Deron laughed as Glen praised the dinner again.
“I think you had a better time than I did,” he said.
They were riding an auto-chariot back home, travelling along Greater Reid street into the south Welsprin district. Dinner had been extravagant, and the booth in the private section had offered luxuries they’d never see without sacrificing weeks of Deron’s pay. That alone was enough to have the night cement itself as an evening the two would never forget. They had followed up the outing with a visit to an inner ring club they liked and despite it being a week night the place had been packed. Between wine and dancing, the two were somewhere between completely energized and exhausted. Now it was nearing two am and they were heading home.
“Maybe,” Glen said. He was already pressed against Deron’s chest. His mind sat somewhere between the warmth of his partner and the flush feeling the wine from dinner gave him. Glen looked at Deron and leaned up, kissing him at first with a simple peck and then a deeper connection between their lips. Deron pulled back a second and gasped, smiling and laughing with warmth from the sudden deep exchange. He leaning down and cupping Glen’s cheek before kissing him back, taking in the moist lips and heated breath from his partner.
“Maybe,” Glen said again, this time between light pecks and the occasional squeeze and tug on Deron’s leg and stomach. “Maybe the night is still not done.”
Glen was already kissing Deron’s bare stomach with his partner was running fingers through his hair when the chariot chimed at them.
“Notice. Your destination is no longer available. Due to routine maintenance of the grid, your destination is not available at this time. Please select from the following options for new destination.”
“What?” Deron said, his mind somewhere lost in the fog of Glen’s touch and several glasses of wine still in his body.
“Notice. Your destination,” the chariot started to repeat.
“Yeah, we heard that,” Glen said. He huffed in annoyance, as his sexual desire now turned to frustration. The chariot had pulled up a projection window that he pulled over. It showed a large three dimensional rendering of New Castle and the part of town they were arriving in. Welsprin was dark on the map, as were a few other nearby neighborhoods. The destinations the chariot offered were far to the north of their home, but Glen could see a closer location two blocks to the west of their apartment, a street south of Lord and just inside the Iron Wall district.
“Looks like we can redirect there,” Deron said. “I don’t mind a little walk to get this baby weight off.”
“Oh you got a bit of a food baby?” Glen said playfully, reaching over to touch Deron’s still exposed belly. He had pushed his stomach out, to make himself more curved looking but when Glen touched him, he quickly found himself being tickled.
“Ack! No!” Deron said, playfully slapping Glen’s hand away. “No messing with the food baby!”
“Driver,” Glen said between light laughter, “Take us to this address.”
“There will be a charge for change of destination.”
“Bull. Connect me to your dispatch.”
The display switched almost immediately to the view of a Dwarven man sitting in a cubical. His eyes were thin and the smile he attempted seemed lost in his tired expression.
“New Castle Gold Chariot dispatch and customer service. We’re here to move you. I’m Lance, company ID ED0981. That’s ED as in East-Downs. and I’m here to help. What can I do for you?”
Glen took a deep breath to start to chew the guy out when Deron nudged him over. The similarities between their work spaces wasn’t lost on the gaijin office worker.
“Evening Lance. Sorry to bother you. I know it must be a rough night with maintenance going on like this,” Deron said, hoping to disarm Lance with sympathy.
Lance nodded on the screen. His thin eyes perked a bit, coming out of automatic response mode from Deron’s greeting.
“It’s been a doozy.”
“Yeah, must be getting a couple of calls. We’re in a bit of a trial here too. The chariot is saying our destination isn’t valid anymore because of south-east side maintenance but it isn’t letting us redirect to a much closer destination. At least, not without a fee. Can you give it a look?”
The dwarf had already started to type and shared windows were popping up around the display link to him.
“Ah yeah, I can see why you’d rather be there. The thing just doesn’t want to get off the ring as early as It’d need to. Give me a minute to talk to it.”
Glen had started to run his fingers over Deron’s back while he talked, and Deron playfully swatted him away. He had a feeling either the magician was going to pass out on him soon or neither of them would be getting any sleep tonight. Either way it was going to be quite a day dealing with the aftermath at work tomorrow.
“Destination updated,” the chariot said.
“And there we go,” Lance said, now with a smile on his face.
“Wonderful. Thank you so much, Lance. Hope we weren’t too much of a bother.”
“Nah, happy to help. And unless you need anything else, you two have a lovely evening.”
“Nope, all good.” Deron said. Lance nodded and the connection closed. The window left behind a message asking how employee ED0981 did, and Deron reached out to slide the marker to the five-star level. “Now then, where were we?”
The ride to Archer and Sullivan went by faster than either man wanted. Deron kept fighting to keep his shirt on while Glen did everything he could to touch as much of his lover as was possible in the cramped cabin. The chariot came to a halt in front of a Rose-Arms, the local convenience store Deron stopped at most morning for breakfast. The sight of it made his stomach grumble but the sexually charged lush kissing his neck distracted him from the thought.
“This way, sweetie,” Deron said, aiming them east along Archer. Although Sullivan marked the line between Iron Wall and Welsprin, the buildings here were more the style of the former district. Welsprin mostly relied on newer apartment complexes and renovated condos for the upper-middle class and well-to-do creators that made up the arts districts. This side of Welsprin kept the charm of the older parts of the city, relying on Iron Wall’s heavy brownstone city blocks. The ones in Welsprin where nicer and cleaner than the Iron Wall district, but the similarities between this area of town and Iron Wall couldn’t be missed.
Most of the buildings here had lights on the first floor but were darkened above street level. Lobby lights and street lamps brought a warmth to the shadows of the evening, and the occasional chariot passing flashed their lights along the avenue. There wasn’t any other foot traffic that Deron could see, so it was like the block belonged to the two of them this evening.
“Keep your head up, silly one,” Deron said. “We’re almost home.”
Glen had started to nod off a bit. He continued to try to reach for Deron but the long ride, the alcohol, and the weight of the day was starting to get to him.
“Come on, just a block.”
They had crossed past two apartment buildings when Deron stopped them. He wasn’t as attuned as Glen was but he was sure he felt something. It was like a muffled sound being held back by a strange pressure. He looked behind them and across the street but nothing seemed wrong or out of place. Just the distant sound of traffic and Glen’s light breathing.
He started them moving again, but with each step he felt something was wrong. He wished Glen was soberer so he could ask him what he felt. That might have been why when the shockwave of pressure came he was able to keep himself from being completely knocked over. Glen wasn’t so lucky, as he stumbled back towards the alley between two of the apartments. As the spell dissipated, Deron found himself caught on the side of one of the brownstones.
“Credit sticks, now,” a male voice said. Deron had caught himself on the wall, and was trying to look up at the speaker but his eyes locked on the slinger in their attacker’s hands. “Now!”
“Oh shit,” Deron said, and reached for his pocket. He’d never been mugged before, and his first instinct was to turn and run but he couldn’t see where Glen had gone. He wanted to look but he couldn’t take his eyes off the weapon aimed at him. He pulled at his pocket and found his credit stick was stuck. He cursed and yanked but instead of the stick coming out cleanly it flew from his pocket to the ground.
“You kahm-lovin’ idiot,” the mugger said. He took a step closer to Deron when a wheel of fire erupted in front of him. The surprise plasma knocked him off balance and he staggered back while trying to keep the gun in his hands.
“How dare you!” Glen screamed. He came out of the alley all fire and dragon-raged. His training in the theater and his years handling burning magic mixed with his alcohol laden mind, causing him to make the choice to attacker their mugger. Fire poured from his hands like angry claws and he shot forward as flames propelled him by his feet. The mugger tried to raise the Wagg-Otto short-slinger at him but Glen had already directed a wave of fire towards the man’s face. The onslaught wasn’t as intense or effective as a spell meant to actually harm but the illusion of the intensity of flame was enough to frighten their attacker away. Glen still sent waves of flame towards the man as he fled, but none of them connected, lacking the intent to truly do harm.
“Oh thank Khams,” Deron said, breathing a sigh of relief. He collected himself and picked up his credit stick before stepping over to check on Glen. His heart sank when he saw the aftermath of the magical display.
Tears were welling up in Glen’s eyes while his hands, blackened and smoking, where held out before him. Blisters that had long ago healed had welled up and were bursting, and pieces of his flesh sizzled from the heat of the heavy casting. The mastery Glen had used on stage had kept him from too sudden of an injury but this exertion while unfocused and drunk was too much.
“By the one on high, what have I done?”