Milo watched her eyes close slowly. “I should just kill you,” he yelled across the space between him and the minotaur. “I should just kill you and end all of this now.”
Tamus shook his head and chortled. “You don’t have it in you, mage.” He wiggled a shoulder until his left arm was free. “And that’s the truth, isn’t it? You simply don’t have enough juice. And do you know what’s worse?”
The mage shook his head. “What?”
The minotaur looked to the east. “The sun is coming, human. The sun is coming, your vampire is dead weight—no pun intended—and there is nowhere within walking distance to save her if you stay and pursue this insanity with me. Then you’ll both be dead, because I’ll have broken your puny back over my knee, and your girlfriend will go up in an acrid blaze. Ever seen a vampire bite it?” Tamus shook his head. “It is not pretty. So what’s it going to be, Milo the Magician? Are you going to try and save the day? Or save the girl?”
Milo swallowed hard. The monster was right for the most part. He wasn’t strong enough to hold him forever, and he was too exhausted to fight him off, magick or no, once the super was free of his binding. But what Tamus had forgotten was that Milo was already dying. This last bit of power he had managed to pull from the earth below his feet had been so harnessed because he could not stand to see her about to die trying to save him. It had slowed the rate he was losing blood, yes, but the gaping hole in his abdomen where the minotaur had so gored him earlier in the night remained, and it had begun to stink that putrid scent that only came from innards exposed to oxygen.
Add in that he was pretty sure there was a fair amount of rock and dirt shoved inside his body via that opening now, and the chances were pretty slim that he would make it much past dawn. So his choice was clear. He could not save the day, so he was going to save the girl. But not without one last parting blow. Here goes nothing.
He closed his eyes and summoned the air current closer, not to hold the minotaur who had freed his other arm whilst Milo had done his internal contemplation, but to better aim him across the opening of the canyon. “Remember well the enemy who showed you mercy,” he spoke, eyes opening, “that you may someday repay that debt.”
Tamus shrugged as he twisted his torso out of the gelatinous mass. “Not likely. More likely is the chance that I am going to kill you once I get out of here, just like I promised. I am honorable like that.”
Milo pulled the magick back, the shimmering edge of the band stretching between him and the minotaur. He had to time this just right, or it would be for naught. “There is no honor among thieves.”
The minotaur regarded him curiously. “You must want to die quickly, mage. You could gain little else by taunting me now.” He stalked toward Milo, and the mage held his breath. Three, two, one! He released the hold he had, er, held and the band of air, all tightly woven, flew forward and caught the minotaur across the body, just below his massive pectorals to his waist and flung him through the air. Milo watched as the monster’s silhouette grew ever smaller across the skyline until he could see him no more.
“This is not over!!” Tamus yelled as he disappeared, his words echoing and then fading into the twilight.
One task down, he thought, rather pleased with how that little experiment had turned out. He stumbled over to Madeleine’s still form and fell to his knees. One to go. He brushed her hair from her face and kissed her head gently. “I could’ve fallen in love with you,” he whispered. “And now we’ll never know, will we?”
He looked around, but they were in the middle of nowhere, a copse of saguaro providing the only real shade when the sun hit this place, and that would not save her. “Come on, Mother Earth, just this last thing, okay?” He shoved his hands into the ground and pulled at the silver line of energy flowing below. The ground beneath Madeleine shifted and groaned. “Come on!” The desert floor divided, like a hungry mouth, and swallowed her completely, leaving only overturned earth in its wake. He patted the mound and rested his head atop it.
What a hell of a day, huh? All the craziness he could imagine, and some that he had not even considered, but at the end of it all, he was leaving this world having done some real good. And he was all right with that. Death did not come to him in an instant replay of his life, or a white light leading him elsewhere. No, Death came to Milo in the heavy draught of a much needed slumber…and a white bunny.
Bunny? It did not matter. Not anymore. So Milo sighed and gave in to it, one hand buried in the earth over the most amazing vampire he had ever met, the other over the gaping hole still wet and warm to the touch. And for now, that was enough.
He awoke in a grassy field beneath a warm sun. A white rabbit sat next to him, and he found it really weird that the bunnies in Heaven had ear piercings. “Bri?” The bunny cocked its little head at him and pressed a leaf against his forehead with one paw. “Bri, is that you?” A sudden thought occurred to him. If he was dead and in Heaven, that must mean… “Oh, God, what happened, Bri? How did you die?!”
“Death makes everyone a little crazy,” Nate’s voice came from behind him. “I mean, I must’ve almost died a couple of hundred times, give and take, minus all the nutty coincidences, so that explains my crazy, but our friend, Milo, here, well, he went all the way.”
Milo looked for the voice and saw Nate and Zeke sitting on a mound of rocks near the copse of saguaro. He shook his head and sat up, much to the displeasure of the rabbit, who gave him a dissatisfied squeak and promptly munched on the leaf she had had on his head. They couldn’t all be dead, could they? What kind of giant bad ass could have wiped out his entire crew?
“Oh, hey, Milo,” Nate waved, “Good to see you alive. Though you weren’t dead for very long, were you? Oh, you don’t know how long you were dead, do you?”
“Nate,” Zeke flicked his cigarette in the albino’s general direction.
“But dead to humans, and dead to supers like us tends to be completely different things,” Nate continued on, unfazed by the obvious hint from the other mage. “But it’s a good thing I tracked you down, though that shade friend of yours didn’t want to let us in the apartment, did he, Zeke? Um, Milo, why are you staring at me like that? I know I’m white and all, but I’m not a ghost.”
“What?” The psychic threw up his hands, but Zeke shot him a nasty look. “Oh, fine.” He crossed his arms and turned his back on the other man.
Zeke nodded at Milo. “Nice to have you back, bro. We thought we were too late. Good thing our secretary doubles as a super night nurse, huh?”
Milo shook his head. “Um, how…how did you find me?”
The other man shrugged. “Nate had a vision when he was going a little OCD in the office and touched your mug, and that led to a field trip to your apartment, which in turn led to a lovely introduction to Douglas the most depressive shade known to mankind, who did not, as Nate said, want to let us in. But a little threatening by the werewolf,” he pointed toward the opening of the canyon, “currently playing watch dog, got us inside.
“Nate touched a few things, and the visions got worse—clearer but worse—so we followed the clues like a good Scooby Gang and ended up here. Bri resuscitated you, but you were kind of touch and go there for a while. And in the process of your apparent recovery, we got all this nice grass. Dude, if you’re going to grow post-traumatic death grass, couldn’t it be the good toking kind?” He laughed and shook his head. “No, seriously, what the hell happened out here? I mean, Nate saw imps and fuckin’ minotaurs, not to mention your girlfriend’s a bad ass vampire? What the hell are we doing in the middle of BFE at one o’clock in the afternoon on a Saturday?”
“Our date night kind of got waylaid,” Milo started. He ran a hand over his bald head, and was curious to see that the grass had grown everywhere but where he had buried Madeleine.
“So I see,” Zeke said with a nod. “But you have to do better than that. Give up the details.”
So Milo filled him in. From the tele-mechanical bugs in her walls to the story she told of the ugly Girl Scout and the monster—had it been Tamus?—who tore her house to all hell, all of which caught and kept Nate’s attention. He told them about flying with her, and fighting with her, and how that had all gone horribly wrong. His fingers moved over the part of his abdomen where the hole had been, where nothing but smooth flesh remained, as he told them about Tamus kicking his ass all over this canyon. And last but not least, and oddly enough most interesting to his audience, he detailed how he had kicked the minotaur out of the park, and buried the woman he still hoped would be his girlfriend in it.
“This is why I don’t date,” Nate whispered with a shudder. “It’s too dangerous out there!”
“So she’s buried under there?” Bri asked, back in her girl form. She slid one hand over the bare earth and sighed with her eyes closed. “You’ll be happy to know she’s alive, and almost completely healed.”
Milo gave her a curious stare. “Um, how do you know that?”
“Nate’s not the only touch clairvoyant in the company, you know,” she winked. “But I am the only teleporter.”
His eyes widened, as the gears started to turn in his head. “Teleporter?”
She giggled. “Yes, silly, it’s another of my gifts.” She caught his eyes drifting toward the mound. “And yes, when you are ready, I can take us all back to the office. And then I’ll drop the two of you off at your place, cos her place,” she dragged a thumb across her throat, “there’s really nothing left of it. Which is too bad, because it was a cute house.”
Milo was struck with a sudden sense of urgency. He wanted away from here, wanted Madeleine to wake up somewhere other than buried in unfamiliar ground. “Now, Bri, now.”
“Just have to get Vince,” she said standing up, “and then we can go, okay?” She wandered off without waiting for an answer. “Nate?”
The psychic jumped off his rock. “Oh, yeah, let me come, too!”
“Did you know?” Milo asked his remaining friend.
Zeke’s shadow fell over him before he sat down next to him. “About Bri?” He shrugged. “Nah, man, it’s a surprise to me, too, but given that our boss does not seem to keep anyone around him with only one gift, I guess we shouldn’t be all that amazed.” He stared at Milo while taking a long drag off his cigarette. “How are you?”
“Given that I should be dead, for all intents and purposes,” he sighed and dropped his eyes back down the casually waving grass between his feet. “I guess I’m all right. That was a lot of shit.”
“Yeah, a lot of shit for some girl.”
Milo looked up at Zeke, ready to fight again, but he saw the big, goofy grin on the other man’s face, and realized he was just kidding with him. “She’s some girl.”
“Must be, as far as I can figure.” He took another drag. “I admit that I doubted how this could work out, but if she went to bat for you, if she almost died to get to you, that’s love, dude. And I can see why you dig her.” He nodded toward the mound. “No pun intended.”
The elemental mage smiled. “That’s good, because I’m not about to give her up. Not now, not ever.”
“Unless she tries to kill you,” Zeke offered.
“Well, if she tries to kill me, I’m going to have to call things off, and then it’s a new ball game,” Milo shrugged. “But I don’t see it happening. “
“Yeah, me either.”
“Nice to see you alive and kickin’,” Vince’s deeper voice called from across the canyon. “I thought green grass, dead bodies, yeah, probably best to just give you a nice service and call it a day, but then this one,” he thumbed in Bri’s general direction, “did the whole touch clairvoyance thing, and assured us that you’d live to fight another day.”
Milo shaded his eyes with one hand. “So no burial.”
The werewolf shook his head. “Nope, no burial. Which is too bad, because I had a nice eulogy all planned out in my head.”
Bri cleared her throat. “Ready to go boys?”