Lucifer: Chapter 15
Setting Up House
DAMIEN FOUND HIMSELF at Father Damien's again, getting an ice pack placed on his head. He just sat there on the living room couch and sighed, staring off into space, while Father Damien applied it. After what Elise had told him in the church he'd nearly passed out, cracking his head--for the third time--on one of the pews. Now the back, top, and front hurt. He was just glad he hadn't broken it open.
"You're going to have to stop hitting your head like this," his uncle reprimanded, pressing the ice down. Damien winced with pain and brushed at it halfheartedly.
"Sorry," was all he said. The pack made it feel like someone was performing acupuncture on his scalp with ice needles.
This time his uncle sighed, then stepped back and looked at him. "You sure are." He shook his head abruptly as a small smile began to creep up Damien's face. "I mean, that's all right."
"Yeah," Damien said, dropping his head again and making sure to hold the pack in place. He didn't want it falling in his lap, of all places. Yeouch. "Everything all right."
"Maybe I should be going now," Elise murmured, standing in the doorway. She was twisting the fingers of one hand with her other, and even as she spoke she started to turn away. "I think maybe I've caused enough trouble for one day--"
"Nonsense," Father Damien said, looking at her. "I think it's about time Damien learned something about his family, and who better to learn it from than someone who was there?"
"I just don't understand," Damien himself murmured. The two turned back to look at him again. He hadn't moved, except to shake his head slowly, achingly from side to side. "I don't understand how they can turn a father against his son. Tell him his son's the enemy. I don't see how they can do that."
Father Damien sighed. "They're Scorpio, Damien," he replied, scooping up from the floor a damp towel he'd first applied to Damien's head before they'd located the ice pack. "They can do whatever they want."
Damien looked up into his uncle's face to make sure he wasn't joking. "How can you say that?" he demanded. "They can't do whatever they want. Somebody has to stop them sometime."
His uncle shrugged and spread out his arms. He hadn't meant to sound fatalistic but there was nothing else he could say that would be the truth. "Like who? Who's going to stop them? If you keep up what you've been doing, it most certainly won't be you."
Damien opened his mouth to retort, then bit his lip, then dropped his head again. You know part of that's true, Dami. You'll end up with a concussion before you accomplish anything of value. "You're right there. Well, then, what should I do?"
One more shrug. "I don't know. That's up to you to find out. Elise, do you have anyplace to stay?"
"Yeah, yeah, of course," Elise hastened to reply. She shifted from foot to foot, obviously ill at ease. "I--uh--I'm renting an apartment downtown. Nothing much. I get by."
"How long have you been out now?"
"A few years."
Father Damien cocked his head at her. "And you've been living like this since then?"
Elise shrugged and smiled. "Beats living with them," she said.
Damien felt like snorting. Yeah, you can say that again.
Father Damien smiled back. "Well," he said, "I've got something that beats that. You can stay upstairs here--"
"Oh, no! I can't do that--"
"Really, you can. All you have to do in return is make sure those two kids don't get into any trouble when I'm not up there watching them." Damien realized what his uncle was doing; in his usual, diplomatic way, he was offering her a trade, rather than a handout. Somehow the singer knew Elise wouldn't have liked a handout. It would have made her feel useless. Father Damien held out his hand and raised an eyebrow. "Is it a deal?"
Elise's mouth was still open to protest, but she looked at his hand, then managed a faint smile and shook it, a little timidly. "Of course," she stammered. "Of course it's a deal. What, two kids? You've got kids living here?"
As if in response, they heard the front door open and Harvey's voice yell, "We're home!" followed by the thudding of two pairs of feet. "Hiya bye-a," Harvey called out as he and Ez ran through the living room, dashing upstairs and out of sight. A moment later Kat came in, lugging a bag of groceries. She nearly dropped it on the floor.
"Ugh!" she panted, setting it down on the end table. "Kids." She noticed the silence and started looking around, at Father Damien, Elise, and Damien with the ice pack on his head. She blinked. "Uh--did I miss something here?"
"Hi, Kat," Damien greeted with a half-smile. Yep, this is gonna be real easy to explain.
Father Damien went over to introduce her to Elise. "Katrina, this is Elise Danbrook. She's an old friend of Damien's." Damien noticed Kat's eyebrows rise but said nothing. "Elise, this is Katrina Witchita. She's--" he paused, then said, "--a friend of Damien's."
"Hi," Elise offered, looking uncomfortable again. She'd noticed the way Father Damien had paused when introducing them.
"Hi," Kat said, only her "hi" sounded different.
There was a pause.
"Well!" Father Damien broke the silence, clapping his hands. "I'll bet there's something in that bag for the kids. I should be bringing it up to them." He picked up the bag.
"I'll help you!" Damien said, getting up, setting the ice pack on the arm of the couch, and quickly following his uncle upstairs.
Elise and Kat were left alone.
Kat turned to look at Elise. Elise smiled uncomfortably and started scuffing her foot against the floor. "Well," she murmured. "Better get up there after them. Nice to meet you." She turned and disappeared as quickly as the others had.
Now Kat was left alone.
She stood there for a minute or two, listening to the footsteps on the stairs and the group upstairs crowing over the grocery bag. After another moment she sighed and went up to join them.
Of course it took more than a little explaining to set things straight between the four of them; Kat sat through Damien's speech about how he and Elise knew each other, looking dubious but saying nothing, while Father Damien pretended to show Elise around. In truth the latter two weren't doing much of anything but looking at the walls and feeling uncomfortable. Damien knew Kat had the feeling there was actually more going on between the two of them than they were saying, and tried to think of the best way to tell her she was wrong without actually doing so. Harvey and Ez were in their bedroom across the hall, eating ice cream and reading Ranger Rick, apparently oblivious to the newcomer.
"So, that's about it, Kat," Damien said, and he took a deep breath and let it out; the story had been long and confusing, especially since he didn't know much of it himself.
"Uh-huh," Kat said with a nod. "So. Maybe I'm just grasping at straws here, but does this perhaps have anything to do with your dreams?"
Damien sat up, startled. He hadn't expected her to mention that. Elise shot him a look over her shoulder which, fortunately, only Father Damien noticed. "Dreams...? Oh, dreams. Uh, well I'm not..."
"Come on, Dami." She crossed her arms and cocked her head. "It's kind of obvious with the way your face is turning bright red."
Drat. He was the one to squirm now. "Well...yeah, Scorpio has to do with the dreams. But not--I mean, not Elise, if that's what you're getting at! Jeez! I forgot all about her till now!"
"Uh-huh," Kat said again, without much enthusiasm.
"Wow! Koalas have four thumbs, FD!" Harvey shouted from his room, and fell silent again.
In fact, the whole house fell silent again; Damien started to fidget, hating the way the air seemed to press ringing into his ears. He sighed, and the sound it made was so unexpectedly loud that he jumped and glanced around. Kat frowned, obviously thinking he'd gone off the deep end.
"My life's a big cesspool of weird stories, Kat," he finally said, not quite sure how to put it. They all gave him funny looks now. Melting pot, he told himself. A big melting pot, not cesspool. "I really don't know what else to tell you."
She sighed. "Well, I'll take your word on it, then. Because you never were a very good liar."
"Ha ha!" Damien snapped, his embarrassment disappearing. "That's funny."
"I think maybe I'll get supper going," Kat said wearily, getting up and heading for the stairway. "Harvey and Ez wanted me to make my 'famous macaroni' for them, whatever that is." Damien cast an apologetic look at her as she went past, and the three of them stood still and listened to the sound of her footsteps creaking down the stairs. Then, the silence again.
Godddd, I hate the silence. Make some noise already!!--
"Really, maybe I should just go on home," Elise said uncomfortably.
"No," Damien said, turning back and startling them all. "It's okay, really. Kat, she's just a little worried about me. I haven't been sleeping too well lately, been having these nightmares, I guess. Look, this is a really nice room. And I can even install a door so you don't have to listen to Harvey and Ez scream in there."
She forced a smile and shook her head hastily. "No, that's okay. I'm pretty used to not having much privacy." She bit her lip and glanced over toward the doorway, looking up and down. "Uh--maybe a curtain, though..."
He cut her off. "No problem. I'll hang one up till we can get you a decent door, which we will. Won't we, Uncle?"
He turned to his uncle; but Father Damien wasn't there.
"Huh!" he said, mystified. "I guess he went down to help Kat. Hey, listen, you got anything over at your place that you maybe want to...?"
Elise nodded. "Yeah, a few things. Not much. You don't really pick and choose when you're on the run, you know."
"I sure do." She actually giggled at that one. Wow. Cult humor will get you every time. "Well, let's just stop by and pick it up. We can get you in here by tonight. I'm sure that's what Uncle wants. Me, too. I mean, it's just not very safe out there, y'know...."
He trailed off. She said nothing to prod him on.
"Okay, then," he finished lamely, with a false smile. "Let's go."
They both headed for the stairs, leaving Harvey and Ez giggling in their room.
Elise sat beside Damien in his Countach, and pointed out the apartment building she lived in, fronting Main Street. Cheboygan didn't have a lot of ritzy places, and its apartment buildings could attest to that. He felt a tinge of sympathy for her, seeing the dull bricks, the dull windows with their air-conditioning units jutting out over the street; after all, it wasn't too long ago that he'd been living in a worse situation than this. At least Elise had a roof over her head, and not a bridge. But it wasn't good enough. She needed some kind of protection. Safety in numbers. Something.
"Up here," she mumbled, leading him up a narrow stairway and fumbling with her keys. "Room Two-Twelve."
"They could use some lighting," Damien murmured, his eyes searching the darkened hall as if he expected someone to jump out at them. And they could use some other things, as well.
"Yeah, they sure could." Now they were at her door, and she was unlocking it. He came up behind her, a little too closely; the dimness of the place had him feeling paranoid. Elise muttered to herself and pocketed the keys, pushing open the door. "I guess I must've forgotten to lock it again. My stupid memory. I'll just get my blanket and--"
My scream? Damien thought stupidly as a high-pitched shriek escaped Elise's throat. A split second later the rational part of his brain reacted and he darted in after her to see what was wrong. He flung up his arm, expecting to have to ward someone off--but Elise was standing in the middle of her room, all alone, her hands to her face.
No, she wasn't completely alone; there was something on her bed.
Something that had been alive. Once.