Summary: Initially, Demon has chosen Cassidy and Teresa because they balance the unique characters that are his children. OneShot.
Set: story-unrelated, future-fic
Disclaimer: Standards apply
It was a rare treat that Daemon was able to spend time with his Clave.
In the past, when his students had been children, he had seen them every day. Hunter children started training when they turned eight but sometimes lived in Claves from very early age. His first charges had been Terrance and Teresa, quickly followed by Cassidy, Ten, Nadya, Jaq and Jay. The latest addition to their family had been Marina, who was by far the youngest. But even though hunter children could be left alone a great time of the day if one gave them something to learn and something to look forward to, they remained children.
They had to be taken care of.
There had been a time when he had spent the day training and teaching them, showing them how to hunt, how to fight and how to protect themselves, each other and the humans they had been born to protect. He had taught them hunter's Laws, human law and the laws of the night as well as Chemistry, Mathematics and Language Arts. He had spend hours in the library, forcing Teresa to sit still, answering Terrance's never-ending questions, hiding a grin at the sight of Cassidy's dead-serious expression and at Ten's antics. He had had dinner with them almost every day. Now, he dropped by every other week.
He didn't particularly like the fact that he was slowly dropping out of their lives. But he knew it was the way it was. He had his missions and his duty as Nereshai. His children – he still thought of them as children though they were adults by hunter Law – were fully capable of living without him now. And every child left behind his parents one day. Hunter children just reached this day earlier. Thus, Daemon savored the few hours he was able to spend with them every second week, accessing Jay and Jaq's sparring, listening to Marina telling him about her day, watching Nadya and Terrance banter good-heartedly while clearing the dinner table. They had developed a routine: he didn't need to talk, just watched, and they went on with whatever they were doing. Glad there was no tension in the air when he came home (he probably shouldn't refer to the house they currently were living in as home but at one point the place where his Clave was had become home for him), he listened to Teresa's verbal sparring session with her favorite opponent.
Jay joined the fight, the pile of dishes swerving in his hands dangerously. Marina laughed, a clear, bell-like sound, and Ten's deeper voice reverberated in the brightly lit room. Terrance grinned and relieved Jaq from dirty cutlery and used cups. It was strange, Daemon thought, how this perfectly normal and far-from-quiet atmosphere could have such a calming effect on his nerves.
Jay's voice rose as he gesticulated wildly. "You should have seen him! One meter and sixty tall, he had to lean back to look him into the eye! And while everyone cowers in expectancy of his outburst, he just says "I would like to see that" and the entire room is like: Wow! It was so hilarious!"
Teresa laughed. "Yeah, no doubt. But please, Jay, put down the dishes before you kill someone!"
Jay, placing down the dirty dishes next to the sink and grabbing a towel instead, continued his story.
"Of course nobody was able to concentrate afterwards. The Elders were seething the rest of the meeting and when we left I asked him why he hadn't exploded, as everybody had expected him to do… You know what he said?" Doubling over in laughter, a soapy fork clattered to the floor. Marina picked it up.
"He said the idiot probably had an IQ of 8, which made him even more stupid than a piece of bread. Because bred can mold!"
Bursting out in laughter again, Jay picked up another wet dish and almost lost his balance as he slipped on the little puddle of water he had created before. Letting go of the dish, he caught himself in mid-air with a graceful movement while the dish hit the floor and shattered.
"Ups." Grinning sheepishly, Jay bent down to pick up the shards.
"Great," Terrance commented drily. Jaq rolled his eyes. "Stop it, idiot," Nadya said and grabbed Jay by his collar. "Get a shovel and a pail. You'll cut yourself!"
"Man, Jay," Ten teased. "I thought we agreed on keeping the dishes until one of us got married and we'd have a bachelor-party!"
Teresa sighed and bent down to pick up the biggest shards carefully, shaking her head sorrowfully. "I liked that one – outch!"
Red droplets of blood dripped to the floor, staining the white stone tiles. Daemon's trained nose immediately picked up the metallic stench. Teresa regarded her injury, her forehead creased.
"Wow," she said. "It doesn't even hurt."
"Rese!" Marina called out worriedly. "Are you okay? You shouldn't have tried to pick them up!"
The wound was deeper than it appeared to be. Blood flowed freely, even as the tall woman grabbed the paper towel the seer offered and pressed it to her hand. Cassidy crossed the room in a few steps and cowered down onto the ground next to her, his forehead creased. He took her hand carefully.
"Let me have a look."
"It's nothing." Tugging at her hand, Teresa tried to claim it back as hers but he wouldn't let go. Instead, he wiped the blood away and frowned even more when it kept coming. "Wow, that's a really deep one."
Daemon would have been able to define the exact second when the wound on her hand would close again, leaving nothing but a shallow scar for a few days. In something like a week, nothing would be left of the injury. What caught his interest instead was the fact that Teresa was still trying to free her hand, a strange expression in her face.
"Let go, Cass, I'm alright!"
Impatience, her trademark emotion, colored her voice. Cassidy, though, watched the cut close, then cleaned away the blood on her hand with the paper towel. Teresa tugged harder.
"Cassidy! Let go!"
Her face was beginning to flush with anger and embarrassment. Daemon felt his brows rise in a frown. Cassidy still didn't look at her, his eyes fixed on her hand.
"Calm down, Rese."
"Don't touch me!" Tearing her hand away, she got to her feet in one single, fleeting motion and grabbed a sponge from the sink. Cleaning away the blood on the floor furiously, her hair hid face and every expression on it.
The others didn't notice, or, if they did, pretended not to have seen anything. Cassidy got up and resumed his earlier conversation with Terrance. The hum and buzz in the kitchen continued, minus Teresa, who rarely spoke for the next half hour. Nobody seemed to notice.
Initially, Daemon had chosen Cassidy and Teresa as leaders because they balanced the unique characters that were his children.
And they had been a good choice.
Were Teresa was rash and impulsive, Cassidy was calm and collected. Where Cassidy was overly compromising, Teresa was determined and strict. They were a good team, no, even more – they were a perfect team. And they led his Clave with care and responsibility. They always had. It probably helped that they had been best friends since Daemon could remember. Even with Teresa's notion of over-reacting at times and Cassidy's sometimes annoying habit of teasing her just enough so she would snap they complimented each other in a way hunting partners rarely did. Because even though they discussed and argued at times they always had the habit of pushing each other farther along. When Teresa broke down, Cassidy had caught her. When Cassidy doubted, Teresa's iron will and belief gave him something to hold on to. They had been friends and partners for a long time now.
Daemon wasn't blind. Something in the way they looked at each other nagged at his consciousness and he decided to watch the two of them closer.
Four months later, he met Teresa by chance in the library of their house. Her dark eyes stared at him unblinkingly and for a second he saw the child he had rescued from a burning house, wrestled from her dead parent's grip. Then she was a grown-up again, tall, dark-haired and impatient, joint Clave leader in his absence, a Hunter and a woman.
"Teresa," he told her softly. "Do I need to worry?"
She cast down her eyes, which only cemented his suspicion.
"What do you mean, Teacher?"
"You know what I mean. Do I need to worry about the nature of the relationship between yourself and Cassidy?"
She refused to look at him.
"We are Clave siblings and hunting partners, nothing else."
The way her hands trembled and she fisted them at her sides told him otherwise.
"Teresa." His voice dropped. "Teresa, you know the rules about picking mates in a Clave."
"Yes." Her voice was barely audible. "I know the rules, Teacher. I haven't forgotten them for a single second."
Suddenly, he felt awkward. He was Nereshai, a Hunter, an executioner. He wasn't used to this kind of conversation. Angel, he couldn't remember ever having felt that uncomfortable. Not only because Teresa was like a daughter to him but because he felt this was more than she let on. There definitely was something to worry about, even though she denied it. He had watched her closely. She had been subtly avoiding Cassidy's touch for weeks, whether it was the accidental brush of his hand or his touch when he had laid a hand on her arm or likewise. She was quieter now. She took up sparring with Terrance, Jay and Jaq more often than she did with Cassidy. She volunteered for missions that made sure to separate them for days. Nobody had noticed yet. But Daemon had had years to develop his eye for details and for him it was obvious. It would only be a matter of time until her Clave siblings – until Cassidy – would notice her behavior.
"Okay," he heard himself saying and laid his hand on her shoulder for a split second. "Okay."
Still not looking at him, she turned and left the library. At the door she stopped abruptly, her shoulders stiffening. Daemon watched as she backed out of the door, almost fleeing the short conversation that took place, and disappeared into the shadows of the hallway. Seconds later Cassidy entered, still glancing over his shoulder to watch her retreating figure. Then he realized he wasn't alone.
A frown deepened on his face. Daemon watched Cassidy wrestle with the questions that were slowly building up in his head.
"She's acting weird," he mumbled, almost to himself. Daemon felt pity and relief at the same time. He felt sorry for Teresa. Even more – he felt her dilemma, her guilt – and her pain. If Cassidy hadn't noticed what was going on with his best friend and hunting partner yet they were slowly drifting apart, were separating from the perfect entity they had been into two different individuals. Teresa was already starting to avoid Cassidy – as soon as he realized why he would do the same. They wouldn't be the perfect team as which he had known them for almost most of their lives much longer.
"Hmm," was everything Daemon said. Cassidy, probably used to his teacher's non-committal answers, walked farther into the library, still lost in thought. Maybe he would find the answer. Maybe he wouldn't. It wouldn't change anything anyway. The Nereshai promised himself to keep an eye on the situation. But he couldn't shake off the feeling that it already was too late.
The balance had shifted.