So, this one is for Specialbones147, my friend who had her birthday recently. Happy belated (very belated) birthday!
She could feel eyes on her. Amber eyes, strange, dangerous, almost enticing, tempting. Asking, daring her to meet them, their challenge.
She looked over.
There stood a man, the owner of the amber eyes, with a smirk on his lips and a glint in his eyes, which flickered to her cart and back. His smirk widened, amused.
She, too, glanced at her cart, and blushed a little. Perhaps she did seem to have one too many bottles in there…
She looked up again and started, eyes widening. In that brief moment, the man had left his place on the wall and was right in front of her. Her heart sped up as she froze, staring at him with wide eyes.
A soft chuckle dropped from his mouth, and he leaned forward, black hair brushing against her cheek, and whispered in her ear, "Well, aren't you a funny one?" One hand reached out and caressed her cheek as he leaned back again, amber eyes gleaming, and as she met them, her breath caught in her throat.
Nine months later, Maria stared at the little bundle in her arms. The baby stared back up at her, blinking clear blue eyes that gleamed with a strange mixture of curiosity and… if Maria didn't know better, she would say it was… not knowledge, exactly, more… knowing.
Maria was alone; Vetis, the father of her child, of this child, was long gone. He'd left within a week, long before she learned she was pregnant.
She suspected that he already knew.
She learned, in that time, that the lover she'd taken was not human, but something else entirely… a demon. She shivered.
Vetis was a demon.
And her child… her child was a half-demon. A cambion.
Maria shuddered with a repressed sob and pulled her little son, who was, by all appearances, just like any other, to her chest, cradling him protectively.
He blinked his blue eyes up at her. She wondered what color they would become.
She wondered if they would become dangerous amber.
Carol yelped as someone bumped into her, causing her coffee to tip and spill its contents all down her shirt. She cursed to herself and reached to the side for the napkin dispenser.
At the same time, she heard a muttered expletive from beside her, and a wad of napkins was pressed into her reaching hand. "Here."
Carol took them and started to pat down the front of her shirt. Damn it, she had to go to work soon, she couldn't show up with a coffee stain down it –
She looked up, annoyance gleaming in her eyes, and met a bright blue gaze.
"Sorry about that," the man apologized, bending over to help. "I should have been watching where I was going."
"No, no, it's fine," Carol dismissed, setting her thoroughly emptied cup aside and examining the damage to her shirt, wondering if it was still salvageable.
In fact, there wasn't a mark on it.
She looked back up to the man with wide eyes. He grinned at her and reached out, tucking blonde hair behind her ear. "Why don't you let me make it up to you? After all, you're now short a cup of coffee."
Caleb was muttering again.
Maria sighed, setting down her cup of tea, and watching Caleb with dark green eyes that matched the boy's own.
He was sitting in his corner, muttering, settled behind the sofa and the armchair, almost hidden from sight. His back rested against the papered wall, eyes focused on something only he could see.
He did this, sometimes. He would sit alone, muttering to himself, for hours on end. Maria could not distract him. She had tried, but when Caleb did this, she could hardly get him to look at her, let alone speak to her.
And he would pause, while he was muttering. Like someone was speaking back.
Caleb snickered to himself, clearly amused.
"They would never be a normal child."
Carol blinked and looked at Camael with a frown. "Huh?" How had he…? But that was a silly question.
"I know what you were thinking." Camael wasn't looking at her, fiddling with a trinket in his lap instead. "It… it's not a good idea, Carol."
"Why not?" Carol asked. Simply, as though she expected a simple answer.
Camael looked up now, worried blue meeting soft brown. "They would never be a normal child," he repeated, struggling to articulate his thoughts, to explain. "They… Carol, they would be strange." Looking at him, at his earnest expression, she understood that he was explaining the best he could. Carol's angel was only being honest. "You wouldn't understand them at first." A hint of a troubled look made its way to Camael's face, which, Carol thought, said a lot. "You might not ever understand them."
Carol looked at him, and the open honesty in her eyes could do any angel proud – Camael most of all. "I don't mind."
Camael looked at her, blinked once, and, slowly, smiled.
Maria pushed her cart along, watching Caleb's little hand cling to the side, fingers tangled in the stiff metal webbing. When he abruptly let go, she stiffened in place, eyes darting to Caleb.
Caleb's green-eyed gaze had zeroed in on a woman, carrying a shopping basket on one arm.
"Caleb?" Maria asked, worried, and wondering what dark secret the woman was surely hiding, for why else would Caleb take an interest in her?
Caleb didn't answer. Instead, he started forward, eyes never leaving the oblivious woman. Maria looked after him helplessly. The woman, staring into her basket with a pensive gaze, didn't notice the approaching boy until it was too late.
A small hand reached into the basket, startling her. She looked up just in time to see Caleb hold the bottle up to her, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"What's this for?" he asked, a little too innocently.
She froze, looking at him, expression reminiscent of a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding car. Like the deer, she didn't move away. Like the car, Caleb didn't stop.
He smiled, then looked down at the label with childish intensity, and Maria tried to convince herself that he wasn't reading it, because Caleb had never learned to read.
"It says to take two," Caleb stated, gaze travelling slowly up to land on the stricken woman, and he smiled at her, easy and just a little frightening.
Caleb can't read, Maria thought faintly. He can't.
"What would happen if you took four?" Caleb continued, voice soft and curious, still smiling up at the woman. "Six?" His eyes sparkled with mirth as he went on, "What would happen if you took all of them?" His smile widened. "Mommy, would you die?" He didn't look at Maria even as he addressed her, dark green eyes staying on the steadily paling woman. "Would I?"
A soft, high-pitched noise, like a whine, escaped her throat, and Maria hurried forward, picking Caleb up and settling him on her hip.
"I'm sorry," she said breathlessly, watching helplessly as the woman came close to hyperventilating, wide eyes frozen to Caleb. "I'm sorry. He's... he's not right."
Caleb stuck his thumb in his mouth and smiled up at her, a knowing look gleaming in his eyes.
I know what it's for.
I know what you're doing tonight.
Bree smiled up at Camael. "Dada!" she repeated, tugging at his pant leg.
She's just babbling, Carol reminded herself, unable to stop her fingers from tightening around the edge of her chair. She won't be able to talk for another six months at least. She's just babbling.
Camael, though smiled and crouched down to tickle Bree's stomach, earning himself a giggling protest. "That's right, Bree bee. Say it again."
Bree giggled. "Dada!"
Camael grinned, glanced up, and winked at Carol. "She knows her Daddy," Camael said proudly.
"Right," Carol murmured, then shook herself and got up, crossing over to settle herself beside Camael, and smiled at Bree. "Come on, Bree. Say 'Mama'."
Maria sat heavily on her chair and buried her face in her hands, suppressing a groan. She didn't bother to suppress the renewed one that came after it when she felt a characteristic tug on her sleeve.
"Caleb," she half-moaned, almost whined, without peeking out from behind her hands. "Not right now, dark heart."
Caleb crossed his arms and huffed. "Fine." His eyes darted to the cabinet. She didn't notice. "I can entertain myself."
Slowly, he edged over. Maria finally looked up, and a gasp escaped her throat.
The cabinet was open.
A shelf of bottles, many of them empty, sat on the bottom.
One of these bottles sat in Caleb's hand.
And he was looking at her.
There wasn't the usual look in his eyes when he found a sore point, a past or present shame. There was no triumph, no amusement, no sinister glee. He wore no frightening smile or slight smirk.
Instead, there was nothing.
There was no doubt in Maria's mind that Caleb knew what it was, why she had it.
But his gaze was empty.
Maria wondered if he'd yet found the needle.
"-and it was so much fun, Daddy, I really like dancing. Ms. Rosenson said that a lot of boys don't like dancing. Do you like dancing, Daddy?" Bree stopped talking, seemingly waiting for an answer. Carol, who had been hovering close by, waiting for an opportunity, jumped in.
"Sweetheart? Who are you talking to?"
Bree looked up at her and smiled. "Daddy," she answered, matter-of-fact.
Carol paused, and then, carefully, said, "Bree, Daddy isn't here right now." She had wondered when this would become an issue – Camael wasn't always around, because he was so busy, but Bree… well, she loved her Daddy, Carol was under no illusions. Bree was a Daddy's girl.
Bree nodded solemnly. "I know." But then her smile reappeared, and she reached up to tap the side of her head. "But he's listening."
But Bree wasn't listening, blue eyes cutting to the side as she nodded along to something Carol couldn't hear. Finally, she looked back to Carol and smiled. "Daddy says to tell you that it's not… not…" She frowned, pronouncing the next word slowly and carefully. "Un-prec-e-den-ted." Then her smile beamed back to life. If Carol knew Camael, and she did, he had just congratulated Bree on getting the word right.
"Oh," Carol replied faintly.
Bree smiled at her and went back to talking to someone Carol couldn't see, or hear, someone who wasn't even there. "I saw one lady dance with a ribbon once. Daddy, it was so pretty-"
"Why do you cry?"
Maria, tears still spilling down her face, didn't look up as the mattress dipped beside her. "Caleb," she croaked. "Not now."
A small hand pushed her hands down, and another lifted her head, forcing her to look into dark green eyes.
"Why do you cry?" Caleb repeated.
Maria stared at him, at her own green eyes reflected back at her, darker and more sinister than hers had ever been, more knowing, less telling, and never with a tear gleaming in their depths.
She wanted to tell him. She couldn't tell him, couldn't bring herself to-
I cry because of you.
And Caleb's hand dropped from her head, and he leaned back, gaze cooling to a glacial ice green.
She hadn't said a word. She hadn't needed to; Caleb knew.
Caleb always knew.
And that was why she didn't let her thought finish forming, the thought that would ruin everything, the thought-
I cry because you are-
She didn't let the thought finish.
Carol looked over and smiled as Bree darted over to her, toes skimming across the ground in her excitement, smooth green ribbon trailing behind her.
"Mommy, Mommy, did you see?" Bree's eyes were alight with excitement, slender wand clutched tight in her hand.
"I did," smiled Carol, reaching down. Bree reluctantly surrendered her stick, and Carol started to fold the ribbon, smooth satin skimming across her skin. "It was beautiful, Bree. You did wonderfully."
Bree beamed. "Thanks, Mommy!"
"That was wonderful, Bree bee."
Bree started, eyes widening for a moment, before she turned and a smile, brighter than before, flickered across her face. "Daddy! You came!"
Camael laughed and nodded, grinning. "Of course. It's your first dance recital; I had to come."
Bree laughed, delighted, and dashed over to hug him tightly. "Thanks, Daddy!" She knew he was busy a lot, but he'd come anyway. She smiled up at him.
A Daddy's girl through and through, Carol thought wryly.
And it was true. When she first walked, she'd walked to him. When she'd first talked, she'd talked to him.
And as Carol watched Camael pick Bree up with ease, sending her squealing with delight, she knew that when Bree first flew, she would fly to him.
But Carol would always be the one who raised her.
"That's enough, Mama."
Caleb's gaze was cold and hard, unnatural on a five-year-old's face, and he threw the needle, crushed by one small fist, on the ground before Maria.
"No more," Caleb said, even more fiercely.
Maria slowly looked up from the needle to Caleb, mind slow in its drugged and drunken state, and said,
"Not as long as you're still around, Caleb."
"Why not?" Caleb's voice was sharp, demanding, and, even more, angry.
I cry because you are a demon child.
I cry because I fell for a demon of Hell.
Maria cried, and Caleb walked away.