Authors: Emily Thompson
“No,” Jonas said, looking at him quickly. “I'm glad you're here.” He paused and looked into Twist's eyes. “It really is you, isn't it?”
“I think so,” Twist offered with a shrug.
“That's amazing,” Jonas toned thoughtfully. “I know this is my dream because the stars are the right colors,” he said, glancing up to the jewel-studded, velvet sky. “You only see the stars in white, right?”
“Usually,” Twist said, nodding. “Is this the way you always see the sky?”
“Pretty much. I'm making the stars spin a little faster right now. But how did you get in here?” he asked, looking back to him.
Twist paused to think. For some reason, it was hard to remember actually falling asleep. Then, as he focused, it slowly came back. “I think I fell asleep while focusing on the buzz.”
“Have you ever done that before?”
“I guess not,” Twist said with a smile.
“Do you think you could do it again?”
“Maybe.” Twist felt the faint light of a new emotion in Jonas's touch, something darker and colder. “Just in emergencies, of course,” he added quickly. “I wouldn't want you to get sick of having me around,” he added easily.
Jonas smiled lightly and took his hand off Twist's neck to put his arm back around his shoulders. “Don't worry about that.”
The white fog in his mind thinned but didn't disappear, and Twist felt some of his own emotions return to him. They were warmer now than when he'd left them. He looked to the unprotected edge of the roof and knew that it should worry him to be up so high. But somehow, he really didn't mind. The chill air moved subtly, but with the freedom that only comes from being far from the ground. The quiet wasn't empty so much as it was soothing. He only wished that Myra was with them as well, to enjoy this oasis of peace.
Twist realized vaguely that someone was poking him in the chest with a stick. He blinked his eyes open into stinging sunlight, and found Vane standing beside his hammock with Twist's walking stick in his hands. Vane smiled brightly and put the tip of the cane on the floor, leaning on the hilt casually.
“Did you have a good dream?” Vane asked. “Did you dream of me?”
“What do you want now?” Twist moaned, pushing himself to sit up with his legs hanging over the side of the hammock.
“It's lunchtime. I've been sent to fetch you,” Vane said, offering a hand to help him to his feet. Twist looked at his hand, then at his face. “You're still not going to touch me, are you?”
“I'm never going to touch you, if I have anything to say about it.”
Vane put on a pout. “Why not? What are you so afraid of? I promise to only bite you in a fun way,” he added with a wicked smile.
“Where's Jiran?” Twist asked.
“The ninja woman you were fond of,” Twist said. “From Hong Kong to Indonesia, you never once left her side.”
“Oh, her...” Vane said, as if struggling to catch a distant memory. “I think I made her angry. One day I woke up and she was just gone. Not like hiding in the shadows gone, but really gone. I haven't seen her since. Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” Twist said with a sigh. “She was just so wonderfully distracting to you.”
Vane narrowed his eyes. “Are you trying to tell me, delicately, to piss off?”
“Yes,” Twist said with a tight smile.
“Oh, I do love a challenge,” Vane purred, grinning like a wolf before a perfectly prepared roast. Twist felt his skin crawl as if it were trying to escape without him.
“Give my cane back,” Twist said, holding out his hand.
Vane complied, and Twist got to his feet. Then he swung the silver hilt of the cane swiftly at Vane's shoulder. Vane yelped and backed away, his hand moving to the wounded spot as he stared back at Twist in surprise.
“Know that if you look at me like that again, I will defend myself,” Twist said with as much dignity as he could muster.
Vane's shock melted into a smile, but this time he held his tongue. Instead, he led Twist out into the hallway and up the stairs to the dining room. Quay and Jonas were already there, and Myra was still sitting handcuffed to the chair. Twist caught her gaze and she gave him a brave but quiet smile. There was an array of bread, fruit, and a variety of cheeses on the table. Twist sat beside Myra, and across from Jonas, but Vane followed and sat beside him as well.
“Twist?” Jonas asked. Quay glanced at him when Twist did. “What color are the stars in Vienna?” Twist instantly saw the subtle, guarded light in Jonas's now deep-purple eyes, and stared into them unblinking.
“White as a goat, of course,” he said as unemotionally as he could.
Quay frowned, looking a bit confused. Twist saw a glimmer of relief in Jonas's eyes. Yes, they'd both had the same dream after all. The Rooks really were hunting for them now, and they were close to rescue. Twist put a gentle hand on Myra's arm and gave her an encouraging smile. His Sight showed the tension in her easing somewhat.
“So, did you manage to sleep?” Quay asked as he served himself some bread and cheese. “Or did you just do that meditation thing?” he asked Jonas directly.
“What? It's as good as sleep. I'm telling you, it's great when you're stressed.”
“Why would you be stressed?” Quay asked him. “I thought you were on our side.”
Jonas smiled but kept his eyes on his plate. “I'm only ever on my own side. You know that, Adair. I'm just glad you could join me.”
How about you, Twist?”
“He was out cold when I went to get him,” Vane offered, smiling fondly at Twist from close beside him. “He looked so peaceful, too...” Jonas glanced at Vane sharply, then looked to Twist.
Twist gave the fox a glare and picked up a fork, examining it. “Tell me, Vane, do you enjoy having two eyes?”
Vane seemed to shiver. “You're ever so adorable when you're angry.” Myra leaned forward to look around Twist at Vane. Quay also seemed to pause and watch. Twist looked at the fox coldly, calculating his next possible move.
“Don't be aggressive,” Jonas said softly. “And don't actually scare him. He likes it.”
“Do you know what the devil he's playing at?” Twist asked Jonas, hooking a thumb at Vane.
Jonas put on a resigned smile. “In my experience, Vane will pursue the affections of anyone with a pulse. Especially, anyone who doesn't appreciate it.” Quay sniggered and nodded, while Vane shot both he and Jonas a glare. “Don't take him seriously,” Jonas continued casually. “I don't think he's capable of actually caring for anyone.”
“That's not my fault!” Vane snapped at Jonas. “I'm too young. I've only got one tale. You just wait till I get older and figure out what the hell you're talking about,” he warned with a shaking finger. Twist frowned at Vane in confusion as he struggled to make any sense out of his reply.
“Oh, that's your excuse for everything,” Jonas scoffed at the fox. “You'll still be an idiot when you grow your ninth bloody tail.”
“You never even try to understand the ways of my people,” Vane grumbled, looking hurt. Quay glanced at Jonas meaningfully, seeming to agree with this.
“Whatever,” Jonas muttered with a sigh. “Anyway, Twist, don't try to scare him or make him angry. What you need to be is boring.”
“Hey, he's only just gotten interesting,” Vane said in a whine. “Don't tell him to stop!”
“Boring?” Twist asked thoughtfully. “I should be able to manage that.”
“Ignoring him works sometimes, too,” Jonas offered.
“Stop it!” Vane snapped at Jonas. “You wouldn't ignore me, would you, Twist?” he asked pleadingly. Twist looked to Quay.
“I slept very well, thank you,” he said.
“Twist...” Vane toned mournfully.
“Well, that's good,” Quay said, still watching Vane. “Oh, I wanted to ask you,” he began, as if the thought had only just occurred to him. He looked to Jonas, as pleasant as a crocodile. “What are your opinions on what we should do with our captives?”
Jonas shrugged. “Desert island?”
“We could sell their heads to Loki,” Quay said as if pondering whether to have fish or chicken for dinner. Twist felt the buzz in his neck tighten. “I mean,” Quay went on, “you're right about Arabel. We might be able to use her. But the others are useless.”
“Hey, Twist?” Vane asked softly.
“I said I wanted to be free of them,” Jonas said calmly. “I never said I wanted them dead.” Twist saw Quay's face take on a knowing gleam.
“What better freedom can you have, than knowing you'll never see them again?” he asked.
“Twist, do you have the time?” Vane asked sweetly.
“Ah, but I think you have it wrong, there,” Twist said casually to Quay. “You see, Jonas wants to be free of them out of spite, not true hatred. The better freedom in that case would be to leave them alive to know that they've been spurned.” Jonas looked to Twist with a hint of gratitude in his eyes.
“Hey, Twist honey?” Vane said pleasantly. A jolt of pure annoyance almost made Twist turn to him. Myra, however, glared acidly at Vane in his place.
Quay looked at Vane curiously, but then shook his head as if to clear it. “Well, I never thought of that,” he said. “But still, four heads, at five hundred pounds apiece, is no small sum.”
“W-well, yes,” Twist muttered, steeling his soul against any response to Vane. “But you're already going to get two thousand for Myra. And you might yet find the boy.”
“Yeah, how hard can it be to find a boy with, what was it?” Jonas asked, looking to Twist as if he didn't know. “Pink eyes?”
“Was it pink or was it purple?” Twist asked Quay.
“The notice said pink,” Quay answered.
“Twisty dear, did you know you have a lovely-looking neck?” Vane asked softly.
“Will you stop that?” Myra snapped at him. Twist could feel the fox's eyes on him, and it took all he had not to turn and punch him in the face.
“Oh, Vane, knock it off,” Quay said suddenly.
Jonas looked up to Twist and a shock of fear flashed in his eyes. Twist only turned halfway back to look at Vane when he felt a gentle brush against the skin just under his jaw. His Sight responded instantly and a black cloud billowed into his mind. Twist's thoughts recoiled, diving for the buzz in his neck, while the black vision followed on the heels of his attention. It caught him. He felt it catch him. He watched in helpless panic as blackness blinded his inner eye and then cleared to show him every way that Vane was broken.
“Twisty Twist...” Vane said softly, sitting just beside him with both hands clutching the armrests of his chair eagerly.
“Yeah, how hard can it be to find a boy with, what was it?” Jonas asked, looking to Twist calmly. “Pink eyes?”
Twist stared at Jonas in naked shock. Hadn't they already had this conversation? Vane's fingers were nowhere near Twist's neck. Jonas looked at him with concern in the jarring pause, meeting Twist's open eyes. Then he hissed in pain and snapped his eyes shut. Twist instantly knew he'd shared his vision.
“Well, the notice said pink eyes,” Quay said slowly, looking at Jonas carefully.
“Twisty dear,” Vane began softly.
“No!” Jonas bellowed.
Twist leaped to
his feet and sprang a step away just as Jonas's knife buried its tip in the back of Vane's chair, a hair's breadth away from Vane's outstretched fingers. Vane yelped in surprise and drew his hand close to his chest protectively. Then he turned toward Jonas with an angry expression. Jonas had already climbed onto the table and was bearing down on Vane with the cheese knife. He stopped at the edge and crouched down to pin Vane against his chair, the knife catching him just under the chin, before Twist had even caught his breath.
“Whoa! Whoa! Stop!” Vane gasped, throwing his hands up. Jonas's eyes burned gold as he stared at the tiny crumbs of cheese on the edge of the knife, pressing a dent into the skin at Vane's throat.
put a hand on Twist,” he said very softly. Twist shivered against the raging, furious heat in his neck.
“Fine, whatever!” Vane said, sounding shocked now as well as frightened. “I surrender!”
Jonas drew his hand back and drove the knife into the edge of the table in front of Vane, making the fox wince, before he stood up and hopped off the table between the chairs and closed the distance to Twist. His hand found the same spot Vane had touched—if he had actually managed to touch it—and Jonas caught Twist's gaze with already purple eyes.
“Are you all right?” he asked, his voice suddenly gentle. The sheer brightness of Jonas's white fog, against the memory of Vane's black smoke, startled Twist and gave him another shiver as his mind filled with the chill, numb, comforting fog.
“Yeah, I'm fine,” Twist said before taking a deep breath to calm his pounding heart.
“Did you see anything?”
“No. Very nearly, but no.”
“That was too close,” Jonas said heavily.
He turned back to find Vane, who was peering at them over the back of his chair. Myra and Quay were also watching them with careful interest. Twist tried to give Myra a reassuring smile, but it felt thin on his face. Jonas reached over the back of Vane's chair and grabbed hold of his collar, hauling him to his feet.
“You are getting your fluffy tail out of arm's reach,” Jonas growled, dragging him to the other side of the table. He threw Vane into the chair beside his own and then retook his seat. Twist slipped back into his own chair and focused on soothing his nerves.
“What were we talking about?” Quay asked after a pause.
“The weather,” Jonas said.
“Yes, of course,” Quay said, looking at him thoughtfully. “Lovely weather in the Caribbean this time of year. Is there any chance someone could pass me the cheese knife?”
Twist yanked it out of the edge of the table and turned it over, holding the handle out for Quay. Quay took it and inspected the edge.