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The Devil's Right Hand

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Thalia Moran was snuggly curled up in her bed, in that state of half-sleep where her imagination turned simple things like the pile of clothes in the rocking chair into a monster with tentacles; the shadows were moving things coming to get her, the thunder outside was a giant stomping through London with glee, the rain pinging against her window was a monumental flood coming to wash her away.

“Daddy,” she cries, pulling her comforter over her head to protect herself from the monsters,” Papa!” There was the muffled sound of a pistol being dropped and then she could vaguely hear two sets of footsteps rushing down the hall to her bedroom, the door being flung open a moment later.

“Thalia,” her papa calls, yanking the covers back and immediately scooping her up in his strong arms. It was just a second later that her daddy comes in as well, huffing and puffing in his silk pajamas and bunny slippers. Papa slips her hearing aids on so she can hear him when he begins to talk. “What’s wrong, Honeybear?”

“The monsters are comin’. They was gonna get me.” The four year old had tears in her eyes as she looked at the two men, her protectors for all intents and purposes.

“Were,” Daddy corrects instinctively,” they were going to get you.” Jim scrunches up his nose and shakes his head, reaching out to run slim, pale fingers through Thalia’s unruly mop of hair. “And no monster is going to take you away from us.”

“That’s right,” Papa agrees,” because what do we do to monsters?” Thalia gives a little shrug, playing with the buttons on Sebastian’s shirt. “We make ‘em wish they’d never come back from the dead.” She gives her parents a shy smile, the fear starting to ebb now that they were in the room with her.

“To make you feel better, I’ll check the room over for any monsters that think they can sneak by me.” Jim does as he promised, Sebastian and Thalia watching on as the dark-haired man moves from the spacious closet, to the bed, and even pokes his head out the window despite the downpour. “Nothing to worry about, Honeybear,” he says as he shuts the window, head and shoulders soaking wet.

“You’re silly,” Thalia giggles.

“Ah, but that’s the key to being a good Daddy, isn’t it? Silliness and more silliness, followed by a good dose of paranoia.”

“That pretty much sums you up, Boss,” Sebastian says with a crooked grin. Jim scowls at the blond, but says nothing since there were little ears in the room. Thalia could guess what he wanted to say though, some bad word in Gaelic that she wouldn’t understand, but her papa would and then he’d call Daddy something in German. Either way, she usually ended up with no less than fifty dollars for her swear jar as long as it didn’t escalate into an actual argument.

“Very funny,” Jim says dryly. “Why don’t you take Thalia to the kitchen and start the hot chocolate while I change into my other pajamas?”

“Alright, but you’re staying up with her if she gets a sugar high.” Sebastian adjusts his hold on Thalia before walking out of her bedroom and going to the kitchen down the hall. It was as big as every other room in the house—only the best for James Moriarty, after all—and was decked out in the latest appliances. Thalia liked all the shiny surfaces, they were like the funny mirrors in a circus, making her seem taller than she actually was. “Have a seat, Your Highness.”

“Papa,” Thalia laughs as he sits her down in the center of the little table,” you’re even sillier than Daddy.”

“That just means I’m cooler.” He winks, walking over to the row of cabinets just above the counter, opening one and pulling out the box of instant coco. It was a ritual after Thalia had bad dreams, they’d all drink hot coco with whipped cream and sprinkles to calm her down. It was one of her favorite parts of spending the weekends and breaks with her papa, it meant she was safe and nobody could get her.

Jim came in a few moments later, dressed in fresh PJs and his favorite pair of bunny slippers. There were dark rings beneath his eyes from his lack of sleep, not that her daddy slept much anyway. “All dry now and still no sign of any monsters.” He gives Thalia a toothy grin, sitting in one of the wooden chairs right across from her. “How about in here?”

“No monsters,” Thalia confirms, scooting across the table so that her legs were hanging over the edge. Jim takes both of her feet in his hands like she wanted, waiting until they were a little warmer before tickling them. “Daddy!” She giggles uncontrollably, wriggling her feet until she got loose and could scoot back in the middle with her legs curled under her.

It’s quiet for the next few minutes, Jim and Thalia taking midnight selfies to send to Thalia’s mother in Oklahoma, and Sebastian worked his magic on the hot coco. Only her papa could make out-of-the-box mix taste like he whipped it up himself. After the dinger on the microwave goes off for the third time, Seb puts a big dab of whipped cream in the mugs, followed by a healthy dose of sprinkles, and then brings all three over to the table. Sebastian’s blond hair was ruffled, though it looked almost brown now that it was cut so close to his head. Thalia still remembered the days when she would sit on his shoulders or the back of his chair just to play with the curls, burying her little fingers in the silky strands as she attempted to braid them.

“Can I have a story,” she asks as she accepts her little mug from her papa. “To make the bad dreams go away?”

“Which story do you want to hear, Honeybear,” Seb asks with a tired smile. He settled down in the chair next to Jim’s, the fingers of one hand wrapped around his warm mug while his others were laced with Jim’s on his knee. “I could tell you about the time I hit a bullseye from a hundred and seventy-six yards.”

“No, I want the true love story.” Jim and Sebastian share a look, Jim’s nose twitching the way it does when he’s not sure about something. Thalia could practically see the gears turning in their heads, trying to figure out if the love story was a good idea since she’d been so scared earlier. Thalia also knew that neither of the men could refuse her puppy eyes, so she adopts the expression that had her fathers immediately giving in.

“Alright, well, it all started because someone here thought reading from a cursed book found amongst canned body parts was a good idea….”