Every quarter-century or so, usually after a fresh wail, Siobhan would let herself go for a few weeks. Lay around the house. Get a little boozed. Indulge in a little loneliness, a little existential angst. She needed to get over herself but also do it by herself, because let’s face it. Predicting death? Choking down raw liver? Being conveniently bed-ridden while noble families made funeral arrangements? Was not the kind of shit that won you friends.
Mom always said that banshees should stick together, if only because they can’t stick with anybody else. Not once people knew what you were, that is. Something about having a potential death omen around seemed to make people skittish. Obviously, banshees don’t cause death, but that had always been considered kind of a formality. Siobhan thus preferred to live more or less anonymously among her clan. And as for sticking with other banshees? Siobhan didn’t much care for hanging out with her own kind. Too angsty. Excellent drinkers, though.
Anyway. All of this is to say that there was a perfectly good reason why Siobhan McManus was sitting by herself, in a pub, two weeks after the Cavanaugh Wail, determinedly getting herself plastered. On the other hand, there was not a good reason for why she was sitting in the same pub at which said wail had taken place. She was outed as a banshee here; no way was she going to have fun, make friends, or get laid at this place ever again. She doubted she could even find somebody to play darts with.
Siobhan clutched her glass and gazed out of the corner of her eye at an attractive elven fae weaving her way between the tables, hoping despite herself that she might look over, catch Siobhan’s eye. She did, actually, but Siobhan didn’t miss the slight twist of her mouth as the elf recognized her and kept walking.
Probably for the best. What would she even have said to her? Hey baby, my name’s Siobhan, Prophet of Death and Portent of Grave Misfortune. Wanna let me read your palm?
Siobhan snorted into her ale. No. Better to keep to herself, drink up all of her woes, and pass out on the floor like the angst-ridden emo chick she occasionally was.
She wondered if the elf had known her name, or if she had just thought, “Oh, it’s That Banshee that Wailed on Sean Cavenaugh. Bitch.” Siobhan picked at her fingertip callouses. Now that she’d been outed, no fae in the area was going to care that she was a classically trained harpist. Or that she was a complete babe. Nooooooo. She’d just that bitch who spoiled a sacred holiday and…her glass was empty.
“Hey, can I get another one?” She gestured at her glass to the bar owner, Trick, as he passed by. You couldn’t have a proper pity party with an empty glass. It was, like, a banshee rule or something.
The bar owner—Siobhan didn’t know much about him, just that his name was Trick and he was a fae Elder—kept topping off her drink, which was fine, and giving her annoyingly sympathetic looks, which was not. At present, the guy was writing in what was probably the world’s only surviving paper accounts ledger. Probably one of those weirdos who didn’t “believe” in computers. He glanced over with yet another look of condescending compassion. Oh, stuff it, asshole. Nobody asked for your pity.
Trick raised an eyebrow at her.
“I said that out loud.”
“Yes, you did.”
“I said that out loud to an Elder.” Somewhere in Quebec, her mother was feeling very disappointed without knowing why.
“Yes, you did.” Trick managed an expression that was both vaguely intimidating and amused. “Although if it makes you feel better, Siobhan, I have been called much worse things by drunken banshees. In this very pub, even.”
Siobhan scowled. There was no call to bring up Aunt Dierdre.
“Who knows?” he said, flipping through the pages of his ledger. “A little pity might even be just what you need.”
“Hmph.” She glared at him. Patronizing, much? Trick just gave her a knowing look before he resumed scribbling in the margins of a page. Siobhan spent a few minutes watching his pen jiggle along in nausea-inducing swirls before her conscience got the better of her.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. He dipped his chin in acknowledgement, and it took her several more minutes before she realized that he’d called her by her name.
Two hours and several drinks later, Siobhan leaned over the bar, her head laid at an uncomfortable angle against the countertop. She had made an attempt to move it, but several locks of hair were glued to something sticky on the surface of the bar. A drink may have been spilled at some point; she didn’t remember. The pub was mostly empty now, so she didn’t have anyone to blame it on anyway. Trick was back, frowning and pushing a glass of water at her.
“I am a Portent of Grave Misfortune,” Siobhan told him.
“Are you now.”
“I am a Prophet of Doom!” she said morosely, flinging her arms out a bit to give it the appropriate scope.
“I am a Forteller-er of…stuff.”
“Stuff? That sounds heavy.”
“Bad stuff,” she asserted, peering up through her hair.
“I thought you were a harpist.”
Apparently she was getting maudlin drunk, because this statement instantly made her want to cry. She was more than a harpist; she was a world-class harpist, goddamnit, at least among the humans. The fact that the only fae who knew this were her mother and a smug Elder bar owner made her want to scream. Or wail. Possibly both.
Trick leaned sideways over the bar, gathered up a thick handful of her hair, and began to deftly and gently disconnect the sticky ends of it from the bartop. The process took a few minutes (seriously—was that drink cut with molasses?), but once she was upright, she immediately turned away from him and spent a little while rifling through her purse and discreetly rubbing at her face so that she wouldn’t end up sobbing in front of a stranger. When she felt in control enough to look back at him, Trick was steadfastly applying some magical cleaning product to her mess that made it peel right off the bar. After painstakingly removing every sticky drop, he gave the surface one last buff before looking up to catch her staring at him.
Looking into his eyes, Siobhan suddenly felt very, very young.
“I don’t wanna be what I am,” she whispered.
“I know.” And something about the way he said it made Siobhan think that maybe he did know. He pushed the glass of water at her again.
“Drink.” She obeyed, gulping down the whole glass and only getting a little bit on her shirt.
“A lot of fae don’t want to be what they are,” he said, taking her glass from her and refilling it, “That’s why we all have to stick together. To reassure each other that we’re not the monsters under the bed.”
If Siobhan had been sober, she would have rolled her eyes at this speech, but she wasn’t sober, and he…he had known her name, and had known she played the harp, and had literally scraped her off the bar, so she let it stand. She didn’t know how to respond, exactly, but she felt compelled to thank him somehow.
“My mother would like you,” she blurted. And immediately cringed, because seriously, what?
He smiled. “Why do you say that?”
“I dunno. She just says stuff about…sticking together and shit.” Siobhan didn’t know where the hell she was going with this, but Trick’s smile seemed genuine, even if it was blurring in and out of focus.
“Yes, well. I approve of…‘sticking together and shit,’” he replied. The room was starting to spin more than Siobhan could quite handle, and she put her forehead down against the now-clean bar. Whatever he had used to clean it smelled both sweet and astringent, and breathing it in, her head felt a few degrees clearer.
“Trick? Do you mind if I –”
“Okay,” she said. And went to sleep.