Ocher sat as far away from Hector as he thought he could afford, and hugged onto a large bowl of popcorn. When Hector asked him if he wanted some, the thief wasn’t sure at first, but since his hesitation was taken for a ‘yes’, he ended up with something he could chew on other than his nails.
It was their third ‘date’ and somewhat unexpectedly the Man proposed that they watch a movie on VHS together. Wyatt agreed, because watching a movie meant there would be no talking, and that was a much wanted change, after the two previous sessions of only seemingly mutual interrogation. He also agreed because he had no guts to say ‘no’ to the crime boss who had threatened to kill all his friends, his family and then him, in that order.
They were watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, a movie that Ocher had seen in the theater a few years ago but lied convincingly that he hadn’t. Hector hadn’t watched the movie, so they agreed it was a great option for the evening. Ocher’s familiarity with the plot let his thoughts drift away into dark places and dwell on alternate scenarios of how his life could have turned out if it weren’t for this or that. The key item of his deliberations was how he could have saved his skin that fateful night without declaring himself the Man’s boyfriend. He also gave some thought to the notion of time travel, wishing to turn back time, and maybe handcuff himself to the radiator back at home, which would surely prevent him from somehow sleepwalking across the whole bloody town and climbing into Hector’s window on that blackest of Fridays.
Wyatt would have gladly given himself completely to the contemplation of the travesty that was his life, as was becoming one of his favourite pastimes in recent days, but Hector’s hearty laughter at the depictions of deadly traps, fights and shootouts was pulling him back to Earth in regular intervals. In the end, Wyatt tried to stop thinking and just watched the movie, nodding at Hector’s remarks, smiling his practiced smile of happy misery and stuffing his face with popcorn.
It was going quite well, one hour and ten minutes in, when Hector put an arm around Wyatt’s shoulder. There was no fake stretching or sneaky movements. The man just embraced Wyatt with one arm and pulled him closer together with the popcorn, on which the sandy haired thief almost choked.
Wyatt had been long bracing himself for something like that, but it still took him completely by surprise. As he sat still and wide-eyed in Hector’s arms, he didn’t blame himself. He supposed being affectionately hugged by a murderous gangster during an Indiana Jones movie would have that funny effect on other men too. He even knew why Hector had chosen this moment to hug him; on screen a lady just fell off a statue into Harrison Ford’s arms. Regretfully, unlike her, Wyatt couldn’t tell the Man to get his hands off of him. However, just like the protagonists of the movie, he did feel like he was in the pit full of snakes. He looked up at Hector carefully, and managed to blink at last.
Hector smiled at him.
“Quite an amusing flick, isn’t it?” he asked. “I don’t get to watch movies too often. But this seems like quality entertainment. Burning people, snakes, tombs, gun fights. My son would love it.”
Oh yes, Hector Viteri had a son. There had been barely a few mentions of him in the newspapers, but from the way Hector put it, he must have been a young psycho murderer.
“That’s really nice.” Wyatt smiled back like there was no tomorrow. He felt that this automatic smiling in the face of danger might become something he’d have to see a doctor about if he survived.
Held by the Man’s muscular arm, he resigned himself to looking back at the screen, where knotted black tangles of snakes were reassuringly slithering out of the mouths of the bas reliefs of ancient Egyptians.
⚞ ¥ ⚟
The small tattoo parlor was crowded. All the waiting chairs were taken, turned to face the master and her only client. Yen lay on his stomach, his head propped on a pillow. Now and then he bit his knuckles, grimacing with pain as the artist worked on his lower back. A black outline of a winged scarab was slowly emerging on the reddened skin above his slightly bared buttocks.
“So, let me get this straight, honey…” the artist started, eliciting a snicker from the onlookers. “Is there some complex reason for why you’re getting this tattooed right next to your butt? Other than that a dung beetle being strangely fitting in that place.”
“It’s a scarab!” Yen protested sharply, more out of pain than indignation. “Ouch… It’s a Pharaohs thing, Stella. Egypt! Death, rebirth, the whole shebang, ow, ow, ow…” Yen bit his knuckle and hissed. “It’s also tied to the fact this year I am finally fucking free of highschool, which is like coming back from the dead. Ow.”
“Mhm,” she murmured with understanding. “I see you’re really going deep with that meaning there.”
“Nakhti’s the one who’s gonna be going deep there.” Yen smirked, nodding to where his boyfriend and the rest of the bikers sat watching the spectacle.
Nakhti rolled his eyes but returned the smirk.
“Well I’m sure hoping you don’t mean today. Trust me honey, you don’t wanna be touching that place a lot after I’m done with you.”
“Don’t tell me how to live my life, Stella. Maybe I’m into that.” Yen moaned.
The door to the tattoo parlor opened, and Josie slipped in. Her eyes were done with Egyptian eyeliner just like the other bikers’, but unlike the guys, she also wore gold eyeshadow on her dark skin. Her hair was arranged in cornrows and interwoven with blue and yellow ribbons. Josie was petit, but she came carrying six paper cups of iced coffee with the skill of an experienced waitress, which she actually was. She put the first one within the tattoo artist’s reach. “Here’s one for you, Stella.”
“Mhmph.” Yen took his coffee with his free hand.
“Nakhti, Sam, here you go.” The two men accepted their coffees.
Josie walked over to the last of the spectators in the room and carefully climbed into her lap. “And here’s one for you, sugarplum,” she said, handing one of the two remaining cups to Tamika, the taller, likewise dark-skinned woman, who hugged her with one arm.
“Yen, it’s good you’re not lying with your arse towards the window,” Josie remarked.
“Why is that?” Yen asked, offended. “Are you implying my ass is not worthy to be on display?”
“It’s too skinny for my tastes, and you know that. What I’m getting at is — the rich kid is back, and he’s staring at us from across the street like a hungry pup.”
“Oh well, so much for us hoping we’d never see him again.” Tamika sighed. Her lips were done in two colors of lipstick, blue and yellow, matching the Egytian eye-shadows and Josie’s looks. “He must have simply been away on some holiday. At a luxury resort abroad or something. Wonder if he flew there in a private jet?”
“Did he give you any trouble?” Nakhti looked at Josie in a way that suggested he was ready to leave the butt-watching and resort to mild verbal or physical violence if necessary.
“Oh, not at all. I seemed to trouble him if anything. He’s sitting at a table with a cup of ice cream, hiding behind a newspaper. It all looks extra ridiculous with that designer leather get-up he’s sporting today.”
Sam, who remained silent throughout the exchange as was his usual manner when not one-on-one with Yen, moved closer to a window and peeked out. Then he exchanged a look with Nakhti and nodded. “Still there.”
Nakhti didn’t even spare a glance. He shrugged. “Let him look. I don’t suppose he’s got x-ray vision anyway. And if he as much as lays a finger on anyone’s bike, I’m going to have a nice chat with him.”
Stella looked up from Yen’s butt, giving the poor soul a breather. This was going to take a few more hours. “You’ve got yourself some stalker, eh?”
“Just some rich brat, bored out of his mind,” Tamika explained. “He started following us a couple months back, never really came near, except the very first day when he made a complete fool of himself. We’ve seen him being picked up by a limo a few times since. He’s quite clearly not our kind, but he’s always dressed up like he’s got an invisible bike of his own parked around the corner.”
“Yeah, but he ain’t even got a bike. Rich mommy and daddy won’t buy baby a metal pony, wah,” Yen mocked. “His parents would probably get a collective stroke if they knew their precious son was spending his time on town tailing a bunch of rebellious fairies like us.”
Josie and Tamika laughed in approval, Sam nodded. And Nakhti just looked as brooding as usual. But that didn’t bother Yen. In fact, it only deepened his conviction — the gloomy hunky Egyptology buff was totally worth the giant beetle tattoo.
Indiana and his lover headed offscreen for a drink. The crate with the Ark was being rolled through a large hangar full of other top secret items. But all Wyatt could think of was Hector’s earlier remark that the Nazis burned and melted unrealistically. He couldn’t make himself eat another flake of popcorn since.
The credits were rolling, theme music was playing. Wyatt felt Hector shift.
“That was fun, darling. We should do this again. Perhaps with a larger screen.” Hector put the mostly empty bowl of popcorn away and pulled Wyatt closer by the waist.
Wyatt felt his heart racing in his chest, as the bowl he kept in his lap was removed rendering him exposed and with nothing safe to clutch onto. “Oh, yes, it was great… but an even larger screen, really? Do they even make bigger ones?” he tried to quickly create a protective layer of words between them.
“I mean the movies,” Hector said. Wyatt found himself even closer to the man. Hector’s other hand came up to caress the side of his face. “Would you like that? To start dating for real?”
Wyatt distinctly heard the funeral march begin to play in his head over the Indiana Jones theme song. “F-for real? I… I don’t think I deserve so much of your attention… I don’t even-”
“Let me be the judge of that, darling.” Hector leaned in closer. His hand cupped the side of Wyatt’s face. “The question is, do you want this?”
The thief felt his stomach turn. Hector sounded like he wanted an honest reply. Which meant that he could just say no, right? Somehow turn it all around. So what that he’d been playing the Man for three weeks. Hector seemed to like him. And he was so merry today, he laughed at every person dying on-screen.
Do I want this? Wyatt found himself rehearsing their break-up. Hm, now that you actually asked, I’m afraid I really don’t, you know? What a curious misunderstanding; I actually never meant to climb into your window, I just sleepwalked in there, funny, right? Those things, they just happen. And by the way, I’m not your number one fan. In fact, I didn’t know anything about you before we met. You’re not really good-looking, you’re just terrifying. I hear your voice in my nightmares, if that flatters you. But no, no, I didn’t want to lie to you, I was just scared for my life, and so I played along. I’m sorry Mr. Viteri, but I also need to confess that I like boobs, I liked them all along. But you like boobs too, so all is good between us, and there’s no need to change that, right? So can we just laugh it off and forget everything? I’m sure in a couple of years we can look back on this and joke about it.
In front of his wide open eyes, Wyatt saw the melting faces of the villains, who opened the Ark but didn’t agree to date it for real.
Hector’s face was bare inches away from his.
The Nazis screamed as their melted eyes flowed down their faces. Yet not quite as realistically as Wyatt’s eyes would if he disagreed.
“Y-yes…” he whispered faintly. “I’d love to.”
Hector kissed him.
Wyatt froze in terror. He had no idea what to do. He had never kissed a man before. Girls, yes, that happened several, well, a few, well more like one time. But then the initiative was mostly his. And he was a willing participant.
Now he found himself just staring at Hector, who had his eyes closed. Wyatt expected to feel disgust, but all he felt was sheer, gut-wrenching terror. The man didn’t need dogs, guns or fire to kill him. Hector pulled him closer, and Wyatt felt those arms alone could shatter every single bone in his body. The Man would probably not even break a sweat.
The kiss itself was surprisingly gentle. All Hector did was peck him, like they did in older movies. The few romantic scenes they just witnessed were depraved in comparison. Still, the sensation of stubble brushing against his face was a horrid reminder of the reality of his predicament. Wyatt shuddered. But that only encouraged the Man.
The credits rolled on and on. The theme music kept playing. Hector’s fingers sunk into the fabric of his shirt. Hands slid over his back and waist, feeling him, clawing him gently. Like a beast playing with its prey. Hector pressed another kiss against his lips. Wyatt desperately tried to relax, but the invasive touch made him flinch.
“My Wyatt,” Hector purred against his lips.
Wyatt wanted to cry, to disappear. To wake up. Or die. No. No. He wanted to live. He wanted nothing else than to survive this. He didn’t want to be Hector’s, but this was still nothing compared to being packed in a sports bag, he had to always remember that.
He tried to hold onto that happy thought. And yet he couldn’t take it, that rumbling voice purring his name. He had to stop this ‘my Wyatt’ thing before it got out of hand. He shut his eyes as he mustered courage. Not a lot of it. Just a speck, a grain. “Hector…” his lips were trembling. “C-can I ask for something?”
“Of course.” Hector withdrew a little to have a better look at him.
When he no longer felt the other’s breath on his lips, Wyatt opened his eyes, praying that there were no tears in them. “Y-you see, I’ve had this little dream of mine… it’s probably too silly… but when I was imagining this day, I-I always dreamt that when we’re alone like this, just you and I… that you’d call me by my thief name. ‘Ocher’…”
Disassociate as much as you can. Survive, and find a way out. Probably move out of the country, evacuate your entire family, finish your studies abroad, get a real job, a girlfriend, see a doctor about the sleepwalking problem so that doesn’t repeat, and never lie to anyone again in your life.
“Do you think you could call me that, from now on, when we are… you know-“
“Sure. My Ocher,” Hector purred again. He brushed Wyatt’s lower lip with his thumb and leaned in for another kiss. But Ocher was not ready for this. Not yet. Not ever again.
Ocher had no idea what to tell him. He had no thought in mind, he just stopped Hector for the sake of stopping him. He glanced at the TV for help but the credits stopped rolling and the screen went black like his world. Then the Paramount logo appeared on the screen, shedding a sudden ray of hope and inspiration. As the glow of the TV screen played on their faces and everything around them went quiet, Wyatt looked Hector in the eyes and said softly. “Did you know that tectonic plates the continents rest on move one to two inches every year? The Atlantic Ocean widens a whole meter each year as the plates under it spread apart and create new crust.”
It gave Hector a pause. “I… didn’t know that, darling. It’s very interesting.”
Then, he kissed Ocher anyway.
The rooms of the priest’s house were candle-lit and shrouded with wisps of smoke from burning incense, just as they had been the week before when the lawyer first paid him a visit. They did not meet this way too often in recent years, but once in a while it was beneficial to rekindle their old business acquaintance.
Blaise sat in the armchair in his study, waiting. The eyes of the forgotten idols on the shelves and walls around him seemed to glow in a haze of smoke and flickering light. Shaazgai was running fashionably late. Blaise could forgive him that. What was fifteen minutes in the face of eternity?
Eventually, he heard a car come to a stop outside. Soon after the doorbell rang. He rose from the armchair, and stepped out of his study and into the hallway. He opened the door to reveal the city’s top lawyer. Shaazgai was wearing an expensive suit, as he usually did these days. He had always been fond of formal wear and expensive garments. Some things just didn’t change.
“Traffic,” Shaazgai said, then stepped inside without waiting for an invitation. “Good evening.”
“Your love for cars is your own undoing. Welcome back,” the priest smirked and closed the door behind him. He turned the lock.
“I see you’ve got the ambience for our meetings all worked out. The incense in particular is a fine touch.”
“I know what you like. Although I am aware you find the current state of the world pleasing, I think we both enjoy a touch of the past.”
“That we do,” the lawyer purred. “I do miss the mysticism sometimes. But I will take air conditioning over it anyday.”
“I wouldn’t second that. There have been plenty of ways to deal with the weather even before.”
Shaazgai’s brows furrowed ever so slightly. “Those were too much trouble for my taste.” For a moment the lawyer got a haunted look in his eyes, then it was gone, replaced by the usual cool, collected air.
It did not escape the priest’s attention, but Blaise did not press the matter. “Would you care for a drink? I have a bottle of sacramental wine waiting for us, but also some finer vintage if you would prefer.”
“Sacramental is fine, ‘father’.” Shaazgai snorted. “The irony is much more delicious than the spirit is.”
Blaise poured them both wine, and they settled down in armchairs in the living room lit only by wavering candlelight.
“So, how is your nosy reporter doing after the dementia praecox we concocted together last week?”
“Oh, she’s quite perfectly out of my face.” Shaazgai waved a hand elegantly. “But it is called schizophrenia these days. You should make an effort to keep up with the times. At least in word if not deed. Dementia praecox, honestly…”
“Bah, I know, I know.” The priest gestured in defeat. “I suppose the last time I heard it spoken must have been around 1962.”
“Everything is 1962 with you, always.”
Blaise winced. “And that is for a reason. That year was the beginning of the end. It would not be an understatement to say that 1961 was the last good year.”
“Oh please, there have been many good years after that, and so many more to come.” Shaazgai smirked condescendingly. For him 1961 had been just another year. Not so much for Blaise. It was always the same old song with him — new things bad, old things good. But the lawyer felt like a benevolent god tonight. If the priest needed to vent, so be it. “But I can see you disagree. Let’s hear it then.”
Blaise frowned. His lips pursed into a thin line. Then finally, he spoke.
“You know my thoughts on Vatican II. I will never get over what they did to the mass. They murdered it, and I do not suppose it is ever coming back from the dead. Liberalization is not the way to go with the Christian faith. What these rites needed was to be made more complicated once more, not simplified. There has to be the mystery and wonder. The church needs to drip with gold and smell of incense. The gargoyles looking down upon those who enter need to put a bounce in their steps, to herd them in quicker. The common man needs to feel the presence and the magnitude of God in there. He needs to fear God and constantly think about hell that awaits his immortal soul should he not fear enough. It shouldn’t be up to the priest to convince everyone that there even is a god, or quarrel about how the gospel should be interpreted.” The priest shook his head, disapprovingly. “There needs to be a distance between the priests and the populace. The priest needs to talk directly to God in a language unknown to the common man so that the man. Meanwhile, the churches are becoming less and less ornate and during Vatican II they let the vernacular languages repress Latin. The common man, who is on average, regrettably, an imbecile, can now understand everything that is said, but he still does not comprehend it, and so he asks questions. Hundreds of idiotic questions. This was a horrible, truly dreadful mistake.” The disapproval on Blaise’s face had morphed into sheer disgust. He drank some wine, then shook his head. “I should have joined with the Lefebvrists for the peace of mind, but there’s far less faith to go around there. But really? Turning the priest around and forcing him to face the congregation? No shepard should be facing his lambs when he leads them to God, unless he is walking backwards.”
Shaazgai sipped his wine, watching the priest with amusement rather than sympathy. He nodded along. “I agree on most things, the dripping with gold in particular. But would you REALLY prefer to face away from ME?”
Blaise gave him a tired look. “Fine. You are gorgeous. A safe haven among the sea of eyesores.”
“That’s right.” Shaazgai combed his fingers through his pale gold hair and offered a seductive smile. “However, the sixties did have some merit to them. 1964 brought us the Ford Mustang. Oh, and it was conceived in 1962, so it clearly wasn’t an entirely bad year.”
“It also brought the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Shaazgai continued. “We almost had a nuclear war. Back to the stones and sticks, a clean slate. An exciting year, no?”
The priest shook his head and drank some more.
“And the two big assassinations in one decade don’t do it for you either?”
Blaise just looked at him with a blank deadpan face.
“I see… What about 1961? The Jaguar XK-E was introduced, good times…” The lawyer sighed dreamily, picturing his multi storey garage.
The priest said nothing and raised the glass to his lips again.
Shaazgai laughed. “Seriously? Nothing moves you. I even went back to your ‘last good year’, and you just don’t care. Admit it, it’s not the Vatican paradigm shift, you just don’t have good years anymore.”
“That is not true.” Blaise spoke up at last. “1952 was pretty good. Busy, but good.”
“See? It doesn’t even matter, if you are walking backwards, there is no one to bump into anymore. And it’s all courtesy of my favorite client.” Shaazgai leered, then grew thoughtful. “He would probably feel very proud of that one murder if he only knew.”
But they both knew they could not bring it up with Hector.
They looked at each other for a moment and drank more wine. Shaazgai was the first one to break the silence. “By the by, I hear you’ve been buying a lot of death ward ingredients. That’s unlike you. Not worried about Hector, are you? Death wards would be useless there. So it’s something else… Is some bishop about to croak that you want to keep going?”
“And who might you be hearing that from, because if it’s our common suppliers then I might want to purchase something to tie their tongues next time.” The priest looked at the lawyer suspiciously. “But yes, it is business related, though more of a supply chain thing. A simple assurance that things keep going smoothly.”
“Oh…” The lawyer’s expression lit up. “It’s about that new errand boy of yours, isn’t it? Not enough survival instinct in that one, huh?”
“I hoped you wouldn’t pinpoint the issue exactly, but ah well, yes, it is somewhat of a problem.” Blaise admitted. “Yet, I’ve grown so tired of meeting with my customers face to face that I had to get a go-between. He really does the job decently. But why have you been inquiring about death wards, hm?”
Shaazgai smirked. “Touché. It’s a similar concern, actually. My new body is a little too much into extreme sports. Or, well, its current occupant is.” The lawyer scoffed. “Teenagers. Always trying to kill themselves, never when you want them to.”
“I see. Mine is past being a teenager, but he doesn’t seem to appreciate the potential consequences of working for me, as well as of some other, more mundane actions. He is a biker you see, and I do not mean a cyclist.”
“Biker, huh? Sounds rough. Mine likes mountain skiing. I am not sure what is worse.” The lawyer shook his head. “I appreciate your plight, old friend. And as a sympathetic gesture, let me offer you my assistance, should the need arise. In matters of law or otherwise.”
“Is that a favor that you’re offering? Because if you are, let it be known that I graciously accept.”
“Yes, and I would like a favor in return, of course. Nothing immediate, but you know how it is, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. The usual.”
“Of course. Nothing for free in this world or next. An exchange then.” The priest pondered for a moment. “Very well. I accept.”
“Good. We have a deal then.” The lawyer let the words sink in, then moved onto other topics.
They talked about things gone by and of things to come. Shaazgai spoke at length about his current wicked ventures and promising opportunities he was yet planning to seize. Blaise listened and offered a comment every now and then. Once they were done discussing the past and the future, there came the time to make the most of the present.
As they walked upstairs together, Shaazgai’s expression grew somber again. But this time he finally decided to share what was gnawing at him. “Have you seen any signs of our common… acquaintance?”
Blaise scrutinized him. He’s already figured that was the unspoken question that the lawyer was holding back ever since their last meeting. Shaazgai was turning forty this year. It was time.
“No.” Blaise shook his head. “I’m afraid I have not. Are you planning to take any measures?”
“Nothing in particular. I’ve had a concealed carry permit for some time now. I’ll just keep a gun on my person.” Shaazgai shrugged.
“I know that last time did not go as we expected, but rest assured, this time he will come for me instead of you.”
“I appreciate your attempts to lure him in, but he did not fall for it last time. And he might be getting too smart to fall for another trick. I’m keeping the gun. Better safe than sorry.”
Blaise nodded. “I suppose a precaution doesn’t hurt. But imagine the possibilities if it was as finding him first for a change?”
“Oh, that would be too good. I’d like to give that vengeful spirit a piece of my mind.” Shaazgai glared ahead. “Not that I want to ever grow old, unlike some, but I wouldn’t mind living till I’m at least forty-five without having to worry about being brutally murdered.”
“We will find a way to get rid of him eventually, as I promised once.” Blaise embraced him in reassurance as they reached the upper floor. “Try not to think about him.”
“You’re right. There’s nothing to be done for now…” Shaazgai sighed. “Oh well. Better make the most of it.” He pulled Blaise towards himself and kissed him invitingly.
The priest held him close as he reciprocated the kiss and then pressed the lawyer into a wall, letting a greedy spark of lilac show in his eyes.
There was a rapping sound from the window.
They ignored it. Shaazgai’s hands gripped the fabric of Blaise’s black shirt as he hungrily kissed the priest, looking to forget his troubles in carnal delights.
The rapping repeated. Only this time it was more of a banging.
Shaazgai, who was facing towards the window, tensed in Blaise’s arms, then pushed the priest away, eyes wide with shock and outrage.
“What in the name of…” The lawyer gaped at the window with a disgusted grimace. “Do you often have people mooning you through your upper floor windows? Or should we call the police?”
Blaise followed his eyes, to the window at the end of the corridor the view from which was currently obstructed by two shapely buttocks. A hand in a fingerless glove rapped on the window again, and Yen’s grinning face appeared to the side of his naked arse.
Blaise’s expression did not falter. “Let me handle this.” He walked to the window, cracking it open just a bit. “We did not have an appointment tonight, Yen. When I lock the door, it is for a reason.”
“No shit, with neighbors like yours I’d barricade for the night. Anyway, check out this sweet tattoo I got with your money.” Yen pointed towards his backside and pulled his t-shirt up to give Blaise a better look at the scarab.
”I have already ‘checked it out’ through the window, believe me. I promise I will scrutinize it later. Now please pull your trousers up. I have a guest, as you can see, and we would both appreciate it if you haunted the rooftops naked elsewhere tonight.”
“Oh, Daddy, I had no idea you were such a social butterfly. My bad. Did Big Money McDollarface jog to you or something? I didn’t see a car in the driveway.”
“He has a chauffeur. Goodnight, Yen. Go home and… wait is this tattoo from today? You shouldn’t have taken the bandage off yet. Ah, no matter. Wash gently with soapy water, and drop by tomorrow, I will give you a great balm. And now get off my roof!” Blaise shut the window and drew the curtains closed. He turned back to Shaazgai. “I apologize-”
“Goodnight, Daddy! Fuck him well!” came Yen’s muffled farewell.
Shaazgai looked like he had just run over a skunk with one of his favorite cars. “I haven’t had my mood killed this way since they abolished slavery. Is this your courier?! The one you are wasting death wards on?”
“Why yes, the very same. Like I mentioned, he does the job well, but he’s still young, and overly enthusiastic about certain things.”
“Enthusiastic doesn’t begin to describe it.” Shaazgai cringed. “It’s good you put that death ward on him, I am getting so jumpy I almost reached for my gun.”
“Oh good grief… Can I trust you not to kill my courier, please?”
Shaazgai looked unnerved, then sighed. “Alright, I suppose that’s a reasonable request.”
“Splendid. Now that that is settled, apologies once more for the full moon. I will make sure this does not happen again, but I had no way of predicting this even if I had cast bones last night.”
Shaazgai rubbed his eyes. “Yes, I wouldn’t have expected a ‘full moon’ to mean that even if it did occur in my own divinations.” He sighed and ran a hand through his voluminous blond hair. “Very well, apologies accepted.”
“Shall we continue then?” Blaise beckoned towards the bedroom.
Shaazgai narrowed his eyes. “Yes. But I’ll need more wine first.”
⚞ ¥ ⚟
“Hey you, biker, shoo!”
Yen turned towards the familiar voice in the dark, eyes preemptively narrowed, saving him from being blinded when a flashlight burst to life, aimed at his face. Blaise’s vigilant elderly neighbor was at it again.
“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Yen cringed. “I’m already leaving. Enough with the lightshow. Shouldn’t you be asleep at this hour, gramps?”
“You better leave, punk, or I’m calling the cops. I am not afraid of you.”
“Well, at least we’ve already established I’m not stealing my own bike,” Yen snorted.
“What is that? Are you stealing that bike?”
“No. Goddamnit, no, I am not, I thought we got over this last time,” Yen grumbled, walking his motorbike away as fast as he could.
“Then why are you rolling it around instead of riding it?” The neighbor exclaimed angrily, making Yen groan in frustration. “Kids these days, dressing like Satanists, walking motorbikes at night instead of walking dogs! This is a good neighborhood, we don’t want your kind here! I’ll let you go this first time, but if I ever see you snooping around again, I will call the cops!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Yen rolled his eyes.
If this encounter was any indication, their every meeting was going to be a first one.