Andy walked into the kitchen where Joe, Nicky and Nile were finishing up clearing from their breakfast. She and Booker had been up earlier and Booker was now out of the house on an errand. It hadn't been hard to arrange.
"Right," she said, moving to one of the empty chairs and sitting down, "Booker."
Everyone looked round at her.
"What about Booker?" Nile asked.
"It's not fair to keep him hanging," Andy replied. "We need to decide what comes next."
Ever since Nicky had made his revelation about Quynh it had been full-on preparing to go and find her. They'd left Scotland and travelled south as far as possible in the UK after taking as accurate directional readings as they could from Nicky's instinctive knowledge. The previous day they had done the same from their current location and would be heading into Europe after some other preparations for a third to get as accurate a position as possible. There had been no time for the other conversation they needed to have. Andy was not putting it off any longer.
"You cannot seriously be suggesting the whole exile thing again," Nile said, sounding completely incredulous.
Andy did not miss the way Nicky's eyes briefly flashed bright blue as Nile mentioned exile, but he looked down quickly and when he glanced at Joe his momentary slip was gone.
"Either he's back in or he's out," Andy said simply. "He came when we called, letting him stay without making a firm decision is cruel."
"This is crap," she heard Nile mutter and Joe gave a small, self-deprecating smile.
"Boss," Joe said, "I think we all know the decision's already been made."
The way he glanced at Nicky made his meaning very clear.
"Joe, I would never…"
Joe reached out and placed his hand over Nicky's, making him fall silent.
"I cannot yet find it in my heart to completely forgive him," Joe said, looking back at Andy, "but I am not insensitive to the way our brother has been since he came to our aid. I vote that he stays where he can earn that forgiveness with his family."
The way Nicky let out a long slow breath and leaned into Joe said far more than words. He simply gave Andy a nod.
"And I think we all know where Nile stands," Andy said with a small quirk of her lips.
"And you, Boss?" Joe asked, giving her one of his patented sideways looks.
"He was a fucking idiot," she said, tipping her chair back on two legs, "but he's our fucking idiot."
None of the talk had been a surprise. From Nile's disbelieving reaction, through Nicky not wanting to force his husband into anything, to Joe holding on to some of his anger was what Andy had been sure of going in, but they had still needed to have the conversation.
"He'll be back in half an hour," she said, "be back here then. We'll tell him together."
Nicky met her eyes and gave her a small nod and a smile. It still amazed her how one of hers had been touched by such darkness and come out even gentler than before. She'd seen many an opponent think Nicky the weak one for his quiet ways and simple kindness, Andy had always seen it for the strength it was. She couldn't help wondering if his new ability to locate them was a vampire trait, or if it was simply pure Nicky woken up by the power that had tried to take him from them.
Andy was on her fourth cup of coffee of the morning when Booker returned to the house. He saw her from the front door and walked towards the kitchen, stilling the moment he stepped into the doorway and realised everyone was there. The way his eyes darted to each person in turn and then back to her reminded her of a trapped animal. Of course, they had all been in the same place before, very recently even, but the one thing Booker had never been was unobservant and all the attention was on him.
Joe and Nicky were both leaning against the counter while Nile was sitting in one of the other chairs that wasn't visible from the hallway.
"Hey, Book," Andy said over her mug. "Get the deal we needed?"
He nodded, but didn't say anything. The tension in every muscle of his body made hers ache in sympathy.
"You're back in," she said, not drawing it out, "permanently."
For a moment it didn't look like he comprehended what she said. That was quickly followed by a small frown and wide open eyes like he didn't believe it before he simply sagged. It was as if his body forgot it needed some tension to stay standing. Andy had not been anticipating that. The legs of her chair thudded into the tiles of the floor as she went to move, but she wasn't fast enough. Luckily Nicky was, moving far quicker than Andy wanted to think about, catching Booker before he could pitch forward.
Working as the perfectly matched pair they were, Joe had a chair out ready for Nicky to help Booker sit in.
"Book," Nicky said, kneeling down next to him as soon as he had him sitting down and searching his face. "Are you with us, fratellino?"
Andy hadn't heard that nickname in a very long time, not since Booker had objected to being called 'little brother' soon after they first found him. The way Booker took in a shaky breath gave her a clue he was now accepting it in the spirit that it was given. When he nodded she saw Nicky smile.
"Cracking your head open would have been a terrible way to begin a new era, Book," Nile said from across the table.
"You're never going to let me forget this are you?" Booker said, voice thick with far too much emotion.
"No," Nicky said and promptly dragged him into a hug.
Andy stood up.
"Like I said," she told them, putting her hand on Booker's shoulder, "our idiot."
After which she walked out, smiling and sipping her coffee. It was a good day.