He was doing something he'd been sure for far too long would remain always impossible for him. He was lying in bed with his arms around Justine, skin to skin, with no unpleasant side-effects. There was a certain amount of effort that lay with suppressing Justine's protection so that this was possible, but he'd grown capable enough to handle it over the past few months to the point where it had become nearly automatic. It even worked while he slept.
She was sleeping, her breathing steady and a smile on her lips. Even now, after all this time, Thomas was still amazed to have her again. To truly be with
her. So of course he could be forgiven his dalliance with her. For a moment, he scowled slightly at the intruding thought. Thomas wasn't yet ready to be Thomas Raith, Winter Knight, again. Let him remain simply Thomas Raith for another minute or three. Better yet, merely Thomas. Thomas with Justine, the woman he loved.
Loved enough he'd do all sorts of terrible things to keep her safe.
The thought was in his head now, though, reminding him he had other duties to attend to as much as he'd prefer to remain here. Thomas sighed and brushed a gentle kiss over Justine's forehead. That gesture was as good as speaking three words he was, even now, hesitant to say. Only then did he slowly extricate himself from the bed, ensuring she'd remain asleep as he did so. With luck, he'd return before she woke.
He wasn't superstitious, precisely, but that didn't stop him from knocking the bed's headboard anyway, just in case.
Quickly, Thomas dressed and left the apartment after one glance back to the woman still sleeping peacefully on his bed.
He had a job to do.
He should have knocked more wood.
The task had been simple enough. Retrieve a certain object from a certain group of mortals who held it in a rather well-protected vault. Well protected in both the physical and magical senses. Plan A had involved equal combinations of charm and guile. If it had worked, he would have been invited
into the vault and from there if something had made its way into one of his pockets...well, that was purely accidental, of course.
Unfortunately, Plan A hadn't worked. They saw him coming. Recognized him for what he was. Both vampire and Winter Knight. And Thomas had rarely been very good at charming male
fanatics pointing semi-automatic weapons in his face.
The idea here had been to avoid open conflict and so Thomas had found himself moving on to Plan B. Plan B was a little more convoluted but likely should have been his first move. At least it wouldn't have tipped hem off immediately to who was interested in their vault. He'd obviously been around Harry too long if he'd tried the more direct approach first.
It hadn't been difficult to entice, through various roundabout means, a talented mortal thief with a penchant for magical items into trying to steal the artifact for herself. In fact, he'd already laid the threads and groundwork for that one before he'd let himself be a little distracted by Justine. Easy enough to set in motion when Plan A failed horribly. Easy enough to make it appear to be coincident to his own interest in the place.
Too bad there wasn't enough left of the thief to fill a cigar box when they were finished with her. At least he could rest easy knowing she couldn't have told them who sent her on this job since she had managed to convince herself it was all her own idea. He'd worry about uneasy rest over causing her death later.
At this point, he went back to the drawing board. The group wasn't supposed to have this sort of power, despite the artifact they held. Relative pushovers, really, Thomas should have been able to handle them even without the whole Winter Knight gig.
Obviously he'd been wrong. They had a patron.
A rather powerful patron, it turned out, and one who came to have a few words with him about kindly leaving his vault alone lest Thomas' queen suddenly find herself looking for a new Knight.
Thomas never did take to threats well.
It would be polite to say they had a disagreement. That got rather loud and messy.
Thomas was still cleaning dragon's blood out from under his fingernails when he arrived back at the vault and announced his ownership of it by dint of trial by combat. No one argued with him this time and no one was stupid enough to try semiautomatic weapons again.
That, at least, was the good news. He got what he came for. Even if the bad news was it had taken three days longer than he'd anticipated.
Simple little job, his perfect ass.
"And now," he announced to an empty hall, "her Ladyship can't even seem to grace her Knight with her presence." Maeve being nowhere to be found or at least no one in Faerie seemed to know where she was at the moment. Well, no one he cared to ask, anyway. Thomas certainly wasn't going to go before Mab if he didn't have to to find out where her daughter was.
"The Lady can't do such a thing if she's gone to her Knight's home now, can she?" asked someone behind him. Not such an empty hall, then.
Thomas turned to see Jenny Greenteeth smiling prettily at him, but no less dangerous for all she was pretty. "Oh, did she?"
"Indeed she did," Jenny affirmed.
He looked at her appraisingly, "and left you here as the messenger for me, mm?"
Jenny's eyes widened perhaps a bit too theatrically, "and couldn't I have stayed of my own will to help you?"
For a long moment, Thomas looked at her before smiling, baring white teeth, "No, you couldn't." He bowed slightly, "but it seems I have other places to be." And before the Sidhe could make any other comment, he took his leave.
Home, then.[continued here]