Lance looked at the beautiful woman sitting across the table from him. He and Jasmine had been dating for months, and he was in love with her. She, he knew, courtesy of being an empath, felt the same way about him, even though she hadn’t said it yet. Smiling, he asked, “Why don’t you come to Sweytz with me? I want ya to meet my kids and spice.”
“You … you mean it?” At his nod, she asked, “Do you think they’ll like me?”
Lance chuckled. “Of course they will! There’s nothing about you not to like.”
“Then yes, I will.”
“Lance, you can’t be serious! The Queen shops here. There’s no way you can afford it!” Jasmine said, standing in front of Pyn’s Dressmaking.
He shrugged. “Yes I can. No more than twice a year though, okay?”
“Lancelot, this isn’t funny. Now, really, where are you taking me to get my ballgown?”
“Here,” he said, gesturing at the whole street of expensive shops. “Unless you’d prefer getting something from Tiplin’s,” he added with a grin, referring to a discount retail chain.
“Here or Tiplin’s? You’re telling me you can afford things from here and my only alternative is Tiplin’s?”
Jasmine sighed as she sat down on the bench. “I don’t want this dream to end.”
Lance chuckled. “It’s not a dream. How many times I got to tell you? I’m rich.”
“I know that, but … a Pyn dress, Ilora shoes, and now you’re telling me I can get jewelry too?” She looked at him seriously. “And you can afford this twice a year?”
“Combine what me and all my spice make, and yeah. And stuff from their ready-to-wear lines more often.”
“You get the jewelry. I’m just going to sit here and hope I don’t wake up.”
Jasmine was nervous. “I can’t believe I get to meet Viktor Blue. Are you sure he’ll like me?”
“Of course he will. You’re beautiful, smart, funny, and have the good sense to be dating me.”
She rolled her eyes at the last bit, then asked, nervously, for the thousandth time, “Are you sure everyone will like me?”
Lance put his arms around her. “Jazz, relax. My family will love you.” As much as I do, he thought, but decided not to say, not yet.
“And you’re sure I won’t be overdressed for the ball?”
“Absolutely,” he said with a smile.
“I need to change,” Jasmine said, looking down at her faded and patched pants as they approached a very large, very rich-looking, house.
“Nah, no one’ll care about the patches. They aren’t stuck up. Just relax. Be you and they’ll like you,” Lance said.
“Yes!” he said, trying not to sound exasperated. “And you’ll like them. My kids are the greatest, and my spice aren’t too bad either.”
They soon landed, parking the speeder in a garage bigger than Jasmine’s house. She took a deep breath, grabbed Lance’s hand very tightly, and walked towards the large house.
A little boy who, if he’d had straight hair and brown eyes instead of green, would have looked like Lance in miniature, came running up to them.
Jasmine smiled, relaxing some as she saw that the child was dressed in worn jeans and a coat that was a little too big. She was about to introduce herself when he spoke in a language she didn’t speak. “Wow, Daddy, she’s gorgeous!” Lance translated with a huge grin.
She laughed. “You must be Richie.”
The boy, bowing with a flourish, said in heavily accented Allurian, “Richard Samuel Kavaliro-Reddige, at your service.”
The introductions to everyone else had gone smoothly and Jasmine was feeling much more relaxed when Viktor came in. She was speechless for a second when she saw him, the Slayer of Drochslem, Savior of the Vorton Galaxy. She’d known for years that he was Lance’s husband, but she still had scarcely dared to dream of meeting him.
Viktor smiled kindly and bowed slightly. She went to her knees in front of him. “It’s an honor to meet you, Hero. I offer my body to you.”
“Get up. I’m no hero,” he snapped, his smile replaced with an irritated glare.
Lance was in tears, screaming at Viktor. Jasmine, also in tears, managed to pull herself together enough to speak again. “Lance, come on. Let’s get a hotel room. I don’t want to sleep in the same house as him.”
“That makes two of us,” he said, glaring at his husband. He then looked at everyone else in the room. “Sorry, but we need to get out of here before one of us kills him.”
“I said I was sorry! What the fuck more do you want, Lancelot?! I’m not a hero and I’m sick of being called one!” Viktor yelled.
“I can’t ask you to choose between us,” Jasmine suddenly said. Lance got a brief glimpse of her thoughts, like he sometimes did when people, especially people he was emotionally close to, were very emotional.
“No. Jazz …” He trailed off.
“He’s your husband. He lives with your kids. I’m just your girlfriend. I can’t ask you to choose me over them.”
Lance hugged her tight, crying. “I couldn’t choose. I love you both too damned much.”
“Then I’ll leave instead of breaking up your family.”
“No! Let me talk to him. His Allurian is rusty, maybe he misspoke,” Lance improvised.
When Lance saw Viktor, the first thing he noticed was how nasty the bruise on his cheek looked. Serves him right, he thought. I would have hit him harder if I’d been her.
“Hi,” Viktor said, glumly, looking up from his book.
“Let’s go for a walk. We need to talk, Vik.” Lance sounded uncharacteristically serious.
“Yeah, I guess we do.” Viktor put a cloak on and grabbed a cane from the stand by the door. “I am sorry I upset her.”
“Stop. Just stop apologizing. You don’t even know what you did wrong,” Lance said, trying not to yell.
“She’s gonna leave me,” Lance said suddenly.
“What?” Viktor asked in genuine confusion.
“Rather than making me choose between you two. Since the kids are with you, and she knows I couldn’t live without spending time with them, she’s gonna leave me. Vik …”
Viktor interrupted. “If she does, you’ll leave me. You and the rest of our spice. They’d leave and take the kids.” Viktor’s voice was almost a whisper. “They told me so last night. I … I didn’t mean … It’s just …”
“You insulted the Queen. I told Jazz your Allurian was rusty. I hope I was right,” Lance said.
Viktor smiled at Jasmine again, this time a bit sadly. “I’m extremely sorry. I meant no insult to you or your Queen. When I accepted the title of Hero, I wasn’t fully aware of how great an honor it was. While I still don’t, personally, believe I’m worthy, I understand I’m in the minority on this.” He gave a significant look to his spice, who had spent the day explaining to him in excruciating detail how wrong his reasoning was. “What I meant to say was, I’d prefer it if you saw me as Lance’s husband, instead of a Hero.”
Jasmine hadn’t completely believed Viktor’s apology, but for Lance’s sake she tried to get along with the man, even if she didn’t like him.
Lance hugged her when they got back to their hotel room. “At least you like everybody else, right?”
She laughed. “Yes, of course. The kids are adorable.”
“Of course. Especially Meri and Richie, with me as their Dad they can’t help it.”
Jasmine rolled her eyes and laughed.
After a few moments of silence, she suddenly said, “Lance, I love you!”
“Glad you’re finally ready to say it.” He hugged her tight. “I love you too.”