I slid into the booth across the table from him, and played idly for a moment with the salt and pepper shakers. I was nervous. I hadn't seen him in three years. I watched him, but he didn't look up, no matter how much I stared. I tried to think up something witty and smart and smooth and entirely Daimonique to say, but I was drawing a blank. Therefore, I just said, "Uh, hi."
"Want some coffee?" he asked, without looking up from his newspaper.
It was two in the morning in a Denny's, in Toledo, Ohio. I was so far away from anything I remotely called home I wasn't even sure where I was anymore. I don't know, did I want coffee? "Sure."
He moved his head away from his newspaper, gave a friendly grin to the waitress who had mysteriously appeared from nowhere. She looked intensely bored, and idly snapped a piece of gum. "That's an excellent dye job," he said, acknowledging her ratty blond hair.
"Thanks, cutie," she said to him, and grinned happily. "Need a refresher?"
He waved a hand at me. "My friend wants a cup of coffee. And refreshing mine would be just super."
So she did, and she magically made a mug of murky black liquid appear on the table before me. Then she disappeared into the place where all ratty diner waitresses disappear to at two in the morning when they would rather be somewhere else entirely.
"So I'm a friend?" I asked.
"No." He went back to looking at his newspaper.
"Oh." I blinked, and thought. "Since when did you use a word like 'super'?"
"Since always. You just never noticed," he said without looking up.
I dropped two thimbles of half and half and a packet of sugar into my coffee. I picked up my spoon and stirred it deliberately. "Janeth..." I noticed he didn't even flicker an eyelid. "Janeth, please look at me." I was treated to silence. I sagged, and drank my coffee.
The Mercurian in him finally took hold. He couldn't ignore me forever, I knew he was just as much of a slave to his nature as the rest of us. He finally said, mildly and without malice, "Are you now going to pretend to be my parent, and tell me all of your demonic lies? Are you going to tell me just how much you care? How much you missed me these last few years? I've heard it all."
"No, I..." I wanted to say something, but I didn't know what. I took another sip of coffee instead.
"You look uncomfortable," my son said to me. "It's good for you. You should suffer a little bit. It will teach you humility. Maybe you'll be able to realize that something exists beside yourself."
I just blinked at him. I thought for a moment, who had I been? Who was I now? His words were cutting me deeply. Would it have been like that three years ago? I just bit my lip.
"So," he said, casting a look back at Dana over his shoulder, "are you still on the move with your retinue of demonic cronies? Still carrying the whip, driving people into such a frenzy that they would die for you at a drop of the hat?"
"No!" I said, a little louder then I wanted. I looked around quickly, to make sure no one had noticed. "God no." I stared down into my coffee, and blinked into the thick almond colored liquid. "No. She is not one of my cronies. She is not one of my slaves. She is not one of the Organization. And don't you ever talk about Dana that way. She is my friend, and she saved your life at my behest. She is the one who freed you, wherever it was you were imprisoned. She is an angel. I am indebted to her, and I will do whatever it takes to make it up to her, for you. For her, too."
He looked momentarily confused, and then grinned slightly. "So the rumors are true."
"Rumors?" I asked.
He waved a hand, mirroring my own unconscious gesture. "Rumors. People talk."
"What people?" I asked.
"People," he said with some finality.
"People are full of shit," I said.
He flashed a momentary grin at me, which faded as quickly as it came. "That's to be seen. So how indebted are you?"
I shrugged. "We're way past geasa. We're way past the point of biting of lips and looking cute and batting eyelashes and thrusting out a pair of tits and asking 'what's it worth to you' like some sort of empty headed slut who is just looking her next lay and her next job. It's not even in those terms." I shrugged. "I don't really know anymore. I don't know... I don't know if it's a matter of what is something like that worth. I think now, suddenly, we're in a mess together and I don't even know what this mess is anymore. It's not a matter of a job. It's a matter of being."
"Hmmm." He drank his own coffee, and looked distracted.
I shook my head. "A few years ago, you died, at least to us. You were just another victim of the Sickness. And I couldn't bring myself to fight the War anymore. I couldn't...." I looked at him. "I stopped. Asked. Peace. No more." I fingered the little bowl of creamers. "Erlithan went on. I pretended to continue."
"What does this mean to me?" he asked.
"I dunno. Maybe nothing." I fell silent. And for a few minutes, so did he.
"I saw him," Janeth said.
"Him. You know. Him."
I peered at Janeth. "Where?"
He took a sip of his coffee, and pushed his newspaper around with his fingertips. "Elsewhere."
"He showed up, I think, to a Mercurian friend, probably as a joke." I said. "It didn't make any sense to me, and I didn't believe her, except that she gave me this." I pulled the gold band off my finger, and let it sit glistening in the bad fluorescent light in my palm.
Janeth looked up and peered at it. "I take it that's a relic."
"It's a very special geas." I slipped it back on my finger. "The last one I had with Erlithan expired a few years ago. But this is a new one, a different one. It's a reminder of what I'm married to - my mate, my duty, my Organization..."
He shrugged. "And?"
"And I don't know."
He peered at me. "You don't usually admit to weaknesses."
"Things change," I said. "People change. Even I change."
"Hmph," he said, squinting his eyes at the paper's crossword. "Not that much."
I sat there, amazed at how many of my own mannerisms he had learned. It was like peering into a strange mirror, where the reflection changed to a point where it was almost unrecognizable as my own, except for those few poignant bits which defined me as a person. A force or two, and I ended up with a being who was almost completely unlike myself, except in those mannerisms which mattered.
The exact same goddamn angst. He has my angst. When did he learn that? Where did it come from?
"Am I interrupting something?" came a throaty female voice just off to the side.
My head jerked around, and I had this sinking feeling that my life was about to become worse. I didn't realize it could become worse, but you know what they say. Just when you think you've hit rock bottom, something comes along to prove you wrong. And here it was, in a nice tight spandex tank top and tight jeans. I moved over and let my mother sit down next to me, my head bent in proper deference and my hand in a death grip around my coffee cup.
She leaned back, and looked at me from beneath her brows. "Normally, around now, I would simply disown you."
I nodded. "I know." And it was something that had long since crossed my mind.
"But you still have use to me, so I've held my hand," Lilith said.
The hand around the mug shook. "Look, I am still loyal to the Organization."
"Are you?" she asked me. Janeth watched her with keen interest.
"Of course," I said, sounding lame. "I always have been."
"Mmmhmmm," she said, doubtful. "Luckily, I still see some redeeming value in keeping you around."
Great, I thought. I was already geased by an Archangel, and had everyone and their cousin chasing me across the country. The last thing I needed was this.
"You're extremely dissonant," my mother said. "Only by sheer luck have you avoided turning into a hopeless, useless pile of discord."
"Only through severing my bondage to Andrealphus," I corrected. I watched my son's eyes come around and peer at me in surprise.
She rapped her fingernails on the Formica tabletop. "I do not approve of Renegades. You made the choice to bind to him. You are not under my protection, so I will not prevent him from coming after you, or anyone else for that matter."
"I know," I said. "I know the rules."
"I'm not sure you do."
"Look," I said, staring at the rapidly cooling almond colored liquid. "I have personally ordered Renegade hunts in the last several years. I have personally had them brought in to me before the Game got to them, and I have personally ordered them executed publicly for the entertainment of the loyal. I know exactly what game I am playing here. But I cannot serve Andrealphus anymore. Not now, and not in the future. I don't give a damn if he is my father, I just can't go on like this. And I damn well understand the rules."
Janeth was looking at me with interest. My mother had a small smile on her lips.
I lifted my eyebrows. "Besides, there is more important things going on."
"More important then yourself?" my mother asked.
I lifted my eyes from my coffee, and turned to look at her. "Yes."
"And interesting comment to come from you, Daimonique," she said. "But not out of character."
"Then," she said, airily, "I suspect you will serve
me well. I will make you a deal."
And five minutes and several geases later, they were gone.
I feel like, he thought to himself, an insect trapped
in amber sometimes. What is worth more? The nice looking soft
brown semi-precious stone pressed into an attractive setting,
or the ugly insect treasure trapped inside? Both are desirable,
but to different people for different reasons. Either way, the
insect loses. The insect is trapped, for eternity, in a hardened
resin from which it cannot escape. I feel the same way. Is it
the being on the outside which is attractive, or what is trapped
on the inside, wings extended permanently into the stone? And
does anyone in the universe really give a fuck?
He stood on the curb outside the mall in Pittsburgh, hands in his pockets, and watched their car pull away.
"Creatures of chaos," the large man leaning on the handlebars of his motorcycle next to the curb said. "Sowers of change."
"Yeah," he said, as he tucked a wanton strand of hair behind an ear, "they seem to be able to blow up more in a few hours then a heavy demolitions team can do in a week. Not that I'm complaining."
The large man grinned in a friendly manner. "I completely approve."
The large man laughed. "A little change does a body good."
"And then," he said, watching people pass on the sidewalk with detached interest, "change can become a little extreme, and you start losing things. Maybe you change, and you forget a few items along the way, a few minor objects that meant something to you once but nothing to you now. And then you change a little bit more, and you start to misplace people you knew, maybe a few friends, maybe a few enemies, sort of a win lose situation. Then you continue to change, and you begin to lose your memories, your dreams, your nightmares. You begin to lose who you really are. Eventually, you lose even your identity, even your name, and who you were becomes a distantly remembered impression, a few whiffs of recall every once in a while at a few words, a smell, a tune you once heard. But through change, who you were is now dead, and who you are now might not be much of an improvement."
"On the other hand, sometimes you just get a really nice explosion," the large man said. "Man, you are morbid. You never stop being depressing, do you?"
"No, not really," he said. "Not anymore."
"And humans go in for this?"
"Only the kind who sit around in coffee shops and faculty lounges arguing endlessly the existence of God."
The large man peered as his friend. "I distinctly remember you being a much funner individual."
He continued to watch people walk on past. "How do you stand this?"
The large man laughed, and climbed off his motorcycle. "I don't think about it much, to tell you the truth. Well, okay, I think about the fun parts, like driving really fast into a headwind."
He tore his gaze from the humans to face his friend. "You wouldn't."
The large man clapped him on the shoulder. "No, of course not. Change, ya know? Shouldn't you be inspiring humans? Teaching them? Showing them a better way of life?"
"Maybe." He peered up at the sky.
"Them too," the large man said. "You should be off inspiring your own people. Showing them why they should fight, why they shouldn't buckle to evil and horrors and nastiness."
He was silent.
"You're really the only one who can really teach them what they face," the large man said.
"The haven't been my people for... a very long time."
"Then inspire your own people! You haven't done much of that, either." The large man removed his hand from his friend's shoulder, and then smiled and nodded at the people as they passed by.
He bit his lip. "Inspire them to do what? I've taught them enough."
"True," the large man nodded, pulling on a leather glove.
"I've started the ball rolling toward enlightenment. It's not even my own pawns who are doing the work. They will too," he said, gesturing toward the long departed car filled with angels. "I believe, through destroying a little bit of some of the horror that has been created, they will prove that you don't need to be the most powerful being in the universe to make a difference. That, in itself, will inspire those in Heaven. Well, if they make enough explosions, of which I don't doubt."
"The explosions are the fun part!" The large man laughed.
"And the Mercurian is cute. She's one of Eli's children, I think."
"Change will do us all some good," the large man said.
"But not too much change," he said.
"Too much..." he said, staring at the sky, feeling the first few splatters of rain hit him on the face and the hair.
"Just enough," the large man said. He went back and mounted his motorcycle.
He turned to go into the mall.
"Where ya goin'?" the large man called out over the roar of the exhaust.
"To go mingle with the humans!" he said. "It's not like I have servitors to watch after."
The large man furrowed his brow. He opened his mouth to say something, and then let it drop.
He walked into the mall, and disappeared, again, to be among humanity.