BloodBorne Ch. 02bypurefire©
"Why in the hell did you cheat anyway?" Liam asked as he took a left turn onto Park Street. He'd been driving in silence for a few minutes, just the right amount of time it took for the effects of the protection spell to wear off. The second Xan yawned and stretched in the passenger seat, Liam took matters into his own hands. "What, you're so desperate for a few bucks that you have to lie to get it?"
"What's it to you?" Xan replied. This was not the type of conversation a person had with a complete stranger, especially when that stranger was a demon-hunting prick. There were more important things to worry about.
"Your idiocy means nothing to me. But at least have the decency to be honest about your shit."
"An asshole with morals. What do you know?"
"At least my morals keep my friends alive." That wasn't entirely true. Nadia was proof of that. Liam tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he tried to fight the memories of her from dominating his thoughts. He looked over at Xan's profile, at the way his young chin trembled and let out a frustrated breath. It wasn't the best idea to mention a fallen friend as he did only hours after his death, but Liam had never been the one to exercise tact. "What was the Magori's name?" Xan didn't answer him. Hell, Xan didn't even bother to glance in his direction. It was like the first drive all over again. "How long were you two friends? How long have you been running the scam?" Long minutes passed, and still, there was nothing. Liam sighed as he looked out the window. They'd returned to the residential area of town and would soon reach Main Street; the epicenter of supernatural activity. "Shit," he gasped as he slammed on the breaks. He hadn't noticed the red light or the random group of teenagers crossing the street. Liam shifted to look at Xan and noticed that he swallowed rapidly; he was trying to keep tears at bay. Based on the tears brimming in his eyes, his efforts were useless. "Look, kid, people die. And never at the best time. It sucks now, but-"
"Could you just fucking drive the goddamned car?"
The obvious hitch in Xan's voice forced Liam to obey. He glanced at Xan again and felt a surge of pride at the determined look on the boy's face. Not one of those tears brimming fell, and it was because of the bravery the kid had in spades. As the light turned green, Liam pulled off and said, "I'm not psychic. Where am I going?"
Xan grunted to mask any emotion felt before saying, "Just stay on Main Street until it turns into Company. Think you can handle that?"
"If you weren't such a pain in the ass, I might like you, kid."
"At least one of us feels that way."
At the comment, Liam had to smile. "You really are a piece of shit." Damn, but the kid had balls. Anyone else would have been careful to keep from igniting his wrath, but Xan all but threw respect out of the window. Liam had to admit that the child reminded him so much of his younger self. It was no wonder he felt an odd sense of connection. Xan was almost like the younger brother he wished he'd had before finding out about his brothers. Roycelyn, his father and one of the five members of the High Council, didn't see fit to inform his bastard sons about each other until it was too late. They were fully grown men, strangers to each other and outcasts who had to learn to control their abilities on their own. Liam shook his head as he drove, remembering the happy look on his father's face as he made introductions. The day he met his brothers was also the day he learned who his father was; his mother had refused to tell him. He'd recognized Roycelyn's face from town. The rage that washed over him was unbelievable; had it not been for Andraemalek's arrival...
Liam shook himself out of his thoughts when Xan instructed him to take a left turn. They'd driven into Gainseville, the only neighboring town as violently driven as the warehouse district. A very shabby scene was what he was presented with; litter-filled streets, broken down houses and dozens of stray animals wandering in packs. "This is where you live?"
"Third house from the corner right there."
Liam pulled the car up in front of the specified house and felt his brows furrow at the sight of the lone girl sitting on the questionable steps. She rested her chin on her knees, leaving her unbound mass of hair to flank her thin angular face.
"I told her to stay inside," Xan muttered.
Liam exited the car a split second after Xan and watched as the young girl stood up to embrace Xan. Christ, she couldn't have been any older than eleven based on her small stature. And that idiot boy left her alone? In this neighborhood? "What the fuck..."
Xan crouched low to look the girl in the eyes before saying, "Xion, I told you to never come outside at night if I'm not home."
"I was waiting for you. I couldn't sleep," Xion replied. Her gaze shifted from Xan to the large, angry looking man who approached. "Where is Pogue?"
Xan had to fight the tears threatening to fall at Pogue's name. "Why don't we go inside and we'll talk about it."
A flash of painful recognition glittered in Xion's eyes as she shivered. "Pogue's not coming back."
"No baby, he's not."
The combination of the night's events, the dreary danger of the neighborhood and the small innocent child set Liam's blood to a boil. He stormed forward and grabbed Xan's arm, forcing the boy to stand up. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" He shoved the boy into the house and pulled Xion inside before he continued his tirade. "You mean to tell me that you have subjected-" He glanced at the terrified but curious girl and immediately saw similarities in appearance, "your sister to the shit you do? You go off and cheat and get your friend murdered while she's fucking left to fend for herself?!?"
"This is none of your goddamned-"
"You shut the fuck up right now little boy." Liam took three steps forward as he sneered down into Xan's enraged face. "She is your responsibility. Yours. You don't get to go off into the sunset to cheat at demonic fights when you're all that she has." He glanced around at the sparsely furnished living room, the mouse traps scattered around and narrowed his eyes. "Not that you're doing much to protect her anyway. Maybe I should have let those Dickindron demons kill you. The system sucks, but at least she wouldn't be in this shit-hole of a home." Liam's head whipped to the side as the force of Xan's punch pushed him backward. He wiped his bloody lip with the sleeve of his shirt as he watched the idiot boy's color deepen from a small blush to a full out flush of anger.
"Get out. Get the fuck out of my house!" Xan held a hand out and waited for Xion to move forward. The little girl tried to remain calm, but it was easy to see that she was close to falling apart.
"What the fuck kind of brother are you?"
"Get. The fuck. Out."
"No please... Stay. I'd like to see what happens next."
The attention in the room shifted to the lone man propped against the far wall. His pure, crystal blue eyes glittered with impending menace, a point emphasized by his oval face and slow grin. "Sherlaine," Liam muttered. Instant memories of their last encounter blasted to the forefront of his mind, forcing him to surge forward to attack the white-blonde haired intruder. He should have known better considering the fact that Sherlaine was a powerful demon with the ability to teleport from one location to another, an ability that he used the second Liam got too close. Liam heard himself growl at Sherlaine's condescending laugh. He whipped around and nearly staggered at the sight of Xan engaging Sherlaine in battle. Xion was the only smart person in the room; she ran to hide in one of the back rooms. This wasn't the first time she'd been in this type of situation. The rage that overwhelmed Liam pushed him forward to join the fight. He ran forward with an arm raised to strike but stopped when he saw the amused quirk of Sherlaine's mouth. The bastard demon was toying with Xan, testing his ability and searching for weaknesses. With an angry battle cry, Liam side-kicked Sherlaine hard, throwing the demon sideways. Xan followed through with the move and added another kick, tossing Sherlaine through the already unstable counter that separated the kitchen from the front room. Both Xan and Liam ran forward to continue the attack and Sherlaine eagerly gained his feet. A sharp kick to Xan's midsection had the boy flying into the wall and gagging. Liam sprung into the battle, throwing and landing punches to Sherlaine's face and midsection. With a quick snap, his wrist blades protracted and a second later was embedded in the bastard's heart. A burst of light shot out of Sherlaine's body and shifted into glittering puffs of dust that slowly floated in the air. Liam took a moment to calm his rage before he turned to watch Xan struggle to stand. "Stupid, irresponsible boy!" He charged forward in order to leer down at the bruised child. "What would you have done if I wasn't here?"
Xan struggled to take a proper breath before saying, "I would have managed." It hurt to breathe. Shit, the demon was pretty bad ass. "Xion!"
Liam stepped forward and yanked Xan up to stand and watched as the stupid human stumbled forward to comfort a red-faced Xion. Tears streamed down the little girl's face and she shook to the point of convulsions. She remained silent as she threw herself into Xan's arms, but that didn't stop Liam from taking an aggravated breath. "Sherlaine is only dead for now." When Xan only looked at him curiously, he continued, "He comes back from the dead. And he will return for what he came for once he does." As he placed his hand on his hips and looked around the shambling house, he said, "Pack your shit. You're coming with me."
"Hell no," Xan protested with narrowed eyes. "I have Xion to think of."
"Which is why you're going to trust me when I tell you that my brothers and I are the only hope you have to stay alive." If Sherlaine was involved, someone was going to die. Liam had learned that lesson the hard way. "You have five minutes. Pack only what you need."
There was something about Liam's tone of voice that made Xan heed his words. "Xi, I want you to get your emergency bag and your toothbrush."
Liam felt his brow furrow at the gentle command. While he appreciated the fact that they had an escape plan, he didn't like that these two young children had to live with their feet half out the door. He shook his head slowly as the two quickly shuffled through the house to gather their sparse belongings. The task only took five minutes, and within seven, they were placed safely in his car while he sped back to the manor. What the hell was Sherlaine up to? And why was Xan involved? The sound of a mental can opening had Liam glancing over at Xan, who deftly counted several wads of cash. Cash, one of the roots of evil. Had Sherlaine placed a hefty bet on the fight tonight? The idea wasn't farfetched. Even demons had to find ways to make it in the human world. "I hope you learned your fucking lesson."
"Did you really think that your cheating wouldn't piss off the high rolling demons?"
"Are we back to that?" Xan asked as they rushed out of the house and to the car.
Liam waited until they were situated in the car before he spoke. "Fuck yes we are. In just one night you've gotten one person killed, me almost harmed, and God knows what to you and the kid."
"Don't talk about my sister, pendeho."
"Xan, be nice."
Liam glanced over at the wide brown eyes of the child sitting on her brother's lap. She seemed to have calmed down slightly, as evidence of the less intense flush of her skin. Liam wondered how much she'd been through in her short years. She turned to stare out the window with an almost solemn look on her face, and for a moment, he wanted to reach over and take her hand. No child should ever wear such a look.
"What the hell for, Xi? I won't stand for this jerk trying to make me feel like shit." Xan shifted to look at Liam and with narrowed eyes said, "And stop cursing in front of her."
The random order almost made him forget that he was supposed to be angry. Almost. "You have a lot of mouth for a kid your age."
"Xan, why does he keep-"
"Let him think what he wants, Xi. He says I'm a cheater, so I'm a cheater. He says I'm young enough to still be breast feeding, well... I'm a fucking infant."
"Didn't you just give me shit about cursing in front of her?"
"I'm not in the mood, Caspar."
"Xan, it's not nice to be rude to someone helping us."
There was a moment of silence as Xion's words resonated in the car. Liam glanced over once more and was quite stunned to find the child's intense gaze centered on him. There was a world of wisdom in those young eyes, wisdom she should not have been exposed to. "At least I'll like one of you while this mess gets settled." He looked at Xan when the little bastard grunted in response. Liam decided to remain silent as he drove back to the manor. There were new changes to consider, and not one clue as to why. Sherlaine was back in the picture, which only meant that heaps of trouble on the horizon. Fantastic; just when life was getting dull.
It wasn't until he cut the engine that Liam realized that he'd returned to the manor. He looked around the vast garage, at the cars parked inside, and sighed at the fact that the little shit of a boy asleep beside him had irrevocably changed his life. He sighed in resignation as he walked around the car and opened the passenger door to retrieve Xion. The young one certainly needed her rest, especially after what she'd just witnessed.
Liam's attention shifted to the large golden dog that pushed its head against his thigh. Curious amber eyes stared up at him before shifting to the car. "Long story, Euan. Want to give me a hand?" He didn't bother to watch as the dog shifted to the golden-haired form of his brother. "Grab the kid while I heal the other one." Liam hadn't forgotten about the injuries Sherlaine inflicted on Xan. As he placed a hand on the door, he looked at Xan, at the incredibly strong but stupid boy who was obviously determined to support his younger sister. While Liam understood, he couldn't agree with the method. There were other ways, better ways to support a child.
He grunted as he watched Euan lift Xion into his arms and removed his gloves to set about healing Xan. He closed his eyes to concentrate, and this round of healing was much easier, primarily due to the fact that the boy was asleep. Such pride and arrogance for his young years.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
Liam took a deep breath before opening his eyes. Xan wore a wary expression, one that both confused and infuriated him. Instead of saying anything, Liam only stood up and walked toward the entrance to the house. He grunted in satisfaction when he heard Xan follow behind and went straight to the solarium where he was sure Alexis waited. True to form, his monosyllabic brother sat in his usual seat as he watched a very nude Euan staring down at Xion. "You really think the child should be seeing your naked ass when she comes to?"
Euan only looked from Laim to the wide-eyed guest lagging behind before shifting back to canine form.
"What's the kid doing back?" Draco asked.
"Sherlaine," Liam replied as he moved to stand next to the fireplace. "Need I say more?" The stunned silence that shot through the room made Liam nod cynically. He quickly relayed the events leading to his return to the manor, occasionally glaring at Xan when the child tried to interrupt.
"You're going to stop looking at me like that," Xan warned.
"Or what?" Liam challenged. His eyes narrowed when Xan took a threatening step forward. "You ungrateful, shoddy-"
"Liam, back down," Alexis commanded. He remained in his seat as he watched his brother with Xan. It was obvious the newcomer had no fear of him, no matter how much Liam tried to use intimidation tactics. "It is not wise to escalate this."
Xan only stared at Liam while saying, "I've fought jerk-offs bigger than this one." Draco's snicker wasn't a distraction; it was motivation to keep speaking. "And I won. No need to be afraid of Caspar over here."
Draco frowned as he asked, "Why do you keep calling Liam 'Caspar'?" Asshole, he understood; jerk-off even. But why would Xan continue to call his brother such a random name?
From the entryway, Xan glanced at Draco and ignored the curious stare that was becoming his trademark and said, "Look at him; he'd so damned pale that I can see the faint color of his veins and not all the lights are on in here." Xan shifted annoyed eyes to Liam before continuing, "Hey jackass, ever heard of this thing called the sun?" A laugh almost slipped out at the shock and fury that contorted Liam face. It was almost amazing to see a redhead become so flushed. "Get on that."
Alexis watched Liam and his new ward stare at each other and felt the corner of his mouth quirk up in a smile. He'd always wondered how his brother would react to someone with a similar abrasive personality. As much as he would have liked to continue observing, there was much to be done. "Liam, you seem certain that Sherlaine wants money."
"It makes sense considering this little shit's cheating ways."
"Then he should have been at all the other Dymos' I rigged." Xan stepped into the room to look at Xion and was happy to see that she was still asleep. The large dog -- no, man who'd shifted into a dog, sitting vigil at Xion's side would have been an issue if not for his protective stance beside her. "Look, it's not easy raising an eight-year-old on your own, especially when she's in private school and I have to make sure she has what she needs. We live where we do because no one thinks about breaking into a shit-tastic house. No one finds it weird that I leave late at night and don't come back for hours. No questions mean that I don't have to lie or talk about super secret demon fights that leave me with bruises so bad, they take weeks to heal."
"What about your parents?" Draco asked.
"What parents?" Xan asked on a cynical laugh. "Neither one of us knows who our fathers are and our mother died when she was one."
"How?" Alexis asked.
"Protecting us." Xan shifted to look at the fireplace as a ball of pain formed. It wasn't easy thinking about that fateful day. So much had changed since then. "I was always a good fighter. I had to be if you saw where Xion and I lived before. I went to my first Dymos at sixteen and won when I was pushed in the ring. I haven't looked back since."
"And the Magori?"
Xan glared at Liam before replying, "Pogue and I met a year later. He needed a partner and I needed more money."
Liam felt his eyebrow quirk at that. So the cheating wasn't the kid's idea. He felt a modicum of relief at that; he didn't like the thought of protecting a cheater. Now that he knew the reasons behind it, he couldn't fault Xan. He prepared to say something to the boy but stopped at the staggering look of pain in his brown eyes. A child who'd had become an adult too soon. "How old are you?"
"You're sure that Sherlaine is after Xan because of a rigged fight?"
"No," Liam replied, "But it's the only explanation I could come up with." He narrowed his eyes speculatively at Xan. There was much about the kid they didn't know, and any number of those things could have dealt with Sherlaine.
"Don't look at me like that. Tonight was the first night I'd ever seen that guy."
"That you know of," Liam replied.
"He's not the type of guy you forget seeing."
Liam had to admit that Xan had a point there., Sherlaine was an imposing figure; there was no doubt that any human would recognize his face. "You can't go back to that shit hole you call a home."
"Which became obvious the second you told me and my sister to pack some shit." Xan looked over at Xion's sleeping form and frowned at the tell-tale facial twitching. "I need to get her to a bed."