"Hey, Fergus!" Cosette calls out to him, waving to him to join her and her friend seated on the grass near the science building. "This is my friend Tasha, Tasha Byers," Cosette introduces him, "I was just telling Tasha about you."
"About me?" Fergus asks, sitting beside the girls, "Nothing bad, I hope?"
Cosette laughs, "I don't have any dirt on you to spread around." The university clock's bells toll the hour, and Cosette stands, brushing the grass off her legs, "I've got to get to my chemistry class. See both of you later," she says, passing a knowing smile at Tasha.
"I'm done with classes for the day," Tasha informs hims, "How about you?"
Fergus tells her he's finished his last class for the day as well, and was about to head back to the warehouse.
"The Comics Stack is right by your place," Tasha says, naming the comic book shop and cafe across the street from the warehouse, "Cosette tells me you have a complete collection of Toadsim Ninjas graphic novels."
"She said she didn't say anything bad about me," Fergus sats with a self-depreciating laugh.
Tasha giggles, "I love Toadsim Ninjas," she says, smiling at him, "I'm pretty much a huge comics nerd."
"Me Too!" Fergus blurts, and blushes, embarrassed by his childish enthusiasm. He's not entirely sure she's even interested him, and he's already blowing it.
"I was going to head over there today to pick up my new issue of Xenophobic Travelogue, and I was thinking about checking out the Upperclass Man series. I hear it's really dark," Tasha says, leaning a little closer to him and smiling, "So, if you want a ride home, I'm heading that way. And maybe you'd be interested in browsing the stacks with me. Maybe get a latte at the cafe?"
"That sounds great," Fergus answers, wishing he could think of something charming to say.
"Hey, is that guy...does he work here?" Fergus asks in a low whisper, seeing a man dressed pretty much exactly like a medieval monk roaming the stacks at the comic shop.
"He was in my medieval history class last semester," Tasha whispers, giggling, "He takes his roleplay a little too seriously. Once, he came to class in full plate armor. He couldn't even sit for the lecture, so he just stood there taking notes. At one point the professor called him 'Sir Stands-a-lot'."
After Tasha gets her weekly comics fix, they head into the shop's arcade to play a few games.
And then they grab a couple of lattes and head up to the deck to drink and enjoy the sunshine.
"Have you ever heard of Bridgeport Ghost?" Tasha asks as she sips her latte. Fergus shakes his head, he's never heard the title before, so Tasha continues, "It's an older, indie series, and it's pretty hard to find. I got turned onto it when I was in high school. It's about this, like, neolithic shaman who travels through time. Not the usual superhero thing at all, and it gets into some seriously weird shit with rituals and magic...it's what inspired me to major in history. Though now that I say that out loud, that sounds pretty pathetic."
"It's not pathetic," Fergus says, "Those neolithic shamans did have some fascinating rituals and beliefs. My father still believes most of that stuff himself."
"I was talking about fiction," Tasha says.
He said too much, Fergus realizes. Now he has to backpedal or go forward with the truth. He looks Tasha in the eyes, and chooses. "I don't know what you've read in comics, but weird rituals and magic, that's my real life."
He pauses, waiting for her to back out politely, but instead, she leans forward and says, "Tell me."
So, Fergus tells her. Not everything, certainly. The Hawksquill curse isn't something you just drop out on a first date, if this is even a first date. And his grandfather's adventures with time travel should probably wait until she knows him well enough to believe he's not full of shit. But Shadow's stories of spirit walks and like are more than enough to keep Tasha enraptured, hanging on Fergus' every word.
"That's amazing," Tasha says when he's done, "Your father can actually cast spells? And what about you?"
"I can," Fergus answers, "All my brothers can. But I'm not making it the center of my life the way my dad did."
"Will you show me? Just a little spell?" Tasha asks, smiling brightly.
"I will," Fergus promises, "But not here, and not today. I don't put out the magic on a first date."
Tasha smiles, "This can't be our first date. Because if it is, well, we'll have to live knowing our first date was at a comic book shop."
"I was thinking we'd have all our dates here, actually."
"I'm actually pretty okay with that," Tasha laughs.
"I had a really nice time," Tashsa says, taking his arm and holding his hand.
"It's a good thing Cosette introduced us," Fergus says, reminding himself to thank his roommate later.
Fergus pulls his hand out of hers to wrap his arms around her waist.
"You big liar," she whispers, caressing his cheek.
"What?" he asks, bewildered.
"You said you don't put out the magic on a first date."
Fergus is playing a game, taking a break from his homework, when Julian approaches him, asking "Have you seen Jillyan today?"
"Nope," Fergus answers curtly, not turning his attention away from the screen.
"She wasn't in class today," Julian persists, "I'm worried about her."
Realizing that he can't get rid of Julian by ignoring him, Fergus pauses his game and swivels the chair around to face him. "Jilly can be a little flaky like that," he says, "I wouldn't worry about her."
"Yes, but..." Julian hesitates, "Well, she promised to meet me before class."
"Like I said, she's flaky like that," Fergus shrugs.
"Could you give me her number? I'd like to call and see if she's all right," Julian asks.
"I'm not giving you her number," Fergus answers flatly, becoming annoyed.
"Well, could you at least call her yourself? Just to make sure she's okay."
"I'm not worried about her," Fergus says, and tries to turn back to his game.
"Fergus," Julian says his name in a firm tone, keeping him from turning away and ending the conversation, "I get that you don't like me, just because I'm a Landgraab. Niles and Cosette are two of the most anti-corporate people I know, and they can see past my name and treat me like a real person. I wish you could at least do that. Because, I'm really interested in your cousin. And she's given me reason to believe that she might be interested in me as well...at least, I thought so. Then she didn't show up today when she said she would meet me. I'm just asking for you to give her a call and see that she's all right. If she was blowing me off, then, fine, I'll back off. I just...I just need to know she's okay."
Fergus frowns, realizing he's being kind of a dick. He's not exactly ready to just trust that this Landgraab living under the same roof as him is a complete coincidence, but being an asshole to the guy isn't going to get him to reveal any nefarious plots he's might be cooking up. The idea of this Landgraab dating his cousin makes him seethe inside, but Fergus knows that if it is what Jilly wants, no little roadblcks he tries to throw in her way will stop her.
"Okay. I'll call her," Fergus says, pulling out his phone.
After spending the day scuba diving, Jilly headed over to the dojo to get in some practice on the boards. Fergus was right, she's not a Sim Fu master yet, but she will be.
"Hey, Fergus, what's up?" she says, picking up her phone when it buzzes in her pocket.
"Just checking in you, coz," he says, "You weren't in class today."
"Wow, my mother isn't even that over-protective," Jilly laughs, "Are you seriously keeping tabs on whether I go to class or not?"
"No, it wasn't me that noticed, " Fergus says, "You were supposed to meet Julian before class?"
"Oh, crap, yeah, I was," Jilly sighs, "He must think I"m a total bitch. Listen, can you tell him I'm sorry? I'll make it up to him."
"Do you want to tell him yourself? He's right here."
"Did he make you call me?" Jilly laughs, "He's so cute! Okay, yeah, put him on."
After a pause, Julian says hello into the phone. "Hey, Julian, I am so sorry I forgot about meeting up with you. It as just such a beautiful day, I couldn't pass up the urge to do a little windsurfing. And then some scuba diving. I had an amazing day," she enthuses.
Julian laughs lightly, "I was worried something might have happened to you."
"Nope. I'm just a big flake. Ask Fergus, he'll tell you. Anyway, I'll make it up you, okay? Do you want to meet me at the beach tomorrow? We can do some surfing, and hangout."
"That sounds great, Jilly. See you tomorrow."
"For real," Jilly laughs, "I'd never blow off a day at the beach."
Her, at last. He was sure she'd survived the battle, but she'd disappeared, and none of the villagers would tell him anything about her. It was months before he found one willing to talk, a drunk of course, who said more than he'd meant to in his cups. And even from him, all he got was that she'd retreated into the woods with her brother. Half-brother, he thinks bitterly, angry. The boy is none of his, but the girl...
He wants to approach her. Take her in his arms and take her away from this hovel at the edge of the forest and bring her back to his keep, where she could live as she was meant to, in luxury. His firstborn. His daughter.
She's beautiful, like her mother, he thinks. And thinking of her mother makes his heart ache. She's never met him, but she hates him already, he knows it. Revealing himself as her true father would not mend that, no, it would only make things worse. It would destroy her. He's destroyed so much already, taken everything from her, and though he would give her everything he has, everything he is, he couldn't give her back what he's already taken, not with all his wealth or power, not even with his paternal affection.
He backs away, quietly, before she can see him lurking in the trees by her house. She was his, but she's lost to him. Like her mother, like her mother...
Waking. Moving from one state of consciousness to another.
Transition. Remembering who you are, which memories are your own, which belong to another man, another time.
The girl in the dream is not his daughter, no. She was his grandmother. But even knowing that, the pain, the loss he experienced through another man's eyes, that's his to keep, that cannot be excised neatly, parceled out and labeled 'not mine'.
"Hey, Julian!" Jilly calls out to her date, treading water nearby while she tries a few tricks on the wave machine, "Did you see that?"
Julian acknowledges her with a wave.
"You should take a turn," she suggests, realizing she's hogging the board.
"That's okay," Julian says, "Why don't we head out to shore for awhile?"
"Not until you try this," Jilly insists.
"See, I told you it was awesome," Jilly enthuses, taking her turn to watch Julian.
"Hey, watch out for the loose seal!" Jilly calls out to him.
Julian topples over as the seal knocks into his board.
"I can't believe how warm it is here. Back in Drake's Hollow, even the summer is kind of chilly, and I swear it's gloomy even on the sunniest days," Jilly comments as they settle onto their towels to relax on the beach.
"It's like that where I'm from, too," Julian says, "It's so cold, people wear gloves all the time, even indoors. Even in summer."
"You're making that up," Jilly laughs, and he laughs with her.
"Have you traveled much?" she asks, but gives him no chance to answer, "I've been to China, once, with my mother. It was so amazing. Really beautiful landscapes, and I found some awesome relics. I've been practicing Sim Fu, too. I have a green belt, now. I can't wait to go back. But I might travel somewhere else first, I haven't decided."
"I've traveled some," Julian finally gets an answer in, "To France, anyway. Nothing exotic."
"Oooh, France. I want to go. Maybe after China. But I want to visit Isla Paradiso first, I think. I've heard there are some amazing dive spots."
While Jillyan enthuses about her travel plans, Julian cautiously lays his hand over hers. Jilly notices his touch, and smiles lightly at him. "You should know, before you get involved with me, that I don't intend to stay in any one place for long," she warns him.
"Take me with you," Julian answers, cupping her chin in his hand, pulling her face closer to his.
"Just like that?" she asks, her voice grown husky, "You're ready to sign up for Jilly's wild ride?"
"I know what I want, Jillyan, just like you know what you want. And we're alike in one thing, at least; we go for what we want."
"Mmm, that was nice," Jilly lets out a contented sigh, leaning against his chest after what's she sure was the longest and best kiss in all of simkind, "I like your skin. You're very warm."
"Well, yours too," he laughs a little as he kisses her shoulder.
"So, tell me about your ink," she says.
"My ink?" he asks in return, as though he doesn't know what she's talking about.
"Your tattoo," she clarifies, "It's really pretty. Does it mean anything special?"
"I...I don't remember," Julian murmurs, rubbing his forehead, struggling.
"How could you not remember getting inked?" Jilly wonders out loud, "I mean, even if you were wasted, you'd remember getting wasted enough to get a tattoo..."
"I don't...I can't...I remember," he says, his words coming through paned pauses, "I remember, sort of, like, glimpses, fragments of memories, but it's like... it's like it's not my memory. Like, it's someone else I'm seeing..." A flash of agony plays over his face, "I'm sorry, I've got a migraine coming on."
"Are you okay? Should you see a doctor?" Jilly asks.
"No. No doctor," he insists, "I'm all right. I just need to lie down."
Jillyan lets him rest his head on her lap.
"It's...so weird," he sighs, "I have these gaps in my memory. I try to focus on something in my past, or sometimes seeing something I think is familiar will trigger it. And then I get a massive headache. But it goes away after a few minutes."
"And you haven't seen a doctor about that?" Jilly asks.
"I do have a doctor. I see her every week."
"Every week? Wow, that's serious. Are you okay, Julian?"
Julian's brow furrows, his headache growing worse as he tries to remember his visits to his doctor, remembering anything about it at all, and coming up with nothing.
"Maybe you should talk to Fergus," Jilly suggests, "He could help you with gaps in your memory..."
"Fergus? What do you mean?"
Jilly bites her lip, realizing she's said too much. "His dad is like, a folk healer," she backpedals as quickly as she can, "It was a stupid idea," she says, resolving to bring this to Fergus herself.