With Violet Light, Part IIOct 15
Welcome back, friends! You all read Part I, yes? If not, go do that.
Now! Let us once again gaze upon the beauty of Paul “Cool Jerk” Horn’s crazily amazing illustration as we read—this is the week where it truly becomes a central piece of the story.
A note before we launch into Part II: though this is the official One Con Glory sequel, I also wrote a little bridge story that takes place between the book and “With Violet Light.” It’s all about the idea of retcon, the importance of saying a certain handful of words to someone when you feel a certain way, and the secret behind “Men’s Pocky.” For reals. You can read it in this issue of Grok.
Okay. Back to Julie.
“But we’re Facebook friends.” I try to affect a beseeching sort of look, but it has little to no effect on the tiny, blonde wall of hostility in front of me.
She shrugs. “I have 3,747 connections on the FB. I am not acquainted with most of them personally.” She returns to shelving Invincible Iron Man hardcovers, her three-sizes too big Green Lantern shirt hanging precariously off her spindly frame.
“But you added me,” I whine, crossing my arms over my chest. Jesus. I’m about two seconds away from stamping my foot, a la Jubilee on a fireworks-fueled tantrum.
There’s that shrug again. “You probably have Comics Bee as one of your fan pages, right? I make a point of adding everyone on there. Encourages excellent customer relations.”
“I can see how that would be very…effective,” I say, fighting like mad to keep the sarcasm from leaking into my voice. “But I’m a regular here. We’ve had actual conversations. I explained my theory on why Nova could totally beat Hulk in a fight and you agreed with me.”
She pauses, cocking her head to the side, affecting the appearance of a freckle-faced robot scanning her way through all of her past human interactions. I can practically see bits of 11001110 data flying through her brain. “That’s hardly a unique theory,” she finally says. “I’ve had that conversation at least 67.5 times.”
“I was interrupted one of those times by a pressing back issue mis-numbering fiasco. Hours of my life gone, thanks to incompetent help.” She shakes her head and her insolent little ponytail wags back and forth. “Like I said,” she says, popping the last hardcover into place on the shelf, “I don’t know you. I don’t know your friend and I have no interest in meeting him. Good-bye.”
“Gah.” I turn on my heel and stomp across the Comics Bee’s rather spacious quarters to Layla. She’s perched on the counter, chatting easily with the cute, spiky-haired guy manning the register—Evan Chang, the shop’s other assistant manager.
“Ah, Julie,” he says, eyes sparkling with amusement. “Am I hearing this right? Are you really trying to hook Bitchy McContinuityNazi up with a boyfriend?”
“It’s all for her,” I grumble, inclining my head towards Layla.
“So she says,” says Evan, brushing a stray piece of lint off his form-fitting—and strangely logo-free—black t-shirt. “I must say: I was hoping you’d stopped by on a non-Wednesday so we could continue our ongoing debate over the series finale of Battlestar Galactica.”
I shrug. “You won’t admit that it was seriously epic, so…”
He smirks a little. “If ‘epic’ means ‘shoddily slapped-together and fueled by someone’s hallucinogen-spiked spirit quest,’ then I’m with ya. Anyway, I actually think I can help with your little love quest.” He leans forward conspiratorially, a grin spreading over his impish face. “We’re having a signing tonight—Terry Temperton, local guy. Writes and draws Angst Sundae?”
“I know it,” I say. “Black and white, heavy inks? Lots of people feeling all their feelings?”
“Affirmative,” says Evan. “As you might imagine, Jill hates that stuff. But she’s being forced to work the event and will basically be drowning me in her misery the entire live long night. If someone were to bring her a like-minded, superhero-loving geek to talk to, I bet she’d be eternally grateful. Well, sort of. ‘Grateful’ looks different on Jill than it does on normal people.”
“That’s perfect!” Layla shrieks.
“I’d be happy to provide the introductions and engage them in sexily scintillating conversation, just to get the ball rolling,” he continues. “And if this somehow results in Jill being in love and out of my hair…well, I’ll be eternally grateful.”
Layla rubs her hands together with glee. “I can already see the nerd-sparks flying!”
“Be here at 7,” says Evan. “Oh, and Julie: While I admire your dedication to geek-centric romance, Layla tells me you just left a gorgeous, half-naked man all alone in your apartment.” He shakes his head disapprovingly. “Priorities, woman.”
“Yeah, a dead asleep, gorgeous, half-naked man. And I left him a note…wait a second.” I raise an eyebrow at Layla. “How do you know about the half-naked part?”
She has the good grace to blush. “I’m sexually-deprived and your bedroom door was a little bit open,” she blurts out. “I might’ve sneaked a peek while you were in the bathroom.” She blinks at me, all Bambi-esque innocence. “And, um…damn, Jules. That chest belongs in a museum somewhere.”
Evan’s eyes widen with interest. “Did you take a picture?”
“No!” Layla crosses her arms over her chest, trying for “indignant.” It only lasts a few seconds. “Okay…yes,” she admits, shooting me a guilty look.
“Layla…” I sputter.
“I’m an artist!” she says defensively. “It’s my duty to capture beauty wherever I see it.”
“Maybe try seeing it in naked people who aren’t my boyfriend,” I grumble.
“This is, by far, the girliest conversation the Comics Bee has ever played host to,” Evan says bemusedly.
“Oooooh!” Layla turns to him, the very picture of puppy-like eagerness. “So I guess I’m a Charlotte. But which one is Julie?!”
He studies me thoughtfully. “Miranda.”
I plant my hands on my hips. “And Jack keeps trying to stick me with the Emma Frost label. Why am I always the bitchy one?”
Evan and Layla exchange an all-too-knowing look. “Well,” says Evan, “if the white pleather bustier fits…”
Jack is still dead to the world when I return home. As usual, he’s somehow managed to annex the entire bed territory in his sleep, one arm flopping haphazardly over what’s supposed to be my pillow, legs entangled in the clump of bedding, drool pooling next to his half-open mouth.
I think he’s maybe the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
I ease myself onto the two square inches of mattress that aren’t taken up by his fully-sprawled form and gently brush his sleep-matted hair off of his face. “Hey,” I whisper. “Sleeping Beauty. You’re snoring your entire visit away.”
I move in closer, resting my head on top of his pillow-stealing arm. “Come on,” I say, raising my voice a tiny bit. “Otherwise I’m just gonna watch you while you sleep. In a totally creepy way. And darling—” I press my forehead to his and affect a terrible Transylvanian accent. “Your neck smells like freesia.”
“Mrph.” One eye pops open. “You actually read those books?” he asks, voice husky with sleep.
I bring my index finger to my lips. “I’ll never tell. ”
He lets loose with a mighty yawn, his features eventually resolving themselves into a lopsided grin. “Hi,” he says, all lazy warmth, his half-lidded eyes slowly taking me in. I brush my fingertips down his cheek, studying the angular planes of his face. I feel my entire body relax—happy to be so close to him, surrounded by quiet and soft sheets and a glorious lack of distractions.
“I wish it could be like this every day,” I murmur.
He studies me intently, suddenly looking a bit more awake.
“Right, right, as soon as they finally invent that Trekkian transporter machine.” I cup his face in my hands. “You look better. More rested. But, you know…you don’t…when you’re wiped like this, we don’t have to do the weekend visit thing. I don’t want you to feel obligated.”
“Seriously? ‘Obligated?’” He raises an eyebrow, trying to keep things light. But hurt flashes over his face, his eyes clouding over. “That’s, uh…romantic.”
“Sorry…I’m sorry.” I bite my lip. “That’s not what I…anyway.” I plaster a bright, hopeful smile across my face, racking my brain for a quick fix. “I’m trying to get better at…girly stuff.” I sit up in bed and hold my hands out in exaggerated “I am about to give an amazing presentation” style.
“For instance!” I exclaim, a little too excitedly. “I never mark things on the calendar—never! But I’ve made note of July 17—a mere month from now—in permanent ink and do you know why?”
He props himself up on an elbow and looks at me quizzically.
“July 17: GinormoCon! Our anniversary!” I grin triumphantly. “Or, uh…the anniversary of the first time we…you know.”
A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth, the humor returning to his eyes. He sits up and runs his fingers through my unruly mop of hair, smoothing out errant tangles. “And the second time,” he says, leaning in to feather kisses along the line of my jaw. “And the third. And—”
“Okay, okay,” I say, my neck going all goose-bumpy. “Does that still count? As our anniversary?”
He pulls back and locks his eyes with mine. “Yes.”
My face flushes with pleasure. “So certain! How do you always just…know these things?”
“Romantic things…love things…oh my God.” My eyes widen, realization dawning. “You’re totally a Star Sapphire.”
His lips twitch. “Baby…”
I sit up very straight, not really hearing him, my brain hooking into the meat of my thesis with ruthless, single-minded intent. “You always know how to be all direct and no-bullshit and somehow it’s the most romantic fucking thing ever,” I say. “All you need is a power ring and a super-boobsy pink spandex costume…er, sorry, violet costume, except those outfits always look pink to me, and then you can properly display your, um, love power.”
He cocks a teasing eyebrow, a wicked grin spreading over his face. “I’m pretty sure my…love power is on display right now.”
I blush, heat creeping up the back of my neck. “Yes, I can, um…feel that. But this is serious!” I clasp my hands together, and look at him pleadingly.
“I want to forsake my rageful Red Lantern ways!” I insist, my voice taking on a desperate, shrieky quality—like Black Canary and Siryn on a combined scream bender. “Teach me the way of the Star Sapphire! Teach me how to be chill and romantic and…and…love powerful!”
Unable to hold back any longer, he bursts out laughing, then gathers me against him and presses his lips to my forehead. “I’ll teach you tonight,” he says. “I made a reservation at Dante’s and then I was thinking we could take a walk by the waterfront—”
He frowns, brows knitting together. “Crap. That’s way touristy, isn’t it? Okay. New plan: your busted living room couch, Thai take-out from that place around the corner, and Shaun of the Dead on repeat.” His lips brush my earlobe. “Clothing optional.”
“That sounds…perfect,” I murmur, leaning into him. “But we sort of have to go to this party tonight.”
He pulls back, his face slowly falling. “Party…?” he says, trying to mask his disappointment. “Like, on our only night together? Like, with people who aren’t you and me?” He frowns skeptically. “Is the fate of the world somehow dependent on us attending this party? Because otherwise, I can’t see how it’s worth it.”
“Not the fate of the world, exactly, but the fate of…something.” I quickly fill him in on Layla and her Braidbeard-contingent sex quest.
“Luckily,” I conclude, “we’ve got Evan in our corner. And unlike the vast majority of nerds, he’s pretty savvy when it comes to interpersonal relations.”
“Evan…have you told me about Evan?” Jack asks, fingertips idly tracing my collarbone.
“He’s kind of a new friend,” I say. “Basically, the very model of an opinionated-yet-non-judgmental comics shop guy. Even if he is wrong about BSG.”
“Ah.” He nods absently and I notice that he still looks more than a little bit tired.
“We won’t stay long,” I say quickly. “I just need to set up this potentially vomit-inducing love connection. Then we can come back here and hang out.” I lean in, brushing my lips over his neck, feeling the rhythm of his pulse quicken. “In a…clothing optional environment.”
“Just not sure about the comics shop…thing,” he says, his breathing going uneven as my mouth grazes his ear. “With all the, um…fans?”
I pull back, my lips curving into a bemused half-smile. “Afraid of being mobbed, R-Pattz style? Aren’t we cocky.” I clap my hands over my heart and flutter my eyelashes, mock-swoony.
“OooOOOoooh!” I chirp, pitching my voice several octaves higher than necessary. “Is that Jack Camden?! I totally have his last Tiger Beat pin-up in my locker! OH-EM-GEE SQUEEEEEEEE!!!”
“Stop that!” he says, doing his best to look stern. The effect is ruined by the sheepish grin playing around the corners of his mouth. “It’s a valid concern.”
“Relax, heartthrob.” I ruffle his hair affectionately. “This isn’t your crowd. Super-indie. Most of them can recite the entire oeuvre of Chris Ware, but would never admit to owning a TV set.”
“You have such a…unique way of putting things, Red Lantern,” he says, the grin finally overtaking his entire face. “Forget about the love power—I think you’re pretty perfect as-is.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Neurotic?”
He kisses the inside of my wrist. “Sensitive.”
Pressing his fingertips to my shoulders, he eases me onto my back. “Passionate.”
“Temperamental to the point of psychosis?”
He slips warm, gentle hands under my t-shirt. “Well…yes. But I find that kind of hot.”
“Perv,” I say softly, biting my lip in a useless attempt to stop smiling. His mouth drifts over my neck and finds that sensitive spot, sending little shivers coursing through my nervous system.
“Mmmm…” I sigh. “See, this right here…very Star Sapphire-y.”
He grins, clever fingers sliding up my back to unhook my bra. “I do look good in pink spandex.”