The Twisted Skein

2009 -- Epidemic

"I can't believe you're getting married too, now."

Steve laughed at his ex-partner's expression. "You started a trend, you know," he said. "It was less than a year after you ran off that Dassie and Nyx finally tied the knot, and now me and Tango..."

"I know!" Constance exclaimed. "Who's next, eh? Is Elanor finally going to get that Mortic to settle down? I don't hold out much hope for Ontic - or Selene, not after what happened," she added, naming Dafydd's old partner, "but... well, honestly. It's like an epidemic."

"You certainly seem to be enjoying it," Steve replied, glancing at Constance's bulging abdomen. "Your second, isn't it?"

"That's right," Constance confirmed. "Dafydd's looking after Tanfin while I'm here in HQ, though to be honest he doesn't need that much looking after. He's got a lot of his father about him. I'm hoping this little one will be a bit more human when she gets here, which should be a couple of months from now."

"Tango's already saying she wants at least two," Steve told her glumly. "I mean, think about it - me, with children? That's not right."

Constance laughed. "Oh, you'll be a good daddy, Steve," she said. "You can give them piggybacks, treat them to ice cream, confuse them with your occasional accent..."

Steve stuck his tongue out. "Hush it, you." He shook his head slowly. "I dunno... it's a big step, you know? I didn't exactly have a normal childhood myself, and... well, Tang's from a different universe, it's quite a big cultural divide. And maybe even physical," he added, "I don't even know if we can have children."

Constance blinked. "You haven't...?"

"I meant genetically," Steve said, rolling his eyes. "You've seen her hair, and Narto's - he was from her world, too. Her cousin had naturally blue hair. She's already told me that we're going to stick to their naming conventions for our children's surnames, but I don't even know if it'll get that far."

Constance watched her former partner carefully. "And have you told her about this?" she asked. Steve sighed.

"Not yet," he admitted. "I keep meaning to bring it up, but she's so-- ow! What was that for?" He reached up and touched his now-aching ear.

"You're an idiot," Constance told him sternly. "Steve, if you're worried about this, you need to let Tango know."

"I'm going to," Steve muttered. "You didn't have to hit me, Con."

"No, I didn't," Constance agreed, "but I did it anyway. I-"

She stopped at a chirrup from the windowsill, and Steve turned to see a tiny golden dragon, about a foot and a half long, perched there watching him. Constance crossed the floor and knelt in front of it, arm out, and the creature hopped onto her forearm. "What've we got here, then?" she asked, plucking a small capsule from the creature's leg and unscrewing it to reveal a strip of paper. "'I need you back right away. D'. You could at least tell me why..." Sighing, she straightened up and turned back, idly stroking the creature with one hand. "I have to go," she said.

Steve stared. "What is that thing?" he asked.

Constance blinked. "Hera? She's a fire lizard. Have you never been to Pern?"

Steve shook his head slowly. "Does she... bite? Or, y'know, breathe fire?"

"Not often," Constance said cheerfully. "I'd introduce you, but apparently my husband needs me urgently, for some undefined reason. So I'll see you at the wedding, yes?"

"Well, I'll be there," Steve said, "so if you're still coming..."

"We're coming," Constance agreed. "I'll bring Hera with me so you two can get to know each other. And, Steve?" The black-haired woman looked at him seriously. "Tell her. She has a right to know."

Steve sighed. "All right, Constance," he replied. "See you soon."

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