The clan was clearing away the corpses. It was just barely dark, and already it had been a lifetime today.
Nicky was ‘handling’ the cops. She was sure Morgan would approve the expense but Nicole knew from experience, that hiding a zombie attack was not cheap. Even in Portland.
She sat at the table phone in hand. His jacket had been on the table, folded neatly by poor Sarihanel. Nicole slipped it on when she found it. He was coming back she knew. He had a good track record, most the time. He would come back.
The leprechaun’s head was already on the table, night gathering in the kitchen, when she felt the hand on her shoulder. Nails were too long, and the palm was softer.
“Nicole?” the Washers voice, younger than normal, but rough.
“Thought you didn’t make house calls?” Nicole said.
“Now and then.” Nicole sat up, catching dark skin, and red hair in her vision.
“Oh, sorry, thought you were the Washer.” Nicole could see it was the wrong thing to say, soon as it let her lips, but Morgan’s grimace faded quick. She took the seat opposite Nicole.
“It’s fine, just almost choked to death a bit ago.”
The leprechaun had her doubts, the grimace went deeper, and was rarer on the Witch’s face than that.
“Sorry,” Nicole said. “Want something to drink?”
“Yeah.” Nicole grabbed a couple, and set them on the table. “Glass?”
“Fine like this, thanks,” Morgan said. “Cowell move yet?”
“Rolled over. Said he’d be up in a bit. Sounded out of it.”
“Everyone else good?”
“Sari, the angel we didn’t get a chance to fill you in on, might be dead, but I think Chark took over her body.”
“So Chark’s really back now?”
“I don’t know.” Nicole twisted the cap off of her beer. “Sari was dead, I think, or I don’t know. Something happened. Then suddenly she stood up, smacked Annabelle’s ass, and flew out of here.”
“Sounds like a Naughtwood.”
Nicole nodded morosely filling her in on the rest of the attack, and on the fight she had seen between Matt, and the angel.
“Full day,” Morgan said. “I was just tied to a chair.”
“Matt save you?”
Morgan looked at her beer for a moment, probably stalling with another sip, before she said, “Big time. Angels are a lot nicer in movies.”
“Sorry you got caught up in all this.”
“Path stuff too.” Morgan shrugged. “Happens. You okay?”
“He’s taking his time.”
“We got more to talk about anyway. About Matt.”
Matt landed at the back of the lot.
He did not recognize two of the dogs, but Reese, and Fusco were still there. Finch was in his house, and Matt limped over to him, rubbing the old man’s head, as he slipped the package under the old pillow.
“You’re good dogs,” he said. “All really good dogs.”
He walked up the outer row, longer path to the house, but past the old shipping container they called ‘the Shed’. It was actually for people too drunk to sleep in the house, but they used the garage for that lately. Now it was a refugee first stop, at least a night, in the safehouse. Far enough away to be watched, and a junkyard to blow up around them, should they need.
Somewhere between the two, this had been home.
He wondered if anyone would ever know how long he had spent in there. No, he decided, but he himself would never forgot the cold, and the smell of rusted iron. Most beautiful girl in the world near enough to see with breakfast every morning.
“The past is the ever drive,” he told himself.
The walk to the garage was long. He could sense the Witch, and the dragon. Stopping at the door he took in the scene.
Annabelle, Nicky, and Morgan sat at a card table. Nicole sat in an office chair near the door, and Cowell stood, hovering over Morgan.
“Babe?” Nicole asked. She stood, but just shifted on her feet.
“Feels like an intervention,” he said.
“Chark back?” Morgan, all business. Her bubbly voice barely fit the words tone, a sandal where a boot belonged.
“I had no choice. Bad angel.”
“I saw,” Morgan said. “How do we knew this isn’t what he planned.”
Matt tried not to smile, just said, “He’s not a fan of his dad.”
“So it’s the Necromancer to beat the angel?” Cowell asked. “Who beats the Necromancer?”
“Me,” Matt said. “If I have to. But he’s changed.”
“Changed? People don’t change. Once a bad guy, always a bad guy.” Cowell missed the look from Morgan, and the one from Nicole too.
“Maybe not that much, but he… He helped me out. I don’t think he’ll be our problem anymore.”
“So he’ll just be someone else’s?” Morgan asked. “I have people everywhere, but Wisteria. I’m not going to be happy if he pops up anywhere. This might be a real problem.”
“If he does, I’ll stop him.”
“How will you beat him?” Nicole asked.
“I think Morgan told you all.” The looks said it all, even if Cowell had failed to make it clear.
“Books, Naughtwood,” Cowell said, holding a hand out. “Both of them.”
Matt sighed, the motion hiding the effort of forcing the smile back. “Sorry.”
“Just give them back, and we’ll call it good,” Cowell said.
“He speak for the Path?” Matt asked.
“We’re still discussing it,” Morgan said. “This could be a good option, we need more power, more backup. But it would be a nice gesture. Let us hold onto the books.”
Matt looked at Nicole, taking in every moment of their closeness. “Noted. I can handle them though. And I will. I’m done living, and dying at the god’s behest.”
“I can take them,” Cowell said.
“I don’t even have them with me,” he said. “I sent the Corvene one someplace safe.”
“You’ll never get the third”
“I’ll figure something out.” Matt said. “In the entire history of me being a mage, thats one promise, one certainty. I always figure something out.”
“Matt,” Nicky said. “Just give up the books. We can make this decision, as a group.”
“Not a group decision, Nicky.”
“Do I get a say?” Her voice almost broke him. Their eyes were far too much, his own were already glued to the ground.
“It’s all for you, Honey. I’ll never do it without you,” Matt said.
“Then give us the books,” Nicole said “Please, Matt.” She started toward him, but the dragon growled.
“Better stay back, my luck,” he said. “Looks like we might have an issue.”
“No!” Morgan stood up, and Matt felt the room cool. Even the fire fairy gave a little shiver. “Either of you makes a move, and I’ll make sure it’s your last.”
Matt was not sure she really had the power, but he gave a little bow. No sign from Cowell. The Witch placed her hand on his chest, pushing the dragon back.
“Stand down,” she said. “Or I’ll take you down.”
Cowell backed up, but Morgan stayed standing. Matt wondered if she was remembering her last fight with the dragon.
“Matt,” Nicole said. She came to him anyway, staring into his eyes. “Please see reason.”
“You’re all the reason, I need,” he said. Running his hands down her arms, he came to the bottom of the smooth leather jacket. He gripped the zipper pulling it up, his fingers slipping a little on the cold metal. She smelled like gunpowder, and sweat. Beer on her breath, and strawberries in her hair. “I meant it though. I can’t do it without you.” Realization clicked in her eyes, as the last inch of zipper connected.
“Do you trust me?”
Her mouth opened, but it was Cowell’s voice that drowned out anything else.
“No!” The dragon dropped low, liquid shimmering as the change started.
“Too slow, popsicle,” Matt said. He sent magic to the Murphy’s portal. A -ding-, as the gateway to Otherworld opened, and they all glanced at it.
Matt gestured, fingers breaking on the fabric of reality without the staff, but he created his own portal. Cowell leapt, swinging one changing arm. The longest claw connected, ripping through the top of Matt’s sneaker. Blood sizzled, burning into the closing portal.
On his back, he glanced down at the foot. The tip of the shoe was gone, and he guessed a couple of toes with it. Only faith pulled him to his feet in that moment, all of the world on top pulling him down, it took everything to get moving again.
Last chapter soon. Thanks everyone.