Rob was exhausted, but he couldn’t sleep. It was as if it was the wrong kind of tiredness. His arcane reserves were emptied, but his mind wasn’t and his body didn’t seem to know any better.
He dozed sporadically, barely aware of Helena laying in bed next to him. It seemed like an eternity, but light was filtering through the window, so he took that as a sign he could get up.
That was still his mind’s idea, not his body’s and it revolted at the slightest motion. He ignored the general aura of pain that surrounded him and climbed out of bed doing his best not to disturb Helena. She’d had no trouble sleeping.
He dressed himself enough in case he ran into his father or brother. Sounds of rummaging came from the kitchen which was slightly disconcerning.
Ethan was helping himself to leftover pizza. He glanced up as Rob entered, assuming an innocent expression.
“What? I couldn’t sleep.” he said as he ate the slice with gusto.
Rob rolled his eyes as he sat down, “I was more thinking that the last time you snuck out is what caused this little problem in the first place.”
“Second place.” Ethan corrected, “first place was being born. And I didn’t sneak out,” he gestured to the couch where one of the cops of sitting, nearly unrecognizable out of uniform, “I have seventy-five percent of my escort.”
Ethan nodded, slowing down now that it seemed Rob wasn’t going to kick him out. “The human needed to sleep. I’m not sure what Cpt. Haynes is. Possibly a robot.”
“I’m a cyborg at best, fiendling.” Haynes replied, “I apologize for the intrusion, Mr. Reinhardt. He was adamant that he leave his apartment.”
Rob yawned, “It’s fine. Really, it’s my fault for giving him a key. I just thought you had him under house arrest.”
“We have him under personal arrest. As in, he becomes aggressive, we detain him until he ceases to be aggressive.” Haynes clarified.
“I’m a case study.” Ethan added, “They want to know if I can be cured for future reference.”
Rob muttered something under his breath, but he smiled as he poured himself a glass of water, “Well, we’ll just have to show them how it’s done.”
Ethan shrugged, “You sound confident.”
Rob started flicking through cabinets looking for food. He wasn’t hungry, but he was sure he needed to eat and he had the feeling his wasn’t going to be interested in getting up once he sat down.
“Are you not confident in my awesomeness?” Rob asked.
“Well, considering that I ate someone yesterday and don’t feel particularly guilty about it…” Ethan struggled with the words, “I just kind have this suspicion that it’s just part of me that won’t go away”
Rob glanced towards Cpt. Haynes, who was playing with his phone. He didn’t react to Ethan’s assertion.
“Are you sure you want to have this conversation now?”
Ethan grabbed the last slice of pizza, “Why not? Jared already knows. He was present for my interview with Helena about what happened. It’s not like I can hide it from him. I’m pretty sure he’s planning on watching me pee once he they give him the funding for a camera.”
“I’m not watching it unless you give me a reason to,” Cpt. Haynes replied, without looking up, “It’s not my idea. I’d trust the einharjar to tell me if you were trying to sneak out the window.”
Rob grimaced, “The military wants video of a thirteen year old in his private bathroom?”
“The military and the Gatekeepers,” Cpt. Haynes answered, finally looking up.”Be glad, I told them I wasn’t dealing with stool samples.”
Rob continued to grimace, but chose to ignore the subject completely, “Ethan, I’m sure it’s just a side effect of your possession. You’re distancing yourself from your actions while possessed.”
“They never do that in the stories. In the stories they’re always freaking out over how they murdered someone. If they don’t it’s a sign they’ve turned to the darkside and can’t be redeemed.” He popped open a Coke, “Thought I’d warn you.”
Rob grabbed himself a Coke, “Ethan, they do that in movies and books because it makes for good drama. They like to show the conflict in real life, when most people can internalize it. They should talk about it at some point, but usually they can’t, or don’t want to.”
“I don’t feel anything though.” Ethan countered, “it’s like I had a plate of beef. except it was raw and alive.”
“It was some random guy you’d never met before—.”
“I was in his head when he died, I know everything about him. His name, his social security number. The way he took his coffee.”
Rob dismissed the argument with a wave of a his hand, “That’s not the same as knowing someone. Knowing someone has to do more with speaking with them, seeing them interact with others. Hearing them express themselves.
“Politicians, accountants, even some doctors rarely interact with people. The people are names on pieces of paper, but they aren’t real to them. Cut their budgets, pull the plug — they don’t do it because they’re bad people, it’s because they need to conserve resources. It might help them to dehumanize those names, but it doesn’t make them bad people for it.”
Cpt. Haynes laughed, “So you say. I know a lot of veterans who would disagree with you on that.”
“I’m not saying they aren’t dicks,” Rob replied, “I’m saying they aren’t monsters. Except when they are.”
Ethan still wasn’t convinced, “But I am a demon. Eating him seemed so right.”
“Even if you can eat something doesn’t mean you have to. Otherwise we wouldn’t have vegetarians.” Rob suggested.
“Yes, because people who give up meat are entirely sane.” Ethan countered.
“Definitions of sanity not withstanding, it’s proof of concept.” Rob replied.
“What’s stopping me from eating you or Jared right now?”
“You,” Rob answered, “You care about us.”
“You maybe, I only met him yesterday.” Ethan said.
“You only met yesterday, but you already know his first name and he has a nickname for you. I bet you know about his family, some of his personal history. Maybe even what his favorite TV show is. He’s already too much of a person in your eyes.”
Ethan paused looking for a flaw in this logic. He glowered at Rob, “The TV show is really obvious. He’s as bad as Eric.”
Amused Rob looked over at Cpt. Haynes, who was attempting to ignore them. He looked perfectly normal sitting by the couch in jeans and a unbuttoned flannel shirt. Without a uniform on he looked kind of wimpy.
“I don’t get it.”
“His personal gun is a Colt 1911.” Ethan prompted.
The pieces slid into place, “Oh.”
Haynes rolled his eyes, “I don’t see how you make that connection.”
Rob raised his hand, “Hi, I’m Robin, I’m named after a superhero. I’m a bit of a geek.”
“Why didn’t they name you ‘Richard’ or ‘Timothy’?” Ethan asked.
“Dad didn’t want anyone to think I was named after the guy from Sword of Truth. Jason was out because he’s evil, and Damien was out because you just shouldn’t name your son Damien. It became a discussion about name order and Mom kind of wanted to use ‘Terence’, even though Terry was Batman, not Robin. As much as Dad didn’t want confusion he also really liked Dick Grayson, yet there was a concern about people calling me Dick.”
“Richie Reinhardt,” Jared interrupted, standing up and moving closer.
“Yeah, I’ve burned people for calling me ‘Robbie’,” Rob said, “And Eric sometimes goes by Ric, so that wouldn’t have made us more confusing.”
“You’re the only one that calls him ‘Ric’.” Ethan replied.
Jared shook his head and corrected him, “On Sorcery they were billed as Rob & Ric. Or just Robric, one word.”
Rob laughed, “For ages I thought the ‘E’ was silent.”
Helena walked out of the bedroom, and hit the button on the coffee maker.
“There was a party out here and I was not invited.” She said, patting Rob on the back, “And you should still be in bed.”
“I survived last night with you, I think I can sit in my kitchen and stare at the food I’m too weak to prepare.” He replied, kissing her.
Ethan frowned, “I’m supposed to yell ‘TMI’ and run away screaming now, right?”
“It’s optional.” Helena said, “I’ll make breakfast.” She seemed to register who Jared was, “Good morning Officer.”
“Just call me Jared. It’ll be a lot less confusing in the long run.” He said.
“You know, if you want you can pass out on the couch,” Rob offered, “I’m pretty sure I can nuke the midget if he tries something.”
“Thanks, but no. I need to get used to this. God only knows when I’ll get reinforced.”
Ethan swallowed his mouthful of soda, “See, he talks about me like I’m a siege or something.”
“It’s still just you and Cavazos?” Helena asked.
“Yeah, me and Javier. The requirements are ridiculous. They want retired Marines who are now LAPD with a prior high security clearance. They’re having to look into the LAPD Reserves.”
Helena paused as she pulled out ingredients, “There is such a thing as Police Reservists?”
Rob nodded, “Yeah, how do you think we man things like the Oscars or Lakers games?”
“Still,” Jared continued, “Most of the reservists aren’t cleared for anything beyond administrative duties in the station. We might have to wait a month to get one cleared as a full officer.” he paused, turning to Ethan, “Or you could just stop being possessed.”
“Ha ha.” Ethan replied humorlessly.
“It couldn’t hurt to ask.” Jared said.
“Are we keeping you away from a wife and kids?” Rob asked.
Jared’s mouth twitched towards a smile, “No. Just my sister.”
“How old?” Helena asked.
“Twelve.” He answered.
“Oh, so you know exactly how to deal with him,” Rob replied, gesturing towards Ethan.
“In theory, but my sister doesn’t get into trouble.” He checked his phone again.
“That’s her?” Rob asked.
“Yeah. Our brother is supposed to be coming in to keep an eye on her, but he’s taking his sweet time and she’s bored.”
“Invite her over,” Ethan said, “We can play video games and watch movies while talking about boys.”
Jared shook his head, “That just seems like a bad idea. Give me a moment,” he stepped away, bringing the phone to his ear.
Rob toyed with his empty can, “Why did you come to me instead of taking to Josh?”
Ethan shrugged, “I tried. Father son conversations with him are awkward. And they’be gotten worse recently, like he’s thinking of something else whenever he’s talking to me.”
Rob sighed, “You know the real reason I know you’re okay is you came to us to talk about it. The first thing you did when we found you was tell Lena and now you’re talking to me. to Josh,” he gestured to Jared, “Your executioner. You’re worried enough about it that you want us to reassure you. You’re working through it. That’s what you need to do when you experience a trauma like this.” He patted Ethan on the back, “I think you’re going to be fine.”