Brock found Robin back in the sanctuary. He was tending the censers that kept the earthy scent of sandalwood wafting through the pews. “Ah, Eshkeri?”
“Yes, Lieutenant Parr?”
He walked over to the pew nearest the high priest and took a seat. “You said I solved a problem for you?”
Robin nodded as he re-lit one of censers. “I think Shane is right: he has no calling for the priesthood. And keeping him here for menial tasks seems a waste of his skills.”
“He’s a good officer. But the Watch won’t take him back.”
“Not as a lieutenant, no,” Robin agreed. “But surely he can consult for them? Especially under the supervision of his former partner—the one who had the guts to arrest him and testify against him.”
“The white heads at Ironbound will balk. Unless—you know how it works.” Brock shrugged, not bothering to hide his contempt for the process. “If someone of your stature were to make a request . . .”
“Yes. I like to think I have enough influence to sway the, ah, white heads.” He stepped back from the censers and looked Brock over. “Are you willing to assume responsibility for Shane?”
“If my commanding officer approves him to consult on cases? Yes.”
“Well, yes. But I was speaking more broadly. Are you willing to take him into your household?”
“My household?” Shane had spent plenty of time in Brock’s home, and he handled the pandemonium fairly well. But Brock knew he’d prefer the quiet, private room of the temple, however small. “Does that mean he can’t stay here?”
“I don’t think it’s the best option. We have few rooms, and they’re intended for those who serve the temple. If Shane had family living, things would be different. I’d be speaking with them. But I understand you’re the closest thing he has to family now.”
“Well, of course he can stay with us.” He thought about his crowded house and frowned. “I mean—we’ll make room. But I need you to spell out what you have in mind.”
Robin seemed to have completed whatever he was doing with the censers, so he stepped over to Brock and took a seat beside him. “Unless one of you gives me some strong reason not to proceed, I want to transfer ownership of him to you. You would be responsible for him and all his assets would legally become yours.”
Brock stared at him. “He’s my partner.”
“But you’re asking me to take charge of him. Not just—not just supervise him at Ironbound.”
“Yes. I think he’ll do well enough under your authority. He can make a home with people he cares about, hopefully he’ll be able to do more of the work he does best, and he’ll have his best mate to, ah—”
“Keep him in line?”
“Well, at the very least to stop him from any other vigilante acts.”
Brock stood up and started pacing. Shane was going to hate this. But at least he was alive, and he’d be better off than the criminals who were routinely sold off to the copper mines.
“Where do I sign?”
Shane laid himself on his cot, face up, and put his hands behind his head so that he could stare up at the ceiling. The flickering of the lantern made odd patterns of shadow—patterns that seemed as random and unpredictable as his own life of late.
Or maybe not so unpredictable. Like Brock, he had a guess as to what Robin intended. And he supposed it made sense. Brock was a good man, one who would always treat his partner—or former partner—as family, even if he suddenly gained power over him. He wouldn’t abuse that power, though he might be awkward with it. And heavy handed. But he would always mean it for the best.
But it would be easier to serve the man if Brock believed in him.
The knock to his door came faster than Shane expected. He sprang up to answer it. Brock was standing on the other side, without Robin.
They stood there for a moment, just looking each other over. Probably because they were both seeing each other in a new light.
They couldn’t pass for brothers. Pity, that. They shared black hair and dark eyes, although Brock still tied his hair back in a club instead of cropping it. It took him a while to adjust to new fashions. Shane had angular, Vasteke features while Brock, with his bluff, open face, was more classically Halcrestonian. Shane’s skin had a sort of tawny, copper cast to it; Brock always seemed too pale by comparison.
Shane shook himself out of his reverie and pulled the door open wider. “Should I be scraping and bowing?”
Brock grimaced as he stepped inside. “So you know what the high priest has planned?”
“Let me guess: he wants to sign me over to you.”
“Yes. Think you can handle that?”
Shane shrugged. “Why not? Besides, I doubt I have much choice.”
“I don’t think Robin will force you. It’s just that, ah, since you don’t want to be a priest and you don’t have any family . . .”
“I’m not complaining, Brock. It makes sense.”
Brock nodded. “Good. Come here.”
He pulled Shane into a hug—a tight hug that nearly knocked the breath out of him. Shane stiffened for a second, but then relaxed into it. He had never been as tactile as Brock. That was probably because, unlike Brock, he didn’t have a wife and five children to cling to him whenever he crossed the threshold of his own home. But he could endure his partner’s touch, and even be grateful for the warmth and the closeness.
Brock finally pulled back from him, but he kept his hands on Shane’s shoulders. “We’ll find a way to make this tolerable.”
Shane managed a nod. “I know.”
Brock winked and gave him a playful cuff to the head. “I’ll try not to call you ‘boy’ too often.”
Shane grinned. “Bastard,” he said. But he was careful not to cuff him back—whether Brock realized it or not, things were different now.