“Of Scales and Shining Armor”

“What’s with the long face? Something happen?”

“Isn’t something always happening?”

“That’s avoiding the question, and you know it.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know… I guess something happened? I don’t know. It’s weird.”

“Weird like Mordecai trimming all your shrubberies into skulls, or weird like seeing Constantine make snow angels?”

“Weird like having William tell me there are files missing from the Archives.”

“Ahh, that sort of weird. Well, that is troublesome, then.”

“What’s that look for? Stop laughing! It’s not funny!”

“You’re so… childlike sometimes. It’s cute.”

“Oh no. An angel calling me cute. What will we be put through next?”

“Explaining what happened on threat of tickling.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“No, no, I wouldn’t, but Nightshade would. And if it meant helping you, she’d do it in a heartbeat.”

“…That’s cheating.”

“It’s creative rule breaking. Now fess up. What happened?”

“I don’t know how to explain it… I guess I just… I don’t know. I feel lonely.”

“Thanks.”

“No, no, it’s not because of you. You’re all here and that’s wonderful, and I love you all to bits. The Gallery members too. But sometimes…”

“Sometimes you miss the outside world. I understand. As much as I enjoy my time here, there are moments when I miss Paradise. It’s not comfortable, and it’s not convenient, but it simply is the way it is.”

“…When did you get so good at this comforting stuff?”

“I’m a Guardian. It’s my job. Now stop stalling— what happened?”

“You know how much I love Artemis, right? How that came about, how he came about… Sometimes I wish I had another one of him for me.”

“Don’t let Ness hear you say that…”

“Oh, Ness would laugh. But it’s stupid of me to think that way. I have what I have, and that’s all there is to it.”

“…You’ve heard the phrase ‘there are plenty of fish in the sea, so don’t settle till you get a mermaid’, I assume?”

“I heard it a little differently, but you’re excused for cutting out the profanity.”

“Hmm. I appreciate that. However, what my point is is that sometimes there’s more than one mermaid. Or merman, in this case.”

“…You’ve been spending too much time around Will. You’re starting to sound like him.”

“I mean it, Madam. There is no shining knight coming to rescue you, but there are plenty of less-glimmering fighters willing to try. Just because your merman doesn’t have the shiniest of scales, or the nicest tail, it doesn’t mean he’s not the right one for you.”

“…There’s nothing not-shiny about Zaffre’s scales.”

Madam.”

“Sorry, sorry, couldn’t resist. I know what you’re saying… I just never seem to remember that.”

“Then I will make it my business to remind you, the next time you forget. How does that sound?”

“That sounds nice…”

“You sound hesitant still.”

“I still am.”

“…That little princess is still waiting for her shining knight, isn’t she?”

“She is.”

“She knows he won’t just show up, doesn’t she?”

“She does.”

“Then what seems to be the problem?”

“She’s scared to leave the tower. She’s afraid of the dragon. She’s terrified that she’s made him too shiny in her mind, and he’ll never live up to that expectation, now.”

“…Madam…”

“No, no, I know, I know… I’m being a silly little girl again. I’ll stop.”

“Please never stop… You can only pretend so long before the next time… But when it happens again, I’ll be there to remind you that not all the world is as perfect as we wish… Does that sound fair?”

“More than fair.”

“Good. Now come along, Madam, I hear there’s a merman who needs you to inspect his scales.”

Edmond!

“Yes, Madam, what is it?”

“…Nothing. Nothing! Take me, oh winged one, and show me to this fishy fellow!”

“With pleasure, Madam.

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