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Warlock Dowling was at that stage that most children reached before long. He had learned the word ‘no’, and that it was possible for him to use it, as much as everyone around him. They might say no when he tried to touch the sparkly burny thing, or put the pretty flower in his mouth, but he could also say it back.

Bedtime.

No.

Bathtime.

No.

Time to learn about the ranks of Hell.

No.

He only understood some of the things he was told to do, but he delighted in refusing. Nanny especially was fun. Even if she was ordering him about, when he refused, she looked so happy and annoyed at once and the two emotions were big and he liked that.

Bruffa Fancis was different to Nanny. He would do the long talking thing when Warlock said no. And then he would talk some more, his red face going increasingly ruddy with his anger until Warlock either giggled or gave in. Depending on how he felt.

Today, though, Nanny was adamant.

“I made you some soup, and I’m going to sit here until you eat it.” She folded her arms across her chest. “I can wait.”

Warlock wanted to say no. He did. He wanted that pleased-irked mess of emotion to play out, the ones that made him confused but excited. But he could tell Nanny was not in that sort of mood, and - if he was honest - neither was he.

His nose felt bad. His head felt bad. His eyes felt bad. And he was sad and wanted to cry, but he didn’t want to sleep. He didn’t want to wake, but he did not want to nap. The soup was warm and his belly was heavy and he hadn’t wanted his fish fingers before. 

Warlock looked up at Nanny. Nanny looked worried. He wiped his snotty nose on his sleeve, and thought maybe Bruffa Fancis would tell him the right thing today.

“…’kay, dandy,” he replied, voice thick with his cold. 

“Good boy.” 

Nanny didn’t often give out compliments. Warlock smiled and picked up the spoon.