Against my better judgement, I went to go see Sirio again. I wasn’t quite sure why, but there wasn’t really anyone else to turn to. Perhaps he did know of another demon who walked the earth, or maybe he could at least point me in the right direction.
“Back again?” Sirio asked, his voice no longer velvety smooth, but, instead, scratchy and dry.
“Do you have any idea who Damian’s father is?” I asked shortly, eager to get to the point and then get out of there.
Sirio looked amused. “You never cease to amaze me.”
“Perhaps I should rephrase. Your stupidity never ceases to amaze me,” Sirio amended.
I scowled at him. “Are you going to tell me or what?”
“I really thought you would have figured it out already.” Sirio licked his cracked lips. “How many demons are there on earth?”
“Two,” I replied. “Me and Agares.”
Sirio nodded. “And I assume you’ve ruled out Agares?”
“Why would you assume that?”
“Because I know who Damian’s father is,” Sirio answered. “And I’m looking right at him.”
I took a step back, shaking my head. “No. That can’t be.”
“When was the last time you laid with a woman?”
“Forty, fifty years ago,” I answered. I had thought about it; of course I had considered it, but the timeline didn’t add up.
Sirio smirked a little. “No. Eighteen years ago.”
“No, that can’t be-“
“You made a bet with the gremlin Killiun, didn’t you? That you still had the charm to pick up a girl?”
I nodded. “Yes, but that was, like, forty years ago.”
“No, it wasn’t. Your sense of time has always been warped,” Sirio said. “It was eighteen years ago. I know because I made a bet with Killiun too - that you would fail, that is - and I keep excellent records.”
I stared at him in disbelief. Had it really only been eighteen years? Like Agares said, time was weird as an immortal; sometimes it seemed like an eternity had passed in the span of a few years, but sometimes it was like the blink of an eye.
I would be foolish not to consider the possibility that I was Damian’s father, but, well, even being as charming and handsome as I am, women aren’t exactly flinging themselves at my feet. The red skin was really rather a turn off. I remembered that bet with Killiun and how badly I had wanted to win it. The lengths I went to were incredible; I tracked down some reclusive sorceress in Siberia to get a potion to make my skin normal for forty eight hours. That was all the help I had, though. The rest relied on my incredible charm. Even so, I could have sworn that was several decades ago.
It appeared I was wrong.
“How do I know you’re not lying to me?” I asked.
“You don’t,” Sirio replied. “But when there are only two demons on earth, process of elimination doesn’t leave you many options.”
He was right. There was a far better chance that it had happened like he claimed than that Agares was actually responsible. And I liked to think of myself as well in the loop, so if there was another demon on earth, I would know. That left no other explanation.
“Well, shit,” I muttered.
“Better start making up for all that missed child support,” Sirio commented dryly.
I shot him a look. “What do I do now?” I asked, half talking to myself. “Tell him?”
“Unless you want the rest of your relationship to be predicated on the whole master-servant dynamic. You’re the mushy type; I know you’d like to treat him as a son.”
As much as I hated to agree with Sirio, especially when he phrased that the way he did, he was right. If Damian was the son I never thought or expected I could have, I wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to teach him all the tricks of shadows that no one other than me had ever figured out. I wanted to take him to my favorite places in the world and tell him stories about their history as I remembered it. I wanted him to not only stop hating me, but to actually begin to like me, to trust me. But I didn’t want him to like me as his master, I wanted him to like me as his father.
I had to tell him.
Without saying goodbye to Sirio, I teleported back up to the house, where Damian sat in the kitchen, nursing a beer. I pulled up a chair.
“I could be wrong, but aren’t you underage?” I asked.
Damian gave a half shrug. “Mrs. Grant said she’d get us anything we wanted. I asked for a drink.”
“Fair enough,” I replied.
Picking at the label of his bottle, Damian kept his eyes down. I studied him now in a new light; his hair was black and straight like mine, and his face was thin and angular. It was weird thinking of him as my son, but also not weird at all. It seemed only natural that I have a biological connection with the one human who in nearly a hundred years I had learned to tolerate and even to like. I almost wished I had known sooner. Humans had such short lives after all.
I shut down most of those lines of thought, thinking about what Sirio would say if he could hear me. He’d probably make some snide remark about me going soft or getting all sappy, but I had a wicked, bad-ass son who could control shadows, light, and had agreed to be my partner in crime. Didn’t that deserve a little emotion? I was proud of him, and proud that I was his father.
Now I just had to figure out how to tell him.
“You look upset,” I commented, lacing my fingers together on the tabletop.
Damian’s scowl deepened. “Good observation.”
There was a long pause. I got the feeling I wasn’t going to be great at this father stuff.
“So, um… want to tell me why?”
“Oh, well, you know, maybe because not only did my mother have an affair, she apparently had one with a demon?” Damian replied sarcastically. “Either that or my dad had an affair with a demon and my mom was just cool with it, which I doubt.”
The bitterness in his voice wasn’t encouraging. “Hey, maybe it’s not as bad as you think. Maybe she didn’t mean to.”
Damian looked up at me. “What, she just slipped and fell and accidentally slept with a demon?”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean, you’ve met me. You’ve seen how charming I can be. Maybe your mother just couldn’t resist,” I speculated. Damian didn’t seem to buy it.
“She should’ve realized he was a demon. And, if she did, there was no way she should ever have-“ he broke off with a tired sigh, rubbing his forehead with one hand. “I just feel so dirty. Unclean. I’ve lived my whole life thinking I was righteous and good and now… it’s all been a lie. I’m the son of a demon. It doesn’t get much worse than that.”
It took me a minute to figure out how to reply to that one. “What if the demon isn’t all that bad?”
Damian gave me a flat stare. “Isn’t all that bad? It’s a demon.”
“Yeah, but look at me. Do you really think I’m flat out evil?”
For a long moment, Damian studied me. Finally, he answered, “No. But you did kill a bunch of people and now have power over the vast majority of the human race, so I can’t exactly say you’re good either.”
“Oh, I don’t want to be good,” I replied quickly. “Just not all bad. And I do have power over the human race, but have I brought the world to its knees yet? No.”
Damian tilted his head. “That’s true. Why haven’t you? I expected you to go out and play with that new toy first thing.”
I shrugged. “I’ve waited centuries for this. Surely I can wait until you and I come up with a solid plan to put it to best use.”
Damian didn’t reply, but seemed accepting of my explanation.
“Listen, Damian…” I began, but when he looked up at me, his eyes so heavy and conflicted, I couldn’t tell him. Not then. “I’m going to head out for a bit. I thought maybe I could get one of the doctors from the local hospital to make a house call for your sister.” Holding up the hand with the ring on it, I flashed a smile. “Shouldn’t be a problem.”
I stood and headed for the door, when Damian said quietly, “Why are you being so nice lately?”
I paused. “You helped me get the ring. Isn’t it time I help you? Besides, that’s what friends do.”
I left before he could reply.