Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rivalries: Chapter Seventeen, Part One

 Notes: We're back to the blog story, woohoo! Have some surprising interpersonal revelations, courtesy of the emotionally constipated Charlie Verlaine ;)

Title: Rivalries: Chapter Seventeen, Part One


 Rivalries: Chapter Seventeen, Part One

At this point, a confrontation was inevitable. And Charlie fucking hated it.

God, the whole thing reeked of schoolboy, Jets vs Sharks, bureaucratic bullshit. It felt like a meme come to life, or one of those Reddit threads where the story was all about some fucker telling them how to do their job wrong. Charlie didn’t want to be part of a meme, for fuck’s sake. He just wanted to teach something useful!

“Are you sure you don’t want to be part of a meme?” Johnny asked when Charlie made this complaint to him as they got ready for school. It felt…strangely normal, getting ready for school with Johnny. Better than that, because before getting ready they’d been in bed together, and while they were in bed together they’d… He forced himself to focus on what Johnny was saying.

“—ause there are some super cute ones out there we could fit you into right now. The dog—you know the dog face one? Or the Spongebob one? Or the one with the guy walking with the girl but the guy is looking at the other girl—”

“These are all ancient memes, you’re dating yourself,” Charlie told him.

“What about the one with the kitten and the toaster?” Johnny asked as they filled his travel mugs.


“The kitten and the toaster! You know, where the kitten is watching the toaster and then it pops and the kitten goes—here, I’ll show you,” he said, pulling something up on his phone. Charlie looked over his shoulder and—

“Oh my god, you dork,” he groaned as a familiar song began to play. “Rickrolling? Seriously?”

“Hey, you’re the one who didn’t know there’s no such thing as a kitten and toaster meme, blame yourself.” Johnny looked smug, and also too cute to resist. Even as Charlie leaned in to kiss him, he wondered when he’d become the kind of guy who had to kiss his boyfriend whenever he did something cute.



What? Wait, no, what? Charlie’s body reacted to his intense moment of startlement by coughing, which was especially gross when you were in the middle of kissing someone. He hunched over the table, leaning on his hand and coughing into the opposite shoulder, waving away Johnny’s concern. “I’m fine,” he managed after a second, groping for his coffee and taking a huge drink. It was too hot, but at least the liquid did the trick of burning away the cough. “Jesus Christ,” he croaked afterward.

“Oh yeah, you’re totally fine,” Johnny said, part sarcastic and part concerned. It should have been such an irritating combination; Charlie hated it when people were concerned about him, he’d had enough concern to last him a fucking lifetime. So why did he want to lean into the emotion when Johnny was the deliveryman?

Because you love him, idiot. Because he’s your BOYFRIEND! You’ve been healed up for weeks, you don’t need a ride to school anymore or help getting ready except you’re too lazy to get a car and you CAN be lazy because you’ve got a fucking BOYFRIEND who drives you everywhere and loves spending time with you and sleeps over at your shitty apartment because, oh yeah, he’s your BOYFRIEND!


Johnny sat down at the table next to him, pushing coffee and phones and everything else farther back. “Talk to me,” he insisted. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“Um.” How did he even bring this up. “Are…okay, are we dating?”

“Are we…dating?” Johnny raised one eyebrow, and Charlie cursed him a little inside for being able to do that even as he continued his now-quieter freakout. “What brought this up?”

“Are we?” Charlie persisted. “Is that what you’d call this? Are we boyfriends?”

Johnny blushed. “I mean…do you want to be?”

“So you don’t know what the hell we’re doing either?” Great, neither of them was in the driver’s seat.

“I mean, I think we’re having a good time together,” Johnny said, keeping his voice slow and calm even as his face glowed pink. “I think we share a lot of, y’know, interests and we enjoy each other’s company a lot, and we have a little bit of a history together and really, after putting each other in the hospital ten years apart I feel like the only way this story can end is either in a fatal showdown or a big romantic gesture. Or something.” He winced. “Does that make any sense?”

“No.” Charlie felt like he was on the verge of hyperventilating. “How are hospitals romantic? They’re not!”

“No, it was…I was kind of making a joke, and I can tell it didn’t hit, and—” Johnny’s phone began to beep, and he silenced it with a frown. “We’ve got to get to work. We can talk it out on the way, okay?”

“Do we have to?”

Johnny looked wounded. “Is the prospect of being my boyfriend such a terrible thing?”

“No.” No it wasn’t, and he had to get that out there because the last thing he wanted was to make Johnny feel bad because of his anxiety. “No, it—it might be fantastic? I don’t really know though, I’ve never had a boyfriend before. So.”

“Oh. Oh!” Johnny nodded, his eyes getting that distant look they sometimes did when he was contemplating something.

You know his weird looks, you’re so dating this man.

“That’s—that’s totally fine,” Johnny finally said. “I’ve had boyfriends before, but every relationship is different, so you don’t need to worry about not…well…” He quirked his lips. “What exactly are you worried about?”

“I don’t know! Fucking it up? Doing everything wrong?” It wasn’t that Charlie had never gotten interest before, he’d just never gotten to the boyfriend level with anyone because he was a) uncommunicative, b) distant, c) never home, d) overly devoted to his work, on and on all the way up to z.

“You haven’t fucked anything up so far,” Johnny pointed out.

“I mean, don’t undersell me, it hasn’t been that long,” Charlie retorted. His boyfriend sighed.

“We’ve really, really got to get going to school to be on time, but we’re talking about this tonight. Okay?”

Ah, great. Something to…look forward to.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Dauntless excerpt!

 Hey, darlins! I promised you something to read this week, so have a quick excerpt of Dauntless, the sequel to Luckless :) A short and largely unedited scene, but still fun.


They left from the outer wall of Forge instead of the stadium. Ladon was enormous, even for a dragon, and when he changed in the stadium it tended to send the youngest dragons scurrying for the safety of their mother’s bulk. On the wall, though, there was no fear. The people who guarded it knew them—many of them knew Evan from before he and Ladon had bonded, and the years had made them friendlier.

“He went northwest!” Oliver shouted after them from his perch on the tall concrete turret, where he manned one of Forge’s two working machine guns. “Toward Long’s!”

Evan nodded his thanks as Ladon began to bank, raising great clouds of dust with his wingbeats as he turned them in the direction of Long’s Peak. It was one of the tallest mountains on the Front Range, a flat-topped icon and guidepost for travelers. It was also one of the stupidest places for a man and a dragon to think about trying to take shelter, a place with no shelter from the elements, no significant sources of game, and plenty of spaces for a patient monster to hide. Evan hoped for his sake that Wayde was easy to find, but if he found that pair of idiots on top of Long’s Peak he’d be hard pressed not to shout both of them deaf.

Ladon sent a thread of amusement through the bond to Evan, keeping his bright eyes trained below them for any sign of the missing rider and his dragon. Evan watched too, relieved that the worst of the dust had finally settled. Visibility was still poor, though—the sun had just begun to set behind the mountains, and as the shadow of the Rockies spread out across the plains, Evan resigned himself to settling in and waiting to be useful.

You’re always useful.

Evan chuckled. You’re the only one who thinks so.

Humanity sets too much importance on utilitarianism. Even in this difficult time, there should be a place for existence without justification, without having to meet arbitrary standards of necessity.

I wish it were that way.

Ladon was quiet for a moment before thinking So do I. Perhaps Jason would experience fewer difficulties then.

Oh, Jason. The reminder of what he’d gone through today was enough to quiet Evan’s mirth, and they kept flying in silence, tension growing minute by minute as they still failed to find Wayde and Feron.

Fucking Wayde, who’d flown off in a huff without the barest supplies—no signal flares, a bow but no more than three arrows ready to fire, none of the cold-weather clothes he’d want if he got stuck out here overnight. Evan was going to give this guy a piece of his fucking mind when he—


Ladon extended his head in the direction of the slopes a dozen or so miles south of Long’s where, sure enough, a flame was spreading. Spreading fast. Had Feron set the entire hillside ablaze? Dragons were taught to control their flame better than that from the time they were hatchlings.

Ladon banked down, and in the light of the fire Jason could see hulking black shapes darting back and forth along the edge of the flames, which spread out in a broken ring from a central spire of rock. Feron was perched on that rock, flapping his wings hard to fan the burn even as he breathed more fire. Crouched just below him was Wayde, holding his bow but—as expected—out of arrows.

Wayde looked like he was yelling something at Feron—maybe telling him to fly away, judging from the way he threw his arm toward the sky. The dragon didn’t seem wounded, so the likeliest reason he hadn’t taken off yet was because he was too tired to carry both himself and his rider somewhere safe. Because he was only twenty, and would likely double in size over the next ten years if he didn’t get killed off through sheer stupidity before then.

There’s too much fire already to add more, Evan thought at Ladon as he squinted down at the black shapes. Dog-like, but far bigger than any dog, yet with curved spines and hulking shoulders more like what you’d see on a hyena than a wolf…it was a pack of ringdocus. They were menaces in the foothills, fast and vicious pack hunters that were far cleverer than crix. The only good thing about ringdocus was that their packs didn’t get as large as crix—too much competition, too much of a need for meat. They reached a certain size, then began fighting amongst and cannibalizing themselves to sort out the hierarchy of needs.

Do you want to shoot them from the air or the ground?

A few passes from the air, Evan decided, already freeing his bow and nocking an arrow. Then we try to go in and grab Wayde.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

No story today because...

 Hi darlins.

Turns out it's really hard to focus on writing a generally low-angst love fest when I'm anxious up to my neck about mass shooters. My husband works, and kiddo goes to daycare, less than a mile from where the King Soopers grocery store shooting happened yesterday. My husband got lunch at the sandwich shop right next to it an hour before the shooting began. My child's daycare was put on lock down, which partially--phew, they're taking this seriously, and partially--god damn it, I hate that they have to do that. 

I shop in that store. My husband shops in that store. We've taken our child into that store. Ten people were killed in that store, including a police officer. This is the closest in a long time my family has come to this sort of horrendous violence, and it's knocked me for a fucking loop.

Our kiddo came home with her daddy last night and was fine. Of course she was fine--she's three, she had no idea what was going on around her or what a lock down is, because her caregivers are wonderful and competent people. I wonder how long that blissful ignorance, something that was a given in my childhood, will last. I was in high school right here in Boulder when the Columbine school shooting happened. Since then, it feels like events like this have accelerated faster and faster. Colorado has had a lot of mass shootings in the past twenty years--hell, the high school five minutes from my house called SWAT last week because one of the teachers thought she heard a shot. Did she? Probably not, but no one blinked an eye or told her she was being overly cautious for reporting it. No, SWAT showed up, as well they should have.

In this case, the shooter was apprehended alive. He was able to walk out of the store in police custody, after killing ten people. He's a white man, which will surprise no one at all. He's reported to have used an AR-15 style rifle. He's alive, and ten people are dead, and the what-ifs could drive you mad. One thing is for sure--I support gun control laws, and I'm going to support them and the politicians who back them even harder now, because watching literal traitors to our country like Congresswoman Lauren Boebert tweet out false sympathy after taking pictures and posting videos with a literal wall of guns in the background makes me fucking sick.

Anyway, sorry darlins, but this is going to be something of a mental health day for me. I'll have more knacks and exciting battles for you next week, and maybe an excerpt of the Luckless sequel (Dauntless, for those who're interested) up on Friday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Rivalries: Chapter Sixteen, Part Two

Notes: Hey. So. We got some snow this weekend. Like, a lot.


It ended up being a little over two feet once all was said and done. I know, Colorado is a snowy place, but much of that is centered on the high country, and we've been in a drought for years now. Getting two feet of snow feels AMAZING! Know what else feels amazing? Getting another part of Rivalries done even though daycare was cancelled and I had kiddo all day yesterday! WOOOOHOOOOOO!

Title: Rivalries: Chapter Sixteen, Part Two


Chapter Sixteen, Part Two


High school was the gossipiest place Johnny had ever worked.

Being in high school had been bad enough, but teaching at a high school? You had kid gossip, you had parent gossip, and you had faculty gossip, all of them vaguely intersecting and going around and around until you basically had to face the fact that you were swimming in a sea of gossip at all times, and at least ten percent of it was about you, Trying to rise above it was no good—there was no swimming out of a cesspool. He’d found that you just had to grab your floaties and do your best to keep your head above water.

That wasn’t to say he was completely above gossiping himself. He could admit, honestly, that he wasn’t. There were people he liked to chat with, people who always had interesting information to pass on—rarely very salacious, thankfully—and he was always tuned into the student gossip because really, that was part of his job. Right now, the students, parents, and faculty were all focused on one thing—Charlie and Debra’s club.

The kids, almost to a person, thought it was cool. All the kids who were part of it talked about it like the sessions were downright godly, which—yeah, they were great, but it was less that every session was phenomenal and more than they at least weren’t boring, which was more than the other dueling club could say. They got a lot of attention due to their membership, which made them even more interesting to their classmates, which made them want to talk about it even more…it was a vicious cycle, or maybe a virtuous one, because getting kids who’d never been interested in dueling but might benefit from it anyway to think about giving it a shot was a good thing.

Less of a good thing was the unexpected reaction it got from the Euryale parents. Word spread from privileged child to privileged adult that someone else was enjoying something that they weren’t allowed to, and they wanted to do it, and how was it fair that their child couldn’t partake in something being put on in their very own school?

That was where Principal Cross had to explain, much to her distaste Johnny imagined, that the club for Stheno children was specifically for them, that she had a very competent instructor for the Euryale students, that certainly, she’d be open to bringing on another instructor to add more depth to their program because yes, it was unfair that the Stheno kids got two teachers and Euryale students only got one, and she’d address that immediately.

Johnny was sure she wanted to shut the whole thing down, but she couldn’t. So her first act was to confront Debra and Charlie about it. He was actually semi-present for this—he’d just finished walking Roland out to meet his foster mom after dueling club ended, and got back to the gymnasium in time to hear Principal Cross snap like a dry branch, “What do you two think you’re doing?”

There was silence, then, “I beg your pardon?” from Charlie.

“The exhortations you’ve been encouraging your students to spread about their experiences here. Lying to get attention, really? Is that what you’re teaching them with the time you’ve been granted in our facilities?”

“Nobody’s lied about anything, as far as I know,” Debra said, sounding perfectly calm. Johnny wasn’t sure if she was using her knack or not—she generally sounded calm, especially when she had to talk to the principal. “We certainly haven’t asked our students to lie about anything.”

“Then you haven’t been pairing elementalists up against ornamentalists?” Principal Cross asked scathingly. “Mental knacks against physical ones? They need to be learning similar type against similar type, not—”

“That’s ridiculous,” Charlie interjected, sounding less calm than Debra, but Johnny could tell he was trying. “Ma’am. These kids need all the experience they can get, and setting them up to bash on each other with the same powers over and over again is a surefire recipe for boredom. They can all learn something from working against another type of knack.”

“You’re really doing this?” Now Principal Cross sounded satisfied. “Then it’s reckless endangerment. There aren’t proper teaching guidelines for this kind of situation. I’m going to have both of you removed from this club, immediately, and—”

“Ma’am,” Charlie interrupted again, his voice flat. “There are plenty of guidelines in place for these scenarios. They’re taught at every military academy out there.”

“These children need to be focusing on being children, not pretending to be soldiers!”

“Then none of them should have access to a dueling club,” Debra said. “If you’re going to be that way with us, you need to pass the word on to your own seniors and tell them they have to shut down too. I imagine their parents won’t be thrilled, but you’re a private academy. You can make these sorts of decisions if you want to take the heat for it.”

“You’re not teaching the same things, though!” It was the first time that Principal Cross started to lose control of her poise. “You’re teaching military techniques to high school students! That’s unacceptable, it’s—it’s not—”

“None of this information is proprietary,” Charlie pointed out. “Drill instructors post videos of this sort of thing on YouTube all the time. Anyone could research these techniques if they put a little effort into it. This isn’t the result of some sort of special government research testing in a secret knack lab or something—” and Johnny almost choked here, because he knew exactly who Charlie was referring to “—it’s basic cross-knack counters. Your other instructor is military, isn’t he? Bring him in to watch. He’ll verify what I’m saying is true.”

“Don’t invite scrutiny you can’t handle,” Principal Cross snapped, then turned and began to clip-clip-clip away.

Johnny let himself into the gym through the other door in time to see Debra and Charlie share a long-suffering look. “She’s not going to give this up,” Charlie muttered.

“She will once she realizes she’s got no other choice,” Debra said, then rolled her eyes. “Not that people like her ever realize when they’ve been backed into a corner. She’s got all the grace of a three-legged dog and none of the cuteness.”

“If that’s a polite way of calling her a bitch, I’m all about it,” Johnny said as he joined them. His fingers itched to touch Charlie, to just grab him by the shirt and haul him into a kiss, then take him home and show him exactly how much Johnny appreciated him standing up for the Stheno kids.

Some of his intent must have gotten through, because after a second Charlie grinned at him and extended his hand. The empty sleeve on the right side had come unpinned at some point and fallen down, but he didn’t even look like he noticed. “Want to go get dinner?” he asked as he drew Johnny in close.

“I want to eat something, yeah,” Johnny said.

“Aaand I’m done here,” Debra announced. “Enjoy your innuendo, guys, please have it with a side of putting the rest of the gear away. See you two tomorrow.” She grabbed her purse and jacket and walked out, and Johnny let himself get reeled in a little tighter.

It felt good. It felt way too good, and yeah, he was getting hard in the gym. Shit. It might have been embarrassing, if he hadn’t realized that Charlie was in exactly the same position.

“We can’t do anything here,” Charlie said, low and soft as he stroked his hand across Johnny’s lower back. “Especially not after I just told off the principal. She’s probably looking for any excuse to scream at me right now.”

“Then let’s get ho—back to your place,” Johnny corrected himself, wincing internally. Charlie didn’t seem to notice his gaffe. “And then I’ll show you exactly what I’ve got in mind.”

“Lead the way—no, wait.” Charlie pulled back and pointed at the remaining equipment. “Cleanup first.”

“Boy scout,” Johnny teased, but he grabbed the nearest gear bag and started loading it up.

It was all right. They had time for more later.