With Violet Light, Part I

With Violet Light, Part I

Oct 08

Hello! So before we begin, let me tell you a couple things. This story (a mini-sequel to my geek novella One Con Glory) was totally inspired by…well, many things, but most importantly:

1. An amazing online discussion about “male Star Sapphires.”
2. The Grok theme “avatar.”
3. Karen Healey’s desire to see more of the perma-cheerful Layla Lee.

It ran previously in an issue of Grok (as did an additional mini-sequel, “My Epic Win”) and now I’m serializing it here with a few exciting extras. First off, check out that incredible “Jack and Julie do crossplay” illustration by Mr. Paul “Cool Jerk” Horn. So pretty. And as you will see, so key to the story.

Second, I have a little set of Halloween-themed BPAL prototype scents (courtesy of our pal Geek Girl Diva) that I’d like to give away in honor of the story’s launch here on the newly-redesigned Alert Nerd. The scents represent the spookier side of Julie’s hometown (San Francisco), Jack’s current city (Los Angeles), and a couple places in between. They are, like most BPAL scents, quite delicious. To enter the giveaway, just @ me on Twitter with an explanation of your current avatar (yes, in 140 characters or less).

Okay? Okay! Let’s go.

Sarah Kuhn

**

Shit.”

I know I’m going to fall on my ass a millisecond before it actually happens. I’m running, slipping, tripping my way across the apartment when my stupid feet slide out from under me like they’ve been dunked in Crisco and suddenly it’s all, “Oh, hi, hardwood floors, nice to fucking meet you.”

A string of muttered profanities later, I’m popping back up and skidding over to the door and flinging it open and drinking in the sight of a phenomenally cute boy in a ratty Silver Surfer t-shirt.

“Morning, sweetheart,” he says, bright blue eyes dancing with amusement as they take in my beyond-disheveled form. “What’s…going on here?”

I tug the shirt I’ve hastily thrown on over my barely-covered backside and make a fruitless attempt to brush the angry snarl of wet hair out of eyes. “I was, um…getting out of the shower when you knocked,” I stammer. “I thought you were coming…later? Not that I’m not glad you’re here. I just thought I’d have more time to get ready and…”

I trail off as a full-on grin overtakes his face and he steps inside, slipping his arms around my waist, pulling my damp, unkempt form into the irresistible warmth of his body. I melt against him, inhaling the scent of soap and sweat-on-skin, fluttery little sensations blooming in my gut.

“I especially like the part,” he says, lips brushing my hair, “where you’re not wearing pants.”

My face flushes and before I can retort, he scoops me off the ground and into his arms and brings his mouth to mine, hot and sweet and delicious enough to scramble my brain for a few dizzying seconds. “Wait…Jack,” I gasp, desperately trying to maintain coherent thought as my legs wrap around his waist. “I’m not…let me finish getting—”

“Dressed?” His mouth finds a particularly sensitive spot on my neck. “Why?”

I inhale sharply, the fluttery gut sensations morphing into something decidedly more pornographic. “I…don’t have a good answer for that.”

He kicks the apartment door shut and stumbles toward the bedroom with me in his arms, our lips locked together the entire way. “Your bag…” I murmur against his mouth. “…mrpmh…still in the hall…”

“Don’t care,” he breathes as we tumble into bed, a muddle of tangled limbs and half-shed clothes.

I pull back and study him as he makes quick work of the buttons on my shirt. “Hey,” I say softly, reaching up to cup his face in my hands. “Slow down for a second.” I brush my thumbs over the deep, dark circles under his eyes, my brows knitting together with concern. “You look exhausted.”

“Back-to-back 14-hour shooting days.” He undoes the last button and peels off my shirt. “I walked off the set and got in my car and made a break for it.”

What…you drove all the way up here on no sleep?” I place a hand against his chest. “Why would you do that?”

He brushes my still-damp hair off my face, blue eyes giving me that oh-so-earnest look that I’m a total fucking sucker for. “I wanted to see you.”

He kisses me again and all errant worries fall out of my head. I yank his shirt off and skate my fingertips over his back—his beautiful, naked back—then pull him against me, our bodies twining together, all sweat and heat and oh, God, he’s doing that with his tongue that he knows I—

BOOM-BOOM.

We freeze, mid-makeout. I frown in the direction of the front door, which seems to be on the receiving end of a rather thunderous knock. He follows my gaze. “Are you expecting—”

“Shhh.” I press a finger to his lips. “Maybe they’ll go away.”

BOOM. BOOM-BOOM. BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM!!!

“Or not,” I growl through gritted teeth. I reluctantly untangle myself from him, throwing on my discarded shirt and a random pair of shorts.

“Tell them you’re in the middle of…doing something.” Jack grins lazily and leans back against the pillows, hands clasped behind his head, mouth-watering chest on full display. I hear myself whimper a little.

“Don’t move,” I command, stomping into the living room.

I throw open the door and am greeted by the sight of a morose figure clad in a flannel shirt mis-buttoned over a coffee-stained tank. “I haven’t had sex in three days,” she blurts out, her delicate features twisting into a mask of from-the-gut distress. “Um, also…did someone lose a bag?” She proffers Jack’s abandoned duffle.

I let out a slow, supposed-to-be-calming breath. “Layla. You have no idea how not sympathetic I am to you right now.”

Her big, doe eyes fill with tears. “Can I come in? Please?!?”

I snatch the duffle from her and open the door a little wider. “Fine. But this better be seriously epic. Like, Tigh-finds-out-he’s-a-Cylon epic.”

She sweeps in, all long limbs and balletic grace, her off-kilter elegance somehow enhanced by her messy appearance. Then she whirls around, hands shooting out to lock my shoulders in a death grip. “You,” she breathes, still-teary eyes narrowing suspiciously. “You had sex recently.” Her head twists as she wildly scans the room, evoking unpleasant Exorcist-type imagery. “Is Jack here?”

“First of all: ow,” I say, batting ineffectually at her claw-like fingers. “Your Hulk-on-fucking-steroids strength never ceases to amaze me. Second of all: Yes, he is. And I would be having probably amazing sex right now if you hadn’t interrupted. So if you’re making it some kind of bizarre mission to perceive when people last copulated…well, your sexdar is broken.”

“I call it my ‘sex sense,’” she says sagely.

“I like ‘sexdar’ better. Now what, exactly, is so damn important? Because three days isn’t that long for most people and isn’t Mitch out of town for the weekend anyway?”

“Auuuuugggggggh.” With that anguished cry, Layla pirouettes herself onto my rickety couch and slumps over in defeat, deflating like a sad little balloon.

I try for another long, calming breath. Really not working, especially since all I can think of is Jack’s hand stroking its way down my—

“What the frak is wrong with me?” she moans, raking her fingers through her birds’ nest of hair.

I goggle at her. “Excuse me, but did the queen of pop cultural ignorance just correctly use ‘frak’?”

“I think I’ve managed to absorb a fair amount of Bubblestar Galactica terminology from you guys,” she says, eyes focusing and unfocusing as her gaze wanders distractedly around the apartment. She leans back in her seat, looking utterly lost.

And also like she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“Hold on,” I mutter, shuffling back to the bedroom. Jack’s flopped on his side, comforter pulled around him like a makeshift cocoon, his breathing soft and even.

“Oh, no…nononono.” I crouch down next to the bed and he makes a valiant effort to open his droopy eyes a little wider. “It’s Layla with some sort of universe-shattering emergency…but I’m getting rid of her!” I insist, my voice twisting into a cartoon character-like squeak. “Don’t fall asleep! We can still—”

“Mmmm.” His eyes drift closed. “Totally…awake…”

His breathing morphs into soft little snores.

I heave the mightiest of sighs. “Forget universe-shattering,” I say, pressing a gentle kiss to his slumbering brow. “This ‘emergency’ better rock my fuckin’ multiverse.”

**

Layla’s problem comes out in a torrent of sighs and stream-of-consciousness monologuing. But it basically boils down to a single word.

“Braidbeard,” she sighs, her leggy form curled into a little ball next to my coffee table. “Ever since me and Mitch moved in together, he’s over constantly. All hours of the day. And, well…the night. He even has his own toothbrush in our bathroom.”

“That does…suck,” I murmur, casting furtive, longing looks toward the bedroom.

“I love living with Mitch,” she continues. “But I didn’t realize they were, you know…a package deal.” She uncurls herself and sits up, then flops her head onto the coffee table with a dull thunk. “And his presence keeps us from being…intimate. Instead of sex, it’s, like, round-the-clock Braidbeard commentary on why such-and-such ‘pwns’ and why so-and-so ‘suxxors’ and I never know what he’s talking about and when I try to ask, he interrupts me and—”

“Kinda like you just interrupted me?” I mutter, drumming my fingers on the coffee tabletop.

Her brow crinkles. “Julie,” she says, ultra-serious, “this isn’t a very good pep talk.”

“And…since when have I ever claimed to have a talent for at such things?” I narrow my eyes suspiciously. “Are you trying to have…what are you trying to have? Girl talk?”

She lifts her head from the table, her mouth quirking into a hopeful half-smile. “Why not? I mean, usually when we hang out, it’s with the group—with boys. And in that crowd, I’m mostly just ‘Mitch’s Girlfriend.’”

“I don’t think of you that way,” I lie.

“Actually, you do,” she says matter-of-factly. “Y’all are heavy on the comics and action movie ‘biff pow’ talk. Not a lot of, like, sharing.”

I can’t help but roll my eyes. “So it’s time for us to conform to our socially accepted stereotype? Would you like a drink with a little umbrella in it?”

Her smile upgrades to a full-on beam. “Oooooh! Like that show with all the brunch and blowjobs!”

“…Sex and the City?”

“Yes!” She claps her hands together. “Let’s please share like we’re on Sex and the City! I mean, Jules, I know you and Mitch are best friends cause you can blab about Iron Mans and Cyclones—”

“Cylons,” I mutter.

“—’til the cows come home, but don’t you ever just want to talk about relationships and cute dresses and the size of Jack’s—”

Layla.” I shake my head at her, trying to tamp down on my shock. “No. And…I have to say, I don’t think any of that is exactly your thing either? Aren’t you usually more interested in, I don’t know, the latest advances in yoga posing?”

She bites her lip. “I just want to…try it. The girl talk thing.” She cocks her head to the side, doe eyes widening. “Do you have any umbrella drinks?”

“…gah.” I throw up my hands. “Fine. Let’s girl talk and get it over with.” I stalk into my miniscule kitchenette and snag a carton of nearly-expired orange juice, a dusty bottle of vodka, and a pair of plastic cups.

“Here,” I say, marching back into the living room and plunking everything in front of her. “Will this do? I don’t have any umbrellas.”

She holds up a pair of umbrella-like shapes that appear to be constructed from origami paper and twisty pipe-cleaners. “Done,” she says, smiling beatifically.

I can’t help but soften in the face of her impromptu crafting. “Do you just carry that stuff around with you at all times?” I ask, settling in next to her.

“You never know when you’re gonna have a crafts-related emergency,” she says, pouring us both heavy-on-the-vodka drinks.

“Okay,” I say, trying to focus on the task at hand. “So what exactly can we do to get you back on the sex train? Designated date nights? Slutty outfits? Murder?”

She takes a healthy slug of her drink, then reaches over and gently slides my laptop across the coffee table. “I have a plan,” she says, just a bit too enthusiastically. “With your computer savvy and my sex sense, we’ll be unstoppable!”

“I think you need to decide which sex powers this ‘sense’ of yours actually encompasses,” I say, flipping open the computer.

She flaps her hand at the glowing screen. “Log on to Friendspace…”

“Facebook?”

“And go through all your geeky friends and find Braidbeard a girlfriend. A perfect match. Someone else he can spend all his time with.”

I gape at her. “You’re kidding, right? Are we still talking about Braidbeard? The guy who won’t let anyone else get a fucking word in edgewise? Can we revisit my ‘murder’ idea?”

One claw-hand locks onto my right shoulder, ruthless and death grippy. “Julie. Don’t you believe in love now? Love for all? Love for even the most anti-social of…” She jabs her particularly pointy index finger into my arm, emphasizing each syllable. “Mis. An. Thropes.”

Ow. Fine,” I grumble, typing my way over to Facebook. “I’ll play along, but I resent the implication. Braidbeard’s the extreme end of the spectrum: I’m a moderately anti-social misanthrope.”

She peers over my shoulder, guzzling her cocktail as I click through long-forgotten high school friends who won’t leave me alone about their fucking Farm/Mafia/Quiz Where They’ve Learned They Are This One Kind of Snack Food.

“A certain sweet boy brought you down to ‘moderate,’ love,” she says, some of the usual zen-master calm creeping back into her voice. “Speaking of which: is he here for the whole weekend?”

“Yeah,” I say absently, deleting a request to join someone’s zombie horde. “Or at least until tomorrow afternoon.”

“Mmmm. Kind of a drag, that long distance thing.”

“More than kind of…goddammit, why does Kirstie keep ‘suggesting’ I become a ‘fan’ of Red Lobster?” I mime little air-quotes.

She rests her head against my shoulder. “Have you guys discussed…you know, the next step?”

“You mean the one where I block her ass for trying to forcibly induct me into the cult of Cheddar Bay biscuits?”

“I mean the ‘you guys’ that involves the cute boy.”

“Oh.” I scroll back through the middle section of my friends list. “It hasn’t come up. Wait a second… That just might work,” I murmur, lingering on a particular profile.

“What do you mean by ‘hasn’t come up’?”

I tear my eyes away from the screen and frown at her. “Is this also part of the girl talk deal?”

She drains her glass. “Yes.”

“Fine,” I say crossly. I take a deep breath, and toss back a hefty portion of my own drink, gasping a little as the booze burns through my gut.

“‘Hasn’t come up’…means ‘hasn’t come up,’” I say slowly, sounding the words out. “It means we spend every second we can together, but never talk about how it’s a lot of work, given that we live in different cities. It means I try not to think about the fact that he can’t move because of work and the fact that I’ve lived here all my life and am not exactly a creature of change. And it especially means that I’m doing my damndest to resist every single neurotic tendency in my being, because God knows there are a whole hell of a lot of them.”

Layla pours herself another round. “Maybe this is something you guys should, like…talk about?”

“No.” I shake my head vehemently. “He’s so…easygoing. Sweet, like you said. And I’m always the one who freaks out about the stupidest little relationship whatevers and I’m just trying to be…you know, normal. A nice, non-freaking-out girlfriend. Besides, I don’t really think of any of that stuff until he has to leave.”

I stir my drink with my pipe-cleaner umbrella, suddenly mesmerized by the bright orange liquid. “When he’s here, I’m just, um…happy.”

Layla gives me a mushy-faced “awwww” look, then chugs the rest of her second drink. I swivel back to my computer, all business. “Anyway. You might wanna slow down a little. Even Sex and the City girls aren’t much for getting tanked before noon.”

“Which Sex and the City person am I?!” she squeaks. “I’ve never actually seen an episode.”

“Uh, well I guess Charlotte is the most cheerful? The most…idealistic?”

“Oooooh! So I’m a Charlotte.”

I give her slovenly, now-slightly-tipsy form a once-over. “Actually, you’re…none of them. And I think you should keep it that way.” I scoot to the side so she can get a better view of the laptop screen. “So here’s our best Braidbeard date candidate, in my opinion. Jill Sloan. Assistant manager at Comics Bee on Divisadero. Obsessive, cranky, not terribly good at…interacting. With people. In other words, sort of a female Braidbeard?”

“Ah.” Layla squints at the screen, then gestures to Jill’s Facebook icon. “What’s this picture?”

“That,” I say proudly, “is what cinches it. Jill’s current avatar is Jessica Jones from New Avengers. And then we have Braidbeard…” I click over to Braidbeard’s profile and point to his avatar.

“Um?” She frowns, a vision of bewilderment. “That’s…a drawing of…a very muscular African-American gentleman? Who looks nothing like Braidbeard?”

“Luke Cage!” I shriek, punching the air triumphantly. She gives me a blank stare. “Dammit, I need Mitch here to translate. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are one of the coolest couples in the current Marvelverse. A One True Pairing if ever there was one.”

“So…Braidbeard and this random girl are perfect for each other because of the not-quite-accurate way they’ve chosen to represent themselves online?”

I roll my eyes. “If you’ve got any better ideas, please share. If not, we’re taking a little field trip down to Comics Bee.”

“Hmmm,” she says. “I suppose it could work.” She gives me another moony, mushy-faced gaze, a tiny hiccup escaping her lips. “True love does bloom in the strangest places. As you know.”

I throw her a look that’s half exasperation, half affection. “No need to lay it on so thick, Drunky. Let’s go do some recon.”

Read Part II

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