Author: Nicole Kimberling
Characters: Lord Adam Wexley & Grand Magician Zachary Drake
Grand Magician Drake could not be called a superstitious man, but he did know when the Sea of Stars was trying to tell him something.
Every night this week his husband Adam had phoned to say that he’d be working late and each phone call seemed to precipitate a shower of meteors zinging across the sky.
“It’s an omen,” Drake muttered. It didn’t matter that the same meteor shower visited them every year at this time. Every magician understood the very presence of “falling stars” had no specific meaning since they were not stars. But the constellations they traveled across?
There! One spark sliced through the Scales—injustice would be done. And another dire spark came cutting through the Lovers. Drake bent further toward the eyepiece of his telescope. He trained the lenses on the Gallows, expecting to see the next brief light flick across the doomed and terrible constellation.
But no meteor crossed it. He abandoned the telescope and merely looked up into the night sky, The Gallows remained clear from mark—in fact the meteors actually seemed to be deliberately avoiding it.
What did that mean?
He supposed, grudgingly that he had to admit that this shower of falling stars did not indicate the incipient disintegration of his year-old marriage.
And that meant that he would have to think of something to do to celebrate it.
Drake slumped back into his patio chair and turned an unlit cigarette through his fingers. As he did so, moonlight glinted off his rings. The blood diamond he wore on his index finger far outshone his plain wedding band, but each remained equally magical. The former focused his personal power while the latter literally held a shred of his soul entwined with that of Lord Adam Wexley, lawyer and general do-gooder.
In the velvet darkness of the balmy summer night, Drake contemplated his options. He could take a stab at creating special dinner, but how successful would that be? He loathed all domestic labor—but was especially bad at cooking, preferring to leave that in the capable hands of their cook.
Recently he’d gone, in disguise, to a newsstand to leaf through relationship-based magazines in search of better ideas. After being briefly delayed by an article claiming to know Twenty Best-Kept Secrets of the World’s Best Blow Job (he’d already known twelve and the other eight were irrelevant, as he was not a woman) he’d hit upon another list of detailing gifts men might like to receive in general. The article had insinuated that impromptu dirty dancing would be not only appropriate, but a fully adequate expression of devotion. After this Drake had laughed so hard his wig had swung askew and temporarily blinded him.
He’d fled the newsstand and discarded the cheap, drugstore headgear and returned home, still empty of ideas.
The problem was, Drake thought, as he finally lit his cigarette, that he didn’t know if they were the sort of men who celebrated anniversaries at all. During their first stint of living together they’d vaguely celebrated the day Adam had moved into Drake’s penthouse. Then they’d separated, moldered in misery (or at least Drake had), then reunited and married in an unplanned rush. They’d never staged a ceremony or held a reception or even sent out announcements.
Upon learning of their union, one prominent gossip columnist had quipped, “While we wouldn’t call Lord Wexley’s rash decision social suicide, the necessity of including Grand Magician Drake’s name on formal invitations might leave Wexley with the societal mobility of a double amputee.”
So not much to celebrate there—at least not for Adam.
Yet, despite this Drake did know his husband—there! He said it, if only in his mind. He had a husband named Adam to whom he would be married to for one year as of tomorrow. A husband whom he wished so intensely to remain beside that it embarrassed him. He knew Adam to be a sentimentalist who would appreciate some perfect gesture of commemoration if only Drake could divine it.
Drake glanced at the patio table, which held his cigarette packet, an ashtray and a glass of whiskey. Should he choose, he could draw the edge of his blood diamond around the rim of the glass and command Adam’s image to appear in the liquid.
He knew what he’d see: Adam toiling away at his desk banging out impervious legal language for some good cause or other. He wondered if the man had paused to eat yet. He also wondered if that slinky paralegal Raymond was there at Adam’s office, hovering, poised to strike when Adam was at his weakest and most tired.
Often, when Adam wanted to concentrate, he’d remove his hearing aids in order to eliminate distraction. This, Drake reasoned, would the moment Raymond would try it on, creeping up behind Adam full of hot coffee and sympathetic solidarity.
Drake drew his blood diamond around the edge of the glass immediately and willed Adam’s image to appear. He didn’t seem to be at his office at all.
Rather, Adam stood in darkness, unshaven, collar open, blond hair spiky from being scratched and rubbed through long hours of writing. Drake squinted and leaned closer to his lowball glass. The conservative brickwork behind Adam seemed familiar to him, as did the ornamental exterior window sashes. With sudden chagrin, Drake realized that the widows belonged to their own house, which meant that Adam must be standing directly behind him on the patio.
A slight turn of his head confirmed this suspicion.
“Do you want me to turn the lights on?” Adam asked. Drake startled slightly as his voice penetrated the perfect quiet of the night.
“I’m still observing the stars,” Drake replied. “Would you like to sit with me?”
“Sure.” Adam strolled over and lowered himself into the patio chair opposite Drake.
“Would you like a drink?” Drake asked. “I can get another glass.”
“No need to get up,” Adam replied. He reached across to take Drake’s.
Drake watched with proprietary delight as Adam drained the alcohol left in the glass, then poured another two fingers. How like him to shed his veneer of perfectly mannered chivalry when they were alone in the dark.
“So,” Adam said, putting the glass down. “What do the stars say?”
“Their messages are uncertain tonight, I—” Drake’s words were cut short by a blaze of thirteen meteors that chose that moment to zigzag through the Lovers. The brightness of the streaks of light almost outshone the stars of the constellations themselves.
Drake turned to Adam, who regarded him with a wry smile.
“Would you describe that as an astrological money shot?” Adam asked.
“More like an astrological imperative,” Drake answered. “I suppose we need to celebrate our anniversary after all.”
“I’m glad it’s decided then.” Adam leaned back in the chair and stretched his legs out. “Because I’ve taken tomorrow off.”
“Oh?” Drake felt his nervousness rising. Now his gift-delinquency would come to light. “Any plans?”
“Only to use all my strength and vigor keep you separated from your clothes,” Adam replied.
Drake felt a rush of blood color his cheeks and felt partly sad that his reaction would be hidden by the night.
Aloud he said, “I would be delighted to return the favor.”
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mystery Series.