Bartender for the Dead

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Raven didn't sleep, even after his conversation with Syra. Ty informed him that Claud and Ceael left as he'd asked, and would not be able to find the cabin again unless Raven forgave Claud for being stupid.

"We have jobs to do," Ty said. "We don't have time for petty squabbles and Claud needs to grow up."

Raven thought about that all the way to the bar and kept his opinions to himself. The Toads were a sneaky lot, but Syra sent them to keep him grounded. Gi had decided to punish him for something but he didn't know what. Thwarting Time was hard unless he managed to stay off of her radar.

Drake was there to open the door for him and Raven recalled his first conversation with Ty. The doorknob was spelled to recognize majick. The Toads had made it possible to fool the majick into thinking Raven was War. If Raven touched the knob, the majick would know the truth.

Scot could read memories of the mind by touch and did so when Raven had to judge. Raven burned through a mind to get to the truth and received memories of the flesh, too. Objects, on the other hand, were different. Scot couldn't read objects, but Raven could.

Until he'd learned to control it, he discovered all sorts of things he didn't want to know about people. If he touched the knob, he'd read all of the quick memories left by each hand that had touched it. It would trigger the alarm spell and the majick would know that Justice had come to judge.

But he hadn't. Not in the literal sense. The Order coming to die had been put through enough. Gi had been judged and now awaited execution, but she didn't know it.

Judging Lucah would take more than the hate Raven felt for him.

For a Wednesday night, the bar was packed. Raven still didn't see the draw for the crowd and he noted each Human face he saw, replaying the night before.

The same people arrived at the same times down to the second ordering the same drinks. Raven looked Fiery over again as the young man made his way from the darkened corners the Humans dwelled and the deathblow glowed from the tight cotton tee shirt in a four-inch vertical line from his sternum to the waistband of his jeans.

Raven was bartender to the dead.

After Raven filled the drink orders Fiery asked for, Crow made his way to the end of the bar next to Death's Door.

"You've figured it out, haven't you?" Crow asked without preamble and Raven set two shot glasses on the wood along with a bottle of tequila.

"That the only new people you see are the Order coming to walk through that door? Yeah." Raven poured two shots.

"It happened the first night Connor arrived. This night." Crow rubbed his forehead before he drank both shots.

"So the time loop isn't just on Alpha."

"No, it's tied to Juniper's Folly."

"What happened that night?" Raven asked.

"We were celebrating your mating to Cy. It wasn't about gods that night, Rave. It was about you and Cy. You were happy. Then your brother showed up with his stupid entourage and all hell broke loose. The home you were building for Sonny and the boys burned to the ground. I don't remember the whole thing, but the next morning, I woke up and Juniper's Folly was suddenly Wynter House. A huge hulking beast of stone that no one wanted to visit. Everyone from the party didn't seem to exist after that."

"Where is Juniper's Folly?" Raven asked.

"Across the road. In that field of Jane."

"Crow, did anyone besides Connor show up on November twenty-seventh?" Raven asked.

"Yeah. Some tall redhead. He didn't talk to anyone but Connor. They argued. The emotions were high. The bar fight broke out, but Connor didn't notice. Said he was goin' to bed and started for Death's Door. I blocked his path, and the redhead glared at me before he and Connor vanished.  The fight was over and there wasn't anywhere to step to find the floor." Crow stared into his empty glass. "The next night, it was all normal, and Connor came again, but he was alone."

"Ceael didn't come before that?" Raven asked.

"No."

"Thanks, Crow. I'm sorry I made you remember that."

Crow looked up then, his brown eyes searching for answers Raven didn't have. "Can you fix it?"

"I will do my best."

"I know you will, Rave. Took a lot to get you and not your brother."

Raven made last call at fifteen to two, but no one from the final battle arrived. Something else had changed and time couldn't move on from the argument between Connor and Lucah. It hadn't played itself out yet, and Ceael's arrival with Claud meant something. Now, Raven wished he'd asked Ceael how many times they'd tried to come home.

At four in the morning, he walked into the cabin, hoping to have a conversation with Ty, but instead, he found a mess in the kitchen.

Four pairs of eyes blinked at him from their positions on the floor between the island and the cabinets. They were all dressed in black pajamas and eating the fruit and ham from Raven's fridge.

"Hey," Raven greeted, squatting down beside Edyn, who patted his cheek with a sticky hand. "Does anyone know where you are?"

"No, papa," Mead answered, shaking his head.

"Tha Toady know we here," one of the girls nodded. "Tissy lef', Ro-Ro seepin', and we ungee, so we here. You say papa foo'."

Mead rolled his eyes and Raven bit back a laugh. "Bruddershadda leave, an' papa hadda leave."

"Tristan, Ross, Shiloh, and Kansas left?" Raven asked and Mead nodded. "Papa is Az?"

Mead touched his index finger to his nose and Raven wished for a translator because his children were giving him a headache.

"He not my papa," one of the girls shook her head, and the other punched her in the nose.

"Good gods, stop!" Raven frowned when that turned into a shoving match. "TY!" he yelled and three Toads arrived instead of just the one. The girls froze as Ty's brothers plucked them up.

"Baths, mm-hmm." The men nodded, and the girls protested. "Scissors, too."

"You not cutted my hairs!" the girls yelled.

"If we cannot get the berries out of them, we will. You must be still and quiet." The men replied and Raven wanted to laugh again as the girls became as still as possible. When they were gone, Ty turned his attention to Raven.

"Periwinkle and Persimmon, my lord." Ty bowed.

"You and your brothers raised Scot and me, didn't you?" Raven asked.

"We did." Ty nodded.

"Please tell me what's going on?" Raven stood then, helping Mead to his feet before setting both Mead and Edyn on the counter by the sink.

"My lord, Shiloh is breaking up a fight at Blood's, the club in the hotel. My lord Kansas is taking my lord Azure's shift at the coffeehouse. Miss Callie had kittens over something in the hotel and my lords' Tristan and Ross are dealing with her. My lord Cyan is also working at Ground, and one Miss Chloe is supposed to be watching them in Cyan's apartment. I do believe she is asleep." Ty explained.

"How did they get here?"

"I broughted us, papa," Mead answered. "Chloe is seepin'."

"Ty, please let Cyan know that they are here, and I would call but I'm bathing these two," Raven requested and the Toad bowed again before he shimmered away on a tiny pop. "Okay, bath and then breakfast, unless you four ate all of the food."

"We didn', papa. Jus' thafroot." Mead nodded.

"Hello, honey," Raven touched his forehead to Edyn's and she giggled. In his entire remembrance, he'd had sex four times. Four! How in the hell did he have so many kids?

It was going to be a long day. 

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