"No," Tia agrees, running her hand down his face; his stubble and Hunter's mark catching on her fingertips. "It won't be ok. Not like this." She swallows, suddenly nervous, and lifts her head to look him in the eye. "But we can make it better."
He starts. The shockwave jumps through him and Tia tumbles to the floor as he stands up. "Oh," he says. "That's why you're here!" He smiles and paces over to the window. "That's why you blew up at Acheron!"
Tia lies on the floor grinning up at him like an idiot; Nick gets it.
It occurs to him, just then, that trusting her is not necessarily a good idea. How does he know that she's Tia Deveraux. He'd barely known her back then; how can he be sure.
He doesn't allow his unease to show on his face. These last few years he's become very good at it. Well, most of the time.
Rage nearly always gets through; no matter how much he tries to tamp it down.
Tia – or the thing that looks like Tia – picks herself off the floor and says, "Ash got us killed, Nick. He pronounced Fate and I got murdered. Why shouldn't I hate him?" She swallows. "So many people died that night. Me, you, your mother. Amanda and Kyrian. So many people who never even knew to protect themselves! He did that, Nick. He could have saved us all but he didn't!" Her voice cracks at this last. "He wouldn't save us; he wouldn't lift a goddamn finger."
"That's what hurts most isn't it?"
"That he saved Amanda but not you."
"What? No! I –" Her face falls. "I mean, yeah, sort of. But I'm happy Amanda's alive! I never ever would want her dead. But –"
"Why was she saved and no one else?"
Tia looks away. She can't look him in the eye. If she does she'll see that he doesn't trust her anymore. The light in his eyes had changed a moment before and she knew she'd lost him.
It is regrettable but she can do this without him. It would have been nice to involve him; to give him fair warning but it can't be helped.
She gets to her feet and hugs him. "Thanks, Nick, but I'm out." It's cold, it's less than he deserves, it's a hell of a lot less than she wants to say but it'll have to do.
He watches her walk out the door. He watches her walk back down the street, the sun beginning to slide above the horizon, and wonders if he's screwed up entirely.
Probably. His life is just one disaster after another after all.
He rolls his shoulders, getting the kink out of his neck, and turns back into the house.
Tia returns to the cemetery. She has always found it peaceful there. It's quiet and reverent and powerful. Her power has always come from her family. Generations upon generations of Devereauxs and Floras lived and died in this city and she can feel them in her bones.
And each and every one of them will lend her strength now.
She sits cross-legged in the middle of the central path, the grit of the concrete digging into her skin, and begins.
The temperature plummets, the wind rises and rain buckets down.
In the centre of it all sits Tia Devereaux; dead still and not a drop on her.
The storm is unexpected.
Ash squints at the sky and for a moment he can see flashes of something other than lightning in the clouds. Behind him, Tory rolls over in bed and yawns. "What time is it?"
"Just after five."
She groans and pulls the covers back over her head. She emerges a moment later to say, "Babe. What is it?"
Ash flops on the bed and puts his head in her lap. "I dunno. It's weird, I feel like something's happening and that I should know what it is. But I don't and it scares the shit out of me."
"Hah. So you're saying that for once in your life you don't know all the variables? Nice of you to join the rest of us in the real world." She is not unsympathetic but her tone softens nonetheless, "How long has this been happening?"
"Since last night."
"Since you met the dead woman?"
"Yeah. Did I tell you who she was?"
"Tabitha's sister, you said."
"No, I – I mean did I tell you who she was to Nick?" Tory shakes her head and Ash continues, "If I hadn't said what I said they'd probably be married now. Neither of them would hate me. Cherise would be alive. Nick'd be happy."
"Hey hey," she cups his face in her hands and looks him in the eye, "don't beat yourself up. It was a mistake, we all make them. And, anyway, he'd still be the Malachai. That alone is enough to fuck anyone up."
"It's just – I just. Something's coming, Tory. Coming here, to our city, and it feels so familiar. I should know what it is but I can't put my finger on it."
They arrive quietly.
The dead fade into the world. Not to where they died – Tia would never be so cruel – but to where they are needed.
Tia hopes they will understand why she has done this to them. "This is not a punishment," she tells them "This is not hell. If you want to leave I will understand. I only want to help you; I only want to help the people you've left behind. To help you say the things you never got to say." She smiles at them. "You definitely have until this time tomorrow but after that I make no guarantees. Sorry."
One of them, their form still indistinct, says, "How can we repay you?" Behind the words is a murmur of agreement from the others.
After a moment Tia says, "There is something you could do. Tell them Tia Devereaux sent you."