So, first off, I want to give MASSIVE thanks to every single person who purchased my book, Janus and Oblivion on Amazon! For those who loved it and gave reviews, you have my utmost appreciation, the sequel is currently in progress and will hopefully be out by Christmas. I'll take into consideration all the concerns that you had with it, and be sure to make the next book far better than the former. To those who expressed a desire to purchase, but lacked the monetary means to do so, I thank you all the same for your interest.

As for sympathizing with my religious plight, I have to say, I genuinely don't know what to say. I never expected to find people on the fan-fiction site who actually possessed empathy for the plight of the authors of their story - and it actually shook my model of reality a bit. Thankfully, I'm out of that community for good, and although there will be some permanent rifts caused, I decided it's going to be worth it in the end.

Also, many of my readers assumed that I'm from the U.S. for some reason - (is it because of the Americanisms in my writing, or publishing on amazon with an English name?). I'm not. I've actually never set foot there before. Hell English isn't even my mother tongue.

That aside, people expressed concerns that I'd stop writing fan-fics now that I've started writing and publishing original works.

Actually, it's likely to be the opposite. There are still merits to fan-fiction in that there is a certain... freedom to write. That said, let me make it loud and clear:

LUCIFER MORNINGSTAR IS NOT ABANDONING FAN FICTION!

Now that we've got that out of my system, I'm going to blatantly say that many people may not be fans of this chapter, (or the plot development) but, I assure you, none of it was created on a whim, and I would implore you to re-read chapters 3, 4 and 5 if you are in doubt of anything you see.

With that said, let's get this show on the road.


Unknown Location

November 29

11:34pm

"Is everything ready?"

"The cameras are in place. The goods are set, and I feel like a million dollars."

Her father did not snort, for Slade Wilson was not a man who snorted. Rather, the sound he gave was a grunt which possessed the barest hints of amusement. Low enough to barely be audible, it was not amusement meant to be shared. No, it was his personal amusement, the satisfaction he derived whenever he was close to completing a goal or eliminating a target that he allowed for brief, sparse moments of brevity. This was the closest she would get to seeing him outright laugh.

"Add three zeroes on that." He gestured to the twenty widescreen devices placed up. "Begin the stream."

The push of a button to the power. The whirring of machines and the flickering to life of the twenty widescreen smartscreens immediately began the auction. Twenty silhouettes appeared one after the other upon the screen, all of them potential buyers.

"I'll spare you the pointless greetings and cut out the unnecessary showmanship. We're here to deal."

The blackened silhouette on screen number 1 spoke, the voice muffled and rendered genderless and unidentifiable. "What do you have for us Deathstroke?"

Deathstroke made a small, barely noticeable gesture. The signal spurned her on, the past few weeks of practice learning how to operate the devices was finally coming to fruition. With a push of a button, an incredible audible boom echoed across the room. Space itself was warped, the science of which neither her nor her father cared about so long as knowing the intrinsic mechanics were not necessary to make profit.

The wormhole she emerged from was visible to the cameras and devices. The experience was akin to being in a dream and suddenly opening a door to the bottom of the ocean. The sights were similar to being on a psychedelic trip – not that she knew what that felt like. Her father would kill her if he suspected she knew what that felt like.

She appeared, as expected, and the spiraling colors indicating warping of space-time vanished.

"What was that about unnecessary showmanship?" silhouette on screen number two spoke.

"If you think demonstrations are unnecessary, you would be horrible at this line of business."

"Indeed." Silhouette on screen number sixteen spoke. "How did you come into possession of a Motherbox? Apokoliptian technology has been rather scarce."

"Information costs extra," Deathstroke said. "I have ten motherboxes. Wholesale. Alien super-computers to take you anywhere in the universe. Bidding starts at ten million dollars."

"Ten million five hundred thousand," said screen two.

"Eleven million," said screen fourteen.

"Eleven million two fifty," said screen three.

"Eleven million seven-fifty," said screen five.

"One-hundred million."

The announcement delivered by screen one sent the auction silent.

"We have a hundred million dollar bid." Deathstroke said.

She wondered if her father was having any difficulty hiding his amusement, as things were progressing entirely as he'd predicted to her that it would.

"One hundred million and one." Screen five said.

"One hundred million and three." Screen twelve said.

"Three hundred million."

Again, screen one's announcement brought silence. "The bid for the motherboxes is now at three hundred million dollars."

"Fold."

"Fold."

"Fold."

"Fold."

"Three hundred million and one," screen five said.

"Five hundred million."

"Fold."

One by one, she watched the silhouettes vanish upon the screen as people folded, until there was only one silhouette left.

"Seeing as you bid the highest and scared off everyone else with smaller pockets – you get the motherboxes."

"Where are the rest?"

She watched her father and was both marveled and inspired when she could not detect a single shift in his body movement from hearing the question.

"You think I have more?"

"Do not take me for a fool." Silhouette number one spoke. "I am aware you acquired the motherboxes from an Intergang hideout on the night the Consultant conducted his… cleaning of Gotham City. I know for certain that they possessed more than just a meagre ten motherboxes."

"Interesting theory."

"I want the rest."

"If I happen to stumble across another mysteriously hidden cache of Apokoliptan tech, I'll inform you." Deathstroke said. "For now, there are only ten in inventory, and you will have these ten once I get my money."

The conversation entered an uneasy silence. The silhouette was unmoving, and her father did not budge. Twelve terse seconds passed in this manner.

"The payment has been wired." silhouette one said. "Deliver it latest by Monday."

"Pleasure doing business with you."

Screen number one went blank. The room was silent once more, and she could feel a form of palpable tension.

"How did he kno–"

The sound of the gunshot staggered her. She dropped to the floor, stunned at the smoking barrel pointed in her direction. She never saw it leave his holster. Her legs became straw noodles, and her cheek felt wet.

She didn't move. She didn't breathe. The bullet had grazed the side of her face, and she knew that he didn't miss. He never missed. If he wanted her dead, a bullet would be in her brain.

He turned to the screen, the screen where silhouette number one had been. He reached for a device, and pressed it against the screen and she watched as the device – an EMP – utterly fried it beyond recognition.

"He didn't." Her father said. "He was guessing we had more motherboxes. He was still connected, waiting for anything that would confirm his guesses. And you stupidly gave it to him."

He was? But – the screen was off – how – how could he have still been connected? Even if he was the richest man in Metropolis, there was no way he could have hacked into their device in the span of the auction – could there?

"I –" there was no excuse she could make. Ignorance was not a justifiable excuse. An apology was not acceptable either. There could only be one thing that followed mistakes: punishment.

"Stand." Came the order. "We're going to spar."


~~~~~~DC – Remastered Edition ~~~~~~~~


November 30th

00:40am

There were voices speaking but she couldn't see them. She could feel the softness of the matrass, hear the beeping of medical devices and smell the thick antiseptic that reeked in hospitals and artificially sterilized areas, yet, she could not see where she was. She knew her eyes were open. She knew her eyelids were raised and her eyes were open, but she failed to see anything.

A blinding spell? She opened her mouth to restore her sight but no words escaped from her lips. A second attempt brought the same dilemma. By the third a chilling uncertainty crept into the back of her mind. By the twentieth time she tried and failed to speak, the uncertainty morphed into dread.

She clambered blindly out of her bed, crashing into something solid and metal. She patted herself down, and the fear became worse as she felt she was not in her own clothes. She rolled across the cold floor, ignoring the beeping and the sounds, and tried her best to calm her breathing. She tried to calm herself. She took deep, long breaths and tried to calm herself. She tried once more to speak.

Nothing.

I can't seeand I can't speak –

Rising unsteadily to her feet, she bumped into random objects as she tried to find her way around wherever she was. Her chest burned from how fast she could feel her heart beat and how hard it was to take in air.

Where am I? How did I get here – what – what was I doing?

She was after someone. Hunting a person a target, someone who killed a dear friend of hers –Constantine. The person she was hunting – it was a boy.

The Consultant.

The memories rushed to her head immediately. She summoned the Spirit of Vengeance. She tracked the boy to a nightclub in Gotham City – and then the boy's demon –

There was an overwhelming fight. She got sent into space, to the moon. Then – nothing. She couldn't recall anything from that point onwards.

"Miss Zatanna," a mechanical voice made her flinch. "I am detecting increased levels of blood pressure and elevated heart rates. You are currently in the Watchtower Medical Bay. I have taken the liberty to inform the Justice League about your awakening."

The Watchtower? She was at the Watchtower? She wanted to ask how she got here. Her lips opened and her tongue worked as normal, but no words escaped her lips, no matter how hard she tried. Deprived of her ability to see and speak, rescued by the very Justice League that scorned her mission –

The pill was too bitter to swallow.

"Zatanna," the calming nigh-mechanical voice of Martian Manhunter appeared within her head like a catchy earworm. "Apologies for the intrusion. I am the only member of the Justice League present at the Watchtower as of now, however the others will soon return to discuss the issue."

The telepathic communication was something she was grateful for. "Manhunter – what's going on? How did I get here? What issue?"

"You were found unconscious and floating in space."

She was? "How am I still alive?"

"The answer to that question is the issue the Justice League needs to discuss. Along with potential security concerns."

Alarm bells were ringing in her head. "Security concerns? What are the security concerns?"

"Apologies, I cannot provide you with that answer."

"Why not?"

"Zatanna, I am concerned about what you were doing in space."

"I – I was fighting the Consultant."

"…the Consultant?"

"He's alive. He faked his death. His real name is Isaac Zachariah Cabrera – and I summoned the Spirit of Vengeance to –"

"You were the one who brought the Spectre?"

She frowned. "Yes – I needed him –"

"Miss Zatanna, for the past three weeks the Spectre has gone on a 'purge' throughout the African continent. He has killed thousands of politicians and the presidents of nations across thirty-six countries in the name of vengeance and justice. The Justice League has been focusing all of its efforts on stopping him, and for each day we fail, the body count doubles."

Her fingers felt numb with cold.

No…

"In summoning the Spectre to stop the Consultant, you have inadvertently done more damage than the Consultant himself."

No – no – no!

This wasn't – this wasn't what she intended. Yes, it was true she unleashed the Spirit of Vengeance without a host unto the planet, and true she did so without tethering him to anything but herself – but the Spectre wouldn't kill indiscriminately.

No – it wasn't indiscriminate. He killed who he felt was guilty – and there were too many outliers and terms and conditions involved that anyone and everyone could have broken one standard of his extremely narrow guidelines. There was nothing to limit his powers, but there were two ways to stop him.

The first was for her to apply the counterspell she used to summon him. Easy enough. The second was for the tether holding him to this world to be destroyed. Also, easy enough.

Easy for anyone except her.

The implications of how she survived the vacuum of space became clear. The realization of why she was blind and mute forced its way into her mind. No doubt Manhunter realized it as well. She inhaled, and exhaled. Inhaled, exhaled.

"I can fix this. I just need to be able to speak again, and then I can apply the counter-spell I used to summon him –"

"Miss Zatanna –"

"I can fix this –"

"I will inform the League of recent developments. Doctor Fate will also be here soon."

"Manhunter –

"I'm sorry, Miss Zatanna."

Manhunter's soothing voice vanished from her mind. Her heart was roaring in her chest. She clenched her chest tightly and forced herself to breathe. They won't – they won't kill me – this – this is the Justice League – they don't kill people. Right? The Justice League did not kill under any circumstances. It was one of the rules binding them. They would not kill her simply because doing so would stop the Spectre – they didn't trade lives.

No. That wasn't true. Superman didn't trade lives. Batman didn't trade lives. Wonder Woman was no stranger to killing. Green Lantern and Aquaman were not squeamish about getting their hands dirty. Green Arrow used to kill before he mellowed out. Hawkman and Hawkwoman were willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. Doctor Fate certainly didn't care about the life of one person, and if it came down to a vote – a vote deciding that the life of one person was worth it to save thousands more – she knew how it would end.

She knew how she would end.


~~~~~~~~~~ DC – Remastered Edition ~~~~~~~~~


Makarov Dreyer's Mansion

Gotham City

November 30th

7:04 am

"So this," I rose the object with the black screen into the air. "This is a smartphone. One of the staple technologies of the 21st century."

"I don't think sixteen years is enough to have made phones any different."

"Those are brave words, woman. Let's put it to the test."

I inserted the password, accessed the Legend Browser and Legacy Search Engine and typed the words "CAT PLAYING PIANO." A video of a tabby in a tuxedo came up, it's paws placed tenaciously on a long classical piano. I hit the play button.

"Oh my god."

"God has nothing to do with this."

"It's a cat playing a piano."

"I know.

"Why is a cat playing a piano?" She shook her head. "Wait, no, how is a cat playing a piano?"

"Video editing. Meme culture. Posted for fame on social media."

"Social media?"

"Billions of people in the world willingly turn their life into a performance for the consumption and entertainment of other people, who pay them in the currency of likes."

"Can you buy anything with these… likes?"

"Only a false sense of accomplishment and a misguided placement of self-worth."

"That sounds stupid."

"It is."

"How do I sign up?"

"First, you're going to need an email."

We were at Makarov Dreyer's million dollar mansion located in Gotham City Uptown. For the most part, the mansion was empty, and it was only utilized because Makarov Dreyer needed a tangible address to live. The kitchen area was high-tech, every product within it was created by Legend Industries or by a company associated or belonging to Legend Industries.

Eva sat beside me in an oversized t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts. She didn't have any clothes, and she would rather prefer to wear mine than wear the perfectly sized outfits I'd created with Conjuration. She decided she'd buy some, eventually.

The smell of bacon and eggs sizzled in the kitchen, Animated to cook themselves perfectly. I'd maxed out the Homestyle Cooking skill so long ago, but I couldn't remember the last time I'd actually needed to use it.

A pair of plates floated and spun into the air just as the pans flipped. The fridge door seemed to fling itself open, and a large jug of orange juice soared out alongside two clean glasses. The glasses performed the bottle-cap challenge like Jackie-Chan and spun aside the cover of the orange juice, its contents pouring into them while they spun in the air, before stopping. The jug was recapped, and two glasses of orange juice arrived on the table beside two plates of eggs and bacon forming a smiley face.

Eva stared at the plate. "I don't think I'm ever going to get used to that."

"Flying plates and acrobatic breakfast?"

"I meant magic." She laughed. "Although acrobatic breakfast is an exciting way to start the day. Maybe for dinner you'd make the cooked turkey march itself up into the plate?"

"That's unsanitary," I said shaking my head. "Better to make it fly instead."

"If the turkey flies, then what'll the roast pork do?"

"Fall with style."

"Like a wrestler jumping from the top turn-buckle?"

"You want me to make roast pork do an elbow-drop?" I placed my chin into my hands. "But it doesn't have any elbows."

"Would that be a problem?"

"…No."

We were able to look at each other and maintain a straight face for all of three seconds. She was the first to double-over with laughter, and my lips found themselves mimicking her. The sound of her laughter spurned me to laugh harder, and to realize just how much I'd missed this sound.

By the time we gathered enough of our wits to focus back on our food, it was almost getting cold. I couldn't complain. I'd take the taste of slightly cold bacon and eggs with her by my side over any hot meal in the world.

"Sho, ei wush shinking –" Eva said through a full mouth.

I pointed at her cheeks. "Swallow before speaking."

She rolled her eyes, but did. "You sound like one of my clients."

"First, that was imagery I really did not need," my lips twitched. "Second, former clients. Former. You're done with that life."

"Am I?"

For the first time since bringing her back from the future, my mother had an expression on her face I could not read. She'd devoured halfway into her breakfast, and there was an uncertainty that crept into the room.

"Of course you are. You don't have to sleep with people for money anymore."

"Instead I can just get it from you?"

My lips felt stapled together. "You make it sound like it's a bad thing."

"I meant the sex, not the money."

I stared at the plate. I wasn't sure how to answer that question. I couldn't wrap my head around it. "You still want to sleep with random people?"

"You make it sound like it's a bad thing."

"Why would you want to do that?"

"Because I'm young, Zack. Young and with a great body, and I'd like to enjoy this while I can. Before I become old and wrinkly and invisible to people." She smiled. "Or at least before I die."

"You're not going to die."

"Everyone dies Zack."

"Not us."

There was an edge to my words in which I couldn't figure out the cause. Maybe it was because she didn't know that I'd spent the last sixteen years agonizing over her death, that I blamed myself time and time again for her demise. She didn't know what I'd done or how far I'd go to make sure she was alive, alive and here with me – and to hear her talk about dying so casually –

"Zack, the past few hours of have been… intense." She smiled, but it was uneasy. The uneasiness of the smile bothered me.

"Who am I kidding? It's been crazy. From thinking I was going to die to meeting you and being told that magic is real and time-travel – dear god, time-travel like some Back-to-the-Future shtick – I was about ready to start laughing in your face and telling you to go fuck yourself."

"You didn't."

"I didn't because I wasn't sure. I was playing along until I was sure that you really were – were him. My Zack. You travelled from sixteen years in the future to save my life and bring me here."

She rubbed her shoulders. "Why?"

"What do you mean why?"

Why? What sort of question was why?

"Why did you bring me sixteen years into the future?"

"I wanted my mother back."

"Zack," she bit her lip. "You don't need a mother."

The house felt colder than I remembered it being. There was a sensation in my stomach like I'd been punched by a Kryptonian.

"You're seventeen now." She pointed at herself. "I'm still twenty-one. That's what, five years difference?"

"Four."

"My math sucks," she said, chuckling. The attempt to lighten the mood didn't work. "There's a four year age difference. We're so close in age at this point that I can't be a mother to you. I mean, just look around Zack –"

She gestured to the mansion.

"At seventeen I was depressed and smoking weed to try and get a black guy to fuck me because I believed they all had large –"

I coughed. She rubbed the back of her head sheepishly.

"My point is, I can't teach you anything you don't already know. You've done better than anything I can imagine. I can't guide you or be a role model or parental figure or... be a mother."

"I didn't bring you to the future because I wanted a mother."

The words bubbling in the back of my throat were screaming to be unleashed. The years and years of thinking and sentiment, the unending guilt I felt as I always wondered whether or not it was my fault that she died. Whether or not I was responsible for everything that happened. From that moment where I messed around stupidly with my powers, to that moment I saw her one last time –

"I wanted – I want you."

The words didn't feel like they were enough. They couldn't encapsulate the full range of meaning behind years of internal turmoil. Behind the façade after façade created, a constant belief that I cared for no one and nothing, the belief that I was above being controlled by such overwhelming emotion.

"I missed you."

It wasn't it. Those words weren't what I wanted to say either. I knew the words, I knew them – but saying them, looking into her blue eyes and face and saying those words – there should be no reason why I couldn't say them –

I needed to say them. I had to say them. The burning in my stomach wouldn't stop until I said them.

"Zack… do… do you love me?"

"I've always loved you." The words were the truth. The full truth.

"No, Zack." I could see it again. That uneasiness that had been there from the beginning. "I should rephrase that," she took a breath.

"Are you in love with me?"

The half-eaten eggs and bacon on the plate were easier to focus on than her face. Part of me knew from the beginning that I'd never seen Eva as a mother-like figure. For as long as I could remember it was always the opposite. I was the one who took care of her. I was the one who made her breakfast. I was the one who did her laundry and chores. I was the one who reminded her to brush her teeth, to wash her hands. I was the one who told her not to smoke and hid her cigarettes to stop her from doing so. I was the one who scolded her and tucked her into bed. I – I was always the one who did everything, who would do anything for her.

In a way, I was the parent and she was the child. Except, the feelings that were involved were not something that simple. There had always been something else, hovering. Something that pumped my blood and filled my stomach with glee. Something that died in me when she was gone. That something, all along – I knew what it was.

"Zack? Are you…?"

I'd never told a direct lie to my mother for as long as I could remember. Omissions at times, yes, but never, not once, had I looked her in the face and told her a direct lie.

"Yes."

I couldn't.

"Oh."

The colors of the world and the vividness of the breakfast table seemed to have muted to me. I couldn't look up. I couldn't look at her. I didn't want to look at her.

"Zack – that's – I mean," she stumbled over her words. "I'm flattered but – you're – and I'm –" She stopped. "You can't. I can't. We – we can't."

"Do you remember, that one night, years ago, when you were drunk and had sex with that man who was cheating on his paraplegic wife – you told me," the words were heavy. "You told me, it was me and you against the world – me and you – fuck everyone else, everything else – just me and you."

"Zack, I don't…"

"Just me and you remember? Me and you – you promised. You said it – you –"

"I was drunk, Zack. I don't – I don't remember what I said when I was drunk."

Ah. She… was drunk. Of course – of course –

"Do you even… love me at all?" I found myself asking, wondering. "Have –" a laugh almost escaped my lips. Have I spent the last seventeen years of my life loving and mourning a woman to whom my existence is an afterthought?

Three seconds passed and Eva didn't answer. The longer the silence stretched, the harder it became for me to swallow.

"Nothing? You're not going to say anything?"

"What do you want me to say, Zack?" Eva said. "I – I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"I never wanted to get knocked up!" she said, tossing her hands into the air. "You – you weren't exactly planned. When you were born I noticed you didn't cry as much as I thought and you picked up things quicker than normal, so I thought, maybe, maybe I could keep you –"

"But you were smart. Smarter than you should be – you were walking around at a year old and fully capable of concepts and ideas and things that you shouldn't know, and it – it scared me. You scared me. It wasn't normal, you were anything but normal – and when you told me about being reincarnated – I didn't know how to handle that information. I didn't want to handle it – I –"

Eva trailed off. "I went off and did my own things. I left you alone for hours to your own activities but you never complained about being abandoned or mentioned being hungry. I never punished or scolded you, because there was never anything to punish or scold. You saw the worst of me and never judged me – you – you loved me in spite of the booze, the sex and horrible things I did. No, you worshipped me in spite of how fucked up I was and how little attention I gave to you – and I – I don't know why."

Eva shifted plates of bacon aside and grabbed my hands. She held them, and looked into my eyes.

"What… what have I done to deserve your love?"

I gripped her palms.

"You made me happy."

Eva laughed. Her melodious laugh rang in my ears.

"Happy? We were dirt broke, living in slums –"

"And not a day passed that we didn't crack jokes about it."

"I was constantly bringing home random men for sex –"

"And I'd make them uncomfortable by sitting down and eating popcorn while you went at it."

Eva tried to stifle a snicker. "I always wondered where you got the popcorn from."

"Pocket dimension." I couldn't help the grin that tore on my face. "Remember that one guy who couldn't get it up because I kept staring at him?"

"How could I forget? The one with two-and-a-half inches. God he was pathetic."

"You forced him to cough up the entire contents of his wallet even though he didn't get any."

"Cause he was dumb enough to believe I charged by the minute." She quipped. "Sucker."

I found my lips stretching to their limits.

"You made every single day of a life that should have been filled with bitterness and disgust into a day filled with a new reason to laugh. How many people do you think can do that? How many people, can be in your shoes, and despite everything, still find a new reason each day to laugh?"

A massacred family, a ruined childhood, hiding from a mafia boss, an unplanned pregnancy at twenty – and even though she had her flaws, even if she was selfish, I would take her – her and her alone, I would choose her – over anyone else in the world to be in any situation, any predicament. No matter how bad it turned out, Eva Cabrera would find one thing to give me a reason to laugh, one way to make my lips turn into a smile.

And that was why I loved her.

"I love you, Eva Cabrera."

"Damn it Zack –"

"I love you."

"Stop saying that!"

"I can't – I'm going to keep saying it, and I'm going to jump off a really high building and scream it to the fucking air until the whole world hears it."

"We're related –"

"On a technicality. I blew up my original body a while ago to escape the Justice League, and this new one I created doesn't have the same DNA, so I'm no longer biologically related to you."

"You – wait, what?"

"I love you." I grinned. "I'm going to start singing the Barney Song now."

"You wouldn't –"

"I love you, you love me, we're a happy family –"

"Really Zack?"

"With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won't you say you love me t-"

Nothing prepared me for her lunge across the table nor for her lips.

She tasted of bacon, citrus and stale liquor. Her lips were softer than they possessed any right to be. Some part of my mind screamed that I was committing some grave, inordinate taboo, and another part of my mind found that I craved that which was forbidden. Her tongue slipped into my mouth with the ease and belayed years of experience that I could never hope to match, cementing it further in my mind that Eva was my Eve and her kiss was the forbidden fruit of Eden. I was the hapless Adam and her tongue was the serpent that would cast us from paradise.

When her tongue left, when her lips departed, I sat, staring, unable to speak, unable to find the words to speak, unable to think or question, instead, all I could focus on was her scent, the scent of cigarettes, alcohol and cheap perfume, the heavy scent that was familiar and foreign, intimate and strange, and irrevocably intoxicating.

"So," I cleared my throat. "Does this mean we're –"

"I don't know what this means, Zack. I just – you're just –" Eva bit her lip. "Can we avoid putting any labels on this? For now? At least, until we figure it out. I can't believe I'm even considering this… whatever it is."

I paused at that. "Will you tongue-rape me again if I keep singing the Barney song?"

"Zack…" Eva warned.

"How about if I choke on some bacon and require CPR?"

"Zack!"

"What if I choke on some bacon, while singing the Barney song?"

"I'm going to hit the showers," Eva said, rolling her eyes. "I haven't had a good scrub in long while."

"Was that an invitation?"

Eva smirked at me. "Was it?"

"Wait – are you, are you messing with me?"

The smirk never left her face. "I don't know. Am I?"

She was definitely messing with me… right?

That wasn't an invitation to join her in the shower… right?

Right…?

Did I just get trolled by my own mother?