Wei came to Bryan’s office before Harper returned. There were riots and looting in eighteen different countries, Wei told him, and minor riots and looting in areas of Chicago. People were gathering outside the Offices, though the crowds were disturbed in Moscow and Jakarta when flocks of demons happened by.
“What can we say other than don’t panic?” Wei asked him. But Bryan got the feeling the question was rhetorical. Wei took out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. “You mind?”
“Not anymore,” Bryan said.
“Good answer.” Wei put a cigarette to his lips and lit it. “You want one?”
“I don’t think I’d really enjoy it. Main thing is making sure our agents don’t get harassed by anyone in our crowd outside. We still need to work.”
“What are you still working for?”
Wei blew out a puff of smoke. “My sanity. It helps pretending I’m working business as usual.”
“Well there you go.”
Harper walked in then and stopped when she saw Wei. “Can I have one of those?” she asked him. Wei gave her one and lit it and left to do his work.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” Bryan said.
“Not in four years,” she said, letting out the smoke with a sigh.
“I have to ask you something,” he said.
She raised her eyebrows. “Okay.”
“Can I have your gun?”
Her frown deepened. “Can I ask you why you want my fucking gun?”
“When all those demons come through the gate, whichever one gets to me first is going to turn me Eternal. I have to prevent that.”
She thought about that, looking at him so intently he wanted to squirm.
“Have you ever fired a gun before?” She looked around for somewhere to flick her cigarette ash and found nothing, and flicked it onto the carpet.
“No,” he admitted.
“Then you’d probably miss.”
“So? So I should take pills or something?”
“I’ll do it. We’ll go together.”
He stared at her in shock.
She took a particularly long drag and let it linger. “I’m not turning into one of those fucking things either.”
He hung his head. “I’m sorry. I never did find any way to stop this.”
“It wasn’t all on you.”
“I had the gamma. I didn’t ask it the right questions.”
“It wasn’t all on the gamma either. It only crossed a gate once.”
The beta didn’t.
“You look awful.” Harper stamped out the cigarette on the desktop. “Get some sleep.”
“It’s twenty-four hours until the gates open. How can I – ”
“So you’ll sit there all day sulking and blaming yourself, and fall asleep on your keyboard. At least use the couch.”
He couldn’t argue with that. There was nothing for him to do if he tried to stay awake. Agents were fleeing the Office like rats from a sinking ship. He stood, unsteadily, and started to the couch. Halfway there he stopped and couldn’t face Harper as he asked.
“Would you stay?”
“Only if you promise to not tear my neck open.”
He flinched at that, and she noticed. “Sorry,” she said.
“No, you’re right.”
She sat on the far end of the couch and pulled a knee to her chin. “I’ll sit over here.”
He nodded, lay with his head to the other side of the couch, and fell asleep almost immediately.