MOTHER fucker!” Tristan shouted as he got a good look at the man on his sofa. A man that should have been dead.
And he should have fucking known it was going to be one of those days after the dream Tristan had and then waking up to fresh snow as if to rub it in his face that Yuki was pining for him. But, determined to move at his own pace and needing solid food, Tristan slogged out to the store on foot. He was tired and soaked through to the skin by the time he trudged back home with his groceries.
Being after dark, Ash would naturally be awake, so he was expecting to find her sitting in the living room, reading as she often did when they didn’t have plans to go out. Only, it wasn’t his lovely vampire companion on the sofa when he walked in. Instead, it was a man Tristan watched die more than three months ago under Ash’s fangs.
The moment the harsh curse left Tristan, he dropped the bags in his arms and dove for the kitchen. After having his apartment violated by Malik’s minions, he got smart and planted a few key weapons around the place. Besides the normal kitchen knives and such, there was also a finely honed Japanese steel tantō tucked between a cabinet and the fridge. He was more of a gun person, but the foot-long blade worked to keep neighbors from being too nosy. He had the weapon within seconds and was on his feet again, moving towards the frightened man. No, not a man, a teen—he was just a kid, this Sebastian look-alike.
“Who the fuck are you?” Tristan demanded of the boy, now pinned under him on the floor with the knife to his neck and a knee in his back.
“Uh, uh…I’m, uh…” At least the kid’s voice didn’t crack even if he did squeak a little.
“Who are you? Tristan demanded again. “Why are you here?”
“I, I don’t—I’m Simon!”
There was no shuffling of clothing or feet on the worn tatami to announce her arrival to the room, so when Ash’s voice cut in it was like thunder. “What in the Goddess—Tristan!”
He flinched but refused to take his eyes off the boy. “Some vampire you are,” he said with a dark smile and finally glanced at her, his smile going more crooked at her obvious and barely concealed amusement. She wore only a light robe and he let it distract him for more than a few seconds. “You know there’s a fucking faerie in the apartment, right?”
Ash scowled but her eyes shone with laughter. “What sort of vampire do you take me for?” She tilted her head, frowning at the men. “Simon is a guest.”
“You know this kid?”
The boy looked less frightened and scowled. “I’m not a kid.”
Tristan sneered at him.
“Tristan,” Ash chided in a tone he was fully familiar with and he cringed. “This is Simon. Simon, Tristan. Now, will you please let him up?”
Tristan grumbled but let the Sebastian clone get up. Didn’t mean he had to put his weapon away. Simon stood, looking stiff and on guard as he smoothed out his clothes—his really bad 80’s clothes. To be honest, all 80’s clothes were bad, but this was like the culmination of every bad part of eighties-wear one could possibly find. He was bright and shiny and oh so deco. It was fucking disgusting.
Aside from the loud clothes, the kid really did look a younger Sebastian. Simon’s hair was the same black dyed over natural crayon red, though Sebastian’s was longer and less spikey. Same spring grass green eyes, same soft features and small build. Even the pointy fae ears which stood out starkly without the hair to hide them.
Ash sighed and went to shut the front door, ignoring the food exploded all over the floor that Tristan’d dropped on his way in. “Yukihime sent Simon for us.”
Tristan took a moment to process that and then smiled cynically, making the young fae step back in surprise. “Fucking took her long enough.”
Ash’s smile was soft and tired as she shrugged. “I think she was actually waiting for us to come to her.”
Tristan snorted, shaking his head. He was just about to, actually. Today was his last self-imposed lazy day and then tomorrow he was going to go see Yuki one last time. He needed to build up a mental tolerance to the old vampire. It was nice not having her around the past few months. It was great having no one around. Just him and Ash. No shinwa, no heikō, no bullshit.
A look crossed the fae’s face like he’d made a decision and then he was launching off into this fast paced monologue. “Yeah so Master Yukihime sent me, said she wants to send you on a hunt and that I should come get you and um, bring you to her so she can tell you about it and you’d go out and get the shinwa but I don’t actually know which one since she never tells me anything because no one tells me anything.”
The others just stared at Simon, Tristan in wide-eyed surprise, Ash in tired acceptance like she’d been through it already and learned to just deal.
“Okay...,” Tristan drawled, eyeing the fae. Hyper. Way too hyper.
Simon smiled brightly. “Master said you were a hunter, an Uruwashi but I don’t know if I believe in the Uruwashi, I mean they aren’t really even shinwa like me and the vampire n’ all or even heikō but big sis and brother said they existed once and did you know my sister died last year and um—”
“Okay. Stop.” Holy-fucking-hell. Tristan didn’t think the kid even took a breath in there. “Yuki told you specifically to come for me?”
“Ah-huh, she said—”
He put his hand up. “No, I know. She said for you to get us.” Tristan got that. He also understood why she sent Simon of all the “people” in her service. She was fucking with them.
Tristan glanced at Ash and then at her tiny nod, sighed. “We’ll go but I need to clean this shit up first—”
“I’ll help!” the fae chirped way too cheerily.
Ash smirked at Tristan over her shoulder as she retreated back into the bedroom to finish getting dressed.
“No, I got it,” Tristan grumbled.
“No, no, it’s okay really, I don’t mind!”
“Okay, first off… Slow. Down.” Tristan made eye contact with the kid. That seemed to make Simon uneasy and made the kid’s mouth clamp shut. “And two, volume. I’m not deaf, okay? Inside voices.”
The fae blinked at him a moment before putting on a big, cheesy smile. “’Kay!”
Tristan wondered if the need to be useful was a fae thing. Even though Sebastian was really a bad guy, a spy, the man did more work than he needed to. Sure, it was his job to blend in and not be suspected, but Tristan always got the impression that the man actually enjoyed being useful like that. Like that first night in Paris when the fae ordered a whole goddamn buffet of food when Tristan mentioned he was hungry.
A few minutes later Ash was dressed in a skirt outfit with knee-high boots and a suede jacket lined in shearling. Murasaki Kaeru, her favorite katana, finally recovered from its long trip of being lost in shipping from France, was resting happily in a new over-the-shoulder sheath that put the draw directly over her left shoulder. Tristan swore she almost cried when she’d heard word that her blade might be lost forever. He’d only just found out that it’d been an heirloom in Haruka’s family, a treasure Ash claimed the night she saved Haruka. It meant a lot to her before Haruka died and now that the girl was gone, the sword was beyond priceless. It was a precious memory and probably the only material item Ash gave a damn about. Tristan’s eyes fell to her chest and the locket there that he’d given her in France. Okay, make that two things she gave a damn about.
“Ready?” she asked, looking eager. Tristan related; he’d been waiting a long time to tell ole-crazy-pants off. A little earlier than planned, but he’d go with it. Winging it was totally his thing anyway.
He smiled and took the knives she held out. Guns were illegal in Japan, but that didn’t keep him from carrying one in a concealed shoulder holster. He wouldn’t have it any other way. Especially now that he knew about all the frightening things there were out in the world, the shinwa and heikō. And the vampire were only one of thirteen.
He frowned as he thought of the other apex predator, his own kind, the Uruwashi. He’d always been led to believe he was the last alive, but found that wasn’t true when he met an honest-to-bitten Uruwashi in Greece. Mamoru was his friend, and would have become his mentor if that fucking elf, Silas, hadn’t accidentally killed him.
While Simon blathered on about something or another to Ash, Tristan dipped into the bedroom to put on dry pants and add a spare clip to his person. One could never be too prepared when it came to Yuki… or Desmond for that matter. Both were just as liable to kiss him as draw a weapon on him. Or rub dirt in his hair—it was always so hard to judge their moods.
When he came out of the room, Simon was still yammering away. Tristan rolled his eyes, eliciting a soft chuckle from Ash as she put an arm around his waist for a quick hug. “Ready?”
He nodded and went to the kitchen for his car keys. Fifteen fucking minutes later Ash found them in the corner between the desk and patio slider. The look she gave Tristan as she handed him the keys was full of apprehension. They all saw him put the keys on the kitchen counter before he changed and their displacement could only be a few, highly inconvenient, things.
Tristan held the door for the others, which his landlady had fixed in the time they were gone. Maybe he’d force Desmond to pay for it out of principal. It wasn’t like he was hurting for money, not with Ash’s deep pockets. She had single handedly paid for their new home. Tristan was weary to ask how.
The young fae smiled brightly and went outside, practically skipping like it was the happiest day of his life. Who knew, maybe it was.
“Where does Yuki find them?” Tristan mumbled as he followed the kid out.
“Sometimes I wonder,” Ash said softly.
Ash slowed her pace to fall in next to Tristan and whispered, “He is the younger sibling to Sybille and Sebastian.”
He nodded, watching the fae prance off ahead of them through the snow on the upper landing. “Yeah, figured as much. He looks just like Sebastian.” Not to mention the whole fae naming convention: faerie given names started with the last letter in the mother’s given name. It wasn’t hard-fast, but usually a good guess if you met more than one faerie with an “S” name in the same region that they were all siblings and there could be a shitton of them too with the way faerie reproduced.
“Do you... do you think he’s like Sebastian?”
“Yeah,” he answered in a whisper. The memory of being betrayed by the man was still very fresh. His death even more so. Ash kept Sebastian alive for nearly a week before draining him and dumping him overboard the cruise ship just before reaching Greece. If it weren’t so justified, Tristan would have had to dispense Uruwashi justice on Ash. Not that he ever could.
“No. His mind is fully open, he has nothing to hide. He thinks only of serving Yukihime… and making new friends.”
Tristan had to chuckle.
“He is not a deceitful person.”
“Do you think he knows, you know, about what we did to his brother?” He looked down and met Ash’s gaze.
She shook her head. “He does not look at you as a man who has killed someone he cares for.”
That was true enough.
“Besides, no one knows what happened to Sebastian.”
Well, that was true too.
Ash seemed tense all the sudden and Tristan frowned, meaning to ask but then he was distracted. Down the stairs and halfway across the car park already, Simon suddenly stopped and turned to face them with his arms behind his head, looking carefree and full of vibrant youth. “Hey, are you really an Uruwashi?”
Ash smirked, nudging Tristan in the side when he groaned.
“It’s supposed to be a secret,” he grumbled to her before saying louder to Simon, “Yes. Yes, I am.”
“No way! That’s so awesome,” Simon practically shouted. “What can you do? Do you have powers? I read they have powers and stuff, like um…”
“Thought you didn’t believe in the Uruwashi?” Tristan said as he frowned at his snow covered car. He wasn’t looking forward to cleaning it off. There was already half a foot or so and more falling. It was a good day to stay in.
“Well, not entirely, they’re like, um only fairytales to us now…”
“Says the faerie,” Tristan mumbled to Ash as Simon kept on talking.
The couple had caught up to Simon who’d stopped to gaze up at Tristan in awe.
“What?” he snapped feeling self-conscious all the sudden.
Simon blinked those spring grass eyes up at him, so big and full of childlike wonder. “Tall... you’re so tall.” Simon was even shorter than Sebastian, topping a small four-ten, max. The fae grinned suddenly. “You’re so awesome!”
Ash laughed and Tristan gave her a little shove away from him. “Yes, Tristan is awesome. But he has a bit of an ill temper, dear faerie. Mind yourself.”
He scowled down at her. Temper? Aw hell, guess it was true enough. He wasn’t always like this. He used to be pretty damn cheery and nice, but could still rip your fucking head off if you deserved it. Nowadays though, it seemed like all he did was frown and mouth off.
Simon started to walk backwards again, having no trouble navigating the snow. “Oh! What vampire bit you, was it earth? Wind? Oh, oh water? Can’t be fire, they’re all dead n’ all—oh my god, do you have fangs? Can I see?”
Tristan sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Christ, it’s like twenty questions…”
The fae gave him a big grin, shrugged and turned to face forward only to prance off towards the line of parked cars buried under snow.
Simon was a constant buzz in Tristan’s ear as they cleaned off his car enough for him and Ash to get in. Tristan rolled his eyes at Ash, making her chuckle and went around to open the door for her. His girlfriend before last would have called him sexist for it—there was a reason they didn’t last—but Ash only smiled warmly and gave him a soft pat on the chest. In the background the fae was still talking. Tristan couldn’t believe anyone had so much to say. Not that he was really saying anything at all.
When Tristan turned to go around to his side of the car he stopped with a surprised noise. The fae was right behind, like all up in his shit right behind him.
“I know, I know! It was the were-house. The were-house, like warehouse. You know the lycanthropes? Get it? Get it?”
“I don’t have a clue what the fuck you’re talking about, kid.”
Simon looked crushed as he muttered, “It was a joke—”
“Listen,” Tristan interrupted before the kid could get lost in another monologue. “You seem nice, but you’re hard to follow, okay? Just… relax.”
Simon nodded but still had the kicked puppy look. “Okay.”
The two stood there, staring at each other.
“So… you drove here…?”
Simon stared up at him for a long time. The kid looked like he was really thinking. And it was an effort on his part. “Oh yeah! I drove here.” He slumped, letting his arms hang lifeless at his sides. “Can’t I ride with you? I get lonely when I drive alone there’s no one to talk to and Master wouldn’t let me bring Jennifer or Sacha along and I don’t care about my car. Can I?”
“All right,” he answered and it was the first real frown of the night he’d put on.
Hell, the expression looked so wrong on him that Tristan felt bad for the kid. But then he remembered the constant chatter they’d have to endure for the long ride to Yuki’s place. Tristan was sure is brain would leak out of his ears if he had to spend that much time in a confined space with the kid. Then again, that might still happen, they were off to see Yukihime, Master of Water and all things crazy, after all.
Ash startled him when she took his hand, still standing in the open car door. She offered him a half smile and then, when she seemed to notice his little frown, went on her toes to kiss his cheek. Without a word she teased the keys from Tristan’s hand and went around to the other side. He sighed, knowing that look on her face and got in the car, accidentally dropping snow into his lap when his hair brushed the side of the roof.
Ash maneuvered the car through the snow, not bothering to wait on the exuberant fae. The silence was cold, but not uncomfortable despite Tristan’s focused awareness on Ash and her unspoken thoughts. He could just tell there was something on her mind but knew better than to push. She was as hardheaded as him and would hold onto her musings until she was ready.
“I have something to tell you.”
Tristan stiffened at her sudden words. For Ash, of all people, to come out and say I have something to tell you… well, it couldn’t be good.
“You…” She glanced at him with an apprehensive look. “You are not going to like it.”
He turned in his seat and fixed his attention on her face, ready to pick up the tiniest of clues as to what this was about. “Okay…?”
“It’s about Sebastian.”
His hands tightened into fists where they rested on his lap. “Ahuh.”
She let out a sigh as if preparing herself. “There is a chance he isn’t dead.”
“Um… what?” He was there. He had forced himself to watch Ash take the fae’s last blood before helping her dump him over the side of the cruise ship.
Ash sighed again, slumping down in her seat. “I have killed a great many people in my life. But the only kind I have ever killed on purpose, of my own will has been vampires, wrong vampires… and a few dozen lycanthrope, out of pity. Sebastian, he—He deserved to die for what he did to you--us. But even knowing that, I just, I could not.”
“I drained him near death. When he went over the side, he was not conscious but he was alive.” She stopped and the silence pecked at Tristan’s mind. He was looking out the window again, unable to meet her eyes.
When he said nothing, she added, “He had a fifteen percent chance of surviving, actually.”
His attention snapped around to her again. “And that qualifies as you not killing him?”
She pouted a little. “For me, yes.”
Tristan took in a deep breath and let it out, forcing the tension away. “Yeah… okay. I guess I accept that. But, Jesus, what if he did make it? I already have to sleep with one eye open for the vampires, I don’t want to have to worry about all the others too.”
“I know,” she said sadly. “Which is why I thought you should know.”
“I am sorry.”
He looked at her, confused.
“For not killing him.” She glanced away from the road long enough to see his frown. “I know you wanted me to.”
He groaned and took her hand off the steering wheel, giving it a soft squeeze. “No, actually, I’m a little relieved.”
Ash squeezed his hand in return. “It was weighing on your conscious.”
“Yeah.” Along with Audric’s fledglings. He wanted to believe there was no other way, but he just couldn’t. He wasn’t a good enough liar to tell himself otherwise.
When he glanced at her, Ash was looking at him with a sort of “do you want to talk about it” kind of look. But it was not something she’d normally say aloud. Tristan either. They both tended to bottle shit up until it exploded—more frequently for Tristan. In fact, he was sure he was due for his next epic meltdown soon. He just hoped Ash had it in her to pick his broken self up when he inevitably failed to help himself.
Shit, for all he knew, he had one in France and just didn’t remember it. Dammit, he was going to cave and ask her to tell him what happened after all. He just knew it. And knowing himself, he’d do it at the worst possible moment too. Fuck, he was a detriment to himself and everyone around him.
“I will be sure to find a moment to tell Simon.”
She glanced at him with a confused frown.
“Just like that, you’re going to tell him the truth?”
Her attention went back to the road. “He knows the world he lives in. He understands the nature of his fellow shinwa. Don’t you think he deserves to know my sin against him?”
“Yeah but… I mean, Sebastian was a traitor. And a monster. Do you really want to be the one to tell that boy that? Simon seems like a good kid.”
Ash slumped. “Simon will understand.”
Tristan wasn’t so sure about that but he let it slide for the moment. He had to get his head on right before walking into Yuki’s home. Too bad it was impossible to do in the next thirty minutes what he’d been struggling to do for the past year and half.