“That was quick.” Mala sat on the floor in front of his office eating chips and poking at the screen of his computer. He sucked the salt from his fingers and grinned. “How did it go?”
“Vikarr is going to contact the Council tomorrow.” Donovan sat at the top of the steps. “At the moment he’s probably nailing some girl.”
“That should be fun.” Mala looked at his watch. “It’s early. Wanna see a movie?”
“I thought you were working?” Donovan rubbed at the silver band on his pinky.
“I finished.” Mala slid his computer across the floor to Donovan to recommend a film. “This look good?”
“Are you going to watch it this time?” Donovan laughed. He and Mala had been seeing each other in secret for many years, but Mala insisted the secrecy was pointless and had on several occasions made what seemed like intentional efforts to bring their relationship to light. The last of which had been during a trip to the movies in which Mala had been more than a little bold with his hands.
Donovan still erred on the side of caution. He wasn’t sure Vikarr was going to be accepting of their affection. Their friendship created enough of a bias; if Vikarr thought their love complicated the neutrality of the Circle he was afraid of the consequences.
“I’ll get plenty of snacks to keep me occupied.” Mala laughed.
“I have a better idea.” Donovan slid the computer back to Mala and winked at him. “I have a whole stack of movies at home. I’ll go eat, pick you up something and meet you there. We can go out tomorrow, but I could use the break.”
“I’ll meet you at home.” Mala smiled and hugged the computer to his chest. “But I want pancakes in the morning.”
“Later, Mala.” Donovan headed down the stairs smiling as he shook his head at Mala’s insistence on calling his apartment home. Eventually it was going to come out, but Donovan wasn’t so eager to see it happen. It wasn’t shame that made him cautious, but fear they would be separated.
Mala watched Donovan leave and finished his chips. If Vikarr was off doing unspeakable things to some poor girl there was no point in waiting around for him and Donovan’s couch was far more comfortable than the floor. Mala jumped to his feet and decided to wait for Donovan at home. He had his own place in Nihil but it was stark and cold in comparison, he enjoyed the cozy little apartment Donovan kept.
“Hello there, Dodo.” Mala greeted Donovan’s parrot when he arrived. “Daddy is bringing snacks.”
“Hello. Stop it, Mala.” Dodo mimicked one of the phrases he heard so often and Mala giggled.
“We need to teach you better.” Mala stroked the bright green feathers of the bird’s chest as it cackled happily. Mala had been trying to improve the stubborn birds vocabulary for weeks. “Say ‘Mala loves Donovan’.”
“More pancakes, please.” Dodo started to chew on his perch and ramble out some of the more innocent phrases Donovan had taught him. “Tickle me, tickle me.”
Mala grabbed a blanket and hopped onto the couch to shuffle through a pile of little plastic cases. He sat aside a few of the movies they hadn’t watched as he thought about the coming Council intervention. It had only been six months since they were seated in power and aside from the few he had known before Lucifer’s rise, they were largely a mystery. The six Watchers, Lucifer’s bride and Lucifer’s favorite vampire were familiar enough through reputation, but Mala was excited by the prospect of meeting the others. He hoped Vikarr didn’t ruin it by requesting one of his kin.
“Hello, stupid.” Dodo greeted Donovan as he locked the door behind him. “Tickle me.”
“Hello, Dodo bird.” Donovan rubbed the birds face and dropped a few bags on the table in front of Mala. “And hello to you.”
“Welcome home.” Mala grabbed one of the bags and perused his options. “Are you getting a shower first?”
“Actually I thought I’d get blood all over the couch.” Donovan leaned over the couch and kissed Mala’s forehead. “Give my spoiled angel something to clean up.”
“Go get cleaned up.” Mala smiled and grabbed Donovan’s ears. “You’re the one that offered movie night at home.”
It was those gentle fingers. Mala’s delicate hands that had been Donovan’s weakness since they first met. When Lucifer had first approached him he was apprehensive, as he imagined all the Thirds were, over the idea of working with demons he knew so little about for the vague promise of rewards he barely understood. Meeting Vikarr and Mala had been one of the stranger moments of his life. Demons were like nothing he could have imagined, but he could have never imagined falling in love with one either.
“What’s the schedule for this job like?” Donovan turned to ask Lucifer for more details but he was no longer there. He had gotten his required loyalty and just left Donovan alone with his new colleagues to figure things out on their own. “Or I could just embarrass myself.”
“I think that means the schedule is flexible.” Mala was fascinated by the idea of working so closely with a vampire, but had hoped for a girl, or at least one with hair. The Third in Nihil had none, not even eyebrows. “Donovan is it?”
“Yea.” Donovan had not realized Mala had come so close and when he turned to the smile and purple eyes inches from him, he jumped away. “Hey, don’t sneak up on me.”
“You’ll get used to that.” Mala offered his hand to apologize and make a proper introduction. “I’m Mala. I assume this is still an acceptable greeting. I haven’t been among humans for a while.”
“Donovan Watt.” The vampire closed his fingers around Mala’s for the first time and loved the delicate feel of the slender digits in his. He expected demons to be monstrous, but instead they all seemed aesthetic marvels and while they had an intimidating presence, this one was gentle and his smile put Donovan at ease. “No worries, I haven’t been human for a while.”
“Oh, you’re funny!” Mala laughed. “I was afraid you would be one of those dark and brooding, moody types.”
“Don’t let the head fool you.” Donovan had suffered an ailment that left him without a trace of hair before he was turned. It had made him a target of ridicule in his younger days, but as time went by it almost went unnoticed and he had grown to like the look that had once irritated him. He was almost amused that what once drove people away now attracted them to him. “As long as you steer clear when I’m hungry, I’m a generally likeable guy.”
“Can I?” Mala reached for Donovan’s head and smiled at the warmth and smooth surface. “Neat.”
“So were the two of you buddies before this or what?” Donovan tried to dismiss the gentle fingers on his scalp and establish some sort of working relationship with the other demon. Quiet and ridiculously tall, he was the more intimidating of the pair. His hair, eyes and clothes so well matched that he seemed almost comical if not for the mischievous grin.
“Lord Vikarr is a Watcher.” Mala explained. “They tend to keep more impressive friends than myself.”
“Impressive or not, he’s stuck with both of us now.” Donovan looked up at Vikarr and hoped the giant was as friendly as Mala. “You okay with that?”
“I will manage.” Vikarr smiled and left the others to chat as he walked up the stairs to see what he could make of his office.
“The quiet type.” Donovan shook his head.
“He’s just being cautious.” Mala assured him quietly. “From what I know of the Jester’s reputation, he will not be the quiet one.”
“Well, I have no idea what needs doing, but if you’ve been out of the world a bit I can give you a tour.” Donovan made the offer without thinking and felt a bit childish in making it. Demons seemed to just pop all over and likely did not need any help from him in finding their way around. But if he was going to find a friend among his new colleagues he was fairly certain it was going to be Mala and not Vikarr.
“Sounds like fun.” Mala startled Donovan as he changed. A mist of magic that quickly surrounded him turned his stuffy suit into a more comfortable ensemble. Mala pushed up the fuzzy blue sleeves of his sweater and ran his fingers through his dark hair until it was a frazzled mess. “Much better.”
“Neat trick.” Donovan laughed. He loved the scattered sections of deep purples in Mala’s black hair and wanted to run his fingers through it. He thought it might be better not to even look; he had no business touching a demon. “I need to learn that one.”
“If you aren’t naturally inclined I’m afraid that’s not going to be easy.” Mala gave him a quirky smile. “If you are in a pinch I can do a few magic tricks for you. Where are we headed?”
“Up until a few months ago I would have said straight to hell…” Donovan was glad to see Mala chuckling at his bad joke. “My car is out front, I’ll just show you around the city.”
“That’s exciting.” Mala exclaimed. He was just as excited over the new friend he was making as he was over all the new experiences his new position would offer. “I’ve never even been in a car. Can you teach me?”
“To drive?” Donovan laughed. He was amused and relieved by the request. If even demons still had things to experience it gave him hope that his long life still had mystery to offer. New world, new job, new friends. There was still hope for the world and he was starting to enjoy his place in it again. “Sure. Why not?”
Donovan wandered out in his cotton pajama pants and curled up at one end of the couch under the blanket. Mala had already picked a movie and had it queued up, he started it before Donovan had even finished settling in and the sudden volume stirred Dodo.
“More pancakes please.” Dodo danced along his perch excitedly.
“You have ruined that bird.” Donovan rubbed Mala’s ankles as he stretched along the couch.
“He’s precious.” Mala grinned. “Just like you.”
“Mala loves Donovan.” Dodo whistled and Mala clapped over his hard earned success.
“Good job, Dodo!” Mala smiled and poked at Donovan with his toes.
“Now I can never have company.” Donovan laughed. Mala must have spent weeks repeating the phrase to get Dodo to pick it up.
“You never have company anyway.” Mala reached for another bag of chips. “Don’t be mean or I’ll bring Dodo to meet the Council tomorrow.”
“I should have gotten a cat.” Donovan leaned over and hugged Mala’s legs. “They are quiet.”
“Shh.” Mala rubbed Donovan’s head and giggled. “I’m trying to watch the movie.”