In the brief seconds Dragon had taken on Lara's naked form, Blackout had an epiphany. None should be surprised that in assuming the shape of a North American straight male's desire, the manifestation was a naked woman. The likelihood Dragon would have transformed into anything else is only slightly better than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field. Despite it not having been the first time he had seen Lara in the nude, Blackout had found himself staring, but not in the way one might assume. His exclamation of "whoops" was not so much an expression of apology as it was a hastily uttered prayer, hoping desperately that Lara was looking anywhere but where his own eyes had fallen, upon her left hand, ring finger, adorned by a gold diamond ring.
It was, incidentally, also why Andrew had stated, "That was unexpected," with utter calm. In an attempt to look anywhere but where twenty some years of male instinct were screaming at him to look, Andrew's eyes had traveled in the sign of the cross, finally settling upon Lara's left hand.
Which is how it came to be that Blackout, Andrew, and Dragon (in the shape of a Dwarven brewmaster, a response to Lara's desire to begin serving quality micro-brewed beer which meant that Dragon looked like a short version of Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top in a green apron), were sitting in Magik Beans the next morning, discussing the appearance of the ring in conspiratorial tones, despite the fact that Lara wasn't scheduled to work until after noon.
"I mean, I've been thinking about it for a while, but I...hadn't gone shopping for a ring or anything. I wanted to have the right moment, you know?" Blackout bobbed his head up and down, drumming nervously on the table.
"Sure," Andrew said. He was completely out of his element, having only just come to an awareness of being interested in Silke. "I'd do the exact same thing man."
"Dragons don't marry," Dragon said. "We can reproduce without sex, so there's no need for a single mate."
"So I take it you're not terribly impressed by virgin births?" Andrew said.
"What?" Dragon looked at him blankly.
"I'm not really helping much, am I?" Andrew said, looking at Blackout.
"I just wanted to make sure you both understood that this must remain an absolute secret for the time being," Blackout whispered. "If she finds out, it just won't be the same. Ever since the idea came into my head, I knew I wanted to pick out the ring myself, to do the whole going-down-on-one-knee thing...maybe even have some cool suit for the occasion."
"Like a suit of armor?" Dragon asked.
"I was thinking more along the lines of a tuxedo," Blackout said, "But I suppose a suit of armor would be pretty cool."
"She'd definitely dig it," Andrew said. "That whole medieval metal thing she's into and all."
Blackout nodded. "So we're clear? Tell no one."
"My lips are sealed," Andrew said.
"I swear that if I tell, you may run me through with a magic dragonslaying sword which I will provide you with, then eat my heart, becoming omnipotent for a brief period so that you could turn back time far enough to stop me from blurting out your secret." Dragon smiled.
"Okay, that was excessive, but very cool," Blackout said. "Is that really possible? If I ate your heart, I'd be omnipotent for a brief period of time?"
"Absolutely," Dragon said.
"Well, if you could do that, why wouldn't you just have a guy with this Dragonslaying sword around to cut out your heart everytime you did something stupid so that you could go back in time and change things?" Blackout asked.
"Because it's an abuse of the immutable laws of time and space, right?" Andrew said.
Dragon nodded. "How did you know?"
"I'm taking a class on it right now," Andrew said, looking at his watch. "Speaking of which, I'm going to be late if I don't get going right now." He picked up his coffee. "Your secret is safe with me...and for whatever it's worth, I'm really, really happy for you two. She's a lot happier than when I first met her, and I think you're responsible for a lot of that happiness." He nodded at Blackout and Dragon and headed out the door.
"So as I understand your customs," Dragon said, "You need a ring."
"That's right," Blackout said. "Something really special."
"I think I can help you with that," Dragon said. "Meet me back here when my shift ends. We have some traveling to do."