*Dreams of Home*
Frank turned up the radio, filling the room with Freddie mercury’s powerful voice. "Who waaaaants to liiive foreveeeer…" he sang.
Frank sighed, "Not I." Perhaps once he would have, in those times when life was full, electric, alight with surprises. It had been, he supposed, more than ten years since that last fateful night. He had passed out as Rocky carried him loyally up the RKO radio tower. Riff Raff hadn’t realised that the antimatter laser had flipped to ‘stun’ after consuming its charge on Columbia. Riff had assumed he was dead. The cold water had brought him to his senses. He had thought quickly and played ‘possum, while thoughts of "Traitor! How dare he!" raced through his head. Waiting for Brad, Janet and Dr Scott to leave the theatre, he swum to the edge and left through the servants’ entrance in the kitchen, grabbing whatever essentials he could on the way. It pained him to leave his precious creation bobbing about water-logged, but Rocky hadn’t seemed to care about him in the same way Frank had for him, and he had slept with that Weiss woman behind his back. And he hadn’t seemed to mind when she had run to his arms after seeing Eddie’s mutilated corpse.
He ran his hands through his still thick black hair (luckily for him, Transylvanians grow steadily more beautiful with age), sighing again.
He had lived on the street for years, making his money the obvious way; the only way he knew how. The world wasn’t ready for the technology he understood, and so his science skills lay in waste. What he had done, creating a life, was held to be blasphemous by many of the inhabitants of this little planet, and neither did the public give an approving eye to many of his other necessary practices. They just didn’t understand.
Once he had saved up enough he had moved to London, where he opened an alternative nightclub, operating on London’s abundant underground culture. He named it ‘Little Columbia’, in honour of the one person who had always loved him unconditionally, would never betray him. No one was turned away; he knew all too well what that felt like. But in the same way, no one was pandered to. Once they entered, a duke and a vagabond were on equal footing – not that they received many of either. There was a modest fee to enter and a little more for the more intimate of services rendered.
He made a comfortable living and had a few friends and lovers; all the same, he was lonely. He missed the moon-drenched shores of Transsexual, with its deep velvety nights and bright spangled days. At times he wept at the memories. His every need was seen to there, all of them understandable: the norm. There was no such thing as being ‘perverted’, and kinky was the order of the day. No one turned away with looks of disgust and covered-up fear, the thought "Freak!" plain on their faces. Transsexual was free, without inhibition: home. Oh, how he missed it.
"Frank…" He swung around. It was Nellette, one of his ser… uh-hum… waitresses.
"Could you come out here a moment? We have a little problem."
Frank frowned once at his reflection and left the room – which was connected to the club-proper - with Nellette. Backstage, two of his other employee’s were trying to calm down an upset customer.
"What’s wrong?" He demanded.
One of his dancers \ waitresses spoke up: "This man asked Sonia here to do a table dance for him, but she said she wasn’t in the mood." Sonia, a tall, slim girl with cropped ash-blonde hair, scowled: "I haven’t been feeling well for days now, I think my period’s coming, and I think if I had to do that now I’d just throw-up!"
The first to speak continued, "Right. So when she refused, he threw down his drink and started shouting ‘just what kind of brothel is this anyway?’ as if we’re supposed to do anything he wants!"
The customer, a forty-ish man with a receding hairline and a haphazard blue suit, narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, well if you girls wanna work in a joint like this, you should be prepared to do wha’ the paying customer asks! In fact, if I don’t get wha’ I paid for, I think you can just give me my bloody money back!"
Frank was wearing a blue toweling bathrobe, his face undone. He put a hand on Sonia’s shoulder. "Take a break. I’ll handle this." He turned to the man. "What is your name, sir?"
"Alright Mr. Hampton, would you come with me please?"
The man, thinking he would be given a refund, followed Frank back to his room. Once inside, Frank locked the door behind him without being noticed. He stood, his back to the wall, as Paul Hampton stared at his collection of classic movie posters and memorabilia. "Qui’ the collector, aren’t you?" When there was no answer, he turned around.
"Do you enjoy upsetting others, Mr. Hampton?"
"Wha’? Oh, fuck off."
Frank smiled, "Oh, I intend to."
The man looked confused. Walking slowly, Frank crossed the room to him. Matter-of-factly, he clutched the man’s shoulders with Transylvanian strength, and pushed him backward onto the bed. He pulled open his robe, revealing a black corset, with a whip attached to the belt. He climbed on top of the man, kneeling on his chest. The man’s eyes were wide in fear, whiteness showing as he screamed, "Gerrof me, you FREAK! "
Frank’s eyes were wide too, anger searing in them, yet his voice was calm. "I worked very hard to build up this establishment, Mr. Hampton, and these ladies work very hard too…" He pulled out the whip, putting the handle at the man’s throat. "I don’t like it when people mistreat my employees, Mr. Hampton, I don’t like it one bit. Many women fear men like you; do you know what that’s like? To know you are about to be taken advantage of against your will, and not being able to do anything about it? I assure you, Mr. Hampton, I can show you what it’s like. You’ll never feel the same again. You’ll always feel there’s some-one lurking in the shadows, waiting to make a quick meal of you, or to throw harsh words at you. You’ll never love the same again; it’ll always feel tainted somehow. Don’t make me break you, Mr. Hampton, because I can, all too easily!"
With that, he pulled the whip from the man’s throat, standing back. Paul Hampton struggled up, gasping for air. He ran to the door, finding it locked and panicking. Frank dangled a key. "You are going to behave, aren’t you, Mr. Hampton?"
His eyes darted about, "Yeh… yeh, wha’ever you say! Wha’ever, jus’ let me out!"
Standing in the passageway, Sonia watched as the man flew out of Frank’s chamber, landing against the opposite wall. He got up, trembling, and walked nervously past her, muttering "Evening miss" as he did so. Sonia smiled; Frank had a way with words.
Frank completed the Rubik’s cube and tossed it over his shoulder, hearing it hit the wall. The next he heard was the door opening, and he watched she who entered in the dresser-mirror. Her long brown hair framing her mischievous face, Rori came up behind him, placing her supple hands on his tense shoulders. He let his neck go limp and loll backward, groaning softly.
"I hate having to do that," he confided in a whisper. Rori worked at his muscles.
"I know, but the girls are really thankful that you do."
He frowned, inspecting the mirror for what he thought was a line on his forehead.
"Yes, but it’s so… detestable…and to think the most of our patrons are just like him." Rori cocked an eyebrow: "You wanted to, though, didn’t you?"
She nodded knowingly: "You wanted to take advantage of that man, to show him what it was like. I know you, you would have reveled in it." Frank turned to look into her playful blue eyes; she knew him so well, almost better than he knew himself.
"Yes… you’re right…" he chuckled gently. "How would that’ve looked in the papers?"
Rori clasped her arms around his neck and put her cheek to his, breathing in his scent and looking at their twin image in the shiny glass. She gave him a little peck.
Frank awoke that next morning, knowing full well what the day was, but hoping no one else knew or had remembered. It depressed him too much, reminded him too much of his own mortality. Although he did not want to live forever, he certainly was not ready to die. After that last night at the castle, his survival instinct had gone into over-drive, and age was one of those few things he could not avoid by science or running away or hiding.
Rori, he noticed, still lay asleep, wearing a dreamy smile and little else. He could not understand the tastes in Paris, Milan and the other fashion capitals; the so-called supermodels were little more than precious skin and bone, no shape, almost androgynous. That was not a woman to be held and caressed, it was an organic coat-rack, cleverly programmed to walk up and down the ramps. The men, he supposed, were a little better, but they still looked perpetually hung-over and waif-like. Rori was supple and well rounded, a pleasure to be with. Although she often agonized over her large bones, he felt it suited her: it gave her a subtle hint of masculinity, although she could never have been anything but passionately female. She was assertive and opinionated without being overly forceful; this she left to him.
It was she, among other things, he surmised, that made life on this run-down little planet bearable, yet what he wouldn’t have given to see home again.
"Ah… sweet Transsexual…" he sighed, mirroring Magenta’s words, "… beloved land of night…"
"What’s wrong with here?"
He smiled at Rori, planting a kiss on her neck. "Nothing… yet everything. You must know that even after all this time, this world is still a foreign, alien place to me. I know I’ll never truly fit in here, simply because I don’t belong here. I belong… out there…" he gestured skyward with a twirling hand.
"So you’d leave everything you’ve accomplished here? If you had the chance to go back, I mean. You’d abandon all of it? Everyone?" The last question in a softer, lower tone.
Frank blinked at her; he hadn’t thought it would ever be possible to return home. To those back on Transsexual, he was most probably dead. Certainly Riff Raff had told them something of the like. "I’d want you to come with me…"
She chuckled quietly: "I did, if you remember." Then more seriously, "You know it would be just the same for me there as it is for you here. The sort of world you come from I can’t imagine. I’d feel just like… what was her name? Janet Veiss?"
"Weiss, yes. Just like that. I’d be an innocent in a crazy place I knew nothing about."
He put a hand to his forehead. "I really wish you wouldn’t keep bringing that night up; it’s not one of my happiest memories, you know."
She ran a finger down his smooth chest. "Was she good?"
"Janet. How was she?"
Frank grinned mischievously. "Not as good as you, darling."
Little Columbia was packed that evening; it was payday, and everyone was kicking loose and indulging in a little unorthodox pleasure. Nellette was struggling with a full tray of colourful drinks between tables and Sonia was in her room entertaining a client - apparently she was feeling better. Rori spoke to a friend: "It’s all set, then? Good."
She left the busy room and went through the backstage area to Frank’s room. Knocking and stepping inside, she found him on the bed lying on his back, staring up at the oriental designs of the ceiling. He was wearing his favourite robe; black satin with a sinuous golden dragon tattooed across the back. She frowned. "You’re wasting your life in here," she said with concern.
He twisted his neck to look at her: "What life? This is my haven... and I don’t feel comfortable outside of it. It’s depressing, really..."
"You’re telling me," then softly, "I can’t stand to see you this way. Get dressed and come to dinner with me - it’s a full-house."
Without warning, he rolled quickly onto one side and glared at her: "Get dressed? Into what?! Hmm? A suit, perhaps? Or a nice dinner jacket?"
She rolled her eyes, "Don’t start that again! It’s not as if you’ll be that conspicuous around here, and why should you care, anyway? It never bothered you before!"
He sighed deeply, "And I was a fool! In my castle I was a god! I could do anything I wanted and people just had to grin and take it, no matter what. There were no laws, no barriers, and no one to contradict me! Then there’s here, and if I went out as myself, it would be just like..." he stopped suddenly, looking away at the opposite wall.
This unnerved Rori, and she went over to sit next to him, putting an arm around him. "Just like what?" she asked gently.
He bit his lip, blinking; clearly what he had to tell was difficult. "I was... here before."
"‘Here’ where? Earth?"
"Yes. In the earlier part of the century, I was on assignment in... Germany." Rori tightened her grip on his shoulders; she could see where this was going. "I... was doing research in Munich on human social behaviour under a similar guise, when word spread among my colleagues of the growing power of Nazi ideology. At the time, I had made little attempt to hide my preferences from those close to me, so it came as little surprise when, one evening, soldiers showed up at my door and arrested me for, what they termed, ‘conducting an immoral, unclean and blasphemous way of life’. After a few months imprisonment, the war started up and I was moved to a camp, the name of which I never learned. One of the camp scientists had heard of my expertise and I was thus spared in order to aid them in their odious studies. Not that it was much of a blessing in itself. Apart from the fact that I was given fairly regular meals, I was treated much the same as the rest of the prisoners. The officers mocked me… and would often come into my room… in the middle of the night. They..." he stopped, turning his head to one side with his eyes tight shut, as if trying to dispel the memory, "They would... strip me naked and... taunt me at gunpoint, daring me to take them on... they called me such..." He could not continue. Resting his head on Rori’s shoulder, he wept. She held him close, unsure of how to react. She knew only that she must not leave, that he needed her company now so much. She stroked his back lovingly, "And that’s why your lab-coat had that pink triangle on it? As a sort of identification?" He nodded.
"Yes... and, strike me down, Everett Scott was present at that camp. No one I met there could ever escape my memory, not ever!"
Rori shook her head, "The bastards," she whispered.
After a while, Frank stopped quaking and sat quiet, evidently drained.
"Frankie… darling… I had no idea. But surely you must know that this is a vastly different set-up. This is your…" a thought struck her, "But then… you know that, don’t you? You’ve been depressed by painful memories that you’ve hoarded too long, things you should have gotten out years ago." She turned his face towards her. His eyelids were red and swollen, tear-scars marking his cheeks.
"Frank… no one, Earthen or not, should have had to go through all that you did for the simple crime of being themselves…" She wondered briefly if what she was about to say was appropriate, unsure of how he would react, "I… I love you, Frankie, and I would do anything to keep you from such sadness. You’re like a lifeline to me, ever since I first met you. When you’re happy it makes me happy, yet lately there’s been so much despair around you that… I don’t know what to do."
Frank shut his eyes, a soft frown forming between his brows.
"Rori… I am so sorry. I’ve been dwelling in an awful bit of self-pity. When that laser was pointed at me… that was it; I lost all hope – begging, trying to escape; those were all knee-jerk reactions, natural survival tactics. Years alone… with others yet alone, I thought I’d forgotten how to love, really love with my mind and soul and not just my… body. Then I came here, and I’ve been… afraid to let anyone in… afraid of being hurt… I’m so very sorry to have dragged you down with me."
Rori tried to lighten the mood: "Well… don’t beat yourself up over it."
The corner of his mouth twitched. He traced her contours from her chin, down the side of her neck and exposed shoulder; she shivered at the electricity of his unholy touch. He took a deep breath. "You’ve been kinder to me than I ever deserved…" He looked about the room, as if trying to convince himself that he could leave it; he was sure he could remember a time in his life when nothing had held him back, a time when the nervousness he felt would not have existed.
"I wish I could say that I loved you, but…"
She put a finger over his lips.
"Don’t say anything that you’ll regret. I don’t want to make a liar out of you." She wiped the moisture from his face with the smooth back of her hand, letting it linger on his strong jaw-line. "Will you come out with me tonight?" she asked.
Frank took her hand, holding it firmly in his.
"Promise you’ll stay with me," he said, meaning more than just the night. She looked deep into his dark, lonely eyes,
The lights were low; a girl painted with little concealing leopard spots was dancing on stage. Rori held tightly onto Frank’s hand, leading him carefully through the crowds; he was clearly pleased by the turnout. He was dressed conservatively – in context – in thigh-high boots, his button jacket and a body suit with silver trimming around the low collar. Around his neck he wore a subtle cerise sheer-scarf.
They sat down at a two-person table. He was glad to see Nellette coming over.
"Good to see you out and about," she smiled, "I’ll be with you in just a moment."
"No hurry, dear," he assured her.
In a while, she returned with two cocktails-
"Two Magentas on the rocks… on the house!" she added with a chuckle.
"Well, it’s not four identical walls, but you must admit, it has a certain… naïve
charm," Rori teased.
Frank laughed and sipped his drink. There was a short cough from above. He looked up to see a man standing over him. He was dressed in tight, black leather pants, a white vest and a black jacket that reflected crimsons, magentas and violets under the house lights. He had leather boots, with scarlet tassels, up to his knees.
"Excuse the interruption, but would you like to join me at my table?" He was tall and only slightly muscled. His hair was blonde with auburn highlights; thick and wild as it was, reaching halfway down his back, it could easily have been called a mane. His eyes were mossy green, adorned with long, dark lashes. His lips were delicately shaped and subtly painted, and he smiled enticingly. Frank felt a spark of his old self leap in excitement; there was something very familiar about this exotic man that he could not place.
"Why not," he agreed. Then he thought of Rori. He turned to her, but before he could speak, she waved her hand dismissively: "Go on! When did you last enjoy yourself?"
Frank smiled gratefully and left with the stranger. Rori sighed; alone again. She signalled for another drink.
The mysterious man flopped down on the red velvety seat, gesturing for Frank to sit next to him. Frank grinned at his chutzpah. "And your name, dashing stranger?" he asked smoothly.
He put an arm over the back of the seat. "They call me Griffin."
"They do, do they? Just Griffin?"
"M-hm. And you, dark beauty?"
"A proud name." This puzzled Frank greatly; only on Transsexual did the Furter family name hold any particular charm or reverence. From what he had learnt, it was something of a joke among Earthens. "I haven’t seen you around here before," he remarked.
"Do you come here often?"
"I own it."
Griffin grimaced: "Ouch! There goes that pick-up line. Look, I’m not in the mood to play games. I came in for a quick drink and saw you over there," he gestured to Rori’s table, "looking beautiful. I couldn’t stand not meeting you because you’re one of the most immediately bewitching people I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’d just like to know I’m not wasting my time and making you uncomfortable to boot. Simply put: How would – hypothetically – sleeping with me sound? Straight answer. Disgust? Wrong preference? Have I completely lost my ability? Just like to know."
Frank was silent for a while, half overwhelmed by the sudden looking-up in events, and half enjoying watching him squirm. Then: "Not known for your subtlety, are you? The fact that I’m still here should tell you something."
Griffin exhaled loudly, unaware that he had been holding his breath. He flicked a renegade blonde hair out of his face in a way that made Frank quiver internally, "Thank God," he leaned closer, "because, otherwise, it would have been a terrible waste."
Rori twirled her glass, watching the blue liquid inside roll about like a miniature sea. This was not how she’d pictured this night. Her friend Delilah leant over. "Rori, honey, everything’s still set. You sure you don’t wanna go ahead?"
Rori looked over at Frank and the stunning stranger. "Maybe in a little while; I don’t want to spoil anything for him."
She was a tolerant person, this she knew, and she really had no qualms with Frank seeing other people – it was just his way – even if his choice of relationships did seem a bit odd to her. One thing did irk her, though: What did he have that she didn’t?
When asked about his past life, Frank had neatly side-stepped the question.
"Oh… this and that. You?"
Griffin too seemed wary of giving too much about himself away. "Nothing exciting; I’ve been in the same field for years."
"Oh? And that is?" asked Frank, hardly expecting the answer he received.
"I’m a scientist; nuclear physics."
"Fascinating. I-" he stopped himself from adding that he too had dabbled therein for a while, although he preferred genetics. Besides which, it had been a long time since he had practised either and he did not, above all, want to appear ignorant. He smiled disarmingly, "Unfortunately, I’ve never been much of a conversationalist-" a speech-maker, yes, but not a conversationalist – "really more of a… practical person, if you get my meaning." His eyes smouldered at Griffin from under his raven-black brows.
Griffin raised an eyebrow in obvious amusement, "Is there something somewhere you’d like to show me, then?"
Frank pouted seductively. "Perhaps."
He rose and Griffin was about to follow, when Delilah spoke from the stage.
"Good evening, my unconventional patrons…" there was a flurry of light laughter from the now quiet crowds. "…I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves. You’ve come on a rather special night…"
Frank widened his eyes, aware of the trend. He grabbed Griffin’s arm: "Come on!" he hissed. Griffin gave a lop-sided grin, "Wait, I want to hear this," he whispered back.
"No, you really don’t," Frank muttered.
"…Tonight," Delilah continued, "we celebrate the birth of some one very special and close to the hearts of all who work here. He looks out for us, and makes sure we all get paid on time…" Another round of laughter from most present. Griffin’s grin was growing, and Frank was wishing he could melt into the floor – it worked on the Wizard of Oz… perhaps if he spilt the drinks over himself?
"I know he’s here tonight, so ladies and gentlemen, please let’s have a round of applause for the owner, manager and heart of the Little Columbia – Mr. Frank Furter!" The spotlight shifted to him as the crowds showed their appreciation. Oh shit, he thought, then – hang on, when did I develop a fear of attention? It did seem rather odd. What had happened to the man he was? That Frank would’ve rejoiced in such a situation. Where, he wondered, had he put that piece of himself? He looked and saw the beautiful man beaming at his side, then Rori and the rest of his girls, and the crowds of strangers, who cared! That was all that he had really wanted back then: some one to care. And now he had it. These people loved him – or at least acted like they did, which was, really, enough for him. He flicked his hair back and smiled, smiled and thought: Rori’s behind this. He made a mental note to… thank her later.
Once the applause had died down, Frank proceeded to leave the room; he had certainly not forgotten his original intentions.
"They must really like you here," Griffin remarked.
"They have to. As Delilah said, I handle their pay-packets."
Griffin looked at him for a moment, trying to gauge whether he was serious. He couldn’t tell. Through the stage exit and behind the scenes, Frank led him to a modest looking door with the words "Executive Office" stencilled in silver letters across it.
"There should probably be a star right about here," said Griffin, gesturing to the area above the writing.
"Oh no, that would be too egotistical… even for me," he chuckled. Yet he was thinking how it might not be such a bad idea. He unlocked the door (His own words came to mind from past memories: "Unlock a mind - unmind a lock - it's the same as the beginning of the end - do you follow?" Something that always rang true) and bade Griffin to enter first.
"Such a gentleman."
"I don’t know whether I should take that as a compliment or an insult."
"To quote the bard: ‘take it as thou list’, because I don’t know either!" The both laughed at this, stepping inside. Griffin whistled: "Nice digs. What’s this?"
"A limited edition playbill for The Day the Earth Stood Still. Quite valuable, really."
Griffin nodded, turning to another poster, "And the original design for the King Kong press release. Aren’t we just a little obsessive?"
Frank shrugged. "It’s amazing. People can come up with all these fantastic stories, yet look at how fucked up they are. If only they’d take a lesson from themselves, from their art. Look at these-" he gesticulated to the multiple cinematic images – "Heroics, moral values…" Griffin snorted at this, causing Frank to frown: "You know what I mean! Anyway…" He took off his jacket, draping it over a chair. "I don’t think we came here to discuss my hobbies…"
Sonia appeared with a lemon-twisted drink. "How’d it go?" she asked Rori, fixing her hair one-handed.
"Quite well, I’d say," Rori replied. Thank God he didn’t make a scene, she thought. "I was sure he’d embrace the attention if we forced him – you know, he hasn’t been half the man he used to be."
"And only ever half a man, at that," Sonia quipped.
Rori scowled; she didn’t appreciate such pokes at her love, however good-humouredly they were put forward. Unfortunately, it was only she who knew the truth; he had confided in no one else. Would the other girls have been willing to work for an extra-terrestrial? It had been enough of a shock for her, and she had been in love with him. It was not a chance he was about to take… yet.
Frank caressed Griffin’s chest, slowly removing the vest from behind. He took a breath,
"You taste like musk… and cornfields."
Griffin looked at him over his shoulder,
"And yours is the essence of a wild black stallion; untameable and mysterious."
"Are you sure?"
Griffin turned to Frank, wrapping his arms around him. He put his head to Frank’s neck, brushing aside the thick black locks that hung there. Frank made a short gasp as he felt Griffin’s tongue, accompanied by the soft brush of his lips. Griffin kissed him up and down while he floated in ecstasy. "Oh God," he breathed.
Looking up, Griffin held Frank’s chin and stared into his eyes,
Lying intertwined in the mussed sheets, they were as two long sleek felines.
"I know it’s a terrible cliché," sighed Griffin, "but do you have any cigarettes?" Frank smiled and untangled himself, rolling over to the bedside table and opening the drawer.
Griffin lit one up and drew deeply; a haunted look had come into his eyes.
Frank noticed at once: "What is it?"
He shook his head slightly then blew a smoke ring, "Nothing."
Frank knew it had nothing to do with his… performance. He had far too many witnesses to ever doubt that. But something was certainly on Musk-and-Corn’s mind.
"Don’t give me that. No one’s soul is more open and bare than after sex, and I can see there’s something in yours that’s bothering you."
"Perceptive." Griffin stared at the cigarette for a while, then drew on it again. After a long moment, he turned to Frank, his eyes sorrowful, "You’re going to hate me."
Frank snorted, "After this I can’t see that as being a possibility."
"No, no you will. But anyway…" he looked as if he was steeling himself for something. "Okay… I… I know who you are."
Frank did not catch on at first, "Many do."
"No… Frank, I know where you come from."
His eyes widened, "How many know?"
"Just me, as far as I know."
Frank relaxed somewhat, "Well, that’s not too bad." Griffin raised both eyebrows.
"I’m just easing you in."
"I know, because I’m from there too."
Of course! It all made sense, Frank realised. That was why he looked so damned familiar! "Why should that make me hate you? If anything it should make me-"
"Please don’t say it! Not before I’m done! I didn’t come here by choice. I’m on a mission… for Chancellor Riff Raff." Had he been a cartoon, Frank’s eyes would have turned red and steam would have risen from his ears.
"You see! I told you! After he returned, he took credit for your mission and the creation of Rocky. The Queen promoted him and he worked his way up through the government, establishing a strong following amongst the population. As you must know, he is an extremely paranoid individual, and even though he shot you himself, he feared you were still alive. I guess his paranoia was right for once. He contacted me and-"
"I am a respected member of River of Night’s Dreaming." The secret\ unsecret guild of assassins! Frank knew. "He asked me… well, told me to go to Earth and find out if you were still alive somehow."
"And once you found me?" he asked, knowing the answer.
"I was to kill you."
Frank backed-up; Come over to my table said the spider to the fly, he thought in fury. "What does that inferior one think I can possibly do to him?! I am stranded here!"
"He seemed to have more faith in your abilities than you do. Or perhaps it was merely his guilt keeping him up at night. But it doesn’t matter, because something’s changed in the plans."
Griffin moved closer to him, placing a hand on Frank’s leg; something not ten minutes ago he would have welcomed, yet now he drew back.
"I searched for three years, getting into the culture and blending in. I picked up leads everywhere along the road from Denton to London, and when I finally found this place it was like being a predator at the den of his prey. I came in with the soul purpose of killing you, I didn’t even know how I was going to do it…"
Frank contorted his upper lip, "Oh, I could see a few."
Griffin ignored his sarcasm. "I had this day pictured in my mind for days, weeks, months on end, but there’s one thing I hadn’t counted on…"
"And that would be?"
"I hadn’t counted on falling in love."
Rori grew tired of waiting. Leaving the table, she started towards Frank’s room; after all this time he would, must, certainly be finished what he was doing. And she was bored. She had planned to spend his birthday with him; it should have been her, not that… that… well, it should have been her.
Frank pushed the covers away and got up, reaching for his robe,
"I didn’t think you’d believe me," said Griffin, with the manner of a scolded child, or perhaps a whipped eunuch? "I just had to let you know. I’m not going to try and kill you, there’s no way I could."
Frank turned to face him, looking thoughtful, "I seem to remember such words from our history. Weren’t they of the very same sort uttered to Queen Ulisa by her lover, who was coincidentally also a member of Night’s Dreaming, just before he gutted her? Yes, I believe I’m right. Here then-"
He reached into a drawer, pulling out an elaborate dagger with small crystals adorning the handle. He tossed it to Griffin, who caught it with the practised ease of one used to handling such objects. Once he had caught it, however, he let it drop to the floor.
He stared at Frank, his eyes openly begging,
"Please trust me. If it were up to me I’d stay here with you, let Riff Raff think what he will. I could see myself being very happy here. Unfortunately…"
Frank understood, "He’d just send somebody else."
"Yes, someone who won’t hesitate to kill you, and probably me too if they found out."
He fastened his robe bitterly, "Why the fuck won’t he just leave me alone. For years now I’ve been dreaming of home, but I never contemplated actually returning. It just seemed too far-fetched; the costs of constructing the transport to begin with would be phenomenal…"
Griffin looked up from a finger-nail, "I have a small ship, stuck away in storage somewhere."
"What are you suggesting?"
Rori chose that moment to enter.
"Oh, sorry. Were you still busy?" She then noticed the dagger on the floor. Not sure if this wasn’t some new fad, she didn’t remark on it.
Frank’s first thought was rather ludicrous – Ah! Rori! She’ll protect me! He then filed that away in the ‘stupid ideas I’ll never use’ part of his mind.
A most uncomfortable silence ensued.
"Um…" said Rori, "They’ve started serving dinner." In fact, this was the most appropriate thing she could have said – which didn’t say much for the situation.
"Right, then let’s go," replied Frank, relieved by the idea of being in a crowd again – witnesses, after all. "Come Griffin, we can further discuss matters over dinner."
Nellette once again led them to a table. To Rori she said, "Out again? And all three of you? I don’t suppose…"
"Shut it!" Rori said in annoyance, "Don’t be sick!"
Nellette giggled and went off to a table where a man was beckoning to her.
Rori got right to it: "So… what’s the story?"
Griffin put his head in his hands and Frank leaned over, "He’s Transylvanian." Although Rori had expected no such answer, it didn’t exactly shock her; Griffin’s exotic looks, his manner, it all fit.
"And there’s more?" she asked.
"Rather." He narrowed his eyes at the other, "He was sent to kill me." Rori, in turn, widened her eyes,
"Do you want me to call security?"
Suddenly Griffin spoke, "I’m not going to kill anyone now! We were just discussing returning home… when you walked in."
Rori bristled. Then looked to Frank, "Will you go with him?"
He said nothing for a while, vividly recalling their previous conversation on the subject. She could surely adjust to life in Transsexual, couldn’t she? It was an immensely different life, this was true, but in many ways it was also an easier one. He knew that he would regret not going back until his dying day; not taking advantage of the chance to return home. He could almost see the myriad colours sparkling throughout the night, feel the cool waters of Transsexual’s ocean lap at his bare feet, standing on the gravely ground at the coast. He could smell the natural perfumes rising from the waters and the flowers and coming with the rains; could almost taste them. The only question to be asked was thusly:
"Won’t you come with me?"
Rori flung down her napkin, "Frank, you’re not thinking clearly! If you go back, don’t you think Riff Raff would be there immediately trying to kill you again?!"
"I shall tell our mission as it really happened, how he betrayed me and took credit for my research. He would not dare make an attempt on my life in full public view."
She drummed the table with her nails, "Okay, let’s assume that works out; what would I do? I don’t exactly have many science skills, you know."
"Our world is not over-run with scientists, Rori, and a thing of beauty is much appreciated."
While her feministic side told her to resent the "thing", she could not bring herself to be angry.
"But Frankie," she continued, somewhat softer, "What would I do?"
"I’ve had enough of this," said Griffin abruptly, "Furter, leave the Earthen. Is she worth more to you than seeing home again? It’s been a long time – we were never meant to be away so long. I feel the effects and I have been gone for a fraction of your time. When you see it again you’ll know you made the right decision."
For the first time, Frank felt genuine anger towards him; what had come before had been fear-fury, anger at Death not Griffin.
"Rori has stayed by my side through every problem I’ve encountered! She has been a solid shoulder to cry on and a friend I hold in much esteem, so I’d appreciate if you treated her with some of the same respect! Were it not for her, I would leave without a second thought. But again, were it not for her, I would quite possibly have ended my own life by now, out of depression and desperation. Do not look down on Earthens; they have proven themselves to be a noble and respectable species. They have their faults, certainly, but who are we to judge? By their standards, we are a sordid race, indeed! And by ours, theirs is in most respects dull, yet there are always exceptions to any rule, and this little area proves it.
"I would give almost anything to see Transsexual again, but if I cannot have Rori by my side, then I will have to die here."
Rori was taken back; he looked so impassioned. She hadn’t realised that she had meant so much to him. He was willing to give up seeing that which he dreamt and spoke of constantly, in order to remain with her. Shouldn’t she be able to do the same? Honestly, if she asked herself, could she bear to lose him? How boring would life be? No, she had made up her mind.
"Frank… take me with you."
It was at noon the next day that Frank, Rori and Griffin stood at the staff-entrance of the Little Columbia. With them were Sonia, Nellette and Delilah, as well as two other trusted employees, Trissa and Linda.
Frank handed the keys to his Earthen life to Nellette.
"You’re sure you can’t tell us where you’re going?" she asked worriedly. Frank shook his head, "Nor when we shall return, indeed, if we should return at all."
"You can’t expect me to keep things together indefinitely!" Frank pulled her close, keeping a firm hand on her shoulder, although this gesture was nothing more than friendly.
"Consider yourself temporary owner, my dear. I can see that you girls have the strength to make this place better than ever before! And if we do not return," Nellette looked anxiously at Rori, who nodded her agreement and made a gesture with her fist to suggest vigour, "then consider Little Columbia your own. Just do one thing for me…"
Nellette looked at the three of them; one dark, veiled and mysterious, the other lithe, pale and full of the promise of adventure, the third passionate and determined to take care of her own. It was not a picture she was likely to forget soon! Giving a light-hearted, although forced, laugh she replied,
"I will – all of you! Er… not that I know that much about you," she remarked to the restless Griffin. He arched a pale eyebrow briefly,
"Which is how it should be."
Sonia stepped forward. "Frank… I’ve never been too sure about you… to be perfectly honest, sometimes you frightened me; I got the feeling you were from another planet or something…" not a glance was exchanged between the three travellers. "But I really do appreciate everything you’ve done for us. I know without the chance you took on us, many of us would still be whoring for a living or dragging about in the gutter, myself included. It’s not a chance many people would’ve taken. I… ah… I’d like you know that, and I… I’m really going to miss you both."
Rori stepped forward, hugging Sonia goodbye; the girl was trying hard not to cry. Frank, too, enfolded her, and the rest of the small crowd in turn. As they turned to leave, Nellette called out after them,
"You’re not going to Vegas are you? Because I’ve got a brother there and he-" Frank put up his hand, "Not necessary, dear; Las Vegas is far from our destination."
Not waiting for further discussion, they stepped into the waiting taxi-cab, pulling their suitcases in at their feet. The doors slammed shut and they rolled away down the back roads.
Nellette stood with her hands on her hips, her teeth firmly clamped over her lip. Blinking hurriedly she turned to the others:
"Right. So who’s dancing dinner-theatre?"