“Thank you!” Ollie gushed. “That was so cool! You totally just kicked Nathaniel’s ass!”
Alexander swallowed a squeak and forgot how to work all of his muscles. Ollie was so warm, and he smelled like alcohol, cigarettes, and patchouli oil with a hint of vanilla.
“Seriously, that was amazing!” Ollie turned Alexander so he could beam down at him, still hugging him close. “I mean, okay, it’s kinda your fault he got in here, but thank you.” He smiled wider. “Whoa. Your eyeballs are turning all pink.”
Alexander was torn between pushing Ollie away and melting into his arms. The simple affection was making his knees weak, having for so long only experienced physical touch that was designed to hurt. His brain refused to cooperate, and all he could do was stutter, “Y-yeah, they do that.”
Who was that man, Ollie? Rota asked.
Alexander slipped away from Ollie, mourning the loss of contact the second he did. He scrambled to get another cigarette. “Yeah, and what was he? I’ve never seen magic like that before.”
“His name is Nathaniel Ware.” Ollie fidgeted and dipped back into the kitchen, still talking. “He is so not fuckin’ human. He’s, like, a troll dude with tusks and a long tail.”
An Absola? Rota sounded intrigued. Here on Aeon?
The gods had created many monstrous creatures before mortals, including a troll-like race of beings called the Absola. They, along with the other so-called everlasting people, were said to have gone with the gods into the dreaming, and neither Alexander nor Rota had heard of any living in this world for thousands of years.
“Yeah, but not, like, all the way?” Ollie mused. “He’s like a diet Absola.”
“But the Absola don’t control time or space,” Alexander pointed out. “The Faedra do.”
“Whatever! Look, he’s a freaky monster guy, and he works for Sullivan Stoker. Do you know who that is?”
“No.” Alexander grabbed the book to put back in his pocket and followed Ollie. Unsurprisingly, the kitchen was as much of a disaster as the rest of the apartment.
Ollie was pouring red wine into two glasses as he explained, “He’s a crime boss. Like, this big drug lord. And okay, so I may have had a tiny drug problem before. When I first got the eyeballs of Yeris, I had trouble dealing with it.” He thrust a glass at Alexander.
Ollie poured it into his glass and sipped off the excess. “I made okay money translating, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with my habit, so I started taking product on credit. Like, so much. And I kinda owe him a lot of money, and he’s very unhappy with me. I’ve been trying to make payments, and he’s been chill ’cause my uncle is a cop, but—”
“He’s tired of waiting and he’s sending goons after you?” Alexander finished.
“Yeah. Damn. You should be a detective.”
“How about this?” Alexander crossed his arms. “I’ll keep the criminal scum from hounding you in exchange for you translating the book?”
“I, I guess that could work.” Ollie frowned. “Will you…. Will you stay here? I need some time to figure out how to deal with Stoker, and, and I’ll find a way to make the translating work, okay?”
“Okay. I’ll put new wards up, and if anyone is stupid enough to come back, I’ll—”
“Where are you gonna sleep?”
Ollie scratched his head. “My bed is kinda small, but I guess we could share—”
“Your couch is fine.” Alexander blushed miserably. He could not handle the mere thought of being anywhere near a bed with Ollie right now. He had to be going insane. That’s all it was. “Once it’s cleaned up, of course.”
You should take better care of your home, Ollie. It’s quite a mess.
“I know.” Ollie sighed. “It’s so damn bad. I just never have the energy, and I’ve been really depressed. Like, forever depressed. I died a little, my ex is getting married… it’s been a whole thing.”
Alexander had the inexplicable desire to reach out for Ollie. It was obvious he was upset, and Alexander wanted to feel his arms around him again. He stayed where he was, taking a step back for good measure, as if the distance would quell the urge.
So, you’re single?
“Rota!” Alexander barked, angrily chanting inside his head, Shut up, shut up, shut up!
“Yeah. Duh.” Ollie snorted and slurped more of his wine. He swayed and leaned against the counter, eyeing where Rota was hovering behind Alexander. He grinned. “Okay, wait. Are you hitting on me?”
I believe we are, yes. We’re not very good at it, but we’re making an effort.
“No, we’re not!” Alexander gritted his teeth. “Hey! You look good and drunk. Book. Now.”
“Please,” Alexander hissed.
“Okay, okay, sure thing.” Ollie was still grinning. “You know, if you were hitting on me, I would have to tell you—”
A portal opened up and a hand slid through, snatching Ollie so fast that he dropped his wine. The glass hit the ground, shattering as the portal closed.
Just like that, Ollie was gone.