It is, Ephraim will admit, relaxing on several levels to just be hunting a good old-fashion normal kelpie. Eirika’s still all weird over the whole demon blood thing – and it’s not like that’s ever going to change – but she’s better when they’re not being hounded by demons all the damn time. She’s actually laughed once or twice already while hunting this kelpie, and who can really blame her? Trying to buy off a kelpie with a rotting wooden horse was hardly going to placate the damn thing. It liked eating people, hence their plan, which admittedly consisted of chopped kidneys and a bridle.
They just have to wait for the kelpie to show, and seeing as they bought enough kidneys to feed it for a week and splashed some blood into the water for good measure, it should turn up any minute now...
Ephraim absolutely does not leap out of his skin, at that. He turns around to find Lyon standing behind him, looking as sheepish as he can. “Can you not do that?” he asks.
Lyon looks honestly confused. “You said ‘hello’ was a typical form of greeting,” he says, a hint of plaintiveness creeping into his voice.
“Yeah, but not when you pop into existence right behind me. Give a guy a little warning, okay?” Ephraim replies.
“Oh,” Lyon says. Stupid angel. Just has to look like a kicked puppy all the time.
“Now, get down. We’re hunting, so shush,” Ephraim orders, pointing for Lyon to go and hide behind a different bush.
“Will you two be quiet?” Eirika hisses. “It’s coming.”
And so it is, the water bubbling weirdly as the most hideous looking horse shaped thing ever climbs ashore. It shakes out its mane of reeds and leans down to snap up the nearest morsel of kidney, slowly following the kidney trail right back to the great big kidney enchilada.
Lyon tackles it right about then, which was most definitely not the plan and the kelpie goes crazy trying to throw him off. Figures that it’d know Lyon wasn’t good kelpie food. Still, Ephraim has to give the little guy points; he’s staying on the kelpie, clinging to it with grim determination. The kelpie’s shark eyes roll wildly as it rears and spins and tries to throw him.
“Eirika, get the bridle,” Ephraim yells, but she’s already up and running and they both grab the kelpie’s head together. Getting the bridle on is way more difficult because kelpies have shark teeth and they really do not want a metal bit in their mouths. Luckily, Lyon grabs one of the kelpie’s ears in what has to be a painful way and it rears, opening its mouth to scream and Ephraim can shove the bit inside and together he and Eirika somehow wrestle the rest of the bridle on. She gets a hoof to the leg at one point, and it sends her sprawling, but she gets right back up and grabs the kelpie’s head again.
It goes docile as soon as the bridle is properly on. There’s no magical transformation that makes it prettier – it’s still butt ugly – but it just stands there, eyes suddenly going all horsey and gentle. Lyon falls off with a whump and the kelpie gives him an uninterested look.
“You okay?” Ephraim asks Lyon, who doesn’t move.
“I appear to have broken three ribs,” Lyon says eventually.
Eirika rolls her eyes and starts to drag the kelpie over to the Impala. She’s probably going to get all soppy on the blasted thing now, Ephraim thinks inwardly.
“C’mon, do some angel mojo,” he says to Lyon.
Lyon blinks up at him and tries to sit up, which is really not a good idea on broken ribs. “Ow,” he says.
“Okay, you lie down again and I’ll carry you back to the Impala, see if we can’t do anything about those ribs,” Ephraim mutters.
Twenty minutes later finds them in a motel, Lyon on the bed, staring at the ceiling like it holds all the answers to life’s mysteries. The motel’s manager is arguing with Eirika outside because they have a kelpie tied to the back of the Impala and the stupid guy hasn’t noticed that the kelpie’s mane and tail aren’t made of hair and its skin is a bit more scaly than a horse’s should be.
“You done healing over there?” Ephraim asks.
Lyon makes a noise and sits up. “I did not anticipate the creature’s strength,” he states.
“I never would’ve guessed,” Ephraim says dryly. “So, did you want me for anything?”
For some reason, Lyon starts looking very… intense and kind of awkward. “There have been... disturbances,” Lyon says.
“I think we knew that. Got anything useful for us, or did you just miss my pretty face?”
Lyon’s look of supreme intensity goes up another notch. “Goodbye,” Lyon says, and then he’s gone in a rush of wind.
“Did you just let our only means of transporting the kelpie leave?” Eirika grumbles.
“Damn,” Ephraim mutters. It’s going to be a long journey to Saleh’s with a kelpie tied to the back of the Impala.
“Hey, did you know there was another angel just standing outside?” Eirika says as she comes in.
Ephraim glances over to the door; there is indeed a purple haired young man standing there with a typical expression of angelic confusion. “Don’t know him,” Ephraim replies. “You wanna come in?” he asks the angel, who shuffles inside.
“Thank you,” the angel murmurs.
Eirika sighs and closes the door behind him. “Why don’t you sit down,” she says, tugging him over to Ephraim’s bed. The angel plops himself down and stares at Ephraim. Lots of angels do that, Ephraim’s discovered. The joy of being fascinating, he thinks.
“Did you want something?” Ephraim asks eventually.
The angel blinks slowly and nods. “Lyon said I should watch over you,” he murmurs.
“So what, we’ve got two angelic guardians now?” Eirika asks, frowning slightly. The angels haven’t exactly proven trustworthy in recent months. Only Lyon seems to actually want to help them, and Ephraim really can’t think why.
“Looks like it. Hey, do you have a name?” Ephraim asks the angel.
“Knoll,” he replies softly.
He doesn’t add much to the conversation after that. He just sits there and stares at Ephraim and when they decide it’s time to go and catch a ghost, he follows them and almost sets off three separate alarms before Ephraim orders him back to the Impala.
That’s when Lyon turns up riding the kelpie.
“Lyon, sweetie,” Eirika begins, “Why have you got the kelpie?”
Lyon has the sense to not meet her eyes when he mumbles “He was lonely.”
Eirika gives Ephraim a pointed look, and he sighs. “Why don’t you take the kelpie and go back to the Impala. Your angel friend should be there,” Ephraim says, and he and Eirika watch as Lyon leads the docile kelpie outside.
“You know,” Eirika begins, “I really thought angels would be more competent. The Bible goes on and on about holy swords and great wars that the angels fought in, but both of ours seem like we should just stick them in a padded room so they don’t get a paper-cut.”
“Lyon’s pretty useful with a sword, y’know,” Ephraim replies. Before Eirika can reply, the ghost gets tired of waiting and decides to drop a chandelier on them.
Half an hour later, the ghost’s cane is a small pile of ash on the tiled floor, Eirika has a cut just over her eye and Ephraim’s sporting half a dozen bruises and what might be a fractured arm. Lyon and Knoll are sitting in the Impala, ramrod straight and staring out the front. The kelpie has been tied to the back again and is half-heartedly chewing some grass.
“And here they are, our angel protectors,” Eirika grumbles, collapsing into the passenger seat.
“Um, do you require assistance?” Lyon offers timidly. Knoll stares at the floor, and a teeny tiny frown mars his forehead.
“We did ten minutes ago,” Eirika replies. “Although when we get back to the motel you can make sure Ephraim’s arm isn’t broken.”
“It’s not like it’s never been broken before,” he says.
“Yeah, but before we didn’t have angels who could fix you up in a second.”
“Is Ephraim harmed?” Knoll asks, still frowning a bit.
“Not much,” Ephraim replies, starting the Impala.
Knoll’s frown gets deeper. “You should not be injured,” he murmurs. “Why did you not let us protect you?”
“Look, you almost got us caught I don’t know how many times, and Lyon decided a kelpie would be a good mode of transport while we were indoors. And before you start going all weird on us, me and Eirika have been hunting like this since we were tiny. A few cuts and bruises won’t slow us down,” Ephraim tells him.
Lyon and Knoll both look at each other. Probably having a telepathic angel conversation of weird. Ephraim wouldn’t be surprised. Stranger things have happened. He shrugs to himself, starts up the Impala, and drives them back to the motel. Their landlady is, by some miracle, still manning the reception desk. She stares at them with wide eyes.
“Rent’s double if you get semen on the carpet!” she yells at them.
“Seriously?” Eirika grumbles, shooting the woman a glare. “When a bunch of bruised and battered people come in, that’s what you’re worried about?” She stomps over to give the woman a piece of her mind – note to self; don’t piss her off when she’s got a head wound and is still having withdrawal symptoms from the whole demon blood thing.
“Ephraim,” Lyon says, tugging on Ephraim’s sleeve. He looks like a kicked puppy.
“Yeah?” Ephraim replies. His arm really kind of hurts. Note to self: driving is a bad idea with a possibly broken arm.
“Herbert’s hungry,” Lyon continues. How is he making his eyes do that? Goddamn, Lyon could end wars with those eyes. Why haven’t the angels just shoved Lyon on the frontlines and let him turn those eyes on every demon to get within stabbing distance? They could win within days.
Ephraim pauses. “Who’s Herbert?”
“The kelpie,” Knoll says, in a voice that very nearly implies duh.
“You… named… the kelpie.” This is not what Ephraim signed up for. Monsters, sure. Crazy life or death missions to save the world, yep. Angels and demons, not so much, but okay. Angels who gave monsters names, no. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
“No,” Lyon says, staring at the ground.
“The kelpie already had a name. The closest approximation is Herbert,” Knoll explains. His voice carefully implies the duh.
Ephraim stares. And stares some more. Eirika comes back grumbling about unreasonable prices and unfair it wasn’t like she could get semen on the carpet anyway.
“Are you okay?” Eirika eventually asks, pausing her tirade.
“No,” Ephraim gasps. “Pretty sure my arm’s broken, the kelpie’s name is Herbert and it’s hungry and – I didn’t sign up for this, Eirika! I never asked for angels!”
“If this is about the crush Lyon has on you-”
“- then you should know that all the scriptures say sleeping with an angel is a very, very bad idea. I’m serious, Ephraim, don’t do it.”
“He’s very melodramatic,” Knoll says, in the silence that follows.
“Okay. I need some, some Tylenol or something and then you can check my arm and I’ll check your head wound – do we still have some of that hooch Saleh gave us?”
Lyon and Knoll watch as Ephraim and Eirika trot back to their motel room, bantering as they do. Behind them, Herbert snorts. Lyon sends him a hurt look.
“He’s right,” Knoll says, sniffing. “You have terrible taste.”
Saleh just sighs when he sees the cast around Ephraim’s arm. He sighs slightly more pointedly when Ephraim talks about Herbert; they had, once again, been forced to drive across the country with the kelpie tied to the back of the Impala. Well, part of the way. After like, two states, Eirika managed to get them a horse box which made the whole journey a hell of a lot smoother.
“I wasn’t aware you were in the habit of naming your charges,” Saleh comments, dryly. He peels Herbert another apple. Spoilt kelpie.
“Apparently, according to Ephraim’s angel buddies, that’s the kelpie’s name.” Eirika tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and folds her arms. “Or as close as they could translate it. It probably came through Enochian on the way, so I imagine his name is nothing like Herbert.”
Herbert, who has his head poking through the kitchen window, snorts loudly and crunches up an apple. He nods his head up and down and stamps his hooves.
“Dude, shut up. We don’t speak kelpie,” Ephraim grumbles. Herbert just snorts again, and steps away from the window.
Saleh gives Ephraim a look that speaks volumes. “How did he end up in your custody again anyway? I had him securely housed in the back.”
“Ephraim’s boyfriend stole him,” Eirika replies. She’s grinning at Saleh as she says it, and her eyes have gone all soft like whenever she talks about Seth- Wait. Wait.
Ephraim shoots to his feet, pointing at Eirika with his good arm, then gesturing wildly at Saleh. “You- you and him! Eirika! You’re-”
“You’re very excitable,” Knoll says. He also gives Ephraim a look that speaks volumes. “Lyon can’t make it right now, but I’m to tell you that the demonic forces are mobilising and to be ready.” Knoll pauses, and then crosses the room in a few quick strides. “He won’t say it himself. And know that the only reason I will is because he-” Knoll stops again and shakes his head. “Do not fail him. Do not let yourself die.”
And then he’s gone again.
“Ever since you got back from Hell, our life has been so weird,” Eirika grumbles. “And now, what? You have one angel who wants to be your boyfriend, and one angel who wants to be his boyfriend?”
“And you want to get into Saleh’s pants!” Ephraim yells. It’s manly to yell. He didn’t shriek. No matter what Eirika says.
Eirika and Saleh both go pink. There is, suspiciously, no denial.
Ephraim gasps, pointing at both of them. “You already-”
“Ephraim, shut up,” Eirika says.
Outside, Herbert snorts again.
“I can’t believe you.”
“I can’t believe you.”
“Would you prefer it if I was back on the demon blood?”
“That’s a no, and that is not the point here! The point is, you have been… sleeping with Saleh.”
“He’s better in bed than Caellach.”
(At this point, an entirely manly shriek can be heard.)
“Honestly, I never make this much fuss when you bring home the latest hooker of the week.”
“They’re not hookers. I don’t need hookers. I’m Ephraim, bitch.”
“…He’s treating you all right though, isn’t he?”
“He’s Saleh. I could do a lot worse.”
“Yeah, but you consider Caellach slumming. Your taste in men is really kind of a crapshoot.”
“Your taste in women is equally suspect, Ephraim. At least I can manage a monogamous relationship – you’re like a randy tom cat.”
“I am not.”
“Ephraim, so far the longest relationship you’ve had is the one you’re really not hiding very well with the angels, and quite frankly, that’s probably only because they have yet to sleep with you.”
“I’m not in a relationship with the angels, honestly Eirika I don’t know where you get these ideas from.”
“Sure, whatever you say.”
“And can we not malign my bedroom skills here?”
(At this point, there is an aborted cry of pain.)
“There. Now you won’t be having any bedroom skills for me to malign.”
“That… was uncalled for.”
“I’m just, y’know, worried about you. I mean, Saleh’s not a spring chicken. And-”
“I swear to god, if you bring up Caellach one more time-”
“Okay, geez, put the knife away. I guess you want me to get out of the house, huh?”
“Please. Saleh is far too much of a gentleman to try anything while you’re in a ten mile radius.”
“Wait. So when did you-”
“You were drunk and sleeping in the Impala. Dead to the world. The Apocalypse could have been and gone by the time you woke up. We kind of figured we could get away with it. Now you know… look, it doesn’t have to be an issue.”
“I’m not making it into one. As long as you’re happy, Eirika. I know I say a lot of stupid shit, and do a lot of stupid shit, but honestly – as long as you’re happy, and you’re not on demon blood, you can do what you want.”
“Better start driving then.”
(There’s another manly shriek, and then the door slams shut.)
“Hey, kiddo.” A beer lands on the table in front of Ephraim, and someone he really did not want to see slides into the chair opposite.
“Whatever it is you want, the answer’s no,” Ephraim replies, glaring over the table.
Caellach just smirks and knocks back his beer. “Haven’t seen your sister around lately. You been keeping her all chaste like a good little boy?”
“Actually,” Ephraim starts. “I think she’s getting laid right now.”
Caellach’s face sours. A lot. Ephraim smirks at him.
“She’ll come back you know,” Caellach spits. “You’ve kept her on the straight and narrow so far, but one day, Ephraim. One day she’ll slip and then she’ll get her power back.”
“She said you were bad in bed. And well, I think we can forgive you that. I’m a forgiving guy. It’s been what? A century? Two? Since you got laid. I’m sure you’ll get your skills back one day,” Ephraim replies. He claps Caellach on the arm, just a bit too hard to be really friendly, as he’s getting up to leave.
Caellach grabs Ephraim’s arm and holds him still. “She needs those powers. How else do you think you’ll be able to kill Riev?”
There’s a knife at Caellach’s neck. A very familiar one. And at the other end of the knife is a familiar angel. He looks kind of battered and bruised, and his robes are all out of shape.
“Okay,” Caellach says, dropping Ephraim’s arm. “I don’t want any trouble here-”
“Then I suggest you tuck your tail between your legs and start running,” Ephraim suggests, rolling his arm a bit. “You might even get three or four blocks before you feel the holy water capsule I stuck in your beer.”
It’s really a delight to see a demon run that fast, especially one Ephraim hates as much as Caellach.
“Why don’t you just kill him?” Lyon asks, the knife disappearing into his robes somewhere. Ephraim sits back down, and gestures for Lyon to join him. The angel looks somewhat perturbed, but sits down.
“There’d just be another one. Better the demon you know and all that shit. Beer?” Ephraim asks, knocking the rest of his back.
“I don’t drink.” Lyon starts getting twitchy when one of the many drunken patrons staggers past.
“So, what’re you here for?” Ephraim kind of really hates that it’s always business these days. The kelpie hunt was a breath of fresh air, and of course, that’s all gone south now. One simple kelpie, that’s all they had to kill. Now they feed it peeled apples and call it Herbert.
Lyon blinks slowly. “Knoll said you were in trouble.”
“Well, trouble vanquished,” Ephraim replies, gesturing around them. “You gonna go back to the front lines or d’you wanna camp out in the Impala with me?”
Lyon apparently finds the table really fascinating. He probably hasn’t seen many before, and this one is littered with beers stains and carvings after all. Probably better not to question the angel.
“I will join you in the Impala,” Lyon says, with great gravity.
One day, Ephraim will train that doom and gloom out of him. One day.