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They walked down the street together, Falcon’s larger brothers surrounding the group protectively. At times, they all had to crowd together to squeeze down particularly narrow stretches of road.

Naomi stood to Chelsea’s left. Angelina was at her right side, clinging onto her arm.

“Give C some space, Angelina,” said Naomi.

“It’s okay,” said Chelsea. “It’s nice having you here, Angelina.”

“Chelsea’s being too nice, but she’s been through a lot today,” said Naomi. “Give her some breathing room.”

“Oh, and I haven’t been through a lot today?” said Angelina. “For your information, I fell through an abyss! I got chased by a snake man! I fought a giant three headed monster with a really small sword! The sword was actually scissors, but that’s not important.”

Oh. Naomi felt a pang of guilt. She’d been so focused on Chelsea, she hadn’t even considered that Angelina must have been through some equally bizarre shit.

“Right. Sorry,” said Naomi. “I didn’t realize.”

“C, if you do want space, I can let go of your arm,” said Angelina. “Just tell me.”

“I don’t mind, really,” said Chelsea.

Naomi noticed Chelsea had a slight flush to her cheeks. Maybe her face was pink from the cold, or maybe Angelina was embarrassing her with the excess physical contact and she was too nice to say. Either way, Naomi decided not to force the issue anymore. Chelsea was a grown woman and could take care of herself.

“Are you sure?” said Angelina.

“I’m sure. In fact…” Chelsea linked her arm with Naomi’s so the three of them formed a chain. “There. Perfect.”

Naomi startled as she felt another arm slide under her left arm, linking with hers. She looked over to see Jen standing beside her.

“Hi! Are the girls linking arms?”

Naomi stared at her, not sure what to say.

“We’re off to see the Wizard,” sang Jen as she skipped a few steps.

“I love that movie!” said Angelina. “Want to learn how that song goes in Italian?”


“Okay, it goes like this… Insieme andiam da Mago…”

The cute little bat thing on Angelina’s shoulder perked up at the singing.

“In… inseam…”

“No, no, no. Insieme.


Naomi tried to tune Jen and Angelina out as Angelina continued teaching Jen the song. She glanced at Chelsea who was watching Angelina with a good-natured smile.

Naomi felt a tap on her shoulder and turned her head to see Lachlan and Sam behind her.

“Naomi, I need to talk to you for a second,” said Lachlan.

Naomi unlinked herself from the chain and fell back a few steps. Jen quickly re-linked herself with Chelsea.

“Sure,” said Naomi. “What did you need to talk about?”

“Nothing,” said Lachlan. “You just looked like you needed rescuing from Tweedledee and Tweedledum up there, and as a dashing, manly hero, I figured it was my duty to aid a citizen in distress.”

“A citizen in distress?” Naomi raised an eyebrow. “Not a damsel?”

“Of course not. I’m not a misogynist.”

“Really?” said Sam. “You’re commenting on the ‘citizen in distress’ thing, but not the ‘dashing, manly hero’ thing?”

“If you’ll recall, Samarskite, I happen to have saved your life countless times.”

“Countless? It was more like two times, maybe.”

Naomi wondered what the ‘Samarskite’ thing was about. She didn’t even know what Samarskite was, but Sam’s name definitely wasn’t actually short for it. Did Lachlan and Sam have inside jokes already?

“I was going to comment on the ‘dashing hero’ thing too, actually,” said Naomi. “We both know it’s bullshit. You’re definitely going to hold this over my head the next time you need a favor.”

“Nah,” said Lachlan. “I’d also accept your unwavering loyalty and your eternal reverence and adoration.”

“I think I’ll just do the favor,” said Naomi.

“Your loss.”

Naomi looked over at Sam, trying to find a sign indicating whether or not the talk about ‘rescuing’ her from his girlfriend had offended him. He didn’t look upset, but he had one of those faces that was hard to read.

“I hope you’re not mad that we’re talking about rescuing me from your girlfriend,” said Naomi. “It’s not that Jen’s not great, it’s just that–“

“It’s cool,” said Sam. “I know she can be kind of… a lot.”

“And then you combine that ‘a lot’ with Angelina’s ‘a lot’, and you get, well… whatever this is.”

Naomi gestured ahead of them. Angelina and Jen sang the song together, while skipping at a walking pace. They seemed to have roped Chelsea into joining them too. Jen sang with a heavy American accent, likely mispronouncing at least half the lyrics. Angelina seemed to be having trouble matching her pace to the other two, skipping too quickly and dragging poor Chelsea along with her.

“Do you think we should rescue Chelsea too?” said Naomi.

“Nah,” said Lachlan. “She actually likes Angelina for some reason. Besides, I somehow doubt Mrs. Sharma will let this go on for too long.”

“I’m honestly surprised she hasn’t already made them stop,” said Naomi.

“Ten bucks says she’ll blow up at them within the next five minutes,” said Sam.

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