Diamonds for Tea: When I Again Met Emma Frost - A Tumblr Challenge, Part 2

This is the second part of the tumblr challenge.

Diamonds for Tea

Later, they set up the board for another game, this time outside on the porch. It was a beautiful, wide wooden porch, the floorboards carefully varnished and polished, solid and reassuring as the support posts and the wide overhead awning. They sat opposite one another, the chessboard resting on a small table between them, and another table off to the side with the tea things.

'Matcha,' Alex said to Emma. 'My sister got a large quantity of it from a Chinese student at the place where she worked. Kilos of the stuff. The student couldn't get rid of it - apparently she's the only Chinese girl in the world who can't stand tea, but her Mum was insistent - and Jules, my sister, hadn't a clue how to brew the stuff.'

'But you do,' Emma replied.

'I know things,' Alex said. 'If I don't get it from Google, and my Google-fu is very strong, I can download it from people's minds, usually just from observing what they do and learning very quickly - and the German students Jules looks after know how to prepare green tea better than the Japanese do.'

Emma grinned. 'You're not the only one who can download knowledge,' she replied.

'But it's the usage of that knowledge,' Alex said, excitement lending passion to his words, 'that honours their contribution.'

'You're an innovator,' Emma replied. 'Check and mate. H'mm. Clearly your knowledge never extended to chess.'

'Indeed,' Alex replied. 'I only play to stalemate. It's an very annoying game I play,' he added, grinning. 'My opponents always seek to win, and I just play to block them, collapse their traps and generally faff around with them.'

'I noticed,' Emma replied. 'What's that tune in your head?'

'Jean-Michel Jarre, "Magnetic Fields 2, La Defense," 14 July 1989, the concert celebrating the 200th Bastille Day,' Alex responded.

'You play it in your head as if you had been there,' Emma said.

'I wish,' Alex replied. 'Top up?'

'Thank you,' Emma said, holding out her dainty cup. Alex poured the fragrant green tea into her cup from the ornate brass Turkish teapot. 'It is delicious,' she said, sipping it.

'Thank you,' Alex replied. 'A friend of mine over in Texas is an avowed tea addict. We both can't get enough of the stuff.'

'What's her name?'


'Have you met her?'

'Not yet,' Alex replied. He paused. Emma frowned.

'I caught that thought,' she said. 'You stopped playing that music in your mind and thought about her. That was not something I thought I'd hear in a non-telepath's mind. You love her very much.'

'I do, that,' Alex replied. 'I put "married in spirit" on my status on Yahoo Messenger in response to something she once said in passing.' He sipped his tea. 'I would do anything for her.'

'So you should. And you organise your thoughts like one of us. Did you know that?'

'Thank you,' Alex said. 'That is a great compliment.'

'Do I hear "coming from you" in that sentence somewhere?'

'Not at all, Miss Frost,' Alex said, raising his cup to sip at its steaming, delicate contents, his eyes closed. 'I wish I could smell this. I really do wish I had a sense of smell.' He looked at her. 'I never add qualifiers like that to my sentences. I strive, as a writer, orator and hypnotist, for precision in my words. I edit them very quickly, in their journey between my brain and my mouth - because, you know, once out of my mouth there is never any recalling them.'

'I never caught your answer to the question I posed earlier,' Emma asked. 'What do you think of mutants?'

'If they were loyal to you and your chap, that Cyclops, Scott Summers fellow,' Alex replied, 'they could take shelter from the storm in my place any time.' He looked at her. 'No strings attached.'

'Why would you consider such a thing?'

'Because he is on the right side of history,' Alex responded, matter of factly.

A soft, gentle rain began to fall in the garden beyond the porch. Emma and Alex turned to look at it.

'I've never met a human like you,' Emma murmured. 'You charm people. You write the way you speak. I've read your material - I took a peek at your Kobo ereader earlier, while I was putting away the dishes. You'd left it lying in the kitchen.

'You write erotica that turns me on, frankly. And those fantasy stories you've been writing - The Shadowed Art, The Silver Touch - that protagonist of yours, Seren Mai ... please tell me she's not modelled on me.'

Alex shook his head. 'No more than Osric is modelled after me,' he replied. 'I was crafting Seren Mai of Anfar and writing her stories long before I ever heard of you.'

'That is a relief,' Emma said, relaxing and sitting back, nursing her tea in her hands, cradled on her lap. 'As I said, you charm people with your words. You seduce, tease - and yes, you hypnotise. Often without your even knowing it.'

'Ah,' Alex said. 'That is where you are inaccurate. I do know it, which is why I always chop off most of my casual conversations with people on the street within about twenty seconds. Bare matter of fact. Otherwise I believe I would be hypnotising practically anybody I spoke to.'

'Fascinating,' Emma said.

'It's my voice,' Alex replied. 'I ... do things with it.'

Emma nodded. 'But you're not hypnotising me,' she said.

'Of course not,' Alex said. 'I'm talking to an equal, and while the thought of taking you to bed with me does appeal ... I'd rather stay on this side of that barrier, not because you love your man - which is disincentive enough for me to try, man of honour that I am - but because your trust is more important to me than your passion.'

'You are a strange man,' Emma said.

'Thank you,' Alex replied. 'I would rue the day that I ever became ordinary.'

'You are a master seducer,' Emma said. 'However, you remain steadfastly single. You could have anyone you turned your heart to ... yet here you are, unpartnered. Why do you think that is so?'

Alex's face grew serious. He sipped his tea. 'I don't know,' he said. 'Maybe I don't want anyone to know me that well. Or I might be afraid of being the one to let go and trust others. I was hurt, you know. As a child. Bullied at school. I never really learned the art of making true friends until late in my life. In a way, I am still playing catchup with everybody else who learned that skill at the proper time in their childhoods.'

'I never knew,' Emma whispered, reaching across the chessboard to touch Alex's cheek. At the point of contact with her cool, slender fingers, Alex allowed himself a moment to close his eyes and pretend, just for a tiny moment, that there was something there other than compassion.

Then she withdrew her hand, and Alex opened his eyes and looked at her again.

'It is true,' she said. 'It does get very lonely for men like you.'

Alex nodded, his expression blank. 'Tell me about it,' he said. He brightened. 'However, I do manage to get along,' he said, finishing his tea. 'Even if it is just a brave face - one which you only saw through because you can know my mind better than most.'

'Perhaps you will, one day, meet that woman who resonates in your soul,' Emma said.

'I ... I don't know any more,' Alex replied, his eyes open and honest, looking at her. 'I might have maybe twenty years left to me. Thirty, forty, if I live to my parents' age and remain as fit as they are at their age. But would anyone be expected to live with me as I grow old and age and eventually die during that time?'

'Even Tracy?'

'Only if she would bear to be near me during my autumn and winter years,' Alex replied. 'We're closer than friends ... closer than family. Both of us are Trickster priests, and I do believe neither of us has any illusion about us getting out of this world alive. I just hope that for each of us, our time together on this earth will be livened by the other's presence for as long as we both last.'

'And through the lousiest luck, you're separated by an ocean,' Emma replied. Alex nodded.

Emma's eyes softened. Once more, she reached for his face with her slender hand. 'I am so sorry,' she whispered. 'Let me make it up to you.'


'Let me show you,' she replied. 'Close your eyes.'

Alex closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, it was a lot warmer. There was a floral scent in the air. The light was the wrong colour. It was not raining. Emma stood beside him, and her clothes looked different, somehow.

'You look different,' Alex said. 'My lips didn't move.'

'You're not really here,' Emma replied, her lips also not moving. 'Your spirit is here, and you can sense everything happening here as if you were present, flesh and blood - but your body is still sitting in Wales.'

Alex sniffed. He beamed. 'I can smell roses,' he said. 'I can smell roses!' His face wrinkled. He gasped. 'And the fertiliser that goes on them,' he said. 'If my eyes could water right now ...'

Emma chuckled telepathically. 'Enjoy your sense of smell, Mr Greene,' she said. 'Would you like to know where you are?'

'If I had to hazard a guess,' Alex said, looking around, 'I'd say that, judging by the resemblance to the photos I've seen, this has got to be Tracy's place in San Marcos, Texas.'

'Spot on,' Emma replied, smiling. 'And right about now, your friend is inside that apartment there.' She pointed to the front door. 'Shall we go in? I can make you visible to your friend, by allowing her to sense astral projections. She will be able to see you and sense you, touch your skin and it will all feel as warm and natural as if you were there. I'll also do the same for me.'

'She will jump out of her skin if she sees you,' Alex said. 'And then I think she will probably squee and run around her apartment for a good fifteen minutes. Confuse the hell out her furkids.'

Emma chuckled. 'Occupational hazards,' she said. 'Please. Lead on.'

'Right, then,' Alex said, straightening his shoulders. He marched up to the door of Tracy's apartment, and knocked ...

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