Morning After
Summary:In which everything looks different than it did the night before.
Timeline:The morning after “The Adventure Begins With One Step" and “Recruitment: Team Blast Hardcheese.”
Published:June 4, 2015.
Rating:PG/K+ - One candid question about certain nighttime activities.


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. . .


Derik woke with a jolt. A red light was blinking in the darkness. A mission! “Ear’ig, ge’ the—” He tried to sit up, but couldn’t. There was a weight on his stomach. Across most of his body, actually. He forced his left eye to focus and managed to make out a head of wild reddish hair. Gall.

The console went off again, and she stirred with a groan. “Nrg. Make it stop.”

Derik’s heart pounded, and so did his head. Shards. What was going on? “Gall?”

“Yeah, what?” She pushed herself up with one hand and blinked down at him.

“You . . . .” He squeezed his eyes shut a moment, just in case it was all a dream. It wasn’t. “You’re . . . why are you . . . ?” He gestured vaguely at the two of them on the rather cramped, narrow cot.

“What?” A moment later, the penny dropped. “Oh. ’Cuz Fellrazer took the other one.” She pointed a thumb backward over her shoulder.

Derik craned his neck to see around her. He could just make out two yellow eyes glaring at him from a spiky mound on what used to be Earwig’s cot. That sort of answered his question, but he was left with a niggling sense that there should be something further. He tried to speak again, but—


They both jumped.

“Would you—?” Derik started.

Gall snarled and wrested herself to her feet, kneeing Derik in the hip in the process and dragging his rough brown blanket away with her. She punched the button beneath the flashing light. “Stupid piece a’ crap.”

Derik sat up, frowning. He was definitely hungover. Again. Not nearly as badly as the last occasion, but enough that, although he’d managed to work out the most critical information, such as who Gall was and who he was, he was still lost on certain details. “Gall? Why are you in my response center?”

She stared at him, and he wasn’t sure whether it was because she thought the question was stupid or because she was struggling to come up with the answer herself. Then she said, “Because it’s mine, too, lunkhead.” The former, then. “Remember? The giant thinky daisy said so.”

“It did?” He put a hand to his forehead in concentration. Come to think of it, he did seem to recall standing in front of the Marquis de Sod recently. What had it said?

Based on your field evaluation, and because you currently lack a partner, I have decided to officially assign Agent Knutson with you henceforward. Good luck! Something like that. Possibly with the hint of a maniacal cackle at the end, but he couldn’t be sure.

“It did,” he had to agree. “So . . . .”

“So, we’re partners now. You are totally stuck with me. How’s it feel?”

“Like I had too much to drink and agreed to some things I’m going to regret,” he muttered. Stipples of the previous evening were starting to come back—a grin here, a gleam of metal there. A whiff of beer, leather, and sweat.

Rudi’s. He remembered Rudi’s. Gall had promised to buy him a drink, and she decided to turn it into a celebration of her assignment. Derik wasn’t about to turn down a cup or two after the day he’d had, so he went along with it. Then Gall had nearly gotten into a fight with that tattooed, dark-haired girl, Gremlin, and there was something about a team? Achoo, hairball . . . some sport with an odd name. That was about when the serious drinking had started. Everything afterward was a blur of strangers’ faces amid a din of boisterous shouts and laughter. It really had turned into a party of sorts.

A thought had been struggling to breach the surface of his consciousness since he’d awakened, and finally it leaped up. He looked urgently at his new partner. “Gall, did we—? I mean, last night; I don’t remember. Did we . . . get carried away at all when we came back here?”

Again, that stare. “What are you talking about?”

He felt his fist clench of its own accord. “I mean, when we were drunk and stupid and falling into bed together, did we have sex?”

“Oh.” A grin spread across her face. “Oh. You really don’t remember.”

“If I did, I wouldn’t be asking,” he said, each word clipped.

“Well, let me think.” Gall put a hand to her chin and tapped her jaw. “The two of us, waking up in bed together, after a night of drinking, after totally bonding and stuff, after that mission where there was some serious tension that could possibly have been sexual in nature . . . hmm . . . .”

“Just tell me!”

She rolled her eyes and relented. “Uh, no?” She opened the blanket, showing that she had a loose tunic and leggings on underneath. “Still dressed here. And you’ve got pants on, if you hadn’t noticed.”

In fact, he hadn’t. And there they were. He relaxed and let out the breath he’d been holding. “Ah, good.”

Gall nodded and turned toward the console, but then spun around again. “Hey! Whaddaya mean, ‘good’?”

It was Derik’s turn to be baffled. She wasn’t relieved, too?

“You saying I’m ugly or something?” She raised a fist as high as her waist, warning but not quite threatening—yet.

“No! I’m saying I like to know who I’m sleeping with, that’s all.” And the fact was, he hadn’t considered anyone that way since he had come here. He wasn’t sure he remembered how.

“Well, good.” Gall planted her hand on her hip. She seemed about to say something more, but instead she went back to the console. “Yeesh, get a load of this.”

“What is it?” He swung his legs over the side of the cot, but thought better of standing up immediately.

“Something stupid. Too stupid to deal with on an empty stomach.” She shut off the monitor before Derik could protest. “What’s for breakfast?”

Fellrazer lifted his head and gave an inquisitive hum at the word.

“Normally I would just scrounge something up on the mission,” Derik said, regarding the dragon, “but I suppose it will have to wait this time. I’ll be dashed if I know how we’re going to find steady food for him, though.”

Gall tossed her head dismissively. “Please, like that wasn’t the first thing I figured out when I got here? I know a guy. Come on, get up. You gonna wash again?”

“We should both wash,” he informed her in a tone that brooked no argument. “Would you like to go first, or shall I?”

Or we could go together, to save time.” She cocked her hip in a way that suggested this wasn’t just a practical solution. “Since we’ve established we can both stand the sight of each other and all.”

Derik stared a moment. He had thought he was fully awake now, but perhaps his dehydrated brain was still a bit sluggish, because he couldn’t quite get it to accept that this was really happening to him. “No,” he finally said, slowly, “I don’t think the shower is big enough.”

Maybe he really had imagined it, because just like that, everything was casual again. Gall didn’t miss a beat. “You mean you hog the soap. In that case, I’m going first.” She balled up the blanket and threw it at his cot, only just missing his head, and went to get started.

While Gall showered, Derik took the opportunity to pick up around the response center. The floor was still littered with two-ounce liquor bottles from the night before last, and he felt significantly better about himself once he’d dropped the last one into the waste bin. It was a new year for him. He had a new partner. Might as well try to make a new start.

Fellrazer watched his every move from Earwig’s cot. Derik could no longer ignore his presence in the response center or in his life. They were going to be living together, maybe even working together after a fashion. He looked into the creature’s unnatural slit-pupiled eyes. Overall, he was ugly—his hide was mottled and rough, his neck too thin, his head too big, and he was all over jagged spines, fangs, and claws. What’s more, he stank of his own flammable, chemical saliva. A far cry from the smooth, eye-pleasing hues, elegant proportions, and comforting, spicy scent of a Pernese dragon. Derik wished he could simply forget that he was a dragon at all, but his best qualities were the ones that most resembled proper dragons: his intelligence and his close, loving bond with Gall. Derik could overlook the superficial physical similarities, the wings and fire-breathing and so on, but not those. Gall was Fellrazer’s rider, and he was her dragon. Sure, it wasn’t quite the same kind of bond that Impression gave a Pernese rider and his hatchling, but it was close. Close enough to be a constant reminder of what Derik had lost.

“So it’s my fate to be in pain until I die,” he murmured.

Fellrazer made a raspy, rumbling sound and tilted his head.

Derik chuckled. “Well, it’s not your fault. I will try not to hold it against you, I promise.”

There was no telling whether the Nightmare really understood or not. He simply blinked once and turned his attention to grooming his claws.

A surge of fractured emotion left Derik wanting to either punch a wall or laugh until he couldn’t breathe. Fortunately, the sound of the bathroom door opening distracted him, and all he did was grin stupidly as he turned to look at Gall, who emerged wearing the same clothes as before. The air wafting into the main room was steamy and smelled of soap, but her hair was dry.

“That didn’t take long,” Derik remarked. “How exactly do they define ‘washing’ where you come from?”

“Hey, I scrubbed where it counts,” she retorted. “I don’t fancy going on a mission with damp hair. It’ll never dry in a braid, and then I’ll get mildew.” As she spoke, she combed her fingers roughly through the wiry red mass and started weaving the requisite three parts together. “Anyway, I want food, so hurry yourself up.”


Despite agreeing to hurry, Derik took the time to shave. His stubble was verging on proper beard length and the sparse patches on the right side made him look truly diseased. A large part of him didn’t care, because his appearance couldn’t possibly matter in the bleak world he inhabited, but the part that clung to his sense of duty and made him keep going insisted. He couldn’t have a new start without removing all the evidence of his self-neglect. Somehow, he still had his pride.

Once that was done, he showered quickly. He was starting to feel hungry, too, and the sooner he got out of the RC, the better.

By the time he stepped out, wearing his last fresh change of clothes, Gall had put on her leather armor and boots and looked more like herself.

“’Bout time,” she said. She gave his freshly clean-shaven face a once-over and seemed to approve. With a nod and a wave, she headed for the door. “Let’s go. I heard there’s a café that does a mean bacon sandwich—just the thing for a hangover. And then we can stop by the General Store and pick up some Dragon Chow for Fellrazer.”

Derik blinked. “Dragon Chow?”

“Yeah, I know, right? But it’s a thing, and the best part is that Leto accepts payment in the form of not being roasted alive by a hungry Nightmare.” She laughed, pleased with her own cleverness.

He laughed, too. It was just too absurd not to. “Well, we’ll have to find a way to pay properly. You can’t rely on intimidation forever.”

She threw him a puzzled look. “Why not?”

She was really, honestly confused. That was the worrying thing. She’d gotten through her whole life up until this point by being a bully, so why should she stop?

“Because you’re my partner now,” Derik said. “And that means we play by the rules.” He sang softly in a clean, silky baritone: “Dragonman, avoid excess / Greed will bring the Weyr distress / To the ancient laws adhere / Prospers thus the Dragonweyr.“ It hurt, but he found it wasn’t as bad as he’d feared.

Gall stared at him in a kind of fascinated horror as they walked. Then she threw her head back and barked a laugh. “Ha! If you think you’re gonna turn me into a stick-in-the-mud like you, old man, you’ve got another think coming!”

“We’ll see.”

“You bet your ass we will!”

Neshomeh’s Notes

Yup, Derik and Gall are officially permanent partners now. Who saw that coming? I mean, everyone, right? Especially since it’s been on the wiki for, like, three years at this point.

Jeez, I’m slow.

The café Gall mentions is meant to be the same one that Jay and Acacia visit in “Why am I Here?” and “Two Worlds,” just to make that clear. They’re known for serving real food and for supplying raw bacon for minis, so it stands to reason they fry some of it up for agents, too. {= )

This website is © Neshomeh since 2004. This page’s content was last updated 06.04.2015.
The PPC belongs to Jay and Acacia and is used with permission.