QSFer Kim Fielding has a new historical MM holiday paranormal noir romance out, The Bureau Book 7: “Caroled.”
Charles Grimes hasn’t celebrated Christmas in years, so spending December in San Francisco while keeping an eye out for monsters sounds like an easy way to earn a few bucks. He should have learned by now that nothing is ever easy—not his job, not his existence as the son of an angel, and not his relationship with a formerly captive demon. It’s going to take more than a few rounds of Jingle Bells to make Charles feel the joys of the season.
Tenrael wouldn’t sit still, and that was distracting. Charles had opted to drive up Highway 1 rather than use the more inland 101 or 99. This way was slower but more scenic, with the Pacific usually in view to their left, often far below, and trees towering overhead. He’d thought they might as well make a sort of vacation out of the journey, and Tenrael—who rarely traveled by car and mostly flew at night—had been enjoying the scenery.
Charles, however, had to keep a close eye on the road, and that was difficult with Tenrael squirming beside him.
“Is it the movement that’s bothering you?” Charles asked. “Or the clothes?” Tenrael wore gray trousers and a pale-blue collared shirt. He’d owned the trousers for some time, but Charles had bought him several shirts the day before, along with some socks and a pair of shoes that Tenrael still hadn’t put on.
“No. My wings.”
Charles’s back ached in empathy. “They’ll come back when you take off the ring.”
Yesterday Tenrael had slipped the ring on and off several times, and they’d both marveled to see his wings and horns disappear and his eyes turn from glowing red to a warm dark brown. At the time, Tenrael had seemed fascinated by his transformation and maybe even a little amused. But he’d only kept the ring on for a short time. Today he’d been wearing it for hours.
Now he rubbed his back against the car seat. “Did it take a long time for you to adjust when you lost yours?”
“I didn’t lose them—I had them chopped off.” By a disreputable surgeon who patched up gangsters or performed abortions if paid well enough. He’d wanted to keep the severed, bloody things, but Charles had taken them and burned them, not saving a single white feather.
“When you lost them,” Tenrael insisted.
“Mine weren’t like yours. They were… stunted. Useless. I didn’t miss them.”
Tenrael snorted at this obvious lie. For a while he remained still, staring inland through his window. But then they passed through a grove of trees so thick that little light shone through, and when Tenrael saw his reflection in the glass, he rubbed his head where his horns should be.
“They’ll come back,” Charles repeated.
“What if they do not?”
“Then I would have a very serious discussion with Townsend, and he’d find a way to restore them.”
Tenrael turned and faced him. Charles kept his gaze on the road but saw in his peripheral vision the frown creasing Tenrael’s brow. “I mean,” Tenrael said quietly, with a rare note of hesitation, “what if I chose to remain like this. Ordinary.”
“You’d never be ordinary.”
“But I could look ordinary. Look human. I could walk or drive as you do instead of flying.”
The conversation was making Charles uncomfortable, and he wished he could walk away from it. If they’d been at home, he would have gone to the beach and traversed the band of wet sand, carefully keeping his mind as gray and blank as the fog that rolled in at sunset. But he was trapped in the car, so he sighed instead.
“If you’d rather pass for human, then that’s what you should do.”
Charles used to dye his white hair dark and wear sunglasses to hide his odd green eyes, but even then, people had sensed something odd about him. Anyway, he’d abandoned those efforts when he left the Bureau. Let people think what they would.
“Do you want me to be human? Master?”
The last word made Charles realize that Tenrael was asking a very different sort of question than he’d originally thought. His heart twisted painfully. How could Tenrael—magnificent, powerful, eternal—renounce his own nature just to please him?
“I want you to be yourself,” Charles replied quietly.
It was the truth, and it was also a good answer. Tenrael stopped squirming and instead settled one big hand just above Charles’s knee. Then he leaned back in his seat and smiled.
Kim Fielding has migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States and currently lives in California. She’s a university professor who dreams of being able to travel and write full-time. She also dreams of having two perfectly-behaved children, a husband who isn’t obsessed with football, and a house that cleans itself. Some dreams are more easily obtained than others.