Beware the bottled thoughts of angry young menFifty-three this morning looks haunted, quietly unsettled as we take a thermos of coffee down to the beach to greet the horizon, a line cut with damp sugar. I'm teaching him to appreciate the simple life even as he attempts to appropriate the magician's rituals for his own. The coffee is a compromise. He wanted to bring champagne. Which is different than scotch but somehow still the same. It's cold and rainy this morning and the birthday boy looks at me for a very long time before I give in first, toasting him with the metal cup full of scalding black gold.
Secret compartments hide all of the skeletons
Little girl wants to make her home with him
In the middle of the shore, she wonders
'Don't know what you asked for'
Happy Birthday, Diabhal, I've made my speech privately, ending with the expected formality of a wish, as this day holds so much more weight than any other of his year. Birthdays are sacred to the Collective and treated as such.
Which one of them is keeping you from me? Look what happened to the last two men who tried. As of today I am three years past my goal and it's further out of reach than ever.
What did you do, wake up and say this should be the day where you turn the evil up to eleven?
I need a name. If you're protecting Lochla-
I'm doing this. Because I said I would and I am. If you're going to kill me please not by heights or fire. I prefer to be drowned or asphyxiated in the throes of passion. Humane, as it were. Maybe a drug overdose but make it good so I have no idea what's going on. Now if you don't mind can we not fight today? This is a very special day. I squeeze my eyes shut tightly and he laughs. I peek at him with one eye all squinty and he's smiling but his eyes are still incredibly sad.
I'm not going to kill you today. It's my birthday, Neamhchiontach. And you're right. The simplest things are best and being here with you to greet this day is a gift in itself. I know you probably met a lot of resistance. I do appreciate it.
I'm not doing you a favor. I want to be here.
Is Pyro chained up inside or something?
He's at work.
He doesn't know.
Sure he does. His spies are all over this. I point back behind my head and Duncan is casually scanning the sweet morning skyline from the telescope platform.
Okay, well then how about I go get some things done and I scoop you up at one? Since dinner is here and you've gone to so much trouble let me take you out for lunch.
I'm game. Can we just have ice cream?
We're having cake tonight. Don't overdo it. He indicates the candy vista stretching as far as the eye can see in glittering shades of lavender and orange over a darkened teal early sea. My legendary, unchecked instant childlike disappointment is a goddamned firestarter.
We'll see, he changes his mind when he catches my expression as it runs to hide. He smiles again, eyes still sad.
It's your birthday. You choose. But no more threats against Lochlan. He hasn't done anything to you.
That slight spark is enough to reassure my pounding heart that he is okay as the smile finally hints at his eyes until the comprehension of my words extinguishes it completely. I can't coordinate my feelings. I want to be Kevlar and I want to be comfort. I want to be somewhere else. I bite my own tongue chewing on my shoes as I attempt to change the subject before he notices what I have done.
Are you coming back up? I see Duncan has already come down from the platform and is heading for the stairs. I have my answer.
I'm going to stay for a bit still. Give me the coffee, would you?
He takes the thermos and walks me back carefully to the bottom of the steps, kissing my cheek hard as he lets go. As I grab the railing he heads back to the other end of the beach. He turns to see me looking back at him and holds up a finger.
Wait? Stop? Think about this for a minute? I have something else to say? Be careful? Soon? See you at one? I have one man left to destroy? I don't know what the finger means so I ignore it, turning away first, climbing the stairs slowly, hand on the rail as instructed because he just broke one of the house rules of buddies on the cliff stairs because they're fucking dangerous. Less dangerous than he is, though, I suppose, birthday or not.