" I see...I will ask him. " Jake said, and stood up to leave." Hey, by the way... No crying and pouting while I am gone, deal?" He asked him innocently while leaving the gallon of milk close to Death and refilling creature's glass before he was to go." I have an incredible power - of common Sense. I will know. So, no tears, deal?" He said with a smile." We will solve all this, and it won't be half as bad as it seems, okay?"
" Hmmm... No." Tide still grinned mischievously as he stood up." He was all sneaky, doing this before I came, instead of waiting for her. My sneaky little bastard... Nope. Not seeing me right away or having a convenient note shall be his punishment. He will figure it out, anyway."
" You better do, because if you are only sending me away so you can suffer and cry privately I will know. No shedding tears over fixable things, okay? I am watching you." Cook smiled, more widely and softly than when he came here first, as he turned to leave and do what he was requested.
" Seine, what is it?" Tide raised his eyebrows a little, misunderstanding as he didn't know about the bracelets." I mean, if you are so conflicted about it, I feel it's a fair punishment, but, alright, you may leave him a short note... "
Cook was away for around an hour.
When he returned he carried two baskets full of delights.
" Hi..." He told Death as a greeting, adding shyly. " Svarik said Xia is sensitive to eating anything that is of animal origin, so I tried to minimize it - I made her a basket of cookies with honey and milk, and I put food coloring so they are all in various fun colours. And this is for you." He timidly extended him the other basket he carried." I had couple people help me out, and I made you another little batch of yours, with remaining ingredients. New ingredients should come in couple of hours..."
Tide waited until it was done, and then he took actor's hand in his own enthusiastically. " Come, let us have something to eat. " He said softly." We will just have to say thanks to Janus on our way out. It is customary to thank Beings for hospitality. By the way, how you are getting along with him? He seems to be doing rather well with the kids..."
" I sent someone to check on where she is... But she didn't seem to really fly much. I was told she found one alchove on the roof and remained there, watching the sea quietly. So, we can either call her or go to her." Cook nodded, watching the Being intently. " If you are ready. So... Are you?"
" That's good. He hasn't been fitting in anywhere ever since he got corrupted. I hope he may get a nice experience. " Tide explained while they were climbing the stairs." They are under the stage now, it seems like there is a class of some sorts - he is constructing and explaining them something. They are taking notes and everything, busy little things. "
" Do you have a smaller form? I could carry you. Or if not, please, accept this at least." Jake said, offering him his hand to lean on him.
" Hmmm... I have not been in this part of city much. How about you show me to your favorite bakery?" Demon asked curiously." " You must have one, being so close around theater? Let's go there..." He asked, while they were going out of the bag, into the place under the stage, lit up only by the light of blue lanterns, floating freely around, although most were in the center, where the group of kids and one Being indeed seemed very busy, with lot of papers and lot of metal parts scattered throughout the floor.
Jake's eyes widened in delight and recognition with the sight as if it was bound to the pleasant memory.
" I remember that one! " he said enthusiastically before he seemed a little embarrassed. " Oh... um... Right. I've never seen it personally. Not supposed to say that. Sorry... " he said, flustered as, knowing protectively properties of the cloak, he gently wrapped up the snake, first in the scarf, then in the cloak, leaving the neck brace on the bed for now.
When Janus heard Senecio's voice, he turned, with a little smile. He looked glad to see him but quite horrible - he did not need sleep being a demon, but in some way, he appeared as if he had not slept for days, in some kind of tipsy, emotional drowsiness.
" Oh... Hello, little one. I am glad to see you with restored health. " he nodded his head to him softly. " Yes, we have not yet had time to go to our morning commune, so children mostly ate leftovers from the last night. If it is on your way, a jar of milk and a round of scrambled chicken eggs and pork bacon would be splendid, plus sweets of your choosing - human children need lot of energy early in the morning, breakfast is most important. "
Jake relaxed with the reaction, seeming relieved Death did not make a big deal out of it - it was hard enough to keep track and stay in line of what he should and shouldn't know. It seemed the new form Death took suited him, and he knew how to handle it easily, from whatever bothed up memory. Like Riversong long ago, he carried the little bundle with easy, up the siltairs, and to the roof, walking more slowly along it once they were there, looking for Xia.
Tide indeed refilled his pocket money, and he seemed happy and pleased to treat Senecio, buying a lot of food himself too, so they could try a bit of everything and he could finish the rest.
The creature was in her child form anew. Xia heard them, and from her angle it seemed as if Jake was carrying a cloak, nothing else. But when Death appeared from it, she seemed startled. Her face was pale and her eyes were red, and when she realized he was there, she looked away, drying her tears.
" Ohhh, really?" Tide asked with interest, munching on some pastries." Is there some interesting story behind that? Come on, tell me.." he said innocently." It seems like, while I was going through wilderness and flying around, you had some actual adventures here... You certainly managed to accomplish much more. We were mostly just running, and eating when not running, really..."
When Death noticed that, he seemed to be close to panicking, distressed over hurting Xia. He froze on the spot, not getting closer.
"And we were mostly just working on the play and theatre in general," Senecio said. "Hans agreed that we purchase a building as a safe place to house the theatre emplyees. Not those who might be a danger to others, though. He's going to pay for it, but I insisted we give a three moths worth of rent to those who will be forced to vacate it because I know how it sucks when the landlord just tells you to leave. So, I'm paying for that. In dinners."
Jake took a step forth then, after talking with him, understanding his plight. He laid his hand on Death's shoulder, in support, while he peeked to see Xia.
" Hi there, little one..." He addressed her as simply and softly as he could. " May we join you?"
Creature seemed tense, and really withdrawn, a little panicked too, because it didn't expect them. It did not turn, it just nodded slowly. Jake thanked her, and gently nudged Death in her direction, so he can sit beside her on the rim of the roof.
" Oh... That is very sweet of you. My sweet prince charming, going around, doing good deeds..." Tide gushed shyly, leaning to him across the table, and reaching for his hand, putting it over actor's, as if it was something he found pleasure in. " Do you need any help with paying it off? I can't pay of your debt to Lorenzo, but since I like eating, how about when the three of us are going out I pay a bill in that name every other time?" He suggested softly." It is a noble goal, and I would love to help, and besides, anything that gets us more company is good thing in my book..."
Xia did not look at him yet. Sitting there on her own, with her tail laid down and ears turned downwards, she looked like she was trying to gatcher some semblance of security, where there was none.
" Why, Worth... ? " She replied to him only slowly, the weight behind every picked word." Why would you apologize... Like that... To someone you do not love?"
" It's a deal right there. " Tide beamed, savoring the pleasure of the promised time together." Now, here, have these pastries with blueberry, they are out of this world... And please, ask me, if you have any questions too. I really don't know where I would start, so little has happened, yet so much..."
Death seemed unsure how to reply to that. "What do you understand... when I say love?" he asked, deciding it might be good to define the terms first, if they are to get somewhere.
Senecio took a bite from the blueberry pastly. "Uhm," he murmured. "And my favourite is this one," he let Tide take a bit from one filled with cranberries and goat cheese. "I just don't know what's safe to ask about... From what you said... it was quite heavy stuff. What about Death? You're not afraid of him anymore, are you?"
The little creature glanced at him, just a little, before turning her head back to the sea. She was quiet, and her look was one of doubts and uncertainty.
" Love... is hard to explain," she whispered in the end. " Love... nobody Xia asks seems to be able to say it clearly. But Xia feels... love must be how Xia feels when she is around people she cares about. "she replied in the end, dangling her feet from the edge slowly, with a childlike restlessness and nervousness. " Love must be... a lot of things at once. But love is definitely how... how... " her voice trembled. " How delighted and happy Xia felt when her friend was alive, safe, warm, and... how at peace she felt, when she thought Worth While grew to love her, too... "
Tide was delighted with the unusual taste, though his taste grew thoughtful and a little worried with the question. He looked around, before whispering quieter.
" You shouldn't call him like that when he's here. It isn't safe yet. He wants to be called While. Full name is actually Worth While, and I want to let him choose himself to whom he says his first name, but I am making an exception with you because if I don't tell at least one person I am going to explode. It's so cute. Xia gave it to him. " Tide delighted at the idiom, in a quiet whisper, a little thoughtful and shy, but without fear. " But... yeah. It's very hard to be afraid of him, after seeing him in a new light, like this. You should have seen him, how eager and starved for helping others he was, when we were at the fortress... " he smiled a little. " He is... very much better than I imagined him, Seine. All that stern coldness that scared me... it is mostly a show, really. A pretence to make him feel above the situations at hand. He only acts that when he is tense and afraid. We were just both tense and afraid all the time at first, so I couldn't see it right away... "
"Alright..." Death murmured. "So that's what you mean when you say love. That's what you expect from me... I must explain you how I feel about it. And nothing of it is your fault, it's all about how I am and what happened to me before. I am sad when you feel hurt. I feel the same about you like you described... except for the last part. Love is like that. You care for a person and you are happy when they care as well and unhappy when they don't. And I am terrified of that part of love. I care for you, but I don't mind if you care back or not. And when you *expect* me to care, I start feeling bad... So, I can't give you that part of love..."
"I would say it's quite safe to talk," Senecio smiled. "With the play, everybody's going to talk about Death. So... he called himself While, and Xia came with Worth While? That's cute..."
Little fox looked unsure with that still - Death could see her trust in him was cracked, and that she couldn't believe him right away. She was conflicted.
" Worth... always says those confusing things. Worth says - I care, but I feel bad when you expect me to care? Why, if you *do* care? " she stuttered, turning her head to him - her expression was pained, but clearly trying best to understand. " Xia did not... pressure Worth. Worth pressured Worth. Xia... Xia did not ask, Worth, do you love me, did she? Xia just told Worth she loves him. Xia just... thought Worth would be happy, that Xia came to be with him. That Xia... loved him more than play. " she gulped, keeping composure. " But he... he acted like she... she is a bother. Like it does not matter to him if Xia is there or not. Everything... Everything seemed fine until Xia said those words. What... is love to you? " she whistled hoarsely, struggling, but trying to use pronouns more properly. " Other than something you dread about... "
" Yes, she did. It's adorable, isn't it? I've been gushing about it the whole morning. " Tide snickered a little bit. " But yes, Worth While behaved quite nicely. He's really not half bad when you get to understand his patterns. He was quite ill a few times on the road, and that was rather taxing and dreadful, but we managed to pull through for now. Now, everything depends on how well he actually chooses to work to the recovery. He has quite a bit... mixed feelings about himself, to say the least. He allows Xia to call him Worth While, but he doesn't seem to feel worth much more than a sixpence, to be honest..."