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After Midnight

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She had been a young girl the first time Gran told her about the Fae, about how they would aid her if she had need of it.

“They have an affinity,” Gran said, “for shiny things. Do not offer them money, Emma my love, but offer trinkets. Gold and silver coins, buttons that shine in the light, a pocket watch that don’t keep time but that has the love of a lifetime embedded in the metal.”

“But you said don’t offer money, Gran,” young Emma protested with a frown, and Gran laughed.

“Don’t matter if the coins have value, darling. Just that they shine in the light.” Gran snorted and added, “Hell, a penny with just enough shine to the copper would make for a happy Fae. But there’s another thing to know.”

Emma blinked and waited, and Gran rewarded her with a smile and tucked a strand of red hair behind the girl’s ear.

“Whatever you do,” she said seriously, “do not accept a gift from the Fae. Gold is a tricky thing, usually from a leprechaun that may not have offered it willingly. And even if it wasn’t a leprechaun’s, it may turn to stone or sand when touched by the light. Trinkets from the Fae, especially those with fantastic traits, may come with a price tag. And in the same line, do not offer anything to the Fae which you aren’t willing to pay. Do not offer a child, firstborn or otherwise. Do not agree to dine with them unless you prepare the meal with your own hands. Do not go with them unless you know the destination.” Gran smiled then, a brilliant thing with white teeth that somehow unnerved others but left her family feeling loved. “Remember these things, my love, and you will never have need to fear the Fair Folk.”

“You know a lot about Fae, Gran,” Emma said admiringly. “Daddy says we have monster blood in our veins. Do we?”

And Gran only smiled and kissed her cheek and sent her outside to play.

It was only when Emma was sixteen and Gran was dying that she was given any clear answer.

“My daddy made a deal,” Gran whispered, and a glance at Daddy told the girl that he knew this tale already. “Wanted to have money to come to this country and went to a Faery mound to ask for aid. He offered up his firstborn child, boy or girl, as he didn’t intend to have a family until he made it here. Thought he’d found a loophole, he did.

“They made it so he could come here, and he met my momma in Virginia. They fell in love, and they had a baby girl.” Gran’s smile widened, showing those white teeth as she added, “And that very night, the Fae he’d made a deal with came to take my sister away and left me in her place. I was born in the Faery, my lamb, but your daddy and you carry my Changeling blood. You’ll see the monsters and know ‘em on sight—and they’ll know you ain’t all human—but you’ll be safe with them.”

There hadn’t been a body to bury; Gran’s relations from Faery came to collect her, and Emma caught a brief glimpse of a woman who could have been her daddy’s twin sister but was likely the child taken when Gran was left before they all vanished back into the mists. It wasn’t long after, maybe a year or two, that she met Matthew Cullen, and she was smitten. Daddy just laughed and told her that she was forever a wild thing when twenty-three year old Emma told him she was marrying that man, that they were going to go into the west and find a home there.

She never saw Daddy again; there was a fire on the farm just a few months after the wedding and they’d already started to their new home. Emma was certain that there wasn’t a body, given Daddy had more Fae in his blood, that their relations had come again to fetch him to Faery and whatever afterlife awaited those with monster blood.

But she was happy, with the secrets in her blood and her beautiful all-too-human Matthew. They had tried for a child, but the babe was born blue and not breathing, and it had nearly broken them both. Emma gave only the briefest of thoughts to finding a Faery ring, to making a deal like her great-grandfather’s, but Matthew had stopped her.

“We can try again,” he said, “but not like that. The price may be too high to pay.”

And god, but she knew it. So she prayed, to God and the gods and the Fae themselves, for a child. When a second child had come from her still and cold, she knew that it was probably her fault. Maybe the Fae blood was too diluted now, or maybe there was still too much. She’d never really known her momma, the woman who’d died when she was a small girl, or she’d wonder if there was a different kind of monster hiding in her blood that twisted the Fae just enough to keep her from delivering a living child.

But she and Matthew, they lived. They made their home in Rose Creek, and they agreed that they would try again when the farm began to prosper a bit.

Then someone found gold in the hills. Then the warlock had come with his human and monster workers, with the hedge witch and skin-walker and demands to buy their land.

Then the warlock came in to make a final offer of twenty dollars per parcel of “dust” and had shot her Matthew dead in the street as the church burned.

That was when Emma decided it was time to do something. She ignored Sheriff Harp’s order to leave the bodies in the street, had dragged Matthew’s body into the cemetery with Teddy Q’s aid, and buried her husband with her own two hands. Once her friend had erected the cross, Emma clapped the dirt from her hands and walked into the house she had shared with Matthew and began gathering trinkets.

Gold and silver disks she’d played with as a young girl that still sparkled in the light. Her daddy’s old pocket watch that no longer kept time but that he’d pressed into her hand the day she and Matthew set off for Rose Creek. A small rock that seemed to shine with the light of a crystal, one that Matthew had turned up in the dirt. Some pennies that Teddy had brought for them as a housewarming and a welcome to town gift, given with a grin and a wink that made Emma think her new friend may have some monster hiding in his family line as well.

She dumped all this into a bag, changed her clothes, and opened the door to fetch her horse. She found Teddy on the other side, also dressed for the trail and holding a bag that likely also contained shiny things.

“He was my best friend,” the young man declared, eyes narrowing. “If you’re going for an army, if you’re planning to find monsters to bring down Bogue, then I ain’t letting you do it alone. Halflings have to stick together. That’s what my momma always said.”

She didn’t ask what Teddy had in his blood; it didn’t matter. He knew that she wasn’t completely human and had shared his secret with her. That made them kin in her eyes, and she rode out of Rose Creek with her new brother in search of what she hoped was righteousness.

But she knew she would settle happily for revenge.

Chapter Text

Teddy Q had grown up in an orchard.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. His mother had had an orchard, and she was outside amongst her apple trees every day of the week. Rain or shine, she spent at least three hours a day in the orchard, whispering to the trees and collecting fruit when it was ripe. And most of that time, Teddy was right beside her, listening to her words and absorbing the lessons.

“Halflings have to stick together,” she told him time and again. “Like calls to like, and although monsters will recognize you for what you are, not all of them are going to treat you as an equal.”

“That sounds a lot like how the humans act,” Teddy had said one time, a pout in his tone, and Momma had laughed that bell-like laugh she had.

“Oh, my sapling,” she’d replied. “Yes, many humans are that way. Your daddy is one of the exceptions. And you’ll find friends who like you for who you are, regardless of your blood.”

He hadn’t been entirely certain that her words were true, but he still went to school and attended to his lessons. And when the day was done, he rushed back home and tossed aside his books and made his way to the big apple tree in the center of Momma’s orchard.

That one, well… It was just special.

The big apple tree grew the sweetest fruits, no matter the season. It never suffered during times of drought or times when it was too wet, always just growing and thriving. The neighbors had asked time and again for Momma to give them a cutting, but she always just smiled and shook her head.

“It takes something special to make this sort of apple tree thrive,” she told them, and because she was an earth elemental, a dryad to to be more precise, they accepted that as the gospel truth.

When Teddy turned twenty, he decided he’d had enough of Missouri life and figured he’d go west. Momma and Daddy had just smiled, Momma’s a bit teary-eyed, and told him to go where his heart led him. Daddy had helped him buy up the supplies he’d need to go out into the world, and he made plans to join up with a wagon train in Independence that was headed out that-a-ways.

Momma, though…

Teddy could only stare at the small pot she’d handed him, filled with a bit of freshly-watered soil and a cutting from the big apple tree in their orchard.

“Momma,” he said finally, “I can’t take this.”

She had given him a firm look with her verdant eyes and said evenly, “Yes, my sapling, you can. You’re the only one I will ever trust with a cutting.” She had then smiled and said almost wistfully, “Watch it grow.”

He hadn’t seen his parents since, although he still wrote home often. Teddy had crossed the entire country with the same group, tending to the cutting the whole while and letting his instincts tell him just what it needed when. It took nearly five months to get to California, to the little newly established town of Rose Creek and the land that he’d purchased prior to leaving his family home.

And within the first week he was there, with just the bare bones of his house built up and honestly too late in the year to actually begin planting, Teddy took the cutting his mother had sent with him, the cutting that had survived five months of travel when he’d seen plants others had brought with them wither and die, and planted it just behind his new home.

He finished building his house with the help of his new friends in town within a week and was content with the one room. The cutting grew rapidly into first a sapling then into a tree in less time than it honestly should have taken; typically, it should have been about six years for the tree to grow enough and begin to produce, but Teddy’s tree was fully grown and producing within his first year in Rose Creek.

And from that one cutting, another dozen seemed to appear from nothing; one day it was the one tree that should not be mature, and the next there were even more saplings growing far quicker than they should have. And from that dozen came another ten or so, until Teddy Q had an orchard of twenty trees before his twenty-third birthday.

The people of Rose Creek knew that Teddy was part monster; the trees alone proved that. But they accepted him, because he always shared his apples without having to be asked. When newcomers arrived in town, he was one of the first to greet them, arriving to where they were building their homes with a bushel of apples or some apple tarts or, on one occasion, a handful of pennies and a smile for the newlywed Cullens.

And Teddy was happy in Rose Creek, with his small orchard and his connection to his primary apple tree and the secret knowledge that Emma Cullen was like him and that Matthew Cullen was well aware that Teddy wasn’t entirely human but was still his dearest friend in spite of—or because of—it.

And then the warlock Bogue arrived, searching for gold and demanding their land. He came with the hedge witch and the skin-walker and no respect for the land, the land which was all but screaming at Teddy to do something.

And then Bogue shot his best friend Matthew dead in the street, shot him down like a dog and told the sheriff to let the bodies rot in the sun.

The damned hedge witch McCann must have known that Teddy was planning to make a move of some sort, given than he slammed the stock of his gun into the back of his head, knocking him to the ground and nearly knocking him out. He managed to stay aware, however, watching as the church burned and as Emma’s eyes went from sorrowful to vengeful.

Teddy did not hesitate to help her bury her husband, his best friend in Rose Creek. He watched her dust off her hands and walk back towards her home even as he set up the cross and used his penknife to carve Matthew’s name into the wood. And then…

And then he walked back to his own home and began to gather up anything bright and shiny that would appeal to a monster, making sure to walk outside and ask his apple tree for one of its juiciest fruits, which it dipped its boughs and offered him three beautiful specimens to choose from. He plucked one, thanked his tree for its offerings, and dropped it into the bag before going back inside.

It took no time to change, and he was outside Emma’s door when she threw it open to stalk outside.

“Teddy?” she asked, confusion in her voice but that vengeful glimmer still in her eyes.

“He was my best friend. If you’re going for an army,” he said, before correcting himself to, “if you’re planning to find monsters to bring down on Bogue, then I ain’t letting you do it alone.” Teddy paused for a moment, remembering Momma’s words, and added, “Halflings have to stick together. That’s what my momma always said.”

He could see the gratitude in her eyes, but she didn’t ask what he was. He did her the same courtesy, knowing that someday she would share with him. But until then, Teddy would support the woman he thought of as a sister in her quest for vengeance.

And maybe, just maybe, whatever monster they found would appreciate the apple he had tucked in his rucksack. After all, it was good for the soul.

Chapter Text

There was a certain trick to hiding amongst mortals. If you played it too close to the chest, they assumed you were just as frail and near death as they all were. If you showed your hand too thoroughly, they either started fearing or worshipping you. And personally speaking, he was about sick of worshipping. Some of the perks from the worship were nice, but all in all, it was just too much of a bit much.

More than any of that, though, Faraday disliked hiding amongst mortals because they smelled like shit. Sometimes literally. The one-eyed bastard next to him wasn’t too bad, but some of the others at the poker table? If they had bathed a day since their mothers pushed them out into the world, he would be shocked. The one with the wild eyes and bad hat, the one who smelled so much of blood, he might not have even been bathed that day.

“These cards are shit,” he complained loudly, rather than let himself say what he was thinking. If he opened his mouth to say what he was thinking, after all, it was all going to end in tears and blood and someone dead. Again. Live long enough, after all, and these things did tend to start repeating themselves. Corpses had a way of coming home to roost.

He degraded his fellow players a bit more, dealing the cards out with a bit more flourish than they strictly needed. The off-key music on the rickety piano stuttered to a stop, and he followed everyone’s eyes to the batwing doors as they opened to admit a black man dressed all in black. He could smell the amount of iron and silver on the man from here, and that really summed up everything anyone needed to know as to the man’s profession: monster hunter.

Speaking as a monster his own self, this should prove to be most interesting.

A quick series of rapid gunshots took out Powder Dan’s friends. Most interesting, indeed.

Now, he'd had his eye on Powder Dan himself. Fire elementals weren't exactly common things, and it paid—he had found—to keep a weather eye on the unusual.  It was, after all, impossible to say if and when the unusual might come calling to his door, in a manner of speaking. And depending on if Dan was affiliated with either of the Faery courts… That could potentially spell some trouble for him.

Even in the hush left after the gunfire that disabled but didn't kill Dan’s friends, he didn't think a human would be able to make out what the human in black was saying to the fire elemental. He could just make the words out himself… and he might have gone at a bit pale hearing the name of July Bully. He'd heard that name before, usually in regards to a wendigo. If this warrant officer had managed to to do what monsters had trouble doing and put down a  wendigo—and live to tell the tale—that was… Well, that was something. After all, monsters had trouble killing wendigo and living to tell the tale. This might well be the first human he has heard of to date who has managed it.

Given the number of years under his belt, he had heard of any number of humans and monsters try taking on a wendigo for whatever reason. There was a reason why groups were deployed against them—the Wild Hunt, groups of monsters, even angels—when more often than not it meant death.

And this human might have managed it all on his lonesome? Well, now this was interesting news.

The saloon was clearing out now, and Faraday had to grin, even as he chided the humans at his table to leave his winnings. His amusement only grew when one of them grumbled, “He’s gonna kill you, Faraday.” Because if he had a shiny coin for every time he had hear that, he would be the richest, most well respected Fae on the planet… and he damn sure wasn't that.

“Dan, you dead?” he called out on a lark. In return, he got a look of amused tolerance from the human, and the smile on his face grew dangerously pleased. “Pity. I was just about to order a drink from him.”

The monster hunter pushed the untouched drink down the bar towards him as he gathered up his money. “Help yourself.”

“Money for blood’s a peculiar business, monster hunter,” he offered, not making a move towards the free alcohol. Been a while since anyone had gifted him alcohol. That was a nice thing. It was nice to be given offerings, even—or maybe especially—without the worship.

“Just trying to do right by folks,” the hunter returned, and Faraday raised a sardonic eyebrow.

“Human folks or everybody?” He didn't give the man long enough to answer before asking another question. “You really kill July Bully?”

“That I did, Mister…?”

Names had power, even names made up. But there was less power in a name that he had invented than in his actual one, so he shrugged and answered, “Faraday.”

“I did indeed put July Bully in the ground,” the man in black answered. And Faraday was noting that he hadn't offered up his own name. Rude. “Why do you ask?”

“Because ain't many humans—monster hunters or not—who can take on a wendigo and live to tell the tale. Most monsters I know wouldn't go near one if you offered them every little thing their hearts desired. How did you kill him?”

But before the man in black could answer, there were noises stirring outside, the nascent beginnings of a mob coming with the sheriff in tow. Too bad for the monster hunter, he figured, but it wasn't like the man was asking for his help, and he wasn't sure he would give it, even if he was asked; the gift of alcohol was nice, but a monster helping a monster hunter? Now there was a thing unheard of.

Might even be worth it to try, just for the novelty of it all. 

Well, if the monster hunter was still alive and breathing after he retrieved his horse… He hadn't seen Jack hitched outside the saloon when he'd come in, so he might well have done something stupid. Hopefully, it was the kind of stupid that a judicious application of the boring kind of human money—the paper kind that mortals so loved and he just found dull—there was no shine to it at all!—could get him out of.

Of course, he did end up walking right out the back door of the saloon and into the less than tender, loving arms of the Babington brothers… who promptly took his guns off of him. He liked his guns, damn it. He had had a lot of special work done to them so that he could use them safely. There weren’t a lot of Fae of any sort that could stand to use guns, given the amount of iron to be found in them, but these had been his for a long, long time—as humans reckoned time—and he didn’t tolerate people touching them.

He wowed the brothers with a card trick or two, anything to prevent having to go into that mine. Even from here, he could feel the iron cart rails, iron latticing throughout the entire structure. Even if it wasn’t fatal to him, as a Fae, it was uncomfortable and painful, and too much of it would leave him weakened. Not as much as it would for some, thanks to years of carefully doled out exposure to it, but it still wouldn’t be a good thing.

But he did have the third gun, the little banker’s special he kept tucked in a small holster at the small of his back, hidden between his shirt and his vest. He didn’t like using it. There was no pearl-inlayed handle. There was no wooden grip. It was nothing but the cold iron and it burned with a frozen fire, but it sure as hell put a bullet between the eyes of Dickie Babington, who had been thoroughly entranced with him plucking the King of Hearts out of thin air. If he’d had his Ethel or his Maria, he might have been more inclined towards mercy for Earl Babington. As it was, he was pained and rapidly losing his temper, and it was easy to give into the urge to show Earl Babington a new trick: one called the Amazing Disappearing Ear. After that, Earl Babington was more than willing to never cross paths with him again.

That promise secured, he tucked that little banker’s special into the back of his pants, letting his shirt hide it from sight. He rapidly unloaded Earl’s shotgun and tossed it aside, gathering Ethel and Maria and returning his girls to their proper places, before stalking back into Amador City, inspecting his hands as he went. Now he wasn’t the typical Fae, not by any stretch of the imagination and he might have built up a tolerance of sort to iron, but that didn’t mean that the stuff wasn’t uncomfortable as hell. A regular Fae would be burned black from holding onto iron that long, and their hand likely would have been rendered permanently useless; Faraday’s hand looked red and angry, but with a few days—maybe a week or two—of babying it, it’d be just fine. For right now, there was no need to waste his water or energy on healing it. It took a lot of water and energy to heal iron burns, after all, even if this was little more than an iron scald.

All the same… Fuck Amador City. It was time to go retrieve his Jack and get the hell out of here.

Walking back into town, listening much more carefully, he could hear his Jack bellowing his annoyance, and that made it easy to track him down to a corral near the center of town. As he walked, he wrapped his hand in the bandana that had been around his neck. Following the sounds, he had to grin at the poor mortal trying to get his hands on a Fae horse like Jack and the leprechaun sitting on the fence urging him on. And damn it, he recognized that voice. Of all the leprechauns in the West, it would have to be the one—one of the ones—who hated his guts who currently had possession of his horse.

“You aren’t trying to feed humans to my horse, are you, Fergus? You know Jack’s killed men for less than that.”

The shorter Fae turned on the fence to face him, a dark look spreading across his face as he jumped down off the wooden rail. “Faraday,” he returned, and it wasn’t friendly. “And just what do you think you’re doing?”

In for a penny… “I require my horse. That horse.”

“Two days ago, your… horse against my Irish whiskey, behind the saloon, playing dice.”

Well, hell, that sounded like something he would do at that. Hopefully, Jack would forgive him for it or he was going to be in for some very uncomfortable rides in the near future. It galled him, but he instead offered, “In that case, I would like to buy my horse back… though I am light of funds at the moment.” That was true enough: all he had was that ratty paper money from the saloon, which was pretty much useless as far as either of them were concerned. “So it seems we got ourselves a Mexican standoff, only between two Fae, and I’m not sure how that ends.”

Fergus rolled his eyes. “With you walking away without your… horse.” At the last word, his hand settled on his gun, the threat loud and clear.

Faraday’s eyes followed the movement, his eyes narrowing in annoyance. “Now why did you have to go and touch your gun for? We were in the middle of a gentleman’s negotiation.”

A long beat… two… of silence, then…

“How much for his horse?” And that was, unexpectedly, the monster hunter’s voice.

Glancing up and to the side, Faraday could see the man in black astride an—unsurprisingly—black horse with two halflings riding up on horses behind him as Fergus set out his terms: twenty-five for Jack, seven and two bits for the saddle. It was highway robbery, even for a leprechaun, but he couldn’t help feeling a bit perversely cheered by the other Fae taking a hunter for all he was worth.

“Our paths cross again, monster hunter,” he greeted the man in black, just barely holding back a smirk. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Took a job, looking for some monsters to join me,” the other man returned easily enough, and this sounded interesting. So this time he was asking for help? Granted, in a roundabout way, but still…

“There any money in it?”

The halfling woman grabbed up a leather mailbag and tossed his way. It jingled pleasingly when he caught it and even more so when he shook it. Even Fergus was starting to look interested in the contents of the bag. “Who’s she?” he demanded first, though, nodding at the woman.

“Joan of Arc,” the man in black returned dryly, and he nearly gave into the urge to snicker.

“Emma Cullen,” she answered instead, “and this is my associate, Teddy Q.” The other halfling nodded at him.

“Well, I do have an affinity for shiny things,” he offered, and he tried not to smirk at the look of relief that crossed Miss Emma Cullen’s face as he tossed the bag back to her. Unless he missed his guess—and he didn’t think he was—the woman was part Fae. Maybe there had been a changeling in her family and not that long ago, as Fae reckoned time. The boy, he was a bit harder to pin down. While the woman was more human than Fae, he seemed to be half and half, human and something else, something that felt like the earth and trees. Elemental, maybe? Not from his area of the world, not precisely, but maybe closer to the Aegean? A dryad? Well, if they were both halflings, it was no wonder they knew well what to offer to a Fae to tempt them along. He approved. “Is it difficult?”

“Impossible,” the monster hunter fired right back, and if it were actually possible for his heart to skip a beat in sheer joy, it might have.

“How many you got so far?”

“Two.”

He turned to eyeball Fergus, not liking the interest in the leprechaun’s eyes. No, this was his shiny new sandbox to play in. Fergus could keep Amador City. More than that, he didn’t like the considering look the other was shooting the halflings. At least one of them was part Fae, and since they seemed to be attached at the hip, that made them both as good as Fae so far as he was concerned. It was an unspoken covenant that Fae walking the world should take care of any changelings and children of changelings that they might come across just as they would any other full Fae that they met. Speaking of which…

“What, them?” he nodded at the halflings as he asked.

“You and me.”

And yeah, Faraday couldn’t help being impressed. A monster hunter, willing to partner up with a monster? It must be some kind of job in that case, especially if he had used the word ‘impossible’ to describe it. There was no way he wasn’t going to agree in that case. And maybe this could do a bit to satisfy his curiosity as to how a human managed to kill a wendigo. Ride off, do a job with a monster hunter, find out just how he went about doing the impossible, and keep a couple of halflings from getting their fool selves killed. Yep, there was no way he was turning this job down. Back in the saloon, he might have debated the merits of it, but this time, it was a foregone conclusion: he would be helping.

So it was only a few moments later when he was finally putting Amador City to his back, riding with two halflings and a monster hunter. They didn’t speak until the city was well to their backs, and that was him moving Jack up closer—but not too close, for her safety’s sake—to the woman and prompting, “Sending out a woman to gather guns isn’t very chivalrous.”

“I volunteered,” she answered, pausing a moment before correcting herself. “Insisted, actually.”

“And just how much monster are you and your… associate there?” It was rude, but right now, he didn’t give much of a damn. He was curious, damn it, and he had waited long enough for an answer. “You’ve got Fae in you, and him?” He turned in his saddle briefly to examine the young man. “I’m guessing… elemental?”

The boy sat up straighter, his entire demeanor as serious as could be, like he had never been caught out as elemental before, but of course, it was the woman who answered. “My grandmother was a Changeling. She always said, if we needed anything, we should call upon the Fae for help.”

“Sounds like a smart lady” was all he commented, before turning his gaze back to the young man.

“My mother was a dryad.”

“So, earth elemental,” Faraday confirmed. He certainly didn’t need Teddy’s helpful nod in confirmation. “Any other halflings involved in this?”

The pair of them exchanged glances, clearly debating their answer silent between the two of them, before Emma replied, “There might be others in town. We never really… talk about this kind of thing. That’s why we asked Mister Chisolm to help us gather an army of monsters.”

Well, there was nothing else to say to that. He made a soft encouraging sound to Jack, urging him forward to catch up with the man in black. Once he was riding abreast with the hunter—Chisolm, if Emma was to be believed, and he thought she was—he commented, “Lotta fire in those two. Begs the question, whose execution do we seek?”

“Bartholomew Bogue,” Chisolm returned blandly.

He was shocked enough that he leaned back in the saddle, confusion writ large across his face. “Bart Bogue? You mean that uppity witch who fancies himself a robber baron?”

Chisolm turned dark eyes on him, gazing at him implacably. “I do believe the man calls himself a warlock.”

He waved a dismissive hand. “And I don’t doubt that he’s a lying, scheming witch, but he’s still just an uppity witch. Still, means there’s gold in the equation, but gold don’t do you much good when you’re buried with it.” Not that would be a long term issue for him or many other monsters, but halflings? They were as mortal as the next human. That would be a issue.

“You want out? Feel free to leave,” Chisolm returned. “Just leave my horse, ‘cause I paid for it.”

You couldn’t handle Jack on a good day, he thought with no small degree of personal amusement. He would eat you alive. Literally.

“Just speaking out loud,” he countered.

Chisolm favored him a look that said he wasn’t nearly as amusing as he thought he was… which was a bit of bullshit, because he was exactly as amusing as he thought it was. And then came his marching orders. “Twenty miles east of here, Volcano Springs supply station. You look for a demon, name of Robicheaux.”

“Goodnight Robicheaux?” Because he had only heard of one demon using the name of Robicheaux, and that had been one who came topside for the War, one that had even served in the War as a Confederate sharpshooter. At Chisolm’s affirmation, he continued, “The Angel of Death…”

“Meet me outside of Junction City in three days. I ain’t there, means I’m dead and… you can keep my horse.” He turned his attention briefly to Emma. “Let’s go.”

Faraday exchanged a glance with Teddy, the young halfling looking more concerned than he was strictly comfortable. “Three days,” he called back to Chisolm, both confirming the information and as an unspoken reminder to keep the halfling traveling with him safe.

Wherever the hunter was heading, clearly it involved gathering more monsters. Personally speaking, Faraday didn’t think a monster would hurt a halfling, not intentionally, not unless they thought she aimed to hurt them first, but it was hard to say. He didn’t think that would happen, but it was hard to say. He was old and he had traveled most of the world in his time, but he didn’t know every kind of monster. He suspected he didn’t know close to every type of monster. Maybe if they thought she was a monster hunter too…

There was no use worrying about it. He would have to trust the monster hunter to keep the Changeling safe, and he would do his part to keep the halfling with him safe… and collect the demon called the Angel of Death.

Chapter Text

“Alright, everyone. Place your final bets. We’re about to begin.”

Goodnight Robicheaux sat relaxed on the fence, back to a post and legs stretched out on the rails before him. He kept a careful watch on the crowd, seeing mostly humans, although a few monsters were also placing their bets on who would win. Unsurprisingly, the monsters were betting on his Billy, and they would be the only ones to profit today.

In the corral itself, Billy Rocks stood quietly, that angelic calm seeming to unnerve his opponent ever so slightly. Angels were still something of a mystery to the human race, given that only angels of death like Billy walked the world with any kind of frequency. And even his dear one was an oddity, since he enjoyed spending his time with the youngest of Lucifer’s Antichrists.

Goodnight tuned out Eddy’s words; he’d heard them many a time when they stopped by this particular supply station and he could already feel death in the air. This Arcade Jones fellow was going to do something stupid, his Billy was going to pull one of his blessed knives out to quickly dispatch the fool, and his Adelaide was going to get herself some fresh man-flesh to dine on after all.

Another glance over the crowd showed him that a couple new faces had joined the group: a young halfling of some sort, probably no more than early to mid-twenties, and what appeared at first glance to be one of the Fae. A second, somewhat closer look showed that there was something more to this particular Fae, and he would not be disinclined to make the man’s acquaintance to try and discover what it was. For now, though, Goodnight tuned back in just enough to catch Billy draw faster—of course—and begin walking over to join him in collecting their winnings.

“Hold on one moment, my dear,” Goodnight said, using the mind-speak that monsters, demons, angels, and others of their ilk favored. “I have a feeling.”

“I hate your feelings, Goody,” Billy complained, but pausing just long enough to catch Arcade’s taunt and demand to go for real. “I was hoping not to kill anyone today.”

“What, you want Adelaide to go hungry?”

“Seriously. I hate your feelings, and sometimes I hate you, too,” Billy heaved a mental sigh, but there was enough fondness in his ‘voice’ to prove otherwise. He turned on his heel, and Goodnight caught just a hint of feathers as the angel resumed his position and tossed aside first his hat then his gun-and-knife belt.

“Ooh, you’re gonna use my favorite? I knew you loved me.”

“Shut up and let me work.”

Eddy, human as they come but familiar enough with the way of the world to know a monster when he saw one, heaved a sigh and asked if Billy was ready. He shot off his gun and didn’t even blink when Billy’s wings flared briefly in the shadows as he threw his hairpin blade straight to Arcade’s heart.

“Damn,” Goodnight remarked. “That was almost disappointing.”

“At least Addie gets to eat well today,” Billy replied, offering a small smirk as he moved to retrieve his belongings. “Go get our money, little demon.”

“So damn bossy, dear angel.”

Despite his complaint, Goodnight slipped from the fence and resisted the urge to kick the body on the ground. Mainly because Adelaide didn’t like her meat too tenderized, and he doted on that mare to a ridiculous degree. Rather, he set about collecting their winnings.

“I ain’t in the habit of paying cheaters,” one of the human bettors declared, gaze distant but somewhat focused on Arcade’s corpse. “I’ll be keeping my money.”

Goodnight stared at the man, gaze hard as his eyes shifted. No longer were they a shade of blue almost too pale for a human to possess, but the black he purposely shifted them to when he was angry but still in just enough control of himself to keep them from blazing to hellfire white. The human next to the fool noted the rage building and stepped in to diffuse the situation.

“Easy, Goodnight,” the old man said. “He’s drunk. He don’t know what he’s saying.”

The younger man abruptly straightened up, realizing the danger he’d stumbled into as he registered that the ‘man’ he’d talked back to was a demon. “Mister Robicheaux, sir,” he stammered. “If I’d realized that was your man, I wouldn’t have made such a disrespectful comment.”

Goodnight blinked, the black sclera clearing instantly to true blue. “That’s okay, son,” he said. “Just pay me double.”

Once that fool was dealt with and once he could hear Eddy allowing Adelaide into the corral for her treat, the demon moved to continue collecting his winnings. He noted that the Fae was still at the gate waiting, but he stepped past him to the next loser.

“Goodnight Robicheaux? Chisolm’s sent us.”

The demon turned and blinked at the Fae. “Really now?” he asked. “And who might you be, mon ami?”

“Faraday’s the name,” the Fae replied. “And Chisolm’s gathering an army of monsters to face an uppity witch.”

“Oh?” Goodnight blinked, somewhat surprised and a bit intrigued; he’d met Sam Chisolm only one time before, and that was during the final days of the war. He had had the man in his sights, and even to this day he wasn’t entirely sure why he didn’t pull the trigger and send the human straight to his daddy’s rooms. Instead, he’d frozen time for a few moments, long enough to walk up to the Yankee soldier, and restored it just in time to grin as the man jumped at finding black eyes locked with his own.

“You, sir, are interesting,” he had said way back when. “I find that I am disinclined to end your life today.”

“Much obliged,” Sam Chisolm had drawled, a note of amusement and annoyance both in his voice. “So what are we to do now, then, demon?”

“Let’s go have a drink and figure that out.”

And even now, Goodnight still thought rather fondly of Chisolm. Billy had reserved his judgment, having actually been present and directing his Reapers whilst that conversation took place, but ultimately figured that if Goody was fond of the man then he could let him keep on keeping on.

“Well, then, my friend,” the demon said, smiling sunnily at the Fae and his halfling companion, “let’s step into my office so we can discuss business.”

“You got an office?” Faraday asked, looking unimpressed.

“He means the saloon,” Billy replied quietly, and the demon nearly grinned at the small jump from the halfling.

Faraday smiled broadly. “My kind of office.”

The four of them went inside, Goodnight and Billy gravitating automatically to the corner near the barber station. On most days when they were passing through Volcano Springs, the demon would take advantage of the services provided and get a shave. Truth of the matter was, he could coax his appearance to any matter he wished, and fortunately today he’d opted to appear well-groomed before they set foot into the supply station’s borders. Meaning he and his angelic companion could simply seat themselves, backs to the wall, and observe the room while they talked.

“Should we go someplace quieter?” the halfling, Teddy Q if Faraday was to be believed—and Goodnight tended to trust that monsters were somewhat honest with other monsters—asked as he glanced about nervously.

It was a bit rowdy, true, but that was what made Goodnight so comfortable there. Hell, he’d grown up with his daddy, his momma, and nine-hundred ninety-eight older brothers and sisters; he and quiet were not fond acquaintances, and the louder a room was, the more at ease he could be.

“Nah,” the demon said evenly, “I like it here. You like it here, Billy?”

“You know I like it well enough wherever you feel safest, little demon," Billy replied mentally. Aloud he simply said, “Here, Goody,” before passing him the flask he’d just taken a drink from.

Teddy looked a little annoyed, but that could be because he was uncomfortable with the noise level. “Where’d y’all meet, anyway?”

“I was serving a warrant on him from the Northern Pacific Railroad,” Goodnight immediately snarked, and Billy bit back a laugh.

Faraday did laugh. “No, but for real,” he asked. “How does a demon nicknamed the Angel of Death find an actual angel to hang about with?”

Billy shot the Fae a stern look, and Goodnight noted that the halfling gave a surprised blink. Ah, so one of their new companions hadn’t missed the flare of his angel’s wings earlier.

The demon grinned, letting his eyes flicker black for just a heartbeat before speaking. “We crossed paths ‘bout halfway through the War. I was bored and pretty randomly shooting anyone what annoyed me.”

“Even his fellow soldiers,” Billy chimed in, rolling his eyes lightly and leaning back against the wall again; Goodnight could sense him ruffling his feathers before letting them settle back into the spaces between once again.

“Is what it is,” Goody offered with a shrug. “At any rate, I was doing that, and this petite son of a bitch just comes storming up on me outta nowhere to tell me to, and I quote, knock it the fuck off, you are not making my life easier with this bullshit.” He chuckled at the eyeroll that got from his angel and grinned at Faraday’s appreciative snickering. “Decided that this was not a monster to aggravate much more, but rather one that it’d be wise to befriend.”

That wasn't… entirely the truth. That was when they'd decided to stick together, true enough, but over the centuries they had met a time or two. Goodnight had started short jaunts to the humans’ domains when he was around four hundred fifty, and Billy’d long since been on the job by then. But a month or two here or there compared with the years of the War was nothing at all, and it had been nice to have someone of his own ilk around to keep him in line… or at least attempt that daunting task.

“Well…” Teddy sounded hesitant, and he gave the demon an apologetic look. “Mister Chisolm said to come get you, but I don’t think he knew about your friend. Didn’t say nothing about him.”

“Wherever I go,” the demon said, tone even, “Billy goes.”

Faraday turned to look at the halfling, who honestly didn’t look like he wanted to argue the point. Instead of pushing or folding under the pressure, Teddy simply shrugged and knocked back his own drink.

Goodnight felt a smile cross his face. “We understand each other,” he remarked.

“So, since we have a day and a half’s ride to Junction City,” the Fae remarked, “but two days to kill, I say we spend a half day sharing drinks and trading tales.”

“And what manner of tales do you suggest, Mister Faraday?” Goodnight asked, leaning forward to lean on the table.

Faraday likewise leaned forward. “Oh, I dunno. Tales about the War, tales about things you saw in the world before the War, tales about deals you’ve made with humans, that sort of thing.”

The demon snorted indelicately. “I ain’t no crossroads demon, mon ami,” he retorted. “Ain’t really spent much time out in the world, neither. My life was somewhat… sheltered.”

“Are you telling me,” the Fae said, sitting up straight, “that you’ve only been above ground for a total of twenty years?”

“I spent a month or two here and there,” Goodnight replied, “but nothing of matter until the onset of the War.”

Faraday blinked then started laughing brightly. “Whatever you say, baby demon.”

That made Goodnight bristle, annoyance flowing over him. He was the youngest of the family, yes, and his favorite brother had feuded with Daddy over allowing him to fight, but he was a full-grown demon in his own right now. He had been when Ezekiel and Daddy had fallen out, and he had been when he and Ezekiel parted ways upon arriving on the surface. He didn’t even know what form his brother had chosen; they’d not even shifted from their true forms until separating on the surface.

But he was six hundred years old, for the gods’ sake. He was not a child.

“And what are you, exactly, Mister Faraday?” he asked icily; given the way the Fae stopped laughing to stare at him wide-eyed, his annoyance was coming through loud and clear.

“Oh,” Faraday said smoothly, “a little of this, a little of that. But what kind of demon are you if you ain’t one of them soul traders?”

“Something a mite different,” was all he would offer.

Next to him, Billy gave his you are being a little shit sigh. Goodnight ignored it. He was willing to go with this Fae to meet up with Sam, see what was what, but there was little chance of him actually trusting the older monster any time soon.

Baby demon. What a crock of shit.

Chapter Text

It was not fair, not in the least.

The monster who now called himself Vasquez had been called up by one who still worshiped his kind, a señorita who was having trouble with a white man in what had once been part of his domain. He had come at her call and had quickly dispatched of the mortal. It had been while he was eating his prey that the other mortals had come upon him, calling him monster and insisting that it was illegal — for whatever that was worth — to kill a mortal who was apparently some kind of agent of law and order.

Some law, some order. A bully preying on one of his chosen peoples. That was always grounds for swift execution.

Although, honestly? What made him angry was that he did not get to finish his meal. Had he consumed the mortal in full, he would have turned himself over just to see what these creatures thought they could do to him.

The problem was, however, that now the mortals they called monster hunters were on his trail.

He was farther north than he preferred to be, well into what was now the territory of other creatures but had once been his, and the hunters kept chasing. He easily dispatched many of them, of course, ate the ones he could when he was hungry and left the ones he could not when he was not as hungry as a warning. One that went unheeded, but a warning still.

He was currently holed up with the body of one such hunter, dining on him bit by bit as he pondered his next move. He would prefer to go home, but he dreaded leading these relentless pursuers to his brothers and sisters. His siblings, they would not appreciate that, and they could cause him harm.

As he chewed idly on a finger he had removed from the dead hunter’s hand, he heard horses approaching. Mortal horses, not ones like his demonic mount, which likely meant more monster hunters. He heaved a sigh and slipped out the door, spotting the riders still some ways out. He shifted into the space between flesh and shadow, making himself all but invisible to the mortal eye, and walked around the building even as the man and the woman dismounted and walked into his hideaway.

He allowed them to do so, moving around the building back around to the front again and remaining in the space between. Even so, he readied the rope he had retrieved from Diablo, swinging the lasso idly as he waited for some move.

The woman was the one to make it, a startled cry slipping from her as she stumbled backward onto the porch once again. He flung the rope around the woman, let it fall to her feet before pulling tight and dragging her to the ground. He immediately slipped back into the world, pistol drawn and trained on the man who was standing with hands up to show he meant no harm.

He was not fooled: he had seen the gun on the woman’s hip and demanded it. The woman reluctantly dropped her weapon on the ground, and he kicked it away before she could get any ideas. These were odd monster hunters; it seemed they were not even trying.

“He was already dead,” he lied with a nod to the corpse, “if that’s what you were wondering.”

“Have you been sleeping in here?”

What an odd thing for a monster hunter to care about. Still, he replied, “He doesn’t snore much.”

“You Vasquez?” the man asked, seeming to ignore his irreverent words. He did not believe that, given the man knew the name he was currently using.

“You a monster hunter?” he asked in return, even though he already knew the answer.

“I’m going to tear up a warrant,” the man replied. “Just wanna make sure I have the right monster.”

He kept his weapon on the man, even as he pulled out a paper and opened it to show what was supposed to be his current form.

He smirked. “Poor likeness.” There were not nearly enough teeth, to start with. And he thought he had chosen a rather handsome mortal face. These mortals who made the warrants could not draw well, it appeared.

He then frowned, curious as to the fact that the hunter was unarmed. “Where’s your gun?” he demanded.

“Man carries a gun, he tends to use it.”

He chuckled lightly, amused by the hunter. Honestly, mortals were so very young.

“I’m looking to hire some monsters for a job,” the hunter continued, folding the warrant but not doing otherwise with it. “Was wondering if you’d be interested in some work.”

He was somewhat interested. “Does this work involve her?” he asked, indicating the woman. She did not seem suited to be a monster hunter, but perhaps she was in training. If that was the case, then she would not last long in this life.

“Get this off me!” she abruptly snapped as she moved to claw at the rope on her ankles, and he caught a hint of something in her scent. It was not pure monster, very diluted if there was anything in her bloodline. Her fire was amusing, though, and he started to chuckle at her. “You wipe that smirk off your face!”

He chuckled again, greatly amused by the woman. “And when our business is concluded,” he asked, “what happens then?”

The man gave him a steady look. “There'll still be a lot of monster hunters looking for you.”

“And this is supposed to bring me comfort?” the ancient being asked, already knowing that he would just eat whomever came after him. He was always hungry, and he would always be ready to devour his enemies.

“It should,” the man replied. “I won’t be one of them.”

He stared at the hunter for a moment before a grin crossed his face. He knew he was showing too many teeth from the way the mortal froze for just a moment, but that did not matter. “You are loco, my friend,” he found himself saying even as he reholstered his weapon.

“Sí,” came the reply, and the creature that called himself Vasquez laughed out loud. This could wind up being fun, especially if he got to meet with the other monsters roaming these northern lands.

Chapter Text

Faraday had never been so glad to see a small camp as he was right now. It wasn't that he was sick of all this already, but he had had the last day and a half narrated by a demon, and it was getting past annoying. It wasn’t the first time he had ridden with demons, and every last one he had ever met had been enormously fond of the sound of their own voice… but Goodnight Robicheaux might have just about taken the cake. Faraday was starting to develop a twitch in his right eye that no amount of alcohol was soothing, as well as a theory as to the demon.

The demons he had known in the past were all Antichrists, natural born children of Lucifer, and of the three of them he had known, Faraday had been friends with exactly one, predictably the one most likely to currently be dead, given the injuries he’d sustained in a fight against a wendigo, and capable to standing only one of the others, the one he knew for a fact was dead. But even a sample size that small did leave some room for educated guesses, if he was willing to assume that all demons were like Antichrists. That much, he didn’t actually know for certain, but for now, he would just work with the information he had.

As far as demons went, he was about ninety-three percent certain that Goodnight was young. How young he wasn’t so sure on. He didn’t know how demons reckoned age. It was all a bit beyond him. To him, even the oldest of demons was fairly young: a couple thousand years old or so at most. Hell, he remembered when demons were still new creatures and were called ‘shadow elementals,’ before the rest of the monster population found out the proper names for them.

No, it was more like ninety-seven percent a certainty that, whatever kind of demon Goodnight was, he was a young one, though whether that meant a couple of decades or a couple of centuries, Faraday couldn’t be say with complete certainty. The story of Goodnight Robicheaux the Confederate sharpshooter was less than twenty years old, so he was no younger than twenty. And Faraday didn’t think he was older than the Antichrists—Mordecai, Belial, and Ezekiel, though the latter had much preferred the nickname of Ezra—that he’d known. He wasn’t sure he could pin down just what it was that made him certain that Goodnight was younger, but that was indeed the impression he got.

Honestly, he didn’t know that much about demons, and he knew even less about angels. They were just too new and too insular, keeping mostly to themselves and between the two groups. Some days it annoyed the piss out of him, almost as much as all the prattling on he’d been hearing for a couple of days now, between Volcano Springs and here.

If pressed, he wasn’t sure he would be able to recall all the topics that had been so thoroughly covered. He remembered a long conversation in English—in order to let Teddy join in—about what it was that Sam Chisolm wanted, which he and Teddy had indeed answered as best they could. Then there had been another discussion, just as long or even longer, about just what Teddy was. That one had been in the Old Tongue, spoken purely monster to monster and, in this particular case, mind to mind, meaning poor Teddy had no idea he was being left out of a discussion. Granted, it was all about him, so maybe it was for the best. Faraday had done his best to ignore that line of talk. He knew what Teddy was, after all, and he saw no reason to share that particular bit of information. Should little Teddy Q decide he wanted that information shared, then that was on him. There was power in names, and sometimes there was just as much power, just as much value, in knowing little facts and bits of trivia.

For instance, he knew that there was a new monster at the bottom of this hill at that camp. What was down there, he couldn’t say for certain, only that he could say for a fact that it wasn’t a Fae of any sort. That was the extent of his certainty.

He had, after all, met a lot of different kinds of Fae and Fae-like creatures over his long years wandering the world. None of the ones he'd met had had teeth quite like that, though. Because those were some truly impressive teeth, and damn it, he wanted a chance to get up close and personal with the… being attached to them. Because, yeah, he had no idea at all what kind of monster that was, other than not Fae. It probably wasn't a demon, an angel, or any kind of elemental.

Honestly, if he had to hazard a guess, he would think he was looking at one of the Old Gods, the kind that didn't usually walk the world and certainly never outside the area they used to be worshipped. Maybe this was the kind of Old God he had always been warned lived in Old Mexico and was the reason he'd avoided the southern section of the continent.

All in all, that could mean there was another monster on this little trip who was of a similar age to him. It damn sure wasn't going to be the baby demon or the angel, after all, no matter what physical appearances might dictate.

Speaking of the baby demon, Goodnight was riding slightly ahead of the group to cheerfully greet Sam Chisolm. Faraday tuned the loud conversation out as much as he could. It was so much better to put his attention to something more productive, like the paltry remains of his gifted bottle of whiskey.

Goodnight made a half-assed attempt at introducing Billy Rocks, and Faraday would note that he didn't say the first word about what the other man was. Oh, now this should be fun. He was all for trying to pull one over on the monster hunter. This could be fun!

So he made a production of getting off his horse, acting a whole lot more drunk than he actually was; if he was really as drunk as he was acting, he probably would have killed the baby demon between four and seven miles ago. Chisolm sidled up to him, and though it was a hardship, he held back the smirk from forming on his face. “That's Billy,” he delivered, slurring his words but keeping his tone deadpan, on the question Chisolm hadn't asked yet. “He come with Goodnight.”

And I ain't tell you a damn thing about him, monster hunter, no more than I'd tell the baby demon and the angel what Teddy Q is. You can just forget about that.

“He's pretty handy with them pigstickers,” Faraday offered instead.

There was a tap at the back of his mind, the Old Tongue equivalent of clearing the throat or knocking on a door for attention. In the last day and a half, he had gotten very familiar with how the baby demon and to a lesser extent the angel sounded in the Old Tongue—the Angel had a sort of lilting tone, while the demon managed to carry the damn drawl over, because of course he did—and this sound like neither of them.

No, this voice was deep and rich, and part of his mind wanted to compare it to a strong, quality drink… or a good chocolate. At the very least, he wanted to curl up in it. And there was only one possible monster here it could belong to. And wasn't that an interesting thing?

“Oh good,” he answered aloud and maybe louder than he should have, given their… mixed company, “we got a Mexican… something.”

The other monster chuckled, low and dark, like chills up the spine. Yeah, this was going to be fun, being thrown in with monsters like these.

“‘A Mexican something’, cabrón? I am older than this country.” The words slithered through his mind, and Faraday didn’t even bother to hide his shiver. There was power, old and hungry and a little cruel, in that voice, like he hadn’t heard in years. No doubt about it: this was one of the Old Gods or something not very far from one. Interesting. Very interesting.

“No doubting that, my friend. There is certainly no doubting that. But then, even the baby demon there is older than this country.” He offered a wink to go with the words, and the Old God chuckled both aloud and in Faraday’s mind, the sound curling lazily around him. “You are what I think you are? You’re older than a lot of countries on any map.”

“What you are thinking I am?” There was an almost tinniness to the voice now, meaning the conversation was being shared now, that it was no longer just between the two of them. And the man might just have been bragging, given the sheer pride in what he was saying. “I am ancient, and I have been worshipped as a god. The Aztecs, they called me Mictlantecuhtli.”

It took all of a split second for Goodnight to slip into the conversation, of course, once the option was opened up to him, even as he stalked back over rejoin the two of them, his angel on his heels. “I won’t even ask how to spell that one. What are you doing in this part of the world, mon ami? I thought your kind usually stayed where your followers are.”

“Not so many followers these days, cabrón. Spaniards kill too many of them.” And Faraday found himself nodding, just slightly. The same had happened with the Romans, years and years and years ago. “I kill a Ranger who harasses one of my worshippers, and I get a bounty on my head.”

Faraday scoffed aloud. “Ain’t met a Ranger I like yet.” It was offered up almost like a peace treaty, and the Old God smiled, so obviously it was accepted. Good. That was good.

Goodnight glanced around between the four of them. “So we do have quite the motley crew here then, don’t we? An angel of death,” he nodded at Billy, who touched his finger to the brim of his hat in acknowledgement, “an Antichrist my own self,” which seemed to surprise exactly no one, “an Old God, and you, Faraday. Just what is that you are anyway? You don’t act like any Fae I’ve ever met.”

He snickered, careful to keep it solely between the four of them. “And yet you act like every Antichrist I’ve known, Goodnight.”

And now that? That was funny. He had been trying to compare Goodnight to the other demons he had known, all of which were Antichrists—literal children of the Christian devil, Lucifer—and here Goodnight was one of the same. In turn, that meant that all four demons he had passed time with now were all Antichrists. He wasn’t too sure where he was going to put Goodnight in that list of how well he liked them, not just yet.

“This is true, güero,” Vasquez continued Goodnight’s trail of words when Faraday didn’t give an answer. “You do not act like any Fae I have known. What are you then?”

“Me?” he asked, all wide-eyed innocence, the look spoiled immediately by the amused smirk on his lips. “I’m just… a little of this and a little of that. That’s all.”

Chapter Text

“What a merry band we are!” Goodnight declared as they rode towards the next supply station. “Chisolm an elite monster hunter, me a demon born from hell, Billy my dearest friend in the world…”

Billy shot him a sly grin, and Goodnight winked back. Somehow, old Sam Chisolm had missed the fact that the ‘man’ who’d arrived with him was not a mortal, and Faraday’s antics had kept him from discovering this truth. His exact phrasing had been this here’s Billy, he come with Goodnight in so decisive a way that it was clear the Fae intended to keep their resident angel as a secret weapon for as long as possible.

Goodnight continued with, “The strangest member of the Fae I have ever met in my entire life, whatever the hell this fine Mexican fellow may be, a female on a righteous mission, and her halfling companion. We are going to die in a blaze of glory, and it will be wonderful.”

“‘Whatever the hell’ I am, cabrón?” Vasquez asked, sounding amused. “I am older than anyone else here. Your god might come close, maybe not though.”

The demon chuckled, letting his eyes flicker to the black he generally shifted them to when he was doing it on purpose. “Might be you’re right, mon ami,” he offered. “My granddaddy has been around for quite a while, though.”

He noticed that Faraday turned to glance back at him with a sly grin, and he winked at the Fae. It was clear that he was trying to puzzle out just where to classify him on the scale of Antichrists I Have Known, and Goodnight had no doubt that he would be above Mordecai at any rate; much as he loved his siblings, Mordecai was an unrepentant asshole even to his brothers and sisters. Doubtful that he’d been much kinder to other monsters.

“Maybe your grandfather know my sisters and brothers, huh?” Vasquez offered with a far too toothy grin; how the humans kept missing how sharp those teeth were was a mystery for the ages, but perhaps it was similar to how the humans didn’t understand their mind-language when they spoke it aloud.

“What a charming thought,” he drawled dryly before glancing back at a far too amused Billy. “I sense we are bonding.”

In short order, the group arrived at the supply station and set about looking for the tracker Jack Horne. No one could give them a firm answer, and Billy frowned as he looked around.

“What’s wrong, my dear?” Goodnight asked aloud, a frown on his own lips. Faraday and Vasquez both turned his way curiously.

“I don’t think this is a good idea, Goody,” his angel replied. “I have followed Horne’s exploits many times, sent my Reapers for those whose scalps he took.”

“Shit,” Faraday muttered. “Hasn’t he killed, like, three hundred or so of the Crow?”

“That is a good many dead men, my friends,” Vasquez offered. “Many angry souls. That is why my kind eat every part of our enemy: body, mind, soul. Nothing left to become angry.”

Billy gave Vasquez a long look before continuing his thought, even as Chisolm approached a couple of young men who had just returned down the mountain. “Three hundred angry souls is a heavy burden on a man. That way leads to… something I don’t want to think about.”

“A wendigo,” Goodnight said abruptly, feeling his black blood freeze in his veins. “You think Horne is going to go wendigo when he dies, don’t you?”

“I’m hoping you’re wrong,” Faraday said firmly, although even he looked incredibly pale.

“Gentlemen,” Chisolm called over, and the four monsters looked to where their hunter comrade was waiting. “These young fellows claim to have information on Jack Horne.”

“Yeah!” one of the children called out. “We done killed him!”

“Madre de todos los dios,” Vasquez muttered, and Billy grunted in agreement.

“We are talking about Jack Horne?” Goodnight asked almost fearfully, moving to the porch and leaning on the post with one arm. “I mean, the Jack Horne, the legend Jack Horne?”

“Legend? Legend my ass,” the child holding the rifle said. “He may have killed three hundred Crow, but he ain’t never met the Pigeon Brothers before.”

“And you said that’s Jack Horne’s rifle?” Chisolm asked, sounding a bit disappointed and somehow not noticing that his collection of monsters was verging on panic.

The brother holding the rifle flipped it over to show off the JH engraved on the stock. “It was Jack Horne’s rifle,” the one not holding it stated. “There’s an army base offering a thousand dollars for” — and here he stammered as his brother shoved him — “proof of death. Rifle ought’a do.”

Faraday sat up straighter, eyes shifting in the light to something otherworldly. “You don’t have a body?” he asked, voice wavering only enough that his fellow monsters noticed. Goodnight himself felt that same cold fear fall over him, and he subconsciously sniffed at the air. If he even caught a whiff of wendigo, he was drawing his revolver and shooting first without ever asking questions.

The brother with the rifle snickered. “Ol’ Len here hit him over the head with a rock,” he said with something like pride in his tone. “Fell over the cliff when he did it.”

“So you got no body,” the demon stated, eyes shifting to white for half a second before flicking to black.

Len Pigeon turned to shoot a glare at the demon, either bravely or stupidly meeting his gaze. “Just what the hell are you trying—” he began, only to be interrupted by the hatchet that had found itself in his chest.

All eyes turned to see where it had come from, and four monsters all swore in their own tongue as they caught sight of Jack Horne stalking down the mountain. The aura of near-death was so strong that Goodnight nearly growled, and his right hand fell to the weapon on his left hip. From the corner of his eye, he noted that Faraday had a hand on the pistol in his gunslinger’s rig, Billy had one of his longer blessed blades drawn, and Vasquez was responding with both pistols and bared teeth; chances were good that if Horne came their way, the ancient monster was planning to devour the man.

The brother holding the rifle stumbled backwards, trying to fire off a shot and failing in spectacular fashion. Horne stalked up to him and ripped his weapon away before bashing the young fool in the face with the stock. He then lifted one leg and, with a grunt verging on a roar that chilled all present, stomped down on the poor unfortunate’s head. The monsters could hear the skull crunching beneath his foot, and Billy’s wings flared briefly in the shadows as they waited for the man to fall on the corpse and begin to feed.

“Pigeon Brothers weren’t famous for very long,” Goodnight found himself saying, only to flinch as the potential threat moved to face them.

Except Jack Horne merely stared a moment, blinking absently at the assembled men and monsters before speaking in a raspy voice.

“These two unholy creatures bashed me over the head with a rock and stole my property.”

“He’s close to shifting,” Faraday remarked mentally to his fellow monsters. “Not there yet, but too close for my taste.”

“I can eat him, if you like,” Vasquez offered.

“Now I have a right,” Horne continued as he walked closer and retrieved his hatchet and horse, “by the law and by the Lord to take back what is mine. Are we in agreement?”

Billy responded by twitching his blade briefly; Faraday gave a slight nod while Vasquez backed away with both hands raised in a placating manner. Goodnight was the only one to give a verbal, “Yeah,” in reply.

Chisolm spoke up again, “Mister Horne, my name is Sam Chisolm. We met up in Cheyenne about six years back. I was hoping you would be interested in a proposition.”

Horne looked almost through Chisolm, as if he didn’t even see him. Faraday cleared his throat.

“Government doesn’t pay a bounty on redskins no more.” When Horne looked his way, Goodnight moved a half-step closer to the Fae and let out a low hiss at the threat. Faraday continued, “You must be out of work.”

“Well,” Horne said slowly, “that’s a whole ‘nother story.”

“We are out to help some good people face a monstrous foe,” Chisolm said. “I was hoping you… might be interested.”

Horne gave him a long look before heaving a weary sigh and moving to go back up the mountain. In a stunning display of self-preservation, young Teddy Q all but jumped out of the man’s way as he ambled on by.

“I believe,” Faraday said slowly, “that bear was wearing people’s clothes.”

The irreverent remark broke the tension, and the assembled monsters chuckled a bit before moving to their mounts once again. Now that they would be leaving the future wendigo behind, all were breathing a little easier.

Hopefully, Chisolm had no more nasty surprises in store for his supposed allies.

Chapter Text

The thing about Jack Horne was, he wasn’t a stupid man.

He was a lonely man, yes. And he was a vengeful man when the mood called for it. And for too long a time, he was a broken man.

That happened when one lost his family, wife and children in one fell swoop, and he knew without a doubt who the culprits were.

But rather than stop with the Crow who had attacked his family for the crime of being white and living too near to their lands, Jack had let the vengeful man have the reins and kept killing until he had three hundred scalps to his name and three hundred dead Crow haunting him.

And they did haunt him, even still.

At first, they had all been loud and angry, most especially the five who had attacked his family. They were the reason he had retreated into the mountains when he came back to his senses, when the vengeful man gave way to the broken one. And their voices always called to him, damning and condemning his actions.

But, over time, the voices of the ones who he had taken righteous vengeance upon fell silent, as if they had been crushed by the weight of the remaining two hundred ninety-five. Those voices grew quieter in his head, but the Crow remained with him… only they had stopped damning him and started working with him.

For some reason, those other ghosts haunting him seemed to want him alive.

Jack remained in the mountains, however, where it seemed to be safest and his ghosts were much quieter. But there was something odd that began happening.

Whenever monsters stopped by the supply station where Jack himself often wound up when he needed something, they shied away from him. He had personally heard Fae clam up and sink back against walls when he passed by, and on one occasion a demon had yelped and sank into the shadows; as far as Jack knew, the young man hadn’t returned.

Jack Horne was not a stupid man. He was a lonely and broken man, and on occasion he could be a vengeful one. But he was just a man, and would remain that way so long as he listened to the warnings his ghosts gave him.

He was furious when he had been approached on the trail up to his cabin by Ken and Len Pigeon, the two idiots stopping him to ask him about the stories people told. Jack had told the boys he wasn’t interested in sharing stories, and then…

And then two hundred ninety-five voices began to scream a warning at him just in time for him to duck away. Not enough to avoid the blow to the head or the tumble over the edge of the cliff, but enough for him to remain somewhat lucid and to tuck into the fall so he wouldn’t break anything.

The vengeful man came back out to the forefront, trailing the Pigeon boys for two straight days while listening to the whispers of his ghosts. His constant companions whispered that it had been too close this time, that he’d nearly been lost to the monster soul trying to come to the surface. He wondered, even as he tracked the Pigeon Brothers with the intent of retrieving his property, if that was what the monsters sensed in him, if they could sense that wrongness that his ghosts feared.

And then, well.

Somehow he knew that four of the men with the man calling himself Chisolm—and he did remember the man, vaguely—were monsters even before he looked their way. To a one, they had hands on weapons, and the skinny Mexican one had been baring far too many sharp teeth; the one who was likely an angel of the lord had been hovering by the demon, who had been watching him carefully with fathomless black eyes. The one he couldn’t rightly identify as anything beyond old and powerful had watched him warily, hands on his own weapons but not touching the iron.

He also knew, in that same distant way, that the woman and the youngest man in the party were at least part-monster. And he didn’t want to ponder on how or why he knew that; he feared that it was the same thing that his ghosts feared.

Jack Horne was not a stupid man. He had heard tales of the monster who had been a man first, one with blood on his hands or an evil in his heart when he died. He knew what those men became.

His ghosts whispered it when they thought they were quiet enough, but he lived in silence; it was never too quiet to hear the whisper of wendigo on the wind.

If he was a smarter man, Jack would have retreated back up the mountain with his property and let that be the end of that. He would have returned to his cabin and his traps and waited to see how death would try to come for him. He would have waited to see if he had the fortitude to put a bullet to himself before the monster hiding under his skin could free itself.

Instead, he made it halfway back to his home before stopping, heaving a sigh, and turning his eyes towards the sky.

“I’m going to end up regretting this,” he asked aloud, “aren’t I?”

Destiny fate signs came the whispers. Hope redemption chance.

Jack sighed again. “Y’all ain’t any help, you know this.”

Not all evil, argued one.

Good in all men and monsters, another chimed in.

“All right, okay,” he said, shaking his head and turning back around. “If I die because of this, I’m blaming all of you.”

Companion enemy friend.

Jack Horne was not a stupid man. He was a broken man for the most part, and at times, he was a lonely man. But it was near impossible to be truly alone with so many ghosts following one, and he’d been carrying his for years. Maybe if he did die in whatever was to come, they could finally move on and leave him in peace.

And yet, he doubted that, too.

Ah well. Whatever happened would happen, and maybe he could learn to live with that the same as he had with the ghosts.

Chapter Text

Given that monsters really didn’t need sleep, most mortals tended to automatically assign them to the night watch so that they could rest.

Billy honestly didn’t blame them for that, but he still resented it a little.

Granted, he didn’t sleep much, even when he had the opportunity. Most times after he and Goody had fucked, the demon would drift off into a light slumber and Billy would just watch him. The decades quite literally slid away when the youngest Antichrist was lost to pleasure and sleep, and Billy enjoyed tracing the soft curves of his face with eyes and gentle fingers. It was his own private pleasure to wrap the younger being in his wings and keep watch as they rested until the next morning arrived.

Tonight, though, he wasn’t thinking on pleasure. There were mortals amongst them, even if a couple of those mortals had monster blood to some minor extent, and monsters he was as yet unfamiliar with, so he would watch over them in the nighttime hours.

Vasquez, whatever ancient hungry beast he may be, seemed to pick up almost immediately that it would be safe to feed and rest. The monster had all but fallen on the food provided for them to share by young Miss Emma then settled himself into the space just below where Billy’d set up as his watch position, slid his hat over his eyes, and fell into a deep sleep. Even from nearly ten feet away, the angel could hear the other’s snoring.

Almost exactly across the way but a few feet lower, Faraday had stretched out with his feet facing the east, his own hat over his face as he rested against his saddle in somewhat lighter sleep. Billy still had no idea what variety of Fae the man was, and he knew that Goody would chew on the mystery for ages until Faraday took pity and told him. All the angel was certain of was, that whatever Faraday was he was likely as old as he himself was at a minimum; after all, the Fae had been roaming the earth long before the Host of Christianity started to populate the heavens and hell.

Goody himself had settled into a nook just below Faraday, obviously feeling some level of security in all the older monsters surrounding him, and fallen into a true slumber. Billy could tell because the age faded from the little demon’s features, leaving him looking closer to what his age in the mortal world would be. Amongst the Host, the youngest of Lucifer’s sons would be closer in age to the young widow Cullen and her companion than to Sam Chisolm, and in sleep he looked it.

Billy cast his awareness to the surrounding land, letting his wings truly unfurl as his odd cohort slept around him. Their shadow was wide, and he took a few moments to preen out any damaged feathers before hiding them away again physically yet leaving their shade on the rock behind him. Any wild creatures that gave thought to harassing their camp would be frightened away by his display, and any monsters meaning harm would likely think twice.

After all, humans weren’t the only ones unfamiliar with angels. A wise monster would pass them by once realizing an angel was part of the group.

He let his attention wander through the night, finally opting to slip into a light slumber with the first hint of the sun on the horizon. Goody would likely be rising soon, since he couldn’t stand the thought of the humans guessing how young he truly was and would pull the decades back to his flesh in short order; and Faraday was facing the sun and would probably arise as it drew higher into the morning sky.

What drew him back to full wakefulness, however, was the scent of near-death approaching and the sound of Chisolm’s gun.

Billy was on his feet between one heartbeat and the next, his favorite blade drawn and at the ready. Goody was already crouched in an attack position, looking every inch like a mortal in his mid-forties and holding his rifle in a firm grip; that weapon had dispatched many an enemy directly to the devil himself, and Lucifer was far too fond of his youngest to not accept such gifts happily. Faraday was sitting up, both hands hovering over his guns that, Billy noticed, each had a handle that would prevent him from directly touching the iron. And below him, he could hear Vasquez slowly awakening with a low snarl that sounded like thousands of monsters rather than the one he knew the ancient to be.

Jack Horne was standing just within their little camp, and while the near-death still clung to his flesh like a red flag, he didn’t pay any mind to the monsters. Rather, he used signals that Billy recognized as military to indicate that someone else was approaching from the west, and the angel let his awareness lock onto the future wendigo even as he turned to see who or what was approaching.

He nearly relaxed as he caught sight of the Indian, recognizing the markings on his face as those of a young shaman.

The natives of these lands and the monsters had something of a symbiotic relationship. Those they called shamans were capable of learning the language of the monsters and could speak it aloud even if they could not use the mental version. In point of fact, during the many wars with the white men over these very lands, monsters had taken up arms and fought alongside the Indians. Billy himself had warred with the Kiowa, and he knew Goody had thrown his lot in with the Sioux and Apache tribes at separate times. Given the way that Faraday relaxed as well, it was likely the Fae had rode amongst one of the tribes himself; Vasquez undoubtedly had walked and warred with the natives of Mexico against the Spaniards when they came.

Chisolm called out to the Indian, in the tongue of the Comanche that Billy was passingly familiar with. When the young shaman replied in kind, the angel fully relaxed his stance to turn the bulk of his attention to the proto-wendigo that had somehow not only moved further into their camp but was now standing just in front of his own watch point. A sidelong look revealed that Vasquez had his revolver trained on Horne, teeth still bared and fully prepared to devour the threat. In the meantime, Goody had taken a higher post to train his rifle on Horne while Faraday had his pearl-handled revolver drawn but held loosely; the Fae must feel that the others had things well in-hand but was ready to provide backup if needed.

These were good comrades, Billy realized as a small smile crossed his lips. Even with a threat to them all, the elder monsters were subconsciously moving to keep the youngest in the safest position. And, as the shaman tossed aside the deer he’d hunted down and shared its liver with their mortal leader, their group grew to one more ally. Even if Chisolm had apparently decided Horne following was a good thing—and Billy’d let him live so long as he didn’t turn on his people—the angel would still follow, just to see where this ended.

Besides, he hated witches who thought themselves greater than others more than anyone else in this group. It would be his pleasure to thwart Bogue and his ilk, and he would personally pin the witch down with his blades before his Goody dispatched the man to Lucifer’s domain.

Chapter Text

Billy walked into town next to Chisolm’s horse, taking a moment to adjust his gunbelt and resettle his holy blades. He wasn’t fully comfortable with letting the hunter make such a production of entering this town, where Blackstones were acting as security, both man and monster, but that was the plan Chisolm had felt best.

Granted, he likely thought he was keeping the one human he wasn’t fully familiar with safely out of harm’s way, which was kind of sweet. Stupid, but sweet.

Billy let his senses expand, keeping his wings fully in check as he sought out his fellow monsters. His little demon was still on the edge of town, keeping close to the shadows so he could “walk” directly to where he needed to be on Chisolm’s signal; he could clearly hear whatever or whomever he was focused on, and at the moment his Goody was listening for the hunter only. Faraday was strolling blatantly through the back alleys, the good people of Rose Creek paying no mind thanks to Fae influence and a bit of you don’t see me, move along. Vasquez, for his part, had flashed a toothy smile and almost literally vanished from view; Billy had been just able to sense him walking alongside Faraday for a few moments before splitting off.

What troubled the angel, frankly, was how easily Horne slipped into town. He was still more human than wendigo, but the change was far too close for comfort. Billy’d known angels—angels of death like himself, seraphim, even archangels—that had faced off with wendigo and just didn’t come back. The only sign they’d even existed was when they would find angel feathers and holy steel much later, the only things left after the wendigo had eaten the rest of them.

He had no intention of letting Horne touch him or his new companions.

The shaman in training had taken to the rooftops, and Billy caught sight of him from the corner of one eye moving to slip up on a rooftop sniper. Content that the shaman had things in hand, the angel shifted his focus back to the street just in time for the Blackstones to approach.

He took in the measure of the ones standing before him and Chisolm. There was a Fae with them, likely Summer court judging by his healthy weight and the fact that he was armed with a crossbow rather than a gun, and the hedge witch seemed to be in charge of the group; at least, he was the one telling the human sheriff what to do. Billy wasn’t impressed, and he made a mental note to take down the Fae first when the opportunity arose.

Chisolm, bless him, led on the Blackstones by cooperating happily with everything they asked, but even Billy could hear the delight in his voice when he remarked, “I’m more than willing to turn over my guns to you gentlemen, but I can’t say the same for my compadres behind you.”

Billy grinned a bit viciously as Goody literally melted out of the shadows in the alley just behind the Blackstones, rifle resting on his shoulder and eyes that shimmering black he made them when he concentrated on it. Faraday stepped just a bit louder, drawing attention to where he’d been strolling back and forth along the walkway for a good five minutes, and Vasquez appeared across the street from him between one breath and the next, almost shimmering into being. Horne, for his part, just walked idly out of the alley closest to Billy, eating something he’d brought along and that the angel hoped wasn’t human flesh.

That the Blackstones weren’t impressed was unsurprising, honestly. That they then tried to get the drop on them wasn’t either. The surprise came when Red Harvest did get the drop on one of the humans amongst them and the hedge witch tried to throw a stunning charm at Chisolm. The hunter drew his weapon and shot two Blackstones down even as he dodged the charm, and Billy took down the Fae and another human with two quick tosses of his knives.

He lost track of the hedge witch after that, focused on taking out weapons where he saw them and unmindful of the fact that his wings had flared in the shadows as he moved, that a few feathers had shifted into the real world and dropped to the ground in his wake. From off to one side, he could hear Faraday take out the three on the balcony of the hotel and Vasquez let out a roar as he fell upon two more Blackstones. The shaman on the roof let loose a volley of arrows, taking down a few more of their shared enemy, and in between the rest of the gunfire, Chisolm’s included, he could hear the quiet pop of his little demon’s revolver sending at least two of the Blackstones to visit with his father. Those two would leave no bodies behind; the curse on Goody’s weapons was such that a fatal shot sent them body and soul straight to hell, where they could then explain to Lucifer just why, exactly, his son had dispatched them so thoroughly.

In short order, the battle was done and there were twenty-six bodies lying in the street; there would have been twenty-eight except that his demon had covertly dealt with them. Billy glanced around as he tugged a blade free from the body he’d pinned to the saloon’s post, and he ignored the sound it made hitting the ground. He was far more interested in the look Chisolm shot his way, one that said they were going to be having a talk in short order.

The sound of a horse whinnying drew his gaze to the livery, where the damned hedge witch finally reappeared riding out of town. Goody was already raising his rifle, and Billy could see the hesitation. He knew what his demon was thinking: they needed to send Bogue a very clear message, and a frightened human wouldn’t show what they were really capable of doing here. Faraday moved to stand behind the demon, and Billy saw the moment when his beloved’s eyes shifted to hellfire white in the instant before he fired.

Faraday let out a low whistle and said something to Goody that was returned with a vicious grin. The angel walked over in time to hear the last of what they were saying:

“Trust me, mon ami: when the time comes, he’ll wish I’d just shot him dead. For now, he’s our message to Bogue.”

Faraday blinked for a moment, looking almost speculatively at Goody, almost searching for something, before he let out a laugh. “Hell, I almost look forward to whatever comes next,” he said. “Does anyone know how we did individually?”

They had been walking back to join the others as they talked, and Chisolm spotted them easily. He definitely intended to talk to Billy, but the angel noticed that the hunter’s gaze was locked on Goody at the moment.

Goody, whose eyes were still blazing white.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Chisolm said evenly, “but ain’t your eyes usually black?”

His little demon gave a sly grin. “Only when I want ‘em to be,” he replied mildly. “I think it’s time to stop playing for the moment, so our messenger knows just what’s what.”

“And what, exactly, will Bogue be dealing with?”

“Well,” Goody drawled, blinking and letting his eyes go back to blue once more, “in this case, an Antichrist and an angel of death, for starters.”

Chisolm’s gaze swept over to Billy, and he obliged by letting his wings flare into sight for a moment before folding them away again; if he left their shadow on the ground, that was his business.

“Huh,” was all Chisolm had to say, but the sound was pleasantly surprised. “How’d everyone do?” he continued after a second.

“I got six,” Faraday offered with a grin.

“Five,” Billy offered, looking around the town and catching faint hints of humans and halflings watching from the safety of the surrounding buildings.

“Two are explaining themselves to my daddy right about now,” Goody offered mildly, which caused Faraday to cackle as he finally realized that the demon was deathly serious when he said shit like that.

Horne chimed in to say he’d taken care of two as well, and Red noted in verbal monster-speech that he had shot down four of his own.

“How ‘bout you?” Faraday asked Vasquez.

“Six,” the ancient one replied, looking a bit put out that he hadn’t actually gotten to eat any of them; a couple appeared to have had large chunks taken out of them, but no one appeared chewed on.

Faraday’s grin shifted to something slightly devious, and Billy just knew the Fae was about to start playing. “I got seven,” he said instantly, counteracting his previous truthful statement and goading the ancient just a bit. He even helpfully held up seven fingers to show Vasquez, who snorted at him in wry amusement. “You wanna try to even it up, V?”

“Say when, guero,” the ancient one replied, amusement clear in his tone and in the flash of his very sharp teeth. From next to Billy, his little demon scoffed at the pair of them and then made a show of checking his rifle when both elder monsters shot a quick glance his way at the sound.

“Behave,” Billy chided; Goody only shot him a grin and a wink before turning a newly white-eyed glower to the man Chisolm was coaxing out from beneath the saloon’s porch. The angel turned his gaze that way as well, keeping his physical wings tucked away but letting them flare in his shadow, and he spotted both Faraday and Vasquez turning fierce looks towards the cowardly human as well.

Chisolm made his statement — if Bogue wanted Rose Creek, he was gonna have to come take it his own self or be branded a coward — and sent the former sheriff on his way. Although he did stop the man to add one more, somewhat cryptic addition: “Lincoln, Kansas. Like the president. Sam Chisolm. Say it,” only letting him leave when he repeated the new information back verbatim.

Billy glanced over to his demon to see if he knew what that meant, only to see those hellish eyes narrowed speculatively at the hunter. Seemed that Goody did understand the intent and was somewhat concerned for his hunter friend. The angel made a mental note to ask about that later and moved to drape an arm loosely around Goody’s waist; he was feeling oddly protective for some reason, and the contact soothed him, if not the demon as well.

Then he noticed the black blood dripping from Goody’s wrist and realized what had sparked his protective instincts. “Goody,” he whispered. “You’re bleeding, little demon.”

“Hmm?” Goody blinked at him absently before glancing down at his own wrist. “Oh. I didn’t notice.”

“I ain’t even gonna ask how someone don’t notice when he’s been shot,” Faraday chose that moment to chime in. “But maybe clean it up before the good people come on out.”

“Where is everyone?” Horne abruptly asked, either truly curious as to where the town folk had hidden themselves or annoyed with the monsters speaking amongst themselves.

“I think we killed ‘em all,” the Fae responded immediately, smart-ass grin on his face.

“Probably just wanna make sure the candle is lit ‘fore they blow out the match,” Goody mused, drawing an amused look from Faraday and a snort from Vasquez; Billy simply rolled his eyes at his demon’s poetic phrasing and lightly tugged him towards the hardware store to shove him into a chair and make him tend to his injury.

Right about then, the halflings rode into town, young Emma calling out for everyone to stop hiding and Teddy chiding them to come see what the monsters had done for them. The first one out was a boy of probably seven, who rushed up to one of the bodies and asked, loudly, if he was dead. Billy wondered if the boy had a bit of monster in him; he didn’t feel entirely human, but the woman who’d grabbed him to pull back by her side had not one hint of other to her.

Emma cleared her throat to draw her neighbors’ attention before speaking. “I have gathered these men and monsters to aid us,” she began firmly.

One of the men, one who felt completely human but who also felt oily to the angel, demanded, “Who asked you to go out and speak for us?”

“Seems I was the only one with the balls to do so,” the Fae halfling snipped in response; Billy felt his lips curl into a smirk while he heard Goody actually snicker in amusement. Emma stared down the man until he looked away, then continued, “These men are here to offer us assistance against Bogue. Mister Chisolm?”

Billy grinned again as the hunter stammered for a moment, obviously not expecting to be put on the spot. He fell into introducing himself, noting that his main purview had been Kansas, although he did have hunting contracts in several states, and noted that this had just been the beginning.

“This was… an opening skirmish,” Chisolm stated. “Bogue will be back, though, and we need to be ready. Now, we ain’t got a lot of time, but if we all work together then we can likely save your town.”

One woman, holding a baby in her arms, stepped forward. “That’s all well and good,” she said, handing the child to the older woman next to her, “but we don’t have the time. Bogue said he’d be back in three weeks, and that was eight days ago. There’s no way—”

“Seven days,” Chisolm interrupted.

“Seven—? What, no…”

Billy shot a look at the hunter, who seemed certain in his words. From the seat he’d pushed him into, his little demon watched Chisolm with a solemn expression, and from the corner of his eye, he could see Faraday watching closely as well.

“Three days to Sacramento to deliver the bad news,” the hunter began, “one day to gather up guns and monsters of his own, three days’ ride back. Seven days is what we’ve got.”

Everyone began speaking at once, most arguing that there was no time, that they couldn’t fight, a few claiming that they weren’t running but weren’t fighters.

“If you wanna leave,” Emma cut in, voice hard and making Billy feel oddly proud of the young woman, “leave. But only take what you brought with you.”

“I’m staying,” Teddy said firmly. “This is my home, and I ain’t leaving my orchard.”

“Everyone go get a good night’s rest,” Chisolm said to the stunned townsfolk. “It’ll probably be the last sleep you get in a while.”

With that, the hunter turned and headed towards the saloon; Billy pushed off the wall to follow, noting that Goody rose as well and fell into step next to him. Faraday and Vasquez joined them quickly, the shaman right behind them and Horne taking up the rear. The angel wrapped his arm securely around his demon again, feeling prickly with the proto-wendigo right behind him.

“I need a damned drink,” Faraday muttered under his breath. Billy silently agreed and hoped to heaven that there was something strong enough in this little town to get him hammered.

Chapter Text

“Did you ever run with the Wild Hunt?”

The question came from the shadow-walker; it was directed to the trickster. Red Harvest remained silent, curious as to the answer.

He had heard of the Hunt; it was something his tribe made certain to know about. But he did not know any who had met one of the monsters that had joined in the Hunt.

The trickster gave the shadow-walker a long look before replying. “A time or two, yeah.”

“Then you may know more’n we do about what happened to one a’ my brothers,” the shadow-walker said, a thread of wistfulness in his voice.

“Only knew three Antichrists before you,” the trickster noted, “and I only actually liked one of ‘em. The other two were dicks, although one was tolerable.”

The air-spirit gave an amused snort. “That sounds just like Belial and Mordecai,” he said; the shadow-walker shoved him even as he chuckled.

“I know Belial died on the Hunt,” the shadow-walker said, “and Mordecai came home minus an arm. I just wanna know ‘bout Ezekiel.”

The trickster seemed to shrink in spite of his greater height, shoulders lowering and head bowing slightly. “Last I heard, he was in pretty bad shape,” he said softly. “It didn’t look like he would make it. I’m sorry, Goodnight.”

“He ain’t dead.” The shadow-walker said it firmly, as if it were fact. “We’d know if he was. Daddy wouldn’t keep that from me.”

The eater of the dead made a faint questioning sound. “If a monster-eater got him—” he began, only to be cut off.

“Belial was eaten,” the shadow-walker snarled, eyes flashing white. “Daddy knew pretty much instantly, and Momma cried for days. We would know if Ezekiel was dead. We just don’t know where he is.”

“But would he not go home if he were wounded?” the eater of the dead questioned, head tilting to one side even as he continued to chew on the bones from their evening meal.

The shadow-walker and the air-spirit exchanged a look, one that spoke of their long shared history, and the fact that these two monsters had stayed together for any length of time fascinated the young shaman-in-training. Then the shadow-walker cleared his throat and spoke again.

“He might, if he and Daddy hadn’t had a falling out.”

The trickster snorted, as if he knew where the shadow-walker was going with his explanation. The eater of the dead, however, simply looked confused.

“What did they argue over?”

“Me.”

The trickster laughed aloud, drawing the attention of the other three monsters. The air-spirit looked vaguely amused, while the eater of the dead looked all the more confused, and the shadow-walker looked a bit annoyed.

“Ezra said something about a fight over whether you should be allowed to go off to war if you wanted to. Something about how you were too young according to Lucifer, but he thought you should be allowed if you wanted to.”

“That’s the gist of it,” the shadow-walker agreed, giving a shrug.

The air-spirit shot him an amused look. “In your father’s defense, you did start talking about wanting to kick off an apocalypse halfway through the second war.”

“You see what humans do to each other!” the shadow-walker hissed. “I have a valid point in wantin’ to clean the slate and start over.”

“That sounds kind of fun,” the trickster stated, holding his hands up to placate the air-spirit when he turned a sharp glare towards him. “Just speaking out loud. But that does beg the question of how old you really are.”

Once again, the air-spirit and the shadow-walker exchanged a long look that spoke volumes. “Ah,” the air-spirit finally said, and it was clear to Red Harvest that the monster was a bit hesitant. “Goody’s younger. Let’s leave it at that.”

The shadow-walker, however, glowered at the air-spirit before turning and looking the trickster right in the eye. “I’m six hundred,” he said firmly.

Both the trickster and the eater of the dead blinked; the latter then chuckled and smiled with all his sharp teeth on display while the former cackled gleefully. “You’re a goddamn cradle-robber, Billy Rocks!” he crowed, laughing harder when the air-spirit shot him an annoyed look.

“He’s an adult,” the air-spirit argued; for his part, Red Harvest did not really understand if there was a true problem at hand. The shadow-walker looked to be older than any of the others there, but the monsters were acting as if he were the youngest. Perhaps, he mused, shadow-walkers were able to fool humans into thinking they were much older in years than was true; perhaps they were more closely related to tricksters than his people had realized.

“Whatever you say, Rocks,” the trickster replied, wiping at an eye in his mirth. “It’s getting late, and I think Vas is still hungry.” Here the eater of the dead nodded, his eyes turning towards the desert. “Teddy said something about a herd of deer somewhere to the south; we’re gonna go see about getting this one fed for the night. You coming, baby demon?”

“If you keep calling me that,” the shadow-walker said mildly, “I'm gonna figure out a way to maim you in your sleep.”

“Good thing I don’t sleep.”

“You slept pretty hard in that box canyon,” the air-spirit noted, tone amused and apparently feeling a bit more like interacting now.

As the monsters argued amongst themselves, Red Harvest shook his head and slipped away. They were going off to hunt, and while he was fascinated by what that may entail, it had been a very long day. He would catch up with them all again in the morning; for now, he was going off to rest.

Chapter Text

Faraday never thought he would say it, not if he lived another few thousand years, but watching Vasquez eat was damn near enough to put him completely off food for a while. Not forever, of course, because forever was a damn long time. But he was comfortable with saying that it might be a while before he was having venison again.

Maybe he could get the halfling, Teddy Q, to part with one of those apples of his. He had been listening to some of the townsfolk talk since they arrived about the mysterious properties of those apples. He had heard stories of little Teddy growing the tastiest fruit that could keep a man full for a day off a single apple. That sounded like a mighty fine thing, if it was true. That were the case, then he might take it upon himself to take a few of these apples to stash around town for Vasquez.

After all, the god had made a rather sizable dent in the local deer population tonight… and they were only one day into Rose Creek. There would be a lot more days and nights to keep him fed. If Chisolm’s guess was right, after all, they still had at least six more nights to get through.

“You seem to be thinking very hard, güero.”

He turned back towards Vasquez and offered up a smirk. Say whatever else he wanted about the monster, Vasquez was at least fastidious: not a drop spilled, not an ounce of meat wasted, barely even bones left behind. Granted, one of them was currently being used to clean between his teeth, but that was the way of things.

He had known Fae, mostly in the Unseelie Court, who were a great deal more messy… and that was with eating humans.

“Full now?” he asked… and laughed uproariously when the other monster only did a vague shrugging thing that only involved moving his head back and forth. Even though he knew there was nothing left to see of the meal the Old God had had, he still glanced around as if he could see the carcasses of the six or so mule deer that were no longer among the living. “In that case, can I be the first to say ‘damn’, because… damn.”

Unsurprisingly that got a laugh. Honestly, he had met a lot of monsters over his long years. Admittedly, few were as old as the Fae in general and himself in particular, but the ones that were even close to his age generally were sticks in the mud. For that matter, he had met a lot of monsters who were younger than him who fit that dour description. This particular Old God, however, had proven to be the exception to that rule.

Well, in truth, all the monsters on this little quest of Sam Chisolm’s had proven to be exceptions to that rule, but it was the Old God that was holding his attention, thank you very much. It wasn’t going to be easy keeping from making his interest plain. Then again… What was life without taking some chances?

Of course, before he could say anything, the Old God frowned and asked, “What is this Wild Hunt? That you were talking with the niño about?”

Well, there went any semblance of a mood there might possibly been towards something fun. Still, he managed to rally enough to smirk along with his drawled response of “That’s right: they’ve never had to run down towards Old Mexico way. Never any need as far as I can recall.”

Vasquez shrugged expansively. “We take care of that problem ourselves, my brothers and sisters and I.”

“If your brothers and sisters have teeth anything like yours, I can see how that would be.” The Old God chuckled again, with a grin that showed off too many of said teeth and sent shivers straight down Faraday’s spine.

Man, why did his type have to be hot as hell and just as dangerous? Damn his fucking libido and its very specific fucking tastes.

“A lot of the rest of us monsters don’t have the advantage of those teeth,” Faraday continued, unable to drag his eyes away from them. “We had to come up with another solution to the wendigo problem, so… the Wild Hunt.”

“And you told the niño you rode with it?”

As much as he wanted to grit his teeth, as much as he wanted to demand the topic be over, he forced a shaky smile. “Full of questions tonight, huh? Yeah, I ran with the Wild Hunt for a while. Off and on for a few hundred years, point of fact. Left it in ’58, I think ‘bout a year after the baby demon’s brothers… yeah.”

“You do not think that the third brother is alive.” It was a statement, and in answer, he shrugged. “The niño seemed certain that he was.”

“Baby demon didn’t see the same chunk ripped out of Ezra that I did. I don’t think even Antichrists can survive something like that. I think Goody’s… hopeful, but he’s still a baby, demon or not. You’re allowed to believe all kinds of ridiculous shit at that age.” He pulled off his hat and ran a shaking hand through his hair. “I… Can this conversation be over? I will pay you or blow you, whichever will get this conversation to end the soonest.”

One dark eyebrow shot up, expressively heading towards Vasquez’s hairline. “Really, güero?”

Shit… Had he said that out loud? Well, in for a penny and all that nonsense. “Unless there’s something better on offer, yeah.” He smirked and moved like water into the Old God’s space. “Is there something better on offer, Vasquez? No… Mictlantecuhtli?”

Well, that was nice, watching the other monster’s eyes darken like that. Yeah, that was good. There was a power to true names, after all, especially where monsters like Faraday were concerned, and seduction was a Fae’s best gift and weapon, all in one.

“Still do not actually know your name, güero…”

And that was almost funny, like his thoughts weren’t entirely his own… or at the very least, not private. He’d heard of seers who could do that—pluck thoughts right out of a being’s head—but never another monster who could, not even an Old God. He wished he could say that it lessened the appeal, but not really.

“The Fae don’t give out their real names.”

“Then you are a Fae.” And oh yes, he had said that he was… what was it… a little of this and a little of that when he introduced himself to the Old God, hadn’t he? For that matter, he had been tormenting the baby demon with it for days, and now that they were in Rose Creek, he had no intention of stopping.

“Close enough.”

There was a little something of death in Vasquez’s eyes, enough that it was both terrifying and intoxicating, especially this close: close enough to share each other’s breath but still not quite touch. It made him just itch to touch, to taste the Old God. It was like temptation incarnate was standing in front of him… and Faraday had never been good at resisting any form of temptation.

Vasquez whispered, “Tell me, güero,” the words little more than air against his lips, and Faraday let out a shuddered sigh, squeezing his eyes tightly shut.

“Damn it, Vas. That’s cheating.” At the Old God’s dark, deep chuckle, he squinted his eyes open again to glare. “Fine. You win.”

He leaned in close, hands sliding around the taller monster, and whispered the secret he had been keeping from everyone for at least a millennia: what he was.

Chapter Text

Sam Chisolm was beginning to think this might be a bad idea.

Faraday had come to him ranting about how none of the men in town knew their right from their left, and the ones that did were like to drop dead at the first loud noise. He had very diplomatically not said anything to the Fae regarding the fact that he looked to have been a bit… nibbled on in spots, by something with sharp teeth, only nodded along sympathetically and hoped that this wouldn't become a major issue.

Then came Vasquez, mostly to complain that he was still hungry and that he was going to try helping with rebuilding the church. Apparently, he found hard work relaxing or some such thing. Likely not as relaxing as nibbling on certain Fae, but he said nothing about that, either.

Then came Billy, his secret weapon, to beg a favor that nearly left him scratching his head.

Honestly, Sam was going to re-evaluate his life choices sometime soon.

“You want us to do what?” Faraday asked loudly.

“Make sure Goody doesn’t shoot anyone during rifle training,” Billy repeated.

“I did not sign up for baby demon sitting.”

Sam sighed. “I know demons can be a bit,” he paused, searching for a diplomatic way to phrase the thought, “hot-headed. But I strongly doubt he’d intentionally kill someone if they annoy him.”

Billy heaved a weary sigh; Sam could hear his feathers ruffle even though he didn’t see the wings. “Lucifer put a curse on Goody’s weapons,” he blurted out. “Actually, he put the same curse on both Goody’s and Ezekiel’s guns. Whenever they shoot someone, if it’s a kill shot, the victim goes straight to hell.”

Well… that was a little extreme.

Faraday frowned. “I thought hell was just where demons lived,” he said. “Why would Luke want humans in his house?”

Sam randomly wondered just how many beings Faraday could give a nickname to whether he’d ever met them or not.

“Because his kids are spoiled? I don’t know,” the angel replied with a shrug. “Just… don’t let him kill anyone if at all possible. Please?”

Given that he thought it would be an easy task, Sam agreed; Faraday huffed but ultimately agreed as well.

And then they got to the makeshift range to find their resident, literal hellspawn already in high dudgeon.

“Let’s see if y’all’ve learned anything,” Goody drawled, eyes flashing white. “Fire!”

And… God damn but that was pathetic. Not one shot hit any of the six targets, and one man even fell over from the recoil on his rifle.

Faraday muttered… something in a language that wasn’t the Monster Tongue but also wasn’t in anything approaching English.

“Reload,” Goody ordered. “Y’all are startin’ to piss me off.”

Next to Sam, the Fae leaned over and said, “Statistically speaking, monster hunter, they should have hit something.”

Meanwhile, Goody was still talking to the men on the gun line. “How many times have I gotta tell you to keep that knee up under you? Schoolteacher, take that hat off your head.” He added something in the monster language, which caused Faraday to snort in amusement, and Sam honestly didn’t want to know. “Teddy, I expect better from you, son. The recoil is not to be shunned, it’s to be absorbed.”

“I ain’t shunning a damned thing, sir,” Teddy replied, his tone almost a snap. Faraday stood up a bit straighter, eyes widening and a smile crossing his lips; apparently, he enjoyed how the halfling was back-talking the demon.

Goody, on the other hand, did not look terribly amused. “Are you trying to make me mad?” he asked evenly. “Is that what’s—”

Right about that point, one of the men—Sam thought his name was Phillip or something to that effect—fired off his rifle apparently by accident. If nothing else, it served to distract the Antichrist from biting Teddy’s head off.

“That’s the second time for you,” Goody drawled, and Sam saw him reaching for the revolver on his hip.

“Goodnight,” the Fae nearly snapped. The demon responded to the tone by letting his hand fall away from the weapon automatically, and Sam was grateful to not get a demonstration on how, exactly, those cursed weapons worked.

Instead of shooting, Goody took a step back and said, “Go make me some eggs.”

“Sorry, the damned hammer—” Phillip started to say, only to be interrupted.

“No, I don’t wanna hear it. Have a nice afternoon.” Goody waited for the man to get to his feet, eyes fading to blue again in spite of the fact that the business end of the rifle swung around towards him. “You gonna point that thing at me?”

Phillip didn’t try to argue the point, instead ducking his head and heading back towards the town. Faraday called out for him to leave the rifle, even as his gaze remained locked on the training session.

Goody tried to, once again, impart a little bit of wisdom onto the firing line—telling the men to be gentle with their hands, to let the shot surprise them—before ordering them to fire one more time. Unfortunately, the new advice didn’t do much to help, given that once more not a damned bullet made it into a target.

“I am in awe,” the demon said, eyes shifting back to white again, “that this many men can miss that many targets. Twice. I’m looking at a line of dead men.”

Faraday shook his head. “Seriously, monster hunter, how the hell are we gonna pull this off?”

Goody’s shout actually made both Sam himself and the Fae jump: “You have to hate what you are shooting at! Hate it! Get some gravel in your craw! Come on! God damn sons of bitches!”

“Wow,” Faraday whistled. “He’s definitely pissed if’n he’s calling on Yahweh.” With that, he pushed himself off the fence and called out, “Maybe these men need a demonstration.”

Goody looked over. “Really, Faraday?” he asked. “Don’t you think we need the lead?”

“Come on,” the Fae insisted before turning to the men on the line. “This demon has twenty-three confirmed kills at Antietam. The humans dubbed him the Angel of Death. Do what he does. He’s a legend, for the gods’ sake.” Then Faraday turned to the demon and added something in the monster tongue. Whatever it was, it caused Goody’s lip to curl into a snarl, caused him to snatch the rifle.

The demon then turned towards the targets, aimed with ease, and fired six consecutive shots directly into the neck of one of them. The head fell off with the final shot, and Goody turned around to smirk at Faraday before tossing the rifle at him and stalking back towards town.

Sam found himself grinning a bit; apparently the Fae had just been shot at in effigy, and the demon was enough of a little shit that he knew Faraday knew.

“Told you,” the Fae said at last, directing the words towards the farmers. “Why don’t y’all go home and polish your rifles? Maybe the glint will scare them off. Or draw any Fae in close enough that you can actually manage to shoot ‘em.”

The hunter shook his head, still amused at the antics of both older and younger monster. Hopefully this group would start to mesh sooner rather than later, but for the moment, he could let any antagonism slide.

Besides, he had a plan for something that could turn the tides in their favor. He just had to get the lot of them to agree that liberating the mining camp was in their best interest.

Chapter Text

“No chance in hell,” Faraday declared loudly yet again to anyone who would listen. Vasquez was not too certain he wanted to still be listening, but the other monster was actually a bit hard to ignore. It was not just because he was very, very loud… though that was certainly true. Vasquez was not too certain he wanted to think too hard on the rest of the reason why Faraday was hard to ignore, not right now. “You know what’s in mines?”

Something that apparently made almost Fae hysterical? What exactly that might be, he could not say. He had not had much dealings with the Fae before this particular one. And his dealings with this particular almost Fae were… unconventional at best.

“In this particular mine,” Sam Chisolm sighed, “gold, I suspect.”

And Faraday was rolling his eyes hard at that. It looked painful and completely overdone and very amusing. “Iron. Don’t care what they’re pulling out of the ground. That don’t matter. They’ll be using iron to get it. Iron rails, iron carts, iron supports…”

And he could watch realization dance into the demon’s eyes as he started nodding, leaning forward in his saddle. “He does have a point, Sam. No need in maiming or poisoning our Fae before Bogue’s army even gets here.”

Faraday grinned large. If there were not several feet and a few riders in between the two of them, Vasquez would have laid even money on the Fae hugging the demon right then and there. If that happened, he would also lay even money on the angel stabbing Faraday, which could also be entertaining. And if that were to happen, he would have to decide, eventually, which side he wanted to come in on. He did not find it particular odd that he was leaning towards Faraday’s side. At the very least, it should prove to be entertaining… and the fight would be even more so.

Sam Chisolm looked considering. Clearly they did need the additional manpower of bringing in the miners in order to keep these humans alive—because there was only so much that four monsters, a shaman, a monster hunter, and something that would soon be a wendigo could do—but the demon was correct, in that they did not need to maim a member of their party to acquire these people.

“How much of an issue would the iron actually be to you, Faraday?” the monster hunter finally asked.

The grin slid right off Faraday’s expressive face as he unwound a bandana that had been wrapped around his hand as long as Vasquez had known him and offered the hand to Sam Chisolm to inspect. For that matter, he had even worn it throughout all of last night’s… activities. Vasquez leaned over closer as well, since he was on his own horse on the other side of the hunter, and he could admit to curiosity. There was a welt—red, weeping, and angry-looking—in the shape of parts of a small gun imprinted into the palm, moving up into the fingers.

“It’s a couple days old now,” Faraday was already explaining, clearly intending his words to be for the human alone, since he was speaking both in English and fairly quietly. “It happened right before I joined up with you in Amador City.” He paused now, wrapping the bandana around it again. “I’ve been trying to get myself used to iron. Another Fae who hadn’t been doing that probably would have had his hand burned clean off.”

The demon let out a low whistle from Vasquez’s other side. Apparently he had been listening in and was utterly shameless about letting people know that fact. “How exactly,” he inquired, “does one go about ‘getting used to iron’?”

Faraday shuddered. “Slowly and painfully, baby demon. Very, very painfully.”

The demon made a vague twitch, clearly annoyed, and cast his eyes towards the sky as if in appeal, but for once, he said nothing regarding the nickname that he clearly hated but that the Fae continued to use. This particular revelation might have had something to do with it, or it might have just been that he was growing tired of arguing the issue, or it might have been some combination of the two. Personally speaking, though, Vasquez might have been looking at his almost Fae in a new light.

Wait… ‘His’ almost Fae?

He was not sure that bore thinking about right now.

“Is it going to harm you? Just being around it?” That came from their shaman, in the monster speech. Vasquez was a bit surprised. The young human did not do a lot of talking. Clearly, he preferred to listen and learn, which the Old God could respect.

A smirk built on Faraday’s face. “So far, so good,” he shot right back in English. The words harkened back to a conversation they had had just a few moments ago, concerning surprises and people falling off buildings.

Finally the monster hunter nodded. “How much is too much? Can you come with us to the camp in case we need you, or…?” He trailed off, giving Faraday the chance to decide for himself.

But of course the Fae did not even give himself a second to think it over. “I’ll let you know.” He nudged his horse towards the direction of the camp, clearly intending to tackle this issue head on. The demon, the angel, and the shaman followed quickly enough behind him.

The creature that would be a wendigo watched Faraday’s retreating back silently for a long moment, and Vasquez in turn watched it. Him. Even he was not certain what to think of Jack Horne as. It took a few long seconds, but eventually, Horne smiled faintly at the pair of them and started to ride after the other three, leaving only Vasquez and the monster hunter behind.

“You know,” Sam Chisolm commented after only a moment, “I don’t believe that Fae would know how to keep himself alive if he tried.”

The words sounded like a mild observation. Vasquez did not believe that for a moment. For all that the monster hunter was the only true human on this little crusade and for all that his chosen profession pitted him against their kind every time he drew a weapon, Sam Chisolm appeared to have some stake in keeping the lot of them alive, maybe even beyond this battle against the witch Bogue.

He wanted to ask if the hunter was planning on wrapping Faraday in cotton wool and tying him to a fence post on the safer side of the river. Rather than give into that urge, though, instead he just made a soft sound of agreement. “No, I do not believe he would.”

“Mind keeping an eye on him while we’re down there? Make sure he doesn’t do something stupid?”

He shrugged easily enough. “I can do this.”

After all, the almost Fae was interesting. It would not do to have someone that interesting out of the picture so soon. No, if Vasquez had his way, Faraday would be around for a while yet.

Chapter Text

“My town? You're saying that a group of men and monsters rode into my town, and now I have to go deal with it?”

Bartholomew Bogue was not used to people arguing with him. Every other time in his life when he'd wanted something, he'd just taken it. Easy as it goes, no fights… or at least nothing to really speak of.

People tended to be afraid of what a warlock could do, after all.

“They just came outta nowhere, Mister Bogue,” Harp insisted, and all Bogue wanted to do was just… shoot him. He wasn't even worth wasting a hex on.

“How many?” he asked instead. When Harp just looked at him, he repeated, “How many men and beasts”—because that’s what they were, no witch worth his or her learning would dare stand against him!— “came to take my town?”

Harp stammered an answer, but Bogue was certain he'd heard wrong.

“Seven?” he repeated. At the nod he received, he snapped, “Seven strangers rode into my town and dispatched with nearly thirty of the best security money can buy?!”

“They fought like more than that,” the sheriff said nervously. “I'm not even sure what one of them was, just that he had a lot of teeth.”

“Bullshit,” McCann huffed from where he leaned on the wall.

He had come back to Bogue with a bullet in his shoulder, and not even the hedge witch doctor he kept on retainer could remove the damned thing. Made mention that he’d never seen a wound quite like it, and that… had unnerved the warlock just a little.

McCann continued, “It was just the element of surprise.”

Surprise, hm? Bogue turned to the table next to him, opened the drawer and pulled out the banker’s special he kept tucked away. He’d put some minor hexes on it, one that kept anyone but him from being able to fire it at all and one that dispatched his target quickly.

Harp was talking to McCann again; neither man had even noticed him moving. “You weren’t there long enough to watch it happen,” the little man insisted. “The one with the teeth, he was taking chunks out of folk. The one man was faster with those knives than anyone I’ve ever seen, and another was shooting and reloading on the street so fast that I think he must’ve been a halfling of some sort. I’m pretty sure that the giant was a skin-walker, the way he was attacking folk and tearing into them. And I saw that demon they brought with ‘em shoot down two men, and they damned well vanished. That wasn’t surprise.”

“Hey,” Bogue hissed, drawing Harp’s attention. “Surprise.”

He shot the sheriff down, watched impassively as the man crumbled to the floor and breathed his last. Bogue turned his eyes up to McCann, lifting his gun once more and holding it steady on the hedge witch. Times like this, he wondered why he’d even hired the useless bastard; McCann might be handy with a hex or a curse or two, but his healing abilities weren’t even doing a thing about the hunk of lead still in his shoulder, and Bogue would never say aloud that he was concerned over the origin of said lead.

“Do you think Rockefeller had to deal with this shit?” he asked, almost conversationally. “Vanderbilt? With their paid politicians and under the table dealings. When I want something, I take it. What will history say about Rose Creek?” Bogue looked from McCann, who had backed up to the wall and had called up a curse but wisely hadn’t thrown it, to Denali, the skin-walker staring back impassively but with the bear lurking in his shadow. “Nothing. It won’t have existed long enough. But history is going to remember me.”

The warlock turned, tucked his gun away safely once more. “Mister Denali... Recruit an army to go back to Rose Creek with us. And make sure to include some monsters on the roster. Witches. Demon or two. Whatever we need, get it.”

And with that, he dismissed the two subordinates and turned his thoughts to the message Harp had brought with him.

Chisolm? That name sounded a bit familiar….

Chapter Text

If the others thought they were being subtle with their hovering, they were sadly mistaken.

No, if they thought they were being subtle, Faraday was going to sit them down and explain a few things to them. Yes, it had been a long, long time since he had deliberately and willingly spent time around any other Fae, but he was still used to a level of subtlety that was at least better than this.

And if it was just Sam Chisolm, that would be one thing. The monster hunter had seemed a mite bit surprised about the revelation of how much iron was in mines and how it might affect Faraday. And given that said monster hunter seemed to have some rather… unique ideas about what to do with the monsters he’d hired on, Faraday was almost willing to live with the cautious looks he was being shot every so often from the human.

Weirdly, he could almost live with concern from a couple of the others. It was bizarre coming from the baby demon—and double that when he had caught the angel of death watching him a little closer than normal. Hells, the baby demon had been proving downright solicitous in the last little bit, and while it was weird, more so than he thought he had words enough for, it was tolerable. And at least the angel wasn’t fussing like he did over the baby demon.

As for his Old God and the shaman… Well… He was going to justify it to himself as Old Gods tended to pick up people to claim as their own; he saw no reason why that couldn’t be extended to picking up other monsters as well. And the shaman? Well, that was just a matter of him being on his monster walk. There wasn’t a lot Faraday knew about the practice, but he imagined you lost points if one of your monsters died of something stupid during it. Easily avoidable iron poisoning? Probably counted as something stupid.

And the future wendigo? Okay, that was a harder pill to swallow. Even he had heard stories of the legend Jack Horne, after all, and while he wouldn’t wish turning into a wendigo onto any being, a human who seemed genuinely nice and a bit concerned was just a damn shame to lose to the creature. Any other human, he would be pleased to help them and call them his friend, but a human who was slowly turning wendigo? It was a damn shame. Maybe the creature was far into his future, maybe it would happen in this fight against Bogue’s forces; either way, he would hate to lose his friend to it, and he was going to have to think of a way to make that not happen: either keep the man from turning… or make sure that monsters wouldn’t be on the dinner menu when it did. So given what lurked in Horne’s future, he could almost stomach the man hovering. Almost. Not really, but almost.

But he drew the line at the halflings casting him concerned looks. They hadn’t even been there for the discussion of iron, so someone must have relayed it to them. How and when, he had no idea. Part of him was willing to ponder the monster hunter passing the information along sometime between their return from the mine and now. After all, Vasquez had admitted with a great deal of amusement that the monster hunter had asked him to keep an eye on Faraday. In retrospect, that was admittedly rather hilarious.

He was nearly as old—if not of an equivalent age—to the Old God, and he had been keeping himself alive for eons now. Maybe he wasn’t always the best at keep himself uninjured, obviously, but he was a survivor. He had always been a survivor. Everything worked out, he would be a survivor for a long, long time to come.

Or maybe he wasn’t giving the halflings enough credit. Miss Emma was the granddaughter of a Fae changeling after all. Who knew what her grandmother had seen fit to tell her about the Fae? She had known to bring shiny things to tempt along a Fae when recruiting monsters for this quest of hers, after all.

No, this was where he drew the line, when he glanced over from turning Jack loose in the corral and saw Miss Emma leaning on the outside of the fence, Teddy at her side. And no, normally it would be of no real interest what the halflings did, but… “Tell me they don’t have you two checking up on me now.”

Miss Emma snorted indelicately in amusement. “Definitely not, Mister Faraday.” And for half a second, he almost wanted to hug the Changeling girl. He have done, if she hadn’t continued, “Teddy here saw you stumbling getting off your horse.”

Once again, the other halfling looked completely uncomfortable, clearly surprised and maybe a little bit displeased at having been called out like this. There was this delightfully grumpy expression on the boy’s face, like he was indeed annoyed but like he didn’t want to say anything about or in front of Miss Emma.

“I didn’t even think to ask if you needed someone to look your horse over, Mister Faraday,” the boy commented, clearly trying to defuse the situation a bit. “I’m not much on them, but I know people here in town who could…”

“Who could get eaten alive,” he interrupted, trying his damnedest to fix them with a considerably more annoyed expression than Teddy could apparently manage. Given the uncomfortable shuffle that the elemental made, he must have been successful. “Jack’s a Fae horse. He don’t need anyone with human blood looking him over. That’s just inviting trouble. Best not to even touch him. He might not always be able to restrain himself.”

Miss Emma nodded once firmly and pushed away from the corral fence decisively. “I’ll make sure folks in town know that, Mister Faraday. The last thing we want at this point is a horse eating someone before the fight.”

If he hadn’t been certain that was a quick ticket to a shallow grave—or at least an attempt to put him in one—he might have made a point about how Miss Emma had said there might be other halflings and elementals in the town, that they didn’t really talk about it amongst themselves. She certainly hadn’t mentioned a full-blooded water elemental and his halfling son living in town. She hadn’t mentioned that the other school teacher—he wasn’t certain, but he thought her name might be Clara—was something of a hedge witch healer, if still a bit of a novice at it.

Somehow Rose Creek was a town full of halflings, lower monsters, and all things in between monsters and humans… and Miss Emma had failed to mention any of it. He wondered, watching her walk away, if she really hadn’t known or if she had deliberately withheld that information.

Either way, he liked that Changeling. She was ballsy. He could appreciate that in anyone, human or monster or anything in between.

It was almost a shame that the Old God was so much more interesting.

“You sure you’re all right, Mister Faraday?” Teddy persisted, interrupting his thoughts, and that was… All right, okay, the kid was nice, even for a halfling. Maybe especially for a halfling, given some of the halflings he had known over the long years. “I'm sorry, but I saw you stumble when you all got back and then I couldn't help but overhear Mister Robicheaux and Mister Chisolm talking after you all got back from the mining camp. I don't know much ‘bout full-blood monsters, but my momma said halflings look out for one another. I just figure… Maybe that goes for monsters out in the world too.”

Faraday blinked at the elemental, not really sure how to respond to that. Powers be damned, but he’d known other, much older monsters who didn’t grasp the concept of keeping watch over one another out here in the world… And yet this halfling got it. It wasn’t really safe for them, not these days; humans were getting smarter all the time about how to harm one of their kind, and they were quick to share the knowledge. And there were just so many of them. Watching each other’s backs was basic survival, and yet…

And yet, he’d gotten so used to having no one to cover him but himself that he forgot all about it… except where it came to halflings.

“Well,” he said, trying not to grin a bit as Teddy shifted somewhat nervously, “your momma must be a smart woman.”

And the halfling practically lit up at the praise; it was so clear that he thought highly of his elemental parent. “She really is,” Teddy replied brightly, although his smile slipped a bit when he returned his focus to Faraday. “You gonna be okay? I know you all were out at the mine.”

Maybe another little lesson here was necessary, though perhaps it could be a kinder lesson than he had provided with the whiskey only a few nights ago. “Fae are old creatures, Teddy, and I’m older than most,” he began. He even made a conscious effort to walk steadily as he came over to lean on the opposite side of the fence from the boy. It might look casual, because he was Fae enough that he knew all about appearances, but there was still some effort to it. “Given a little time, some good food, and a bit of rest, I’ll be fine enough for the fight against Bogue.”

“But your guns are steel, right? And steel has iron in it?”

With a grin, he pulled Ethel from her side holster. “Bone handle. I never have to touch the steel. My other girl has a wooden grip. A… friend took care of the triggers for me. Solves that problem.”

“What about reloading?” The boy had a Fae’s natural curiosity. Maybe that was common in earth elemental where he was from or if it was just something that came naturally to him.

“Let me show you an amazing trick, Teddy.” With the tip of a finger, he tapped the cylinder to open it… before turning the gun upside down, dumping the bullets on the ground, and then closing it again. The boy started to say something, so he went ahead and revealed the trick, popping the cylinder open again… once again full of bullets. “I never have to reload.”

“But… from what Mister Robicheaux was saying, though, it sounded like iron—”

Oh, he can just imagine what the baby demon had to say about him specifically and the Fae in general where iron was concerned. Goodnight and the monster hunter might have fooled little Teddy here into thinking he had accidentally overheard some private conversation, but Faraday had no doubt—no doubt at all—that it had been completely intentional. He wouldn’t put anything past a demon and especially not an Antichrist; he had known too many Antichrists for that.

“Iron can hurt a Fae,” he returned. He thought back to the look in Sam Chisolm’s eyes when he had pulled the bandanna off his hand, to how the baby demon had whistled long and low at the sight of the burn, to how Vasquez had stayed no more than a step or two away from him the entire time they had been in the mining camp. “No, iron can definitely hurt a Fae a lot. Enough of it can kill us.” He glanced over his shoulder in the direction that Miss Emma Cullen had headed off in, and out of the corner of his eye, he could see Teddy following his gaze. “Any of us, from Changelings all the way up to the Fae gods.”

He could watch the halfling elemental connect the dots in his mind. And just as he had hoped, Teddy pushed away from the fence and started in the same direction that Miss Emma had headed only a few minutes ago, with barely an “I’m sorry” and a “If you’ll pardon me, Mister Faraday” following after him.

“Running off the halflings now too, güero?” came from the empty air behind him, and there wasn’t any reason to even be surprised. He knew only one person—human or monster—who called him that ridiculous nickname.

“You ever planning on telling me what that means?” he fired right back, watching lazily over his shoulder as the now familiar shape of a certain Old God slid into existence behind him. Vasquez called it ‘slipping between flesh and shadow’, and watching it happen in reverse, it seemed like an apt description.

“Hmm… Probably not so much, güero.”

He snorted in amusement. A scant moment or two later, the Old God leaned against the fence next to him. For now, he didn’t say anything.

After a long comfortable silence, he finally offered, “You’re gonna help me get back at the baby demon and the monster hunter, right?”

A snicker started out of him, Vasquez turned dark and amused eyes on him. “For what?”

“For siccing the halflings on me, of course!” It was hard to keep scowling when the Old God was howling in laughter, but he was gamely giving it a try. “I’m serious, Vas! And whatever we do to them for it, it has to be good…”

And he gamely gave a try at playing annoyed when Vasquez crowded him up against the fence. Lips sealing over his made that a mite more difficult, though.

Chapter Text

The whole lot of them had set out to walk the town shortly after dawn, and to be frank, Jack was a little surprised that all of them showed up. He had been raised with the certainty that monsters didn’t sleep much and that, when they did, it was not for more than short bursts.

Given that he had opted to sleep out in the field on the outskirts of town, in his tent with only his ghosts for company—and they were very noisy company since this whole thing had started, arguing that fate was bringing him to this place and that there was good in all men, but to try and keep his ass alive—Jack could only presume that the four monsters in the group were taking their rest in those little spurts. However, he’d been woken up early this morning by Faraday popping up out of nowhere with a string of catfish and a smart-ass opinion on everything that had happened thus far, before popping out again to apparently go harass the widow Cullen or young Teddy or any one of the other half-monsters that were living in this little town.

Then when he’d made his way into town to meet up with the others, he’d noted Vasquez rambling in from the opposite end of town, picking something out of his teeth in what Jack was certain was an indication that the ancient had been hunting a short while ago; about fifteen minutes after that was when the angel came wandering outside practically hauling the half-asleep demon along with him, said demon bitching about not having had his coffee yet.

What in the world had he fallen into here? His ghosts were obviously being assholes.

Sam, somehow, either wasn’t paying attention to how crazy the monsters were or had already accepted their strangeness as a new normal. Rather than react outright to the antics of the two coming out of the boarding house, their leader simply gave them all a nod.

“I know we discussed a little bit yesterday afternoon,” he said, “but as good as the maps of town are, I kind of figure that we’ll get a better idea of how to proceed if we actually see how things are situated.”

“Establish some lines of sight,” Faraday noted, giving a nod as he glanced around. “See what might be the best places to set up the explosives and other traps… Yeah. Good thinking, monster hunter.”

Wise old warrior, his ghosts whispered. Fought in many many wars.

Jack bit back a small grin; they could be annoying, but the one thing the restless dead respected was a warrior. Apparently they were gonna take a shine to the Fae amongst them.

The Fae who was giving him a curious look, one not quite tinged with the fear the monsters usually cast his way. And given when he knew of the creature he might still become, Jack didn’t blame them for that fear. If anything, he was somewhat hopeful that if the worse did happen that these monsters would know how to keep him from harming any of their allies.

Rather than speak, Jack turned his attention towards the main road into and out of the town, falling into step with Sam as they began to walk. He noted that the young Comanche shaman was walking to his left, and that Faraday fell in to his right and Sam’s left. On their leader’s other side was the young demon, with the Ancient and then the angel respectively. Jack didn’t doubt that they wouldn’t remain in this configuration for long, given that they all brought something to the fight, but he was a bit bemused that both the ancient monsters were keeping close to those who could be construed as the weakest—Sam and himself as the only true humans and Goodnight as arguably the youngest—and the most dangerous—Billy as something of an unknown element and himself again given what his ghosts whispered as to his fate.

He heard the demon make some remark about stationing the men who weren’t deft with the rifles in the doorways, and bit back a chuckle. That one oddly reminded him of his youngest son, the one who always had an opinion and had once thought he could debate his bedtime. He’d been mistaken, of course, and he’d never made it to ten years old, but Jack could almost believe he would have grown to be much like Goodnight seemed to be: too young and too old in equal measure, and trying like hell to prove he could do what he set out to accomplish.

As they walked past the alleyway he’d used as his own entry point into town, one of his louder ghosts began to push for his attention. Jack though that this one may have been a war chieftain when it had been alive, although by all rights it could have been any warrior. It could even have been a woman during life; he couldn’t rightly make a distinction between all of them and didn’t try. He let his attention focus on the ghost for a moment, frowning at its insisting.

Good spot, it murmured. Surprise ambush bury the dead.

“No,” he said, scowling a bit at the air next to him.

Ambush, it practically snapped. Perfect spot, unexpected, keep the living away and let in only the soon-dead.

“We are right in the middle of town,” Jack hissed under his breath.

“Did you say something?” Sam asked. He looked over to see that all six of his companions were watching him with various degrees of confusion and dread on their faces.

Although it didn’t often happen, Jack was experiencing the urge to somehow throttle one of his ghosts. As if understanding that he physically couldn't, it projected smugness his way and just made that desire grow.

Instead of making an excuse, he cleared his throat. “If we can funnel ‘em in this way, we can cut off any escape and turn this area into a graveyard.”

Lacking honor, the ghost insisted. Leave to be forgotten on the ground, let them return to the darkness.

“I ain’t tellin’ them that,” Jack hissed.

“Who’s your friend?”

That was Faraday, whose gaze was focused on the air just to the left of Jack, right about where he figured the ghost currently speaking to him was situated. The restless warrior shared a momentary sense of surprise and delight before speaking again.

Running Wolf. You are Trickster, the ghost remarked with something like joy in its tone. Ancient and powerful. Good ally.

Faraday chuckled and shrugged. “Thank you. How many of y’all are there, anyway?”

“Faraday, the hell are you talking to?” Goodnight asked, eyes flaring white as they shifted from Jack to the Fae and back, skimming over where the ghost was ‘standing’ without seeing anything.

“Don’t be rude, baby demon, I’m chatting with this Crow here,” came the reply; every single one of the group that hadn’t been watching the Fae or Jack now abruptly turned to stare at them. He didn’t much like the attention and focused his eyes on Faraday, who was still watching his ghost.

Jack already sort of knew the answer to the Fae’s question, so he wasn’t surprised when Running Wolf replied, Two hundred ninety-five.

“But I thought—”

Five were annoying, the ghost seemed to sigh. Angry even after death. Always trying to kill the hunter, drawing him into danger. He is marked, no good death coming. We spoke among ourselves, we agreed, we destroyed the five who caused this.

“Holy shit.”

Vasquez cut a sharp look to Faraday, frowning darkly. “What?”

Faraday shook his head, shifting his gaze from the ghost to Jack himself. There was something akin to admiration and pity there now, and he wasn’t too certain he liked it. The Fae spoke to the other Ancient in that Monster Speak he tended towards, and that Jack was slowly starting to pick up words from—something that the ghosts saw as worrisome. He didn’t catch every word, but what he did understand was just Faraday explaining things to the other monsters.

Jack cleared his throat and started walking again, doing his best to ignore the curious gazes on his back. Just because he was starting to like these folk he’d fallen in with, didn’t mean he wanted their pity.

If he died here, then that was just how it was. All he needed was for them to keep him from taking them out with him.

Chapter Text

Sam glanced around the remains of the church, checking visibly for structural integrity and deciding that it would likely do. Even with having been left as not much more than a burnt-out husk, the steeple remained the tallest structure in the town; it would be an ideal spot to place their sharpshooter. Not just because of the vantage point, but also because he wasn’t blind and had noticed every single one of his damned monsters—from the Fae and Old One who barely knew Goodnight right to the angel who apparently was always close by—nigh on mother henning the demon.

Now, he had known pretty much from their first meeting that Goodnight Robicheaux was a demon. It was only just here in Rose Creek that he’d found out that he was one of Lucifer’s get, and while he still wasn’t sure just how old the Antichrist was, he was getting the impression that young might be just scratching the surface. Hell, Faraday called him ‘baby demon’ like it was his goddamn name, and Sam didn’t think it was entirely just to annoy the piss out of his friend.

So, the hunter concluded, if he got the apparently youngest monster of the lot into a spot where he was away from the majority of gunfire, maybe his other monsters would actually be able to concentrate on winning the upcoming battle.

“Well,” the Fae himself remarked, checking over the burnt sections with a weather eye, “for those folk in Rose Creek who worship Yahweh, they won’t have to go too far to pray for forgiveness.”

Vasquez chuckled, all of his very sharp teeth on display. Not for the first time, Sam wondered if either the Old One didn’t rightly care how many people knew he wasn’t human or if he himself possessed a little bit of seer in his bloodline; he’d always had an awareness of the monsters roaming the world, but hadn’t thought much of it.

“There’s no forgiveness for creatures like us, guero,” the Old One remarked; perched on one of the windowsills, Billy snorted a laugh and leaned back to glance up towards the high ceiling.

In response to the other old monster, Faraday stomped on the floor, checking for damages. “Don’t call me guero,” he complained. “What’s that mean, anyway? Handsome?” he said with a sharp grin of his own. “Debonair?”

“Eh, something like that,” Vasquez offered, not clarifying a damned thing.

Sam rolled his eyes and turned, frowning a moment as he spotted their resident hellspawn scowling at the walls. “What’s up, Goody?” he asked.

“Would this still be considered holy ground?”

Even as Sam pondered on that possibility, he was aware that all three of his other monsters had turned their attention directly on the Antichrist. “I don’t rightly know,” the hunter offered.

“It was near about burned to the ground,” Faraday remarked, even though he didn’t sound too certain. “I’d think any holiness had been charred away, don’t you?”

The question was directed to Billy, who only shrugged helplessly and turned a sharp look at the front of the church. The cross that had once been on the wall was burned away, no more than ash mingled in with the rest of it, so that was no real indicator.

Vasquez only shrugged; Sam was certain it was because the means in which he’d been worshiped was vastly different than the Christian beliefs. Hell, the Old One probably thought that if there was no blood or body parts on the ground then someone was doing it all wrong.

Sighing, he turned his attention back to Goody… only to frown more when he noted that demon had slipped out of his coat and rolled up his sleeves. “Goody, what are you doing?”

“Oh,” Goodnight said absently, “just testing a theory.”

Then, before anyone could even think of asking what he meant by that, the youngest of the monsters was pressing the back of his forearm directly against the wall.

“Damn it, baby demon!”

And that was Faraday, suddenly right next to Goody and yanking him back from the wall. Despite the fact that he couldn’t have been in contact with the wood for more than two seconds, the skin on his left arm was smoking. The Fae cursed under his breath, taking care not to touch the burn even while looking for something to wrap around the wound.

Billy was on his feet already, moving to tug off his own bandanna and offer it to the older monster. And that was surprising; Sam would have thought the angel’d be the first to catch hold of the demon, given that both Billy and himself were practically next to Goody. Yet the Fae’d gotten to him first.

“I didn’t know you could move that fast,” the hunter said, mouth twitching as the Fae looked up at him and blinked in surprise.

“Hell, monster hunter, I didn’t know I could move that fast!” He then turned to scowl at the Antichrist, who was just frowning at his burned flesh as if he was unaware how that had happened. “I should never have played poker against your daddy. Clearly you have been sent to vex me.”

“Hey, now,” Goodnight protested. “I am a delight.”

“A delightful vexation, maybe,” Billy noted. When the demon turned a betrayed look his way, the angel only shrugged. “You can have a stunning lack of self-preservation at times, sweetheart.”

“You ain’t got the same sense as a blind goose to come in out of a hailstorm,” Faraday sniped, still obviously annoyed.

Vasquez, somewhere behind Sam, was no help. From the way the Old One was snickering, he was taking this as entertainment now that he knew the Antichrist was relatively unharmed.

“Well, we had to know,” Goodnight argued, and he even sounded like a petulant youngster right now; how had Sam missed that prior to this week? “And now we do.”

“So how are we supposed to get your ass up in the steeple, genius?” the Fae snapped as he finished wrapping the wound and took a step back, likely to keep himself from strangling the demon. “You sure as hell can’t climb up; ain’t stairs enough left that you can make it without having to touch the walls, and I don’t think Billy can fly up that narrow an opening.”

As if to confirm this, the angel moved just enough to peer up through the opening and frowned. “Not nearly enough room to even stretch my wings,” he noted.

“Wonder if there’s any shade up there…?”

And that would be their demon, once again trying to kill them all before Bogue even got here, sidestepping to where the shadow of the open door was cast on the floor and vanishing.

“Goody!”

“What?”

That came drifting down from the steeple, causing all four of them to look up; not even a second later, Goody was peering back down at them from just beneath where the bell had once been.

“There’s some shadows up here after all,” he said after a moment wherein Sam debated on the possibility of hogtying the demon to one of the fence posts just to keep him out of trouble.

“You didn’t know that before you ‘walked!” Billy shouted back up at him. He added something else, but it wasn’t in any language that Sam knew; from the expression on Vasquez’s face, it wasn’t Monster Speech either.

Behind him, he could hear Faraday muttering. “I’m gonna find the guy I sold that fiddle to,” he was saying under his breath, “and then I’m gonna steal it back. I’m gonna give it back to Luke and see if he can’t do something about that… that brat of his. Lock him in a coal shed for an hour. Send his momma to fetch him, because Babs sure won’t be happy ‘bout any of this. And if that don’t work, I’ll try gettin’ his granddaddy on his back. That ought’a work.”

“Fine!”

Apparently the argument was over, given that Goody and Billy had switched back over to English and the demon was slipping out of the shadows next to the door again. The angel stepped over and took hold of his arm to make sure he wasn’t planning to disappear again any time soon, his expression clearly stating that Goody wasn’t even half as amusing or charming as he thought he was at the moment.

The Antichrist rolled his eyes, once again putting Sam in mind of an annoyed young adult or a very willful child, before turning to speak to the lot of them again. “There’s a good bit of fire damage up there, too. We’re gonna need to reinforce the floors a bit, probably fix the sides up since it’s pretty exposed in spots all the way down.”

“Well, sand bags ain’t gonna be holy,” Faraday remarked, giving the younger monster a stern look, “so we can probably throw a lot of them down for cover.”

“Think you are done trying to terrify us all into the grave today, niño?” Vasquez asked seriously. When Goody gave a half-shrug/half-nod in response, the Old One shot him a grin and wrapped an arm around his neck, dragging the Antichrist towards the door. “In that case, I think we are going to go back to the saloon before you decide to go try walking through the graveyard to see if it’s holy ground as well.”

That was the best idea Sam had heard all day, and he heaved a sigh as the other two monsters moved to flank him as they watched the other pair leave; Goody was still arguing that he wasn't that naive even though Vasquez obviously wasn’t listening.

“Is he always like this, Billy?” Faraday asked, the frown heavy in his voice.

“Only when he’s trying to plan out all potential eventualities,” the angel offered. “You should see him when he actually freezes time to closely examine a possible outcome. I think half my feathers have gone silver thanks to him. And I am counting all of my wings.”

Sam shook his head. “Come on, gentlemen,” he said. “We still got a lot of work to do, and I think everyone’s gonna have demon sitting duty at some point during this.”

Chapter Text

He had to be out of his mind. That was the only explanation. Either his age was finally showing—and that was impossible, he’d been around so long that he’d long since invented ways to entertain himself when boredom set in—or the baby demon had successfully driven him ‘round the bend.

Before they’d gotten to Rose Creek, once Horne had caught back up with them, the four of them monsters in this little band of troublemakers had agreed to not go near the near-wendigo by themselves for their own safety. It hadn’t exactly been a silent agreement, just one of the various things they’d discussed while taking their Ancient out in search of the local deer population. Granted, Faraday’s main goal had already been to keep Goodnight out of harm’s way, if only for the logical reason that Luke would somehow find a way to blame him should his youngest get eaten by a newborn wendigo.

But now, here he was, just past dawn and making his way to the small camp outside of town where Horne had been bedding down at night—and wasn’t that observant of the man, that he made himself scarce at night in an effort to appease the born monsters in their little band? This was, indeed, a good man—with a line full of catfish intent on feeding him for the second time in as many days.

The only explanation he could give himself was, maybe I can make him think of monsters as bringing food rather than being food?

Faraday moved up to where Horne was sleeping, moving on cat feet to keep from startling the man awake, and took a moment to glance around for those ghosts of his. He hadn’t been looking for any such thing yesterday when they’d been walking the town—and he’d honestly forgotten for a few minutes thanks to the near heart failure that damned baby demon had given him by pulling that stunt at the church—but when he had looked over at Horne and seen the Indian hovering in his wake and obviously talking to the man directly… well, Faraday had been curious.

He’d worked with those who could speak with the dead before, mostly the banshees from back in Ireland and those from his own division of the Wild Hunt, but he had never until this week seen a ghost so very obviously connected to a living soul. Sure, he’d seen ghosts who were attached to specific places, but this…?

And from his brief conversation with the ghost calling itself Running Wolf, it sounded for all the world like those Crow ghosts had for whatever reason taken a liking to the man who’d killed them and were actively trying to protect him now.

So, if Horne was good enough for the ghosts, he might be worth spending a few minutes out of the day with.

Faraday shook himself out of his thoughts and poked at the slumbering bear of a man with the toe of his boot. “Hey,” he hissed, before poking a bit harder. “Hey!”

Horne startled awake, and as he did so the Fae noticed a few ghosts become a something akin to visible to his eye. One of them was his new friend from yesterday, and the other two looked younger but like warriors in their own right; one of them may have been female in life, but he couldn’t be too certain. All of them looked at him, Horne and his ghosts, and Faraday noted the ghosts relaxing before fading from sight; Horne just blinked at him as if trying to figure out where the hell he’d popped up from.

“Morning!” Faraday said cheerfully. “I got catfish.”

“What the hell, Faraday?” the man asked, still looking a bit confused but a bit more awake. “Ain’t got the sense to leave a man sleeping. I could have shot you.”

“Nah. Besides,” he added with a grin, “I’m pretty sure your ghost buddies here would’a let you know if there was any danger coming at you.”

Horne’s expression shifted for a moment, something a bit dark and lonely, then it was gone. “They do at that,” was all he said before grinning. “So, you brought breakfast?”

Faraday let him change the subject back to the catfish, handing over the line and settling onto the ground to watch as he set about prepping them for eating. It was something of a fascination for him, watching humans go about preparing their meals. He was old enough to remember times when people didn’t always actually cook their food, and even he himself sometimes skipped that part of the whole eating process.

Granted, on those sort of days he tended towards plant-based meals, although he didn’t doubt the others in their band would eat animal-based meals without heating it any; again, Vasquez had made short work of the mule deer population in the past few days, and Faraday was fairly certain he’d seen Goody and Billy both wandering back into town last evening with bloodied fingers and a bit of a red tinge to their mouths. Demons eating their meals raw was expected—he was friendly with the royal couple, so to speak—but what little was known about angels made him double-take for a moment. Although maybe angels of death had different dietary needs, who was he to judge?

The Fae relaxed more as Horne set the catfish on a spit to roast over the fire, grinning as the man dropped next to him on the ground. Horne had been talking to what seemed like thin air, at one point arguing with one of his ghosts about just how to cook his breakfast, and it was all Faraday could do not to laugh.

He liked this man, powers help him. It would be terrible if Horne were to be killed during this upcoming battle; he would hate to have to kill someone who he genuinely liked.

Then and there, even as he chatted amiably with the man and endured sitting through a prayer that he knew Yahweh was probably too busy to do more than listen to absently and cracking jokes about having had a mother (”I didn’t fall out of a horse’s ass,” he’d said with a grin, keeping the details as always to himself), Faraday decided that he was going to talk to the other three and see what they could possibly do to keep Jack Horne from being killed in this conflict.

He’d honestly like to keep this man as a friend. He had few enough of those as it was.

Chapter Text

It was hard to miss young Teddy’s presence as they set to work around town.

He had been summarily banished from the church grounds—really, like he had actually wanted to burn himself?—and had instead set about organizing wherever he could. It allowed for him to find every spot of shade and every shadow cast on the ground in Rose Creek, the best spots to ‘walk to if anyone needed some up-close assistance during the coming battle, and to show these folks that he wasn’t a danger to them.

Because he may be young, as Faraday seemed entirely too fond of pointing out, but he wasn’t blind to the wary looks that people kept casting his way.

People watching was part of why he’d noted Teddy about town. The halfling was always where the largest cluster of people were, right in the thick of things so far as preparation went. He moved constantly though, from one work area to the next, and the groups he’d stopped by seemed to work straight through the day apparently without needing to take a break.

It was odd, therefore it made him very curious.

Thankfully, his luck had always run pretty good; two days after he’d noted the goings-on, young Teddy showed up at the livery while Goodnight was helping out.

He simply kept working for a moment, content to watch the halfling move about the livery and assist, but after about an hour he noted that the other young man seemed to have a basket at his side. There was a cloth thrown over it to keep sawdust from getting into it, and now his curiosity was back full-force.

Goodnight glanced around for a moment, noted that no one was really paying attention to either of them, and sidestepped into one shadow to emerge from the one right beside Teddy.

“Hi,” he said cheerfully enough, grinning when the halfling startled and turned wide eyes his way. “What are you working on over here?”

Teddy blinked at him, took a moment to weight his response—a wise decision, when the curious party was a demon, his ilk were worse than cats for curiosity—and offered a small smile of his own. “Morning, Mister Robicheaux. Just helping to get some of these boards in place. I heard Mister Horne saying something about a makeshift cannon.”

“I’ll bet he did,” Goodnight replied, frowning a bit to himself. For all that he was trying not to get close to the future wendigo, he found himself actually enjoying Horne’s company. He had already decided to himself that, if he could manage it, he’d keep the man alive through this fight to hold off the change for as long as possible.

Shaking off the maudlin thought, he instead gave Teddy an innocent look. “Anyway, I’m curious about something. It seems like folks work for longer after you’ve been around. Why is that, d’you think?”

The halfling gave him an odd look, then glanced around to see if anyone was paying them any attention. “I’ll show you why, if you answer a question for me, Mister Robicheaux.”

“I suppose that’s a fair trade,” the demon said with a shrug. “Ask me anything.”

Teddy’s brow furrowed. “How old are you, really?” he asked.

“Six hundred,” Goodnight replied instantly.

That didn’t alleviate the halfling’s confusion any. “I ask because, to me, that’s pretty old… but Mister Faraday calls you—”

“Stop right there,” the demon said, holding up one hand and trying to look stern; he failed because he was grinning a bit in amusement. Powers help him, but he was starting to become fond of that nickname… only so long as it was Faraday using it. Vasquez had his own version that was okay, too, and Billy’d always called him ‘little demon.’

“So far as most monsters are concerned,” Goodnight told the halfling, “I’m about middle of the road so far as age—not so young as I need to be protected, but not so old as to be considered an elder. But where our older friends Faraday and Vasquez are concerned, well… they’re a mite bit older. I would venture that Faraday’s at least three times Billy’s age, and he’s about twice my own. When they look at me, they see someone really young.”

“Okay,” Teddy replied slowly, obviously taking in the information. “So, where would you fall in human terms, then?”

Goodnight grinned and leaned in to speak quieter. “You can keep a secret, can’t you, Teddy?” He waited for the halfling’s nod before his grin broadened. “In human terms, I honestly ain’t much younger than Miss Emma or you yourself.”

That made the young man blink, and Goodnight barely kept from snickering. It was always kind of funny, watching people react to his age when he let his appearance settle onto that of a human of forty-something.

After a moment, Teddy shook his head and reached into the basket. He pulled out an apple, one that looked fresh and ripe in spite of the summer heat, and held it out to the demon.

Goodnight’s brow furrowed a bit as he took the fruit, turning it this way and that to try and see what was so special about it. After a moment, he shrugged and took a bite.

And, oh, now he understood why the good people of Rose Creek worked longer when Teddy’d been through. That single bite was nearly enough to make him feel that he’d just eaten most of a full meal; a second would have him set for the rest of the day, most likely.

He finished chewing, swallowed, and asked seriously, “How many of these has Vasquez eaten today?”

The halfling—half dryad, if he wasn’t mistaken as to the source of this apple—smirked. “Four.”

“Sounds about right,” the demon remarked, taking another bite and making the decision to eat the whole damned thing… and see about getting one for his Billy later, too. “Well, I hope you have plenty more where that one came from. I’ve seen that Old One eat, and I ain’t sure the deer population around here is ever gonna recover.”

Teddy shook his head, still grinning a bit, and Goodnight smiled back before returning to the window he’d been working on boarding up. There was still much to do, and less time to do it in remaining.

Chapter Text

For all that the monsters within the group tended to be wary of him, Jack noted that they had, for whatever reason that made sense only to them, started trying to include him in their activities.

The most obvious one, the one who had quickly made a habit of bringing around catfish for breakfast, was Faraday. He still wasn’t certain what the man was—and he didn’t entirely trust that Fae was all-inclusive enough—but the gesture was greatly appreciated. Then, the demon started seeking him out for aid with various tasks that he likely could have gotten the angel or the ancient or even Chisolm to help him with.

Jack would be certain that the other monsters would wring the youngster’s neck if they caught him approaching someone cursed the way he was, if not for the fact that the second time the demon approached him for aid he spotted the angel keeping an eye on both of them long enough to reassure himself that, no, Jack didn’t seem a threat and literally turn his back to work on another task. If that angel himself hadn’t quietly slipped up beside him to get some water later that same day with no more than a nod before resuming his work, the tracker would have thought he’d imagined the previous lack of concern.

And then there was the ancient monster, the one who had initially shown no qualms about flashing his many sharp teeth and growling low in his throat whenever he was close to any of the other monsters in their company. By the third day in Rose Creek he was still flashing those teeth, true, but he was offering them in what passed for friendly where Vasquez was concerned—and he usually accompanied them with a teasing comment directed at whatever work Jack was doing at the time.

His ghosts… Well, they were absolutely delighted at how the monsters were starting to behave, even as they continued to worry over whether or not he would be safe through this battle to come. Running Wolf was especially loud in his concerns, alternately singing the praises of the non-humans of the group and fretting at how callous they were around one cursed in the way Jack was. It was enough to make him begin arguing with them aloud when they got started, and it definitely got noticed by the normal humans in town; the ones who weren’t entirely human just gave him odd looks and a bit of a wide berth.

Jack knew for goddamn sure that the schoolmaster, Josiah, had given him a long look the first time he got into a shouting match with four of his ghosts before shaking his head in amusement—and that alone seemed to prove the man as another monster—and guiding his halfling child off to do another task in the livery. It was later that same day when the tracker caught the ancient laying into the boy for something or another, and while he didn’t understand near enough Spanish to catch some of the swearing that Vasquez had proceeded to do once the boy left his company, he was beginning to know enough of the monster tongue to pick up on some… creative turns of phrase.

But this evening was completely unprecedented.

It had been five full days now in the town, five days of living and working with the monsters and townsfolk alike, and he was still not too certain what to think when Faraday and Billy both approached him—separately, at that—to ask him to join them for supper. Had it only been one of them, he might have been able to decline and go back to his quiet camp for one living and nearly three-hundred ghostly companions; but after the second approached and he could see the first sort of… hovering in the background watching, as well as the remaining two seeming to watch the proceedings with a degree of curiosity and apparently intention of approaching next if the invitation was declined, Jack decided to accept for at least one evening.

The damned ghosts practically preened, as if they were the reason he was joining the monsters for a meal.

The thing of it was… The thing of it was that it was nice to join them. Not a single one of the monsters was hesitant about imbibing amounts of alcohol that would probably kill a mortal, even if Faraday kept trying to snatch glasses away from Goodnight with the demon responding by stealing his whiskey; Billy kept huffing at the antics of the pair of them and eventually hooked a foot around the demon’s chair to haul him closer, and unless Jack was mistaken, he’d lain one of many wings over the younger monster’s back. At least, it seemed that way when he glanced down at the floor and spotted extra appendages within the angel’s shadow.

And while Vasquez had yet to quit shoveling food into his mouth, he was quite obviously content with the company; the ancient even flashed several grins towards Jack himself, as if pleased to have his company as well at that of the other non-humans.

To be honest, he wasn’t sure why he was laughing so hard even before the punchline came along; the joke honestly wasn’t that funny, so it was either the fact that he was really fucking drunk or that Faraday had some weird kind of Fae magic going on.

“Where did the eggs come from?” the Fae was saying, bringing the joke to an end, even while Jack and the other monsters were cackling. “From a chicken’s ass, you dummy!”

And yes, apparently really fucking drunk was the answer, because Jack’s pretty sure that monsters as old as Vasquez are immune from most forms of magic, yet he was cackling away madly at the ‘joke’ as well. Hell, Goodnight was all but falling over Billy laughing, and the angel was even cracking a smile while he’d finished eating. The night had the feel of something beginning and ending, of something coming far too quickly.

He wondered if it was due to Red’s continued absence, given that the young shaman had ridden out two days ago to scout for Bogue’s army and had yet to return. In a way, he was relieved that the Comanche was still away, because it meant they still had a bit more time to prepare; on the other hand, he was starting to worry because there was the slim chance that the young man had been caught and that they would have no way of knowing how much time they had remaining.

“I wanna introduce y’all to my best girl,” Faraday was saying, and Jack tuned back in enough to watch the Fae draw that pearl-handled revolver of his and hold it out for inspection. “This… this is Ethel, and I love her.”

“Hello, Ethel. Charmed,” the demon responded promptly, and the angel chuckled softly even while leaning into him. Vasquez was starting to snicker again, but Jack glanced around briefly to see that some of the locals were starting to look a bit nervous; the young halfling, Teddy, simply looked annoyed at the interruption to the meal.

Faraday grinned and continued speaking: “She's a straight shooter, she's a no bullshitter, and she is the love of my life.”

Vasquez was all but cackling now, and Jack mused that there was something developing between the two eldest members of their little band. The demon and angel had lapsed into whatever language that divine monsters spoke, leaning into one another and speaking softly to one another for the moment, and he himself turned back to where Faraday was still waving his weapon around.

“Put the gun away, son,” he said evenly, uncomfortable for some reason with the Fae brandishing that thing in a full restaurant.

Faraday gave him a stern look that would be more effective if he wasn’t swaying on his feet. “Her name is Ethel, and you will show her some goddamn respect,” came the drunken response, even as he complied; with the gun holstered, Jack made a sound of agreement, because it was only right to have some respect for a weapon.

Then the Fae had to go and ruin the moment: he pulled the revolver from his gunslinger’s rig and fairly chirped, “It’s Maria you can disrespect!”

For whatever reason, that set the demon and the ancient back into cackling peals of laughter; even the angel was rolling his eyes with an amused, fond expression. Including Jack’s ghosts, who seemed to think the situation is hilarious, apparently he was going to have to be the voice of reason… which was a sad state of affairs, given how much younger he was than literally everyone else seated at this table.

“Son, honestly,” Jack sighed, “if you’re gonna talk ‘bout guns, talk ‘bout guns. If you’re gonna talk ‘bout women, then talk ‘bout women. Don’t talk about both at once, because that ain’t right.”

“Wait, wait,” Vasquez suddenly interrupted, setting down his fork and glancing over at the Fae. “My Maria?”

Faraday blinked once, then twice. “You got a Maria?”

There was about ten seconds of silence as Goodnight and Billy pulled themselves together to watch what was going on; even Jack’s ghosts fell silent in anticipation. Then the ancient started cackling again.

“I have three Marias!”

The tracker heaved a weary sigh and rolled his eyes towards the ceiling as all the monsters—even the angel this time—near about fell over themselves laughing. He wasn’t sure what the hell they were drinking, but it must’ve been more potent than what he himself was having.

Jack was just giving thought to getting up and moving to sit with Chisolm, who was apparently still worrying over their absent shaman, when one of the women who had remained in town walked over to the table and dropped his coat onto the chair next to him. He looked up at her—it was the widow with the young child, Leni or Letty or something like that—and recalled that she had remarked earlier in the week that his coat was coming to pieces in spots. Jack had made a mental note to mend it if he survived the battle to come, and then he put it out of his mind.

Apparently, however, she hadn’t. “Now the stitching will outlast you, I imagine,” she said, seemingly pleased with even so small a contribution.

Jack managed to offer a smile to her, ignoring the way Vasquez had once again set aside his eating and was now watching intently like this was some play being put on for his entertainment. “Well, thank you kindly,” he said. “I didn’t ask you to do that.”

“I didn’t ask you to ask,” the widow replied, remaining for a moment more before giving a decisive nod of her head and turning on her boot heels to head back over to join the other women she’d been sitting with.

“You shut up,” he said immediately, pointing at the ancient without even looking to see what sort of look the monster was giving him. Judging from the way that Faraday and Goodnight were muffling laughter, it was… something else. “It ain’t right.”

“Sure it is! Sure it is, my friend,” Vasquez replied around a mouthful of food, apparently finished with just watching and still as hungry as ever he was.

“I didn’t ask her to do that,” Jack insisted. Up until this week, when his ghosts convinced him to join in on this venture, he hadn’t had to rely on anyone else… nor had he wanted to. It was still strange to have someone do something for him without any ulterior motives.

Although the ancient certainly had an opinion on this subject: “Well, the lady just did some sticking and poking for you. Maybe you should return the favor.”

“Vas, don’t talk like that in front of the baby demon!” Faraday immediately scolded through a bout of laughter.

“Go fuck yourself, Faraday,” came the reply from the demon, which was greeted by more laughter from all sides. Jack could only shake his head at the antics, wondering to himself on the possibility of survival in all of this. He had his doubts, and he knew that his ghosts were growing more concerned with each day that passed.

But what would be, would be. He was here to help save this town, and if it cost him his life… that was a price he was willing to pay. He just hoped that if his humanity was lost instead that his new-found friends would put him down before he could harm anyone.

Chapter Text

He knew that what he was doing was a necessary task, but Red already missed the companionship of his band of monsters.

It should be worrying that he was already thinking of them as his monsters, that he was already set on continuing to walk with them on the path of Chisolm's choosing… but it did not trouble him. The only worry he had was that they were still in Rose Creek, where the tracker who was human-but-not remained as well, and he could not be there to learn from any of them.

Red kept his eyes set on the horizon, knowing that he was watching for Bogue, for a not-shaman that held no respect for the land and a skin-walker that accompanied the spell weaver, and whatever band of men and monsters would accompany them. As soon as he knows how many there are, as soon as he has an idea of what monsters are mixed in, Red is going to rush back to Rose Creek and his companions, his trickster and eater of the dead and shadow-walker and air spirit, going to give warning and take his place at their side.

For two full days he watched the horizon and waited for some sign of the enemy, not fully trusting that he would use a straightforward approach; if he was a spell weaver, might he just hide them from sight and slip in, not showing his forces until they were already amongst them? Had he already missed them coming, and he would go back to the town only to find it in ruins and his monsters slain? Would he need to go back to his tribe, go back and request aid in a vendetta against the spell weaver named Bogue and those who rode with him?

He was not too young to not remember that happening to another shaman who had left on her monster walk, not too young to remember Dancing Eagle returning with her hair shaved completely away and her face painted the red and black of vengeance, not too young to remember her songs of rage and loss and the men and women who took up arms and rode off with her. He was not too young to remember that the warriors returned with word of triumph yet Eagle did not return with them.

Her path is longer still, the elders had explained to the young shamans-to-be. She will walk longer in the world and find new companions, yes, but she will always feel the loss of her first monsters.

Red had been too young to fully understand those words ten years ago, but he felt like he did now. If Bogue or his men harmed even one of his monsters, he would be calling down a vendetta upon the spell weaver. He might even find where Eagle was these days and ask for her aid, for her and her new monsters to help.

On the third day, his wait ended. By midday Red could see the dust from many running horses, and he waited long enough to verify that these were the men he was watching for. It would be the remainder of this day before they made it to Rose Creek, it would be dawn before they could make their attack.

He himself still had time to get back quickly, to beat the approaching army back to his monsters. His people were on good terms with many monsters, had often been granted gifts of monstrous horses to breed with their own mortal horses. Rushing Waters himself was a mix of mortal and trickster horse, was able to cover distances in half the time of others that had been bred at the same time. If he occasionally chose to steal some of Red’s meat, it was a quirk he gladly ignored in return for the horse’s speed.

And he took advantage of it now. Red swung himself up onto the stallion’s back and murmured, “Run quickly, friend, and I will give you a whole rabbit tonight,” then held on tight. Waters whinnied and tossed his head before taking off at great speed. They would return before the sun even began to dip too low in the sky, and he could see with his own eyes that his monsters were safe.

Then, come the dawn… they would fight, and they would win. This he knew for truth, and he would be honored to stand with such companions.

Chapter Text

The whole thing with the Christian church in the town had initially put the thought into his head. The way the niño’s skin had smelled when the not-quite Fae had yanked the demon away from the wood still lingered in his nose, and not even eating a dozen of Teddy’s apples could erase the scent of burning flesh.

The look in Faraday’s eyes spoke volumes, and the angel had not looked much happier with the situation. And even though he had settled into momentary amusement when the niño and the angel had started arguing in their own strange language that sounded like it consisted of only vowel sounds, thoughts and visions of the youngest of their troupe burning down to the bone during this fight were firmly installed in his head.

It was a strong possibility. While on his feet with boots on, Goodnight was safe enough in the building. If he somehow fell or was shot from the steeple, he could lose that protection. He was not a cat-demon of some sort, and would likely not land on his feet.

Still, he held his tongue, because he was not the leader of this group. That was Sam Chisolm, and he did not seem to know what to do with the niño either.

So he was not entirely surprised when dusk came and the four of them settled themselves out on the porch in front of the saloon, keeping watch as had become their habit even on the last night of peace in this town. Vasquez watched as Faraday’s frown deepened, and he waited expectantly for the other Old One to speak.

And speak Faraday did: “I ain’t so sure Bogue is going to be honest in this fight.”

“Of course he won’t,” Billy offered with a scoff. “He calls himself a warlock; that should be all the information we need to know he’s dishonest and will cheat.”

“Ain’t like we can really freeze time too much come tomorrow,” Goodnight offered, letting his head fall back against the wall. “Witches can break it easy as breathing, and even if Billy were to do it—”

“There is no guarantee that Bogue cannot break his time stop,” he himself remarked. “And if he can, we do not know how quickly it will unravel. Thirty seconds. Five minutes. It is a risk, my friends.”

“We need someone to go see what he’s got planned,” Faraday said decisively. Vasquez expected his companion to turn to him, to ask if he would slip between flesh and shadow and ride out to scout ahead; he would have done so gladly if it gave them warning of what was to come. Instead, the near-Fae turned his gaze onto the niño and continued, “You could manage it pretty easy, be back in plenty of time to warn us of anything, baby demon.”

The Old God felt an abrupt sense of relief fall over him. He did not feel it was his place to suggest that the niño go elsewhere to possibly avoid injury come morning, because he had not grown that close to the younger monster. Faraday, on the other hand, had seemingly adopted every single halfling in this town—Emma Cullen, Teddy Q, the halfling Anthony that had spoken poorly of his papá and put Vasquez into a sour mood, even Josiah himself as the only water elemental that had managed to make it this far across the country and had decided that this river was as fine a place to settle as any—and then decided that he needed to see to their young demon friend as well.

Their young demon friend who was giving Faraday a suspicious look. “Vasquez is better suited for that, don’t you think?” he asked slowly. “Given that he has that invisibility trick a’ his and all.”

“Perhaps,” the angel remarked, his face serene as the younger monster turned to look at him. “But if you spot something, you can send Adelaide ahead to be a distraction while you ‘walk back here and warn us.”

“I think y’all are trying to get me out of the fight.”

Vasquez silently wished that he could find whatever being had made demons suspicious creatures—or at least whatever being had made Goodnight so suspicious a creature, and bite them for it. This would be easier if he did not seem to be seeing the truth so quickly.

“It does seem like it would be faster, niño,” he found himself offering. “Slipping to the spaces in between is effective, sí, but it does not make for swift travel.”

That was a bold lie; traveling in that manner in the past had cut days off of a journey, but he was not going to tell that to the niño. After all, they were trying to convince him to leave of his own free will.

Goodnight continued to watch them all with suspicion for a long moment before his shoulders slumped a bit. “You ain’t gonna be happy till I agree, are you?” he asked, although his tone of voice indicated that he already knew the answer even if he did not like it.

“It’s important,” Faraday replied, and it sounded like he already knew that the demon was going to agree to leave.

Even if it meant that Goodnight would be safely away from the things that could cause him great harm, Vasquez remained uneasy. He felt in his bones that the niño was going to remain in danger unless they somehow convinced him to go back to his home, and he knew without asking that it would be impossible to convince him to leave.

“You’re full of shit, Faraday,” the niño groused, refusing to look at the three of them. Billy looked as if he wanted to apologize for his concerns, to offer to go along, but continued to keep silent. It probably pained him to let his amorcito out of his sight, but even the angel understood the need to protect one so young.

Goodnight pushed himself to his feet and let out a shrill whistle. As if she had been waiting for the signal, the niño’s mare came galloping down the street and halted in front of him with a soft snort. He saw the demon smile fondly as he patted the demonic beast’s nose, avoiding a nip from teeth that looked to be a little sharper than Vasquez thought they should be. He absently wondered what manner of horse she was before turning his attention to the niño.

“Y’all best not get into trouble until I get back,” Goodnight said, finally turning to look at the three of them. His expression shifted to something almost like worry when he looked at Billy, and the angel was swift to step forward. Vasquez could hear his feathers shifting, saw the shadows on the ground unfurl, and looked away before the two met.

He did enjoy the idea of love, yes. He wondered to himself if he may have found it in Faraday after so many centuries either with only his brothers and sisters for company or traveling all alone. But even so, he did not need to intrude upon the farewells that were being exchanged. He could see clearly enough from the shadows that Billy was reluctant to let Goodnight leave; the shade of his many wings were wrapped firmly around the amorphous shadow of the demon, but soon enough they slipped apart.

Vasquez turned back in time to watch the niño swing himself onto his saddle and give them all something of a fond look. “I’ll try not to waste too much time,” he said seriously, even though chances were good that nothing was out there waiting to surprise them.

The Old God watched silently as the youngest of them rode out of town, past the church where the people of Rose Creek were praying to the monster that was apparently closely related to the one leaving on a false mission. It felt anticlimactic, and Vasquez huffed before turning back to the other two.

Billy had waited only long enough for the niño to start out of town, as he was standing at the bar pouring himself a drink. Faraday sighed and pushed through the saloon doors as well, and Vasquez followed. The angel did not speak for a moment, only pushing two glasses their way and pouring drinks for them as well before knocking back his own.

“I suppose I’m glad he’s safely away,” the angel said after a long moment. “Especially since he took Adelaide.”

“You’re happy because he took his horse,” Faraday repeated, giving Billy a look that said he had doubts on his sanity.

The response was a shrug. “Of course. She’s good protection.”

“What manner of horse is she, cabrón?” the Old God asked, sincerely wanting his curiosity abated.

“Her official breed name is Mare of Diomedes.”

Faraday’s mouth dropped open, eyes wide in shock. Vasquez narrowed his own eyes in confusion as to his almost Fae’s reaction. When the other Old One spoke, he only somewhat understood his surprise:

“She’s a Nightmare?! An actual Nightmare? What the fuck is wrong with Luke that he keeps giving his kids Nightmares!”

Billy’s lips curled into an amused smirk. “I’ve told you before: his kids are spoiled. Especially Goody and Ezekiel.”

Vasquez shook his head and downed his whiskey. He was going to have to make his acquaintance with this father of Goodnight’s, if only to find out what sort of monster had the fortitude to sire so many young ones and then spoil them relentlessly.

When Faraday squawked a few minutes later upon finding that the angel himself was only eleven hundred twenty years old, he laughed out loud.

…and hoped that the powers that be would carry them all through the fight tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Ascha Oresa was not a child, nor was he stupid.

It was as clear as the sun that was slowly rising in the sky that every last one of the monsters back in Rose Creek had been trying to get him safely away, and although he resented it a little he also understood their concerns. He was the youngest of the group, and chances were fairly strong that if anything happened to him then his Daddy would personally hunt down and murder every being responsible… no matter how good of a friend certain Fae were with his Momma.

And yes, it may have taken a little while but Goody had remembered the Fae his favorite brother had brought home for a visit sometime in the mid-to-late 1830s. He had been acting a bit of a brat that day, jealous that his Ezekiel had brought someone along that he hadn’t met, and steadfastly refused to join the family for dinner. He had gone to visit Auntie ‘Sephone and Uncle Hades—not really relatives, given they were Greek nether monsters, but still were quite fond of him and every single one of his siblings—and then yelled at Ez when he came to try talking him into joining them.

It was only twenty or so years later that they lost contact with Ez, and he had regretted his actions that one time ever since.

But still, he held fast to the hope that his brother was still roaming the world with all his heart. And if he ever wanted to find Ez, then he was going to have to stay alive to do so.

Which was why he wasn’t too angry that his fellow monsters had sent him on a fool’s errand to keep him out of Rose Creek. That understanding was the only reason he hadn’t turned right back around and rode into town to take his position up in the steeple despite his beloved’s and their new friends’ best efforts.

However, it didn’t keep him from staying near the few trees casting shadows on the ground and watching as Bogue’s army appeared over the hills, and it didn’t keep him from frowning darkly as he watched a few of them hang back near a wagon.

Goody waited until the first of the explosions was set off—he wasn’t sure if it was Old Jack or his Billy setting them off, but the results were near simultaneous and delightfully distracting for Bogue’s hired guns—before urging Addie further into the tree line and sliding off her back into the shadows.

He emerged beneath the tarp covering the contents of the wagon, remaining still and silent for a moment as he listened for any sign he’d been spotted. When none of the men or witches moved to grab him, Goody turned his head to see what they’d brought along with them.

The young demon felt the blood drain from his face; hell, he felt the years he tended to pull around him slide away as well. The last time he’d seen one of these was in the War of Northern Aggression as his comrades in arms had called it, and what he tended to call the Reason an Apocalypse is Necessary Right Now.

A Gatling gun was a very strong cause for concern. Especially since he was one hundred percent certain that the bullets it would fire were of the lead variety, and he had grown ridiculously fond of the Fae who kept calling him ‘baby demon.’

Reacting as quickly and quietly as he could, Goody grabbed one of the cartridges on the wagon and flung it into the shadows. He didn’t give a shit where it might come out, so long as it was well away from the gun itself. A second one followed immediately after, and the third one… well. He was certain he couldn’t get rid of all the cartridges without it being suspect, and he was a curious monster. If every third bullet was missing, would the Gat misfire?

He made it through knocking several bullets free of that cartridge and was grabbing for a fourth to do the same thing when he heard someone curse close to where he was and call out for one of the witches. The Antichrist swore his own self and grabbed for a fifth cartridge before diving into the shadows just before the tarp was yanked away.

Goody slid back into the tree line where Addie was dancing about nervously, the loyal mare troubled by his absence with all the chaos currently going on in town. He murmured a reassurance to her even as he tossed the last cartridge in his hand to the ground, pressing a kiss to her nose before stepping back to give her a firm look.

“Adelaide, my dear,” he said seriously, “we have to warn everyone.” When the mare shook her head and snorted, he managed a small grin. “And you have missed a few too many meals.”

The Nightmare stilled, anticipation in her every faint muscle twitch, and the demon felt a dark smirk slide across his face.

“Go on, darling,” he ordered. “There’s plenty of killers here to appease your hunger.”

That was all the mare needed. With a vicious shriek, she wheeled around and raced back to Rose Creek. Goody watched her for a moment before turning on his heel and sliding back into the shadows to ‘walk to where he needed to be.

He slipped out of the shadows into the alley behind the livery, only to duck immediately out of the way as a bullet hit the wall right beside his head. Goody snarled and whirled to find the culprit, eyes blazing white and letting slip a bit of the control he used to maintain a human appearance. He was well aware of what he looked like without the disguise, something similar to Billy but a dark mirror of that, with no true form that a human mind could comprehend. Goody could feel every one of his limbs straining to grab and rend whom-or-whatever had taken a shot at him, and his gaze locked onto a pair of demons standing just at the edge of the alley.

One of the two dropped his gun, hands flying into the air as his eyes shifted to all-black. “I am so sorry!” he yelped. “Please don’t tell Lucifer we shot at you, I don’t wanna die!” The other demon was just staring wide-eyed, seemingly in shock that he’d just fired on one of Lucifer’s Antichrists.

Goody hissed through his sharpened teeth, “You really want to get on my good side? For me to not tell Daddy you just tried to take my head off?” When both of them nodded eagerly, he grinned viciously. “Then take those guns and start shooting them at the fools you rode into town with, and maybe I can keep Daddy and Momma—” and he grinned even more wickedly at how pale the pair of them went at the thought of Babylon finding out that someone had shot at one of her precious children “—from finding out about your… indiscretions.”

He slipped out back in the shadows without another word, taking care as he stepped out again next to where Sam was crouched down behind some water barrels. The hunter turned a startled look towards him, and Goody realized that maybe the others hadn’t exactly told their human leader the whys of his leaving.

That didn’t matter now, though; the warning did.

“They got a powers-be-damned Gatling gun,” the demon hissed out, watching as his old friend’s face went grey from shock. “Get everyone inside as quickly as you can, I’m fairly sure they’re planning to open fire with it sooner rather than later. I’m gonna go warn the others now.”

Then he melted backwards into the shadows again, his entire focus on getting to his family—to Billy whom he loved above all other creatures walking the world, to Faraday who had somehow become another older brother, to Vasquez who had only ever treated him with respect and gentle teasing—and making sure that they were warned.

He wanted to find Ez and tell him that Daddy wasn’t mad anymore, that he was welcome to return home anytime he wanted, that much was true. But he didn’t want to lose any of his newfound family either.

Chapter Text

Bullets were flying everywhere.

He had been counting himself lucky that he had managed to miss every single one of them so far. Part of it was being that much faster than everybody else, but a goodly amount of it could be attributed to luck… just plain Fae-tinted luck. He had blown his two explosives stashes, maybe with a little too much glee to be appropriate, but honestly, it had been so much fun!

But then he had turned the corner to the church, and while in the midst of ordering some of their humans into the places they were supposed to be, he heard another gunshot. This one was much, much closer than he would have expected possible.

A split second later, it was chased with… pain. White-hot, agonizing pain.

He hit his knees in the dirt, fingers already creeping to his side to grasp at the source: a bullet hole.

A bullet hole that had come from behind, chasing along his side, only to bury itself in one of his ribs. He could tell that much already. It’s a solid line of pain that sliding into blackness.

He had been shot before. He was familiar enough with how iron-tainted bullets felt going through his body.

Maybe he had been lucky before today. Before today, every bullet that had ever hit him had gone all the way through or had just grazed him. Since the first guns he had encountered at least two centuries ago, he had managed to never have a single bullet bury itself in his flesh and stay there.

Until today.

All of that took a split second to go through his mind before he heard a familiar deep voice. “Güero, man!”

And that was Vasquez. Vasquez was in the church. Their people were in the church. He needed to be in the church. Not on his knees in the dirt of the street. In the church. He could do it.

With that, he was on his feet, passing the Old God on the steps, as he was coming out of the church while Faraday was going in. There was an impressive string of Spanish, only some of which he recognized and all of which he knew was not fit for polite company, coming out of the other old monster. Any other time, he might have felt a bit flattered, especially hearing the distinctive roar of Vasquez’s pistols as he put shot after shot into the damn hedge witch…

Followed by a loud roar of a different sort. This one sounded like a hundred—a thousand—beasts all declaring their displeasure with the world at once. It wasn’t anything he was familiar with, not one he had heard before, but something deep in his gut, probably sitting right next to that damned bullet, informed him that Vasquez was not happy about something. No, Vasquez was angry about something, and people were probably going to die horribly because of that.

“You okay, güero?” reached his ears pretty quickly afterwards as he was trying to plug the hole in his body with his bandanna. It was proving way too small for the task.

“So far, so good,” he gasped in response.

Once he had the bandanna arranged as much as he can get it, he tried for a deep breath. It was a little depressing how difficult that was at the moment. He could feel the bullet slide and scrape against the bone of his rib with the movement, and it was all he could do not to either scream or throw up at the sensation.

As it was, he just gritted his teeth, kept a hand pressed into his side to hold the bullet in place, not letting it slip and slide further into him, and called over to the angel on the far side of the church, “I’m going!”

Immediately, Billy was already moving to cover his exit from the church, already following him back out the door, already firing that rifle of his with some deadly precise aim. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time to watch.

Outside the church, he grabbed up a shortened shotgun from a dead man’s body and kept firing at any Blackstone who crossed his path, man or monster. He ignored the burn of the iron blended into the steel of the barrel. He ignored the slow, sickening drag of the bullet still in his gut and how each movement—even breathing—made it worse.

He ignored it all in exchange for the blinding simplicity of battle. Despite the small scale, this was a war, and war was what he was best at.

Besides, it wasn't as though he was likely to survive at this rate anyway. Too much iron, all around him and deep inside him. As long as it was there, he wasn't going to heal. There was only so much blood in the body, even a somewhat Fae one. Especially in a somewhat Fae one.

“Keep shooting, güerito!”

Because, yes, even if he wasn’t going to survive this, at least he could go out with an Old God at his side, with an angel of death watching his back. It was almost like having a proper band of monsters together, almost like his days back in the Wild Hunt, almost like the Old Country. Honestly, the only thing missing from those days would be having an Antichrist in tow. He was not hoping to see that happen, either. He remembered all too well the last time he went into a battle with Antichrists… and how one of them had definitely died, one had been permanently maimed, and one was missing but probably dead. He didn’t wish that on the baby demon, not in the least.

From somewhere off near the livery came the scream of an enraged horse, then that oddly vicious bay mare of Goody’s came bounding over the fence they’d set to try and trap Bogue’s men in town. Any other horse—aside from Jack—would have the good sense to avoid a jump like that; baby demon’s mare glided over it like it was no obstacle at all.

Then she was knocking one of the enemy riders off the back of his own horse… and chomped down on his arm with teeth that were far too sharp for any mortal horse to be using.

Guess that Billy wasn’t lying when he said Goodnight rode a Nightmare; she was proving to be fairly voracious as she tore the man’s arm completely free and devouring it with haste before turning to attack another rider.

What was troubling was the fact that her owner was nowhere in sight.

They had sent the baby demon off on the weak excuse of needing someone to scout who could get back to town quickly if needs be, hoping that it would keep him well away from the battle and the church itself.

Instead, it looked like trouble may have found him after all. The best laid plans and all that bullshit apparently applied in this situation.

Fuck, but he hurt. If he couldn’t get that bullet out soon, this might just be the one time someone managed to kill him permanently.

And then somehow—somehow—baby demon was sliding out of the shadows of one of the nearby buildings, a wide-eyed and shaky expression on his paler than normal, younger than normal face. “They got a damn Gatling gun! We need to get inside now!”

If he had even an ounce of blood to spare, it would probably all be rushing away from his face. So much for keeping the baby demon safely away from the fight. So much for not going into battle with an Antichrist along for the ride.

He let the baby demon lead them all into the church, watching as the angel of death seemed to grow a hundred wings from out of nowhere and wrap every last one of them around the demon. Good, because Goodnight had already proven to all the monsters present that he could be hurt just by touching the church.

Bullets flew all around them, but for the most part, the sandbags seemed to be holding the worst of the damage at bay. There was Fae trickery and the magic of the Old Gods and even some of Teddy’s elemental powers all woven into these bags of sand. They should hold. They should hold up against anything short of a flood… and their water elemental Josiah should be able to keep even at bay.

Bullets tore through the wood above the sandbags, though, and Vasquez cried out, dropping one of his guns as he clutched at his arm. Startled, Faraday tried to scramble over to him, but a continued wave of bullets drove him right back down to his little patch of safety. Instead, he called out, “You okay, a chroí?” The snarl he got in return seemed to answer that particular question well enough, so pretty much, no. “The flask! Use it!”

And there was that very distinctive sound like frying meat that came with the Slane Well water that lived in the flask he had always carried with him. Only he’d given it to Vasquez last night. It had seemed like a wise idea at the time: Vasquez was stationed at the church, where everyone would be moving around and congregating, while Faraday himself was moving around the town blowing things up and shooting any asshole that looked at his people wrong. It had made sense.

And it wasn’t like he could use it now. Oh, it might well close the wound, but for once, that would be a bad thing. The very last thing he needed was the wound closing with the bullet still in it. That was just asking for a painful death.

Well, fuck that. If he was dying today, he was taking as many of those bastards with him as he could. He would make the bastard uppity witch Bart Bogue regret ever setting eyes on Rose Creek.

Right after he got the town's children someplace safe.

Chapter Text

He had a bullet in his shoulder, and now there was one in his leg as well.

Honestly, Teddy was counting himself lucky that it was Mister Horne with him and not Mister Faraday. He had a sneaking suspicion that he wouldn't be getting much in the way of sympathy and assistance from the Fae.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he kept hearing Mister Faraday saying, ‘You just lost your first gunfight.’

Then again, ‘capricious’ and ‘fickle’ were the words his dryad mother had most often applied to the Fae in general. Rude and irrelevant the monster might have been, but Mister Faraday did seem to have a soft spot a mile wide for children and halflings. The number of times he had caught the Fae doing magic card tricks for the children in town…

But that was mostly him trying to distract himself from how much his leg and shoulder hurt, how difficult it was to walk, how Mister Horne was having to drag him along.

Mister Horne was good folks, he reflected to himself, as the big man pushed him in the smashed open door of the restaurant, throwing the man's own rifle at him. “Wrap that leg. Stop the bleeding.” He then tossed Teddy his pistol as well, with the final command of “Find some ammo” and the comment of “You did good—“ reverberating through the empty room.

He had all of half a second to look around for something to pack his shoulder with or wrap around his leg or even some miraculously appearing ammunition—and finding none of any of them—before a gasp of pain had all his attention whipping back around to Mister Horne… and the arrow protruding from his left leg. He was torn, stuck between ducking back for cover himself and watching what was happening, to try to find an opening to somehow help.

As Mister Horne whirled back around to the street, Teddy caught a glimpse beyond him. It was no real shock that it was Bogue’s man—his skin-walker—Denali out there. What was a shock was that he was in a human form, the one he usually wore when in town. Of course, it was probably hard to hold a bow and arrow, a quiver of more on his back and another held between his teeth, any other way.

Mister Horne drew his big knife from his belt, the only weapon Teddy could see still on him. And then there was another arrow in his right shoulder. Mister Horne fell back a step or two, but he quickly rallied, knife once more at the ready.

“We are giants put on this earth to rid it of evil and to keep all that is good,” he was saying… and then there was another arrow, this one in the left side of his chest, and he was hitting his knees.

How was he still moving?! How was he still lifting his knife and… growling at Denali?!

It wasn't easy to tell from where he was still mostly hidden, but he thought maybe Denali’s eyes had gone wide, a look of something close to terror on his face as he loosed the last arrow. It went through Mister Horne’s hand, piercing all the way through, so thoroughly that Teddy could see the bloodied arrowhead on the other side.

There was a long moment where he really thought Mister Horne was about to rally again, maybe even make it to his feet and try to take on Denali face to face… but then his body began to go slack.

He died sitting up, and Denali moved on, paying Teddy no mind. He might as well have not even been there.

For all the help he was, he really might as well have not been there at all. He hadn't been able to save Mister Horne. He hadn't even been able to help Mister Horne. He hadn't been able to stop Denali or even distract him in the least. He had frozen up and was completely useless to anyone.

There was a clatter of noise on the street, a sound like the wind through winter-bared trees. It was a sound that had no place being where it was—in a place without trees—or when it was—in the middle of summer and in the middle of a gunfight to boot. That alone was enough to get him to sit back up and peer out into the street.

At first he didn't see anything. There was nothing there that, sadly, hadn't been there five minutes ago. Mister Horne’s body was still kneeling in the middle of the street. Bodies of Bogue’s men and Teddy’s friends alike littered the street, many of them victims of that beastly gun of Bogue’s. Speaking of the Gatling gun, it probably wouldn’t be much longer before they used it again. The way it had jumped and skipped shots had probably saved some lives along the way, but there was no guarantee that would happen again… and it simply wasn’t enough. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to save the town. Not enough of the good people of Rose Creek had stayed, and their monsters…

There was that winter wind through the trees sound again, louder this time, and he fought down the urge to shiver. Winter was a long time away. Why was it all he could think about when he heard that sound, whatever it was? He had heard their monsters make a lot of ungodly noises today and over the last week, so why was this the noise that terrified him?

But as bad as that was, the one that followed was worse: something like a thousand bones popping and cracking all at once, mixed with the wet sounds of flesh and sinew snapping and tearing.

And then Mister Horne’s body began to move.

It jerked. It shook.

It… stood up.

And up. And up.

Mister Horne hadn’t been a small man before, but now he was gargantuan, easily a head and shoulders taller than he was before. He looked leaner too, like all his bulk had moved to his height.

It shouldn’t have been possible, but it seemed that Mister Horne was alive. Breathing heavily? Yes. Steam somehow escaping with every exhale? Yes. Impossibly taller and leaner? Yes. But he was alive. That was what mattered, right?

He tried to pull himself to his feet using whatever he could find near him to maneuver himself up, words of surprise already on his lips to call out to the older man. A small bit of the broken doorframe clattered to the wooden floor beneath him. Mister Horne turned towards him, fast, faster than should be possible for a human or a monster, and Teddy found himself freezing again.

Mister Horne’s eyes were completely white. Not just pale or wide or anything like that. No, they were solid white, devoid of any hint of color at all.

His hands were bigger, each newly lanky finger stretched out into a gnarly claw.

He opened his mouth, and all Teddy could see were teeth. Not human teeth either. No, these reminded him of how he kept hearing everyone describe Mister Vasquez’s teeth: large and pointy. No one ever said the first word about Mister Vasquez’s being like looking down a hungry predator’s maw and feeling like you’re the main course, though.

He would have definitely remembered that coming up in conversation.

Mister Horne… No, the thing that used to be Mister Horne took a step towards him. Of course, that step covered several feet, given his newfound size. It felt like two more of those steps could put him in the ruined restaurant with him, and that? That was damn terrifying.

Teddy fell back hard, hard enough that it actually jarred his shot leg all over again and he had to bite back a cry of pain. Even to himself, he could smell the blood on his body, and was this why their other monsters were so leery of Mister Horne? Had they known this might happen?

There was a faint hint like Mister Horne might make another large step forward, and suddenly his view of the street was completely blocked… by vines. They had grown—somehow—to cover the entire doorway and the windows, leaving the restaurant in a darkened gloom despite the bright morning sun outside.

Holy shit, had… had he done that?

He never knew too much about what an earth elemental could do, aside from keeping his orchard in bloom and make his apples special. Mister Chisolm and Mister Faraday had had him reinforce the sandbags being used as barriers around town, but that was something that hadn't occurred to him before they suggested it as well. A thick wooden barrier between him and everything else? Might as well have been a dream for all it occurred to him.

There was the sound of heavy breathing just on the other side of the sudden obstruction, and he found himself holding his own breath.

There was the sound of something—clawed hands maybe—scratching at the vines, and he found himself scooting further and further away from the door, Mister Horne’s rifle held closely to his chest like it could protect him with its mere presence.

There was the sound of crackling, like old leather breaking, and he found himself gulping in fear.

And then there was silence, and that might have been worse. Because now there was no way to tell where the creature was. He wanted to be out there, fighting, helping to defend his town. More than anything, he wanted all of this to be over: Bogue gone with no more interest in Rose Creek and its land, no more battle going on, and maybe even no monsters more than the ones his little town currently boasted and the ones they had adopted over the last week.

Anything but cowering in sheer terror in a wrecked building, praying to anyone who would listen for the creature outside to go away.

He might or might not have promised away his firstborn when he found some rags big enough to bind his wounds, as well as a cleverly hidden stash of bullets. Even better, they were the right calibers for the rifle and the handgun that Mister Horne had left with him. Whether it was the hand of God at work or one of their monsters helping him out, he would take it.

It took a bit of concentrating, but he managed to get the vines to slowly retract from the doorway, and he peered out. There was nothing but corpses—blessedly still, unmoving, and silent—in sight… but there was noise coming from around the church.

That seemed like the wisest area to head to, in that case. He might be able to do some good there.

Chapter Text

Red Harvest had been trying to keep watch on his monsters during this whole fight, even if he was helpless to get to any that might fall to injury. The return of the shadow-walker was welcome yet unexpected, and the shaman felt that the gun’s skipping while firing upon the town had much to do with the monster’s previous excursion.

The young Comanche made his way towards the hotel by the rooftops, ducking down quickly as another round began to hit from the hills. The gunfire skipped some this time as well, and Red hoped it meant that the shadow-walker was successful in his sabotage. He had lost sight of the trickster sometime during the initial firefight, but had heard the monster let out a pained cry that left him concerned. That the eater of the dead had shortly thereafter let out an enraged howl had done little to assuage the shaman’s concerns.

As he stood up to continue his trip, Red spotted the skin-walker that had cast his lot with the spell weaver Bogue, and he abruptly felt enraged. For one of the people, especially one who was not quite human yet not quite fully monster, to join one such as Bogue was dishonorable. It showed a lack of faith in their way of life, and that alone infuriated the young shaman.

Red watched the skin-walker make his way into the saloon and quickly darted to the roof of the building. There were far too many dead men on the balcony below, even if he could still see a few who yet lived. Part of him wanted to drop down and tend to the wounded, but then he heard the skin-walker make a pleased sound, heard someone else let out a gasp, heard the faint click of an empty gun…

And then Red was through the window, a firm “Stop” coming from his mouth as he moved.

The skin-walker turned from where he had been stalking the redhaired trickster-born woman, a sneer on his face and other in his shadow. The other did not hesitate, already raising the axe to strike Red down where he stood.

But the shaman was not unprepared for such action. He dodged to the left, reaching out to catch the skin-walker’s arm and twist it, forcing him to drop the weapon.

“People like you,” Red bit out through his teeth, “disgust me.”

The skin-walker snarled, the humanity in him sliding away, the animal spirit within clawing its way to the surface. The shaman reacted quickly. His knife was in his hand, and he struck true and deep, aiming between his enemy’s ribs.

“You have no honor.”

Red shoved the other away, through the railing and out into open air. The skin-walker fell as a man; he hit the tables below, broke one of them, as a bear.

The beast lumbered to his feet, growling low in his throat, and took one step for the stairs before something else crashed through the door with a chilling cry.

Red had never in his life heard such a sound, an odd thing that seemed a mixture of wolf and fox and owl and eagle, but he had heard of the thing that was now stalking the bear. This was what his monsters had feared; this was what they had tried to keep from being born out of this conflict.

The tracker was no more. This, now, was the wendigo, and it was on the prowl.

The bear made a frightened sound and turned to flee, but the thing was far quicker. It fell upon the bear with that same fearsome cry, and Red tried to ignore the sound of rending flesh and the dying cries of a wounded beast. He honestly feared that the next thing he would hear was the sound of the wendigo feeding on its kill, and he regretted deeply in that moment that his arrows had been used up far too early in the fight.

Then… silence.

Red moved cautiously, keeping his footfalls as silent as possible, and looked below to see what was happening now. The wendigo was still there… but so was the skin-walker’s corpse. The thing had not even taken a single bite, had only attacked and mutilated the deceased monster with nothing other than its horrific claws.

And now it was watching him and the woman with those flat white eyes.

It blinked once up at them, twice, and then let out what seemed like an almost-human sound of inquiry. The woman coughed a sob, but Red somehow managed to find his voice to respond.

“We are well,” he told it evenly in the monster tongue, wondering if the thing that had once been a man was even capable of understanding him.

The wendigo huffed, seeming somehow pleased with the response, then folded itself down into the corner furthest from the door. Its actions clearly indicated that it… it was apparently planning to stand watch. None of the stories of his people, of any people, spoke of an intellect or awareness of the world, only of the hunger and the danger. Yet this one… it made no sense, how almost human it seemed in its apparent attempts to ease their fear by putting itself out of the way.

Red watched the newborn creature for a long moment before nodding to himself and standing up. He wasn’t certain as to why the wendigo was behaving as it was, but he felt that it would be safe to leave the woman and those who were still alive out on the balcony under its watchful eye. The creature was obviously set on staying where it was, and the sound of a distant explosion eased his concerns over the spell weaver’s weapon.

Now, however, Red felt the need to find his other monsters and assure himself that they would survive as well.

Chapter Text

To be quite honest, he didn’t think that Faraday needed to be rushing back outside any time soon, especially not with the wound he had spotted on the Fae’s side and the way the scent of blood and sickness was clinging to that spot. The bullets their enemies were firing weren’t exactly monster-friendly; the iron had to be seeping into the older monster and weakening him by degrees.

Yet Billy kept his mouth shut and his opinion to himself, offering cover fire when the damned fool darted out the door and headed in the direction of the general store where all the children in town were holed up and which was now on fire. Behind him, he could hear Vasquez cursing and the sound of footsteps that abruptly faded, a sure sign that his little demon was ‘walking somewhere. He half-hoped his lover was heading somewhere safer than here, but knew that chances were far better towards him ‘walking up to the steeple as they had all originally planned.

Apparently it wasn’t any safer away from Rose Creek than in it right now, damn it all to the darkest corner of the netherworld.

Once Faraday was safely—for a relative value of safe —in the general store and off the street, the angel turned his attention to the tower heading up into the steeple. He couldn’t exactly fly up while inside the building thanks to his wingspan, but flying would still be a hell of a lot faster than climbing. Which was why he likewise darted out of the church and around to the side of the building, unfurling all of his wings and lifting off the ground with one powerful push from them.

It took no more than a few seconds to make it to the top, and he settled himself on the railing long enough to pull his wings back into hiding even as the water elemental glanced his way before beginning to climb back down into the church. Goody turned his burning white gaze towards the angel, a faint yet wry smile crossing his lips.

“I sent Schoolteacher to go find his kid, stick with him until this is all done,” his little demon offered in explanation even as he settled himself behind the sandbags and commenced loading the rifle he was holding. “We could use the manpower, honestly, but that halfling deserves to keep his only remaining parent.”

Billy made a faint sound of agreement, crossing the short distance between them and catching his little demon’s face in his hands. He dropped a soft kiss to his mouth before pulling back, brow furrowing as he finally noticed that he hadn’t been mistaken earlier, that his lover was wearing his actual human facade now. Apparently his own fear at the sight of the weapon Bogue had unleashed upon them had forced those years to flee, leaving Goody looking like the young monster he truly was.

Young but not nearly as reckless as he could have been, not nearly as reckless as some of his older siblings had been at the same age.

“The Gatling gun, I heard some gaps while it was firing,” Billy said instead of voicing his thoughts.

The demon grinned at him wickedly. “I may or may not have fucked with the magazines,” he replied idly. “I was curious ‘bout what would happen with some bullets missing. I… I honestly didn’t get to mess with more than one magazine and part of another before someone either spotted my movement or sniffed me out. The next round of fire probably won’t skip near as much.”

“Then we need to take down as many of our enemies who have made it into town as possible then deal with the heavy artillery,” Billy decided.

“Let’s do this,” Goody growled, eyes flaring a bit brighter and his shadow flickering to show his true form for a brief moment.

Then there weren’t any further words for the moment, just the two of them firing on the hired army below. Goody must have grabbed Josiah’s gun, because none of the men he was currently gunning down were vanishing away to his father’s domain. Billy mused absently as they continued to cut through the ranks that there was going to be plenty of meat for Addie and Jack and the Old One to dine on; he briefly pondered on whether Vasquez’s horse would partake as well—and it was a valid thought, he had seen the thing’s teeth—before setting his focus back to the task at hand.

The first crack of the Gatling gun opening fire again set him to ducking behind the sandbags once more, and he noted that Goody had followed suit. The demon was taking care to not let any bare flesh touch the wood around them, and Billy was pleased that his little demon was taking care with his own safety and continued health.

“You know,” Goody said aloud as they both reloaded and waited for the Gat to fall silent again, “this reminds me of something my daddy used to say.”

“What’s that, Ascha?” Billy asked, absently falling back into use of his little demon’s given name. When there came no immediate answer, he huffed and demanded, “What?”

Goody let out a short chuckle. “Well, my daddy says a lot of things.”

Somehow, that was the most hilarious thing the angel had heard in ages, and he burst out into a round of laughter. That only served to set off true laughter from his little demon, and they laughed their way through the remainder of waiting for the gun to fall silent once more.

When he got back on his feet again, rifle raised to fire once more, Billy spotted their resident Fae rushing towards one of the horses milling about riderless from the direction of the undertaker’s. Sam was backing the monster up, and the angel called out to his demon.

“Over here!” he indicated, shooting automatically as one of Bogie’s hired men tried to take a shot at Faraday. The next bullet came from Goody’s gun, and they swiftly cleared a path for their ally.

“Ride fast, Faraday!” Goody called even while shooting down the first of their companion’s pursuers. “Take it down!”

The demon then turned worried eyes to Billy, and for the first time in ages, the angel of death could see true weariness in his little demon’s gaze.

“He's got lead in him,” Goody remarked blandly. “He don't plan on coming back.”

It wasn't a question, so all Billy did was nod. The youngest of Lucifer’s Antichrists took a deep breath before nodding once and resuming the act of shooting down as many of Bogue’s hired army as possible, this time switching over to his own rifle and sending the bastards directly to Lucifer’s domain.

Between the pair of them, they were able to do some damage to their Fae’s pursuers, but Billy noted that the riders were approaching far more quickly than he would have expected… and there was still a bit of ground to cover to the Gatling gun. He didn’t even hesitate, just swore softly in Enochian and threw up an abrupt time freeze.

When Goody whipped his head around to give the angel a look, he shrugged and fired off another round. “It won’t buy us much time,” he said, “but if Bogue’s never dealt with many of our kind before, it could take him a few seconds to tear this down.”

“A few seconds’ll just have to be long enough,” his little demon replied, turning and opening fire. The only sound for a long moment was that of the non-mortal horses below, the pounding of hooves as Faraday’s horse—thankfully unaffected by the time stop with the Fae upon its back—rode ever closer to the gun, and the retort of Billy’s and Goody’s rifles.

He could feel the time stop beginning to crack, and mused that it had brought them a good twenty-odd seconds. It had to be enough; the angel wouldn’t get the chance to do it again now that one had been ripped away. From the vantage point in the steeple, Billy could see the men guarding the gun begin to scramble to redirect its aim, and he felt his blood freeze and boil both when he realized they were turning it onto the church.

He shot a quick glance over to his little demon; Goody had noticed the activity as well judging from his narrowed lips, the expression far too knowing for the youthfulness of his face. Yet he didn’t scramble to back away or tuck himself behind the sandbags, he remained on his feet firing upon the remaining men chasing down the Fae.

There was no way he could do anything less himself, and Billy steeled himself before continuing to shoot down Faraday’s pursuers one by one.

The last three fell, one vanishing as Goody’s bullet caught him in the back of the head, and then the demon pulled himself backward with a startled cry as the Gatling gun opened fire on the steeple. The bullets wouldn’t do them too much harm, just be a nuisance to heal around so long as they were able to keep them from hitting vital organs—

And then Billy’s thoughts abruptly snapped off as Goody hit the damaged wood of the railing and, with a pained yelp, fell out into the open air.

The angel threw his rifle aside, ignoring the bullets tearing through his flesh, focus entirely on getting to his demon before he hit the holy ground below. Where he himself would get a healing boost just from where they were currently making their stand, Goody would be harmed. If he hit the ground, even if he hit the roof of the church itself and burned any, Billy was going to have to make a go of dragging the demon to Boot Hill or another patch of ground that was considered to be cursed in order to get his beloved back to some semblance of health.

In spite of the burst of speed he put on, in spite of using all of his wings to push himself towards the ground faster, the Antichrist hit before he was halfway down the steeple. A cry that sounded like a legion of animals all shrieking in pain at once erupted from his little demon, spurring him on that much faster. By the time his feet touched the dirt, Goody’d been on the ground for no more than five seconds.

Five seconds too many.

Billy hauled him up as much as he dared, wrapped every one of his wings around the younger monster then turned so he was the one on the ground. He didn’t dare try to move them right now, not with the Gatling gun finishing its most recent strafe, not when he knew he was going to need a lot of help hauling his demon to cursed ground while he himself was trying to heal from the bullet wounds peppering his flesh.

Instead, he wrapped himself more securely around the Antichrist and made soothing sounds even as Goody whimpered through the pain. Billy didn’t let him move, keeping one hand at the back of his head and letting the younger monster breathe in his scent for what comfort that could give him.

He could feel the rise and fall of his little demon’s chest as he shuddered through the pain, could feel his beloved’s damaged fingers curl into his shirt, could feel the faint wash of air against his throat as the younger let out each shuddering breath. Billy kept his eyes closed, focused almost wholly on his Ascha, on keeping the demon from touching the ground more than he already had. Even so, he didn’t miss the explosion that came not more than five minutes later, nor did Goody from the way he let out an abrupt sob.

Faraday had done it, the Fae had dealt with the Gatling gun. Yet the cost…

Billy could hear Goody murmur something about Ezekiel, about Ezekiel and Faraday, but it made no sense to the angel. Perhaps his little demon was mixing things up in his head due to the pain he was in, or perhaps the Fae had known the older Antichrist as some point. There was nothing for it now, though, not while there was still danger.

Not while he could hear the Old One howl and vanish from his awareness, already making his way to retrieve what he could of their Fae companion. Billy sent a quick prayer to the ones who watched out for monsters, wishing his elder speed and luck in his journey.

Not while he could smell the damned witch making his way into town past the church, and it took every ounce of his willpower to not spring up and tear the witch’s head from his shoulders. He focused instead on his Ascha, on comforting his beloved through the pain.

Billy felt his little demon shifting, and tightened his hold again. However, Goody growled in his throat and pushed at one of the angel’s wings to loosen his hold. Once freed to some extent, the younger monster only reached out for the rifle that had fallen with him from the steeple.

That was when the angel realized that Emma Cullen was quietly moving towards the church, creeping through the graveyard cautiously so as to keep Bogue from sensing her presence. And he abruptly realized that Goody wasn't trying to grab the rifle, cursed as it was, for his own use at the moment.

“Cullen,” Billy hissed, grinning slightly to himself as the woman startled. When she glanced towards them, brow furrowing in worry as she caught sight of Goody’s burned flesh, the angel nodded towards the rifle said demon was attempting to push towards her. “You should use that. Trust us.”

The widowed halfling gave him a long look before nodding and accepting the rifle, fingers curling around the weapon before she continued her stalk to the door of the church. Billy watched her go for a moment before turning his attention back to his little demon. The young monster had fallen still, seemingly unconscious from the pain and only the rise and fall of his chest against the angel’s own kept the older monster from panicking.

He listened for a moment, hearing no other sign of an enemy save from within the church, and shifted himself carefully. Keeping all his wings wrapped around Goody, Billy was able to climb slowly to his feet and begin moving cautiously through the street. One of the townsfolk, Patrick or something to that effect, spotted him and rushed out to assist.

“Where do you—?” he began, but Billy interrupted.

“Cursed ground,” he bit out. “Most unholy spot in this town. Where?”

Patrick’s lips thinned but he nodded towards the other end of town. “Boot Hill’s just another half-mile that way,” he said. “Can you make it that far?”

Billy shot him a thin grin, ignoring how sharp his teeth felt in his mouth at the moment. “I'm going to have to.”

He ignored the fact that the human continued to follow, apparently insistent on making sure that the monsters who’d come to help them made it to their destination as intended, but the angel did notice immediately when Red Harvest abruptly dropped from the upper walkway of the saloon and moved to his side.

“What do I need to do?” he asked, not even hesitating to presume that he would be helping get the demon seen to.

“I need to get him to cursed ground,” Billy replied tightly, wincing as he felt the bullets still lodged in his flesh shifting and noting to himself that he would need to shift to his real form long enough to knock the nuisances out; although it had done nothing positive for his little demon, lying on the church grounds as they had had gone a long way to healing his own wounds. “He fell into the graveyard. The burns won’t just fade when he drops his human disguise.”

The shaman scowled, and the angel could almost hear him trying to determine if anything in his pouches would be of use. Billy cut him off with a short shake of his head.

“Nothing will help until he’s far away from holy ground. Anything we do before then will just be for our sake more than his.”

“I understand,” Red replied, and the angel had the feeling that this human really did understand. He wondered absently what the shaman’s people taught about the monsters of the world, if maybe their philosophy was to listen and learn from the source.

Billy didn't fail to note how shaken the young man seemed, and wondered what else he had come across this day.

It both took no time at all and far too much time to get to the place Patrick directed them to, and Billy very nearly let out a sigh of relief as he felt the abject darkness of the land around them as they stepped into the burial grounds. Carefully sliding to his knees, the angel placed his beloved down amidst the dirt and unkept grass before sitting back and stretching his wings.

“What do we do now?” Red asked.

“Now,” Billy replied in English for the human’s benefit, “we wait.”

Chapter Text

Things were not going his way, not in the least.

First of all was the fact that not only were the monsters who had invaded his town ready for their arrival, but their first counter resulted in him losing about fifty men thanks to some well-placed explosives. Then almost immediately he’d lost another five to ten to other explosions set off a bit closer to the town, and that was before the beasts brought their… talents into play.

Then when he had ordered the Gatling gun commence its siege, one of his demons reported back that they had nearly—not actually, but nearly, for the gods’ sake—caught someone messing with the weapon. It was clear to Bogue that the saboteur had managed to do some little damage from the way the Gatling skipped and coughed while firing its first two attacks. He took no comfort in the fact that the third—and what would be the final—strafe didn’t skip at all… because right before they could fire, one of those damned beasts had thrown out a time freeze that he honestly had to struggle to break down.

Whatever it was that had created the stop, Bogue had never encountered before. It felt somewhat similar to those that he’d dismantled from those in the demonic horde, and he wondered absently if he had finally encountered one of the angelic host even if only from a distance.

And then, after that third round, one of those insane seven had ridden out and blown up his Gatling gun. It didn’t even matter that the bastard likely hadn’t survived any more than Bogue’s own monsters, it still left him with only two men at his side and nearly two hundred corpses to deal with later. He could only hope that the monster who’d taken down his gun was burning in whatever afterlife such beasts went to.

It was with this in mind that Bogue led his remaining companions into Rose Creek, assessing the dead and pleased that some of the residents of the town had fallen as well. He could hear some little commotion from the saloon, but dismissed it as unimportant; he had seen Denali headed in that direction and trusted the skin-walker to have the matter well in hand. His concern was the quiet singing coming from the undertaker’s shop.

Bogue nodded to his men to go see who or what was inside, climbing down from his horse as well and letting the silly beast wander off as it wished. The sound of several shots being fired dragged his attention back to the shop, just in time to see one of his men stagger through the door and collapse. The poor bastard was a corpse before even hitting the ground.

Another man walked through the door, a black man clad from hat to boots in black. Immediately, Bogue’s instincts told him to tread with caution, and he realized that this man—this man, likely the one responsible for the monsters coming to his town and ruining everything—was the monster hunter Harp had babbled about several days past.

“Chisolm, is it?” he called out, showing false bravado and hoping it would be enough to fool the hunter. “Should I know that name?”

Chisolm didn’t hesitate: “You should know it from your obituary.”

“Ah.” The warlock fell silent for a second before continuing, “Are we connected somehow?”

“Fourteenth of October, 1867,” Chisolm said. “Did you hire renegade Greys to pillage and steal land in Kansas?”

Oh. Was that what this was all about? This monster hunter trying to hit back at him for some… some homesteaders that got in his way? Huh, pathetic.

“Homesteaders.”

“Good people,” the monster hunter countered, “trying to make a life for themselves, like these people here.”

Bogue snorted. “If the gods didn’t want ‘em sheered? They wouldn’t have made ‘em sheep.”

The air felt tense around them, and he slowly reached for his gun. But still, somehow, some way, the monster hunter drew on him first. Bastard shot the gun right out of his hand, and Bogue did his level best to not collapse from the pain.

“No. Pick it up,” Chisolm goaded. “Go on, pick it up. Pick it up.”

The warlock glowered at the bastard even as he grunted. If he could just have the time to ready a hex…

“Pick it up!”

Then Chisolm was shooting again, knocking the gun further away and crowding him back towards the church. The warlock managed to drag himself through the door and offer up a quick prayer in Latin, hoping that perhaps there was a god that wasn’t connected to any of these enemies he’d come across. The monster hunter himself paused at the door, and Bogue laughed shortly.

“You a god-fearing man?” he goaded.

Chisolm took his hat off for a moment, bowed his head… then put it right back on and stalked up the stairs. Bogue dragged himself across the floor as quickly as he was able, needing time and space to gather his power and attack again.

“Please,” he pleaded, hoping to appeal to the son of a bitch long enough to act, “just leave. Please leave me be! Please!” He paused, panted, “I beg your pardon. I’ve done you wrong.”

Chisolm held out a hand, much to the warlock’s confusion. What the hell…?

“I want you to pray with me,” the monster hunter said. “All right? Come on.”

Bogue spotted the opportunity. If the man was distracted enough, he could summon up enough power to literally melt this enemy and go back to the task of taking Rose Creek for his own. So he took the man’s hand and let him come close.

“Go on, and you pray,” Chisolm was saying, and Bogue let the words wash over him as he concentrated. “Pray for my mother that your men raped.”

Oh? So it was more than simple vengeance then. Too bad for him, Bogue did not have enough empathy left in him to care about people who were so far beneath him.

Chisolm continued on about his sisters, then mentioned his own self… and suddenly the warlock remembered. How had he missed one? Usually he was more tidy with his work…

“I remember, Chisolm, yeah,” he sneered. “I remember you.”

The monster hunter abruptly grabbed the back of his neck, the bandanna that had been around his own neck suddenly around the warlock’s own throat and pulling tight. It took his breath away, and he focused all that he could on summoning his power, ignoring the words, only knowing them to be some prayer to a god he doubted even existed.

The power burned in his right hand, and he was almost there… almost… so close….

And then pain. The gunshot took him by surprise, the pain ripping through him so suddenly that his power dissipated faster than he’d gathered it. He saw Chisolm’s stunned expression, felt the world darkening around him—

And then he was just… somewhere else. It looked like an office very much like his own back in Sacramento, but it was decorated in red and black silks and gold-toned wood and lit with lamps of the sort he had never encountered in his life. There was a man seated behind a desk, a man with dark hair and sharp features and an aura of familiarity about him for some strange reason. There was a woman perched on the desk itself, dressed in men’s clothing and giving him a sharp look from blazing white eyes, her golden hair pulled back in a loose braid.

Then the man cleared his throat, eyes burning just as brightly as the woman’s, and he spoke with a strong Southern drawl.

“All right,” the man—no, the monster said sharply, “which one ‘a my boys did you go and piss off enough to send you to see me ‘fore you go on to what’s coming to you?”

Chapter Text

The final explosion somehow seemed both louder and bigger than all the others combined. True or not, Fae magic and trickery or actual facts, the Gatling gun fell silent. Several mortal horses came racing back into town, all of them without their riders.

All of them without their riders.

Including the horse his almost Fae had ridden out in his quest to try to take out the damned machine.

His own demon mount was summoned with little more than a thought and a short whistle. Diablo was not nearly so well trained as the kelpie, but it served its purpose well. It slid invisible with him, into that space between flesh and shadow, where he traveled fastest.

It had taken Faraday several—too many—long minutes to cross this same field on a mortal horse, even with Billy stopping time as humans saw it, even riding—what was the expression he had heard Faraday use?—hell to leather. But that had been a mortal horse and therefore subject to mortal limits. Not an issue for a demonic mount. Not an issue for a god, especially an Old God like himself. For a god, it was done in a matter of seconds.

The dust was still settling over what had once been a couple of humans, a fire mage, and an assortment of other lesser monsters, along with a wagon, a Gatling gun, and a few horses. He could still smell the blood and scorched flesh, none of it purely monster.

Where the hell was Faraday?

If the almost Fae had managed to actually destroy himself…

Well, once upon a time, he had been a god of death. It had been many years since he had ventured into the Underworld. He could still do it again, should the need arise. He did not know what corner of the Underworld the Fae and their ilk inhabited, but he could find out. He could find out, he could track Faraday down, and he could drag the monster to a section of the Underworld he was familiar with, if not all the way back to life—and he would do it whether the almost Fae was willing to go along with this or not.

There!

There was the smell of monster blood, real monster blood, the kind that only came from a pure-blooded monster without a drop of human in their body. Following the scent, he threw a large chunk of wood that must have once been part of the wagon as far to the side as possible; he did not look to see where it landed; and stared down in dawning horror.

There was not a lot to be found of his almost Fae. Parts of his face were recognizable. His head was connected to a section of torso that seemed vaguely intact, if a bit perforated. There was a thin stretch of broken leg bone. But other than that, there was nothing left of the Fae. The explosion must have just been too big for him to deal with, to heal from quickly, especially with the Blackstone man’s lead and iron bullet in him, may the bastard rot forever in a painful and torturous Underworld. Especially if any of those bullets he had heard being fired hit Faraday as well.

For a long second, his knees felt weak, as if they were about to give out on him, a feeling he could not ever remember having experienced before in his long, long life. He found it very hard to explain why he was feeling it now. After all, he had only known the other monster for a little over a week. Yes, they had fucked many times over the course of this week. By some tales, that made them comrades-in-arms, bonded for years to come. He had never believe such drivel.

But Faraday was—had been—a Fae. Something like a Fae. Something very like a Fae. Things worked differently for the Fae. It seemed like the Fae were a topic all unto themselves most of the time, yes, but when it came to their own myths and legends, it was as if the belief made it tangible. Faraday believed—had believed—he would never run out of bullets in Ethel and Maria, and so he never ran out of bullets in Ethel and Maria. Oh, he gave—had given—the illusion of reloading for mortals to see, but Vasquez had never once heard the cylinders click empty in the week he had known the man.

Fae magic and trickery, yes, but the important kind. The kind that mattered.

He did not believe in the relations between them binding them in some way, but he had heard tales that the Fae believed in such things. Perhaps that was why Faraday had given him the flask he always carried with him last night, whispering words about how Vasquez should keep it with him, use it if any of the monsters or halflings got too injured to heal on their own. He had whispered words that it should never be used on a human but would not say why not. He had whispered words about having caution in using it on their niño Antichrist, because Faraday had not known what it would do to a demon.

Faraday had named the flask an unending cup, a bit of Fae magic that had always stuck him as frivolous. Faraday had said that the water in the flask came from a special well back in ‘the Old Country,’ wherever that might be for the Fae, and it would never run empty. The water in it, straight from the Well of Slane, Faraday had said, healed the Fae from any number of ailments.

He did not know if it healed death. He had never asked Faraday.

There was no other way to find out except to try.

The flask looked more scuffed and worn in his own hands than it had in Faraday’s, but it still behaved as it should: opening as easily for him as it had for Faraday during his little demonstration of what the water in it could do.

“Hey, Vasquez?” Faraday had asked, pulling the bandana off his hand and holding it out to Vasquez to see. “You remember this, the burn here?”

Sitting languidly on the bed, eyeing the Fae with more interest towards exploration than talking, he had reached out and taken hold of the proffered hand, laying a light kiss to the tips of the fingers that were still red and angry. It had finally stopped looking quite so wet and raw, and this he appreciated as well. “After how you showed it off earlier, güero , it would be difficult to forget.”

“This is…” Faraday had broken off with a gasp as Vasquez had slowly licked and nibbled at an undamaged finger. “That ain’t playing fair, Vasquez.” He took a deep but shaky breath and continued to speak. “Strictly speaking… Gods… Strictly speaking, Fae can’t heal from iron. I can.”

In surprise, he had sat back, giving Faraday a dark look. “Explain yourself, Faraday,” he demanded when the other monster did not immediately cave to his annoyance. “You said you were very much like the Fae when you explained to me what you are.”

Faraday offered a smile that looked painful and discomforted, a bit like he was trying to diffuse the situation. “We are very much like the Fae, the Tuatha dé Danann, yes. We created the Fae. They’re our children. They call us the aos sí , the gods of the Fae. But that doesn’t mean we play by all the same rules they do.”

“Such as?” he demanded shortly, because he was still angry. Because right now, he felt like he had been led around by Fae trickery, a term he had heard a lot of in the last week. Because he had felt like there might have been something starting to grow here.

“Iron burns. That’s applies to any of us. The Fae can’t ever heal them, but a Tuatha dé Danann can.”

Here, he had pulled the lid to his flask off with his teeth and poured some of the water in it over the burn. Before Vasquez’s eyes, it started hissing, popping and fizzing like meat on a skillet, and he had almost reached forward to pull Faraday’s entire arm to him before it could be further injured. The fact that the monster was holding the flask lid so tightly between his teeth that Vasquez could hear the metal creaking—just a little—was not a reassuring sign either, nor was the way his Faraday had hunched forward, like an animal protecting its injured vital organs, crouched over the injury.

“Faraday…” he started to say. He was not sure what was coming after that, other than a demand to stop this foolishness, before he really hurt himself.

Instead Faraday had leaned forward, suspiciously bright eyes so close to his own as the other monster rested his head against Vasquez’s shoulder. He shook the water from his hand and held it back out for inspection… and it was without a blemish. No burn, no scar, not a trace that the wound had ever existed.

“As long as the iron is gone, a Tuatha dé Danann can heal eventually. The water in here helps. It’ll heal anything short of decapitation for one of us. And it works on other monsters, just not as well.” He had explained about the origin of the water, though not exactly what a ‘Well of Slane’ was. He had given his instructions on who it could be used on. He had said it would be of more use with Vasquez in the church, a rallying and gathering point during the fight, than with Faraday moving throughout the little town. And he had pressed the flask into Vasquez’s hands. And then he had pressed his lips to Vasquez’s…

He shook his head, clearing it. Not the time for that.

He had carried this flask with him throughout the fight, tucked safely away inside his vest. At Faraday’s insistence, he had used it on his own gunshot wound; it had hurt him just as much as it had looked like it hurt Faraday last night and it had not been nearly so swift in healing him, but it had been successful in repairing his arm. He had wanted to use it on Faraday after the hedge witch shot him, something the other monster had not allowed, not with a bullet still in him. He was still fuming that the niño ’s bullet, still in the hedge witch, apparently sent him directly to the demon Underworld… before Vasquez could even eat him. No one should be able to shoot his Faraday and get off so easily.

Faraday had made a point of emphasizing that the water in this flask would heal anything except decapitation, while never breathing a word about if it would bring a dead Tuatha dé Danann back to life. Well, his head was attached to his body, if nothing else. A lot of the rest of him wasn’t attached to his body, and Vasquez actually wasn’t sure if that would work against this or not.

There was only one way to find out.

He felt oddly hesitant opening the flask and turning it over to pour the water over the body. At this point, what if that was all it was? What if it was just water now? And did the Fae magic on the flask die with the Fae in question?

For a long, long moment, he was more or less certain that was the case—no Fae, no Fae magic—as the water was just acting like water. Unlike when Faraday poured it on himself in their shared bedroom or when he had given in to Faraday’s urging and used it on himself at the church, there was no sizzling. There was no hissing or fizzing. This was just water after all, washing away the worst of the filth, exposing more of the damage, but nothing more.

But the water was still pouring, more than such a small flask should ever be able to hold. So the Fae magic had to still be holding up. But…

And then there was a cracking sound as bones began to reset themselves… or in more cases, as bones began to regrow. The hissing and sizzling only came as muscle and flesh began to return.

The sight was horrific. It was nauseating to him, and he was a death god… but this was his Fae. This was his Tuatha dé Danann, his Fae god, lying in pieces before him. He would watch a while and make certain it was going to finish the job. He might have wanted his Fae back, but he also wanted him back healed and as intact as the magic in the flask could manage.

He did not want Faraday returning to life in excruciating pain. Not to say that he would not cause Faraday some excruciating pain for this anguish he had experienced today, but that would be on his own terms.

Soon enough, there were something that resembled limbs slowly connecting back to the torso. This might actually well work. This might actually bring the Fae back.

All the same, if this was the speed that the healing was going to work at this time, perhaps he should be using the water from the flask on some of their other injured parties. Faraday would be displeased to come back and find so many of their number injured, especially if any of the halflings was amongst that count.

He would go use the flask’s water on everyone that he could, and then he would return to his Fae’s side.

When Faraday returned to life, Vasquez fully intended to let him know exactly how little he thought of this stunt… and how glad he was to have the man alive again… and then he was planning on not letting the Tuatha dé Danann out of his sight for at least two hundred years.

No, probably closer to three hundred years.

Okay, probably after that too. They were both gods, after all, if different kinds, and mortal years were but the blink of an eye to them. He would take each blink of the eye as it came, but he suspected it would be a great many of those before he tired of the other god.

Because his almost Fae was going to live. He just might not know it yet.