(Sunday, Dec 11 2011)
“Fifteen bees a stinging!”
“Fourteen bows a shooting!”
“Thirteen knives a stabbing!”
“Twelve bullets failing!”
“Eleven epic bar fights!”
“Ten acids melting!”
“Nine crowds a ragin’!”
“Eight walls a shaping!”
“Seven plans ongoing!”
“Six big explosions!”
“FIVE SHARPENED TEETH!” The discordant clamoring of twelve groups of bugs and one drunk bug controller was not a pleasant sound.
“Four clean piles of bone!”
Reflex’s verse was silent except for the steadily deteriorating sounds from my guitar.
“Two bags of blood!”
“AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE!” we all belted together, since Butcher didn’t want to sing with us.
I strummed the last few chords, flailing with my drunken fingers to get at least the last chord right. The Butchers laughed in my head as I dispersed the clumps of bugs I had been using to ‘sing’ for them, but it was in good humor. Mostly.
“Your playing is coming along nicely,” Chisel said with faint approval.
“Singing could use some work,” Ironsides grumbled.
“Hey, at least I’m in tune,” I pointed out with a giggle, attempting to strum a few chords.
Alkaline snorted. “Don’t hurt yourself, Taylor.”
I leaned back on the ratty old couch that was the only furniture in my lair and picked idly at the guitar. Chisel had been quite good at the instrument, and I had long since grown used to following muscle memory that I had never taken the time to develop. The others were not particularly pleased that I was playing Christmas music of all things, but it was either play the guitar or sob in the corner.
“Any requests?” I asked, taking the last swig out of my beer bottle and tossing it into the corner.
“Yeah, get your dumb ass back to the Teeth and --” I muted Butcher before he could complain more.
I considered it a Christmas miracle when the other Butchers all mentally shrugged and just let me play. And drink. Not at the same time -- having my bugs lift the bottles had not worked well enough to prevent me from getting beer on myself.
“If you still desire to see your father, you are approaching the opportune day,” Damascian said, interrupting my playing.
“And why would I want to do that?”
Surprisingly, it was Marauder who answered. “Kid, you only get one family.”
“Family doesn’t betray each other like that,” Sabertooth growled back.
I pushed them both lightly and they shut up. I didn't want to rehash that argument again. Luckily, the rest of them got the hint and let me play to myself in relative peace.
Ten beers and an hour later, I was stumbling through ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ while my mental roommates chatted amongst themselves when I felt a series of suspicious movements on the periphery of my bugs. Someone was approaching my lair, which knowing my luck would mean that I was going to need to beat the shit out of them.
“Heroesh?” I slurred, striking a particularly bad chord.
“Coming by themselves and, it seems, out of costume?” Stratego shook his metaphorical head. “Unlikely.”
My hands froze on the guitar, notably increasing the quality of the music emanating from the poor instrument. “Whatcha think they want?” The collective didn’t have any better ideas than me, and I resumed my attempts to coax something like music from the guitar.
I was halfway through my poor attempt to play and sing ‘Deck the Halls’ by time the mystery visitor walked up to the front door and hesitated. My costume and weapons were either back home or in some PRT evidence vault somewhere, so I didn’t have much that needed hiding in the lair apart from my bugs.
I set the guitar down with enough force that Chisel winced in my head before lurching unsteadily to my feet and shuffling towards the door. It opened to reveal a thin teenage girl with blonde hair and a narrow face holding a small gift-wrapped package.
“Hello?” I slurred. “Who are you?”
“Hi,” the girl said, obviously nervous. “I’m, um, delivering a gift.” She held out the package on slightly wavering arms.
My reply was as eloquent as I could manage. “Huh?”
“It’s from Kaiser,” the girl said.
“What the hell?” Alkaline murmured, the sentiment shared by the others.
Indeed, the gift was wrapped in red and white paper with a black bow. “You drew the short straw?”
“Something like that,” the girl replied bitterly.
“Kaiser can’t even be arsed to deliver his own ‘gifts,’ the bastard,” Ironsides said.
I wondered if Kaiser was trying to scare a new recruit by sending them to deal with me. “That shucks. Do you, uh, want to come in and have a drink or shomething? I’m trying to play Chrishtmas music.”
The girl cracked a microscopic smile. “I heard. You kinda suck.”
My sudden bark of a laugh made the girl cringe back, and I waved my hands in a vain attempt to assuage her fear. “Yeah I do. Think you can, uh, do better?”
“You know what?” the girl said. “Fuck it. I really should just go back, but honestly this is way fucking better.” She waved the gift at me, which I took, and she stuck out her hand. “I’m Tammi.”
“Taylor,” I said. “Do you like beer?”
As it turned out, Tammi did not like the beer I had been stockpiling. She vastly preferred the bottle of nice scotch that Kaiser had sent as a gift for having taken out Quarrel. There was probably some political angle to it that, in my drunken state, I didn’t catch, but that was a problem for future Taylor.
“Oh what fun it is to sing a sleighing song tonight!” Tammi yelled from next to me, brandishing the nearly empty bottle in my face.
I stopped my attempts at ‘playing’ and gave her an odd look. “Is it ‘sleighing,’ like with a horse, or ‘slaying,’ like with a sword?”
Tammi giggled at me. “What the fuck do you think?” she asked.
“Yeah but like,” I tried. “Uh, what if instead it was ‘slashing through the snow?’”
“With a dumb dragon to slay!” Chisel provided immediately. I repeated it out loud for Tammi.
“Through the docks we go, laughing all the way,” she continued, then stuck her tongue out at me. “What, it works!”
“Cheater,” Sanguine grumbled. I agreed.
“Knives on scales ring,” Ironsides added.
“The glory of the fight,” Marauder cheered.
Tammi looked at me funny when I relayed the two verses, scrunching up her face in thought. “Oh what fun is to laugh and sing, a slaying song tonight!”
I did my best to play the chorus on the guitar. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!”
“Oh what fun, it is to fight, a dragon in the bay!” Tammi sang.
For the first time in weeks, I had a good night.