Disclaimer: The Bordertown world was created by, and is copyrighted by, Terri Windling © 1997-2011 by The Endicott Studio. The world, its landmarks and characters are used with her permission only. All rights to Borderland material are reserved by Ms. Windling and the authors of the Borderland books: Borderland, Bordertown, Life on the Border, Elsewhere, Nevernever, Finder, The Essential Bordertown, and Welcome to Bordertown. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Terri Windling © 1997-2011 by The Endicott Studio.
Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.
Author's Note: Written for roblingt for the Yuletide 2011 Challenge.
The Dust of the World
Jenny Oh was different.
Everyone in Bordertown was different, of course. Soho was a runaway's paradise where kids from both sides of the Border did everything they could to be different, which often resulted in a weird sameness as trends were discovered, played out, and discarded all within a space of a week. Sometimes it was multi-coloured dreds, other times it was tying different patterned and dyed bits of cloth around knees, elbows, wrists and ankles. Sometimes it was trying to get into a specific hot new club/restaurant/gallery show/shop before everyone else.
Jenny Oh never had the latest clothes, or hairstyle, or pennyworth of spell to do just the right trick.
Jenny Oh was set apart by one simple thing: she was born and bred B-town from her shaved head with brightly dyed forelock to the laces of her high-top sneakers, and she wanted to run away to the World.
Every time she met some new kid with the dust of the world still behind their ears, she was beg them to tell her all about the lives and lands they'd left behind. She was fascinated by everything they took completely for granted. Boxes where you could heat food with the touch of a button? Toothbrushes that brushed your teeth for you? News from every corner of the World on hundreds of channels on magic picture frames that hung on the walls like windows? Trains and busses that would take you anyplace you wanted to go, at regular intervals? She could never understand why no-one else seemed to think it was just as magical as the fairy tales from across the shimmering Border.
Her best friend Scaggs thought she was mental, but he hung out with her anyway. Ever since they were side by side in Mrs Ellonwy's school in an abandoned supermarket, learning their letters and numbers from lessons written out by hand in wax pencils on giant sheets of butcher's paper, they'd been inseparable.
At fifteen, Scaggs was a year older than Jenny and about a foot taller. His black hair was worn long, usually braided to keep it out of the way while he worked in his mother's bike shot. His skin was dark as polished wood, but he had his father's blue eyes. Jenny was still getting used to how her skinny-ass friend was started to broaden in the shoulders so none of his shirts fit him the way they did before.
They were sitting in Fare-You-Well Park, listening to some kids playing penny whistles over by the statues. Scaggs had a thermos of bush tea sweetened with honey which he was sharing, letting her take swallows from the blue cracked plastic lid as they watched the world go by.
"Did you know that in the World, they have trains that float? Like, they float over the tracks. Hovering. How cool is that?"
"I don't know why you care so much. It's not like you're ever gonna see them."
"You don't know. Maybe I will. Traders go back and forth all the time."
"Yeah, but you're not a trader.'
Scaggs laughed, and Jenny punched him in the shoulder.
"If the World is so great, then how come everybody wants to come here, huh?"
Jenny shrugged. "Everybody's looking for magic. But I think the World has its own magic, too. And people just don't see it, cos they're so used to it."
She sighed, stretching out her legs in the grass and turning her face to the sun.
"I just am tired of penny spells that fail, and scrounging all the time for everything. Wouldn't it be amazing, to have giant shops full of everything, never running out, and cheap as cheap gets? Or bikes and cars that don't break down all the time or need to have the spells recharged. All the music we've never heard, books we've never read. People we'll never meet, from all the corners of the World."
"Yeah. Amazing," Scaggs said with a shrug.
Jenny scowled, but she was used to it. Scaggs didn't know much about the World, but Jenny read everything she could trade for or borrow. Books, magazines, even manuals for machines that refused to work, thanks to B-town's unreliable physics. She was always asking her gran to "translate" for her, but Granny had been in Bordertown since the Change and didn't understand half the stuff Jenny brought home. She still talked about record players and tape decks, and something called Eight Tracks that sounded mysterious and foreign to Jenny when she got Gran to describe them.
"I'm going to go, someday. You'll see. Jackman said he'd take me."
"Jackman's full of shit. The closest he's ever got to the World was the Nevernever, where he meets up with those skeeevy friends of his to jump newbies when they get off the Road. Promise me you won't believe a word comes out of his mouth."
"But he said—"
"I mean it. That guy is bad, bad news." Scaggs dumped the dregs of the tea out on the grass, and shoved the thermos into his backpack. "I gotta get back before my brother sends out Chewy to find me."
"See you Friday?" Jenny asked, squinting as she looked up into his face.
"Yeah, yeah." He set off towards the garage, hands deep in the pockets of his ragged jeans.
Jenny Oh just sighed. She'd show them all, someday.
Scaggs didn't see Jenny Oh on Friday. He waited in the park, watching the folks in Tent City cook sausages over green flames, half-naked children running through the grass, until his brother came and dragged his ass back to the shop.
He didn't see her on Saturday either. On Sunday, he walked to her house, and Granny Oh answered the door.
"Is Jenny around?" Scaggs asked, feeling self-conscious. Granny Oh barely came up to his shoulder, and she had the kind of eyes that he was pretty sure could see every bad thing he'd ever done.
"Jenny's not here."
"I haven't seen her around. Is she sick?"
"Jenny's not sick. And Jenny's not here. Are you her boyfriend?" Granny Oh's eyes narrowed as she took in Scaggs' greasy dark grey work overalls with the arms torn off.
"I'm her friend. I was worried about her. She usually comes to the park—"
Granny Oh sniffed. "Jenny's too young to have a boyfriend."
"I'm not her boyfriend."
"Good, because Jenny's too young to have a boyfriend."
Scaggs bit back a sigh. "Is she okay?"
"I don't know."
"You're her grandma, though. Shouldn't you be worried?"
Granny Oh looked Scaggs up and down again, and shuffled backwards into the house as an invitation. Scaggs came in, and looked around for Jenny's mom, but there was no-one else there.
"Jenny's mom, my daughter—she thinks Jenny's run away. She hasn't been home since Tuesday. We talked to the Silver Suits but..." She shrugged. "Jenny's a good girl. She doesn't run with the Dragons, she doesn't stay out all night. She works in the shop, and she doesn't make trouble."
"Can I see her room?"
Scaggs had never been in Jenny's room before, but he knew what he was looking for. Or, rather, what he wasn't looking for. She had taken her favourite pair of sneakers—the black high tops with neon pink laces. Her messenger bag was gone, and there was a space on the shelf next to her bed where her notebooks would have been.
Jenny always had her notebooks.
She wrote down everything she could about the World. They were always those wirebound notebooks with blue lined paper. Some of the covers were plain solid cardboard—black, green, blue. Some had unicorns and other crappy art on the front. She'd even get ones with photos of singers and actors—usually in trade from new kids who didn't know (yet) how precious paper could be.
"Her stuff's gone. The important stuff. I think you're right."
"She's your girlfriend. You'll find her, yes?" Granny Oh asked, those eyes boring into him, seeing straight through to his soul.
"I'll find her."
Scaggs' brother Hardcore was—as his name suggested—tough. He'd run with the Scorpions, until their mother had hauled him home and beat the crap out of him, and made him pray to the Virgin until he swore he wouldn't see his friends again.
(Also, their mom had taken a crowbar and gone down to the Scorpions, and threatened to send them to the Virgin if they came anywhere near her eldest son ever again.)
When Scaggs told Hardcore that Jenny Oh was missing and he thought he knew who had her, Hardcore just picked up his jacket and told Scaggs to get on the back of his bike.
Jackman hung out in Little Tooth, usually behind an open market that never seemed to actually sell anything.
"I ain't seen her," Jackman said when Scaggs asked.
Hardcore just looked at Jackman, and then at Scaggs.
Then Hardcore asked Jackman where Jenny was. He asked repeatedly, and very earnestly.
"I sold her," Jackman finally spat between broken teeth, blood dribbling down his chin. "I sold her to Corwyn of Aldon House."
Scaggs felt his stomach clench, like someone had gripped his guts and twisted them. "She's at Oberon House?"
Everyone knew about Oberon House. They knew to stay the hell away from it, and to warn fresh human kids to do the same if they wanted to survive. Sometimes, they listened. If they didn't... Oberon House always had room for more. Mostly because they had a very high turnover.
"They only take fresh meat. But blood—he can always use blood."
Jenny Oh knew she was in trouble.
When Jackman had told her to wait in the cellar of the old Post Office, so he could get enough of them together to make a trip to the World worth it, she thought that made sense. There was bread and a jar of homemade jam, and water from a pump. He brought three more kids over the next two days—a brother and sister who looked a few years younger than Jenny, and an older girl with lank dark hair who smelled like a River Rat.
Jackman took them in the middle of the night down by the canal, where he said they'd be meeting his ride—like he had hired a yellow school bus like Jenny had read about, and they'd just drive out of B-town and follow the Yellow Brick Road right back to the World.
Instead, two Truebloods in red leather jackets had come up, and given Jackman a pouch. Then they'd grabbed the kids, and held bunches of herbs under their noses. Then they hadn't seen anything at all.
When her senses finally came back, Jenny and the girl were in a basement again, but this time it looked like it was up on the Hill. There was no crumbling plaster or graffiti on the walls. Just the smell of old dust, damp, and something thick and sweet that choked her when she breathed too deep.
The rat was hugging her knees and rocking back and forth, chewing on a piece of her hair. Jenny walked aroudn the room, which was lit by a single naked bulb that flicked off and on randomly, feeling the walls. But there didn't seem to be a door, or a window. She wondered how far down they were. She wondered why she hadn't listened to Scaggs when he'd told her Jackman was trouble.
She wondered how long she'd been there, and what had happened to the two kids.
After a while, her stomach growled, and she wished she'd thought to pack more than just her notebooks and a change of clothes in her faded army green messenger bag. There wasn't even a bucket in the room, and the Rat stank like she'd pissed herself.
Jenny picked one of the four corners, hugged her knees to her chest, and tried to keep a cool head.
"I don't know. It's the Hill," Hardcore's friend said, frowning. "We got no business up on Blood territory."
Scaggs opened his mouth to say something, but Hardcore silenced him with a look.
"Bloods are after human kids. That ain't right."
"Yeah, but if they took her, she's Dragontown's responsibility. Dragons don't like Scorpions messing around their people."
"She's not a Dragon," Scaggs said, his fingers tightening into fists at his sides. "She's just a dumb kid. But it's not just her. Jackman's been selling kids for weeks—months, maybe."
"Why don't you go talk to the Pack? That's their deal—that's their fight." The Scorpion's name was Hector, and he was barely older than Hardcore, but he had a mass of scars on his arms that looked like somebody had set him on fire or something at some point. His dark hair was shaved close to his scalp, and he had a toothpick he kept moving from one side of his mouth to the other with his tongue.
"This isn't about gangs," Hardcore said with a shrug. "This is about kids, man. What if it was Angelita, man? What if it was your sister got sold to Long Lankin?"
"Shit," Hector said, and spat the toothpick onto the ground. Scaggs knew, then, that he was in.
Jenny must have fallen asleep, because she was curled on her side, back against the wall, when she heard the voices. She opened her eyes and saw two tall thin Elves standing in the centre of the room. One of them was in red leathers—one of the Trueblood gang. The other was in a human-style suit, but with long fair hair that flowed down his back like water.
"If the river addict lives, she might be useful," the guy in the suit was saying, shaking his head. "If she lives."
"But the other ones are—" the Blood began, and the tall one hissed.
"You promised us more than three. And you promised us better. My Lord Corwyn can't use them if they've the Blood. And the river addict? You won't get paid for her, of course.'
"But you said—"
Jenny closed her eyes, trying to keep from shaking. She knew they could see her, but maybe they thought she was still sleeping. She remembered how, when she was little, she used to think that if she curled up small enough then she would be invisible. She wished now that were true, as the river rat began to chatter and moan, and Jenny heard a shriek, followed by silence.
"The other one looks good. You'll have your coin. But we need six more."
Jenny cracked her eyes just enough to see the rat slumped against the wall, blood on her lip and her eyes wide and terrified. The two elves moved toward one wall that Jenny would have sworn was just like the others. But the thin one said a word too low for her to hear, and a doorway appeared in the grey stone.
They stepped through it, and Jenny got up and raced to the door but it faded back to stone, and she scraped the heels of her hands against it, biting her tongue and tasting copper tang of blood.
She slid down the wall again, and only then did she finally begin to cry.
In the end, there was Scaggs, Hardcore, two Scorpions, and three former Dragons. They were all armed as best they could—Hardcore with a tyre iron, the Scorpions with wicked long knives that they hid inside their jackets. The two Korean guys were from Jenny Oh's block, and didn't say much except that Granny Oh patched them up once and they owed her. One of them had a wicked chain whip with spikes on the end, and the other had two leather-wrapped sticks that looked like Silver Suits billys.
Scaggs just had his fists, and a length of pie he'd picked up and stuffed into the arm of his jacket. It probably wouldn't be all that useful in a fight—he'd been in enough fights to know you had to get close to sue it, and close was the last place you wanted to be, in a fight with the Bloods. But it was the best he could do.
They were almost at the house on the hill when they heard the motor of a big bike heading toward them at speed. Scaggs had a crazy moment where he thought it might be the big black guy with the ferret. That would have more than evened up their odds, but when the bike slowed, he saw a woman he didn't know astride the rebuilt Harley. Her dark hair was cut short, and she was wearing shades even though night was falling.
The bike pulled right alongside Hardcore's, and he just kept on going. Scaggs wasn't able to hear what they were saying over the purr of the engine. But then the bike pulled ahead, and Hardcore's teeth flashed white in his sunburnt face as he looked back at Scaggs over his shoulder.
"We got backup," he said, but didn't elaborate.
Jenny stared at the biro clutched in her fingers, and chewed on her bottom lip. Uncapped, the pen wasn't much of a weapon, but it was all she had. She sat with her back against the rough-hewn stone wall, just a little bit to the right of where the door had appeared (she hoped).
She'd taken the bulb out of the dangling fixture, and it was in her other hand. The square room was pitched into a darkness so complete that Jenny had already dozed off twice despite the adrenaline racing through her and making her shake and her head pound. But she only had one shot, and she didn't have anything else to try.
There was a sound that wasn't a sound, and then the hairs on the back of her arms stood up. A square of pale light on the floor grew brighter as the door dissolved, and she heard a muttered curse when whoever worked the spell realised that the light was out. Crouching on the balls of her feet, she waited until the elf had taken a single step inside the room before she jammed the pen as hard as she could into the back of his knee.
The elf howled in pain, but Jenny was already on her feet, scrambling up the stairs in the gloom. She could hear the elf cursing behind her as she turned a corner, the stairs continuing to climb in a broad spiral until she reached a simple painted wood door.
She had just got her hand around the glass knob when a hand around her ankle yanked her backwards. She kicked out with her other foot, heard a crunch that she hoped was the elf's nose, and then she was flung headlong down the stairs.
Scaggs wasn't sure what was more frightening: the thought they six humans were going up against one of Long Lankin's men, or the chick on the bike.
When they got to the house Jackman had told them to go to, with the ornate carved Green Man over the door, she was already there. She'd parked the bike halfway down the street, and was kneeling in the front garden, her fingers dug deep into the earth.
She'd taken off her shades, and when Scaggs saw her eyes, they were an eerie pale blue that made her look blind. She was muttering—chanting—low, beneath her breath, and her black hair was slick with sweat that rolled in fat beads down her temples to the neck of her tee-shirt. The sleeves were ripped off, showing muscles like a swimmer's, and she had a string of polished wood beads around one wrist, halfway up to her elbow.
Hardcore took point, not even bothering to rind the bell. He just smashed the tyre iron through the big glass bay window, while the one Dragon swung his chain whip overhead til the metal sang.
Three elves came out, one of them through the window to tackle Hardcore around the waist. That was when everything seemed to happen all at once.
The biker chick's chanting grew louder, and the ground itself began roiling and rumbling beneath their feet. As two more elves—this time in dyed red leather Blood jackets—came out to join the fray, tree roots thick as a man's leg pulled themselves free from the soil to wrap around them, throttling them until heir faces were red, then purple, and their struggling limbs went slack.
Scraggs pulled out his length of pipe, and rushed inside, yelling jenny's name. A tall thin elf in a rumpled suit, blood streaming from his nose rounded the corner of a long polished wood hallway, and Scaggs didn't even think. He just lashed out with the pipe, catching him in the knee, and then smashing it as hard as he could against the side of the elf's head. He staggered against the wall, leaving a bloody palm-print on the pristine white paint, before he threw up his hands to speak a spell. Scaggs could feel magic gathering in the air like ozone and static, and he smashed the guy again with the pipe, this time in the throat.
The elf went down hard, and Scaggs followed the wall until he came to a door that was hanging open. He could hear screams and yells from the front of the house, but all he cared about was finding Jenny.
He lurched down the stone steps into the blackness, feet slipping on the steps , until he got to the bottom. There was a crumpled form at the bottom, and he recognised the shape in the gloom.
Reaching down, he felt the curve of her skull, her crest of bleached hair stiff with blood.
"Jenny?" he breathed, almost unable to hear his own broken whisper over the thudding of his heart in his ears.
There was silence, and then a low moan.
"Ohgodohgodohgod," Scaggs said as he felt for a pulse, and Jenny cried out in pain.
There was another sound to his left, and Scaggs raised the length of pipe, but a boy's voice cried out.
"Don't hurt us!"
"How many are down here?"
"just me and my sister," the kid said, breathing ragged in the dark. "There were two more—a rat, and an Asian girl. But we never saw 'em."
The kid's accent was one of the sing-song fisher folk's, and Scaggs, pulled the kid up close to his side and pressed the length of pipe into his hands.
"Take this, and get your sister. Run up those stairs as fast as you can and you slug anybody you see with pointed ears, you hear me?"
The kid must have nodded. Scaggs' eyes were beginning to adjust to the gloom, and he saw two dark heads, looking nearly identical, their huge dark eyes wide with terror.
"Go—go on, get outta here," Scaggs said, giving the kids a push, and then dropping to his knees.
"jenny? Can you hear me? Jenny Oh, I swear to God, your granny's gonna gut me if you're dead or dying, so you gotta be okay."
Jenny felt like her entire body was on fire. She'd rolled down the stairs, her arms curled around her head, but she'd blacked out before she hit bottom.
Someone was touching her, calling her name, and trying to pull her up out of the pain that blinded her to everything except the screaming raw nerves of her legs and arms. Finally she realised she recognised the voice.
"Scaggs?" she tried to say, but it came out broken. She swallowed, and tried again, one of her eyes gummed shut with blood. She could just barely make out a shape bending over her in the gloom.
"Jen?" Scaggs whispered, and she patted his hand awkwardly.
"Fell. I think I'm—" She hissed as she tried to draw breath and there was s stabbing pain in her side. ""M'messed up, Scaggs."
"I'm gonna get you outta here, Jenny Oh. And so help me, you tell me about the hospitals they have in the World with hundreds of doctors and gleaming white walls, I'll leave you here."
Her laugh was weak, and she tasted blood on her lips, but she patted his arm again. Scaggs got one arm under her knees, and pulled her close up against his chest until her head was tucked beneath her chin. She blacked out from the pain, but came to again as they were reaching the top of the stairs.
"Rat," she said, tugging on Scaggs' shirt. "Basement—there's a river rat."
"We'll come back for her," Scaggs promised, and hugged the wall as he headed back toward the front of the house where the sounds of the fight were still going on.
The elf lay where Scaggs had dropped him. But his throat was a bloody gash, blood pooling on the polished wood floor. Scaggs didn't even stop, but kept going, trying to keep from jostling Jenny too much as he ran. One of the bones in her arm was sticking through the sleeve of her jacket, jagged and gleaming white, and he saw her side was caked with blood.
When he got outside, it was just Hardcore, the biker, and one Blood left standing. One of the Dragons was dead, his neck twisted at an impossible angle. The other one was down on one knee, clutching his arm to his side where it dripped blood down onto the grass. The two Scorpions were groaning on the ground, but looked like they'd given as good as they got. Hector pushed himself to his knees when Scaggs came out, cursing under his breath.
The two fisher-folk kids were huddled together, a long sharp shard of glass in the girl's hand stained with blood from end to tip. He saw in the light from the fancy Dragon's Tooth Hill streetlamps that their fingers were webbed.
The houses up on the hill were far enough apart that no-one next door could actually see above the cultivated bushes that rose like walls on either side of the lawn, but with all the noise they'd been making, Scaggs knew the Silver Suits were on their way.
He laid Jenny down on the damp grass just as Hardcore smashed the Blood in the jaw with the tyre iron, and there was a sickening crack. The biker chick just stood there, but she held up one hand, and the Blood went flying until he smashed through the broken window on the porch. His legs hung over the sill, like a kid's toy, but he didn't get back up.
Scaggs' stomach twisted, and he knew that once he came down off the adrenaline, he was going to spew all over the grass.
"Jaime," Scaggs said, and Hardcore's head snapped around. No-one except their mother ever called him by his real name anymore, and he limped over to Scaggs.
"She's really busted up. I think she got thrown down the stairs."
"Shit shit shit," Hardcore said, looking at how pale Jenny was, beneath the blood and grime.
"Man, we can't walk back with her like this. We gotta get her to a doctor."
"Let me see," the biker chick said, and Hardcore moved aside so she could kneel over Jenny's still form. She ran her hands gently over the girl's body, barely touching her, and frowned. "Compound fracture, busted ribs, and I think she has a punctured lung."
Scaggs could hear sirens in the distance, and Hector and the other two guys were getting to their feet.
"Hold her," the biker chick said, placing Scaggs' hands on Jenny's shoulder and wrist. Her tone reminded him of his mom, all business, and he complied without even asking why. Between one breath and the next, the Biker had tugged Jenny's forearm straight, setting the bone. Jenny had gone completely white, her eyes rolling back up into her head, and her lips turned a dangerous shade of blue.
Scaggs turned to scream at the biker, but she was doing that thing again where she was digging her fingers into the ground, and singing. Hardcore pulled Scaggs back as the rich black earth came up to cover Jenny, roots and weeds slithering over her like insects. Scaggs struggled against his brother's arms, and he knew he must be shouting. But Hardcore's arm around his chest was like a vice.
Finally, the biker leaned back, coughing. She doubled over, as if she was in pain, and then she pushed herself up onto all fours, and gently began wiped the dirt away from Jenny.
Beneath the layer of mud, Jenny's skin had lost its greyish tinge, and her colour was coming back. The nasty wound on her arm, where the bone had broken through the skin, was scabbed over and shiny like it had been weeks and not seconds ago that she'd broken it. Though her clothes were still torn and bloody, Jenny was breathing easier, and her eyes fluttered open, pupils blown but focussing.
"Hey girlie girl," Scaggs said, as Hardcore relaxed his death grip and he knelt down at her side. He brushed her hair out of her eyes, and dirt from her torn jacket as best he could. "We're gonna get you home. You're gonna be okay."
"I'm sorry, Scaggs," jenny said, her eyes filling with tears. "Jackman—"
"Jackman isn't gonna be selling anymore human kids to the Knight," the biker chick said, her voice rough like gravel.
Scaggs looked over and saw she suddenly looked way older, her black hair shot through with silver. Then, before his eyes, the wrinkles around her mouth and nose smoothed out, and her hair was pitch black again. She pushed herself up onto her feet, swaying for a second before she got her balance.
The sirens were closer now, and Hardcore and the remaining Scorpions and Korean guys staggered to their feet.
Hardcore walked over to the biker chick, and laid both hands on her shoulders, speaking softly. She smiled, and leaned forward to kiss him full on the mouth. It wasn't a sexy kiss, though. It was almost more like part of some kind of ceremony. When she pulled back, the air fizzed like it was about to storm. She ambled back over to her bike, and it roared to life just as the Silver Suits turned the opposite corner.
Scaggs looked back, and Hector and the others were gone. It was just the two kids, Hardcore, and Jenny. Then out of the shadows by the side of the house, he saw a skinny girl with matted dark hair, her clothes streaked with blood.
Jenny raised a hand to her, but the river rat's eyes were hollow. She just walked past them all, following in the biker's wake as the coppers got out of the car, their silver shades catching the last of the fading light to flash white as they crossed the lawn.
Four days later, Jenny and Scaggs were back in Fare-You-Well Park. Jenny Oh's arm was in a sling, but other than that, she was fit as a fiddler.
"You never found out who she was?"
"Hardcore won't tell me. Just that she's not an Elf. That's all he knows for sure."
"Granny was so pissed when I got home. She almost didn't let me out today at all."
"She still telling everybody I'm your boyfriend?"
"Yeah. You're not mad, are you?"
"Nah. S'okay." Scaggs shrugged, and carefully bumped Jenny's good shoulder with his. "You could do way worse."
Jenny stuck her tongue out at him.
"I still wanna go someday," she said, chewing on her bottom lip. "I just want to see the World. Just once, you know?"
"I know." Scaggs picked at a scab on his knuckle, then sucked the seeping blood away before he dropped his hand back down to his side. "Someday, we'll go. Together, you and me."
"Really?" Jenny asked, her dark eyes wide beneath her shock of lemon-yellow bleached hair.
"Yeah. Maybe I want to see what all the fuss is about, too. But Jenny Oh-No-You-Don't, there's one thing you gotta promise me."
"Don't be like those newbs from the World, who take the magic of their home for granted. Always looking for the end of the rainbow. There's lots here that you might miss, you take it for granted."
"I promise," Jenny said, leaning hard against him so he nearly fell off the side of the slab of concrete they were sitting on. Then he cracked open the flask of tea, and gave her the first cup without even needing to be asked.