Chapter 47: Consequences

I woke up the next morning after the skit, my husband’s arm snug around my waist.  It was unusual for him not to be up before me.  The man seemed to run on very little sleep.  I could almost hate him for it at times.

But this morning, there he was.  My lips curled into a smile.  It was rare for me to catch him when he was completely unguarded.  I slowly rotated so I could face him.  I traced a finger gently over his jaw, careful not to wake him.  It hit me again, the emotion that grabbed me by the throat at the oddest moments.  He was always there for me.  Even when I didn’t want him to be.  Especially then.  And it was when I needed him the most.

“You’re thinking too loud,” he grumbled sleepily, his eyes still closed.  I had to giggle a little at the way his voice sounded when he was all cross and sleepy.

“I’m not thinking anything,” I told him, tongue-in-cheek.

“I can hear you.  Go back to sleep.  Aren’t you the night owl?”

“And aren’t you the one that’s normally downstairs by now, hitting the weight machine?”

“I’m sleeping right now, or I would be if someone would go back to sleep.”  One eye slitted open to glare at me, though I could see the way one corner of his mouth was creeping up into a grin.

“What if I don’t want to go to sleep, hm?” I murmured, leaning on one elbow as I gazed at him.

“You awake at this hour?  Just what are you gonna do, hm?” he asked.

I leaned over him and pressed my lips to his.  It was soft at first, then I took it deeper.  I could hear the groan in his throat.  He turned over onto his back, pulling me on top of him.  I broke the kiss and grinned wickedly down at him.  “Do you have an idea now?”

“Yes, I think I do.”


 

We emerged after noon, hand in hand.  I was feeling much better, my head and heart felt… lighter than they had since my little “chat” with Natalya.  Roark went immediate to go check on Ryu.  Standing there, I saw my brother sitting at the dining room table, leaning back as Calysta played with his face.

I had to grin.  I loved watching them together.  Watching my little brother’s eyes light up the way they did whenever Cali was near made me one happy big sister.  They may have been opposites, but they were perfect for each other.  My brother needed someone to get him out of himself every now and again.  Left up to his own devices, he’d barricade himself in his room, reading or writing or maybe escape to the garage to tinker on his workbench.  All of which were fine hobbies and he was pretty damn good at them.  But Cali brought out another side to him entirely.  And it warmed my heart.

“Awesome. I’ll be back right after I knock some sense into my brother.” Calysta was saying.  Then she leaned down to place a soft kiss on his forehead.  “Love you, babe.”

“I love you too, Cali.”

I slid into one of the chairs, giggling even as Calysta wheedled the keys to his motorcycle out of my brother.  Little sister certainly knew what she was doing when it came to Alduin.  I watched her skip out of the house and then I turned to my brother, grinning wickedly.  “She’s sure got your number, pal,” I told him, nudging him with my elbow.

“Yeah, guess she does,” he replied, no shame in it whatsoever.

I laughed.  “Oh yeah, you are so totally gone over her.”  I put my hand on his.  “Good, I’m glad.  You two practically give off hearts at all times, ya know.”

He winked at me.  “That’s the idea.”

Mom and Dad joined us at the table a few moments later, drawn by the sound of us picking on one another, I’m sure.  Alduin smiled at them.  “Glad you guys can join us.  There’s been something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about since I got back home.  Just haven’t been able to do it before now.”

Our parents shared a look between them and then waited for him to speak.  “I’ve already said this to Luna, but I wanted you to know before going through with it,” he swallowed a moment, “I’m planning to ask Calysta to marry me.”

They looked at one another again, then Mom told him, “You both are young yet, Alduin, but your father and I are so happy for you.  She’s a terrific girl.  You belong together.”

Dad nodded in agreement.  I could see the pride in his eyes.  “You’re a lucky man, son.  And she’s a lucky girl.  You hold onto her, ok?”

My brother nodded solemnly.  “You can count on that, Dad.  I’m not letting her go.  We belong together.”

It made my throat close up a little to hear him say that.  Knowing what they’d gone through together and knowing what that bitch Natalya had planned for them… it made my blood boil all over again.  I could see the way Mom looked at me, her eyes narrowing.  The only one I’d told so far had been Roark.  I hadn’t been able to bring myself to even tell Mom and Dad.  I may have been the impulsive one in the family, but let me tell you, I inherited my temper from my Mom.  She was just a heck of a lot better at keeping hers at bay.  But it was there.  And nothing would bring it out faster than someone messing with her baby boy.

I should have known.  Even as I thought it, my brother turned to me, his expression utterly serious.  “Ok, Luna.  Spill it.  What happened between you and Natalya?”

I hesitated.  He had a right to know, I knew that.  But I didn’t want to tell him.  My brother was normally very calm and collected.  But I knew that where he and Cali were concerned… something like this would set him off.  He stood up, leaning over the table, getting into my face a little.  “Luna, c’mon, tell me!”  There was a bite to his voice now, enough that my eyes narrowed as I considered him.

I tried to dredge up some anger, or at least something other than the dread that was curling around my spine and creating a shiver that ran through me.  I stared into his red eyes, eyes like my own and knew I had to tell him.  I shut my eyes and let out a breath.  As I did, Roark came out of the nursery and sat down next to me, taking my hand.

Grateful for his presence, I opened them again and looked at my brother.  Haltingly, I told him what I had learned about what the sorceress’s intentions had been for him.  How her ‘help’ would consist of her replacing the missing pieces of his soul with nothing but hate and revilement for the woman he loved.  For a moment, after I finished, my voice trailing off, he just… froze.

I could see the way the fury lit his eyes, and the tremor that ran through his arms as they held him up.  I’d never seen my brother this way.  He’d always been… gentle with a romantic side that he covered with a lot of charm and smarm.  But this… I never cowered and I didn’t now, but something about him, something about seeing him this furious broke my heart.

“Alduin,” I murmured, reaching for him.  My touch on his arm seemed to snap him out of it enough that he stumbled back, basically just falling back into the chair.

His gaze looked down at the floor.  I shoved my chair back and got down in front of him.  “Hey, hey,” I soothed.  As I touched his arm with my hand, my eyes widened.  He was ice cold.  “Alduin!”  There was no response…

I heard my mother release a whimper.  I whipped my head around and all the color had drained from her face.  “Watcher, no.  Please, no!  Not my baby!”  Her hands clutched at the table as she watched my brother, tears swimming in her eyes.  I watched her dissolve into tears.

I shook Alduin’s shoulders, even slapped him across the face, trying to get some kind of response.  But his eyes were… vacant.

“Alduin!”  My voice was sharp, made more so by fear.  Something was terribly wrong… I couldn’t read him.  At all.  There was just… nothing there.  “Damn you, Alduin!  Snap out of it!” I shouted.

Roark pulled me away, gently.  “Let me try, babe,” he murmured.  I could only nod, trying to hold in the sobs that were threatening to burst forth.  He took my place in front of Alduin and touched a hand to either side of my brother’s temple.  He closed his eyes and I could feel him extend his own senses.  But a moment later, he staggered back, shock written all over his face.  That scared me more than anything.  Roark was always certain, always… steady.  For only the second time, I saw him unsteady, even afraid.  “I-I… there’s nothing there.  It-it’s like he’s just… gone.”


I paced around the entrance to the house, wanting to hit something or rend something apart.  But all I could do was hang my head.  It had been an hour or more since I’d told Alduin what I’d learned from Natalya.  An hour that he’d gone completely unresponsive.

Dad had checked all his vitals, tried a couple tricks he’d learned.  But Alduin still hadn’t snapped out of it.  Everyone had tried.  I had, Mom had, even Roark had tried again.  But none of us had any luck.  Even Nan and Pop had tried.  We were all at a loss.  I couldn’t sit still. And I couldn’t do anything else.  I walked back inside.  Nan and Pop were leaning in the doorway, their faces unreadable, even for me.

None of us said it aloud… we didn’t have to.  We all knew this had something to do with the Netherworld.  I knew about the pain.  Mom did too.  She could feel it.  But there wasn’t anything we could about it.

Cyn had come out, and she stood there, looking a little lost as she stood next to her brother.  I looked at my husband.  He’d been silent since the last time he’d tried to reach my brother.  I knew that look.  He was thinking about Alaric.  He’d gotten close to Alduin in a short amount of time and being unable to reach Alduin, as he’d been unable to reach Alaric…  He couldn’t even look me in the eye.

Mom hadn’t been able to stop crying.  She was curled up in Dad’s lap as he held her.  None of us knew what to do.  We were at a loss.

“Call Cali again,” Nan finally said softly as I stood next to her and Pop in the archway.  “Call her, get her back here.”

I swallowed and nodded.  I prayed for all I was worth as the phone rang.  It went to her voicemail.  But I kept calling.  Pick up, Cali, pick up! I ordered in my mind.  Watcher, pick up!

“Luna? What’s going on?”  I could hear the worry in her voice.

“Cali, we need you here. We’ve tried everything. Alduin…”  I couldn’t stop my voice from cracking, no matter how hard I tried.  I couldn’t hide the tears that were threatening to erupt at any moment.  “-he’s just… gone… We can’t get him to respond to anything… Please… just come here.”

I hung up and sat at the table, willing Cali to hurry.


 

Chapter 46: The Dark Knight’s Tale

Author’s Note: Ok guys, I have spent the last two days on this.  I was having a heck of a time.  It is finished and as good as it is going to get.  I hope you guys like it.

To see the full skit, please head to 02.21- The Pharaoh and the Pirate chapter of the Chronicles of Clarke legacy!  Go check it out anyway 😛

From the journal of Roark Wyvern

 

Luna’s deep breathing told me she had finally allowed herself to sleep.  It had gutted me when I’d finally managed to corner her last night and I’d been able to tell just how bad off she was.  The physical effects of using abilities like we had were myriad and often painful.  I didn’t know what she had done, not until she told me, but I knew that she had to be in such pain.  There was no color in her face and her eyes, those beautiful red eyes, were glazed over in agony.

As I looked at her now, she was still too pale for my liking, but I knew I’d have a fight on my hands if I tried to take her to the hospital and the crux of it was, there was little they could do for her anyway.  She needed rest, that’s what would help her.  My wife had the frustrating habit of not thinking of herself.  She was larger than life and had confidence in spades.  That was what drew me to her from day one.  That welcoming and downright intriguing light in her eyes had drawn me to her like a moth to a flame.  And while she was aware of her own beauty, her own self-worth, she was infuriatingly ignorant of the impact that she had on others.  My wife was one that affected whoever she came in contact with… for good or ill.  She often took center stage, often without realizing it.

And she cared.  Her heart was so big.  Her tendency to shepherd everyone around her was another reason I couldn’t help falling for her and falling hard.  But it was gut-wrenching for me to see her like this.  So busy trying to protect her brother and her new little sister, never once thinking of herself or what protecting them could do to her.  That’s who my wife is.  I loved her for it and still, holding her close like this, one of her hands clutched in mine, it broke my heart the way that little whimpers escaped her throat.

I leaned forward to kiss her forehead.  She snuggled closer, letting out a soft sigh.  There was something about seeing a strong woman- and that’s certainly what my wife is- let their guard down.  It didn’t happen often, not even with me.  One of the most infuriating things about her was her propensity to try to handle everything on her own.  Her pride hated it when she appeared weak, though that was never a word that came to mind when I thought of her, nor would you see anyone associate that word with my wife.

After I listened to her breathing for a few hours, I finally let myself fall asleep, listening to the sound of my wife’s heartbeat and feeling her warmth next to me.


The next morning, I slipped out of bed, gently covering Luna with the blanket.  She was still cool to the touch.  She was still in shock, really, from the mental toll she’d taken the night before.  I kissed her forehead and left the bedroom.  I thought about working out, but then I heard the TV on.  I walked into the living room and found my brother-in-law on the couch, playing video games.  I grinned.

“Hey, always heard you were supposed to be really good at this.  Feel up to a challenge?” I asked him, hopping on the couch without waiting for an invitation as I grabbed the second controller.

“Pft, a challenge huh?  Someone thinks highly of himself,” Alduin snickered.  “But I’ll humor you, oh lowly peasant!”

As Alduin switched menus to begin two player mode, I had to grin a little as a memory from a long time ago surfaced.


My little brother, sister, and I had just been taken in the middle of the night from the little apartment in Bridgeport and had been deposited in a house on the far outskirts of the city.  We’d been told very little.  Alaric and Cyn were only about 4.  I was very close to turning 15 soon.  None of us really knew what was happening, other than we were being sent away “for our own protection”, though even then I suspected that wasn’t entirely true.  Still, for us, this was a new adventure and there was a big screen TV there and a couch big enough for all of us to crowd onto it and get to play our favorite games.

Games were something that we’d always enjoyed together.  And even as we all grew, it was something that remained as a favorite pastime.  It was before everything had gone so horribly wrong, when we’d had hope, when we’d been a family.


“Hey, you gonna hit start or what?” Alduin complained, laughing and nudging me with his shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m gettin’ there.  Patience is a virtue, Your Highness,” I reminded him with a sneer, shaking my head to clear the memory.  “Oh and prepare to be dethroned.  There’s about to be a bloody coup in the Wyvern house tonight!”

“Pft, you wish!  Your little coup will be nothing but an embarrassing defeat!  Prepare to meet your better on the field of battle!”

It was indeed a bloody battle, and an epic one if I do say so myself.  My brother in law is a worthy opponent.  I might have had him had I been paying better attention.  As it was, it was a close battle.  At the end screen, I shook my head.  “So you keep your title another day,” I told him, grinning.  I leaned back, thinking.

“Another round?” Alduin asked, smirking.

I made a noncommittal noise.  “Hey, I think we need to try cheering up the girls.”

I could see something pass over his face as he looked away.  I understood all too well.  And the worst of it was, he still didn’t know everything.  I thought about warning him, telling him what Luna told me.  Any other time I would have.  But one of the things that Luna had told me that she’d ripped from the sorceress’s mind had been that Alduin had lost a part of himself on the trip back from the Netherworld.  I knew so little about it, I didn’t dare.  I’d let Luna handle that conversation.  Part of me hoped they didn’t go down that road.  My wife wasn’t up to her usual fierceness.  What I was getting off her brother, this time, he’d be the one doing the interrogating.  As much as I wanted to tell him to lay off, I couldn’t.  He had a right to know.

“What do you suggest?”

I shrugged.  “Well, they’d definitely enjoy a day at your family’s spa.  We can use that time to… do something, right?”

Alduin nodded.  “Yeah, they’d love a spa day.”  He pursed his lips.  “What do you have in mind?”

“You know your sister and girlfriend,” I told him.  I hoped he’d come up with something.  I wasn’t the most creative.  Truth is, Luna was easy.  Despite appearances, she wasn’t very high maintenance.  In Bridgeport, we went dancing, had a few drinks, but for the most part, she and I had just loved sitting at home, watching TV or a movie or even playing games.  Once we’d come to Monte Vista, it had all been about the baby and healing, for both of us.  So sitting together outside, or in our room.  That’s what we’d done.

“Cali loves acting, loves theater,” Alduin mused.  “Hey, what about a skit?”

“A skit?”  I reached up to stroke my goatee.  “Hm…”

My brother in law was really getting into it.  “Yeah, a skit!  Think about it, costumes, performing.”  His eyes widened and his smirk turned into a wicked grin. “Oh Watcher… Cali in a SimTrek costume…”

It made me laugh.  There was no shame on his face at all.  “Yeah…” I told him with a snort and a friendly punch to the arm.  “Somehow, think maybe you should save that for uh… when you two are alone.”  But his idea had gotten me thinking.  “Hm, a skit… a skit about true love maybe?” I suggested with a shrug.

He had the grace to blush, though he was still smirking.  “Hm, you’re probably right…”   He ran a hand through his hair, looking thoughtfully to the side. “A skit about true love…”  I could almost hear the wheels turning in his head.   “Think we can get everyone to participate? Would Cyn be up for something like this?”

“My sister would love that!”  I grinned, thinking back once again.


I’d come home from a long day of ROTC training.  I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep.  But I’d come through the archway and just stopped.

“Wait, I thought you were going to be the princess,” my younger brother said exasperatedly.

Cyn grinned at him.  “I don’t do so well as the princess.  I’ll play the Dragon for you to slay!”

“But you’re my sister!”

“We’re playin’ pretend though!”


“She and my brother used to love playing pretend,” I murmured.  I spent a lot of time putting the past behind me.  But it had been harder lately, more of it seemed to surface.  I looked at Alduin.  He was Luna’s little brother and by extension mine.  He wasn’t Alaric, the differences were too glaring.  But there was still something about him that reminded me what it had been like, before I’d lost my brother.  It was a bittersweet feeling and one I wasn’t entirely comfortable with.

I must have let something show because I felt Alduin put a hand on my shoulder.  “This uh, might help cheer her up, then.”

“Yeah, yeah I think it will.  So, Mr. Writer.  Any ideas?  And think we can get it all set up before they get back?”

He grinned.  “Are you kidding? Let’s get everyone working on it. We can do this. I’ll talk to Dad and Pop. You talk to Mom, Nan and Cyn.” He stood up quickly, ready to make a break for it.

It almost brought out a chuckle.  I was well aware of his opinion on the females in this family.  Truth be told, I empathized with him to a certain extent.  But I had to rib him a bit.  “Oh sure, you would leave me with them, wouldn’t you?”

He stopped and looked at me, completely unrepentant.  “You, powerful vampire.  Me, unassuming loner.  I have faith in you, Roark.”

All I saw was his back in retreat as I called out, “I think I know why you like yellow!  You sure you don’t have “coward” in there instead of loner?”  He stopped and looked back at me, baring his fangs at me in a grin.  I waved him on.  “Go, go.  With tail tucked between your legs.  I’ll protect you from the vicious females.”

His laugh echoed back at me. “They scare me and I’m not ashamed to admit it!”

I sighed in bemusement.  Cyn would be easy.  Aurora would enjoy it, I was fairly sure.  Sophia… I had to admit, of all the Wyverns, Sophia was the most intimidating, even to me.  I wasn’t afraid of her, necessarily.  She reminded me of my first commanding officer after I enlisted.  Unassuming and even congenial, but when there was trouble, she hadn’t batted an eye.  I’d seen grown men, hardened men, cower before her without her raising her voice.  Erin Kennedy had been a transplant from Sunset Valley, risen in the ranks there, then transferred to whip the base in Bridgeport into shape.  Sophia was a lot like her.  Rubbing the back of my neck, I prepared to go and try to pull this together before Luna or Cali woke up.


Roark held a cup of coffee in his hand as he watched his wife sleep.  It wasn’t for him.  His smile was tender as he watched her begin to stir, her nose twitching as she caught the scent of the contents of the mug.  It was always a treat to watch her wake up.  She was still a little pale, but the pain seemed to have left her eyes.  In fact, they twinkled when they opened and lit upon the man standing there with a fresh cup of coffee.

“Is that for me?” she asked, tilting her head at him, a light in her eyes as she looked at him.

“Maybe.  How do you feel?”

“There’s only a dull ache now, and compared to last night, it’s a huge improvement.”

Roark nodded and came and sat down on the bed, handing her the coffee.  “Yeah, that’s definitely better than it was.  Still a bit pale, but your eyes are clear.”  He leaned forward and placed a kiss on her forehead.  “Luna.  I want your word that you will keep your shields up.  I’m going to bolster them so stray thoughts don’t get in.  What you did yesterday was bad enough to cause physical symptoms.  There’s no telling what the side effects of continuing to use your abilities will be until you heal.”

His wife sighed.  “Roark, I know-“

“Luna, please.  Promise me.”  His gaze was intense as he brought a hand to her cheek.  “You didn’t see yourself last night.  Will you do it, for me?”

The corners of her mouth curled up in a gentle smile.  “Alright, Roark.  For you.  I promise.”

“Good girl,” he murmured.  “Thank you.”  He touched his forehead to hers.  As he did so, he opened a hole in his own shields.  He extended his thoughts out and touched her shields.  Shields took different forms for different people.  When her grandfather had helped her develop her shields, he’d told her to visualize a wall, like the wall of a castle.  It was a good technique.  But much like a castle wall had arrow slits, there were holes in Luna’s shields.  Roark used his power now to help fill those holes.  He’d remove it after a week or so.  He hoped it was enough time for her to heal.

Roark finished and opened his eyes.  Luna crawled over onto his lap after kissing him.  She let out a soft sigh as she cuddled against his chest.  “I think, that after the day you and Cali had yesterday, you guys should go to your family’s spa.  I think it would do you both a lot of good.”

“Mm, that sounds like a wonderful idea,” she purred, nuzzling her cheek over his as she crawled into his lap.


Preparations took a little bit of time.  Alduin and I ran quickly into town to grab a few things while Sophia, Draco, Aurora, and Jeff got things set up in the garage.  But by the time I heard the roar of Luna’s muscle car on the road, we had everything set up.  I smiled at my baby sister.  “You’re up, Cyn.  You remember what to do?”

She nodded vigorously.  “I remember, big brother.  Cali and Luna will love this!  This is so much fun!”  I couldn’t stop smiling.  Cyn looked great.  I hadn’t seen her this excited about something since the one evening I’d taken her to the Summer Festival in Bridgeport.

I’d wanted nothing to do with the city, not after everything that had happened.  Alaric had already left us.  Cyn missed him terribly.  I couldn’t handle another trip to the hospital, so I’d taken her to the festival, hoping it would cheer her up.  She’d had a good time, just exploring the grounds and she even got her face painted.

She looked gorgeous in her chosen outfit for the skit.

“Go on outside.  I hear them now.”  I hugged her and she seemed to glide out the front door just as Luna and Cali pulled up.  I had to grin as I watched them from the window.  It seemed like forever before Cyn led them to the garage.

“Ok, everyone ready?”

I got nods and grins all around.  “Well, here we go then!”

It was pitch dark in the garage, but it wasn’t a problem for me.  Being a vampire has its uses.  I had to lead Alduin in so he didn’t fall flat on his face.  “Hey, watch it!” he grumbled as I made him sit.

“Shhh!” I had to hold in a laugh.

I took my place, and then the lights came on.

As Cyn gave her lines, I had to admire her.  She was doing really well.  She played her Pixiepire role very well.  “Once upon a time, in a desert beside a vast ocean, the pharaoh of Egypt woke up next to the king of pirates.”

Then I heard the reactions of our audience.  Calysta let out a whistle and called out, “I want a pyramid of my own, Pharaoh!”

Then I heard my own wife’s voice call out, “Where’s your queen, baby?  I volunteer!”  It sent a shiver down my spine and I had to hide a grin even as I had to recite my next lines.

Alduin had written the skit revolving around the Pharaoh and the Pirate King who had yet to find love.  It was a good idea, and the way Alduin had written it, the girls would love it.  Except… I’m no actor.  Not by a long shot.  I couldn’t help but stare at my wife, watch the play of emotions over her face.  Turns out, I’m not the only one who couldn’t concentrate on the skit.  My father-in-law couldn’t stop staring at his wife the entire time he was supposed to be speaking.

I did have to hand it to Cyn, though.  She really shined in her part.  Of course, I think she might be spending a bit too much time with my wife.  That smack upside the head was definitely an improvisation.  As was our wild west proprietor and his saloon girl making out in the corner.

By this point, poor Draco was the only one that seemed to be taking his role seriously at all.  He gave his speech rather eloquently.  But his granddaughter was busy flirting with me and I was busy flirting back.

Cyn was still having a ton of fun.  After the last “scene”, Cyn got to bring in the rest of the packages Alduin and I had picked up.  Cali and Luna tore into the packages and then ran up to Cyn’s room to change.  We waited downstairs.

Alduin was being impatient.  “What is taking them so long?” he groused.

Truth be told, I was getting impatient, too.  I wanted to see my wife.  As footsteps sounded above, I held my breath as my wife came down the steps.

It was like a punch right in the gut.  Luna was beautiful, inside and out.  But watching her descend those steps in the garb of a Pirate Queen… It fit her right down to the ground.

When she stood at the bottom of the stairs, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  She took my breath away on a regular basis.  But there was something in the way she looked at me then, something that had me closing my eyes for a moment.

She sauntered over to me, her hips swaying.  I’m pretty sure she was trying to kill me.  “Hello my King,” she whispered, her voice low and sultry.

“You… Luna, you are so beautiful.”  It wasn’t in character, wasn’t even all that eloquent as compliments go.  But I couldn’t get the words out.  I couldn’t find any that adequately described how I felt about what I was seeing, or how she made me feel on a regular basis.  I wasn’t a poet, I didn’t have my brother-in-law’s gift with words.

All I could do was tell her the best way I knew how.  Through my actions.  There was activity going on around us, I knew that.  Alduin had been laughing when his sister came down.  But I could hear his breath catch as Calysta came down.

Luna looped her arms around my neck.  We didn’t need words at that moment.  It worked for us.

Truth be told, I wanted to carry my wife off to bed immediately and I was pretty sure I wasn’t alone in that thought either.  But Cyn insisted that we all take some photos to commemorate the night.  So that’s what we did.  I’ll be putting a couple of these in my wallet, I think.

As I lay here, holding my wife close while we get ready to sleep after we had taken care of our son, I can’t help but look back on tonight with a smile.  I’m certainly no actor.  I’ll leave that to Calysta.  But it was the most fun I remember having… ever, really.  I snuggled closer to my wife.

“Good night my Pirate King,” she murmured, her voice already half-asleep.

“Good night, my Queen,” I whispered back, leaning up to kiss her cheek before closing my eyes and letting myself fall into sleep.


Author’s Note: Another huge shoutout to Ivane.  The shots from the skit are all hers.  Aren’t they just freakin’ awesome?  And she found the costumes which I just love!

Chapter 45: Her Dark Knight

The drive home was a quiet one.  Truth be told, my head was pounding fiercely and I hurt all over.  Using my abilities as I had took a tremendous toll.  I could barely concentrate on driving; my knuckles were white on the steering wheel.  I could feel her looking at me sideways.  Finally, she murmured, “Luna, thank you. For handling Natalya as you did. W-what happened? Did she do anything to you?”  She hesitated.   “You seem a bit… pale.”

I gritted my teeth and couldn’t stop the dark chuckle that escaped as images flashed through my mind again.  As I’d told Alduin, there were some things I wish I could unsee… but like watching his death, the things I’d ripped from Natalya’s mind would remain me with forever.  “No, she didn’t do anything to me.”  I paused, pulling in a deep breath. “Cali, promise me something. Don’t ever trust her. Don’t take any offers of hers to help. Promise me.”  I hoped she didn’t ask me why.  I didn’t want to have to tell her.  Calysta was so… pure, in a lot of ways.  Despite what had happened to her, she still kept an air of innocence around her.  I didn’t want to tarnish that.

“Luna, what happened? Did you find out anything that I need to know?”  I could hear her swallow hard and she visibly braced herself, holding onto the chicken stick of the car in preparation.  “Is it true? What you were suspecting she’s been doing?”

I nodded wearily.  “Yes, it’s true.  She’s the one responsible for planting doubts in your mind.  Don’t trust her, Cali.  She wants to separate you and Alduin in the worst way.”

I didn’t need to see the flash of anger in her eyes to know that the news made her furious, but I had to admire the control she displayed in keeping it at bay. “I promise then, but Luna… I hope you’re alright… I’m sorry for leaving you with her.” I felt the brush of her fingers over my elbow. “Thank you.”

“I’ll be fine. I… I went too far,” I really struggled to keep my voice under control.  Trying to concentrate on the road and talking was difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised when my voice remained mostly level.  “You did what I told you to do, there’s no need to apologize.” I needed her to change the subject, I needed to try and focus. I felt like I hadn’t slept or eaten anything in a week.  “What happened with Ashley?”

It seemed to work; Calysta shook her head and I could hear her grinding her teeth.  “I need to call my brother. He needs to know that Ashley’s here and that he has another son. Then I need to talk to Alduin. Tell him everything.” There was hesitation there; I didn’t blame her.  But I knew Cali would do the right thing, no matter how difficult it would be.

I nodded, having to grip the wheel harder to keep my hands from shaking.  My head felt like it was being ripped open. “Good. Good. Cali… you feel up to driving?” I finally asked her, knowing I could very well get us both killed if I didn’t pull over.

I could feel her eyes on me again, even as she nodded.  It didn’t take my mother the empath to know that Cali was worried. “Sure.”

I pulled the car over, barely hearing the loud blare of an angry horn from the driver behind us.  I was shaking and trying to hide it as I touched my forehead to the steering wheel and let it rest there for a long moment.  Only when I felt Cali’s touch on my shoulder did I manage to open my door and stumble out.  I slid into the passenger seat while Calysta took the wheel.

She kept shooting me worried glances during the rest of the ride home.  I concentrated on just breathing, in and out, trying to get the spikes of agony to subside.  Cali pulled the car into the garage and got out, coming to my side, she opened the door, her face full of worry.  “Luna, are you alright?  Do you need me to get Alduin?  Or Roark?”

I waved her off.  I didn’t need either of them to see me like this.  One was as bad as the other at this point.  “No, you go on ahead.  I’ll follow shortly.  I’ll be fine, I promise.  Just overdid it, that’s all.  Go on.  Go find my brother and kiss him senseless, would ya?”

A stubborn line appeared on her forehead and I mentally kicked myself.  “I’m gonna get Roark…” she told me, her voice holding worry and some of that stubborn she obviously learned from my brother.  “If you need anything let me know. And don’t worry. Your brother won’t know what hit him.”

That last part brought a smile to my face, but the last thing I wanted was for her to get Roark.  I loved him with all my heart.  But I needed to get myself straight first.  I didn’t want him to see me like this.  I shook my head.  “Cali, please.  I’ll be ok.  I just need a little time.”  I was appalled to hear my voice crack; it sounded too much like I was begging.  “Please, Cali?”

The way she looked at me, with such worry almost had me capitulating, but finally, she nodded.  “Ok.  Just… if you need anything, please tell me, alright?”  After I nodded, she left, still looking back at me until she was out of the garage.

I finally stumbled out of the car and made it as far as the door before I had to stop and lean against the wall.

It really felt like my head was going to explode.  Leaning against the cool stone wall alleviated the worst of it for a few moments.  But I didn’t move quite yet.  I remained there for a little bit longer.

I figured it had been enough time for Calysta to distract my brother.  I didn’t even have the energy- or the ability- at that moment to try to pinpoint where my husband or the rest of my family was.  So I stole into the house like a thief.

I somehow managed to make it into my room without meeting anyone.  I figured Mom and Dad were in their room or out and about.  Nan and Pop were probably upstairs in their room.  I wasn’t sure where Roark was; probably with our son for which I was grateful.  Some of the pain had subsided.  I decided that I’d take a page out of my husband and brother’s books and try to work it off.

So I changed into some workout clothes and once again, tried to steal out of the house without anyone the wiser.  I should have known better, though.  As I got to the kitchen, I froze.  Roark stood there, just watching me.

“Baby,” he murmured.  That was all he had to do to have me squeezing my eyes shut to block the tears that threatened to spill over.

“Roark,” I whispered brokenly.

He gently brought a hand to my cheek.  “You’re so tired, baby.  And in pain.”

I let out a choked sob, even as I took a stumbling step forward.  “It hurts, Roark.  It hurts.”  He steadied me, his hands warm.  I felt so cold.

“Shhh,” he whispered.  “I know.  It’s ok, baby.  You’re home now.  You’re home.”

He enfolded me in his arms.  I was shaking badly.  “C’mon, we’ll go to our room and you can tell me about it.  You’ll feel better.”  I nodded numbly.  As I went to take a step, I could feel my eyes roll up into the back of my head and I fell back.  I wasn’t unconscious, not really.  I could actually hear the vicious curse my husband let out as he caught me in his arms.

“Luna?  Luna?”  I could hear the strain and worry in his voice.

My eyes fluttered open and I shook my head.  “I’m ok, sorry.  Sorry.  Just let me go.  I can walk.”  With great reluctance, Roark did as I asked, though he didn’t budge an inch.  His hands hovered close in case he needed to catch me again.

“Luna, you need to go to the hospital.  You’re freezing,” he whispered.

“No!”  I swallowed, shaking my head.  “Please, Roark.  I-I don’t want to go.  J-just let me stay here, with you, alright?”  He searched my eyes for a long moment; I could feel the caress of his mind against my own.

Finally, he nodded.  “Alright.  But you’re going to lay down, Luna.”  I might have bristled at that commanding tone if I had had the energy.  But when all I did was bob my head in acquiescence, he must have known I wasn’t as fine as I pretended to be.  So he led me to our room, his arm securely around my waist.

He helped me lay down on the bed, then slid in next to me, not bothering with the covers.  His back pressed close to mine, he held me against him.  He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask questions.  He’d wait for me to talk when I was ready.

I lay there for a long moment, just listening to us both breathing.  I let out a shuddering breath and began to talk, not even bothering to open my eyes.

In a voice I barely recognized as my own, I told him what happened in town.  About my meeting with Natalya and what I had done.  He just held me, and let me get it out.  I didn’t realize it for a while, but tears had been falling silently down my cheeks since I had begun the story.  I could feel it as he pressed his lips to my hair in a quiet gesture of comfort.

Once I had gotten the story out, I turned around in his arms, burying my head against his shoulder as the sobs wracked my body.

He held me like that for a long time until the sobs finally died down.

But as I stopped crying, nausea slammed into me and I had to jolt away from him, my heart beating a staccato rhythm against my rib cage even as I fought the bile that was threatening to rise into my throat.

Roark had gotten up and come to my side of the bed.  I tried batting at his hands as he grabbed for me, but it was a half-hearted attempt at best.  He still grabbed me in his arms and just picked me up as if I were a feather.  He set me on his lap as he sat on the corner of the bed and he crushed his mouth to mine.

I may have tried to deny it, but this was what I needed.  I needed him.  I could forget as I sank into the kiss.  I could forget what I had done, the pain, the blood, all of it as I drowned in my husband, felt his strong arms around me, supporting me, as he always did.  Roark was my rock; I could always count on him to know, to care, and to not take my crap when I was being impossible.

The kiss ended and I just sat there on his lap for a long time, my ear pressed to his chest so I could listen to the steady beat of his heart.  He pressed gentle kisses to my forehead and to my cheek.  After a while, he said, “Why don’t you change into some P.J.’s and then crawl into bed?”

I swallowed and nodded.  “W-will you sleep with me?” I asked him, my voice sounding pathetic to my own ears.  But I didn’t think I could sleep without him.  I was afraid what would chase me in my dreams.  Is it bad that, even now, I’m afraid to appear weak to Roark?  I know it won’t matter to him.  He loves me.  I know that… and yet, I can’t help it.

“Do you even have to ask that?” he scolded gently.  I gave him a watery smile, then stood up.  I should have been mortified when he helped peel off my shirt, and helped dress me as if I were a child.  But I wasn’t.  I was grateful to him.  Once I was dressed in a simple t-shirt and sweats, he carried me to the bed, lay me down, then climbed in once again.  He held my hand in his, his other arm wrapped around behind my shoulders.

“Sleep now, baby,” he murmured soothingly.  Even as I closed my eyes, his beautiful voice began to sing.  He didn’t do it often; he wasn’t a fan of his own voice, but I loved it.  With the sound of his voice singing softly in my ear, tears slid down my cheeks.

There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea.

You became the light on the dark side of me.

Love remained a drug that’s the high and not the pill.

But did you know,

That when it snows,

My eyes become large and

The light that you shine can be seen.

Baby,

I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the gray.

Ooh,

The more I get of you,

The stranger it feels, yeah.

And now that your rose is in bloom.

A light hits the gloom on the gray…

He sang the entire song to me.  As his voice faded at the end of the song, I let myself go, finally allowing sleep to take me.  Just as the darkness closed over me, I heard him whisper, “I love you, my Moonlight.  Don’t be afraid, your Knight is here.”  Yes, he was my Knight, my Dark Knight.  I was safe with him, always.


 

Chapter 44: The Wrath of a Wyvern

Shopping was very therapeutic.  Normally, when I mentioned shopping, everyone in the house disappeared.  Including my oh-so courageous husband.  I’d see nothing but his back in full retreat.  “Hey, who’s going to go with me?”

“Baby, I love you with all my heart, but nowhere in our vows did I say that I would brave what you call shopping.  Rather go through a full blown fire fight, my darling Moonlight,” Roark would tell me, grinning like a fool.  Apparently, I can be a bit of a whirlwind when it comes to shopping.  After the first time, my husband refuses to go anymore.

However, now I have a little sister who loves it just as much as I do.  Which is awesome!  It was great getting to show Cali around Monte Vista.

Chap 44-1

It was even better getting to watch the cloud that had settled behind her eyes slowly dissipate.  The more time I spent with her, the more I knew someone was tampering with her thoughts.  It wasn’t anything overt.  In fact, that was what made it so dangerous.  Insidious thoughts, playing upon natural fears.  Cali didn’t strike me as a weak-willed girl, but most anyone would be nervous meeting their boyfriend’s family for the first time.  And we are certainly a bit different than most families.  So it was only natural that she’d harbor some doubts.  And that’s what these thoughts preyed upon.

They twisted them, made them worse.  I hadn’t tried to block them yet.  I had to be careful there.  The mind is a delicate thing.  And I hadn’t broached the subject yet with Cali.  Today would be a perfect time to do that.

But first, there was a lot of shopping to do.  And of course, that meant shoe shopping!

Chap 44-2After we staggered out of the last shop with our spoils, we dropped off the bags at my car.  I surveyed the car, pursing my lips.  “Hm… well, we can always make a run back home, drop off then come back,” I mused.  Perhaps we’d gone just a little bit overboard.  Nan’s car was full.  There wasn’t a space left in the trunk or in the back seat.  Maybe my family was right… Nah!  I grinned at Cali.  “C’mon, let’s go find us something to eat.  There’s a couple different bistros around.  The food is to die for!”

I lead her through the streets, enjoying listening to her chatter.  I also enjoyed talking with her.  My past wasn’t necessarily a secret, but I hadn’t told anyone outside the family about my time in Bridgeport.  It was almost a bit of a relief.

Chap 44-3And her reaction just made me love her more.  She was such a hopeless romantic.  She was perfect for my brother.  So when I caught that last thought… my eyes narrowed dangerously.  Now was the time.

“Cali… why would you think he deserves better than you?  He loves you.  You’re so good for him.”  I’d put my hand on her shoulder, wanting to comfort her.

Chap 44-4She looked surprised. “I-I didn’t say anything-“  She stopped, blushing a little, remembering I was a telepath.  Then it all came out, like a torrent.  These thoughts of being worthy, of being a liability to Alduin.  How she was determined to remain with him at any cost, then wondering if he would be safer if she left him.  Her mind was a confusing miasma of conflicting thoughts.  Not all of those thoughts were hers.  The fact that she’d been in such turmoil made my blood boil.  But I kept my tone even, letting the rage cool.

“Cali,” I told her slowly.   “I think someone’s been projecting thoughts – doubts – in your mind. Do you know anyone who would do that?”

Chap 44-5“That’s possible? Someone can actually do that?”  Though she seemed genuinely shocked, I could tell by the way she said it that a part of her hadn’t at least wondered.  She hadn’t known it was possible, but she had known that these thoughts weren’t normal.

I nodded slowly.  “Yes, very possible.” I told her a bit about myself, how my own powers worked, even about my mother and her deplorable shields.  “…Sweetie, you’re actually very susceptible to something like that,” I finished seriously.

Chap 44-6I could see the wheels turning as much as I could actually hear her thoughts.  “Natalya?  But why would she… I don’t understand.”

I’d been thinking exactly the same thing.  There was something there.  With what little I’d been able to glean about the Guardians and the Caste, I knew that both sides were ruthless.  Why they would bother trying to break Calysta and my brother up, I didn’t have an answer, though I had a couple theories, but nothing concrete.  That wasn’t important at that moment.  What was important though, was making sure those thoughts stopped.


For lunch, I took Calysta to one of my favorite pizzerias in town and we took a corner booth.  She told me everything she knew of this ‘Natalya’.  I was silent for a moment.  “I’ll work with Roark.  As a vampire, his shielding is second to none.  With him helping, we can make a shield that no one can penetrate.  They’ll never be able to implant another thought in your mind again.”

“I would love that. Sometimes, I think I’m going mad. One minute I’m determined never to let go of Alduin, then the next minute, I feel like I have to leave him to protect him. If someone’s really messing with my brain, I want it to stop.”

I nodded.  “It will, I promise.”  It was good to see that her spirits were lifting.  We finished our lunch and decided to just walk around the town a bit before returning home.

Chap 44-7

“Are you going to tell Alduin about all of this, Calysta?” I asked her, genuinely curious.

“Should I?”

I had to grin at that.  “What do you think?”

It faded a little though when she voiced her concerns about my brother’s state of mind.  I’d noticed a few things about him, as well.  But not even I’d picked up on all of it.  I had known that transversing the barrier between life and death wouldn’t be easy.  From what I’d been able to find, there had only been a handful able to do it in tact before.  I knew pain went with the territory.  But hearing Cali talk about it made me both proud and worried at the same time.  Still, she needed assurances.

Chap 44-8

So I gave her the advice that it had taken me a while to learn.  And truth be told, sometimes I still had to remember it myself: “One thing I’ve learned. As hard as it is and as hard-headed as we Wyverns can be, it’s easier when we share our burdens. I think you should talk to him, Cali. He obviously doesn’t need a reminder. It might help him to talk to you. He’s always been private. And knowing him, he’s trying to spare you. So talk to him. You can’t help him if you don’t ask.”

She thanked me, promising to tell him.  I wasn’t quite through yet.  “Oh?  And Cali?  Don’t keep apologizing. It will just make him feel guilty. He has a tendency to take on the world’s problems. He came back for you. And ya know what? He told me he’d do it a hundred times over if it meant being with you.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have told her that, but somehow, I didn’t think Alduin would mind in this case.  And the smile it brought to her face was well worth it.

I was about to reply when my eyes widened as my gaze saw something on the other side of the street.

Chap 44-9

Cairo Moretti.  He’d been the subject of my latest case.  He’d proven to be quite elusive, which for me, is saying something.  I wasn’t going to get the opportunity again, so I held up a hand.  “Hold that thought, Cali.  There’s someone I need to talk to. This’ll be real quick. I’ll get right back to you, okay?”

I dashed across the street as Calysta murmured, “Oh sure, I’ll wait right here.”

Chap 44-10

My conversation with Mr. Moretti didn’t last long.  Truth be told, the case was an easy one.  Cairo has some information I needed in locating a certain item.  But it all flew out of my head when I felt something.  A presence.  I snapped my head around and saw Cali talking to someone.

Chap 44-11

Based on the descriptions that I’d been given by Calysta, I could only assume the woman was the infamous Natalya.  One corner of my mouth curled up.  Well, well.  I’d wanted to have a “chat” with her.  Now was my chance.  I dashed back across the street.

Chap 44-12

“…want to be with Alduin, then I won’t stop you. I’m even here to offer my help, and after you’ve seen what I can do, you know I’m capable of helping him.”

I had all I could do not to sneer as I reached them.  “Is there a problem here?” I asked, my fangs bared in what might be called a smile… or a snarl, depending.

The relief in Cali’s voice as she introduced me to the woman was more than evident.  It tickled me to no end when I caught the thought of These dragons are quickly becoming the bane of my existence.  I took that as a compliment.  In my line of work, I consider it a good day’s work if at least one person would love my head a platter.  Looks like today was going to be a good day.

Chap 44-13

So she was going to be polite, was she?  I saw no reason to be polite.  In fact, I kept my perusal of her deliberately insulting, a head to toe examination, my lip slightly curled as if I found her lacking.  Which, I did, in fact.  I brushed a hand over Cali’s elbow.  You okay? I asked her.  Calysta was a smart girl, but she was still too trusting, even after everything that had happened to her.  And if what I heard Natalya say was any indication, she knew just what to say.  Offering her a way to help my brother was the surest way to gain Calysta’s cooperation.  Then Natalya could name any price and I knew her well enough to know that Cali would pay it.  Not while I was around, she wouldn’t.

I made sure that the sorceress could see that promise in my eyes.

Chap 44-14

While we had a bit of a stare-down, Cali stiffened beside me and I could hear the whirlwind of thoughts.  She’d seen someone else, someone named Ashley.  I knew Ashley was the woman her brother Allen had fallen in love with.  But she’d left Allen and had supposedly left Monte Vista.  Yet, here she was.  Go, Cali.  Go to her.I can handle Natalya.  Truth be told, I was looking forward to this.  And it would be much easier without Calysta there.  I wouldn’t have to pull any punches, so to speak.  Natalya tried to stop her, but Calysta blew her off and told her to speak with me.  Just how I wanted it.  And the death glare I was getting from the sorceress made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Chap 44-15

I waited for Cali to dash off.  Then I turned to the little witch with an insolent grin.  It was time to give her a taste of her own medicine.  I dropped my shields, letting my senses extend outward.  When it touched Natalya’s mind, I added a little something extra, something that would slip right past her shields.

I’ll never get in Alduin and Calysta’s way again.  It was only appropriate, after all.

Chap 44-16

“Get out of my mind!”

“Just a taste of what you’ve been putting my little sister through,” I told her nonchalantly, looking at my finger nails as if they were more interesting than her.  Which… they were.  But knowing what she’d been up to, that darkness reared up.  I took a step toward her, my red eyes flashing.  “Understand this, sorceress. If you ever even think of touching any of my family – and that includes Calysta now – I am going to make you pay. You hear me? And you heard Cali. She wants nothing to do with you. From now on, when it comes to her, you answer to me.”

“I answer to no one!”

I arched a brow at her.  I wasn’t above returning the favor to her.  Not when she was trying so hard to interfere with my brother and Cali.  So I pushed a thought at her.  Wrong. I answer to Luna.

Need I remind you, girl… You owe me your brother’s life.”

Chap 44-17

I threw my head back and laughed.  “I don’t owe you a damn thing.  Want to know why?”  My lips curled up in a vicious smile.  “Neither I, nor my brother, owe you a thing because if it weren’t for Cali ordering you to do it, you never would have done it.  That… and from what I know of, you were unable to actually bring him back without the help of…”  I pretended to have to think of the name, “I believe his name was Ettore, wasn’t it?”

Chap 44-18

The sorceress stepped forward, trying to loom over me, but I just grinned up at her.  I could almost see the wheels turning in her head, trying to figure out just the right tack to take with me.  She really must not have realized who she was dealing with.  Finally, she chose one.  An appeal to my protective nature, must be.

“I care about Calysta. I just want to keep her safe. And whether or not you admit it, her exposure to your brother – to your family in general – points every single supernatural creature out there right to her. Her best bet for survival is to stay under the radar, to be as normal as possible. Her being with your brother will only corrupt her.”

“That’s the best you can do?” I asked, rolling my eyes.  “Really?  I guess being an all powerful sorceress makes it so you don’t have to think on your feet as much, hm?  You really don’t know how to deal with people, do you, Natalya?  What happened to your offer of ‘helping’ my brother?”  My lips curled into a snarl.  I was fed up of her, fed up of her lies and machinations.  “I can only imagine what your ‘help’ would be like, you viper!”

My fury gave me power.  She couldn’t even speak, too busy was she trying to fight off my assault on her mind.  Get out…. She closed her eyes, though it didn’t do her any good.  I had too much steam and too much determination.  I was still burrowing.  Calysta can never be a Wyvern. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides and she was shaking.  Stop it. Damn you. Stop. A sound escaped her throat, something between a yell and a gasp.   I need Ettore.  I went deeper.  I wanted her secrets.  I’ll help him alright. I’ll help him fill the missing pieces of his soul with hatred for her. Alduin won’t be able to stand the sight of Calysta. 

Chap 44-19

There it was!  I knew it!  Fury swept through me.  The bitch!  I wanted to cause her pain.  I wanted her to scream for even thinking of doing that to my brother.  My brother, who loved that girl so much, he lost parts of his soul to return to her.  She would take that from him, fill him with hate.  No, no she wasn’t going to!  I wanted her to bleed, even if it was more metaphorically than actual blood.  So I went deeper.  The subconscious is an odd thing.  There are so many twists and turns.  If you are delicate and circumspect, there is no pain, no intrusion.  But I didn’t want that.  I wanted her to feel pain, I wanted her to know I was ripping out her most horrendous and painful memories.

Chap 44-20

With the subtlety of a jackhammer, I went digging.  Images and thoughts, voices and figures whirled past.  I could only guess at some of the scenes.  I thought I saw someone that resembles Cali.  I was willing to bet that was her father Adam.  But I didn’t want that.  I wanted something worse.  I ignored the fact that Natalya had fallen to the ground, her hands digging at the sides of her head.  “No, no, no , no, no!”

I watched with no emotion whatsoever as I found a particularly vile memory.  There was blood and pain, excruciating pain.  A man with white wings: Ettore stood over a young Natalya.  Her own blood covered the dagger, the bed she lay on, as well as the floor.  She was begging for it to stop.  I forced myself to watch the scene unfold.  If I interpreted what I was seeing right, this was when she came into her powers.

But there was more to learn.  I left that scene, and went deeper, further back.  I’d know what made her tick.  She’d never touch my brother when I was done with her.  “Noooooooo!” she screamed.  With a bright flash of light, I found myself alone on the street.  I had to hold my own head, sucking in a breath.  I hadn’t taken a breath since I had begun the mental assault.  I had to bend over, bringing myself under control.  I was shaking from the effort I’d had to expend.  Finally, I straightened and looked at the spot where the sorceress had been.  She’d been… butchered, for a lack of a better word.  She’d been little more than a child.  I could feel pity for the child she had been, yet I felt very little for the woman that had stood there just moments ago.  She was dangerous.  Very dangerous.  She wouldn’t touch my brother or Calysta again.  I’d see to that.


Chapter 43: No One Expects the Wyvern Inquisition…

Author’s Note: Another shoutout to Miss Ivane.  The fact is, for this bunch of chapters, she is the one that got the screenshots so the gorgeous shots are all her doing.  Makes it super easy to write a chapter.  So, hope you guys enjoy it!

Alduin was using the weight machine once again, losing himself in the repetitive motion, feeling the sweat and slight ache that came with light exercise.  He’d left Cali sleeping peacefully in his bed.  He couldn’t help but grin at that thought.  Having her in his bed felt so…. right.  He wanted that to continue… for the rest of his life, in fact.  A frowned marred his countenance for a moment.  He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something didn’t seem quite right.  Cali was fitting in perfectly, yet there was something there, some kind of undercurrent.  Alduin wished he knew what to do for her.  It was killing him not to know.

Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t hear the quiet tread of feet on the stairs.  It wasn’t until the figure got down to the bottom that Alduin noticed he was no longer alone.  He nodded to Roark.  “Morning.  Isn’t it a bit early for you to be up?  I figured you’d only emerge around evening time.”

Roark grinned.  “Nah, I’m up all hours.  Just depends.”  He was dressed to work out himself.  “I’m not as opposed to early morning as my wife is.”

Alduin laughed and nodded.  “Yeah, Luna was never a morning person.  If she didn’t have to be up for school, she’d sleep till noon.”

“Still is like that.  I think that’s partly why she likes being a PI.  It gives her an excuse to stay up late and sleep in the morning,” Roark said with a laugh as he approached the chin-up bar once again.

His brother-in-law snickered.  “Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.”

Roark began to lift himself up.  “Saw your girl upstairs before I came down.  Your Nan is letting her cook in the kitchen, ya know.  That should tell ya somethin’ right there.”

“She is?  Whoa… yeah, guess it does.”  Alduin had to stop for a moment.  It tickled him to no end that his grandmother had shown such trust.  It might not seem like much to most, but Sophia was Queen of her kitchen.  To allow someone else into it was quite the endorsement.

Roark nodded absently.  The two continued their workout in a companionable silence.  Though they hadn’t talked much, they seemed to have come to an understanding.  Alduin had a lot of respect for the vampire.  When he’d first heard who his parents were, he had to admit, his initial reaction had been one of horror.  But it hadn’t lasted long.  Especially not after Luna had told him the full story.  But Alduin had still found himself curious about the man.  He was the one that his sister had chosen to spend the rest of her life with.  A life that would seem like a drop in the hat to a vampire’s long life.  Alduin didn’t really want to think about that, but it was certainly a factor.

“Hey, Roark.  I never thanked you for coming to Luna’s rescue.  I know you would have anyway, I just… she’s my sister.  I don’t know what I’d do without her.  The months that we didn’t hear from her were pure hell.”

Roark was silent for a long moment.  “Don’t thank me for something like that.  You’re right, I’d have done it anyway.  W-when I thought my brother had her, that he’d hurt her… there was a part of me, Alduin, a part of me that wanted to rend and tear someone apart.  I’ve spent my entire life keeping that part of myself locked away.  I want to be nothing like my mother.  Yet… If Alaric had hurt her…”  He couldn’t even finish the sentence.  For the first time, Alduin saw how tightly controlled his brother-in-law was and his respect ratcheted up.

“I know she’s fully capable of taking care of herself,” Alduin murmured.  “I do.  Who knows better, right?  I’ve looked up to her since before I can remember.  But that unflinching courage of hers scares me sometimes.”

“That courage of hers is what drew me to her,” Roark confided in him.  “But you’re right.  It has the capacity to make all the spit dry up in my mouth.  Yet… I wouldn’t have her any other way.  I have to trust her.  She’s incredibly smart and capable.”

“Too capable,” Alduin muttered.

Roark let out a laugh.  “That’s what you get for trying to keep secrets from your older sister.  Secrets for her are like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  You’re just asking for trouble.”

“Yeah yeah, I know.  Grew up with her, remember?”

“And yet… you still haven’t learned.”


 

I waited until I heard voices out in the kitchen, particularly my brother’s, before I got out of bed.  Today was the day I was going to get to the bottom of the secrets that I knew my brother was keeping.  It wasn’t that I felt that secrets were a bad thing.  Everyone had their secrets.  But if this had anything to do with the Treskers… or with Elvira, I had a right to know.  If they were the ones who had gone after Alduin, they had done it because of me.  And that wasn’t something I would tolerate.  And if he thought keeping it a secret would stop me, he had another thing coming.

I wondered out into the kitchen and Alduin was just taking his plate to the dishwasher.  “Morning sis,” he greeted me, that customary smirk I knew all too well plastered over his face.

I joined the rest of my family at the dining room table.  I smiled at Cali.  “Morning.”

“Not morning, afternoon,” my dad corrected with a grin.  I stuck my tongue out at him as I sat down.

“Morning for me,” I told him, grinning.  “Besides, we know how I am in the morning, so this is as much for your guys’ benefit as my own.”

“Is that it now?” Pop asked, his eyes twinkling.

“Of course,” I murmured, digging in.  “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Cali laughed and looked up at me.  “You and my dad are gonna get along, Luna. The rest of us are morning people. Not him. He gets up when we’ve all already left for work or school.”

 

I pointed my fork at her for emphasis as I exclaimed, “That’s my kind of guy!  I take it from your chipper and oh so cheerful tone that you’re a morning person, Cali?”

“Yes!”  She sighed wistfully and rested her chin on her hand in between bites.  “I love sunrises and the morning dew on flowers. The smell of toast and jam and pancakes…” I couldn’t help picking up the thought:  I’m not Alduin’s dawn for nothing…   It brought a tender smile to my face as I looked at her.  She was a sweet girl.  “Bring on the mornings.”

I made a face.  “I’ll stick to my afternoons, thanks.  You and my brother can have the mornings.  I’ll take the night sky dotted with stars and a full moon any time.”

Breakfast passed with a lot more ribbing, mostly my family having fun at my expense.  Everything was right in the Wyvern household.  If we aren’t picking on one another, then something is surely wrong.  Nan left to go change into her martial arts gear.  Apparently, she’d offered to train Cali and Cali had agreed.  I winced.  “Watch her roundhouse, Cali.  I don’t recommend sparring with her anytime soon.”

Nan gave me one of her looks.  “Don’t you worry about the girl.  She’ll do fine.”

I grinned at my grandmother.  “I know she will.  But c’mon, Nan, you gotta admit, your methods can hurt a little.”

“Only when I’m teaching a couple of blockheads,” my Nan retorted with a snort.  “You and your brother in particular.”

I snorted.  “I have a much harder head than he does, thank you very much.”

“And a smarter mouth,” Nan commented, “which I wasn’t sure was possible.”

I laughed as I got up.  “Where do you think he learned it from?”


 

After exchanging a quick kiss with my husband as he came into the bedroom for a minute, toweling off the sweat from his workout, I changed.  “Going to interrogate your brother?” Roark asked, watching me.

“Oh you bet ya.”

My husband laughed.  “Poor kid.  Why don’t you go easy on him?”

Normally, I might have laughed.  Instead, I just looked at him slowly.  “Because, if this has to do with the Treskers, he’ll have a lot of explaining to do, especially why he kept it from me.”

Roark sighed.  “Love… he loves you.”

“I know.  Roark, just… let it be, alright?”

He was silent for a moment.  “Ok.  Go talk to him.  He was heading up to the veranda.”

I nodded, fluffing out my coat a little.  Little brother was going to have the chat of his life…

My brother had a good poker face.  But I knew him.  I could see the look of trepidation in his eyes when I opened the door.  I was on the phone, listening to a voice on the other end.  I’d called a contact as I was walking upstairs.  “Uh huh,” I murmured into the phone, my eyes on my brother.

“Ok, thanks for the info, Craig,” I murmured, hanging up.  Alduin just kept looking at me.  His body language was tense.  “Let’s not pretend that you don’t know what I’m doing up here,” I murmured.  “You know what I want.  Start talking.”  My hand rested on my hip as I stared him down.

He looked away for a long moment, refusing to meet my gaze.  His mouth was a tight line.

Finally, he sighed and rested his elbows on his thighs.  “Luna…”  He laughed, though it wasn’t a mirthful sound.  “Why do I bother trying to keep secrets?  Or to protect you?  You never let me before.”

I ignored the shaft of guilt that tried to embed itself.  “I’m the older sister.  My job to protect you,” I murmured.

He shut his eyes, letting out a growl as he rubbed his hand vigorously through his hair.  “Ok, look.  Yes, it was the Treskers that shot me.  I knew who they were when they showed up.”

“I never told you who it was that killed Alaric, that attacked me in Bridgeport,” I said quietly.  “How do you know them, Alduin?  And don’t even think about holding back.  I swear, I will have you begging for mercy.”  My voice had grown dangerous.  I could feel something welling in me, something in my chest that was begging to be let out.  Payback.  I had promised that those who had shot my brother would pay.  Knowing it was the Treskers made me do something I’d never done before: Hate.  I hated them with a fierce passion that was trying to claw its way out.

Worrying his bottom lip, he went silent.  I slammed my hands down on the tablet in front of him.  “Alduin!” I growled.

“Alright!” he snapped, fire leaping into his eyes.  His hands had balled into fists.  “I… I work for something called the Agency.  They’re-

I held up my hand and said with him, “an agency that polices Supernatural forces and deals with those that threaten Simanity.”  He fell silent, looking at me with wide eyes.  Then he burst out laughing.

“Why do I bother?” he murmured.  “How do you know about them?”

“I’m a PI for Plumbob’s Sake!” I told him, exasperated.  “I’m also a powerful telepath.  You don’t think they tried recruiting me?”  My own hands had balled into fists at the thought that the bastards had gone after my little brother and they had actually managed to rope him into things.

His jaw dropped and he looked… poleaxed was the only way to describe it.  Then he threw back his head and laughed.  “I should have known,” he murmured, shaking his head.  Then he looked at me.  “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“Because I said no.  I wanted nothing to do with them.  I got a bad feeling about the whole business.”  I swore viciously.  “And you work for them… Watcher Alduin!  What were you thinking?  How long have you worked for them?”

His gaze slid away from mine and he mumbled something under his breath.  “What’s that?  Speak up!”  I didn’t need him to, but I was ready to slug him at that point.

“Since high school!” he shouted at me.  He looked about ready to slug me.  That was fine by me.  I could use the catharsis of pounding on something, especially on my brother’s stubborn block head.  But I couldn’t… staring at him, I realized something very important: he was a grown man.

I sighed and reached my hand back, rubbing at the knot between my shoulder blades.  “Alduin,” I murmured, going to sit on the table in front of him.  “I love you, more than I can ever say.  You’re my little brother.  I… do you know what it did to me when I saw you get shot?”

Alduin looked down.  “Sis…”

I shook my head.  “Just listen for a minute, ok?  I know I screwed up in Bridgeport.  I was in a very dark place there, Alduin.  And I had to confront a part of myself that I am not proud of.  That part will always be a part of me and I have to live with it.  Just as I have to live with a lot of thoughts and images that I’d rather not.  Seeing you lying in a pool of blood is one of them.  You d-died.”  I was appalled that my voice broke.  But I couldn’t have stopped then.  “I saw you die.”

My brother’s face fell.  “Ah Watcher, Luna… I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.  Please, don’t cry.  I-I can’t take it if you cry.”

I sniffled.  He stood up and placed himself in front of me, putting his hands on my shoulders.  “You have always been one of the strongest people I know,” he murmured, looking into my eyes.  “I… I wanted to be like you, like Pop.  I wanted to help people, Luna.  I thought I could do that through the Agency.”  He smiled.  “I know now why you said no to them.  I don’t agree with their methods most of the time.  But ya know what?  They’re the reason I met Cali.  And for that?  I’d do it all again, even knowing what would happen, I’d do it a hundred times over, as long as it meant I could have her.”

I broke down and wrapped my arms around my brother’s waist and buried my head against him.  He just held me, let me cry it out.  All our lives, I’d been the older one, the… stronger one, I guess.  Alduin had never been weak, never that.  My little brother wasn’t so little anymore.  “I’m so proud of you,” I whispered.  “So proud, little brother.”

He drew in a deep breath and cleared his throat.  “That means a lot to me, ya know,” he said softly.  He swallowed.  “Luna?  I want you to know something.”  He took a step back and pulled something from his pocket.  “I uh… I plan to ask Cali to marry me.  I’m gonna talk to Mom and Dad about it, then her own folks when we go to Aurora Skies.  But… I wanted you to know first.”

I stared at him, then at the box in his hand.  My throat constricted and I was in danger of breaking out into sobs.  I jumped up threw my arms around his neck.  He hugged me tightly.  “I love her, Luna.  With everything I am.”

“I know.  I can see it.  I’m so happy for you.  I love her, I really do.  You make each other happy.”  I didn’t tell him about my suspicions.  That would be for later,  after I had a chat with Calysta.  I wiped my eyes.  “I’m sure Nan is putting her through the paces and don’t you guys have somewhere to be?  Aren’t you heading over to her brother’s house today?”

“Oh, that’s right!” Alduin exclaimed.  He hugged me again and took off, turning around to wave at me.

I watched him go.  Only after I heard him call Cali did I let the rage back into my eyes.  Fury swept through me.  The Treskers…   I had been looking out over our property, my hands clenched into fists.  I was going to hunt them down like dogs and I was going to make them pay if it was the last thing I did.

Yet when I turned to head downstairs, my path was blocked.  “Luna,” Roark said softly.

“Get out of the way, Roark.  Now,” I told him, my voice low.  There was an underlying growl to it.

Of course he didn’t listen.  He never did.  Instead, he put a hand on either shoulder.  “Don’t do this,” he told me quietly.

“They killed him!  They killed my brother!” I snarled.  “They killed Alaric!  They deserve to pay!”

“I know, I know what they did,” he told me.  His voice never changed, but his eyes did.  In their glowing red depths, I saw what Roark kept buried.  The rage, the primal urges that hid within my husband were only too clear to me.  And yet, his grip was gentle, the way he rubbed his hands over my shoulders was tender.  “I want them to pay too.  I want them to pay for Alaric, for your brother.  And I want them to pay for putting you in danger, for daring to lay a hand on you.  And they will.  I promise you.  We’ll hunt them, together.  But… not now, not like this.”

“We have to, we-“

“Luna, we have a son now.  Do you really want to leave him on a mission of vengeance?  And don’t you think Alduin has been trying to find them?” he asked me, a hint of impatience showing through.  “Think for a moment, use that brain of yours that I love.  If he thought there was the slightest chance that they’d return to finish the job, do you think that he hasn’t been trying to find them?”

My jaw dropped.  Of course he had… of course Alduin had been searching.  The rage had clouded my thinking, made me miss something so important.  “You knew?” I finally asked.  The fight had gone out of me.  Roark was right… if I couldn’t think straight enough to realize something so… obvious, I had no business hunting for them, not until I could get myself under control.

He nodded.  “Yes.  I did.”

I smacked his chest.  “Dammit, Roark!  Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because it wasn’t my place.  I figured Alduin would tell you on his own.  The fact that you didn’t think of it after this, tells me… you aren’t thinking straight, baby.”

I sighed.  “You’re right.  You’re right.  I want them to pay, Roark.  In the worst way.”

“I do, too,” he whispered.  “And they will.  Give it time.”  He hugged me to him.  “I promise you, Luna.  They’ll pay.”  The darkness swirled in his voice.

It was a comfort, somehow.  We all have darkness in us.  At that moment, I was glad I wasn’t alone in that.  I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder.  For now, the darkness would be illuminated with light.  Roark’s hand cupped the back of my head and he held me against him.  “My Moonlight on a dark night,” he whispered.  “We won’t let them hurt anyone else.  I swear it to you.”

“I know,” I whispered.  If Roark made a promise, he kept it.  I knew it with all my heart.  We stayed up on the balcony for a while longer, then Roark took my hand and led me back downstairs.

I have to put it aside now, tuck it away.  But it’s there, just beneath the surface, waiting…


 

Chapter 42: Revelations

Author’s Note: Ok, so I apologize if this update feels a bit all over the place.  I’m not all that happy with it, but I hope you guys enjoy it.  Another huge shoutout to Miss Ivane.  She has once again been a huge help and our collaboration continues to be such a blast.  So if you haven’t done so yet, go check out the Chronicles of Clarke, the link is in the right hand side of the blog!  Go, do it now!  If there are any errors in this, it is entirely my fault XD

Any gathering of the Wyverns is a boisterous affair.  We just can’t help ourselves.  I know it can be a bit… much for those not used to it.  We all tend to talk at the same time, argue a little, laugh a lot.  I know it’s a lot of chaos, though I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And despite my brother’s propensity for avoiding a lot of contact for long periods of time, I don’t think he would either.  Watching him with Cali, the way he glides his hand up and down her back, or how he’ll brush his fingers along her elbow.  Cali does much the same, a little touch here, or a brush of her fingertips there.  I recognize the look in their eyes, the way the eyes almost seem to glow.

It’s good to see.  I’d love any woman my brother brought home because he loves her.  But I always hoped I could love the woman herself.  And I can already see that I will.  But something’s been bothering me.  Cali is what I call a “broadcaster”.  Most regular humans have some form of shielding on their minds.  But just like there are some with natural shields, there are some that tend to broadcast their thoughts.  I’d been able to pick up things from Cali since she arrived.  The poor thing was nervous, but it was much more than that.  I had my suspicions, but I’ll look into a little later.

For now, I was concentrating on my brother.

I’ve never been one to beat around the bush, especially not where my family was concerned.  I wanted the story, the full story from him.  “So Alduin,” I began, watching him carefully.  “You died.”

That silenced the chatter.  We’d all been wanting to know.  No one but me knew how to broach the subject.  After what happened in Bridgeport, I knew the only way to get through painful news was to get it over with.

Alduin told his story and as I listened, images flashed in my mind.  Normally, I had a strict code about not intruding.  I picked up enough surface thoughts that I didn’t need to pry.  But I was making an exception in this case.  I didn’t need my telepathy to know that my brother was hiding something.  I knew him too well.  Even the way he met my gaze, then dropped his for a split second had warning bells going off.  The story that he told was bad enough to make my blood run cold.  But then I got a shock.  A picture of two men I knew too well flashed in my brain.  My eyes narrowed dangerously at my brother, but he was looking at Cali, his hand rubbing her back in small circles, reassuring her.

The Treskers… I had to bring my hand to my lap to hide the fact that it was clenched into a fist hard enough that my nails dug into my palm.  They’d gone after my brother… The realization that he knew their name hit me and it took all my control to keep the growl from escaping my throat.  Me and little brother were going to have a talk.  Yes we would…

If that little revelation wasn’t enough, there was finding out about two new groups.  The Guardians and the Caste.  I’d heard whispers of these names while in Bridgeport, but from what I could tell then, they didn’t operate here much.  There were other Realms, if you listened to those in the know.  I hadn’t liked what I’d heard.  Both sides had their own agendas, and mostly they opposed one another.  Their interest in my brother’s girlfriend made me nervous.  The thought of this Natalya having a connection to them would require me looking into things more and it added another punch to my theory.

<”Luna, what’s wrong?”> my husband asked silently.

<”I’ll tell you later.”>

Pop and I handled the questions.  He and I had shared a look.  Of everyone aside from Roark, he and I had the most contacts within Monte Vista as well as abroad.  Every little bit would help us dig into this more.  And you can bet that we’d be doing a lot of digging.  After everything that’s happened to this family, we weren’t going to let something else happen to Alduin or Cali.

Unless you counted me boxing his ears… which he’d be getting later, that much I promised myself.  But the cries of my son saved him… for the moment.  Thought it was the perfect time to introduce Ryu to his Uncle and his Aunt.  I’d fed him already and placed him in the crib, letting them get a good look at him.

If it were up to my brother, that’s all he would do, I knew.  I could see the pride in his eyes, but there was also trepidation there.  Alduin had never been exposed to kids, really.  Well, it was time for a crash course.  If the look in Cali’s eyes was any indication, my brother wouldn’t have much of a choice in that exposure.  The best way to deal with Alduin was just to go through it, make it quick, like pulling off a bandaid fast.

After I’d placed Ryu in his arms, Alduin had certainly frozen, but it didn’t take him long to warm up to Ryu.  Of course, my son knew just how to get to him too.  Seeing the look on my brother’s face, the same wonder I feel whenever I hold my son had me smiling.  When Cali got into the picture, it was just beautiful.

Of course, I had to howl at the look on his face after Cali whispered something into his ear.  I’m sure it was along the lines of how many kids she wanted someday.  After rescuing my son and laying him down for his nap, we wandered back out into the hall.

Mom and Dad, Pop and Nan had already gone off to do various chores or just go relax.  So it ended up that Roark, Cali, Alduin, and I stood chatting.  Unsurprisingly, Roark and Alduin stepped off a ways while Cali and I gushed over shoes.  She’d been admiring mine, apparently.  “We definitely have to go shopping together before you guys leave!” I told her.  “We’ll make it a girl’s day, just the two of us.”

Roark nodded to my brother.  “Luna’s been looking forward to this visit for a while.”  He grinned.  “She was up before dawn this morning.”

“Wait, Luna?  My sister?  The one who needed three cups of coffee to feel human even at noon?”

My husband laughed.  “Yes, that Luna.”

I could feel Alduin look at me sideways and I didn’t need to see his face to see that smirk of his.  “It’s good to be home.  I’ve missed this place.  And it’s good to see Luna’s home.  How are you finding our dear Monte Vista?”

Roark smiled.  I could feel his gaze on me.  I was always very aware of my husband’s gaze.  “It’s home,” he replied after a moment.  “I was never attached to Bridgeport and had I been stationed somewhere else all those years ago, would have gone there.  But this is home now.”  He eyed me again.

Alduin grinned.  “That’s good to hear.  You won’t have to go anywhere else will you?  Any other deployments?”

Roark shook his head.  “I doubt it.  Few missions here and there, but nothing extended.  This will be my post for the foreseeable future.  What about you?  Luna tells me you’ll be going on to Aurora Skies eventually?”

My brother nodded.  I had to swallow at that.  I knew Alduin was a grown up now.  And that means he would go his own way, but it seemed so far.  We’d just gotten him back… and I realized that I was thinking just like my mother had before I went to Bridgeport.  Sucks when things come back, huh?

“I’m about to go down for my workout, wanna join me, Alduin?” Roark asked.

“Sure, why not.  Cali, you ok here with Luna?”

I rolled my eyes and faced my brother with my hands on my hips.  “Shoo, go now.  I’ll entertain your girlfriend.  Place nice, you two.”

Roark just grinned.  “That’s no fun!”

I laughed.  “Go!  Both of you!”


 

Roark looked up at the chin bar.  He extended his arms and gripped the bar.  His brother-in-law was on the weight machine.  The two men worked out in silence for a long moment.

“So,” Roark began nonchalantly.  “How long have you been working for the Agency, Alduin?”

Alduin froze.  He slowly turned his head toward the vampire.  “What did you say?”

“I was an intelligent asset early in my career,” Roark continued.  “I dealt with some of their operatives.  Someone like you?  Obviously powerful mediumistic abilities, a Wyvern… you guys have had a reputation for a while, thanks to your grandfather.  Yeah, they’d salivate for a chance at someone like you.”

Alduin thought furiously, thinking of denying it all.  Then he just let out a laugh.  “Great… you and my sister are meant for each other.  Never could keep a secret from her…  Does she know?”

“She suspects.”  Roark grinned as he continued to do pull ups.  “There isn’t much she doesn’t suspect.  And I’m sure she’ll get it out of you later.  But I haven’t told her anything.  I figure that’ll be up to you.  Thought I should warn you though.  You know how she is once she gets on a scent… and let’s face it, we both know you kept something back from your story.”

Alduin winced.  “I’m doomed, aren’t I?”

Roark laughed.  “Yeah, pretty much.  That’s ok, I’ll be right there with ya, when she finds out I suspected and that we had this conversation.  Something to be said for living dangerously, huh?”

The younger man couldn’t help but let out a snort.  “Yeah, if that’s what ya wanna call it.”  He sobered up.  “So, what was the purpose of this conversation?”

Roark was silent for a long time.  Finally, he said, “The one who tried to kill you, you know who they are, don’t you?  You didn’t tell us for a reason.  I can only assume that reason is to protect someone you care about.”

“Yeah… yeah, I gotta figure out that if you know about the Agency, and could put two and two together, you must have a pretty good idea who it was.  I… I know my sister.  She’ll go after them as soon as she knows it was the Treskers.  She’s too impulsive not to.  I hope that you have better discipline.”

Alduin couldn’t see the way Roark’s eyes glowed with a cold light.  “I have enough discipline not to hunt them down like the dogs they are.  For now.  I know my wife, too.  I don’t doubt her courage or her resolve… or the ability to land smack dab in the middle of trouble at a moment’s notice.  I don’t want her going after them.  And she will.”

The two men lapsed into silence, both with their own thoughts, but running along very similar veins.


 

I looked at the tiny bundle in my arms.  “That’s my beautiful boy,” I cooed.  “Who’s a good boy?”

Ryu let out a giggle and a coo.

I lay my son back into his crib and stretched a little.  It had been a good day.  Seeing my brother and Cali had been much needed.  It had also raised questions.  Questions that kept running through my mind.  I wandered into my room, letting it all stew in my brain.  There was my husband, freshly showered and dressed.  “Hey handsome.”

“Hello beautiful,” he greeted.

“So, did you and my brother have a nice workout?” I asked casually.

Roark just grinned.  “We did,” he answered, his eyes gleaming.

I stamped my foot.  “Argh, I hate it when you do that.  Not gonna tell me anything, are ya?”

“Nope.  What fun would that be?  You’ll get it out of him tomorrow, anyway, right?”

Grumbling under my breath, I let out a sigh.  “True enough.  C’mon, let’s relax for a while, then get some sleep.”

“Great idea.”


 

“So, was it as bad as you thought?” Alduin asked as his girlfriend settled onto his bed.  He was as giddy as a school boy to be able to sleep in the bed he’d grown up in with the person who meant the world to him.  Just as it had been like some kind of wonderful dream to watch her meet his family and see the way they just… folded her right in.

Cali’s smile was beautiful. “I am in love with your family,” she murmured.

He pulled her close into his arms.  “I’m so glad to hear you say that.  They’re in love with you, too, in case you didn’t notice.”

“Oh yeah? What’s not to love right?” She grinned flirtatiously and flicked her brows at him but she couldn’t quite suppress the shudder as Why would they love you?  You bring nothing special to them ran through her mind.

Alduin grinned at her.  “Cold?  Well c’mere, I’ll warm you up.”  He waggled his eyebrows at her even as his lips covered hers.


 

Chapter 41: An Emotional Homecoming

Author’s Note:  This is a major collaboration with Ivane and I give her a huge shoutout!  So, if you haven’t met the Clarkes yet, click on the link in the right hand side of the page.  She is also the one that got the screenshots for this part, so huge thank you Ivane!

I stared at my computer screen for a moment, my eyes drifting to the time in the corner.  When you’re a kid, you always feel like time seems to slow down just when you need the time to pass quickly.  Well, it doesn’t get any better when you’re an adult either.  I’d been up since before dawn, which is a miracle for me.  I’m a night owl, through and through.  Good thing I married a vampire, huh?  Anyway, I’d lain in bed next to Roark for a while, but I was too excited to sleep.  A few days ago, I’d begun taking on a few cases again.  Mostly a lot of computer work, internet searches, maybe a very tiny bit of some illicit hacking…  Simple stuff.  I wasn’t quite ready to go back out into the field.  Not yet.  But it was really hard to concentrate at that point.  I’d had a few too many cups of coffee, too, I think.

Alduin and his girlfriend were due in a bit later that morning.  I wanted to see my brother.  I’d missed him something fierce.  I’d been having dreams lately.  They weren’t visions this time.  Just the aftermath of that last vision and knowing I could have… no, I did lose my brother, even if only for a little while.  Knowing he made it back didn’t lesson the fear nor the pain that had settled in my chest.  I sat back and closed my eyes, letting my shields down.  It had become a habit to keep them up at all times.  But every now and again, I just liked to take stock.  I knew Roark was in the nursery, cooing at his son.  I could tell what he was thinking.  Since we’d gotten married, we’d begun to work with each other on establishing links.  It could be difficult at times because a vampire’s shields were naturally strong.  Where I had had to work to establish a shield, he had to work to bring it down.

I could only grin.  Roark loved his time with his son.  And I could see Roark lifting up Ryu, our boy giggling like mad.  He loved his daddy.

I stretched my senses further.  Dad and Pop were at their normal place at the chess table.  That wasn’t anything new.  Pop was about to lose his queen to Dad’s knight.  I grinned.  Pop lured him in every time with that move and Dad still couldn’t resist.  Nan was just about to cook up a big batch of her famous pancakes.  And Mom was grabbing the trash to take it out.  Mom was ecstatic.  We’d had an early thaw, though winter wasn’t quite done yet, I don’t think.  Mom was happy though that the weather would be nice for Alduin and Cali’s visit.  That and she hated bundling up for the cold.

My eyes widened and I had to swallow.  I jolted upright in the chair.  They were here… Alduin and Calysta were finally here!  They were standing outside our door!

I was mortified to find tears welling up.  I’d love to blame it on those residual pregnancy hormones, but the truth was, I was so happy that he was here.  But I couldn’t go out there with tears in my eyes.  Alduin would take one look and run away.  The poor boy couldn’t stand to see a woman cry.  They undid him like nothing else.  So I wiped my eyes and tried to compose myself.  Still, couldn’t help but keep my senses attuned.

I know Mom had to sense them and I could see the smile playing at her lips.  She went to the trash can, waving at the two of them.

Before the bag hit the bottom of the trashcan, Mom was throwing her arms around my brother’s neck.  “Oh my boy,” she murmured, sniffling.  “It’s so good to see you.”

“Hey, Mom.”  Alduin held onto Mom for a bit.  “It’s good to be home.”

They separated and Mom stood there, looking at the lovely young woman Alduin had brought with him.  “Mom,” Alduin said, the pride and love unmistakable in his voice.  “This is Cali.  Cali, this is my mom, Aurora Wyvern.”

Mom smiled warmly at her, her red eyes full of kindness.  “Welcome to Monte Vista, to our home, sweetheart.  C’mon, your Nan just made her world-famous pancakes, Alduin.  You guys came just in time for breakfast!”

“We ate on the plane, Mom.  Part of the first class package you and Dad paid for.  We’ll be right in, though.”  Alduin looked at Calysta, smiling at her.  “Ready for the madness?” he murmured softly.  Seeing that look in my brother’s eyes made me sigh sappily as I wandered out to the kitchen.

I had to giggle when I heard her reply, “Don’t be scared, Alduin.  I’ll hold your hand.”  Her voice was amused, though it didn’t take a telepath to notice that there was a slight undercurrent to her tone.  She was nervous.  Poor thing.  Hoped she was ready for us.  Though something told me that she’d do just fine.

Calysta and Alduin made their way inside.  I restrained myself… though just barely, from leaping at my brother.  Didn’t want to scare the poor girl.  My brother on the other hand, I had no problem doing that to him, of course.  But I’d let her get accustomed to us a little first.  Nan had just gotten up from the table and was wandering into the kitchen when she saw Alduin.  I heard her sniffle and saw her have to reach up to wipe at her eyes.  “My boy’s home!” she murmured.

Ah, Nan, don’t do that!  You’ll get me started again!

“You c’mere right now, my boy!” she demanded, grabbing her grandson in a bear hug.  The woman may have been over 90 now, but it hadn’t slowed her down at all, nor made her in anyway frail.  I could hear the audible ‘oof’ from Alduin as he hugged her.

“Heya, Nan.  Sure did miss you.”

He stepped back and Cali stepped forward, a pretty smile on her face.  “Hi, I’m Calysta Clarke.  I’m Alduin’s girlfriend.”

Nan beamed at her.  “Yes you are, dear.  Welcome to our home, child.  Feel free to call me Nan.  Probably should warn you, this bunch is a little on the overwhelming side, so I hope we don’t scare you too badly.”

Alduin laughed.  “Don’t worry, Nan.  I’ve given her plenty of warning about this crew here.”

As Alduin and Cali chatted with Nan, I crept up behind them.  Ok, so maybe I couldn’t resist it anymore.  Nothing like being thrown into the deepend, right?

With a yell of, “You’re mine, little brother!” I leapt on Alduin’s back.  “Hey, this isn’t fair!  Who gave you permission to grow up!?”

Had to hand it to him, he managed to keep his feet.  I heard Calysta let out a tinkling, musical laugh even as Alduin kept me from falling off of his back.  Nan was rolling her eyes.  “My goodness, Luna,” she scolded, though I could see the smile on her face.  I could hear the chuckle rumbling up from his chest.  I leapt off and he turned around to face me.  We just stared at one another for a long moment.

<”Hey, little brother,”> I murmured in his mind.  I had missed this connection.  Distance did affect my abilities.  There was something about being able to talk mind to mind that just accentuated the closeness.

<”It’s good to see you, sis.  Very good.  I… I was worried about you.  We all were.”>

<”I know and I’m sorry about that.  I shouldn’t have worried everyone like that.  I was ashamed, Alduin.  Ashamed and so confused.  A-admitting what I did, to you, especially, was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.  I-I didn’t want it to change how you saw me.”>

<”Luna, I love you.  Nothing will change that and nothing will change how I see you.  You’re my big sister.  Though…”>  I could see that glint in his eyes that meant he was going to say something that I was going to have to smack him for later.  <”You are a little shorter now, aren’t you?”>

I had to laugh, even as I smacked his shoulder.  “Watch it you,” I growled aloud.  Communicating through telepathy was a much quicker form of speaking compared to using speech.  Only a couple seconds had gone by.  I turned around to face Calysta, a big smile on my face.

“Hi, I’m Luna Wyvern.  Welcome to the family, little sister.”