Dairine was reclining at her kitchen table with a cup of tea – luxuriating in the relative midday silence and recovering from her ordeal with the sun – when Carmela paraded into the house, carrying upwards of six shopping bags and trailing three radically different alien wizards.
She was the only one among them who still looked chipper, and for good reason.
"What did you do last night that they're tired by eleven?" she demanded, as she dropped off the multicolored-and-labeled bags by Dairine's front door. "I'll never make decent mall crawlers out of them at this rate!"
"We were fixing the sun," Dairine said, still a little weary herself. "Are you sure you want to introduce malls across the galaxy?"
Carmela's eyes fairly gleamed at the prospect. "They probably have them, anyway," Dairine said quickly, attempting to head off any plans Carmela might make. The thought of Carmela deciding to take over the universe with Abercrombie and McDonalds made her nervous. The thought that she would probably succeed even more so.
"Rirhath certainly has a close approximate," Sker'ret said. "We have nothing to match your sugar-based foods, though. Ice cream and… Cinnabon" he tried the foreign word out "in particular."
Carmela sighed. "It was a thought," she said mournfully. She waved her fingers at the four of them. "Well, toodles."
"You sure you don't want to hang out here?" Dairine offered.
Carmela shook her head. "Nah. I should go pay my oh-so-cosmopolitan brother a greeting. I bet he forgot to get me a souvenir. Besides, from what I gather, you aren't going to be much livelier than slugs for a while. I'll come back later when you're all more awake."
She flashed them all another lively smile and disappeared through Dairine's front door.
"She is right," Filif said, his many branch-like limbs drooping under the weight of weariness. "I feel as though all my sap has gone dry. Though I did get many decorations!" He seemed to cheer at that thought.
Dairine grinned at him. "Let's see what you bought," she said, amused.
Filif began showing off the contents of his bags: what seemed like half the contents of neon heaven, though his favorite item remained the New York Mets baseball cap perched at the top of his fronds. Dairine took one more disparaging look at it and decided to stick with her decision that explaining the intricacies of Major League rivalries would be more an exercise in futility than anything.
For the most part, the "decorations" were scarves or wraparound jackets – things that could easily fit Demisiv (or occasionally Rirhait) anatomy. Which is why, when Dairine pulled out a long cotton t-shirt, she held it up in surprise. "Whose is this?"
There was a long pause. "That would be mine," Roshaun said, distaste still evident in his voice.
The Wellakhit Sunlord had remained silent – not even speaking up to offer a haughty or condescending comment – the entire time they were admiring Filif's purchases. Dairine suspected this was more because he was tired than anything.
She shook the floppy thing. "I didn't think you were a t-shirts kind of guy," she said, eyeing his splendid, muted crimson over tunic and trousers. "They're not exactly… majestic enough for a prince."
"King," Roshaun reminded her. "It wasn't exactly my idea."
Dairine raised her eyebrows. "Ah," she said. "So Carmela…"
"Coerced me into accepting them? Yes, she did."
"I would have loved to have seen that," Dairine murmured, holding back a snicker.
"She used what she said were 'puppy-dog eyes'," Sker'ret said helpfully. "I'm… not entirely sure what that meant."
"It's a figure of speech," Dairine explained.
Roshaun gazed at the t-shirt, still in Dairine's hands, with disdain. "Surely you do not believe that I would wear such a… garment."
Dairine rolled her eyes in amusement. "You could try," she said. "You might even like it."
Roshaun snorted in derision. Dairine shrugged, giving him up as a lost cause.
At that moment, the phone rang. Dairine dropped the t-shirt back into the shopping bag and picked up the phone. She cradled it to her ear. "Hello?"
"Dairine, why didn't you warn me Kit and Nita still haven't resolved their sexual tension?" Carmela demanded.
Dairine blinked in surprise, and counted up minutes in her head. Carmela could not have walked home that fast, and to Dairine’s knowledge, she did not own a car. "Did you just get home?" she asked.
"Not important! Just answer the question!"
"Umm…" Dairine said, rather lost for words. "I didn't think it was news."
There was a pause on the other end of the phone. "Well, yeah, you have a point there."
"Does this mean they're back from their Mars meeting?"
"They stopped in for lunch and some supplies. But honestly, I can't even tease Kit about Nita in a bathing suit! I am running out of material here!"
Dairine resisted a laugh. Carmela running out of ways to tease Kit seemed unlikely.
"Well, OK," Carmela conceded. "That was an exaggeration. But you mean you didn't set this up so they'd hook up on Beach World."
Dairine rolled her eyes. "Believe it or not, I have better things to do with my time than meddle in my sister's love life."
"Fair enough," Carmela said. "Still, I kind of figured that they would. Gorgeous tropical paradise and all that."
"Oh, certainly," Dairine said.
"Well, I suppose I should go," Carmela said. "Our respective siblings just came downstairs for lunch – it's prime tease-Kit time. Say hi to my favorite aliens for me!"
Dairine turned to face her living room proper, where her three guests were looking varying degrees of guilty. Dairine laughed. "I think they're listening in on the conversation," she said.
Carmela laughed. "You wizards and your powers – you do it just because you can!" she cried. "Well, I'll see you guys later! Bye, Dairine!" She hung up the phone.
Dairine hung up her own phone and turned to her houseguests, shaking her head, a smile threatening at her lips.
Roshaun was the first to speak up. "Problems with your sister and her wizarding partner?" he asked coolly.
Dairine nodded and rolled her eyes. "It's so obvious they like each other, it's a wonder they don't see it themselves."
The Wellakhit raised his eyebrows. "I thought your people didn't engage in sexual reproduction until a fourth of your lifespan had passed."
Dairine flushed red. "Oh, they're not into that – I don't think… - but it's so obvious that they're half in love already." She snorted in derision. "And they're so oblivious that they don't see it."
"I see…" the Wellakhit said. "So your people begin interest before unionbond occurs."
"If unionbond is your word for marriage, yeah."
Roshaun paused, apparently thinking. "Do you have anybody of interest, like your sister does?" There was a strangely detached, neutral quality to his voice as he asked.
Dairine grinned. "Yeah," she said. "His name's Luke Skywalker."
Roshaun paused, a moment too long. "Oh," he said quietly. And then, regaining his haughty tone, "Well, I certainly pity such a person."
Dairine stared at him for a moment, grin threatening to overtake her face. And then she collapsed into a fit of uncontrollable giggles.
"Umm, Dairine…" Filif said when Dairine's laughter didn't stop after a moment.
Dairine let out another few wayward giggles, and then swept some hair out of her eyes. "I think we should watch Star Wars," she said.
"Star Wars?" Sker'ret asked. The three aliens were all in various states of confusion at the apparent non-sequitur. This only made Dairine’s grin wider.
"Stars at war does not sound… entirely pleasant," Filif said tactfully.
Dairine laughed again, although this time she kept it under control. "They're not about… look, let's just watch them."
Moments later they were sitting (or, well, as close to sitting as a sentient tree and large centipede-style creature could get) around Dairine's living room. Dairine fiddled with the old VCR for a moment, whispered a few words to it in the Speech, and then sat back on the couch.
And then, the famous words appeared on the screen. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way…"
"I thought your people hadn't figured out interstellar travel yet," Sker'ret mused.
"They haven't," Dairine said. "Just watch."
She could hardly contain her excitement. She was watching Star Wars with aliens in her living room! When in her dreams had she imagined this?
Sker' ret swung one of his eyes toward Dairine. "I don't think these ships would work," he said. "Their design is too bulky for any kind of meaningful travel, and…"
"Sker', shut up!" Dairine hissed at him. "It's fiction!"
The four fell silent, letting the movie play.
Filif spoke up during the Cantina scene. "Is there only animal sentience?" he asked, tone polite.
Dairine winced. As far as she could remember, there was no sentient plant life in any of the films – despite the fact that it made up a sizeable percentage of sentience in the galaxy.
"I think so," she said, a little apologetically.
"I see," Filif said, without any intonation.
Dairine could feel her guests’ collective unease when Darth Vader appeared and ordered the destruction of Alderaan. She didn't have to hear their thoughts to know what they were thinking. The Isolate, the Kindler of Wildfires…. It was a common enough theme in stories across all cultures.
Dairine privately agreed, remembering her Ordeal. There were enough similarities between the ancient enemy of her childhood and the Wizards’ eternal foe that when she had gone looking for the Sith lord – to beat him up – she had run directly into the Lone Power.
She winced, as the movie continued. It was turning out a little worse than she had anticipated.
Let's just hope Roshaun doesn't start getting ideas about his hair, she thought, looking at Princess Leia.
The Wellakhit King raised his eyebrows at her, and Dairine was startled. He had heard? She had the presence of mind to look guilty about her thoughts.
"I would not wear my hair in that ridiculous fashion," Roshaun said aloud.
"You might like cosplaying," she said, quickly, to hide her embarrassment at being overheard. "You've got the personality to pull off Princess Leia. And the hair to do the cinnamon bun style."
"Cinnamon bun?" Sker'ret asked, intrigued, and pulling one eyestalk away from the screen. "You mean Cinnabon?"
Roshaun looked at Dairine, nonplussed. "Cosplaying?" he asked.
Dairine grinned. "Quaint subculture," she explained. “Dressing up as fictional characters with other fans.”
"I see," Roshaun said. Obviously, his planet had no parallel to Star Trek conventions. "Well, if I am the haughty princess, then it seems clear that you must be the off-the-handle, flyboy space pirate."
Dairine stared at him in shock for a moment, and then turned a bright cherry red with no explanation.
Deciding that she was merely mortified at the thought of losing the argument, Roshaun turned back to the movie.
It ended soon enough, and as Dairine was setting up the Empire Strikes Back, she noticed Roshaun's straight-backed posture. "Isn't that uncomfortable?" she asked him.
Roshaun just looked at her, in silence.
"Sitting like that," Dairine clarified. "You can touch your back to the chair. It's not illegal. It's not even a faux pas."
Roshaun gave her an incredulous look. "It would be most faux-pas in this style of clothing," he said primly.
Dairine's incredulous look matched his own. "You mean you're sitting like that for the sake of your clothes?"
Roshaun raised his eyebrow. "Why else would I do it?"
"I don't know! Do you even have any clothes you can relax in?"
He shot her a pointed, annoyed look.
Dairine sighed, and then smiled. "You do!" she said, and jumped up from the couch.
Roshaun watched her as she sped from the living room. "Why don't I recall having these clothes?" he asked to her retreating back.
"I am not sure," Filif said. "Far be it for me to intervene in your arguments." Sker'ret deliberately bobbed his head in an impression of a human nod.
The grin that threatened at Roshaun's dignified look was incomprehensibly silly.
At least until Dairine returned, holding the floppy t-shirt she had been examining earlier in her hands.
"You expect me to wear that?"
Dairine grinned. "C'mon, your worship," she said, stealing Han's name for Leia. "It doesn't bite – I promise."
Roshaun looked at the shirt, at Dairine, and then back at the shirt. Without a word, he stood and grabbed the thing, walking away.
Dairine grinned smugly when the Wellakhit returned, the floppy t-shirt replacing his splendid crimson over tunic. It clashed ridiculously with his scarlet pants, but Dairine was determined not to laugh. She figured jeans were a bit too much to ask.
Roshaun looked at the three of them, a challenge in his green eyes, and then – haughtily as he could manage – he took his previous seat.
"This… dubious garment is suitable reclining wear?" he asked.
Dairine nodded. "Knock yourself out."
Roshaun looked puzzled.
"Another idiom," she said. “It means go ahead.”
"Ah," Roshaun said. He leaned back experimentally in the chair, and then looked at the material of the t-shirt. "It is… admittedly comfortable."
Dairine boggled at him. Roshaun gave her another of his nonplussed looks.
Grinning in amusement, Dairine grabbed the remote. "Shall we get to the next one?" she asked, and pressed play.
Despite flushing her way through every Han and Leia scene, while Roshaun weathered them with first surprise and then thoughtful silence, the second movie passed without incident. By the time Darth Vader made his famous revelation about Luke's parentage, the three of them were hooked.
The three aliens watched with a sense of anticipation as the drama of the final act played out. Sker'ret seemed to like the space battles – having apparently overcome the fact that they would never actually work – and Filif was surprisingly philosophical about the battle on the forest moon of Endor.
And then it was over.
"Your people are very imaginative," Filif said in appreciation. "First decorations, and now this…"
Dairine smiled at him. "If you want, we can watch the prequel trilogy next," she said.
"There are more of these?" Sker'ret asked.
"Then by all means, let us watch," the Rirhait said. "But first… do you have any more sugar-based foods?"
"Let's take a short break," Dairine said, with a smile. "I'll go get some snacks real quick."
She headed into the kitchen, and began pulling out various junk food items – making sure she had some ice cream. As an afterthought, she grabbed the jar of lollipops her dad usually kept at the shop for young customers.
As Dairine turned around, she was surprised to see Roshaun come wordlessly into the kitchen to help her grab the various food items. She smiled at him and handed him a lollipop from the jar.
"Before Sker'ret eats it," she explained.
Roshaun smiled back – a genuine smile, which made Dairine all too aware of his bright green eyes. "Thank you," he said.
She busied herself with gathering up the chips and ice cream. "So how did you like the movies?" she asked. The Wellakhit was the only one who hadn't given his opinion of the films, and she found herself surprisingly nervous to learn his opinion.
Roshaun's smile morphed into an amused smirk. "Luke Skywalker would never be able to keep up with you," he said.
Wondering what that was supposed to mean, Dairine followed him into the living room.