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Closing his eyes, Tam thought through the offer carefully.
Although Lithway did love their dramatics, this seemed to very genuinely be an incredibly serious issue to them. Tam believed that Lithway wouldn’t want to hunt him down, but that they would if he gave his word and then broke it. He couldn’t help but remember Sahil saying that nobody knew a thing about the shadowfolk—that he, a monster librarian who lived in the Valley, could find no reliable resources on them.
That Lithway was offering up this secret was something beyond an honor.
Could he do it? Without knowing what the secret was, could he promise that? If Ash wanted to know how he had been rescued, could Tam keep it from him?
He’d have to. He’d not kept many secrets from Ash before, but maybe it was time to start. And if he didn’t accept this offer now, he might not get Ash back to have to keep it a secret from him.
In some ways, his allies were a bigger issue. He couldn’t anticipate how it would affect his plans until he knew what the option even was. And what if the people he met tonight refused to go without knowing everything that was happening?
—Well, he thought, that was an issue he might have to face anyway, with the weredogs vs vampires issue. If he did plan to make use of both of them in some capacity, even if he did his best to keep them apart, that might not matter if they insisted on knowing all details of the plan. He’d either have to lie to them anyway or lose their help.
That said, the stories did have vampires be able to compel people. If he said that the information would kill him, and they still compelled him… well. Then he’d have made a very bad call, he supposed.
He let out a slow breath, opening his eyes again. Lithway hadn’t moved at all, expression not changing in the slightest.
“Lithway,” Tam said, hearing his voice come out a little rough. He was strangely moved by the offer, and was surprised he wasn’t actually feeling any fear. “I really, genuinely appreciate this. I know what a huge deal it must be, and I absolutely respect why you’d need to chase me down if I took that lightly.”
Lithway let out an agreeable hum, not interrupting—waiting for Tam to come to his conclusion.
“I would very much like to know how you can help,” Tam said. “I promise that I won’t tell, and if… if something makes me tell, I’ll understand when you come after me.” A thought occurred. “I’m—meeting with Antoine again sometime later today, and I’ll see if it’s possible to get geased to prevent me from saying anything about it. I won’t do it if I have to tell him the secret to get it to work, of course.”
A distinct look of pleasure crossed Lithway’s face. “Now, are you sure about that?” they asked. “A geas is a very strong magic, and not a pleasant one. It robs you of your free will.”
“I mean, so would death,” Tam said lightly. “And anyway, it’s not my secret to tell, so I don’t see why I’d need to make a big deal about losing the ability to do so.”
Lithway nodded, then flickered out of sight. They reappeared sitting on the desk next to Tam’s food, then put their indistinct feet on Tam’s thighs, turning the chair to face them. “I told you I wanted to experience you. You breathed me in; I became part of your body, you breathed me out.”
Tam could feel himself blushing. “Yeah, it was good?”
“And I’m very glad of that!” Lithway said, laughing.
And then they changed—shadows firming up, changing shape, color bleeding into them all over like paint had been poured into water. They tossed their head and—Tam was sitting on the desk, feet on Tam’s legs.
The real Tam stared. “You can—”
“I can become anyone who I’ve experienced,” Lithway said, in Tam’s voice. Like this, they spoke with far more inflection than they usually had. “Not sex, per se—though that was lovely, darling, and I’d be delighted to do it again. But whatever body I have, in whatever way, understood enough to recreate.”
They seemed to let out a breath and Tam’s form dissolved around Lithway, turning back into the black smoke that always trailed off them. “It’s not something we advertise being able to do. We’re already feared, and some people truly believe we’d kill them and take their place. Perhaps some of us have; that may be more reason to not let it be known. …And ugh, can you imagine what people would say if they didn’t think my acting skills were actual talent but something I absorbed from others?”
“Did you?” Tam asked, a bit wide-eyed. “Absorb something from me, I mean.”
“I wouldn’t do that without permission, darling, but I could. I could taste your memories and feelings also.” They paused, then added, in a lewd tone, “The only feelings I experienced from you were the ones you definitely wanted me to feel.”
Tam laughed shakily. “Nice,” he said. “Okay, good, great. That’s… this might be super helpful, honestly, and that you’re willing to not just tell me but use it to help me, I’m. I’m really moved, Lithway. And I absolutely do believe you’ve worked for your skills, by the way.”
“Well, now, don’t go making a big deal over it,” Lithway said, waving a hand in the air. They seemed abruptly embarrassed. “Kiss me and go on your adventure, now! But come back to me later and tell me what you’ll use me for, hm? I’m at your service; I can’t imagine anything nicer than seeing this through to the end.”
As requested, Tam leaned up and gave them a quick kiss. “Break a leg this evening,” he said, a little shyly. “I don’t know if I’ll be back tonight, since I’m going to be doing things until really late, but would it be all right if I did?”
“Of course. Let me be your safe haven,” Lithway said. The words were romantic but the tone, again, was somehow lewd.
Tam grabbed his stuff and gave Lithway another kiss before wandering out of the apartment area, down into the theatre. His phone buzzed as he went, and he checked it to see that Sahil had texted Tam his address to meet up there before lunch.
He wrote back a quick on my way, and then, while he had his cell out, phoned Antoine.
It was answered after a ring and a half. “Tam?”
“Yeah, it’s me,” Tam said. “I’ll probably swing by late afternoon, if that works for you for having the charms ready?”
“No problem,” Antoine said. “Should be cool by then. Hope it’s going well since I saw you?”
Tam blushed. “Yeah, it’s been great,” he said. “Can I ask another magic question?”
“Go for it.”
“Is it possible to be geased to be prevented from saying something, but not tell the spellcaster what it is when setting the spell up?”
Antoine paused for a moment. When he answered, there was audible curiosity in his voice. “Sure, but the vaguer you get, the more you can get tied up in the spell. Can I ask the sort of thing you’re thinking of?”
“Someone told me a secret. I promised not to tell on pain of death.”
“Ah.” Antoine considered. “You can phrase it like, ‘I may never speak about so-and-so’s secret with anybody but so-and-so’, but if they tell you other secrets in the future, those’ll count too.”
That didn’t seem like a problem. “I mean, sure. If someone tells me something’s a secret, I’m not gonna want to go telling anyone anyway.”
“Right, but for example, if you needed to testify in a murder or whatever, you might get in trouble for colluding.”
“That escalated quickly,” Tam complained with a laugh. “I’m sure it’s fine. And if something’s no longer a secret is it still under geas?”
“Not if you phrased it that way, no. It’d only qualify while it was secret.”
“Thanks,” Tam said. “What’ll I owe you for it?”
“I kidnapped your brother; it’s on the house.” Antoine hesitated, then added, “I don’t usually do geasing work, so it might not be the nicest spell I’ve ever put together, but I do know how. Thanks for trusting me with your, uh, free will.”
“Thanks for not charging me for doing so,” Tam said wryly. “I’ll see you later?”
He hung up and slid his phone in his pocket, then headed off to Sahil’s address.
It didn’t take him long to get there, and given how recently he’d texted he was on his way, he waited outside the small duplex’s door a few moments before losing patience and knocking. Hopefully Sahil wouldn’t be too rushed.
Sahil opened the door pretty quickly despite Tam’s worries. He looked tired, with darker circles under his eyes and his hair all mussed up, but he was fully dressed.
“Good morning,” Sahil said, a bit flustered. He stepped aside, holding the door. “Do you want to come in? It’s a little early for lunch, but we can go now if you’d rather go out right away, or… I mean, you can come in and I can give you a cup of coffee if you haven’t had one yet. I’m really interested to hear more of what happened, and that may be better in private than outside? Though, I mean… I don’t know all of what you’re going to want me to help you propose to Lena, and I know you’re tight on time.”
Tam peeked past him; the living room beyond was pretty cute, with a couch facing a TV, linen curtains in front of a big bay window, and old radiator heating. A small dog bed was tucked between the radiator and the couch, with a little box of dog toys beside it.
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[Completed Parts: Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Day 26 | Day 27 | Day 28 | Day 29 | Day 30 | Epilogue | Author’s Notes]