October 14, 2012 by Lyn
Sunday, October 12, 2003
For once, they weren’t hiding out in Reid’s apartment.
Luke opened the doors of his place for the first time in ages, invitations sent via the e-mail system Reid was still trying to hammer into Luke’s head.
There are things we need to talk about. My door is open.
Shira showed up first. “Luke, is it true?”
There were no cameras in Luke’s apartment and no witnesses. He hugged the lean woman as hard and as long as she seemed to need, his wings wrapping around both of them. “It’s true. I can’t be absolutely certain, but nobody else would have known about those things.”
Luke shook his head. As tidy as that would be, and as many problems as that might solve. “No. From the writing on the walls, maybe, but not from the other things Kheper could remember. I’m sorry, Shira.”
“This one isn’t your fault.” Her lips on his shoulder were distracting. He wondered if she was doing it on purpose. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ll lay everything you’re to blame for at your door.”
“And you do.” She spent a lot of time yelling at him. Strange to be holding her, trying to comfort her, this time.
“And I do. But this one wasn’t you. They knew what they were getting into, Luca. We all did. Anyone who tries to pretend differently is lying.”
“Regine…” he tried.
“Regine knew what she was doing, she just didn’t understand the people involved. That’s ignorance, but not of the set-up she was creating.”
Luke relented. It was hard to argue with Shira under normal circumstances, and being hugged by her was not a normal circumstance. “None of us understood, you know. We hadn’t grown up with that sort of environment.”
“I know, Luke. That doesn’t forgive…”
The knock at the door let him off the hook. He made sure not to disengage from the hug too quickly – his first wife had taught him that, may her soul rest peacefully – but not so slowly that the knocker had a chance to wonder.
There appeared to be nobody outside the door, but there was a sign floating in mid-air. So Talk.
“Wysteria, be welcome in my home.” He bowed to the invisible Librarian. “Somebody holding down your fort?”
Another sign appeared, just a name. Yolanda. Luke wondered, not for the first time, where she kept the signs.
“Good. You heard about Kheper?
A pause, and the next sign was hand-written:
“We think so.” He didn’t like being uncertain. It made him uncomfortable. “There’s no other rational explanation, although I’ve come up with quite a few irrational ones. We have a problem on our hands, ma’am.”
“I’ve never heard you call anyone ma’am.” He thought Shira’s murmur sounded amused.
“I’m full of surprises.” Now was not the time to explain that one.
Does Regine know?
“Good question.” He frowned at the sign. “I gave her all the information I had. And I invited her tonight.
So now we wait. He wondered at the well-worn appearance of that sign.
“Do you have a liquor cabinet, Luca?”
“Of course I do, Shira.” It was better than standing around staring at an invisible woman and an absolutely opaque one. “What can I get you?”
“Whisky, neat. Wysteria usually drinks cordials, I think, don’t you?”
She could, he knew, make herself seen if she thought it was worth the effort. He guessed it hadn’t gotten to that point yet.
He’d put up with worse. He poured drinks for the three of them, and then, when he heard the staccato rapping at the door, another for Mike. “Come in, Treesap.”
“You always know it’s him?” Shira sniffed her drink appreciatively.
“Of course he does. We’ve known each other a while.” Mike took the drink with a smile. “Thanks, Birdbrain.”
“That’s Arundel now, I’ve been informed.” Shira looked amused. Luke did his best not to flare his wings and ruin the mood.
“Arund… oh.” Mike’s giggling was not helping matters. “Gar. That boy badly needs to get laid.”
“Well, with Sylvia, I don’t see that happening soon.” Luke had borne a year of Arundel’s moping and attempts to get Sylvia to warm up. “She is not exactly the most friendly of women.”
“She has her reasons, Luca.” Shira frowned at him over her drink. “You know that.”
Departed gods. “I know. It doesn’t make it any easier on the boys she Keeps. Although Gar had his issues before her.”
“Gar is a giant, prickly pile of issues. What is it with the explosive Changes, anyway?” Mike claimed Luke’s favorite chair. “Channing, Tigg, Gar…”
“Hardly the same situations.” Shira was getting irritated, and Mike was probably doing it on purpose. Luke got out of the line of fire.
“I don’t know.” Mike leaned forward, almost out of the co-opted chair. “Channing was getting groped by a jerk and exploded. Gar was getting mind-controlled by a little bitch and exploded. Tigg…” Mike laughed loudly. “Well, I have to say, Manira should have known better. “
“Hunh.” Shira was hiding a smirk. “You know, I’d never thought of it that way. It’s an interesting collection of Changes, isn’t it? Between those and the pyrokinetics, it’s a surprise Caitrin doesn’t have more work.”
Caitrin was going to have more than enough work soon, Luke thought. Mike answered instead, with that hair-twirl that everyone knew by now was its nervous tic.
“I think our students – yes, mine especially, although Agmund’s have done their share – have given her enough work.”
That was their big elephant. Things had been tense and horrid between Shira and Mike since the mess with Eris and Shadrach; Mike had been trying to make it up to Shira for at least the last four years.
Luke looked forlornly at his empty glass. He’d have to cross the line of fire to get another drink. And Shira was on a hair-trigger right now.
“Not just yours.” She let Mike off the hook. “Not just Agmund’s, either. Though have you noticed, the boys he’s been choosing…”
“Well, they can’t all be Rozen.” Mike took the pass. “Then again, Luke has not one but two female Students, so the world must be ending.”
The world was ending. They all knew that. But Luke let Mike throw him under the bus anyway. He shrugged, and faked a grumpy look. “They’re good fighters.”
“And Niassa is your granddaughter, we all know that, Luke. Ciara’s the only one in question. I thought she’d go to Shira for sure.”
It was easy to forget Wysteria was in the room, when she didn’t want you to remember her presence. Luke was glad he wasn’t the only one that looked startled when the sign appeared in the middle of their previously three-way conversation.
Pretty girl. Big wolf stalking her. Pay more attention, Michelle.
Luke didn’t even bother to hide his amusement. Mike was almost flailing. “I pay attention!”
Shira giggled. “You pay attention to what suits you, and what you can understand. Your poor children.”
“Indigo and I get along just fine.” Mike sulked, and held out an empty glass in the general direction of Luke. “Ty and I got along fine… until. And Mark and I, well. I guess we got along pretty well. Boy after my own heart, that one.”
“The children who agree with your side of the family, you get along with.” Luke was more comfortable, now that things were back on his side of the argument.
“And you’re much better?”
“I get along fine with Doug!”
“I wasn’t talking about your biological children. Relax, Luke.” Mike’s hand on Luke’s was meant to be soothing, Luke was fairly sure. But it just brought back bad memories. “It’s not like you have the dozens I do.”
“Are you up to dozens, then? That you’ve managed to count?” He didn’t like the way Shira was looking at him. It was her seeing-ahead face, and whatever she was seeing, she wasn’t sure she liked it.
“I’ve lost count, but I’m sure Regine knows all the pertinent ones.” Mike flapped a hand again, suddenly looking ill-at-ease. “Departed gods, I hope you don’t talk like that, about me, to Lemon.”
“I don’t really talk to Lemon; she’s Doug’s student, not mine. But that, that was your own fault.”
“I’d like to see you teach Hugr and not have something blow up once in a while.” Mike was sulking. Mike sulking was a lot better than Mike talking about Luke’s past, or Luke’s children.
“I teach Kwxe, Birdbreath. When stuff blows up in my class, I don’t have to worry about a student getting pregnant. I just have to worry about lighting the place on fire. Shira just has to worry about giant holes in the ground.”
“Don’t forget golems. That was a fun one. That poor kid, nobody had thought to give her orders not to have a Working attack someone.” Shira was smiling; she’d been smiling at the time, too. Luke couldn’t help but grin along.
“I’ll take Hugr,” Mike decided. “When you look at everything that could go wrong…”
A knock at the door once again interrupted conversation. Luke’s smile slid off his face, and he wasn’t the only one to lose the mirth – they remembered, suddenly, why they were here.
From the look on Reid’s face as Luke opened his door, Reid had been thinking about nothing but. “It’s bad.”
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