Tonight had not been the Winter Solstice celebration Naomi had hoped to have with Morgan, but the searing kiss he had given her—after /finally/ reclaiming his balls from Annelise Copeland's purse and telling the manipulative little slag to sod off after they had spent the evening listening to her crap on about how it was so hard for her to play Mata Hari—had gone rather far toward redeeming it. It was too bad that angels had found them in the subway on the way back to the Upper West Side, though.
She rolled over, reaching for him only to recall that he had slipped out of bed and promised to come back with a sandwich. He soon returned, holding glasses and a bottle of wine in one hand while holding a pair of plates in the other. A pair of sandwiches lay atop the upper plate.
"Sorry I took so long," said Morgan as he served the sandwiches and poured the wine. "I had to put the baguette in the oven first."
Though it was a simple Parisian sandwich it proved to be exactly what she needed. She savored each bite, saving the wine until she was done. "I needed that."
"I bet you did," said Morgan as he stretched out beside her. He turned over, knowing that she preferred to be the big spoon and evidently not minding a bit. He waited until she had settled in behind him before gently grasping her hand. "Though I suppose that wasn't the first time you've fought angels."
It had not been. Nor had the angel that had attacked her in Grand Central Terminal been her first. However, it was not a matter Naomi could easily discuss. Being einherjar, Morgan was built to fight angels and demons. An asura like Naomi needed particular weapons if they had not learned to manifest psychokinetic talents they could use to fight instead. While Naomi had the weapon, she had not yet found a way to explain it or why she possessed it. "It's complicated."
His lips brushed her knuckles. "You might have noticed that I've had some experience with complicated."
/That's what I get for understatement,/ Naomi thought as she cast about for a better phrase. The only one that came readily to mind was one Claire used when a particular series' overarching plot proved unnecessarily convoluted and seemed written that way by authors desperate to display their intellectual prowess to compensate for other shortcomings. "All right, then. It's fucking Byzantine."
"I think we both had a taste of that tonight, too, thanks to Annelise."
"Can we not talk about her in bed?"
"Sure," said Morgan. Slipping out of her embrace, he stood beside the bed and offered his hand. "Why don't we take this downstairs? I'll get the fireplace going."
Rather than take his hand, Naomi pulled the bedcovers tighter around her and hugged his pillow. "Must we?"
"I can't force you, but there's a lot about you that I don't understand. There's that sword you wielded tonight. Then there's your relationship with Isaac Magnin." Morgan paused a moment, looking down at the criss-cross of small dark lines over his heart. "There's a lot I haven't told you, either."
"Like why you forgave Annelise after all she's done?"
Morgan did not answer. She half-suspected that he would not do so as he put his jeans and t-shirt back on. He then handed her the clothes he had torn off her in their haste to get to bed after their struggle in the subway had roused them. Once she was dressed, she found him sitting by the fire. Seeing that he had put out a plate of cheese, meats, and crackers she prepared a snack for herself.
"Forgiving Annelise was the only move that made sense to me," said Morgan, finally answering her question. "As long as I held onto my hurt and anger over the the way she treated us, it gave her power over me and gave Isaac Magnin leverage. You said it yourself; he's trying to play me."
His reasoning made sense, but that was the problem. She too had tried to be reasonable, to not give Isaac Magnin power over her, and no matter what she did he found a way to turn her actions to his advantage. "What will you do, then? Spend the rest of your life second-guessing yourself, denying your true feelings and ignoring your needs and desires because it might give /him/ a handle on you?"
"Is that what /you/ did?"
He had been watching the fire as he said it. He had delivered the question as if it were an offhand remark. Nevertheless, it pierced as deeply as if he had stared her down and accused her. It /had/ been what she had done. It was what she continued to do. It was one reason she had yet to admit that her reasons for being near him were little different from Annelise's.
The other was that she feared Morgan's reaction should he come to suspect that her regard for him was as illusory as the other woman's. /Could he forgive me, too?/ Naomi wondered. /Not likely. Would his pride allow him to even consider it?/
The silence between them stretched as the fire crackled and popped. Mordred had flopped onto the floor in front of them to enjoy the warmth, and all she wanted to do was settle down on the rug beside the cat and rub his belly. Instead, she looked to Morgan. "I can't forgive Annelise for how she's treated you, and I feel like I have to hate her /for/ you because you can't seem to bring yourself to do it on your own. I don't understand how you can bear to let go."
Morgan's lips had curled into a slight, tight-lipped smile. "Remember how I said Annelise was probably still working for Magnin when she told us her sob story?"
"Annelise said it herself. Assuming she isn't bullshitting us, Isaac Magnin /wants/ me to come after him."
"And so you'll let him make a Grand Guignol of your life?"
"If that's what it takes to ensure that he doesn't see me coming," said Morgan, "But enough about me. What about you?"
"What about me?"
"I never pressed you for your secrets before because I didn't think I had the right. I still don't think I have the right, but thanks to Annelise I learned the hard way that love isn't enough."
Despite her proximity to the hearth the room no longer felt warm enough. The firmness in his voice and the set of his jaw were not unfamiliar to her; he had committed to himself to a course he thought necessary despite knowing that he would most likely regret embarking upon it. "I think I understand," said Naomi. "You love me, but you loved Christabel, too. She betrayed you even though you loved her, and I too could betray you."
"He's your father, according to you," said Morgan.
"I don't think that's ever bothered you before," said Naomi.
"I wasn't about to take on a vendetta against him before. I don't want to accuse you of holding divided loyalties, but—"
It only took a heartbeat for her to pull him to his feet and gently silence his objection. "Wait there a moment. There is something I need to give you."
Running up to the guest bedroom where she had stashed her bags before taking Morgan to bed earlier, she opened her bag and retrieved the faded pink cardigan that Morgan had knitted for her as a Winter Solstice present over a decade ago. It still kept her warm despite its age, but despite her care the once scarlet wool had faded to the same pale coral as her lips when she wasn't wearing lipstick. Once she had slipped into it, she opened the case in which she kept the Starbreaker. As soon as she had the sheathed weapon in her hands it was back in her head. «You're wearing /that/ ratty old thing again?»
«First, Morgan made this for me. Second, why would I take fashion advice from a demon sword?»
«Where else are you going to get fashion advice? That fake pop tart?»
Naomi let this pass, glad the weapon refrained from using harsher language. «I'm going to introduce you to Morgan. Do at least /try/ to behave.»
«Hey, at least I didn't eat him the last time you let me out to play.»
«Fine. No more Elric until you learn to behave.» Oddly enough, refusing to read bedtime stories to the weapon seemed enough to make it behave. /It's like I'm babysitting this thing,/ she thought, and not for the first time.
«I liked Morgaine better. Not as emo. She looks a bit like you, too. I'd let her polish me.»
«Well, none of her either if you're going to be lewd.»
«Hey, I wasn't always a giant prick.»
«I'm sure you had other shortcomings. Now, are you going to behave yourself?»
«If you insist.»
Morgan was still on his feet when she returned. "That's the weapon you used earlier."
"It is," said Naomi. Cradling it in upturned, open hands, she presented it to him. "You never asked me why I wear a Saint Judas medal, but you have a right to know. I wear it because I've been one of the Phoenix Society's Inquisitors ever since you began training to join the Adversary corps. My mission, which came from Isaac Magnin's enemies on the executive council, was to watch over you as Annelise did for Magnin. If I judged it necessary, I was to assassinate you to keep you from becoming Magnin's weapon or the Almighty's."
Morgan reached out to accept the weapon, and stopped short. "Annelise said this weapon could give Isaac Magnin his true death if unbound. You could have ended him yourself."
Naomi shook her head. "I never learned how to unleash its full power, and even if I knew how I wouldn't dare. I fear that sword as I fear nothing else in the world save the loss of your regard. If you take it, you'll soon understand."
"If I take it," said Morgan, his hand still not quite touching the weapon's scabbard. "Will you tell me everything?"
As he finally grasped the weapon, she clasped her hands over his. "I've wanted to tell you everything for years. When my courage permitted it words failed me. When I had the words, valor deserted me. I don't know if I have either tonight, but I can't deal with the doubt I see in your eyes any longer."
"I'll listen for as long as it takes," said Morgan as he put aside the sword. "As long as you tell me why you have /that/ thing."
"I suppose it said something rude," said Naomi, glancing at the Starbreaker.
"It asked me if I wanted help killing your father."
"It might offer to help you kill /me/ next," said Naomi, screwing her courage to the sticking point. "Once I've told you everything."