by Raven Blackmane
September 23, 1999 CR. Evening.
Kate pulled her swoop into the dimly-lit garage, parked in a narrow space in the corner and took the stairs up to David's flat. After fumbling in her pocket for a moment while trying to juggle her armful of shopping bags, she managed to pull out the key her partner had given her and slip it into the lock. The door creaked loudly as she pushed it open.
"It's me, David!" she announced, stepping into the living/dining room that also served as the small apartment's entry hall. The place looked much as it always did: books and magazines in neat stacks on virtually every available horizontal surface; small throw pillows and blankets sitting here and there on the old and well-worn furniture; a couple of rented vid-discs sitting on top of the TV; a sketchpad and pencil on one of the coffee tables. Kate set down the groceries on the couch and picked up the pad, smiling slightly. David's latest work was a series of sketches of Tana hin'Cordon, the star of "Rhapsody". Taking the pad with her, she retrieved the bags and carried them past the kitchen into the bedroom.
David was sitting propped up in his bed amidst a sea of pillows, thick blankets piled on top of him. A book sat beside him on the bed, but at the moment his eyes were closed. His long dark hair hung around his face in tangled, matted locks, and his normally olive-hued skin looked paler than usual. He looked up at her as she entered, and his usually-striking violet eyes looked dulled and tired.
"How ya feeling, bud?" Kate asked, leaning back against the door frame.
David's lip twisted ironically as he let out a quiet snort. "Not quite like death warmed over, but close enough," he said. "It's ... a lot of things, actually. It would probably be quicker to tell you what isn't aching or otherwise malfunctioning."
"Poor baby," Kate said sympathetically. "I'll bet it's the flu. Can Elves get the flu?"
"We can, but I don't think our versions are usually this bad. I think one of the local human strains must have met up with the remnants of some past Elf-flu in my system and decided they could make beautiful music together."
"Ah, virus love. Feel the romance."
"Oh, I'm feeling it, all right. A glorious five-act melodrama with a full orchestra seated behind my temples and a major interpretive dance segment in my upper respiratory system. They're bringing the house down in there."
Kate smiled and held up the bags. "Well, let's see if we can close the curtains on that show for a while. Artax assures me that this is everything we need -- just the right mix of alchemy and home cooking."
"Just make sure you read the directions."
Kate grinned at that. Artax, the proprietor of the local magic shop, was infamous for the whimsical and chaotic effects his merchandise produced when the user failed to follow the directions. She found it hard to blame him for that -- any sort of truly powerful magic carried the danger of side effects if it was misused, and at least he didn't sell anything that could get the customer killed. Not to novices and amateurs, anyway. Fortunately, his directions were generally straightforward and easy to follow.
"Don't worry, I'll double-check every step," she assured David, setting the bags down. She held up the sketchpad, which she'd had tucked under her arm. "Nice work, by the way. What did you think of the movie?"
David's face brightened a little at the sight of his sketchpad, and he gave her a small smile. "Very impressive. Surprisingly deep and subtle for human film."
"Well, human audiences won't sit in a theater for twelve hours," Kate pointed out. "Kinda limits your options."
"True, but they did very well with the time they had," David said. His eyes were becoming more animated now. He lifted his arms from beneath the covers and began making small gestures with his hands as he spoke. "And Ms. hin'Cordon was remarkable. The expressiveness in her eyes, her body, her voice -- she captured both Lillien's vulnerability and her tenacity equally well. I think she must identify a great deal with the character -- she seems to be working out her own emotions as she plays Lillien, using the character's experiences as a sort of catharsis to free her from the ghosts of her own past."
Kate smiled and nodded. In truth, Tana hin'Cordon had said something along those lines in an interview a few months back, but Kate knew David wouldn't have seen it. He didn't want anyone else to tell him what he should think about books, movies, or any other sort of entertainment until he'd had a chance to see it for himself. "Insightful as always, Mr. Silverleaf," she said. "So, does that bring you any closer to unlocking the divine nature?"
David shrugged. "I'd like to think so, at least a little. But the Epiphany isn't really something you can see coming. They say that you can just be going about your business, doing whatever you're doing -- smelling a flower, stroking a pet's fur, watching people at a restaurant, making love to your wife -- and all of a sudden, it just hits you, and it's like you're looking into the face of God. But it's different for every Elf."
Kate nodded. David had explained the idea of the Epiphany to her a few years ago, shortly after coming to Metamor City. In the time she'd known him his spiritual quest had taken many forms. Examining the actors in popular movies was one of his more recent experiments. "Still think your moment's gonna come by studying humanity?" she asked.
"Could be." The Elf smiled. "Even if it doesn't, I'm enjoying the journey, and that's the most important thing." His voice caught on the last word and he coughed suddenly and violently, wincing as he did so. "So. We're back to hacking again," he said sourly, swallowing once with visible discomfort. "I thought we'd finished that particular number."
"Give me a few minutes to cook up this brew and we'll see if we can convince that virus to call it a night," Kate said, picking up the bags and heading back to the kitchen. "Sit tight."
"I'm not sure I could move if I wanted to," David said.
In the kitchen, Kate filled the kettle and put it on the stove, then pulled out the ingredients and a mixing bowl and began preparing the potion according to the directions Artax had given her. It was a classic sort of hedge-wizard's remedy, taking a basic herbal tea and combining it with healing powders and other alchemical reagents. Enchantment spells weren't Kate's strongest suit as a wizard, but the instructions were clear and the incantation was spelled out phonetically in a large, clear font. Ten minutes and one ritual chant later, Kate brought a steaming mug of the potion back to David, along with a mug of plain chamomile tea for herself.
"Careful, that was boiling just a minute ago," Kate said, handing him the mug.
"Caution noted." David took an experimental sip, winced, and lowered the mug to his lap. "So what happened down at the station today? Anything new and exciting?"
"Nothing much for us," Kate said, taking a seat in the bedroom's only chair. "I made some progress on our report in the Tilman case, but nothing new on the desk today. Homicide was jumping today, though -- the whole section was off investigating one thing or another."
"That's never good. Somebody start another turf war?"
"Maybe. Looks like one of the local gangs got their hands on some full auto weapons, so maybe they decided to make a play. I didn't get a chance to talk to anybody in H-section, though, so it may just be one of those weeks. Anyway, the new kid showed up today, so the captain had me show him around."
David nodded. "I was wondering if he'd turn up today. Tell me about him."
Kate shrugged. "He's a good kid, name of Michael Perelli. Comes from some hick-town in the Flatlands, so naturally the City's got him more than a little freaked."
"I think that happens to everybody when they first come here," David said wryly.
"True enough. He seems to have his head screwed on straight, though -- helped me stop a Two-Forty-Five while I was showing him around the Street."
The Elf raised his eyebrows. "Any trouble?"
Kate grimaced. "Let's just say that's when we found out about the full-autos."
David winced. "Not fun."
"Not at all. Fortunately they weren't too sharp -- I cast a few figments and they dropped their guns and took off."
"Damn lucky," Kate agreed soberly. "We'd be in deep trouble if anyone ever started teaching the swoopies how to see through illusions. The rogue mages are enough trouble as it is."
David took another sip at his mug; this time he seemed satisfied with the temperature, and took a longer drink. "Anything else interesting?"
"Not too. Morgan tried to eat Michael, though, so I had to explain things to him to make sure it doesn't happen again."
David chuckled and shook his head. "We really have to make sure she stops coming to work on an empty stomach. Are you still letting her play matchmaker for you?"
Kate rolled her eyes. "Against my better judgment, yes. We have another double-date this Friday."
"Didn't your last date turn out to be an incubus or something?"
"No, that's Damien, the groundskeeper at my apartment. The last date was a Klepnite daedra who liked making jokes about his horns. Not to mention growing them on other people."
"Ah, yes. I remember that guy now. Didn't he make you--"
"Yes. He did."
"And Morgan took a picture, didn't she?"
David leaned back and took a long, thoughtful sip of the healing potion. "You know, I'm surprised we never made any reprints of that--"
"You want me to screw up that potion next time? 'Cause I'm pretty sure that would make for a funny picture."
The Elf held up his hand, palm outward, in an expression of truce. "Point taken. Love life a sore point. I shall say no more."
Kate sighed and slumped a bit further into her chair. "I'm sorry, David. I don't mean to bitch. I just..." She paused, fidgeting with the cup in her hands while she tried to put it into words. "I'm not getting any younger, you know? My mom was married for seven years and had a three-year old daughter by the time she was my age. And I love her for trying, but Morgan doesn't really get the whole 'nice normal guy' thing. She's gonna live forever, and she can never have kids anyway. She's looking for a fling, not a prospective husband."
"Morgan was into wild men even before she was turned, as I recall."
"I know. Even more reason why she can't really understand what I'm looking for. Braddock vamped her before she'd even had a chance to think about these things. And now they'll never matter to her." Kate lowered her head and took another sip of her tea.
"It's odd," David said, after a moment's silence. "I've never known anyone who lives life as ... enthusiastically as you do." He smiled. "Every morning, when you come into the office, you seem to hit the ground running. Taking advantage of every moment. The way you talk, the way you laugh ... the jokes you play on the other guys on the force, and the way you handle the jokes they play back ... the way you handle things on the Street ... you don't do anything by halves." His smile turned sad and sympathetic, and he shook his head slightly. "But then we have moments like this, and you show me the things you live with. The things you hide from everyone else." He paused, wiping a tear from his eye, and looked up at her, his violet eyes now deeply sincere.
"I'm honored that you trust me enough to show me," he said. "And I want you to know that I'll always be here for you. If there's anything I can ever do to help -- if you want me to pray for you, or if you just need me to be with you -- I'll be here."
Kate smiled. "Thank you, David," she said, deeply touched. "I know you will." After a long moment she broke eye contact and took another drink. "It's not like it's something that bothers me all the time, you know. For the most part I've got it good, and I know it. The happy-me isn't all an act. It's just sometimes, this 'being alone' thing gets to me. And then it hurts, and I wonder why I can't find a nice guy to spend the rest of my life with." She shrugged. "And it's not like I don't trust Eli's timing. I do. I just ... wish He'd hurry it up, you know?"
David smiled knowingly. "I understand. You might do well to spend a few years in Quenardya, though -- my people know a few things about letting God work at His own pace."
Kate snorted. "Easy for you to say, Immortal Boy. We humans are on just a bit tighter schedule than you."
"And don't you think God knows that?" David asked gently.
Kate looked at him for a moment, then smirked. "Point." Then she crossed her arms and added, with a mock pout, "That doesn't mean I have to like it, though."
"True," David conceded. "Seriously, though, Kate, I wouldn't worry about it. You're a remarkable woman, and I have faith you'll find a suitably remarkable gentleman soon enough. Like attracts like, after all."
Kate frowned. "I thought opposites attract."
"That's electromagnetism. This is chemistry, which I think is the superior metaphor, wouldn't you agree?"
"I guess." She grinned. "I'd like to think that there will be some sparks, though."
"In this town, you may want to be careful what you wish for," David said, winking. "There are some people for whom that could be taken literally."
"Good point," Kate said, chuckling as she rose to her feet. "Well, I'm starving, so unless you want me to raid your fridge I guess I'd better get home. Thanks for the talk, though -- it helped a lot. You know, just knowing you're here for me."
"Any time," David said. "And thank you for the tea -- I'm feeling a good deal better already."
"Glad to hear it. Rest up and get well, okay? Things may have been slow today, but I don't think our luck is going to hold for long."
"In this business, certainly not," David agreed. "Good night, Kate."
"Good night, David."
As she rode home that night, Kate reflected on what David had said -- about her, about himself, and about life in general. He was right, and she knew it: Life would happen as it happened, and it was better to enjoy the ride than to worry how long it would take to get to the next stop. For here and now, she had responsibilities to concern herself with -- bad guys to fight, innocents to protect, friends to love and cherish. Mr. Right would come around in time. Eli would see to that.
Smiling, she took the off-ramp that led down to the Street. Her appetite could wait -- there was a good swoop-course not far from here where she could open up the throttle and get in a few quick laps at 240 KPH or so before heading home. The adrenaline rush would do her good after the long day at work.
"Take advantage of every moment," she murmured.
Sometimes, enjoying the journey was enough.