It’s Okay Not to Agree with or Get Along with Everyone All The Time
“Let’s talk about why you tried to kill me.”
“No wonder you don’t have any friends, if that’s how you start a conversation.”
“I have enough friends to know that friends don’t try to murder each other.”
“Clearly we have different types of friends.”
“Clearly,” said James, standing with his arms crossed in front of Sam. Derek and Todd were here for their visit, and Sam and Henry had come with them. James had sent them a message asking them to. “Would you like to explain yourself?”
Sam let out a sigh, standing awkwardly with Henry. “Not particularly.”
“Do it anyway.”
Something about Sam rumbled, and the forest got very tense in Ron’s head. He had his wand on his back. He really hoped he wasn’t going to need it.
Sam exhaled, some of the tension going out of him. “A lot of my friends aren’t very nice people. Most of them were my father’s friends before they were mine. Cassiopeia wanted your stone, and she was going to try and take it from you whether I told her to or not.”
“But you did tell her to.”
“Yes, because acting like I have the power to dictate their actions is how I maintain that power in reality.”
James nodded at that, but Ron wasn’t convinced. “But if all you’re doing is acting, you have no real power.”
The rumbling came back, this time accompanied by the forest pressing on Ron to put a stop to it. “I don’t trust you two not to be a threat to me someday,” Sam said. “No matter that we’re allies now, I don’t think you plan to be in the long run.”
“Neither do you,” said James. “And that’s fine. Were you lying when you told me you wanted to banish all the demons from the world?”
“No. I’ve been taking steps to do that.” Sam let out another breath. Every time he did that the forest breathed a little too.
James nodded. “Very well. I had hoped we could be proper friends, but if you don’t want to be, that’s fine. I would like to make a promise to you that I won’t be your enemy for as long as you’re trying to banish the demons.”
Sam was quiet for a second, moving occasionally as if to touch Henry, but he didn’t. The forest was whispering so much in Ron’s ear that he couldn’t keep up. “Fine. I can accept that agreement.”
“A pact,” Ron said, slotting a series of images in place to get a word. He didn’t like how easily James was choosing to let this slide, but the forest was sure this could help. “Let’s make a pact.”
Sam snorted. “Like we do with demons? Fine, if that will calm you down.”
It very much would calm the forest down, and it gathered around them. James looked at Ron, who nodded his assurance. It’s okay, the forest knows what it’s doing.
Yes, that’s what it keeps saying too, James agreed.
Sam was holding out his hand, so James took it. “There will be no violence between us or our clans until all the demons have been banished,” James said. The forest closed in more.
“Agreed,” said Sam.
The forest sang a triumphant song and there was a cinching in the air, Sam let go of James’s hand, scowling. “What did you do?”
“Nothing,” said James. “What did you do?”
“Nothing,” Sam insisted. “You…took some of my power.”
“No,” James promised. Ron frowned. The forest hadn’t taken any of Sam’s power. “I promise I didn’t.”
“What happened?” Henry asked Sam.
“Don’t know. It felt like making a real pact. I guess it was a real pact.”
“You don’t have to sound so angry,” James pointed out. “Since presumably you weren’t lying.”
“I…” Sam looked pissed off, and Ron was a little bit worried. “Fine, whatever. Maybe you could tell me what you’re doing to help get rid of the demons.”
“You sat here last month and told me you didn’t need help,” James reminded Sam. “Would you like help?”
“I…I fucking hate you, you know.”
James smiled, even as Ron tensed. Henry looked like he was about to throw a punch. “I know. I’m glad we’re finally being honest, Sam. Would you like to stay for dinner?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Good, I didn’t want you to stay anyway.” Neither had Ron. Micha and Jed didn’t deserve that. “I’ll send Derek and Todd back at this time tomorrow. Goodbye.”
“Whatever,” Sam muttered. “Fuck you.” He turned around and stormed back through the portal, Henry following him.
Ron let out the breath he’d been holding. “Fuck.”
“Language,” James said. “But yes. The pact was a good idea. It ended up being magically binding.”
“It’s a good fucking thing, too,” Ron muttered, reaching out to the portal and closing it. The forest had known it would be, even if Ron hadn’t. Even if Sam himself hadn’t. “I really want you to stop being so forgiving of people who try to kill you.”
“I know.” James sighed and went back to the house. “But I think I would have been like Sam if I’d grown up with my mother.”
Ron looked at James, and he shook his head. “No, I don’t think you would have. Nothing could have made you that horrible.” He’d used to think that Sam could be their friend, but not anymore.
“He’s scared, Ron,” said James, with a deep sigh. “He’s just scared and he can’t control what his father built and I feel sorry for him because that’s not that different from the reason why I killed those people who hurt you.”
Ron looked down, chest tingling for a second. “That isn’t the same thing as plotting to murder someone.”
“It’s not, and you can’t keep trying to be friends with someone who wants to kill you.”
“I’m not. I’m just…”
“I don’t know,” James said, sighing. “Trying to help him. I don’t know how.”
Ron nodded, putting an arm around James. “I know. But he also has to want you to help him.”
“Why? He needs help and I can help him. I understand respecting his autonomy but Ron, he’s going to hurt people.”
“Yeah, I know.” Ron felt bad, because James felt bad. “I’m sorry, I just…how would you feel if I tried to help the people who shot me?”
James looked away. “I guess so. If someone doesn’t help him, we’re going to have to kill him. Which we now can’t do because the forest helped make that agreement magically binding. I have no idea what the consequences of breaking that pact would be.”
Not good, the forest told Ron. “You wouldn’t have killed him anyway,” Ron said gently. “It’ll be okay. The forest is sure this was the right thing to do.”
“Yeah.” James sighed. “Okay. Come on, I’m going to spank you for swearing.”
“No,” said Ron, shaking his head.
“We just had an argument and we’re still kind of arguing,” Ron told him. “I’d prefer if we could wait an hour, just to be safe.”
James looked at him, then he looked at his hands, then he leaned on Ron. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Ron promised, kissing his temple.
“Neither did you. It’s okay for you to disagree with me.”
“You too. You are the head of the clan, so if you think this is best for the clan, it’s your decision.”
“You’re in the clan, and if you think it’s a bad idea, you have the right to say that.” James smiled. “Okay, but let’s not continue arguing by trying to both say why we were wrong. What are we having for supper?”
“One of your grandmother’s recipes. It’s a mushroom recipe she thinks you won’t like.”
“Because Todd likes mushrooms and I think Micha will like it,” Ron said. “And because it has no meat in it, so I don’t have to make Jed feel bad by making him something else.”
“Oh. Okay, but if I don’t like it you have to make me something else.”
Ron smiled. “I’m pretty sure you’ll like it the way I’m making it.”
They went in the house together, just a little safer than they had been. And everything was okay.