i went missing

look past me till you see me standing there

flying in the wings of the stage

harnessed and ready to go on as long as no one’s watching

as long as no one can see the outline of who I am

 

last week I saw myself in a mirror and I wondered when I grew

I wonder how I’ve changed from that smaller me we knew

smaller thoughts encompass where I am

but where I’m going is larger than it’s ever been before

 

we sang when I was littler, and I sang louder then

pretending my voice could change the world

when it’s the fingerprints of me

too small to foreseeably see that decorate the world

with better pieces of who I could be

 

display the art that my mind has made by copying what other people did better

look at the way I flip through the play and wonder

what they meant when they wrote these words

how they pieced together me so identifiably

how they knew the patterns my heart beats in the night

 

why am I in the wings again? Is it because I fear being seen?

is some unfamiliar lesson being taught by going without noticing

myself, under skin and bone, inside my blood and mind

is there some tiny, needed secret that I still need to find?

 

where stages are for showing, am I really showing me

or am I showing someone else who I pretend to be

and in my life the same, am I really showing through

or am I imitating someone I love as much as you

 

concentrating on internal things, have I really grown at all

will I spend my whole life being so very, very small

or is it that in realizing how little that I am

that I finally find the bigness I can be if I understand

 

throw away the playbook and run out on the stage

act as though no one can see

find the little story of me that will help other people age

be who they need you to be

 

and stop before I go out, realizing it’s no good

because there’s no audience, the stage is dark and empty

the only person that I’m playing to is me

I’m the only one I’m letting down gently

 

they read the play ahead of me, they know what they need

so why am I so lost, still waiting for my cue

what is this little version of myself that I will be

dressed in fairy lights but waiting for another pair of arms to lift her

 

is the harness so untrustworthy that I can’t trust the ropes

or do I still fear being seen when no one’s there

look through the pages again—I wish you were here, old friend

so you could tell me all the things I already know

 

pull the ropes, and I rise, like a firefly in the dark

and I don’t know what to say to the empty hall

so I shut my voice inside me and I turn myself around

and I find I’m saying nothing at all

 

we used to play that we were pirates, and since then you’ve stolen

the little girl you were from me, and I’ve got nothing left to keep

and when I close my eyes at night, and I’m tiredly watching

I never remember the moment I see sleep

 

what do you say to the empty hall of all the people listening

all the hopes and dreams you owe something other than you

what can you give the world, while it’s patiently waiting

how can I be enough for what I need to do

 

the ropes hold me upright and I’m dancing in the dark

a puppet holding my own strings in brittle hands

what do I need to say to be awake again

why did no playwright leave me something to act that’s mine

 

is it so hard

 

close my eyes, I see you standing there

a little pirate dressed in red and green

what do you want me to say to you this time

to give you things I’ve never really found or seen

 

where did I go

 

I drop the harness off me and I sit down and I wait

and myself comes out in fairy wings and glitter

and we stare at each other across a stage of muddled years

and I wonder when I lost her in the dark

 

sit and talk to me, and let’s see where we went wrong

I missed you and I want you back, you know

all the while, the fairy lights on me

dance in silent retrograde, and tell me about the sunlight that they remember

 

she sits down opposite me, so like me I could cry

and tips her head in silent knowing of me

where did we get lost, she asks, and are we going home

but I don’t have the answers this time

 

hi, I say at last, the playbook somewhere on the floor, unscripted

hi, she says, what do you need to say

do you think that I could maybe get back who I was before this

no, but that’s not the point anyway

 

take off the harness and fly because you can

the words don’t need to be said to be there

all you have to be is simple and you don’t have to remember

what it feels like to be me, because I don’t care

 

I was a temporary solution, and you’re stronger than I was

together we can remember how to be ourself

and if we don’t, why should you care, because the less you have to work with

the more you can do

 

if you have a pattern written out, then that’s what you do

but when there isn’t something to copy, then it’s you that you’re inventing

through the breaking and the boring and the painting and the denting

and she left me on the stage and I faced out to the crowd

and I watched myself from far away as I said out loud

‘if you knew me long ago then you would know a little more

than I do of myself just now, because I got lost, you see

but if you want to stay—you don’t have to, but I’d like it—

we can wait, and you’ll get to meet the real me.’

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Perseverance

“Out of the night that covers me, / Black as the pit from pole to pole/ I thank whatever gods may be/ For my unconquerable soul.”—William Ernest Henley

 

Have you climbed the night sky

And seen what is written there?

Have you forged the dome of the earth

And borne the weight it would bear?

If you cannot lift the land of your birth

Or carry the body you wear

How can you see the road or try

When in it yours is little share?

 

I am the master of the night

And I made the light thereof

I made the angels, pure and bright

I am the person of Love.

Canst thou see the uncreated light

When you are yet all blind?

Why then do you ask that you might

See the path I wrote in my mind?

 

It is not time for the bend to be seen

It would do you no true good

I know you have seen what has been

But would you see what would?

Do you not trust me, sweetest child

In trust will not you persevere

Will you yield to your own frail, wild

Tempestuous, broken fear?

 

I stand against the dark and say

That I am His, not Theirs

But I fear that this path is not the way

That I already stray to the tares.

Yet the sword of gold rests in my hand

The fire of His lives in my mind

And with Him guiding me back to His Land

How would the way I not find?

 

I drop the sword, the fire gutters

But I must rise His alone

Though the flame inside me sputters

Though I wear to the very bone.

I must fight the battle that’s mine

And he will win the war!

And well I know I must not repine

For the God of mine I adore.

 

In Him I will trust, in Him I will rest,

In Him claim my faith to be firm

For He unbroken the broken will test

That in Him they may gladly burn.

For if He let them stand in His presence

Untested, they would fall

Unable to bear of his essence

The flames that consume us all.

 

For is not glory furious and mighty?

And is not His love so bright

That without knowledge equally mighty

With blindness it would us requite?

So he leads us, and he tries us

That we may mighty become

And when we are His tried thus

We may with him be one.

star sailor

our souls are confined candles

blinded by the dawn

the world itself a sea of light and dark

that we are sailing on

our hearts are beating sails

that push us through the night

the sky above another sea

a star dives like a kite

our bodies crooked ships aflame

and burning along the mast

only consumed when we do not burn

and light the world up vast

our eyes are mirrors of the sky

our hands are wind burned ropes

and here is our fresh water

the voice of all our hopes

the salt beneath us murmurs

the magic grows and grows

my soul is like a candle

and like a candle caught, it glows.


aster–latin root, star

naut–latin root, sailor

SNIPPPET TIME

 

“You promised you’d sleep!” Carlyle protested, looking betrayed.

Drake, dripping with most of Theo’s tea, glared up at Theo, apparently ready to commit murder over the wreckage of his cravat. Lois looked about ready to scream at her. Theo sipped the remnants of her tea, still leaning on the banister, and staring directly at the painting behind Carlyle’s head, ignoring them all. She made an art form of ignoring people. “I did sleep.”

“How long did you sleep?” Ty asked.

She tipped up an eyebrow and finished her tea. “That wasn’t the question.”

He dragged a hand over her face. “Did you set a limit of hours?” Ty asked Carlyle.

“What?”

“God,” he muttered, grabbing Theo’s arm and moving her up the stairs. “I’m surprised your family hasn’t gotten you killed already. They’re all idiots.”

“Theoretically,” Theo interjected, smoothly slipping her arm from his grasp, “I can survive on my own. Ta-da. I’m still alive. You don’t need to worry.”

“I am so astounded my heart may cease beating from shock.” Ty reached for her empty mug. She gave it to him.

“So Shakespearean. Which is to say, why don’t you start monologuing so I can go and get some coffee?”

“So much Keats. Which is to say, why don’t you speak existentially about why are we alive anyway and then while you’re in the middle of it pose dramatically and fall asleep out of sheer boredom?”

“I thought you were the one who fell asleep when I was dramatic.”

“That remains to be seen, since I have never witnessed you dramatic. Or perhaps I merely cannot tell, since you are so dramatic all the time that I simply overlook the times you act like a normal human being.”

Ty hoisted Theo over his shoulder as he spoke but she kept her body annoyingly straight until he was forced to put her down and try princess carrying her, which again she resisted by acting like a log.

“What do you say to the princesses you normally try to kidnap?” Lois asked.

“‘For the Pete’s sake please act like a rational being in some capacity and cease your dithering over princes’?” Theo suggested helpfully.

“Please. You’re supposed to say please.” Drake said.

Ty looked at Drake incredulously. “Do you want to try getting her to go back to bed, Mr. Already-Dripping-Wet-in-Her-Tea?”

“Do you want to stop manhandling me long enough and actually tell me what you’re proposing to do once you’ve picked me up? I’ve had enough people throw me down the stairs in the past week that while I trust you, I’m not sure I trust you enough not to throw me.” Theo suggested unhelpfully.

Ty looked down at her. “Do you mean what I want you to do or what I want to do to you? Because while throwing you down the stairs had not occurred to me, killing you to put all the rest of us out of our misery had.”

“But you propose I go back to bed.”

“That adequately summarizes my preference for current behavior, yes.”

“Take notes, Drake. That is how you may be extremely scathing without actually saying anything insulting.” Theo remarked, tousling Drake’s soaking hair over the railing. “Presupposing you’d be willing to wake me up in three hours, yes, I will follow preferred and advised behavior, presupposing as well that you go to bed and sleep for at least the same amount of time I do.”

Ty stared up at her. “I’m not sure whether all of this was planned in order for you to make me go to bed or not.”

Theo grinned. “That, my dearest lord, darling and beloved of my soul, is precisely what I had desired after the course of this conversation. Good morning.”

She walked back up the stairs toward her bedroom, stopping on the landing to yell down, “If you aren’t going to go to bed I’ll get back out of mine and torment you into it. It’ll be more merciful for you by far if you just go now.”

Lois, looking admiring and faintly shocked, took Theo’s mug from Ty. “I do believe I want to be her.”

“Please,” Drake said, sounding horrified, “don’t.”

Night Drive

The sweat-slicked night bobs with color;

Pale-yellow-green emeralds blink in and out

Around the black tree-line,

Over us is drawn

A purpling black curtain, spattered over with silver

Occasionally brighter

As we sweep through the night in our post-modern chariot

The engine’s growl softened and confiding.

The half is poised in her white silks, smiling benevolently over the edge

Of the horizon, a bit tired already, but pleased to see us.

The high-beams slice through the darkness

But only distantly showing color, everything faded and grayer

And here and there the stop-lights, when we stroll through more frequented areas

Flash in a concert, yellow-yellow-yellow or green-yellow-red

Depending on the persuasion of the area.

A deer by the side of the road stares back at us, eyes flickering yellow

Then passing us–or us passing her, as the case may be.

Your hair spills pale across your shoulders,

Your skin almost bio-luminescent in the dim

And your eyes are closed, lashes like a brushstroke of ink

Across your skin.

A few minutes ago you were in this seat, driving, I in that seat, resting

But though our roles were so recently exchanged

You already dream, face easy and calm

As fluent in sleeping as you are in waking.

america

dedicated to the memory of my mother’s brother

and to the boys and girls who are dead for their land

the roots of the trees above

take solace in the ground

the newly planted flowers

tremble stern and profound

look deep beneath the earth

to where an army of men

marched away from home

and never came back again

the stars, quiet guardians

silently confess

their memory of armies

once great and then far less

nobility and honor

dirt and fear and pain

gives way to perfect stillness

and the thawing of the rain

above them slabs of stone

emblazoned with their names

stand eternal sentinel

to their hopes and their aims

and forgotten and erased

the water washes clean

the fields where they lay in red

and covers them in green

not all were noble, truly

and fewer still were pure

but the legacy they made of blood

shall evermore endure

they wrote us a country

bequeathed to us ideals

told us the world was ours

to help until it heals

again the boys went marching off

before the men were dead

to win what was left unwon

equality done, not said

the others rode the prairies

and conquered, destroyed, killed

till instead of with ideals

sins and lies them filled

another war, another war

and here we did it right;

we fought for courage, goodness

and we brought our allies light

another war, another war

and here the goodness passes

and here we reigned down tyranny

and toasted bloody glasses

and the boys who lie beneath

remember all of it still

and they wait for us to go

and heal the world of ill

sometimes our hands are filthy

sometimes they are profane

but is that not why men

are gifted with the rain

that they may wash

and they may clean

and sunder through themselves

until they are made to wean

themselves of all themselves

and selfless, shining knights of old

stripped bare of sword and plate

shall make the world itself behold

what made their nation great

yet still, like Gawain and Lancelot

and Washington and Lee

they know not always where justice lies

nor yet where good may be

they fight and strive, they fail us all

but yet never retreat

until a hopeful victory

they place beneath our feet

we have our heroes, men of old

men made to us inspire

but they were forged of iron, not gold

and broke within the fire

but perhaps it is far better so

so that more is to do

and heroes yet of better make

can undo what we rue

if our land is to be the home

of the brave and free

then it is for each person to

brave and noble be

not knights or kings or lords

but simple men of God

who help to heal the earth of ill

while still the earth they trod

on Narnian culture

Funny though; the Pevensies are like, super famous in Narnia, right? You know how we use ‘for Pete’s sake’ and it comes from Saint Peter the Apostle? Well, imagine though, if the Narnians don’t just say ‘by the lion’ or whatever, but use Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan as exclamations and in compliments and routinely all the time. Like “By the Four Children!” or “Peter’s Beard!” and Peter’s just like casually saying to Lucy and Edmund and Susan “I don’t have a beard.”

And like in the time of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that usage has come back in full force and someone says to Lucy; “You are as valiant as Queen Lucy hersel–oh, right, sorry.” And Edmund’s just laughing so hard because Lucy is Queen Lucy herself.

But then Lucy and Edmund hear someone go “Oh for Peter’s sake” and they’re both like “oh wait until Peter hears this” “I would pay to see his face when he hears it” “you will see his face when he hears it because we’re going to be the ones to tell him” “unless Eustace tells him first” “that cannot happen I’m putting my foot down” “your foot was already down and it’s a good thing because we’re standing on a mast and I really don’t want to be the one to explain to mother why you fell off a mast in what she thinks is an imaginary country” “one day you will admit you worry about me” “today is not that day”

Here’s the thing about Eustace, though: when he starts getting used as an exclamation everybody is talking about him as a dragon, like “Eustace’s scales!” “Eustace’s teeth!” Jill would be having such a good time about it during The Silver Chair and then when she comes back to Narnia everyone’s swearing by her legendary temper. “Jill’s Rage!” and Eustace gets to laugh about it this time.

But at the same time Lucy, Peter and Edmund are laughing with Eustace and Jill, there are moments when one of the younger two mentions how the Narnians still routinely use Susan’s name and they all go quiet and wish Susan was there laughing with them. They only get “Lord Diggory’s Apples!” and “Lady Polly’s Strawberries!” later though, and then after that they’re always mouthing exclamations of the sort at each other in public and stifling hysterical giggles at increasingly inopportune times.

“by your temper, Jill!” “shut up before I make you!” “there it is.” “professor, where are your apples I hear so much about?” “I don’t carry apples about in my jacket, young man.” “Eustace’s teeth!” “whose teeth, Lucy?” “nothing, mother.” “I thought I heard you talking about Eustace.” “it’s a sort of joke, mother.” “oh.” “Lucy’s tangly hair!” “my hair is not tangly, Edmund. Hasn’t been in years.” “it’s those years I’m talking about.” “such impudence before our brave lady sister!” “thanks, Peter, I’m sure that will make him stop.” “Edmund’s eyebrows!” “are people really invoking my eyebrows, Eustace?” “considering no one could miss them, yes.”

Faith

“‘Fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’”—Francis Thompson

It is not my battle I must think

Nor on where my feet tread

It is of God, or I will sink

In the ocean painted red.

But not for I, but Him alone

Or I shall surely fail

For it is love that safely guides

And leads me through the vale.

It is not the world I have to fear

But that I forget my place

Nor my weakness alone when I am here

But the loss of trust in grace.

So lead me home, my guardians

And I will follow close behind

Will conquer all who’d conquer me

With a wise and wary mind.

Oh let me not be lost in dark

But take their careful hands

That I may find my light a spark

Even in these distant, dreadful lands.

For hell is not in suffering

And heaven not in pleasure

But Hell in losing self to self

Heaven to greater treasure.

Trading pain for sweeter pain

And the abyss of self for love

I stand the world itself to gain

And all good it is full of.

Ah, let me look, my comforter

At all that you have made

And all my sadness melt to joy

And I be unafraid.

And holy now, refreshed again

I rise to shine once more

And glory in the glorious one

For whom I bear the war.

Oh He it is who is my heaven

So I need fear no hell

For naught separates me from his love

For he has wished me well.

Till he summons me at last

Here I shall stay and trust

For he has spoken truly and spoken well

And will hold me till all has passed.

Then imprisoned in myself no more

In that vast and glowing place

I shall be not only I myself

But the story of his grace.

I shall be his glorious seat

I shall be his throne

I shall be the sign of his justice meet

Of his victory alone.

And in this I shall escape myself

And become His mirror instead

And then more truly I than ever

Guide others through ocean red.

Seekers

I’m painted red all over from the shafting light of the stained-glass window. The ancient, nondenominational church arches overhead, distant, careless, too bright to be intimate. It doesn’t even smell holy, the way Holy Water and incense smell. The way that mint, and growing things smell.

Ally paces back and forth between the benches, her dark skin fading in the brightness, until the brightness is what I see instead of her. People often seem to fade like that when they’re standing against the sunlight. She doesn’t seem concerned about today. She never seems concerned, though. It seems from the way she behaves, sometimes, that we’re very distant acquaintances, who have the pleasure of seeing each other seldom. It’s not how I feel about her.

I wonder if she misses how I feel about her. I don’t see how she could. She reads everything else like it’s written across my arms in transient ink. I wonder if that’s because she’s better at reading people than anyone else I know, or if it’s because I’m an open book to everyone. It could be both. I could be an open book to everyone, and yet she could be better at reading me than they are.

“She isn’t ready,” a girl says, climbing into the church through the open doors. “She isn’t ready.”

An expression of annoyance flickers simultaneously across the gaunt and distant faces before us. The elders seem both displeased and as if they’d completely expected this turn of events.

“Ireland is, though.” The boy who says it is taller than Ally, thinner than Ally, with a look in his eyes that isn’t distant, like Ally’s distant, but old instead. Old and wise, as though his eyes have been watching for a thousand years.

“She won’t fit him,” Ally predicts. “I doubt they’ll ever get along. He’s too—”

NEEDY.

She doesn’t say it. I hear it, like the church itself is amplifying a choir shouting a single word.

“Ireland fits everyone,” One of the elders says, impatient.

“While that isn’t true,” the boy says, “Ireland is ready, and if they don’t fit, they’ll learn to.”

Ally looks at him, wordless and expressionless, and for a moment I wonder where her emotions are hiding today. I know, of course. I’ve always known, from the moment I met her. It’s why I care about her so much, and why she cares though she never shows it.

“Send her in, then.”

He doesn’t move to call her, whoever she is.

Instead, she—or the person I assume is her—comes into the church, quiet as a wraith, combat boots silent on the tiled floor. She looks at the boy for a moment, and I can see her asking to be reassured.

His expression doesn’t change, and he gives her nothing, like Ally would give me nothing. Then, so quickly I almost miss it, he touches the back of her hand. Her shoulders square.

She turns from him, and walks to me. I wonder what I must look like on the outside to her. She’s extremely small—or she looks extremely small to me, after ages of being around Ally, who’s nearly six feet tall, and the other Seekers, who mostly are taller even than Ally. Her mouth is pressed together with nervousness. Dark circles curve under her eyes, denting her pale skin like scars. Her eyes are hazel, and immense. Her hair is a single, thick line, black and soft and dangerous as a raven’s wing.

She reaches out her left hand, and I put mine in it with the force of habit. “Hello,” she says. “I’m Ireland.”

“Hello,” I say. “I’m Jason.”

She smiles like I’ve told her a secret.

I smile, because she has told me a secret.

“They’ll do.”

A flash of light inside our palms, and I feel the chains and the stone we’ll break in half attached to them. We open our joined hands. Inside, there rests a lump of clouded, golden amber. A poppy hangs inside the amber, petals open in immortal life, fossilized.

“Nice,” the boy who mentored Ireland says.

Ally shrugs. “It’s not horrible. But we’ll see when they break it.”

I reach for my pocket knife, planning to set the stone down and smash it apart, but stop, hand in midair. I don’t want to break it. Ireland freezes in the middle of a similar gesture. We stare at each other, irresolute. Bound by a single thought, we rejoin our hands, and lean backward. We raise our right hands, pressed into fists. We strike. Our hands fall open, and inside, two perfect halves strung on chains house two poppies, each an identical copy of the first one.

I stare down into our hands. She doesn’t reach for one, so I grab her right wrist and put her hand over our hands, and wait for her to choose. She has to choose first. I don’t know why I want her too, but she needs to, and somehow I know it. She hesitates. Then she takes the one with the thinner chain, and drops the other in my hand.

We put them on, and don’t look at each other. Somehow, it’s unbearably personal, unbearable how well we seem to know each other. How well the stone knows us.

And when the chains are on, I realize there’s been a loud conversation, almost yells going on the entire time, since we severed the stone without striking it. Ireland and I look at each other. Ally’s face is flaming, and the elders look mostly shocked.

“Well,” Ireland’s old mentor says, “there’s no doubt about them fitting each other now.”

 

 

I lie on my back in the darkness, running my fingers over the amber, first once, then again, again, again until I lose count. Ireland is lying in the dark, too, but she’s disappeared in the black and I’m struggling to remember that she’s here. “Ireland?” I ask the dark.

“Jason,” the dark—Ireland—says back. It’s reassurance. It’s unfamiliar. No one’s reassured me in so long.

I feel hollow. “I can’t sleep.”

A sigh. “Neither can I. I keep expecting Colin to touch my shoulder and tell me it’s night exercises. I keep expecting an alarm to go off. I keep waiting for—something.”

This is where I should laugh, and say that’s what seeker’s training does. Ruins you for everything else. Instead, I whisper my secret. “I wish we were already on our first mission. I just want it to be irrevocable. I want this to be tried so I can stop wishing I could go back to what it was. I—” I close my eyes. “I want to stop remembering. It’s like I keep poking at it, touching the bruise to see if it still hurts. You know?”

She pauses, like she’s thinking. She probably didn’t want to hear me say it. She probably won’t like me after hearing that. “I know. We could—I mean—” She stops. Then she starts again, more quickly, to say it before she can stop herself. “We could go and get assigned now. I mean, the desk’s always open, and they assign pretty much whoever asks. The elders assign you first, I know, but they don’t always. Sometimes they just have you go to the desk. They haven’t told us to, but they haven’t told us not to, either, and they haven’t told us what they’re planning.”

I think about it. “Will they be angry?”

“Probably not. The elders don’t really care about making the first assignments perfect. It’s the mentors that can’t let go.”

“How do you know?”

Another long pause, and I can feel her picking the words out of the air, deciding which truths are truest, which work best in the empty space between us. “I knew a mentor who wasn’t good at letting go, and one who was. But the elders—the ones that matter—seem to share opinions on how things should work. And they never had their assignments picked for them.”

I think. “Okay,” I say. The darkness draws in a breath and holds it. “I think that’s okay. Could we—” I think about my father, so strong and impenetrable. “Could we ask one elder in particular first?”

I feel Ireland’s curiousity through the darkness, feel her compress it back. “Okay.”

So I press the numbers into my phone automatically, and I ask, and the elder answers, after a short time, “Needs must when the devil drives. There’s too many assignments and not enough seekers. Go to the desk and give them my authorization if they ask.”

“Thank you.”

“Stay alive.”

Mutual Apple Eating and Other Expressions of Affection

Kael offered her apple to Rafe, and he took a bite and offered it back to her. She bit it to hold it, since both her hands were now busy with the map, and scratched a road across the thick parchment. “There. That’s new.” She muttered around the apple.

Rafe took hold of the apple and pulled, allowing her to bite through the flesh before returning it to his own mouth, biting and saying with his mouth full, “I can’t understand what you’re saying when there’s apple in your mouth.”

Kael finished chewing and swallowed. “Pot, kettle, black. But the point is,” she spread the map between them, “that this is horrendously out of date. Here,” she drew a line with an inky quill across a river, “here, and here. Those’re all just a few of the shiny new things.”

“At least it helps us clarify where we are. Forests and rocks—” Rafe grinned as she stole the apple, bit, chewed, and swallowed, all with a sardonic “please continue,” expression on her face.

“Change all the time.”

Rafe took the apple back. “Can you talk while I’m eating and I’ll talk when you’re eating? It’d be far more efficient than trying to eat and talk at once.”

With a grin, she waited, exaggeratedly patient, for him to bite the apple. Mockingly, he bowed, and very, very slowly began moving the apple towards his mouth.

When he bit, Kael started speaking, almost too quickly to be comprehended. “The whole point is that we need an accurate map in order to plan a route for March and Din, since neither of them are even slightly familiar with the territory.”

She paused for breath, took a bite.

“That’s an excellent point. However, we’ve only got one map between three parties to start with.”

“So we’d be better served, is what you’re saying, if we traced what we’d got here, and then paired our memories of it together to formulate the best map we can?”

“I suppose I am. Although, faery rings tend to migrate, so there’ll be detours in any case.” Rafe paused, staring at the apple. “Here’s the last bite of it. Yours, I insist.”

“I started the apple. You ought to finish it.”

“Are you eating the same apple? There are loads of apples.” Marc was staring at them like they were slightly insane.

Rafe took the apple, finished it, tossed away the core, looked up at the trees somewhat blankly and said, “Oh. I suppose that there are. And what significance does that have?”

Marc’s eyes were enormous. “So you could eat different apples!”

Rafe glanced at Kael. “There are times I really don’t understand you humans.”

“I think he means we could eat different food.”

“Foreseeably so.”

“But at the same time.”

Rafe wrinkled his nose. “But that’s what fey do.”

“Is it a habit we picked up from them, then? Because humans do the same thing.”

“But you don’t.”

“Because it’s called sharing. It’s impolite to eat in front of somebody else if they’ve got nothing.”

Rafe nodded as though this made absolute and total sense and Marc made a helpless noise of bewilderment. “What?”

Kael leaned over the map, wiping her mouth for traces of apple juice. “He was so skinny when we were younger, and I would bring extra food because I thought he was hungry.”

“I generally was.”

“So what?”

“So he wouldn’t take the food for some reason unless I was eating it too.” Kael explained.

“Because,” Rafe said, “it’s rude to eat in from of somebody else if they’re not eating. And it’s ill-advised to be rude with anything in faery.”

“But she’s not from faery!”

“But she was in faery.”

Marc buried his face in his hands.

“Didn’t you ever swap lunch with somebody whenever you were allowed to?” Chrysanthemum asked, appearing in between two of the trees, eating an apple.

“But that’s not the same!”

“But it is when you’re five and used to stealing off of mother’s plate.”

“But Kael’s never stolen off of anyone’s plate!”

“Except, apparently, Rafe’s.”

Rafe made a face. “I stole off her plate most of the time, to speak with precise accuracy.”

Marc groaned. “I’m going to give up on you.”

“Good. You’re interrupting our lunch. Bread?” Kael asked, offering Chrysanthemum some.

“Thank you.”

Kael didn’t ask if Rafe wanted any. She put a hunk of loaf in his hands. “Eat. And don’t try to feed me, I’m busy.”

She went to work sketching.

Rafe looked between the bread and her, smiled slyly, cut off a bit, and put it neatly in her mouth without disturbing her drawing.

“I said,” She said, around the bread, “Don’t try feeding me.”

“What was that?” He asked, the picture of innocence. “I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

“You people are all insane,” Marc said, and was promptly silenced by Chrysanthemum stuffing some of her bread in his face.


This was born because I was imagining two friends who’d been friends so long they were perfectly comfortable eating off the same plate, using the same utensils, basically like passing bites of apple back and forth. So here.