Chapter 9: I’m Just Crewman #6

“Hey Mom?” Ripley was studying the chess board in front of her intently.

“Yes baby?”

“I know that Aunt Jaimie does the gardening and you paint and cook.  Dad’s working on all his requirements, right?  So- what does Uncle Marcus do?”

Ulrike cringed a little.  It wasn’t that she had a problem with explaining things to her daughter, but she knew her husband wouldn’t be happy about it.  “Well, baby.  Marcus has a very important job, you see.  But it’s one I’ll explain to you a little later, ok?”

Ripley’s brow furrowed, but then she nodded slowly.  “Ok, Mom.  I was just hoping you could tell me why he has several kids running around.”

Ulrike’s eyes widened.  “O-oh… well-“  She hurriedly looked for something to keep her daughter’s mind off that.  “I believe that’s check, Rip!”

Ripley looked at the board intently again, her brow furrowing.  Then her head popped up.  “Mom?  What’s that over there?”

“What?  What do you mean, baby?”  Ulrike looked in the direction her daughter pointed.  “I don’t see anything, sweetie.”

Ripley had to hold in the giggle as she quickly switched a couple pieces.  “Oh no?  Sorry, Mom.  Must be losing it.”

Ulrike turned back and looked at the board then at Ripley.  She arched a brow.  “I wasn’t born yesterday, long lady,” she said with a laugh.

Ripley giggled.  “No, guess not, Mom.”  The little girl smiled sweetly.

“Oh, go get ready for school!” Ulrike told her with a laugh.

Still giggling, Ripley went upstairs to grab some breakfast.

You’re a tricky one, aren’t you?

 “Who me, Watcher?  Never.”

Hmph, you don’t fool me, child.  –chuckles—It serves your father right, though.  It’s about time he got a taste of his own medicine.

Ripley giggled again.

Better get to school, darling.

 “Oh, you’re right!  Bye, Watcher!’

Bye, dear.  Have fun!


Marcus sat in the room he shared with Jaimie, deep in thought.

“Hey, Marcus.  Simolean for yer thoughts?” Jaimie asked as she came in.

He smiled at her.  “Hey there, girl.  Not sure they’re worth that much.”  He managed a little chuckle as Jaimie sat on the edge of his bed with him.

“C’mon now, that isn’t like you, hun.  What’s wrong?”

Marcus shrugged.  “I-I’m just- I guess I’m tired of ‘the life’, now.  I’m old and while I still got it-“ He gave her a grin, “I just- I don’t want to break anymore hearts.  The girls are pretty good natured and all- they get this is a Dynasty and all that, but still.  And my kids- I wish they could live here, with us.”

Jaimie took one of his hands in hers.  “I know, honey.  I know.  It’s ok, though.  You know Han said that anytime you wanted to stop, you could.  What brought this on?”

Marcus flushed a little.  “While-“ he swallowed.  “To be honest, there-there’s someone that I want to be with.  Th-that I want to spend my last days with.  I-I just don’t know if she’ll have me or not.”

“O-oh.  I see.”  Jaimie masked the frisson of hurt in her eyes with a smile.  “Who’s the lucky girl?”

“It’s you, sugar,” Marcus said softly.

Jaimie’s face went from hurt, to surprised, to shocked.  Then she began to grin widely.  “Me?”

“Yes you.  We’ve been friends from the beginning.  I could always tell you anythin’, Jaimie.  Anything at all.  I always wanted to help Han.  And I have.  But I realized that I want to spend my last days enjoying life and I can only do that with you.”

“O-oh, Marcus,” she breathed, a single tear tracking down her cheek.  She shut her eyes and leaned against him.  He slid his arm around her and she did the same.  They just sat there for a long moment, enjoying each other’s company.

Marcus leaned back to grin at her, then something cracked in his back and he winced.  “Man, this gettin’ old stuff’s fer the birds!”

“That it is.  Here, let me help ya with that.”  With a smile, Jaimie began to massage his back and shoulder.  Marcus groaned in appreciation.

He stood up after a moment and looked at Jaimie seriously.  “Jaimie, I know you gotta think me crazy, but-“  He had to clear his throat.  “I love you, Jaimie.  We aren’t young anymore, you an’ I, but I know what I feel for you.  I love you, Jaimie Wilburn.”  He got down on one knee and looked up into her eyes.  “Will you spend the rest of our days together, as my wife?”  He pulled the ring from his pocket.

Jaimie’s eyes had grown impossibly wide as she looked at the ring, then at him.  “O-oh!” she managed.  “Yes, Marcus, yes!”  She slid the ring on her finger, admiring it for a moment before she kissed him softly.

With a whoop, Marcus swooped her up into his arms, grinning foolishly at her.  “Marcus!  Put me down!  You’ll hurt yourself!” Jaimie scolded, trying not to laugh as she grabbed onto his neck for dear life.

“Now now, I ain’t so old that I can’t lift my girl into my arms.  Yer light as a father, baby.”

Jaimie laughed and kissed him, not so softly this time.

Marcus set her down gently.  “We’ll have a wedding no one will forget!  I promise you.”

Jaimie looked up at him.  Then she shook her head.  “No, Marcus.  A nice, quiet ceremony, just you and I.  We should do it now.  Why wait?”

“Y-you don’t want a big ceremony?”

“No!  Not at all!  Leave that for the young ‘uns!” she said, cackling a little.

“Oh, thank the Watcher!” Marcus breathed out a sigh, then laughed.  “I figured you’d want a big one and was gonna give ya one.  Well, then, if you don’t, then yer right.  Let’s do it now.  Just you, me, and the beautiful sky out there.  I’ll go change into something appropriate.”

“Me too.  I’ll meet you out at the arch.”


And so, Marcus and Jaimie changed into something more suitable, though to be honest, neither one cared about that.  Then they met outside at the wedding arch where Han and Ulrike had exchanged their vows.  With Han at work, Ripley at school, and Ulrike busy with painting and cooking up a storm, Marcus and Jaimie spoke their vows beneath a clear blue sky, just the two of them.

“Jaimie Wilburn, I promise that from this day forward and until the day that Grim comes for me, I will honor you, cherish you, and support you in all you do.”

“Marcus Flex, I promise that from today onward and even after Grim takes me, I will honor you, cherish you, support you in all you do.  And I promise that I will be the kind of step mother to your children that won’t be seen as a wicked witch!”

That brought a laugh out of Marcus as she kissed his cheek.

The two kissed after their vows, holding each other close.

Congratulations you two.

 Marcus smiled.  “Thanks, Watcher.  You aren’t mad?”

Not at all.  You’ve done wonderfully.  You deserve to be happy now.  Congratulations, Jaimie.

 “Thanks, Watcher.”

Once they spoke their vows, the two went their separate ways for a little while to change and to get back to work.  Jaimie came back outside, intending to work in the garden.  “Jaimie!”  Marcus smiled at her.  “Hello wife.”

“Hello, husband,” she greeted with a grin.

“We should probably tell Han, huh?” Marcus said with a grin.

“Yes, though let’s give it a little time.  He’ll be home soon.  We’ll tell him tomorrow, at breakfast.”

Marcus took her hand in his.  “My wife is a smart woman.”

Jaimie winked.  “Don’t you know it!”


 

Chapter 6: This is a New Day, a New Beginning

Ulrike ran out of the house, glowing.  She forgot her anger at Han- mostly even as she skidded to a stop next to his rocket.  “Han!”

He looked at her warily, wondering how much yelling she was going to do this time.  Not that he didn’t deserve it, but a man (of any species or race) could only take so much abuse from all fronts.  “Ul-ulrike… hi.”

“Hanhanhan!”

“What?  What is it?”  There was a sudden fear.  Was she alright?  She had been pretty ill…

“We’re gonna have a nooboo!”

Han could only stare at her for a moment, his mouth a big round ‘O’.  Then he pulled her to him, hugging her tightly before kissing her senseless.

After a moment, he put her at arm’s length.  “Ulrike… can you ever forgive me?  I-I… I had to try.  I-I thought maybe- maybe if I could talk to-to SOMEONE, maybe I could get my answers.  I-I didn’t want this- thing to hang over our heads.”

Ulrike smiled gently at him.  “I get it, Han.  I do.  I’m a Renegade, remember?  I-I know that when someone tells you not to do something, it’s the first thing you want to do- and that’s just a normal thing.  You- you lost your home.  But- you have a new home now.”  It was left unspoken that he had her- and now he would have a child as well.

“You’re right,” he whispered.  “You’re right.  Ulrike, I-I won’t do something so stupid again.  Y-you… you and the child you carry.  You’ll be my world now.”

“C’mon, let’s go inside.”  They went back into the house, hand in hand.


Han cringed.  “Is Ulrike in the bathroom again, Watcher?”

Afraid so.  The morning sickness hits hardest during the early trimesters.  And it’s hitting your poor wife pretty hard as it is.  I can’t believe how sick you guys have been getting lately!

“Are you feeling better, baby?” Han asked his wife as she emerged from their bedroom to join him at the table.

She nodded.  “Yeah, for now.  It comes and goes.”

Han leaned over. “Be nice to mommy, kiddo.”  Ulrike stood up and Han followed.  He grinned as he leaned down to place to his hands on his wife’s swelling abdomen.  “You’re gonna be the bestest wittle nooboo around!  Aren’t you, sweetie?”

Ulrike grinned.

Ugh, medicine for you pal, soon as you’re done.  Your wife doesn’t need to get sick again. 

He frowned.  “Yeah, need to do that.”


“Can’t believe it, man.  You gonna be a daddy!”

“I know… it-it’s so weird!  And yet- I can’t stop smiling about it, Marcus!”

Marcus gave a raucous laugh.  “Yeah, there’s just- something about it.”  He let out a deep breathe, still running.

Han concentrated on his reps for a moment, then asked tentatively, “You gotten to see any of your little ones lately?”

“Nah, not yet… I plan on making some rounds though.”

Han nodded.

How’s the painting coming along?

 “Well enough.  Helps take my mind off the backache… at least for a while,” Ulrike answered ruefully as she gave her painting a critical onceover.

Ulrike?  What would you think of becoming a full time painter?  You could quit your gallery job, spend your days here painting and still be around for when the nooboo arrives.  We don’t need the money as much and honestly, your paintings sell for more than enough on their own.

Ulrike tilted her head to the side, thinking.  “Actually… I think I’d like that.  I really would.  I only took the job at the gallery to get started, but you’re right.  I would have more time for my own work and be able to be home with our baby.”

I hear Han.  Why don’t you talk it over with him?  See what he thinks?

“There’s my beautiful wife.”  Han was beaming as he looked at Ulrike.  She responded with a flirtatious tilt of her head and a fluttering of her lashes at him.

“I love you,” she murmured.

“And I you,” he responded.  He had to lean down murmur to his wife’s belly.  “I love you too, baby.  I love you very much.  Mommy and daddy can’t wait to meet you.”

“Awww,” Ulrike sniffed.  “So cute!  You’re going to make a great daddy.”  She sighed and stretched, grimacing and letting out a groan as her back ached.

“Oh baby, why didn’t you say anything?  Here, let me see what I can do for ya.”  Han spun her around gently and then began to massage her back and shoulders.

“Uuuuhhhh, that feels so good!  Oh, thank you so much, baby!”  Once he was done, she turned around to wrap her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder.

“Why don’t you get changed?  Get comfortable and we’ll spend the evening relaxing,” Han told her.

“That sounds lovely.”

They found themselves in the sunroom, relaxing as Marcus did his nightly run.  Han had gotten very comfortable, sitting in his skivvies with a glass of milk in hand.

“Hey hey!  Lookin’ good there, mama!” Marcus called out, waving at them both from the treadmill.

“Don’t you know it!” she replied.  Han just laughed.


“Hi, yes, I’m planning a birthday party.  It’s my own.  Turning into an adult.  Yeah, yeah, middle-aged my rear!  Yup, got what we needed.  Wife has made the cake already.  Yup, thanks!”

“Woo!  I’m an adult now!”

–sigh—Yes, but it only got to silver… this timer bug is going to be difficult to maneuver around.  That’s alright though.  We have time yet.

 “Yeah, I guess so.”

Ulrike, cake looks great, honey.

 “Thanks Watcher.”  Ulrike yawned.  “I’m beat.  I think I’m gonna call it a night.”

You do that.  You’ve earned it.  Anytime now and it’ll be time to meet your little one.

 Just as Ulrike went to climb into bed, she caught her breath and let out a sharp cry as something seemed to release inside of her.  “Oooooo!  W-watcher, I-I think it’s time!  M-my water just broke!”

Oh!  Alright, sweetie.  It’s ok.  Let’s get you to the hospital!  Han!  Get your butt moving!  It’s go time!


They arrived at the hospital, Han trying to remain calm, though his voice was about an octave higher than normal and he was talking much louder than necessary.  As Ulrike checked in, Han stood there, looking particularly menacing.  “If anything happens to her-“  He had been checking the computer on occasion and had stumbled upon Carl’s forums.  He’d seen some of the horror stories.  “I swear… I will hurt them like they’ve never been hurt!”

Yeah… I think you’re a bit too highly strung to be in there with her yet… C’mon, Han.  This way.  Don’t worry, Ulrike, I’m right here with you.

 “Th-thanks, Watcher.  This corridor is too darn long!”

I don’t know, sweetie.  Poor design maybe?  Almost there, though!

 Ulrike finally reached the room and changed into the gown provided for her.  She eased herself onto the cold steel table, a shiver running through her.

“Don’t worry Mrs. Galactus.  Everything will be alright,” the Doctor soothed.  He manned the controls, a thin sheen of sweat on his forehead.  He hadn’t quite gotten the hang of these new contraptions. He found the proper setting with a small sigh of relief and hit the button.  But as the machine whirred and the arm went through the slot, the EKG machine blared a warning and something that shouldn’t have been in the grip of the claws was!

“W-watch…er…”  Ulrike let out a gasp and her head lulled to the side.

Oh my God!  Do something you moron! 

Outside the door, there was an all-too familiar voice.  “Ulrike?  Ulrike!”

If you don’t fix this now, I can’t promise I can hold him back!  You are a dead Sim if he comes in and sees her like this!

Frantically, the doctor hit several buttons, his eyes wide in fear.  The orderly peeked outside the doors, putting his life into his own hands just in case Han was still out there.  The machines still blared their warning and Ulrike was still.

Doctor!

Finally, the machine responded to the doctor’s commands and a few moments later, the machine picked up a sinus rhythm.  Ulrike’s eyes opened.  “W-watcher?”

Oh thank the Forum!  You’re ok, Ulrike.  You’re fine, sweetie.  And guess what?  There’s someone here to see you.

A sharp cry split the air and Ulrike turned her head to look into the bassinet by the table.  A beautiful little blue baby stared back at her.

Welcome little Ripley Galactus, the heir to the Dynasty.


 

Chapter 5: With the First Link, the Chain is Forged

I hear you proposed to Ulrike yesterday.

Han looked up from where he was working on his rocket ship.  “Yes I did.  Why?  Is there a problem?”

No, not at all.  I’m happy to hear it in fact.  And it looks like you’re doing well with your little project there as well.

“Yeah, it’s coming along.”

Han… I don’t want to have to repeat myself.  You are not to try and return to Omega 4.  Once you leave this planet, I have no control over anything.

 “So you said before.  Look, I don’t have time for this.  I know what I’m doing, alright?”

Hm… we’ll see.


“How was work today, Han buddy?”

“It was actually pretty good, Marcus.  How was your day?”

Marcus winked at him.  “It was great man.  Thanks for inviting me into the house.  This job is great!”

Han’s brow furrowed.  “Job?  You mean gardening?”

Marcus laughed uproariously.  “No, this is a different kind of sowin’ if ya know what I mean!”

Han only looked bewildered.  “No… I don’t.”

“Wait… I thought you had finished readin’ the book,” Marcus said, realizing he wasn’t joking.

“Um, well… I skimmed some parts, I guess…”

Marcus’s eyes widened.  “Whoa, dude!  That’s- well, dangerous, isn’t it?”

“I read all the important parts!  I know what I have to do,” Han ground out, sounding defensive.  It was a good thing that the Watcher wasn’t around.  He could only imagine the earful he’d get.  “I’ll go back and reread it after the wedding.  Anyway, so tell me.  What’s your job?”

Marcus looked around quickly, then leaned in close.  “I make sure the town doesn’t die later on in the generations.  I uh, visit the eligible ladies and we-“  He winked at Han, “get busy with ‘pollinatin’.”

Han could only gap at him.  “Y-you… you procreate with a bunch of the females?”

“In a manner of speakin’, that’s exactly what I do.”

“Wait… that young woman that was here just yesterday… the pregnant one.  That-“

Marcus nodded.  “Yup, Candy’s carryin’ my baby.”

Han sat there for a moment, fuming.  He wasn’t mad at Marcus.  Not really.  He was angry with the Watcher.  Then again, he couldn’t say a word because then she’d know he hadn’t read the blerghing book!  Finally, he looked at Marcus.  “Does it- bother you?”

Marcus shrugged one shoulder.  “A little, maybe.  I mean, I’ve never been one fer the ol’ ball’n’chain myself, not like you pal.  Do I like going from one woman to another?  Not as much.  But hey, it helps you out later on, keeps people in the houses around town.  Can be hard to get new people in later on down the line.”

“I-I see…  Alright, well.  I do wish you luck.  And Marcus?  Don’t let the Watcher force you into anything you don’t wanna do.  If you wanna stop, tell her so.”

Marcus nodded.  “Got it.”  He grinned.  “Don’t you worry none.  I got this.  I’m gonna enjoy myself before I got old.”

Han gave an absent nod and went back to eating, lost in thought.


The day of their wedding dawned just like all the others, though Han would have said the sun was brighter, the air crisper, the birdsong louder.  He walked out of the house, taking a deep breath and letting out a sigh.

You’re in a better mood, at least, than you have been.

Not even the Watcher could ruin his mood.  “Yeah, well, I get to make Ulrike mine today.  We’ll be linked from this day forward.”

Yes, this is very true.  Perhaps she’ll be able to keep you in line better…

He glared up at the sky for a moment, then shook his head.  He wouldn’t fight with her, not today.  Then he heard a noise, a noise that took him back.  “What the-“

No!  On her wedding day!  Seriously!  Ooooo, when I get a hold of the High Council… she wasn’t even inoculated!

“Ulrike!!!”  Han sprinted across the lawn, watching the shape of the spaceship recede.  “No!  Ulrike!”

It’s ok, Han.  They’ll bring her back. 

“They?  Who was that?”

The High Council from Sixam sends a scouting party every so often to keep an eye on the Sims on this planet.  Some of them have even made their home here, somewhat like you, though for them, it’s by choice.  She’ll be alright.

 “She better be!” he growled.

Just wait for a little while.  She’ll be back.


You’re back!  Are you alright?

 “I-I feel a little light-headed,” Ulrike replied, “b-but I think I’m ok.  I didn’t miss the wedding did I!?”

No, you’re just in time.  Let me go tell, Han and then we can get things started!  Go change, alright?

She nodded and ran off.  She came back just in time to greet the first guests.  “Thank you so much for coming!”

Ulrike… wait a minute, sweetie, are you ok?  What- Oh, the High Council is sooo going to hear about this!  You poor thing!


“What?  What is it?  Ulrike?  Oh, my poor urdona!” Han had stepped out of the house after hearing his bride was back, safe and sound.

“It’s ok, Han.  I’m fine.”  Ulrike smiled brightly at him.  “I’ll be fine.  Let’s get married, ok?”

Though Han wanted nothing more than to wed Ulrike and make her his mate, he was worried for her.  But he couldn’t deny her so he nodded.  “You got it, my love.”

As the couple stood in front of the wedding arch at the edge of the property, Han could only swallow.  “Y-you are just- I don’t even have the words for how beautiful you are, Ulrike.”

“Oh, Han.  I-I’m so happy today!  I-I never imagined I’d have a wedding like this.”

“From this day forward, I promise to love you and cherish everything you are.  I swear that I will be your partner in all things and support you in everything you do,” Han vowed.

“From this day forward, I promise to you and cherish you, to give everything in me to see you succeed.  I will support you in any way you need and be your best friend now and forever.”  Ulrike leaned forward to softly kiss Han’s cheek.

As she stepped back, the world began to spin around her and she almost fell.  “Ulrike!” Han cried out.  “Ulrike, are you alright?  Let me get you to a doctor!”

“No!  No, I’m fine.  Please, Han.  I want to marry you.”

He swallowed.  “Alright, but as soon as we’re done, you need to go to bed!”

“Alright, love.  Alright.”

The two finished their vows and became husband and wife.

Rather than kiss his new wife, Han instead pulled Ulrike close for a gentle hug.  He was worried for her, but she seemed to so badly want to stay for the wedding.

She stayed for cake, though she had to sit down because she’d gotten dizzy yet again.

After Han and Ulrike had shared their first piece, Ulrike went to go lay down, sighing.  She felt bad.  Han went with her to tuck her in.  He had every intention of letting her rest, but as had already been proven, he had a very hard time denying her anything, so they both changed and celebrated their wedding night.


Where in the Simverse do you think you’re going, Han!?

“I have an appointment… I need to go home, Watcher!”

You just got MARRIED!?  You’re going to get yourself killed!  Don’t be a fool!

“I have to find out who set me up!” he snarled back.  He knew the Watcher couldn’t really stop him, so giving her his most obnoxious grin, he waved good bye as he climbed into his ship.

You idiot!  Han, don’t do this!  What about Ulrike?!

But he didn’t answer her.  The rockets fired and the ship was airborn.

Frantically, the Watcher monitored communications.  “-ship, you are not authorized.  Turn back or be shot down.”  The impersonal voice of the Omega 4’s planetary defense systems made the Watcher growl and utter a few expletives.  “Unknown ship, you have been warned!”

“Yeah, yeah.”  Han’s voice came out a little different over the radio frequency.  “I’m here on business.  This is Pr-  Whoa!  Hey, don’t fire!”

Ugh!  Get out of there!

The Watcher heard Han curse a bit in his native tongue, then the radio went dead, static echoing in the quiet.  N-no… Han!

Just as she had given up hope, she heard a horrific noise and zoomed back out.  The shape that was plummeting back to Earth was recognizable, but only barely.  Even as hope flared, the ship was coming in far too fast and it hit the ground with an ear-splitting, earth-rocking impact, pieces of ship and debris flying everywhere!

HAAAANNNNNNN!!!  The Watcher screamed his name again, but there was no response except for the crackling of the flames over the shattered hull…

Just as the Watcher was going to have to share the terrible news with Ulrike, there was a bit of a crash and coughing and a shape appeared amongst the wreckage.

“Ugh,” Han groaned as he struggled to pull himself from beneath the debris.

Han!  Oh Thank Carl and Metro and Pam!  You’re alive!  I can’t believe it!  Now I’m going to KILL you!  You stupid, idiotic-

 “Aww, I know you’re happy to see me, Watcher.”  He shook himself off and then stood there, looking far too pleased with himself.


You had better not be thinking of returning!  Did you learn NOTHING from your last try!?

 “Oh, so you’re speaking to me again?” he asked, still concentrating on tightening the rivet he was working on.

I wanted to know how your talk with Ulrike went. 

 “I’m sure you know very well how it went… she was mad enough that I almost wished the crash had finished me off…”  Han sighed.  “Look, I know I screwed up, ok?  I won’t be trying to go back.  We’ll do this your way…”

Good. Is Ulrike still mad at you?

“Yeah… she hasn’t spoken to me since I told her either…”

Ah… well, let me go see how she’s doing.


Ulrike?  How are you doing?

Ulrike sat on their bed and then hastily wiped tears away.  “I-I… Oh Watcher, what was he thinking?!  He-he almost died!”

I know, sweetie.  I know.  He was foolish.  But you know he loves you.  I think he’s been punished enough, don’t you?

“I- maybe… I, will you help me with something?  I- um… I’m well- late.  I was going to take a test.  Will you be with me when I take it?”

Of course, Ulrike!  You don’t even have to ask.  C’mon then.  Let’s see.

Ulrike went into the bathroom and grabbed the pregnancy test she’d bought.  There was a nervous silence as both she and the Watcher waited.  “Watcher, Watcher!  Look!  It’s positive!”


 

Chapter 3: Live Long and Prosper

“You look like you got something on your mind, lad.  What is it?” Kade asked, looking sideways at Han on the other end of the couch.

Han started and then looked over at the gardener.  “I uh… met someone, Kade.  I-I can’t seem to get her out of my mind.”

Kade laughed.  “A pretty woman’ll do that, son.  Did you get her number?”

Han had the grace to blush a little.  “Um, yeah.”

“You gonna call her?”

“I-I don’t know.  Maybe…”

“Let me give ya a little advice: it’s better to regret what you did do, than what you didn’t, alright?”

Han’s brow furrowed.  “Yeah… I guess.”

Kade grinned and stood.  “Well, I’m gettin’ old, so I’m gonna head to bed.  Have a good night, lad.”

“Night, Kade.”


Didn’t you learn your lesson the last time?

 “I’m doing much better, I promise.  That and it helps clear my head a bit.  Don’t be such a-a… what’s the term?  Worrywart?  Something like that.”

Hm… I hope so.  Wouldn’t want any unfortunate accidents, would we? 

“Yeah, yeah.”


Oh dear, Kade!  I didn’t realize your cowplant had grown up… Just be careful with him.

 

“Oh don’t worry, Watcher.  Rover here won’t hurt anyone!”

Rover?  Um, alright… Sims!


You two look as if you’ve hit it off.

 “Hey Watcher!  How’s it hangin’?”  Marcus grinned.

“Ain’t he a trip, Watcher?” Jaimie asked with a chuckle.

Hm, he’s something alright.  I’ll leave you to it.  Keep him out of trouble, Jaimie.

 “You got it!”


Han?  You have a visitor.

He looked up from the piece he was working on, this time he was clothed.  “A visitor?  Really?”

Mhm.

Intrigued, he left the workbench and stepped outside.  When he saw his visitor, he froze.  “Ulrike…”

She smiled at him.  “Hello Han.  I got a little tired of waiting.  I’d heard you were pretty busy, so thought I’d come and check on you myself.”

Han swallowed.  All thoughts had flown out of his head.  Without thinking, he opened up his mind, something he’d been warned about doing around Sims.  But it was too late!  Thoughts and feelings flowed between them in a matter of seconds, an intense flood that staggered them both for a moment.

Ulrike shook her head, trying to clear it.  She looked at Han intensely.  “Y-you’re an alien!”

Han tried to smile, though it was more of a grimace.  “Um… yes?”

“That’s really cool!  Everyone said I was crazy to think there were aliens, but… wow!”

“Wait… you aren’t… freaked out?”

“Freaked out?  No, of course not!  I think it’s really cool!”

“Y-you do?”  He couldn’t help but grin.  He had been worried about that.  It was one reason he hadn’t ventured out much.  No one in the house really cared about him being an alien, but he’d heard some insane stories about how Sims reacted.  The fact that Ulrike thought it was ‘cool’ seemed to be a sign!  He’d been careful to keep his glow down to a minimum, but this time he didn’t care.

“Poor thing,” she murmured.  “You ok, Han?”  She gave him a hug, having felt and seen some of what he had been feeling earlier.

“Yeah, yeah I am.  You uh, wanna stick around for a bit tonight?”

She lowered her gaze a little, looking at him through her long dark lashes.  “Sure, I’d like that.”


“Morning beautiful,” Han murmured to Ulrike.

“Hi yourself, handsome.”

“Thanks for hanging out.  Sorry to keep you so long.”

Ulrike laughed.  “I hardly noticed the time.  Thanks for having me.”  She wrapped her arms around him.

Hello Kade.  What do you see?


“W-watcher… It-it’s that time.  The Reaper is coming.  Y-you take care of Han, ok?  T-tell him I’m glad to have been a part of his family, even if only for a little while.  So-so tired.”

O-oh, Kade… Oh, I’m so sorry.

“Now, now.  N-none of that.  Y-you look after him.  And you make sure he listens to you.  And Watcher?”

Y-yes?

“Make sure he’s happy.”

I’ll-I’ll try,  Kade.

 

“What’s going on here?” Han came running over the grass, looking concerned.  Then he saw Kade on the ground.  “K-kade?  C’mon, man.  Thi-this isn’t funny!  Get up!” His hand went to his mouth as the realization that he was losing one of the only people in the world who had really believed in him, even when he hadn’t believed in himself.

“Han?  What is it?”  Ulrike was running toward them.

“Ah, man, not Kade!” Marcus exclaimed, not quite able to disguise the sniffle.

“Oh, Kade,” Jaimie whispered, tears in her eyes.

“Oh-oh, dear.  Oh Han… I-I’m sorry.”  Ulrike had talked to Kade a bit the previous night and she had seen how close he had been with Han.

Grim, if-if you could please hurry… this is agony.  He-he was a good man. 

 “Yes, Watcher, I see that here.  Don’t worry, he will be well taken care of.  You are right, he was a very good man.”  The Grim Reaper’s scythe swiped down, severing Kade’s soul from his body.  “I am sorry for your loss.  I am- only doing my job.”

“We know, Grim,” Jaimie told him gruffly.  “But… your job surely sucks.”

“That it does.”

RIP Kade Cotter.  You will be dearly missed.


 

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…


 

Interlude Four: The Darkness Thickens

Bridgeport, a few weeks after Alaric’s death


 

The city’s lights faded away in the rearview mirror of the expensive car.

Belisama Donovan sat behind the wheel, her grip on the steering wheel made her knuckles white.  She had thought about ignoring this summons.  Had actually contemplated just ignoring and doing what she wanted.  But right on the heels of that thought was the possible consequences from ignoring the summons.  Though she hated to admit it, those thoughts sent a shiver down her spine.  And so, she found herself following a winding road out of the city.

It looked like nothing more than a small stone shack on the far outskirts of the city.  But looks could be deceiving.  Bridgeport was home to one of the world’s only super, super max security prison facility.  It was the kind of place that was used to house supernaturals.  The only place that could, aside from the Netherworld, anyway.  Belisama looked disdainfully at the shack façade as she climbed out of her car.  She walked through the double doors into the barren interior.  In front of her was an elevator.

She rode it down and instinctively knew that they were several stories below the surface.  The wards, both technological and magical, made her skin crawl.  Hmph, she’s the one locked up like a rat in a cage and she has the nerve to summon me like a wayward child!

She went through the security station.  There were no guards here.  There didn’t need to be.  Those wards were more than enough to keep the inmates in line.  And if by some miracle, they managed to escape, the unseen guards would take care of them.

Another shudder ran over Belisama’s flesh, raising goosebumps along her arms.  She sauntered through the double doors in front of her.

There was almost a sucking sound, as if the next little room was some sort of a vacuum.  Then she was through the last set of double doors, a huge window looking through into a room on the other side.

The woman on the cot had been waiting for this visitor.  She didn’t need to look to know it was her.  Her energy was only too familiar.  Elvira supposed it was better late than never, though the lack of obedience would need to be dealt with.

Belisama looked around, that unmistakable sneer on her face.  “How the mighty have fallen,” she murmured, though not even she was brave enough to say it any louder.  She watched out of the corner of her eye as Elvira levered herself off the dingy cot in the corner of the small cell.

Elvira wanted to wipe the smirk off the arrogant chit’s face, but that would have to wait.  They had much to discuss first.

The elder vampire matriarch went and sat down in the small chair in the cell, steepling her hands in front of her as she rested her elbows on her knees.  “I’m glad you could finally join me,” she murmured.  She had no need to raise her voice.  She would be heard.  Belisama had gone right up to the glass, peering in.

That voice… it sent a chill down Belisama’s spine.  Her mother in law had always been able to do that.  The power seemed to roll off Elvira Slayer in waves.  One could forget it for short periods, but never when they were in her presence.  That thought of defiance, of refusing to sit, flew out of Belisama’s mind.  She took the seat, even as Elvira stood up, her arms crossed over her chest.

“Good girl,” Elvira murmured.  “Now, shall we get down to business?”

“That would be appreciated.”  Belisama managed to inject enough disdain in there to make it clear what she thought of being summoned there, yet Elvira had to admire her pluck.  At least for a short amount of time.

“Word has reached me that you plan on traveling to Monte Vista.  Didn’t I make myself clear already?  Any moves against the Wyverns are to be made only with my express permission.”

Belisama’s eyes narrowed dangerously.  “I see your network is as strong as ever.  There’s no point in lying.  Yes, I plan on going there.  I plan on ripping Luna Wyvern’s heart out of her chest while that traitor watches.”

Elvira sneered.  “Do you even have any idea who you’re dealing with?  The Wyverns are powerful.  More powerful than you can imagine.  And their home is surrounded by wards.  Wards that will turn you to dust before you could attempt to step across the threshold.”

“You’d let them get away with they have!?” Belisama hissed, clenching her hands into fists.  “They killed your son, my husband!”  Fury and what might have been grief colored her pale cheeks.

“I’m well aware of what they’ve done.”  Elvira’s voice was as cold as an Arctic wind and her eyes flashed dangerously.  “They will pay, in due time.  But touching them in their home territory is not only foolish but dangerous.  I gave those orders for a reason.  Don’t you think I would have already taken care of them by now if caution wasn’t needed?”

“I want her dead!” Belisama exploded.  “She deserves to die for what she did!  Alaric tried to protect her and it got him killed!”

She had begun to rise from her chair but then dropped back in shock as the lights all around her went out.  Elvira hadn’t moved.  But all the lights had simply died… Belisama knew fear then.  Elvira could manipulate things in this place?

“Yes, she deserves to die,” Elvira continued, as if nothing untoward had occurred.  “They all do for their interference.  I have already begun to ensure that, but the fact remains that attacking them on their home turf is out of the question.  Disobey me in this at your own peril, Belisama.  My name, nor my power can protect you in Monte Vista.”

Belisama knew a dismissal when she heard it and she was only too happy to make a beeline for the door.  She couldn’t help looking over her shoulder as if something monster was behind her.  But even as she left Elvira’s presence, fury and something akin to shame assailed her.  How dare that woman order her about like some dog.  She had a right to avenge her husband’s death.  So their home was warded.  There were other ways to get to someone.


 

Elvira watched Belisama’s retreat with the same stony expression.  Only once she could feel the girl leave the premises did she allow the malicious smile to cross her lips.  The seeds had been planted.  She knew Belisama better than the girl knew herself.  Even terrified, the girl’s rebellious streak and need to prove that she was her own boss would send her running to Monte Vista.  Elvira very much doubted Belisama would succeed in her mission, though even if the girl managed to do half of what she wanted, it would be worth it.  And Elvira had no doubt that the Wyverns would rid her of the nuisance that Belisama had become.  It was killing two birds with one stone, as far as she saw it.  And if Belisama managed to kill Luna Wyvern?  All the better.

Her eyes glowed red in the absence of light and the abyss seemed to look back.


 

Chapter 39: Unbreakable Bonds

A/N: Ok, first off, sorry, got a bit wordy on this chapter lol and not as many screenshots to go with the words.  Still, hope you enjoy it.  HUGE shoutout to Miss Ivane once again.  Head to the link on the right side of the page to check out Alduin and Cali’s adventures and figure out just what’s going on with Alduin!  We did a lot of collaboration with this chapter.  In fact, the conversation between Cali and Luna is all her and I going back and forth.  So definitely check it out and I hope you enjoy!

So, our child still refuses to appear.  I was hoping I could avoid a C-section but if our little one doesn’t decide to show themselves soon, I go in next week for the cesarean.  I was eating some of my Nan’s apple pancakes (she makes some of the best pancakes, really.  Why yes, pancakes have been one of my cravings, can ya tell?).  Pop had scored a plate of them too, while Nan had grabbed some of the leftover Goopy Carbonara.  “Don’t worry, sweetie.  It’ll be ok,” Nan told me.  “Babies seem to have their own set schedules and never mind what those who are waiting for them want.”

Pop nodded his agreement.  “Yes, your mother decided she was going to come a wee bit early… on our prom night.”  He grinned at Nan, a shared memory that made Nan chuckle.

“Yes, she did.  And your Pop here… he managed to panic so much that he forgot we weren’t going to prom.  Had even changed into his tux.  So he looked pretty handsome in the hospital room, though.”

Pop chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck.  “Thought I was prepared.  Turns out, not so much.”

I grinned.  I’d heard the story a couple times.  But I never actually tired of hearing it.  “Yeah, I know.  I just… want to hold them so much, ya know?”

“Oh we know, sweetie,” Nan murmured, sympathy tinging her voice.  “We know.  You will soon, though.”  She grinned again.  “We’re all looking forward to your little one’s arrival.”

“Your mother just told me of a dream she had the other night about getting to hold her first grandchild,” Pop said with a grin.  “I think she’s just as anxious as you are.”

I grimaced, then laughed.  “Yeah, she and Dad both.  They’re trying to hide it, but I can tell.”  Just the other morning, Dad and I had been chatting after a quick snack.  Well, I had had the snack.  Dad, I think, just wanted to talk.

“You’re taking your vitamins, still right?”

“Yes, Dad.  I’m still taking them.  If I don’t, Roark comes in, shaking the bottle and giving me that look of his…”

He laughed.  “Good for him.  He’s only looking after you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I grumbled.  “I know, I know.  Just tired of feeling like a beached whale.”

I could tell Dad was fighting to keep from grinning.  “Still smarting a little over the lecture he gave you the other day?”


 

The incident Dad was talking about happened a few days ago.  I’d noticed that the bathroom attached to our bedroom was filthy.  Roark’s first day at the base here had been earlier in the week, so he’d been unable to clean anything.  Without really thinking anything of it, I decided it was time to fix the leak in the shower.  So I took a monkey wrench and began tightening the connections.

I made a little bit of a mess on the floor, so I cleaned that up.

And since I was there, might as well clean the toilet right?

Except… well, when Roark got home and found me bending over so precariously over the toilet, he had a few choice words for me.  “What under the Plumbob are you doing?” he growled at me.

I have to admit that I jumped a bit and whirled around.  My cheeks heated and I glared at him.  “You don’t need to scare me!”

“Luna,” he ground out, obviously trying to find patience.  “You are nine months pregnant.  What are you doing in here?  Did you actually fix the shower too?”  He smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand.  “She’s trying to give me a heart attack,” he muttered, more to himself than me.

“Wait, you’re a vampire… can you even have a heart attack?” I asked him, smiling widely.

He just gave me a dark stare.

“You can’t be doing this!” he finally exploded.  “Your doctor- who happens to be your father-, your mother, your grandmother and grandfather have all told you to take it easy.  Is this taking it easy?”

“I’m not a child, Roark,” I told him in a low voice, my eyes narrowing.  I was a grown woman, yet he made me feel like I was back in high school again, getting a lecture from one of my teachers for disrupting class or something.

He blew out a breath and stepped toward me, putting both hands around my waist as he stared into my eyes.  “No, you aren’t.  That’s true.  You’re my wife.  My very pregnant, very stubborn wife.”

I framed his face with my hands, pursing my lips a little.  “I know you mean well.  And I know I probably shouldn’t be doing things like that at this stage.  Though… if it would induce labor, I’m all for it, really-“

“Luna…” he warned, his voice low, though I could see the smirk he tried to hide.

I grinned at him.  “I honestly didn’t think anything of it, babe.  Really.  It wasn’t like I was defying orders… I just didn’t think anything of it.  I’d been meaning to fix the leak and the bathroom needed a good scrub down.  So I just did it.”

He frowned.  “And what if you had fallen?”  I opened my mouth to retort that I hadn’t fallen but the look on his face stopped me.  “Luna, I couldn’t take it if anything happened to you, or to our baby.  I know nothing did and I’m very grateful for that.  But the fact is, it could have.  You’re already almost three weeks over-do.  And you said yourself your balance isn’t at its best, right?”

I sighed.  “No, no it isn’t.  I’m sorry, ok?  I’ll be a good little girl.”

“Oh, c’mon.  Don’t be like that, please.”  He stepped back a bit and placed his hand on my very swollen stomach.  “Hey little one, tell your mom that she needs to take care of herself, huh?  She’s gotta be ready for when you decide you’re ready to face the world.”

The expression on his face as he spoke to the life that was growing within me, then when he looked up at my face had me swallowing back any comment as well as a few tears.  I know he worries about me.  Worries about our child.  I also know I’m not the easiest person to deal with at times, either.  So I have to give him a lot of credit.  If I were him, I might have throttled me quite a while ago.


 

I grimaced.  “No.  No, I know he was right.  Though if you tell him I said that, I will make you pay for it, Dad.  Just so you know.”

Dad snorted.  “Uh huh.  Sure, baby girl.  Whatever you say.”  He got up and patted me on the head.  “Don’t worry, you’ll get to hold your little one soon enough.”  Roark and I had purposefully waited to find out the sex of the baby.  We wanted to be surprised.  Of course, we were hoping to have already met our little one by this time.  They had other plans, apparently.


 

In other news, Cyn has settled in quite nicely.  She really loves her own little space.

We added a desk for her at her request, so she has a place to put her laptop that she brought with her.  And Mom and Dad even had an extra washer and dryer installed in the garage for her to use.

She’s been spending most of her time up there, on her own.  She’s never had a place just to herself.  Roark was a bit too leery of it because of being in Bridgeport.  That place wasn’t easy on her.  Since she’s been here, she’s only had a few episodes and most of them she’s been able to take care of herself.

Roark went up to visit with her.  He says she seems quite content there.


 

All I can think about when I lay down to sleep is the baby.

Roark holds me as we fall asleep.  Only three more days, and then it’s time for the C-section.  I really shouldn’t be this worried.  Dad’s told me everything is fine.  I’m healthy and all the sonograms have assured us that the baby’s healthy too.  I just… want to hold my baby.  Patience has never been one of my virtues, if you couldn’t tell.

Knowing I’ve been having trouble sleeping, Roark suggested we do look at the night sky for a little while.  This time, he made sure I wore more appropriate attire.  It was still definitely cold, though it wasn’t quite as bad as it had been.  Spring would be there before too long.  I cuddled close to my husband’s side.  Husband… I still find it a little surreal to call Roark that.

It was a pretty night, clear skies with a small crescent of a moon.  I’d always loved the outdoors.  And there was something about getting to share it like that with Roark that took my breath away.  I giggled at something he’d whispered in my ear, when I froze.

A sob escaped my throat.  Images flashed through my mind.  I heard two gunshots, and saw my brother fall.  There was darkness, then there was a strange red glow.  The images stopped and I found myself in my husband’s arms as he carried me inside to our room.  “Roark,” I whispered.  “Al-alduin.  Something happened to my brother!”

He looked down at me as he laid me on our bed.  Worry creased his brow.  “You just lay here.  I’ll go talk with Jeff and Draco.  We’ll make some calls.  We’ll see if we can’t figure out what’s wrong.  Are you ok, Luna?  You’re awfully pale.”

I sat up and nodded.  “I’m fine, I want to come with you-“  I stood up and I could feel something loosen within me.  My eyes widened and I grabbed at my stomach.  “Roark,” I drew in a pained breath.  “Roark, the baby… my water just broke!”

He whirled around, his eyes as wide as saucers.  “Wait, what?  NOW?!”

“Yes now!” I shouted, a scream ripping from my throat.

Leave it to my child to choose NOW to decide to make their appearance.  After that first initial panic, Roark got it together.  He called for my Dad and Mom who came running.  They knew the gameplan.  Mom already had my bag ready.  Roark led me out the door, acting like a bit of a drill sergeant.

He helped me into his truck; it had 4-wheel drive and would be the only thing that would get us through all the snow still on the ground.  As he drove, his knuckles white on the steering wheel, he kept shooting me glances.

“Breathe, baby, breathe.  That’s it, in and out,” he coached, his voice soothing.  I had tears running down my face.  All I could think about was my brother.  I knew the vision for what it was: I’d seen something happen to him.  It wasn’t a vision of the future.  It had actually happened.  But even as I thought about that, the pain in my abdomen and other regions ripped another scream from my throat.  I had to concentrate.  I couldn’t do anything for Alduin right now.  Oh Watcher… Alduin, you had better be alright…

We got to the hospital in one piece and I waddled my way through the front door, Roark right there with me.

The staff came with a wheelchair and wheeled me off to the room.  The contractions were getting worse.  The pain made me hazy.  They got me into the room.  I’ll spare you the details here.  I have to say, Roark was a champ.  I owe that man several apologies.  It’s a good thing vampires are more resilient.  I’m pretty sure I would have broken his hand otherwise.  And I know I told him if he told me to breath one more time, I was going to beat him with the nearest blunt object.  But we survived it.  After close to six excruciating hours of solid pushing, our son, Ryu Alaric Wyvern, was born.

I wanted out of there as quickly as possible.  I wanted to get home.  Since Dad is Chief of Surgery at the hospital, there wasn’t a lot of arguing they could do.  So Roark and I took our son home.  We got back and I laid him in the crib.  The same crib that I had slept in when my parents brought me home.

Once I had laid my son down, I went out of the nursery.  Pop, Dad, and Roark were there.

“Has anyone heard from Alduin?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.

“Not yet, baby,” Dad confirmed.  He looked worried.  “Can you sense anything else?”

I shook my head.  After that first initial vision, there had been a tightness in my chest, like I couldn’t breathe.  Even after I’d given birth, I’d felt it.  But now…  I frowned and tried to concentrate.  It was hard to lower my shields.  I’d spent a lot of time learning how to put them in place.  Taking them down fully required effort.  But as they came down, I saw my brother laying on a bed, a young woman hovering over him.  I opened my eyes and blinked rapidly.  “I-I think he’s ok…”  I took out my phone.  “I’m going to call him.”

I walked out to the kitchen, my hands trembling as I hit the speed dial again.

The phone rang four times.  My heart sank with each ring.  Until I heard it pick up.  I almost cheered until I heard a very tentative- and very female- voice answer, “Hello?”

“My brother… This is Luna.  Is my brother ok?”

There was no answer for a long moment.  “Please… is he alright?”

I could hear the woman on the other end of the line- Cali.  This had to be Cali, the girl Alduin had told me about.  “I’m not sure exactly what happened, Luna,” she responded, “but he was shot last night.”

I had all I could do not to let out a wail.  Alduin… my little brother…  I was shaking, but I couldn’t make a sound.  She rushed on a little bit.  “I don’t know who did it… I just… saw him… and…”  Her voice broke.  I could tell she was on the verge of tears, maybe a total breakdown.

So I had to keep my voice steady, even a little soothing.  “What condition is he in now, Cali?  This is Cali, right?”

“Yes. I’m Calysta… He’s still unconscious, but he’s… recovering. The gunshots are… gone.  We’re back at the dorm.”

My eyes widened and I pinched the bridge of my nose.  In some way, that made sense.  It seemed everything was ok.  That pressure in my chest had disappeared and I didn’t feel anything from Alduin.  Yet I could still feel him, where I hadn’t been able to before.  I had to pull in a deep breath.  “Ok, back up.  Start at the beginning, ok?  What happened to my brother?”

I could hear a deep gulp of breath and when she began talking, I could barely keep up with the words.  “We were just hanging out at the theater.  Then he just asked me to run.  I was outside and I heard gunshots and I just ran in and there were these two guys screaming in frint… and then I saw Alduin-“  Here, her voice splintered, sounding shattered, “…there was blood all over the place.  He was still conscious and I just held him and…”  She stopped.  My own heart was hammering hard enough that I thought it would crack a rib.  “He died, Luna,” the girl whispered.  “Alduin died.”  I saw black for a moment.  Darkness closed over my eyes.  I knew she spoke truth.

I didn’t even recognize my own voice when I asked, “”What happened next, Calysta?”  She had told me he was alive.  So something had to have happened.  I wasn’t sure what, other than knowing my brother’s abilities with the spirit realm.

“It’s going to sound crazy…”  There was a lot of hesitation in her voice.  It was like she was afraid I wouldn’t believe her.  I waited.  As I listened, I realized how hard all this must have been on her.  The emotion in her voice… she loved my brother.  I didn’t need to be telepathic to tell that.  So I waited and let her get it out.  “…but someone I know came to the scene… T-they helped him.  They opened a way for him”

She hesitated, her voice breaking again.  “…I’m waiting for him to come back. Their magic worked. He’s breathing… The gunshot wounds are gone…”

My mind whirled around.  A door through the Netherworld.  It would have been the only way.  Cali sounded like she needed assurances as if she couldn’t really believe what she had seen with her own eyes.  Though I was holding tears of fear and relief back myself, I kept my voice steady.  “Alduin’s a Wyvern.  He’ll be ok.  He’ll come back.  Just give him a little time.  He’s got you to come back to.”  I let out a breath.  “Cali, when he wakes up, give him a message from me.  H-he has a little nephew now.  He’ll need to come and see him as soon as he has a chance ok?”

“Okay.”  Her voice sounded like that of a child and I knew she must have been going out of her mind with worry. “I’ll let him know, Luna.”

“You do that.  And Cali?  Thank you.  Go on, you’ll want to be there WHEN he wakes up.”  I hung the phone up and just stood there, swaying.

The tears that I had hidden from Cali swept down over my cheeks as I let it all out.  Alduin was alive.  He’d come back to us…  I remembered when he was just a little guy and I could hold him in my arms…

Someone had shot my little brother… I was going to find out who.  And there would be hell to pay.

I turned around and there was Roark.  He took one look at me and opened his arms.  I ran into them and buried my head against his chest, the sobs wracking my body.  He just picked me up and carried me to bed, holding me as I let it out.  I fell asleep with him holding me close.


 

Interlude Three: Wrath of the Dragon Queen, Part 2

David enjoyed the cool air of the evening as it swirled around him and his wife.  His gaze was pointed up to the sky but he was only too aware of her next to him.  Since he had awoken in Simgardheim- that was the name of this place, a place where the Gods of Simanity resided- he’d actually become used to quite a lot.  It was a protected world, he’d found out, one filled with wonder, but also with dangers of its own.  The first “person” he’d encountered had been Lyall.  She’d smiled at him and welcomed him to his new home.  He had been so confused, he hadn’t had a thought in his head, let alone been able to speak.  “Don’t worry,” the Goddess had told him.  “Your wife will along shortly.”

Lyall had spoken the truth.  He had been afraid that it had been a dream, that his life with Celestia might have been some hallucination.  He’d always been able to feel her, her vibrancy and her energy.  He had stood in front of the easel Lyall and provided and lost himself for a little while, trying to make sense of things, a part of him feeling as if he were missing something vital.  Then… in a moment of perfect clarity, everything righted itself.  He’d turned… and there she was.  His Dragon Queen.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed since they’d both awoken here, since they’d… well, died.  It was a pretty distinct memory in his mind.  He missed his family, but being able to watch them, even from afar helped a little, though worry marred his countenance a little.  The undercurrents in Simgardheim were vast and bound to pull the unwary below and would drown them quickly.  It wasn’t much different from the Sim Realm, really, in that regard anyway.  With a quiet sigh, he leaned back a bit and just looked up at the gorgeous night sky, his wife beside him.

They had sat there in silence for a long time, neither really needing words.  But David felt compelled to ask after a long moment, “Thanatos is due to arrive soon, right?”

His wife nodded slowly.  “Yes.  I’ll know when he does.”

“Celestia…” he murmured, hesitating for a moment.  She turned her head a little to look at him out of the corner of her eye.

“Yes, love?”

“Are you sure about this?”

“I am, David.  I am.”  She turned her gaze back up to the night sky, letting her husband absorb that.  He gripped the hand that was beneath his securely and let the time slip away.


It wasn’t long though, before Celestia sensed Thanatos’s presence.  David had gone to another part of the large mansion to wait for her.  This business was hers alone to deal with.  She sat in the office, the same office that she had met Lyall in when all this began.  The irony of it was not lost on her.  Here she was again, this time cast in Lyall’s place.  The door opened as she sat lost in thought and in walked Thanatos, the God of Death.

Slowly, Celestia stood up, her face a blank mask even as the dark hood came up, looking at her.  She couldn’t see any eyes, but she didn’t need to.  She could feel the way he measured her.  “Celestia,” he intoned, his voice a dark resonance that seemed to echo within all that darkness.

“Thanatos,” she murmured with a slight incline of her head.

Silence reigned for a long moment as the two studied one another, neither wanting to be the first to break the silence.  It had often been thus with them.  Celestia and Thanatos had once been neutral parties in the petty squabbles that went on around them.  But many things had changed.  Finally, Thanatos broke first, a hint of impatience in his voice.  “Why have I been summoned here?”

Tilting her head to the side, Celestia acknowledged the concession briefly before she intoned, “I claim the Right of Accusation against you.”  Her words seemed to echo around them, the very utterance of them holding some kind of power.

Though she could not see his expression, hidden as his countenance was by that infernal hood, Celestia knew by the way he crossed his arms over his chest that she had startled him.

He said nothing as Celestia laid the charges before him: one of her children, her flesh and blood children, had been wounded, had technically been killed by one of his.  The rules governing the Gods’ flesh and blood offspring were many and myriad, but their protection was absoluate.  The fact that Celestia’s son would have died because of Thanatos’s daughter was a serious matter indeed.

When she finished speaking, Thanatos said nothing.  Finally, he intoned, “What is your price?  What boon or what punishment do you require to right this wrong?”  His words held as much power- and as much of a binding oath- as Celestia’s had.

Something appeared between the two of them.  It was an orb.  The mortals called it a Moondial, but this was a finely crafted Looking Glass.

It was a precision instrument and used for viewings of many types.  Celestia had thought to use the large screen that Lyall had had commissioned, but Celestia knew Thanatos was old fashioned, a traditionalist.  She thought he would appreciate this more and it would keep the advantage to her.  The boon she was asking was unheard of.

Letting a trickle of power flow through her, that golden glow surrounding her, an image began to swirl inside the globe of the viewing sphere.  As it coalesced into a discernible image, that of a person, Thanatos flicked a glance at Celestia.  The image was that of a vampire, his red eyes glowing brightly, his handsome face vaguely familiar somehow.

“He is the price to be paid.”

“You wish his death?”  She could hear the uncertainty, a sure sign that she was hitting her mark.

“No, his life.  He is no longer one of yours, Thanatos.  His life now belongs to me and mine.”

The silence that fell was glaringly loud in its intensity.  Celestia waited, her body seemingly relaxed, though she was coiled tighter than a spring.  “As you wish… sister.  It is done.  He now belongs to you.  The debt is paid.”  With a crack of sound, he disappeared in a cloud of yellow and black smoke, leaving Celestia alone.

She wasn’t alone for long though.  Lyall appeared, looking at the globe, but more importantly, the image within it.  Celestia leaned against the desk, letting some of the tension drain away.

Lyall frowned, her brow furrowing.  “You’re responsible for Luna’s dreams.  That’s her “vampire prince”, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I’m responsible,” was all the Queen of the Dragons murmured.  She waved her hand and the image changed.  This time, there was a young girl there, and though there wasn’t any outward indication, Celestia knew that power flowed through her veins.

“I hope you know what you’re doing…” Lyall murmured.

“Me too,” Celestia whispered as Lyall disappeared once more.  She continued to stare into the globe, watching the girl within it, her expression troubled.  Then it became determined.

This would work… it had to.


 

Chapter 23: The Dragon’s Heir

A/N:  Hope you guys enjoy this update.  This is done almost entirely with Pose Player.  Now, I don’t plan on using it a ton because I do like letting the gameplay speak for itself.  But since I’m experimenting, I used it a lot here after I had the idea to use this storyline.  So I hope you guys enjoy it.  If you notice anything I can do differently or like something more than another, please, let me know!  Without further ado, here’s Chapter 23!

It’s amazing how time can change.  It’s only been a few hours since we arrived at the hospital in Bridgeport.  Yet it feels like days, months since we boarded the plane.  Jeff and I wait out in the waiting room with walls that are supposed to be a soothing light blue with Luna while Mom is at his bedside.  She hasn’t left since he came out of the last surgery.  I can only look through the little windows since no one is supposed to be in the room.  They made an exception for her.

“Baby, why don’t you go to the hotel, try to get some sleep?” Jeff murmured to me.

“I can’t.  I just… can’t.  I can’t leave.”

“Rora…”  He sighed and just settled back onto the couch in the waiting room.  He knew trying to argue with me was useless.  At least, about this.  I knew he was worried about me.  An empath in a hospital was bad enough, but an empath in a hospital watching her father fight for his life was excruciating.  But I couldn’t leave.

I can’t settle, no matter what I do.  Even as my daughter plays with the little dollhouse in the corner, I get up and pace, then take a seat on the floor.  Poor Jeff doesn’t know what to do.  He tries to comfort and honestly, just his presence is calming, but still…

We’ve had no word from the doctors, not since they told us that dad would need to go for another surgery, except he wasn’t strong enough, not yet.  They didn’t say that time was of the essence- they didn’t have to.  Even if I couldn’t feel it from them, it was written over their faces.  Oh Watcher… what are we going to do?

Jeff squatted down next to me, putting a hand on my shoulder.  “I’m going to run to the vending machines, grab a coffee.  Do you want anything?”

I just shook my head.  The thought of something even as simple as coffee made me ill and that is saying something.  Even as he went to leave, I could feel his gaze lingering over me.


Jeff headed out into the hallway, toward the vending machine, his hands in the pockets of his coat.  He was a doctor himself.  He knew by the snippets he’d been able to glean that it didn’t look good.  Ah Watcher… He ran a hand agitatedly through his hair.  It didn’t seem real.  He dealt with this kinda thing, day in and day out, but it was a lot different when it was one of your own.  Not Draco… Jeff hit the vending machine with the heel of his hand, letting out a curse.  Despite the somewhat rocky start to their relationship, Jeff had gotten quite close to his father-in-law.  Jeff was an orphan, spent most of his time in state run homes.  When he’d moved in with Aurora and her parents, he’d finally had a family.  And now…

His gaze sharpened as a figure in scrubs approached.  “Dr. Blakely!”  The surgeon who had spoken to them jerked and looked at Jeff, blinking.  Jeff recognized exhaustion when he saw it.  He gentled his voice.  “Dr. Blakely, I’m Dr. Jeffrey Dean.  I’m in my residency at Dr. Simano’s Sanatorium in Monte Vista.  Look, that’s my father in law in there.  What can you tell me?”

Dr. Blakely looked toward the end of the hall, into the waiting room, then he sighed.  “Doctor… I shouldn’t be speaking with you, you know that.  But I will, doctor to doctor, alright?”  Jeff swallowed.  “Mr. Wyvern– your father-in-law–  was found at least three hours after he was shot.  The fact that he survived long enough to even make it here is, in itself, a miracle.  We’ve done all we can at this point.  He’s too weak to go for another surgery, but without it… it’s only a matter of time.”

Jeff shut his eyes.  His residency involved trauma situations, and he knew the dangers of a penetrating chest wound.  “Is it a pericardial tamponade?”

The doctor nodded bleakly.  “I’m afraid so.  We tried to perform pericardiocentesis without putting him fully under for a thoracotomy.  We’ve repaired what we could in the first two surgeries, but the bullet did a tremendous amount of damage.  He’s not capable of breathing on his own, which is why he’s on a ventilator.  I’m sorry- but I wish I could give you some kind of hope.  I just… don’t see how.”

“T-thank you, for being honest with me and speaking with me.  N-now I have to find a way to tell my wife… and my daughter.  S-she’s only four.”  Jeff scrubbed his hands over his face, feeling the bite of tears in his eyes.

Dr. Blakely put a hand on his shoulder in sympathy then walked off, holding a cup of coffee.  His own coffee forgotten, Jeff stood there for a moment, feeling lost.  Knowing he had to tell Aurora, he made himself go back in.  His gaze saw his little girl, still playing quietly.  She’d been an angel this whole time.

Then he brought his gaze reluctantly to meet his wife’s.  She couldn’t read him like she could others, but she must have seen it in his eyes, the lack of hope.  She let out one little whimper.  The noise was all Luna needed.  The toddler began to cry, begging for her Pop-pop.

They scooped her up together, holding her between them, trying to comfort her, but it was hard, so very hard when the grief was already beginning to swamp them.

As they held their child to them, a wail rose from the next room.  Jeff took Luna as Aurora ran to the door.  Sophia’s wail fell off, the shrill whine of the EKG machine droning on.  “Daddy!” Aurora sobbed out, falling to her knees, holding her head in her hands.

Luna’s wail joined hers even as the child buried her head in the crook of her father’s neck.  As Jeff reached down, wanting to comfort his wife, something happened.  Aurora threw her head back, a golden glow of light surrounding her.  Her red eyes glowed as well.  Jeff could only stand there, slack-jawed as a wind sprang up around his wife.  Slowly, she rose into the air, that glow intensifying.

Even as she began to glow, Draco did as well.  Sophia raised her head in shock even as the EKG machine seemed to spark and then go utterly blank.

Jeff could only stare in shock and amazement even as the glow vanished from his wife and then she dropped to the ground, still.  Voices shouted as doctors and nurses came running in.  Luna cocked her head uncertainly.  “P-pop-pop.  Mama,” she murmured, her cheek against her father’s.  But she was no longer crying.


Jeff ran his hand through his wife’s hair, his eyes closed.  He, Dr. Blakely and several nurses had been checking on her the last several hours.  She was just sleeping, exhausted from whatever had happened.  Still, he couldn’t help but want to be near her right now, just to reassure himself that there were no ill effects from… whatever that was that she had done.

But the doors from the other room opened and Dr. Blakely stepped out.  He turned and then saw Jeff and Aurora, a small smile forming on his face.

“He’s awake.  You can go in and see him now.”

Jeff stood up, being careful to lay Aurora’s head down gently, and then shook the doctor’s hand.  “Thank you, for everything.”

Dr. Blakely grinned.  “This has been… enlightening.  This is certainly a rotation I won’t soon forget.”  Jeff gave him a half smile and then he walked through the door, into the room.  The sight he saw had him stop for a moment.

“This-this is a sight for sore eyes,” Jeff murmured, his voice cracking just a bit.

Draco, looking a little paler than normal, grinned nonetheless.  “What?  This?”  He shifted and grimaced.  “Guess I scared you guys, didn’t I?  I know Sophia couldn’t look at me without crying.”  He looked guilty at that.  “Why I told her to go and take Luna and get some sleep.”

Jeff stepped closer, just nodding, not sure if he could speak quite yet.  He did try, clearing his throat.  “Yeah, yeah you scared us a bit.  Look-“

But his eyes widened in shock and he managed to shout, “What in the Netherworld do you think you’re doing!?”  Draco had thrown his legs over the side of the bed and, arms shaking, had then stood up!

“What does it look like?” Draco asked sharply.  “Can’t a guy get out of bed?  Need to stretch-“  He let out a grunt as his legs buckled.  Jeff was there in an instant, throwing one arm around his father-in-law’s waist and slinging Draco’s arm across his own shoulders.

“Of all the hard-headed, stubborn, headstrong stunts!” Jeff grumbled as he helped Draco lay back down.

“Easy, lad!” Draco protested.  “You’re acting like I’m on my deathbed here.  Just had a bit of problems with my balance, that’s all.”

“No, that isn’t all!” Jeff exploded.  He had to take a shaky breath.  “Do you remember what happened?  At all?”

Draco frowned as tried to think back.  He lost what little color he had had as his memories solidified.  Then he looked at his son-in-law.  “H-how am I still alive, Jeff?”

“Rora,” Jeff said simply.

“What happened?” Draco asked quietly, looking down.

“I-I don’t even know.  All I know is, you should be dead, Draco.  I’m not exaggerating.  You were too weak to go through the surgery that would save your life.  Y-you flatlined and then-“  He was about to explain more when Dr. Blakely  came back in.

“What’s this now?  The patient anxious to be out of here?”

“I…”  Draco trailed off, looking out the window.

The doctor and Jeff slowly explained the rest of what happened and then Dr. Blakely told them both, “You’re still wounded.  After… we’ll call it the miracle for now, since that’s what it amounted to, but after that, we were able to go in and repair what needed to be repaired.  You’ll still be weak and your body will need time to heal.  In a few more days, I think you’ll actually be well enough to travel back home.  I think you’ll recover better in more familiar surroundings and I’m sure your family will appreciate being home as well.”

He gave Draco a gentle pat on the shoulder and then left.  “Thank you again, Dr. Blakely,” Jeff murmured, shaking his hand.


Jeff and Aurora both trudged up the stairs of the hotel, neither really noticing the lovely décor.

As they reached the landing, Aurora let out a sob and buried her head in her hands.  Jeff had been expecting it for a while and without a word, just pulled her to him and held her closely.  “That’s it now, just let it out,” he murmured, rubbing his hand over her back in gentle circles.

After a good cry, she stepped back.  “I-I thought we-we’d lost him, Jeff.  I-I don’t even know… what happened.”

“I know, baby.  I know.  C’mon, we’re all exhausted.  Your dad is gonna be fine.  Let’s go get some sleep, ok?”  They’d deal with the other thing later.  Right now, he knew they needed sleep.  Maybe a good night’s rest would make things clearer in the morning.  He took her hand and led her into their room where Sophia had already taken Luna.  Somehow, his mother-in-law had already dropped off to sleep.  Then again, she was as exhausted as they all were and as emotionally wrung out as they were, maybe more so.  Her granddaughter had brought her a little bit of comfort after the horrible grief and then the confusion.

Jeff and Aurora stood there together, watching their daughter as she looked back at them.  “/Love you, Mama.  Love you, Papa,/” she murmured sleepily, too tired to actually speak.

“We love you too, sweetheart,” Aurora whispered as she leaned back against Jeff.

She and Jeff changed and then both slid into bed.  So exhausted were they that they were asleep almost before their heads hit the pillow.  Knowing that the nightmare was over, the family slept peacefully.


 

Chapter 15: It Comes in Threes…

I’ve been sitting here, staring down at this book for close to an hour now.  The paper is beginning to rip from where I’ve scratched out what I’ve written so many times.  I know I’m supposed to record this.  My mother would want me to.  But I’m… numb.  There just seems to be… nothing inside of me right now.  Is that normal?  Whether it is or it isn’t, it’s what I’m experiencing right now.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.  Maybe I’ll find some kind of perspective on all of this.  At the least, I hope to finally feel SOMETHING.

It didn’t start out bad.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  The day started out with my wife’s birthday.  She was a little apprehensive about leaving her youth behind, though I told her she was being silly.  She would still be beautiful and I couldn’t possibly love her anymore.  She had a beautiful and talented teenage daughter and our marriage couldn’t be happier… well, except maybe for me working less days, though it was getting better.

We all gathered around: Mom, Dad, Falkor, and Aurora.  Faye had gone home the night before, but we would get a call from her later on.  But that’s later.   Anyway, we all gathered around the cake and Dad lit the candles.  Sophia seemed to think for a moment as she leaned over the cake.  The rest of us cheered and blew noisemakers for the occasion.

After the sparkles hit, my wife stood there for a moment, biting her lip.  “How do I look?” she asked.  “I’m sure the wrinkles are awful, aren’t they?”  In answer, I went to her and pulled her close, kissing her soundly.

“Does that answer your question?” I whispered into her ear before putting her at arms’ length and grinning at her.  She seemed to forget about her wrinkles.  Though, she did want to change her hair.  Her curls, apparently, are a pain to take care of.  So she, Aurora, and my mother went to the bathroom to help her cut it and straighten it to within an inch of its life.

She’s beautiful… but then, she always has been.  And if it makes her happy, then I’m all for it.  Her birthday also happened to fall on our year anniversary.  It seems a little unreal that we’ve been married a year, though we’ve been together quite a bit longer.  Contrary to popular belief, I did NOT forget about our anniversary.  In fact, I even took a few days off work and told them don’t bother to page me;  I wouldn’t answer.

We decided to actually head to Varg’s Tavern, grab a drink.  We don’t get out much, her and I, so this was a nice interlude together.  We talked of silly things, of life in general, about music and even had a spirited discussion on who was going to win the high school football tournament.  That’s one thing about Sophia; I’ve always been able to talk to her about anything and everything.  Even when there’s silence, it’s a comfortable silence and we can speak without saying a word.

After our drinks and a bit more conversation, we headed to Venice Beach.  It was early summer, but still, the water was fairly cold.  That didn’t stop us, though.

After a brisk swim and some fooling around and splashing one another, we decided to head home.  The hot tub beckoned to us; I swear, it was calling our names, even.  It was nice, just the two of us.  The balmy summer night air, the warmth of the water, and having my wife next to me made it all perfect.

But… while my wife and I enjoyed ourselves… all was not well.  From what my mother had told me, Dad had gotten up, rubbing at his chest.  He’d been uncomfortable since they’d gone to lie down and his sleep had been troubled.  She asked him if he was ok.  He’d smiled at her, like he always did.  Then something passed over his face.  “I’m sorry my love.  My Queen…”  He fell to the ground.  There… was nothing my mom could do, though she tried.  Her screams brought Aurora and Falkor running.  But they could only watch as my father’s spirit began to drift to the dark shape that waited for him on the deck outside my parents’ room.

I had no idea… no clue what was happening, still too wrapped up in my wife.  Why didn’t I know?  H-how could I not know what was going on?  Why couldn’t I feel it?  I still don’t have any answers to that… other than I wasn’t meant to.

Aurora told me later that my dad looked back at them all through the doors.  He wore his normal smile.  “Don’t be sad for too long, my loves.  We’ll see each other again.  I love you all.”  Then he looked at my mother.  “My Queen.  Thank you.  Thank you for everything.  I love you.  I’ll be waiting.”

Sophia and I had come inside by this time and I was still oblivious.  Until I heard my mother’s wail of agony.

And then I knew.  Something ran through me then.  It was like a lance through my heart and that’s when I realized that I couldn’t feel my father anymore.  Always before, there was an… awareness of those around me, particularly those I shared blood with.  It wasn’t very overt, but it was always there.  But now… that awareness of my father was simply… gone.

None of us handled it well.  My brother and I did our best to comfort mom.

But I’m afraid that there is so little we can do…  Not when it feels like we’re missing a piece of ourselves.  I can’t imagine how mom feels.  When she isn’t sobbing uncontrollably, she just stands there, looking lost.  I don’t know what to do for her.  And then there’s my daughter.  Poor Aurora.  She was so close to her grandfather.  And with all the grief around her… she’s just being bombarded.

It didn’t end there.  Grim had barely left us, taking away my father, before he returned.  This time for our dear Gabe.  The old fella had been close with my father and I think watching him die had been too much for the poor dog.

Hasn’t Grim done enough?  He took dad… and I never got to say goodbye.  Now Gabe.  Could it get any worse?  It can… it really can.  I can’t help but think that we get so complacent, that we can’t help but take things for granted.  We go through life, getting used to something.  For me, it was my parents.  Death happens, I knew that.   But they just seemed so… eternal, I guess.  I never thought that I’d lose them.  It just… never entered my mind.

I’d just gotten Aurora to lie down when I heard a whisper in my mind, <”Take care of them, Draco.  You are my heir, my first born.  I love you, my son.  We’ll meet again.”>  I tore out of my daughter’s room and took the spiral stairs two at a time.  I got to my mother’s room.  But it was too late.  <”Goodbye everyone.”>

Losing Dad had been too much for her.  She died of a broken heart.  A part of me wants to rage… weren’t we enough to keep her here?  Didn’t we matter?  But another part understands all too well.  The thought of losing Sophia, after living a lifetime together… and my dad was really what made her.  If not for him, I’m not sure how her time here would have played out.  He gave her something no one else could.  Losing that, losing him… it broke her spirit.  She was never a normal Sim to begin with.  I don’t know what my aunt’s game was in what she did to my mother.  But my mother made the most of her situation here.  I don’t doubt that she loved us.  But she couldn’t stay.  Not without my father.

While it angers me and it saddens me… I understand.  I’m no longer numb now.  But I can’t succumb to what I’m filled with now.  I have a family to take care of.


The last few days have been more than hard.  Before, I felt numb.  Now… there are so many emotions, I don’t know what to do with all of it.  I’m trying to be strong, trying to keep it together for the family.  My parents would want that.  But it’s hard.  It’s so very hard.  We lay mom and dad to rest a couple days ago.  We didn’t have a service; mom and dad wouldn’t want that.  They would have wanted us to celebrate their life.

Monte Vista is an old village.  On our property, we found what had probably been an old wine cellar or maybe even a crypt.  We had it dug out and finished off.  This will be where our family is laid to rest.  Above ground, a mausoleum was also built, a place to show life, as my parents would have wanted.  As I said, we lay mom and dad to rest, side by side as it should be.

In the mausoleum, they each have a corner.  Dad’s holds the easel, with the last painting he had been working on as well as one of our favorite paintings of his.  Mom’s corner holds her potions and her spell books and components.  It seems like so little, but I can’t help but feel that they’d appreciate this.

As much as this hurts, there is another who feels it more.  My daughter.  Poor Aurora… I don’t know what to do for her.  Losing her grandparents has been devastating to her.  She was so close with both of them.

Art club, which she had been going to since elementary school, had a ceremony for her.  She had won a painting competition she had been in.  During her speech… she’d lost it.  Bursting into tears, she’d run out, sobbing.  I found her outside the school, bent over, trying to stop the tears.


With everything going on, we did have a good bit of news.  Amidst all the grief and sadness, there is life.  There is always life.  Falkor ran off to the hospital to be with Faye.  She gave birth to their second child, a little girl they called Katherine Elise Wyvern.

After the “services” were over and things had begun to settle down just a little bit, we got another surprise.  A gentleman called.  He called himself Gerome Giacomo.  He was a lawyer, he was dad’s lawyer.  Apparently, he and mom had left a letter with him.  Could be called a will, I suppose.  In it, they left the house and the land to me, Sophia, and Aurora.  But they didn’t forget Falkor and his family.

Falkor, the letter read, we know you wanted a home of your own, a place to raise your family.  We’re sorry that we couldn’t be here for you more, to see your children grow up.  I know it isn’t much, but I hope you will accept this; Sophia’s mother and father left her their home, but she has no need of it and placed it in our care.  We want you to have it.  It will be your and Faye’s home and should give you plenty of room for you and your children.  I’m sorry we aren’t there for you, my boys.  Your mother and I love you both very much.  Give our love to your families.  We’ll meet again, someday.

Love, forever and always,

David Michael Haynes and Celestia Wyvern-Haynes

Falkor had been a big help to us.  But he was right.  He and I talked about it.  “Draco, it’s time,” he told me softly.  “Mom and Dad are-are gone.  I miss them too.  But it’s time to move on.  You have a family of your own now.  I do, too.  Little Katherine’s a toddler now, Rickie’s in elementary already.  It’s time.  I want to live with my family.”

I gave him a hug and hung on a little bit.  “Take care of yourself, little brother,” I murmured.  “You know you’re always welcome.”

He grinned a little.  “Same goes for you, ya know.  Come and visit.  The kids would love to see you, you and Sophia and Aurora.”  He frowned.  “How’s she doing, by the way?”

“She’s… withdrawn.  Her mother and I can’t get her to open up.  When she’s ready…”  I shrugged.  “I can’t force her to talk about it.  I can only hope that she’ll talk to us when she’s ready.”  I slapped him on the back and then waved at him and his family as they loaded the last of their things up and then left.


The house is quieter without my brother and Faye running around.  I still wake up, expecting to see my dad in the kitchen, mixing up pancake batter or see my mom playing with one of the dogs.  It hits me hard at times.  I finally let loose.  My wife just held me to her, letting me get it out.  She had known this is what I needed since we lost them both.

It felt… good, surprisingly.  I’m always going to miss them and while I’m fully prepared for it to sneak up on me every now and again, life moves on.  I’m going to live life, like they would have wanted.  I’m going to keep doing what I need to, concentrating on my family and on my career.  It’s because of them that I can.  They gave me everything in life.  I can only return that favor by being what they would have expected of me.

Good bye mom and dad.  You will never be forgotten.  We had a plaque made from old photos of mom and dad, then hung it up.  I think it looks good.

In memorium of David Haynes and his beloved wife, Celestia Wyvern-Haynes.  May you watch over us always.