Saturday morning, over breakfast, they debated logistics and plans. The truck would be much better for picking up the dresser and desk; while Van could drive it, Brennan was considerably more familiar with it. The very thought of Miranda going with Brennan gave Van another bout of possessive anger to battle; the other three must have read the sudden silence correctly, no one commented on it or made the suggestion out loud.
So, Brennan and Oblique would make the trip to town.
Van stopped feeling useless and in the way long enough to appreciate the rear view of Oblique, in snug jeans and a stretchy top, walking down the hall after Brennan.
“She's gorgeous,” Miranda agreed. “Whoever came up with that look has great taste. Don't look so gloomy, we have stuff to do here.”
“What, exactly? I'm one-handed and most of the furniture in this house out-masses you.”
“Well, to start with, we can clean up from breakfast and do the dishes from this morning and last night.”
That done, she coaxed him into the dining room with her.
“Oblique's right,” Miranda decided. “If we move the table towards the living room as far as we can and still leave room for that chair, there's space for the desk we picked out against the wall right next to the doorway here.”
“Most likely.” Van sighed, as Miranda scooted around the table, pulling the chairs back out of the way. “But no way can the two of us shift that table. It's solid maple, it's heavy.”
Back at his side, Miranda looked up at him. “You're a mage and you can't move a table?”
“Not if you want me to be any use the rest of today. I told you, there are limits.”
“Did I say you should do it alone?” She laced her fingers through those of his left hand, securely. “Move the darned table, already.”
Van glanced down, but saw no trace of fear or reluctance. Besides, they did need to learn to work together. Carefully, he reached for power, and noted that the damage was healing quickly and cleanly.
With that to use, it was simple telekinesis to lift the table just off the floor—both to keep from scratching the hardwood and to reduce friction—and give it a mental shove in the right direction. A couple of lighter nudges positioned it properly, and he let it settle to the floor again.
“See?” Miranda laughed. “Much easier. Wow, that feels good.”
“Good. He did some damage, and I was trying not to hurt you.”
“You didn't. Okay, we need to bring the computer down here, we can leave it on the table for right now.” She let go of him and did another circuit, replacing the chairs. “And the chair, too. Then we can figure out what to do with my room.”
“Which is going to be cramped no matter what we do.” Van trailed her upstairs.
“I don't mind. I'm used to sharing a bed with two other girls. Even a little room all to myself is something special. It's all relative.”
“As near as I can tell, everything is, to sensitives.”
“Pretty much. How does the computer come apart?”
More than a bit bemused by all this energy and decisiveness, Van disconnected the various cables. He balked at allowing Miranda to carry any of the heavier components, and took them and the chair himself, using just a touch of TK to spare his sore hand.
After multiple trips up and down the stairs, Van sank down on the edge of Miranda's bed to catch his breath and rest.
Without a pause, Miranda dropped to one knee to look at the underside of the table. “Ha, I thought so. Screwdrivers?”
“Huh? Bottom drawer at the end of the kitchen counter. Why?”
“So I can take the table apart and get it out of the way, of course.” She darted out of the room, and two minutes later, the table lay on its side, while Miranda deftly removed the screws that held the legs on. Van simply watched, speechless. Granted, what to do with the table had been a problem that needed to be solved, but that solution would never have occurred to him.
With the table top against the wall in the hall, the legs leaning against it, they would have no difficulty at all manoeuvring a dresser into Miranda's room.
“I'm impressed,” Van said.
Miranda gave him a confused look. “By what?”
“I never would have thought of that, to get it out of the way.”
She shrugged. “Seemed obvious to me. The dresser goes mostly up, not sideways, so it'll probably take up even less room than the computer did.”
“Pretty bland, though.” Van surveyed the room. Off-white walls with a couple of small oak-framed prints of garden scenes, curtains that were white with tiny lemon and green flowers, bare hardwood floor, even the comforter on the bed was cream with buff and grey and lemon flowers and leaves. What had they been thinking? Well, neutrality, largely, rather than a place for anyone to live in for an extended period.
“I can live with that. Maybe I can pick up a couple of posters or something.”
“If you don't mind more magic, or having things here made by magic, we can do something right now to give it some colour.”
Miranda looked interested, and joined him on the edge of the bed, twining her hand into his again. “What are we going to do?”
The we made Van smile. “Creating textiles, cloth, is basic. I was thinking, curtains, maybe a rug, a brighter blanket for the bed. What's your favourite colour?”
“For most things, red, but that might be a little much for this.”
“Colour psychology would suggest blues and greens for cool sleepy colours, or soft browns and dark yellows and oranges for warm safe colours.” Inspiration struck: he cast a small glamour that altered the colour of the curtains gradually through the spectrum.
“Hey, that's handy,” Miranda said enthusiastically. She half-turned so she could see more easily, and leaned back against him; instinctively, Van slid his right arm loosely around her waist. He changed the colour repeatedly, sometimes small adjustments and sometimes total shifts, while they considered the merits of each.
They decided on red, but softened it. The curtains would be thin fabric, deeper red at the top but paling towards the bottom; the blanket would have three shades of red along with black and white in a simple pattern; the braided oval rug for the floor would have pretty much every possible variant of red.
“I need to concentrate for a few minutes.”
Creation wasn't complicated, really, it was just compressing energy into matter and imposing onto it the shape he wanted. The first step was already done, he had the glamour-images, though he had to move them so they didn't overlap with mundane matter. Like filling in an outline, he poured power into each in turn, forcing it denser and denser, until it reached a point of stability and reality. Curtains, blanket, rug... and he was finished.
She looked up. “You sound tired.”
“There's a certain amount of effort involved. I have to press energy together extremely tightly to turn it into matter. I'll be fine in a minute.”
“It's safe to let go?”
In answer, he released her, wondering who had told her that, the Vladislav mage or Oblique. Somehow, he could more easily visualize Oblique warning Miranda how badly she could hurt him by breaking contact at the wrong moment than he could the Vladislav mage revealing a vulnerability.
Miranda immediately stood up and straightened out the rug that had crumpled during its six-inch fall immediately after its creation. “Move your feet? Thanks.” Once she was satisfied with the position of that, along the side of the bed, she headed for the window, and the curtains that had landed in a red heap a few inches from the wall. She picked them up, shook them out, laid them on one side of the window-seat, and hopped agilely up onto the seat so she could unhook the curtain rod.
“Randi. What?” She jumped down, and tugged the white curtains off the rod.
Van sighed. “Never mind.”
“I'm not the one with the messed-up hand,” she pointed out, with ruthless logic.
Van winced. “Touché.”
She dropped the white curtains on the floor, and started feeding the red ones onto the rod. “Try to worry less, okay? It isn't good for you.”
“Worry less about whether I'm worrying,” Van retorted.
She just grinned and climbed back up on the window-seat to rehang the rod. “There. That's much better.” She bounced down again, and scooped up the white curtains, took them out to hang over the railing around the stairs. “Stand up so I can put the blanket on?”
With the blanket over the dull comforter, they stood back near the doorway to look over their work.
“That looks wonderful!” Miranda said in delight, and hugged him. “Thanks. That was a great idea.”
“You're welcome.” Van hugged her back, carefully. “Anything else you want to do in here, or shall we head downstairs and wait for Bren and Oblique?”
“I don't think there's anything more we can do, there's just the dresser and then putting the rest of my clothes away and that's it.” She snuggled close, and looked up at him. “Life can change so fast. A month ago I was with my family and I'd never seen a mage and I figured I didn't have much of a life to look forward to. A week ago I was with him and I knew there was nothing good to look forward to. Now I'm here with you and I think there might actually be an awful lot to look forward to.”
“I hope so,” Van said softly. “And I'll do anything I can to make sure of it.”
“Like remembering to call me Randi?” she asked impishly. “Miranda's for strangers and unfriends.”
He laughed. “I'll try.”
They waited in the living room, with the stereo on. A song Miranda exclaimed was one of her favourites came on, and she bounced to her feet to dance to it, singing along happily in a soprano voice that didn't wander too far off-key. Van watched in appreciation and amusement, sprawled full-length on the couch.
The song ended, and she dropped to the edge of the couch, giggling to herself.
“You're a good dancer.”
“Nah, I just have fun doing it, that's all. It feels good.”
“Maybe that's why it looks so good.” Absently, he reached up to gently work a tangle out of her tousled hair.
“Or maybe you're just biased.”
“A definite possibility.”
Tires crunched on gravel, and Miranda dashed to the door to open it. Van toyed briefly with the idea that she was actually using some of the energy she was absorbing from her environment, to fuel this kind of activity level. Impossible, of course, but he could have believed it right then, with very little effort.
Brennan pulled to the side, then backed the truck up towards the door before parking. Miranda scrambled immediately into the back of the truck before Van could even drop the tailgate.
“What did you feed her this morning?” he asked Oblique, when she got out.
Oblique laughed. “The same thing I fed you. Why, is she running you ragged?”
“I'm getting tired just watching her, let alone keeping up with her.”
Oblique swung herself up into the back of the truck with Miranda, and began to shift the dresser towards the two mages, leaving it lying flat the way it was. Unasked, Brennan got the other end.
“Move back,” Brennan said. “This only takes two.”
Reluctantly, Van retreated to give them room.
“Which do you want, Oblique? Up the stairs backwards, or up the stairs frontwards but having extra weight?”
“Either one,” Oblique said, jumping down and picking up her end again.
Miranda looked at Van expectantly; Van frowned in confusion for a moment, then smiled, and held out his good hand to her. She hopped down and, hands clasped, they hastened after the other pair.
“Funny,” Oblique said. “I could have sworn this dresser weighed more than this.”
“Must be fairies helping,” Brennan chuckled.
Van didn't even try to take the entire weight of it telekinetically, not up an incline and then through the manipulations it would require at the top of the stairs, but part of the weight was another matter altogether, leaving control to Brennan and Oblique. Miranda wrapped her other hand around his, too, as if worried about accidentally breaking contact, and stayed close beside him up the stairs.
All in all, getting the new dresser, a pleasant light oak, into Miranda's room wasn't so difficult.
“Thanks,” Brennan said. “Looks good in here, you two have been busy.”
“Of course we were,” Miranda said tartly. “Did you think we were just going to lay around and do nothing?”
“If it were up to Van? Probably.”
“I like it,” Oblique said. “All the reds are very warm, but it isn't overwhelming. Maybe you can do a runner for the top of the dresser, or something, later.” She stole a kiss from Van and a hug from Miranda, simultaneously. “That helped a lot. Now, let's go get the desk put together.”
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