“No, that’s not an option.” Rob replied, glaring at the elder Gatekeeper.
Ms. Kimberly Dawn was an older woman, late forties, but she worked to make herself appear younger, at least enough to make her attractive. She wasn’t Rob’s type, even discounting age. She had more curves than he was interested in, he assumed she was playing up the stereotype that Black men liked booty, but it was her demeaning attitude that made her disgusting.
Now she turned her gaze to him, countering with her own bored glare, “I don’t think I was talking to you, Mr. Reinhardt.”
He raised his eyebrows, “Still not an option.”
“We are talking about a demon lord taking possession of a powerful vessel—”
“A young man,” he corrected, “who has done nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve this.”
“None of us deserve this,” she countered, “But it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. We cannot allow this creature to walk the Earth. If it costs one life to save millions others we must take that step. Sacrifices must be made.”
Rob nodded, “Unless of course the sacrifice of millions gets you something greater.”
Her expression turned to horror, though to Rob, it looked like a parody, “What good could possibly come of that?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know, but I’m sure it would be spectacular.”
Her expression narrowed, “You’re just saying this to shock me. If you have nothing to add to the conversation then leave.”
“Thought I wasn’t part of it,” he commented, continuing before she could respond, “My point is you’re taking the easy way out. Killing. Always the easy way. Definitely the quickest, but it removes the chance to get anything meaningful out of the experience.”
She leaned back in her seat, glowering at him, “Get to your point Mr. Reinhardt.”
“There’s always a loophole, a flaw, a way out. Too many realities and deals, nothing is truly set in stone.”
“You expect us to deal with demons to break their hold on the boy?” she asked incredulously, “Are you insane? We can’t possibly give them anything they’d want in return.”
Rob frowned, “No, I’m practical. I mean worst thing they could ask for would be another human soul, and well, you’re already willing to give them that.”
“We would be cursing our souls to damnation for even speaking to the Devil.”
“And killing him is better?” Rob asked. His gaze flicked to Helena who’d remained silent the entire time.
She cleared her throat nervously, “We’ll ask him. We don’t take lives without permission.”
“He won’t agree.” Rob replied, “As long as there’s hope, he won’t agree.”
Ms. Dawn stood up, “Well then it would be terrible if someone gave him any false hope.” She turned to Helena, “I’m going to find myself dinner, would you like to join me?”
Helena’s gaze barely touched Ms. Dawn’s as she rose, “No, thank you. I already have plans with Rob.”
Ms. Dawn’s eyes searched her for a moment, “Very well. I’ll see you later, Helena.” She shivered, “And next time we need to choose a meeting place that isn’t such a dead spot.”
Rob watched her walk out the door.
“The bitch has left the building.”
“Rob…” Helena chided, “She’s not all that bad. She’s just making a tough decision.”
“Hm, she’s the one who told it was okay you killed me, wasn’t she?” Rob asked.
“We met around that time. She helped me through it.” Helena confessed, wrapping her arms around him, “I wouldn’t have made it if it hadn’t been for her.”
“Do you agree with her?” he asked, looking down at her leaning against his chest.
“No.” she said, “But I don’t know any other way. If we can’t force it out, what do we do?”
Rob shrugged, “You make a deal.”
Helena looked up doubtfully, “You know someone willing to go to the Crossroads for him?”
“A couple actually, though I’m not sure we need to go that far. Everyone wants a deal. I just need to find someone interested and I need something they’d be interested in purchasing.” Rob replied, “I’ll probably be indebting myself to something. I’d rather be building up some credit rather than starting at a deficit.”
“What if I make the deal? Or we split it?” she asked.
“That would be worse. These things, you, as a Gatekeeper, do not want to owe them a favor. Particularly when we don’t know how powerful Ethan’s father is. You could be getting into pretty deep shit doing this…”
“Yes, but I don’t want all of this to rest on your shoulders,” she said, “I know something is up with your brother. I feel it every time I’m in the same room as him. It’s almost like…” she searched for the right word.
“He smells of blood.” Rob replied, “I got the feeling the first day I got back. I wanted to tell myself it was my imagination, but it’s gotten stronger that last few weeks. Not to mention Alessa reeks of it.”
Helena stared at him confused, “What are you talking about?”
“Blood magic. The real version of classic vampirism.” Rob shrugged, “It’s more like a drug addiction than a disease, but it doesn’t change that my brother is a vampire.” He paused as she absorbed the fact. “Come on, get it out.”
“Are you going to stake him?” She asked, bewildered, “Is that even a thing?”
Rob leaned against the wall and slowly slid down, closing his eyes, “You’ve heard of people surviving in the wilderness without food or water because they somehow were able to live directly of their stored arcane energy?”
“Isn’t that what you did when you first got back?” She asked coming over to him and sitting beside him.
“Yeah, apparently” he frowned, “it’s harsh on your body. It all breaks down, forgets how to operate. They had a specialist come and remind my body how to digest food.
“That’s a side effect of blood magic. Your body does it automatically to burn off the extra energy. Most of the time they continue eating, drinking, sleeping normally because it’s suspicious if you don’t and because it has adverse effects on your physiology. But as long as your body is doing it, it heals at an astounding rate. The only way to be sure the body is dead is to stab it through the heart and cut off it’s head. Burning is also popular.”
Her hand slid over his, “Are you going to…” she trailed off. Rob didn’t turn to her.
“I don’t think so. The Fae use blood magic a lot and while the addiction isn’t as common, they do like to detox on occasion.” Rob replied, sighing, “Thus the problem.”
“You have to make a deal…”
“And I have no connections. I had some, but they’re dated. And remain… out of touch.”
“What’s that mean?”
He let himself lean against her shoulder, “They haven’t returned to Earth. As far as I can tell.”
Helena started at a slight sound. She turned towards it but saw nothing but an empty corner.
“That was very cute, draining the energy out of the room,” she mentioned, “She’ll get suspicious if it happens every time she’s in a meeting with you.”
“Well, I’ll stop doing it when I trust her.” He replied, “And Gatekeepers are fairly untrustworthy.”
“Oh, yeah. Like this one I knew killed me, or at least she thought she was.” Rob said, glancing over into the corner as another scuffle was heard from that direction.
“So,” he said, “Matt, so you want to add anything?”
In a snap, Matt was visible in the corner, It looked like he’d made an attempt beyond sorcery to hide but he was quickly getting up.
“No, just cramped up.” He replied, “You can continue.”
Helena stared, “How long have you been there?”
“Oh, you know, since like, awhile ago,” Matt replied, standing up and stretching, “Thought I was ruined when Rob found me.”
Helena turned an accusatory gaze to her boyfriend.
“What?” he returned her gaze innocently, “I rudely burnt up all the local aether, it was the least I could do to help him hide.”
Helena expression was drifting from annoyed to anger, “You not only disabled her, but you had back up?”
“Sounds about right,” Rob said, “Distract them from ahead, come in from the sides.”
“You take your military tactics from a movie about dinosaurs?”
“No, actually that’s just good tactics.” Rob replied, “Why so serious all of a sudden?”
She turned away even as Rob wrapped an arm around her.
“It’s just, I know you want to protect me, but I made a mistake and you can’t just intimidate my superior into not disciplining me for it.”
“Unless disciplining you is murdering my best friend,” Matt interjected, “Just throwing that out there.”
She glanced up at him irratiated, “We’re not going to murder him.”
“Asking permission is still murder.” Matt replied.
Rob nodded, “He has a point. I’m pretty sure Ms. Dawn is going to have a gun to Ethan’s head even after he refuses to lay down on the Stone Table.”
Helena didn’t look at him, “We can’t let it out.”
“And we won’t.” he continued, “I’ll make sure of it. Isn’t this what everyone’s worried about? Us returned to the Dark Ages, or honestly, the Stone Age, when we were sacrificing children constantly to appease some deity?”
She abruptly stood up, “I need to go.”
Rob hopped up to follow her to the door, “I’ll call you?”
She still refused to look at him as they reached the door, “Yeah. Call me.”
Rob sighed as he turned around. Matt had a bemused expression.
“What?” Rob asked.
“Bit high maintenance?” The teenager asked.
“Nah, she’s just a girl. You know how girls are.” Rob said, “This is pretty low maintenance from what I hear.”
Matt blushed slightly, “Yeah, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t really had any experience with girls. Been too busy with Ethan.” Noting the look Rob gave him he backtracked, “Not like that, we aren’t like that. I mean because of Josh and everything he’s really open about stuff like touching and you don’t need to know this.” He’d turned bright red, “I’m going to shut up now.”
“It’s fine. I had worse fanboys when the show was running.” Rob said, noting Matt turn even deeper red, “Ethan mentioned something about it. Though it’s pretty obvious. You’d think living in L.A. you’d be better at hiding it.”
Matt remained completely still, trying to will his face back to it’s normal color and not exactly succeeding.
“So, if you don’t feel that way about Ethan, then why do you live in his apartment?” Rob asked walking across the room.
Matt found his voice, responded nervously, “I don’t live there, I just stay there sometimes. It gets weird at my uncle’s and Ethan needs someone with him right now. There’s an guest bedroom.”
“But you don’t use it.” Rob added, “Do you?”
“Only so I know when Ethan disappears in the middle of the night.” Matt answered, “I’m not gay. I just don’t like being at my own house.”
“Josh told me about your cult.” Rob said taking a seat.
“Josh knows about the cult?” Matt asked, sitting down at the same table.
“Josh can figure out just about anything if he wants to. And your cult isn’t the most secretive group. They might not realize or care about your sexuality.” Rob said.
“Yeah.” Matt said, coolly, “That’s one of the reasons I avoid them. My uncle… he just doesn’t realize.” He paused and looked up at Rob. “Are you serious about helping Ethan?”
“Yes. I’m going to help him no matter what.”
“We’re like brothers, you know?” Matt said, “I don’t know what I’d do without him. I keep panicking in at night when he sneaks out that I this will be the night I can’t find him.”
“Where does he go?”
“Nowhere. Vaguely in the direction of Downtown, but he never gets anywhere.” Matt hesitated, “We don’t have any strays in the neighborhood anymore.”
“He’s not human, he doesn’t necessarily eat like a human.” Rob replied.
“He almost ate a person the other day.” Matt said, “I can’t… I can’t… express myself in front of him cause I can’t let him know I’m as freaked out as he is.”
Rob put a hand on his shoulder, “You’ll be fine.”
“He’s going to eat me in my sleep.” Matt said.
“I doubt that. I have the feeling he’d find you distasteful.”
Matt arched an eyebrow, “What? That he loves me too much to harm me? Cause that ship’s sailed. I had a dislocated shoulder to prove it.”
“No, not that.” Rob said shaking his head slightly. “You know there’s a reason you have a cult following you around, right?”
“Yeah, my uncle think’s we’re descended from the Aesir of Norse mythology.” Matt said, “Not that there is any proof—.”
“I met one once.” Rob interrupted, “He looked entirely normal. More so than any of the other races I’d met. Like Dwarves are inhuman monsters and the Fae only look human from a distance. Up close the Fae look… Alien.” He broke out of the memory, “The Aesir looked like just some guy. He was big, and Nordic and freakishly well-groomed, but he was just a guy. But you could just sense the aura of power around him. Everyone knew he was important, just by being near him.”
Matt swallowed. “You’re telling me my uncle’s right?”
“More than fifty percent. Your mother and her brother probably have some ancestor, but you? Josh said you don’t know your father, but I swear to you he was a creature from another plane of existence.” Rob said.
Matt froze for several seconds, before answering, “But what’s the chances of me being half-Aesir and being best friends with a cambion?”
“Pretty good actually. You’re on a power level above most people. You both look at things differently than humans do. Also his humanity is probably looking to you for the protection you’re giving him. The Aesir have always been considered protectors. Meanwhile, the demon won’t attack you because it doesn’t want to anger, or even draw the attention, of your father, who might every well be keeping an eye on you.” Rob said, toying with the empty glass on the table.
“Wow,” Matt said, “You know, meeting your idol is supposed to suck.”
Now it was Rob’s turn to flush red, “Oops.”
“No, it’s good. Makes more sense than my uncle’s attempts to map my genealogy,” Matt smiled, “According to him, I’m the son of the Norwegian Royal Family. This week at least. I’ll probably be back with the Finnish Royal family next week.”
“I honestly didn’t know either of those countries had royal families still.”
“Finland doesn’t.” Matt replied.
Rob nodded, “Good to know. Need a ride home?” he pulled out keys, “They let me drive now.”
‘Yeah, thanks. Josh’s place, obviously.” Matt said, “And, uh, I might be able to help. With the Fae thing. I’ve never dealt with them but my uncle has. I can at least get you a name of someone in this reality.”
“Thanks.” Rob replied, frowning, “It’s good to know the Gatekeepers are doing such a great job keeping those gates closed.”
She was comatose now, it was easy enough to do once Gabriel had had some practice. Easier than resisting the urge to just drain her dry.
It took only a couple seconds to take the vial of blood. Now he just had to get dressed and get out.
He was halfway across the living room when the door opened. He remembered Eric telling him hearing was usually an active skill, not a passive one like his endless healing. That didn’t change that boyfriend was walking right into the room.
He stopped two feet inside the door, “Who are you?”
Gabriel’s mind went blank. Nearly anything he could have said he probably could have run with long enough to get our of the house. All he could come up with was, “Uh, a friend. I was just leaving.”
He tried to rush past him, but the guy grabbed him and pinned him to the wall, “Who the fuck are you?” he demanded.
Gabriel felt the boyfriend attempting to hold him with sorcery in addition to pure physical strength. Without really thinking about it, he broke the binding. The tension left him and Mr. Boyfriend knew it had happened. This would normally be the time you hold on tighter because you’re going to need it, or at least punch the guy you’re holding, but instead Boyfriend loosened his grip.
Gabriel shoved Boyfriend back, knocking him into the couch. He caught himself on the couch regained his balance and came back at Gabriel. A few poorly aimed punches and Gabriel had him pinned. Boyfriend wouldn’t let off and they tumbled to the ground.
Concentration, he thought, I need to concentrate. Suffocate him, just enough to knock him out, then rearrange his thoughts to fit some other circumstances. He intertwined his legs with Boyfriend’s, which finally slowed the movement.
And that’s when he bite into his throat. He hadn’t intended to, but his mouth was right there, next to the carotid artery, and his entire body was pressed against him, pulsing with blood, with life, with energy.
Boyfriend didn’t even know what was happening. He really couldn’t. He might be in the middle of losing control, but he was trained enough not to leave a mess – every ounce of blood was pumping out of Boyfriend’s heart and down Gabriel’s throat.
He didn’t even realize it had gone dry at first. He was just sucking on the guy’s neck. He wasn’t moving or struggling at all anymore. Gabriel let go and the body, the corpse slid away from him slightly. Stood up, shuttering. He’d taken everything. He’d forced the heart to pump after it was dead to get the last vestiges of blood to him.
He looked down at the corpse, remembering what Eric had said about reanimating a drained body. It barely took any energy to make Boyfriend to stand up. The mutilation of his throat closed up and he stared at him emotionless, a dead shell, a puppet for Gabriel to play with.
It started as a giggle, then a chuckle, before becoming a full laugh. What he could do now, he thought, what he could do now.