Taveth leads Grimory into the alley and takes a few breaths to embolden himself enough to speak. “I wanted to apologize for this morning. And for…when I was drunk.”
The demon hunter folds his arms and sets his weight on a hip. “No need to apologize. No one was hurt.” He narrows his eyes. “Physically.”
Taveth flinches and stares at his feet. “Perhaps it’s best we try to pretend it never happened? I’m willing if you are.”
Grimory clenches his jaw and sighs. “Look, Tav. I know you were drunk and didn’t mean anything by it, and I’m more than willing to go on like it didn’t happen, but…it’ll always be there, y’know?”
Taveth purses his lips. “Why can’t you just…”
The Illidari tilts his head. “Just what? Act like it’s fine? Like I’m into you, too? As much as I’d like to, Tav—and trust me I would…”
Taveth jumps as Grimory’s words jar him. “What? No, no! That’s not what I even— I just want you to forget about it, okay? Forget about the kiss, forget about this afternoon. Is that really so much to want?”
Grimory’s ears fall slightly and he blinks. “Is what so much to want?”
Taveth’s eyelids fall in annoyance. “To forget. You heard me! Don’t be an… Don’t be rude about it.”
Grimory narrows his eyes in return. “Forget what? I…honestly have no clue what you mean.”
Taveth’s eyes flash behind the glass of his spectacles and he sucks in an indignant breath. “You are absolutely infuriating, you know that? Just maddening.” He turns on his heel and strides into the tavern, then drops down beside Alisbeth. He scoffs to himself and folds his arms.
She pauses when she hears Taveth’s angry footfalls and blinks up at him before he sits. “Is…everything all right?”
Grimory stops momentarily, brow knit in confusion. After a brief period of thought, he shrugs and returns to his seat, but not without giving Taveth a concerned glance. “I think I need more mead…”
Taveth makes a face at the demon hunter. “Yeah, well, I’m hungover and I could use a drink, too, after your childish behavior.” He scoffs and mutters, “Get me a glass of wine to make up for it.”
Alisbeth laughs at his muttering. “He’s not going to get you a drink, Tav.”
Make up for what?! Grimory stands. “What kind?” Eyes widening ever so slightly, his lips purse and the cords in his neck tighten as he resists the urge to cover his mouth.
Anarchaia lifts her eyebrows at the demon hunter’s behavior. She glances over at Taveth and chuckles incredulously.
Taveth’s eyes widen back at the demon hunter. “Uh…” He blinks quickly. His mind rushes to think, but another thought finds him instead of a drink order. “Get me a white wine.”
Turmoil flashes through Grimory’s eyes and his fists clench at his sides. He passes the mage to go to the bar.
Anarchaia scrambles to drink the rest of her wine and, with a smile, turns with the empty cup. “I like red, Grim!”
“Fuck off, yeah?”
She deflates and purses her lips before turning and setting the cup back down with a shrug. “Worth a try.”
Taveth practically flails out of his seat, then presses his palms over his mouth.
Alisbeth cocks her eyebrow at him. “Everything okay?”
“Mm-hmm,” he says into his hands.
The Illidari returns with a glass of a sweet white and places it before Taveth with as little enthusiasm as possible. He looks down at him with narrowed eyes. “Anything else?”
Taveth makes direct eye contact with Anarchaia, then flicks his eyes at the demon hunter, hinting that she should watch. “Get Ana a refill.” He holds up the glass for Grimory.
An incredulous anger fills his eyes and Grimory straightens. He swipes the glass from Taveth’s hand and returns to the bar.
Anarchaia gapes as he goes and smiles at Taveth. “Why? How?”
Taveth shakes his head. “I think… But I’m not sure… But I think…” He removes his glasses and pinches his nose in thought. “It can’t be possible.”
Anarchaia furrows her brow but her smile remains. <<Did you enslave him?>> she asks in Gutterspeak, then clears her throat as a glass of wine is shoved in her face. “Oh. Thanks, Grim. You’re a doll.”
The demon hunter grunts and retakes his seat. He glances over at Alisbeth’s cup and gives a defeated sigh. “Would you like something as well?”
Alisbeth pushes her glass away and smiles. “No, no. I’m completely fine.”
Taveth purses his lips. <<Spinewing, yes. He was going to kill all of you! But I didn’t enslave Grimory.>>
“Are you sure? You’re probably the only one I’d enjoy waiting on at the moment.” He gives a tired yet charming grin.
<<What? When?>> The mage shakes her head. <<The two’s souls are intertwined,>> Anarchaia explains after a sip of her wine. She chortles after a second. <<Oh gods this is great. I’ve never wanted to be a warlock so badly.>>
“I’m sure. In fact, I’m going to go get that mead you didn’t have the chance to get.” She gives his hand a little squeeze, then goes to the bar.
<<Azsuna. When you overtaxed yourself and that drunkard monk got hit in the face by Ali’s axe.>> Taveth sips his wine, reminding himself to go easy. The corner of his mouth twitches up in a small smile. <<Apparently only one warlock ever did it before. He wrote a book—only one copy exists—and put the word on a page. I honestly don’t know why I said it, other than to summon something big enough to make a difference. >>
Grimory watches her go and after a moment his face softens. He returns to shuffling his cards and dealing hands, fully aware that the two he’s left with are speaking about him.
“That’s pretty neat,” Anarchaia says with raised eyebrows. “I’m rather jealous, actually. Turns out being a simple scholar has its perks. Heh.”
A crooked smile spreads across Taveth’s face. “Heh. Yes, well, knowledge is power.”
Alisbeth hands Grimory his mead and sits beside him, scooting close to make herself cozy against his side.
Anarchaia gives a chuckle. “It certainly is.” She throws a ten-gold chip into the center of the table and eyes the couple beside her through her mask before checking the clock above the bar.
Grimory takes a large drink of his mead and calls the ante with his own chip before draping an arm over the back of the sofa behind Alisbeth. “So, how’s Kolt? You two are normally attached at the hip when you aren’t busy… Or should I say hips.”
The mage whirls back around to scowl at him. “I haven’t seen him since this morning, actually.” She sobers though hides it behind a smile. “Though, I imagine he’s throwing darts at a picture of my face.”
Taveth cocks an eyebrow at her. “What did you do?”
Anarchaia glances between Alisbeth, Grimory, and back to Taveth. She clears her throat. <<I-I got jealous and…bailed on him. Rudely.>>
<<Know where he is? Can you contact him?>> the high elf asks insistently.
Alisbeth leans in to whisper in the demon hunter’s ear. “They sound like cats hacking up fur balls.” She giggles into her palm after.
<<I’m afraid to send a letter. I think I’ll just wait until I see him again. Heh.>>
Grimory snerks into his cup. “There’s a reason they call it Gutterspeak.”
Taveth ignores the two and leans forward. <<I can uh…send a messenger, if you like?>> He winks and slides his eyes toward the demon hunter.
Panic sets in the mage’s face and she waves her hands. “No no,” she says, “that won’t be necessary. I’ll just…lie in the bed I made.”
Taveth hrumphs and folds his arms. “Fine.”
Alisbeth growls impatiently. “What are you two going on about?”
“Nothing,” Anarchaia says with a nervous laugh. “So, what have you been up to, Tav? More research? How’s Diori?”
Taveth sighs and leans back. “I slept in Alisbeth’s bed all day. Then I left and I slept in my own bed. Diori has been with our sister in the meantime.”
Anarchaia chuckles as she recalls the previous night. “Oh, right. You could have called for me. We have some rehydration tinctures in the Hall.”
Grimory leans his head back against the backrest as the mead and tiredness hit him at once. “Or just not drink more than you’re used to.”
Taveth makes a face at the demon hunter, then turns to the mage. “You’d think my sister would have told me that.”
“Except that she’s a bitch whose only talent is screwing her teachers so she gets good grades,” Alisbeth says absently.
Anarchaia’s mouth drops open and she laughs. “Oh my gods,” she says accompanied by more, incredulous laughter. She looks at Taveth. “That can’t be true. It’s against the rules!”
“You’d know all about that,” Grimory drones to the ceiling, then flinches when a poker chip hits him hard in the pectoral.
“I’ve already told you that’s not true. Stop bringing it up,” she hisses.
Taveth blushes. “I-I honestly wouldn’t know.”
Alisbeth scoffs. “Come on. Kel’ori? A mage? In Dalaran?”
He sips on his wine, his eyes darting to and from hers. “Maybe she did something…unscrupulous to get here?”
“I don’t think she could have.” Anarchaia pauses and taps her chin. “Though rumors have been going on about Aethas and his apprentice…” She shakes her head. “I’ve ran into Kel’ori a few times. She doesn’t seem the type. Though I suppose you’d know better…?”
Alisbeth shrugs. “I’ll accept it without proof.”
Taveth purses his lips. “That’s mean.”
“She’s mean.” Alisbeth shrugs. “Any adventures planned for anyone?”
Grimory snorts. “An adventure to bed perhaps.”
Anarchaia can’t help but smirk at the girl’s pettiness. “I don’t think helping Master clear the cobwebs in Karazhan counts as an adventure, but it’s the best I’ve got.” She chuckles. “I’m open for invitations, though. Anything to ditch my To-Do list.”
Taveth shrugs. “I’ve got nothing. And even though I slept most of the day, I agree with Grimory’s sentiments.”
Alisbeth frowns. “It’s strange not sleeping.”
“Good to know I’m not a complete idiot, then,” Grimory grumbles beneath his breath.
“I can grab you a potion if you’d like. It’ll knock you out for eight hours.” Anarchaia shrugs. “Gods know we have plenty at the citadel. No one uses them.”
Taveth sets his unfinished wine on the table. “That’s it for me. I have to get Diori and feed us dinner.” He gives Grimory an odd look. “You really don’t remember.” He laughs as though a weight has lifted from his shoulders.
Alisbeth stands to hug him. “Goodnight. I’ll, um, be here. Maybe take Ana up on her offer.”
The demon hunter furrows his brow and lifts his head to watch the other man go. “Remember what?” he hisses though he doesn’t expect a reply.
Anarchaia reaches across the table to take Taveth’s cup and drain it of the rest. “Good night, Tav.” She gives a wave and wipes at her lower lip with a knuckle. “Need someone to walk you home?” she chortles.
He gives Anarchaia a sly grin. “Only if you want to. Oh, and Grim. Take Alisbeth up to bed and see if you two can’t have a nice time.” His grin turns on Alisbeth.
The death knight blushes and looks down at Grimory, her mouth gone dry and her breath stopped.
Grimory stands as soon as the last word is spoken. He bends at the waist to pick the death knight up in his arms, all the while giving her an apologetic smile. “Forgive me,” he manages to breathe and hauls her off toward the staircase.
Alisbeth smiles awkwardly as the demon hunter sets her down. “I…could’ve walked. But, thank you.”
Grimory resists cringing. “Trust me, I know you could’ve.” He sighs, gives a tired smile, and chuckles. “Good room service, though, yeah?”
Alisbeth laughs timidly. “Sure. So…goodnight, then?”
Something inside the demon hunter forces him to linger, standing over her and gazing into her frosty eyes. He swallows, then, hesitantly, lowers his lips to hers.
Alisbeth goes up on her toes to press into his kiss, then pulls away just enough to speak. “What if I’m scared?”
Grimory has to think for a second before he catches her meaning. He can’t help but smile at the memory and the similarities of the moment. “If you want me to stop, I will.”
She pauses, then nods. “Okay.”
~ * ~
Anarchaia places a hand over her mouth to hide her smile. “I don’t think you realize the implications of this, Tav.” She a stands and laughs. She holds out an arm and clears her throat. “Your escort is ready, good sir.”
Taveth first drops one hundred gold into the mage’s palm, then wraps his arm around hers. “I may be a poor man, but the terror on her face was kind of funny. And worth it.”
She blinks down at the money and scrunches her face as she leads him out into the streets. “What’s this for? You keep it. And it’s a good thing you used ambiguous language or he may have forced himself on her.” She laughs. “But seriously. You should use this power only for good.”
Taveth blushes as she makes him keep the money. “I didn’t intend to use it for evil. But…I made him forget. The kiss, this afternoon… All of it!”
Anarchaia’s eyes widen. “You what?”
Taveth’s shoulders rise to his ears as he cringes. “It was an accident?”
The mage’s eyes narrow some and she smirks. “Accident. Right.” She chuckles.
Taveth frowns. “It was. I was just commenting on him forgetting, and he did. I mean, unfortunately, I can’t. But, I mean, it’s something…right?”
Anarchaia’s shoulders briefly raise as she snorts a laugh. “Well now you can interact with him without feeling awkward, right?” She elbows him in the ribs as they near Greyfang Enclave. “And maybe get a second chance to do it right.”
“I…don’t think that’ll be happening ever again.” Taveth smiles some and leans his head down onto the side of hers. “Why are you so nice to me?”
The mage flinches, not having expected it, then straightens. A flush touches her cheeks and she shrugs as though unbothered. “You make it sound as though there’s a reason not to be.”
He straightens as they reach the archway to the Enclave. “Most people just write me off as some book worm.”
She gives a curt wave to the large worgen guard who allows them to pass—not without turmoil in his face as he eyes the mage. “I know how you feel.” She brings a hand up to pat him on the arm that’s wrapped around hers. “You’re a good guy, Tav. You deserve more than you get. Really, you do.”
Taveth eyes the guards as they let the mage through. “I don’t feel I really deserve more, or really want it. I— Did they just let you in without causing a scene?”
She furrows her brow as she turns to look up at him. “I’ve lived here for twenty years, and, Taveth, why wouldn’t you? I see how your eyes light up when he gives you compliments and does nice things. Don’t you want someone who has that same reaction to you?”
Taveth stares at his feet and smiles shyly. “I…like having friends. But I wouldn’t even know what to do…” He pushes his door open and frowns at the scene as Diori and Kel’ori sit on his bed, having dinner of spiced apples and toasted bread. Apple syrup and crumbs decorate his comforter. “I— Y— Gah! In my bed?”
Diori grins between her stuffed cheeks, eyes lighting up at the sight of her cousin. “Terbbif!” she says through apples and lifts her arms expectantly, flinging more mess.
Anarchaia places fingers over her mouth and chuckles. “It’s awful late for dessert, no?”
Despite the mess, Taveth goes and wraps his arms around Diori and picks her up in a big hug. “I’ll let it slide, this once. Only because I haven’t seen you all day.”
Kel’ori makes a face. “Cause you were where?”
“I was with cousin Ali,” he hisses.
The mage in the doorway lifts a hand and, with it, each crumb and drop of sticky goo rise as well. In a swirl of foodstuffs, the mass throws itself into the trashbin near the wall. “We were all chatting. I hope I don’t have him home too late. Heh.”
Diori swallows her mouthful and frowns up at him. “You went without me? I want to see Ali, too.” She weakly hits him on the chest.
Taveth feigns injury. “Oh, well, we were too busy and now she’s spending time with Grimory.”
Kel’ori stares at the mage as she taps the fork to her teeth in thought. “So, you two spend a lot of time together…”
“Kel’ori, go home.”
Anarchaia blushes again at the implication, but snickers despite herself. “Is that so wrong that we do?” she asks the elf woman as she passes.
Diori’s frown deepens. “I wanna see Grim, too! Let’s go right now. I bet they’re still up.” She wiggles to be let go.
Kel’ori sticks her tongue out at Taveth, then shrugs at the mage. “Except that you’re a real person. He better be treating you right, though, or I’ll get dad up here.”
Taveth grips Diori as tight as his weak muscles can. “I assure you, they’re sleeping. We’ll see them tomorrow. I promise.”
Diori fusses more and whines. “Fiiiiiiiiiine. I want more apples, though. Can I have more? Oh! And a story! Pleeeeaaaaase?”
Taveth groans and sets the girl on her own bed. “No more apples, it’s bedtime already. And yes, you can have any story you like.”
Anarchaia grins and bites her lip as though holding back but finds she can’t stop herself. “Oh, he does. As right as Kalec treats you.”
Kel’ori’s smile fluctuates the smallest bit. “Oh, that’s…” She clears her throat and stands to gather the dishes. “It was nice seeing you again, Anarchaia.” A bright smile spreads across her lips. “I’m sure Khadgar doesn’t mind you spending so much time with my brother. You only live once, why not have both?” She strides from the room before any retaliation can be sent her way.
Anarchaia’s jaw clenches and her teeth tighten to a point where she can hear it. “Oh, I assure you he doesn’t,” she hisses beneath her breath. She clears her throat and turns. “Well. Until next time.” She bends down to lift her mask and flash Diori a longing smile. “You be good for Taveth, okay?”
The small Quel’dorei gives a timid nod as though she hadn’t just been throwing a mild tantrum. “Okay, mask lady. Have a good night.”
The mage pushes a stray lock from Diori’s eye and nods before straightening again. She makes for the door, robes swirling. “Good night, Tav.”
Taveth nods and waves. “You, too, Ana. And…don’t let my sister get to you. She’s… Alisbeth is right about her temperament. Heh.”
Anarchaia gives a wave of dismissal as she reaches the door. “Oh, it’s no big deal, heh.” She pulls her mask down to hide her scowl though her voice remains bright. “I’ve dealt with worse. Night, you two!” She closes the door in her wake then, once back out into the streets, kicks over an empty trash bin.