Monday, November 22, 2004

Twenty-second Day

So it turns out love scenes are as hard to write as fight scenes, albeit in a very different way.

Chapter 30

Seamus and Cassidy moved a little way away from the ashes of The Book and cleared a space to sit on one of the tables. A few embers still glowed, and here and there a scrap of paper twitched slightly in a non-existent breeze, but nothing else in the room seemed harmed. They were hesitant to leave the room, since they had no idea what time – or even day – it was, or whether there would be anybody in the library up above them. But there was no way to tell except to just go up and find out, so after calming down a little bit, they crept out the door.

The light in the main hallway switched on when they reached it, picking up on their motion, so it seemed unlikely that anyone else was down there at the time. They found the bathroom and cleaned themselves up as best they could, washing away ashes and blood, though there wasn't much they could do about their singed and torn clothes. But they managed to get presentable enough to get past anyone who might be upstairs.

At the base of the stairs they could see light coming down from above, so it seemed that the library was open. Listening didn't do much good, since it was a library and anyone up there probably wasn't going to be making enough noise to be heard. So they decided that the best thing to do would be to simply walk up as normally as possible and try to look like they belonged there in case anyone happened to see them.

They reached the top of the stairs and didn't see anyone so they headed quickly away down the aisle, heading for the front door at the opposite end of the building. As they came out into the open area in the center of the library they were exposed to view, walking between tables now instead of bookshelves. A small voice behind them called out.


He spun around, startled. Gabriela was running up to them, smiling and waving.

"Hey, Gabriela – hi! Shhhhh… we're in the library, remember." He glanced around to see if anyone had noticed them, then sat down in a chair to be closer to her level. "What are you doing here?"

"Nothing. Why are your clothes all messed up?" She was looking at some black smudges of ash that he still had on the knees of his pants.

"Oh, I just um… fell down and got dirty. I'm going home to change clothes right now." But Gabriela had already forgotten about the clothes and was looking at Cassidy.

"Who's she?" she asked, pointing.

"This is my friend Cassidy. Cassidy, this is Gabriela."

"Pleased to meet you, Gabriela."

Gabriela didn't respond but turned back to Seamus. "Is she your wife?"

Cassidy smothered a laugh, and Seamus sighed. Gabriela hadn't grasped the concept that he could be 23 – so old! – and not married, and she was always trying to trick him into revealing who his wife was.

"No, she's not my wife. She's just a friend."

"Oh. What were you doing back there?" She looked down the aisle they had come out of and saw the stairs, then leaned in and whispered, "Were you in the secret fort?"

"No, no. Of course not."

"Good, because it's a secret, so you can't tell her about it."

"Right. Look, we really need to be going right now…."

"Are you going to Project Read? My mom is over there. We can go find her if you want. C'mon."

"No, no!" Seamus said, catching her before she could run off. "I'm not going to Project Read. I don't think it's the right day for me. Do you remember when I usually come?"

"You come on Wednesday nights! I know that! But it's Monday now."

"Ah! See? There you go. I can't go to Project Read because it's a Monday. I was actually just here to drop off some books, but I'll be in on Wednesday, okay?"

"Okay. Do you really have to go now?"

"Yes, we really do. But I'll see you soon."

"Okay. Bye!" Gabriela skipped back off to the children's section.

"Cute kid," Cassidy said. "Does she always ask so many questions?"

"Pretty much, yes. Let's see if we can get out of here without running into anybody else I know. It's bad enough having to field Gabriela's questions without having to convince an adult that there's nothing weird going on."

The plus side to running into Gabriela though was finding out that the entire weekend had passed and it was now Monday. The temp agency certainly wasn't going to be happy about Seamus disappearing without notice like that. He was going to have to call them and work that out. The thought felt strange in his brain, though. He almost wondered how it had gotten there – it was such a world away from the recent events that filled his mind.

They came out the front door of the library, and Seamus paused, trying to remember where they had left the car. Another thing that seemed an entire world away. Cassidy gave a slight tug on his arm and pointed behind them to the side wall of the library.

"Look, there something going on over there," she said, pointing.

A few policemen were there, standing around the shapeless black mass of clothes and duffel bags that had been a permanent fixture there as long as Seamus had being going to the library.

"Big Jake," he whispered, and immediately headed towards the policemen.

One officer was standing a little bit apart, making notes on a pad. The other two were carrying off the various bags one by one, occasionally making faces at the smell. Seamus went up to the one who was writing.

"What's going on? Did something happen?"

The officer looked up from his pad and grunted at them. "Just here to collect a body." He went back to filling out his form. He didn't seem to pleased about getting stuck with this job, and wasn't about to ruin his displeasure by being polite to anyone.

"A body? Whose?"

"Some homeless guy, always hung out around here. The library called, said he'd keeled over and could we come do something about him. Probably snuffed it in the night and no one noticed until now. Bloody nuisance." He filled out the last item on his form as he was talking, then turned and headed back to his car.

Seamus and Cassidy remained standing there, looking at the empty space in the world left by Big Jake. The grass of the lawn was worn away to dirt where the duffel bags had always been piled.

"That really was him, wasn't it?" Seamus said softly at last. Cassidy nodded beside him. "He managed to pull himself together for one last effort to come and save us, and it finally destroyed him. In both worlds."

They stood there in silence for a few more minutes, then finally turned away. Walking back to the car, Cassidy slipped her arm comfortingly around Seamus' waist. Almost without thinking, he put his arm around her shoulder and they fell into step. When they reached the car, Seamus put his right hand to the door latch, then pulled it back, holding it up so they could both get a better look at it.

The words were gone.

Chapter 31

They went back to Seamus' house and both had a strong feeling of déjà vu as they walked up to the porch, and started checking for details. The weather was reassuringly more December-like: cold, with cloudy skies threatening rain for the next day. Inside, Cassidy carefully read the scrolling electronic messages, which were back to normal: "Om mani padme hum" on one, and "Minds are like books, they function best when open" on another. The messes were back to looking like real messes. They both relaxed and went up to Seamus' room.

"I'm glad to see that horrid pink outfit from the Book is gone," said Cassidy, looking into the corner where she had tossed it. "But it would be really nice to change into something else. These clothes have been through a bit much today."

"Sure," said Seamus, going over to his dresser and opening a drawer. "Those jeans of mine kind of fit you, right? There's probably something else in here you can wear…. Hmm… actually, it looks like those jeans are still in here. So you can wear the real ones if you want, instead of those fictional ones from the Book."

He pulled the jeans out and turned around to see Cassidy pulling her shirt up and off over her head. Her bra was black, and her body just curvy enough to soften the edges. She turned around, saw him watching, and smiled. She came over to him and took the folded jeans from his hand.

"Thank you," she said, setting them next to her on the chair without taking her eyes off Seamus.

"Um… sure, no problem," Seamus managed to mumble as her arms went around his neck. And then she was kissing him, and with hardly a pause for a reality check he was kissing her back, pulling her close to him with his hand on the warm skin of her back.

"Well," said Cassidy, when they came up for air some while later, "I don't suppose you're still curious about my tattoo, are you?"

He certainly was, and managed to find it without too much trouble. A thin blue flame, edged with orange, it followed the curve beneath her left breast precisely, ending with a slight flare curling out to her breastbone. He traced it in fascination with a fingertip, then kissed it.

Of course, after this discovery it was deemed necessary to make fully sure that there were no other secret tattoos hidden away anywhere. A thorough, patient search commenced and was reciprocated. Cassidy found a mole on the small of Seamus' back, and he found a tantalizing freckle on her inner thigh, both delighting in exploring each other inch by inch with eyes and fingertips and lips. The final tattoo score was, of course, Cassidy:1, Seamus:0, and they rolled into bed to celebrate their fine investigative work.

A couple hours later, they roused themselves from where they lay in a warm, sleepy cuddle. They showered together, laughing as they tried to maneuver around each other in the narrow shower stall, and Seamus toweled her off, rumpling her hair to her approval. They could hear both of their stomachs growling as they got dressed. It was now late in the evening, and they had no idea when it really was that they had had breakfast.

Downstairs, Seamus opens the refrigerator. "Sorry," he says, "but I don't usually keep a whole lot of interesting food around, and we don't have the Book providing for us anymore."

"That's okay," said Cassidy, looking in next to him, "looks like there's enough to put together something edible."

A quiet snicker came from behind them, and Cassidy started, turning around to see Nathan standing there.

"Hello hello," he said, with a leering grin. "And who have we got here?"

"Hi," said Seamus, standing up. "Nathan, this is my friend Cassidy."

"Your 'friend,' eh?" said Nathan, the quote marks around "friend" practically visible in his voice. "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Know what I mean?" He snickered again. "Nice to meet you, Cassidy."

"You know, we can easily walk downtown from here," said Seamus, turning to Cassidy. "You want to go find a place to eat?"


"Okay, let's go. We'll see you later, Nathan." Seamus started guiding Cassidy purposefully upstairs. "Let's go get our coats."

"Have fun," came Nathan's voice behind them, in an awkward sing-song tone as the went out the front door a few minutes later. "Don't do anything I would do."

"Right. Thanks." Seamus shut the door behind them. "Sorry about that," he said to Cassidy. "Bit of a weirdo, and hard to get rid of. But it'll be nice to eat out anyway."

"That's okay," she said, smiling and taking his hand.

They walked downtown and found a diner that was still open. Seamus only got away with paying for her dinner because Cassidy's wallet was back in Oregon. When they got back, there was a light on in Matt's room, but the rest of the house was dark and there was thankfully no sign of Nathan. They went back up to Seamus' room and fell asleep in each other's arms some time later.