Veronica listened for the sounds coming from the living room for second hour in a row. The sofa wasn’t that comfortable, but she figured it was big enough to him and his wings. It was one of the odd things Robert had bought for her mother, when his business had gone better – a chillingly modern huge lounging sofa so his mom could enjoy the future. The reality, however, proved him wrong for the woman refused to sit on it, describing it to be as big as her old apartment and too uncomfortable for her antiquated backside. Which always confused Veronica, because she couldn’t remember ever hearing about Isilia living anywhere aside this old farm. She thought her ex-mother-in-law had inherited the place without ever leaving there. Robert refused to take it away, for he’d paid a lot of money for it, and she refused to sit on it, covering it up with all the scarfs she could find in the household.
But now, listening him creating his own version of wheel in there, she wanted nothing more to toss that thing out. It didn’t squeak, but each time Bascun turned on it, it shifted and moved and it was very loud in otherwise quiet house.
She let out an exasperated sigh. The man needed to sleep! She doubted he’d got any sitting in the corner of the library, waiting to be discovered by the guard. Then why wasn’t he sleeping now? He should be exhausted!
She pushed the blanket off, regretting loosing the warmth of it, but him going turbine wasn’t helping her to sleep. It was a quirk of hers whenever she visited the place. Being with someone, who could pass away while you were asleep kind of did that, made you aware of every sound around you, or lack of it. She didn’t fear it, thinking it would make her only sad like any other passing of a close one, but she still preferred to deal with it on her own terms, like moving in the room with her, or offering vigil.
Be as it may, Isilia was far from leaving her life as it was and Bascun was driving her nuts with the constant rolling.
She patted through the bedroom, quietly opened the door and sneaked over the living room floor to the back of the sofa. She peeked over it, her heart thrumming so loud she was sure she herself would wake him up.
Bascun had folded his arms over his chest while he’d settled on his right side, his head resting on pillow. His lower half was covered with the blanket she’d offered, but it was too short and his long feet reached far off from the gigantic sofa. He’d taken off his boots together with the socks and she stared at the odd-looking toes that kept curling and relaxing as if trying to catch on something. They were longer than humans, pointier and had talons. Not long ones, but unclipped and sharp-looking. They matched with his wings, which he’d spread all over the floor behind him.
“You should be asleep.” She bristled, knowing he had open his eyes and was watching her observations in silence.
“I can’t.” He whispered. “Too much in my mind.” He unwrapped his hands and pulled his palms over his face while stretching and slumped back on his side. “I messed up, big time.”
“You’ll mess up ever more if you don’t get any sleep.” It was stupid thing to say, but she was getting cranky with her own sleepless night. He looked as if she’d slapped him. She reached him her hand before he could think more. “Come and tell me about it.” She offered, when all she really wanted to do was to get back to sleep. He frowned and was about to refuse, but she interrupted him. “No weird meetings on the street, no drunken phone calls, nothing you don’t want, remember?” She reminded him of their earlier conversation and it seemed to do the trick.
He shifted and let himself to be pulled on his feet before she led him to her bedroom. A quick glance at Isilia showed she was still asleep in her chair. It was awkward, she understood his hesitation, but the old marriage bed was good enough to allow them to lay down while she listened, because she really didn’t want to go on a walk or sit in the kitchen right now. Her body was tired and she gathered so was his, so to let at least their bodies to rest, that seemed the best option. Besides, they were both too tired to do anything else.
He hesitated, like he had before sitting, so she gave him time to come to terms with it – she would listen, but only if he lay next to her. She tried not to look at him and kept her hands busy by fluffing up the pillows. The blanket seemed too much, so she pushed it at the foot of the bed. When that was done, there was nothing left to stop her from looking and she crept a look at him watching her from the door. She sat on the bed and waited. Should she command him? She yanked her head.
For a guy, who gave out vibes of sweeping down every lass in the premises should he’d get the chance, he was too calculative for his own good.
Still, after a while, when he saw the silent order, he climbed on the bed and walked over it on his fours. His wings rose higher to offer the space and not hit her by accident. She didn’t move from her spot.
His eyes were on her all the time. When he lay down on his side, when he packed his left wing so it would lean half way over the edge of the bed and when the right wing rested on top of him like a blanket.
Veronica slumped against the pillow and turned to look at him in the dark. His eyes shining despite there seemingly being no direct light source, were unnerving. You always read the stories about demons and wolves eyes shining in the dark, but to actually see it happening was chillingly real and hammered home the feeling she’d been having since she first saw him – he was a predator, who was in top of its food chain. Which made the fact that he was dancing to her song even more chilling.
He shifted closer, pulling his legs closer to hers before she felt his toes move at her ankle. They moved around her leg and quietly curled at her Achilles tendon. It wasn’t painful hold, but it seemed instinctive, like something she imagined bats would do when they hang upside down. He needed an anchor.
She reached out to touch his shoulder. He flinched, but didn’t pull away, allowing her to follow his arm all the way to his wrist and lock his fingers around it. They hardly reached around his wrist. Without thinking, she shifted to her knees and reached to the night table aside the bed. It still had an old pair of curtains tie-back ropes on it she planned to put back after she’d fixed the end of one of them. She took it and lumped back on her side and, glancing up to see how he felt about it, made a quick clove hitch around his wrist. His breathing changed and he shifted a little and raised his left arm next to his right. She repeated the move and silently repeated the knot on the other wrist before tightening the rope between them and locking it all up with a simple square knot. There was enough space between the hands for her to hold from it and pull at it.
“There, no escaping from your responsibilities.” She offered in a whisper with a smile she was sure he couldn’t see and pulled on the harness to show him it would hold.
He let her pull on it, twist it tighter and loosening it several times before he finally spoke.
“You can’t intoxicate a gargoyle unless they choose so.” He began, not at all from the point Veronica expected.
“Mh?” She recalled what he said about his kidnapping. “What are you talking about?”
“I broke the contract myself – you chose to be intoxicated.” She watched as the mighty warrior stiffened against her.
“We can’t work without contract.”
“You can’t break it either. Well, at least that’s what you’ve been telling, isn’t it?”
“We were mercenaries during the big war.” he explained after a heavy sigh. “After it ended we were banished, forced out of society, because we were fighting on the losing side. Our ancestors thought out a way to make the winners believe that we are no longer a threat to them.”
“The contract.” She concluded.
“It’s an illusion. The point of the contract is to assure whoever highers us that we can not turn against them. Or, in more general case – make them believe that we can’t break out of it by ourselves. If they realize that this piece of paper holds no real power over us, they will finish what they started – eliminate us.” He chuckled and Veronica tightened the ropes between his wrists. “I got hired as a bodyguard and then the bastard wants me to kill his own brother! That councler has worked more towards peace between the species than any of that pompous asses up there! I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t contact Rayford, so I didn’t do it immediately. But then those lizards show up and tried to get rid of me and I -” He sighed. “Thorwald will break my neck if he finds out I broke the contract and there are people who can prove it.”
“So you rather hide your ass here, where you must fear the burning sun every second of the day and have to change your entire being in order to survive.” When all he had to do was go home and face it like a man.
“So instead you…”
“They were neophytes – they thought they could get to me by being friendly, so I let them.”
“Why?” She didn’t understand, who those neophytes were, but it didn’t seem important at that point.
“The bastard was sharpening his teeth on my neck – I thought I’d have advantage if I let some of the poison through and make them think it was working. I’m lucky they thought kicking me out here instead of stabbing me would be better choice. Maybe it were better if I stayed here altogether.”
If this was meant to make me feel sorry for him, it wasn’t working. She was furious.
“You can’t stay here.” She blurted it out before thinking it through. He couldn’t. That was the bottom line here. “You’d be hiding from every ray of Sun for the rest of your life. It’s worse faith than going back and facing your brother. You’re his family – he’d be devastated if you didn’t return.”
And she would be too, she left unsaid. But she could live with it. Most of her family was already gone and she’d been in this world on her own long enough. But she doubted he could when there was even the slightest of chance that he could go back home, back to the family that loved him and were waiting for him.
“You can’t put family aside that easily.” She said, realizing she wasn’t OK with him leaving. Nor with the fact that she too had Selene still out there, alive. Her family. Even if it didn’t include DNA code.
“I know, but… I’m sorry.” He whispered drowsily, his body moving closer with his still tied hands pressed between them. “I screwed up.”
Her anger diminished. He was clearly not thinking straight thanks to his lack of sleep. She doubted he’d said anything to her otherwise.
So instead of kicking his ass, he pressed a kiss on his forehead as his eyes fell closed.
“Well done.” She praised him and felt a tiny response. He was asleep by the time she pulled back a little to return the blanket over their feet as it seemed his body was hot enough to heat up the room.