Jack found Teri in the kitchen concocting a high calorie snack. "Have you seen Debbie?" he asked.

"She's drunk." Teri frowned as she sprayed whipped cream onto her gargantuan sundae. "She came by with a bottle and said something about celebrating the first anniversary of her arrival and if we found her passed out in the hall, would we be so kind as to prop her up so she doesn't choke on her own vomit." Teri turned to look at him. "Are people always so stupid when they get drunk?"

Jack sighed. "Usually. Why do you ask? Are you in a rush to learn about intoxication, too?"

Teri made a show of thinking, knowing it would annoy Jack. "No, I don't think so." she said finally. "Not after seeing her. She was pretty messed up. Maybe she should join the Cult of Ecstasy." she giggled.

Jack smiled, while mentally wincing at the thought of acerbic Debbie mixing with those she scornfully referred to as "Shiny happy mages.".

"Was it important?" Teri asked. "I'm sure we could find her."

"The confidence of youth, how heartening." Jack half teased her. He encouraged such confidence in his former apprentice and was glad to see it manifest. "No, it wasn't important." he replied. "Besides, I don't think I'd like to tangle with a drunk mage."

"Is she likely to start throwing fireballs or something?" Worry was apparent beneath her bantering tone.

I hope not, Jack thought. "No, she wouldn't do anything like that. I was just thinking that she's probably a handful. Drunks usually are."

"She seemed nice enough. Just smashed out of her mind." Teri felt that she ought to stick up for the absent woman. Even if she agreed with Jack. "She said something about visiting Nephat."

"That should confuse him."

 

Debbie sat against Nephat's vast side, accompanied by a bottle of Glenlivet and a glass. The dragons serpentine neck was curled around to see her clearly. "Shouldn't you put some ice in that?" he asked solicitously.

Debbie pinned him with as withering a look as she could manage. Being drunk, the look wasn't as withering as she would have liked.

"Now, Nephat," she replied carefully. "I understand that you're still getting the hang of the human culture thing. God only knows why you'd want to." she added. "But anyway, let me tell you something. Americans are good at a lot of things. They can make money, they can make great movies, and, by God, they can build a hell of a nuke. But there's one thing they can't do. They cannae drink." Alcohol had brought Debbie's burr out of remission. "They freeze their beer, and what liquor they don't water down is some funny color, like green." Debbie shuddered. "Let me tell you, if the good lord had meant me to put ice in me Scotch, he would have made the freezing temperature of water seventy five degrees."

Nephat was intrigued. He knew that humans occasionally became intoxicated, but had never witnessed such a state before.

"And besides, I don't think Mera here would like it if I swiped some of her precious water for such a mundane use, would you, Mera?" The water spirit chose not to reply. "Hmph. Suit yourself. Would you like to try some, Nephat?" she shook the half empty bottle.

"No thank you." he replied politely. "From what I can smell, I don't think I'd like the taste."

"That's alright." Debbie smiled and poured a large measure into her glass. "Did I tell you that today's my first anniversary of getting off the boat?"

"You did mention something earlier." Nephat hadn't quite understood exactly what she said earlier.

"Aye. I went from a freezing island in the north Atlantic to the craziest country in the world. I think I'm still reeling from the culture shock. Americans are very confusing."

"I think humans in general are confusing." Nephat stated. "Are some more confusing than others?"

Debbie laughed. "Oh yes, definitely. And I think, in particular, that we've fallen in with the most confusing of all. Christ, I'm still trying to figure out the light switches around here and all of a sudden I'm off on some wild adventure in which the fate of the world hangs. Well, not really. More like the fate of my world. Which I'm very fond of, don't get me wrong." she told the bemused dragon. "But it's just so bloody confusing. I've only just figured out the who are the goodies and the baddies, let alone what to do with 'em." she paused for another drink. "Or am I repeating myself?" Nephat cocked his head in such a manner to make Debbie believe he was imitating the human gesture of a raised eyebrow. Debbie laughed and knocked over her bottle.

"Well, I suppose I'd had enough, anyway." she sighed as she regarded the amber pool on the floor. Nephat wondered if perhaps if that was a subconscious coincidence on her part. Probably not, he decided. Accidents still occurred, even to mages.

"What confuses you about Americans?" Nephat asked. Maybe one of us could enlighten the other, he thought. Maybe pigs will fly, too, a little voice in his head couldn't help adding.

"Oh, they're so interested in themselves. I never really understood the self absorption that seems to be everyone's hobby in this country. Everyone has to be 'in touch' with themselves or 'know where they're coming from' or some other psycho babble. And they'll share their problems with anyone. Some woman at McDonald's was telling me about her divorce, for God's sake. Why would I want to know about that?"

"It's their way of being friendly." Nephat felt that Debbie was being a tad harsh. "Openness is a sign of trust." he chided her.

"Well, I trust most of 'em up there." she looked ceilingward. "But it doesn't mean I want to hear their lives' story. Terrible things happen to mages." she declared. "I've yet to meet one who had an entirely happy life." she paused for a moment of sodden thought. "Still, it makes me realize how easy I had it. Nothing to worry about except grabby constables and getting the smell of fish out of my hair."

"The smell lingers, I take it?"

"Aye." Debbie frowned at the memory. "I was getting odd looks on the plane, and I'd spent the previous week in Aberdeen. Not a fish in sight."

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