Monday, November 26, 2012

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 8 - Of Imps and Other Things

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Milo laid in bed and listened to the phone ring. “You have reached Madeleine du’Court,” her voice lilted into his head, “but I am unable to take your call right now. If you please leave your name, number and a brief message, I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.” Beep!

“Um, Madeleine, this is Milo. You just had pie with me at Dennys?” Did that sound dirty? Too late now. Damn. “Um, just calling since I said I would. I was thinking maybe we should go catch a movie this weekend. You know, if you’re not busy. Um, okay, just call me, let me know.
Bye!” He hung up and sighed.

Maybe he should have told her how much he enjoyed their brief meeting. Maybe he should have asked her to the movie then. He stared at the pale glow of the hand she had shaken, and his breath caught in his throat again. She was not human. Of that, he was certain. He had felt it when he had first entered the restaurant, the buzz of it against his skin for the duration of their meeting, and he was pretty certain that whatever she was, there was more than a little magick involved, as he had felt her push him twice.

The first time had caught him off guard, but he had let it slide the second time, just to see what she would do. But she had let it go as well, or maybe she had gotten what she wanted out of the exchange. He had noticed the glow on his hand the minute he had stepped out into the darkness. Maybe that had started inside, just hidden beneath the fluorescent glare inside.

Part of him screamed with paranoia. Too many things out there in the big, bad world would make mincemeat of someone like him. Too many others would attempt to make him ‘useful’ to their own motives. And those that remained, well, they were either dark enough to break him, or light enough to not care. But where did Madeleine stand?

It was not as if he could just ask her. “Um, excuse me, are you evil? No? You’re good then? Because I have rules against dating black magick users. The whole ‘loss of soul’ and ‘eternal damnation’ thing. You understand, right?” He pictured a scythe angling for his neck at that point, be she good or bad, because he was pretty sure asking a woman’s alignment was along the same lines as asking her age: one giant no-no.

Another part of him wished he had done that parting moment differently, that he had followed through with that instantaneous urge to lift her pale white hand to his lips and plant a kiss on her skin. It was chivalrous, romantic and completely out of character for him. Not that he could not be chivalrous or romantic, because he could with the best of them when he was so inclined, but he could not remember the last time he had been with a woman who had so inspired him.

It made her even more special to him, and it added not only to the anticipation of their next meeting, but also to his disappointment that he had not caught her on the phone tonight. Milo rolled on his side and stared at his phone, willing her to be awake, to see she had missed his call, to call him back. But the phone stayed quiet, the screen dimmed and then darkened like the skies outside his window.

Out in the rest of the apartment, he could hear Douglas doing his regular nightly shuffle. There had been little discussion over his whereabouts, his late hour, but it seemed to be more resignation that the shade had been left out of the fun than anything else. He had not questioned it, was even more than a little grateful for it, and he had disappeared into his room before the situation had a chance to change.

He had tried to go to sleep, honest, he had, but he could not get her out of his head. She pegged him as a mage with a glance. Most humans, most mundane humans, would have said nothing, because they would have felt nothing. Most sensitive humans would have asked what he was. Only another supernatural, human or otherwise, could have picked him out so easily. But he could not label her as human. It just felt…wrong.

Milo rolled onto his back and rested his forearm against his forehead. Sleep was hard when his thoughts were racing, a million cars on a million miles of track, going and going, around and around. She had stirred something in him that he had once imagined could not be awakened.

He needed to see her again.

********

“Seriously, what’s up with the smiles?”

Milo looked up at his friend from his cup of coffee. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Zeke raised a brow. “Dude, do I look stupid to you? Come on, you can tell me. Did you get laid last night?” His eyes widened. “You didn’t tap that orca again, did you?”

The mage laughed and raised one hand. “No, no! Wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole!” One of the perks to screwing shapeshifters was the variety. One of the downsides, especially for landlocked mermaids, was they tended to be addicts and nymphos. Add in that this, as Zeke had not-so-delicately put it, orca also had a motor mouth and talked about what she had done in exchange for vanilla sex with humans…yeah, it had not taken him long to kick her to the curb.

“A new piece of ass, then?”

Milo took a sip of his coffee. “She is definitely not a piece of ass.”

Zeke sat down in a chair on the other side of the break room table. Milo tried to keep a straight face, but his friend was right: He could not stop smiling. “Well?”

“She’s new. I met her online. And she’s older…”

“How much older?” the other mage interrupted.

“Um, about eight years?”

Zeke leaned back in his chair. “Nice.” He gave Milo a ‘come on’ gesture with his hand. “Continue.”

Milo told him about all about Madeleine--her profile on the networking site, their emails, their first meet—and when he was done, he was confused by Zeke’s apparent concern. “What?”

“I see red flags, Milo. She only comes out at night, she’s pale, she did not eat her pie? Come on, tell me you’re seeing what I’m seeing here.”

Milo shrugged. “She’s a night owl, and a geek. Explains the hours she keeps and the color of her skin.”

Zeke put a hand to his forehead. “No way you’re over looking this on purpose. Did she glamour you?”

He shook his head. “I think you may actually be more paranoid than I am.”

Nate zoomed by the doorway and waved. “Staff meeting!”

Milo stood up and sighed. “Another day, another demon, another dollar.”

“This talk isn’t over,” Zeke snagged him by the arm. “She’s a super, this new girl, and she sounds dark, vampire, succubus, powerful parasitic ghost. You have to be careful, dude. Especially in our line of work. We’re yummy Scooby snacks, you and I.”

“Don’t you think I know this?” Milo hissed. “I wanted you to be happy for me. I thought you would be thrilled that I’d dropped the mermaid and moved on. But you want to be all gloom and doom.” Zeke opened his mouth. “No, you meet her first. You meet her, you talk to her, and then you tell me what you think.”

His friend did not let go of his arm. “And if she’s a vampire? A succubus? What then? You going to let yourself get sucked into another bad situation?”

“Not all dark supers are evil, Zeke. You know this, especially in our line of work.”

“But if she is?”

“Then we do our job.” Milo walked out of the door and down the hallway.

“It’s not going to be that easy!” Zeke yelled after him.

What was he going to do if he was wrong and the other mage was right? He had never had to kill anyone he knew before. The paranoid voice in his head screamed for him to lose her number, to get out while he still could, but he shoved it away. She deserved a fair shake, a realistic chance to show her true colors.

Then, and only then, he would make a decision about what to do.

*****

Work was messy, as mischievous imps hanging out in a mom and pop grocery co-op were apt to be. Enough ammo, and well, his whole team was covered in sauces and seeds, parmesan and powdered drink mix, and more than a little dead imp goo. For a creature you could easily cup in both hands, they were filled with a rather large amount of innards and all the liquid fun that entailed.

After the first volley, they had sent magic and mayhem in the direction all the foodstuffs had come. A low rumble filled the air, and what they had been told by the owners had been a dozen turned quickly into a couple dozen dozen. Like a great purple and black cloud, they rose from the aisles, obviously angry over the unexpected magickal retaliation.

“Aw, shit,” Zeke groaned, his hands already fast at work, a great number of silver strands stretching between them.

“Guys,” Nate whispered behind them.

Milo looked at Vince. “We have to come up with another plan. I don’t think our usual snag-and-bag is going to work.”

Vince nodded in agreement. “Any ideas? Because I’m kind of a hack and slash kind of guy.”

“Guys…” Nate’s voice had gone from excited to paranoid with a touch of fear.

Milo and Vince turned around. “What?!” Nate pointed behind him, but it was a moot gesture. The imps behind them chuckled in their little high pitched voices, and the guys absorbed the slightly larger dark sidhe rising in a wall in front of them.

“Something’s wrong,” Zeke whispered from behind them. “Fae and imps don’t play together, much less attack together.”

Milo licked his lips. “Well, hell, anyone else think we’ve been set up?”

“Oh, yeah,” Vince chuckled. His personal magick pulsed and he shook off his human half until he stood two feet taller than the mages, all rippling muscle and wolfy muzzle. And damn if he wasn’t grinning behind that giant maw of teeth.

“Guys, please.” Nate was curled up into a ball at their feet, eyes closed tight, rocking slightly. “It hurts so much.”

“We’ve got to get him out of here,” Milo said as he looked for a way out. “Vince?”

“I’m looking, dude, but even from up here, I’m not seeing how we can.”

Zeke walked backwards until his back touched Milo’s. “Can’t we just stash him under a stand?”

Milo leaned down and laid a hand on the albino. Those pale pink eyes fluttered open, bright with pain. “How long can you hold on?” Confusion crossed Nate’s face. “We can’t get you out,” a small whine escaped his lips, “right now, Nate. We can’t get you out right now. We have to burn a path through, and we’re going to, but we need time.”

Nate swallowed hard. “How much?”

Milo looked up at their other teammates. Vince shook his head and flashed his hands, all ten digits, twice. “Twenty minutes, max. Can you do it?”

“Yeah,” he gave him a weak smile. “Just…just make them stop humming.” He pointed in the direction of the fairies. “They know what I am, and they’re sending pins and needles into my head with the damnable humming.”

Milo gave him a quick squeeze. “We’ll get them, but I need you to scoot under the apple cart until we’re done.”

“Twenty minutes?”

The mage nodded. “Twenty minutes.”

Nate low crawled under the cart. Milo appreciated the brave front, but he did not think the psychic could last that long. He needed help. But what could he do? He could not use his own magick to shield Nate. He would need it for the fight ahead. A tickle of a thought crossed his mind. Maybe?
The mage rifled through the pockets of his duster.

“What the hell are you doing?” Zeke yelled.

Milo looked up to see the swarm of fairies and imps closing their circle around them. Nate screamed, and Milo’s fingers touched a smooth stone. He knelt on the linoleum tile and slid the stone to Nate. “This is a very special soapstone, Nate. My mother gave it to me when I left up north. Rub it and focus. Push out their humming. Push out the outside magick. Just concentrate on the stone.”

Nate held the stone up to eye level and started rubbing it slowly. His eyes widened as a clear iridescent bubble enveloped his fingertips. He pointed at it with his other hand and looked around it to Milo, realization like a light bulb popping on in his head. “Soapstone…bubble…oh my god…Milo, you’ve been holding out.”

He turned the stone sideways and began rubbing it furiously. The bubble broadened and grew until to encased his hands, his arms, his head and shoulders. Milo pushed a little magic into it, too, and the bubble sprang up like a giant helium balloon over Nate and the apple cart. The stress disappeared from the albino’s face and he mouthed ‘thank you’ as he closed both hands over the soapstone and rested his head against the linoleum.

There was music in there, too, faint and floating, but unlike the hateful daggers pulsing from the fairies or the angry buzz of the imps, what surrounded their pet psychic was meant to soothe, comfort, those humans with special abilities but without power to shield against the rest, like normal supers. Milo’s mother was a healer, and she had made him promise to carry certain charms and stones with him when he had left home. Her rationale was more concern over the backlash from his old guild than the messes he got himself into now, but he was glad he had listened.

His friend was safe.

Milo stood up, relieved, yes, but more than a little pissed off.

“We good now?” Zeke asked.

Vince piped in right behind him. “Can we kill things now?”

Electricity crackled into growing balls that hovered in Milo’s palms. He raised his hands up. “Oh, hell yeah.”

Continue: 09

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