You Can’t Force Trust or Friendships, No Matter How Hard You Try
“What’s he waiting for?” Joey asked, eyeing Rawen. He was just sort of standing there awkwardly, watching them without looking like he was watching them, like they were at a party and Rawen wanted to come over and be their friend but was too shy to ask.
He was the fucking devil, Cal thought. Would it kill him to grow a pair?
“An invitation, probably,” Cal said, sighing. “We’re ignoring him in the hopes that he’ll go away.”
“Do you think he will?”
“Did you used to date him?” Travis asked, leaning on the table.
“I don’t think so.”
“He acts like he’s your ex-boyfriend, is all.”
“How do you know what an ex-boyfriend acts like?” Wes asked. “Do you have any?”
“Well, no, but still.”
“He’s probably waiting until we’re alone,” Sully said, arms crossed. He also looked like he was waiting until they were alone. Though what alone meant, Cal wasn’t sure. Mathilda was still here, and so was Bartholomew, and of course Beatrice and Lillian.
But so was that noble lady that Gavin had been talking to before. She was the only person who hadn’t left the room besides them, and Sully—and Rawen—might just have been waiting for her to leave.
Well, Cal didn’t want to sit around having this not-conversation for hours. He got up and went to go see her. “Hi,” he said. “Looks like you kind of got left behind in all the chaos.”
“It seems I did,” the lady said. “The people I came with have all either gone off to deal with Greg or vanished through a magical portal.”
Pax and company had gone with Sharon into a magical portal. A bit of an ostentatious way to go, but it wasn’t like Cal was in a position to tell people they were laying it on a bit thick. “I don’t think any of us expected this to be quite so chaotic,” Cal told her apologetically. “Sorry.”
“Not at all. Now, I know I’m new to this group,” the lady said. She was old enough to be Cal’s mother, curly-haired and full-figured, and her accent put her from Bright Harbour, though with airs of Hawk’s Roost, Cal thought. “But you said you were God, and I couldn’t help but notice that nobody disagreed with you.”
Cal nodded. “Bit of a long story, but yeah. The Catechism is centered around this god named Nathen. I’m his reincarnation.” And he was going to get this printed on cards so he didn’t have to keep telling everyone he fucking met.
“Hm. Forgive me for not believing you,” the woman said. “You don’t look much like how I pictured God.”
“Me either,” Cal said. “Wrong parts, for one.” He’d gotten used to the northern way of thinking about God, as a man, and of course both Cal and Nathen were that. But he’d grown up being taught that God was female.
“For one,” the lady agreed. “I wonder, though. The church may have been organized around this figure, but that doesn’t mean that person was God. She may simply have been using him as a rallying cry, like she did with the early saints.”
Cal blinked. “You know, I never thought about it like that.” He’d just assumed that Nathen being God meant there was no God. But of course there still could be.
The lady smiled. “Just a thought. As I said, I’m still new to all of this. I’m Isabella.”
“Cal,” Cal said. That name was familiar. “You’re not…Isabella DeThane, are you?”
Isabella laughed quietly. “I suppose if I’m to be in hiding I should consider a false name, shouldn’t I?”
Cal nodded. “My family’s from Bright Harbour.” House DeThane was the ruling house in Bright Harbour.
“I wondered,” Isabella—Lady Isabella—said. “You’ve been away a long time. You’ve developed a Dolovin accent, even when you speak Kyn.”
Cal had switched languages to speak with her, just assuming that a southerner would be more comfortable in her native tongue. “To my great shame, my lady,” Cal said with a smile.
“Nothing wrong with being worldly.” Isabella let out a sigh. “Well, the prince was to offer me rooms in this manor, but he’s up and vanished. I suppose I should return to my children.”
“Not by yourself?” Cal asked. Pelican Bay wasn’t exactly dangerous, but still. She was in hiding or something.
“My would-be entourage is all rather busy.”
“We’ll take you,” Cal said. “My guys aren’t doing anything, a few of them can walk with you there just to make sure nothing happens.”
“I hardly want to impose upon you,” Isabella said, but then added. “But I will if you’re offering. Not that I’m afraid to walk through a city, but if the wrong person were to recognize me it would be a problem.”
“Yeah,” Cal said, “No worries, we’ll take you.” He got up, and led Isabella over to the rest of them. “Guys, we’re going to play bodyguard for an hour and take Lady Isabella home.”
“That seems rather beneath your admittedly unimpressive skill level,” Mathilda said.
“You never know, we might get attacked by a demon on the way there.”
“Okay, finding out that there’s a demon that wants to kill everyone doesn’t give you license to be racist.” Sully gave him a bit of an evil look.
“I thought the whole point of that conversation was that you and that demon aren’t related,” Travis said.
“I thought the whole point of the conversation was shut up,” Sully shot back.
“Anyway,” Cal said, rolling his eyes. “Let’s go. You don’t all have to come, but a few of us should go.”
“Are you just going to ignore me?”
“Yes,” Cal said to Rawen. “I’m busy.”
“Can I…” Rawen closed his eyes. “Can I have five minutes, for fuck’s sake?”
“No. I don’t want to talk to you.”
There was silence for a quiet moment, and Cal sighed. “Five fucking minutes.”
Isabella put her hand on Cal’s shoulder. “This seems like a private affair. I’ll wait for you outside.”
“Thank you. Sorry about this.”
“Not at all.”
Isabella left the room, and Cal turned to Rawen. “One of your five minutes is already gone.”
“That’s not really in the spirit of thing.”
“Are you really going to waste the other four bitching at me?”
Rawen visibly made himself calm down. “You know, I spend all this time waiting to meet you again and as soon as I do, I remember how fucking annoying you are. I didn’t know you were going to be here. I’m sorry for ambushing you.”
“It’s fine,” Cal said, letting Mick rub his back. “Assuming you were telling the truth, your information was helpful. That’s all I care about.”
Rawen nodded. “When did you remember my name?”
“When you walked in the room.”
“That…I know you don’t want Nathen’s memories, but I’m glad you have that one.”
“It came with enough screaming to deafen a city,” Cal said, keeping his voice down.
Rawen flinched. “Right. Listen, I can help you with all of this.”
“We just heard you admit to killing three million people,” Mick reminded him.
“No, you just heard me admit that I was lied to. I was young and stupid and I thought I could save my friend. The people who agreed to help me were happy to let me think that. And since they’re your enemies, that shouldn’t be so hard for you to believe.”
“Derel and Keden,” Cal repeated. “Who’s Keden? Do we know him?”
“No. If he’s still alive I don’t know where he is. I think he’s hiding.”
“Great,” Cal muttered. “Secrets gods in addition to the ones we already know about.”
“And I’m the only one on your side,” Rawen insisted. Pleaded. “Me and Meryan, but she’s not going to help you outside of talking nonsense at you sometimes.”
“You’re not the only one on his side,” Wes said, and Cal couldn’t help but notice how they’d all surrounded him a bit. Even Beatrice and Lillian.
“You…guys love him,” Rawen said, hands out. “Look, I get that. You don’t want anything to happen to him because you love him. I love him too. He’s my best friend.”
“You don’t know me.” Cal was tired of this. “If you want me to trust you or even like you, it would be a really good idea to start by remembering the difference between Nathen and I. It’s really hard to believe that you care about me when you look at me and just see him.”
“I’m…sorry,” Rawen said, looking at the floor. “I’m sorry. I’ll try.”
“This is foolish,” Mathilda declared. “You are a being of great power. Why are you here pleading for one human’s affection? It makes you seem weak.”
“Shut up. If you want his attention, do something to earn it. Otherwise you are simply wasting his time, your time and most importantly my time. I’ve had enough of this. I have more interesting and important things to do.”
And Mathilda turned and strode away, making for the door.
“She’s right,” Beatrice agreed, while Rawen gaped. “You’re just kind of pathetic, coming here and basically begging your ex to take you back. Stop whinging and fucking do something.”
She didn’t storm off, though she did watch Mathilda leave with interest.
“Well…okay,” Rawen said. He drew himself up. “Fine. I will. I can.”
“Just keep the body count to zero,” Cal told him, a little worried about what crazy thing Rawen would try to do. He had no doubt it would be something crazy. “Your five minutes are up.”
“Okay.” Rawen turned away, then turned back. “I’ll see you soon. Cal. I will.”
And he turned around again, and disappeared.
Cal just leaned back, and let Mick hold him. Joey was vaguely growling. “Dammit. I really hope he doesn’t do something stupid.”
“He cares about you,” Lillian said. “I think he’ll try to impress you by doing something you’ll like.”
“Something he thinks you’ll like, though.” Bartholomew didn’t sound as convinced. “I’d be very careful next time he shows up.”
“And don’t fucking talk to him alone,” Sully added. “If he tries, get one—or all—of us.”
“He won’t be alone,” Wes promised, taking Cal’s hand. “We’ll all be with you, Cal.”
“Thanks, guys.” Cal really needed to lie down and sleep for a few days. This had all been a lot. But not yet. “Let’s take Isabella home, okay?”
“And how much is she paying us to do that, again?” Beatrice asked.
“She’s not. You guys don’t all have to come, it’s going to be boring. Just one or two of you is fine.”
He wasn’t at all surprised when all eight of them came with him. Because with these guys, with his team, he had something Rawen didn’t have, didn’t understand.
And that was why Cal wasn’t afraid of him.
2 thoughts on “Team, 66”
In some ways, Rawen is a rather pitiable character. He doesn’t seem to be intentionally malicious, but, well…Hell is full of good intentions, as they commonly misquote. Appropriate, for the Devil.
Yeah, I agree. He comes off as just kind of desperate rather than evil. It’s easy to believe him when he says he didn’t want to hurt anyone. So yeah, good intentions all the way down. 🙂 Apropos, in its way.