Sixteen

Taking Risks




“Can you be my nightingale?



Sing to me I know you’re there.




You could be my sanity,




Bring me peace,




Sing me to sleep.




Say you’ll be my nightingale.” 





Quinn rested his head back against the wall from where he sat. He took in slow, careful breaths as he listened.
It was strange how calm he felt. His arm radiated with pain, yet he was calm. At peace


He had a new resolve that had been formulating for far longer than just the previous night. Now it was solidified.
Now it was real


For as long as he could remember, words had meant nothing to him. But when she used them...


They held more weight than every possible universe combined.


The water stopped in the shower and he could hear her humming as she stepped out, oblivious to his presence or his musings. She had no idea the resolve that had been building in his mind for the past few months, nor the way his mind twisted over every decision he would be making in the next few days to manipulate things into her favor.


She didn’t know he sat outside the bathroom just to hear her sing, nor that her smile was etched into the front of his head, causing him to think about her even when she wasn’t there.


She didn’t know how much happier he had been since he met her, nor that he hadn’t meant anything in his life more than what he told her last night.


Esmerelda strode from the bathroom donning only a towel, her eyes widened briefly when she saw where he had been sitting before she cracked a smile. “Hoping for a nice view, slick?”


Quinn found himself smiling in response, “a man can only hope. Granted, if I wanted the best view I could’ve just invaded your shower.”


She rolled her eyes in amusement, “not with your arm like that, you wouldn’t.” Her face shifted as she looked him over and he felt exposed to her once again. She had a habit of seeing right through him. “Thinking about something?” 


It was the change in her voice that had him pulling himself to his feet. She reached over to help him, yet instead he used her hand to tug her against him. “Yeah, thinking about all the ways I’m going to fuck Calypso up, starting with practicing on Zeke.” 


He wasn’t lying about that part, at least. She didn’t need to know the other things he was weighing yet.
Esmerelda smiled distantly at his response, and he could tell they were both in the same place of mind. What now?


He wasn’t ready to talk to her about that - not until he had more answers for her.
Not until he knew what his next move was going to be. 


Quinn reached up and touched her face, wiping away some stray droplets she missed when drying herself down earlier. He needed to get those answers before he could make promises to her, but there was one thing he could promise her. “I’m going to keep you safe, no matter what that takes.”
Some of the anxiety lifted from her vibrant blue eyes. “I… I don’t want you to risk-” 


He pressed his lips to hers to silence the worries she had. “I built my life on taking risks, Ezzie, and I can tell you there’s no greater risk worth taking.” His lips slowly upturned into a smirk, “besides, I’d say crazy risk-taking is right up my alley, don’t you think?”


Esmerelda’s eyes read as more certain which comforted him. The last thing he wanted was for her to think he’d changed his mind about what he said. She smiled back at him. “Just a bit.”
 A silence washed over them as he studied the features of her face.
She had a soft cupid’s bow, his eyes traced over it several times as he outlined her lips. It wasn’t even a sexual thing for him anymore - it was like he was committing it to memory.


“I need to pay my master a visit today.” His voice was lower and softer than usual. He was still in a state of calm. Calm before the storm, perhaps? It was hard to say. By the end of today he’d know with certainty. “Will you be alright here? You can always come with me-”
She was already nodding. “After yesterday I’m pretty sure this place is as safe as it could ever get. I should be fine!” Yet slight hesitation entered her voice. “H-How long will you be gone for, do you think?”


“Just a few hours.” Absolutely no more than that. Even he couldn’t deal with that. “I’ll have my phone the whole time too. I’ll also be the first to know if anyone comes within a foot of my wards who isn’t you. You probably should stay inside though… just for today.”


“I was planning on it.” Esmerelda’s moved her hands up to thread them through his hair, making his eyes instinctively close. “Make sure you have Mania look at your arm.”
Quinn smirked, opening his eyes slightly as he did so. “What? This thing? A scratch at best.”


“Mm, tough and good-looking. You’re just the whole package, aren’t you?” She shot back with a smirk of her own.
“You better believe it.” He winked.
Her face grew serious, so he grew serious as well. “Be safe, please.”


He nodded then leaned to press his lips to hers again. He wished he didn’t need to go out, yet this couldn’t wait a moment longer; not when she needed answers he couldn’t give. “I’ll be back.”
It was surprisingly difficult to let go of her, but he knew he needed to move quickly.
He had a pit stop he needed to make.

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Quinn’s fingers drummed against the table, his brow furrowed.



Majnun’s eyes never left him, and he couldn’t bring himself to meet his master’s gaze, so he instead focused on the table below him.
Mania was the first to enter the room, eyeing the two of them skeptically before taking the other seat next to their master. They were silent.



The entire room was silent save for Quinn’s careful drumming on the table.
It wouldn’t be silent for long.
The Keeper boys slowly filed into the room, and Quinn tried to straighten himself in his seat.
They were good kids.


He felt it oddly final to think about how today could turn out. He didn’t really want to think about it.
“It’s too early for a meeting.” Deliro groaned loudly as he slumped onto the table.


Kefka rolled his eyes with a cheeky smile, yet sat down without a word.
Sheogorath came in next, a confused expression on his brow, yet he, too, silently sat down.


It was the last to arrive who was the noisiest, and all of them could hear him as he loudly groaned down the hallway.
Deliro sat up with an amused look in his eyes, “ok, ok, it’s not that early!” He called out to his brother in the hallway.


Aleccas Keeper slumped into the room with a huff, “you all have no sense of timezones, do you?”
Deliro snorted at that, “you’re four hours ahead of us, that’s not EARLY. You have no right to complain, asië?” He chided.




“Speak for yourself.” Aleccas was clearly hungover from whatever it was he had been doing the night before, yet he stretched and sighed. “Your house still standing, Kefka?”
Kefka nodded.
That tattoo Aleccas dawned was new, and Quinn normally would've commented on it. The master would've too. Things were different today.


“Fucking Malice, that cocksucker.” Aleccas groaned as he slumped back into his chair. “You should’ve called me, I could’ve knocked a few heads around. Why am I always the last to know when fun stuff happens, anyways?”


Mania snorted, “because you’re blood-alcohol content is usually more alcohol than blood.”
“I’ll have you know I fight better with alcohol in my system!” He shrugged in return.
This got a chuckle from Sheogorath.


“Hey, I can be part of the fun, too! What’s this meeting all about, pops?” Aleccas tried to respond with a gusto that was out of character for him.
Quinn had been watching quietly, and he sensed his master shift next to him which made him feel all the more uneasy.


“I… didn’t call the meeting.” Majnun’s voice hovered between pitches, showing interest and curiosity. He hadn’t picked through Quinn’s head, and Quinn almost hated him for it.
Or perhaps he had gone through his head and was now curious to see if Quinn would change his mind? He hated not knowing.
“You didn’t? Then who did?” Mania looked at their master with confusion.


Quinn sucked in a deep breath. “I did.”
Deliro’s mouth dropped open, “well that’s a switch.”
Kefka’s brow furrowed as well. “About those who attacked your house, I take it?”


Aleccas shifted forward suddenly. “I’m sorry, what?! For fucks sake, I really do miss all the fun!” A book crashed into the back of his head.
Aleccas groaned in response, but didn’t argue it.
They all looked at Quinn expectantly and he pursed his lips. “Sirens attacked my house last night.”
Mania’s brow furrowed. “Calypso?”


“Well, fuck her too!” Aleccas stated with a cross of his arms.
“Was it due to your... interference in Moonlight Falls?” Mania worded her phrasing carefully.
Quinn contemplated the question. “Yes, partially.”
“Interference?” Deliro interjected as his face shifted back into confusion.


“I interfered with a battle between Calypso and Ambar in Moonlight Falls a while back. I had… personal reasons to get involved; however, I was in and out of the area before I could be truly spotted.” Quinn was losing track of what he had originally wanted to say.
“Those are pointless battles. I’ve gone on the field once or twice during them before and it’s never caused a stir.” Kefka eyed Quinn levelly. “It’s doubtful they would’ve cared for anything you did while there.”


“It wasn’t something I did.” Quinn finally let his eyes travel around the table. “It was someone I protected.”
“Esmerelda?” Mania’s face had softened into a smile.
Quinn gave a small nod. “I met her a long while ago in Bridgeport and we got on. When I ran into her again by chance in Midnight Hollow we exchanged information.”
“That probably wasn’t all you exchanged.” Aleccas tried to tease before a book swung down and crashed into the back of his head again. “Ye-ouch!”



“Continue.” Majnun pointed back to Quinn.
“Esmerelda…” It was strange saying her name so fully, he had gotten so used to shortening it. It felt too formal and too intense for the woman it belonged to. “Esmerelda is a Siren with no affiliation. She’s been long out of the Circles to the point where I’d say she was never actually in them.” He refused to tell them any more than they absolutely needed. “She’s why I called this meeting.”
He had the whole table’s attention, now, including the skeptical gaze of his master, which was honestly the most terrifying part of it.
“Calypso has been in pursuit of her since she was young, and… and I plan to take an official stance against Calypso.” There. It was out in the open now.


The table was absolutely silent, and he knew they were all waiting to see how Majnun would react to the news first.
Quinn knew what he was risking. He couldn’t expect his master to want to get involved in a fight against another god. Especially not with all of his boys who would be put at risk. Malice already was causing enough trouble for them… Majnun didn’t need another fight on his hands.


Quinn took in deep breath. “I understand the repercussions of my actions, and will step down if that’s what needs to be done.”
“Why?” The word was spoken darkly and drawn out as Majnun shifted forward in his seat, his head craning closer to Quinn’s.


Quinn’s mask was weaker than he expected. This was the only family he’d ever known - the thought of having to leave it was never something he considered. There was no other option though. He would keep Esmerelda safe. “So you don’t-”
“No.” Majnun’s voice was as firm as his dark stare. “Why are you protecting her?”


Quinn weakly looked at the table as he scrambled to gather what resolve he had left and he finally met his master’s gaze. His voice was strangled and barely came out a whisper: “...because I love her.”

 
“WHAT?” Aleccas’s chair, which he had been leaning back in, crashed to the ground with him still in it. "No way!" 
“Shut it.” Kefka immediately silenced him, turning his gaze back to Quinn.


Majnun’s stare was intense and unwavering; Quinn had to resist averting his gaze. The silence that enveloped the room only increased the tension and every second felt like it was an eternity.
Quinn’s hands began to shake beneath the table under the scrutinizing gaze.
Majnun shifted suddenly, a grin pulling on his lips as he clasped his hands together in front of him. “Alright then, it’s settled - we will have grapefruit for lunch!”


It was like popping a balloon.
“...W-What?” Quinn breathed.
“I’m with you, Uncle.” Kefka said it simply, as if he were just picking teams for a silly game.
Deliro laughed and held his fists up in front of him, “hey, I got fists! Just tell me where to aim ‘em!”
He took a swing and Kefka immediately caught it, gripping his arm before tossing it back at him. “Probably should use something useful instead, Liro-Liro.”


Deliro covered his chest dramatically and tossed his head back. “I’VE BEEN EMOTIONALLY WOUNDED! Naeth ennai!” He shouted.
Quinn was stuck with his mouth partially open.
“I-I’m with y-you t-too, uncle.” Sheogorath whispered, looking at him earnestly.


“Me too!” Mania beamed, giving Sheogorath a wink that made his cheeks turn red. She then adjusted her gaze to look at Aleccas like the rest of the boys were.


Aleccas held up his hand. “What? Of course I’m with him! I’m still wrapping my head around that one... word you used, uncle. Fucking weird ass day indeed.”
Majnun slapped his hand on the table. “Kefka, can you bring me the information on Calypso’s movements you’ve been monitoring, please. Mania, be a dear and go with Sheo to let Sir Rigid know about the doohickies and the whatsamajigs. Liro, do the shimmie out in the hallway and Aleccas…” He simply gave his youngest a stare that let everyone know words were being exchanged where no one else could hear them.


Aleccas finally groaned, “agh! But that means we’ll have to talk about things.”
Finally Majnun slapped the table a second time, “meeting adjourned!”
“M-Master?” Quinn couldn’t wrap his head around what was unfolding. Everyone else at the table slowly began to make their way out.
“Hm?” Majnun shifted again suddenly in his seat so he was facing Quinn.
“I… I don’t understand…”


His face read one of haughty arrogance. “On what planet do you live where you’d ever think you’d need to do this alone? Especially since I’ve been preparing these movements for months.” He shook his head with a roll of his eyes as if it were just that easy. “Put all my hard work to waste, bah!”
Quinn shifted, it was hard to even formulate a response to that. “I didn’t want to drag you and the boys into a fight that wasn’t yours to begin with.”


Majnun’s face grew serious. “Quinn, you may not wear the Keeper name, but you carry the Keeper blood.” He pressed his fingertip to Quinn’s chest. “So long as I live and breathe, you will never fight a battle alone. Priesthood is a two-way agreement.” His face shifted to something more sly. “Bring up stepping down again and I’ll beat you senseless with one of those rubber ducks, you hear?”


Quinn let out a cathartic laugh. “Loud and clear, master. Loud… and clear.”
“It’d be a squeaky one too. You’d never be able to stop hearing it in your sleep… and on Tuesdays.” Majnun patted his shoulder and looked towards the doorway. “Deliro, are you still out there doing the shimmie?”
“Mû!” Deliro shouted back from the hallway.
“Then don’t come in here right now.” Majnun gestured with his fingers.


Deliro slid in backwards, moonwalking until his back legs hit the table. “It’s opposite day!” He hopped up and sat down on the surface. “So what’s up?”
Majnun looked to Quinn, and Quinn realized then that Majnun had seen what Quinn planned to do. Quinn sheepishly pulled the waterlogged case out from under the table. “Can you fix this?”


Deliro gasped dramatically, “ah! What did you do to her?!”
“Just had… a little water damage.” Quinn shrugged. Only soaked for probably twelve hours or more; he just hoped Deliro could do something about it.


“PIA?! Túra, túra!” The boy scolded in the unfamiliar language as he approached the case. “Poor baby! What did you ever do to deserve this! You were so young! I don’t know how you’ll ever recover!”
“Can you fix it though?” Quinn asked.


Deliro straightened then with a nod, “oh yeah, just give me a few minutes with her and she’ll be good as new.”
“Thank you.” Quinn eased completely, feeling drained from the day. “I owe you one.”
Deliro wiggled his eyebrows, “I’m-ma hold you to that, Uncle Quinn!”


Quinn gave him an easy smile. “I’d be mad if you didn’t.”
And just like that he was reminded of exactly why he called them family.
“Let’s talk about your game-plan, shall we?” Majnun gestured to the table.


Quinn nodded. “So this is what I was thinking...”

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“-so… yeah, that’s that. You don’t need to risk… um… fuck! You don’t need to… to… involve? Um… shit is that really the best word I can think of?” Esmerelda’s fingers glided along the countertop thoughtlessly as she recounted her speech to herself. She’d already done this four times, but she had run out of busy work to keep her mind at bay. She refused to look at the clock.


She wasn’t going to time Quinn. He would be back when he finished his work. That thing she didn’t do as she lived her freely… mooching and-
What were they going to do, though?
What was even next?


He told her he… and she?
She said it back.


Like it was as easy as breathing.
And it was.
In the moment.


Now it wasn’t that moment.
Did he regret it?
He was so pensive this morning.
Yet also so… soft?


“I’m going to keep you safe, no matter what that takes.”
Yes, but what if she wanted to keep him safe? What if she didn’t want him to run into the line of fire for her? Isn’t that what this whole speech was for?


She scowled to herself and numbly ran her fingers through her hair, dragging the tips along her scalp. She shouldn’t have said anything.


Why did he have to say something?
That… phrase…
What if she imagined it? What if she was preparing this speech and it wasn’t even real?


She danced around it this morning, maybe he had too? Or maybe she was imagining everything?
No.


She needed to busy her head again.
This was going to drive her mad.


The sound of the front door opening made her nearly jump out of her skin. Her heart pounded rapidly in her chest even though she knew exactly who it was.
It was precisely that reason which made it continue to beat erratically.
“Ezzie?”


Ok, she’d been preparing for this. She’d been thinking of all the things she would say and how. “Uh ye-” Her voice was strangled and she cleared her throat, grabbing the nearest rag and applying it to the counter again, trying to look casual. As if she ever could be. “Yeah! I’m in the kitchen.”


Oh gods, what was she even doing? She looked like a pathetic housewife. She chucked the rag to the side and did everything she could to resist dragging her hands through her hair again. The last thing she needed was to induce a terrible hair day on top of everything else. She was already a mess on the inside, the outside really didn’t need to reflect that.


He was in the kitchen, she heard the footsteps and the soft clunk of something he set down. She struggled to steady her breathing as she turned to look at him, “hey, how’d it-” her eyes fell on the case that now sat on the kitchen table and the rest of the air escaped her lungs, “-go…”


He found it?
“How… did you-”
“It took a little bit of finagling, but it turned up pretty quick.” His eyes were softer even still and the smile he held was warm. Why?
She knew why, and it made her eyes water up.


Because he meant what he said last night.
“It was a little waterlogged, but don’t worry. Liro is a bit of a savant with those kinds of things and he had it all fixed up in a few minutes flat. He’s always been crazy good with instruments, so it was no surprise.” Quinn patted the top of the case gently and her vision blurred over as warmth ran down her cheek.


She hastily swiped at the tear. “You did all of that… for me?”
He nodded, his fingers tapping anxiously against his pants. “I… I was hoping to talk to you about the Calypso situation.”
Esmerelda felt her throat tighten; unable to form any words she nodded.


He shifted before finally gesturing to her. “I’m at, uh, proposition five at this point - oh wait… uh no, six that I’d like to offer up for consideration.”
She couldn’t help but smile a little at it - the way he already knew exactly her arguments for his plans because she didn’t want to lean on him for help.


She had never been able to trust someone before. Every person who offered to keep her safe lied about it, even if they didn’t mean to. No one could protect her… at least, she thought.
Yet those Sirens that crashed into the invisible shield were proof enough that Quinn could.
He could and he has.


She sniffled slightly as she smiled. “I’d actually like to hear the first, if you don’t mind.”
Quinn’s eyes widened for only a moment as he registered her request, but he eased into a smile. “Well, if you insist.”



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Nym Translation
Asië? - 'Correct,' but in context, "you have no right to complain, alright?" 
Naeth ennai! - 'Woe is me!'
Mû! - 'No!' (is a lie)
PIA?! Túra, túra! - 'LITTLE?! [More like] Great, great!' (meaning big)

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Playlist
"A Sky Full of Stars" - Coldplay
"Be Together" - Major Lazer
"Inside Out" - The Chainsmokers

2 comments:

  1. “It’d be a squeaky one too. You’d never be able to stop hearing it in your sleep… and on Tuesdays.”
    Lmao, Manjun is my favourite part of this story, hands down. Though I do love the Keeper boys, too. Even if I do have trouble telling them apart.

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  2. No no no no no no no no.... MOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR!!

    Aargh! Why do you do this to me Liv!!! I'm guessing the creepy dark-haired guy from a few chapters back was Zeke... Can't someone put a stick up his arse, hold him over a fire and serve roast fish for dinner? Although, he's so fucked he would probably give them food poisoning...

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