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Death's Dinner Party

"So here we are, at Death's door," Watson said.

Megan crutched up the front steps of the narrow Victorian townhouse.  "Do you really have to roll out the puns?  I'm nervous enough."

"Puns relax everyone," Watson said, shifting aside as Megan gained the porch.

"Why did she pick the name Death anyway?" Megan said a little irritably.

"I suspect she didn't want to be 'Bree' and got tired of being 'Harry'," Watson said.

"'Harry'?" Megan said.

"Big sisters are cruel," Watson said, and rang the doorbell.

Al opened the door, his Apollonian face breaking into a bright smile as he recognized them. "Death!" he shouted over his shoulder. "They came!"

"Of course," Watson said, vaguely indignant. "I said we would."

Al raised an elegant eyebrow. "You've bailed before. C'mon in."

"More of my sister's adventures in action?" Death asked as she arrived in the front hall in time to see Megan maneuvering awkwardly under the low lintel.

"What, you think my adventures are inherently violent?" Watson said, following Megan in.  

"I grew up with you," Death said.  "Do you need to prop it up while you're sitting?"

Megan smiled lopsidedly.  "Yeah, if that's not a problem."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure we can find something to fit the bill around here." Death gave Al a significant look, and he slithered past Megan and hurried down the hall. "We're not far from dinner, so let's get you set up in the dining room."

There were three women standing in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, but Megan didn't have attention to spare for them until she was settled in the large, reinforced chair at the end of the table and Al had brought a burgundy paisley-upholstered ottoman in and helped her get her leg onto it. Then she looked around. Watson was greeting the women with mild familiarity, and they all turned toward Megan when she looked up.

"Megan Amazon," Death said, waving a hand in the appropriate directions while she fussed with something at the vast mahogany sideboard. "Denny Silver, Vivian Chen, and Mack Janetsdottir."

Mack reached her first, a big, square, sixty-something white woman with short iron-gray hair, a weather-worn face of wrinkles, and a firm handshake. "We've been seeing your name in the papers," she said in exactly the rough, butch tones Megan had expected. "You do good work, kiddo."

"Thanks," Megan said.

Denny was an androgynous white woman who might be in her thirties, forties, or fifties, face smooth of most wrinkles and her short dark hair just starting to show threads of silver. She wore well-tailored grey trousers, a white men's dress shirt, and a patchwork vest made from sari material. "Yes, definitely," she said as she shook Megan's hand, then gestured down at the cast. "A badge of honor."

"Heh, well," Megan said, rubbing the back of her head with her left hand. "I'm not so sure about that."

"Pish, and also tosh," said Vivian, a curvy Asian high femme in a sequined little black dress and purple-toned eyeshadow and nails that highlighted one lock of her short black hair that was also purple. Her handshake was warm and thorough. "Still, I admire modesty." Megan was too distracted by everything else about Vivian to try to guess her age.

"Food!" Diarmid bellowed from the kitchen. He emerged, wearing pretty much what Megan saw him wearing before except that this apron read "Kiss the Cook or Make Him Cry." He was carrying a giant platter full of a large roasted bird of some sort -- Megan thought it was too small to be a turkey and too big to be a chicken. This was set at the head of the table, and then he hurried back out, returning moments later with a vat of mashed potatoes. Al followed with a heaping bowl of salad greens and pecans and goat cheese. Diarmid cycled back to the kitchen and appeared again with a bowl of steaming green beans.

Everyone settled down at the table, Watson at Megan's right and Vivian at Megan's left, Mack beyond Watson and Denny beyond Vivian. Death sat at the head of the table, Al on her left and Diarmid on her right.

"We don't say grace or anything in this house," Death said, brandishing a large, undoubtedly sharp knife and a large metal fork. "But it is the weekend of Beltane, so let's all think sexy thoughts or something while we eat."

"Mm, food and sex!" Mack said. "My favorite conflation."

"Better than Death and taxes," Watson said.

Death smiled at her mirthlessly and began carving the bird. Just a little vengefully.

"So, um, what do you all do?" Megan said politely to the trio of unknowns as they waited for the food to start getting passed their way.

"I'm a locksmith," Vivian said. At Megan's glance down at her remarkably sparkly fingernails, she grinned. "I have to take the polish off when I work," she said, mock-mournfully. "For some reason, people don't take me as seriously as they ought to. Besides, they chip like a chipping thing." She passed a hand over the shoulder of Denny, who was distracted by mashed potatoes. "She's a professor of high-energy physics at Wonder City U."

"I am, possibly predictably, a professor of women's studies," Mack said, winking at Vivian, "at the same eminent institution. And an anthropologist."

"Oh," Megan said.

"How about you?" Vivian said, serving herself salad.

"I'm, um, still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up," Megan said sheepishly.

"Meanwhile, she's doing construction gofering," Watson said.

"Thanks," Megan said to Watson through slightly clenched teeth.

"No prob," Watson said, clearly delighted with her self-appointed role as cattle-prod to the guests.

"Well, you gotta keep body and soul together, right?" Mack said, grinning in a way that threw all the lines of her face into relief. "I painted houses all through college and grad school, when I wasn't off in exotic places studying exotic brown people like everyone wanted me to. It was good money, and it was completely different from writing my dissertation."

"Where did you do your diss work?" Megan asked, mostly politely.

"Palau," Mack said. "In a tent on the beach."

"Sounds nice," Megan said.

"Can't get that kind of gig these days," Mack said, a little mournfully. "But, you know, you really couldn't back then either," she added cryptically. "So I do women's studies instead. I like the people."

"Neat," Megan said, at a loss for anything else to say. Fortunately, the parade of food came through. In a few moments, she had a heaping mound of buttered mashed potatoes, balsamic-dressed salad, green beans in lemon and parsley, herbed chestnut stuffing, and dark, juicy slices of poultry meat. She took a forkful of the meat and exclaimed, "This is fabulous! What type of bird is it?"

"Goose," Diarmid said, working on his salad. "And thanks, it's my grandmother's recipe."

"Except she usually made it for Christmas," Death said, adding pepper to her green beans. "I persuaded him that it fit any time of year."

"I save it for holidays, though," Diarmid said, leaning over to give Death a peck on the lips.

"So, Watson," Denny said, breaking the silent feeding frenzy that had ensued. "Death tells us you were behind that big newspaper splash about the serial killer."

Watson shrugged, slicing her meat into smaller-than-bite-size pieces. "It was just a bit of research."

"Aw, c'mon," Vivian said, "it's got to be more than that."

"Have the police confirmed that the camera kid was the serial killer?" Mack asked. "And not the TV kid? Or someone else?"

Watson shrugged. "They went to the cameraman's apartment and found quite a panoply of evidence. Maps of the city with certain areas highlighted. A scrapbook of newspaper articles and prints of blog entries about him. Most incriminatingly, a lockbox with items taken from the victims."

"'Items'?" Al said, his voice a little strained.

"Some of them were jewelry, like Yanaye Smallwood's missing locket," Watson said, "or the Steel Man's grandfather's watch. Others were... fragments. Like Dani Williams' false fingernail with the rhinestone set in it. Nothing entirely gruesome, like body parts, but certainly souvenirs. And I'm pretty certain they'll find that the things they couldn't identify from here will be found to belong to the Pittsburgh victims."

"Wow," Vivian said.

"What was the killer's name, anyway?" Denny said. "I haven't seen it yet."

At the other end of the table, Megan saw Death and Diarmid exchange an unreadable glance.

Watson fiddled with her wine glass, smiling mirthlessly, for a moment. Then she said, "You know, I'd rather not say." She looked up and glanced around at everyone at the table. "People get so hung up on the killer's name, and we tend to forget the victims' names in all the mess."

There was a bit of an awkward silence, but Mack nodded and turned to Watson, extending her hand. Watson blinked at the hand in surprise, then slowly took it. Mack shook her hand firmly, then turned back to dinner, changing the subject by asking Death how business was doing.

It took Megan most of dinner to understand from both comments dropped in conversation and body language that Denny, Vivian, and Mack were a threesome like Death and her boys. Well, actually, Megan corrected herself, not at all like Death and her boys. Because there was a vibe to Death's relationship where both Diarmid and Al were clearly lower on the power pyramid than Death herself. With the three women, there was a playful, familiar back-and-forth that had nothing to do with their relative ages (Vivian was possibly younger than Denny, who was clearly younger than Mack) nor the butch/femme/whatever dynamic.

Megan also noticed Watson watching everyone at the table. She could almost see the gears turning in Watson's head, snapping everything into pattern after pattern faster than lightning, finding the most likely ones and rejecting the others in ways that made her seem almost telepathic sometimes.

Death was keeping an eye on Watson too. Megan thought that Watson would have been a very hard older sister to have.

Dinner was a lovely thing, but Megan was drooping by the end of it, unable to do justice to the cherry and apple pies Denny had baked, or even to the chocolate shortbread Vivian and Mack had made. Her leg was throbbing, and she was thinking fondly of the bottle of painkillers she'd confidently left on her nightstand.

"I'm sorry, folks," she said, crutching back from the bathroom, which had been an exercise in cramming herself into a very small space in order to pee. "I think I'm just done for the night."

Watson stood up instantly, laying a hand on her arm. "I'm sorry, hon. I should've noticed you were wearing down. Did you remember your meds?"

"No, and that's one of the problems," Megan said, grinning sheepishly at the solicitous group who were all getting up and gathering around. "I guess it's true that the narcotics make you stupid."

Everyone was gratifyingly kind and concerned, and shook her hand and Watson's. "Let me know if you need a cane or something made to size," Diarmid added.

"Well, I'm glad you made it," Death said, trailing after them into the foyer. When Watson turned to her, she said, seriously, "Really glad."

Watson seemed taken aback by this, but got her face under control quickly. "I'm glad we came," she said.

"So am I," Megan said.

"Come over again soon, huh?" Death said, looking at them over the edge of her glasses and smiling.

"Yeah," Watson said. "Yeah, we will."

The sisters looked at each other for a long moment.

Megan nudged Watson forward with her elbow, and Watson, to her credit, did go ahead and hug Death. It was kind of cute, Megan thought, the way Death's eyes got so big at the gesture.

Once the two of them were safely ensconced in Zoltan's VW bus, the Divine Sarah, Megan said, "You two," in a tone of disbelief.

"What?" Watson said, skillfully guiding the van along back streets toward Marigold Lane. "I hugged her, didn't I?"

"When was the last time you hugged her?" Megan said, trying to stay chatty and ignore the sharp stabs of burning pain she got with every jar of the car.

Watson thought a moment. "Our parents' funeral."

Megan let that sit in silence for a moment, then said, "I'm sorry."

"No," Watson said. "You have a point."

They pulled into the driveway, and Watson stopped to help Megan out, rather than wrangling with the garage. Both of them frowned to hear raised voices from the garden, and hurried that way.

"Is there something wrong with your hearing?" G was almost-shouting. "I said no. And I also asked you to get out of here. Do I have to get the police to eject you?"

They came around the corner of the house and found G in her shirtsleeves and jeans, tending a sizable fire in the fire pit, a sooty poker in one hand. There was a cardboard box on the ground next to her, and Megan noticed the corner of a frilly blue curtain hanging out of it. G was addressing a young white man in a polo shirt and khakis, his dishwater blond crewcut mussed by his hand running through it repeatedly.

Zoltan was standing in the shadows on the back porch, watching.

"I'm just asking for... for a little something," Dr. Insight said more than a little desperately. "That little locket she wore. Anything."

"And I said no," G said. "There's no locket, by the way. Nothing she wore was real. Like her."

"She was real!" he shouted. "Stop saying she wasn't!"

G very deliberately set the poker pointfirst in the ground and stepped up to him. "I'm going to say this very slowly. She was a ghost. She wasn't a full person. She was a piece of a person left over after a terrible crime."

Dr. Insight ground his teeth audibly. "Gwen was a person!"

G flushed brick-red with rage. "Don't you get it? That wasn't even her name. IT'S MY GODDAMN NAME THAT SHE STOLE."

Dr. Insight reeled back a few steps. G advanced.

"She stole my name," G said, her voice dropped to a growl. "She stole my body. She stole my apartment. She lost me my girlfriend, and nearly lost me my job. She was a crazy shred of a person, a parasite that tried to kill me and take everything that was mine." She poked him in the chest with one finger. "Nothing that she brought into my home leaves it except to burn. Nothing. Because the Meteor you knew was a thief and a would-be murderer and doesn't deserve to have anything left of her."

Dr. Insight took another step back, then turned and started to walk out of the yard. He came up short when he saw Megan and Watson. He hesitated a long moment, then started to turn back to G.

G watched him for a moment, her lips pressed together tightly, but when he opened his mouth to speak, she said, voice harsh in her throat, "And you were a lousy fuck."

He went stark white, then his eyes opened wide in horror. Dr. Insight turned and ran out of the garden.

G watched him go, then looked at Megan and Watson. Megan remembered to shut her mouth.

Watson said, elaborately casual, "Want a hand?"

G shook her head. "This is something I need to do."

Watson nodded. "Come up for a drink after," she said, then turned and guided Megan back to the front of the house.

They watched Dr. Insight's car cannoning up the lane, and Megan said, in a low voice, "Can someone even apologize for something like that?"

Watson shook her head and shrugged.


Note from the Author:

I'm late, but, um, better late than never?

Remember to vote for WCS!

Date: 2011-11-11 07:29 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
OMG G <3333333

And the three Lesbian fates at the dinner! And Watson and her sis! And yeah, I got sick of when he plea-bargained up here, everyone was all RIDGWAY RIDGWAY RIDGWAY and you barely heard about the women he killed. Ugh.

Date: 2011-11-11 07:07 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
I'm actually working on an interlude now about Death and Watson as kids. I hope it'll be fun backstory. :)

Date: 2011-11-11 07:50 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Watson as a child....AHAHAHA. Oh, I would love to see that.

Date: 2012-01-29 12:42 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
ohmygod the FATES. I didn't even GET that. *starstruck*

Date: 2012-01-29 02:06 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
My name is Moira which means "fate" in ancient Greek (it was my nickname for a while!) so I'm always on the lookout for references to My Girls. :-)

Date: 2011-11-11 12:59 pm (UTC)
akycha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akycha

I feel a lot sorrier for G than for Dr. Insight, who is an idiot, but it must be horrible to discover that you're an accessory to rape.

Date: 2011-11-11 07:07 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Dr. I is a serious idiot, but I do feel at least a bit sorry for the poor sap.

Date: 2012-01-29 12:45 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Poor, poor G. And I do feel bad for Dr. I. He was definitely misled in this case.

And one thing I noticed earlier that makes me really happy is that when someone's white, you go ahead and say that they're white (i.e. sixty-something white woman). That kind of decentering, it NEVER happens in stories and it pisses me off. You get stuff like, "a red-haired woman, a tall, hawk-nosed man, and a wiry black man." and you're like... what about the first two?

So it's a subtle thing, but it's really great that you don't do that in your story. (And I'm aware that that's probably deliberate, but I want you to know that it's working)


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