July 27, 2016 by Lyn
December 31, 1980
“It’s a baby, love.” Michelle Linden-Blossom smiled indulgently at Kenneth; so strong, so capable, and yet so entirely helpless when it came to domestic things. He would have to learn, though, wouldn’t he?
“It’s tiny.” He set one finger gingerly in his son’s small hand. “What’s it called?”
“It’s a he, Ken, your son. Our son. And you know what you have to do. You have to find his name.”
Ken gulped. Michelle didn’t blame him – she had felt the same panic, the first time a woman had handed her a son and told her “go find his name and bring him back healthy and whole.”
“What if I drop him?”
“You won’t.” These words had to be just as much part of the ritual as the smoke and the chant and the robe – more so; she imagined there were places that skipped the robe, but no father ever skipped this moment of being a giant baby, did they? Even with Ty, Mike had been the same.
“But what if I do? He’s wriggly.”
“Here,” she said, much as Rain-Song had said to a nervous Meckil, centuries ago, “here’s a basket. He fits in there perfectly, see?” She tucked the blanket around her infant son, wishing, not for the first time, that she had a shred of maternal instinct.
“What if you… you know…” Ken threw delicacy to the wind. “What if he shits his diaper?”
“I’m sure he will, dear. There’s fresh diapers in the bag. And you can’t tell me Mo didn’t walk you through that thirty times already.”
“Go.” She shoved him gently out the door. “It’s nearly midnight, and you won’t find a more auspicious time to Seek for his name.”
December 31, 1990
Mike took a deep breath, settling the female form more comfortably around itself. It had been a while – nearly nine years – since she’d worn this form; she kept checking in the rearview mirror to make sure she had everything right.
If the Hawk could see me now… But no-one at Addergoole knew where she was going. She’d been careful about that, not because there was anything wrong with what she was doing – by the Law, he was her son, even if she’d chosen to give up those rights – but because Luke would laugh and Regine wouldn’t understand.
She shook her hair into place and stepped out of the car. Would he even want to see her? He’d sounded so uncertain on the phone.
Her bootheels clicked on the well-shoveled sidewalk. Boots from Luca, of course; his perpetual joke, but after all this time, she had a pair of boots for every occasion. And Luca wasn’t the man she wanted to be thinking of right now, was he?
It never used to be this hard to forget him. She’d never gone this long without a real lover, or this long up close and personal with the Mara.
A boy answered the door, tall for his age – but, then again, Linden was short for her age – blonde, and handsome. “You’re not the baby-sitter,” he said flatly.
“No,” she agreed, letting him see her amusement. His gaze raked up and down her – oh, my – in a way that was going to be trouble in a few years.
“You’re Dad’s date.”
“Yes, I am. And you must be…” not Mart-kos, consecrated to the god Mars. For all that he’d brought it back, Ken had never been comfortable with that name.
“Mark.” A smirk, as if he’d thought she was fishing. He turned and shouted up the stairs. “Dad! Your date is here!”
December 31, 1998
“You keep coming back.” It could have sounded malicious; instead, it sounded a little wondering.
“I do.” Not often – not more than twice in any given decade, but she couldn’t bring herself to stay away.
“Aren’t you worried he’ll ask questions, when he sees you at that school of yours next year? It’ll be a little late to start playing Mom then.” They were sitting at the top of the water tower, feet dangling like teenagers, watching the fireworks from the shelter of a thick wool blanket.
“I, ah…” doubt he’ll see the woman who visits his father every five years in the man teaching English Lit. But that explanation wouldn’t do for Ken; for him, Michelle had always been, and would always be a girl. Some truths weren’t a kindness to reveal. “I don’t look quite like this while I’m teaching.”
“Fairy stuff,” Ken said dismissively. Never mind that the blood was so strong in him it had to have been an effort of will not to Change, anything remotely strange was “fairy stuff.” It would be interesting to see how his son dealt with the school.
“Yes, darling. Fairy stuff.” She squeezed his hand affectionately, such a big, calloused hand, and hers so small within it. It made her feel safe and protected. “By now, that shouldn’t surprise you, coming from me.”
“It never surprises me – coming from you.” He draped his arm around her shoulder and tugged her closer to him. “Though I’m always a little surprised when you come back.”
“I’m always surprised when you let me in,” she teased. He was human, and she was not. The time would come when he was not there to let her in long before the day she stopped coming to visit him.
“Mark let you in this time,” he pointed out, and, staid as he could be, it took her a moment to realize he was teasing her back. Inordinately pleased by this, she kissed him
Somewhere far below them, in the real world, a crowd began singing that old classic that was centuries younger than she was.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?
“It means ‘times long gone,’” she told him, as she nuzzled his neck. He smelled of dirt, of the earth. She loved that about him.
“Like ‘once upon a time?’” He smirked. “Suits our fairy tale.”
She smiled warmly at him, grateful for the “our.” A fairy tale full of faery tail. “It does suit us.” Maudlin and content for a few minutes, she sang along.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne