1 – implosion

He throws his phone. Not out the window and into the canal like he wants to, nor against the wall. Just onto the couch before he stalks into the bathroom of his new apartment.

He moved. Not because he needed to yet, but because he needed a distraction and that seemed hellish enough to make his mind deal with something else for a bit.

As it turns out, he’s capable of being miserable and anxious about more than one thing at a time, and now he gets to be both of those things and have to sort through boxes every fucking time he needs something.

Cole flops down onto his mattress. He hasn’t even bothered to get a bed yet; he has to buy one, because he’d just thrown the old one away. Almost all of his furniture, really. It was more trouble to have it shipped across the world than to just buy more, so away it went. Well, he hadn’t actually thrown it away. It was donated or something.

He’d wanted to throw it away because maybe he was imagining it but after he’d gotten home he couldn’t seem to get the smell out of anything he’d taken to Ireland; instead it just seemed to infect everything he owned. But he’d happened to pick up a phone call – because it was before all of this had started and it was the wolf pup – in the middle of preparing to do exactly that and had been talked out of it.

So he’d donated it all, to some shelter for something or other, and moved. Bought a place in Copenhagen because it was about as opposite southern Australia as you could get. He’s tired of the heat. Of the perpetual fucking sun. Of everyone speaking fucking English all the fucking time.

He hadn’t really thought about the fact that the language had changed in the past thousand years. It makes sense, of course, the first time he says something wrong – something old – and just gets a weird look, but he hadn’t planned for that.

Nothing a week on TikTok can’t fix, though.

Except that means being on his phone, which won’t fucking stop fucking blowing up. And it’s only getting worse.

But it’s not his problem, he’s decided. Not even when it’s his old apartment that gets torn apart by demons. It just confirms that moving was a good decision.

Leaving his phone where it is on the couch, Cole grabs the little fob thing that’ll let him back into the building and his apartment and goes out. That’s been the best thing about being here, because he refuses to think of Copenhagen as back – as home. It’s overcast a good portion of the time so he rarely has to sit around waiting for it to get dark. If he wakes up early and wants to go out, he just does it.

It’s dark, now. It was dark when he woke up, but he fucked around in his empty apartment for a while before it got to be too much.

Nothing a bit of air can’t fix. That’s the other great part about being here. The air smells different, and the people with it. Everything smells and tastes like the sea. Cold and dark and slightly bitter, just like him. He breathes a silent laugh and turns toward Nordhavnen in search of a meal.

He hadn’t chosen his apartment for its proximity to the docks, but it was very quickly making itself apparent as a huge added bonus. A quick walk and a short train ride to what was practically an all-you-can-eat buffet. Sailors were always an easy meal, and here he has variety.

It doesn’t help. One of them very unsubtly offers him a good time – he’s sure it wouldn’t be – and another, the one he ends up sequestering in a dark corner somehow fills his veins and leaves him feeling empty all at once.

Maybe he should answer his phone.

Maybe that’s his problem – that he hasn’t worked in weeks. He’s pretty sure that constitutes a problem, in the modern world. Makes him a workaholic or something. But what else does he have?

Surely killing whatever the fuck it is, demons or not, will provide some sort of distraction. The smell of blood and sulfur has to get rid of the smell of moss and clover and eyebright and thyme, right?

When he gets back to his apartment, he picks up his phone to find another missed call and a half a dozen other notifications. The call is the one one he cares about. From the wolf pup, of all people.

“Shouldn’t you be in fucking bed?” he asks when the call connects.

“What are you, my dad? See, that’s a joke. Because you could be like- what? At least my great-great-great-great grandfather. Metaphorically speaking or whatever.”

“Is this what you called for, ulvehvalp? To call me old? Because I’m certain you could’ve done that through a text.”

“Yeah maybe if you answered your texts. But apparently you don’t do that anymore. Did you forget how that works? Is your eyesight going bad? Can that even happen to vampires?”

“Were you this annoying before, or have you had all of your brain cells fucked out of you?”

“Ooh, someone’s touchy. Nah dude, like you got me all hooked into this shit and now I can’t stop watching. It’s worse than the five o’clock news, and at least in this there’s no Mitch McConnell.”

Cole hums noncommittally and kicks a box of books out of his way as he crosses to stare out of a window. This one opens to the cobbled streets below – one of the only ones that opens to something instead of the sky.

“Seriously though. You know I’m not like, exactly a fan of what you do? But it might be time for you to do something, because no one else seems to be.”

“The mantle is yours if you want it,” Cole says tiredly. And he is, tired. He sighs and says, “Do you have time to put me an overview together? I don’t feel like going through all of the shit I keep getting and it’ll be faster if- you’re better at that.”

“Already in your inbox. Shared the Google Drive folder with you yesterday.”


“Wow, you’re really not ok.”

He frowns. “I’m fine, thank you. Just tired. I did just move to a different continent, and jet lag is real even when you’re dead.

“Uh huh. Are you, y’know, eating?”

He sighs again. “Is this a question borne of concern for my well being or that of others, ulvehvalp?

“Uh, both?”

In the background, Cole hears someone – presumably Tate – mumble something. He checks his watch. A bit past midnight, in the states. Not late exactly, but it is for a work night, and he knows that all three of them tend to be in bed earlier than this.

“I’ll take a look at your work.”

“Huh? Yeah ok. If I find anything else I’ll send it to you.” And then, the line goes mercifully silent.

Cole throws his phone again (onto his bed, this time) and pulls his shirt, which is new and very pointedly only smells like chemicals and laundry detergent, over his head. That just gets tossed in the vague direction of the hamper before he toes out of his boots and flops onto his mattress again.

In addition to his furniture, he’d gotten rid of a good portion of his wardrobe. It needed it, truth be told, but especially for a relocation like this one. He hadn’t gotten rid of all of it though. There were still a couple of things, in a box in the closet at the front of his apartment, carefully packaged and tucked away. As effectively contained to be forgotten as possible.

He picks up his phone and pulls up the folder. Young though they may be, the pup is thorough and efficient both. The sources are all there, but at the top of the folder there’s a spreadsheet that’s titled open this one asshole. A faint smile creeps across his face as he taps the link. It opens on the first try, a result of him having just eaten, but he’s glad for it. If it didn’t he thinks he might actually hurl his phone through the window, open or not.

The spreadsheet is no exception to his expectations for the wolf’s work. It’s organized with dates, locations, severity- and then the notes. Their own take on things. And that’s the useful part. Allows him to sift through the annoying shit to the things that might actually require him. Not that the annoying shit is good, but it’s not- people need to handle their own disasters, sometimes.

All in all, there’s a good six that might be something. Demons, all of them, and all in the last few months. All since-

Not that there’s any correlation. He knows time flows differently between realms. Probably they just now finished up whatever fucking demon council was necessary to send a search party, and-

But no, he knows better.

He contacted Cole… fuck, over a year ago now, to try to hire him.

A fucking archduke of the outer realms. Talk about a smell he couldn’t get out of his fucking nose – damp and acrid, like licking a quarry wall or something. Great cheekbones, though.

Maybe it did take him that long to get together a group willing to come to earth, though. To find demons strong enough to cross through. If that’s the case, then he might actually be in trouble…

Which isn’t his problem. It’s not his problem and he doesn’t care.

What is his problem is that there are demons crossing over in numbers he hasn’t seen since the fucking inquisition. And that’s bad. So he’ll start digging. See if he can get confirmation on why they’re coming through like this. At the very least, he can rip off some fucking heads. That’s bound to make him feel better.

Get him out of whatever this funk is.

He stands to take his jeans off, tossing them in the same pile of laundry before he walks across the hall to the bathroom. Turning the shower all the way to hot, Cole brushes his teeth to get rid of the taste of random sailor and steps inside only once the room is full of steam.

It’s almost hot enough. Almost enough to warm up the rapidly-cooling blood in his veins. Once he’s done washing, he just leans against the wall and stands there, letting the water beat on his back until it’s only lukewarm.

Sighing, he turns off the water, makes a half-assed attempt at drying off and steps back into the hallway. Against his will, his eyes turn toward the front of the apartment. Toward the closet he can’t see, and the box inside.

An apartment littered with them, and that’s the only one he knows where it is. The only one he knows what it contains.

He can practically smell it from here.

Moss and clover. Eyebright and thyme.

Like a fucking field after it rains, when all of the smells hang heavy and thick in the air.

If he closes his eyes, he can probably still taste it on his tongue.

He doesn’t. He stalks back into his bedroom and pulls the covers over his head. Fucking demons. Fae. Hybrids.

All of it. He misses when things were simpler. When the monsters still lived in the shadows. When he wasn’t one of them.

Cole absently runs a thumb over the tattoo on his chest, so old that he barely remembers a time without it. That’s the case with all of them, of course, but those blend together in a way that this one doesn’t. He traces the edges from memory, eyes closed against the darkness of his blankets.

Her face is gone. There are bits he can pull into focus, if he really tries, but mostly it’s just a blur. A feeling of something gone so long it can barely even be called nostalgia.

He clamps down on the thoughts before they can drag him down further. Before they can change. Forces his mind into careful emptiness and wills himself to sleep.

After the second dream, he gives up. The first one was normal enough; one of those dreams that feels like a memory and leaves you feeling strange and hollow. But the second-

He throws the covers off and flings open his suitcase, getting dressed without paying too much attention to what ends up on his body.

There are two unread texts from the pup, and another from Tate.

Ulvehvalp > more reports. updated the spreadsheet

The second contains a link to a playlist tilted “press the button with the triangle” because the pup thinks they’re fucking funny. He taps the link – three times before his phone responds – then switches back to the message from Tate.

🐺🍆 > Hey Ari said you seemed off. You ok? I know it sounds like shit’s hitting the fan, but you wanna come visit for a bit?

Cole huffs and switches back to the link. No, that’s the last thing he wants, thank you very much. He just needs to get back to work. To have a reason to still be kicking around this annoying little planet again.

And probably, he needs to change Tate’s contact info, although his new little mate would probably just find it hilarious.

He presses play then opens the spreadsheet. Sure enough, there are a series of new reports that had popped up while he slept, all out of the same area of Australia. All close to where he’d lived. To where he’d met the tooth fairy.

The song changes, jarring at first for the shift in mood. Something in this one catches, though. Makes his grip on his phone go slack and his thoughts fade away. The last note falls into silence and leaves him filled with a feeling he can’t quite put a name to, but is fairly certain he doesn’t care for.

Another starts playing and after a good thirty seconds, he can move again. He sends the pup a message that says “is this supposed to make me feel better or worse,” and one to Tate that says “I’m fine,” then pockets his phone and starts digging through boxes, hunting down the things he’ll need. Books that might be useful, sharp objects. He’ll likely need to go shopping, but he needs a better idea of what he’ll be going up against first.

Cole sits down on the floor, dropping his phone on the ground between his legs, and picks up a book. He’s read the whole thing – has read all of them – but there’s a difference in reading and remembering. In keeping track of all of the things he’s read. And he thinks he remembers one of them saying something about sealing off portals to the outside, but he can’t put his finger on when or where he found it.

He huffs and tosses the book aside, reaching for another. The song changes again, another rapid genre shift. From something poppy to piano, and he picks up his phone to look at the title and his vision tunnels so much that it takes his brain a moment to process the lyrics. Anything it takes to make you stay.

The glass and metal crack. Cole looks down at his hand; there’s barely any blood. Too little to waste on bleeding from cuts so small. The wrenching feeling in his chest is far more pressing.

He stands and sways. Staggers toward the box he’s been using as a trash can and drops the fragments of his phone into it before retreating to the bathroom. He turns the tap on with a knuckle and washes as many of the shards in his hand down the drain as he can. It’ll take tweezers to get out of the rest, but right now his hands are actually shaking for the first time in- fuck, centuries.

Cole slumps against the wall with a thud then slides down it until he’s sitting on the floor.

His insides still feel wrong. Some kind of spell? He’d collected the buried box of fangs; it was inside of a hollowed out book inside of another box somewhere in his living room. But there was more than one way to cast a spell on a vampire, and he’d played it fast and loose when-

He wouldn’t. Would he? The demon had certainly tossed him out quickly, and he’d fallen asleep. Bas- the demon had woken up before Cole. He’d told him to come back to bed, even, but who knows what he’d done before then.

The thought of him only makes the awful, knotted sensation worse. It makes him wonder if maybe it was someone else who’d cast it, trying to use him to find the demon.

Cole breathes out a humorless, silent laugh. Fat chance there. He could point them in the right direction, but if they’re intending to flush Cole out and use him as bait? He scoffs.

His head drops back against the wall, eyes drifting toward the skylight. He needs to get up. He has things to do. Demons to kill. Now’s not the time.

He closes his eyes and takes a slow breath. Most of his memories from before are gone – all turned into one distant blur – but his father’s voice is still clear in his head.

Either be the man you say you are and do what needs to be done or get out of the way.”

How many times had he said it? Growled it under his breath? More than Cole could count, and from the time he was a child. The last time had been when Cole’s mother had died. Then he’d just given Cole a look, his expression tight, and walked away.

The morning after her funeral they’d both boarded a boat for a raid somewhere to the south. So long ago now that he can’t even remember where.

He’d done what he had to then. He’ll do what he has to now.

Another slow, measured breath. He counts from one to ten in his head in Danish. English. Old Norse.

He opens his eyes and stands.

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