded, and asked me, “Are you some kind of vampire or something?”

I had gotten a mouthful of his blood when I bit him, which tasted pretty good actually. “No, not exactly.” Old Bram Stoker wasn’t that far off the mark, though. “Look, don’t tell anyone about this, okay? Especially White Knight.”

He raised his eyebrows at me, but his wounds were visibly better. “All right. Your healing secret is safe with me. But there was a camera crew out there. Your fighting abilities aren’t exactly secret anymore.”

Camera crew. Right. Of course. That would be how I saw that TakeDown was in trouble on the news.  And naturally, they were still filming while I fought spike and blue-hair, so, now I was on the news.

So much for my promise to Ma to keep my head down.

TakeDown looked sympathetic, even though he didn’t know why I didn’t want my abilities broadcast. “You’re not going to be able to hide anymore.”

“Well, if I can’t hide, I might as well help.” I gave him my cell number and told him to call me. Until the Protectors got back from Japan, I’d be his backup.

For the first time, I felt real fear. I was going to have to go home and tell Ma about this.

I would have much preferred fighting a few more super-villains.

D Dragon

http://damsondragon.blogspot.com/
 


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The red eyes at my window belonged to Count Dracula himself. Some weird light reflection thing made them red.
I went to check it out, and there was Vlad, in full on dragon mode, clinging to my windowsill by his feet, and pulling a peeping Tom act. I opened the window and asked him, “What the heck are you doing?”
“Admiring your beauty, my treasure. May I come in?”
“No, you can’t come in, Vlad. What are you thinking? It’s 3 AM, and you’re staring in my window. I don’t know what they called that 700 years ago, but nowadays it’s called stalking, and I could have you arrested for it.”
He looked all crestfallen, so I took pity on him. “All right, go to the balcony and I’ll meet you there. Just don’t let anyone see you. And don’t wake up my mother.”
I had to admit he looked pretty awesome in dragon mode. Just like Fafnir, he wore nothing but a pair of belted pants that rode low on his hips to make room for exceptionally large wings. His scales were all black, no other color, and he didn’t have any of the spikes like Fafnir had, and he wasn’t so massive. He was about twice the size of an ordinary man, about Andre the Giant size, but sleeker and more gracefully built, like an Olympic gymnast.
He stood there, wings folded, on my balcony in between Ma’s potted tomatoes and strawberries, and looked like some sexy demon, or a piece of the night sky come to life with stars glittering where the moonlight reflected off his scales. What do you know, vampires do sparkle, sort of.
“Damson,” he said softly, with that unusual accent that made my name sound exotic.
I really wanted to touch those shiny black scales, feel the smooth, cool texture of them over the perfectly formed muscles. My hand actually started to go toward him before I realized what I was doing, and reached up to scratch my head to try to cover it. “What’s up, Vlad? Why are you here? Did Fafnir send you?”
“In a way, I suppose he did. He told me that you are the only female dragon he has encountered on this continent. You and I seemed to get along well at our initial meeting. I decided it was time to …” He tried to put his arms around me and I planted a hand firmly in the middle of his chest and locked my arm out straight.
“Back off, bat boy. I’m not that kind of girl. And I already have a boyfriend anyway. You’re barking up the wrong tree.”
“Barking? Tree?” he said, and looked pretty puzzled. “I do not understand. You and I are the only dragons of our generation within thousands of miles. It is clear that we were meant to be mates.”
He kind of had a point. If I were going to date another dragon, it was either him or Fafnir, and Fafnir was like a wise old granduncle to me, not someone I would think about dating. “Jack is my boyfriend.”
Vlad nodded. “I understand that the young dragon lord was your only option before. But the dragon blood in his line is so diluted that he may as well be human.” He made a face when he said human, like you would if you were talking about somebody considering sleeping with a sheep.
“My dad was a dragon, but Ma is human. I don’t pick who I date by their species.”
He got this compassionate look, like I’d admitted to having a serious handicap. “I understand that your father turned to a human woman. It is hard to be alone for so long. You are beautiful, regardless of your mixed blood.” He put a hand on my shoulder, the scaly one, and his huge hand felt warm and somehow right through the thin fabric of my favorite blue sleepy T with the kittens on the front. I wondered what it would feel like without the fabric, scales sliding against scales.
“Um, thanks for that, I guess.” I took a step back, feeling acutely uncomfortable. My body was having all kinds of reactions to the close presence of an interested drake, while my mind was having entirely opposite reactions to Vlad himself. The guy was one very hot dragon, but I was beginning to wonder if maybe he was a bit of a jerk.
He bowed slightly as I backed away. “I can see that I am rushing you. Please, accept my apology.” He turned away and looked out at the view. It’s a great view. We could see the UT tower. “I fear I have lost the knack of wooing a mate. I lost my wife nearly 500 years ago. That is a long time to be alone.”
Then, I felt like a jerk. “What happened?”
“The Order of St. George was formed in my homeland. My wife and sons were among the first of our kind to die at their hands. My boys were a miracle, twins, which almost never happens among dragons. They were strong healthy sons, only seven years old, with their mother’s beauty. The Georgians slaughtered them, along with every man, woman, and child in the village, since many of them were of mixed blood. I was away at war. By the time I returned, they had been dead for weeks.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, and put my hand on his arm. Nice arm, I have to say, and I could feel the muscles ripple under the scales when he shrugged.
“It is an old wound, long scarred over.”
“Georgians killed my dad a long time ago, too, but that doesn’t seem to make it any better.”
“It is a curse of dragons, that we have long memories.” He put his arm around me, and I didn’t push him away.
“I suppose that could be a blessing if the memories were better ones.”
“I would like to make some good memories with you, Damson.” He bent down and kissed me, very gently. It felt strange, but nice. And then he ruined it. “You are the closest to a female dragon of full blood that I have encountered in a century.”
“Well, that really makes a girl feel special.” I suppose he meant that as a good thing. But, I’d like to be desired for a bit more than the fact that I have scales and wings. “Look, Vlad, you’re a nice guy, and attractive and all, but I’ve already got a boyfriend.” I stepped back. “I think it’s time for you to go.”
“I understand. I shall have to earn the right to your affections. I will return when I can show you that I am worthy.”
“Um, right. You do that.”
He hopped up on the balcony railing gripping it with his bare feet, and spread his wings.
“Oh, and Vlad?”
“Yes, my love?”
“Don’t stare in my window anymore. It’s creepy.”
“As you wish,” he said, and bowed his head slightly. Then flew away.
He did sort of look like a giant bat when he was flying. I get where Bram Stoker got that concept now.
D Dragon

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Three car pileup on highway 183 yesterday in the Anderson Mill area. Lots of bad injuries, but everybody made it, even the little girl. Kid had gotten out of her car seat somehow. Mom was hysterical, freaking out, saying that her baby was dead, and it was her fault for not getting her back into the seat before the crash.
Jack gave me a look, and got the mom turned the other way while I crawled in the smashed up back seat. Cut my knee a little on the crunchy squares of broken glass. A part of me will be glad when the scales spread to my knees. I checked the kid, about five, and busted up bad, but still breathing. I bit her gently in the crook of her arm, careful not to give her too much of the venom. Not entirely sure how my venom works, but I figure if a full bite is enough to heal a big man, it would be something akin to an overdose for such a little kid. Not sure if that might be bad for her.
I tucked her under one arm and backed out. By the time I turned around to the mom, the kid was stirring and opening her eyes. She started bawling and held her arms out, and her mom took her from me so gently I was afraid she would drop the kid, trying not to hurt her.
Just seeing the two of them there made me get a little teary-eyed, and I smiled at Jack.  He grinned back at me, before we went to help some of the others. The kid was going to be fine, and we both knew it.
 “That’s why,” I said, and he chuckled.
He asked me twice why I wanted to date him that first time, so ever since, when he does something particularly wonderful, I tell him, “That’s why.”
And like I said, lots of bad injuries, but everybody’s going to be fine. I’ve got a feeling, now that Jack’s in on my secret, our survival rate will be a lot more than 70% higher than the other teams. It was an awesome shift. We easily saved five more lives that night. We were both feeling like rockstars by the end of it.
Jack and I had dinner after at my place. Ma cooked her once famous pot roast, and told Jack a bunch of really embarrassing stories about my childhood. Like the time she caught Dad and me jumping off the roof of the barn into the hay. And the time I tried to use a fang to open a can of sardines and got the metal stuck. I had one fang stuck hanging out, and couldn’t talk properly to tell her what the problem was.
Jack laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks, and I wished I could hide under the table without looking like an idiot. Nothing like a mother who changed your diapers to keep your head from getting too big.
I took Jack up the fire escape, past the yappy Pekingese on his little balcony, and up to the roof to show him the view. It was gorgeous. The fickle Texas weather was feeling friendly this morning, and spring was just starting to show in the blooming plum trees down in the parks. Fluffy clouds drifted in a perfect, soft blue sky.
We kissed again. It was a lot better this time. Softer and longer, and no teeth bumping. Jack likes to stroke my left arm with the scales.
It feels oddly a lot more intimate than just having someone touch my arm should. I told him no one else but my parents ever touched me there, and he told me he was honored to be the first.
Jack’s really an amazing
Weird. I’d swear I saw red eyes at my window, but I’m on the fifth floor. Back in a second.


(Be sure to check out the new illustration added to Dragon's First Date here: http://damsondragon.blogspot.com/2011/02/dragons-first-date.html)

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I am so glad I have tomorrow off. I slept for 14 hours straight after yesterday, and even with all that sleep I’m still in a foul mood.
I was just getting off shift, chatting with Jack about our possible next date and ignoring my vibrating cell because I knew it was Vlad wanting the same thing. (Haven’t told Jack about Vlad yet. Not sure how that’s going to go over.) The boss told us that one of us had to cover for a guy who called in sick on day shift. I knew Jack had to take his mom to a doctor’s appointment, so I took the hit. Two 12 hour shifts in a row is enough to make anyone a little cranky. But I have a heck of a lot better reason than just sleep deprivation for that.
There was this huge grass fire on Mopac around 38th yesterday. It spread from the highway where some careless jerk probably threw a lit cigarette out his window to a couple of apartment complexes nearby. My temporary partner and I were sent as a precaution. No one was actually hurt, but a construction site and both the apartment complexes, including their four-footed inhabitants, had to be evacuated. So, everybody and their dogs, literally, were standing around watching the firemen. Five fire trucks. Traffic was snarled for miles around.
Only injury was one of the firefighters who broke a finger. He was pulling on a big wrench to loosen a frozen fireplug nut, when it let go and slammed his hand into the asphalt.  My partner was over on the other end of things with oxygen equipment and burn sheets in case anybody got too close or inhaled too much smoke. I was with the unit, so I splinted the fireman’s busted finger. I was thinking the guy looked familiar, very attractive, blonde, nice hazel eyes, small scar on his lip and another on the opposite eyebrow, and then it hit me. It was the fire gear that threw me off. I mentally shifted to a suit of silver scale mail, and bingo. White Knight.
So, he pulls people out of burning buildings even when he’s not officially being a superhero. Bastard.
“Yeah, I recognize you, too,” he said. I must have shown some of my less than enthusiastic response on my face. I’m going to try and write down the whole conversation as best I can remember. It was a doozy.
I was done splinting his hand, so I stepped back and crossed my arms. “What do you want?”
“I don’t want anything. I believe I owe you my life.”
It took me a minute to realize he didn’t mean that he owed me his life in exchange for his compatriots murdering my father. I just shrugged.
“I was pretty surprised when I woke up alone in the theatre, unmasked but unharmed. I hadn’t really expected to survive that day. How did you stop the dragon from killing me?”
“I asked him nicely.”
He laughed, like I was kidding. “You don’t have to hide anything from me. Flynn is a friend of mine, the officer you saved a few days ago. I visited him yesterday, and he had new healthy pink skin where the burns were. Docs are calling it a miracle.  I saw you jump over a six foot gurney four feet high, and nobody just shoves Mr. Flame with no protection but a cloth shirt and doesn’t get burned.”
“Mr. Flame? That’s what the guy calls himself? Seriously? Criminals have no imagination.”
He got all earnest and wouldn’t let me deflect. “Since Remedy moved to the San Francisco HQ, we have no one with a healing power within a thousand miles. With strength, invulnerability at least to heat attacks, and especially a healing gift, we need people like you in the Protectors.”
“Look, just stay out of my business, okay? Not everyone who’s different wants to be a superhero. Maybe I want to rob banks or win big in the MMA ring.”
“People who think of themselves first don’t become EMT’s.” He held his hand with the broken finger out. “Heal it?” he asked.
“I can’t.”
“Can’t, or won’t?” He was just asking, but it pissed me off anyway.
“Won’t.” If he had been anyone but a Georgian, he was right, I could inject him with a tiny amount of venom and he’d be good as new in a day or two, instead of the six weeks in a cast he had to look forward to.
“Why not? I know your secret.” Hah! If he did, he’d be trying to kill me, not trying to recruit me. “The Protectors need you. Healing is an incredibly rare power.”
“I’m not going to live with the threat of someone throwing fireballs through my window and killing my mom.” It was a good excuse, and true, actually.
“A secret identity is good protection for your loved ones, and a Protector would never …”
“Really helped you, didn’t it, Firefighter …” I looked at the cloth name tag sewed onto his uniform. “Novak.”
“It’s Mark. And, if you were an enemy, I know I’d be dead already. You must have some serious power to stop a dragon without weapons. Is it dead?”
“He is not dead. He was perfectly reasonable about the whole situation. He told me what you are, and that you were trying to kill him, and I asked him not to kill you in spite of that. No superpowers needed.”
He just looked at me, and blinked for a second. “You mean you actually talked to it?”
“You are such an asshole. I should have let Fafnir kill you.”
“Fafnir?”
“Yeah, the person you tried to stab right in the middle of my first date. If I were a Protector, I’d have arrested you for attempted murder.”
“It was a dragon, maam. I know they can simulate human form, but …”
“I’m Dee, not maam.” I was getting really riled up by the way he kept calling Fafnir an it. I poked him in the chest with my finger. “You’re a Protector. You swore a clearly worthless oath never to deliberately use deadly force.”
“On people. But it’s a dragon.”
“I got that. So, clearly people with scales and wings don’t count to you. Kill them all. Tell me, hero boy, what crime did Fafnir commit?”
“Crime? It’s a …”
“Dragon,” I said with him. “Broken record, much? He talks, thinks, has feelings. Sounds like a person to me, a fairly polite person when I met him. And apparently, he’s committed no crime that you know of, but you thought it was perfectly okay to hunt him down and kill him. Do I have that right?”
“I, but, …” he stumbled for a second or two then got back up on his high horse. “Dragons are monstrous forces of evil that must be destroyed. They’re not like ordinary human criminals.”
“Oh, you mean the ordinary human criminals that melt bullets and throw fireballs. I get it. If you rob stores, burn cops, set fire to buildings, you get a fair trial. If you’re scaly and winged, then you need killing, even if you haven’t committed any crime at all. You’re guilty of being born the wrong species.”
“You don’t understand. I’m a member of a holy order that’s …”
“I understand fine. You are a genocidal, religious fanatic, and you can take your jihad and your Protectors job offer and shove them both!”
I so wanted to storm off then, but where was I going to go? I couldn’t even get in the unit and drive away. My partner was blocks away, and traffic was bumper to bumper for miles in every direction.
I settled for turning my back on him and crossing my arms.
“He killed my mentor,” he shouted at my back. People started looking over to see if we might be more entertaining than the fire.
I turned back around and dropped my voice. “What was your mentor doing at the time?” I asked acidly. “Oh wait, let me guess. He was trying to kill Fafnir.”
He spluttered, “But, but …” which was pretty much a confirmation that I hit the nail on the head.
 “But Fafnir’s a dragon.” I mimicked. “Dragon’s aren’t people, so the whole self-defense thing doesn’t count, right? Just like your oath not to kill.”
“Fafnir, as you call it, has killed hundreds of my order over the centuries.”
“And all those poor, innocent religious men were just trying to invite him to tea, I’m sure.”
“Why are you defending a demonic agent of Satan?”
“Why are you trying to kill a guy who has done nothing but defend his own life? Last time I checked, Protectors were supposed to care about what people did, not what they looked like.”
“He doesn’t just look like a dragon; he IS a dragon, a brutal, deadly killing machine that eats people.”
“And my elderly neighbor is a Jew, a greedy, moneygrubbing threat to Aryan supremacy, and someone figured her parents and everyone like them should die for that, too.”
“Dragons are not the same as Jewish people. They’re not even people!”
“I am wasting my breath on you! You, you, bigot!” I, once again, couldn’t storm away. “I can’t leave, so you leave. Go suck some smoke or something.” Then I turned my back on him again.
So, he finally gave up and left.
I hate that guy, really a lot. I wish a hundred times over that I had just stayed out of it, and let Fafnir kill him.
It wasn’t till I cooled off a bit that I started getting scared. That Georgian already knew too much about me, and I’d just thrown fuel on that fire. He’d proven that nothing I was ever going to say would change his view of dragons. This was no way to keep my promise to Ma about keeping my head down.
What the heck was I thinking?
D Dragon

http://damsondragon.blogspot.com/

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My dad took me flying yesterday. I could feel his smooth cool scales under me and the wind in my face. The soft snap of his wingtips as he gained altitude. And I could hear his deep voice with the faint British accent teaching me about thermals and wind currents, and to watch out for the sucking winds near storm clouds that could lift me up higher than I could breathe in seconds.

 
I dreamt about Dad again and again as I slept. Memories of things that we did came back in sharp clarity, and fantasies of things I'd always wanted to do with him but never got the chance. It's been so long since Dad was murdered that sometimes I have a hard time remembering his face. But these dreams were so vivid that I woke up with the scent of his favorite pipe tobacco in my nose. I cried when I realized they were just dreams, and he was still gone.

 
It's probably because of Fafnir and Vlad. For the first time in my life, I've got other dragons around me. That brought the memories back, I guess. I just wish they wouldn't fade away again. I'll write down as much as I can.

 
The first one was the memory of that first time Dad took me flying. I was five, I think. He took me up in the hayloft in the barn, and put me on his back like a piggy back ride. He climbed a ladder on the outside of the window where he used to throw hay to the cattle. I was really scared and held on tight.

 
Then he shifted into his scaly form while I was still on his back, spread his wings wide, and jumped off the peak of the roof. I squealed in terror, then in delight as I realized we were flying. The house and barn were at the top of a steep hill. In one direction, we had neighbors a half mile or so away. In the other, there was our own 600 acres of ranch land, and another, several thousand acre ranch on the other side. That was where we flew, where no one could see but the livestock. There were creeks that never ran completely dry and flooded their banks sometimes, round mirrors of ponds and furry green cedar and oak forests, steep hillsides and open fields. I loved the pecan grove on the bottomland by the creek most of all, where the trees grew tall enough to climb as high as the barn. Dad and Ma pretty much let me have the run of the place the whole time I was growing up, and I never got lost anywhere near our land because I could always remember where everything was after seeing it from above while on my Dad’s back.

 
I tried to fly myself when I was seven. I climbed the ladder from the hayloft to the roof and jumped off, tiny wings spread wide. But I didn’t fly, I fell hard, and cut my wing open on a plow blade in the process. I screamed and cried until my dad came and held my delicate little wing membranes together while he poked me with a fang just under the joint between my wrist and first wing bone. His fang made a sharp sting, and then the pain in my wing disappeared and I watched in fascination, tears drying on my cheeks while my wing mended itself like magic. My dad was a magical man who could fix anything.

 
He said I was too young to fly yet, but he was proud of me that I was brave enough to jump off the high roof like that.

 
He moved the plow and we piled up a whole bunch of loose hay there instead. I spent the rest of the day climbing onto the barn roof and jumping off gleefully wings spread wide to sploof into the pile of soft hay, while he watched over me and laughed. Eventually, he got up there and jumped as well while still in human form. We took turns until we were both exhausted.

 
Ma came out, wiping her hands on her apron, to tell us dinner was ready just as I’d made another final trip up the ladder and Dad lay exhausted in the hay. I said, “Look, Ma, I can fly!” and jumped. She nearly had a heart attack as I plummeted into the hay next to Dad. She gave Dad what for and didn’t mince words either. Dad looked all sheepish and contrite, like he’d been caught stealing bacon before breakfast. Then he looked at me and winked. I grinned.  Ma stumbled to a stop in her tirade, and finally just shook her head. “It’s like raising two little kids sometimes, I swear.” She made me promise not to do it unless she or Dad were around to make sure it was safe. I promised, but it became my favorite game, and Dad and Ma both got accustomed to me jumping off the roof, flapping my little wings like mad, and made sure to add more straw to that pile whenever the cows nibbled it down.

 
When I was older, maybe 10, I overshot the pile of hay by 10 feet and landed with a crash on hard packed clay next to Dad who had been mending a saddle and watching me play. I broke my arm and two wing bones, and it hurt like heck, but I was getting old enough that it was a matter of pride not to cry over a mere injury. Besides, I was shocked more than I was in pain. The only way I could have missed the hay pile was if I flew, even if just a little.

 
Dad didn’t look concerned or even surprised.

 
He just walked over, nodded like I’d said something he agreed with or expected, and started straightening out my broken bones. That hurt, a lot, but he did it quick. The tears came whether I wanted them to or not, and then he bit me in that same spot just under my wrist, and the pain went away.

 
“It will be a few days before your bones are solid again. Then, it’ll be time for your first real flying lesson.”

 
I forgot all about the pain in my sudden rush of excitement. “You’re going to teach me how to fly?”

 
“No, little plum. Flying is easy. You’ll naturally get better at it as your wings mature.” He tousled my unruly thick mop of purple hair. “I’m going to teach you how to land.”

 
And he did.

 
So many things he taught me of a world I would never know. He told me stories at bedtime of dragons who were the wise men, healers, druids and wizards of the old world. He loved to tell stories about his grandfather Merlin, a dragon who was ancient when Rome was a dream, and what it was like growing up as a young English knight. He taught me how to ride a horse when I was seven, how to hunt with a rifle, and snare wild game when I was nine, how to rope cattle when I was 13, what to watch for to tell when people were lying when I was 14, and he taught me what real pain was like when I found him dead later that same year. I was such a daddy’s girl, until they took my daddy from me.

 
White Knight is the only Georgian I’ve ever known of. And right now, while I’m sitting here in the middle of the day, dripping tears on my diary and wishing I could have gone on dreaming, I hate him. I’ve felt fear before, fear that the Georgians would find me and kill me and hurt Ma. I’ve lived with that fear most of my life. But until now, my enemies were faceless, and terrifying simply because they were complete unknowns. It’s hard to hate an unknown.  Now, my enemies have a face, and I know that bitter acid feeling in my belly is what real hate feels like.

 
D Dragon


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I had dinner with Dracula today. Or, breakfast, I guess, since it was after my shift was over in the morning, but my brain tends to think of that as dinner since I eat it after work and before going to bed. Working graveyard shift can really mess with your biological clock.

In any case, Jack and I had just finished cleaning up the bodies at a motorcycle-meets-18-wheeler accident on I35. The couple on the bike were way past saving when we got there. I was feeling tired, and a little depressed. Jack hugged me in the parking lot just before he got in his car and that helped a little.

Right after Jack drove off, this guy came up behind me all quiet and wearing black, and invaded my personal space. I spun and hit him in the chest, an open palm strike since I didn’t intend to kill a random mugger. It was enough to take him off his feet and land him on his back on the hood of a parked car, but he didn’t seem hurt at all. He laughed.

Now, I did pull the punch, but generally, when I hit someone, they don’t laugh.

He apologized for “startling me” and offered to buy me dinner at the Omelettry. I asked him who he was and he did this old fashioned bow. “I am Vlad Dracul” and he had the accent, too, that eastern European accent that folks always use when they pretend to be vampires.

I told him he was a little late for Halloween.

He grinned and showed me fangs. Not movie quality fakes. Fangs like mine, long and needle sharp that fold back beside the top teeth when not in use. He was a dragon.

More precisely, he was the guy in Houston that Fafnir told me about. He said the guy’s name was Vlad and he was young, “only” 700 years old or so. Fafnir has some funny ideas about what qualifies as young. But aside from that, we hadn’t really talked about the other dragon in Houston much. I was too busy asking him questions like “Will my scales cover my whole body eventually, even my face?” (Fafnir said yes, probably, but that I should be able to master the “turn into a normal human” trick before then. I sure hope he’s right.)

So, Dracula bought me dinner. He seems like a nice enough guy, not really what I would have expected from someone most famous for impaling hundreds of people to death in his younger days. He said he and Bram Stoker got drunk together one night, and he blabbed some stuff he shouldn’t have, and that’s how the whole Dracula legend thing got going. (There are good reasons why I don’t drink, aside from the fact that alcohol smells vile.)

Vlad’s not bad looking in a sort of Euro polished, well-dressed, slightly gay kind of way. Not that I think he is gay, he just sort of has that vibe, but he flirted with me unrelentingly all through the meal, so pretty sure he’s not gay. He looks about 25 and has really pretty dark eyes with thick lashes. Reminds me a little of Johnny Depp.

I didn’t let him kiss me afterward. Jack’s my guy, and I’m no two-timer. He kissed my hand instead. He said he’d call me. I think I just had my second date, at least he seemed to think it was a date. Not sure how I feel about this guy, but he is a dragon, and the way Fafnir figures things, we’re sort of the same age.

He’s got me all confused about things I thought I was finally getting straight.

D Dragon


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Sometimes I think that writing things down in my diary is the only thing keeping me sane. I’m going to have to send a thank you letter to that shrink with the broken leg who recommended I talk things out with a blank page if I couldn’t talk to people about what was stressing me out.
It’s not Jack stressing me. He’s been great. Things are a little less casual and easy between us at work, but it’s because there’s always this little flutter just under the surface. It’s kind of awkward and nervy, but in a good way. Him knowing my secret has made my job a lot easier, too. I don’t have to remember to try to pretend I can’t lift heavy stuff. If we need a big piece of equipment, Jack just assumes I’ll grab it, and he grabs the other stuff. If we get a patient who might not make it with conventional help, Jack keeps watch for me so I can bite them without being seen. He even distracted a conscious patient with a crushed leg for me last shift, and convinced the guy I was giving him an injection. Thanks to Jack, that guy will walk again, on both legs. I may have taken a while to get around to picking a guy to date, but I seem to be pretty good at picking them.
I guess work might be part of what’s making me want to put my fist through a wall. Lord Vile’s goons went on a rampage and half the city looks like a war zone. I saw the White Knight in the thick of the fight a few times while Jack and I were on the sidelines trying to keep the civilian casualties to a minimum. I know the Knight’s a Georgian and he’d kill me if he knew what I was, but seeing him fight Vile’s red-shirted, black goggled minions and protect bystanders, I don’t know. I just kept thinking that if I had let Fafnir kill him, those bystanders would be dead, and the Protectors would be short one front line soldier. I may not like the guy, but this city needs him.
Jack and I have been working double shifts all week because of the chaos, so no chance for a second date yet. The flowers he brought me are still bright and beautiful on my dresser. And they remind me that for once in my life, I’m not alone. There’s one person I can really talk to. More than one, even.
I called Fafnir the other morning when I was too wired to sleep after my shift. He has a heavy Norwegian accent that makes it a little hard to understand him, but he’s been really helpful. Fafnir treats me like an indulgent uncle with a five-year-old who is constantly asking questions like “Why is the sky blue?” He answers, but laughs at me a lot for asking things he thinks of as kindergarten basic. I’m just starting to get an inkling of how incredibly old he is, so I guess it’s normal for him to think of me as a kid. Annoying, but normal.
So, if working every day with my new boyfriend, a supervillain mob attack on the city, and being treated like a baby by the only other member of my species that I know isn’t stressing me, you might wonder what is? Ma. She’s making me nuts. She’s a nervous wreck and it’s contagious.
She asked about my date when I got home the other night, and I made the mistake of telling her what happened. All of it. It was pretty hard to tell her about Fafnir falling through the ceiling without explaining what knocked him out of the sky. Now that she knows the White Knight is a Georgian, she has all her things packed and keeps harping on me to pull up stakes and leave town. She’s already contacted our usual guy to get us new ID’s and such.
I think it’s the first time in our relationship that I’ve put my foot down and just said, “No.”
I’m not moving.
Ma is way too old to deal with all the hassles of losing our trail, finding a new place to settle and establishing new identities. She won’t admit it, but her health isn’t the best and another move might finish her. But even if that wasn’t true, I don’t want to run again.
I like it here. I’ve got a job where I get to use my special abilities to save lives on a daily basis. I’m not wearing a costume and getting medals and endorsement deals like the Protectors and the All American Alliance heroes, but there are a lot of folks in this town who are breathing and whole because of me, and I’m proud of that.
And those flowers over there on my dresser are another good reason to stay. Guys like Jack who can take my differences in stride don’t grow on trees. For the first time in my life, there’s one person I’m not related to that I can be myself around. I’m just starting to appreciate how much that means.
Ma says that if one Georgian knows who I am, then they all do, but I don’t think the White Knight saw my scales or my wing, either at the theatre, or when we were fighting that fire thrower. He was pretty preoccupied with Fafnir, and the fire guy. I’ve told her that, but since I’m only 90% sure, Ma doesn’t think that’s good enough. I think if the White Knight knew I was a dragon, he’s got enough info about me, from the ambulance itself, to find me. And he hasn’t come after me. So, I figure I’ve got an edge. I know what he is, but he doesn’t know what I am. As long as it stays that way, I’m not going anywhere.
And, if he figures it out, well, then, we’ll see. For the first time, I’ve got something worth staying and fighting for. It’s going to take a lot to make me run this time.
D Dragon

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He kissed me! Or, I guess, I kissed him. It doesn’t really matter, does it?
A whole bunch of other stuff happened first. I guess I should start at the beginning.
Jack picked me up. He brought me flowers, purple and white striped lilies and red roses mixed together in a square glass vase. He nailed my favorite colors and scents, and he even brought chocolate-covered strawberries for Ma. She grinned and hugged him, and told him that she knew her girl would pick a smart man.
I’ve seen Jack face supervillains, gang fights, and 6 car pileups without missing a beat, but he took one look at me in my new purple dress and forgot how to close his mouth. I guess I look pretty good for sixty-three.
He promised Ma he’d have me home by 1 as if I were a high school girl going to prom. Kinda felt like it. Or, at least how I imagined it. I never got to go to prom, or high school.
We were supposed to have dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Unfortunately, the wait was like 2 hours, and that was with us getting there at 6. We’d have missed the movie. So, we went to Big Bite instead. The wait was only 15 mins. Not exactly a romantic atmosphere with the shiny steel tables and all, but they have great fried cheese, steak and chicken wings.
It was a little weird. Jack and I talk together all the time, and it’s easy, comfortable, but it felt really awkward at first. Same guy, same place that we grab lunch at 3 AM at all the time, but I suddenly felt incredibly shy. I kept worrying that my dress would shift and some of my scales would show, or that I had bits of chicken in my teeth. He kept asking me about where I went to school, my childhood and stuff that I just don’t talk about. I guess that’s a normal date thing, to ask about your date’s past.
So, I got him talking about his childhood instead. That helped. Apparently, his branch of the Nguyen family used to be Vietnamese royalty. His mom and dad were refugees from the Vietnam war. His parents had to leave when things heated up for fear of reprisals.
Without thinking, I told him I protested the war. Talk about foot in mouth. I covered it by saying that I meant that I would have protested the war if I’d been around then, but it didn’t sound too convincing.
It was a relief when we finished dinner and went to the movie. Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It had been out for a while, but I hadn’t gotten to see it yet. I loved the books when they first came out when I was a little girl. Dad used to read them to me. Jack and I had the theatre completely to ourselves so we got the prime seats with the railing in front, just behind the front section. Seeing Reepicheep on the screen was super cool. But I hate the thing with Eustace turning into a dragon because he was greedy and petty. It’s such an ugly stereotype. I mean, I like jewelry as much as the next girl, maybe a bit more than some, but seriously, I know a lot of humans that are a lot greedier. Greed is not only a dragon specific trait.
 I tried to explain to Jack why it pissed me off that dragons were always portrayed as greedy and vicious, and he actually seemed to agree. Apparently, in Vietnam, legends of dragons are all noble and beneficial. He said he just didn’t understand why western dragons seemed to be prone to eating virgins and burning villages.
I knew I liked him.
Then he put his arm around me and I flinched away and pushed him off. He could have felt my scales under the thin fabric of the dress. He looked really rejected, and I just didn’t know what to tell him. I stumbled all over myself apologizing, but there wasn’t much I could say.
He asked me again why I asked him out, and I had to wonder myself what in the world I was thinking. How did I expect to have a date like a normal person, when I couldn’t even let a guy put his arm around me? All I could think was what a huge mistake this was.
And then the roof just fell in. I don’t mean figuratively, I mean literally. A chunk of the roof collapsed and crashed into the rows of seats. A good sized beam headed straight for me and Jack. I threw up my left arm, the one with the solid scales and threw my body over Jack. I caught the beam hard on my forearm and deflected it behind us. I mentally wrote off the pretty new dress and unfolded my left wing. It ripped through the delicate fabric and I draped it over me and Jack like the roof of a tent.
My wing bones are slender but strong as steel and covered in fine metal scales that almost nothing can penetrate, and the wing skin is a lot tougher than normal skin, more like really tough boot leather, only thin and stretchy like a trampoline. Big chunks of plaster and concrete fell on my wing, but under it, Jack was safe. Our eyes met for just a second under that shelter, and I knew there were no more secrets between us. I was horrified. Now that he knew what a freak I was, I’d have to find a new job, maybe move to a new city, and Ma was getting too old to pick up and move again.
“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s just me.”
Then a huge red and black dragon fell through the roof and landed, panting in pain in the space in front of us between the rows. He had a few cuts in his scales. I’d never seen anything that could cut through dragon scales.
A dragon. An actual member of my own species. He was the first dragon I’d seen since Dad died. I was dumbfounded. I said something really brilliant like, “You’re a dragon!”
The dragon said, “No shit, Sherlock,” and scrambled to his feet. Then he actually spared a glance to look at me, saw my wing still partially extended over Jack, and did a double-take. “You’re a dragon!” he said, and I didn’t feel nearly so stupid.
I folded my wing up, since no more chunks were falling and jumped over the railing. “You’re actually a dragon!” Okay, so it was even more stupid to say it twice, but cut me some slack. It had been a long time since I saw another dragon.
“I think we’re passed that, milady. I’m Fafnir Drage, and you are?”
“Damson Dragon. Most people just call me Dee.”
I shook his huge clawed and fully scaled hand, or at least one finger of it. “I didn’t know there were any of our kind on this continent. The Georgians are quite, um, efficient, here.”
“Yeah, they got my dad.”
“Speak of the devil,” Fafnir said, and down dropped an all too familiar figure in a white tabard and silver scale armor carrying a shield with a knight skewering a dragon. White Knight. I so should have known that guy was a Georgian. He slid down a rope belayed around his waist and landed in the aisle, cast the rope aside, and drew the big sword that I’d always seen him wear on TV, but never seen him actually use.
He said, “And now you die foul beast,” or something really clichéd like that and charged down one of the aisles straight at the big red and black dragon, right past Jack.
Fafnir bared his fangs and started to push me behind him. There was a loud crackling sound, and White Knight suddenly spasmed uncontrollably and fell to the ground unconscious and twitching.  Jack stood behind him holding a taser and grinning.
Fafnir boomed a laugh, and asked Jack who he was.
“Nguyen Phuc Jack” he said, the way he told me his parents said it.
“Ah, one of the dragon lords. Thank you for the assistance, although I think I could have handled one lone Georgian. It’s when they come in numbers that they’re really dangerous.” Dragon lords? What the heck?
Fafnir shifted then. He did the switch to fully human thing that my dad used to do. One minute, dragon the size of a Winnebago, the next, a man, although not much smaller, actually. He had to be nearly 7 feet tall, blonde and blue-eyed and built like Arnold Schwarzenegger before he went into politics.
He picked up the sword and hefted it over the unconscious White Knight like he was going to chop his head off. I stopped him with a hand on his arm. “You can’t just kill him like that.”
“What do you think he intended to do to me, fledgling?” Yeah, he called me fledgling, like a baby bird who can’t quite fly. I guess it sort of fits.
“I know.” I get it. He’s a Georgian, the guys who killed Dad, the ones I’ve hated and lived in constant fear of my whole life. But, it just didn’t seem right. I pulled the silver scale coif and half mask off his face and looked at my enemy. The supple metallic scales in my hand felt all too familiar. Dragon skin. He was wearing the skin of a murdered dragon. But he was just a man, about 30, maybe, with a scar on his lip and another across his eyebrow. I’ve seen this guy pull kids out of burning buildings. He just fought that fire throwing bad guy a few days ago who burned the cops. He’s one of the Protectors, a nationally recognized hero. Who murdered dragons.
I’ve never felt so confused in all my life. I spend my nights saving people. I couldn’t just stand by while someone stabbed this guy to death while he lay there unconscious and helpless. Jack stood beside me, and I told the big guy, Fafnir, that I wouldn’t let him kill the Knight.
Fafnir looked as confused as I felt, but he let it go. He just shrugged and said he would no doubt have another opportunity to kill Georgians. Good thing, too, because if he'd insisted, there was really no way I could have stopped him.
I asked him how I could find him, or if there were any others of our kind in Texas.
He said he knew of one other dragon, another male, who lived in Houston.  Fafnir gave me his own cell phone number, and the number of the guy in Houston, and I gave him mine. He said to be sure and destroy my cell if it looked like a Georgian was going to get me, so it couldn’t be used to track them down. Cheery thought.
I have other dragons I can talk to now!
Then, Fafnir shifted back to dragon form, leapt to the roof through the hole and flew away.
Leaving me with Jack, and an unconscious Knight who was starting to groan and stir.
I grabbed Jack’s hand and we ran for the emergency exit before the White Knight woke up.
Jack drove me home. We didn’t say much on the way back. My mind was going a mile a minute with everything I’d learned about others of my own kind, about the White Knight being a Georgian.
When we got back to my apartment, Jack walked me up the stairs to my door, and stopped to say good night, and I remembered something else I learned. “What did he mean, dragon lord?”
Jack said it was what Nguyen Phuc meant, that he was one of the dragon lord clan who had been the last emperors of Vietnam before it became a republic.
He stood kind of a little way from me and didn’t touch me, like he wasn’t sure if he could. I told him I was sorry about pushing him away earlier. I just didn’t want him to feel my scales and know I was a freak. Of course, now, with my dress ripped, they were showing every time I moved.
He reached out kind of hesitantly to touch them, and I let him. He stroked down my left arm, across the solid sheet of scales that covered it and it felt amazing. Fire doesn’t hurt me through those scales and I can stop a roof support beam with them without so much as a bruise, but I could still feel his light touch.
He said something in Vietnamese then, and I asked him what it meant.
“Sons of dragons, grandsons of gods. It’s what they say about my family line, that we were descended from a dragon.”
“So, you’re not freaked out?”
Then he told me he’d worked with me for a year, seen me lift a gurney with a 300 pound patient on it with one hand, seen me jump over the gurney long ways just the other day, and he had known for months that if he left me alone for a few seconds with the most critically ill patients, they would recover completely, miraculously fast. We had a 70% higher survival rate than any other EMT team in town. That was the real reason why the boss would never fire me, no matter how often I was late. And besides, Jack said he looked down my shirt a time or two and saw scales.
He’d known for months that I was different. He just wished that I would have trusted him sooner.
“You looked down my shirt?”
He shrugged. “I am a guy.”
And that’s when I kissed him. Or, he kissed me. Or both, maybe. But it was sweet, if a little clumsy.
I just hope our second date isn’t quite this … exciting. Maybe we could stay in and rent a movie.

D Dragon

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Jack didn’t say anything to me about what happened the other night, except to ask if I was okay. Then, he was really quiet for the rest of the shift, barely spoke to me. Jack and I have been working together for nearly a year under some pretty intense circumstances. He didn't give me shit about my weird "high protein" diet at lunch like he usually does, and he didn't tell me about the latest super-robot he'd beaten on that new XBox game he's into, "Enslaved." So, I knew he was upset with me, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.
I finally gave in and asked Jack what was bugging him. He said that it didn’t matter, and generally kept his lips buttoned. I threatened to buy a badly written torrid romance novel and read the worst parts out loud until he gave in. Finally, he surrendered to my dire threats. I made him laugh a little anyway, so it was hard for him to keep being mad at me.
He said he was just disappointed that I didn’t trust him. I don’t really understand what he meant. I mean we watch out for each other all the time. There was that time when we got called to a gang shooting in the worst part of east Austin, and I trusted him to watch for more shooters while I tended to the kid with the gut wound. I trusted him to cover for me with the boss whenever he could.
He wouldn’t give me any more information, no matter how much I cajoled or threatened, so I had to let it go. But it bothered me. The way he seemed kind of sad, and the distance he kept. Getting the cold shoulder from Jack was far worse torture than purple prose. I’d thought he was going to ask me out before the craziness with the flame throwing robber. I bought a new outfit, even. A gorgeous outfit that I was dying for him to see me in.
It’s an asymmetrical dress with a full sleeve on the left side and off the shoulder on the right. Looks sexy, but covers all my scales, and it’s this deep vivid purple, just like a damson plum, exactly my color. I went to 6 different shops looking for something that covered what I needed to cover but still looked good on me. I hit the jackpot with that dress. I got some cute little suede ankle boots to go with it. Can’t wear sandals, of course. I’ve got an extra toe on the inside of each heel, sort of like a thumb on a hand. It’s handy for picking up laundry and such from the floor when I’m barefoot at home, but looks way too freaky for sandals. I tried on the whole outfit, along with the amethyst pendant that Ma gave me for my birthday about 30 years ago in front of the full length mirror, and I looked good. I looked downright hot if I do say so myself.
No way I was going to let that outfit go to waste. So, when our shift was over, I asked him out.
I can’t believe I really did it, but I asked a guy out on a date. Not just any guy, of course. It’s Jack Nguyen, my partner, the closest thing I have to a friend. As he pointed out, he’s the one guy I can trust not to do anything I don’t want him to.
He looked pretty surprised when I asked him, then kind of suspicious. He actually asked me “Why?” Are guys supposed to ask you “why?” when you ask them out? I mean, I thought it was okay nowadays for a lady to ask out a man. Isn’t that part of what all that bra burning and free love nonsense was about back in the ‘60’s?
I didn’t know what to tell him. “Um, because I like you?” was the best I could come up with. I know, lame, but I didn’t know what else to say. I wonder if I blush purple because if I do, Jack probably got a really good look at it about then.
He got the cutest little half smile on his face, and he said, "That's a really good reason." He said that he was afraid I had asked him out just because I didn’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day.
I can’t believe I just asked a boy out on Valentine’s Day. I’ve gotten so used to ignoring that stuff that I didn’t even notice that tomorrow was Valentine’s Day. I just knew it was our day off.  He’s going to think this means something way more than just that I wanted a chance to wear my nice outfit, and I didn’t want him mad at me anymore.
Maybe some supervillain will attack the city tomorrow causing mass devastation and I’ll have to cancel. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be that lucky.
D Dragon

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I gave Ma a huge hug when I got home early, still wrapped in a blanket and smelling like smoke. I just held on tight for a while.
Ma patted my back and asked me what happened.
My partner, Jack, and I got called to a building fire, at least that was what the call said. They didn’t mention that a nutcase in flamey red spandex tossing fireballs caused the building fire. For once, I kinda wish we didn’t have the fastest response rate of any EMT team in town.
The guy apparently robbed a jewelry store, and when the cops showed up, he started flinging fire at them. There were two cops down with bad burns when we got there, and the fire guy had set the apartment complex across the street ablaze. Fire trucks were trying to fight the building fire while cops and a couple of superheroes tried to subdue the robber.  
Takedown was there, a local guy who Jack and I had seen before a time or two. He’s good people. He does a lot of the educational outreach stuff with kids, Stranger Danger, that kind of thing. It was pretty obvious that he could hold his own in a fight, too, from what I saw. The other hero was actually one of the Protectors, a nationally famous hero that I’d only seen on TV before, getting a medal for saving a bunch of kids. White Knight. That guy makes my jaws tighten every time I see him. He dresses like a refugee from a Renaissance faire and has a sword and shield, but what pisses me off is the image painted on his shield: a guy with one foot on the chest of a dying dragon, holding a spear through it. Asshole.
Jack and I went to help the cops who were down. One cop just had burns over his forearm. We cut away his uniform, laid some burn sheets over the worst of it, and sent him to sit in the passenger seat while we took care of his buddy. The other cop was burnt bad over nearly 50% of his body, screaming in agony. The smell of it choked me, and made my stomach turn. Jack called it in, and got permission from the doc on duty to shoot him up with morphene. The cop went out like Jack had flipped a switch. The cop was in for a horrific few months in the hospital, and had a high probability of not making it. And even if he did, he’d be scarred and probably disabled for life.
I sent Jack back to the unit for more burn sheets, cleared my mind till all I felt was empathy for the cop’s pain, checked to make sure no one was looking our way amid the chaos, and bit him on his uninjured arm. I made sure the fang pierced the median vein, and gave him a full dose of venom. My venom doesn’t heal instantly or anything, but it vastly accelerates and augments healing, even to the point of helping him regenerate burnt skin. The cop was going to make a miraculous recovery, and probably would be back on the streets in a week or two. In six months, he wouldn’t even have scars.
Jack and I got a drip going into him, got him on a gurney, and headed toward the unit. We were paying so much attention to the injured cop, we didn’t notice that the fight had come our way. In like a second, a bunch of stuff happened. The White Knight shouted a warning. The fiery bad guy was headed straight for Jack, and his body had flames licking all over it. If he touched Jack, my partner would be in as bad a shape as the cop or worse. I jumped over the gurney longways from a standstill and landed in front of the fiery guy who ran into me instead. I stumbled backward into Jack. My uniform shirt caught fire instantly, and I shoved the burning man hard away from me with my left arm. Right into the shield of the White Knight.  The force of my shove knocked the Knight down, and dazed the bad guy.
The flames flickered out for a second and Takedown put both gloved palms on the villain’s back. I heard electricity crackle, and the fire slinger went limp. The White Knight yelped at the same time, and I have to admit, I chuckled. TakeDown’s tazer gloves took out the bad guy, but apparently the knight’s shield and chainmail conducted the electricity a little too well. Take that, big bad knight.
I wasn’t laughing long as I realized half my uniform was burning away, and the scales on my left arm and shoulder were showing. Yikes! I hunched over the arm, trying to cover it before anyone saw, jumped into the back of the unit, grabbed a blanket and threw it over myself. Jack was right behind me.
He kept asking how bad I was hurt and trying to pry away the blanket. We had what I can only describe as our first fight. I had to practically throw him off me to keep him from looking under the blanket. He kept saying things like, “This is no time for modesty,” and “It’s okay. It’s just me.” like I was being overly shy. I told him I was fine, but he didn’t buy it. He wouldn’t leave it be until I reminded him we had two patients to get to the hospital. He wasn’t happy about it, but he drove.
I bailed on the rest of the shift, went home sick officially. Jack gave me a look as I was leaving, not like I expected. He didn’t look pissed. He just looked kind of, disappointed, I guess. 
Ma said she was proud of me.
But I can’t shake this feeling, like I did something really wrong. I just can’t figure out what it is.

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