Sometimes, Nita felt it should worry her that Dairine seemed older every time Nita saw her, which was less and less often nowadays. Her father seemed to think of it as Dairine 'growing up', which would obviously be a good thing, although Nita very much doubted it would ever happen.
Of course, it wasn't as if Dairine was the only one with that particular problem.
"Hey." Nita wondered in what part of the galaxy it was fashionable to dye your hair purple with pink stripes and wear brown-ish lipstick - and what they'd needed a wizard from Earth from.
"Hey back." Dairine grinned. "Would you like to hear a funny story, or are you having one of your 'I'm miserable and I'd like to pretend the rest of the universe is miserable, too' moods again?"
"I'm not miserable." Nita sat down.
Dairine shrugged. "If you say so. Anyway, how are the relocating plans coming along?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
Dairine rose and opened her backpack, pulling out a giant-sized back of what looked like M&Ms, except that Nita was fairly sure M&Ms didn't come in quite so many colors, or in bags the size of her head.
"No peanuts or any other nuts, although I think there's some sort of cream-filling in some of them." Dairine pulled open the bag and placed it in the middle of the table. "Very popular on Quirisht right now, although there's also a bunch of people who claim they'll bring about the end of the world as they know it."
"Chocolate's going to bring about the end of the world?" Nita smiled faintly.
"Hey, their words - not mine," Dairine pointed out. "You should have seen Carmela when we crashed their 'let's all get together to talk about the evils of chocolate' party."
"Okay, so I guess things aren't going great." Dairine gave a minimal shove to the bag. Two or three not-M&Ms rolled over the table. "Don't make me beg here, Neets. This is some very fine candy, and so far, they're only selling it on one planet in the entire galaxy. The only reason I'm offering to share is because you obviously need it."
Nita picked up one of the spilled not-M&Ms and looked at it curiously. It was a kind of electric blue, with specks of a darker blue, yellow and red.
Dairine rolled her eyes. "It's candy - not art. And no, I don't know how they got them to look that way. They wouldn't let us have a look at that part of the factory."
Nita popped the not-M&M into her mouth. It did taste like chocolate, with a hint of something else - mint, perhaps.
"Ronan doesn't want to move here, and Kit and I don't want to move there. But," Nita added, before Dairine could point out the obvious, "we do want to get a place to live together, even if we're probably not going to be there most of the time."
"Well, there's two of you who want to live in the States and one who doesn't. You could just go with the vote of the majority."
"No, we couldn't. I mean, that's hardly fair, is it?"
"Given that most countries on Earth are ruled by the vote of the majority of its citizens, I don't think I really want to comment on whether or not it's fair. Dad might think I'm trying to start another revolution - on Earth, this time." It was Dairine's turn to sigh.
"Do I want to hear this story?"
"Naw," Dairine said, making a dismissive gesture. "It might give you something new to use next time you want to lecture me about acting like a responsible adult. But, okay, if Ronan doesn't want to move and if you and Kit can't bring yourselves to insist, then I guess you'll be moving there. You didn't have that bad a time last time you went there, did you?"
"Aside from the part where the Earth almost got blown up, you mean?" Nita asked sarcastically.
"These things happen. You should get used to them."
"That's what I'm scared of sometimes, you know?" Nita reached for another handful of the not-M&Ms. "That I'm going to get casual about stuff like that, because it's always worked out in the end so far, and that I'm going to make a stupid mistake because of that."
"So you're saying you're worried the universe might end because you make some sort of mistake? And then you go and tell me I'm arrogant?" Dairine snorted. "Besides, I saw your face last time, Neets. Trust me, you weren't relaxing or being casual about things."
"They're just so stubborn!" Nita complained.
"Bit of an abrupt change in subject there, but I can see how you'd rather not dwell on the subject of the destruction of the universe, so fine." Dairine grabbed some not-M&Ms. "Kit and Ronan, huh?"
"If they keep this up I'm going to live with you and Dad for the rest of my life," Nita said gloomily.
"Thanks. For your information, I might move out at some point, too. I'm just considering offers right now, but ... "
"You have offers?"
"What?" Dairine grinned at her. "There's people out there who really appreciate me - unlike some people in this room I could mention. And, I mean, it's not like I'm holed up on Earth now. Anyway, I'm just keeping my options open for now."
"Earth's just another planet to you, huh?"
Dairine shrugged. "Earth is where I come from. To boldly go where no human has gone before - well, I simply like to travel, that's all. I know it's different for you."
"You can say that again."
"Earth is where I come from. To boldly go where no human has gone before - well, I simply like to travel, that's all. I know it's different for you." Nita rolled her eyes. "Honestly, I don't see the problem. You can have hot sex anywhere."
"We do not - " Nita felt herself turn red.
"You're just saying that because you're too embarrassed to talk about things like that with your little sister, right?"
"We're partners. We go on assignments together." Nita sounded a little stiff, even to herself. "We perform spells together." Performing spells together was much more intimate than she imagined being together physically to be sometimes.
"I don't believe this," Dairine said. "I honestly cannot believe you, Neets. You lied to me!"
"What?" Nita blinked. "When?"
"All this time, I believed you were getting some - and you weren't. Do you have any idea how embarrassing this is?"
"It's not my fault what you believed," Nita said. "If you'd asked ... "
"And anyway," Nita went on, "It's not as if we never do anything. We just haven't ... not yet."
"Just to check: you do know how it works, right? I don't need to draw you a diagram or something?"
Nita hadn't thought it was possible for her face to grow hotter than it already was. "We're fine, thank you." A horrible suspicion snuck into her mind. "That planet you and Carmela went to consult on ...?"
"It was an alien orgy. They asked us to join in, and well, it just wouldn't have been polite to refuse, you know." Nita made a squeaky sound. Dairine gave her a look that was half-amusement and half-exasperation. "Oh, come on, Neets. Get real."
Nita breathed in relief.
"Mind, that's not to say it's never happened. It's fun sometimes, you know?" Dairine considered. "Well, no, you don't, so you're just going to have to trust me. Working out the mechanics can be a little tricky sometimes, especially when you've got five species and three genders, but - "
Nita grabbed the bag of not-M&Ms and fled the room.
"My little sister is having sex with aliens," Nita announced.
Having eaten the remainder of the not-M&Ms did not seem to have upset her stomach in any way. It was almost a disappointment, in a strange way - like she'd have enjoyed getting a stomachache to go with her mood.
"What, right now? I didn't know you had any visitors."
"No, not right now." And that hadn't exactly been the reaction she'd been looking for. "Oh, never mind." Maybe she was just over-reacting? Nita didn't think she was, but - well, it wasn't so much the fact that Dairine was having sex with aliens that bothered her, as the fact that Dairine was having sex, period. It wasn't jealousy, it was just ... something that would take some getting used to.
Certainly, none of the aliens she had met had ever expressed an interest - although of course she'd always been partnered, first with Kit, and then with Kit and Ronan. Perhaps she'd simply not seemed available - which, of course, she hadn't been.
"I think I'm glad my little sister isn't a wizard."
"Trust me, that's no kind of guarantee," Kit said dryly.
Ronan looked pensive for a moment, then silently conceded the point.
"And you should see the way she looks right now." Nita shook her head. She'd gone off-planet often enough herself, but she'd never felt the need to change the way she looked or dressed.
"Purple hair and yellow lipstick?" Kit asked.
Nita nodded, surprised. "The lipstick looked closer to brown, though."
"Mela's looking the same. Seems she checked the local TV-channel for the latest fashion-tips before they went there - apparently, there's a taboo on the color white. Don't ask me why; she didn't mention that part, and I wasn't curious enough to ask."
"We're having a lot less trouble with the overlays thanks to your sister," Ronan told Nita.
"I'm not saying she's useless. I'm just saying I want to strangle her sometimes. Proverbially."
Kit grinned. Nita felt herself beginning to relax a little. Now, if only they could stick to ordinary, safe topics for the rest of the conversation ...
"She is your little sister, after all."
"Right now, I'd very much like to forget that."
Kit opened his mouth, then closed it again.
"What?" Nita asked.
"Nothing," he said, a little too quickly. "It's just that, well, Carmela kind of told me about the whole 'having sex with aliens' thing. I thought Dairine would have told you, too."
"And you didn't think to tell me as well?" Ronan asked. "Thanks ever so much."
"He was doing you a favor," Nita said.
"That's why I'm thanking him."
"She's not a kid anymore, Neets - even if, of course, she'll always be your baby sister." Kit gave her a serious look. "Trust me, I wasn't thrilled the first time I heard it either. But, well, between an alien wizard and some guy who just looks a bit like her favorite actor, I know whom I prefer as her boyfriend - or girlfriend or, well, you get the point."
"I guess she just makes me feel a bit ordinary," Nita said.
"The word is 'normal'."
"Right." Kit snorted. "As if any of us are 'normal'. Half my relatives think I'm gay - the other half think I have a very nice girlfriend. And I think Dad still considers you one of my rivals whom I just like too much to get rid of. It's like they're more comfortable with my being a wizard than with my being in a relationship with two people at the same time."
"Well," Ronan said reasonably, "they've known about your being a wizard for years now."
"Are we really in a relationship?" Nita asked softly.
Kit and Ronan gave her near-identical looks of disbelief then stared at each other. Ronan made a gesture as if to say 'go ahead' and Kit cleared his throat.
"Um, why wouldn't we be?"
Nita felt her face beginning to get warm again. "Well," she said, trying to sound mature and logical, "the only thing we really do together is wizardry, right?"
"I think we do a bit more than that, too," Kit said carefully.
"But it's always related to wizardry. Often," Nita amended, trying to find a way of saying what she wanted to say without actually, well, saying it. She didn't think she was succeeding very well, if the confused expression on Kit's face was anything to go by.
"So what's wrong with that?" Kit asked. "We're wizards. Obviously, a lot of stuff we're going to be doing together is wizardry stuff."
"Not all of it," Ronan said.
"No, not all of it," Kit agreed.
"Like when you dragged me to that party where your sister wanted to show off her brother's boyfriend - I don't think that had anything to do with wizardry at all."
Kit flushed slightly. "I said I was sorry."
"She didn't," Ronan said.
"I think she feels thinking you're hot enough to show off to her friends isn't something she ought to apologize for. It wasn't as bad as it sounds," Kit told Nita, "there was just some guy who'd been making jokes about people who were, well, gay, so Mela thought bringing me and Ronan along would show people that gay people weren't weird or creepy."
"Even though, you know, she regularly calls Kit both those things and worse," Ronan added. "And even though neither he nor I are actually gay."
Kit shrugged. "It's a brother-sister kind of thing," he said. "But, to return to the original subject: why don't you feel like we're in a 'real' relationship?"
"Sex," Ronan said.
"We have sex!" Kit protested. "That is to say, I have," he amended, "and er, I guess I just assumed the two of you do, too." Nita took some comfort in the fact that Kit was clearly not at ease with the subject.
"Well, yes, we do, but it's always just the two of us. You or Ronan," Nita blurted out.
"Nita wants to have a threesome," Ronan said. From his tone, Nita didn't know if he was teasing her, or if he was simply trying to help by saying the things she couldn't get past her lips.
"Oh," Kit said. He looked thoughtful. "I have no idea how that sort of thing works," he admitted.
"Dairine has offered to draw us a diagram," Nita choked out.
Kit's eyes went wide. Ronan started laughing. Nita glared at him, but then Kit started chuckling, too, and she felt a giggle bubbling up herself.
"It's not funny!" she said, trying to keep a straight face. At least feeling like she was about to burst out in hysterical giggling felt a bit more comfortable than wishing she could melt to a puddle and just vanish.
Ronan stopped laughing for a moment and Kit nodded solemnly. "It's not funny at all," he agreed.
Somehow, all of a sudden, it seemed to be, however.
"Hey," Kit said, once they'd all caught their breath again, "we'll figure something out, Neets. Don't worry about it."
"And next time, just say something." Ronan waggled his eyebrows. "You know we'll only bite if you want us to."