Ashe Amour, from the future, my brain processed. I wanted to laugh in his face but he was, strangely enough, bein’ honest. How could he be honest about bein’ from the future unless he was a complete nutjob? Should I really allow a nutjob in my house? But I felt nothing threatenin’ from him so I stepped back and indicated for him to come inside.
Ashe looked and felt surprised. “Just like that?” he asked. “You believe me?”
“Mr. Amour, I have the uncanny ability to tell when someone is lying,” I said, not really feelin’ like dragging this out. “I can tell you’re telling me the truth, as unlikely as it seems. So I might as well let you in and explain things to me. Obviously there is something super important you want to ask me. At ten at night,” I added.
Ashe had the decency to look chagrined. “I saw you were awake, you had just gone to the barn. I am sorry if I am cutting into your sleep but it is rather important and I’m not a hundred percent sure how much time I have left in this time period.” He stepped into the house, lookin’ around. I shut the door and pointed towards the space where the couch was.
“Why don’t you have a seat?” I offered. “So, how did you time travel? I thought it was generally impossible anymore. The knowledge of time travel was lost and even when it was around, wasn’t it just to certain periods in time? Do you want something to drink?”
“No thanks,” he said, answering the last part first. “And as for time travel… it’s a bit complicated…” As he went to the couch he muttered something. Something genies and a Time God. Yeah, genies, a god, time travel. Honesty. These things didn’t really seem to go very well together but… might as well give him the benefit of the doubt.
We sat down on the couch and he put his hands on his thighs, looking intently at the TV. “You seem a lot calmer than I would’ve expected, Miss Danevbie. It is… Miss… right?” He had real strange emotions at that. A little surge of hope, a little surge of worry. What, was he planning on hitting on me? But I saw he had a wedding ring on…
“My marital status is of no importance, I’d wager,” I said, leanin’ back on the couch. “I’m sure your wife would agree.”
He smiled at that. “I wasn’t asking for myself, ma’am.”
Ugh, still not lying. What was with this guy? “I’m still single,” I said and he nodded, feelin’ a lot better about it. “So who wanted to know? Did someone send you to spy on me or something? I know you’re a PI.”
“I wasn’t sent to spy on you,” he said quickly. “I think the best place to start would be the beginning. It’s going to be a strange tale but true, believe it.”
“I’ll believe it,” I said with a shrug. “I can tell.”
“Can you really?” he asked, starin’ at me again. Disbelief was settlin’ into him until I pointed out he was from the future because of a god, was it so strange to find someone who could tell when others were lying? Ashe laughed at that. “True, true. My life hasn’t exactly been the most… normal of things. I’ve dealt with a lot of supernatural occurrences so some sort of mental lie detector shouldn’t be too strange.”
“Same reason someone from the future shouldn’t be too strange for me,” I said. “So why don’t you tell me your story?”
Ashe nodded and settled back. “Long version or short?” he asked and I asked for the long one. I might as well hear what was going on. “All right. Well, as I said I’m from the future. I’m not quite sure how far in the future that is but I’d wager a good sixty or more years. I grew up in Zephyr Hills and my father was a firefighter. When I was a teenager, he helped put out a fire that started my… interaction with the supernatural, I’ll say. Not long after the fire I met a girl.”
I smiled at that, since he was full of romanticness now and love. “Your girlfriend?” I asked and he got all flustered, it was real adorable.
“Not at the time,” he answered, looking down. “She was dead at the time.” Now that certainly confused me. But before I could say anything, Ashe continued. “A ghost. She died in the fire. After that I started dealing with more ghosts. They came to me with their stories. Messages. Oftentimes, to expose the murderer. I helped them to move on.”
With each word he said I felt edgier and edgier, and at this point I stood up. “I think I’d rather have the short version,” I snapped.
Ashe looked up at me and then patted the couch. “I suggest sitting down, please.”
“You can’t boss me in my own home!” I griped, but slowly I sat down. This was a crazy that, that was what I decided. Some lunatic convinced he was from the future and was able to talk to ghosts. I folded my hands in my lap and looked hard at them.
“Sunny–the ghost girl–convinced me to become a private investigator,” he continued. I wasn’t sure if this was still the long version or the short one. I didn’t care at this point, really. I wanted him to get done with this crap and leave. “She told me with my gift, I would make a great PI so… I became one, for her. I worked hard and did my job. I enjoyed it. And eventually, thanks to the deceased members of my family, I was led to a woman named Pons.”
Here he stopped his story and just shook his head. “She put me on a horse, she rode a unicorn, and we went quite a ways. To the home of three women who needed my help. Not… they weren’t normal women, though.”
“Were they ghosts, too?” I asked sarcastically.
He didn’t even get in the slightest bit upset at my annoyed tone. “No, they were genies,” he answered. “Or… will be genies? Are genies? This time travel thing is strange.”
“Genies.” Oh this was just getting better and better. “Genies?” I asked again. “Like–what you said… before?”
“Genies,” he confirmed with a chuckle. “As I mentioned before. They had a job for me. They wanted me to find and free some male genies. It was a… complicated journey. I needed to find the ghost of a man to tell me where his daughter was so I could talk to a genie, to find the male genies. I was able to do it, and eventually found the three male genies. And I freed them. After I took them back to the three female genies, they gave me their payment. Which was a wish, from each of them.”
I rubbed my forehead, really confused by all this. What did this have to do with me? “I’m sorry, but genies and ghosts and time travel?” I asked and he nodded. “Maybe this is a bit out of what I imagined strange to be.”
“I know, I know,” he laughed, though now he was soundin’ real nervous. “I made my first wish, though. Which was about Sunny.”
“The ghost girl you liked,” I confirmed and he nodded. “What… did you wish for…?” My voice dropped low without my intendin’ it to.
“To bring her back to life,” he replied, straightforward and honest. I stared at him, feelin’ my heart leaping at that. “It wasn’t true life, though,” he said, frownin’ slightly. “She was a ghost. She would grow older and die of old age, like any living person. Er, like most living people. And she had to really want to be back on this earth. Ghosts–ghosts have a yearning to go back to the other side. But Sunny… she wanted to be here.”
“For you?” I asked softly and he smiled, not really answerin’ that. “Mr. Amour, I am sorry, but what the hell does this have to do with me?”
He lifted his chin. “Please, bear with me. I’m almost there. I need to explain the first parts before I get there. That was my first wish, for Sunny. My second wish was for us to have kids. We tried for years but were unable until I went back to the genies for that second wish. They granted it, and we have twins now. Umber and Copper.” He hesitated there and I knew what he wanted.
“Can I see them?” I asked with a half-smile and he quickly whipped out a photo of two beautiful boys. I touched the photo and felt the proud papa feelin’ from Ashe. “They are very handsome,” I said, smilin’ now. “You’re a lucky man, Mr. Amour. But I still don’t–“
“My third wish was recent,” he said as I handed back the picture. “It was what my wife wanted. She asked me… and… the genies granted it…” He was nervous, concerned, and very edgy. It was makin’ me feel that way now. “My wife she–she wanted… she met this ghost. Another ghost. They became very good friends, during their time in the graveyard. They were close to the same age at the time of their death. And she said… after she and I were reunited she couldn’t help but thinking about him, and his sad tale.”
I dug my fingernails into my thighs. I didn’t like this one bit. He was feelin’ so edgy now it was making me so jumpy, I almost wanted to throw up. “Mr. Amour,” I croaked but couldn’t get the words out because it couldn’t be true, not in Zephyr Hills that was on the other side of the country and not–not anywhere–near…
“She asked me to wish him the same existence as hers,” Ashe said, staring into my eyes. I had to look away. “A living ghost, if he wanted. And… so I went to the genies. They granted the wish, and Sunny’s friend became… a living ghost…”
But he wouldn’t shut up. He kept going. He wouldn’t shut up. “Except the problem was, he was far in the future from the person he loved.” Ashe stood up as well and I took a few steps back. “I’m not completely sure what happened there, but we were sent to this time to find you. I’m not sure if it was because of the genies, or the Time God they mentioned–but we were sent back here.
It felt like he punched my heart and I clutched my stomach, tryin’ my hardest not to barf. “Just shut up!” I managed to gasp out. “Stop it!!!! If this is some sort of cruel joke… you… you bastard… this isn’t funny… He was buried in France! You sick, twisted–” But I couldn’t go on, I just started sobbing. I fell to my knees and covered my face, cryin’ hard.
Ashe put his hand on my arm and I angrily shoved it away except when I tried to shove it away, it didn’t feel right. It was a bit cold and felt faint. Before I could react, he spoke. “Please don’t cry, Sen…”
As soon as he spoke, it was like it had been yesterday. Ten years disappeared in an instant. I looked up into his face, and Henri smiled down at me. The punch to my heart felt harder and I somehow fell from a kneeling position. “Watcher–Watcher–” I gasped out, findin’ it a bit hard to breathe.
Henri knelt down. “Calm down. Please calm down, darling. Breathe slowly. Don’t hyperventilate.” He tilted his head slightly and his eyes were somehow both transparent and full of warmth, though his body didn’t feel very warm at all.
“I’m sorry, I–” Ashe began but Henri shook his head, leavin’ a slight trail of some black smoke.
“It’s all right, she’s okay. You are okay, right?” He carefully reached out and when his hands touched mine, I jerked again.
“Impossible,” I managed to get out. “Impossible! It’s–impossible–“
“It’s not impossible. It’s real. I’m–” He stopped and looked down at his arms. “I’m as real as I can be, as a ghost. But it’s me. I’m here. I’m here again, Sen. I’m here.”
His face settled into a smile, and I could see past the ghostliness. I could see his old face. I reached up and put my hand on his cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned into my hand then reached up as well, putting his hand on mine. He was faintly warm, but only barely. He wasn’t as thin and sickly-seemin’ as he was the moment he died but he did feel chilly and faint, and just had a sort of tired feelin’ to him. But it was him. Oh hell, it was him.
I threw my arms around him, wrappin’ them tightly around his body, and he put his arms around me. “Hen!” I cried out, huggin’ him hard. “Oh Watcher, Hen, it’s you, it’s you!” My face found his neck and I cried. “It’s you, it’s you, it’s really you!”
“Sen, I’ve missed you,” he whispered into my ear. “I never thought we’d be together again. How long has it been for you?”
“Ten years,” I sniffled into his shirt. “How long–for you?”
“A lot longer than that,” he murmured, runnin’ his fingers up my back. “I’m glad it was just ten years for you. I’m not sure why we weren’t sent back before this time, I’m sorry it wasn’t sooner… but…” Now he pushed me back and was sorta glarin’ at me. “Ten years? You didn’t keep your promise! You said you’d move on!”
“I did!” I exclaimed. “Just because I didn’t find any stupid boyfriend or anything, and besides, I almost did I was just not interested. And it wasn’t just missing you. I just really didn’t want to date anyone. Just because I live alone and don’t have a boyfriend at twenty-eight doesn’t make me an old maid crying over my lost love!” Someone snorted at that and then I remembered Ashe was still there.
“You really moved on?” he asked, his hand on my cheek again. “Promise?”
“Flying machine and everything,” I said, pursin’ my lips and givin’ him a look.
He looked confused for a second and then his face split into a grin. “Hey, no quoting that movie. I thought that was the agreement.”
“You’re not on your deathbed,” I reminded him. “You’re alive–well, you’re… back.” I put my hands on his cheeks. “I have you back. Oh Watcher, you’re back!” And then my lips found his lips. I kissed him hard and fierce. His lips pressed back and I was lost in the kiss again, that kiss that had disappeared so many years ago, that kiss that was rapidly comin’ back. How could I ever forget this feelin’, even if it was slightly cold and… kinda strange…
I opened my eyes and then pulled back. Ashe was laughing and Henri looked a bit upset. “What happened?” I asked, blinkin’.
“Shut up!” Henri growled at Ashe. “I imagine your first kiss with Sunny was the same!”
“She didn’t put her face halfway through mine,” Ashe said, grinnin’ and folding his arms.
“You put your face through mine?” I raised an eyebrow at Henri who was poutin’.
“Maybe,” he grumbled. “I got overexcited. It’s been decades for me, give me a break!”
“How about I give you another kiss?” I offered, pulling him close so I could kiss him again. Yesterday I woulda been totally freaked out at the idea of kissin’ a ghost but this just felt so right and natural, even if his face had gone halfway through mine. A bit different from the kisses he gave me from when he was living, but just as perfect.
We pulled away from each other and then I put my face into his shoulder again. After a few seconds, I remembered once again we weren’t alone. “Ashe. Mr. Amour.” I looked up at him and then somehow managed to get to my feet. “Thank you. Thank you…” I almost tripped as I went to hug him, but I got my arms around him. “Thank you so much, thank you…” I found myself cryin’ on his shoulder. “How can I possibly–ever–thank you–?”
“Miss Danevbie, it is more than enough to see two people so in love reunited,” he answered, pattin’ my back. “And also to give my wife this. She seemed very taken with Henri’s story.”
Now I looked up at him. “But I don’t understand something else–Zephyr Hills?” I turned to look at Henri who was floatin’ real close. “How? You–you were in France.”
“I don’t know,” he said, reachin’ out for me. I fell back into his arms, nuzzlin’ up to him. “I remember vaguely being in France. In the Laroche mausoleum. But one day when my spirit was freed for a short time, I was in a new place. Zephyr Hills. I have no idea how it happened, but it did.”
“And you befriended Sunny?” I asked and he shook his head.
“It was decades before she arrived in the cemetery. She was just a few years younger than me… I found it easier to talk to her than any of the other ghosts. She was good company, and though it was a bit sad to lose her, I was glad she moved on.” Now Henri smiled at Ashe. “She mentioned you, before–before she moved on. I am glad you two were reunited as well. I know I said that earlier but…” His arms tightened around me. “I can appreciate it even more now.”
“Tell her thank you,” I whispered. “For me. Thank you. To both of you. To all of you. I just can’t even…”
“I will tell her,” Ashe promised.
“Yes, please give her my many thanks too,” Henri said. “It’s so hard to imagine she… after all those years… remembering me like that… asking you… giving up a wish for this… Like Sen, I can’t even begin to express words for this.”
“As I said before, it’s worth it to see a scene like this, and for Sunny’s happiness,” he said, smilin’ a bit wider but feelin’ a bit embarrassed about all our thanking, but it really was too much, way too much. I wanted to give him something in return but what did I have? Anything material seemed so… paltry. Plus I could tell how he was feelin’, and he wasn’t wanting anything. So there was no point in offering anything. What on earth could I possibly have that would be even a fraction of how thankful I was? Henri–my Henri–was back. I had him back. It was all too much, and I began cryin’ again.
Hen wiped away my tears. “I hope those are tears of joy,” he teased.
I glared at him through the tears. “Is it still feasible to smack you?” I asked and then gave it a try. It wasn’t the same as smackin’ human flesh but there was a bit of solidity there. “Ooh,” I breathed out.
“I’m pretty much able to interact with you and with furniture and everything,” he laughed.
Ashe was nodding again. “You’ll need to eat and sleep, and it is just like you’re living again. Only not much can harm you. You’ll grow older and–” Now he felt a bit embarrassed again but I knew what he was feelin’.
“We can have kids,” I finished for him and he ducked his head, the brim of his hat hidin’ his eyes. I blushed and then as I felt a bit embarrassed, and Ashe felt a bit embarrassed… “Hen?” I asked, lookin’ at him again. “I can’t… feel you.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Your emotions,” I gulped. “I can’t feel them. At all. I can’t… I have nothing from you. I can feel Ashe. But I can’t feel you.” I touched his face and then pressed my forehead against his. I got nothin’. No emotions from him. But judgin’ by his facial expression he was feelin’ something. “Is it because you’re a ghost?”
“It must be,” he said in amazement. “I certainly am having emotions right now. Many emotions. Are you sure you’re just not–“
“I’m sure.” I put my head on his shoulder again. It was a little scary but also good. The reason I disliked people so much. The reason I had fought with Henri. The reason I didn’t like dating. Takin’ this out of the equation… “I can feel emotions,” I put in as I felt Ashe’s confusion. “That’s how I can tell when someone is lying. But I can’t feel Hen. I guess if I ever meet another ghost, I can test it out.”
“I’m not sure what all makes the differences between ghosts like Sunny and Henri, and living people like us,” Ashe said. “All I really know is what I told you. Oh and–I should warn you, I was told there was a chance of…” He pushed his hat back and frowned. “When a ghost like him and Sunny, uh, have kids with someone living like us, there is a chance the child will be de–will be a ghost. We were lucky with the twins. But if you two… do decide to… you might not be as lucky. Just wanted to let you know.”
“Thank you,” I said for the millionth time. It was something to think about, but not right now. Except… it did bring about another question. “What about…” I trailed off and looked back and forth between Henri and Ashe. “Your disease?”
“I–I’m not sure,” Henri admitted.
“Sunny had said you died of a sickness,” Ashe said. “I may not know the exact details but I have met a lot of ghosts in my life. Anything terminal did not stay with them. Since it affects the living body, I assume, and not the soul and–whatever else it is that makes a ghost. They retain… some of what they had at their last moments. For instance, Sunny sometimes feels like she has flames around her, when I feel them on her–” Oh hell I did not need to know how that made Ashe feel, “–but it’s nothing that really hurts her. It’s just what I feel coming off of her.”
“So if we do have children, they might not get my disease?” Henri asked. I may not have been able to feel the hope he felt, but I could certainly hear it in his voice.
“You no longer have the disease,” Ashe said. “So you would not be able to pass it onto your children. And… I think I have to go.” He looked up and frowned. “I wasn’t told how long I had but I am getting the feeling my time here is done.”
I let go of Henri and put my arms around Ashe. “I know I could never repay you. I would do anything but… I guess that’s pointless since… you’re from the future.”
“I appreciate the offer, Miss Danevbie. And I–” He paused and then laughed. “I guess it’d be weird for me to say I wish you all the happiness. But yeah, you get the idea.”
Now Henri hugged him. “Thank you, Ashe, and again, thank Sunny for me and give her my love. And those two little boys of yours.”
“I will.” Ashe was grinning again. “Goodbye you two, and good luck in everything.” He walked out of the house and then he was gone; I couldn’t feel him anymore. I wasn’t sure if he just walked out of the radius or what, since I was givin’ Henri my full attention now.
I still was havin’ a hard time believing he was back. Looking at him, my hands on his face, hearin’ his voice, there was still something so unreal about all this. And very scary. My stomach was churnin’ a bit. I was worried that maybe things would be different, that my ten years away from him and his many decades away from me would change things for the worse. I loved him still. Or rather, again. For I had moved on during our time apart. I never really stopped lovin’ him, but it was something I put in my past. Now it was back, it was real–and unreal–and now…
Now we had the rest of our lifetime together, something we never had before.