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Hi, all. Long time no update, I know. Mina's author's life is catching up to Mina's in terms of distracting weirdness and improbability.
Just a brief word of, uh, not 'explanation' as such, but possibly context. Ages ago, I mentioned, in an interview, Josh's origins being tied to a statue. (It's at the bottom of that page, the answer to the antepenultimate question). For anyone who's madly curious, the statue can be seen here.

I pulled my gaze from the sweatshirt on the floor just in time to realize Josh was unzipping his jeans as well. A sort of tunnel vision riveted my gaze to them as they fell, so that for an eternity of seconds all I really saw were his legs, and his bare feet as he stepped free of the denim, and I distracted myself as long as I possibly could by looking around until I spotted his boots, set casually by the side of my bed, as though the exact disposition of the various items of his clothing were top of my list of things to be concerned about right now. And then I couldn't put it off any longer, and I looked.

Josh's nude body was perfect.

I can't even begin to qualify that. I can't even begin to process that, to be perfectly honest, but there's no point in pretending I can deny it, either. Josh's body was eerily, unexpectedly perfect.

It's not a reaction I'd have expected to have, really. Freud notwithstanding, I mean to say, I have never once felt any sort of penis envy, and I don't think I've ever met anyone else who has, either. When you really get down to the essentials, Freud probably should have been seeing some sort of kindly professionals to help him sort through his issues, I expect.

But I digress. What I was saying was, Josh's body had a kind of undeniable perfection to it. And I wasn't just feeling a sterile, aesthetic appreciation. In point of fact, I was feeling damned nearly dead of fear, and simultaneously faint all over with sheer lustful desire. I was in, among other things, awe. I felt like screaming or running away or dancing. I didn't know what I wanted. If Josh had chosen that exact moment to stride over and embrace me, I would have kissed back with full enthusiasm provided I didn't actually pass out or anything.

Josh, however, chose that exact moment to get dressed again. I went limp with relievappointment.

'So you're,' I hesitated, paralysed by the fear of causing offence, yet also aware that every second that ticked away while I stood frozen in word-choice limbo was itself offensive, 'you're..'

Josh, or possibly Jen, nodded. 'Immortal,' he said. I blinked. That hadn't even been on the list of things I was wondering if I were allowed to ask.

'You're,' I repeated blankly, stuck on an earlier part of the conversation.

'A child of the Gods,' Josh said, as perfectly serious and seemingly sincere as a mad person or possibly a Californian. 'I've inherited much of my father's role, in fact.'

'Working your way up from the bottom of the family business?' I suggested, trying to steer this encounter back within range of sanity. A futile effort, natch, as I sensed it would be.

'I escort souls back and forth between the Astral Plane,' he explained calmly.

'Of course you do,' I said, and actually felt a slight sense of returning to familiar ground, there. 'That would explain why you're in fandom, too.'

'Actually, that has more to do with my hereditary role as a thief,' Josh said with a familiar rogueish grin that was, unfortunately for my equilibrium, approximately eleventy-billion times hotter than as previously seen. God damn it, Joshen, I swore silently. That is not even a little bit fair, that thing you're doing.

I turned away and poured myself another glass of his alcoholic offering, gulping it down like water. Even when I heard the door close I couldn't pull myself together immediately, and when I finally turned around I couldn't make up my mind whether I was glad he was gone.

In my abject confusion I'd managed to knock something off the bedside table. This turned out to be the small vial of black glitter Mrs.Sev--er, sorry, Lillybella most recently--had given me as part of her plan to hook me up on the Astral Plane. Now my entire floor was sparkling because the cap had come off. I scooped as much as I could back into its tube, promising myself I'd return it and express some sort of regrets re: my unavailability wherein the Tortured Tutor was concerned.

Maybe I should just pretend to have a crush on some other fictional character and be done with it. Granted it would be difficult to make that claim without smirking or laughing outright, but at least it would save me the further indignity of Astral Blind Dating. I mean, I'm sure I'm quite capable of making up my own partners, thank you very much.

I gave up at the halfway mark. The rest of the glitter was embedded in the cracks of the floorboards and under the furniture, and I may have inhaled some. Oh, well. maybe I could buy her a fresh tube of 'Midnight Glitter' at a craft store, although knowing her this one had probably been blessed. Still, it's not as if she'd have any way of knowing if I substituted a new tube, right?

I had the weirdest dreams, once I'd climbed into my narrow bed. First I dreamt of Josh. Unsurprising really. I'd have had to've had a cast-iron psyche to avoid dreaming about him at this point. In the dream we were back at the airport, and he was clutching my wrist firmly as we raced to catch a flight. Rabbit was yelling over the P.A., 'You're going to miss your connection!'

And then it changed abruptly, as dreams do, and I was in the Tortured Tutor's boudoir, my wrists now tied to one pillar of his bed. 'There were several errors in your essay,' the Dark Schoolmaster sneered at me, 'and I intend to show you the wanton vileness of your factual errors--skankiness indeed! How dare you! I am the sole possessor of your body and your will alike, and you will admit so before this night is over.' I woke before that got any more graphic, thank heavens, but that was slim consolation indeed now that I'd had a demo of the twistedness that lay buried in my subconscious. Probably, I thought worriedly, I should cut down on the fanfic reading for a while, and stop hanging out with the Astrally-minded. I dressed for work with shaking hands.

When I reached the library there was something going on in the lobby again. Two opposing groups were glaring at each other across a central space. One group, which I noticed Lilybella was at the forefront of, were dressed in black. It wasn't the excessive mourning black to which fandom is sometimes prone, but rather the sort of subtle black jackets and trousers which get worn by your more tasteful FBI agents and suchlike. If I'd just missed walking in on an actual physical spat, Lilybella's gang had clearly been winning, because their wedding-dress-clad opponents were nearly all sporting bandages and leg braces. Lilybella and co. had spotted me almost as quickly as I had noticed them, and she was gesturing frantically at me, so I reluctantly drifted to a stop in front of her.

'I need to talk to you, Mina,' she said, looking chagrined and tearful.

'Has someone died, Lilybella?' I asked bluntly, assuming circumlocution and tact would be wasted in this instance, since undoubtedly if anyone had it had all been on the Astral Plane anyway. Not much point reaching for phrases like 'passing over' if the deceased are already, at best, 'over,' and likely 'altogether nonexistent,' right?

'Don't call me that. And we're not mourning,' she informed me. 'Quite the opposite. We're staging a forgetting.' Someone on the opposite side of the circle glared at her, and after a few moments' whispered consultation this opposing group began to recite some sort of long poem with poor scansion, the thrust of which was that they longed for their Gentleman Vampire to materialize from the Astral Plane and share with them his icy sparklejism. I listened with increasing horror for at least fifteen minutes, and though Mrs. Sev made exasperated noises, she said nothing.

'They don't seem to want to forget,' I ventured cautiously. I didn't even try addressing her by name. I'd lost all track of what she might want to be called, and, quite frankly, all capacity to pretend to care. Online pseuds, I feel, are best left online.

'That's because they don't understand how unhealthy their passion is,' she informed me, which I must say was pretty rich, coming from her. 'They're setting feminism back eons, Mina, and anyway he isn't romantic or gentlemanly at all, he's disgusting. And probably polygamous--that whole weekend borrowing thing, yuck. Let me explain it to you at length.'

I held up one hand to stop her, and tried to arrange my face into something expressive of regret and overwork. I could tell I'd measurably grown as a person since the last time they'd staged a major thing in the library foyer, because this time I felt I really could just not talk to them. I mean to say, I had a job to get to, and a mildly impressive job at that. Also, my skull had begun to positively throb with what I felt certain was the beginning of a Joshen-induced and fangirl-exacerbated headache. In short, I'd had absolutely enough fandom for one day, barring the lovely calming arm's-length academic sort one found at the archive.

'Can you ever forgive me, Mina?' Mrs.Sev was asking. I seemed to have missed something. 'My chagrin,' she went on mournfully, 'knows no bounds, darling.' Yes, well, neither did my confusion, and that headache was really beginning to pound. I needed to make my escape. I patted her gently on the arm, assured her we'd talk later, and headed determinedly up the stairs, to where some of the grad assistants had gathered to watch the goings on.

'In the midst of life we are in death,' intoned Ceswyn by way of greeting.

'Us more so than most people,' I agreed wholeheartedly. I gratefully accepted a cup of coffee, and used it to swallow a couple of aspirin, though actually I felt better already. Just being among my fellow calm intellectuals obviously agreed with me. 'Are all libraries this liminal, do you think, or is ours just more used for rituals than most?' We stood there for a while, looking down on fandom in perplexity, which when you think about it was pretty damned metaphorical of us.

'I blame the archive,' said Mary grimly. 'It attracts fans, and then...' She waved a hand expressively at the groups below. 'This stuff happens. What exactly are they doing, anyway?'

They'd all seen me talking to the fen, so I thought I might as well proffer an answer. 'I think the wedding dress ones are trying to channel a character down from the Astral Plane, and the ones in black are trying to send him to Hades or something.' None of the grad students looked even slightly surprised at this, which made me rather regret not confiding in them more often. I guess working at the library had exposed them to a lot, one way and another.

'You know, some people believe that there are three stages of reality,' Monica said dreamily. 'Like: an underworld, and then reality in the middle, and the Gods at the top. Or dreaming, being awake, and enlightenment.'

'Online fandom, meetups, and real life?' I suggested. Seldom grinned appreciatively.

'The Astral Plane, the library, and some other, worser hell,' Mary said gloomily. There wasn't much to say to that. I excused myself politely, mentioning I wanted a private word with our boss, and slipped into the archive proper.
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