This is a start to an intended sequel to The Bassist, The Drummer, The Dragon & The Faery Brigade of Doom. There's quite a bit more to it, and I apologize in advance for the obvious Mary Sue -- though not for the shout-out to John Kovalic's Dork Tower. :D And yes, D&D game sessions can be very much like this in real life, right down to the Goth witchy wannabes.
"You took her where?!?"
Ross winced and held the phone a few inches...then a foot...then arm's length...away from his ear. Even at that distance, Perry was loud. Loud enough for everyone at the table in the next room to stop their dice-rolling and munching and cheerful rules-lawyer-squabbling to crane their necks to stare at him.
I'm going to catch the flu and go cough on the man, I swear.
Kris caught his eye; Ross grimaced, and she turned away. He couldn't make out her words, but the tone was unmistakable, a game master firmly taking control back of the game or else.
Perry was still ranting, and Ross waited until there was a pause -- even rock singers had to breathe at some point -- and then Ross spoke firmly, angrily, into the phone, his gaze on the table of assorted gamers and fantasy freaks.
"You want to yell at me," Ross said, "you come over here and do it to my face. With Sid."
Then he hung up, turned the phone ringer off and the answering machine on and set its volume to nonexistent.
No one was looking at him when he rejoined the game. Everyone was very obviously not looking at him. And suddenly, Ross was glad his wife always found other things to do on game-day.
Everyone, that is, except for Kris, who'd raised an eyebrow. "Do we need to clear out?"
"Nah," Ross said. "Rock and roll temper tantrum. He won't show."
"Ah," Kris said, and the or-else tone came back into her voice, as everyone was suddenly busy again with dice and character sheets.
Almost everyone, anyway. Sheila was off on one of her tangents, again. She was a skinny Goth wannabe, white makeup, black eyeliner, dressed all in black and wearing enough pewter pentagrams to drag her head forward several inches. She was arguing -- yet again -- that the magic in the game was"not how it works in real life".
Not that she knows how it works in real life, either. Ross kept his gaze focused on his coffee, not wanting to get drawn in. Kris was doing well enough on her own in keeping Sheila off-balance. But Kris caught Ross's gaze and rolled her own eyes ceiling-ward, and Ross grinned. The argument had been old when Sheila started it, and Kris didn't exactly have a lot of patience.
"Look," Kris was saying, "you don't like the magic system, fine. Make up another one. We'll try it."
"That's not the point!" Sheila's voice was breathy, as if she was trying to be mystical and profound.
"It is the point," Kris said. "This is a game. If you want reality, take those," she jerked her thumb at the swords lying on the table, Ren Faire souvenirs that everyone had brought to show off, "and these guys can hack you to bits, while you cast a spell to stop them."
"Awright!" That was from Igor, a short, balding, nearsighted Scotsman. At least, he wore a kilt to the game sessions.
"Like any of us're gonna take you on," another of the group, Matt, said.
"But that's not how it works," Sheila said, ignoring the exchange.
"Then it's useless for gaming," Kris snapped. "At least, for this game. And this is the game I'm running right now."
Sheila sank back into her chair, her face twisted in a sulky pout.
"And for that," Kris said, "you just failed your spot check. Everyone roll for surprise, minus ten to the roll."
Everyone groaned, everyone grumbled, but Ross couldn't help another grin. His pixie character was well-hidden in the trees, scouting for the group.
"A huge ball of flame explodes overhead," Kris went on, ruthlessly, "showering everyone with fire and igniting the trees. Roll to dodge, Ross. No, Shel, you're surprised, you can't get a spell off."
He barely made the dodge, then the next spot roll.
"A dragon," said Igor, before Kris said anything. "Figures."
Kris narrowed her eyes, then gave Igor an evil grin. "Okay. Sure. It's a dragon. Big, glossy, black --"
"Deep shit," said Matt.
"-- and roaring at the top of her lungs --"
"Her?" Ross said.
That earned him a glare. "It's up there," Kris said, pointing to the ceiling. "And you're down here, Mr. Faery. It's mad as hell, and you're surrounded by burning leaves. You want to argue dragon biology right now?"
"Her," Ross said. "Okay. Fine by me. What's she roaring about?"
"Who the fuck cares?" Igor said. "Arrows of Smiting coming online, Kris."
"Jesus," Matt said, "it's a black dragon, idiot --"
"You speak dragon?" Kris said to Ross.
"Yeah," Ross said.
Kris's stare was flat, though a corner of her mouth twitched.
Go on. Call my bluff.
"Okay," Kris said. "It's loud, it's booming, so it's hard to make it out exactly. But something like, 'return my child now, humans, or all your kind shall be ash'."
"Aw, no fair," Igor said. "I wanna smite dragon ass!"
"I'm casting a nice calming field of blue surrounding the poor thing," Sheila said.
"Calming fields of blue aren't in the rulebook," Kris snapped. "Ross?"
His little pixie versus a big mad dragon. Ross grinned again. "I'll fly up to parley, calling out 'we help! we help!'"
The twitch at the corner of Kris's mouth broke into laughter. "You're what?"
"With purple wings a-fluttering and hands open wide to show I'm not armed," Ross said.
A loud, real, booming cut them off and made them all jump, before Ross realized someone was pounding on his front door. It stopped, then repeated, louder, more insistent, until Ross sighed and got up to a chorus of groans to pull open his front door.
He froze, the door part way open. Steve stood on the doorstep, and the singer did not look happy.
"All right," Steve snapped, pushing past Ross. "I'm here. With Sid. We are going to talk about this Faire bullshit and you are going to give me some fuckin' answers --"
Then Steve stopped, as it apparently registered that Ross had a roomful of people, one of whom -- Igor -- had risen from the sofa, sword in hand. But as Ross stood there, debating whether to go ahead and let the short fat guy in the kilt run Steve through or not, something else sunk in.
"Hawk!" Sid squealed, and leaped from Steve's shoulder, made it to the back of the armchair, and from there to the table, directly in front of Kris, scattering dice and figure miniatures everywhere.
Well, that got their attention.
Kris blinked, then grinned. "Hey, Sid. I was wondering where you were hiding."
Steve stood unmoving, his face open shock and horror. Ross eased past him, glanced at his face, and almost felt sorry for him.
"Ross," Igor said uncertainly; his gaze, just as the others, was fixed on Sid. "That's your puppet."
"Surprise," Ross said casually. "Folks, this is Sid. Short for Obsidian. Sid --"
"She's real, guys," Kris said quietly, to the table. "Chill out."
"She?" Ross said, surprised. "You can tell?"
Kris ignored that, her gaze back on Sid, curious, gentle. "How'd you know my name, kiddo?"
Ross stopped, mentally replaying conversation and what had happened at the Faire. There hadn't been time for introductions, that was for sure.
"Sid dream," Sid said earnestly. Her tail was lashing. "Sid see. Sid know. You Hawk."
Slowly, Kris nodded. "Yeah. That."
"Your name's 'Hawk'?" Steve said, in loud cut-the-crap tones.
That got everyone's attention focused back on the obnoxious intruder standing in their fellow gamer's entryway.
"Steve..." Ross clapped a hand on Steve's shoulder, intending to deflect him into an area without the shiny metal Ren Faire souvenirs and plastic dice missiles.
Steve didn't budge.
"Yeah," Kris said, glaring at the singer. "Kris Mountainhawk. Your point?"
"Mountainhawk," S teve said. "You don't look Native American."
"No," Kris said coldly, "I don't."
"Oooooo," Sheila said then, and Ross clamped his mouth on a groan; he'd been doing rock for too damn long not to recognize those tones. "It's him, Kris. That's Steve Perry."
"Yeah," Kris said. "I know who he is."
"Oh, do you?" Steve started.
"Sid," Ross cut in, over top of Steve, "you know Kris. That's Igor... Matt...Sheila..."
"Ravennightwind," Sheila said.
That brought simultaneous, muffled snorts from around the table.
"She's Mountainhawk," Sheila said defensively.
"Yeah," Igor said,"but Kris can blame her mom for that."
Sid was looking around the table, her head cocked, tail still lashing. "Joke?"
"Never mind," Ross said to her.
"Shame Godzilla ain't here," Matt said, his gaze on Sid. "He'd be going nuts right now."
Kris was still glaring at Steve, her arms crossed. Steve ignored her, crossing to the table to hold out an arm to Sid.
"Come on, Sid," Steve said. "We're going."
"No," Sid said."Sid stay. Thump's friends good. Sid learn."
"Sid," Steve said patiently, "we are going. Now."
"You think she's your pet?" Kris said. Her tone had Ross stepping in front of Steve, fast.
"Perry," Ross said, "outside. Now."
"Like hell --"
Ross drew himself up to glare down at Steve. While he was taller than the singer, he didn't often push it, but sometimes, he had no choice. "Now."
Steve turned to stalk out the front door, leaving Sid on the table. Ross stood there a moment, eyes closed, trying to gather his calm, then opened his eyes to silence and a group of stares.
"Excuse me for a minute," Ross said to them, quietly.
"Ross," Kris said, as he started to turn. He turned back, and she snagged up one of the smaller Ren Faire souvenirs from the table, handed it to him, hilt-first. It had heft and solidity -- and an edge -- to it; Kris always insisted on the real carbon-forged blades at the Faires, not the stainless-steel tourist crap.
Gently, respectfully, Ross laid the dagger back down on the table. "No, thanks," he said, with a slight smile. "I'm good." The smile broke into a grin. "Show Sid the game."
"Game?" Sid said.
Ross turned away, gesturing at the others to carry on, and slipped out the front door as Sid's piping voice and his friends' eager explanations started up. Outside, Steve was leaning against his car, with his back to the house, but he twisted to glare as Ross came up.
"Before you start," Ross said, as Steve opened his mouth, "yes, I said to say it to my face. But only an idiot would've seen the cars in my driveway and not known that maybe, just maybe, I had other people over here. And only an idiot would've come storming in anyway to chew me out."
Steve only glared from underneath his hair. "Sid --"
"And as for Sid being visible," Ross said, "that was her choice. You take it up with her. I'll be happy to loan you a tourniquet for that fight."
Steve said nothing, only turned to stare out over the street, his mouth tight, his arms crossed. Ross settled into a lean next to him, waited.
"You took her to Ren Faire," Steve said, his gaze fixed on a point across the street.
"Yeah," Ross said, "I did."
Now Steve turned, his face open disbelief and anger. "You don't see what's fuckin' wrong with that?"
"You weren't listening in there," Ross said calmly. "'Ross, that's your puppet.' They didn't know Sid was real. No one did."
"Don't give me that bullshit," Steve snapped. "I heard that Hawk bitch. She knew. You can't tell me--"
Ross throttled his anger down. "Hawk," he cut Steve off, "is my friend. You want to start shit, you do it to her face. I'll still loan you the bandages after."
Steve turned away, settled back into his furious glare into the distance. Abruptly, Ross had enough.
"You come up with something serious," Ross said, "come in and get me and we'll bitch it out here. Maybe you noticed, I got friends here. I don't have time for rock star tantrums." With that, he pushed away from the car and headed back inside before Steve could open his mouth.
That last had been a low blow, Ross knew. Perry hated the"rock star" label, and all the baggage that came with it.
And he's the first to act like one. Irony, thy name is Steve Perry.
Ross stepped back through the front door and into a cheerful, manic welter of voices. Sid had moved from the table to the back of the sofa, next to Igor, perched and upright and tail lashing, her eyes bright. Ross grinned; Igor was also the one who tended to hoard munchies. Currently, there was an open bag of Cheetos, a bowl filled with cheese cubes and summer sausage, and a bag of jalapeño chips balanced precariously on a scatter of books on the cushion next to Igor...which placed Sid directly above that tasty stash.
'Human-ignorant', my ass.
"Sid play, too?" Sid said plaintively, looking up at Ross.
Ross raised an eyebrow, but nodded at Kris. "Ask her. She's our gamemaster. It's her game."
"Story," Sid said. "Hawk explain. Game of stories. Sid good with stories. Hawk tell story and Sid play character in story. With you."
"Yeah, and this story does have a huge-ass dragon right above us at the moment," Matt muttered.
Ross sprawled into the other empty armchair, giving him a good view through the front window. Perry was still leaning against his car, his head turned away.
"No," Kris said thoughtfully. "The dragon's your adventure tonight. That stays with me."
"Besides," Ross added, "Sid would win."
"Yeah," Kris said.
"My point," Matt said.
Sid was eyeing the brightly colored Cheetos bag. Igor dipped his hand in, offered her a handful, watched as Sid delicately picked one up in her front talons and sniffed it over. Igor looked sheepishly at Ross. "Um...is this stuff safe for her?"
Ross grinned, as Sid crunched down in a spray of orange cheese dust, then snagged another from Igor's hand. "As safe as it is for us."
Kris snorted. "That really answers the question. Okay. Here's what we'll try --"
"You know, I am a wizard," Sheila broke in pointedly. "Sid could be my familiar for tonight."
Kris gave Sheila a don't-push-it look. "Dragons aren't on the allowed list. So, no."
"What familiar?" Sid said.
"My special friend," Sheila said, before anyone else could say anything.
"Say all of it," Kris said, glaring at Sheila. "A familiar's a wizard's slave, Sid. It's an animal that boosts the wizard's power and does anything the wizard tells it to."
Sid cocked her head. Ross knew that look. Unfortunately, Sheila didn't.
"But my wizard's a dragon-wizard," Sheila said.
"Here we go again," Matt muttered.
"Sid not animal," Sid said, at the same time. "Sid not slave."
"That's a big no, Shel," Ross said.
"A big Hell no," Kris said.
Sheila sniffed. "I was just offering something that Sid would know how to do, Kris. No need to get bitchy about it."
"Something Sid would know how to do?" Kris echoed.
"It's obvious," Sheila said. "She's already his familiar --" She nodded with her chin towards the window. "Anyone can see he's a wizard. I just thought Sid'd be comfortable playing it."
Ross didn't move, was careful to stay casual and relaxed, as snorts and eye-rolls and laughter burst out from Matt and Igor.
"Get real, Shel," Matt said.
"Game," Igor said to Sheila, slowly enunciating it out. "G-A-M-E. Like, fiction. Fantasy. Jesus."
"Says the man who wears a kilt," Ross said.
"That," Igor said, with dignity, "is a fashion statement."
"He is!" Sheila said. "If you really did real magic --"
"Sword time," Igor said, picking up one of the metal souvenirs and eyeing Sheila. "You and me, darlin'. Out back, your magic and my sword."
Sheila sniffed again. "Just because you don't believe in it--"
But Kris was eyeing Sheila, though Ross thought he saw her gaze flicker towards him. "Yeah," Kris said."That jerk, a wizard. Right."
There was a tapping at the door, which opened, cutting everyone off. Steve came in, stood at the threshold of the living room. His expression looked calm enough, but Ross knew better.
"Sid," Steve said quietly, "come on. It's time to go."
Only someone who knew Sid would've caught the tightening of the claws and the stillness of the tail. Ross sighed; he probably should get the bandages now.
"Sid stay," Sid said.
"We're going home," Steve said patiently. "My dad's coming over for dinner. Come on."
"See?" Sheila said to the group in general. "I told you!"
"Sid not familiar," Sid said, and Steve looked confused. "Sid stay. Sid play with Thump."
"I can drive her home, Steve," Ross said. "She'll be okay here. That'll keep Marv from tossing a fit."
"That's not the point," Steve said.
Sid had settled on the sofa back, her front legs crossed, talons slightly extended, the tip of her tail twitching, her gaze boring into Steve. She didn't look as though she was moving any time soon.
Steve stood there, his own arms crossed, staring back at the little dragon. Ross didn't think Steve wasn't stupid enough to escalate the matter, not now, not in front of an audience. But still...
"It is the point," Kris said fiercely, her hand a little too near one of the Faire souvenirs. "She's not your familiar. She's not your pet. Who the hell are you to tell her what to do?"
That broke the glaring contest between Steve and Sid, as Steve turned, outrage twisting his face. Ross shoved himself up from his chair.
"That," Ross said angrily to Kris, "was uncalled for."
Kris ignored that, her glare still fixed on Steve. "Seen Kajitani lately?" she said, still in that low, fierce voice."Or do you just fuck around with Mount Tam on your own?"
Whatever Ross had been expecting, it wasn't that. And from Steve's sudden, shocked-to-a-standstill stance, he hadn't either.
The room had gone dead silent. Igor and Matt were staring anywhere but at Steve or Kris; Sheila wasn't so polite. The Goth's eyes were fixed on Steve, and Ross felt his gut tighten at the awed look on her face.
God. Just what Perry didn't want.
There was movement, Sid uncoiling herself from her seat on the sofaback, then carefully, precisely, picking her way over to the table, past the miniatures and blades, to sit with tail coiled around herself, perched on the table edge and still glaring at Steve with those huge, glowing eyes.
"Sid adult," Sid said. "Not nestling. Not slave. Sid stay."
"And that," Kris said, to Steve, "ends that discussion."
Ross slammed his hand down on the table, making everyone jump. "Enough," Ross said. "Game over. Everyone go home."
He didn't need to say it twice, though Kris transferred that glare to him for a moment, then silently started picking up her binders and books. Igor and Matt had already shoveled their stuff into their backpacks; they muttered halfhearted goodbyes, and slid through the door. Sheila, though, sidled up to Steve and handed him a scrap of notepaper, still staring at him with those wide, dark-makeup-drenched eyes.
"Call me if you need to talk, 'kay?" she said. "I understand these things. You can trust me."
"What?" Steve said.
Ross felt a headache starting. "Sheila..."
Sheila patted Steve on the shoulder before he could flinch away. "It's okay. I understand. We'll talk later." Then she was out the door with a knowing smile back at Steve.
"What was that all about?" Steve said, staring at the door.
"She thinks you're a wizard," Kris said, from the table. She'd brought twice as many books and papers as the others, and her bookbag showed it. She finished strapping it up, hefted it over her shoulder.
Kris ignored him. Almost as an afterthought, she scooped up the forged dagger from the table and slid it down along her leg as she headed to the door.
Ross blinked. He hadn't noticed before; she wore a sheath strapped to her leg. The knife slid home into it, and even knowing it was there, it was hard to spot.
"Hawk," Sid said, and as Kris turned, Sid leapt to the armchair, then to Kris's backpack, using her claws to grip and clamber over the pack and onto Kris's shoulder, then Kris's arm. The little dragon perched there, head cocked, staring into Kris's face.
Silence; Kris's own head was cocked as she returned that intent gaze. Finally, Kris nodded. "Okay," she said quietly, to Sid. "But if you want out, you let Ross know. He knows where to find me."
"Um, right," Ross said, uncertain.
Kris held her arm out, waited for Sid to leap back to the armchair. "I'll talk to you later, Ross," Kris said casually, as if nothing had happened.
Ross decided he was not going to ask. Life had been interesting enough so far. "Sure," he said, as she headed out the door.
There was a long, long silence. Sid picked her way back to the abandoned pile of munchies that Igor had left behind. As if nothing had happened.
"What the fuck was that?" Steve said.
"Eh," Ross said, as he started to pick up the soda cans. "Don't worry about Shel. She's on a goth-witchy kick. Next week she'll be seeing dead people."
"Not her," Steve said.
Ross wasn't sure about Kris, either, at the moment. "That's just Kris. She's..." He paused, trying to think of the best way to put it.
"A bitch," Steve said.
"If she thinks you're pulling shit," Ross said.
Silence for a moment.
"Sid," Steve said, carefully, with exaggerated calm, "what happened with you and that chick?"
Sid was examining a piece of summer sausage, turning it in her talons and sniffing it. She didn't seem to hear.
"Sid," Steve said again.
"Private," Sid said, her attention still on the sausage. "Not Glass concern."
Silence again. Steve bit his lip, then eased around the table to sit on the chair near Sid. "Look," he said, "you don't know humans."
At that, Sid raised her head, fixed those glowing eyes on Steve.
"Humans hurt what they don't understand," Steve said, and there was an odd note in his voice. "And they won't understand you. I don't want to see you hurt."
"Thump not hurt," Sid said. "Not Scream, not Shaper, not Gift. All human met so far, no hurt." Something in those eyes sharpened. "Except Glass."
"You've been lucky," Steve said. "And you didn't know the people here when you jumped at them. I saw the swords they had. They could've really hurt you."
"Bullshit," Ross said.
Steve raised his head to give Ross a look. Ross crossed his arms, eyeballed Steve right back.
Sid harumphed. "Know Hawk. Hawk fought flitters. Fought with Thump and Shaper."
Steve's look turned into a full-on glare. "Smith was in on it, too?"
"Sid," Ross said, "you told him about the flitters, right?"
"Told," Sid said. "Glass not listen. Again."
"Sid," Steve said, and the edge was back in his tone.
"Glass never listen," Sid said. "Sid say, Sid adult, and Glass treat as nestling. Sid say, Sid know, and Glass say not know. Sid adult. Sid know risk. Sid," she uncurled her talons briefly,"handle if judge wrong."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Steve muttered.
"Maybe you're too afraid of it," Ross said.
"Fine," Steve snapped. "You deal with it. And her. You wanna be adult," he was glaring at Sid, "be adult. Stay on your fuckin' own and see how far you get." He stalked towards the door and left, slamming the door behind him.
Ah, fuckin' hell.
For a long, long moment, Ross didn't move. Sid's gaze was fixed on the door, her tail still except for a small twitch at the tip.
Finally Ross sighed, and saw her startle, then stare up at him with wide, unblinking eyes.
"C'mon," Ross said to her quietly, holding out his arm. "You can take over the spare bedroom for tonight."