Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chapter 13: Wonderful Is Not the Word

     "Aw, she's so adorable," Kai coos, snuggling little Michell close, "You must be so excited to be a Dad, Junior."

     "Well, the larval stage isn't so much exciting as it is constant exhaustion and a never ending trail of diapers. But, yes, I am excitedly looking forward to her next level up."

     "I know you don't mean that," Kai admonishes his boss, "You've been grinning like a fool since she was born."

     "I did mention the constant exhaustion, right?" Junior replies, but as he gently takes Michell from Kai and sings to her as he cradles her, Kai can see how much he dotes on his little girl.

     The Arsenaults had always been unconventional in how they manage their business, and now that they have a baby to care for, they've been having Kai come to their house for brainstorming sessions and other 'work' outside the office.

     But some work still has to be done in the actual workplace, so Kai gets ready to take his leave mid-afternoon. Junior looks wistfully at him as Kai goes over his project schedule for the rest of the day, clearly wishing he could go into the office for a few hours himself.

     Caryn bounds out of the house and into Junior's arms for a loving goodbye kiss before she leaves with Kai. "Don't forget her next feeding about a half an hour," Caryn reminds him, "Love you!"

     Kai lets her into his SUV, and watches as she waves back at Junior until they've driven out of sight. He smiles at their happiness, and can't help but feel a touch of envy, knowing that while what he has with Alex is beautiful in its own way, it will never be like the cozy family life Caryn and Junior have built for themselves. Would Alex be willing to adopt a child with him? Would they both be considered parents if one was living in another household?



     He and Jillyan had always been so careful about shielding their children from the supernatural world of fairies, dragons and the like. Not that they believed magic was evil, but there was an inherent danger that came with associating with the supernatural world. When they left their past behind, they had hoped to live normal, mundane lives, free of that sphere.

     If he had known, when Kai was asking him about wishes and genies, that the his son's questions were not hypothetical fancies or the plot of a story he was working on, Julian would have been sterner with his warnings about dealing with the occult. While he's relieved and grateful that Kai did not request any wishes be granted, the fact that he chose to release a genie, unbound, onto the world, is a cause for considerable worry. Especially since Kai invited his newly freed friend to live with the family.

     "I'd like to take a sample of your DNA," Julian asks Bahir. Studying the genie's cellular make up would at least be a step toward understanding him, and assessing what level of threat he might present.  That would assuage at least some of Julian's unease at having a supernatural being loving in his home.

     Bahir agrees readily to the request, without fully understanding what DNA is, or what his host might be able to do with it once it is obtained. He owes this family a great debt, and without the power to grant their wishes now that he is free, he knows no way to repay them for their hospitality.

     "If you wouldn't mind indulging my curiosity," Julian says, "When you were in the lamp, did you take on another form? Some kind of gas, perhaps? I'm just trying to grasp the physics of what happens there." MorcuCorp had invested a great deal of time and money investigating the science of magic, believing firmly that even magic must be bound by laws of physics, even if those laws are different from those that govern the mundane. Though Julian's motives are no longer MorcuCorp's, he hasn't lost his drive to understand the world, both mundane and magical.

     "There is no 'inside the lamp', there is only Jinnestan." Bahir answers, "We are made of smokeless fire, but we have form, even in Jinnestan."

     "Interesting," Julian murmurs, "So the lamp is like a portal to another dimension? But you are somehow bound to it? And you are aware of the world directly outside the lamp?"

     "That is correct. I was bound to the lamp, and to the person that summoned me with it. But the lamp is destroyed now, and I am bound to this form, this world, until I die."

     "So you're mortal?" Julian asks, surprised by this revelation.

     "This body is mortal. But the smokeless flame never dies. When this form perishes, I return to Jinnestan."


     Before Julian can carry on with his queries, Bahir asks a question of his own, "You are a traveler between worlds yourself, are you not? You've come here from a different realm."

     Julian's expression hardens. "I am no traveler," he answers, his voice clipped and hard, "My wife and I were drawn here by chance."

     Bahir smiles his most charming smile, and shows his opens hands to his host, "That is indeed a rare occurrence, but I have heard tales of such unexpected journeys," he says, and makes no mention of the great age he senses Julian to possess, or of the magic that lingers around him still, though the effect has greatly faded. It is clear his host hides much behind his frown, and keeps secrets close to his heart. Curiosity was never one of Bahir's faults, however, especially when uncovering what is hidden will bring no advantage, and right now, the genie sees nothing to gain by revealing what more he does know.


     "Hey, Gibson," Kai waves to the hamster, busy running on his wheel, "You're looking a little chubby there, buddy. You need to work that wheel a little harder, maybe."

    "He's actually pregnant," Julian says, joining his son by the cage.


     Kai turns to face his father, "You're kidding, right?"

     "Not at all. My work here has been largely about creating a viable pregnancy in male animals. Hopefully it will lead to new breakthroughs in Sim fertility."

     "Could this work on people, then?" Kai asks, excited by the prospect.

     "That's the goal," Julian responds, "But we haven't done any testing on human subjects yet."

     "What about me, Dad? I'd volunteer!" Kai says, excited at the prospect of having his own child, his and Alex's, together. It still wouldn't be the close family Junior and Caryn have, but having a child with Alex would at least make them some kind of family.

     "Your enthusiasm is commendable, son. But we aren't looking for volunteers at this stage. And there are considerable risks involved."

     "I'm not just volunteering for the sake of science and your research, Dad," Kai explains, "I want this. I want to be a father."  

     "There are other ways having children," Julian suggests.

     "Not for me and Alex!"

     "Actually, there are. This isn't research I've shared publicly, but I can use your DNA, and Alex's, to create a zygote, and grow it into a viable baby right here in the lab."

     "That's, uh, not how you made me, or Dylan, is it?" Kai asks.

     Julian shakes his head, "No, you and your sister were born completely normally," he answers, hoping Kai doesn't have a lot of follow up questions about the procedure, which he, well, Geoffrey, technically, had used to create Pearl, his assassin. "The same procedure was used to create the fetus we've implanted in our male subject. Like Gibson here," Julian continues, accepting the name his son had bestowed on the test hamster.

     Kai rubs his chin thoughtfully, thinking more about the future than wondering about his father's past, "That still sounds kind of cold and clinical, even if it is better than nothing. But I'd really like to carry my own child. And I'm willing to take the risks."

     Gibson the hamster is the fifth test of the new procedure. Three of the previous four trials have been successful, and discussions were already underway for human trials. The Stark Center scientists were eager to make this breakthrough. Their lawyers, however, were worried about the potential flurry of lawsuits should the human trials go wrong in any way. Julian would like to see this done in his own lifetime, and he isn't immortal any longer...

     "I'd want to make sure it would be safe for you," Julian says, as much to himself as to his son, "We are nearly ready for human trials. Let me confer with the other scientists working on this."


     "How would you feel about having a baby with me?" Kai blurts out his question with no preamble, taking Alex completely by surprise.

     "You want to adopt a baby?" Alex asks, "Would you even need me for that?"

     That was exactly the problem Kai had with the idea of adoption in the first place. They'd have a better chance at getting approved for adoption with Kai as a single, but very wealthy and stable parent, rather than trying to adopt as a couple not living in the same household. "I want our child to be our child, Alex. Not just mine," Kai explains, "And my Dad has a way to make that happen. He'd just need a DNA sample from you."

     Alex is so not ready for this. Being a parent was never something he particularly wanted, and he'd always assumed that it was never going to be an issue for him and Kai. Adoption would have been hard enough, with Kai's expectations of Alex's involvement. But this, this is too much, too fast, and Alex would rather a hole opened up under the hot tub and swallowed him than have to deal with this right now.

     Oblivious to Alex's distress, giddy with his growing excitement at the idea of having a family, Kai presses on, pulling Alex close to him. "My father's been doing experiments on male hamsters, making them pregnant. If he lets me volunteer for the human trial, I could be the first man to actually give birth to a baby. Our baby! Isn't that wonderful?"

     Wonderful is not the word Alex would choose. Terrifying, and perhaps just a little nauseating. Why would any man want to go through a pregnancy? Alex cannot begin to fathom it, but it's very obvious that Kai is very fired up at the prospect. "I...guess..." Ales murmurs, non-committal, not wanting to disappoint his lover any more than he already has. 

     Buoyed by his own happiness, Kai takes Alex's wavering as a yes.

     "I love you so much, you know that?" Kai says, and kisses him passionately.

     Alex steels himself against a near overwhelming urge to cry, to steady his shaking hands and get control of himself before he completely melts down under the pressure Kai is bring to bear on him.

     "We are going to be great parents," Kai says, confident, envisioning a bright future as he leans back against the hot tub.

     "Sure, Kai," Alex says, his voice quiet and unsteady despite all his efforts at reigning his anxiety in. He wants Kai to be happy, more than anything, but his own needs for privacy and solitude have been a huge compromise for his lover. The idea of being a parent scares him to the very core of his being, but he can't refuse Kai this, cannot disappoint him again, ask him for yet more compromises on his behalf. Not if he wants to keep him. 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chapter 12: What Would You Wish For?

    "What is your wish, master?"

   That old lamp had been sitting on a shelf with the other treasures his mother had gathered from the sea for as long as Kai could remember, and apparently no one in the family had ever bothered to dust it off in all that time.

     "You're a genie, right?" Kai asks, "Were you aware of what was going on in the house all that time while your lamp was on the shelf? That must have been incredibly...frustrating."


  "It was more entertaining than the thousands of years where my lamp was sitting on the sea floor. I did rather wonder if any of you were ever going to summon me, however. And here, at last, you have. Now, master, what is your wish?"

     "You can just call me Kai," Kai says, "The whole 'master' thing is a bit much for me. So, you really grant wishes?"

     "Your wish is my command," the genie replies with a slight bow.

     "Wow. A real genie," Kai murmurs to himself. He's read a few stories about them, of course, being a fan of fantasy and fairy tales. And so he knows how tricky the business of wishing is. You need to know exactly what you want, and how to word it in a way that won't backfire on you horribly. Magically granted wishes are always completely literal, giving no more and no less than exactly what you've wished for. "Can I take some time to think about this?" Kai asks.

     "Of course master -- Kai," the genie responds, "I am bound to you for all eternity, until you make your wish."

     "I'll try to make it quick, then," Kai says, not wanting to keep the genie bound to him for longer than necessary. "What's your name?"

     "I am Bahir Nejem," the genie says, "I will await you in the lamp. Just rub it when you are ready to make your wish."

     Kai slept on the decision, but awoke with no clear idea of what to wish for. Wealth, health, happiness...he already had those, and his other goals in life, like professional success, would lose meaning if he didn't earn them through his own efforts. 

     "Please don't play with the hamster, Kai," Julian says, glancing up from the report he's writing for the Stark Center, "He's an experimental subject, not a pet."

     "But he's cute," Kai protests, even while putting the hamster, who he's secretly named Gibson, back in his cage. "Can I ask you a question, Dad?"

     Julian stops working to give his son his full attention. 

     "If you could make a wish, and it was guaranteed to come true, what would you wish for?" Kai asks.

     "There are no such guarantees, son," Julian says, "You have to work for what you want in life. Wishing won't make it happen."

     "I know that, Dad. But, hypothetically, if, say, a genie or fairy were to offer you one wish, what would it be."

     "As tempting as that might be, I'd steer clear of anything offered by genies, fairies or any supernatural types. Magic is a force best left alone."

     "Okay, Dad, thanks," Kai hugs his father warmly, not too disappointed with the non-answer he got. His father is a scientist after all, and Kai didn't expect this to go much differently.

     Joining his mother for lunch after her workout, Kai asks her the same question.

     Jillyan sighs wistfully. "There are so many things I'd like to say to my parents. And I know they'd love to meet you and Dylan. My Dad would be so happy, so proud. I guess that's the only thing I regret," she says, "I didn't get to say goodbye."

     His mother had become quite nostalgic since they'd moved to Cape Garner, reminiscing about her childhood and the family she'd left behind. Whenever Kai would ask direct questions about her memories, though, she'd get suddenly vague and dodgy about it. With enough prodding he deduced that her parents were criminals of some kind, and assumed that that was why she and his dad had moved to remote Isla Paradiso to start their own family. But that was all he'd been able to put together; whoever her parents were, they left no trace, no records he could find in any searches.

     "Would you wish to see them again?" he asks her, "To go back home?"

     Jillyan shakes her head, "No, you can't change the past. This is home now. You guys were born here, and it's been a great life. I wouldn't want to do anything that would mess with that."

    Kai leaves his mother with no better ideas than what he got from his father.

    The weather is foul and rainy, and Grizzly's is empty save for the bored bartender when Kai meets up with Alex there.

     After a game of pool and a couple of drinks, the couple head back to Kai's place.

     "If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?" Kai asks him. The only unfulfilled wish Kai had was to have Alex by his side all the time. But there were too many ways for a wish like that backfire, like having Alex with him all the time, but one or both of them miserable, or sick and in need of constant care. He could spend days trying to word the wish, but if he failed to see one possibility, failed to ward off one bad outcome...no, the risk was too high, and Kai would not put his relationship on the line like that.


     "Is this a serious question?" Alex asks him, "Or are we playing a game?"

     "Serious," Kai says, "What would you wish for? It can be anything, anything at all. And it's guaranteed to come true."

     Alex sits quietly, looking at him, pondering. "I'd wish that you were happy. With me, as I am," he finally responds.

     Kai mouth gapes open in shock, "But, I am happy, Alex! I love you. More than anything," he protests.

     "What would you wish for then? To change me, so that I wouldn't be such a loner?" Alex asks, his tone more hurt than accusatory, "I know I disappoint you. And I wish I didn't."

     "Baby, you don't disappoint me," Kai says, getting on his knees to kiss  Alex, "I'm sorry I've made you think that. I wouldn't change what we have for anything. And I would never, ever change anything about you."

     The next day, Kai summons Bahir, ready to release the genie from his obligation.

     "I don't want to wish for anything," Kai declares confidently. "You're free. I release you."

     "That's it?" Bahir asks, "You don't want wealth, or power?"

     "I have wealth. And with power comes great responsibility, which I definitely don't want. I've got everything I want, so, you're free."

     "It doesn't work like that. You have to use your wish."

     "Okay, then, I wish for you to be released from service and to be free to do as you please."

     Bahir rises from the ground, a glowing vapor forming around his ankles, and shining from his eyes and mouth as he intones a chant in his language.

     "Oh, wow, cool," Kai breathes as the magical sparkles twine around his wrists. "So, it's done? You're free?"

     "Unfortunately, no," Bahir answers, "There is still the matter of the lamp. You must destroy it."

The first two steps for destroying the lamp include chilling it in the refrigerator and then heating it in the oven.

     And then the third and final step is bringing it into the town's mausoleum.

     It's a harrowing experience, fraught with danger, and Kai makes a mental note to suggest a mausoleum dungeon to Junior for the game they're working on.

     Once he's back in the safety of his game room at home, Kai summons Bahir for what he hopes will be the final time.

     The mystical chains that bound the genie break apart as he materializes.

     After long centuries imprisoned in the lamp, forced into the service of anyone who summoned him, Bahir is finally free.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chapter 11: Work is Play

     Work is Play. That's both their company motto, and Junior's personal philosophy. And as Junior's direct underling in the creative department of his company, Kai quickly learns that a large portion of his workday is spent in the local arcade with his boss.

    Sometimes the 'work' aspect does seem to get lost in all the 'play', but they do take time to discuss their ideas with each other, hammering out the story arcs and character development of the RPG they want to create as their signature game, one that hopefully become a popular series.

     After a workday spent in the arcade, Kai invites Alex to take a break from writing his novel to join him for a few sets of bowling. But even away from his computer, Alex's head is still in his story.

     "Maybe you should focus more on your game," Kai suggests helpfully.

     "Or maybe I just need a better distraction than bowling?" Alex counters. "Why don't we go back to your place and see what we can come up with?"

     "Oh, hey, before I forget to mention it, my sister and her boyfriend are going to be visiting tomorrow. I was thinking that after work we could all hang out together somewhere?" Kai suggests, interrupting a long, intense kiss.

     "Dylan? And Luther?" Alex sighs, "I think I'm going to have to sit this one out."

     "She's just my sister," Kai says, "I was hoping we could have a double date."

     "I know she's your sister, and that you're close. But, she just makes me nervous. I'm sorry, Kai. I'm really not comfortable with this."

     "It's okay," Kai says, seeing Alex's hands tremble. If Dylan weren't his sister, her exuberance and very direct manner of speaking would very likely intimidate him, too. And while he's made himself get accustomed to Luther for Dylan's sake, if Kai is honest with himself, his sister's boyfriend makes him a little nervous, too. If only for being still unfamiliar. "I shouldn't have asked."

     "I'm glad you care enough to ask me," Alex says, his confidence returning once the danger of the invitation has passed, "And I'm even happier that you understand why I just can't do it."

          Dylan and Luther show up the next day while Kai is at work, and spend the morning by the pool followed by lunch on the patio.

     "It's been so long since I've seen trees like this," Jillyan enthuses, "It's like the town I grew up in. I can't wait to see snow again, too. It's been, like, forever."

     "You never talk about where you came from," Dylan observes.

     "Oh, well, yeah," Jillyan backpedals away from that subject. She and Julian had never told their children about how they came from a completely different universe. Because it would just be weird, and it isn't really something they need to know. "It was boring, and nothing to talk about."

     Dylan accepts the excuse easily and moves on to a new topic. If Kai had been here, his curious nature might have lead to more questions than their parents would have liked, but Dylan is not in the least bit bothered by her mother's reticence to discuss the past.

     "We're actually not going back to Isla Paradiso," Dylan announces, "I brought a box of your personal stuff from the house, but I wasn't sure what to do with the rest of it."

     "Where are you planning on going?" Julian asks.

     Dylan shrugs. "Anywhere. We're going to drift a bit, and then maybe settle down somewhere. A nice beach, somewhere tropical."

     "Isla Paradiso is a nice tropical beach," Julian points out, "What made you decide to leave?"

     Dylan lets out an aggravated sigh, "The tourist board keeps pressuring me to beat up a shark. Since you left, they can only entice tourists with the 'daughter of the woman that beat up a shark', and that's not good enough. So they want me to step up and be you."

     "You could take a shark, easy," Jill says.

     "Jilly, don't encourage our daughter to beat up the wildlife," Julian urges.

     "I probably could," Dylan agrees, "But, I don't really want to. And, anyway, we've seen everything and know everyone on our islands. So, we thought it was time to go check out other islands."

     Luther stays quiet through he conversation, letting Dylan speak for them both, keeping the real reasons for their hasty departure from her parents, as they had agreed before they set out.

     "You could always settle here, near us," Julian suggests, hoping to get both his children nearby.

     "I'm not ready to give up the eternal summers," Dylan laughs, "Enjoy your snow while I surf through winter."

     When Kai returns from work, Dylan heartily congratulates him on finding a career that suits him so well.

     "And how are you and Alex?" she asks, "Is he coming out with us tonight?"

     "He's great," Kai answers, "But he's got a lot of work to do on his novel, so he won't be joining us. I invited Junior to meet up with us, though. You'll like him, he's fun."

     "Oh, yeah? Is he cute?" Dylan gives him a knowing nudge.

     "He's very handsome actually. But he's married. He and his wife just had a baby. And, anyway, I'm happy with Alex," Kai says.

     Kai brought his sister and Luther out to Hullabaloo, the only dance club in Cape Garner, where they met up with Junior, taking the evening off from caring for his new daughter.

     Dylan, Luther and Junior get on well right from the start, chatting and laughing together like they'd all been friends since childhood. Kai is just glad he has the bubble machine's mouthpiece to use as an excuse for his long silences and sparse comments throughout the evening. The noise and strobing lights of the club, luckily empty for the most part, since it's midweek and Cape Garner is not a big partying kind of town, are almost too much for him to take, and as much as he'd love to have Alex with him, Kai is glad he turned down the invitation. 

     The foursome spent the evening giggling around the bubble machine until closing time.

     "I'll understand if you're a little late to the office tomorrow," Junior says to Kai as they prepare to leave, "That is, if I'm not already dead before dawn, myself. I promised Caryn I'd be home before midnight."

     Kai did get one souvenir of his sister's visit to the new family home from the photobooth in the nightclub.

     After Dylan's visit is over, Kai gets to work unpacking the box of mementos she brought with her from their old house in Isla Paradiso. Mostly his mother's collection of shells and treasures she'd found while scuba diving, along with the sea themed tchotchkes she'd picked up in the souvenir shop she used to sell her finds to.

     Kai meticulously cleans the dust off each piece before he places it on the shelf. Dylan had apparently just tossed everything into the box without even looking.


     If it's not obvious by now, Alex suffers from a rather more severe form of social anxiety that Kai. And, for what it's worth, SP has helped fuel this interpretation of Alex's Loner trait by putting him in the Writer self-employed career and having him constantly turn down invitations to go out because SP is pushing him to write his novels. 

    Hilariously enough, after Alex turned down the invite to join Kai and his guests in the nightclub, Kai called to invite Junior and Caryn. Who also said 'something had come up' and they weren't able to make it. Noy long after, though, Junior showed up, with the group thing rotating around his head. And I got a pop up that Junior was now the father of a new daughter. So, apparently, being at the hospital for his daughter's birth was less pressing than hanging out with Kai.

     Foreign guests are supposed to stay for 3 days, but Dylan and Luther always take off on the first night. I had to do 3 separate visits from them because stuff kept screwing up their visit and I got no pictures of any worth until the third visit. Ugh. But at least I finally got mostly what I wanted.

     Dylan and Luther will be moving from IP, probably to Sunlit Tides. I moved the Brannons to Cape Garner using Traveler to change homeworlds, leaving Dylan and Luther behind. I had thought I'd be able to return to IP and make a separate save there with Dylan and Luther carrying on with their lives, but when I tried going back, I was only able to access EDit own mode. It would not let me  choose a household to play, or to move in a new household. So, I'm locked out there. I do have a previous save in IP right before the move to Cape Garner. So, I'll be able to take Dylan, Luther and Biscuit from there and move them somewhere new. I want to ply the Lifeguard career, which Dylan is perfect for. I'll be posting stuff about her life on my Tumblr for the most part.

     I do use a mod that makes genie lamps one of the treasures that can be found in the chests in the dive spots. Jill has picked up a few of them. And since there are stories in The Arabian Nights of genie lamps being found by fisherman in the ocean, I thought it would be fitting to have genie lamps turn up in dive spots.

     In other news, I've also started writing Summerdream again, and recently published a new chapter: