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What a Beast is Mankind

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Everyone thinks Parker is severed when they first meet her.

That's okay. Parker is used to that. She got called soulless before Pem even settled, and she knows he's there. He was good at being sneaky before he ever settled into a ferret, and they could stretch their bond a long way before she decided she wanted to do it on purpose.

(The first time she jumped off a building with him at the top, they both screamed and it turned from terror to joy halfway down because their bond wasn't snapping, it was stretching. He mostly likes riding with her when she jumps, but sometimes he stays at the top for the pleasure of knowing it won't hurt. Sometimes he waits at the bottom for the joy of reuniting.)

Parker doesn't like introducing people to Pem right away, and if they think he's not there as a result, or think she's wrong as a result, then they're easily forgettable anyway.

Nate isn't easily forgettable. When they first meet and he can't see Pem around, he says “You must be separated, congratulations” and doesn't talk about it anymore.

Sophie isn't easily forgettable. She smiles at Parker when she meets her and says “A ferret, I think,” and never questions that it might be a dishonorable or sneaky thing to be. (Parker may be dishonorable and sneaky, but Pem is the best of her, and she won't let anyone say anything to the contrary, never did when people tried to say he was a bad influence, never did when Archie told her he was too obvious, never did when some woman told her that ferrets aren't attractive.)

Eliot isn't forgettable. He meets her with his hands in his pockets and no daemon anywhere near, and Parker doesn't ask him because he doesn't ask her.

Hardison's eyes widen when he sees her take a running jump with no concern for a daemon, and he seems disconcerted, and Parker almost forgets about him, but then Hardison says that his Nana is a witch, and he's impressed. Hardison isn't forgettable, because he tries so very hard to think she's right.


Sophie has Artax, and he has her, and he's always a chameleon when she's Sophie, but she isn't always Sophie, so Parker doesn't know why it shocks the others sometimes to see Artax shift easily into someone else's daemon.

“I think it's good that he can do that,” says Parker, after a mission where even Nate stared and she has to be mad at them all for it.

“So do I, Parker. I've seen it in grifters' daemons before, even in actors'. I could see if Artax would be willing to teach Pem, if you'd like to grift better.”

Parker thinks about Pem being anything but what he's been since she was eleven and has to clench her fists, and Sophie sees it and nods, and that's when she decides that she'll never forget Sophie, that Sophie is hers.


Parker knows that Nate's really a thief before he ever does (which is silly, because he was the one who said they were stealing the alethiometer in the first place). What else could a magpie possibly be?


Eliot only ever calls her Cory, and people are scared of her, of how big she is, of how far apart they can be, of a wolf around them. Cory never pretends to be a dog.

Parker hears some mark call him unnatural for sending her out of the way of a knife fight, far enough away to unsettle his opponents, and Parker pins the mark up against a wall, her own knife to his throat, and tells him that Eliot is fine, that Cory is fine, that he's jealous and just because his daemon is a stupid earthworm doesn't mean he gets to be awful about other people's.

Hardison guides her away, but Parker sees how Eliot looks at her afterwards, like he's grateful and a little embarrassed, and how Cory looks at her with the affection Eliot denies.

“I like them,” says Pem later, draping himself over her shoulder. “They're like us, that's not bad, is it?”

“I don't think Eliot did it on purpose,” she whispers. “Not like we did. He's a wolf, remember?”

Pem nuzzles under her chin. “We'll watch out for him.”

Parker does, and it's nice, because Cory seems to like her more after that, like she's watching out for Parker and Pem as much as they're watching out for her.


Hardison is different. Parker doesn't know what to make of Hardison, because Hardison is normal. Well, he was brought up the foster child of a clan-less witch, but he and Lucille aren't separated, she's a nice safe cat, and she never changes on him or leaves him, and he never fights with her the way Parker sometimes fights with Pem, the way Cory sometimes avoids Eliot and Sophie clutches Artax too tight when he's been someone else's daemon or Nate tries to deny why he has a magpie.

Hardison shouldn't want to be around any of them, but he does. He talks to Pem and Cory on their own, admires Artax's forms like he admires Sophie's dresses once he's used to it happening.

Pem likes him too, creeping closer to watch him work at his computers, sometimes learning little tricks that make he and Parker faster getting into the locked vaults they need to get into.

Hardison makes them better, and he makes Eliot and Cory better because he's never afraid of Cory because she's a wolf, and he rolls his eyes whenever Nate makes a joke about cats and dogs.

Parker isn't sure what to do that, but she watches Hardison and she likes him.

It's rare to like people. It's kind of nice, liking so many people at once, but especially Hardison and Eliot.


Pem is the one who shows her how much she likes them. Pem doesn't spend much time with other people's daemons, as a rule, but he loves Cory and Lucille. He starts riding on Cory's back sometimes when he's tired, and he curls up next to Lucille when the team is spending time all together.

Hardison likes her back, she knows that, likes her a lot, so much it's a little scary and makes her duck away and hide sometimes even when Pem is still letting Lucille groom the fur behind his ears. She's less sure about Eliot, who sometimes shies away from her, so it's Eliot she approaches, or sends Pem to approach, one night when it's just the three of them, Nate and Sophie out on a stakeout that's definitely not a date.

“You could touch him,” says Parker, when Pem is on the arm of the couch next to Eliot.

Eliot drops his beer on the floor, and all of them watch the bottle shatter. “Damn it, Parker, you don't say things like that! Touching a daemon is serious, you don't do that unless you spend your whole life with a person.”

Parker frowns and crosses her arms. “Aren't I? Aren't we? All three of us are, right? All six of us? We're spending our lives together.”

Eliot softens a little. “Yeah, Parker, but—”

“It can be right. All three of us, we can be right.” Cory is watching with big, bright, hopeful eyes, and Hardison is looking at them … Hardison looks like maybe he's figured it all out already, and maybe he's been waiting. Parker knew he was waiting on her. It's a little surprising he's been waiting on Eliot too, but she's glad. She likes that. They can convince Eliot together.

But maybe Eliot isn't going to need much convincing, because he smiles down at Pem and then up at Parker and says. “Maybe I'd like to touch you first, Parker, you ever think of that?”

Parker smiles, and Pem relaxes, and she stands up and bounds over to the couch to sit down next to him, propping her feet in his lap. “Like this?”

“Yeah.” He looks past her. “Could be better, though.”

“Yeah, fine, I get it,” says Hardison, and he's very bad at sounding put-upon, especially when Lucille has bounded over to Cory and is pressing happily against her. With a nod, Parker sends Pem over to them too. “But someone has to clean up all this glass, and it's sure not going to be either of you.”

Parker smiles at him as winningly as she can. It should be pretty winning. Sophie's been giving her lessons. “You could leave it for a few minutes.”

Hardison looks at the two of them and grins so bright Parker's a little proud of herself for making him do it. “Yeah, I guess you're the one with the good ideas tonight. I'll have to clean it up later.”

We will,” says Eliot, like it's a whole lot of things, and Parker settles better into the couch.