Breakfast felt like a trap.
I stared at the stacks of golden pancakes, little bowls of butter, the apple pie syrup, and the little cut-up fruit salads.
John, wearing a 'kiss the cook' apron bustled around, pausing to draw a drippy smiley face with an ungodly amount of syrup on Harry's pancakes.
Harry looked up at John tiredly, then gingerly prodded one soggy pancake with a fork. Next to him, Elysse giggled slightly, sounding surprised.
Devon and I shared a look: partly confused, part suspicious. What the hell was going on?
Elysse scrutinized a pineapple slice, also somehow cut into a smiley face. "Uh, thank you." She bit into it, under John's hopeful gaze, falling into the trap.
"I'm glad you like it," John said, smiling way too much. "Eat up, everyone, Fiona's gonna think I haven't ever fed any of you."
What did you do? Devon mouthed over at me, like me, also not eating anything.
Nothing! What did you do? I mouthed back, doubly worried now that neither of us knew what was going on.
John was acting weird, and in my world, very few things were constant. Sun rose in the east, I could trust nobody, Devon was annoying, and then there was John.
Not to say John didn't make breakfast, but this all felt forced, overdone. Usually, he asked for our help, but today, nothing.
He'd been on the phone this morning, Elysse had told me. But he'd spoken in German, so she hadn't understood a word.
I was beginning to feel really, really worried. I reached out to Harry, asking him what was going on. But the exhausted telepath was studiously cutting his pancakes, looking like he was about to fall asleep at the table.
Fiona seemed to be picking up on all the weirdness too. "This all looks amazing," The clairvoyant said, awkwardly accepting some fruit from Elysse. "You guys eat like this all the time?" She dove right in, unused to having so much food available.
"No," I answered, staring at John. I had no idea what the hell his agenda was, but clearly, he was preemptively bribing us for something.
John smiled at that, "Simin, you haven't touched anything. You want some eggs?"
Devon kicked me under the table, a warning to not say anything.
"Did you make sunny side up with a side of explanation, by any chance?" I asked, earning another kick from Devon.
John smiled mysteriously and placed an omelet onto my plate. "You want any ketchup or anything?"
Elysse looked worried now too. John usually just answered us straight up.
"John, what's going on? Did something happen?" I asked, refusing to be swayed. I'm not some child that needs to be cajoled with breakfast before bad news!
John and I had a minor staring contest, and then he stopped pretending. "I need to get Fiona out of the city. The longer she's here, the sooner a witch will find the four of you."
"So we're getting her out of here today?" Devon asked, sounding relieved, taking a bite out of his pancakes to appease John.
John poured himself a cup of tea. I tensed up, knowing without Harry's telepathy that the bad news was coming. "Not exactly, there's a good coven in Seattle, and I'm taking her there. The four of you will remain here and hold down the fort."
"What?" I snapped, my powers raising the temperature of the room. "John, let us help, we aren't kids. You-"
"She's right, John, the witches found us four times in the last two weeks. It's not safe," Elysse added, looking worried. "We can help, or I can make a portal-"
Devon started talking over Elysse, which annoyed me more than Elysse interrupting me. "Taking normal transport just means you're going to get caught! Fiona's aura signature-"
"I understand your concerns, but none of you are coming," John said firmly. "I expect all of you to take good care of each other, and I trust-"
"Why can't we help?" Devon persisted, and I nodded, feeling annoyed that he chose to spring this on us at the last moment.
"You will be helping by keeping yourselves safe," John told us, his voice softening. "I understand that you're worried-"
"Great, then let us help," Devon argued, and I was relieved that all of us were on the same page about this.
"Devon, Fiona has a huge aura signature. The six of us combined will draw too much attention." John said placatingly, his accent increasingly coming out.
For some reason, I glared at Fiona, who was calmly finishing off her pancakes.
Elysse tried a more rational tack, keeping her voice professional and steady. "Okay, but John, her aura signature will be there no matter what, so it makes no difference if-"
"Harry, tell me you don't agree with this." I turned to Harry, who was mechanically slicing his stack of drowned pancakes into pieces before eating them layer by layer.
Harry looked right at me: John's right, maybe if it's just him, and then my shielding powers somewhere else, Fiona can still sneak out. If we're all together, there is no way she doesn't get caught.
"Why does she matter so much?" I asked, interrupting whatever normal, rational argument Devon and Elysse were attempting.
John turned his eyes on me, narrowing them. "Simin, all of us matter. You've always known that."
I struggled to defend the crazy position I had taken but refused to back down. "No, she's so much of a threat to us, Harry hasn't slept for two days, why-why are you risking-"
John raised an eyebrow. "Enough. Because I said so." He stared at me disapprovingly. "I thought all of you trusted me, but apparently not."
"That's not what she meant." Elysse defended me, "We're just trying to-" John held up a hand, cutting her off.
"I have a plan. I'm not sharing it because it isn't complete yet. If it's going to work, we need to keep Fiona safe. I don't want to leave you, but there's no one that can-"
"I'll do it. I'll get her to the coven," I argued, and Devon immediately chimed in.
"We can do it together-"
"No," John said, tone final. "Both of you need to keep Harry, and each other safe. I trust you with that, the most important job today. Harry isn't going to be able to maintain the barrier for much longer. Any attempt of Elysse's to portal us out of the city will get you caught, I want all of you, to keep each other safe. If you cannot contact me, work together. Do not panic." John slowly said the last part. He made eye contact with each of us. "Simin, can I trust you guys to take care of each other?"
Part of me wanted to mutiny, insist further that we could keep Fiona safe. But I sighed, annoyed, and sat down. I hadn't even realized that I was standing up. "Yes."
John smiled, taking a seat too. "Okay, so let's all enjoy this amazing breakfast that Youtube and I made together. We're all going to have a long-"
"Harry's asleep," Fiona said suddenly, her voice tight. It was true, the telepath had literally fallen asleep on the table, glasses askew.
"Auzgezeichnet," John sighed, and I smirked at him despite everything, finally taking a bite out of my now-cold eggs. "Okay, the barrier's down. We have around-" John checked his watch, "Two hours before we're compromised." He took a bite of his smiley pineapples, raising an eyebrow at me. "You like the eggs?"
It was hard to ignore the argument. "Missing some of the explanation, and a little light on salt, but they're good." I smiled when Devon rolled his eyes and muttered something. "Shut up, Devon."
"You shut up, I'm not the one who was ready to throw Fiona under-"
"Kids, please," Fiona pressed her fingers to her head. "You're all adorable, but this is hard enough without coffee, please don't do this again."
John laughed, setting aside his apron. "Okay, Fiona, we have to leave now, let's get going. Elysse, make sure these two don't do anything stupid,"
Elysse narrowed her eyes at us, scoffing. "You sure I can't do something easier? Like portal the earth to another galaxy?"
Devon flicked a blackberry at her. "Like you're any better, that ankle didn't break itself, remember?"
"See you later," I said to John, trying not to look nervous. Why did we have to separate?
John smiled, putting on his coat. "I will see you all soon, be good." He took off Harry's glasses and folded them onto the table. "Auf Wiedersehen, children. I'm relying on you."
As Fiona was getting up I opened my mouth to apologize, but the clairvoyant smiled kindly and waved a hand. She tapped her head and said, "I have a feeling we're going to have a lot of fun together, don't worry."
I nodded at that, feeling beyond embarrassed.
We waved and waited until the door shut to turn on each other.
"Okay," Devon said, "So we need to-"
"Oh shut up, you're not the boss!" I interrupted, taking another bite of the eggs. I heated up the plate with my hand, then stopped, looking around worriedly.
"I'm the oldest." Devon pointed out and continued his nonsense. "So I think-"
"By two months!" Elysse laughed, throwing a grape at his head. "Anyways, John left me in charge."
"No he didn't, he just said to make sure nobody does anything dumb." Devon challenged, grinning. "Simin's gonna make sure you fail at your job."
"What are you talking about?" I lowered my voice forcefully, keeping in mind that a certain telepath was asleep for the first time in two days. "If anyone's tanking the collective IQ of this group, it's you, Devon."
Devon looked scornful. "I don't think you know what IQ stands-"
Knocking. All of us froze, looking at each other.
"Hello? Is anyone in there?" A cheery voice asked. "We have a special delivery of apples!"
"Back door!" I whispered, pulling Elysse while Devon lifted up Harry. Elysse grabbed his glasses off the table.
Draping Harry over his shoulder, Devon slammed the dining table, chairs, and all the drawing-room furniture against the front door. "How are we already screwing up what John said?" Devon hissed, "Jeez, it was you Simin! Heating up your goddamn-"
I quietly threw open the window, hurrying Elysse through it. "Let's not throw stones right now!" I whispered back, jumping when I heard our front door bang open. "Oh shit, run!"