Nain was on the way home after he and Stone finished cleaning up a mess in Hamtramck. Warlocks, this time, unleashing their powers on their Normal neighbors, out in the open as if there wasn’t fucking National Guard swarming over the city. He walked. Gas had been the first thing to run out. They’d made do, driving out to the suburbs at first. Now, power was out in most of the near suburbs. Shit was bad.
He heard a flapping overhead, and looked up just as Eunomia swooped down and landed a few feet away from him. He watched the Guardian. He didn’t know her well. He knew that she was one of Molly’s closest friends, one of the few beings from the Nether who hadn’t been an absolute piece of shit. From what Ada had said, E had been a big help in bringing Molly back to herself after he’d died.
Eunomia and Brennan, of course. Fucking Brennan.
He took a breath, determined not to think about it. He wasn’t going to make a fool of himself over someone who didn’t want him, and there was bigger shit going on.
“Want a lift, demon?” E asked, looking up at him.
“Nah. I can hear problems if I’m walking.”
“It’s a long walk home,” she said, falling into step beside him.
He shrugged. “Not like I have anything better to do.”
They walked in silence for a while. “You’re angry with the shifter,” she said after a while.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he growled, then forced himself to calm down. “It’s done,” he said a few seconds later, in a milder tone.
She put a slim hand on his lower arm, stopped him in his tracks. “You were not meant for her. You know this.”
“The Fates? Is that what we’re talking about? Because I don’t have any fucking respect–”
She shook her head. “This has nothing to do with Fates, or prophecy, or anything else. I saw the two of you together. And I saw her and the shifter together. She came alive near him. She glowed. She–”
“I don’t need to hear this,” he said, and stalked away, shaking her hand off of his arm.
“Yes, you do,” she said, flying now, hovering near him. “You need to let her go.”
“I have. Not like I had a choice in the matter.”
“He loved her first. And you know it,” she said.
He growled. Wanted to swat her away like an annoying fly.
“Really. He should hate you. His best friend, who knew he loved her, and pursued her anyway? What a jerk you are, demon.” He ignored her, and she kept fluttering by his side as he walked. “And then, what did you do? You lied to her and put her through hell. You’re lucky he doesn’t rip you apart. He wanted to, for a long time.”
He kept walking. “I died for her,” he said after a while.
“You are only fooling yourself if you believe that. You died for revenge on your enemy. Your dying helped her get stronger, so thank you for that.”
“What the fuck does it even matter to you?”
“It matters because she’s my friend, and she is good. She’s bad when she has to be. Terrifying, cruel. But every single thing she does, she does because she’s trying to save someone. Everyone but herself. And she’s been like that her whole life.” She flew next to him for a while in silence. “She wouldn’t want this wall between you and the shifter. She’s made her choice.”
“I’m back now. And she’s not here to choose.”
She laughed, and it irritated him. “Do you really think there’s a choice to be made? How often did she smile when you were together? How often did she laugh? How often did you think only of her and her happiness?”
He kept walking. She wasn’t saying anything he hadn’t already thought.
“You don’t know her, demon. Not her soul, not her deepest fears or most cherished wishes,” she said, and there was a gentleness in her voice that made him finally look over at her.
“And he does? Is that what you’re saying?”
“What do you think?” They stood still, and Nain watched the Guardian.
“Why are you doing this now?”
She took a breath. “Because I have to believe she is coming back. And when she does, she’ll arrive to find that her world has been ripped apart. She deserves to at least be allowed to be happy with her mate when she fights her way back here.” She looked up at him again. “You have been through a lot. She’s been through so much more. And he…” she shook her head.
“You saw what they did to him,” she said softly. “You were with him when they tortured him.”
“Yeah,” he still saw it every time he looked at Brennan. All the blood. The way he refused to scream or beg, no matter what they did.
“Think about this, demon. They had him for a day. They had you for almost a year. They could have done anything to you in that time. When they had both of you, which one did they decide to hurt when things started going badly for them?”
“Him,” he said quietly.
“Have you considered why?”
“Because hurting him would punish her,” he answered. “She’d be pissed off if they hurt me. But hurting him…yeah. That would be the way to hurt her, get to her.”
“They knew it. They can feel it. I can feel it, when they’re together. Even when they’re not. And you know as well as I do, that all things being equal, the two of you would not have managed forever.”
He grunted, started walking again. “I know,” he said after a while. “I know everything you’re saying. I’m just pissed off. She was mine.”
“And demons are possessive idiots, I know,” she said, and there was humor in her voice.
“Was she really that bad after I died?”
“She wanted to die. She didn’t even speak for weeks. She blamed herself. The demon bond is a frightening thing, even in the best of times. You should never have made it.”
“I know,” he said quietly.
“She didn’t know what it meant, other than the words you gave her,” she continued.
“I know,” he said, more loudly.
They walked in silence for a while. “She is so strong. One of the most powerful beings I have ever known, and I have lived my life among the gods. But there is a lost little girl in there, one who wants to believe. It’s what makes her good. It’s also what puts her in danger so often,” Eunomia said, almost to herself.
“I took advantage of that,” he said.
She didn’t answer right away. “You’re but one of many,” she said after a few moments had passed.
“He hasn’t,” he said.
“No. He wouldn’t.” Then she glanced over at him. “He knows that broken little girl inside of her is the source of her undying need to help, to fix things. If that piece of her is lost, the world will bleed and she will be what everyone fears she could be. And he’s the only one, ever, who’s focused on protecting her that way. It’s in his nature to protect, to nurture. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for her, and she for him. They are beautiful together,” she said.
They walked in silence for a long time, the cold black night surrounding them. “Thanks, E,” he said, finally.
She nudged his arm with her elbow. “Thank you for not being stupid and unreasonable about it. You and the shifter need to work together. You need to move on. You deserve to be happy, too.”
“But not with her,” he said.
“No. Not with her,” she agreed, and they walked on.
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