Time: Shortly before the beginning of Potato Surprise
Place: An unspecified lovely beach, Earth
"Know why I hate the fucking beach?" Verin grumbled as he set up the umbrella.
Shax sighed, trying to be patient while unloading the rest of the float cart. The walk from the transport had been longer than he'd anticipated, ratcheting up his own irritation. "Too much like home?"
"No. Too many shitball birds." Verin frowned up at the gulls wheeling overhead.
"We'll keep the bird interaction to a minimum. Promise." Shax patted Verin's shoulder before he set up the beach chairs and the cooler.
Beach visits hadn't changed much over the centuries—shade, something to keep one's butt off the sand, something to read, and a picnic, bathing attire not always required depending on the beach. Only the materials had changed, from wicker and cloth to plastics, bio-polys, and synth fibers. Shax had also become more discerning about the beaches he chose over the years. This particular one wasn't clothing optional, but there were good reasons for selecting it.
He left Verin reading whatever horror novel he was working on—Ver found them hilarious—and went for a quick swim to cool off. By the time Shax returned, his mood had leveled out and he happily acquiesced to Verin's demand that they dip into the beer supply. Ver went for his own brief dip and came back shaking the water off his horns. He still hadn't seemed to have caught on, which made Shax smile and shake his own head.
Shouldn't be long now.
No more than thirty minutes later, a volleyball flew in the direction of their little oasis and smacked Verin in the head. He palmed the volleyball and rose with a menacing growl rumbling in his chest. "What the fuck do you think—"
And cut off abruptly, blinking, when he caught sight of the person who'd come to retrieve the errant bit of equipment. The man matched Verin in height and breadth of shoulder, a barrel of a man with a fine pelt of dark hair on his chest and a lovely, friendly smile.
"Sorry about that! My fault. That one got away from me." The bear of a man held out a hesitant hand for the volleyball.
Verin ogled a moment longer before handing it back. "Oh. Um. Sure. Not a problem."
The human's smile widened. "We don't get a lot of demons on the beach. Kind of a shame. You and your friend want to play?"
Leaning around him to check out the players, Verin's eyes nearly popped out of his head. All of them were bears of different sizes, ages, and skin tones—a veritable Verin buffet. Though Verin certainly didn't need his permission, he still looked to Shax out of habit.
Shax flapped a hand at his bodyguard, pretending to be absorbed in his book. "Go on, Ver. That's far more physical activity than I was planning on today. I'll stay here and enjoy the…scenery."
The exact moment Verin spotted what's different about this beach was classic. In rapid fire succession, Shax watched him pick out the lesbian couple strolling hand in hand, the three men in a kissing clinch in knee-deep water, the variety of non-binary people. Ver's smile widened—a little scary, granted, but volleyball man didn't seem to mind—and he swaggered off to join the game of bears.
Shax snuggled down into his beach chair to read a bit and, indeed, to watch the scenery. With any luck, or rather if Ver got lucky, he'd be gone for hours and Shax felt rather smug at having managed things so easily. One's bodyguard needed a proper treat now and then, not to mention a bit of a disposition sweetener sometimes.
Especially before a tricky job, but all that could wait a couple of days. Over at the net, Verin spiked the ball with a bone-shivering roar, answered by approving roars from his teammates.
Perfect. And not a gull in sight.
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
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