Senias cleared his throat. The smells around him were different. That was the first thing he took note of. The second was that he was in a much larger bed than a hospital bed… and much more comfortable. He had faint memories here and there of moving and hearing voices. He turned to the side and inhaled deeply.  

“Gabriel?” he asked, his voice dry and deep with sleep. But there was no answer. His eyes opened and he looked around a well decorated room, with a very conservative feel.  Was he? Was he in Gabe’s room? Would the Councilor go so far as that?  This was definitely not a hotel room, that was for sure and he actually… he leaned over again to the properly made side of the bed and inhaled. Yes. He smelled Gabriel’s cologne and just him on the bedding.  But, the man wasn’t in sight nor did he answer. Raising his brows, Senias scooted to the side and let his legs down. He was wearing brand new pajamas. Interesting. He didn’t usually. Or well… he’d just wear the bottoms. So, he’d been moved and dressed. How long had he been out? “Dammit, Mira…” he muttered to himself before getting up and searching the room for his actual clothes. 

Nope. Nothing. He growled, but decided to make use of the bathroom before slowly walking his way out the door and down the stairs to where he figured Gabriel would be – either in his main office or the library – because this was definitely the Kennedy estate.  

Once he’d seen Sen changed and settled in bed upstairs, Gabriel had made his way down to his office to cancel all his meetings and close himself off between there and the library to do what he did best.

While the office was neat and tidy, the library had stacks of old books from floor to ceiling in several rows. These were separated between the ones that  Lady Inea had sent over, the ones from the Chamber vault and another smaller stack from the Kennedy collection. Of course he had a list of everything in the room that would make returning them unscathed to her, the Vault and his family library that much easier.

Over the large table he’d had set up in the office there was spread several open books and with each there was a sheet of paper with his notes. Everything he had here covered dragon’s and the ruling’s made by the Council pertaining to the draconic race.

The house staff had been in and out all day refreshing his coffee and seeing to the things he needed. Now, as the day was fading to evening Gabriel found himself piecing the time lines together and the puzzle began making more sense. It would probably be an all night affair, but at least he was at home and Mrs. Shepherd wasn’t worrying over him as she sometimes did when he was in office late.

“I’m afraid I need to go home,” Mrs. Shepherd stated. She was pushing another cart of books into the office from the library of the small manor the Kennedys had claimed as home for over a century now. “Shouldn’t you be headed to bed?” Mr. Kennedy often confounded her reason. At least she’d seen fewer long nights as of late. He apparently had a true beau… something he’d never had before. She felt that would help his health – such a workaholic…

“Not sure yet, I still have a lot to do. Do you need the car to take you home or are you okay to drive?” Gabriel knew her eyesight was getting bad and at night much worse though she never said anything to him.

“I’m just fussing over you, you don’t need to fuss over me, Gabriel. I hoped the long nights were over and done. I guess I was wrong. Do be careful that they don’t manage to get as bad a habit as they were before your mystery … person… came along.”  The wicked secretary smiled for him, her bright red lipstick taking away from the aged wrinkles on her face appropriately.  She was still a looker for her age and she’d not ever dress down if she could help it.  She was a professional, after all.  

Gabriel couldn’t help the smile that moved across his lips, “They are getting better.” He flipped a very well aged page on a thick heavy ledger. “And like you madam, I will fuss all I like. It won’t do for your daughter Lucy to graduate college in another year and you not be able to watch her.” He scribbled on the notepad a few dates and shorthand notes beside each. “Get some rest won’t you?” He chuckled which would be a sound even she had rarely heard from him.

“Very well, sir. Goodnight. And tell the one responsible for your more delightful moods and absences – thank you from me as well.”  She turned and made her way to the hall to gather her coat and bags.  

As she left Gabriel turned his attention back to the work at hand. He had the accountings of the dragon attacks on villages, the slaughter of livestock by dragons and the training of soldiers as dragon slayers. Gabriel read the names of the first Councilors and saw his own ancestor’s name – Malcolm Kennedy II – upon the list of those appointed as the first human Councilor. That same ancestor’s eldest son was the one that had branded a fearful dragon looking for a way to survive his race’s eminent slaughter. His heartbeat quickened out of the spear of anger he felt for the draconic race. They were magnificent beings that had been misunderstood and wrongly judged. Well, for the most part at least. He wasn’t naive or gullible. Gabriel knew as he looked over every accounting that not all of them could be false. And when a group of people feared the loss of their food supply and the contempt of the common man, well… 

As with every race, the Councilor knew even dragons had their bad apples. It was just a shame that in their case it meant the race’s total annihilation. He jotted the obviously falsified ones down and had only paused after two pages worth to rest his hand.

Unlike at the office, Gabriel was dressed as casual as he generally got in a polo shirt and slacks. He reached for his coffee and sipped while comparing notes with journal entries from the borrowed Gorias journals. He felt hopeful as the layers began to unfold on the puzzle of the dragons. The next Council meeting would be in 1 month and he wanted to be ready to present his findings – which in turn would at the very least get the kill order lifted on the race. If that could be accomplished then gaining them a chair on the Council would easily come next.

On a nearby cart were some very old, leather bound volumes from the Kennedy library that he’d be reading over next.  These were books written by his ancestors or those around them at the time and normally kept in temperature and humidity controlled settings.  The one his eyes fell upon was familiar, not because he had looked in it. It was familiar because of the way the leather had been stamped on the front, that now faced him.  The partial brand on his lover’s back was represented in that stamp. As a matter of fact, the method of creating this artwork on Senias’ skin may have also been used for the book. However, there was one thing Gabriel had overlooked until that very moment. The book cover had the full design upon it, not just a partial one. There were two dragons bound by the Kennedy crest on this design. The horns were different, the colors, though faded, were different. That couldn’t be just a coincidence, could it?

Gabriel set his cup on its coaster and reached for the family book. His fingers skimmed over the design as if memorizing the fine details that were embedded within the leather. The latched opened easy enough for him as he worked it free to open to the thick first page. For as old as it was the book appeared as if it had just been written the day before. Probably magical of that he had little doubt.

~Tell me of the other dragon. The white one in the Kennedy crest.~ Gabriel skimmed through the pages. He had been able to get Senias to answer, groggily, here and there and had also used this mental-speak to encourage the recovering Tasker to do things since being released. Perhaps he’d still be able to get information.

~ It’s a crest design, it has to be balanced, right? ~ Senias responded, though Gabriel would catch a tinge of nervousness in the answer. He had answered too quickly to hide it. Which meant that Sen was awake or getting there. 

There was an instant clench of his jaw at the diversion. ~Please don’t give some side stepping bullshit answer Sen. I don’t give you such and only request the same respect in return.~

There was an intentional pause as the dragon was obviously trying to decide what to say. Gabriel began moving things to prepare for a break. If Senias was waking, he might need help. Besides, it would be nice to talk face to face. 

~ She’s my mate.  We came together before the Dark Times. But she and I are not on the best of terms since. She was once also held to the binding of your family clan, but she found a way out through the study and practice of magic she learned from the elves. ~ Senias admitted, a flutter of sadness moving through his soul.  

~Your mate.. ~ Gabriel recalled what The Lady Inea of Gorias had told him back in the hospital while Sen slept. Sen actually didn’t remember that she had been there at all? Gabriel tried to put away those thoughts for a face to face conversation. ~ Okay, well understandable – really if you think of it. It is all about balance after all right?. ~ Gabriel rubbed his head and flipped the book closed. He hoped his wording hadn’t betrayed the concern inside of him. 

~ Nature and Fate have ways of helping you have everything you need. And sometimes, it can also be taken away. ~ Senias paused as he moved from the upstairs landing to the stairs. He placed his hand on the railing. ~ Are you… are you downstairs? It’s so quiet up here. ~

~ Yes, I’m working between the office and the library. ~ He felt Sen’s sadness and wanted to comfort him. There was a soothing caress of his mind to Sen’s, ~ Do you feel up to coming down stairs for dinner or should I have a table set up in the room? ~  He wanted to ask so much more but thought it best to ask face to face instead of mentally.

~ I’d prefer coming to you. I’ll take the stairs slowly, though. My eyes are playing tricks on my mind when it comes to depth perception. How…how long have I been here? ~ Senias held the railing and began taking single steps.  

Walking out into the foyer, Gabriel held the end of the banister and watched Senias descend the stairs towards him. He knew Sen wouldn’t be pleased to hear what he had to say so it was best to wait until he was on level ground to answer. “We’ll talk over dinner. Cook made a hearty stew to help in your recovery. She said it’s good for the soul too, whatever that means.” He held his hand out to Sen to assist him as he drew closer.

Senias took Gabriel’s hand once he was down to the last three steps.

“She means I have very little soul left and I need something to help me out,” Sen wore a soft, gracious smile for once, instead of his wicked one. He had to eat crow and his own foot thanks to a bad decision. He was trying to be well behaved – difficult for the dragon.  

It wasn’t until they were seated with food before them and the staff had left them to their own did Gabriel answer his question as he added lemon to his tea. “You were out of it for two days. Samantha ran all manner of tests on you and once she was assured all of the toxin was out of your system I made arrangements for you to be brought here. She nor Evansworth really wanted you out of their care at the clinic, but I played my Councilor card. They had to prep you and you were brought here by private means with none the wiser last evening. You’ve been sleeping it off.”

“Are you sure that was wise?” he asked, though his mind was on how many days it had been. He’d wanted to go across to help Devon immediately. And instead he’d been out of commission and honestly, by the feel of his stomach and the way his body was regenerating from the effects of the poison so slowly – he might not be able to help for another couple of days!  He hated feeling useless. 

“Before you bring up the same things he did let me just say that I don’t care if any of them realize where or who you are to me. It was my decision to make and I will do so again should the need ever arise.” Gabriel swallowed as he snapped his napkin open and placed it properly across his lap. He stared down into the soup and spoke without actually looking at his lover. “Sam was worried about your health to which I hired a private duty nurse who has helped me with you. Evansworth was worried about everything from your health to Crimson finding out. Hence the extra guards and me pointing out to him no one fears for you more than I do. Plus the fact that at this point I’d simply be a Councilor making sure that his Tasker is cared for and on the mend properly.”

“That’s not going to fly forever. Just like late night meetings won’t fly forever. And you know that.” Senias pointed out before taking the bread and breaking it, handing the other side to Gabriel before he tore a piece off his and dipped it in the beefy broth. he was just stating the facts.   

Gabriel had his spoon in one hand and the bread in the other as he thought about his response a moment before giving it. “It will have to until dragons are no longer on everyone’s hit list and..” He shook the rest of his answer off before dipping a small edge of the bread and lifting a spoonful of stew to his mouth to follow the bread. The other obstacle was one of them had to give up their position for their relationship to be accepted. He didn’t have to say that part though, Sen knew until either he was no longer a Tasker or Gabriel was no longer a Councilor they would have to keep things secret.

“What about Devon?” he asked quietly.  “Have you heard anything?”  

“Eva hasn’t heard from him, but she says that isn’t unusual given where he probably is. It isn’t like he can pick up a phone and call as she put it.” Gabriel wiped his mouth and eased back in his chair. “He’s not alone though.”

“He has Zenlial the elf? That’s not exactly a good thing in packlands.”

“Yes the elf is still with him, but others went over to help him too.” Gabriel wasn’t ready to give Sen everything, besides once he did it would be very hard to keep the dragon from trying to charge off to the other world no matter who knew he was going. “Eat your food and then I’ll explain, I promise.”

“I’m not a fockin’ child, Gabriel. Tell me who you’ve sent over?!” Senias demanded, his ire making his head hurt.

Tossing his napkin onto the table Gabriel pushed his chair back so that he could stand and he stepped behind it to rest his hands on the back of it. His thumbs smoothed over the polished wood as he sighed, “Lady Inea took Dante, Derek and another named Largros with her to help Devon figure things out so that he could return quickly. She said if you were needed she’d let you know, but until then you need to recover.”

“Well that’s bloody nice of her. Guess my agreement with Mira’s gonna hurt…”

“She changed your deal with Mira. Whatever that entailed she is now seeing to herself while she is over there helping the lycans. No, before you ask, she didn’t give me any other specifics to the deal only that it’s not your concern any longer.” Gabriel would do what he needed to so that Sen didn’t rush off and get hurt or worse before he was well enough to do so. Would it piss the dragon off? Probably. He’d have to take his chances.

“If Dante is with her, the deal is not as deep as mine would have been. Inea would not come out on bottom of any deals with the twins, unlike… what I’ve apparently done,” he groused before ripping the next piece of bread to dip.  Now that he had the information, he calmed back down. 

“The dealings with the twins never really goes in anyone’s true favor though, do they?” Gabriel was a little confused where this was going as he stood there with brows furrowed watching Sen eat.

“So you met her… and Largros? Three dragons, no… four including Starrfire, correct?”

“No.. three, I haven’t actually met the one called Largros as of yet. I know of all four of you, plus my Aunt Rose is apparently with one so that is five that I know of. Why?”

“Rose is with Largros’ father. He’s older than me or Inea. I found out a year ago. She did a damn good job of hiding it from me.”  Senias chewed on his next bite. He was not pleased by all of this. His mood shifted obviously. “She knows better than to go over there. There is bad blood between her and the elves. I should be over there.” He sighed and put the bread back on the table. He’d been stupid. 

“Look Sen, I made a judgment call just as a kindred would. I didn’t stop her or try to dissuade her. I was more concerned with seeing to you to be honest.” Gabriel squeezed the wood that was beneath his hand and sighed, “I explained it all to Eva and have spoken with her every day. She knows there are others over there to help Dev and that we didn’t just let him go over and forget about him.”

“And you’re not even my kindred yet, so you have no idea why I’m saying what I’m saying or made the calls I made or why I’m angry.” Senias tossed his napkin down and got up, shoved the wooden chair aside and forced himself to make his way back to the staircase.  “I need to heal. And I need to help.”

That slap hurt. How long would it take for the dragon to accept him? Would he? Hadn’t they already had this conversation at the hospital? Gabriel gave him time to take a few steps up the stairs before he made his way out of the dining room.

“Thank you, I’ll be sure not to make the mistake of misconstruing that in the future.” He clasped his hands before him and gave Sen a cool look since they were being brutally honest with one another he felt it was warranted. “I’m sure that rushing through the portal and drawing Crimson attention with you will be just the thing for Devon’s Pack situation. After all Crimson and Council are so understanding when it comes to race wars.”

“They like to use them, sometimes. Don’t try to deny that.” Sen snarled. But the Councilor was correct about the situation, even though he hated to admit it. And his words were just wild swings made by a drunken brawler. 

Gabe started towards the office with the intention of immersing himself in his work until the sting was gone and he no longer cared what was going on. “It won’t do any good to go looking for Mira either. Her brother made sure she was unreachable until they return.” As Sen had said he wasn’t a child and Gabriel wasn’t his kindred. But now the dragon would need to make a decision whether Gabriel was worth the time to stick around for and sort things out with or if he needed to heal as he put it and run off to another who already had help there for him. Gabriel had already made his decision, thought Sen had. 

If he could have ripped apart the staircase, he would have. In his other form, he could have. But, right now… he was so weak that he doubted he could manage a shift at all. He looked up the stairs. He looked out to the east for some odd reason, then he looked down the stairs at where gabriel’s voice had come from.  With a growl he sat down on the staircase and muttered to himself.  Gabriel might not have been his kindred, but he was acting like it. And he’d damn sure made sure he had no way or means of hopping into his original plans.  The poison had taken care of the rest.  He put his elbows on his knees and let his hands hang between them as he leaned forward. Then he lifted his palms to his bloodshot eyes. 

~ What am I supposed to do, then? ~ he finally asked after a good five minutes of just sitting there, being stubborn.

Standing once at the table of carefully made notes and pulled together timelines, Gabriel stared at it all as Sen’s words rolled through his head. ~ Heal like you said. I know you have a lair some place on this estate. I suggest going to it, taking your true form and properly healing instead of relying on medical treatment that isn’t really appropriate. ~ His voice wasn’t as warm and gentle as it had been earlier. It was straightforward and business like –  because that was obviously what the dragon preferred from him.

Did he really do this? Well, for one thing, he had sat down because the damned poison was still being a bitch to his system. Or, more appropriately, it had already been a bitch to his system and now his system was having to catch up. He felt like a human that had suffered the flu and was no longer contagious, but definitely under the weather. His lungs had started hurting and he knew he just needed to calm himself down before moving on. But once he got up those stairs, did he go to the lair or did he just crawl back in bed and deny it all?  

He had claimed Gabriel in front of his dragonling. Was it just for show? The man definitely seemed to be doing his part to keep his dragon under control, that was for sure. And being a kindred was give and take, wasn’t it?  He’d just… he’d never had one. He’d only seen other dragons have kindred bonds. And he hadn’t liked how they were used, to be honest. Not most of them, anyway. Some…maybe. 

All that he was working on and all that he was doing was for the stubborn, hard headed creature that he could even now here outside the room on the stairs. Picking up his pen Gabriel tried to pour himself into his work again, but instead was just staring at the words already there. Finally, he put the pen back down again and stepped to the door to lean in the opening and look up at his lover. “Why are you still sitting there? If nothing else you should be back upstairs in bed.”

“And in two more tries, I’m sure I could make it. Give me a fockin’ break!” he snapped, before slowly picking himself up and turning to look up at the rest of his climb. He hated feeling weak. He hated being hurt. “You Kennedys are bad luck charms, I swear I stay injured or worse around you same as was with your grandfather…”

With a heavy sigh Gabriel moved to the stairs and slowly took them one by one until he stood at Sen’s side. Did it still sting? Yes. Would he leave Sen miserable? No. He was a pro at pushing things aside or back to go on and he’d do the same now. “Come on, I’ll help you back upstairs before I go back to work.”

The dragon reluctantly put his arm around Gabriel’s waist and leaned between him and the banister to get better leverage. It pushed him onward being like that. Once they got to the master, where he had been resting, he shook his head.  

“No. I need the guest behind yours.”

Changing Direction Gabriel helped his lover to the guest room as requested. He assumed that Sen was pissed off enough not to even want a room with him. He started towards the bed with Sen.

“No, not the bed, the closet. I need your help getting to my lair.” He let his gaze move to Gabriel’s. If he was going to claim the man and the man was going to act like a kindred, then he should know this. He should be allowed to be a kindred. 

As they moved towards the small walk in, Gabriel glanced at Sen to make sure he was looking okay and not taking a turn for the worse. “Your lair is in my guest room walk in?” He opened the door and helped Sen inside and towards the back where the head to toe full length mirror was placed in the far wall.

“Why wouldn’t it be? It has other entrances but this one is the most convenient. Your aunt found it convenient. She would come to my lair when she was bored or had to vent about something. She has the sight…I couldn’t hide from her.” Sen moved aside and leaned against the wall. He looked at Gabriel. “You do, too. Want to try and use it? All it takes is for you to see it and I can tell you what to do once you see the corridor.”  

“Corridor? All I see is a mirror,” Gabriel snapped.  Sen was determined that he was magical, but Gabriel seriously doubted that. Now it seemed Sen was going to test him at a really inconvenient time. “Just…”

“No, look past reality. As if you were playing with one of those 3-D hidden pictures. Look just past what is on the surface and let your eyes relax into the energy you have within you. Look at the mirror when you’re ready to try.”

Closing his eyes, Gabriel took a deep breath and followed his dragon’s suggestion. It took a minute or two before he finally he opened his eyes and lost his breath as the mirror faded away to reveal a corridor just as Sen had said it would. “Okay now what?”

Once Gabriel could see, Senias guided him. “Now, place your palm at the Apex of where you want there to be a door opening. Focus on that you see, then focus on imagining the doorway… as a rip in the fiber or reality… that opens outward. No special words, just focus.”

The first attempt was frustrating as were the second, third and fourth. Gabe was breathing hard. He could see the corridor there and then it would fade and at no time had he gotten things to do as Sen had coached him. He looked over at the Tasker. 

“You’re doing fine. You may not see your own magic. But I do. You’re pulling it from within. It’s not a lot, but it doesn’t need to be, not for this. Keep trying,” Senias encouraged. If the man was going to be a kindred, he needed to realize his own potential.

Finally, on the fifth try Gabriel was able to do what he needed to and he created a doorway. His hand went to his head a moment as it blazed to life with a severe headache.

Senias saw the backlash and he actually grimaced. He knew what that felt like. Gabriel wasn’t used to directing his left-over energy and it had slapped him in the head. Sen reached toward the man, but found himself just as rebuked as Gabriel had been earlier.  

“Don’t… just.. I’m fine, let’s get you inside your lair.” Gabriel slid his arm around Sen’s waist and helped him through the opening and down the stairs. He was amazed with every step that took them deeper beneath the house and the estate. All these years and this had been there with him no less the wiser for it. Sen had made a point of putting him in his place and followed it with calling him bad luck. He couldn’t really appreciate all the wonders of this moment while feeling hurt as he did.

The larger man allowed himself to be helped. He appreciated it. He wasn’t sure how many stops along the way he would have had to make had he been by himself.  

Reaching the bottom, Gabriel did look around as the place lit up as if on its own. He took note of the relics and treasures off to the left, along with the bed and the large floor of gold. “Where to from here? I don’t know if you need that water or the cavern floor.. I’m not sure where to take you so that you can change forms and rest.”

“The aurumn. The… the gold is what you would call it. It allows our scales to rest on solid ground without damage. I just need to be in the middle of it. And you need to run out of it. I don’t want to hurt you.”  

As instructed Gabriel helped Sen to the center of the gold and then made his way quickly back out of it. He stood close to the stairs, unsure of Sen’s true size. After all he’d never seen a real dragon. “I can return up stairs so that you can change if you like.”

“You…you aren’t the problem, Gabriel.” Senias closed his eyes and tried to relax. He could feel his dragon deep within his soul. Soon he was on a knee, his hand reaching out to catch the fall and then on his ass in the gold. By now it was at least softer.  He wanted to cry to himself; had it really been so long?

Gabriel lifted a brow in that questioning way of his, “I never said I was, but now that you mention it what could it be?” He hadn’t moved closer because honestly he didn’t need to be crushed if Sen suddenly did change forms.

“I don’t remember the last time I shifted, without it being an emergency I was just reacting to. I’m sick. Weak… I’m trying…”  He turned to stretch out on his side and then he placed his face to the soft gold metal. His pajamas were in the way and so he at least squirmed to rip off the top and throw it aside before letting his skin touch the metal once again. The brand on his back was glowing a pale blue. His hands spread out from his sides, he looked like he was trying to embrace the floor.  “This is my fault.”

Before Gabriel had a chance to say anything else he was thrown into awe.

Very suddenly, the metal lurched beneath Senias, and then began showing signs of being liquid and not solid at all!  Sen took a deep breath before he was simply swallowed up by the golden material. The next movement was a dark scaled form moving up and out of the golden mire – and in the end, the dragon, every bit as large as a double decker bus was lying there, breathing very heavily on the bed of gold.  His scales were obviously supposed to be dark – maybe black and violet? There were some points of maroon and red at the underbelly.  But they weren’t shiny. The scales were dirty and dull. This was Senias of Morias, after years and years of discontent and self abuse; after centuries of having no one else to help him care about and for himself.  How long had it been, indeed? How long had he lived as a human, ignoring his true self unless it was needed for some dastardly job Crimson or Skinner assigned?  

When it seemed safe to do so Gabriel approached the edge of the golden metallic substance that had gone from solid to a softer malleable form with Sen’s presence. Was it perhaps somehow symbiotic to him? Crouching down at the edge he reached a hand out to press on the golden surface. His hand didn’t sink like Sen’s human body had just done, instead it reminded him of that stuff – memory foam – they’d once made pillows, shoe insoles and mattress tops from.

Removing his shoes Gabriel cautiously stepped out onto the warm metal and slowly made his way over to the magnificent, though grungy looking, creature. The scales looked dull and that wasn’t surprising considering how long it must have been since Senias had taken this form. Reaching out Gabriel smoothed his hand down the hard surface of a scale and came back with a hand full of old shedding. The scales beneath were shiny at least, proving that cleaning could help.

There was a grunt from the dragon, showing that he at least felt the touch.  ~ Sorry… I couldn’t explain. ~

“You look terrible and smell just as bad.” Gabriel stepped back several paces to truly assess the situation.

~ Well, I didn’t… ~

“Don’t.” Gabe’s word stopped Sen from saying more. His recent trend since eating and receiving the update to his situation had been to lash out. Before Sen said or did anything that was unsalvageable, Gabriel figured he’d shift attention to the dragon’s current needs. His gaze went from the dragon to the far side where the treasures were stashed and then finally settled on the water. It was dark and looked deep. Considering the estate was surrounded by run-off from the mountains and fresh water springs, this made some sense. Who knew how much excavation the dragon had done down here?  “I suggest that you go for a swim and maybe that will rid you of at least a ton of shedding and the odor that goes with it.”

Without a second thought, the dragon doubled back over upon himself, moving as quickly and adeptly as a viper. He was sliding into the water with barely a splash. The water soothed his weary bones and as he dove into the deepness of it, he shivered and shook and moved up against the side of the caverns beneath the estate lands to rid himself of shed. The lights in the main cavern or “lair” dimmed slightly as the dragon moved away from it.  

As Sen dove in to disappear from view, Gabriel grabbed his shoes and moved towards the stairs. The lighting dimmed so he took a seat on the stairs. He’d wait for Sen to return safely and settle in, then he’d go back to his researching. He really had been a magnificent sight to behold going from a human to a dragon. But the Councilor wasn’t sure he’d admit that. 

Senias had not planned on letting Gabriel see him. His reaction was pleasant – also unexpected!  When Gabriel’s grandmother had first seen his true form, she had been frightened and overwhelmed. She never spoke of it and forbade him to do so.  Other than mission work once in a long while and a romp or two over the last few decades with Devon and the pups, the dragon had not shifted. He’d definitely not paid any attention to his own upkeep. Now that Gabriel was here, he had a reason to do so. He paused in his swimming and looked down at his body. Using his claws and pads, he began scrubbing himself. Had it really been that bad?  

Having scrubbed and clawed and gnawed and scratched and picked as much as this load of breath would allow him, Senias moved back to the top of the water, a blow-out of misty air heralding his return.

~ Feel better, maybe even a little lighter? ~ Gabe watched Sen’s head break the surface of water after the misty water show.

~ Yes, thank you. ~ he replied politely, while studying the man. Was he afraid? Was he annoyed? Senias was trying to judge it, but without the bond, that was difficult. Without the bond, so many things could be taken badly. No wonder they were slamming their heads against each other.  

“I’m going back upstairs, I still have a lot of books to go through to finish preparing this case. If I want to succeed I can’t miss any of them and a month is not that long to amply prepare.” Gabriel was standing back up to slip his shoes on so that he could make the long climb back to the guest room. “You need to rest and now that you are in true form and clean maybe that is possible.”

~You don’t have to go upstairs now, do you? I’ve decided you may stay here, if you don’t fear me… ~  Senias moved with a backward motion into the water enough to get good forward momentum and then was up and onto the side of the underground pool, shaking off the excess water without fully doing so – since he didn’t want to wet Gabriel.  He rose up on his hind and barely cleared the overhead hang of stone to lean back and gnaw at one more insistent irritation beneath a scale.  Then he turned back and settled his front claws on the aurumn, his head tilting slightly to watch the man.  

“I don’t fear you. But, this is not the right time for you to decide anything Senias. You’re sick so focus on getting better first.” Shoving his hands in his pockets Gabriel kept his distance knowing that if he got too close Sen would have his way because he honestly cared too damned much for the dragon. “You were right, I am not your kindred. I’m your lover and I overstepped my bounds. I’m going to win this case and have a decision that was made long ago overturned. I’m going to give dragons their lives back and make them free to be out and free to live their lives. I can’t do anything about being a bad luck charm, but I can do that. Once that judgement is made and you realize that you’re not quite as trapped, then and only then can you decide what to do. You can be happy whether it’s with me, with someone else or on your own.”

His own words were going to forever come back and bite him in the ass when it came to this one. He could see that, now. Well, fine then.  He huffed warm air in Gabriel’s general direction before stepping back into the golden bed. Curling around and over himself until he felt some bit of comfort, the dragon finally closed his eyes and let sleep take him. Now that he was in his true form, his body would heal.  He just hoped the rest of him could be salvaged.  

“Sleep well Senias.” Gabriel had waited at the stairs until the dragon was sleeping. He then turned and made his way slowly back up stairs and back through the house to the office where he immersed himself in his work once more.