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"You found it?" Finally, Bishop spoke.
"Yes, and once I send you back through the gate, I'm destroying it." He approached Bishop and grabbed his arm. "Until then, you're staying in my room."
Bishop shook Damian off. "Give me the book back."
He didn't know who to be more furious with -- Bishop, Obsidian, or himself for allowing both of them to play him. Probably the latter. He'd allowed his curiosity of Obsidian to cloud his judgment since she'd entered the House of Portals. "Neither of you are going to touch this book ever again. It should burn along with the rest."
His stomach lurched at his declaration. Did he really want that? So much had been lost. But clearly the Guardians had good reason to destroy all the portal books, and Bishop's actions only supported that decision.
"No." Obsidian reached toward him, then drew back, forehead crinkling. "You can't." Her words were barely audible.
Bishop grunted and leapt, knocking Damian off his feet.
It all happened so quickly, Damian failed to react before he realized the back of his head thudded against the floor. His glasses popped off his face and tumbled away. Head spinning and vision blurred, he felt the pressure of the other man on top of him, yanking at the bag's strap.
"Stupid, Guardian. Give it up." Bishop's hand wrapped around Damian's throat and squeezed.
Damian clutched his attacker's wrist with both hands, gasping, desperate for air. If he only would have let go when they'd stepped through the portal. But Bishop obviously had less qualms about killing someone than he did.
"Bishop, stop!" Obsidian's movements were a complete blur, but she hovered over both of them.
He heard a loud thunk, and the hand released his throat.
"Stop, or I'll do it again."
Damian coughed, shifted to his side, and groped along the floor until he found his glasses and set them back on his face. Crooked, but better than nothing.
Obsidian glared down at Bishop, a copy of the precepts raised above her head. Books seemed to be her preferred weapon.
"You're attacking me after what just happened between us?" Bishop offered that grin of his.
Oh, how Damian wanted to punch it off his face.
"A mistake." She rose the book higher. "And one kiss doesn't mean I'm going to let you kill my mentor."
Silence descended for a few moments, Obsidian glaring down at Bishop, Bishop considering her, and Damian's head throbbing from a second blow in less than twelve hours.
"Wait." Damian's mind cleared a bit, but his voice rasped out painfully. "Did anyone see us? Hear us?" He glanced around, but thankfully didn't see anyone else in the alcove or coming around the corner. "If we don't cut this out now, all of us will be in trouble. Another Guardian gets a hold of this book and not only will it be destroyed, but I assure you you'll never see Turss again."
Bishop pushed himself up, turning to Damian, jaw tight and lips pressed together. "Okay, okay. I promise not to attack again." He raised his hands and glanced at Obsidian. "Just put the book down."
Her eyes darted between the two of them, then she huffed and lowered the book, replacing it on the shelf. Finally, she offered a hand to Damian.
He stared at it for a moment, unsure of what to make of her. One moment she was kissing Bishop, and the next she clunked him over the head.
Damian accepted her help, her touch tingling his palm, and woozily found his feet.
"Now what?" Obsidian started replacing the books scattered across the floor before receiving an answer.
"I don't know." He rubbed his head and studied Bishop who stood with arms crossed, staring at the leather bag. No, he wouldn't let down his guard again around this man. "Perhaps an early lunch while we figure out how to sneak this interloper back to my room."
Bishop partially bared his teeth, but remained silent otherwise.
"Unless you'd prefer to walk into the council building and turn yourself in? You know, never see your home again?" Damian knew that had ultimately settled the man, and he'd pull it out as a reminder as needed. And if that didn't work, he'd satisfy his urge to punch the bastard.
Obsidian finished shelving the books, then sidled up to him, tilting her chin up to whisper in his ear. "I'm sorry."
Her words soaked into Damian's soul, and he so badly wanted to believe the sincerity in them. But he couldn't. Not with all the secrets she still kept.
No, like with Bishop, he couldn't trust her. Either of them might do anything to get their hands on the book, even whisper seemingly innocent words in his ear.
Bishop brooded the whole while they snuck back to Damian's room. After the threat from the Guardian, he so badly wanted to draw attention to himself just to piss him off, but then the threat would become reality without Damian lifting a finger.
It took some time to reach their destination with so many Guardians and dedicants about, and once they arrived at the quiet and safety of the room, Damian was sweating buckets. Good. Anything that made this uptight man more miserable the better.
Damian removed his glasses and straightened the bent stems. They remained crooked when he put them back on, though.
"Do you think this a grand joke?" The Guardian narrowed his eyes. Oh, definitely mad. Maybe even furious.
"The situation, no. Your face, yes." He sat on the edge of the bed and crossed his arms, enjoying the red rising in the other man's cheeks.
Sid snatched the glasses before Damian reacted. "Let me see them." She turned them around in her hands, then raised them above her and squinted. A few deft movements and she'd made some adjustments and perched them back on Damian's nose. All straight. "There you go."
The woman was an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. He'd been sure he hooked her with that kiss, and then she'd knocked him upside the head with a book.
Well, he had almost strangled the life out of Damian. But he wouldn't have, truly. He just wanted the man to pass out so he could get the bag. Death and violence were under the blink's purview. Though now that he thought about it, he wasn't sure how he'd become a hero for Turss if he didn't get his hands dirty. Unfortunately, his method of getting dirty included flowerbeds.
Maybe he'd bitten off more than he could chew by coming here. Right now, all he wanted to do was return home and listen to the call of the gate.
"Thank you." Damian sounded tentative, and he took a step back. "Now, I hate to do this, but I don't have a choice. Obsidian, can I trust you to watch Bishop and keep your hands to yourself?"
She frowned. "Don't worry, last thing I want to do is touch him again. Biggest life regret."
The Guardian's eyebrow rose slowly. "Are you sure about that? Opening a gate should top your list."
"Hey, that was compulsion, remember?"
"Perhaps not handing over the portal book whenever and wherever you first found it?"
"Enough." Sid stomped over to the desk and sat down. "I get it. You're mad." She offered a withering stare. "Go. And you better hurry or I might do something else crazy." Her arms shot up, and she waggled her fingers above her head.
Damian rolled his eyes. "I'll be back with food. If he tries to escape, whack him on the head with another book." Then he slipped out and slammed the door.
Good riddance. Bishop turned his attention to Sid. "About time he left."
"Wipe that stupid grin off your face." She rose and ran a finger along the books on the shelves until she pulled one down. "This one has some nice heft."
"Seriously? What about the kiss?"
"As I said before, a mistake." She sat back down with the book in her lap and tilted her head. "I lost focus after you saved me. But now I see you only did that to get what you wanted."
She might only be a dedicant, but Bishop saw the heart of a Guardian in her. "I wouldn't have killed him."
"You're rotten, you know that? You have utter contempt for the Guardians, yet you're no better. Willing to do whatever it takes to benefit you and not thinking of anyone else. Damian might be rigid, but he doesn't deserve to be attacked. He could have done any number of things at this point to settle his life and destroy both of ours." She turned to the desktop and gingerly touched a fountain pen, her voice dropping to a whisper. "And he hasn't."
Bishop faltered, originally ready to deliver another smooth and reassuring line in an attempt to convince her that the kiss wasn't a mere manipulation. And now he felt as rotten as Sid claimed him to be.
She was right. Everything he'd done had been with his own goals in mind. Though he aimed to help his world, he also wanted his own name to go down in history as a hero, a savior. He'd been just as selfish as the Guardians who'd abandoned Turss all those centuries ago.
"I'm sorry." The words were difficult to say, but sincere.
Sid spun back to him. "If you mean it, you should say it to Damian."
Unlikely. He still hated the Guardian.
But Bishop suddenly felt lost, his hate for the Guardians the only thing for him to hold onto. He shouldn't be in this world -- the Nexus. This whole reconnaissance plan was out of his wheelhouse. He'd been trained to sense the magic of the gate, to read the script, and to waylay the Guardians if they ever crossed through again.
No wonder Sid hadn't fallen for his act with the kiss. He sucked at all of this.
Bishop buried his face in his hands. "What in the All-Seeing Eye have I gotten myself into?"
Sid sat next to him on the bed and rested a hand on his back. "Well, let's just hope Damian can help us figure a way out of this."
Her hand was a comfort, and he felt miserable for trying to use her before, using a kiss as a weapon. Though she had the potential of a Guardian, her heart seemed softer, more willing to accept situations and people for what they were, not condemning them for not meeting her expectations or following her rules.
Bishop gazed at her, the urge to kiss her again tempting, but for real this time.
Then Damian opened the door and she scooted away.
The loss of her touch caused an ache in the pit of his stomach. No, that was just hunger. It had to be. Because if it wasn't, he'd need to question his loyalties to Turss. And helping his world was all that mattered.