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An Habitual Offender, Chapter 3

Enter The Barbarian

Of course he didn’t tell Barney where he was going. That way he didn’t have to lie and Barney didn’t have to think that Kevin had done so. He decided to enter the usual way, through his rooftop entrance. The Manse would announce his return to its’ occupant. He couldn’t see Hanna shutting the security systems down. Just wouldn’t be like her.

He came down on the little landing outside the door to the converted attic rooms. Attic becomes garrett, Johnson would’ve loved that. He noticed that everything was clean. Nothing done recently, but the signs of ongoing maintenance were plain. It did make him feel welcome... sort of. It also made him feel old and alone. Still, the Manse had no quarrel with him. He had given it plenty of time for automated trespass detection and response. He placed his palm on the opalescent panel.

I’ll go down to the great room. Probably the best place to have it out. Maybe she’ll kill me and solve all my problems. Maybe if she tried really hard... He felt nervous and shaky as he looked around his old quarters. Missing memories made it real, yet not real. A dream where reality has been replaced by an almost but somehow disturbingly not quite exact replica.

He gazed longingly at his crucible, then passed through the interior door and down the stairs. This would lead to the second floor, where the rest of the team had their rooms. Towards the bottom of the stairs he surprised a black cat, which hissed at him and bounded off down the hallway. He thought he saw another cat follow the first. It was dark as there were only a couple of small lamps lit. It was very quiet. He was shivering.

A suit of armor stood watch over That Door. Their rooms. He looked more closely and thought he saw dust on the doorknob. Hmm. He kept walking. He was still in uniform as the thought of changing hadn’t entered his mind. Nothing unusual about that, of course, they used to dress as they pleased.

Down the stairs. The great room, dining room, and kitchen formed an immense cluster using up about a third of the ground floor. Their bullpen. Hmm, more cats – and a whole shitload of armor!

Suits of armor, leather, chainmail. Korean, Japanese, at least three different Chinese dynasties; Austrian, English, Norse, and Xhosa in cabinets on the walls and cases on the floor... and these were just the ones he could recognize. How do I recognize them if I can’t find the memories? Then he saw the swords. And more swords. Every wall of the great room was clad with steel, iron, bronze, bone... and freaking copper daggers! She’d had time to pursue her interests. He smiled a bit at that.

Still quiet. The room was dark, the only light spilling out of the open double doors that led to the kitchen. Habit and hunger took over, and into the kitchen he went. It was about nine o’clock in the evening now, suppertime long since passed. Wonder if she’s got any milk? The kitchen was spotless. Every major section of counter (and there were five) had its’ own knife block, a different brand of the highest quality on each one. He remembered that Hanna had helped him discover that he had a talent for cooking. He remembered...

Jim had given her that frilly little apron as a gag, but she had wound up looking so silly and so sexy at the same time that she had refused to be parted from it. They’d joke and laugh... that smile, those sparkling eyes, the way she’d toss her hair back – then she’d slice something to bits in about a second and a half. If she was feeling really good she’d flip a knife high in the air and catch it with some other hand without so much as a glance. Precision was a fact of life for her. And all the scissors were the good scissors, for she treated anything with an edge as though it were a holy relic to be cleaned and sharpened with regularity. She always found time for everything... he never understood how she could do that.

He was reaching for the fridge door when he heard it. A sort of ‘ssnktt’ kind of sound. He froze. The sound of a straight, double edged adamantium sword being conjured out of the OtherWhere that only Hanna could reach. The swords measured about one meter from butt to tip. The grips were big enough for two hands, but the swords light enough for one handed techniques as well. Hanna preferred one handed sword work. And knowing her as he did (again), that would be sword number six, saved just for the effect.

He straightened himself up, then reached for his cowl. He pulled it off and slowly turned to face her. “Hanna.”

Her teeth were clenched and her face was locked in a grimace of utter rage. Her entire body was bowstring taut, and shaking ever so slightly. She adjusted her stance and all six swords were now pointing at his throat. “What... do you think... YOU’RE DOING?!”

He continued to stand very still. “I came to see you. I... I missed you.”

They were about fifteen feet apart. She cried out, then covered that distance in about two tenths of one second. She struck her first blow with the flat of a blade to his cheek. A bitch slap. Then something horrible burst loose inside of her and she was screaming and striking and striking and striking. “ I hate you! I hate you! I HATE YOU!!”

She cut his arms to the bone several times. Blood began flying about the kitchen. The cuts began to heal. Pain... Sweet, purifying pain. Kill me. Kill me now. Please. Another blade struck his chest. Another. Another. The next time the blade stuck in his rib. He felt the chip break off as she wrenched the sword free. Fire coursed along his nerves.

Exquisite, transcendent pain.

She opened up his left cheek, then the right. Blood splattered across her face. Her eyes were gone, no longer comprehending him. He watched the blood bead up on her skin, then roll off. Blood did not cling to her, ever.

Her screams were getting ragged and she was breathing harder now. She cut and thrust and hacked at him. He was vaguely aware of blood on the refrigerator. The blades kept flying towards him. Each blow was a penance. He stood there, learning what it meant to be Hanna’s enemy. He was a meatball, she was a blender set on frappe´.

After some unknown amount of time she checked a swing. She threw her arms up and the swords disappeared back into the OtherWhere. She let out a great bellow of pain. Blood was running in rivulets down her body. His blood, and lots of it. He felt the cuts in his suit sealing themselves now. He realized that she had new body armor.

Then she collapsed against him, crying, sobbing loudly. “Why... Why...?” More sobbing. “Why did you come back? Why?” She buried her head along the right side of his neck. She sobbed some more. “Why... were you gone so long...?”

“I’m sorry.” He couldn’t speak anymore. He was on the verge of tears himself. He put his arms around her and drew her close. The scent of roses and lavender drew that tear from his eye.

Her body began to yield to him, but one hand came up, made a fist and punched him in the ribs. “Bastard! Bastard!” Another fist smacked feebly into his shoulder. “Did I have to lose what little I had of you, too?”

Oh fuck, oh shit, oh damn, oh dear. I hadn’t thought of it that way. He remembered more about the days after the crash. He’d been beyond fucked up. The whole Manse had been fucked up. He couldn’t remember how they’d gotten home. He did remember spending a lot of time in the training room trying to hurt himself. It wasn’t long before he’d gone completely unhinged. He remembered busting through a wall, and then... nothing.

Her voice brought him back. “I’ve made such a mess of you... I’m sorry.”

“No biggie.” Most of the damage to the costume had healed by now. The blood was beginning to lose grip on the unstable molecules, and it was running or flaking off. Self cleaning costumes. The Big O had it all figured out.

She lifted her head so that she could whisper in his ear. “Change.” She sniffed and wiped her face with a right hand. “Just be Kevin for a while... Just be yourself and let me feel it.” She let go of him and took a couple of steps back.

He raised his arms above his head and struck the wristbands together. What now passed for plain old Kevin VanEvery kpft’ed into existence. He hoped he didn’t look too goofy. Black T-shirt? Crikey, how long has it been since I changed clothes? Well, at least I don’t smell too badly.

She threw all her arms around him, squeezing the breath out of him. “Kevin... Kevin...” Then she was crying again. He put his arms around her and held her as tightly as he could. His regenerated wounds ached terribly in her iron grip. “Sometimes I get so lonely...”

He reached up and stroked her hair. “I know... I’m sorry.”

She pulled back a bit and wiped her eyes with one hand and her nose with another. She reached down and took his hand with yet another of hers. “Come. Sit with me. Talk to me.” She led him towards the great room.

“What about the mess?”

“Don’t worry. Barney gave me some bots.”

Bots? As though that was their cue, five oversized hockey puck/biscuit looking things crawled out from underneath the cabinets. Two of them had big googly eyes stuck on them. Two others had those long spring bug antenna things that the kids loved so much. The fifth sported a cross between a fairy wand and a scorpion tail. Hanna had been busy. The bots set about their work, harassed somewhat by a couple of cats.

They entered the great room and she pointed to the left side of one of the couches. “You used to sit there.”

“Thanks. I don’t remember that.”

“I’ll try to help. Barney said that I might have to take on that job.”

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s what he said.” She looked up at him, and he thought he saw a hint of a smile. She gave him a bit of a push and he fell back on the couch. She sat down in the middle. It was a very long couch. It felt right, but looked different. Reupholstered. There were several bags down at the far end. Yarn?

A black cat hopped into her lap. He wasn’t very large, but he had long fur that made him appear larger. He swished his tail under Hanna’s chin a couple of times as though to say ‘I have a big fluffy tail, aren’t I handsome?’ “Not now, Zatoichi.” She scratched his cheek, then nudged him out of her lap. Two short haired black cats chased each other through the room. She pointed at the one Kevin thought he recognized. “That’s Heracles, the other one is Hermes.”

She picked up a cat toy from the floor and tossed it. She leaned back on the couch and looked him in the eyes. “What did you do in the mornings, most days?”

“No, I... uhh.” He could see her sitting on a barstool in the kitchen, she was telling him something. Coaching him. “Oh! I made breakfast!” In the memory her hair was tousled and she was wearing her robe, looking as though she’d just risen from her bed. But that’s not how it was.

She didn’t need as much sleep as humans did. There were many nights where, in the wee hours of the morning, Hanna would call him back to the Manse and they’d talk until dawn. He knew that sometimes she’d just made love with Jim. But she wanted to talk to Kevin. There were things she felt she couldn’t discuss with Jim.

Kevin, of course, ate up whatever attention Hanna paid to him. He also had things he hadn’t been able to discuss with anyone before. On occasion one might take the other’s hand. Once or twice she literally cried on his shoulder.

But Kevin wasn’t such an asshole that he had thought because she was friendly towards him, it meant she wanted it. She was devoted to Jim, but he was a pacifist. Pairing him with a warrior queen made for quite the odd couple. Sometimes things were a bit strained between them. She’d mentioned more than once that she was glad to have a fellow warrior to talk to.

Jim and I, we were as alike as we were different. Both of us Pisces. Suddenly it’s easy to to understand which fish was dominant in each of us. Oh, dear, there must have been moments when she had trouble telling us apart. Why didn’t I ever see that before now? Oh, right. I had a crush on her.

Hanna, in a sure sign that the universe has a truly weird sense of humor, was created in April. Bloody Aires. He used to joke about that with her. She didn’t seem to mind. He suddenly saw a day in the training room when he’d made some wisecrack about her zodiac personality type. She just stood there, all six hands on her hips (He never understood how she could that. Sometimes her arms were not entirely in this plane of existence.) and said ‘It’s okay for me to be an Aries because I’m so very, very good at being an Aries!’ He’d laughed, of course, but his heart was sore confused.

So many things had happened so fast in the early years. After Linda’s murder he’d gone adrift, bashing his head on an overpass and waking up in another city with no clear idea who he was. He’d bullshitted his way into a stuntpilot’s job when he didn’t even have shoes on, for chrissake. Five seconds after he’d gotten his shit together the war began. Xylarthen freed the Pariah, M’aal’ox found the Shock Team, the Offenders mistook the Revengers for the Fiends Against Goodness and all motherfuckinggoddamn hell broke loose.

He’d been alone for the last four years or so that the team was in action. It was Hanna that kept him on the path through those days of despair. He focused on the job, training long and hard, burning his sadness for energy. But hadn’t there been someone else he’d cared for? Someone he met during the time war? He pushed at the blackness until his head hurt, but he made no progress.

He blinked, and saw the great room again. “Whoops. How long was I gone?”

“About five minutes.”

“Wow. I remember breakfast... and a whole lot of other things.”

Hanna turned towards him and leaned her head on a left hand. “Tell me something.”

“This won’t be the first time we’ve talked through the night.”

Her face softened a bit. “Congratulations. You’re on to the next round.”

Kevin took the time to look at Hanna. She was more relaxed now, and the beginnings of a smile were there. “It’s really good to hear your voice again.”

“Yours, too.”

“Well you know what I’ve been up to lately. May I ask how you spend your time, Fairest Lady Hanna?”

“Ah, chivalry...” She was really smiling now. “The crimson and yellow knight returneth. The password is correct. On to the next round.” She held up a hand to keep him from speaking. “I study and I learn. Many hobbies. I’ve got some black belts, I knit, I’ve taken lots of dance classes over the years, beads, jewelry, metalwork... I’ve studied everything I can about swords, armor, combat...”

“I think I see that.” He waved a hand around the room.

She laughed. “You wouldn’t believe how many costume contests I’ve won!”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Well...” She took a moment to make herself look more conspiratorial. She did look cute when she was naughty. “Barney has gone to great lengths to protect my privacy. Out there I am known only as the top Hanna Barbarian impersonator.”

He needed some time to get his jaw back in place after that one. “I cannot fucking believe you, woman!”

“My costume is so good because according to the blogs, I’m sleeping with entire staff of both ILM and SRL” She chuckled. “Although I hear that Violet Blue is really hot.”

“Who?”

“Another time. Want to know my stage name?”

“Sure.”

“Silken Petra.” And she was overcome with laughter, throwing her head back on the couch and letting loose.

Kevin joined her and it was good. He hadn’t had a good laugh since his mind had returned. “This can only mean one thing.” He tried to look shocked. “You’re Elvis!” Then they couldn’t get the giggles under control for several minutes.

“John was a little tweaked when he heard about it.” Hanna wiped her eyes, still grinning fiercely. “But I was trying to tweak his nose. We hadn’t spoken for months at that point. Lazy sod wouldn’t return my calls.

“So you’re still famous?”

“Sort of... I may just be known as the hot blue chick these days.”

“Barney said that the villains stopped coming. Is that true?”

“Yes. It got quiet very quickly. You became restless. Broody.”

“I was freaked out because I didn’t have a life to go back to. Everyone else had something.”

“I didn’t have a life before the Offenders.”

“I didn’t see it that way because –” He had to bury his head in his hands now. “Ah, fuck! Because you had Jim.” They were quiet for a bit.

The next time she spoke, she wasn’t smiling. “How do you feel?”

“Umm... I feel very crappy about ruining your life, but kinda excited to be back in the Manse.”

“... Acceptable.”

“What exactly was done to me?”

Hanna had to think about this for a while. “Understand first that we aren’t supposed to tell you things, we’re supposed to ask you questions or find other ways to stimulate your recollection. But this doesn’t really fall into the category of memory as you’d already lost your mind.” Here she paused, closing her eyes and massaging her temples. Then she looked at him. “We made sure that you didn’t find it again. Your consciousness was detached from your memory. You were still capable of absorbing information, but remembered nothing from one second to the next.”

“I was really gone, wasn’t I?”

“You have no idea. I saw you once afterwards... It was awful. It wasn’t you... just nothing, worse than dead.” She shuddered. “I couldn’t do that again. I... I saw myself.” She waved a hand in a gesture of helplessness. “I mean, I’m not human – I’m made from a pile of goo! Something... Something Jim did gave me life.” She stopped to sniffle a bit. “I was... made... to respond to him.” Then the tears burst forth, and she buried his head on his shoulder.

After a time Hanna grabbed his right arm with all three of her right hands (and he’d forgotten just how mind-boggling her touch could feel) and pulled herself up so that their faces were but inches apart. “Didn’t you realize that with Jim gone, I believed that there was nothing left to keep me alive? I didn’t sleep for days... I could hear you, down in the training room... screaming.” She let go of him and sagged into the couch. “We locked you in, turned everything off. That might have made things worse, I don’t know. Fear like I could never have imagined.” She looked away from him and laughed an evil laugh. “Me, Hanna Barbarian, afraid!”

“It occurs to me that I have no idea what I put you through.”

“Let’s review, shall we?” Hanna’s voice was sounding very not happy now. “I lost my lover and my dearest friend in the space of a fortnight. Yeah, I had some bad days.”

Kevin sighed. “There’s nothing I can say or do to make up for anything that I have done.” He shook his head. “Dearest friend? Me?”

Her middle right hand reached up and tweaked his nose hard. “You great git! How could you not know that?”

He grunted from the pain, and she let go of his nose... eventually. “I would have been afraid to let myself believe it.”

She made a sound of exasperation and began banging her head on his shoulder. “Sometimes you are more dense than Psychon! And to think I actually missed you!”

Kevin carefully put his hand behind her head and stopped her, holding her forehead to his shoulder. She didn’t resist, she only let out a great sigh of exhaustion. They were silent for a time. He breathed deeply of her scent, and knew that he’d missed her too.

Hanna pushed herself off of him and stood up. She looked down at him, then pointed with all three right arms towards the kitchen. “Memory test! You. Kitchen. Popcorn. NOW!”

Kevin remembered that he used to count how many arms she was using to gauge her level of emphasis. Three arms was of course a direct order and resistance was useless. He rose and bowed his head before marching off to the kitchen. When he reached the door he stopped and looked back over his shoulder. “Do you still have it?”

Her smile returned. “Good man! It’s in the usual spot. So’s everything else, really.”

Popcorn, right. He opened a cabinet near the very large stove. There it was, a smaller cast iron dutch oven of unknown vintage and excellent construction. It made great popcorn. He saw that it was still well seasoned and probably recently used. He put it on the stove and turned the flame high. Now butter, tamari, and nutritional yeast. Oil. Corn. Right.

He started the butter melting and put oil and three kernels of corn in the pot. I haven’t... couldn’t even think about this stuff for years. And now it’s back like it was never gone. That is so weird... what’s different about me?

“I’ll need a bowl...?” He turned and saw Hanna leaning against the door frame. She was subjecting an errant cuticle to a bit of discipline. At first he was confused, and almost asked her again, but then... He looked up. On top of the upper cabinet was a large wooden salad bowl. He reached up, then looked back at her in amazement. “The same one?”

She shrugged, rippling all three sets of arms. “I like popcorn. So far you’re doing very well.”

Pting! Pting! Two kernels went off. Almost time for the rest.

Fifteen minutes later they were back on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a couple of very attentive cats before them. The cats were both gray, sized medium. One had short fur and the other had long fur. Hanna pointed at the short haired one. “That’s Terpsichore, and the other one’s Clio. They like popcorn too.” She threw a few kernels on the floor and the pouncing began.

Hanna put some popcorn in her mouth and chewed. She closed her eyes and made a yummy sound. “That’s it.” She had a bit more before continuing. “You still make the best popcorn. Jim was always so pissed that I preferred yours.” She paused to lick her fingers. “He believed that his mastery of the Cinematic Arts included popcorn, but he just didn’t take it seriously the way you did – do.”

“No one could ever take food as seriously as I do... Although Psychon was always intent on out eating me.”

“He was more competitive with you than he needed to be.”

“Yeah. Never understood that.”

She leaned towards the bowl so that her back was facing him. “Let’s see if I’ve still got it. Incoming!” She flicked a piece of popcorn high and behind. Kevin tilted his head back and opened his mouth. Bullseye.

“Mm hm.”

“Hah!” She leaned back against his shoulder and they munched for a while.
When they were done Hanna put the bowl down on the floor for the cats. Then she looked at him. “Tell me what happened that night... the night I was created.”

His mind could find no footing there. Things were distorted and incomplete. “Umm, I remember the butler walking by with a steaming pile of the stuff. I wondered what he was doing.” Kevin’s left hand was opening and closing, grasping at nothing. “Somebody tripped? The spill made some sort of weird cross-connnection between devices.” He squeezed his forehead, but he couldn’t wring any more out. “Then I vaguely remember something strange happening.”

“That’s all?”

“Well, after that you were trying to rip everybody a new one.” Something didn’t make sense and he looked at her. “You never asked Jim?”

Hanna sighed, a bit sad and disappointed. “No, yes – He kept changing the story to have a bit of fun with me.” She leaned back and looked at him. “You gave Jim all the credit, but you were there too. I think something of you might have been in the mix.” She threw up a couple of hands. “Why else would I feel such a bond with you?”

“Because we’re warriors of incredible talent and beauty?”

Hanna rolled her eyes and moaned. “Your ghastly sense of humor is still intact, I see.”

“It was stored next to the commercial jingles and tv theme songs. Sort of the equivalent of a secret hiding place.”

Hanna didn’t respond. He looked at her and saw that she was sitting next to him in a more upright posture, staring at her hands in her lap. She was thinking about something. “How is it that you come back now?”

He raised his hands, palms up, towards her. He tried to push his wrists up a bit higher. “The Big O gave them back to me. When I first put them on I passed out and was unconscious for twelve hours. After that I woke up knowing my name, but not who I was.” He shrugged and put his hands back down. “Things started coming back to me. I remembered how to change, and after that I remembered a lot more.” He wasn’t going to tell her about the continued fainting spells.

“When?”

“A couple of months or so ago. I’ve lost track of the time.”

Hanna was staring into her lap again. “Close enough to when the restlessness set in.”

“Close enough to when Satin Peter told John that I was coming.”

She whirled around to face him. “He didn’t tell me about that.”

“I don’t suppose he would have. He was pissed when I showed up.”

“Mm.” She looked away. “The Big O... He and I would talk, sometimes.” She shook her head. “When I was waiting for you to come home.”

“He did?” Kevin was hearing it again. The O must have covered everyone. Well, he was right to have done so, wasn’t he?

“He once said that destiny and fate were two different things, and while he’d done what he could for our shared destiny, fate was something that could not be analyzed.”

“He would say something like that.”

“Fate has come for us, hasn’t it?”

Kevin reached out and put his hand her shoulder. “Yes, I think it has.” He tugged on her shoulder a bit and she turned around. “How’s Barney doing? I mean, really.”

She adjusted herself on the couch. “Basically okay, but kind of sad. He’s been the benevolent uncle to me, John, and to you most of all. He’s never found a sweetheart, and that bothers me.”

“Yeah, I’ll agree.”

“And he’s all but adopted some woman who works for him. I haven’t met her, but he swears she’s beyond brilliant, and that her best work is yet to come.”

“Fiona.” Kevin hadn’t meant to say that out loud. He hadn’t meant to say that with such emotion in his voice.

“Oh?” Hanna looked at him, and raised her left eyebrow.

Wow, I’m being ordered around by eyebrows! “Barney asked her to look after me while I was in Britain tracking down John. She came to Houston with us.”

Hanna was not looking too happy. “She knows?”

“She saved my ass when I panicked. Since then, nothing’s fazed her. She’s working on the jet right now.”

Something less than pleasant flickered across her face before she spoke again. “Then I’ll have to meet her.”

Silence returned for a time. Hanna leaned back against him for a moment, then shifted and made a sound of frustration. “I can’t believe you’re just letting me sit here with my armor on!” She pushed herself up off the couch and glanced over her shoulder at him. “I’ll be back.” She disappeared through a darkened doorway.

While she was gone, Kevin took the time to look around the room. Apart from the layer of metal covering the walls the room looked as he (now) remembered it. Dark wood, a few landscape paintings of quality (he never had taken the time to learn the artists), a few antique pieces amongst the armor and modern furniture. The floor was wood with three immense persian rugs covering most of the area. It still felt like home. It was a good feeling, a moment of respite.

Hanna appeared a few minutes later wearing a plain cotton tank style dress in seafoam green, the tasteful kind that managed to show off her figure without really trying to do so. She sat down next to him and slipped under his arm so that it was around her shoulders. She leaned back against him and he could smell the (again) familiar roses and lavender. He took a moment to drink her presence in. She reached over with her lowest right hand and stroked the silver bracelet on his right wrist. She may as well have been touching his skin. In fact, both of them felt that sensation.

“I’d forgotten how they always felt too warm and soft for metal.”

He nodded. “Somehow they are an extension of my body.”

She clicked her fingernails rhythmically on the band and he flinched. She looked at him in surprise. “You’re ticklish there?”

He smiled and covered her hand with his left. “You know I’m ticklish pretty much everywhere.”

Suddenly she twisted around inside his arm so that she could face him. One right hand grabbed him around the waist. Another right hand grabbed his left arm just above the elbow, and the top one grabbed his head behind the left ear. She pulled his face very close to hers. “Kevin...” She was whispering now. “We’ve got to do something about your hair.”

A couple of minutes later they were back in the kitchen. Kevin was seated on a stool, watching Hanna check her edges. When she was satisfied, she took up her six pairs of scissors. She paused for a moment, then shook her head. “No, you wouldn’t have seen that movie.” Then a burst of hair was flying about the kitchen and she was done. She stepped back to admire her work. “Good. Your hair looked so stupid that way.” She produced a mirror from somewhere. “There, see? Now you look like you – needing a shave. This will only take another minute.”

“You mean with straight razors, don’t you?”

Hanna already had one in a hand. She grinned at him and flicked it open. “Silly boy.” She laughed. “Tell you what. For every nick I’ll do fifty pushups.”

“Seems I’m powerless to resist.”

“Damn right, son.” The blades began swishing through the air. He wasn’t really worried. Anyway, if the haircut was an assault, the shave was a massage. Really nice. No nicks, of course. Hanna didn’t wager pushups unless she was certain she wouldn’t have to do any.

“You know, there’s guys that would pay for that sort of thing.”

She was looking at her razors as she cleaned them, smiling. “If the poor fools had the slightest idea of what they were never going to get, they’d be killing themselves in droves.” She smiled again with a bit of tongue sticking out between her teeth. “Sometimes I perform with a latex bald scalp on, just to get the trekkies really hot and bothered.”

“Oh, my.”

“Come, let’s sit down again before your beard comes back.” She yawned. “It must be dreadfully late.”

“No doubt.”

They had almost reached the couch. She looked over her shoulder at him, a bit pensive. “I don’t suppose we have much time left.”

Kevin didn’t answer. He didn’t know what to say. But her face softened and she smiled again. She reached back and grabbed his right hand and pulled it over her shoulder. She faked the beginning of a martial arts throw, then pushed herself back against him and they fell onto the couch. She was to his right again and she wrapped all three of her hands under his arm and gripped his hand, forearm, and biceps. He’d always wondered what that felt like. It felt really, really good.

He didn’t want to bring the topic up, but he felt that he had to. “I remembered Linda today.”

She looked up at him, studying his face. “You’re remarkably calm about it.”

“That’s only because you’re holding my hand.”

She squeezed his biceps, forearm, and hand in a top to bottom sort of ripple that sent shivers up his spine. “What do you remember about her?”

He sighed. “First, I remembered her dying... just inches away from me.” He rubbed his eyes with his left hand. “I remember her hair, her voice, her touch...” His eyes were tearing up now. “A series of chance meetings... I fell truly in love with her before I even knew her last name.” He paused for breath. “Then to find out that she had such... powers. To find out that she had been protecting me... so strange, so intense.”

“She loved you very much.”

Kevin thought that her voice had trailed off in a rather odd way. “I’m sensing a ‘but’ that hasn’t been spoken.”

It was Hanna’s turn to sigh now. “But she came to see it as costing her greatly.”

“Costing... her?”

She looked away from him for a moment, then looked down into her lap, thinking about how to go about this. Then she looked up at him. “She was an Aquarius, you’re a Pisces. That made the two of you the astrological equivalent of matter and antimatter. She confided to me more than once that she felt she was going against her nature to stay with you.” She held up a hand to stop him. “But she also knew that you had a shared destiny. That fate meant for you to be together... She thought you were the one marked for death.”

Kevin was staring at the floor now. “Destiny and fate again... how could she be so wrong about that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe the truth was too much to accept.”

Kevin thought about Linda. She’d taught him so much about life, about loving. She could join her mind with his whenever she wished, melting them together into one cosmically conscious being when they made love. It was incredible. Ecstasy. He knew what it meant to be the Universe and she’d written their names among the stars. He also knew that his memories were nothing but an echo of the real experience, and that he’d never feel anything that good again. How could it be that she didn’t want what they had?

“I’m sorry that I had to tell you something painful.” She leaned her head on his shoulder and whispered now. “I should have told you long ago. I’m sorry.”

“It does help to explain why she would pull back sometimes.”

“You were so naive.” She was quiet for a moment. “I don’t think she was unfaithful to you.”

Now that scared the crap out of him. He hadn’t even considered the possibility. How is it that people do that? Still, he was digressing from matters at hand. What were the matters at hand? Linda... I was powerless to resist her.

“Just remember that she loved you – and that she gave her life for you.”

“For me?”

Hanna twisted around again to face him. “Don’t be so dim! She made her choice. Honor the love you shared.” Hanna was gazing deeply into his eyes. She reached up and put her top right hand behind his left ear. She smiled, mouth open slightly, and pulled his face towards hers. Her lips found his, surprisingly firm at first, but once full contact was made her lips yielded to his as he kissed her back. She ran her tongue across his upper lip and he did likewise with her lower one.

The taste of her warm mouth was indescribable. Not human. Not less than human, beyond human was more accurate. Woman squared – no, cubed! Her tongue forced its’ way inside his mouth, hungrily licking his tongue and teeth. He could feel her passion. It was beyond anything he could have imagined. Such incredible fire. Goddess help me, if she does this a second time I’ll be addicted forever. And still she was kissing him, holding him close. For an instant they were making love. For one bright, shining moment the universe did not exist and all that mattered was being in each other’s arms.

Eventually Hanna drew back, placing several small kisses on his upper, then lower lips. She snuggled up against him. She still had some arms around him, but he’d lost track of which ones. She put her mouth close to his ear and whispered. “Don’t leave me alone again. I need to know that you – my comrade – are somewhere nearby.” She put her head down on his shoulder and began a rapid descent into sleep.

Sunrise. They were still on the couch. Hanna sleeping, all three pairs of arms around him, her head still resting on his shoulder. He had his right arm around her. She was always a bit cooler to the touch than a human woman. It felt good, especially in the eternally hot, humid city.

Really good. He sighed. Enjoy it because it’s as close as you’ll ever get. As if loving her wasn’t forbidden enough in the old days. She’d never be with the guy who killed her man. Hell, I couldn’t do that, either. At least we had a moment to express something meaningful.

He planted a light kiss on the top of her head. She stirred slightly. “How do I like my eggs?”

He smiled. “Sunnyside with lots of crispy bacon.”

“Good Angry Man.”

An Habitual Offender by
Kevin L. Corridon is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.