Witch, 75

Road Trips Are Great for Talking to People About Anything

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“Are you ready to go?”

“If I wasn’t, would we stay?”

“Not really.”

“Good thing I am then.”

“Good thing. I wouldn’t want to leave you behind.”

“I wouldn’t let you.”

“I know.”

Ron smiled. “You wouldn’t try anyway.”

“No,” James promised, helping Ron stand. “I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to do this without you.”

“Are you worried?”

James started to shake his head, then, looking at Estelle, nodded. “Just a little.”

“Don’t be,” Ron kept James’s hand after they’d stood up. “We’ll be there together. And your grandmother too.”

“Yeah,” James agreed. “I wish the rest of them could come, but…”

“It’s not what we agreed on. We can’t give the centaurs any reason to think we’re doing something shady.”

“Exactly.” James sighed, pulled Ron to the treeline. “I’ll be making a path for us to move a little faster than usual, but it’ll still take a day to get to the hamlet from here. Spike’s going to complain the whole way.”

“Not the whole way,” Spike protested, buzzing down from somewhere. “I’m going to sleep for some of it.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Can you start now?”

“No. You know what would be better than this? If fucking Esteban came here instead of us having to go there.”

“We’re arbitrating a dispute about leadership of their clan,” James reminded Spike, as they joined Estelle. “Or Grandma is. It would be rude to make them come here.”

“When they’ve asked for your help? I don’t fucking think so. No offence, Estelle,” Spike said, in a less complaining tone.

“None taken, Spike. I agree, to an extent. Bringing my brother here would have made this discussion much easier.”

“You mean,” said Ron, looking at her, “that separating him from his warriors would have made him less likely to pull something.” Or made it easier for her to pull something.

Estelle seemed almost abashed as she nodded. “Yes. It was not my intention to deceive, Ron.”

“It’d better not have been,” James said, perhaps more sharply than he needed to, as Josephine came out.

“I assure you my intentions are genuine, wise one.”

Ron frowned at that, not at what she’d said, but at what she’d said a minute ago. He looked at Spike, who’d gone to sit on her shoulder.

Josephine joined them, dressed in a long black coat that made her look like she might kill them all. “Let’s go,” she said, marching into the trees like she wasn’t a million years old. Ron and James also had new coats, made by Jay, that were very warm once they stepped out of the fake summer.

As they walked, Ron casually plucked Spike off of Estelle’s shoulder. “Hey!”

“Need to borrow him for a minute,” he told Estelle, then hung back from the group, smiling at James. He let himself get about five or ten paces behind them before he let go of the struggling Spike.

“Okay, look, I know you’re stupid, but that was stupid. It’s only because I like you that I didn’t turn you into something small and fuzzy, brat,” Spike said, buzzing around Ron’s head irritably. “What the fuck?”

“So you’re dating Estelle,” Ron said, ignoring all that.

Spike nearly fell out of the air, recovering just in time not to be stepped on. He was red all over as he flitted back up. “Why the fuck would you think that?”

“She said your name.” Ron shrugged. “It took her days to say mine and she thinks we’re equals. From what I understand, centaurs pretty much think of faeries as their masters or lords or whatever. She didn’t call you ‘guardian’ like she usually does.”

“Fuck you,” Spike said, sitting on Ron’s shoulder with a huff. “You are not supposed to be the smart one.”

“Why are you keeping it a secret? It’s not like we’re going to judge you.”

Ron was going to judge him a lot, but not in a mean way. Mostly because he thought Estelle could do better.

“Because it’ll look like a conflict of interest,” Spike said. “That’s all. It can’t look like the king’s clan—or any faeries—are taking sides in this whole bullshit. That’s all.”

“Are you?” Ron asked. “Taking sides.”

“No.” Spike looked at him. “I’m not, okay? I don’t fucking care who ends up the clan chief—it’s almost better for my dick if Esteban does, because then Estelle will stay living on this side of the forest.”

“Wait, how do you…no, nevermind, I don’t want to know.”

“I like to start by putting my whole arm up…”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Plus I’m really good at a specific type of magic that…”

“I’m going to flick you away.”

“You asked. She likes to lift me up and…”

“Okay! I’m sorry!” Ron said, glaring at Spike. “The point is. Congratulations, I guess?”

Spike snorted. “Thanks for sounding so enthusiastic, kid.”

“I mean it. I hope you guys are happy.” And also that Estelle wasn’t lying to Spike like she was to the rest of them.

“Yeah. I think we will be.” Spike smiled as he watched her, a little dopey. “I know it’s stupid that all this shit happened and my upside was getting a girlfriend, but hey. It’s no worse than your meet-up story.”

“Fair enough,” Ron said. “Does James know?”

“Kid fucking knows everything.” Spike hesitated a moment. “That said, I haven’t technically told him, no.”

“You should. You’re his best friend.”

“You…think so?” Spike sounded embarrassed. “He’s got you.”

Ron nodded. “Definitely. He’s got me for husband stuff. He’s got you to complain to when I’m being a pain.”

Spike snorted. “And who do you have for that?”

“The garden and the cat.”

“Pretty decent,” Spike decided. “I guess I should tell him now, shouldn’t I?”

“You should tell him whenever you want.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Except if I don’t tell him now, you’ll spend the next three days worrying that you’re keeping a secret from him and then you’ll cry and he’ll have to hug you until you feel better. Fuck that. I’m going to tell him now.”

Ron laughed. “Okay. Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Spike muttered. “It, uh. It means a lot. Weirdly.”

And then he flew off, buzzing around James’s head and landing on the head of his staff.

Ron caught up to Estelle. “Spike really likes you.”

Estelle smiled to herself. “I very much like him as well.”

“Good,” Ron said, nodding. “Look, I’m no good at all this…” he waved his hands. “Whatever. Deception and doubletalk and everyone not quite meaning what they say. So I’m just going to say this. I know you’re up to something. We all do. And if Spike is part of it. If you’re using him to get something for yourself. I’m…going to be really pissed.”

Estelle was looking at Ron as if she’d never seen him before. “I understand, Ron. You…needn’t worry about that.”

“Okay. I believe you, Estelle.”

She nodded at him, and he nodded back. “I appreciate your faith,” she said. “And your friendship, Ron. It is…important to me.”

“Me too.”

“If it wouldn’t upset you, I’d like a short time to…think. Before we arrive at the hamlet.”

“Sure,” Ron said, stepping back and letting her go ahead. “I’ll talk to you later.”

James was still talking to Spike, so Ron ended up walking with Josephine. “I hate this,” he told her.

“As do I.” She smiled at him. “But you’re holding up admirably.”

“It’s only been ten minutes.”

“I mean overall. You’re a very good shield for James. You remind me of my husband.”

Ron blushed, looking around. “That’s…very nice of you to say.”

“I don’t say it lightly.”

“Can you tell me about him?”

“Of course, if you’d like to hear it. We’ve nothing else to fill all the hours of walking.”

Ron nodded, and talked with her until it was time to rest. The closer they got, the less nervous he felt. Maybe they really did have this pretty much under control.

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2 thoughts on “Witch, 75

  1. And just like that, Ron guarantees that they do not, in fact, have this pretty much under control.

    You’d think he’d have learned not to tempt fate by now.


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