Chapter 8


“I’m not doing that, da.”

“Please, Quinn? Pleeeeease?”

The demon’s tail lashed at the nasal whine over his shoulder and he hunkered down more in front of his soul bottles. Alan couldn’t help smirking and leaned in closer, speaking directly above one of Quinn’s ears.

“You know you want to help your da. Come on, it’ll be easy.”

The ear flicked, thumping against the underside of Alan’s jaw. The human traced the silver markings on his son’s shoulder with one finger.

“Just put some ground up meat in the food. Rabbit won’t even notice.”

“He’ll notice.”

“He won’t. I promise.” Alan draped himself limply against Quinn’s back, and the demon rocked forward on his haunches under the added weight. Resting his chin on one gray shoulder, Alan petulantly added, “Don’t you want to make your da happy?”

“He’ll throw up. And if he doesn’t make it to the sink in time, you’ll make me clean it up.”

Face twisted in mock indignation, Alan turned his face toward this son's, ignoring the twitching ear that threatened to put his eye out. “Would I do that to you?”

Quinn met his gaze from the corners of his eyes. “You have. More than once.”

“I just want our dinner to taste good. You’ll like it better, too.” The demon couldn’t argue; they both knew if he had a choice, he’d not only be eating meat, he’d be eating it raw.

I’ll like it better if I don’t have to clean up Rabbit’s vomit.”

Alan sulked. Apparently no one had told Quinn that he couldn’t argue. “He’s the one who invited himself over, and if he’s not going to bring food, then he just has to deal with whatever you make.”

“And I’m making something vegetarian, so you’ll just have to deal with not having any meat in it.”

The human opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the sudden, cacophonous chiming of the bottles in front of them.

Quite suddenly on the other side of the room, Alan eyed the shelves of glass containers in annoyance and trepidation, and then dropped his gaze to look at Quinn. Rather than the over-the-shoulder, nonplussed glance he was expecting, the demon was looking toward the front of the store. Tail lashing and ears angled back against his skull, he unfolded himself and stood upright.

“Quinn? What--”

The bell at the door to the shop chimed and Alan looked toward the front of the store, turning the situation over in his mind. Whoever was up there, the soul bottles had announced him to Quinn, and Quinn didn’t like what he was hearing. That meant that whoever it was was bad news, and Alan’s survival instincts wouldn’t let him go up there if he didn’t have to. He looked at Quinn again, and frowned.

“You going to see who it is?”

“No.”

Alan blinked in surprise at the flat refusal. Quinn looked ready to slink further away from the front of the shop, ears and tail down like a threatened, frightened animal. The weight of this left Alan stunned.

Swallowing with difficulty against a dry throat, Alan inched toward the curtain. His skin prickled with curiosity, and the longer he hesitated, the more he itched with it. Whatever was in the shop couldn’t be worse than this feeling, right?

Still, he wished the soul bottles would shut up.

His breath caught in his throat as the curtain fluttered suddenly, then glared. This was ridiculous. He was one of the strongest beings in the city--he had no reason to behave like a scared little girl. Still glowering, he yanked the curtain aside.

The blond man in an annoyingly pink button up shirt at the counter was something of a let down after all that. Alan cast an annoyed glance at Quinn and stepped out into the shop.

“Hey there,” the shopkeeper greeted, coming to see what it was the younger man was looking at in the glass case. “What can I do for you?”

The blond looked up at him, meeting his gaze. For a second, Alan felt a dizzying rush of panic and froze, unable even to think. Then the other man looked away again, glancing around the shop, and the paralysis disappeared.

He shook his head, trying to clear it.

“I’m looking for...” The blond paused, eyes narrowing in thought. “How do I put it...? I need something to use against an enemy.”

Alan leaned against the counter. “Are you looking to injure him? Make him sick? Make him unlucky?”

“Physical incapacitation.” The blond smiled. “At least. Death would be fine, too.”

Alan’s eyes scanned the merchandise in the case in front of him. He tapped on the glass, drawing the customer’s attention. “What about this? It’s a dagger cursed so that any wound made with it will never close up. And it comes together with a bandage that has the anti-curse cast on it.”

The blond eyed the blade in question, and murmured, “I was hoping for something a bit more subtle.”

“What’s more subtle than giving someone a small knick and watching them bleed to death from it?”

“Lots of things.” Despite his words, he was smiling. “I don’t really need the bandage, though. Why pay for something I won’t use?”

“What if you accidentally cut someone other than your target with it?” Alan shot back.

“It would only matter if I cut myself.”

Alan raised a sardonic eyebrow at that. Self-centered much? “If you just want the guy dead, wouldn’t a regular knife or, hey, why not a gun? do the trick just as well?”

The blond met his eyes again, and his lips curled to show his canines. The faint chiming from the backroom seemed suddenly louder. “Well, the man I’m trying to kill is very good at not dying when he should.”

Despite the small likelihood that he was the one being referred, Alan had to repress a shudder. He glanced at the curtain, hoping to see Quinn nearby, but there was no trace of the demon.

“I guess if you’re intent on selling the two together, I don’t mind, though. Just in case of an accident. I wouldn’t want to be stopped before I’m finished.”

Alan snapped back into salesman mode, turning his eyes back on the customer. “A wise choice.”

He started to take the dagger and bandage out of the case, wrapping the two in paper and putting them into a plastic bag. He only glanced up when he heard the door chime again, and found Rabbit standing just inside the doorway. He was staring at the blond at the counter and Alan rolled his eyes, imagining the other man making any number of remarks about how rarely he got customers who actually bought anything.

It wasn’t until the blond turned around the leave, purchase in hand, that Alan realized his friend might be staring for a totally different reason.

“Nicholas!” The blond moved toward the door. “I didn’t think someone like you would come to a place like this.”

Rabbit visibly bristled at the other man’s cheerful flippancy, though he looked pale to Alan. He wasn’t given a chance to answer, though.

“I just came to pick something up,” the blond continued brightly. “I have a little problem that needs to be taken care of, and this man has given me just the tools I needed to do it. I have to hurry now, though! There’s still a lot to do!”

And with that the blond swept out the door. Rabbit watched him go, then looked back at Alan. That was when the shopkeeper noticed his friend had gone pale. He frowned in concern.

“Hey, something wrong?”

Rabbit shook his head slowly, and moved toward the back of the shop. “No...no. It’s nothing. That guy just gives me the creeps.”

“You too?” Alan scowled. “When he showed up, Quinn acted liked his demon-daddy had come back or something.”

“You didn’t sense anything from him?”

“Not really, no.”

Rabbit gave him an odd look as he skirted around the counter and through the curtain into the back.

Alan scoffed as he followed him. “What, you’re telling me you did? You can’t even hear those damn things of Quinn’s; I seriously doubt you picked up something from that guy that I couldn’t.”

“Even you’re human, da.” Quinn’s voice was soft as he crouched in front of his collection. “There are some things humans aren’t sensitive to.”

“Oh, so we’re all finally admitting that Rabbit’s not human.” Alan crossed his arms over his chest, ignoring the look the other man gave him. “I guess the next step is being honest about the fact that the Surge is just a douche with a superhero complex, or something, right?”

Rabbit sighed and sank down in a chair, rubbing his temples. “Whatever you fixed for supper had better be fucking delicious, Quinn, because nothing else if going to be worth this headache.”