Eric walked out of his room and right into Rob.
“Whoa,” Rob said, “Look where you’re going.”
“Sorry,” Eric replied, “Still used to being alone here and since we’re getting back to that…” he trailed off.
Rob put his hand on Eric’s shoulder, “Hey, it’s nothing personal. The house is just too big and… too much of a life I never got to have. And Josh is giving a great deal on my new place.”
Eric mouth involuntarily twisted into a smile, “Right. Is it true he just gave you a building?”
“Yeah. A dozen apartments. If I can make the livable I can rent them out. It’s like he’s trying to give me job or something.” Rob said backing towards the door.
“Where are you going at,” Eric checked his watch, “nine in the morning?”
“School, duh,” Rob said grinned as he reached the door and disappeared before Eric could respond.
Alessa slid out of his room and caressed his back, “What was that about?”
“Our brother being himself. Sometimes, it’s like he hasn’t changed at all.” Rob replied, pulling her towards the kitchen.
“I’m barely dressed,” she murmured.
“And that ever changes anything with you?” Rob asked, letting her press against him, “So I’ve been thinking about your idea.”
“You mean the one where we tie the birdie down and drain him until he tells us where he’s been?” She asked, taking a seat at the counter. An apple hopped out of the bowl at the same time a knife bounded out of the block and started slicing it.
“I’m not killing him.” Eric said, taking a glass and filling it with ice, “But I think he’d be more willing to share if he was following the same path as us.”
She toyed with a slice, “Is it because you care for his welfare or because you want to feed from him every night.”
“I don’t keep food around as slaves. The concept disgusts me.” Eric returned as he took the carafe of coffee out of the fridge and poured it into the glass.
Alessa gave him a solemn look, “I know you like to keep people with us and allow them the full use of their minds, but it doesn’t always work out particularly well. Take Gabriel for example.”
“Yes, him taking a couple of servitors is entirely my fault.” Eric grumbled, “They’ll be having an accident soon and I’ll explain to him again why making them is a bad idea.”
“He’s just not fit,” Alessa said, “I suspected as much when I first fed from him. He had potential, but he’s…”
“Unstable. Weak. Subservient.” Eric listed, “He’s always felt inferior but now he enjoys killing strong sucessful men because they represent what he wanted to be but never could quite attain. Then he resurrects their corpses to show off his accomplishments to everyone. ‘Hey, look here! I killed this guy and made him my bitch!’.”
Alessa popped another piece of fruit, “I’m beginning to think killing him would have caused fewer ripples in our privacy.”
“I haven’t taken it off the table.” Eric replied.
She slid out of her seat and draped herself over him, “So bloodthirsty, my dear, dear Eric.”
“I knew you would like that.” he replied as he kissed her.
Matt shifted back and forth as Ethan, Rob, and he stood in the glade. Rob didn’t look at all distressed by how long they’d waited, even though their contact had been supposed to meet them an hour ago.
Rob noticed, “Don’t worry. If they’ve agreed to come, they’ll come.”
Ethan was half-dozing against a tree. He was taller than he’d been a week ago and his clothes barely fit him, “Are the Fae always late? Is that a thing?”
“No,” Rob replied, “but they’re hierarchical. Whoever we’re meeting has to get away from whatever other duties he has to meet with us. He can push it – mention he has the meeting, but then his superior knows he’s making deals.”
“And that’s bad?” Ethan asked, attempting to keep his eyes open.
“Eh, we get stuff either way. Our guy’s promise is his lord’s promise too. If he can’t get here after he tells his lord he promised he would, the lord has to show in his stead.” Rob answered, “What I’m looking for I can get from just about anyone on the other side of the fence. It’s more important is who will I be owing a favor to.”
Matt straightened as he felt it. The air seemed sweeter, the light seemed just a little brighter. It was like all the plants in the glade suddenly decided to pollinate.
He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting. Rob had said before that the Fae only look human from a distance, but this guy was pretty human even from here. Sure, his hair was an unnatural shade of blond and seemed a little too delicate to be real, and his eyes were too deep of a blue which wouldn’t have worked if his skin wasn’t perfectly tanned to make the other features look natural. His clothes did give him away. They were obviously handmade, but it was more of the cut, shape and pattern that gave them away. Still, if he’d seen him on the street, he’d never have thought twice about him.
The fae glanced at all of them before focusing on Rob. He held out a hand “The legendary Robin Reinhardt.”
“Wow,” Rob replied, accepting the handshake, “I didn’t know I had such a reputation among the Fae.”
“You don’t. But those of us taken during the Resurgence remember the show. Do you know how hard it was to watch it in rural Ireland?” The creature asked, his accent present, but understandable.
“Nope.” Rob replied, “Entirely before I cared what numbers were. Or that there were countries other than the United States.”
He nodded, smiling slightly, “Honest. That’s good.”
“More importantly, who are you?” Rob asked.
“Liam.” it replied.
“That’s not answering the question. Who are you?” Rob repeated.
“William Keane,” he replied, sighing, “Get it over with.”
Rob nodded, and asked for the third time: “Who are you?”
“Táim Uilliam Ó Catháin, faoi mhionn go an Ard Tiarna Samhraidh agus Geimhridh.” Liam replied in a such a way it seemed almost painful.
Rob didn’t seem surprised at this, “That still sounds rather vague.” he commented.
Liam’s slight smile returned, “And yet, it’s true.”
Rob accepted this and stepped closer to the outsider, “So, did they tell you want I wanted?”
“You wanted something to make those addicted to human blood less so, right?” Liam queried.
“That sounds about right. I want the cure to vampirism.”
“Sorry to disappoint, but there’s no such thing. This tincture doesn’t cure anything, it just breaks the hold the power has over them. The imbiber will always have the choice to return to the practice.” Liam replied. Now that introductions had been finished no part of his body moved save his mouth. Matt wasn’t sure if the guy was even breathing. Did they need to breath? That had never occurred to him and the idea was now fluttering in the back of his head distracting him.
Rob nodded, “Do you have it?”
“How deeply do you need it?” Liam replied.
“Deeply,” Rob replied, “What do you want?”
With absolutely no inflection, Liam answered, “Save me.”
Rob stared at him for nearly an entire minute before nodding, “I think that’s acceptable.” He held out his hand.
Liam came to life, placing a small pouch in Rob’s hand, “He must take the entire vial. Don’t attempt to slip it in his drink – he’ll know before he finishes.” and stepped back, bowing as he vanished from sight.
“Huh.” Matt said, “‘Save me’. That’s not at all unusual of a request.”
Rob popped open the pouch and pulled out a vial of some sort of liquid. He examined it before putting it away.
“It makes sense actually.” Rob said, “I think he’s a changeling, or what normally would have been changelings. The fae were so desperate for children after the Resurgence they didn’t leave anything behind.” He noted Matt’s confusion, “Changeling can refer to the child taken or the thing left behind. They take them and keep them for a year, mostly in Faerie, which twists their minds and bodies into a more Fae shape. Eventually they twist so far over they forget what it is to be human and are given status in Fae society as if they were born to it. Liam’s not been there for the entire year, but given another and he’ll turn into one of the things the tales talk about. A trickster, a gobin, a warrior soaked in blood.”
“He’s only been there a year?” Ethan said, “Some year.”
“Fae year. That’s seven on Earth. Didn’t you hear him? He was taken at the Resurgence.” Rob said, placing the pouch in his pocket, “Come on. We’ve got places to be.”
“How are you going to save him then? It’s not like you can just take him out, they’ll bring him back.” Matt said.
Rob shrugged, “He was so desperate he misworded his request. He only said to ‘Save him’ he never said what from. I could give him the Heimlich and I’d be good. I could give him investment advice.”
Ethan smiled, “So you’re going to screw him.”
“I never said that.” Rob said, “I’m just pointing out that I could. I wouldn’t do that to him. He’s… I know how he feels. I think I know a way to help him. I just need to time things right.”
Ethan glanced over at Rob, unsure of where they were headed now. He’d dropped Matt off at school, he’d only allowed him to come with them to the deal because it was possibly a once in a lifetime experience to meet a real live creepy faery.
Now they were alone and it suddenly occurred to him that as much as he liked Rob, he was a complete stranger. What more, he was not entirely confident he could take him on in a fight. Sure, Matt had held him down while possessed once or twice, but he had the feeling that Rob could do a lot more than that if he wanted to, though he no definitive reason for that feeling.
Maybe it was from how he’d stepped into a protective circle without breaking it and pulled him away from a demonic entity. You don’t do that unless you’re fairly sure you know what you’re doing and have the power to minimize the danger.
As quickly as the idea came to him he dismissed it. It was just crazy paranoia. Josh trusted Rob. Matt trusted Rob, though it may have been bias. He hadn’t almost assisted a demon possessing him (and he didn’t even blame the Gatekeeper for that). These were all good things.
Rob pulled into an apartment complex, one relatively close to Ethan’s own place, and definitely close enough that Josh owned it.
“What are we doing here?” Ethan asked, doing his best to cover his apprehension.
“This is my new place. I use that in quotes though because while it’s new to me, Josh hasn’t bothered to even put a decent coat of paint on it since Max bought it.” Rob replied as he parked.
“And why are we here?”
“Surprise!” Rob said, “But you have to go inside for the surprise.”
Ethan looked at him suspiciously, but followed him as he walked to the entrance.
The building was exactly as rundown as Rob implied. Save for being cleared of obvious debris, it was unlikely anyone had been in the building anytime in the last decade. The paint was peeling and further down it was clear a window was broken and all the carpeting stank as if an army of raccoons had peed on it, which was more then likely what had happened.
Rob didn’t go into an apartment. Instead he turned and headed around the corner and into what might have been a conference room or maybe a fitness center – if it had been a newer building. This room really had been cleared of debris and a couple tables had been pulled into it.
Rob turned around and presented it, “Welcome to your new classroom.”
Ethan arched an eyebrow, “Seriously?”
“Hey, this is high quality facilities for home schooling.” Rob countered, “We have desks, chairs. Overhead projector.” he pointed above to the device which looked newly installed.
“Why?” Ethan asked, “Why do this?”
“Because being tutored alone sucks. I know from experience. Eric and my schedule didn’t always match up.”
“Wait, you’re going to be here too?”
“It is my building and I do have about as much education as you do.” Rob said, “It’s not the same as real school, but I’m never going to get that and they won’t let you into your school so…” he gestured to the room.
Ethan sat down at one of the desks, “So, where’s the teacher?”
“He’s coming after lunch.” Rob replied, “Want to see how nightmarish my apartment is right now?”
“I can’t be that bad.” Ethan said, trying to stop himself from smiling.
“It doesn’t have flooring.”
Ethan stood up and began following Rob to his apartment.
“Thanks, Rob. This… This is really… Thanks.”
Rob put an arm around his shoulder, “Don’t mention it.” he patted the shoulder a couple times, “You are taller aren’t you? Like a lot taller. I thought it was lifts or something so you wouldn’t feel tiny next to Matt, but damn. You’re solid.”
“Yeah. I’m hitting my growth spur early. If Matt doesn’t watch out, I’ll be taller than him.”
“Only for a week.” Rob replied, “He’ll be catching up.”
Ethan waited for Rob to unlock the door, “This is part of my heritage isn’t it? I mean, I looked it up online, I’m not supposed to be this tall yet.”
Rob opened the door and gestured inside, “I was unable to access the internet when I was your age, but I believe it would tell you that everyone matures at different rates.
“But all the information about cambions says they don’t show their true nature until they hit puberty, at which time they are put to death.” Ethan said, “It this my true nature? Am I about to grow wings or something?”
Rob headed into the kitchen. It had a ancient fridge which was humming noisily in the corner and little else, but it was stocked and he proceeded to pull out lunchmeat. “I doubt that. Your true nature is your sorcerous talent, which while you’ve had it would suddenly become harder to hide. There are some theories that demonic children mature quickly though because it’s the easiest way to disguise themselves.”
He tossed Ethan a Coke, “I mean you’ve already said it. You don’t look thirteen anymore. Upper end of fourteen maybe, but until you get to eighteen you could pass for anything. Even then you could drive a car and no cop would automatically pull you over.”
Ethan popped the tab, “So, I won’t be carded and people will treat me like I’m older. Sounds pretty good. No wings?”
“Probably.” Rob replied, “Honestly, I’m usually making this shit up as I go along.”
“Really? Because you always sound like you know what you’re talking about.”
Rob smirked sarcastically, “Others have said that too. Pretty awesome gift, the ability to sound like you know what you’re talking about.”
“You also have the power to make me feel like everything it going to be okay.” Ethan said, “That’s probably more important than knowing what’s really going to happen.”
Rob ruffled Ethan’s hair, “You’re like the little brother I never knew I wanted.”
Ethan pulled away trying to repair the damage, smiling. He didn’t want to say out loud, he felt the same way.