James drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, staring blankly at the license plate of the car parked in front of him. He knew he'd already let this go on for far too long, yet he was hesitant to engage in the conflict he was sure would be waiting for him inside his friend's house.
Finally, with a frustrated sigh, he got out of his car and headed for the front door.
He waited several minutes after knocking and still got no response. Out of sheer stubbornness, he tried opening the door and was surprised to find it unlocked.
James: "Tristan! I know you're home! Stop hiding."
There was no reply.
James glanced quickly into the living and dining rooms, noting a mostly-empty bottle of wine and a dirty plate -- Tristan's equivalent of trashing the house.
James: "This is ridiculous."
James: "Get up."
Tristan: "Fuck off."
James: "You can be as foul-mouthed as you please, I'm not going anywhere. We're long overdue for a serious discussion."
Tristan: "I don't feel like talking, leave me alone."
James: "Well then don't talk, just listen."
Tristan: "Not really up to listening, either. Get out."
James: "What you're doing is wrong, and I'm not going to just stand by and watch anymore. You need to stop acting like such an ass."
Tristan: "You're one to talk."
James: "Shut up and listen. I have no idea what's gotten into you over the past few weeks, but it's got to stop. You can't do this to Deanna. She deserves better."
Tristan: "And just what am I doing to her that's so horrible?"
James: "Don't act like you're not aware of your own actions. You're leading her on, toying with her emotions."
Tristan: "Why would I do that?"
James: "Hell if I know. Maybe you're afraid of being alone. I do know that you don't really love her."
Tristan: "You need to stop watching daytime television, it's making you get all pop-psychologist on me. Besides, I don't see how any of this is your business."
James: "Maybe it's not, but I'm not going to stand idly by while you act like a damned fool. At least tell me there's a reason why you're acting all crazy."
Tristan: "Everyone has their limits, James. Maybe I've just reached mine."
James: "How so?"
Tristan: "You can only push someone around so much before they decide to fight back."
James: "Who's pushing you around? What are you talking about?"
Tristan: "I really don't want to talk about this."
James: "Tough shit. Is it still Emily? You need to either sit down and talk to her or get the hell over her. I, for one, think you need to get over her. She's a mortal, you're not. It can only end badly as far as I'm concerned."
Tristan: "Thank you so much for your support."
James: "I'm just trying to help you."
Tristan: "I'm sick of being rejected all the time, being lied to, tossed aside for someone else."
James: "So your answer is to turn all evil? You sure do like extremes."
Tristan: "Evil? That's a delicious piece of hyperbole."
James: "What you're doing to Deanna is no different than what Andy did to Emily. Is that what you want?"
James watched as Tristan shifted his gaze out the window, silently staring into the night.
Tristan: "It's not the same. I really care about Deanna."
James: "Who are you trying to convince?"
Tristan: "No one."
James didn't reply. If he'd learned one thing about his friend in their decades together it was that there was a delicate balance to be kept when he got in his 'moods'. Tristan wasn't stupid, but he was almost painfully high-strung. He would eventually come around, but not by being yelled at for hours -- doing so would only be a waste of both their time. He was more than ready to call it a night.
Tristan: "I remember what happened, James."
Tristan: "The Underworld, everything that happened to us while we were dead. Mary and Emily forgot, but I brought it all back with me."
James: "I'm going to assume you had a really good reason to not tell anyone about this until now."
Tristan: "It's not exactly as cut and dry as you'd expect."
James: "How is it not? You visit the Land of the Dead and manage to hold on to memories that both Mary and Emily have lost, and you don't fill in the rest of us? Are you trying to spare us from something horrible?"
Tristan silently crossed the room and retrieved an ancient looking journal from an overstuffed bookshelf. James took it cautiously, as if the slightest jolt would cause the pages to disintegrate.
Tristan: "It's all in there, everything I could remember."
James: "When did you get this thing?"
Tristan: "Nineteen Seventy-Seven."
James: "It looks like it came from Eighteen Seventy-Seven. You do have a computer, right? Why the notebook?"
Tristan: "I didn't trust writing this out on my computer for one. Plus the paper and ink made it more real."
James flipped the book open to the first page and quickly scanned through the hurriedly written words. It was, for the most part, a simple stream of consciousness, as if his friend were afraid his memories would vanish before he had a chance to write them down. Most of the words seemed to be little more than random associations- 'Delphaso Mall', 'mirror of truth', 'hedge maze', 'the kiss'. A few pages later came a list of names- 'Charlie', 'Stephanie', 'James?', 'Sherlock Holmes'.
James: "Are you sure you didn't write this out after a night of heavy drinking?"
Tristan: "And you wonder why I never told anyone."
James: "It's insane. I mean literally insane."
Tristan: "You can thank Mary for that one -- it was her Afterlife we were running around in."
James: "Don't you think you should fill the girls in on all of this?"
Tristan: "What would it accomplish? They were made to forget for a reason and I'm not about to mess with the natural order of things."
James: "You mean any more than you already have."
Tristan: "Yes, and what did that get me? Just more heartbreak."
James closed the notebook, setting it aside carefully.
James: "What's really wrong with you? I cannot believe that you're this upset and crazy just because of what happened with Emily before that wedding. Honestly Tristan, what sort of reaction do you expect from someone who's gone through what she has?"
Tristan: "She lied to me! She tells me she'll never be able to be in a relationship again and the next thing I know she's in a public hallway groping her demented psychopath of a neighbor."
James: "Wait… the kid?"
James: "She was groping him in public?"
Tristan: "Well… maybe not groping. There was definitely something happening between them though."
James: "And I assume you've spoken to her about this?"
Tristan: "Not exactly."
James: "You're seriously a dumbass. You know that, right? The sad part is I used to think you were the smartest person I'd ever met."
Tristan: "What? Why?"
James: "Listen. If there's one thing I know about Emily it's that she's fundamentally a caregiver -- it's ingrained in her. When you were sick that one time she fell right into caring for you when the rest of us could hardly breathe. That neighbor of theirs is probably like a stray kitten to her."
Tristan: "They're always together, James. Always."
James: "Stray kitten, Tristan. Stray kitten. For Christ's sake, he's a teenaged kid!"
James: "Ok, once more with feeling. I'll go over this for you slowly because your brain seems to have gone on vacation without the rest of you. First off, you've got to be honest with Deanna. She's a grownup; she may kill you first, but eventually she'll forgive you. The longer you let this drag on the worse it'll be for everyone involved. Second, stop making assumptions and talk to Emily. I'll lock you two together in a room if I have to because this nonsense has got to stop. I've told you my feelings on the situation, but I know you well enough by now to know you'll go and do whatever you want regardless."
Tristan: "As if any of this is that simple."
James: "Why isn't it? Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy suffers brain damage and does a series of really stupid things. There's very little complicated about the situation at all -- you just like your misery too much."
Tristan: "Why does everyone seem to think I enjoy being miserable all the time?"
James: "Because you have so many opportunities to be happy and you go and do whatever it takes to avoid them, Mr. 'I Like To Be Depressed When I'm In The Bath'."
Tristan: "I never said anything like that!"
James: "But you wish you had."
James smiled softly as a slight sparkle of humor he hadn't even realized had been missing returned to Tristan's eyes.
James: "You know I'm right about this. You know you've messed up or you wouldn't have spent the last few days hiding under the covers. So, are you going to straighten up and fly right or are we going to have to come to blows over this?"
Tristan: "I'm going to have to pass on the chance to beat the piss out of you. I think I still have several cracked ribs from the other night."
James: "Yes, another stunning display of intelligence that was."
Tristan: "I have some really wicked bruises at least."
James: "I'll take your word for it."
Tristan: "This is so ridiculous. How the hell do things like this even happen?"
James: "Just one of life's little mysteries, my friend. Now do what you have to do to set things right again."
Tristan: "If I get killed, you have to promise me you'll avenge my death."
James: "Tristan, at this point I'm about to help get you killed."
James paused as a small white card lying on Tristan's desk caught his attention.
James: "What's this? 'The Order of the Waning Moon'? Is this Chinese take-out?"
Tristan: "I really haven't a clue what it is. I got it at the Xenon the other night."
James: "'Meet With Us Fridays, 8:00PM at Club Crimsyn'. 'Crimsyn'? Are they serious?"
Tristan: "Sadly I think they are."
James: "You weren't planning on going, were you?"
Tristan: "Me? No. Not really. I thought about maybe lurking around to see what it was all about, assess threat levels or whatever, but I hadn't made any actual plans or anything."
James: "Which is exactly why you're suddenly acting guilty."
Tristan: "I'm not acting guilty!"
James: "I've known you for how long now? I think I can tell when you're up to something."
Tristan: "Honestly, James, I hadn't decided if I was really going."
James: "If you do, don't go alone, all right? Anyone reckless enough to spell crimson with a 'Y' isn't to be trusted."
Tristan: "No, not at all."
James: "Well then, I'll let you get to cleaning up the mess you've made. Ring me later if you manage to survive the night and we can check out this 'Order' together. I'm spectacularly void of plans this evening."
Tristan: "Right, I shall do."