Briefs and Boxers
On the way back to the camp, the two had to switch a few times since Gabe was unconscious and heavy. Zoe was silent for the whole time and Ezekiel was murmuring to himself but overall, they weren’t talking to each nor had the intention to in the next few hours. They needed to process what had happened in the forest.
When they got there, everyone was sleeping peacefully in their tents. Ezekiel frowned when he realized he had to get Gabe in his tent.
“Just get him in silently,” she mumbled loud enough for him to hear.
Ezekiel couldn’t get in because Luke was sleeping too close to the entrance, so Ezekiel did what he could: he dropped Gabe somewhere close to his sleeping bag but not far enough for him to actually fall on something. The noise of a dropping body was surprisingly loud.
Zoe rolled her eyes and entered her own tent. Alice was on her side, seemingly sleeping but when Zoe opened the zip to her bag, it made enough noise for Alice to open her eyes.
“Oh, you’re back. How was your adventure?”
Zoe got in bed and turned her back to Alice. She didn’t want the human girl to see just how bad it was.
“Eventless. Good night.”
She heard Alice mumble something along the same line and closed her eyes. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that maybe the others were right.
In the morning, Zoe woke up with a massive headache and two demons having an intense disagreement above her body. She kept her eyes closed and ears perked up.
“You’re reckless. Why didn’t you tell her the truth?”
She didn’t recognize that voice. It wasn’t Eneizar or Iaosur and it didn’t sound like that bulky fairy either.
“Why didn’t you?”
But the second voice was definitely Mehrdir’s.
“She was too young to understand how important she was. She’s not just the commander; she’s also human. We can’t ask her something that is impossible to do in her present condition.”
That voice was smooth and sounded way nicer than the other demons’. It was weird because she was sure he was a demon and he didn’t feel weak at all.
“Why did you leave, then? If you care so much about her then—” The other demon stopped Mehrdir.
“That’s the problem: I cared for her. I hope you won’t make the same mistake as I did. I let my guard down and she took advantage of it, even if she did it unconsciously.”
That didn’t make much sense. If he cared for her, then she’d definitely met him before. But that was impossible—nothing about him felt familiar.
“She needs to learn.” At least they were agreeing on that. “Iaosur already found someone who can teach her how to fight, but not enough to fight us.” The older demon chuckled and glanced at her.
Zoe could feel his intense gaze and it made her shiver. She couldn’t stay like that for long so she started to stretch and move. When she opened her eyes, the demons were gone.
Outside, Alice was talking to Ezekiel while Andrew was standing behind them, watching like they were characters in a play. She ruffled her hair and rubbed her stomach, completely unfeminine.
“Morning!” She stopped her unfeminine actions and smiled. Henry waved at her before he gave her a soda. “How was your late night adventure?” he asked.
“Nothing really happened. Did Gabe wake up?”
Henry frowned and shook his head. Zoe glanced at the tent and sighed, feeling a bit guilty.
“It’s weird. He’s sleeping so deeply. Luke made a lot of noise when he woke up and I shook him a few times but nothing.”
Being possessed was a lot of trouble and the victim was often drained of energy at the end of it. Gabe was going to sleep for the whole day, and nothing was going to wake him up.
The second day of camping was by far more normal and boring than the first. The excitement died and so did Mark’s expectations. He had a few plans for the camp and they were all around his neighbour but Henry happened and it messed everything up.
“How’s the trip so far?” He finally found an opening when Henry went to talk to Alice.
“It’s fun. I’m really glad you invited me, Mark.” Zoe started, smiling softly.
“It seems Alice is glad I did too. She’s kept an eye on your friend from the moment he entered the car.” The young man added, chuckling bemusedly, “She’s checking on Gabriel at the moment but once she walks out of the tent, just watch where her gaze goes.”
“Ezekiel is a charming man, in his own odd way.” Zoe explained, her eyes falling over the brown haired boy with fondness.
“Morning!” Luke greeted, waving lazily at Zoe while walking over. “Gabe’s still sleeping soundlessly. It’s probably the age,”
Zoe’s eyes widened, feeling quite offended since she wasn’t that much younger.
“By the way, Zoe, maybe a week ago I was going to the elevator and I saw two men walking to your apartment. I realize now that one was Ezekiel but there was another man.” Luke started, taking her by surprise.
“Another man?” She asked, having no clue when that happened.
“He was carrying you on his back.” Luke added.
Zoe’s eyes widened and she looked at Ezekiel for a moment before she turned to Luke and Mark. She had to think of a plausible lie and the only thing she could come up with was-
“Drunk. I was drunk. That man brought me home after I drank a bit too much. It’s been stressful at work and yeah...I’m sure you understand.” She replied, every word she said coming slowly while she was thinking it through.
“Oh, alright then. He looked to be really strong even if he also looked very thin.”
“When did you have time to look at him anyway?” Mark interfered, taking Zoe’s side since Luke was being indiscreet.
“When he passed me, I felt like the world slowed down and I saw him from behind.” Luke defended himself, sounding questionable.
“The world doesn’t slow down when a person walks past you, Luke. That only happens in movies, when you fall in love at first sight, which again, doesn’t happen in real life.” Mark continued, shaking his head at Luke’s foolish behavior.
But Zoe stood there, watching the two boys with a poker face. She wasn’t sure but that could have happened if Eneizar’s demon energy overwhelmed the human.
While the two friends started bickering, Luke mentioning the mob at some point while Mark was continuously shaking his head in disbelief, Henry took the chance to grab Zoe aside and finally have a normal chat with her.
“They’re not going to stop anytime soon.” Henry muttered, glancing at the two men. “They’re like that all the time but somehow they live together.”
“They’re close enough to know when to joke and when to be serious. It seems like Luke likes to tease Mark a lot.” Zoe added, taking a quick glance at Ezekiel, who was staring at his phone.
“Everyone likes to tease Mark because he’s an easy target. He makes really weird faces when he’s annoyed.” Henry explained, laughing at the numerous expressions he had seen on his friend’s face.
“Mark said that only he and Luke are still in university. Now I know that Gabriel is a full grown adult but what about you and Alice?”
That was the boldest way a girl has ever asked to know more about him and Henry didn’t feel like she was interested because she liked him back. Actually, it was very hard to understand what Zoe was thinking when she was talking to him because her expression was always the same.
“I own a dancing school in East London and Mark is my part-time employee. I graduated last year and finally got the chance to open my own business. Alice is one of Mark’s students and recently, I hired her to take care of my accounts. As you can see, we’re boring people usually.” Henry said, chuckling when he realized how boring it really sounded.
“I think that having a dancing school is not boring. Maybe accounting is, but working with people you enjoy spending time with is fun.” Zoe altered the perception he had by giving her own point of view.
“I guess so,” Henry replied meekly, smiling at the mature woman.
On the other side, Alice walked out of the tent and went straight to Ezekiel, who was texting.
“I thought there isn’t signal in here.” Alice started the conversation, sitting next to him on an improvised chair.
“There isn’t,” Ezekiel answered without giving much thought. When he remembered that next to him was not Zoe, he quickly added, “I just wrote it as a draft. I’ll send it when we get back in town.”
Alice nodded and noted how fast Ezekiel hid his phone in his pocket. She tried not to think negative about Ezekiel’s sneakiness but it was worrying since she genuinely liked him.
“How does Gabriel feel?” Ezekiel asked when he noted how silent it became.
“He’s fine, sleeping. I don’t know what happened last night but he is really tired.”
Ezekiel glanced at the tent before his eyes unconsciously moved on Zoe. She was listening to whatever Henry was telling her, not very interested from her expression.
“You and Zoe are pretty tight, aren’t you?” Alice asked seeing how he was very obviously staring at the woman.
“We’ve met three weeks ago near her apartment building. We have similar interests and some common curiosities. I wouldn’t say we’re close at all; she keeps me around because she needs me.”
“Then why are you letting her use you?” Alice asked, seeing how Ezekiel’s voice was softening.
“Because I want her to need me more. I want to see the world through her eyes.”
Ezekiel’s response was not what Alice expected and it stung her heart. There was a constant push and pull between the two, she could see it even at the moment, both of them ignoring each other yet taking sneaky glances when the other’s not looking. There was definitely more between Zoe and Ezekiel than they said.
When the young man realized what he just said, he turned to Alice with wide puppy eyes and grabbed her hand tightly.
“I don’t mean I want her to need me romantically. It’s really complicated but-”
The brown haired boy was interrupted by a few drops of rain falling on his nose. It wasn’t long when it suddenly poured cats and dogs, forcing everyone to run and take cover.
“This time is perfect for another session of scary stories.”
Luke was getting excited for nothing. After what happened that night, no one was in the mood to scare and be scared.
“I’ll pass,” was everyone’s answer.
Luke’s sulky mood lasted for a few minutes before he got another bright idea.
“Fine. Let’s just speak, have some bonding time. Let’s start with Zoe and Ezekiel since we don’t really know much about them.”
The two newcomers looked at each other before Ezekiel decided he should sacrifice himself and be first.
“There’s not much to say. My name is Ezekiel and I’m an Arts student. I major in Musical and Drama and I like to spend my free time with a good friend of mine. My best friend is in hospital and he’s recuperating after a tragic accident—”
Ezekiel continued to tell his life story, but Zoe was stuck on the hospital part. His best friend was in hospital, recuperating after a tragic accident which coincidentally was very familiar to Chen’s story. Ezekiel was in the same university as Andrew and saw his soul getting out of his body at the moment of his instant death. From what she knew, Chen did say he knew an Andrew too and Andy was in the same Department as Ezekiel, in the same university. Her eyes widened when the pieces came together.
“No way,” she mumbled.
Chen, Ezekiel and Andy were all from the same place. After Andy got sent to her, Mehrdir sent Chen and Eneizar led her to Ezekiel. While Andy was a ghost, Ezekiel had links to some suspicious people. She still didn’t know why Chen was involved but she was sure she was going to find that out soon.
“Zoe?” She looked up in time to see everyone staring at her patiently. “It’s your turn.”
“My name is Zoe and I’m older than I look. I like to draw and watch horror movies. I am an only child and I am originally from Essex. I guess that’s all.”
The guys laughed it off, but she was serious. She was older than most of them, already finished university, and it wasn’t even something about arts. Still, Luke wasn’t satisfied with her answer, mostly because they didn’t learn anything new about her.
“What about your job?” Henry was really interested what she could do, career wise.
“I majored in Psychology since my father is a philologist. However, I never practiced it. My parents don’t know this. They think I work at a hospital and I’d like it if it would remain that way.” The woman answered sincerely.
Everyone stared at her in astonishment.
“How old are you?” Asked Henry.
Their eyes widened. She was far older than she looked and acted, and even Ezekiel was amazed since he never bothered to ask.
“Hey! I’m twenty-six, too! Don’t make such faces!” Alice glanced at Ezekiel to see his expression. He didn’t seem to care at all. Actually, he was far gone in ZekLand.
“I’ve never been around people younger than me until now. It’s a nice feeling.” Zoe admitted.
“How old are your friends?” Alice asked, frowning.
“Older than I am.” She looked to the side and caught glimpse of a familiar pair of shoes. “Way older than I am,” she mumbled.
When she looked back to Mark, she saw Eneizar behind him, right in front of the entrance. He waved at her and swayed from side to side. Behind her was Mehrdir so they ended up cornering her.
“Why do I suddenly feel paranoid?” Ezekiel leaned in and asked her. She looked at him expectantly and the man figured it out. “Why am I the only one feeling it?”
“Because you know the difference. Why didn’t you tell me you know Chen?” Zoe changed the subject, feeling like finally pieces were coming together.
“I didn’t think it was important. Why?”
“He came to me when he was in a coma.”
Ezekiel’s eyes widened and he shifted around. Luckily, the rest got into a heated argument about women and men’s underwear.
“When was that?” Ezekiel asked, moving closer to her.
“A few weeks ago. That stupid demon Mehrdir sent him to me.” She heard him cough behind her. “He ordered me to make friends in high places.”
“I prefer the term ‘advised’,” he commented from behind her.
“Why would Chen help you? He doesn’t have connections to magic or anything weird. If anything, he’s a troublemaker. He loves to mess around and cause—” Ezekiel stopped. He could understand why his best friend was good for her cause. “I get it now. He acts like a demon in a way, but he’s not a bad guy. He’s just full of life.”
Ezekiel wanted to find the right adjectives for his friend but that was still an underestimation of Chen’s troublesome past.
“It doesn’t matter, because he doesn’t remember me. That’s how it goes. When a ghost that’s connected to its body gets back, the subconscious retains that memory and only shows it as a dream. It’s tricky and that person has very low chances to remember what happened. ” Zoe explained, her eyes widening when Mehrdir moved even closer to her.
“Just wait until he sees you,” he whispered into her ear. She shivered slightly when he breathed down her neck.
Eneizar, on the other hand, was having fun. He got very interested into what the humans were bickering about and was confused regarding the difference between briefs and boxers.
“Well, he’s better now. You can come with me next week when I go visit him.” Ezekiel said before returning his attention to the rest.
The rain didn’t stop and they had to gather everything and place it in the car. Gabe was still sleeping, so they moved him in the car while Alice was going to drive them back. It was complicated to break the camp while outside was pouring, but they had help—if it could be called help. Eneizar gave a harsh gust of wind and everything fell down. Zoe glared at him, but he only gave two thumbs up in return. Mehrdir was standing next to Eneizar with his hands in his pockets, lazily watching the humans pack.
“This is a waste of time,” Mehrdir commented.
Eneizar nudged the greed demon and pointed towards the forest. Right there, the original guardian of Zoe was watching, looking the same as he had when she was a kid.
“That stupid demon. With all the power he has, his eyes always become soft when they land on that idiot woman,” the greed demon continued.
Eneizar raised an eyebrow and patted Mehrdir’s back sympathetically.
“Your eyes do that too, mate,” he added.
Mehrdir glared at the smirking vanity demon but ah, for Eneizar it was just so fun.
“What have I missed?” Iaosur asked, appearing next to Eneizar.
The vanity demon chuckled and pointed at Mehrdir, making the greed demon scoff loudly and leave. Iaosur rose an eyebrow, curious what they spoke about before.
“He spent too much time around humans,” the shorter demon commented, turning towards the car. “I managed to persuade an old friend to come and give Zoe a hand. He’s waiting in her apartment, locked and bound tightly.”
“Extraordinary,” the blond mumbled with sarcasm, “Let’s just complete our missions neatly and watch the rest from the side.” Eneizar added, folding his arms in front of his chest.
“Isn’t it a pity, though? We could use her as a shield against the princes.”
Eneizar snapped his head at the angst demon with a furious glare.
“Don’t even consider that again. Don’t think about it and don’t act upon it. Lucifer knows everything.” Eneizar hissed.
“I know but so does Beelzebub,” Iaosur said before he sighed heavily. “You’re way too loyal to Lucifer. It’s going to bite you in the arse some day.”
Eneizar scoffed and left as well, but Iaosur stayed back and watched the humans leave. If only Zoe knew the truth, everything would be easier.