Jim carries me past the kitchenette on the right and carefully deposits me on the old sofa in the middle of the loft. He fusses over me like the perfect big brother (which he isn’t), tucks an old quilt around me like I’m a piece of crystal (which I definitely am not) and goes to the kitchenette to pour me a glass of OJ.
He keeps the place nice even between renters, sometimes crashing up here on game nights when overtime keeps the bar open, or when he does inventory. I silently thank him for his part and the temporary use of his man cave.
This, in essence, is what it is. A fantastic media center hides within a repurposed wardrobe across from the sofa. The kitchenette includes a small square table and an old laptop I keep going for him. A bed hides in the far corner and sometimes is a resting place for close friends Jim won’t let drive home after a long night downstairs.
A dartboard and some family photos decorate the walls. Some of them actually include me; I’ve been in his life for so long. A couple of images of Jim and Chloe’s face smiling from various locales. A framed photo with the three of us – Jim, Leslie, and Chloe – standing behind the bar, hangs on the wall across from the dartboard. One, in the darkness beside the closet, holds my real face. A lapse on my part before Jim found Leslie, his true love.
Right now, the only light floods the kitchenette and part of the middle of the loft that includes my feet on the sofa. Darkness shadows my face. Logan remains by the sliding door, balancing his attention between the loft and the night beyond. He almost bounces on his feet, itching to turn off the light.
Double-checking that really, I am ok; Jim backs off and hovers by the door next to the wardrobe that leads down to his office.
“Oh, go back to the bar, bro. I’m fine.” I let him off the hook.
He eyes the boys, who are not yet comfortable enough to sit down.
Primal male looks pass between them. They are already familiar with each other. The boys have been in the bar for a week, after all. Jim shakes his head and heads down to the bar, leaving me alone with Nick and Logan.
Nick sits next to my feet, on the edge of the sofa.
“So you’re the sister Jim doesn’t talk about…ever.”
I hide in the glass of OJ, going through scenarios in my mind. It’s kind of like playing chess, if I move here, what is the next move and so on. I’m not like the Powers that Be, focused only on the black and white pieces, the major players, to the detriment of those who stay off the grid, playing off the board.
I see a lot. I know more. And, well, I’m not God or His Nemesis, so I make mistakes. Karen had been a mistake.
Zapping the demon had been a mistake. To be fair he threatened my family and mistake or not, I would do it again.
The boys stay quiet while I ponder. However, the OJ is not infinite and I put the empty glass on the small table next to the sofa.
When I do, Nick leans forward and takes my hand.
Sometimes it’s a struggle to hide the magic, to hide the genetics that make up my magical being. These boys have honed their sensitivity razor-sharp. If I am not more careful, they will deduce who and what I am before I am ready for the reveal.
Touching Nick, I understand that they are not the normal questers. They are not vampires searching for purpose. They are not witches looking for Destiny. They are not mere humans looking for a way to help their local ghost or rid their town of undetermined Evil.
These boys carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They have embraced Destiny without hesitation and fought battles between Good and Evil frequently and squarely on the side of Good. They are White Knights on their first great quest to save the world, the first of many if this one goes well.
This is definitely far from my usual routine.
So I already know some of what the future whispers and I already know the part they are to play even though this is the first I get to see of their faces, even though it has taken me a bit to recognize exactly who they are.
Yes, it rather concerns me. Because like the other times Armageddon loomed, I have no clear view of the future beyond the battle. It could go either way. Until it does, beyond is foggy limbo.
Free will is a bitch.
“What happened down there?”
“Nothing really. I think I just scared some guy.” I shrug. Let him think I’m hiding something. Because I am.
“Have you seen him before?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Did he seem strange to you?” Logan asks from his post at the door.
“Yeah, like not human.” Way to get down to business Logan.
I let the question hang in the air for a bit, sliding my hand from Nick’s. Putting my glasses back on, (I’ve finally realized they are in my other hand instead of on my face.) I pull my knees up to my chest and wrap my arms around them, quilt and all.
“Who are you again?”
They both squirm. Yeah, despite the seriousness, I like making them squirm.
They share glances as if forming a story for me. Or, picking one out of the many they had already prepared for such a situation.
“We’re investigating—,” Nick starts, but stops when I narrow my eyes.
“We’re looking for an old friend,” Logan offers.
That Chloe can buy.
“In a bar?”
“We think she’s in trouble,” Logan lies. “Someone told us she used to hang out here.” Truth.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” I return a lie. “Maybe I can help.” Truth.
Logan is quiet. He is alert, literally on his toes dividing his attention between the darkness outside and me on the sofa. Nick’s instinct is friendly. Logan allows Nick the opportunity to run with it.
Nick pulls an old photo from the pocket of his jacket.
What the hell?
He has a picture of me, of my real face.
What the bloody hell?
I am not prepared for this. I have had no warning. Pride goeth before a fall, He says. Hubris will be your undoing, He says. No way am I going to let Him be right all the damned time.