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(while life goes on around us everywhere)

I was going to babble at Darkside the moment I walked in about the excellent time we-all had at dinner, but he one-upped me.

See, the man has neighbors. And, neighbors being neighbors, neighbors will be neighborly.

I think I would probably give a bit to have been a fly on the wall for this conversation, because he didn't provide me with details about how or in what context or why the topic came up, but somehow, his neighbor said something that made reference to Darkside's marital status. Specifically, his wife.

Me.

It took Darkside some line of questioning before he realized this, however. Until they mentioned that the woman in question had black hair, he thought they were talking about his mother. Oh! Her! Yes, her! No, no, an old college friend. No.

He went into he-shoulda-said. "No ring!" he said, holding up his bare hand. I peered down at my hands. I wear rings. Today I was wearing stacked silver bands, one wider and one narrower, on my left ring finger. I laughed and shuffled them, looking sheepish. They don't mean anything beyond I-like-rings. I don't even wear the necklace he gave me. There's nothing of his on me. Not anymore.

It's not like we haven't been mistaken for a couple before. When I was at our mutual friend Dawn's wedding, Dawn's in-laws inquired about the boyfriend I'd had at Dawn's graduation. I was confused at that point, because I hadn't remembered that I'd actually been seen with Yakky (the guy I was dating at the time) at the wedding. No, they'd mean, "You know, blond, about your height, thin, glasses...?" Oh. Oh. No, not him, we aren't dating, we weren't dating, yes, we really would make a nice couple wouldn't we, yes, he is such a nice young man and we do look well together, yes, we do have an amazing amount of chemistry for a pair who aren't a pair, funny that...

I was still giggling about the fact that his neighbors had mistaken us for married by the end of the evening. As I pointed out to marta, under ordinary circumstances most married couples see each other at least eight hours a day, for values of "see" that include "spend time together if only mutually unconscious". My best friend and I get a few hours most weeks, but not all. On well-scheduled weeks, it's about six hours. On poorly-scheduled weeks, it's none, or two hours or so. Did they not notice Vash not parked out front and assume I was in the garage (that is still too full to hold cars)? Do they think I work out of town? Do they think I work nightshift? (I do, in fact, work nightshift.)

When I bid him goodbye at the end of the night, I take my hug and exchange our last words, then come on home. We aren't the kind of friends who kiss, ever. We're more likely to break out in an attack of attempting to strangle each other. (Not that I'd object to a kiss if he gave one. But he doesn't give them. We're not that kind of friends.) Sometimes we stand talking for an hour, the nights when we aren't done yet and can't bear to let go. That's outside. All the rest -- all the animé, all the poking back and forth, the occasional pillowfights, the klutziness with drinks and his feet on the coffee table -- that's inside, away from prying eyes.

We are who we are, and who we are includes best friends. (He knows. I know he knows. We had that conversation last year, rather, again last year, which was an anaesthetic for the pain of Strikethrough on the order of severing one's spinal cord to cope with a nastily ingrown toenail.) I told him, at length, staring at something on the wall between the entryway and the kitchen, that someday he would make some lucky woman a very excellent husband.

And he will. Someday. But not me. And not yet.
Gone away, gone ahead,
Echoes roll unanswered.
Empty, open, dusty, dead.
Why have all the Weyrfolk fled?

Where have dragons gone together
Leaving weyrs to wind and weather,
Setting herdbeasts free of tether;
Gone, our safeguards, gone, but whither?

Have they flown to some new weyr
Where cruel Threads some others fear?
Are they worlds away from here?
Why, oh why the empty weyr?

-- "The Question Song", Anne McCaffrey
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