Jay took off his mask to reveal an ordinary, not Phantom of the Opera level hideous, face.
Isellta flapped his wings.
Jay smiled, which made Isellta flap his wings all the harder. “What are you so happy about?”
“You aren’t ugly.”
Jay laughed. “That’s good to know.”
“I was worried. I thought that was why you wore that mask all the time.”
Jay set his mask on the kitchen counter. “Nah. It’s just part of my uniform.”
Isellta opened the fridge door and snooped. “Oh!”
The fey surfaced from the fridge’s depths with a jar of pickles. “You have pickles!”
“Raven doesn’t.” He carried the jar to the table and settled down with it. “Mmm.” He removed the lid and pulled out a dark green pickle.
It crunched as he bit into it. “Mmmm!”
Jay laughed as he worked on making a sandwich. “So, tell me about this Robin. Girl? Boy?”
“Vampire.” He accidently spewed pickle crunches and pickle juice. “Mm.”
“That doesn’t really answer the question.”
Isellta swallowed. “Male.”
“Hnn. And is he your….friend? Boyfriend? Brother-in-law?”
“No. He’s just Robin.” Isellta thought about him. “He isn’t very nice to me. He fails to make sense most of the time. He frustrates and aggravates me. But when he smiles, I smile too. When he laughs, I want to be the one who makes him laugh. I want to make him happy.”
Jay slathered mayo on his sandwich. “Does he feel that way about you?”
Isellta sighed. “I don’t know. Sometimes I think he does, but then he gets angry and pushes me away. I don’t understand him.”
“I take it you’ve never been in love before.”
Isellta shook his head and took another bite of the pickle. “Mmm.”
“Have you considered the possibility that you are in love with him?”
Isellta thought about what Ambrose said about love. He thought about John Denver’s ideas of love. He mentally lined them up and saw the similarities. He compared them to how he felt about Robin.
He almost choked on his pickle.
What do I really want?
Robin frowned at the automatic answer.
He raised his head and stared at the monitors. His old bitterness returned.
Half and half.
Half fogged over.
And that’s the way it is.
Nothing can change it.
I can’t go back to who I used to be.
Because of him.
Isellta gently ran the warm, wet towel over Robin’s split eye. He was careful not to rub or pull the skin. It hurt, but somehow it felt so good. Isellta didn’t speak. Not even to apologize.
And for the first time, Robin realized that whole thing was Isellta’s apology.
Isellta’s eyes were full of grief and unshed tears.
How did I miss that?
Something filled the air between them. An uncertain heat. Unspoken words.
Words that Robin could suddenly hear.
He rose quickly from his seat and searched the screens.
Where are you, Isellta?
Where are you?