Tuesday, August 7, 2007


It took all of Diana's courage to get through dinner. Although Tiffany, Ikea and Cascabel had visited her tent that afternoon and admired her wedding gifts, she had a feeling they had only come to get information for the rumor mill.

Only Macy, Dell and Juniper seemed sincerely glad she was back, but what particularly hurt was Sachi's defection. Her words were polite, but instead of settling in by her side at dinner like she always had, she flounced over to Boeing, who was being outright hateful, trying to rouse some interest in incest jokes.

At least the older members of the group had manners. Diana found herself tempted to sit with Paloma and Galileo, as much for their protection as for the new affinity she felt for the adults. She was younger than many of her friends, but marriage and a baby on the way had already changed her in ways she hadn't anticipated.

Macy passed her a plate of venison. "Harley must be glad you're back. This is the first fresh meat we’ve had in awhile."

"There's potatoes, too," Will observed. "We were running low when I left."

"Sputnik had some sent up day before yesterday," Ikea said, looking at Diana.

Sachi overheard. "Too bad he decided to leave. We'll miss the way he always arranged good food for us."

Diana looked at her plate and feigned absorption in her meal. She knew Robert had left that afternoon, and she also knew why. She didn't need anybody goading her about it. Will put a hand on her back and she forced herself to eat. There was nothing wrong with the food, but for some reason everything tasted like wood.

Sensing her discomfort, Will looked at Harley. "What's the latest on the mission to kill Strecker?"

"We're thinking maybe at the end of next month."

"Seems like a long way away."

"Well, by the time we move camp and get you snipers up to speed. . ."

"I'm ready," Boeing said. "I can do it tomorrow."

"You're not on this team," Harley said. "It'll be Will, Coyote and Diana."

"Why her? You've never sent her on this type of mission before."

"The man killed her family," Harley said. "She has the skill, so unless she says she doesn't want to go, she has dibs."

“I guess that makes sense, since we know how she likes to keep everything in the family."

Harley glared at him. "One more remark like that and you can eat someplace else."

"All I said was how important her family was to her." Boeing looked around the circle with innocent eyes. Sachi giggled and he tugged one of her braids.

"At least she has people who care," Will said. "Maybe you should ask your girlfriend in town what that's like. But she dumped you, didn't she? Sorry."

"There's other pretty girls, and I don't see your mother here tonight, so what's all this about your loving family? Or is loving part of the problem?"

"Shut up, Boeing!" Diana said.

He grinned at her like a well-fed cat. "Sorry I said anything. See you at target practice in the morning?"

"Will you be the target?"

Harley got to his feet. "Enough!" He looked at Boeing. "I meant what I said. Go."

Boeing stood and casually stretched his arms overhead. "Okay. I was done eating, anyway, unless there's wedding cake for dessert."

Will stood up too, and took a step toward him, but Boeing laughed, looking from Will to Harley and back again, with no trace of animosity. "Folks sure do get touchy when a guy makes a few jokes."

"It would help if they were funny."

"It's not my fault your sense of humor is impaired." He offered Sachi his hand. "Sachi thinks my jokes are funny."

Sachi darted a nervous glance at Will, then accepted Boeing's hand and got to her feet. With a toss of her head, she let him lead her into the darkness outside the ring of the campfire's light.

"Anyone else got anything to say?" Harley asked. Getting nothing but silence and a few shakes of the head, he turned to Will, Diana and Coyote. "You three stay after dinner so we can talk. We need to coordinate training and strategy."


Alice Audrey said...

Boeing seems to be taking it more personally than I'd expect, even given he's a bit of a jerk. What's up with Sachi, too? Mad at losing her chance at Will?

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Boeing just likes goading people. You're completely right about Sachi, though. She asked Diana a lot of pointed questions about their relationship back in early winter.