3 – indiscretion

The appointment passes in a blur.

By the time they leave, Bast has already forgotten what they wanted done. He hopes he did the right thing. Assumes so, since they seemed pleased enough.

But he doesn’t care. He’s tired and wants them gone.

As soon as the door closes behind them, he shoves out of his chair. The room swims around him for a moment before it stabilizes. He takes a breath and releases the spells holding him together. Even the ones keeping his horns in.

It’s fine. Cole has seen them.

Assuming he’s even still- He wrenches the door open, his garden on the other side.

But he’s not there.

Bast doesn’t even have to do anything to know that he’s gone. Doesn’t have to actively try to pick up that he left immediately.

He closes the door, sitting down on the solid, uneven stone of the front step, and swallows. It makes sense. Of course he’s not there. After all, he rushed Cole out in a hurry, panic overriding sense. Manners.

But surely he’ll be back. He’s come back every other time, and-

Standing so abruptly that his tail swings out as a counterbalance, Bast turns and goes inside. The vial of unicorn blood is still where he left it, dark and shimmery when he holds it up to the light. He clenches his fingers around it and focuses.

It makes his head pound. The atmosphere here is still wrong. Too empty for him to throw magic around like this. Between the work it took to make himself look normal and the effort of defying the energy laws of this place, he’s spent. But he has to. For this. Maybe it’ll be enough to make Cole come back, just long enough for him to explain-

He opens his fingers and the bottle is gone.

It’s a good thing, too, because in the next moment, Bast hits the floor.

When he finally wakes, pale morning sunlight stretches across the floor and he feels like death warmed over. The thought brings a sad little smile to his face, although it’s instantly followed by a wince when even that sends pain lancing through his head.

He makes tea out of habit. For something to do. A distraction.

He takes care of his garden. Thinks of Cole, hiding off in the trees. His questions about what Bast was doing, while he was spying. The way he could run through the old names of a good chunk of the plants, but not all of them; Come back and I’ll show you. I’ll show you all of them.

Cole will come back. He has to. Was it wrong of him to send the bottle back? Maybe, but he had to. He was gone and he can’t be-

He cleans. Manually, both because he has the time – hadn’t made appointments since there was a vampire very dedicatedly hunting him and he’d known it would come to a head, sooner or later – and because he needs something to keep him busy. But there’s not even a lot to clean. Really he’s just moving books around into different piles and blowing some dust off here and there.

But it’s something.

It’s something until it isn’t and he’s out of things to do.

He makes more tea and sits on the slab of stone that makes up his front step to drink it. It’s almost enough to make his head stop hurting, but it does nothing for the feeling in the pit of his stomach. Nor does it do anything for the traitorous voice in his head that sounds like his father.

“What have you gone and done now, Bastian? Developed feelings for one of the parasites? Even you should be able to do better than that.”

Against his will, his lip curls into a sneer. The same one that it so frequently does when he’s disgusted with someone. The same one that is a perfect match for his father’s, as much as they both hate it. He won’t apologize, though. Not even to a pretend version of his father.

He can still vividly remember the look on his face when he’d torn Xalthus’s fucking head off. Like he’d almost be proud, if he wasn’t a few shocked seconds away from doing the exact same thing to Bast.

Arguably the best decision he’d ever made, though. Because until the last day or so, that had actually been fantastic. Equally against his will, his mind wanders to that; he shivers, just as surely as if those same cool fingertips were dragging down his skin again.

If he wanted to, he could probably just bring Cole to him. Pluck him from wherever he is and poof. But it seems wrong. Just like it seems wrong to go to him.

So he’ll wait. And Cole will reappear like he did every other time, whether his presence was wanted or not. It certainly became quite the game, after the second time. The unicorn blood was an interesting touch. Part of him wishes he’d kept it just so he could study it.

But Cole will come back, and then maybe he can. At least, that’s what he tells himself as he pulls hot water into the old tub and sinks into it until his nose is just barely above the surface.

Cole does not come back.

       Not in three days.

               Three weeks.

                       Three months.

He doesn’t come back, and enough time passes that Bast starts to actually believe it when he tells himself that it was nothing.

He throws himself into his work. Into his research. Except this planet holds… nothing. A rotation and change around their sad little star and he’s turning up more and more nothing.

The fae who dwell here either avoid him entirely or disappear within seconds of meeting him aside from those few who are truly desperate for whatever “miracle of magic” he can provide them, but even those have nothing useful for him. He fixes them anyways, because it disturbs their internal sense of balance and maybe, just maybe, if he fucks with their politics enough someone who knows something will come for him.

But that doesn’t happen either.

One fucking being on this entire cursed planet who knew something, and he’s gone. Because Bast had an appointment with a client and panicked. Well done, Bastian, he thinks bitterly, staring into his lit fireplace like it might hold answers.

Bast closes his eyes and forces himself to take a breath. He can’t sleep. Hasn’t been able to for a while, nor has he wanted to with the nightmares, although he has discovered that it’s only sometimes necessary, apparently.

It means he has more time to think, which is probably why he comes up with the idea that he does.

It’s definitely a terrible one. Probably. Like everything else, he has absolutely no idea if he even can do it, but once the thought pops into his mind, he can’t get it out. Knows he won’t be able to until he tries. Knows the only way it’ll succeed is if he believes he will.

And that’s… easy enough. Magic – as it’s called and understood here – works differently in this realm. Across the demon realms he was permitted to enter, it felt the same. Hung heavy in the air almost like a fog. Here, though-

From everything he’s read, it’s supposed to be strong where he is, positioned between two fae strongholds in this realm. There are other options, sure, but this one also happens to be where he was born which seems… odd. But then, the closest thing he’s met to something like himself has some fae heritage, so he’s sure there’s something there beyond the freckles.

Either way, he’s found it very lackluster so far. More like a wellspring than something he can just breathe in; almost more trouble than it’s worth, especially if it’s not something big. He can only imagine how the humans use it at all, what with their short lifespans and weak constitutions.

Bast has his schedule cleared. Appointments are postponed – because now he thinks of that – and all magic is saved after one truly grueling trip to the grocery store in which the absolute infant of a cashier tries, he thinks, to flirt. Ok, all magic is saved after he goes home and takes a very frustrated bath.

Once the time finally comes, though, he’s almost excited for the first time in… well, months. In no small part it’s because if- when he succeeds, he will have gotten one more over on his father, which only seems fair after the endless span of shit that Bast was on the receiving end of for daring to exist.

He wakes up. He makes tea and drinks it sitting on his front step. It’s nice out; fully sunny for once, and warm. So maybe he sits there for a few moments longer than strictly necessary, but it’s not like he’s on a hard schedule. Not like anyone else gives a fuck what he does or doesn’t do.

Eventually, though, he decides he might as well get on with it. He’s practically buzzing with magic. It’s the closest he’s felt to how he felt in the outer realms since he left. Since he ran. Not exactly a viable long term option, but it’s nice to feel so alive.

Stretching, Bast goes back inside. He washes the mug out and leaves it on the rack; in the event that this doesn’t kill him, he’ll need it, after. Then, he goes and flops down into the high-backed armchair, as has become his habit. It isn’t like he has anywhere better he could go; the handful of places nearby that might give him access to a bit more fae magic are far, and populated. What he might gain in power, he’d lose in transit time alone.

So, here it is.

He cracks his back, then his neck, then his fingers, as if any of those matter for this. Tucks one leg up on the chair to take some pressure off of his tail and closes his eyes so he can concentrate. Gives himself one slow breath, and then-

At first, it’s easy. Too easy. He can feel the pull of the books, which means that much has worked. One drops to the floor in front of him with a quiet thud, and then another. Three more follow in rapid succession. Good. Very good.

His magic is depleting quickly, though. Much faster than he’d anticipated. Maybe, though- well, it’s worth a try, he decides. Bast shifts his focus, splitting it a bit further to see if he can draw from the outer realms as well, since that’s also where he’s stealing from. It takes a moment, but it works.

And then, pain. Sharp and lancing, like he’s been stabbed between the ribs and hooked like a fish.

You think you can slip back in here unnoticed and steal from me, you pathetic, weak little fool?” his father’s voice booms from nowhere and everywhere all at once.

Well, yes. He had thought that. But it’s hardly the first time he’s been wrong, even recently.

Perhaps even more foolishly, Bast hisses a string of curses at his father as he frantically pulls away, shutting down the tiny breach he’d opened as quickly as possible.

Come back here,” his father growls, so deep that he feels it in his bones more than he hears it.

The pain worsens to the point that he thinks he might actually die, or at least pass out, and then the breach opens with a sound much like a flame igniting and he’s fully back in his chair. Once he can finally open his eyes, it’s to an unsteady-looking stack of five ancient books and two scrolls.

His chest still hurts. So much he can barely breathe, and there’s only so little of that he can do. It’s going to scrape him dry. Probably put him out entirely, maybe for the rest of the next day, even, but Bast sucks the last bit of magic he can out of the area – out of himself – and summons the fae hybrid to him.

He’s been Bast’s… liaison, of sorts, to the outside world. Things had been tricky in the months before Bast had found Nealon. For a while, Bast had even thought he might have to mark him, but ultimately they’d come to an agreement. He’d serve as Bast’s business connection to the world and take care of all of those meetings and connections, and whatever Bast received that he didn’t want – which turned out to be quite a lot – he passed along for Nealon to sell, presumably.

“Fuckin’ really? Mate we’ve talked about this. Repeat after me: business. Hours.”

Bast waves a hand to silence him. “Find me the vampire.”

“A vampire? The fuck you want a vampire for?”

“Not a vampire. The executioner. Whoever brings me Cole Sørensen gets whatever they want.”

“Shit. Dead or alive?”

“Alive,” Bast snarls. “And unharmed. Should he arrive in any other fashion, there will be nowhere in any of the known realms that they can hide from me.”

Nealon blanches and nods. “You’ve got it, boss. You um, got anything for me?”

He levels a flat look at the mutt, not even bothering to hide his eye. Nealon’s were both normal. Regular pupil shape and everything.

“Right. Vampire. I’ll um- just be going? Unless you want to-”

Bast snaps his fingers and Nealon disappears with a quiet puffing sound. He barely makes it outside before he vomits; it’s nothing more than bile, since he never got around to eating, but it’s certainly the icing on the terrible cake of his afternoon.

When his insides stop heaving, he drops to sit on the cool stone of his front step, slumped against the door.

He must pass out, or at least fall asleep, because when he’s awoken by someone kicking the sole of his shoe, it looks like early afternoon.

“C’mon,” a familiar voice says, “let’s get you inside. You look like shit, and you smell worse.”

He inhales, a scent he can only describe as a cave in winter mixing with the smells of his garden filling his lungs. Hardly how he wanted things to go, but Cole was here. Finally, and alone.

— pt 2 —

“So,” Cole asks once Bast has bathed, changed, and made tea, “care to tell me why the fuck that fucking tooth fairy showed up in my new place?”

Bast breathes a laugh, even though it makes his head and chest both throb. “That’s who found you?”

“Mm. Apparently you’re having me hunted, now?”

“I needed you to- It’ll be easier if I just show you,” he says, even though moving is the last thing he wants to do. Not when they’re both sat in his bed like this.

“It can wait,” Cole replies. His hand drops to Bast’s thigh to keep him from going anywhere, then lingers.

He exhales a sigh and nods, letting his eyes close like they want to.

I didn’t think you wanted to see me again. It’s Cole’s thought, echoing so loudly in the space between them that it makes Bast wince, but it’s one he shares.

“You should rest.”


“I won’t go anywhere until you’ve woken up and shown me whatever was so important that you put a fucking hit out on me,” Cole promises.

Far more hesitantly than he’s ok with, Bast twines their fingers together. “Promise?”

Cole breathes a laugh, the corners of his mouth turning up just slightly. “As if it makes a difference with you. But fine. Promise.”

Bast nods, feeling the weight of it settle into him. Another one of those weird quirks that he isn’t quite sure which part of his questionable heritage to attribute it to. He shifts down the bed until he’s laying down, then stares at Cole, unable to ask the question.

It must be evident on his face, though, because Cole huffs a disbelieving laugh and kicks off his boots, then shimmies out of his jeans. “Roll over.”

He does, then pushes his tail between Cole’s thighs to wrap around his knee. Another silent, amused breath on the back of his neck, followed by a cool arm around his chest. Cole’s fingers push into his robe and spread across his ribs, like ice to the ache in his chest, and Bast finally sleeps.

His entire back is cold when he wakes up again, although the pounding in his head has subsided to a dull and distant ache and he can finally take a full breath again. The room is dark. Like midnight, not like evening. But Cole is still here. Still curved seamlessly against Bast’s back, like he hasn’t moved.

Bast’s tail has gone faintly numb, though, so he drags it out from between Cole’s legs and fights his body’s response to the sleepy sound Cole makes in response. “Dare I ask what time it is?” he asks quietly.

Cole hums and pulls his hand out of Bast’s robe, shaking his wrist so his watch screen lights up.


“You slept in,” Bast teases, hoping it comes out right.

Another lazy, hummed acknowledgement is all he gets before Cole’s fingers are on his skin again.

“Do you want to see now?” he asks, because it’s safer than Why did you come?

“Do I want to see why you placed a bounty on my head?”

“I didn’t-”

Cole laughs, the puff of it making Bast shiver. “Sure.”

He rolls over, then finds himself unreasonably shocked at how close their faces are. Close enough to-

They both freeze, eyes locked. Cole retreats first, hand slipping out of Bast’s robe and rolling out of bed in one fluid, graceful motion. Swallowing and forcing his breathing to steady, Bast sits up then stands. He leads Cole into the living room and gestures to the pile in front of the fireplace.

“You got more books.”

Bast sighs, exasperated. “They’re not just books, at least I don’t think. I didn’t really check them. But assuming they’re what they should be…” He picks up the scrolls in one hand and the top book in the other, dropping the scrolls into his chair.

The title is in an old demonic tongue, but a tiny bit of magic has the characters shifting into wobbly gold-leaf English.


“Should all be on ‘em,” Bast replies.

“Where did you- Bast, what did you do?”

“Nothing. Sort of. Mostly.”

“Bastian,” he says, entirely unlike any other time someone has said his full name. Like he’s worried instead of just aggrieved or annoyed or-

“I might have sort of stolen them. From one of the outer realms. Maybe directly from my father’s personal library?”

Cole sighs and shoves a hand into his hair, turning in a slow circle before he stops, once again facing Bast. And then, instead of anything Bast expects, he says, “Are you ok?”

This time, it’s Bast’s turn to sigh. “I don’t know,” he whispers, far too honestly for it to be anything like safe.

It doesn’t stop him from going when Cole catches him by the waist. From leaning in when Cole’s head tilts. From tugging him back to the bedroom by the bottom of his hoodie. Whatever is coming, he won’t be any more or less dead if he does this. If he lets himself pretend, just a little while longer.

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