Carmela opened the door on the last person she expected.
Well, okay, she told herself: the last person she expected would likely have been Elvis (after all, she had it on good authority that he was currently touring... one of the two Pegasus galaxies, she couldn't remember offhand which one), and perhaps right above him William Shakespeare. Third-least-likely, she figured, was Ash Ketchum, and the only reason he, as a fictional character, wasn't last was because a fictional character showing up on her doorstep would hardly be the weirdest thing she'd ever encountered since her brother came out to the family as a wizard.
Still, Ronan Nolan was, among the people with whom Carmela was personally acquainted, one of the last people she expected to see when she opened the door, not least because he was supposed to be home in Ireland.
"Dai, Ronan," Carmela greeted. "Kit's not around. He and Neets are off-world." But she stepped aside, anyway, a wordless offer for Ronan to come in; he took it, offering Carmela a soft smile as he walked into the Rodriguez residence entryway.
"Actually, Carmela, I'm kinda here to talk to you," Ronan explained. "It's... Well, I've got kind of a problem with the Speech, and you're better with it than anyone I know."
Carmela nodded, grinning at Ronan as she led him into the kitchen. "Well, you're in luck!" she said. "As it happens, I've got the afternoon free. You could have called first, though, y'know. I might not even have been home. Or Kit might have been."
Ronan blinked. "Well, it doesn't matter whether Kit's around or not," he said, thoroughly unconvincingly. "And you don't have a Manual, so I couldn't ping you."
"There is," Carmela pointed out, opening the fridge door to look inside, "this wonderful invention called a telephone, and I'm pretty sure the Manual lists our number right beside Kit's name, ne? Water, soda, or juice?"
"Water's fine." Ronan fiddled with something in the air beside him before reaching into nothing and pulling out a bundle of softly-glowing characters in the Speech. He tossed it from hand to hand for a moment, a fidgety action, before placing it down on the table. "Anyone else around?" he asked. "Your parents, or...?"
Carmela shook her head as she poured two glasses of water from the pitcher in the fridge. "Nah," she said. "They're off for the weekend. Won a spa trip in the church lottery. So what's so important that you don't want anyone else around?"
Ronan rolled the Speech-bundle around under his hand before tapping it. It obligingly laid itself out on the table, a long line of characters that looked familiar to Carmela at first-glance. "Can you read this?" he asked. "I mean, I know you can read it, but. I... mostly wanted to make sure that it says what I think it says."
Setting her glass of water aside, Carmela leaned over the softly-glowing letters, frowning a bit as she read through them. "It's simple enough," she said, tapping her fingers on the table-top. "Ter'wha derian vel glea'hwa... And the rest of it, yeah. That's the Earth human designator, then you've got age -- sixteen -- and a change flag..." Carmela's frown deepened as she concentrated. "This section's a little odd. The one linked to the change flag, I mean. Whoever this is describing, they're not aware of the change. Or... It's not even really a change, is it? I mean, it's definitely tagged that way, but it's more a change of awareness? And he's only starting to figure out... hm. Isn't that the Speech acronym for homosexuality in humans and humanoids?"
"Yeah," Ronan agreed, nodding slowly. "That's the one I wasn't sure about. Thanks, Carmela."
"Any time, Ronan. Don't feel you need to have a reason like this to come visit! You're glea'hwa now, too, you know. Although the phone is this wonderful new invention. Email, too." Carmela grinned. "And, hey, if you're off the market... Well, no harm in us going out together to check out the rest of the market, right?"
Ronan blanched and shook his head, even while a part of him couldn't help but grin at Carmela claiming him as family. "I'll keep that in mind," he said, bundling up the Speech and tucking it back away into thin air. "I... Thanks, Carmela," he repeated. "I... You couldn't hold off on telling Kit I was by, could you? I've got some stuff to think about, and I'd really rather he hear about this from me."
"Duh." Carmela reached over to tweak Ronan's nose. "That way, when you do tell him and he comes to me all shocked, I can be all, 'Yeah, didn't you know that already? I've known for ages.'"
"You think he'll be shocked?" Ronan asked, blanching a few shades paler.
Carmela blinked before it clicked. "Oh! No, I mean. Shocked, yes, but not, like, shocked. He'll be fine with it once he manages to fit it into his worldview. Couple of days at most, y'know?"
Ronan nodded slowly. "Yeah. Couple of days." He shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Mind if I use the back yard?" he asked Carmela. "I should head home, and the spell circle can get pretty extensive when you need to deal with the overlays on the other end."
"Pfft," Carmela said, rolling her eyes. "Save the energy and use my closet. Direct transit, remember?"
"Oh, right." Ronan did give an honest smile now, if a little weak. "Just don't tell anyone I'm going back into it, okay?"
Carmela laughed and slung an arm across Ronan's shoulders as she led him upstairs. "He jokes! You'll be fine, Ronan. Maybe this is different for you, but, hey, you saved the universe. If you can handle that, you can handle anything."
It was hard to say, Ronan reflected, which happened first: noticing his reaction to the oft-shirtless construction workers building the house just down Boghall Road, or noticing that the auto-update algorithm he used on his name (although not without double-checking it himself before actually using it in a spell) had added a particular phrase describing the reason for that particular reaction.
When he realised that Cillian, a friend of a friend of a friend from a few towns over, was flirting with him, he thought about those workers, and about his realisations, and more than a little bit about his conversation the day before with Carmela. He was at one of the weekly youth discos in Bray, and had been left behind at the table when his friends -- and Cillian's, and everyone else there with them -- went up to the dance floor. "Come here often?" Cillian asked Ronan, giving an exaggerated waggle of his eyebrows as he did. "Or is that a little too cliche?"
"I suppose," Ronan said, spurred on by Carmela's easy acceptance of his almost-admission, "that I'm okay with it being a little cliche. I try to make it out at least a couple of times a month, anyway. What about you? I don't think I've seen you around much before?"
Cillian shrugged. "Well, if I'd known about the view," he said, indicating the bartenders, Rob and Marcus, serving soft-drinks for the evening, "I'd have let Sasha drag me out long ago. Not that they're a patch on what I've got right here," he added, grinning. "Unless that's too forward?"
Ronan flushed, unused to that kind of attention (from anyone who wasn't Carmela), but said, "Well, I'm always one to value honesty." He grinned, too, at Cillian, as he continued, "And I'm not exactly complaining about the view from this side, either." And he wasn't: Cillian was about a year older than Ronan, if he judged properly, and was tall, dark-haired, bright-eyed, and well-muscled.
"Well, I hope not," Cillian retorted, "or I'd worry I was doing something wrong!" He nodded towards the door. "Want to step outside, get some air?"
Getting air, Ronan reflected later, was apparently code for making out on a bench for the rest of the evening, but as he bussed back home at the end of the night, grinning like a madman, he couldn't find it in himself to mind.
He thought about his name right before he drifted off, and called it up in his mind. Unsurprisingly, the change arc was completed, signed off, awareness become acceptance. With the ghost of Cillian's lips still against his own, Ronan fell asleep confident in the fact that, yes, he was definitely gay.
It was another month before Ronan was in the States again, and while he made it a point to email Carmela before he left to let her know he'd be around, really he wouldn't have time for anything until he finished helping Kit with his research into magical weaponry. (When one has been a magical weapon, wielded as much as wielder, one tends to have insight, after all.)
The transport spell up to the moon gave Ronan pause, right before he passed his name to Kit so that it could be plugged in. "Um," he said, so eloquently.
Kit gave him an odd look. "What's up?" he asked, hand still held out for the bundle of characters that composed Ronan's name in the Speech. "Something wrong?"
"No, no," Ronan said hurriedly before passing over his name. "Just, before you read it, there's- Um. There've been a couple of changes."
Shaking out the bundle, Kit took a glance through it before plugging it into the spell. "Yeah, there usually are," he said. "You should see what Dairine's is saying now. Did you know that she's officially a Guarantor now? Like we need one, with our sun."
Ronan felt like his breath was caught in his chest, his heart hammering as he waited for Kit to read through. It wasn't fear, exactly; homophobes didn't tend to end up wizards. Still, it was always just a little different when it was someone you knew. "I hadn't heard," he replied, surprising himself with how even his voice sounded. "Is that part of her quest to find Roshaun?"
"Incidental, apparently. Check my name, will ya?"
Stepping over to run through Kit's own name where it sat in the spell, Ronan waited as Kit did the same to his. "Looks fine to me," he said, before looking over at Kit, who was frowning at something in Ronan's name. Ronan's heart leapt up into his throat. "Everything okay?"
"Dude, you have a boyfriend? How could you not say anything?" Covering a wince, Ronan started to retort, but the words tangled in his mouth when he noticed Kit's frown had turned to a grin. "That's awesome!" Kit continued. "He a wizard, too? You guys could double-date with Nita and I to the Crossings next weekend, or something."
"Nah," Ronan said, shaking his head. "At least, not that I've noticed. Met him at a disco a month ago. But I'll introduce you guys if you're over at some point."
"Yeah, that'd be cool," Kit said. "Okay, we're good. Let's just hope Darryl hasn't blasted any new holes while he's been waiting."
Ronan laughed as he stepped into the waiting node in the spell circle. "I'm sure it's fine. It's been, what, a month and a half since he last did that?" The laughter seemed to hang in the air as they read through the spell; as the universe leaned in to listen, it seemed, at least for a moment, to be laughing too.