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Hardy’s Pants by JM Paquette

Also for Cliff, but an entirely different genre!

“I have only one question: where did I get these pants?”

The room had fallen silent when the magic went off, people glancing around nervously to see the damage. Sometimes the magic waves did nothing at all; sometimes, there was a lot of blood to clean up. Kitsen looked down at his clothes again, trying to decide if it was only his clothing that has been swapped out, or if the constricting material about his waist and chest was a sign of worse damage. He looked quickly at Nell, with whom he had been reciting the plan a few moments before. She didn’t look horrified, so that was a good sign.

“So, the girl is in the tower?” Fred volunteered helpfully, the young man clearly trying to get the conversation back on track. The rest of the men looked casually away from Kitsen, trying to ignore the magic as much as they could. A man in the back of the room had fallen over and had not gotten back up. No one was willing to touch him and see.

Kitsen nodded distractedly, cautiously pulling at his new outfit, hand reaching up to touch a new earring. “That’s the information I received,” he said, thoughts of glory and rescue and spires and princesses fading as he realized that the clothes he was now wearing were actually starting to affect his breathing. “I can show you…” he paused, trying to catch his breath. “In a moment,” he finished.

“Nell,” he gestured to the woman standing closest to him, “a little help here?” She acquiesced without a word, but her face was slowly turning red, color creeping up from her neck and ears to her cheeks as she took in the amount of bare flesh revealed by the gaps in his new outfit. He stepped towards her, the circle of eager male faces moving aside as he dealt with this newest magical inconvenience.

A quick snap of her blade and the shirt came free. She moved as if to repeat the motion for his pants, but he grabbed her wrist. “I’ve got this part,” he insisted, taking the blade and slicing the material free. As they fell to the floor in a pile of linen, he saw a name carefully written on what remained of the waistband: HARDY.

He thought for a moment, running the name through his memory. He couldn’t recall ever knowing anyone named Hardy, so that was a bit of a relief. Wherever this Hardy was after the magic wave, Kitsen didn’t have to worry about him. Though he spared a thought for the small naked man who must be out there somewhere–maybe he had been covered in Kitsen’s clothes.

“My clothes,” he muttered, annoyance bubbling up at the loss of a perfectly good shirt and pants. The material was new and sturdy and comfortable–and it wasn’t so easy to get good clothes these days, especially for someone as tall as he was. He reached a hand absently for his pocket, trying to touch the reassuring bulge that had occupied his front pocket for the last six days.

He froze as his hand touched bare skin, not registering the shapeless cloak that Nell was holding out in his direction.

The map was gone. How were they supposed to rescue the princess without the freaking map?

Frantic, he knelt and picked up the pants on the floor, shaking them out. A folded piece of faded parchment fell out of a pocket. He lifted it gently, opening it carefully and examined the marks on the inside.

It was still a map.

Hatchmarks were clearly mountains, and Kitsen recognized the Vanya Mountain range to the north. The X marked a cave, and there was a stylized dragon along the side, tail curling around a pile of what appeared to be gold and jewels, smoke rising in long swirls from its huge maw.

“It’s a treasure map,” he whispered, eyes meeting Nell’s, offered cloak and previous embarrassment forgotten.

Nell smiled, a real smile, but then her face grew serious again. “What about the princess?”

“Screw the princess,” Kitsen said, standing up, wrapping the cloak around himself, and tucking the map into a small pocket sewn into the inside. He turned to address the room.

“Hey guys, who wants to go kill a dragon?”

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Parachute Pants by JM Paquette

For Cliff, Escalator Extraordinaire, a story about some pants.

“I only have one question: where did I get these pants?” Robert scanned the room lazily, taking in the two armed goons standing to either side of the door, the boss man casually seated behind the executive desk, the open windows that were only slightly too high for him to easily survive a normal jump to the ground far below, and finally to his own lower half–the red poofy pants clearly not the ones he had worn in the bar when he had allowed them to capture him.

When no one said anything, Robert gestured to himself, tone mocking as he chuckled, “Seriously? Did you raid MC Hammer’s wardrobe for these things?” He caught the ghost of a smile on one of the guard’s faces, gone before he could really register it as an expression, but he knew it had been there. He still spoke to the room, but directing his words slightly more specifically to the man at the door. “Come on, guys. If this is really my last moment alive, I’d hate to die wearing ridiculous pants. What happened to my clothes?” He grinned, then added, “And which one of you guys undressed me?” He eyed the guard, who was now actively trying to stifle an expression. “Was it you, tough guy?” He turned his attention to the boss man still sitting behind the desk. “I know you’ve been trying to get me naked for years.” He pulled at the pants, the material stretching in his fingers. The pants definitely had a lot of room in them to move. That was good. He would need that soon. “Are these your pants?” he asked, stepping forward to lean against the desk. He saw the boss man’s eyes flicker away from his face to his waist as Robert pressed himself against the worn wood, the most response he had seen from the man since he had been brought to this room.

“Wait,” Robert said, nodding as if he had suddenly figured it all out. “I remember now.” He leaned down to peer into the boss man’s face. “It was your daughter. She has been trying to get me naked almost as long as you have.”

The boss man’s eyes narrowed at the insult, and Robert grinned, knowing he had finally found the right spot. “Did she tell you about it?” he jeered. “Did she like what she saw?” He looked around the room, nodding at the guards. “I don’t mind, you know.” He sat up straighter, sure to flex the muscles in his chest. “I like to give every now and then, charity, of course. Poor girl can’t get laid without drugging men in bars and dragging them back to her father’s place–”

Robert didn’t see the exact signal the boss man gave to his goons, but the two soldiers  at the door moved as one, swinging automatic weapons into practiced hands. Robert hadn’t spent the last ten years training for no reason–he dove to the side of the desk, feet coming under him in a perfect crouch as bullets sprayed the wall and the window, glass shattering and shards of wood sprinkling his head and shoulders. With barely a pause, he redirected to scoot behind the desk, crashing into the boss man’s legs  just as the barely trained goons continued their barrage to follow Robert, canvassing the back of the room with gunfire.

Robert felt the jerk as the boss man took a few bullets before he fell, but not enough to end him. He landed with a heavy thump on the floor behind the desk, and Robert ignored him, reaching under the desk to find the handgun he knew was secured just underneath. The cold feel of steel was reassuring, even though he knew it would be there–he’d seen the glint of metal the first time the boss man’s daughter had dragged him into this room to have her way with him on her father’s desk. He’d been undercover then, scoping out his future target, and she had been a lovely bonus, moreso since he used the unexpected encounter to plan his final strategy. The rest had been so very easy.

The two goons stopped firing when they realized they had shot their boss, and Robert wasted no time, jerking up on one knee and popping two deadly shots with the handgun over the desk. The two goons fell without a cry, but the sudden silence echoed in Robert’s ears. A grunt from behind him caught his attention, and he turned to look at the boss man, who now lay clutching his wounded thigh with both hands.

Robert considered the red stain spreading across the khaki from beneath his fingers and looked down at his own ridiculous pants. There was nothing for it then. He finished the job with a quick final shot, then shoved the handgun into his roomy waistband.

He moved to the window, calculating the distance to the ground. Perhaps the pants would soften the impact a little bit; after all, they were called parachute pants.

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