|Zebe's badge before she was struck off the medical register|
- from Clipart.com
In which neither Shad nor Zebe understand the reasons for what must come to pass ...
A hoverole that was probably a cab, since it didn’t come with the excruciating sound effects that Neil’s vehicle produced stopped at the front door and went off again after an interval long enough to let someone off.
The someone negotiated the locks on the front door as if trying to enter without being heard.
“It’s Zebe,” Shad said.
“Don’t say another word,” Tardi said. “I’m aware of every fucking danger courtesy of all my fucking nightmares.” He soft-footed down the stairs and entered the kitchen.
Zebe stared into the open fridge.
“Hey there,” Tardi said to her back.
She jumped. “Looking for a snack. Neil scored a night shift he couldn’t wiggle out of. One of his mates dropped me off. Kitchen is pretty tidy for two blokes shut in for the day. Did you eat anything?” She closed the fridge and turned in a smooth move.
Tardi quirked a smile. She had a rushed explanation that shifted into a judgmental commentary but there was that move. “We picnicked,” he said. “Ate very well, thank you. Cup of tea?” He gestured up the stairs.
“I wouldn’t mind a hot drink.”
She walked up the stairs ahead of him, swaying.
Ooh la la. Tardi gladly set aside his nightmares and started looking forward to him and her dallying.
“I’ll have a mug to take away and so will you,” she instructed. “Indian for me.” She continued past the room where Tardi and Shad camped.
Unfriendly but not so strange.
Shad ladled hot water from a pan bubbling by the fire onto Zebe’s Indian tea leaves, and onto Tardi’s Stormy blend. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “I got a lot of thinking to do. My comfort zone and such.”
“Thanks, Cuz.” Shad not present should make dealing with Zebe easier.
Tardi followed Zebe into what was clearly her room away from home with a Celtic-design bed spread, Celtic cross above the bed and Celtic knot above the door. He set her tea on her bedside shelf near where she sat. The bed took up most of the room leaving a narrow alley around the sides and foot-end.
Zebe frowned. “What’s with loose tea leaves? No milk and no sugar?”
Tardi laughed. “Teabags are a waste according to Shad. A pinch of leaves does the trick. He’d say we don’t take a cow with us on the road. And that you can add what poisons you desire yourself. Which is why I have the blend.”
Zebe set down the mug after a sip. “Bitter.” She stood up.
Tardi set his mug on the floor in the angle of the walls. “Mine is too hot yet to taste anything.” Here’s hoping she falls into my arms. Good fantasy or what?
Zebe slipped by him which was when he should’ve made some kind of move. No evidence of her former willowy moves is what put me off.
She started walking along remaining two sides of the bed. “I came back as soon as I discovered what you’re really asking,” she said. She turned slightly each time she addressed him to throw the words at him. “Do you realise? The extent, results, the changes in you?”
He didn’t get the chance saying that he wasn’t asking for the full treatment.
“Because that’s what it amounts to? A chemical sex change?” she said.
“That doesn’t sound like what I am after,” he said. “I thought Cele might have explained that I need to get in with the Huddle?”
“I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now,” Zebe said.
Had she even taken in his explanations? Did she even hear him just then? “Why? Because you know me so well suddenly?” Tardi said.
“I find an actual man and he asks me to organise him a sex change?” She scoffed. “What’s that about?”
Oh. She did understand at least part of what Cele told her. “Unfortunate coming together of circumstances,” he said. “I thought that with Cele’s program … what you’re calling the protocol … I quote, Only go so far and then maintain.”
She flushed pink, not red. Too bad he didn’t have a gauge on him to explain what pink meant.
“I didn’t buy it then or now because I don’t have evidence,” she said.
“I may have been struck from the register, but I am a medical doctor and I need a good reason, real in-your-face evidence before I’ll recommend so severe a cure.”
“Oh. Well." All Tardi’s counter-accusations fell away. He picked up his tea and drank it down in a couple of gulps. Dropped the mug. Clunk. It didn’t even break.
“Well?” Zebe said.
“I’m trying to remember if I knew that,” Tardi said.
Shad, at the door, chortled. “You stumped him, Doc.”
Zebe frowned. “What do you know about me?”
Shad moved his hands to make peace. “Be easy, Zee. Can I call you that? Stormy-kind everywhere know how easily government paperwork is claimed to go missing. It’ll be your caring hands they recall.”
Zebe was incredulous, Tardi saw. “Since when did you know of Zebe, Cuz?”
“An I just now put three together to make two,” Shad said. “One. A story she told of her sister calling her a Celtic twin for her olive skin, dark hair and hazel eyes.”
He counted on his fingers. “Two. That scar on your arm, Zee. Where you tangled with the wildlife along one of the inland rivers. Saved that kiddie. Stormies living there tell that story. You might know them as Skanzies.”
Now Zebe really blushed. Red.
“Three,” Shad said. “All this Celtic stuff in your room. Your sister’s doing probably, making you feel at home. Making you the healer who doctored them along the inland rivers. They are the two.”
Zebe laughed. “Goodness me, I must have made quite an impression to be known up and down the country.”
“Tar, I trust her with your life but …” Shad said.
“Not with the feminising of me is what you’re wanting to say,” Tardi said.
“Why is it really necessary?” Shad said.
Tardi all but slumped. What he felt like, just giving up. Couldn't Shad see that by himself Tardi hadn't a hope of controlling, let alone containing the Great Bastard?