As his heart slowed and the last hazes of lust left him, Evan started to feel nervous. He hadn’t seen Sebastian in years and now that he was seeing his uncle again he looked an absolute mess. Frustrated, he began pulling at his clothes, trying to get them in some sort of order. He even put his jacket and cloak on just so he could hide the torn state of his shirt and the wrinkles in his slacks.
Sebastian had taken Evan in when he was small and his mother had just disappeared. It had been great, of what he could remember. Out of all his relatives, Sebastian was his favorite even though he barely saw the man.
Sebastian was in the Guard, a military force of sorcerers. Beverly had been in the Guard too, but while she had only been a lowly soldier with little magical ability, Sebastian was among the notorious Nightbringers, an elite force of sorcerers that were unmatched by any other human and even some fae. Evan was very proud of Sebastian’s abilities even though he hated the Council of Sages that controlled the man.
His uncle had been his first taste of what those with power took. Alone with no father and a missing mother, Evan would always hate the Council that chose to take his Sebastian away from him. They had felt child rearing less important to his uncle’s duty of fighting, stealing and killing in their name. That they had also kept Sebastian from his quest to find his sister Cecilia, Evan’s mother, had been nearly as devastating. Sebastian had been certain she lived somewhere.
Brooding, Evan shook his head angrily but the bitterness wouldn’t abate. No, he had few nice thoughts when it came to the sorcerers that ran the magical world. And now he was in the Hierarchy, the place where those sorcerers were forged. The irony was not lost on him.
Nicholas sighed as the blond again tried to make his tie look anything but bedraggled. Evan was about to fold it up into his pocket when a wave of magic hit him, stopping him cold. His clothing gave a shudder, the material reforming, wrinkles smoothing out, buttons back in place and immaculate.
Hissing, Evan whirled on the elf, anger tight in his form. “That’s not okay. Don’t just spell me!”
Unmoved, Nicholas just raised an eyebrow. “If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it already. I’m an elf, not a savage.”
Scowling, Evan tried to see it rationally, but all he could hear was Beverly’s voice warning him to never let his guard down around the fae. Sure, it looked like a simple repairing spell, but for all he knew the kid was… What? Trying to kill him by cleaning his clothes? Evan really didn’t have the paranoia or experience that his cousin Beverly had when it came to these sorts of things.
“So, what, you’re in the Guard, then?” Evan gritted out, taking the last turn down the hallway, the Hall of Beasts coming into view where he had first arrived on the campus.
Nicholas shook his head sharply, his sleek auburn hair brushing long strands across his face. “I’m as young as I look, not some ancient, sweet-faced fae. I’m still in training with the Hierarchy.” Considering a moment, he held his hand out to Evan, his frown only slightly grim. “Nicholas Taxus of the Regal Sighe Clan from the Arc Fault. I did not feel comfortable introducing myself properly back there. I’ve been loaned to the Hierarchy so that I can learn more of your human ways.”
“Oh.” Evan shook the boy’s hand gingerly, magic shooting up his arm from the simple touch. “But you’re dressed like a sorcerer. I thought you would have dressed like your Clan…” He trailed off at the boy’s haughty look. Apparently he couldn’t say anything right without sounding like an idiot.
“At the Hierarchy, all types of beings travel through every day. It’s important I’m recognized as a scholar with the school. Otherwise…” Nicholas tilted his head back the way they had come, his expression hard.
Otherwise he might have to worry about brawling with a visiting incubus like Devlan, Evan realized after a moment of thought.
“So your kind still don’t like incubi?” Evan queried, watching the boy stiffen. “Wasn’t that war ages ago?”
“We have very long lifespans,” Nicholas said, as if that explained it all. But Nicholas was young, no more than eighteen, and to the best of Evan’s knowledge, the same was true of Devlan. Neither of them would have fought in the war.
“Are you fighting now?” There wasn’t a lot of news from the Arc Fault. Maybe that would explain the elf’s anger.
Glancing Evan’s way, Nicholas gave a curt shake to his head. “The incubi are… difficult.” He didn’t seem to be willing to explain more, his eyes staring straight ahead as they walked, ignoring the beautiful statues of mythical beasts as they passed.
Evan took the time to look, having missed many of the carved works because of his rush to get to orientation. He wasn’t in a rush now, feeling a shadow of foreboding at the prospect of seeing Sebastian again. It was always a wonder if his uncle’s letter would be the last, a stray spell, sword, or bullet finally taking the man down and permanently away from him. Somehow, seeing him in person made him feel just how real it would be to lose the man as well.
He had forgotten that the elves and incubi had once been at war. It had happened hundreds of years ago right before the Providence Treaty, a dispute between the fae races on territory that had gotten out of hand. Evan only knew because of Beverly’s insistence—The woman was obsessed with the Arc Fault and its history. The war had been two different sides fighting for territory instead of dealing with the encroaching human forces led by the Possessed. She had explained just how damning the conflict had been for the fae over five hundred years ago, yet it had also paved the way for the fae sorcerer relations they now had.
Both the elves and incubi had been nearly wiped out, the ancient, powerful races killed by each other far more efficiently than any outside force. While the two prominent races warred on the continent, the Arc Fault had been on the verge of being conquered by sorcerers and ravaged by the Unnamed One’s Possessed soldiers—men and women turned into nothing more than empty husks as they did the bidding of a higher being.
No one really knew just what the hell the Unnamed One wanted with the Arc Fault, but each time it showed up, it targeted the Gate to the Outer Realms, the only portal on the planet that led out into the Fae realm. Because of the potential fall of the Gate, the elves and incubi forced a hault to their warring, banding together to stop the Possessed. The humans that had not been possessed but seeking to stop their demented colleagues had thought to take the Arc Fault for themselves until a treaty was finally brokered with the fae.
But the Providence Treaty had only been signed by the humans and the elves, the incubi too wary of the foreign sorcerers. The elves recovered faster because of the help the Treaty offered, gaining more territory and wealth while the incubi struggled to regain their standing. Five hundred years later, the incubi were still being overshadowed by the elves, their numbers mysteriously culled by shadowy events while the elves flourished and ruled the Arc Fault, the last of the pure fae land left on Earth.
It was the only land left unpolluted, protected by the magic it held within its very soil and deep below the Earth’s crust. Located in Antarctica, the fringes were well loved vacation spots where humans and fae mingled without incident. The islands had magically controlled weather with few predators and had been gifted as a compromise by the Regents, the ruling class of elven fae, to dull the anger of the Arc Fault being closed to outsiders. Even now, the fae would not allow humans, sorcerers or not, into the fae land.
Beverly, Sebastian and Cecilia’s war had been in defense of that magical land from the Unnamed One and its Possessed. It was a war that never seemed to end, just pause as new victims found their hearts filled with enough darkness to be possessed by the ancient power that sought to own the Gate to the Outer Realms.
Five hundred years ago when the treaty was signed, no human had understood just how essential it was for the Arc Fault to remain intact. They had not even known the Outer Realms existed or had thought to fear what might step through from the other side. The fae had known, enough to stop a heated war between their own when the Gate was targeted.
No human had ever stepped outside their realm of existence—It is said that to even attempt it would be instant death in the inhospitable environment. But the fae had once come from the Gate, had once mated with humans long ago and gifted them with the ability to use magic. To damage, or worse, destroy the two Gates to the Outer Realms would be to risk unhinging the Earth from its gravitational rotation and killing them all.
Their was a northern Gate on Foil Island, 50 miles from the pole and was said to be inert, the magic from the Outer Realms no longer connected. The Council of Sages had taken it over, a magical barrier keeping them and any others from accessing the portal. But the southern Gate in the Arc Fault was said to still be active and guarded fiercely. Whatever the Unnamed One was that controlled the Possessed, it wanted access to the Gate. To leave or to allow something in, no one knew. The fae were certain it would be devastating for the Earth, whatever it was.
Not that that was the reason the Council of Sages gave for defending the Gate and sending soldiers like Beverly off to war against a creature so powerful it could control unwilling armies at a time. No, it was all about keeping the strained relations between the Regents and the Council of Sages from finally snapping.
Sorcerers liked to pretend they were all powerful but against a continent full of fae they were nothing more than children playing with fire. Among the powerless null humans there was a lot of fear towards the fae, the strange beings that looked and acted so different, always stronger, faster with so much power. That fear had lead to some humans calling to attack the Arc Fault with bombs and missiles hoping to strike first before the fae could conquer them as a history of humanity had conquered their own.
It didn’t matter that all sorcerers had fae blood in them, the only reason they could do magic in the first place. It also didn’t seem to matter that at this point likely no fae existed on Earth that didn’t also have human blood flowing in their veins as well. Some fae and humans only saw their differences and held fear and hatred for those not like them.
Finding elves like Nicholas in a place of power like the Hierarchy probably wasn’t that uncommon a thing. Beverly would have called it a strategic political attempt to keep the peace. Except, Evan was pretty sure Nicholas had little skill in keeping any kind of peace given the elf’s attitude.
“Are you a prince?” Evan asked curiously as they reached the portal. He had never met an elf, nor one of the Regents. Rulers were said to be ruthless even among their own. Serena, the girl at the desk, was still there, her plastic smile looking a bit wilted at the edges as she caught sight of Nicholas. Either she had trouble with fae or just trouble with the elf—The boy was caustic, to say the least.
“Don’t be foolish,” Nicholas snapped, ignoring the girl and approaching the large mirror floating in midair. Evan just shrugged and followed. He didn’t think he was being foolish.
Nicholas didn’t seem interested in chatting—the guy seemed to have a stick up his ass. Maybe he didn’t like having to talk to humans. Evan had heard that was a thing among the fae from the Arc Fault. The area was so large they had the luxury and the magic to isolate from human beings unlike other clans that lived in less large but still human adjacent areas of the globe.
“I’m not of the Regents and have little interest in joining,” Nicholas disclosed after a terse moment. “So they had no problem sending me to this godforsaken school to be surrounded by you nearly null humans and extremely lewd, backwater fae.”
Evan again felt a flare of annoyance at Nicholas’ attitude towards the lust creatures. “You know, just because they’re different from you doesn’t mean you’re better than them. You’re going to have a hell of a time trying to get along with anyone if you keep insulting strangers you just met.”
Turning and raising his head to meet the taller boy’s eyes, Nicholas said flatly, “Maybe I’d pretend to care if you weren’t the least powerful things I’ve come across so far, human. Let’s be done with this; I have better things to be doing.”
Deciding to ignore the boy, Evan gritted his teeth. What the fuck did he care if the kid wanted to hate every person he met just because they didn’t have some level of power to reach his criteria of worth? If he had his own way, he never would have ended up in a school like this with a fae like Nicholas to begin with. He probably hated people with power as much as the elf did of those without.
The portal gave a shimmer when the elf raised his arm, Evan’s reflections shifting and the room behind them slowly fading from view. Before them another room slowly appeared, an arrival chamber in another part of the campus coming into crisp focus.
Evan didn’t travel by portal often. Although extremely convenient and not requiring any magic on the traveler’s part when the mirror was enchanted, it was also very dangerous—Or so Beverly insisted. He had never feared falling through the surface of a lake, or puddle for that matter, and being stolen away by ravenous elementals. He also didn’t think much of being hijacked when stepping through a portal, some powerful sorcerer spelling things so the traveler could end up in an unintended room or attacked mid-jump. But these were the things that plagued Beverly and kept the woman from installing a portal in the house no matter how many times Stephan would point out how inconvenient it was to go without.
Nicholas waved his arm forward, unwilling to step through until he knew Evan was going to accompany him. The smell of ozone strong in his nose, Evan stepped forward, falling through the mirror.
Sebastian looked the same as always. Tall, beautiful, and casually immaculate, his jaw bristly with his goatee, long sleek blue-black hair thrown over his shoulder carelessly but in such a way that looked perfect. Half his head was shaved down to the scalp, the flesh tattooed with an elaborate symbol of the fae warrior goddess that protected his bloodline. The ink was blue just like Sebastian’s eyes; blue, sharp and with a touch of death from beneath heavy dark eyebrows and even darker lashes. Today he was dressed in his Nightbringer’s coat, the long oily-black dragonhide jacket reaching to his boots, the collar high and making Evan’s uncle look more an aristocrat than an assassin sorcerer.
It was almost alarming finding the man in an opulent office in the Hierarchy. Not that he didn’t look like he belonged, so much as it just highlighted how Evan had only ever thought of the man as his uncle, rarely seeing him in the places of power he protected daily. He would never dare tell Sebastian that he thought the man was a pawn to his work although his uncle might say as much in muttering passing. Sebastian believed in what he did even if someone was telling him to do it at the time.
“Evanel.” Straightening from his casual sprawl against the large oak desk where he had been chatting with the other occupant of the room, Sebastian looked close to tears once catching sight of his nephew. He had been that way the last time he’d visited, Antoinette having gone off to college and Sebastian stopping in to wish her well. He was the only one Evan didn’t mind saying his full name; the man was always so gruff and emotional, it was hard to care.
“Uncle Seb, you’re hurt,” Evan noticed with a start, his eyes falling to the tattoo on the side of Sebastian’s head symbolizing Scya. A scar now ran across the thin flesh of his scalp, nearly cutting the image in half.
“It’s nothing,” Sebastian assured, crossing the distance and pulling the boy into a big hug, his long hair tickling Evan’s face. He returned the embrace gingerly, worry tightening his stomach. It wasn’t nothing. Sebastian was an Elite warrior with training among the fae of the Arc Fault. To not be able to heal the wound away, to allow his symbol of the warrior goddess of their bloodline to be tarnished in such a way… It wasn’t nothing.
“You’re shorter,” Evan whispered hollowly, holding Sebastian tighter just in case it was the last time. The man’s job was dangerous and today Evan was certain his uncle was truly mortal.
“Nah, kid, you’re just a shit ton taller.” Pulling away, he gave the blond an accessing look. “Any particular reason you reek of incubus?”
Blushing scarlet, Evan broke into a fit of coughing. He had forgotten just how sensitive his uncle’s nose was. Sebastian might look human enough even with his outlandish hairstyle, but his extreme power came from his fae blood. The man had no fangs or claws but it didn’t mean his senses weren’t as sharp as the lust creatures that Evan had been practically assaulted by.
“He had an incident,” Nicholas interjected with a disapproving tone. “I found him being fed off of by an incubus while three other lust creatures from his class watched.”
Glaring at Nicholas, Evan turned to his uncle, trying to find the words to explain it wasn’t really as bad as it sounded. At least, that part hadn’t been.
Sebastian raised an eyebrow, having suspected his nephew preferred men for a while now. “Kinky. Sorry to pull you away from your fun.”
“It wasn’t…” Sighing, Evan couldn’t stop his grin. Sebastian was his favorite for a reason.
“Oh, I should introduce you to my good friend, Cory,” Sebastian said smoothly, stepping back and waving to the man at the desk. “Or I suppose, Master Cornelius Wilde, if you’re feeling very formal. Come meet my favorite, and coincidentally, only nephew.”
Evan had to bite his smile back when the sorcerer stood from his desk, the contrast between Sebastian and Cory striking. Cornelius looked much more how Evan imagined a proper warrior of sorcery to look. Sebastian was just too willowy and aristocratic featured to seem a real danger. Cornelius’s tallish frame was muscular and covered with a skew of silvery scars. He was dressed like a professor, if not a bit lazily, no tie to be seen, shirtfront half tucked, robe thrown over his chair, not to mention he wasn’t wearing any shoes. His dark blond hair framed his handsome face and fell across his eyes, short and mussed as if the man had just rolled out of bed and into his office.
“Don’t mind him,” Sebastian said when he caught Evan staring at Cornelius’s bare feet. “Cory is all glamours. He’s a fae under all that concealing magic and you know how most of them are about shoes.”
Evan nodded silently, holding his hand out to the blond when he approached. “Nice to meet you, sir.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Evan. Bast has told me a lot about you. As you can imagine, he’s excited to hear you’re coming to his old school.” Cornelius had a very wide, friendly smile, fangs glamoured away to keep humans at ease in his presence. Sleeves rolled up on his arms, Evan couldn’t help but stare at the man’s golden skin covered in thin slashes.
“If you can glamour…”
“Some things are better left out in the open,” Cornelius said simply but there was a fierceness in his warm, orange tinted eyes that gave Evan pause.
“Were you in the war with my uncle?” He finally asked, breaking from the man’s strong handshake.
“Of a sorts. Fae weren’t allowed to fight alongside the humans back then.” He glanced over to Sebastian, the brunette nodding his assent to his next words. “I met Bast on the Arc Fault while defending the Gate. Your uncle was very tenacious in his duty. He saved my life.”
“Only after Cory saved mine first,” Sebastian reminded gruffly.
“Sorry to interrupt, Master Wilde, but I’d like to go if you no longer need me,” Nicholas broke in, his mouth set in a grim line.
Evan could understand now why Nicholas was apprenticing for Cornelius; the man was a fae well adapted to live among humans, something the elf clearly struggled with.
“A little more of your time, Nicholas,” Cornelius said, his voice soft but with an edge of command. The boy scowled and folded his arms over his chest. He made no move to sit, Evan wondering if the elf would be petulant the entire time.
“I suppose I should get to the point of my visit,” Sebastian said, fixing Evan with a pointed look. “Your exritus is coming up.”
Stiffening, Evan exhaled sharply. “It’s hardly something I’ll need to worry about.”
Snorting, Sebastian grabbed his nephew by his shoulder. “Let’s see your back. I can tell from here; seventeen years and her magic is fading. The seal is weakening.”
Meeting Sebastian’s piercing gaze, Evan relented, turning and shrugging out of his robe. “I feel the same,” he muttered, paling when his shirt was pushed up. He had not told his uncle about Stephan’s new habit of beating the shit out of him when the man blissed out. Sebastian was busy trying to stay alive while killing whoever was unlucky enough to be placed in the assassin’s sights. His situation was nothing in comparison. Evan knew it now, having seen just how dangerous people were that ended up at the Hierarchy.
Hissing lowly when the boy’s scarred flesh came into sight, Sebastian laid his large hand flat on Evan’s back. “Beverly?”
“Like fuck,” Evan said with a huff. Beverly didn’t care enough to beat him.
Warmth rushed out from his uncle’s hand, moving over Evan’s back in a soothing wave. But it was just a tingling heat. The spell had no effect, Sebastian grunting as the boy’s flesh remained marred in front of him. Looking meaningfully over to Cornelius, he stepped back, the master sorcerer taking the Nightbringer’s spot to place his hand to the center of Evan’s back.
Nicholas made a choked noise of surprise when Cornelius’s spell failed as well. “There’s no reason that shouldn’t work. He’s a null. What the hell could combat the magic?”
“The seal is nearly broken, Evanel,” Sebastian muttered, reaching over and pulling Evan’s shirt down abruptly and wrapping the boy’s robe over his shoulders. “Cecilia’s magic is nearly gone, just as she had warned me would happen when she sealed you all those years ago. Be careful this summer. Your power is awakening and who the hell knows what that will bring.”
Staring resolutely at his feet, Evan didn’t say anything. Sebastian had told him that right before Cecilia had disappeared, she had asked her brother to help her with a spell. She had been desperate, nearly rabid and had made the spell by hand, needing her brother’s extra power to complete it. What the spell’s full intention was, Sebastian hadn’t known, but his sister had insisted it was to seal her baby’s powers away to keep Evan safe as long as possible. But Evan could remember feeling magic when he was younger before Stephan Grock had graced his life, so he wasn’t sure if his mother had been truthful.
Unfortunately, Cecilia wasn’t around to ask. That the seal had faded, it likely meant his mother was dead after all and never to answer questions again.
It shouldn’t have been such a blow; Sebastian had told him how he had felt his sister’s presence suddenly snuff from his awareness one day years after she had disappeared. He had not stopped promising Evan that he was looking but a fire had died in the man’s eyes. Still, Evan felt a fresh wave of sorrow, his mother’s magic soon to be no longer with him.
No one knew of the seal but him and Sebastian. Even Beverly was in the dark and, thankfully, so was Stephan. Evan hadn’t thought much of it in recent years, just glad he had a way to hide his power. Now… Now it seemed terrifying, his exritus looming before him and no way to know who he would be by the end of it.
Turning to meet his uncle’s sharp gaze, Evan asked quietly, “Will it be my father’s blood?”
“I don’t know,” Sebastian answered truthfully. “It could be your mother’s ancient fae blood that awakens like many during their exritus. It could be the goddess Scya that empowers you, as she did myself and Cecilia. Perhaps Silens; his blood runs through our family, stronger with the Tranza like Beverly.”
Evan nodded dully, feeling hollow inside. It wasn’t that he feared the fae, although some were worth fearing. He didn’t care if he ended up terrifying or strange looking, or even beautiful like his uncle. He didn’t want to be like Sebastian. The man was full of so much magic that he had to kill for a living to keep those that manipulated him from deciding he was too dangerous to let live. Sebastian’s reasons for his job were as much self-preservation as what the job itself entailed.
Sighing at Evan’s expression, Sebastian clasped the boy on the shoulder. “It’s not worth fretting over. We’ll do our best to prepare you.”
“We?” Pulled from his dark thoughts, Evan stared up at his uncle in confusion. Sebastian was a Nightbringer in the Guard. There was no way he’d be able to find the time to assist him during his exritus. It wasn’t like you could plan the exact day or anything, and the process could sometimes take weeks.
“I bought a house,” Sebastian disclosed with a small grin. “You’re an adult now, and it’s not like I’ll need to be following you around to make sure you’re not eating rocks or falling into wells. I’ll still be away a lot of the time, coming in at all hours of the night and day,” he added gruffly, shifting from foot to foot. “But you’ll have a stable home, food, and a portal to get you to school and back. There’s a huge bedroom with your name on it, Ev… If you want it.”
Evan was at a loss, something inside wrenching painfully at his uncle’s words. It had to be a dream. He had always dreamed but never allowed himself to actually hope of living again with his uncle. They had been the best years of his life, ones he could barely remember now and wanted back desperately.
“When? T-Today?” He asked shakily, his mind a whirl. He was going to live with Sebastian. No more paranoid, unfeeling Beverly or fucked up Stephan Grock. No more being afraid to relax in his own home, wondering when it would all go to shit. No more—
“Not that soon,” Sebastian said carefully, watching Evan’s expression. “The start of the school year.” Something seemed to crumple in the blond, Sebastian adding hastily, “It’s just a couple of months, that’s all. Your exritus shouldn’t start until after your birthday.”
“In June,” Evan whispered, flinching from the rawness in his own voice. Fuck. He stepped away and turned, glaring unseeingly at the floor.
The school year didn’t start until the end of August. Not only had Sebastian forgotten his birthday, but now he was facing another summer with Stephan. Fuck. This time while enrolled in the fucking Hierarchy, his seal nearly broken, and with enough magical power showing to draw a pack of lust creatures to him. The warlock was going to be furious.
“I have a mission, Ev. If I could move you in before it, I would, but there just isn’t time.” Sebastian gently turned the boy by his shoulders, looking down into his dark eyes. “If you can’t reach me when your exritus starts, I want you to call Cory. He’s more than happy to guide you through it. That’s part of the reason I called you down here.” He gave a small smile that Evan couldn’t match. “You made it to the Hierarchy, kid. You’re powerful and we’re going to do what we can to make sure you don’t end up going the wrong way because of it.”
The heat of Sebastian’s affection was threatening to warm Evan’s heart but it couldn’t quite reach. It felt eighteen years too late. One more summer too late. But he nodded to acknowledge his uncle’s words and to thank Master Wilde for offering his assistance.
Once summer came and his exritus started, there was no way Beverly would allow a portal for visitors. No way Stephan would let a strange sorcerer, fae at that, into the house to help Evan. If his exritus went bad—if he was disfigured in the transformation or started bleeding internally—there would be no one but Beverly. Evan had little faith the woman would do much to keep him from dying.
“I should get back to the tour.” Pulling away, Evan gave a quick nod to Cornelius. “It was nice to meet you, sir.” Avoiding Sebastian’s eye, he headed for the door, his throat feeling tight and legs stiff.
Falling motionless in front of the door, he couldn’t bring himself to turn. He heard Sebastian walk up behind him, the man sighing heavily.
“It’s going to be different. Better. I promise, Ev.”
Evan nodded, stone-faced and unable to speak. It shouldn’t matter. Half an hour ago he hadn’t even been thinking of Sebastian, hadn’t had any hope that his summer would be different. That he had let himself have that small hope had ruined everything and it was his own fault for wishing for something better in the first place.
“But if you’d rather, I can pay for a place of your own. Maybe in the dorms or—”
“No!” Whirling, Evan kept himself from actually shoving the man, instead grabbing Sebastian’s biceps. “That’s not what I want. I want to live with you,” he whispered furiously, glaring up at his uncle.
“Good,” Sebastian said, swiftly reaching up and pulling Evan’s hand free so he could then place something in it. “You’ll need this. A portal key to our new home.”
Staring down at the rectangular piece of marble, 37 Crescent Drive inscribed into the stone, Evan fought back tears.
“I know I wasn’t much of a guardian, Evanel. Sure as fuck would never make a proper father, that’s for sure. But if you don’t mind living with an old bachelor that comes in reeking of blood on most occasions, I’d be really happy to try and be a family.”
Nope, he was definitely crying, tears blurring his eyes, one fat drop landing on his hand. He didn’t struggle when Sebastian pulled him into another hug, the man’s coat perfect to hide his face in.
“It’s just a few months. I’ll be back in no time and we can get your room set up however you like. Then, once you get a few classes under your belt at the Hierarchy, I’ll show you how to do some fancy magic,” Sebastian muffled into Evan’s hair, not letting the boy go for long moments.
Eventually pulling away, Evan wiped his wet cheek with the back of his sleeve. “I don’t want to learn magic, Uncle Seb. I don’t want any of this.”
Staring at the boy calculatingly, Sebastian finally answered, “You’re not going to be like Beverly. And you don’t have to do the things I do—What it takes to be a Nightbringer is beyond most people’s abilities, and I’m not just talking magically. This is who you are, Evanel, even if you don’t understand just exactly what that means yet. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t let anyone else ruin it for you.”
Evan nodded dully, having no good reply. Magic wasn’t who he was. This world wasn’t where he belonged.
“You’ll see once you have your exritus. It gets a bit confusing around this time, I remember.” Smiling wanly, Sebastian nodded his head towards Cornelius, who was giving the two space to talk while Nicholas looked about ready to jump out one of the large windows in boredom. “Cory sees it all the time with the new graduates coming in each year. You guys get a bit loopy with all that new magic in your bodies. Like a second puberty but with fangs and claws. First year is always the hardest.”
Looking over to where Cornelius was sitting quietly, the man riffling through a newspaper with mild interest, Evan had a sudden thought. “Are you two… you know. Together?” Sebastian never dated, at least, nothing serious enough that he felt the need to tell his nephew about it in his letters. He couldn’t help but think maybe his uncle’s old friend was a little bit more.
“Once, a long time ago. He had too much sense to wait around for an unreliable ass like me.” Sebastian glanced Cornelius’s way, his expression masked. “But he’s the most trustworthy man I know, Ev. You can rely on him for anything, especially at school. He’s seen more than a fair share of exrituses and he knows what to do. Just in case I can’t…”
“Is your mission dangerous?”
Sebastian nodded, his eyes hard. All Nightbringers were spelled to secrecy. Even if he had wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to tell Evan his mission. “It’s important. Bigger than the things I want out of life, otherwise nothing would make me miss your exritus. But I’m still going to make sure you’re set, kid. And who knows? Sometimes they come late. Mine was nearly a year after my eighteenth.”
Evan bit his lip, nodding tentatively. “I’m sorry I, well… I do want to live with you, Sebastian. More than anything. Just…” He swallowed, trying to fight the sorrow inside.
“Just waiting totally sucks. I know, kid.” Clapping his hand on Evan’s shoulder, Sebastian pulled the boy away from the door. “I was going to grab something to eat before I headed out. You hungry?”
After his insane morning, Evan could readily agree he was more than a little hungry.
“Good. I’ll just let Cory know and we can—”
“He can come, too,” Evan offered. “I don’t mind.” Sebastian rarely had free time and if Cornelius had been someone big in his uncle’s life at one point, Evan didn’t want to shorten their time together.
Raising his eyebrows, Sebastian nodded after a moment. “Alright. What about you, elf?” He asked Nicholas, the elf huffing at the idea of being dragged into lunch with the three of them next.
“Nicholas will be joining us,” Cornelius said, giving the boy a warning glare when he looked ready to protest. “Eating among humans is one of his more difficult adaptions.”
“If they wouldn’t chew with their mouths open,” Nicholas muttered to no one in particular, standing aside while the master sorcerer grabbed a pair of boots from under his desk and pulled them on.
“Do they care so much if you go barefoot around here?” Evan asked, curious why the professor would bother when he could just spell a glamor of boots on his feet.
“Part of deception is living the illusion,” Cornelius explained. “It’s easy enough to walk into enemy territory but the only way to truly look as if you belong is to quite literally walk in their shoes.”
It sounded too much like something Beverly would say. Evan wondered if everyone that had fought the Possessed were like that, years later just expecting the war to come again and them to be called back to the Arc Fault to fight. Cornelius was a teacher among sorcerers but he still did things as if he were waiting for bloodshed. And Sebastian… Well, he hadn’t stopped at all, had he? He was still fighting in the name of the Council of Sages, even if his targets were much smaller.
Hands buried in his pockets, Evan followed the men and elf out the office door, his thoughts too many to count at the moment. In his hand he still gripped the portal key that Sebastian had gifted him. It had been a good day. No matter all the strangeness and high emotion, and that very long unending second when he was certain he was going to be eaten by Asher. He was going to live with Sebastian and that made up for everything.