for Tin, November 2005
"Really, my dear, how rude. One might think you weren't overjoyed by one's presence."
"What the hell are you doing here."
"I wanted to see your lovely scowling face, my darling."
"I may have possibly decided to visit Japan on the spur of the moment."
"...I thought you said you were going to get along with your mother's family this time."
"I got along perfectly with the Li family."
"Oh my God, you destroyed Hong Kong. Didn't you."
"I did not destroy Hong Kong."
"There is no possible way you did not destroy Hong Kong. You would be there instead of drinking my booze -- get away from that sake -- if it was still intact."
"It may just be barely possible that I may have accidentally slightly annoyed a water mage and thought I might as well go visit my dear friends in Japan while she recovered from her very slight miff."
"Water ma --you moron."
It's not so much they're in love as they are in ... something. Convenience. God only knows.
If they will not be gods, they must be human: he is determined on this. They must never forget what being human is, desperate and beautiful and horrible and ugly and miraculous.
She doesn't care, life's a joke and she might as well enjoy it.
"But don't you see," he said earnestly, "the important thing is that it's our joke. Humans suffer from it and they're the ones who made it up. If we didn't get the joke we'd only be machines."
"You're crazy," she said, looking at him with her head hanging half-upside down. Her hair covered her eyes so she saw him through a haze of black. He was sitting very straight, looking even younger than usual.
He smiled happily. "Of course I am, darling. If I wasn't crazy I would kill myself."
"I think you're serious," she said, sitting up and wincing as the blood returned to her head in a rush.
"I'm always serious," he said.
She thinks the past was better, he thinks the future will be better. They compromise on enjoying the present as hard as they can.
"OK, so." The great leonine head rested on her lap, golden eyes sincere and innocent. She put her pipe aside and waited. "Say someone may have accidentally put a liquid that may or may not dye anything it touches bright, screaming green into his partner's shampoo, totally not as a prank at all."
"What are the chances the innocent party here will survive his partner's totally unjustified temper?"
"Not high." She tilted her head. "Higher if someone thought to bring a bottle of his master's good cherry brandy."
"Funny you should mention that brandy," said a grim voice from the doorway.
There is no such thing as a happily ever after. They both know this. But there's a thing like happily for quite a long time, and they know that too.
"You're really determined," she says, watching him write out notes.
He dips his pen in the ink again and scratches out a perfect circle without a guide. "Yes."
"I told you not to kill yourself."
He's right, she knows, but it still feels like it to her. He, the man she knows and has known for so long, is going away.
"You're crazy. What if it doesn't work?"
"Then I'll find out something else." His voice is quite calm. "I'm a genius. I can figure it out."
"You're stupid," she says.
She doesn't cry.
Nothing ever ends, he tells her one day, before he leaves for the last time. Not really.
She knows he's right.