Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language and mature content.
The Ragged Robin hadn't changed much since the last time they'd been there. There was a new shade of blue on the wall, and a couple of new things on the menu, but other than that. Same old Robin. Max slumped against the table, moaning softly. "I think I overslept," he muttered into the wood, and proceeded to thump his head on the table. "Either that, or may I didn't sleep enough."
"What makes you think that?" Lyssa asked from somewhere to his right. He twisted to peer up at her, ignoring Puck where he sat between them on the booth's seat.
"I got woken up at four this morning by giggling," he said, scowling at his sister. "I think you can guess who was up that early. It's freaking ridiculous."
Lyssa frowned at him, absently reaching out to pet Puck. "The twins were up that early? Did they say why?"
Max shrugged, pushing upright. "Blair said something about a voice?" he hedged, squinting as he tried to remember what, exactly, she'd said. "Apparently it wanted them to go downstairs, whatever that means."
"You mean the basement?"
"Yeah, that's what I asked. Blair said yes." Max sighed, rubbing a hand over his face and trying to focus on his sister again. "That's about all I could get out of them. Be glad I could remember that much."
Lyssa hummed thoughtfully, turning to pull the milkshake she'd ordered a little closer. She took a sip and then fixed him with a narrow-eyed glower. "You seem a little spacey today, Max."
He shrugged again, leaning back against the booth heavily. Puck chose that moment to climb into his lap. Nyx had been last back at the Manor. Max gave the Cat Sith a quick scratch behind the ears before reaching for his own milkshake; spearmint compared to his sister's strawberry. The faerie cat began purring, turning around once before settling on his lap.
I like this place, the faerie cat murmured, still purring. It's quiet and it smells much better than that room we slept in last night.
Max snorted, glancing down at the cat before taking a sip of his drink. He set the glass down softly before peering down at Puck. "Only you would say that, Puck," he said, smiling slightly. He glanced up and about the room, eyeing the mostly empty cafe. "But you're right. It's unusually quiet, isn't it?"
Lyssa poked him, making him meet her frown, and then poked the faerie cat. "It's weird, don't you think?"
I'm still not happy about being woken up last night, the Cat Sith grumbled, almost absently. Max rolled his eyes and focused on the drinks before him, vision blurring slightly. Why was he so damned tired now?
"Hey, Lyssa," he began, twisting to meet her gaze. "Aren't you tired, too?"
"A little," she admited, a little sheepishly. Then she sighed. "Clearly not as tired as you are, but then again... I didn't get a four-am wake-up call."
Max grinned, shaking his head. Trust his sister to be amused by his overtiredness.
They both looked up as the door jangled, revealing an excited Jae in all her dark-skinned glory and a somewhat reserved Luke. The pair quickly joined them at the table, Jae sliding in beside him and Luke sitting across from them. Jae reached for his lap, not-so-obviously sneaking something to Puck, and Max looked down in time to catch a glimpse of some sort of dried seafood. He couldn't quite figure out what it was, but Puck clearly seemed pretty excited by it, if the way he snatched it and jumped down onto the floor beneath the table was anything to go by.
"Hey guys," Lyssa said, leaning over the table to take Luke's hand. He offered her a small, tired smile and then turned to wave down the waitress. "How's it going? Anything different in town since we were last here?"
"Not much," Jae told her as Luke began ordering a couple of drinks and something to eat without bothering to consult Jae. "They're renovating one of the local stores again. And the town hall, but that's about it. Oh, and someone tried to grafiti the oak tree on the main street again. My anti-grafiti ward works a treat. You shoulda seen the guy's face the next day! It was so green!" She dissolved into giggles. Max got a chuckle of it, too. "Anyway, how're you two? Finish those courses you were doing?"
"Yeah, we've finished."
Max slumped against the back of the booth seat, barely paying attention as Puck jumped back up onto his lap, evidently finished with the seafood thing that Jae had given him. He absently gave the faerie cat a pat, eyes slitted as he watched Jae and Luke interact with his sister. Lyssa seemed pretty damn excited to catch up with their best friends.
"So, Max, what's it like being in the Manor again?"
He blinked, meeting Jae's ridiculously focused gaze. "Uh.... It's weird. When we arrived yesterday, there was a cop talking to Aishe." He glanced towards Lyssa. She was frowning slightly, tapping one well-maintained fingernail against the table top. "He gave her something, but I'm not sure what it was."
"Don't look at me," Lyssa said, shrugging. "I didn't see what it was, either."
"What'd the cop look like?" Luke asked, drawing their attention to him. Even Puck shifted to peer over the edge of the table at him.
"Dark eyes, brown I think," Max told him, frowning as he tried to remember the cop. He had gotten a pretty good look at the man, too. "Uh...tanned skin... Dark hair? Brown or black."
Luke and Jae exchaned a loaded look, and Max glanced between then, concerned. Puck decided to hop up onto the table at that moment and stalk right up to Luke, practically putting his big, black head in Luke's face, staring into the other young man's eyes.
"What? What the hell is that look for?"
"I think that's Harper's dad." Jae looked thoughtful, tapping a finger against her lips as she spoke.
"Wait, Harper as in a kid that goes to school with our niece and nephew?" Max asked sharply, pinning Jae with a narrow-eyed look. "Seriously?"
"Yeah, that's the one."
"He, uh..." Luke grimaced. "He's apparently involved with a vampire or something. But don't tell anyone I said that, please."
"A vampire, huh?" Lyssa mused thoughtfully, and Max frowned.
"I didn't see any evidence of that," he muttered, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning forwards to plant his arms on the table. "He looked a little tired and suspicious, but not like he was involved with vampires."
The conversation died off as the waitress came back with their food, setting it down with a fond smile. Clearly she knew who that were. Max to grab Puck so the stupid faerie cat wasn't in the way, though. Puck protested loudly, too, but Max didn't care. He set the cat down on the seat between himself and Lyssa again, giving the fat a stern look. Puck scowled at him and then sulked towards Lyssa, who chuckled at the Cat Sith's antics.
As soon as the waitress was out of earshot, Max turned on the others again. "Tell me more about this vampire and Harper's dad."
"Michael," Luke said quietly. "Harper's dad has a name, Max."
"Michael, then. What's the last name?"
Max flinched. "Harper's a fucking Westbrook?" He sighed, shifting in his seat uncomfortably. "Why didn't Blair tell me that?"
Lyssa snorted. "Did you ask?"
"There's your answer," she said, zero sympathy in her tone.
"So... Michael Westbrook was at the Manor, and he's a cop. What the hell was he doing there, other than cop stuff? Because it certainly didn't look like cop stuff."
He was checking the basement, Puck said, still sounding slightly put out, but willing to offer an insight regardless. Putting up some wards and other spell-work. I'm surprised you didn't notice the foreign magic, Sir.
Max turned to stare down at the faerie cat, blinking slowly. "You sure about that?"
Puck gave a delicate little snort. I checked on the spells and warding while you were asleep. I'm very sure about it.
"What's the cat say?" Luke asked, dragging Max's attention off Puck and towards him. He was leaning forwards, obviously curious.
"Puck says that Michael was setting up wards and other spellwork," he muttered, giving the cat a side-eyed little look. "In the basement."
"Damn, it's pretty serious, then."
"Moreso than we thought," Lyssa muttered, also eyeing Puck, but her expression was thoughtful. "Did Puck say where in the basement this spellwork was?"
Puck blinked slowly at him when Max gave him an expected look. The warm room, he said and proceeded to start washing his paw, ignoring the look Max was giving him. With the fire box. And the sigil on the wall.
It took a moment for Max to work out which room that was, and then he sighed. It just had to be that room, didn't it? He barely remembered what happened in there, but he knew it was bad. He stared down at Puck for a moment longer before he turned towards the others.
"The boiler room," he said, slowly and without inflection. Lyssa flinched. Max didn't blame her. His skin was crawling with just the mention of it. They all hated that room. He twisted to look at Puck again. "Why did you go down there? I don't want you anywhere near that room."
Puck paused in his washing, flicking an ear towards him. Then he slowly lowered his paw and tilted his head, eyeing Max up thoughtfully. I heard a voice, the Cat Sith said, blinking slowly at him. Max's blood went cold. So I went to find it, and layered my own ward over all the others.
"Don't go down there anymore," he hissed at the faerie cat, then turned back to his sister and their friends. "So.... Um, back to the vampire. Anyone know what this one's name is?"
Luke and Jae exchanged another glance, before Jae sighed and pulled her plate of chips and a burger closer. "Apparently, it's Sinclair," she said, shrugging. "But no one's seen or heard from him in at least a decade."
"Sinclair, huh?" Max hummed thoughtfully, watching as Jae picked up the burger and took a bote out of it. "There a first name to go with that?"
"Magnus," Luke said, not looking at Max. His gaze was focus on his plate of chips and what looked to be a veggie burger. "It's Magnus. Magnus Sinclair."