It was night time, and Yurtoril had a headache. He usually did after these outings.
Peace and quiet would fix it.
It would, but it seemed today his partner was more displeased than usual with their work. That look he’d given him when the last light in their target’s eyes had faded in the rain and been replaced by contentment. It was getting critical.
Yurtoril would have to fix that.
It would take contemplation. He didn’t want contemplation. He wanted to end the day and all thought and this damned headache.
He turned off the light in his room and lay down askew on the crisp blanket.
He frowned and adjusted his position to be parallel with the bed.
But not much.
He didn’t always want to be the human element, Gevuyn had said. And that Yurtoril didn’t understand the toll it took on him.
He sighed. Then quieted himself. Couldn’t have that heard across the wall.
Gevuyn thought Yurtoril was making it easy on himself with his distance.
Obviously, he didn’t understand a thing.
Unwelcome consideration: Then why did he keep giving him that part of the job? The understanding part.
Yurtoril pressed his fingertips against his forehead, slowly rubbed up and down, and across, to no avail. This one wanted to stay. Damned headaches.
So perhaps he’d have to shift the balance somewhat. The biggest pain would be admitting to his mistake. He didn’t make mistakes.
Wrong. He hated making mistakes. Yes. Better. Less welcome, more accurate.
“Sarvino!” a shrill woman’s voice rang from the living room, startling him out of his thoughts. “You can’t! Our baby!”
What the hell was this now?
“Our baby?” a man’s voice yelled. “Our baby? You mean Aranno’s baby! Don’t you, Lurria? Ah, to think I loved you!”
Yurtoril laid one hand across his face, then another, inhaled, then let them both drift down to his chest.
Fine. There wasn’t going to be sleep now anyway.
He felt woefully underprepared.
Might be an idea. Might be some of that human element that his partner claimed to see an imbalance in.
Going out now was a dreadful idea.
He got up, put on a fresh pair of socks, and his slippers, and went out into the living room.
Gevuyn was sprawled on the couch watching television with a half-empty bottle of red wine on the stack of books next to him, and a half-filled glass cradled against his chest.
He looked up to him. Yurtoril’s chest clenched. The venom was still there.
He grit his teeth. “Did…” Wrong beginning. And too quiet.
Gevuyn reached for the remote control and silenced the television. Expectant look.
Fine, deliver. But what? “Is it Aranno’s baby?”
His partner was taken aback. Then a probing look. Not the kind he normally got. More like the kind the targets got. The one before he turned on the fake warmth. Was that what they felt like? Couldn’t be. Couldn’t be, because…
“Sit with me.” Gevuyn’s voice was slurred as he sat up, careful not to spill his wine. “Bring a glass. And I’ll explain you all about Lurria.”
This was still a bad time to smile. Nothing was sorted, nothing was fixed. It would be counter-productive. But his lips betrayed him. He walked over to the cabinet and got out a glass. He looked at the couch and faltered.
Gevuyn scooted to the left corner and patted the space to his right. “Sit.”
So he sat. The cabinet’s door was still open.
“So.” Gevuyn filled his glass, more than was usual, and added more to his own glass for good measure. The bottle made it safely back to the book stack.
Yurtoril raised his glass, then cursed himself inwardly. He wouldn’t want that yet, and getting blown off would be…
Gevuyn gave him another one of his probing looks, then clanked his glass against his. “To Lurria.”
He failed at getting rid of the smile, again. “Lurria seems like an unfaithful kind. Maybe someone else. Is anyone there better at this?”
“No. Well, you’d think Sarvino would, for all he’s yelling, but… oh.” Gevuyn grabbed the remote control and turned the volume up again, filling the room with crying voices. “He actually had a thing with Natrija when Lurria had her brain tumour. Aranno was there, but then he caved to the family obligations. And Ninna had the fortune from the tax fraud. So…” The look turned probing again, but this time like the ones Yurtoril normally got. “You don’t normally smile that long.”
Did he? He felt caught. “I… I wanted… You said, I…” Damn this all.
It did get him a smile in return, at last. Not a target smile, either. A real one. For all he knew.
He swallowed. “To the baby. May it grow up to be a better person.”
Gevuyn clanked their glasses together again. “If it survives.”
They drank in silence while a new couple provided the backdrop argument.
“Can I ask what this is?” Yurtoril asked at last.
“This…” Gevuyn looked almost embarrassed. But he caught himself and brushed his hair off his shoulder. “This is our reward.”
He knew he looked confused, and there was no helping it.
Gevuyn poured them both more wine, and they drank in silence again.
“This is approved television,” the explanation went on at last. “This, and the rain, killer combination. Not like the serious stuff we get at the order, with all the actual information and background. Well, that’s a cliché. Our stuff is just as filtered for what they want us to see. But this.” He pointed at the screen with his barely filled glass. “This without the rain. We can do this. They can’t.”
Yurtoril frowned, trying to grasp it. He looked down on his wine glass and downed the rest, then held it out to his partner. Then halted when he realised what he was doing.
Gevuyn looked at him, and reached for the bottle. “It’s funny,” he explained as if to a child.
Yurtoril snorted, looked at the screen, at the glass, briefly at his partner, at the screen.
His glass was being filled.
The other, too.
The empty bottle went down on the floor, and another full one surfaced and took the place on the book stack.
“So you like the faithful kind, huh?”
Yurtoril blinked. “Oh. That. I…” There was no uncompromising answer here. “I suppose.”
He blinked again.
Gevuyn looked down on his glass, looking almost vulnerable for a moment, then clanked it against Yurtoril’s, spilling some wine onto their hands. “Sorry. Anyway. You want to be good? Then we’re good.”
Yurtoril tried to still the clenching in his chest, or in his jaw, or just his hand. It had wine on it. “I. Yes. I… may have…”
“We’re good.” Gevuyn drank from his glass, and Yurtoril watched him before following suit. There was still wine on his hand. He should get rid of it, but it would break the spell.
Gevuyn sat closer to him.
Yurtoril swallowed. “I… suppose… I could try to be that more. The… human.”
His partner was shaken with a raspy laugh, then gave him a side glance into his eyes. “So I see.”