“Are you okay?” Neka crouched in front of Bishop and patted his head as he laid on the floor. He just squeezed his eyes closed and she whimpered. “Are you mad at Neka?”
“Not at you.” Bishop muttered.
“I suggest you adjust to this quickly.” Kage sneered down at the boy. “If all your continued existence is going to accomplish is upsetting my daughter, I will very much enjoy revoking the gift you’ve been given.”
“Some gift.” Bishop opened his eyes and focused on the floor in front of him. Detail he never would have considered or imagined in the stone was now somehow fascinating. He turned his gaze up at Neka and felt defeated by his own bitterness. Seeing the girl so concerned over him swept away everything else and he sat up and hugged her. “I’m sorry. Don’t cry. I’ll get used to this.”
“I’m uncertain whether to think of you as one of humanities best or worst.” Farren chuckled quietly as he sat against the wall watching the touching scene. “You cave so quickly to the whims of a child.”
“Coming from one who slaughtered on behalf of a woman.” Kage hissed. “You would do well to remember your life is in his hands. I am not all that happy to suffer the continued presence of either of you.”
“Tell me you aren’t taking her on this outing.” Bishop chose to ignore his urge to inform the demon that the feeling was very much mutual and focus on his concern for the relieved child that clung too him and pulled at his hair. “It’s no place for a little girl.”
“You suggest I instead leave her in the care of her bloodthirsty pet and the traitor bound to it?” Kage glared at him. “My daughter will be in no danger if she is with me and your opinion on the matter is unneeded and insulting.”
“Right.” Bishop sighed.
“Teach Neka more songs.” She bounced on Bishop’s lap and tugged the ends of his hair as she swung her tail. “Neka wants to play.”
“Give her some time to play, Kage.” Lucifer hooked his arm through Kage’s and pulled at him gently. “You can not watch her every second of her life or she will start to resent you.”
“I won’t have her first hours without me corrupted by these two…” Kage was silenced by Lucifer’s kiss.
“Let me put this another way, Kevas.” Lucifer grinned as he let Kage right himself. The tie slipping through his fingers as the words slid from his tongue. “Vade hala de, baat.”
“Tek, det Vasun.” Kage was reluctant to leave his child but had missed his time with Lucifer too much to protest. “Have Lilith look in on them.”
“Of course.” Lucifer grinned. “Neka, you should show your pet to some of Lilith’s gardens.”
“Okay!” Neka pulled Bishop’s leash as she stood and waited for him to drag himself to his feet. She watched Farren join him and offer to keep him steady on his feet and giggled as Bishop refused the offer. “Neka thinks you two are funny. Let’s go play.”
“How am I supposed to deal with this?” Bishop whispered to Farren as Neka bounced along in front of them, tugging at his leash as she led them through hallways where stone monsters taunted the both of them. “I hurt.”
“Their plan is for me to keep you fed.” Farren sighed and took Bishop by his elbow as they kept pace with the exuberant child. “Another bit of atonement for the damage I’ve done. For Evadia I would suffer far worse. I have no doubt this was not in your plans, but you care for that girl. You will deal with this for her.”
“I don’t like it.” Bishop hung his head.
“Like what?” Neka turned and looked up at him grinning.
“Nothing, sweetheart.” Bishop smiled. “Where is this garden?”
“Carry Neka.” She threw her arms up toward him and Bishop obliged the request. As she pointed the way she tried to comfort her pet over his new gift. “Don’t be sad, Bishop. Neka’s sister and brother are vampires, too. Neka wants to have a stabby smile when she grows up, too!”
“I’m not certain your dear father would enjoy hearing that.” Farren laughed beside them as they walked through the doors that opened into an immense garden. “Remarkable…”
“This is one of Lilith’s little gardens.” Neka pulled one of the flowers they walked past and started to chew on it. “She loves flowers. Do you like flowers, Bishop?”
“I guess.” Bishop muttered. He had never given them much thought, but even without knowing the name of a single bloom in this botanical marvel, he was impressed by it. Vibrant colors set amongst the varied hues of greens that caught the strange light of Hell’s sky and burst with a luster that he would have never imagined before now. He wasn’t sure if it was this place, or seeing with new senses that made it so beautiful; he only knew he could spend hours under the branches here content with nothing but the view and the sweet perfume of the blossoms that grew around them.
“Don’t eat all of my orchids, Neka.” Lilith pulled Neka’s tail playfully when she walked past them to the edge of a set of stone planters that served as seating. As Bishop followed with the girl giggling in his arms Lilith sat and folded her hands on her knee. “Are you enjoying your gift?”
“I love it.” Neka squeezed around Bishop before she popped to her feet and hugged Lilith. “Thank you, Mama.”
“You are very welcome.” Lilith squeezed Neka beside her and took a bit of Bishop’s leash in her fingers. “But I was asking your pet.”
“You left out quite a few details about this arrangement, Mistress.” Bishop crouched and hung his head. At the very least the cunning woman had known from the first breath that his time with Neka would not be short. He hoped she had some deeper purpose for choosing him. “I don’t know that it is a gift, but I don’t want to offend you by answering before I even understand what is going on.”
“I couldn’t give you details I was unsure of.” Lilith chuckled. “Any number of things could have changed the outcome. I could not give you certainty that my Lord Lucifer or the Viper would accept you here at all. Or that Neka would. I most certainly did not expect the involvement of Frost and that Siren of his.”
“I don’t understand any of you.” Bishop sighed. “But I like Neka. I’ll look out for her.”
“And how about you, traitor?” Lilith grinned up at Farren. “You seem eager to play hero for your child, but once Evadia is out of harms way?”
“I would give my life to save hers.” Farren nodded respectfully to the Dark Mistress. “And I have. My sacrifice may not have ended my life, but I came to repent. This boys thirst is going to be my prison. Your Dark Lord made certain I can not stray far from my cage.”
“Nyaa!” Neka squealed as she jumped at Bishop and changed into a white kitten and clawed her way up to his shoulder purring. The leash still wrapped around her front leg had thinned to accommodate her smaller form and she rubbed against Bishop’s neck as she peeked into his hair. “Come out little bug. Neka saw you.”
“Bug?” Bishop reached into the hair behind his neck and felt a gentle flutter that startled him before he felt the thin limbs latch around his fingers to escape the kitten that reached for it. When he pulled his hand in front of him a fairy smiled back. “Where did you come from?”
“Maefyl’s shoulder was spoken for.” Vafera giggled. “I thought I would try yours out.”
“Bishop’s shoulders are Neka’s.” The kitten purred. “You have to ask Neka first.”
“This week can’t get any weirder.” Bishop shook his head. If it weren’t for the way he ached he would have sworn he was having some bizarre nightmare and he would wake up to his usual routine, but he knew better. All the pain he had felt was real, all the tears he had shed really fell. He was now the property of the demon on his shoulder, caretaker of an angel who betrayed all of Tsuriai and had a fairy wrapped around his fingers asking for friendship. He had lost family and friends and been swept into a frightening new life before he could even process the idea of mourning and seen Lucifer and his demons at odds with the future of Tsuriai. Bishop never thought his life would be anything spectacular. He never wanted it to be. He just wanted to be a good person and do the right thing. His morals led him here. A confused immortal with no more than a sense of decency to lead him forward. Bishop pet Neka and smiled as he hoped the right thing was not going to lead him down the wrong path. “I have two shoulders. What is your name?”
“Vafera.” The fairy smiled. “I can stay?”
“I’m not opposed.” Bishop nodded. “But I don’t make the rules.”
“When it comes to fairies, no one does.” Lilith laughed. “I’ll see to it Kage and Lord Lucifer are aware of our new arrival.”
“I realize I am not in a position to ask.” Farren looked to Lilith a moment before he carefully considered his words. He just could not seem to leave the question unanswered. They could have created any sort of companion to fill the girl’s time. Even among existing servants more docile, loyal company had to be available, and definitely less likely to be so offensive to her father. “But if you would grant the favor, Mistress; I am puzzled.”
“As am I.” Lilith grinned.
“I realize you are as keen to see my end as Kage and Lucifer.” Farren smiled. He could see in her eyes the distaste for his interruption; for his presence. “My intent isn’t to pry. I’m just curious. Why a human boy to begin with?”
“Why not?” Lilith laughed. There was no need for secrecy and Bishop was entitled to the answer he clearly wanted as he glanced at her. “The boy is impressive. I like him. Neka needs companionship beyond that of her father. As much as I enjoy seeing the Viper so irritated by this, it is actually meant to help him as well. My Lord Lucifer needs his Viper, Neka needs to develop beyond his tightly coiled embrace. Bishop is about as kind as humans are capable of, he is a rarity among the race and has suffered to keep himself above the petty nonsense that swallow most of their existence. If any human can help Neka see their worth, it is Bishop.”
“Wanted to show her human worth then saw to it he was no longer human.” Farren laughed. “So her first lesson is to corrupt the pure and decent.”
“A charming observation on your part.” Lilith smiled and admired Bishop’s way with Neka and his new companion as she scolded Farren for his hypocrisy. “Considering the work of angels past and your predilection to destroy beautiful things without regret. You have little say in what is pure and decent. Maefyl’s gift hasn’t taken either quality from Bishop.”
“Merely pointing out the obvious, my Lady of Darkness.” Farren bowed mockingly. “You brought him here as a human for his rarity among them. Now he is no longer human or rare.”
“Both of you quit it.” Bishop insisted quietly. He was making every effort to ignore the ache spreading through him as he tried to end another fight before it began. He hated all the fighting the girl was subjected to, he didn’t want to be the source of it. “The obvious doesn’t need to be pointed out and there is no point in bickering over what has already been done. I am what I am.”
“And you are still very much the kind and patient boy I brought here.” Lilith smiled at the young fairy sneaking across his collar to Neka’s shoulder to make friends. “The very sweet newling on your shoulder seems to agree.”
“Neka likes your new friend, Bishop.” Neka rubbed against his neck and purred as she wrapped Vafera in a fuzzy embrace. “She smells nice. Just don’t make too many friends. Neka doesn’t want to share you.”
“You make the rules, sweety.” Bishop smiled, but there was something in her words that scared him. As young as she was, as sweet and innocent, her time with her family had already instilled many of their ideals. The childlike possession over him could in time become something terrifying. It gave him chills when he thought of her father’s cold gaze and realized her eyes might one day be just as filled with hatred and ice.