Eric rolled across his bed in an effort to flee the morning sunlight, pulling the sheets tighter around him, like that would offer more protection. He’d forgotten to pull closed the blackout curtains the night before and he was now paying the price.
It wasn’t like sunlight would kill him, but it did make him nauseous for some reason. He’d been unable to figure out an acceptable reason for this. The concept of ‘purifying force’ didn’t sit well with him. If that was the case he should be able to convince himself it wasn’t pertinent – just like when he ate pizza and convinced himself the garlic on the crust wasn’t a purifying herb. It had, of course, been corrupted by the grease. Just like the sunlight, he couldn’t linger near garlic cloves and occasionally, he’d intuitively alter his course to avoid wild allium.
He felt Alessa lie down next to him and realized through the haze of sleep it was her entrance into the room which had awakened him, not the sunlight. He shifted over a bit nearer to her and breathed in her perfume.
“What are you doing up this early?” He asked.
She kissed him, “Cleaning up the mess from last night.”
“Hm, and you’re doing such a good job of it,” Eric said, “So, who’d you fuck?”
“You get straight to the point, don’t you, love?”
He flipped over so he could look into her eyes, “I know you can’t commit to just me, I just think I have the right to know who I’m sharing with.”
Her gaze wasn’t remotely compassionate as she stared at him, “I didn’t do it for pleasure.”
He laughed quietly, a grim smile spreading across his face, “Really, cause I’m pretty sure you enjoyed it,” his hand caressing her hip, “some errant thought about him being bigger than me.”
She smiled back, mirroring the tone, “In every way, if only slightly. Insecure bastard,” She sighed, “It was the girls. They went after Ms. Oliveira’s bodyguard.”
“You mean the Ms. Oliveira Rob has a date with today?”
She registered mild surprise at that statement, “I mean the Gatekeeper, Ms Oliveira.”
“Rob’s got a date with a Gatekeeper? Damn, she’s hot too.” Eric grinned, nuzzling closer to Alessa
“Her bodyguard is also her brother.” Alessa said, interrupting Eric’s tangent.
Eric pulled back, the moment, if not lost, at least delayed, “Fuck that.”
“I took what precautions I could once I realized it. We need to bring him over.” She continued.
“He’ll be leaving in a few weeks.” Rob said as he sat up, his thoughts racing, “Why was there a Gatekeeper at the party?”
Alessa climbed over and began rubbing his back, “Mom says Rob added her to the guest list himself. Now, Gabriel doesn’t have much going for him back home. If you were to offer him a job he’d probably stay.”
Eric rolled his eyes, “I don’t want an assistant. And when did Rob meet this woman?”
Her arm snaked around him and held the vial of blood over his chest, “Give Gabriel a chance. As for his sister, Rob hasn’t told us much about the last few years. He could have met her anytime. Traveling to the other side of the country is simple enough.”
Eric looked at the vial for several moments, but it seemed like everything would make more sense after drinking it. It wasn’t like there was a question he’d drink it, whether he wanted control of some random guy or not.
He downed it in a single shot as Alessa watched. He shivered as it hit him trying to ignore the loss of control as he contracted on Gabriel himself.
“What do you think?” Alessa whispered into his ear.
“He has potential. We have the same taste in women.” Rob murmured. The first jolt was always a bizarre flood of memories and emotions. Even with practice he could barely take anything out of it – not that he’d tell Alessa that.
“So he’ll bring you something you like, right?” she said.
His eyes opened to slits, “You mean, he won’t bring me twelve year old boys?”
“Jeremy never brought you a twelve year old,” Alessa replied, a smile in her voice, “Thirteen maybe.”
“I’m so glad I killed that bastard.” Rob replied as he let himself fall back down on the bed forcing Alessa to fall with him.
“So you’ll take him?” She asked, her hands wrapping around him.
“Yes. I’ll need blood for him.” he replied absently.
She frowned, “Are you sure that’s the best course? Maybe you should keep him docile for awhile.”
“If he’s going to be my assistant he needs to be protected from you and your harem.” he noted her annoyed look, “yes, that means I want your blood too.”
“Fine,” she said, “Whatever my master desires.”
He smiled, caressing her leg, “Good, but that’s not exactly what your master desires. This is.”
He was on her throat before she could exhale.
Once upon a time, Josh Brand married a guy named Max and they lived together happily for a few years. Max was born into wealth and he liked to spend it everywhere firmly convinced he could not spend it all. As he settled down with his new husband, he had to discover a new outlet for his cash that didn’t involve whores or ski lifts.
He promptly bought a city block.
When Josh asked why he did this, Max replied that he always wanted to have his own bar and it made more sense to own rather than rent. Slowly, his plan expanded the bar into a stripclub, then a gay strip club, then a full-service bordello. Josh pointed out how owning a bordello would damage their chances as a same sex couple of being allowed to adopt which caused Max to acquiesce and trim down his plans just to a basic bar. The the stripclub idea was sent to the back burner until after they’d adopted and the authorities stopped paying too much attention.
That dream never happened. Shortly after putting in the adoption paperwork, Max was found dead, one of several in a series of strange murders. Josh became a private investigator so he could investigate himself, eventually becoming the leading authority on that string of murders, but he continued the adoption process without his partner.
It had taken a lot of convincing to let him have anyone. A single, ‘formerly’ homosexual, private investigator who owned a bar? Sure he was independently wealthy and only worked because he wanted to do something with his time, but he didn’t attend church and was an expert on demons and witchcraft due to an unhealthy obsession with his partner’s death.
Josh heard about Ethan and his troubles he’d had in placement. Accidents happened around him, his siblings were scared of him, and animals hated him. At first the adoption agency wouldn’t hear of it. Clearly, Josh was going to use Ethan as a case study of a possessed child, which was a ridiculous idea, even with that stupid reality TV show on.
Then the Resurgence happened. After Ethan’s foster father watched him nearly tear his own limbs off as sorcery returned to the world, Social Services decided Ethan and Josh might get along fine.
With his new father’s support, Ethan gained a great deal of control over his powers. He made friends, went to a camp to learn sorcery (more along the lines of a place they could experiment without hurting anyone) and he felt like a normal kid for once.
That was until the blackouts began. They started rare and short lived at first, just missing pieces of time, but then he had one in public, specifically at school and the violence of the episodes could no longer be ignored. If his best friend, Matt, hadn’t realized what was happening and had restrained him someone would have died. He was barely able to finish the school year and on the last day the principal made it clear – whatever the issue was, it had to be taken care of before the could return the next year.
Ethan had never been in this room the Gatekeeper had chosen before, or this building for that matter. Based on the size, maybe this was going to be the stripclub Max always wanted. Josh had never been into the idea of being a strip club owner. He wasn’t really into being a bar owner either, now that Ethan thought of it.
The Gatekeeper was on the other side of the room preparing herself. She’d barely said a word to him and he could sense her tension.
Was this such a difficult thing or was it something else? Was she another person scared of him?
Ethan looked around for something to distract himself. Matt was sitting next to him, but he was staring across the room at Rob. Ethan couldn’t remember him, though Josh assured him they’d met. He reminded Ethan of Eric a lot, except whereas Eric always looked over your shoulder Rob seemed to look through him. Neither had liked what they saw.
Yet, Matt had to be a fanboy. As embarrassing it was how he kept staring, at least he wasn’t trying to talk to him. He’d idolized Rob since before he could do sorcery. When Rob vanished, Matt swore he’d gone off for some heroic reason – God only knows why. Rob never seemed particularly heroic on TV.
The Gatekeeper turned to Ethan he felt it. There was a thrum of power echoing across the room and the conversation Rob and Josh had been having stopped.
“Come here and sit.” she commanded, gesturing to a wrought iron chair she’d positioned in the center of her preparations. Ethan walked over and sat down, resting his hands on the arm rests.
As expected, the ropes piled under the chair jumped up and bound him to the chair. He glanced over to Josh for reassurance. His father was watching the proceedings with a strange (for him) serious look on his face that wasn’t at all reassuring.
“Look at me.” The Gatekeeper commanded.
He did, his eyes locking onto her and he could not look away. His vision blurred, like he was going crosseyed. He wanted to close them but they weren’t responding to his brain. The room was more brightly lit now, an aura of light was surrounding the two of them so bright he couldn’t have made out the others if he’d able to turn this gaze towards them. He could barely hear her saying “Leave him, spirit. I see you, I know you. Leave him.” over the buzzing in his ears.
It seemed to last for an eternity and he started to lose his sense of self. Reality was dropping out from beneath him.
That’s when he heard the response: “No. He’s mine.”
Ethan’s heart, being the only thing not bound through the Gatekeeper’s sorcery thudded harder and faster. He’d heard that voice before – half-remembered after his blackouts. Those times though it seemed to come from deep in the back of his head, this time, it was beneath him.
He wanted to check to make sure there wasn’t anything there – it was still in his mind he just projected that it was under the chair, but he couldn’t move or even ask the Gatekeeper to check. He tried to calm his breathing to think of it logically – maybe it was just part of the — ohshititgrabbedhisleg.
Biting ice tore into his right calf, froze his blood and arched up to his thigh before tapering off. In his mind, he flinched, in reality he remained entranced by the Gatekeeper as a second frozen set of picks jabbed into his left calf.
Just as he couldn’t think anymore from the pain – he could see again.
The Gatekeeper’s gaze had been broken, she was looking at someone standing in the circle with them. Her gaze shifted from their guest to below Ethan’s chair.
Ethan felt hands grab onto his shoulders as Rob leaned down and whispered into his ear “I’m pulling you out in three, two, one—.”
They crashed backwards, the ropes binding Ethan to the chair disintegrated and the chair suddenly molded itself into a solid lump which crashed down on the creature clawing up from below. At the same time the Gatekeeper leap backwards herself and the dome of light collapsed on the opening to beyond.
Ethan shuttered. He was crying – he’d been crying since the thing had grabbed him. It still took him a minute to realize he was crying into Rob’s chest. He stopped and got himself under control which is when he realized he’d shit himself.
Rob patted him on the back as Josh slid down the wall next to him and wrapped an arm around him, “Don’t worry. Matt’s run off to get you a change of pants.” Rob said as he glanced up at the Gatekeeper, “Nice hypnotism. Too bad you couldn’t tell when things were going wrong.”
She sighed, looking not anywhere near as intimidating as she knelt down beside them, “We do it to prevent cinematic style exorcism events. I don’t understand. I should have sensed it.”
“Hm,” Rob said, “I can explain that,” he turned to Ethan, “Good news, you aren’t possessed. Bad news, you’re a cambion.”
“A what?” Ethan asked in surprise before realization dawned on him, “Wait, I know this. Half-demon … thing?” Josh looked at him surprised, “What? You get possessed, you do some research.”
Josh nodded, “It’s the result of a demon using mortals to procreate.”
“At least one of your parents were possessed when you were conceived.” Rob continued, “It ensures you look normal, but you have a strong connection to the realm your parent came from.”
“Then why is it possessing me?” Ethan demanded.
“Probably trying to tell you how to come home. Or more likely force you to come home.”
“Where’s home?” Ethan gave a sideways look at the destroyed circle.
“Not far,” replied the Gatekeeper, “just the other side of the veil.”
Ethan leaned against his father’s side, “So what do we do now?”
Josh’s grip tightened, “I find your parents, both mortal and demonic. I contact your demonic parent and inform him that you aren’t leaving me.”
“Well that could have gone better.” Helena said toying with her fries.
Back in the safety of The Forge, Ethan seemed back to his normal self. Considering the revelation he was taking it well. Maybe it was how he could now act on the information and prepare himself. He seemed like that kind of person.
“I should have told you my suspicions.” Rob replied watching the thirteen year old from across the room.
“How did you know?” She asked.
“I saw it as soon as I talked to him. I just wasn’t sure if it was the possessing demon or a demonic half. If it was a demon I didn’t want to give it a warning about what would happen.” he replied.
“I should have seen it, too.” Helena muttered to herself.
“You mean, you should have talked to him before beginning?” Rob smiled.
“I talked to him!” she stated indignantly.
“He still doesn’t know your name. You never introduced yourself. I know, I was in the room.” Rob shook his head, “The Council has you wound really tight with rules, don’t they?”
She groaned as she realized the truth to his words, “There’s so many particulars. When to say what, how to draw the runes, how to clear your mind.”
“Do you need any of that?” Rob asked conversationally, “I don’t remember any of that back when you sent me to my supposed death.”
“Yes, and that’s why they demand it. They don’t want that happening again.” Helena gave him a mild glare “sending people to their supposed death is just wrong, you know?”
He rolled his eyes, “Micromanagement won’t change something like that. Someone was looking for me – actively searching for someone like me. There was nothing any of you could have done to prevent it.” he finished his own fries and decided to change topics, “So, Gabriel ever recover from his hangover?”
“Yeah, he called just before we started.” She said absently, shoving her fries closer to Rob, “I get the feeling he may have learned his lesson.”
Rob smirked, “He doesn’t seem like the type to learn.”
“Not usually, but he was in bad shape last night. I think he got hit with some major booze he wasn’t expecting. He’s kind of a light weight.” she replied.
She paused, looking up at Rob, “Am I still the girl you dreamed about?”
“You aren’t a girl anymore.” Rob answered.
“You know what I mean.”
He shrugged, “You’re less confident than I remember you. It’s unbecoming. The Helena I remembered knew exactly what she was doing to me and she did it anyway because she knew it was for the good of the entire world.”
“I killed you.”
“For the greater good.” Rob replied, “The world isn’t fuzzy bunnies and I think the, uh, precursor to the Resurgence really hid that from us – made us believe it didn’t need to be cruel or violent. Ironic, considering both World Wars were afterward. No, sometimes we need to make sacrifices. Or at least be willing to.”
Helena frowned, “Willing to kill—”
“Willing to risk it,” Rob corrected, “You thought you killed me, you didn’t. You just allowed me to go to where I was needed, whether I wanted to or not. Sorcery has always been about sacrifice. I lost four years of my life I can never get back and I will never forget that or recover from that, but I learned a lot on the trip.”
She considered this before continuing, “What am I going to have to sacrifice?”
Rob shrugged again, “You won’t know until you have to. Maybe it will be me, or your brother, The Council. You’ll know when you see it. Just remember, like God and Abraham, it was the willingness to sacrifice it. Sometimes the act isn’t necessary.”
Helena glanced over to where Ethan and Matt were sitting off in the corner – clearly debating the revelation of Ethan’s parentage.
“What are we going to lose to save him?”