Dinner With Friends Is Something All Couples End up Doing Eventually
“Don’t be nervous.”
“I’m not nervous.”
“I think you’re a little nervous.”
“I’m not, really.”
“I know. Don’t be.”
“I’d be less nervous if you were more nervous.”
“Because you being nervous makes me want to comfort you and makes it impossible for me to be nervous.”
Ron smiled, taking James’s little finger in his. “Would it help if I said I was nervous?”
“No, because I already told you not to be,” James said, sitting still for a moment. They were seated in Sam’s dining room, waiting for Sam and Henry to join them. “It’ll be fine.”
Ron nodded. “I believe you. If they wanted to kill us, they’d have done it already, right?”
“Yes,” James said. “And if they try, they won’t succeed.”
He said it so Ron would believe it and so Ron did, because Ron knew that if he believed it, James would too. None of which really made sense, but Ron let himself pretend it did, so it did.
The door opened and Ron looked up, saw Henry coming in by himself. “Hm,” James said, waiting until Henry got to the table. “I hope Sam hasn’t forgotten about us.”
“No,” said Henry. “He’s just finishing something else up.”
“Hm,” James said again. He was clearly unimpressed. “Okay. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you…”
“I just need to pee,” James said. “You two hang out for a bit.”
And he left the dining room, leaving Ron and Henry alone before Ron could even protest. “Sorry about him,” Ron said, to a bewildered looking Henry. “Social graces aren’t really his thing.” He wasn’t that far away, Ron thought. He could still hear James in his head.
Henry rolled his eyes, leaning his elbows on the table. “It’s fine. They’re not Sam’s either. Maybe they don’t teach them to you if you’re mega-magical.”
“I guess it’s not like anyone’s going to tell you to chew with your mouth closed if you can turn them into a tree,” Ron agreed.
Henry nodded, watching Ron strangely. “I don’t get you guys.”
Ron didn’t really get him and Sam either, but he didn’t say that. “What’s not to get?”
“Why’d you come here?”
“We told you why we came here.”
Henry shook his head now, adjusting in his seat. “No, I mean, Derek must have told you that Sam was planning to kill you.”
“He didn’t,” Ron lied. He didn’t want Derek getting in trouble.
“Sure,” Henry said, a snort. “But even if we’re pretending that’s true, you must have known. Neither of you reads as stupid.”
Ron thought about that for a moment. He wished James was here. But James had probably left him alone with Henry on purpose. “It was important,” Ron said. “Even if that was a risk. It was important that we come and try. James is really worried about that monster.”
“Scott,” Henry said.
“We call it Scott.”
Ron nodded. “I don’t think you should do that.”
“We have to call it something.”
“Giving it a human name makes it seem less scary,” Ron explained. “I can see why you’d want to do that, I guess, but it makes it seem less dangerous than it is.”
“You don’t need to lecture me about that thing being dangerous,” Henry muttered, looking away.
“Then you need to help us talk Sam into getting rid of it.” Ron tried not to plead. “He’ll listen to you, more than he’ll listen to James.”
“You can’t talk Sam into things,” Henry said, flat. “That’s not how he operates. Trying just makes him angry. And it’s not as simple as just getting rid of Scott.”
“Why not?” Ron asked. “What benefit is there to having it here that isn’t outweighed by the danger that it poses? It will kill both of you.”
“I know that,” Henry snapped. He took a breath, trying to calm down. “What I mean is that getting rid of him isn’t as simple as you think.”
“Sam summoned it,” Ron pressed. There was no valid reason why Sam couldn’t undo his own spells. “That means Sam can get rid of it.”
“Sam didn’t summon it,” Henry said. He looked up, at Ron’s stricken expression. “Neither did Solomon, we think. Neither did anyone else. It was just here, of its own accord.”
“But that’s…isn’t that impossible?”
“I’m no more a sorcerer than you are a witch, but as far as I know it should be. Sam’s family’s contract with it is the only thing stopping it from doing whatever it wants. And because Sam didn’t summon it, just sending it back isn’t as easy as it normally would be—and it normally wouldn’t be that easy anyway.”
Ron slumped back in his chair, idly picking a pink flower petal out of his hair. “Fuck,” he said, after failing to come up with a proper response.
“Yeah.” Henry sighed. Something about him reminded Ron of Owen. “What’s with the flowers? Where’d you even find those?”
“They just grow in my hair,” Ron muttered. “Long story.”
“I’d like to hear it sometime.”
The door opened, and James and Sam came into together. Ron wasn’t surprised. “Do you think we’ll have time for that?”
“I hope so,” Henry said quietly, as James and Sam approached the table.
“Sorry for abandoning you,” James said, his chair scraping as he pulled it back, sat down, He brushed Ron’s hair, pulling a petal of his own out. “I got lost. Sam had to help me find my way back.”
The mental sound of James had never gotten much farther away. Ron had a feeling that James had been in the hallway the whole time. “It’s okay. Henry and I were talking.”
“Good.” James sighed as Sam took his seat. “I hope Ron wasn’t rude. He’s not used to sitting around making small talk. Normally he’s the one cooking the food. Being waited on will be a change for him.”
“I still feel like I should run down to the kitchen and offer to help,” Ron admitted. If only to make sure nobody was about to be poisoned.
“Don’t bother,” Sam said, bored in an affected way. “The food is already on its way. You can just relax.”
“I don’t think I know how,” Ron said, smiling a little. James patted his leg. “We heard you guys were talking to those guys who attacked the castle earlier.”
“I was sentencing the rebels, yes,” Sam agreed.
“I hope you weren’t too hard on them,” James said.
“You don’t think they deserved to be punished? They almost killed you too.”
“I’d rather find out why they were so desperate,” James said. “In my experience, people don’t do things like that without what they think is a good reason.”
Sam grunted. “Their reason was that they were being manipulated by someone else. My father wasn’t from the plateau, and they don’t like having a foreign ruler.”
Ron looked at Henry. “Aren’t you from the plateau?”
“Yeah. My mother was Ech’kent’s ruler until Sam’s father appeared and she capitulated to him.” Henry seemed to notice how Sam tensed at that. “Ancient history. Sam rules the plateau and I work with him. People getting upset about it need to get over it.”
“Surely it’s not that easy to get over?” James asked, and Ron agreed. It was the sort of thing people cared about.
“It doesn’t matter,” Sam said. “I didn’t kill them, they’ll be fine. We’ve agreed that we’re all going to work together to protect Ech’kent.”
That sounded a little too good to be true. But before Ron could say that, James stepped in. “The most dangerous thing you need to protect this territory from is that demon of yours. I know you think it’s your ally, but it’ll kill you just as soon as it can. It would have seen you dead yesterday if it could have, Sam.”
“I know.” Sam’s voice was low, and his head was tilted, listening to servants come into the room. He waited until they’d set the table and retreated before continuing. “I don’t know how to get rid of it.”
Well, Ron hadn’t been expecting that. Henry was impassive, and Ron would have loved to talk to him alone for a few more minutes. The table was quiet for another minute while scared-looking servants brought food. Henry waved them all out of the room after the food was on the table.
James took a deep breath, gesturing for Ron to get food. Ron did, for himself after he’d done that for James. Henry got Sam’s food as well. “I think,” said James, “that you don’t often admit to needing help, do you, Sam?”
Sam scowled, but started eating. “No,” he said. “I know I’m not easy to get along with, okay? I understand that. My father wasn’t a nice man and he raised me not to be one either. But I don’t know how to get rid of Scott. I don’t know what to do about your mother. I don’t know how to do any of it by myself. I need help.”
Oh. Wow. Even Henry looked surprised. Sam sounded so young suddenly. He suddenly reminded Ron of himself, when he’d left home. He’d just wanted someone to tell him what to do, someone to be in his life when he’d felt like he was having to do everything by himself. Sam was older than Ron had been, but Ron hadn’t been dealing with a demon that wanted to destroy the world.
James nodded incrementally as if he’d been waiting for that. He reached over and put his hand on Sam’s elbow, startling him. “We’ll help you,” he said quietly. “I can’t do it by myself either. We’ll help each other, okay?”
Sam looked embarrassed. “I’d like that,” he muttered. “Thank you.”
James smiled. “You’re welcome. I’d like it if we could get to know each other a little better. Once I’m home maybe we can set up a small portal so we can visit once in a while. You can come over to our house for supper as well.”
“If you want,” Sam said, swallowing. “You’re welcome here to visit whenever you want as well.” He sounded uncomfortable. Ron wondered, if his dad had been crappy like he’d said, if he was used to being grateful to people.
“Thank you. I’d like to ask one favour as well.”
“What’s that?” Sam asked. He sounded tired.
“I’d like you to send Derek and Todd to me for a full day once a week,” James said, as if this were normal.
“Why?” Sam was frowning. Now he just seemed confused.
Because Sam had made them feel like they had to torture each other, Ron thought. But he didn’t say that. He looked at Henry, who looked like he understood.
“Because you’re hard to get along with,” James said. He didn’t seem worried. “And I think they both work very hard and could use a day off now and then. And I think they’re very similar to Ron and I and would benefit from having friends who understand them.”
Sam just looked more and more confused as James talked, and he made a weird face. “Okay,” he said. “Fine, if it’s that important to you. You can have them.”
“I won’t do anything to them, promise,” James said, smiling. “Trust me, I think you’ll find them more efficient workers with a little time off.”
“If you say so,” Sam grumbled, putting some vegetables in his mouth.
“Trust me,” James said again. “Now, why don’t we get to know each other?”
“That sounds fun. Sam and I hardly have any friends,” Henry said. It was obvious he was covering for Sam. Ron felt like he was already getting to know Sam a lot. He felt lost, wanted his dad to love him even though he wouldn’t, was easily overwhelmed, and was being told what to do by James. Ron had never thought that he would relate to an evil sorcerer, but honestly he was also increasingly sure Sam wasn’t evil.
Which, of course, James had probably realized ages ago. And all that made Ron feel so much better about this, about all of it. He smiled at Henry. “Neither do James and I, really,” Ron said. “But we can be each other’s friends. How’d you guys meet?”
Henry snorted, put his hand on Sam’s shoulder, comforting him. He was good for Sam, Ron thought. He knew how to calm him down, help him when he was overwhelmed, just like James did for Ron. “We’ll tell you ours if you tell us yours.”
4 thoughts on “Witch, 71”
Well. This is surely not going to backfire horribly. Sam is definitely not the scorpion to anyone’s frog, no sirree bob.
No, not at all. That doesn’t sound one bit like Sam.
I…don’t know what to think about this development. On the one hand it would be great if Sam is sincere, both for his own sake and for everyone else’s. (Mostly everyone else’s, though. I mean, let’s be serious here.)
On the other hand, Sam is perfectly capable of faking not being a total psychopath when he feels the need to muster the patience for it, and he went into this planning to manipulate James into giving him everything he wants and then dispose of him when he’s no longer useful.
And on the gripping hand, Sam does change his plans quite a lot, especially when his would-be victims manage to successfully make the case that he can get more out of them as allies.
Time will tell, I suppose…
It would sure be great if Sam really meant what he was saying, for everyone’s sake. But of course, as you say, Sam can convince people he’s a poor sad boy in need of help when he really wants to lay it on. He did it with Isaac, after all. And we do know that was his plan going into this conversation. Not to mention that literally yesterday he was planning to kill James. So there’s that.
But yes, Sam’s plans are pretty malleable, so that’s a potential plus. He is generally happier to have allies than enemies if he can manage that. And we know that’s what the people around him want as well, so that’s also maybe good.
Time–and Sam’s chapter next week–will tell indeed. 🙂 Thanks!