Nicole wanted to ask him, but he was sweating, as the conversation ended.
A fever that broke then started again. The bite mark was clean, no sign of infection. She wrapped it back up, and gave him a few sleeping pills with aspirin. He was a human, but mages were tough, if anyone could kick the basilisk hangover it was him. He’d already been through the worst of it.
The leprechaun figured it was just old prejudices anyway, Matt had been gone for her leadership of the Rose Path. He had no idea what it was like, working with a real budget, and support. How much Morgan had changed, if she was ever who they thought.
Nicole was certain the book was gone. No other reason to call him back. Certainly not for her. He was already asleep, and all the way against the wall, one arm across the pillow. Her bed was only a single, so it was always tight sleeping arrangements back then too. A half smile, that faded quick, before she went down to the kitchen.
Annabelle sat at the kitchen table, headphones plugged into her phone. Nicky was in the living room, playing video games.
Nicole grabbed a beer from the fridge, and sat down next to Annabelle glancing at the fairy’s phone. “You watching board game tutorials?”
“I will defeat you,” she said, turning her phone away from Nicole.
“Good luck,” Nicole said. Her own phone beeped, so she checked it.
<Real deal with book?> Morgan asked.
<I’ve got no idea.>
<I meant how is it hidden?>
<Just like Matt said.> Nicole told her, not entirely sure herself. He had placed her book under a few spells, he told her. The library seemed good at the time. They had thought it would blend in with all the other books. She had let him hide it, while she grabbed coffee. No question about who would hide it better.
<Do you trust him?>
Nicole started the clock as the text came in. Too long, and the question would answer itself. After twenty-seconds she bought a moment, and hit call. As it rang, she walked out the door.
“Nicole?” Morgan’s voice sounded weak, like she had barely been awake.
“That’s nice, but I’m with Kint, I think.”
“No, I trust him. Damn are we a comedy troupe now?”
“Long day. I’ll be there late noon at latest. Want to text me the actual address? I don’t remember where Murphy’s is exactly.”
Nicole agreed, and the Witch said to ‘have a goodnight’ with a nice little laugh. The leprechaun pictured her winking.
Nicky was still deep in his game, blowing away aliens with practiced ease. Annabelle was standing at the door, one raised eyebrow.
“Just the Path’s leader,” Nicole told her.
“Is she coming here?” Annabelle asked excitedly.
“Yeah, I’ll mention your tattoo.”
“Going to get mine again too,” Nicky said. Nicole felt a little bubble of happiness.
“We should-.” Annabelle stopped herself. “Well, I’m getting ‘For the Stars’ on mine.”
Her brother glanced back, a funny smile on his face.
“You two are gross tonight,” Nicole said. “Or well, cute, carry on whatever, but I’m going to bed.”
“In your room?” Annabelle winked.
“I’m going to ‘chair’.” Nicole corrected. “Keep it quiet down here.”
Annabelle gave her a quick hug, and Nicole needed it enough to not push away. For a moment she wished her mom was here, but after Pa’s funeral she had went back to Georgia for a while. Probably a long time, Nicole was thinking at this point.
“Night, Clan Head,” the Fairy whispered.
“Night, Wings,” Nicole said.
The stairs all creaked, even her door almost too loud for her. Matt was still asleep, still with one arm held out for her pillow. Like he had never been gone.
The chair was twenty years old, wood with just an old blanket for cushioning.
Really she expected him to wake up, as her head touched his arm. Part of him must have, of perhaps the habit was just that deep, because his other arm dropped over her. A gentle tug, and she slid closer, shifting her body under the blanket at the same time.
Nicole heard the shower, as she woke up.
She had to use the restroom, but there was no way she was getting within five feet of that one. The leprechaun had fallen for that ‘gag’ before. Instead she padded down the hall to her parents bathroom, and quickly used it, trying hard not to glance around.
He was still in the shower, so she dressed fast in her room. After she went downstairs for some breakfast. Nicky was asleep on the couch, Annabelle on the chair in her tiny form.
Nicole skipped the actual breakfast, and just made some toast. No jam, she still had not gotten used to doing the household shopping, but there was some butter. Steps on the stairs, and she added two more pieces to the toaster.
“Morning, Gorgeous,” he said. He was wearing her black hoodie, and carrying his own gray leather coat, that he once again slipped onto Nicole’s shoulders. She tried not smile too much, as he zipped it up.
“Sleep well?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Good as always. You?”
“Better than in a long time,” she admitted, looking out the window.
“Then it was a better night, than I thought.”
“Healed it,” he said. “‘Nother big scar.” He rolled his eyes after, just another day at the office.
“I made you toast.”
“I can scramble us some eggs?”
“Eat that,” she said. “Let’s get out of here before Annabelle wakes up, and starts watching us like we’re the movie of the week.”
Matt carried the toast in a napkin, as they walked out, and towards the river behind her house. An old access road ran along it, and they followed it while he ate. It had rained sometime during the night, leaving parts of the dirt road nothing but puddles.
“How have you been?” he asked.
“Rough few days.”
“I meant the whole time,” he said, with a smile. “Start at the beginning, and catch me up.”
“I got fired, from Carter’s. Started working at the garage part-time. Pa’s a cheapskate, but I still lived there, so it’s hasn’t been so bad. Path gives me some cash too. Operating funds, but I get to pay myself.”
“Glad you’re doing well on your finances. Anything else going on?”
Nicole shrugged, and looked around, before speaking. “I help people. With the Path. Not much else. Me, and Wings get coffee a lot. She gets orange juice. I hate mustard now. Since like 2 years ago. Can’t stand it, except in like little bits. Mom still sneaks it into the potato salad.” She stopped walking to look out over the dark green-blue water.
“I hate that. I can still taste it.” Matt stared at her, his eyes staying a little lower than hers.
“You like mustard.”
“I don’t like relish. Stores do it all the time. Relish in the potato salad,” he said leaning toward her. She gave him a few inches of air.
“Not gonna let you try to make potato salad romantic.”
One long tone, followed by two quick. The junkyards PA system calling out a new arrival.
“Scheduled?” Matt asked.
“No, I wouldn’t have dragged you out here if it was.” She started back toward the house.
“No portal.” Matt said following. He could sense a rip that big, even a mostly natural one. “You guys switch up the alarm?”
Nicole’s voice was drowned out by five long tones, and then her own again, from the PA system. “Unfriendly knocks, ladies, and gentlemen. Better get ready to say ‘hello’.”
“Guess it is now,” he said, jumping up, and catching himself about ten feet in the air. He stood glaring at the house. “Nothing I can sense.”
“If it isn’t a portal, it’s probably out here.”
“You bring your phone?”
“Didn’t want to be bothered.”
“I’ll go around the front,” he said. “On the roof.”
The leprechaun nodded, starting to run. Matt disappeared into the fog, and she turned a little as she hit the fence. A little red ribbon marked the spot, and she undid the lock, peeling a section of chain link back. As soon as she was through, she tugged the piece into place, and half secured it.
The wide garage door was slid up on this side, and she could see it was empty as she approached. Street side was down, but she stayed low avoiding the row of small windows that lined the double doors.
Nicole popped the safe in her office, and pulled out her axe. The 9mm had a holster, but she just stuck it into her waistband. Something told her to leave the safety on, but she ignored it. After grabbing a spare clip as well, she slammed the safe closed with her foot.
Chancing a quick glance out the front windows, she spotted nothing. The people across the street were staring at the porch. That was always a great way to start the day. She rushed into the house.
Nicky, and Annabelle were in the living room with the few Clan members they had on schedule for this morning.
“Only took you ten minutes. Good job ‘Clan Head’.” Nicky, earning himself a vicious look from Annabelle.
“Angel on the porch, Clan Head,” the fairy said nonsensically.
After a minute Nicole said, “I really didn’t get any of that. Angel? Porch?”
“A being with Wings, who claims to be an angel, on the porch,” Nicky said, as if that helped a lot. “Where’s q-tip? We could use him about now.”
“He flew up to the roof,” Nicole said. “Wings? Like a nutso fairy?”
“We’ve already got one of those,” Cal, their shop foreman, muttered. Nicole noticed he only had one eyebrow, and made a mental note to ask Annabelle.
“No like birds,” Annabelle said. “Like a giant seagull, or something. Nothing as pretty as mine. Big, and gray.”
“Why are we leaving him on the porch?”
“Her. Name is ‘Sarihanel’,” Nicky said. “Asking for you, and open the door, check it out.”
Nicole still held the axe, as she swung open the door.
Somehow she had expected a tall blond. Blue eyes, and shining teeth. The angel might have been Middle-Eastern. Maybe part Latino. Dark hair flowed over the girl’s shoulders. Bright brown eyes, with dark bags underneath. It looked like the angel had not slept all week. She was just a few inches taller than Nicole, and dressed in an outfit that looked straight out of a yoga class for goths. All black, and two wide silver earrings in each ear.
“Are you the leprechaun who dates the mage?” she asked. Her voice was not angelic; hard, and low. Nicole noticed an odd clear line on the girl’s forehead. A cut sealed with glue, maybe. Annabelle was right about the wings. Two seagull wings, a mild gray color hung from her back.
Nicole spotted Matt dropping down behind her. He held a thumb even with the ground, and gave it a little wiggle.
The leprechaun kept her eyes on the ‘Angel’, but dropped two fingers down together. Matt got the hint, but stayed in the air. Across the street, Nicole saw Martha Smith close her curtains.
“Yep, I am,” Nicole said slow, and a little strained.
“I am Sarihanel,” she said. “I-.” Her speech became garbled, like static from a radio. “-I am an Angel-” More static. Nicole glanced at Matt, then at her brother. Finally on Annabelle. No one else seemed to have any input.
“Can you say that again? In English?”
“I am Sarihanel, and I-.” Static again, the words ‘Angel’, ‘Latte’, and ‘Ocean’ slipping through. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but I need your help.”
“Shit,” Matt said. Sarihanel turned, and screeched as she saw him. She took a step back, and then yelped as she touched the tip of the axe blade.
The ‘angel’ stumbled forward gripping her thigh, as she slipped off the stairs. She ended up between the stairs, and the bushes, one leg hanging out. Nicole sighed, and Matt landed, falling to his knees laughing. Clear fluid leaked from a hole in the yoga pants, and Nicole was strongly reminded of hot glue.
“Go back to work,” Nicole told the guys from the garage. “Nicky handle payroll, and I will be double checking. Wings, go grab the first aid kit, and some clothes from the spare bin. Probably some food. I think I heard ‘latte’ in there, she probably eats. Matt quit laughing, and help me drag her out.”
“Fudging bushes,” Sarihanel said. “Don’t touch me mage!”
“Well, I can’t pull you out on my own.” They both pulled anyway, one quick tug, and she was on the stairs. “Don’t suppose you can tell me how you know Matt?”
Static, and a squint-eyed stare, as the angel rolled onto her back. “-syikuri.” Nicole caught the last one, in fairy it meant ‘Honey knife.’ Betrayer.