“So this is where they were hiding all these years,” a man says, sounding irritated. “Wouldn’t have taken them for fans of rural life.”
“I don’t really care what they were fans of, demon,” another says, voice tired and angry.
“No one asked you, Todd.”
Tim coughs pointedly, leaning on the balustrade overlooking the entrance hall. “Who are you, and what are you doing in my home?”
They look up at him, and blanch. The taller man, with a shock of white hair in his bangs, recovers first.
“Points for basic face recognition,” Tim says, channeling his mother’s withering sarcasm. “That doesn’t answer my question. This is private property, and you’re trespassing.”
“Tim, what the hell?” the taller man demanded, and Tim knows it’s a bad idea to say this, but when someone hands him a perfect line like that -
“Most of the workings that’ve been done here in the green involve the fae folk, not daemonic forces.” Tim raises his eyebrow. “Now, for the last time: Why are you in my family’s home?”
A spark of red flicks through the edges of his vision -
the taller man’s face turns to dismay -
- his silver knife flashes in the morning air as Tim whirls -
- and the dhampire manages to avoid losing any fingers by a few precious inches.
But his palm has been flayed open. Tim smiles a coyote grin, and lunges. The little dhampire is stronger, faster, and has better reaction time than Tim. (And how does he know that?) But physics are unforgiving, and he has no leverage when Tim slams a knee into the small of his back.
“That,” Tim says, panting, “was incredibly rude.” He yanks at the arm he has twisted up behind the dhampire’s back, fumbling a little as he presses the silver blade to the other’s neck. “Do you have no manners?”
It’s the imp of the perverse that makes him say it. These familiar strangers stir strange echoes, shadows of emotions that linger in the corners of his awareness. Fondness and amused irritation, along with something he can only identify as a peculiar sort of exhaustion, that urges him to bow his head and go along with their desires.
Tim hates it. He does not know them, and he will not be compelled. Not by any binding or shadow.
(“You are Timothy, and you are your own person,” Mother told him once, hooking her fingers under his chin and looking him in the eye. “Not anyone’s servant, or familiar, or thrall.”)
He turns his head to glare at the taller man. “Take your little monster and leave. You aren’t welcome here, inside these walls.”