Niall set two steaming mugs of strong, black coffee on the small, worn table in his tiny apartment kitchen. Chiedra sat with her back to the wall, facing him. She was just finishing attaching the last bit of medical tape to the new bandage covering the gash where a stray bullet had grazed her arm during the firefight at the Graveyard. Niall had demanded to see it when she’d arrived just a few minutes earlier. He’d grumbled at her about not taking adequate care and pulled out his battered first aid kit. Chiedra reached out when she finished and picked up the hot mug of coffee and held it between two hands, smiling gratefully at Niall as he sat across from her with a heavy sigh.
“Thanks,” Chiedra said, taking a sip of her coffee. “Mmm, you still know how to make a great cup of coffee, Niall.”
“It’s the beans,” he replied. “If you spend a few dollars on good beans, you get a good cup of coffee.”
Chiedra glanced down at Niall’s clothes and chuckled softly. “That figures. Did you pay more for these beans than that outfit you’re wearing?”
“What?” Niall tried to sound offended. “What’s wrong with my clothes?”
“The same thing that was wrong with them when I was 15, T’Sher*” Niall could hear the laughter in Chiedra’s tone. He smiled fondly. “Honestly, you dress like a homeless man. Don’t you care about the impression you make?”
“It doesn’t matter, KiKi,” he responded. “It never has. And you’ve never understood that. What I wear, where I live, what others think. Those things are unimportant. What matters is what I do, and why I do it. That’s all that matters.”
Chiedra didn’t respond. They’d had this talk many times. She thought Niall sacrificed too much for too little. He worked so hard and pushed himself to help others at almost any cost to himself. Chiedra couldn’t understand why he tried so hard. It wasn’t like he got anything out of all that effort really. Sure, maybe some demons or witches or whatever thought he was the shit (because he seriously was), but no one ever rewarded Niall. No one ever offered him anything at all. So why bother? What good was being so…good all the time?
Niall could see from the look on Chiedra’s face that they were about to have the same argument they’d had time and again. Even though he’d raised the beautiful demoness through her formative years, he’d never been able to instill in her the same ingrained morality that had always been the compass by which Niall measured his life. As always before, Niall sensed Chiedra’s restlessness. She sought something elusive. Chiedra believed that what she was looking for was a way home, but Niall suspected it was more than that. He believed that Chiedra sought a purpose, a reason to explain why she’d been ripped away from her life and thrust into a cold, bright world that so poorly fit her. Niall had tried time and again to convince Chiedra to aid him in his fight. He believed that if she joined him she would finally find that purpose. He thought, or at least hoped, that by joining him Chiedra would finally find a measure of peace.
“Do you want to hear about Logan?” Chiedra asked, pointedly changing the subject. With a sigh, Niall nodded. Chiedra quickly reviewed for the older man how her meeting with Logan in the park had gone. When she finished, she waited for his take on matters.
Niall looked thoughtful, taking a sip of his coffee. “Do you think this is the best idea? I mean, you aren’t being forthright about who you are. What happens if he finds out about your connection to me? He’s liable to be…upset to say the least.”
“And how do you think he’d feel if I told him when we met that I was your ‘daughter’ for lack of a better term, Niall?” Chiedra’s voice was full of sarcasm. “You think he’d have been willing to overlook that failing just for my pretty face? I seriously doubt Logan is ever really hard up for a date. And I was there when you two first met. Whatever hold Balthy’s got on the kid, he’s got some failsafe in place to keep Logan far away from the likes of you. This seemed like my best option. If I can get to know Logan, maybe figure out how Balthazar is using him, maybe I can even get Logan to trust me enough to let us help him.”
Niall nodded reluctantly. “Okay, but I don’t have to like it, right? I just feel funny lying to Logan in order to help him.”
“That’s cuz you’re basically honest,” Chiedra quipped. “Which is exactly why you keep me around. I’ll handle the lying. I’m good at it.”
Niall grimaced. He hated how easily this sort of task came to Chiedra. Sometimes he felt that he would never really understand his ward. But he loved the girl anyway. And he was determined to protect and guide her in whatever way he could.
“Alright, so after your ‘date’, you’ll get in touch and let me know if you learn anything else, right?”
“Of course,” Chiedra replied. “Well…maybe not right away. I mean, if the night goes really well, I might wait to call you until the morning.”
Niall rolled his eyes. “Okay, KiKi, that’s enough. You can spare me the gruesome details. Just be careful and keep your eyes open. I want to know what Balthazar is up to, but I’m not willing to sacrifice you to find out. You’re more important than this little project.”
Chiedra smiled at Niall, and on impulse leaned across to kiss him on the cheek. “I’ll be careful. T’Sher, I love you too.”
*T’Sher is Shadrese demon. It is a term of endearment reserved for a favorite uncle or close male friend.*