Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or this setting. They are property of Diane Duane.
Author's Note: Okay, please don't massacre me. It's been a very long time, but hey, none of my Harry Potter stories have been updated at all since I started school in August. I think you guys got one update in all this time. I'm sorry. However, the last chapter is finally done. It's not particularly long, or brilliant, but this chapter and this story have come to a close at last. There may be a sequel if you really want one. I've got a one-shot that's forming in my head and so I might write that, or it could grow into the sequel if that's what you want. Anyway, thanks for all your support while I wrote this. I'm glad to have found other Dairine/Roshaun fans out there. If anybody has any clue when the next book is coming out, let me know, because I'm anxious for it. You've been great reviewers, thanks again!
Chapter 15: Home?
Dairine heard the knock at the door and didn't even bother to turn around. She had been here long enough to know who was knocking. She set down the hairbrush she'd been using. "Come in."
Roshaun entered the room and saw Dhairine seated at the vanity. He crossed to the mirror she sat at and surreptitiously checkd his reflection. Every hair was in place; his clothing was neat. Perfection. He had self-consciously adjusted the collar that held the Sun stone before he stepped in, wishing he had left it on the Speech chain Dhairine had put it on. Well, it was too late to do anything about it now.
"I'm just about ready," Dairine said.
Roshaun glanced at Dhairine. She was wearing that green dress. And she had already brushed her hair. His fingers ran through the ends of her hair and rested lightly at the base of her neck.
Dairine stiffened for a brief moment. Why wasn't he saying anything?
He came back to himself and his hand dropped like a lead weight to his side. "We had better be going, I suppose."
She stood and smoothed out her dress. "Yes, we should."
Wordlessly he offered his arm to her; in that same silence she took it and they started off for where his parents and their guests were waiting.
Halfway through the first course, Dairine noticed an intruder in her head. Dhairine?
She decided not to look at him, but to outwardly appear focused on her dinner and watching the conversation going on at the other end of the table. What is it?
She looked curiously over at him. What was it with him tonight? Not "never mind." Spill.
Do you have to go back tonight
Dairine frowned. I don't want to go back yet, but I do have to. I should have gone back hours ago. Neets and Dad'll be furious as it is. She pushed the food around on her plate. She didn't really feel like eating anymore.
I need to talk to you after dinner.
Why not now?
Roshaun didn't answer verbally or mentally. He just looked over at her. His face said all that needed saying: Please?
She nodded slightly and let herself be drawn back into the conversation at the table.
"And so, you are an engineer?" she asked.
"Yes, that's right, Your Ladyship," responded one of the men who had grabbed the first assassin. "I design transport vehicles."
"And I build them, Your Ladyship," responded the man next to him.
"What fuel source do they run off of?" asked Dairine, curiously.
"Solar energy, Your…Miss…" He seemed at a loss for what title to refer to Dairine by.
" 'Dairine' will do just fine."
"Dhairine." The name felt funny on his tongue.
"We haven't perfected particularly good solar energy yet where I'm from, at least, not with transport vehicles. Would you explain it?"
The man eagerly talked about the solar power necessary and the strength of the receiving device. Most of it did make sense to Dairine. For starters, her own sun was less powerful than Wellakh's. However, parts of the man's design could influence solar powered devices back home. One step closer to no longer relying on pollutant heavy fossil fuels…
Aside from the conversation about solar energy, the remainder of the meal seemed to pass slowly. Dairine found herself stealing glances at Roshaun, trying to understand what he was feeling by looking at him and not by entering his mind. She very carefully avoided his mind. It wouldn't be right to just invade it when he said he wanted to talk later. However, glancing over at him repeatedly was distracting her from the rest of the table conversation--mostly because almost half the time she looked, she caught him looking back.
When the meal had ended, Dairine was hoping for dancing, as there had been on the first night. The men had not brought there wives with them to the Palace however and instead musicians were called for, for their listening pleasure. Dairine was restless and sat impatiently at the table, attempting to be interested in the sweet sounding music and not anxious about her upcoming talk with Roshaun. Had he changed his mind about reforming the government?
At the end of the performance, Roshaun dutifully saw his guests out. His father accompanied him. As he left the room, Roshaun sent his mind to Dairine. Do not leave yet.
Alright. Roshaun had been less talkative than usual this evening at dinner. His mother had noticed.
"Something appears to be on his mind." She was standing next to Dairine, watching her son and husband disappear.
"What?" asked Dairine, startled. She hadn't realized Miril was still in the room.
"I said that something appears to be on my son's mind." Lady Miril sat down beside Dairine.
"Yeah." I wish I knew what, Dairine thought glumly to herself.
Lady Miril glanced at the door her son had exited. "He seemed particularly distracted at dinner. Sad too."
"He's been sulkier than usual the last day or so," Dairine said, frowning.
"I do not think he is quite ready to see you leave yet," Lady Miril said, a delicate smile gracing her face.
"I'm having fun. It's not as if I want to leave. I like it here. But I have responsibilities at home. I can't stay here forever, and I can't stay here another day." A little voice in Dairine's head asked, Why not? Why can't you stay forever?
"Dhairine, for our part, neither Nelaid nor I would keep you from staying here. I doubt Roshaun would raise any objections either." Miril was entirely sincere.
"But…it's crazy! I have a life back home. My dad's there. And Nita. And Kit. What about school? If I drop out, the school system'll hound my dad. I'm not a likely dropout candidate." Dropout? Where had that even come from? She wasn't even considering this.
"The offer is here."
"I have to go back today. I promised…"
"And a wizard's word is her bond. I understand. I'll have someone collect your things." With a brief hug, Miril stood and glided away.
A voice spoke, startling Dairine. She wasn't sure when he had reentered the room, but he was only a few feet away, only the table between them. "My mother is right, you know. You could stay." He sounded not quite eager, but quiet, intrigued.
"Stay as what?" This was ludicrous.
"As anything you want. Chief advisor, friend, ambassador, expert on extracting star iron, what does it matter? You could stay."
"It's crazy." She stood up.
"What is so crazy about it?"
This was not the quiet, aloof Roshaun she'd known. The worst part was that Dairine could not for the life of her imagine any good reason to go back at that moment. Why shouldn't she stay? Finally, "I have work to do there." There were still problems with the developing life on Jupiter's moon, and not to mention at least half a dozen other projects she was in the middle of working on.
"You do have work to do here. You yourself have said as much."
"There's my family. And my education to think of."
"Your family could come," he said obstinately.
Dairine looked around the empty room for support and then back at him. "They have lives and plans, Roshaun."
"And what about you?" He walked around the side of the table to stand next to Dairine.
"I don't have plans. I'm too young for plans! But I want to get a driver's license! Finish high school! Go to college!"
"You don't want to stay," he said softly. "I understand."
"It's not that I don't want to. It's that I can't. Besides, give me one good reason why I should." He really hadn't offered her a single good reason throughout the argument. She put her hands on her hips and glared at him in true Dairine fashion.
Roshaun appeared as though he was in pain, and as though he might be ill. "Have I not made it clear, painfully clear, perhaps clearer than I ought to have in the past few days?"
Dairine said nothing, tried to keep her face neutral. There'd been times when she thought he was saying things this week, but she'd never been sure. She couldn't be sure unless he said something outright.
"One good reason?" She nodded in answer to his question and he took a step towards her. His response was fierce. "Because I want you here. With me."
He used the Speech. He wanted her to stay.
He started to lean forward and Dairine, with customary impatience, tugged his faced towards her. And they kissed. Lips tugged eagerly at one another for what felt like an eternity, but that eternity was nowhere near long enough. Images flashed between them. Dairine saw a thousand suns, shining brightly. She watched Roshaun disappear into her own sun back home. Warmth. Light.
In Roshaun's mind, he saw Dhairine. There was darkness, but the darkness seemed to shine brightly, coolly—utterly Dharine. His Dhairine.
They broke apart and Dairine caught her breath and looked up at Roshaun, who was wearing a rather wry smile.
"You couldn't allow me to create a romantic moment and pull you in for the kiss?" he asked.
Blushing just a little, Dairine grinned and shrugged. "Guess not."
"Somehow, I think that was entirely appropriate."
Dairine was about to agree and offer him the opportunity to pull her in for the "romantic moment" when Nelaid and Miril reentered. Behind them was a maid, carrying Dairine's belongings. Spot, who had disappeared some time earlier, skittered along behind her.
"Are you sure you won't change your mind about staying, tekeh?"
"You are of course more than welcome," added Nelaid.
Dairine shook her head and caught a brief look of surprise on Roshaun's face. His mother's offer was sweet, but… "I can't stay now. But I'll be back as soon as I can." She looked over at Roshaun. I promise.
Roshaun raised one eyebrow fractionally. I'll hold you to that.
I expect you to. She put her arms around Miril and hugged her tight. Nelaid took her hands and raised them to his forehead. She looked at Roshaun. Didn't you have an announcement to make about the future of your planet?
He looked at her. I'll take care of it. This is something I've got to do on my own.
Dairine eyed him suspiciously.
I'll tell them about my plans. I didn't want to do it at dinner in front of everyone, he reasoned.
It made sense. I'll see you soon. She hugged him. If she stayed any longer, she might not be able to make herself leave tonight. She hugged Miril and Nelaid and took her bags from the maid.
Nelaid and Roshaun opened a world gate for her; she'd be spending enough energy on the jump alone.
"Might I have a chance to say goodbye to Dhairine? Alone?"
The maid had already left and Miril and Nelaid exited also to give them a moment alone.
"I am going to miss you," he said stiffly.
"Don't talk like that," she told him, almost in a whine. "It's not as if I'm not coming back, Roshaun. I'll be back. Sooner than you know it."
He said nothing.
"I'm going to miss you too."
He smiled. He'd been waiting for her to say that.
They kissed one more time. "Come visit me anytime." With a deep breath she stepped through the world gate and emerged at the Crossings. She found Sker'ret, assured him that everything was alright, and she continued on, finally appearing in her own backyard. She was home.
The sky was dark. It had to be close to midnight. With a resigned breath at whatever her coming punishment would be, she opened the backdoor. "Dad! Neets! I'm home!"
"Runt, is that you?"
As Dairine entered the kitchen, Nita, her dad, and Kit all came out of the living room. Neets got to her first and hugged her, reminding her not to solar system like that without telling anyone ever again. Dairine allowed herself to be hugged by everyone and hugged them back, not arguing…for the moment. She planned to go back to Wellakh just as soon as she could manage, but for now, it was good to be home.
"Dairine, we were getting really worried about you. Don't do that again."
She winced. Her father looked hurt.
"I'm sorry, Daddy. I just needed to know. I needed to find him."
"You're very loyal, Dari. No one can fault you on that. Do you want some dinner?"
She smiled. "No thanks, I ate. I'll take a lemon soda though if we have one."
Nita shook her head. "We're all out."
"You can grab one from my fridge, if you want," offered Kit.
Nita crossed the room. "I'll get it, I'm better at talking the fridge into doing what I want."
Dairine's dad hugged her again and pointed her in the right direction to go upstairs. "You need to get to work on your homework. I assume it's not done yet?"
She gave a weak cough. "I've been sick."
Mr. Callahan looked down at his younger daughter. "I believe that. However, you're going to school tomorrow come Powers or high water and you need to have you work done tonight. We can talk about your punishment tomorrow."
She whined a little. "Straight home after school?" she asked, hoping to earn a few points.
"No. Tom and Carl want to see you right after school to discuss your punishment from them and your situation with the Powers. Straight home after that. Upstairs now, it's late. Goodnight."
"Good night, Dad." Dairine started from the room, without her soda.
She stopped and turned to look at him. "Yeah, Dad?"
"I'm glad you're home safe and sound."
She smiled and left. Mr. Callahan turned his attention to Nita and Kit, who were standing near the kitchen table talking. "It's late, you probably ought to be heading home soon, Kit, before your mother worries."
Kit replied, "I'll leave soon, Mr. Callahan, I promise. I called my parents earlier at let them know I'd be home a little late since I wanted to make sure Dairine got home safe."
"Alright. Good night, Nita. Good night, Kit. And, Nita, don't forget to take one of those sodas to your sister."
Nita got up and gave her dad a hug. "Good night, Dad. I'll see you in the morning."
When they were sure Nita's dad was out of earshot, Kit asked, "So what do you think, Dairine did while she was there all this time? She's been gone for days."
"I don't know, but I think the Powers have something in mind for her there. She'll be going back, I know it." She sat down and slumped a little in the chair, opening one of the sodas up. She took a sip.
"If she gets reassigned there's not much your dad or even Tom and Carl can do to tether her here. So much for her getting grounded." He took Nita's open soda and had a swig.
She shot a look at him as he put the soda back in her hand.
He looked at her innocently. "What?"
Nita just shook her head at him. At the end of the day he was always still so…Kit. "We aren't going to find out anything about what happened sitting down here."
Kit grinned and started off after Dairine. "Now, we'll see what was really going on."
"What?" He stopped.
Nita stood up and grabbed her soda. "I want to talk to Dairine on my own. I'll fill you in tomorrow."
Kit looked a little glum, but said, "Alright. You've probably got a better shot at getting information out of her than I do anyway. I'll see you before school?"
"Sure, get here early and you can have pancakes."
Kit grinned. "Pancakes, and the details of what Dairine's been up to."
There was a short silence. Not quite awkward, but apparent.
"So are you walking, or using the transit circle?" Nita asked, looking at the table.
"Might as well not walk. As it is it's late and Mama will be worried."
They both headed for the back door. Nita walked him outside to the backyard and shivered as the night air hit her. She wished she had a jacket on, but it hadn't been worth grabbing one for the few minutes it would take for Kit to set up his spell. It was one of the ready-made one he tended to carry with him.
Soon enough, he was done. "Alright. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good night, Kit."
"'Night, Nita." They hugged briefly and Kit stepped into his circle. He spoke and vanished. Nita wandered the backyard for a couple of minutes, putting a hand on her favorite rowan tree. She looked up and saw the light on in her sister's window and went back in, grabbing her sister's lemon soda on her way through. Dairine's door was open and Dairine sat on her bed, book balanced on her knees as she worked. Nita stayed in the doorway.
"Hey, Dari. You okay?"
Dairine didn't look up from her work. "He kissed me. Or rather, I kissed him."
"What happened?" Nita asked. She found herself unsurprised.
Dairine put her book down and wrapped her arms around her knees. "I found him, all alone and we went back to Wellakh. There was a big fancy dinner. I was going to go home, but I got sick that night. Neets, he took care of me for three days. And then he got sick, and I took care of him. We were trying to sort out the drought problem Wellakh's having. It's getting more severe. Nita, I almost didn't come home. Do you know that?" She looked up at her sister sharply. "He didn't want me to leave. And I had a hard time thinking of a good reason to go. And…we kissed." She looked a little miserable.
"Do you wish you hadn't?"
Dairine didn't even have to think about. "No."
Nita looked at her little sister; the little sister who sometimes seemed not so little. She smiled and sat down next to her, handing her the drink. "I don't blame you, Dari. I fell in love with the proverbial boy-next-door. I can't blame you for falling for the exotic mystery man. You always did set your sights a little more out of this world."
Dairine hugged Nita. "One of these days Kit'll come around, Neets."
She smiled wryly. "I'd like to hope so, but with guys, you never can tell."
"They can be pretty thick. How long have Roshaun and I been running circles around each other? Well, not as long as you and Kit."
Nita chuckled. "We haven't had a lot of these heart-to-heart sister talks lately. I don't think we've ever really talked about boys. Not without you flat out teasing me anyway."
"I'm sorry. I honestly hadn't meant to make everyone worry this week." She paused. "And I'm sorry I always gave you a hard time about Kit. It doesn't mean I won't still do it, but I think I know how you feel a little bit."
Nita laughed. "I'll take what I can get on that I guess." She looked uncomfortable for minute. "Dairine, I don't know if Mom ever got the chance to talk to you or not about boys…and girls, before she—"
Dairine groaned. "Neets, Dad already tried this. I don't need the talk. I know all the mechanics of it and I'm not going to do anything stupid. Trust me, I don't have the need to create any new life forms any time soon." She paused. "Well, let's put it this way, I don't have the need to create any new life forms any time soon that will come out of me. Sentinent computers or single celled organisms on other planets is fully acceptable."
"Alright. Get your work done then. You've got a lot of catching up to do." Nita hugged her sister one more time and went off to sleep. She was tired.
She was exhausted when she finally went to bed.
Dairine dreamed that night of Timeheart. Her mother was there, down in the kitchen. Her bedroom was there, covered in the glories of Star Wars and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that weren't there in waking life. As she touched one of the books, part of the shelving swung out. There was a hole in her Timeheart that she couldn't remember being there before. A worldgate. She stepped through it and into the gardens of the Wellakh palace.
She awoke the next morning with a smile on her face.