Witch, 107

When You’re Away Is the Best Time To Get Renovations Done

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“How much farther?”

“Not much.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Just because it was words responding to the words I said doesn’t make it a valid answer to the question I asked.”

“And yet it’s the answer you got. If you want a more specific one, read a map.”

“I don’t have a map.”

“That sounds like a problem for you. You should have bought one when we were in Teown’s Sound.”

Micha sighed, and Ron didn’t blame him. They’d been walking for most of a day now, and out of all of them he was the least used to walking in a forest. Jed didn’t seem to be having trouble, stopping occasionally to touch a tree or ask a question to a plant.

The forest was thrilled to have Ron and James back, and was really excited by Micha and Jed, especially Jed, whose magic it hadn’t felt in a really long time. Ron had tried to ask it when the last time it had met a Green Clan member was, and it had given him a huge ball of information about a big meeting a long time ago, but had stopped, remembering what had happened last time it had tried to tell Ron everything at once. It would tell him the rest tomorrow to avoid hurting him.

It was so weird to be in the forest and to know it was keeping something from him, though. Ron could feel it palpably, singing across his skin, the fact that the forest had something it wanted to tell him but it wasn’t. It was weirdly excited to tell him about some old-time Coven meeting.

But the forest was just like that. Ron smiled at Micha. “It should only be another few minutes,” he promised.

“Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it,” he muttered.

“Fuck, why are you even here if all you’re going to do is complain?” Jed demanded. “This isn’t even that hard a walk.”

“Nobody asked your opinion. We could have taken a boat.”

“No, we couldn’t have, the river’s too shallow in several places,” James told him.

“I’m literally a river witch. I could have made it work for us.”

“Not my river, you couldn’t,” said James.

Micha scowled, crossing his arms, which he then uncrossed when he tripped over a stone. “Shows what you know about rivers.”

“Shows what you know about walking in a straight line.”

“Shows what you know about getting punched in the face.”

“Okay,” Ron said to them, because he could see James getting annoyed. “The Black Clan are pacifists, so the first rule of living with us is that we don’t hit each other.” He made a mental note to write these down later.

They both looked at him, very unimpressed. “James hits you every night,” Jed said.

“Yes I do,” James agreed with a nod, not turning back. “That’s for sexual gratification, however. If you’re planning to hit each other for sexual enjoyment as well, that’s very much allowed.”

“What…” Both boys managed to splutter and go silent at the same time, which the forest found very funny. “You’re gross,” Jed muttered.

“The second rule will be that we don’t try to make people feel bad about the things they enjoy,” James told him. “The third rule will be that you eat whatever Ron makes for you.”

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” Micha asked, throwing a look at Ron.

“Nothing, I can just foresee you being picky eaters and Ron works very hard to cook for us, so I won’t tolerate your disrespecting him. The fourth rule will be that you won’t swear.”

“You going to spank us if we break the rules?” Jed asked.

“No. I don’t like either of you enough to spank you. I’ll send messages to your families and tell them you’re misbehaving brats and that they have to come get you.”

Both of them went extremely quiet at that and looked away. Ron smiled at James, who just sighed. He was smiling too, which was weird, and he took Ron’s hand.

“Excited to be home?” Ron guessed.

James just nodded. “Yes. I’m looking forward to it.”

Ron could feel his anticipation and couldn’t help but laugh. He wasn’t just looking forward to sitting down and taking his boots off. He was looking forward to something. “You can just say you’re excited to see Jay and Tanner’s house.”

“Oh.” James blinked. “Yes, I guess I am. I’d forgotten about that.”

The forest giggled at that, and Ron narrowed his eyes. “You’re hiding something,” he said.

James looked at Ron. “No.”

“And now you’re lying.”

James brought Ron’s hand up to his mouth, kissed it. “Okay, I’m hiding something, but that’s just because it’s a surprise. You’ll find out in two minutes and if you stop pressing it, I won’t have to lie.”

“Okay,” Ron said, warm inside totally separate from his charm. “You didn’t have to get me anything.”

“If it makes you feel better, pretend I got it for me and that you enjoying it is just a side effect.”

“This is terrible,” Jed grumbled, probably thinking he was being quiet. “They flirt all the time.”

“I know, it’s the worst,” Micha agreed.

“Shut up, I wasn’t talking to you.”

“You shut up, I wasn’t talking to you either.”

James had been right, it was only two more minutes and then they were coming up on the house. Ron could hear it from here, the garden singing to welcome them back before they’d even stepped into the area.

They did, the eternal summer making them immediately too warm. James was undoing Ron’s coat already. “What? Wow,” Micha said. “It’s hot.”

“Yeah, nice.”

“Wasn’t talking to you.”

“Shut up.”

They broke through the treeline, and there was the house, and…

Ron stopped, staring at it. “Oh,” he said, not sure what else to say. Well, one thing came to mind. “Oh, wow.”

“Do you like it?” James asked quietly. “I thought after I did it that you might not.”

The house was more than double the size it had been when they’d left. There was a whole huge addition on it, taking up a bunch of what had used to be the lawn. “You…asked the centaurs to do this for us?”

James nodded. “They asked if I had anything else I’d like them to do once they were done Jay and Tanner’s house. Is it okay? You do like it, right?”

Ron hugged James. “I love it,” he promised. The size of the house hadn’t really been bothering him, but it was so cluttered inside. There’d be so much room for everything now. “Thank you.”

“Why are they so excited about their own house?” Micha wanted to know.

“Read the energy in the conversation, dumbass, they clearly got this part built while they were gone.”

James was smiling now, and the forest was excitedly telling him all about how James had asked it to keep this a secret and how it had kept it such a good secret and now it was telling him all the details of the construction all at the same time, and Ron laughed.

“I know it was enough for us,” James said, taking Ron up to their new front door, which now had its own smaller door at shoulder-level. “But it was never meant to be a house. This was my parents’ cottage. I moved into it after they left because I burned their house down. It was never meant to…well, it was never meant for a family to live in. And I know we don’t have one of those of our own yet, but we do keep having family over and I’m tired of sleeping on the kitchen floor whenever someone needs the bed.”

Ron laughed again, nodding. “Me too,” he said. The new front door opened into the addition when James opened it, leading to a small mud room, where they took off their boots and coats and all of Ron’s clothes. From there, there was a hallway with three doors. All three rooms were empty. One of them was bigger than the others and had a proper hearth in it, and had a second door that led to their bedroom.

“I asked for a pantry in the kitchen, which is why the front door moved. I also asked for a room that could be a living room,” James said, gesturing at the room connected to the bedroom. “And for two extra rooms. The one across the hall can be your room.” That was directed at Micha and Jed.

They looked at each other. “You told us we were going to have to sleep in the garden,” Jed said with a scowl.

“Yes, I lied to you to keep this a secret from Ron. You can share that room there and don’t even begin to complain. You will have to sleep on the floor, at least until Ron builds you a bed.”

Ron was beaming. “I can do that.” He was going to have to build so much furniture. He couldn’t wait to start.

“Tanner will help you, I asked him before we left. You will accept his help, he knows what he’s doing and you don’t.”

Ron nodded, thinking that was fair enough. He’d learn by watching Tanner. “I can do that. This is amazing, James, really.”

“I figured the third room could be a study, so all the magical junk isn’t in the way anymore.” James took a breath, leading Ron through the living room and to the bedroom. “I’m not done, though,” he said.

The bedroom was a bit of a disaster, and it took Ron a second to realize that was because it was bigger. The back wall had been moved out, the size of the room doubled so that, once everything was put away, it would actually fit all the furniture. On the other side, there was a new door. Ron went over to it, James’s hand on his back.

It was the only new room that wasn’t empty. Sitting in the middle was the little bassinet Ron and Tanner had built for Delilah. Demon was sleeping in it.

Ron looked at James, who was looking at him, and he hugged James. “Don’t get too excited,” James said quietly. “I don’t expect we’ll need it any time soon. It just…seemed like a room that a house for a family should have.”

Too overwhelmed to say anything, Ron nodded, tears in his eyes. He agreed, it was. It was a room they were going to need. It was a room their house was going to need.

A room their home was going to need.

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