While everyone else was getting more excited about the idea and talking over each other with ideas for how to make this work, I looked across the table at Lynn, who was staring at her lap with wide eyes that looked on the verge of tears.
“Lynn?” I asked with some alarm. “Are you okay?”
Instead of answering, she pushed her plate aside and then gently set down what she was holding on the table. The others, who had all fallen quiet at my question, looked at the object with confused expressions.
For a moment, my brow furrowed in confusion until I realized what was going on. What Lynn was so moved about she couldn’t even say.
The throwing star she had picked up wasn’t gold.
“Anti-magic,” I breathed. “That – of course! Anti-magic might be able to help alchies live more normal lives! If we could infuse gloves and things with anti-magic like the Hunter weapons, you’d be able to interact with the world more normally.”
The others all looked thunderstruck at the discovery – which, in retrospect, should have been more obvious.
“We will find the source of Hunter weapons,” Jo swore. “For Lynn, and all the other alchies. However they’re achieving this anti-magic stuff, we need to know. We need to know so they can have a chance at a normal life.”
Lynn nodded and wiped quickly at her tears. “I’ll help. I know, I’m not trained or anything, but I can help finance all this, right? I’ve never cared much for my abilities, but if my magic can help provide funds to find a way to make more anti-magic stuff, I’ll be delighted to use it.” She gently touched the throwing star with her fingertip, a slightly marveling look coming across her face. “I haven’t gotten the chance to touch something with my bare fingers and not have it turn to gold in years, since I first got my abilities. I – I really want to know how they do their weapons. So I can be more normal.”
The rest of us glanced at each other, resolution in all our faces.
“We’ll find out,” I promised her. “It might take a while – years, probably – but we will find a way.”
“A way to be more normal,” Lynn murmured, her eyes still on the star.
Odd, really, that Hunters were indirectly providing hope to a supernatural. Honestly, they owed it to her, after all they did to her and the other supernaturals.
It was time to change our approach and, in doing so, maybe give alchies like Lynn a chance to live again.
I found Lynn a couple of days later, sitting in the living room, her attention focused on the throwing star that she kept fiddling with.
“Alchies aren’t like some supernaturals that are born with all their magic – we get ours at a certain age,” she announced without preamble and without looking at me as I sank down onto a nearby chair.
“Okay?” I felt a little confused about this topic.
“When I was a little girl, I used to assume that my magic would be related to my vision, like Mom. She could have a pretty normal life with my dad, she basically just had to make sure she couldn’t see out of the special glasses she got. She wasn’t technically blind, but practically speaking, that’s what it was like. I just figured that I’d get the same ability, because I was young enough I didn’t realize that the type of alchie powers one might get aren’t necessarily hereditary – what my mom had doesn’t dictate what I would. So as a little girl, I used to dream about having my own family one day. Well, a partner, really, I never thought much about kids. I was a bit of a dreamer and used to imagine meeting someone and just, you know, being happy together. I wasn’t like the other girls my age, though, because I didn’t want a prince. I wanted a rogue, as it were. I liked the idea of a rugged scoundrel with a golden heart and, well, I guess the golden heart part might be literal now.” She laughed humorlessly.
“When I got my magic and realized that I could never interact directly with anyone other than another alchie, it devastated me. Sure, there’s a chance I’d find another alchie out there, but we’re rare and I didn’t want to be trapped into having just the option of one person – regardless of whether I really liked them or not. I don’t want to be with someone just because they’re an alchie, I want to be with someone because we’re right for each other. Or, well, I did. When I got my magic and all of a sudden I realized everything I’d ever wanted – my career, my dreams, everything – was just gone, impossible now…I got bitter. I started behaving recklessly, and that ended with me being caught by Hunters who knew what I could do. You know how that went. But,” she traced the edges of the throwing star, “for the first time in more than a decade, I finally have hope again. I know, even if we can find out how these are made and even if we can somehow convert that into something that would work for alchies, it’s not the same entirely. I’d still have to wear special gloves and would still have to limit touching things with my bare hands, but at least I could touch people with gloves on, you know? Right now I don’t even dare do that, in case I accidentally kill them if my powers seep through.”
I really wasn’t sure what the point of this conversation was, but then she looked sideways at me, hesitantly, and suddenly it clicked into place.
Then she went on and confirmed it. “When I first met you, I actually felt even more upset about the whole situation because, well, I think I’d be interested in you if things were normal. You’re sort of…what I’ve always liked. And the more I’ve gotten to know you, the more I’ve thought so. But I didn’t feel like I could say anything because it was impossible. But now…maybe it isn’t as impossible as I thought.”
She stopped there, and for a few minutes we were both quiet.
She wasn’t asking me anything outright, but I still wanted to give her some kind of an answer. I liked Lynn, and while I hadn’t pictured a relationship with her, that was honestly because I hadn’t pictured a relationship with anyone in years. But if I wanted to give a relationship a shot with anyone, I’d kind of like it to be someone who knew more about me, like Lynn did. She understood more of what I’d been doing with my life than most people would ever understand, even if I tried to explain it to them – simply because she’d seen it. She’d seen me playing a Hunter and then turning the tables. She knew what I was really like, and she still was interested in me, which kind of gave me warm feelings that I hadn’t felt in years.
“Even if we’re able to find a solution,” I said slowly, “we would be limited in what kind of relationship we could have, but to be honest, that doesn’t really bother me.” I noticed her eyes swiftly dart to me before looking away as I shrugged briefly. “And honestly, I don’t think you necessarily need to rule out a relationship now. Some people engage in committed platonic relationships,” I tried to explain, suddenly unsure if I was making sense or not. “Basically just like a boyfriend or girlfriend, just without the romance or without the physical side of things, for some people. I think with the right person you could have a relationship with someone that maybe involves romance, but no physical contact, and if it works out, then you can at least have that much, even if there are some things that would remain impossible.” Kissing and sex came to mind. “With me,” I clarified, suddenly feeling like I was being too vague. “I mean, I’d be open to trying to date, or be committed or whatever we want to call it, even with the, um, complications. And seeing if we are happy with that and then eventually if we can find another solution, we can at least hold hands and things, even if there are some things that might not work out. I don’t want kids, either,” I explained as I saw her startled expression. “I’m more interested in just someone who’s there with me, like a life partner. I think maybe our interests aren’t that incompatible.”
She gave me a half smile. “Even if our bodies are in the sense that I could kill you if I forget myself for a moment?” She didn’t say it, but I saw the fear flicker in her eyes for a moment. Lynn was genuinely scared of accidentally killing someone by forgetting and just reaching out to touch them – an action all the rest of us took for granted.
“I don’t think you’d do that,” I responded. “You’ve been careful in the past few months and you’ve been dealing with this for years – I think your instincts would probably kick in and help, but even if not, we can try to figure out how to handle things safely. Make sure if we decide to try a romantic non-physical relationship, for instance, we have rules about how close we can sit or whatever – precautions for just in case either of us forget. It’s not an impossible challenge. We can figure it out.”
Her eyes searched my face. “You’d really want to?” She asked in a small voice. “Even just casually, just to see? You’d really be willing to do that knowing you’d be risking your life if I did forget and that our relationship could never be entirely normal?”
I gave her a genuine smile filled with as much confidence as I could muster. “Relationships don’t have to be ‘normal’ to be right or to make the people in them happy. It’d be different, yes, but if it’s right for us, I don’t really see the problem. And yes, I am. I like you, I like the joy you’ve brought into our lives, and, um,” I fumbled awkwardly for some words, “I haven’t been in a relationship for years, so I can’t even guarantee I remember how to be in one, but I’d kind of like to try, with you.”
In return, I got a shy but undeniably happy smile from her. “I would like that very much,” she said softly.
I hadn’t exactly expected to end up in a relationship of whatever variety we were going to call this, but I found I didn’t mind, either. Whether she thought so or not, Lynn was worth the gamble.