As for the others, well Sebastian didn’t really give them a chance to think about any of it until they were at the clinic getting a full work up done. Things were blurry. He knew he had gotten them to the clinic – he could smell it and the lights were harsh. He found himself in a closed off exam room.  The lights were off.  He could tell that his body had finally given over to the after-effects of the dragon’s bane. He knew it would last a day or two and then his body would have filtered it through. It wasn’t the first time such tricks had been played. There had been times that the bond had been used to their advantage. He had let the dragon filter things through for him in order to win a contest before. They had each allowed the other to filter through alcoholic affects. Of course, all of that had been before he had broken the bond.

Before he had thought the bond was broken.

Seated in a corner with one leg drawn up so his arms were wrapped around the knee, the vamp watched the door open and close. He could smell Sam; hear her breath.

“Don’t take it wrong… I felt the dragon’s bane and knew the pull…”

“You shouldn’t have. But you did.”  Samantha whispered from the door. She leaned back against it, watching him. “He’s awake. Well…in and out of it, really. It’s like listening to someone who is lucid half of the time and in a dream half of the time. You saved him. He’s either very confused or a damned good liar. I kind of like to think it’s both. But he and I didn’t get off to a good start, sooo…”  Sam took a deep breath and walked over to her lover.  “Do you know how long you were out?” she asked before running her fingers through his hair and then feeling his forehead and face.  

His eyes closed so he could just enjoy the caress of her fingers through his hair, “No.. but I assume it was at least a few hours or am I wrong?” His mouth felt dry and if not for that incessant noise that hummed in his ears he could sleep several more hours.

“We made it to the car and you passed out on the way here. Then you were fine. Then after we drew blood and… well you passed out again.” Sam grinned. Sebastian hated being seen as weak in any situation. She found it a bit humorous. Sam didn’t see Sebastian as weak at all, considering what he had just pulled off. 

“Oh… and that’s not awkward at all is it?” His tone was a bit sharp without Sebastian even realizing it.

“It was cute watching Gabriel have to take you to the room. You were awake again not long after, but I had to deal with the other one … had a seizure on me. He’s pretty big and when his muscles spasm, he can take out a little nurse.” Sam moved her fingers back into his hair, because she knew that would make him feel better. “I know you like to know everything that happens, so, thought I’d catch you up. And it’s been three. Three hours since the club. And it’s taken five times of me lifting the phone and then putting it back in the receiver not to call my father and have them investigated.” It angered Sam that the twins got away with such a horrible thing.  

Lifting his hand up to cover Sam’s own where it was in his hair, Sebastian groaned, “Sorry you were left to deal with him. Gabriel should have helped with him more.” His head spun and his control was still at it’s lowest, but he would survive and a few more hours would see him 100% again.

“Gabriel doesn’t know how, Bastian.”  Samantha kissed his forehead. “I’m just thankful he didn’t shift.” 

“Then Kennedy needs to learn if he’s going to be anything to Sen be it Councilor or friend.” Taking a very deep breath, his gaze sought out Samantha’s, “Because I can’t keep doing this for him.” His stomach clenched and he groaned, “I need to feed, any way you can get a few pints for me?”

“Yes. I already have it on order. And I know. Gabriel’s upset and frustrated right now. He had tried to argue … Sen…” she had to get accustomed to the new name. “… out of dealing with the twins. He doesn’t seem like the type to listen, much. Also, somewhere in the mumbling and trying to hide his tears, he said something about being claimed but not bonded and that’s why he couldn’t feel it. Why he couldn’t stop this from happening. But I don’t know if either of you could stop something like this from happening. That dragon of yours is pretty stubborn.” Sam smiled when Bastian’s gaze was in her own.  She wanted him to know that she didn’t blame him  for any of this. “If I knew about dragons, I would tell him all about them. But as it is, he knows more than I do. But what he knows is about dragons in general. It’s not relevant to this particular asshole of one.”  Sam took Sebastian’s hand. “I guess what I’m asking is – will you consider being a mentor to my friend? And maybe as he learns more, you’ll have fewer of these moments where you have to go on the rescue.”

Sebastian looked at Samantha with not a small bit of incredulity. He said nothing, for what she was suggesting was actually logical and sound. He just hated to admit it; hated the idea of having to teach a human how to be more to Senias when he hadn’t been allowed to be more? Was he jealous? No. Hurt. And then he felt her kiss on his forehead again and he was snapped back so quickly. He was no longer alone. He didn’t have to feel hurt or cast away.

“Will you always feel him?” she asked the question that was foremost on her mind.  

“It fades to near nothing with time, but yes it’s a forever kind of thing. As to Senias, eventually Gabriel will make a dent in that thick skull. Until then he just has to keep trying.” Lowering his leg to put his foot back on the floor, Sebastian went on, “I feel certain things so that he doesn’t have to, such as the dragon’s bane in his system. I got the brunt of it, not him. It’s as if I’m his kindred, but I’m not. We are mentally connected but not spiritually.”

“And as Gabriel and Senias bond more?” Sam asked. There was a knock at the door. She slowly disengaged from Sebastian and took steps toward it.

“My bond will become less and less to the dragon.” He stopped himself from saying that he hoped it would become stronger toward her. She deserved his attentions, not Senias.

As she accepted the blood, signing for it, he watched her every move. Something nagged at him though.  Sam turned with the basket of three pints she had signed for and let the door close. She made her way back to him and prepped the blood packets.

“When I was out did I let go of my control. Did my looks change?” He usually had his looks hidden beneath an illusion. Now, he needed to know if she’d seen the true visage that was him.

Sam brought the packets of blood  to sit on the oscillator so that they continued to move and be kept warm. That was on a cart that she pushed over to him, before sitting on the bed, since he wasn’t using it. She wasn’t going to lie and tell him she hadn’t seen his actual skin. The markings and the scars were numerous. It was his choice to try and hide them.  It had been his choice to hide a lot of things until he couldn’t hide them any more. That was what Sam was thinking over when he asked. Maybe it was time he understood that? how could they ever be more if secrets kept popping out of the woodwork?

“You don’t have to tell me about it, if you don’t want to. You’ve kept a lot of secrets from me so far. I don’t think this one matters as much as the others. But then again, that’s just my assumption.” This time, Sam didn’t smile. 

“I don’t want to keep secrets from you, I just… I’m in such a habit of it.”

She shrugged and got up to move to the doorway. “Drink up. I have another patient or two to check on.”

“Wait, Sunshine,” He called to her before she got out the door. He sighed as she turned around to face him. “Listen there’s a lot of damage and it’s not pleasant to look at. If you did see it – I apologize. When my energy is low or I’m unconscious illusions are hard to control.” Sebastian at least tried to give some small bit of explanation. It would take too long to tell the history of each one.  He reached out to take one of the blood bags.

Sam stood at the door, her mouth partially opened. She made herself close it and watched him. Suddenly, she felt very, very angry. Maybe it wasn’t suddenly. Maybe this had been building. But the way he just nonchalantly explained – not the reason for having so many scars – but the reason she had seen them?  As if she would care? Her eyes narrowed. 

“Scars are scars. You have scars. So do a lot of us. Not all of them are visible. If I had magic, I’d maybe try to hide mine, too. But that’s your choice. Same as it’s your choice to not tell me about a bond you have with your ex-lover who also happens to be a dragon. Surprise Sam! Or that you live with your daughter’s batshit crazy mother who you didn’t mind allowing into the room while I was naked and sick so she could properly threaten me after introducing herself. Yay team! So… let me just be clear. I don’t give a damn about your scars, Sebastian. That’s the LEAST of my issues where you are concerned. In case you give a damn to know, my biggest issue right now is that I care about a man who hasn’t begun being open and honest with me. I was open and honest about everything. You… were… not.”  Sam opened the door to leave and paused long enough to add, “I just wanted that to be clear before whatever happens or doesn’t happen… happens or doesn’t happen.”  Dammit. She’d messed up what she wanted to say. But maybe he’d get it through his thick skull anyway. She shook her head as she turned to walk out and go check on the other thick-skulled patient.  

She was angry and he was dumbfounded about why. Walking to the door Sebastian grabbed Samantha’s arm to pull her back around to face him and drew her close so that the sparkle of his eyes could be seen.

Sam looked down where he had grabbed her arm and her first reaction was to jerk it right back away from him. However, she calmed herself enough to remember who she was dealing with. She didn’t move. She just watched and listened. That didn’t mean that he was off the hook and her expression said as much.

“Don’t just leave. Let me explain myself.”

“You’ve had plenty of chances. This is the last one you get.” Had she really just said that to a centuries-old, powerful vampire? Why yes. Yes she had. And she meant it.

Sebastian stepped backward, his touch lighter than it had been, his head canted to the side slightly out of surprise and… a bit of fear. He was losing her? No. He couldn’t. Nodding, he took her words and her actions very seriously. His caution and paranoia were driving her away. He couldn’t imagine going on without her smile in his life. Decision made. 

“Very well.” He took a deep breath and began his explanation. “I didn’t know the connection was still there until this happened. I didn’t think it was my place to tell you exactly what kind of supernatural you were dealing with when it came to the Tasker. That’s his secret more than mine. I meant no disrespect in not telling you. Finally, Saysha…” he swallowed and took another breath. “Saysha wails outside my door all the time, outside my lab when I’m in there. But she’s Raven’s mother and having been robbed of my entire family, I wanted to at least keep some of hers alive for her. I brought her in to meet you so that you could see and know her for what she is instead of taking a chance on you meeting her unaware. She’s harmless, but annoying. And if I did that wrong, I apologize, Samantha. Sometimes, I show my lack of humanity through unthinking action. Just because I thought nothing of the moment, doesn’t mean that it was proper. However, I…I didn’t think. I acted rashly.”

The hand that held Samantha in a light grasp was scarred from chemical burning along with the arm it was attached to. Her eyes were on it. He hadn’t shown this to anyone. Not willingly.

“This is from that same ex-lover that we just helped. The huge scarred over indention in my shoulder also came from him, same moment, two different scars. It’s how dangerous a dragon can be to flesh. His chemical breath and a tooth.” 

Sam seemed surprised and she was. What in the world had caused it? What was the story behind it? She wanted to ask, but Sebastian was moving on.

“The one on my face was from the fires that took my Chosen and our children’s lives while I watched helpless staked to a tree only feet away. The silver in the fire left it’s marks on my chest too.”  He felt the pain inside when he spoke of them. But he pushed onward. “The marks on my back are from the silver tipped lash that was used on me every day by my Crimson guards as punishment for almost 3 decades.” Sebastian let Samantha’s arm go and stepped back, hands spread out for her. “There are dozens more from wars fought long ago at that dragon’s side, but the worst one he left me is soul deep and still healing. Just as the one left by losing my family.” 

Sam was at a loss for words.

Sebastian moved back into the shadows where it was harder to see him, “You’ve helped. Your presence in my life keeps me from dwelling on my scars. I found a long time ago that my past isn’t something anyone just wants dropped on them. I would have told you, but I wanted to be sure you were up to it. I’m finding that I love and adore you. I… I didn’t want to pose you to my baggage.” Biting into the bag, Sebastian drained it dry in less than a minute. He wouldn’t stop her from leaving. He just didn’t want her leaving without the answers she obviously needed. His secrets weren’t really secrets in his mind; they were his past and he hadn’t forced it on her – yet it seemed she absolutely needed this. The vampire hoped that being candid about all of it would keep her from leaving him. 

Samantha Keene had a choice to make. For her, walking out that door meant making a choice. Her anger was lessened by the knowledge that he had been trying to be practical about things. He seemed sincere about that and his apologies. She looked down and then back to where he was and took a deep breath 

“You need to sit when you do that. You’re going to get a rush and get dizzy,” she walked back to the cart and pulled out a towel for him to use.  

Unlike the dragon, Sebastian didn’t let his stubbornness override his commonsense. He took a seat as he started on the next bag. He felt her place the cloth on his knee. The lovely doctor took a step back and cleared her throat. Well, he definitely knew what that meant. Okay. She wasn’t leaving…yet.  Sam had let him speak without interrupting and she was due the same respect so he held his tongue letting her have her say.

“I realize this has been a whirlwind for the both of us – you especially. You live for centuries instead of decades. My lifetime is just… a decade for you. So I can imagine that sharing and opening up and all of that? It’s really difficult for you. But when I feel something strongly in my heart, I go for it. I did it with my travels. I did it with my association with Crimson. I did it with this clinic. And now, with you.”

Sebastian’s eyes remained on her as he drew from the bag of blood.

“You’ve had it hard. Anyone who has lived as long as you or the Tasker or a lot of the lycan I treat? You’ve seen and felt a lot more that this world has to offer than I could imagine. But that doesn’t make me less significant. It doesn’t mean that I can’t possibly comprehend you or what you’ve been through. It doesn’t mean that I can’t sympathize, even if I can’t possibly empathize with you.” Samantha’s raw emotion was apparent in her explanation of her feelings to him.  Her voice was wavering. He removed the bag from his lips and set it aside, before wiping himself with the cloth.

“I’m angry with you right now because I am not forever. My light is not everlasting. And I know what mortality feels like. I’ve come close to dying twice already. So I may seem impetuous and naive to you for sharing everything I can with you, the person I love. But I assure you, I’m not. I just want us to know one another as much as possible, just in case… in case a connection you never realized you still had causes you to succumb to a poison I have no antidote for  – or in case I get in a car wreck and never make it home.” Samantha swallowed, her fists balled. “I don’t want to miss an opportunity, Sebastian. And I don’t think you appreciate that or maybe you just don’t understand it.”  She wiped a tear. “Dammit! I hate crying when I’m mad…”

Without saying a word Sebastian drew his sunshine close and brushed her tears away with his thumb. Before he could say anything, she continued. He was thankful that she allowed him to embrace her as she was – angry. Maybe the closeness would help. 

“I don’t care about your scars, except that they affect you. They’re part of you. They’re precious to you because each one reminds you of something you never want to forget. I don’t care about your connection to the dragon, because he would rush to rescue you just as quickly as you rushed to rescue him and you should be friends… you should not take that connection for granted. I’m jealous of you having that kind of a connection, but I also know I’m just… mortal. Maybe I don’t need one?” She shrugged. “I care about Saysha – because I’m a doctor. She concerns me, Sebastian. It concerns me that you are seen in her eyes as more than you are. And because you’re personally involved and responsible party to her and her daughter, I think you’re overlooking her case. That’s the only thing that bothers me about Saysha. I just think maybe you had assumed something different of me. I want that set straight here and now, Sebastian Evansworth.”  

“Straight, it is set,” he whispered.

“I want to know Raven. I want to know more about you; your past, your fears, your hopes for the future? I want to know everything I can; because I love you, dammit! And I want to make the most of the time I get with you.”  

“Then we will tackle things together you and I. No more secrets and hiding things. You have my word. Saysha, Raven, the bond.. everything Samantha. I want you by my side for as long as I get you or until you grow tired of me.” Sebastian kissed her then one of those long, slow and deep kisses. As it ended he smoothed his hand over her cheek and smiled, “Mortal or immortal you are stuck with me because I love you, Sunshine.” Those were words he hadn’t said to anyone in a very long time.

 

*****************

 

Senias was still dizzy. He felt the hand in his and squeezed it. The first words out of his mouth were not ones he ever liked using, but he was man enough to admit it.

“You were…” he coughed. “You were right.” His eyes fluttered as he tried to focus. His head hurt something awful.  

Lifting his head from the side of the bed, Gabriel caught Senias’ gaze and gave a half smile. “Fine time for you to realize it now isn’t it?”

“I’m not dead. I’d say that’s at the very least a win.”  He closed his eyes again and smirked. “How did you know? Or did you just follow me because you had a gut feeling?” He was curious. This misadventured could have gone very badly.  

Taking a deep breath Gabriel eased back in his chair as he answered. “You think it’s a win?” The deadpan tone of his voice was a good indication that this wasn’t going to end as happily as Sen seemed to think it would.

“It’s not?”

“The only reason that you aren’t dead or at least this body of yours isn’t dead is because Samantha called me after Sebastian turned up at the clinic. It was almost as if he were drunk, but that wasn’t possible since she knew for a fact that he had been asleep at her place a short time beforehand.”

“Wh…”  the sound came from him as a bit of shock shown through. The bond was still there with Sebastian? Sure, he had made light of the situation he had been in, a dire one indeed, but this?

Shoving a hand through his hair as his jaw clenched Gabriel looked away a moment to regain composure and control before he went on. “So I don’t think it’s anything close to a win when your ex-lover seeks me out adamant that you are dying and he needs to find you before it’s too late. Then we arrive and find it nearly was so.”

“I…I remember realizing what it was. Dante was just as surprised as I was. He caught me. I was falling. Or… something,” He placed his palm on his forehead. “Gabriel, I didn’t know she knew. I don’t know how she knows. I covered every corner. I thought I had covered them.”

Gabriel pushed up from the chair and paced the room several times before ending up in front of the tinted window with his hands gripping the sill. “You would have died if Sebastian hadn’t been there..” His gaze should be drilling a hole through the window sill right then with as hard as he was concentrating. “You’re still deeply connected to him and it seems like that’s a good thing for you and for him.” His forehead rested against the glass as he closed his eyes a moment.

“Yes. But I didn’t realize it. I thought Crimson had taken that bond away. That my actions had also helped strip it away,” Senias whispered. His gaze remained on Gabriel’s back. He wasn’t sure if he were dealing with an appreciative yet jealous man or … what. His head was spinning and throbbing at the same time and he was trying to consider what to say. It didn’t seem like a quippy retort or sarcasm was the proper response. Unfortunately, that was his natural response to most situations. Therefore, the dragon was for once at a loss.  

All Gabriel could think of was what would happen the next time something like this went on? He couldn’t feel what Sen was going through like the vampire could. What if they were deluding themselves in thinking that this thing between them was going to work. Even Sen’s own son had his doubts as did the Alphas of Pack Weylyn. Could they all really be wrong? “I told you they were dangerous and you brushed off my concerns like they were nothing. Like what I thought or felt on the matter was of no concern because of what you are.”

“Gabriel…”

“You’ve no clue how it felt to kneel there knowing you were dying and feeling helpless.” His voice was softer and barely a whisper as he turned to look at Sen while resting back against the window ledge. “If Sebastian had told you the same thing about your meeting with the twins would you have pushed his concerns aside and still gone?” Gabriel felt it was a fair enough question considering the recent events.

“Of course I would have gone!” Senias snapped. He felt like he was being forced to fight handicapped here. “There would have been no difference in that and you can march your happy ass onward and ask him if you please! He’d tell you the same.” He found himself raising up to clench his stomach, a cramp pulling through his abdomen out of nowhere. “I hate poison.” He huffed through it, knowing that breathing was the only thing he could do.

Gabriel started towards him to help only to be stopped in his tracks.

“Don’t!” he growled low at Gabriel. He didn’t want to be touched. His arms were wrapping his midsection and he was bent in half by the pain. Why was this happening? He didn’t want to be here. He’d always felt that if he was going to get taken out, at least he’d be able to rest in the stars. For years he had welcomed it. He’d gone into situations like this hoping someone could best him and he could finally rest. Why had he done this today? He’d not even worn much magic for protection. Just this morning he had claimed the man, he’d had the first discourse with his son because of this man, he was willing to live. So why had he fucked up so badly?  The dragon was confused and he didn’t like this.  He didn’t like being confused and unsure. 

Instead of being frightened off by the snarl and growl of the bed bound male, Gabriel became more sure of his action. He resumed his steps until he was seated on the side of the bed. He brushed Sen’s red hair back from the handsome chiseled face and tucked it behind one ear. “I know what you said to your son and how you presented me to all in that office, but maybe we aren’t going to work like that. Maybe you need someone that knows dragons better and can be more for you than I can.”

Senias stared at the wall in front of him. The cramp was easing. But another pain was settling into its place. One that was worse by far.  

“It’s alright to say you spoke too soon.” Gabriel’s hand pulled away from Sen slowly as if he wanted to do the exact opposite. “Things have been going pretty fast lately and with my work and your work I think we should take some time to ourselves.” The words felt like dirt in his mouth. For the first time in his life he’d felt happy and wanted a relationship. Why did things need to crash and burn now?

The draconic man slowly leaned himself back in the hospital bed. He felt exhausted. He felt betrayed and angry with himself. And now, he just felt defeated. He could go back and let Mira finish the job.  Well, he couldn’t make it there like this; maybe he could get her to come here? He thought his words through for a few minutes. That was difficult in his condition, but he did the best he could do.  He stubbornly refused to look at the man. He couldn’t. He continued to stare at the wall across the room.

“I didn’t speak too soon. I spoke too late. But if who and what I am are too much for you, don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.”  

Rising from the bedside Gabriel glared down at the redhead.

“If they were too much for me, do you think I would have had a meeting with your estranged son? Or risked Crimson and the Council’s wrath to be with you here out in the open with agents outside your door guarding you? If you’re going to give me bullshit like that, you should at least look me in the eyes when you do, it.” This day had been full of one emotion after another from irritation to fear, from relief to happiness and now from sadness to disappointment. Why had he expected something different from Sen?

“What I said earlier, I meant.” He finally turned to look at Gabriel. “I’m not taking any of it back to make your life more convenient. I fucked up. I do that from time to time – more often than you know about Councilor Kennedy. Because you’ve never cared about me before now, you most likely don’t even know about those fuck-ups. So if you want anything to do with me, you better strap in for a bumpy fockin’ ride. Otherwise, yeah, I meant what I said just a few seconds ago, too. If you can’t take this ride, don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.” He challenged.  Would the man be up to this or would he be yet another in a long line of disappointments to come and go out of Senias’ long life?

“My life more convenient?” There was a strained guffaw that came out of Gabriel’s chest when he said those words. Shaking his head, Gabriel looked down at his lover. “Senias, you don’t even know how to do such a thing for me.” Gabriel was no longer anything but irritated because that was what his Tasker was good at making him. “You got sloppy and walked into that situation ill prepared. You should never have done that.” Now the dragon was in for a surprise because he was about to realize just how much his Tasker had cared for the past few years. He began counting off on his fingers, “You missed a few things before jaunting off for that merry meet with the twins. To be precise you are missing a ring, a chain and if I’m not mistaken at least three coins one Roman, one from the highlands …maybe? And the last unknown but I’m going to assume either Egyptian or somewhere from the Middle East or if going for a loooooong stretch maybe Atlantian. The ring you would normally wear on your right ring finger, the chain normally is obviously around your neck and the coins you generally carry in your left pocket.”

A reddish brown brow rose as Senias silently moved his eyes and his fingers and took note of every place on his person that the items Gabriel listed should be. The man had called off everything, alright. He’d been paying close attention.

“The few times you have been messy prior to this were intentional to bait traps when on missions. Luring nests of vamps out, hunting rogue lycan and taking out unsanctioned witches. Don’t tell me that I never cared about you until now. I can assure you Mr. Morias that I’ve cared longer than you’ve known.” Reaching into his pocket he pulled forth one of his monogrammed handkerchiefs that was apparently full. “I don’t answer late night phone calls for just anyone.” Gabriel placed the bundle on the bedside and stepped back. “You left these in my office after showering this morning. Mrs. Shepherd gave them to me when I went in after returning from the portal. I’ve been on this bumpy ride for a long time, you just failed to notice.”

“I was too busy to notice,” Senias whispered. He’d been busy chasing his own tail and trying to stay away from anyone he gave a damn about. Reaching over, his fingers opened the bundle and removed the golden coin.  “It’s Atlantean. Starr’s drakka once ruled Atlantis with her father Esras.”  He looked up to meet Gabriel’s gaze.

“Does it count in my favor that my focus was once only on Tasking while trying to ignore you, and now that I’m caring about you more and more – it’s the Tasking that suffers?” The side of his mouth fought to rise into a grin, but he held it back as much as he could.  This was telling, humorous, and embarrassing. He’d nearly died because he’d forgotten his most potent magical items before meeting with dangerous demons – because he’d changed his routine. He had spent the night with the man and showered somewhere other than his own home, where everything had its place. This was rich.  

Gabriel huffed a bit of air out his nose and actually did allow a bit of a smirk to be revealed.

“I’m going to step out and let the agents know they can go home.” Gabriel shoved his hands in his pockets and walked to the doorway.

“So, I take it you like bumpy rides, then?” He put the coin back and relaxed a bit in the bed. His sleepy eyes looked over at Gabriel, who was still making his way to the door.

“Guess that depends on if this bumpy ride comes with some lessons on dragons.” Gabriel tossed back at the man that had so thoroughly captured his heart. He just couldn’t simply walk away like he felt that he should. “Particularly this one stubborn jerk of a dragon.” 

“You’re living those lessons right now,” Senias sighed. He wondered how long it would take his body to mend. He needed to get to the other side. He needed to be sure Devon was going to make it out alive.

Leaving the door open, Gabriel explained that Raudine was now awake and would be fine. He then relieved them to return home giving assurances that the Tasker wouldn’t be left unattended. Once the two men had left, Gabriel returned inside to take his seat once more to watch over Senias while he dozed in and out of consciousness -wearing off the remaining of the dragon’s bane. The Councilor wondered how long this would take. How much time could they spare? There was the other side to consider, Devon, The elven Councilor was with him and missing…he was covering for her. Then there was the need for a lycan Councilor and the twins to deal with. Gabe leaned back in the seat. 

“He looks so innocent like that, doesn’t he?” Inea whispered from the door. Her hazel eyes and blonde hair set off a politely tanned face. She looked exotic in a way that could not be placed for most humans. She was wearing hiking boots and clothing that Gabriel had only seen in pictures and sketches of people from the other side of the portal.

Startled, Gabriel sprung up from his chair to spin and look at the one that had garnered such a reaction from him. He stood between the beautiful blonde and the sleeping dragon. “Do I know you?” His head tipped to the side in question. He’d never seen her before but obviously she knew Sen.

“Inea of Gorias.” She wasn’t sure what Gabriel had been told. “He’s been my friend for most of my life and that life is quite long. You must be the young man he’s fallen in love with.”  She smiled and held her hand out to the Councilor.

“Well then it is a pleasure to meet you madam.” Gabriel took the offered hand and bent over it to press his forehead to it in a show of respect. Taking a seat on the side of the bed, Gabriel waved towards the chair in offering. “I don’t know about the love part but I am the one that he is currently with.” There was a small chuckle as he shrugged his shoulders, “Forgive me, but he hasn’t mentioned you before.”

“We are angry with one another.” She walked to the chair that was offered and sat down. “And when dragons are angry with one another, such can last for centuries. This particular spat has lasted…” She looked up and counted, “Mmmm.. Starr’s really 209? My, how time flies.”  Her eyes rested on Gabriel. “May I hold his hand? I promise no magic.”  

There was a slow nod from Gabriel and his voice had a gentleness to it that few hardly ever heard. “Please correct me if I am wrong, but I am going to assume that you are Starrfire’s drakka. That would make you Sen’s dragon mate.” This day just kept getting better by the minute. First the ex-lover and now the dragon mate. What was next? A forgotten sibling perhaps? Gabriel rubbed the bridge of his nose with his right hand as his left remained on Sen’s arm.

“Don’t over think it. He’s being a dragon.” Her tone was high and light spirited when she said the word. Her eyes told Gabriel that she understood he was becoming frustrated with so much change in such a small timeframe. What he didn’t know was that she could see his inner strength. He could do this. He could handle this. “We don’t usually give away our secrets and therefore it becomes a habit not to say anything. Add to that our status with Crimson and that we’ve lost loved ones in the past because of NOT being secretive… and you have the standard dragon. We are mysteries sometimes, even to one another.” 

 

It took a moment for Gabriel to get his thoughts in order. “I just don’t feel I know enough about dragons to help him when it counts.”

“You’re learning quickly that we’re well connected with one another. There aren’t many of us, never have been to be honest. Now there are fewer. We slither out of the woodwork now and again to just… remember…” She caressed Sen’s hand and then placed it back on the bed. Her eyes looked up to Gabriel. “Our connections are helpful in keeping our culture and our families and our magic alive in a world that has forsaken so much of what we were. We make connections with one another and with those we care about and trust. It’s how we survive.” 

“Just got a lesson in that,” Gabriel whispered.

“Not in the way you had hoped, I suppose.” Inea waited.

“No. Not in the least.” the man looked down at his own hands. He needed to move away from the personal portion of this conversation and quickly. “I’m actually working on getting the dragons status changed within Crimson and the Council. It’s in progress and hopefully will be ready to present soon.” He looked down at Sen’s hand and caressed his thumb over his forearm. The coarse red hairs tickled the pad of his fingers and he smiled just a little. It wouldn’t be easy to be with this man at all, but Gabriel was willing to do what needed to be done and sacrifice what he needed to for him.

“Starrfire told me you needed access to the libraries… once I caught him trying to sneak information out. I grant you and your kindragon access to the books you will need for this research you are doing. I am having servants bring anything relevant to the front research room for you. However, considering the circumstances, I’ve made arrangements to have it delivered to your estate. I hope you have room for it all.”

There was a momentary look of surprise on Gabriel’s face as he realized what she was saying, “Really? Uh, thank you for that and I assure you I’ll make room as it is needed.”

“It seems as though I need to offer you a thanks, not the other way around. You are helping my people, Gabriel. I will do anything and everything to see that you succeed.” Inea looked back over to Senias.  “He could never find the proper person. He was running out of faith. Over the last few decades, I wondered if the next time I reached out to him, I would only find that he’d gone to the stars.” She took a deep breath. “He is my dragon mate. We make beautiful kitlings and perhaps someday we will again. But for now, I want him to be as happy and in love as I am.”

This last caught Gabriel’s attention. She was in love? So, mates did not mean something permanent, just like the bonds didn’t necessarily mean emotion or love was involved, even if the bond was there? This was confusing. But then, every culture had it’s own quirks. He cleared his throat.

“I’m trying to make him happy but he makes it very difficult to do so at times.”

“I know. But wouldn’t you have a difficult time settling down if the only relationships you had ended in tragedy or ended in a horrid, nasty way? Wouldn’t you try to shield your heart? Decide to only allow yourself playful romps with a she-demon who could satisfy your urges now and again rather than opening your heart?” Inea winked at Gabriel when he looked up at her right on cue.  She tried to point out things from Senias’ perspective, since he wasn’t there to defend himself. She was walking a fine line, for these tales were for him to tell Gabriel, not her.

“Not sure considering he’s my first real relationship.” He took a breath, “Have been enjoying playful romps up to this point, too.”

“First real relationship? Then it’s obvious you know a lot more than you let on about hiding and being reluctant to care about another person. You’re what? In your 30’s by now?” Inea found this interesting. Did he not realize the similarity?

“Thirty one actually, and for all public purposes and pretty much anything outside of a choice circle of friends I am still hiding… we are hiding.” 

“I see. Well, your secret is safe with me.” Inea remained tight-lipped on everything else. This was not her story to tell. “Let him rest like this for as long as you can keep him. If you need to get the doctor and the vampire to help, so be it. Make him believe he’s not recovering quickly. Don’t allow him to get to the lair. He no longer has a means to go to the other side without being noticed by Crimson. He doesn’t need to go to the other side. I’ve taken that upon myself, and I have three other capable people going with me. We’ll help Devon so that Senias doesn’t have to.” Inea got up. “You and Senias work on getting us a safe place in this world – even if we’re still as secret as the lycan and vampires – so long as we can live freely? That is what we all want.”

“How…”

“Shhhh… that’s my secret.” Inea smiled as she rose from the chair.

“He won’t be happy at all about this. I’ll try to keep him occupied helping me but with this involving Devon, I can’t promise that he won’t charge over there anyway.” Gabriel stood up and walked towards the door with her.

Inea turned and placed a hand on each of the young man’s shoulders. Her eyes were now nearly purple in color, adding the the exotic look she had about her.  “If you are going to be his kindred and plan to be in his life, now is the time that you prove that you are worthy of that place; that gift. It is your responsibility to calm him, to get his protective instincts to relax and help rationality have a place in his mind. As kindred, you are his rock. He is your responsibility evermuch so as you are his. You’ve chosen a dragon that has been wild and uncontrolled for centuries and you’ve fallen in love with him. You’ve claimed place as his kindred and he in turn has claimed you as such. Those claims were nothing but powerless words and bluster – if you can’t do this. That would be quite a shame.”

Gabriel smiled that patient way of his, “It was a pleasure to meet you Lady Inea, please travel safely and return soon unharmed. Starrfire needs his parents probably more than he’ll ever believe possible.”

Nodding, the dragoness let go and turned to walk to the door. She stopped and turned slightly to look over her shoulder, “Just to be clear, he does love you. He has just forgotten how to accept and show it. So, be patient with him? I know my lover has had to be patient with me.” She smiled before opening the door to leave.   

“I’ll try..” Gabriel spoke softly to the closing door before returning to his bedside vigil. His eyes closed as he relaxed in the chair and he let himself drift off for a quick nap while he could. He was certain that once Senias woke up and realized he wouldn’t get his way – there would be Hell to pay. 

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2017