Chapter 39

Localized Weather Phenomena

Warning: this chapter contains a couple of sex scenes, leave a comment if you need a SFW version of the chapter, and we will make one.


Moving into the beast’s lair had been quick and easy. After Wyatt’s geology classes on that day, one of Hector’s drivers helped him pack some of his things into one of Hector’s cars and move them to the mansion. He didn’t even need to bring that much stuff to start feeling like he had an anchor there, and the rest he would move over time. It was the very concept of living in the Viteri mansion from now on that was entirely surreal. It was the fact he got his own study, that he was told to put a part of his belongings in Hector’s bedroom, that suddenly there was so much space everywhere, all of which he was free not to just look at, but also make use of. Not that he knew how to make use of it, but it was the thought that mattered.

He spent Friday evening studying with his books and notes spread all over one of the gigantic tables. He waited for Hector to come home so that they could eat dinner together, but the Man returned so late that Wyatt had caved in and eaten on his own before. At least they got to brush teeth and go to bed together, but Hector was so tired he fell asleep almost instantly.

On Saturday, Zack dropped by and was pleasantly surprised to see that his matchmaking had worked out and Wyatt was already settling in. They all ate breakfast together, and it was nice and family like for about an hour, soon after which Hector received a phone call, apologized and left again. At least Zack stayed for a while to keep Wyatt company.

Sunday wasn’t much better. Hector was busy for most of it, apparently having to catch up on matters he left unfinished back on Thursday when they went out to the restaurant. Then, when there was finally a ray of hope to get him away from the paperwork in the afternoon, it was thwarted when Hector’s new lawyer showed up in a fancy sports car. 

Knowing for a fact that it was actually the old lawyer wearing a new body and that he was acting with some sinister ulterior motif, the guardian decided to track Shaazgai’s every move while he was on the premises. That didn’t quite work out as the teenage lawyer soon disappeared into Hector’s study, but the guardian did not give up. He valiantly eavesdropped on their conversations behind closed doors. Shaazgai shot him a bewildered look as he exited Hector’s study an hour later, clearly not expecting anyone to be sitting there or the intense stare Wyatt had greeted him with. 

Even after the lawyer had gone, Hector didn’t manage to leave his study for several more hours.

The week after that passed in a similar manner. By the end of it, Wyatt had finally already understood that all the previous instances of Hector seemingly having a whole lot of free time to meet him were so only because the Man had been working their appointments into his tight schedule in advance. Furthermore, it looked like Hector had been sacrificing what little personal or family time he had to fit Wyatt into his life. Having arrived at that conclusion, Wyatt felt guilty that he’d found their meetings so torturous before, and that Hector still thought, and would always think that after all this, Wyatt had stabbed him in the chest to free himself from him, when the truth was completely the opposite. 

He had tried to take back the key to never lose sight of Hector again.

Sometimes he kind of wished he’d managed. Guarding the beast when it slept in the cage had been so much easier. How was he supposed to do his job now? In this body he couldn’t even follow Hector unnoticed, and he was too afraid of the consequences of freeing himself from the Earth’s rebirth cycle to try suicide — even Hamsi and Abhilasha didn’t know what would happen if he tried to kill himself now that he was lucid. Same with the beast and the key. He would never know if he could have taken it out without destroying Hector, because he would never have the guts to try again. And so they were stuck in this standstill, with the beast so busy that it could only spare the guardian some five percent of its time.

Ocher was telling himself that it was fine. Sure, Hector, who seemed to be the beast personified, was dropping out of his sight except at night, but the bulk of the snoozing beast was still everywhere around him. The horror slept soundly, embracing, or even partially comprising the city, and it was not going anywhere. Ocher was learning to feel it now, its mighty, omnipresent heartbeat in the rhythm of the streets, and he didn’t know how he could have missed it before. Sleeping did not mean completely unaware. Everywhere he went, he felt the beast watching him through the city lights. He recognized that feeling from before. Was it possible that on some level it had known about his presence in New Coalport even before they met? Or perhaps it was just watching everyone this way…

There were still so many questions, but Ocher was slowly reconciling with the thought that they would be left unanswered. The only one who could answer them, was the beast itself, and Hector with his denial of how things really were, was clearly having none of that. So that’s how things were now. The beast and its keeper vaguely watching each other, hopefully in some sort of unspoken mutual understanding. 

The guardian part of Wyatt was more less alright with this arrangement. Technically this whole watching business worked both ways, so as long as he stayed within the city limits, he was always able to keep an eye on the beast. But to the human part it felt disappointing. Hector was hardly home and when he was, he was riddled with phone calls, drowning in paperwork or suddenly away to attend secretive Citizen business. Or it was already late, and he looked dead on his feet. When confronted about it, he apologized and said that he would try to make some time for them.

And he did. A week later, they were going on a skiing trip with the kids.

Wyatt wasn’t entirely delighted by the skiing part, because the last time he’d done that in this life was when he was twelve, but he knew that somewhere under all that snow there would be some form of sand to save him, so it was probably not going to be all that bad. Actually, he was pretty sure he would end up having fun anyway. And he was definitely looking forward to spending some alone time with Hector in the evenings. They hardly did anything more than cuddle these last two weeks, and it was getting kind of frustrating and even somewhat suspicious. 

Wyatt understood that it was his fault that Hector was so behind on everything, so he didn’t press, but he found himself longing to have the Man touch him… that way again. The most eager Hector had been was back on Valentine’s Day. And even then they didn’t really end up doing anything after they splashed in the bathtub. From there, it only went downhill, almost as if Hector had done more thinking on his own and came to some conclusions but did not bother to share the results. They were supposed to take it slow, sure, but slow still implied something would happen one day again… right?

Wyatt had high hopes for this weekend out together. But for now it was still Saturday morning. They had arrived at the resort, checked in, picked up their skiing gear, and now they were all sitting in a chairlift, Rose and Zack to one side and he and Hector to the other. It climbed slowly over the snowy landscape, taking them between and sometimes above the pines and spruces. The weather was good, best it’d been in weeks. No wind, just gentle snowfall. Snowflakes were settling on their clothes. 

“Hey Dad, they told us at school, that all snowflakes are unique. That they’re almost like fractals or something,” Zack said, catching a clump of snow on his glove and looking at it curiously. “Do you think that’s true, could they be that geometrically complex to be all unique?”

Hector looked up at the pale sky thoughtfully. “I suppose.”

Zack shook off the snow from his glove and caught some more. His eyes opened wide, and he grinned, gesturing for Wyatt to check out the snow. Wyatt did, catching his own small clump of postcard-quality snowflakes. Despite being stuck together almost none of them were broken. As he watched, one after another, unique, intricate, improbably complex snowflakes settled on his gloves and jacket sleeves, as Hector stared into the sky, forcing the atmosphere into submission.

Wyatt’s conspiratory expression said ‘told you’.

Zack turned to show the snowflakes to his friend. “Check these snowflakes out, Rose.”

She furrowed her eyebrows, looking at the snow, then exclaimed, “Woah! They really are all different! So pretty! Is that how they always are? I don’t think I ever really paid attention.”

Then the three of them proceeded to compete in catching the most magnificent snowflake.

Hector looked at Wyatt and the children with some amusement, but did not comment on or react to the special snowflakes. They arrived at the top of the slope, and here the hard part began. The kids rushed down like they were born with skis on their feet, but Wyatt had some trouble recalling how to even move from place. Hector stayed with him to remind him the basics, and once Wyatt got the hang of it again, he still stayed within range, watching with fondness as his smaller boyfriend stubbornly cut back and forth across the slope, rather than skiing right down it. 

It took a while before they reached the bottom again.

The second trip up they were paired with some other skiers on the lift, the third they managed to sync up with the kids again, and on the fourth they ended up alone. Ocher leaned close to Hector then, and was embraced in return. Perfect snowflakes were still falling around them, and life felt good again.

Afterwards they devoured a mountain of food in the pseudo-tavern at the foot of the hill. They spent another several hours skiing after that, and Wyatt didn’t require any more assistance, so they were all skiing at their own pace and just greeting each other while they passed by. Still, Hector seemed to linger in Wyatt’s vicinity and wait for him to catch up, and that felt nice.

In the evening, they browsed the collection of games their hotel had to offer and ended up playing Scrabble. Rose emerged victorious from that one. Then came the night.

Wyatt had been waiting for that. Their room was cosy, the walls covered with wood panelling. He showered first, not to give Hector reasons to think of the night on the island, and then waited for the Man in anticipation, butterflies fluttering like mad in his stomach.

This time it was Hector’s turn to stop in the doorway with just a towel on. He smiled, but there was a hint of hesitation in his expression even as Wyatt beamed back at him with open excitement. Hector crossed the room and got under the covers, discarding the towel as he did.

He pulled Wyatt close and kissed him on the forehead. 

The butterflies died down a little. Wyatt was afraid he knew where this was going, but he was prepared to take matters into his own hands tonight. He wasn’t letting Hector off the hook. He snuggled closer to him and cupped the side of his face with one hand, stroking the Man’s beard with a thumb. Smiling playfully Wyatt leaned in and kissed Hector.

The Man kissed him softly. His arms pulled Wyatt closer under the comforter. Their naked bodies pressed together, Hector’s skin was still hot after the shower. His big hands ran over Wyatt’s back in slow motions, never straying too low. There was an obvious reserve about everything Hector did.

But Wyatt was prepared for that. The butterflies in his stomach transformed, pulling up their sleeves, ready to make things happen. He took one of Hector’s hands and moved it confidently to his ass, looking at Hector with clear-cut confidence all the while. “Don’t you worry, if I don’t like something, I’m sure as hell telling you.”

“Okay,” Hector said without conviction. He looked downright uneasy. “I hope you will.”

“I promise.” Wyatt saw this wasn’t going too smoothly, so he shifted and climbed into Hector’s lap instead. “I love you, alright? I want this.” He smiled, then chuckled. “More than that even, I can’t wait. It’s been ages.” He bowed down and kissed Hector again. It felt weird to have to take initiative like that, but what could one do when their crime lord boyfriend was acting shy like that?

For a moment Hector responded, kissing him with a spark of genuine passion, but then he seemed to hesitate again. His hand ran up and down Wyatt’s side, then rested on his waist. And then they were in the same exact position as they’d been on that night on the island. Hector’s expression fell. Just like then, Wyatt was horny, but for a change Hector was completely unaroused. He sighed.

“I’m sorry, Wyatt. I love you too. And I would like to do this too. But… I can’t stop thinking how disgusted you must have been before. I still feel like I’m forcing myself on you.” Hector cringed and covered his eyes with one hand, tilting his head back. “I’m sorry, this is ridiculous, I know. But I can’t help it.”

Wyatt removed Hector’s hand from his eyes and looked at him, aroused, collected and absolutely unimpressed. “Listen, relax and stop assuming what I felt or still feel. It wasn’t all that horrible even back then. You were as mindful as it gets and I was thinking about squishy boobs through most of it. But you know what, screw boobs, I like this better.” He put his hand on Hector’s dick and stroked it encouragingly.

“How about I just take care of you, and we call it a night?” Hector smiled apologetically, as his body stubbornly refused to respond to Wyatt’s efforts.

“Nope. Seriously? Just no. I can take care of myself, you know, but it’s not the point. This was supposed to be the time for us. What is this, come on!” He gave Hector’s dick half a minute more of attention before he gave up on it. “You know what?” he told the Man, “I have a shrink appointment on Tuesday, and you’re coming with me. You seem to need it.”

Hector snorted, still looking apologetic. “That’s fair. I will come with you.” He picked Ocher up and rested him on his back instead. He crawled to hover over him, then he sunk between Wyatt’s legs. “But I insist. I would like to at least satisfy you to some degree.” He bowed down and kissed Wyatt’s hipbone.

Ocher sighed, shaking his head at the ceiling. “Fine.” 

Amazing. The beast couldn’t even get it up for him anymore. If the divines were still watching, they should give him a raise. Wait… right, they weren’t even paying him to start with. Ocher guessed at this point that was fair as well. 

Soon, all those stupid thoughts fled his mind. And when he fell asleep in Hector’s arms, he wasn’t that displeased at all.

* * *

Dr. Ely was mildly surprised to see two patients instead of one on her couch. Neither of them was going to lie down now, of course, and there wasn’t really space, so they just sat next to each other.

The shrink asked them to describe the problem, and Wyatt did, readily. It was somewhat satisfying to see Hector be the one disturbed for once.

“Well, this is new,” Dr. Ely noted, fixing her glasses on her nose. “I remember you having no problem with erectile function in the context of violence before, Mr. Viteri. Quite the opposite.”

Hector’s eyes opened wide. He looked from her to Wyatt most uncomfortably. Wyatt crossed his arms on his chest challengingly.

“So I don’t suppose it’s the very idea of violence-”

“Of course it’s not,” Hector protested, in a hurry. “These are two completely unrelated situations! I don’t find the idea of hurting someone I care about arousing in the slightest.”

“I don’t suppose you ever did hurt Mr. Brooks, though.”

”He didn’t,” Wyatt smugly confirmed.

Hector looked uneasy. “But back then on the island-”

”You made me somewhat uncomfortable, and I was scared as usual, but honestly, it’s not like I was taken by surprise. I knew it was going to happen, and I was well prepared. Zack literally flooded me with gay magazines before that trip. Plus in case you don’t remember, you actually were so good you made my scared dick go back on, and it all ended happily.” Wyatt looked at the therapist. “He’s still clutching onto what I yelled at him when he tracked me down in a helicopter.” Then he turned to Hector again. “Look, I’m really sorry I said all those extremely mean things to you. Do you need me to hand that to you in writing?”

Hector stared at him for a moment. “Wait a moment, gay magazines? My son handed you pornographic magazines?! How many-” Hector just opened and closed his mouth speechless. “I’ll have to talk to him.”

“Mr. Viteri, it’s quite normal for a teenage boy to look at hot naked people. If anything, the abundance of magazines is a good sign, it means he turns to print rather than living people for sexual fulfillment, which is much safer at his tender age.”

That seemed to calm Hector down.

“Now, back to your relationship with Mr. Brooks. It appears you haven’t hurt him, and you were worried for nothing. You have painted a negative narrative around all your past interactions, based on Mr. Brooks’ one time outburst provoked by your sudden and quite theatrical arrival.” Dr. Ely tapped her pen against her chin. “I believe it would be beneficial to continue our sessions in this format, with both of you present. Both of you appear to construct fictional narratives around your experiences, playing a game of ‘I think he thinks I think’ instead of communicating. Especially you, Mr. Viteri.”

Hector looked at the shrink, quite startled.

“You wanted me to see if Mr. Brooks is capable of making informed decisions, and I say he is. He may have a mild case of split personality and be slightly obsessive, but it appears to be a pre-existing stress-related phenomenon, that has in lighter forms surfaced long before he met you. If you want Mr. Brooks to ‘recover’, I recommend you listen to him and support him. His desire to be with you may have initially formed in somewhat disagreeable conditions, but he appears neither traumatized, nor in any other way affected by his experiences.” The shrink looked at Hector strictly. “So you can stop assuming what he should and shouldn’t be feeling or thinking, and trust him to tell you. He has no reason to lie to you anymore, is that right, Mr. Brooks?”

Wyatt nodded sternly. “Yes. I lied to you before because I was sure I was going to land myself and all my friends and family in body bags if you knew how our first meeting really was. But then I got to know you and love you, and well, the truth did come out in the end, so I’m well past that fear now.”

Hector took Wyatt’s hand into his and smiled sadly. “I’m sorry.”

“Good, good,” Dr. Ely said, noticing a slightly fed-up expression on Wyatt’s face. “I imagine you said that a number of times, let this be the last one. Now, what I think you two should do is go on a date or catch a movie, do something romantic. If that doesn’t help, we can look into other avenues.”

“I think that will be quite adequate,” Hector said with a wince. “Thanks a lot, Samantha, we will try to figure out the rest on our own.”

“We sure will. Thanks as well.” Wyatt squeezed Hector’s hand and then elbowed him, smiling to the man as he turned to him.

Hector grinned back at him. And they hurried out.

* * *

“So…” Hector started, when they were in the car together, headed back home. “How do you like going to these sessions with Samantha?”

Wyatt snorted. “Oh, I enjoy them just as much as you did now. This was clearly the best one, I mean, usually she grills me like this. And about three times longer too.”

“Damn…” Hector snorted. “You can believe yourself whatever magical guardian you like, as long as you do it peacefully. I won’t force you to go to her ever again. The psychotherapy was probably the cruelest thing I’ve done to you so far. And I know a thing or two about cruelty.” Hector shook his head.

“Really?” Ocher sounded hopeful. “That would be wonderful. She drives me up the wall. I literally feel like throwing sand at her out of sheer malice sometimes.”

Hector chuckled and pulled him close. “Well, no more of that then. Just tell me, how does your… well, ‘guardian’ part feel about us?”

Ocher looked at him suspiciously. Hesitantly, he asked, “Is that a trick question?”

“No. I would genuinely like to know,” Hector said. “Since the guardian is here to stay, we have to coexist somehow.”

Wyatt kept looking suspicious, as he slowly and carefully formulated his reply, “The guardian part… likes this a lot too… Guilty as charged.”

“Even though I’m some kind of a monster? A ‘beast’, I think you said before. Is the guardian alright with that?” 

“Yes. A-and it’s maybe more of ‘because’ than ‘even though’.” Wyatt grew unexpectedly red on his face.

Hector’s eyebrows rose. 

“What?!” Wyatt’s cheeks turned even redder. “You wanted the truth.” 

Hector grinned. “Well, well, well, the guardian and I might get along yet.” He took hold of Wyatt’s chin and leaned in close. “I like this truth. Keep it coming.” He leered at Wyatt in a most predatory manner.

Wyatt’s eyes shone briefly golden, something he knew Hector would ignore, but something he for some reason hoped the beast within would notice. His breath quickened as he smirked. “The guardian wanted the key in your heart but will settle for your heart instead.”

“A key in my heart? Why, that sounds like a real bother if I ever have to go through metal detectors.” Hector snorted. “Oh, well, you can have the key to my heart, even if you can’t have the one inside it. And the heart is yours too. It would fetch a nice price in the black market I fancy.” 

“Yeah, you’ve mentioned that before. But I’ll never really find out. Because you know what? I wouldn’t sell it for the world or even entire galaxies.” Ocher sighed, and Hector leaned even closer and kissed him.

It wasn’t one of those half-hearted kisses of late, this time it was like before, when Ocher was still afraid of him, and Hector still unaware of any of it. The Man kissed him breathless, and Wyatt found himself melting into the kiss. They didn’t stop making out until the car stopped. And then they just took it indoors. Through the villa, discarding shoes and clothes, until they got to the master bedroom.

There Hector pinned Ocher to the sheets and kissed him even hungrier than before. This time there was no hesitation, no reluctance. What little clothing was left on Ocher was removed with urgent need, and once both of them were naked, Ocher had no doubts that Hector’s previous affliction was gone.

“So, my little guardian, instead of trapping me, you would like to now be trapped yourself?” 

Hector purred. 

The guardian’s eyes opened wide, and he turned crimson. “I… think I’d kinda like that…” 

Hector grinned. “Then I will gladly oblige.” He bowed down and kissed Wyatt’s lips, then his neck.

Ocher’s thoughts raced. What was that just now? Why would he say that? Was it just Hector, drawing conclusions or did the beast really want to play? Both these notions were strangely exciting, but it was one thing for Hector to accept the guardian in some capacity and another thing to take the idea to bed. Ocher knew he started it, but he didn’t know how comfortable he was with Hector growing to think this was some sort of unfulfilled sexual fantasy. But even if he did… it wouldn’t be all that inconvenient either. Maybe Hector would cope with it better then, and it would even make his job as the guardian easier. And yet he couldn’t possibly yield to the beast like this. Unless…

“And w-what if I’d like to pretend that I wouldn’t want that…?”

“Are you into that or just the guardian?” Hector grinned.

Ocher looked at him completely embarrassed. “At this point you can just safely assume we’re always in agreement. I’m still fairly new to the whole sex thing in general but I… like this idea.” He bit his lip. “Are you up for it, though? I mean… you’ve had your share of trauma because of me pulling this on you before.”

“Well, now I know you are very much into it, it’s alright. Plus, you assured me you won’t be lying anymore.”

“N-no, no, I mean the time I almost killed you in this guardian and beast context.”

“Ah, that,” Hector said dismissively. “If I got worked up each time someone tried to stab or shoot me, I would’ve never made it through the war. We will need a safe word, though. So I know you’re just being playful and not actually asking me to stop. Yell something geological at me if you want me to stop or feel at all uncomfortable.”

Wyatt snorted and nodded eagerly. “Aha, yep, I can do that.” Then he gave Hector an attempted serious look. “And what’s your safe word? I mean… not that we’ll ever need it, but you know, just in case.”

Hector looked puzzled. “Hm… How about ‘cigars’?” He grinned.

“How fitting. Like, those are always an instant turn-off. Alright then, hm…” Ocher worried his lower lip for a moment, considering one last time just how wrong this was versus how thrilling it already felt. Then he backed away in horror, looking at Hector wide-eyed, “N-not a step further, beast. You shall not have me.”

Hector’s grin did not falter, but his eyebrows rose in mild surprise at how smoothly Ocher assumed the new role. The Man did not leave him hanging, Hector gripped Ocher’s leg, pulling him back and under himself. “Why, all this time you kept me trapped, and now you don’t want me to return the favor? What goes around, comes around, my little guardian.” Hector pinned Ocher’s hands above his head with one hand and held his chin with another. “Did you really think you could prevail? Against me?”

The guardian struggled in the beast’s grip, and looked at Hector defiantly. “You might have captured me, but your triumph will be short lived. You can’t hold me for long. I will trickle out of your grasp like desert sand. And then I will find a way to contain you again, and this time it will be forever.” It was then that Ocher realized perhaps he should not have agreed to his safe word being something geological, because sand was definitely going to be coming up. But technically he did not yell it.

Luckily, Hector read the cues correctly.

“Oh you will contain me. But not how you imagine it, my little, insolent guardian.” Hector forced Ocher’s legs apart, and slid a hand down the inside of the guardian’s thigh. He leaned close and whispered, hot breath against his ear. “Or maybe precisely the way you imagine it.”

The guardian’s face and ears flushed scarlet again, and he trembled, shaking his head and trying to bring his legs back together. “No… n-no… you cannot do this to me… why would you even want to… Y-you are free to go, roam the wastes of cosmos again. Don’t you prefer to run while you still can?”

“Hm, but you are the one who looks like he wants to run,” Hector purred. “And yet you don’t. You can, but you don’t really want to. You want to stay. I can tell.” He ran his hand over Ocher’s chest, his abdomen, his erection. “Why, instead of dissolving into sand, you seem to become more solid by the second.”

The guardian squirmed. He still shook his head, still tried to deny it, but the beast was right. He wanted to be precisely where he was. The realization was as thrilling as it was humiliating. Ocher’s face had never been so red in his entire life, this one or any other. He arched involuntarily against Hector’s hand.

And soon he was arching a whole lot more when the beast claimed him, holding him captive in name only. The guardian surrendered to it, he moaned for it, and he nuzzled his face into its human shape, as his fingers dug into its skin. The beast held him close and whispered refined profanities into his ear, mixed with words of affection and love. It was inside him, and he was all around it, and it was like back then when they were running through the sands of time, away from their eternal prison and darkness. Like back when he clung to Hector’s ever-shifting form and defined him, back when they were as one. It was a union that was never meant to be, the guardian was sure. But it felt so perfect. Ocher had been made for the beast, and now, reunited with it so fully, he finally felt complete. He came for Hector with a shiver.

As he lay relaxed in the arms of the beast, his shallow breath slowly growing steadier again, his smaller hand sought out Hector’s bigger one.

Hector’s fingers curled around Ocher’s, and the eldritch horror that called itself ‘the Man’ smiled peacefully, tracing the glowing golden lines on the guardian’s body without realizing they were even there. “The sun plays so beautifully on your skin, darling. We should make love during the day more frequently.”

Wyatt rolled his eyes at the oblivious remark, then turned to Hector and looked at him with a smug smile, saying, “You had me at making love. But more frequently sounds good too.”

Hector kissed him. “And so it shall be.”

* * *

And so it was.

From then on Hector managed to find an hour or more for Wyatt almost everyday. Wyatt began to suspect Hector of having previously been so ridiculously busy only to avoid him, but a few late nights the Man spent working convinced him otherwise — Hector was indeed very busy no matter the state of their relationship. Now, however, when everything between them was peaceful, Hector had more energy and better humor, and that helped him work more efficiently.

The weather was better too, the snowdrifts were rapidly melting, the snowfalls were occasional and brief, and spring was starting to steadily creep over the city. Things were going back to normal. 

No, they were way better than normal. Wyatt’s circumstances were better than ever, his university professors couldn’t be more helpful, and the Viteris were like family to him.

There was only one problem left to solve.

“Um, Hector? Do you still have a moment?” Wyatt asked him one Saturday. Zack left a few minutes ago. They had seen him to the door and then stood at the window in the hallway, watching him take off on his bike. “There’s something I’d like to discuss, or more like, ask your advice on… It’s not urgent, but I promised not to keep stuff from you, and I guess the sooner I spell it out the better.”

“Sure.” Hector hugged him by the waist and pulled him close. “What’s the matter, darling?”

‘Darling’. That once passionately hated word now felt all kinds of homely. Wyatt was glad that it was permanently back in Hector’s vocabulary now that their relations have warmed up. Wyatt leaned against him and took a deep breath. He let it out and looked up at the Man. “Okay, so… I don’t even really know how to start this. I guess I’ll just be extremely straightforward. Basically… you are not the only person I’ve been lying to. In fact you are among the first people I stopped lying to. And I thought I might as well ask you for an opinion on how to come clean to my other loved ones, aka, my parents.”

Hector looked down at him, eyebrows arched in open curiosity. “Go on.” 

Wyatt was already having some second thoughts about this, but he forced himself to keep talking. Now that he knew nothing he said or did would get him killed, telling Hector the truth could only be a good thing. “So, you’re probably going to laugh, but at this point in time my parents believe, among other things that a) I’ve graduated from my Master Degree last year or so, we’ve even celebrated my graduation at a restaurant, and b) that I’ve been pursuing a career in the petroleum industry, working as resource geologist for the last three years.” He held Hector’s eyes all the while, to gauge his reaction. “Which is also to say that they did not, and should not ever know about the gas station job, or that I don’t own a car, and a whole lot of other stuff…” 

Hector bowed his head a little, his eyebrows unable to go any higher. “Is that so… Well, this explains some things. But please, continue.” The Man smiled, amused.

And so Ocher told him about the other things as well. Out of all of them, his parents not knowing about him being a thief was the most negligible issue that had already been solved by him simply not being one anymore. By the end of this conversation, they had sat down together on the living room couch. 

“… and they’ve never even heard about Hunter. They do know that my apartment used to be rather small, but I somehow managed to avoid them visiting me there. Right now I’ve told them I moved, but I didn’t know how to go about telling them where to, or giving them the new phone number, so now I just call them from here sometimes. Of course they expect me to get a permanent phone soon. They’ve also been bugging me about visiting and seeing ‘my office’ for years now. It keeps being awkward and getting more and more so. And I bet I don’t need to mention that they have no idea about you, or even that I could ever be remotely interested in dating a guy. When you said you wanted to meet them, I instantly knew there were about a hundred lies that were going to come up if that meeting ever happened. And I had no idea how you were going to take it. I’d say I ran to the desert like fifty percent because of that thought alone. So yeah. I guess that’s it. If I remember anything else, I’ll tell you, but now you have the full picture. Like you know that thing you said in the restaurant, that I’ve been living a lie? On one hand, yes, I have been at first, but on the other you had no idea how used I’ve already been to that. I don’t think I need to lie any longer. But how do I stop now?”

Hector nodded as he listened. Now that Wyatt was finished, he rubbed his chin in thought. “I see lying is your go-to solution for all of life’s problems. Very well, since you’re so proficient, we can continue in the same vein, until — like our relationship — your lies come true.” Hector looked into the distance, thoughtfully. “We could start by getting you a job in the industry. I’m sure I can arrange something, an internship at least. Or you could tell your parents you are between jobs. And doing scientific research, which is, in a way, the truth.”

Wyatt breathed a sigh of relief. So this was it. Most of the lies laid bare, and the dreaded reaction was just as he hoped it would be. Hector continued being clever and helpful. Wyatt nodded. “That sounds good. I’d gladly start working in the field. I’d rather not tell them I’m between jobs though, because they wouldn’t believe that I still have money to spare and wouldn’t accept it from me, and then they’d be in trouble themselves. Their pension is literal peanuts.”

“Not unless you introduced them to your very rich boyfriend,” Hector offered with a wink, then continued in a warm tone, “My own folks are long dead, I would be glad to support your parents financially and otherwise. You can also explain your previous secrecy with, well, us. If you think they wouldn’t react too harshly to such a revelation.”

Wyatt sighed and sank into the couch. “I honestly don’t know how my father will take this, but you’ll probably win my mom over pretty quick. I… guess it makes sense to try this. Ha, that’s going to be a big reveal. Might manage to throw the in-between the jobs thing in the middle of it too. It should make sense, especially if I end up working for your enterprise in some capacity. Sure, what the heck, let’s do that. I’ll think about the logistics and let you know.” Done thinking out loud, he looked at Hector with genuine gratitude. “Thank you. For everything, really.” Who knew that telling the truth would turn out to be a good idea?

“You’re welcome, darling.” Hector smiled. “And thank you too. I didn’t realize how lonely I’d been until I met and almost lost you. You make me feel young again.” 

Wyatt rolled his eyes and leaned in to peck him on the cheek. “Well, you’re definitely not losing me ever again. Also, even though you are actually still pretty young, I’m glad there are some days when you don’t feel like you’re an eighty-year-old robbing the cradle.” He fell back into a corner of the sofa and stuck his tongue at Hector.

Hector chuckled and got onto the couch, crawling towards him. “Well, let me show you then how far from eighty-year-old I feel.”

* * *

It was a sunny March day and Wyatt stood in the open door with a cup of coffee, watching Hector’s son park his motorbike. The teen’s visits made Saturdays at the Viteri mansion feel particularly homely. “Morning, Zack. Come on in.” He waved the boy inside. “Your dad had to leave for a meeting, but he should be home soon. How’s it going?”

Zack winced as he crossed the distance to the front door. “Oh, man, that’s Dad for you. Always working. I’m fine. How are you two doing?” He stepped inside and kicked off his trainers by the front door. “I hope he’s no longer on your case with the whole… magic thing.”

Wyatt sipped some of his coffee, leaning against the wall of the hallway. “Hm… we kind of worked it out within the bounds of his logical understanding, and then haven’t been going on the topic for a while. Anyway, not to worry. He told me to get started on breakfast without him, so if you’re starving, you might want to join me.”

“Good to hear, and yeah, I haven’t eaten since I woke up.” Zack rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “What’s for breakfast?”

Wyatt told him, even though it wasn’t really necessary. In mere moments Zack was gorging on sunny side eggs, bacon and a very symbolic serving of salad, which he mostly smeared over his plate to make a good impression on his absent father. It didn’t take long for the teen to stuff himself into a state of lazy contentment.

“Say, Dad isn’t here, so… could you do some cool stuff with your sand powers? That stuff looked awesome. I’d love to see more,” Zack asked, as they moved from the dining room to the living room. The boy dropped onto the couch and pulled a magazine from the bottom shelf of the coffee table. He flicked through it, looked at the date and finally waved the magazine at Wyatt. “We could use this junk as a source of sand.”

Wyatt smirked. He looked around and then the magazine fell apart in Zack’s hand and spiraled through the air towards Ocher, who began to move the sand from one hand to the other like a slinky. “I haven’t been using this for fun pretty much ever, so I’m open to suggestions. What do you wanna see me do?”

Zack grinned and leaned forward to inspect the sand up close. “This is so kickass! Could you catch and hold stuff with that sand?” Zack pulled out another old magazine, tore off the cover and crumpled it into a ball. He tossed it above Ocher’s head as a challenge.

Ocher sent the slinky up towards it like a lasso. It swallowed the paper ball and tightened around it, coming back to the guardian in a yoyo-like motion. “I guess?” Ocher took the paper ball into his hands. The string of sand in the air transformed into a small floating disc and Wyatt deposited the ball on it, making it slowly float towards Zack. “I never thought about it in a creative way before.”

Zack watched the flying disk of sand in awe. “You totally should! Think! You might be able to fly with this. I mean how much can this hold?” Zack pushed the crumpled paper off and put his hand on the disk, trying to press it down.

“Hm, I know I could elevate myself on a sand current, but this idea feels kind of crazy… and I mean like… Baron Münchhausen kind of crazy,” Ocher’s brows furrowed and the grains comprising the disk pressed tighter together, withstanding the pressure Zack was applying. The teen giggled. It felt kind of like arm-wrestling.

“Honestly, how old are you two?” Hector sighed loudly. He stood in the door with a very unimpressed look. Under his scrutiny Ocher lost control of the sand, and it scattered on the coffee table and the floor. Zack almost smacked into the table, but quickly sat upright, pretending that nothing happened. Hector looked at one and then the other, clearly struggling with who to be more cross with.

“Please, don’t encourage Wyatt, Junior.”

“Why not? What do you care, Dad? Let us have fun.”

“I think you’re old enough to leave the sandbox behind. Both of you,” Hector said and shook his head. “At least have mercy on the cleaning personnel and take your sand throwing outside.”

Zack blinked, looking startled for a moment. He looked at Wyatt in confusion, he frowned, as if struggling to remember what they were doing. “Throwing sand…” he said without confidence. 

Ocher felt the bitter sting of hopelessness. Hector had walked in on them out of nowhere. He should have been more attentive. Now it was too late. Hector had questioned the reality right in front of the only person that believed him. Was that it? Was that how he was going to lose Zack? 

The teen stared in front of himself, frowning, then shook his head violently. “No, Dad, we weren’t throwing sand!” he protested. “Wyatt has superpowers! Look, look at this, Dad!” Zack turned to Ocher and held up the torn magazine. “Turn this into sand.”

Ocher looked at Zack with wide open eyes. Relief washed over him. He turned his head from Zack to Hector, then at the teen again. “Uh… I don’t know, Zack, it’s probably not a good idea…”

“No, come on, do it. And Dad, this is a magazine, look at the magazine, here it is, see? See?”

Hector took a deep breath and rolled his eyes. “Aha.” He looked at the magazine skeptically.

Ocher sighed, “Alright, here goes nothing…” The magazine trickled into sand, slowly enough for Hector to watch it happen. Then it turned into a fractal-like formation that spun in the air in front of Hector.

Hector looked right through the fractal hanging in the air in front of him. “Yes, yes, very impressive. You can show this trick at an elementary school, I’m sure the children will be amazed. Maybe throw in the detachable thumb trick for variety’s sake.”

Zack grimaced and glanced at Ocher sympathetically. Ocher shook his head at him tiredly. 

“On a more serious note, my new law consultant will be here soon. So I only have a moment to hang out. I’m very sorry about that.” Hector left the doorway and went to sit down in the armchair next to Ocher’s.

The sand formation fell to the floor and then snaked across it, collecting the rest of the fallen sand and forming a neat pile at the foot of the table. “It’s okay,” Wyatt said, “We’re glad you managed to find a moment for us. Eat something maybe? You can’t thrive on cigars and business matters alone.”

Hector snorted and looked at Wyatt affectionately. “Good call.” He was going to get up, but Zack shot up first. 

“I’ll get you some food, Dad.” The teen darted towards the dining room.

Hector turned to Ocher. “I’ll likely be busy till late in the evening. So if you want to hit the town, feel free to go wherever you like.”

“Aw, sorry to hear that. Do what you gotta do, we’ll figure ourselves out with Zack.”

The teen was back with a cup of coffee and a plate filled with eggs, salad and sausages and topped with a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Hector laughed and thanked his kid, impressed by Zack’s estimation of his beastly hunger. They spent half an hour chatting amicably as Hector ate. It didn’t take long after he was finished for the secretary to appear and announce that Mr. Shaazgai was there.

“Uh, have fun. See you later then?” Ocher asked, and Hector nodded and wished them a nice day. Zack echoed the sentiment and stretched, looking like he was ready to leave as well, but in no hurry to do so.

When Hector left the room, Wyatt got up from his armchair. “So… what’s your status?” he asked Zack to make sure where Hector’s intervention left them.

“If you mean your powers, I am still fully aware of them.”

“Phewh. You did feel that, though, didn’t you?” he asked, as he walked up to the doorway to the corridor.

“Yeah, it was weird. Like remembering something that didn’t happen, like a deja vu, but then I was like ‘no way, Wyatt just did that in front of me’, and it went away. Mostly. I still have this nagging feeling you were throwing sand around the room moments ago, but it’s alien and easy to ignore.”

“I’m honestly surprised you managed to resist. I hope you can keep that up. But we probably shouldn’t get caught like this again, just to be on the safe side.” Wyatt looked out into the corridor.

“Sure. But what are you doing?” Zack asked and stepped up beside Wyatt and also looked out into the corridor.

“Uh… I kind of need to go spy on that Shaazgai guy. You wanna tag along?”

“Spy on the new lawyer?” Zack asked incredulously. “What for? That sounds extra boring.”

“It’s not quite. You see, there’s a problem with this new lawyer. Namely, he’s exactly the same lawyer as before. Some sort of reincarnating sorcerer, I’ve been told. I’m trying to see what he’s up to.”

Zack’s face grew long. Then he blinked a few times and grinned. “Holy shit. For real? Who told you that? I’m in anyway.”

“Um… I think my sources would prefer to remain anonymous for now. But yeah, it’s for real. How well did you know the previous Shaazgai?”

“Not very. But he always seemed like a stuffy prick. I guess dad and him bonded on the expensive suits grounds or something. I never heard anything but praise for him professionally, but he’s got the warmth and cordiality of an industrial freezer.” Zack shrugged. “He always looked at me like I was trespassing in my own home, but only when dad wasn’t paying attention.”

“Wow, at you too? I thought his dirtiest looks were reserved for me alone. Anyway, you should feel everything about this new one is very familiar. And it’s not because they’re related. I’ll tell you more later, I’d like to eavesdrop a bit at first, come on. Just, shush.” He put his finger to his lips and beckoned with his hand. They snuck towards Hector’s study together.

The door was closed, as one would expect. But when they crouched beside it and stayed very quiet they could hear at least pieces of the conversation carried inside.

“… there is no reason for you to accept that settlement. Their defense will not stand in court, not if your lawyers present this and this…”

The so-called law consultant went on and on, presenting some documents to Hector. Even through the door he sounded downright malicious. Lucky for Hector, the lawyer’s ill will was directed at his opposition, at least for now.

Zack nodded slowly and whispered, “The guy sounds exactly the same as the old lawyer, only a bit livelier. Even the intonation is the same.”

“Oh, he’s the same guy, that’s for sure.” Ocher whispered back to him. “It’s about finding out what he plans to accomplish through your dad. But I guess it’s gonna be hard to determine by just listening to this legal mumbo-jumbo.”

Zack looked concerned. “What do you mean?” he whispered back. “Does he want to use dad’s cosmic power of belief for some sorcery?”

Wyatt nodded, but said nothing. They listened to the conversation for a few more minutes. There was nothing too suspicious about it. It seemed to pertain mostly to ongoing litigation involving Hector’s legitimate real estate business. Despite revolving around land ownership, the affair was not even close to a plan for world domination. Ocher pulled away from the door. He waved for Zack to follow. They retreated to another room, where they could talk normally without being overheard. “With only scraps of information like this, it’s hard to tell what his agenda might be, but he knows about your dad, he works for an ambitious evil god, and I don’t like him being here.” Ocher sighed. “I can always confront him directly if it comes to that, but I’d rather watch him for a while longer. I don’t think he knows what I am just yet.”

“We could spy on him, see what sorcerous business he is up to, since the law part seems legit,” Zack proposed.

Wyatt frowned. “You mean actually following him out of here? I was thinking about that myself, but I’m not sure if I should be involving you in that… I’m actually pretty confident I shouldn’t.”

“Oh come on! I can follow him easily on my bike. Plus he would never act against me, like you said, he knows who my dad is.” Zack looked set in the idea of tailing the lawyer.

“I… have to think about this,” Wyatt said, sitting down in an armchair.

* * *

“They’re signalling the left turn now.”


They kept in a steady distance behind the car, close enough not to lose sight of it, but far enough to remain inconspicuous. Zack tried to let other vehicles between them whenever the traffic allowed to ensure at least a partial cover. Luckily for them, Maverick Shaazgai travelled in the backseat. His chauffeur could certainly see Zack’s bike in the rear-view mirror now and then but hopefully he wasn’t all that familiar with the two riders.

They were headed North through the outskirts of town. Soon they were passing through a quiet residential neighborhood, and Zack had to fall behind, because there simply weren’t enough cars to hide behind. They followed just at the edge of visibility. A few times they almost lost the lawyer. But in the end his shiny new BMV stopped at a Catholic church. The driver got out and opened the door for Shaazgai, then returned to his seat at the front.

The lawyer marched across the street and into the church.

Zack stood at the corner of the street, having stopped partially behind an old van. Ocher and him got off the bike and stuck their heads out from behind the van to watch the proceedings.

“Oh right, he’s also like very Christian or something,” Zack said. “False lead, I guess.”

Ocher nodded. “Oh, yeah, he’s definitely not Christian. He’s like, ancient Persian from what I know.”

“Ancient Persian?” Zack whistled. “He was white like sour cream in his previous… eh, body. But what do I know?”

“Yeah, don’t worry, I’m pretty new to this myself, I mean, I’ve had multiple past lives, but I still don’t know how this thing works.“ Wyatt shrugged. “Hm, I don’t suppose we should follow him in there, I’m not really sure how to blend in in a church.” He looked at his watch. “It’s 1:43 PM, so it doesn’t look like he’s going in for a mass. Do we just wait?”

Zack shrugged too. “I have nothing better to do, so we might as well.”

“Okay.” Wyatt nodded. “Anyway, back to the reincarnation thing, I’ve no idea how it works for him, but it looks like he can choose his new incarnations, which is normally not the case. But he serves a very powerful Persian god of chaos, so he might get to cut some corners like that. If he likes being a lawyer then I’m guessing it was easier for him to be white. Not sure what changed his mind now, maybe people are a bit less racist than in like… the fifties or whenever he got his previous body?” Wyatt stared at the church across the street. “Shit, now that I think of it, I’ve seen him hanging around a priest during that Halloween party. I thought that guy was just dressed as a priest, but I guess no one there would dress like that, so it might have as well been a real one.”

“Dang, do you think the priest is fake too? How many shady magic types are there in this city?!” Zack looked at the church in outrage.

Ocher mulled over on the response. At this point all Christian priests were fake as far as he knew, but he still wasn’t comfortable with telling Zack that. His dad killing God was probably a bit too much to handle for the boy, at least for now. “There’s plenty. I’m still a complete rookie around here myself, and I need to learn to somehow recognize these people, but luckily it turned out I’m friends with some already, so I’m not completely clueless anymore.”

“This is all so weird.” Zack shook his head. “The Pharaohs are really into this kind of stuff too, reincarnation, gods and all. Well, it’s mostly Sam, but Nakhti takes him seriously. Or he seems to anyway. He’s so hard to read… I never thought any of that could be real. Let alone happening right under my nose.”

“I know, right? It’s still extremely weird for me too. On the one hand, I’ve remembered about all this cosmic scale stuff, I can recall some past lives if I really focus on it, and I’m learning about the local variety of weirdos like me. On the other hand, I’m still studying geology and just a few months ago I was mostly worried about paying rent on time…” Wyatt spread his arms in a clueless gesture. “Also, speaking of your bikers, I feel obliged to tell you that Egyptian gods actually do exist, and you’ll probably do them a favor if you don’t bring them up with your dad. His disbelief cannot harm me, but it can do nasty things to the Earth’s native magic population, so to say.”

Zack whistled. “Sure. I wouldn’t want that.”

They watched the church in silence for a couple of minutes, then the teenager turned to Ocher again.

“Now that I think of it…” Zack started. “Is Dad’s passionate atheism a problem-”

“May I inquire, why on Earth are you following me?”

Wyatt and Zack both jumped. They turned around to discover the evil reincarnating lawyer standing behind them. His arms were crossed on his chest, and his expression of cold displeasure would have put the strictest teacher to shame. Even in formal wear he looked younger than Zack, but he projected an aura of authority worthy of Hector himself.

This wasn’t good. Getting caught like that hadn’t been a part of the plan. Not that there had been any plan in the first place. This whole venture was rather spontaneous. Ocher frantically looked for a plausible lie to feed to the reincarnating lawyer, but it was suddenly hard to think about the mundane after having just discussed all these odd topics.

“Oh… uh… hi Bart!” Zack chirped with an innocent smile.

The lawyer’s nostrils flared. “I told you a thousand times not to call me-” Then he cut off and stared at Zack and then Ocher in shock. He took a step back, arms to the side, as if intending to run or fight. Instead he crossed his arms again and glared at each of them in turn with open hostility. “What do you want?”

That was a good question. What did they want? Ocher stared back at the evil lawyer, and then instead of lying, stated the truth in a fit of defiance. “We want you to stay away from Hector!”

“And why exactly do you want me gone, if you would be kind enough to elaborate, Mr. Books?” The lawyer looked unimpressed.

Ocher’s mind raced. Why did he want him gone exactly? He had to think fast, this could be their only chance to ask about the malicious plans that Shaazgai was trying to put into motion. It suddenly occurred to him that he didn’t actually need to answer. It was the lawyer who needed to do some answering here.

The guardian pointed a finger at Shaazgai. “What are you up to, really? Why come back to work for him?”

The lawyer rolled his eyes. “Because I hate to leave the work I started unfinished.”

That sounded plain ominous. Ocher opened his mouth, but Shaazgai continued.

“But I don’t imagine either of you can relate, you never had a job.”

“Of course I had a… wait… what are you talking about? What unfinished work? Is it… just about lawyer stuff?”

“We won’t let you use my dad to like rule the world or something!” Zack said, bravely stepping forward.

“I don’t need your dad to rule the world. Or something.” The lawyer shook his head at Zack, then turned to Ocher. “And of course I am talking about ‘lawyer stuff’, it’s my firm’s and family’s good name on the line. I didn’t want to leave those matters hanging. But if you’re planning to go all Scooby-Doo on me for the rest of my employment, I think I’ll pass.”


“If you want me gone, fine, it’s not like I’m licensed to work yet anyway. Let amateurs botch up the ongoing lawsuits involving Hector Viteri’s enterprises. But stay on my good side, or I’ll go work for the competition,” the lawyer said venomously.

Ocher was stumped. He’d had a good threat prepared — ‘how about I ask Hector if he believes you to be reincarnating’ — or something along these lines, but at this point he hesitated to use it. He started feeling like he made a mistake in judgement. Like maybe he should be complimenting the guy instead, and asking him not to leave. Sure, the lawyer was an asshole, but from everything he said, Ocher suddenly had that sinking feeling that evil and magic or not, maybe the lawyer was really just… doing his job.

Shaazgai turned to leave.

“Oh, no, ok, we’re sorry, Mr Reincarnating Persian Sorcerer!” Zack pleaded. “Please, don’t stop working for my dad!”

The lawyer turned around, looking at them wildly. “Who told you?!”

Zack looked at Ocher.

Ocher looked at Zack. Then he realized he was supposed to be the responsible adult here and turned to scowl at Shaazgai. “Does it matter? Listen, we thought you have some malevolent sorcerous agenda, but like, if you’re just being a regular lawyer, then we’re off your case.” He hesitated. What if Shaazgai was turning the situation around, trying to scare and intimidate them to get off his case? Ocher narrowed his eyes suspiciously still and looked at the lawyer with determination — there were some things left to be clarified before they could let him off the hook. “Tell me one thing though, how does your master Armani and his plans play into all this?”

The lawyer stared at him at a loss for words.

Then he began to laugh. He laughed so hard tears formed in his eyes, and he had to lean on the van to stay on his feet. “Armani…” he groaned. “Armani. I mean, you’re not wrong!” He kept laughing.

Zack grew very red on the face. “Are you sure it’s Armani?” he asked Wyatt quietly.

Ocher frowned. He was pretty sure that’s what Hamsi told him, Armani, the Persian god of chaos… Or well… for sure he started with an ‘A’ and there was an ‘r’ and an ‘i’…

“Because Armani is that high-end fashion label, with the expensive suits…” Zack mumbled.

The lawyer managed to get his laughter under control and looked at Wyatt with a wide grin. “Figures, you’d be afraid of ‘Armani’ in those hand-me-down clothes. And here I thought you did your research. Oh, well…” He stood straight and dusted his suit jacket where it had touched the van. He gave Ocher a cool look. “I am not a ‘regular’ lawyer. I have been the best in the business for centuries. But now I’ll have to re-evaluate my arrangement with Hector, and decide how comfortable I am with this development.” He sounded less hostile now, but still looked down at them haughtily. “If you leave me in peace, I will finish consulting the actual regular lawyers, then I’ll go back to law school, as I was planning to.”

Ocher was a bit red on the face too now, but he wasn’t about to give up. The evil lawyer was clearly trying to avoid answering the question, but at the same time Wyatt had to play nice with him to cover all bases. “We’d love to and that would be amazing of you, but I can’t let you go before you answer the questions. What is your master’s plan concerning Hector?”

“My master’s plan is to replace the entire world’s population with mosquitos,” the lawyer said in a deadpan voice.

They stared at him, bewildered.

“Please! Why do you even ask? It’s not like you’ll believe anything I say on the matter-” the lawyer noticed their expressions and trailed off. “Oh, you’re taking this seriously… great.”

“Just tell us. What does he want with Hector?”

“Nothing. Nothing I’m aware of.” The lawyer shook his head, exasperated.

“Well, that’s hard to believe after the mosquitos,” Zack pointed out.

“We’re done here.” The lawyer threw his hands into the air and turned to leave.

“Wait!” Ocher protested. 

But the lawyer kept walking. At least until the sidewalk under his expensive shoes turned to quicksand.

“I said, wait.”

The lawyer swung a little, his feet suddenly trapped, but managed not to lose balance and instead turned to glare at Ocher wildly. “Let me go, you sediment-wielding nuisance!”

Ocher wilted under that glare, his bravery evaporating. “I-I will, please don’t be angry. We’re almost done, and if your master is really not involved, then I apologize and really appreciate what you do, but why Hector? Why choose to work for him in particular? And then kill yourself, knowing how that can end for you? It doesn’t make sense, explain, and we’ll bug off.”

“I have sand in my shoes!” the lawyer hissed. “That’s the part that doesn’t make sense.”

“Sorry, you were walking away…”

“Ugh!” The lawyer struggled, but could not free himself. He looked around. There was no one on their side of the street, and he was hidden from the other side by the van. He glared back at Ocher with cold fury in his blue eyes. “Hector owns half the town, working for him was interesting, and I like to take risks sometimes. But with the two of you actively meddling, that no longer sounds fun to me. Free me this instant, or I will destroy you legally.”

“I’m not meddling, I’m guarding…” Ocher grumbled, but meekly removed the sand and let the lawyer go. “I’m really sorry… Please finish that work for Hector…”

The lawyer stepped out of the sand and onto the sidewalk. He cringed as he tried to shake the sand off his shoes.

Ocher used his powers to help him until each last grain of sand was gone. He looked at the lawyer with puppy eyes.

Shaazgai stared back at him grimly. “Maybe.”

He spun around on his heels and stormed away, back towards the church.

Ocher turned to Zack majorly unsure of how to feel about the whole encounter. “Uh… this was… a mixed success I guess. What do you think?”

“Fist bump?”

“You got it.” Ocher smiled and bumped his fist into Zack’s.

 “You wanna go get a coffee or something before I drive you back home?”

“Sure but first… another fist bump? We did after all just confront the servant of darkness.”

“Oh yeah.”

* * *

During their chat over coffee the interaction with the lawyer was fully reframed as a total success, and Ocher and Zack left the café feeling pleased with themselves and carefree. Zack led the way towards his bike, then got sidetracked when he noticed kittens in the window of the pet store next door.

“Aw, hello little guys,” the teen cooed and wiggled his fingers next to the glass, watching one of the kittens try to attack him from the other side. “Dang, if I had as much money as Dad does, I’d just buy up all the cats in the world and then only give them out to good homes.” Zack snorted. “That would be the quickest and weirdest way to go bankrupt in the history of mankind.”

Wyatt laughed, “You know I’m not a businessman, so it doesn’t sound too bad to me, but what about…” He suddenly trailed off and his eyes became transfixed in something beyond Zack. He walked there like in a trance and stopped in front of another glass pane beyond which lay two small white puppies.  “…what about dogs, Zack?”

“Hm?” Zack turned to him. “What about them?” He walked over to look at the pups. “Daw, these are cute too, you’re right.”

The puppies perked up at all the attention and started wagging their little tails. One of them yawned.

“They’re like two little clouds.” Zack grinned.

Ocher kept staring at them, then turned to the teenager at his side. “Zack… I don’t know if you’re thinking what I’m thinking… but I do owe your dad two dogs…”

“Oh…” Zack looked at Ocher in surprise, then turned to look at the puppies, then at Ocher again. “Oh! You know, I like this idea. These aren’t attack dogs, but they’re still dogs, I bet he’d love them, and they wouldn’t be like… you know…” He mouthed ‘eating people’.

Wyatt looked at him in mild horror. He wasn’t entirely sure they wouldn’t be taught to do that anyway… but… “I… I guess they’re white right? It would be really impractical.” He relaxed. Then grinned. 

Yes, they were perfect.

* * *

Hector looked at the puppies for a long time. He sighed. He looked up at Wyatt, who was holding the two pups in his arms, presenting them to him. “Is this to compensate for the fact you put sand in my future lawyer’s shoes?” 

Wyatt grinned. ”That? Please, I’m rather proud of that encounter.”

Hector covered his eyes with a hand and rubbed his face, then looked at him half-tired, half-smiling. He shook his head and reached out for the dogs. “What are these? Bolognese Bichons?”

“Yep. Wow, you’re good at this. Here.” Two little fluffy clouds were deposited safely into Hector’s sizable hands.

Hector studied the puppies attentively. They wagged their little tails and tried to wiggle their way closer to him and lick his face.

“Once again, I’m really sorry about your previous dog friends. I know these can’t replace them, but I’m sure they’ll love you a whole lot.” Wyatt looked at him with a smile that grew sad and then hopeful again towards the end.

“They’re no Phobos and Deimos,” Hector said.

And like that, the smile was gone. With a pang of familiar guilt, Wyatt felt like looking at the floor but forced himself to watch Hector and the dogs instead.

Hector looked the puppies over. They were both tiny, fluffy and white. But one of them was very curly, while the other’s fur was only a little wavy. “Yes. They’re more of a… Cirrus and Cumulus.” He smiled to Wyatt. “Thanks for these localized weather phenomena, darling.”

Wyatt’s smile crawled back. He took a few steps towards Hector and hugged him tight. The delighted dogs licked both their faces.

Something fun, some of our City and the Beast characters reacting to being told “I love you!” XD

(featuring Shaazgai’s two incarnations)

And here’s a height chart someone asked for ;3!

And here are some more songs for Hector and Ocher / the Beast and the Guardian c;

1. Scissor Sisters – Invisible Light
(Hector about the Guardian)

At the doors of Babylon, you are my Zion,
Pacing tiger, the keeper’s cage,
Invisible light shoots from your eyes,
A sign I can see from my high rise,

Another castle crumbles, another monkey falls,
Just open up your joy and let the sailors climb the walls,
I thought I saw you laughing ten feet in the air,
It doesn’t matter if they touch you, where they cut you, can you give me…

An invisible light, An invisible light uh-oh,
An invisible light, An invisible light uh-oh,
An invisible light, An invisible light uh-oh,
An Invisible light, An invisible light to keep me alive oh,
looking for the tension
I can feel it with the fingers in my mind…

Opiate Utopia is hotter by the hour,
I found you a flower in a field,
My invention, among the tired, among the poor,
Among the broken, the huddled masses,
It’s your time…

You answer to a new name that changes all the time,
I’ll call you anything you want if I can say it’s mine.
This story’s never ending.
My footprint’s been erased.
Here you are, I kiss your feelings
I see your mouth, Or is it really…

An invisible light, An invisible light uh-oh,
An invisible light, An invisible light uh-oh,
An invisible light, An invisible light uh-oh,
An invisible light, An invisible light to keep me alive oh,
Something really gets dimension,
Can’t you feel it bend your sense of time…

2. Sam Sparro – Black and Gold
(The Guardian about the Beast)

If the fish swam out of the ocean
And grew legs and they started walking
And the apes climbed down from the trees
And grew tall and they started talking

And the stars fell out of the sky
And the tears rolled into the ocean
And now I’m looking for a reason why
You even set my world into motion

Cause if you’re not really here
Then the stars don’t even matter
Now I’m filled to the top with fear
That it’s all just a bunch of matter

Cause if you’re not really here
Then I don’t want to be either
I wanna be next to you
Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold

I look up into the night sky
And see a thousand eyes staring back
And all around these golden beacons
I see nothing but black

I feel a weight of something beyond them
I don’t see what I can feel
If vision is the only validation
Then most of my life isn’t real

Cause if you’re not really here
Then the stars don’t even matter
Now I’m filled to the top with fear
But it’s all just a bunch of matter

Cause if you’re not really here
Then I don’t want to be either
I wanna be next to you
Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold

I wanna be next to you
Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold

3. Scissor Sisters – Sex and Violence
(Hector about Wyatt)

Oh, I need a witness to see the mess I’ve made
There’s a broken lampshade, ashtrays, burnt floors, beds unmade
Are you sleeping, if you are, do you dream of what I’m doing
To you, undo you, I’m through with you until I need a round of
Every time I spend myself it never runs too low,
I can’t escape my need for

Sex and violence
Never meant you see them hand in hand
One is with the other
The softest touches, deeper than the ocean
Give it to me faster, feel it, feel it

Sex and violence
Who is gonna make you cry?
(Sex and violence)
Sex and violence
Who is gonna make you cry?
(Sex and violence)

Oh, I was a real man stealing all the trade
I was strong and self-made, well-paid, so groomed, persuasive
You were walking home that night, too kind to be elusive
Where do you live? What do you give? Who are you with?
And how you getting home?
Does everybody know right now exactly where you are?
Step inside’s a step too far but

Sex and violence
Hit me with a lover, burns so bright
And one is just the other
Sweetest tastes, never gonna leave you
Even when it hurts you, breathe it, breathe it

Sex and violence…