Albanian: Shtëpia e këngës së shtatë
I was trying to sort out my thoughts, making sure my wanting to keeping her safe didn’t undermine her own intelligence and self-determination, when we started to hear shouting coming from the hallway.
“Don’t make me ask you again, Matthias!” It was deep and commanding, the voice of a man who did not tolerate nonsense.
“I’m taking you there,” another voice replied, “but you have to keep your voice down.”
“You, of all people, have no say in how I speak,” the deeper voice snapped. “Where is my grandfather?!”
Then there was the stomping of heavy boots.
“No, wait! Just–”
“What is going on out there?” I asked, worried that this angry man would be a threat to Leila.
I noticed right away the knowing look that Erik and Lord Thorne shared. He was about to speak when Larsa chimed in instead.
“Ooh, it sounds like Matthias is back. I’ll go let them know we’re in here.”
Larsa knew better than to rush out of the room like that. Whenever I’d visit him when we were younger, he loved to get into things– well, more like situations. I wouldn’t call it schadenfreude– that was something different– but it was just as impish. He was naughty but not malicious, and he always had his mother trying to teach (or re-teach) him how to behave. I think he did it for the attention, which normally wasn’t a problem, but now he was running headlong into what might turn out to be dangerous.
“Larsa, no!” I called after him.
“Grandfather!” the man shouted again. “Come out and explain yourself!”
Then there was a smaller, gentler voice. “…calm down. I’m sure it’s…”
“I’ll go look after him,” Killian said, and he left the room, too.
I rubbed my temples. “Why can’t they just stay out of trouble?” I groaned. I would have much preferred that this ‘grandfather’ who was being asked for go out and settle the matter. Sighing, I got up and went into the hall as well; they couldn’t have protected themselves alone against at least two angry vampires.
“Hey guys!” Larsa called. What in the world had him behaving so recklessly?
“Larsa, get back in here!” I hissed. “That vampire is pissed off!”
I tried grabbing his arm, but he wouldn’t budge.
“Who are you calling a vampire?” the deeper voice demanded.
I gazed down the hall at him. He was tall, almost my height, and dressed completely in gothic-style clothing, from the long black leather jacket to the sturdy Doc Martens and the silver jewelry. His hair was long, down to his thighs, and a deep, dark shade of auburn. Except– but could it be? The striking steel-gray eyes confirmed it: I knew that man. I was used to him dying his hair black, and he was a lot bigger now, but I recognized him.
“Blackthorne…” I whispered. And I instantly wanted to take it back.
But it was too late; Killian had already heard me, and I saw the recognition in his expression, too. Blackthorne looked from me to Killian, then down at the man at his side. He, too, was dressed in all black, with boots that went up to his knees and a collared silk shirt with delicate embroidery. His jewelry included little stud earrings– just barely hidden by his feathery chin-length hair that was naturally black– and a pendant depicting bats flying in front of a full moon. He was much leaner than Blackthorne, and nearly a foot shorter than him.
“Killian…?” the smaller man breathed. He clung to Blackthorne’s jacket. “Is that…”
I looked straight at Killian, who was still staring at Blackthorne. That was enough to confirm it, though.
“Oh wow, it’s really you!” A wide grin crossed his face. “Blackthorne, that’s Killian! Remember?”
I don’t know what the little guy was thinking, announcing it like that. Why did he think Blackthorne would be happy to see the one who–
I didn’t have time to finish that though; he was already yelling.
“You!” Blackthorne snarled, glaring at Killian with all the weight of his rage and pain. He started walking towards him, his expression dark and furious. “You irresponsible bastard! Do you have any idea–“
“What?” the smaller man cried. “Blackthorne, no!”
He couldn’t do much to stop Blackthorne from readying his fist and dashing towards Killian, but he did at least try. At first, Killian didn’t seem to realize what was going on. Then again, the last time he’d seen Blackthorne, they’d been on friendly terms. I still hadn’t had a chance to tell him some of the things I’d only recently learned, so of course he had no reason to think otherwise– not that would have changed things much, though.
“Killian, watch out!” Larsa cried. He wrapped his arms around him and shoved him backwards.
It’s a good thing he did, too, because Blackthorne’s fist would have landed a lot harder otherwise. His little friend hadn’t been able to do much to hold him back, but between him and Larsa, Killian was saved from what probably would have been a broken nose.
“He almost died because of you!” Blackthorn growled. He stood over Killian, who was now laid out on the floor with Larsa draped over him.
Killian reached up to touch the blood that was already pouring from his nose. “What…”
“Arrghh, why are you so–“
“Blackthorne, stop!” the small man said. He stood in front of him and placed his hands on his shoulders as he tried to calm him down. “I’m okay. Everything is fine. You took care of me, remember? He didn’t know…”
I wasn’t sure what to do first: yell at Blackthorne and get him to come to his senses, or check on Killian. The decision was made for me when Lord Thorne appeared in the doorway.
“Emory,” the vampire lord said. He sounded like a stern parent, one who’d established enough of a rapport over the years to not have to raise his voice, and to be able to get his point across with fewer words.
Blackthorne narrowed his eyes at him. “What the hell are they doing here?!”
Lorde Thorne gestured to the room where Leila was still feeding Ingrid. “Come, we shall discuss all of this once you have regained control of your temper.”
Blackthorne looked between me, Killian, and everyone else. Then he made a frustrated growl and walked into the bedroom without another word. The vampire lord then looked to the other man in the hallway, who was dressed so perfectly in the style of the eighteenth century that I was certain he was a vampire.
“So that’s where you went, Matthias.” Lord Thorne sounded sorely disappointed. “We shall deal with the insubordination of what you’ve done later. For now, go attend to your fledglings.”
Looking thoroughly deflated, Matthias lowered his gaze. “Yes, grand-master,” he murmured before disappearing into the bedroom.
Lord Thorne crossed the hallway and knelt beside Killian. “I hope you can accept my apologies on his behalf.” He pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and held it to Killian’s bleeding nose. Larsa watched him for a moment before taking over.
“Is he okay?”
I looked up to see the man who’d tried holding Blackthorne back still in the hallway. He came closer and knelt at Killian’s other side.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry!”
“It’s not your fault,” Larsa assured him. “I don’t know what that guy has against Killian, but I notice how you tried to stop him.”
“They have a lot of history,” I explained.
Larsa gave me a puzzled look. “What? That big guy and Killian? I doubt it; he doesn’t go for huge muscular guys.”
The black-haired man laughed. “Oh– oh, that would have been a sight to see!” Then he looked back down at Killian. “But really, are you okay?”
“Aye… I’ll be fine once the bleedin’ stops,” Killian assured him.
“Okay, let’s sit you up, babe,” Larsa said. “I don’t want you choking on blood.”
He start moving Killian, and the other man moved to help him right away. They leaned him against a wall and sat on either side of him. Lord Thorne, meanwhile, stood beside me and watched.
“How’s he doing?” the black-haired man asked after a few minutes. “Did the bleeding stop? Should I get another handkerchief?”
“Killian?” Larsa asked. “Do you need another handkerchief?”
“Ye two hae me thinkin’ I’m seein’ double.”
“Oh no, how hard did your head hit the floor?” the dark-haired man asked. He looked to Larsa. “Should we get him to a bed?”
Larsa giggled. “I always want to put him in my bed.”
The other man stared at him. He blinked slowly, and then his cheeks turned bright red. “Oh! Wow, you– you’re, ummm…”
Larsa had an impish grin on his face.
“Okay, so you’re his– his boyfriend? Or should I say husband?”
That had Larsa blushing. “Mmmm, I like how that sounds! Killian, can I call you my husband?”
Killian looked up at him. “What’re ye on about now, lad?”
The black-haired man chuckled. “he still has that Irish accent,” he noted. “You seem to have one, too– well, not Irish, though. And I heard them call you Larsa. Where is that from?”
“Sápmi,” Larsa replied with a proud grin. When he saw that the other man didn’t understand, he added, “Northern Sweden.”
“Oh, you’re Swedish!” Then he looked up at me. “Aren’t you Swedish, too, Stefan?”
“I–” I was a little surprised by how casual this guy was acting even after Blackthorne had nearly knocked Killian out. “Yeah, I am. Actually, Larsa is sort of a cousin to me.”
“He is?” Then he was grinning. “Your cousin and Leila’s cousin got together? That’s really sweet, actually. And he’s cute!”
Larsa turned even redder. The man turned back to him.
“It’s nice to meet you Larsa,” he said, offering his hand. “My name is Justin. Oh, and I’m really sorry my husband hit your boyfriend. I didn’t expect he’d ever do something like that.”
I stared down him. I knew there’d been something familiar about him, but I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it until then. Could I really be blamed for not recognizing him sooner? He’d been impossibly skinny back in high school, and even the pictures I’d seen online had him looking thin. Now, in person, he’d really filled out; he looked healthy, even glowing.
“Justin…” I whispered.
“Really?” Larsa’s face brightened as he took in Justin’s features. “Wow, you look great! And– oh man, I never thought I’d get to meet you!”
Larsa took Justin’s hand in both of his. “Oh, and isn’t this cool? You’re in Tierney Ríocht, too!”
“Wait… what?” Justin asked, very much confused. “I don’t…”
“I’ve seen pictures of you in Killian’s photo albums,” Larsa explained. “We’ve talked a lot about our past boyfriends.”
“He… he told you about me?”
“Yeah!” Larsa was oblivious to how stunned Justin was by all of this. “You were his first, right? He was so worried about you when you moved away!”
Justin turned his head to look at Killian. Killian gazed back at him.
“Ye’re… ye… can it really be?”
“Did you seriously not recognize me?” Justin asked.
“Maybe he hit his head harder than we first thought!”
“Larsa, I’m fine, lad!” Killian insisted. He was busy examining Justin’s face. “Ye’ve changed so much, Justin…”
He nodded. “I know,” he whispered.
“Ye… ye’ve really filled out.”
Justin nodded. “I’ve been eating better.”
They stared at each other for long moments before saying anything else.
“Justin– eh… sorry, lad, go ahead.”
Justin gave him a faint smile. “Killian… after I moved away… No, before that– I’m sorry I didn’t try harder to– actually, no…”
“It’s all right, lad,” Killian said when he saw the pained look on Justin’s face. “I’m nae angry about it. I’m just relieved that ye’re all right.”
“No, Killian, listen, I never thought I’d see you again,” Justin insisted, “but now that you’re here… Oh wow…”
Larsa laid a hand gently on his. “It’s okay… just sit down… breathe, take your time.”
Lord Thorne stepped forward and knelt beside Justin. “Ah, so this is the one Emory told me about all those years ago.”
Justin looked up at him and nodded. “Yeah… this… Killian is my ex-boyfriend.”
“I see… how fascinating that you had a connection with him.”
“What– what do you mean?” Justin asked.
“Well, Killian is a Riordan, but his mother was a Moss before she married. If this is the Killian you knew back in Portland, then surely you know Leila as well.”
Justin gazed up at Lord Thorne in awe. “Leila Moss…” he whispered. Then his eyes shot to Killian. “Killian, your cousin… didn’t she write stories– a-and play music? And she’s here?!”
“Aye, lad,” Killian replied.
Justin hopped up and gave the vampire lord a wide grin. “You have a Moss visiting you!” He looked really excited about that.
“I do indeed, little prince. She has been quite lovely to speak to. Now then,” he said as he stepped over to Killian and held out his hand, “can you stand? Let’s go back into Ingrid’s room and have a chat, shall we?”