Nick drops his eyes to the floor, shuffles, and finally sits. He tries quietly to clear his throat, slouches in his chair.
Logan glances at his brother, sees something in Nick’s face and averted eyes. Logan’s eyebrows twitch.
This is a touchy subject. Logan does not yet know Nick’s burden. I have given Logan something Nick does not yet know. They have time to work this out…Victor may come in handy this morning.
“How did you get here, Victor? You did not use the front door.”
“Oh, yes,” he says fishing in the pockets of his leather jacket, slipping his hand beneath to the front pocket of his shirt, finally finding what he was looking for in the back pocket of his old jeans. He tosses a glinting silver thing at me. “Your boys left the key in the sconce.”
“Really, boys?” I shake my head disapprovingly. “You’re messing around with my security.”
“Paranoid much?” Nick mutters.
“It’s only paranoia when no one is actually out to get you. Guess what, Nick. There are…things out to get me.” I gaze at Victor while speaking to Nick. Now, I address the vampire. “Victor, the boys are not going to be here long. I’m just getting them ready for a trip.”
“Oh, I believe you…Kimi.” A corner of his mouth turns up. “I’m to understand this morning is about their problem, not mine?”
“Not necessarily. You know I can’t see much past these kinds of battles. It can go either way. Where do you want to be?”
“Decisions…,” he mumbles. “Do I figure in this battle?”
“You know how it goes, Victor. He gave us free will. I prefer that you stay with her unless you think either one of you can help. But I’m pretty sure we’re way too early in her timeline for her to be effective.”
Logan says, “I don’t think the vamp gives a shit about this battle.”
“I know you don’t believe me, guys, but we really have plenty of time.” I walk around behind their chairs. “And this vamp can help if he wants. He can help a lot. But I think his focus at the moment is on a more personal level.” What the hell did I magic into the glasses? Too early for spirits. I sip. Ah, cranberry juice with a little raspberry to cut the sharpness. Nodding in Victor’s direction, “Although, if the world ends…”
“I’m betting all your ducks are already in a row.”
“Could always use an extra hand. Tip the balance definitively?”
“You know I do not care about the balance. My promise is my bond. Nothing else matters as much.”
“Very short-sighted of you, my friend.” I drop one hand to Logan’s shoulder, flesh on flesh. His impatience is evident by the twitching of his leg. My touch sends a spark through him, reminding him of what I can do with that touch. It soothes him.
Nick, on the other hand, examines the juice, not looking up while Victor and I chat.
“Come back to me when your mortals stop the end of days,” Victor says.
“They will, you know. I’m to show them how to barricade one of the portals.”
“How is it that we creatures of magic know more about the ends of the world and how to stop it than the mortals for whom He created this world, but it is only mortals who can stop it?”
“You can ask Him when you get there, my friend. I do not have a direct line.”
“Wait,” Nick finally looks up. “Vamps are Evil. They go to Hell. There’s no chance he can talk to Him…ever.”
“You think vampires do not have souls? You think there isn’t a battle between Heaven and Hell for the soul of an Evil thing?” I ask, walking around the boys, putting myself between them and Victor.
“Well…isn’t vampire part of the definition of Evil?”
“How very racist of you.” I pause to sip again, this time, wishing for coffee. “Vampires as a species are Evil. However, individual vampires, hell, individual magical creatures determine who they are every day they are alive. Either they can fall victim to heredity, or they can fight it. Each day they succeed in doing non-Evil things is a win. Each win tallies against the Evil that they are. Even Evil things have a chance to go to Heaven and be judged by St. Peter. That is one gift from Him that both shows how Good He is and how manipulative. More souls are more souls and souls in the Afterlife are like money here. There is never too much. Victor here is more Good than Evil, a win for the Good side. So far.”
“Then why did you hide her from me?” Victor growls softly.
“Technicalities, my friend. The djinn blood thrives on technicalities. As does His Nemesis. He convinced me to give you a barrier, to test you as you haven’t been tested in a few hundred years. I just used Adair’s request and her magic did most of it. Take it up with the Almighty when your time comes.”
“Sometimes, Kimi, you really do not play fair.”
“I am not on either side. I am on my side. I am on the side that pisses off the Fates. Take it up with those bitches. I’ll give you a map directly to them.” Even to me my voice gains harshness with each word.
“Your personal vendetta will not win the war.”
“Neither will your promise.”
Logan breaks the sudden, sullen silence, putting his hand on my arm. I find that I tower over Victor still sitting calmly in his chair, the exact opposite of how we were earlier.
“So things are not black and white?” Logan asks.
“Nope,” I say, stepping back, putting distance between all of them and myself, gliding backwards, closer to the bookshelves. “Things are inevitably many shades of grey.”
“Stay with Kimi long enough, boys, and you’ll find she is neither Good nor Evil. She is a pirate, easily purchased sailing wherever the wind blows.” He grins to himself over the last sip from his glass.
I put my own glass down on a nearby shelf, glaring at the vampire. I have no rebuke. Technically, he is right.
“Victor, take them to the play room and make yourself useful while I go make breakfast.”
Welcome to the tea party, dear reader. You’ve still only scratched the surface of all that is me. I do not play by traditional rules. Ask the Nemesis. We do have regular dates when I am on this plane. The Nemesis loves to play games. He doesn’t even cheat.