He had worked diligently all through the night and had twenty-seven pages of notes with thirty-two valid proofs of mis-judgement in incidents pertaining to dragons and the Council. Closing the tenth ledger that Clan Gorias had provided to him, Gabriel set the heavy book aside. He rubbed the back of his neck to ease the strain while looking at his watch. It was almost eight in the morning… he needed coffee. He went to the kitchen for another cup and called Eva’s cell to leave a message – that was basically the easy way out. Not that he thought cancelling coffee with her this morning would stop the woman from seeking him out, but maybe it’d give him time to get his head in order before seeing her.

Gabriel carried his cup back to his office and closed himself in – determined to work another few hours before forcing himself upstairs to shower and change. How long could he do this? Gabriel wasn’t sure, but he’d go until he couldn’t any longer.

“Did you think a door lock would keep me out? Or that ferocious beast for that matter?” Eva asked when Gabriel looked up from his work. She was at the door, watching him.  

There was a slow smile on his face as well as dark circles under his bloodshot eyes, “No is the answer to both of those questions. Nothing keeps you out of something you want to get into, Eva.” He pushed a hand through his hair which was messy anyways. “Coffee? Cook just brewed a new pot.” He lifted his own cup as evidence and hit the intercom on the phone to ask cook to bring the fresh pot and another cup for Eva.

“Thank you. And the ferocious beast? I smell him. But I don’t see him.” Eva walked in, her long eyelet skirt covering up the fact that she was going barefoot today. She often did this when she had no plans for going off the property. She could literally walk home and it’d only take twenty or so minutes.  She looked over the tomes on the table he had been combing through.  

Reaching for ledger number eleven, Gabriel flipped it open and started skimming the first page, “He’s sleeping soundly, still recovering from the dragon’s bane. Any word from Devon? How are the boys doing?” He knew Eva couldn’t resist talking about her mate and children so it was the best diversionary tactic ever made when it came to her.

“Russell is upset that he can’t use the refractory that is Senias for information and intelligence when it comes to his work and this project he’s helping you and Starrfire with.  Clint is working on your aunt’s property, Ryan is with him there, but also doing online studies.  So no more schooling in the normal sense for him. I can tell that Terry and Ryker are about to start feeling their oats, because of the fights and stupidity happening. It’s so cute how they think I don’t know about what they do.  And Aaron and Michael are fitting into their first year of middle school quite well. They have their haloes on backward most of the time, but that’s okay.” Eva took a deep breath. “No word from Devon.” She spoke it quickly before moving the conversation back to the dragon, “Is he not in his true form, yet? Do you need me to whip his ass to get him into it? He may not want to change…” she paused. “You know what? I should take him to the lair and see if he’ll do it…” Eva looked from Gabriel to the door. She seemed concerned.

“No need for that, he’s already there and in true form.” It really didn’t surprise him that the lycans knew of Sen’s lair. They’d known what he was all these years and had never told him.

Eva couldn’t hide the shocked expression she got at hearing that news!

Once the coffee arrived, Gabriel poured a fresh cup adding just the smallest bit of sugar and placed it in her hands. He motioned her towards a chair. Taking his cup he joined her and catching her gaze his voice softened for her, “I’m glad to hear that the boys are all doing well, even Terry. Now tell me what has you worried. You can’t fool me any more than I can fool you, Eva.”

She sipped at her coffee and then let it sit in her lap to cool just a tad bit. She considered his words and took a moment. She wasn’t about to lie to him – never had. Not… not really. But there had been a lot of secrets.  

“You remind me of Avery, when he first came back to the pack.  Unlike you, he hadn’t had a bit of my raisin’. He was angry and bitter and yet he had his whole life ahead of him.  So, even though I hadn’t part in making him through raisin’ I had part in makin’ him – in molding his soul. I had the responsibility given to a parent to love him unconditionally and to help him find his truth and his path.  I see you as the same but I had no part in molding your soul. Instead I had every part I could in raisin’ you. So… I am responsible in that sense – as a parent – to love you unconditionally and help you find your truth and your path.”  

Watching her sip her coffee Gabriel eased back in the chair and rubbed a hand over his face. “My truth and my path…” That brought home the reason he had been up all night working as he was. He looked towards the table full of books, notes, and other odd bits and felt his jaw tense a little. He clasped his own cup with both hands. “Why didn’t any of you tell me the truth Eva? I had a right to know that my ancestors enslaved him. It explains why he stayed away from this place for so long. Hell I’m surprised he ever returned.”

Eva placed her cup on the table between them both.  She looked at the boy carefully. “Let’s answer that all in full before you ask more, okay?” she wanted to be sure he didn’t interrupt her.

Instead of answering Gabriel nodded and gave her the respect that she was owed from him. Eva had always been straightforward with him and so he expected no less from her now.

“For one thing, that dragon didn’t stay away from here because he was a servant to your family. He stayed away from here because he’d gotten into trouble with your grandfather and grandmother over being stupid. He was welcome back when Amelia needed him and when you needed him. He came without a lick of a problem. He left again when Amelia passed. There were several reasons for that. And we were all caught up in it. For one thing, William…” she shook her head.  “Well, your father was an envious man. Senias didn’t want to be around him and for good reason. Also, when Amelia died, he had made promises to her. One was to watch over your grandfather, Jonathan, to protect him from himself. That meant traveling with the man and making sure he didn’t fall into depression. The other…” she paused before finishing, “…was to stay out of your life.”   Eva licked her lips.

Rubbing his forehead Gabriel listened and just took a nice slow breath. He wasn’t told because his grandmother had wanted it that way?

“She thought she was protecting you, because you didn’t have to be part of what your ancestors had done in the past – if you didn’t know.”

He took in a deep breath of air and looked down into his own cup. “A lot of good that did.” He muttered more to himself than to her.

“Why I didn’t tell you, is because I promised Amelia that I would not tell you. Just like I promised her that you’d always have a home and protection here, with us.  But I wound up falling in love with those pretty eyes of yours when you were knee-high to a grasshopper, so that second part wasn’t hard at all.”

Lycan were all about respecting the wishes of the dead, but in this case Gabe wished she hadn’t. He felt like he needed to know and he had been left in the dark. “I’m grateful that you took me in. I think if you hadn’t I would have become my father.” They both knew how hard and how cold his father could be when in the right mood and frame of mind. It was one of the many reasons he was such a night owl. “but because I’ve stumbled over all of this, I just feel at a loss with Jean…uh… Senias. It feels strange in a way.”

“He told you everything you wanted to know? He did that not out of some forced situation. He did that because it was his choice. He could’ve easily told you half truths and then left you as soon as the danger was done.” Eva pointed out. “He broke his vow and that is something he’s probably ashamed of.  You know, it’s almost as if, he tried to leave you be. He tried to stay away from you, like he’d promised he would do. But a heart wants what a heart wants.” Eva smiled.   “Likewise – before all of this happened, before you knew? Because you didn’t know, you called on him and you spoke to him as you would any man in your company. You had no awkwardness and no expectation.”  Eva smiled as she remembered Devon’s words from that very night when everything happened. “You were both free of that ancient pact, free of each other… and yet you both found one another again. It wasn’t some ancient oath of servitude that had Senias curled around you the night we came to his sanctuary. It was at the very least caring, if not the beginnings of love.” She took her cup back into her lap again. “It’s more emotion than he’s shown in quite some time.”  

His eyes went wide and he exhaled as he rubbed the back of his neck. The way she put it helped clarify some concerns for him and he felt a little better for it. “I do care.” The look he gave her was almost that teenager first love kind of look. He blushed and smiled. “It really was nice to wake up that morning.” As she handed him the pot, he filled their cups and then placed the coffee pot aside to breathe in the wonderful aroma from the cup. “I don’t do things like that you know. I’ve never stayed the whole night with anyone. We have our moment and then go our separate ways… so I wasn’t sure how the hell to act waking up in his house.  Even though we hadn’t actually…you know…” He lifted the cup, blew across it and sipped from it.

“But you have now?” Eva’s impish grin could be seen even in her eyes.

Gabriel blushed. 

“Was it ever like that with Devon?” Gabriel asked as he enjoyed more of the strong brew that filled most of his days.

“More times than I can remember. Devon’s always loved taking care of me before anything else. Comes of how we met, I think.” She held the heated cup between her fingers as she recalled nice memories. “I was a slave, traded to the other world when we met and he was a royal – a prince to be exact.  He saved me and a couple others I cared for.  The way he looked at me, it’s very similar to how Senias looks at you.  Like he can’t believe what he’s just found? But he doesn’t let you see him do that very much, now does he?”  Her eyes sparkled when she thought of how she’d caught Devon looking at her all through their relationship. “Did I ever have my doubts? Not for long. No.  And I hope you don’t have them for long either. If this is to be, I hope it comes to that sooner rather than later.”   She sipped her coffee before placing it back on the table top. Then, there was a bit of a tremor and the liquid in other cups rippled. Gabe hadn’t noticed.  “You could both use the connection.”

“It won’t be any time soon Eva.” Gabriel stood up and moved back to the table to look over the notes he’d left off with.

“You’ve done enough for the day, don’t you think?” Eva asked. He looked like death warmed over. He needed a break. “If you want to be productive and yet not kill yourself, I’ve got a suggestion.” She sipped her coffee.

“And what, pray tell would that be?” Gabe acted disinterested.

“Come on,” She held her hand out for his. “Let’s have some fun.”

Gabe’s expression was one of incredulity, but, to be honest, he was curious. Not to mention, he’d hit a stopping point, or maybe it was best to be described as a plateau in his research. Maybe a break would do him some good? With a sigh of surrender, he moved from around the table and took her hand.  

Before long Eva had gotten him to reopen the doorway to the lair – something that didn’t take him as long this time. She slapped her hands against the walls as they moved past to get the lighting to illuminate.  

“Oh come – on! You need to know these things. You need to figure these things out. And the best way to figure out a problem is to face it, head on. Wouldn’t you agree?” Eva knew Jonathan was famous for using such logic. And since Gabriel loved his grandfather, he would also know the lesson.  

They came around the last shallow set of stairs that led into the cavernous lair and she paused. The lights were magic, but looked like lanterns and torches against the walls. They flickered over the dragon’s scales that were now a bit more shiny. The lighting over the water, further on, gave the entire lair this mystical appearance. 

“Who do you see with your eyes when you look at him in his true form, Gabe?” Eva asked. She was watching her charge closely.  

He looked confused and frustrated. “I don’t understand what you mean Eva. I see Sen..”

“I want to know how you see him, in this form… how would you describe him? Who is this being to you?” she asked and this was very, very important for her to know.  

“I see Senias in his true form; a magnificent creature.” Gabriel was too tired to play mind games with her and it showed as he scrubbed a hand through his messy hair and he sighed, “I see the man I love, only in this form he’s a gorgeous being larger than life with scales that catch light and show vivid colors. He makes me feel safe with that deep, steady rumble that seems to constantly emanate from his chest. I mean, I just want to be close to him and fall asleep to it.”  Rubbing at the bridge of his nose and closing eyes Gabriel muttered low as pain from Sen’s words rose to the surface, “Why are you asking me this Eva? How else would I see him?”

“Because the one failing your grandmother had, Goddess rest her soul, was that she could never accept that Senias was a dragon. She could not see him as a four-legged scaled creature who also was sentient and intelligent and emotional – and everything that he is. She only accepted those things in his human form. And I believe that perhaps that was another thing I worried about in letting you know. I worried that you would not be able to see any further than she had.”

Gabriel sighed “Sen said something like that. He said he hoped I was different than the others. Well I am different than the others, because I don’t know of any other Kennedys quite like myself. Do you?” Being different might not be enough though, he thought this to himself.

“No. Not at all,” she stood on her tiptoes and reached up to ruffle his hair with her fingers. “You’re perfectly you.”  She knew he would try and straighten his hair and that was fine, too.

Eva turned to look at the big sleeping pile of scales in the golden floor.

“I’m so pleased you’re more than the others. Very pleased, Gabriel.” Sen had worried over allowing Gabriel to see his true form. The dragon needed to know the comfort of realizing Gabriel wouldn’t react with fear, the way Amelia had or with greed as William had.  Now was the time. “Well come on you big lump of turd! Get up so we can get the nasties off of you’re sorry scales! I’m not gonna be here all day! I’ve got stuff to do! And this young one needs to know what it is to help your sorry ass out!” Eva yelled, getting a quick hissing and growling response from the suddenly awake yet groggy dragon.

His massive head moving to face her, Sen’s eyes shone bright green in the dimly lit lair.  Short Sword sized claws dug into the golden floor, yet the lycan seemed unafraid.  She was testing Gabriel, still.

“Maybe…maybe you shouldn’t…” what did he say? He’d followed her back to the lair out of curiosity. Now as he stood watching her rile Sen awake, the protective side surfaced in him. He was breathtaking and truly wondrous to behold and yet Gabriel also knew by instinct that he was very dangerous in this form. His stomach tightened.

“Come on!” she knew the dragon was half-asleep. She picked up a book from the floor and threw it at him.  The wings stretched up and away from his body, something Gabriel hadn’t seen before. And just like that, the temperature in the room soared by ten degrees at least.

“Wake up you big claw! We need you to stretch out and you’re taking too long!” Eva called again, this time lifting her skirt and moving into the aurumn.  The growl that came from the dragon went lower and he licked his tongue across dagger-like teeth.

Eva looked back over her shoulder to Gabriel.  “He’s not using his mental speak with me, but I can tell I startled him and pissed him off. His furnace just went hot. Feel it?”  

Gabriel shook his head, getting himself out of the awe he was experiencing.

“Calm him down, Gabriel! Help get him roused properly.” If Gabe loved this man, this dragon, he needed to know how to deal with both sides of him. He needed to stop withdrawing. Eva and Devon had let them pussy foot around it for a while. Now it was time to put his money where his mouth was.  Time to toss Gabriel into the deep end.   

Uncrossing his arms, Gabriel stepped closer to the aurumn. He took a deep breath and concentrated on mentally speaking to Sen, ~ Wake up Senias. You need to wake up and stretch out. ~ Gabriel was urging as he toed off his shoes and stepped onto the soft, golden bed to be closer to Sen.

The dragon growled again and moved his clawed forehand back away from Gabriel. He was now just becoming aware that this was happening. His wing moved down on the side to stabilize his bulk.

~ I’m sweating, so unless you are going to roast and eat me, you need to cool things down. ~ He wiped his forehead with his arm and stepped closer. ~ You know I hate it when I sweat. ~ Gabriel felt a bit of humor at making that statement. 

There was a loud swallowing sound and another odd growling noise. The chemicals were now being digested instead of burned.  Senias moved one wing downward to his body again, the one closest to the wall, not the one facing them. That done, he rolled against the wall and grumbled with the strain. His underside, shinier than the rest of him, was reddish in color with golden flecks. And he was baring it.  

“Now what?” Gabriel asked as if what he’d just done was a bit of nothing. 

Eva’s mouth was still open. She shook her head when Gabriel spoke and turned to rest her gaze on him. “Uh…I uh…” she stammered before swallowing and getting herself together. “Clean up time. Best to do it while they’re asleep or semi conscious. Otherwise you might end up with a very sassy dragon on your hands. I just…”  She looked between the big dragon and Gabriel. “I’ve never seen him just… just roll over like that. It’s a good thing.”  

With a shrug, Gabriel acknowledged “Good thing… right.. Okay, well I have him this way and now what?”

“Oh, right, well… stay there.” She made her way out of the aurumn and then moved around the place until she found some old brushes and brooms and rags that had been thrown here and there for them to use. “Like washing a breathing, living car. You used to help the boys with that when you were up to it, remember? Devon would even spray you with the hose.”  She went over to the lake and got an extra couple of buckets for them to use.  She giggled just a bit. When Gabriel relaxed, he kind of forgot about his OCD habits. And that was a good thing.  

“Oh I remember, trust me.” Gabriel gave a small smile as he filled two of the buckets. “What happens to the mess we leave with all of this water?” He asked while carrying them to the aurumn.

“He can heat this aurumn up to evaporate whatever we leave.” She was doing this for the practical reasons, but also because Gabriel needed a physical break from what he was doing. He also needed the opportunity to actually familiarize himself with the dragon he had inherited. And though she wasn’t going to tell her boy – Eva felt this might help the both of them come closer to that bonding they were so very slow at making happen.  She had been talking to Russ about that kind of bond. She just didn’t tell Gabe that she’d asked her son about this stuff.

Taking up one of the scrub brushes Gabriel dipped it and started scrubbing at Sen’s softer scales. When the muscles beneath started twitching he stopped and actually set the brush down to reach out and feel the scaling. It was much softer than the other had been on Sen’s side. That scaling and been thick and tough like armor. This reminded him of the scaling that snakes and lizards had on their under belly. Switching to the mop Gabriel used that instead, not wanting to irritate them any more than necessary.

“Good idea. He might get the itchies in his human form and never know why with you using that broom brush,” Eva laughed before she climbed up onto the dragon’s back leg to begin on the outer areas she could get to. She’d scrub, remove filth and then rinse and polish. It was piece by piece and then repeat.

Gabe lost himself in the washing and was soon chuckling along with Eva. They sang songs. They slung water at one another from the buckets between scrubbing and washing and refilling. Gabriel’s dimples were showing with his grin as he slicked back his damp hair to scrub at Sen’s tougher scales to remove more shedding from them. He even talked the sleeping dragon into rolling over for them! He didn’t realize what he already had with the old grump!  Eva was impressed. She made sure they both had some fun and yet, Senias would be spic and span when they were done. Not once did she think about Devon or what might be happening on the other side. She was just focused on these two goofballs. It was a much needed break for her as well.

Several hours passed before Gabriel sat breathless at Sen’s spine wiping sweat from his face. He tossed the brush down and poured water over the area between the dragon’s wings to wash away the last of the old stuff. His shirt had been discarded and his drenched slacks rolled up to the knee leaving him looking messier than he had in a very long time.

“Thanks Eva, I think I needed the break from myself.” His warm brown eyes sparkled for her as he made his way down to join her. They both picked up all the discarded buckets, mops and scrub brushes. 

“Yeah. I think I needed the break just as much as you did, truth be told.”  

Picking his shirt up off the ground he used it wipe down with,“You know doing all of this won’t fix things right? He said I was bad luck Eva. And in front of you and Starr he stated that I was one step from kindred, yet when I act like one he reminds me that I’m not kindred.” He laid the shirt over his shoulder and walked towards the edge of the aurumn, “So while this was fun and a break from stress, this training may be for nothing.”

“Are you really going to let this grumpy old bag of hot air get your goat like that?” Eva asked her boy.  “You’re fine and good at the art of pushing someone away; testing them to see if you matter to them enough for the effort – but you can’t recognize when someone does the same to you?” Eva whispered. Her eyes sparkled as she picked up the last of the rags from her pile to squeeze out and toss in the last bucket. She had one more to get, it was near the dragon’s chest.  

“Feel free to stay down here until he wakes and let him know how the boys are doing. I’m going to go shower, clean up and see what Cook made to snack on.” He wasn’t going to plead his case or defend himself because he’d done nothing wrong. He’d made sure Sen was safe and well taken care of when Sen couldn’t see to himself. Stepping to Eva, Gabriel kissed her cheek.

Accepting the kiss, she nodded and then reached down for that last rag.

“Gabriel?” Eva paused, her head tilting this way and then… that.  She reached forward as if to put her hand on the dragon’s chest, but then thought twice about it. The lycan stepped back just a bit and then turned to him.  “Listen…” she pointed to the large chest that moved up and down in front of them.  

As Gabriel drew closer, he could hear the sound, a deep vibration of low tone. Senias was purring in his sleep. And as Gabriel drew closer, he could also hear the dragon’s heartbeat.

“I didn’t know the adults… did that,” she whispered and held back a giggle. It was so cute! Coming from such a huge predator?   She took the rag and the bucket with her as she hopped off the aurumn.  

Gabe placed his hand on Sen’s chest and felt the slow steady rumbling as well as listened to it. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Sen, it was that he had no intentions of fighting for the man and then with the man for the rest of his life. He was mortal, Sen wasn’t..

“What do you feel for him?” Eva asked.

“I love him and I think that scares both of us.” Gabriel spoke low but knew the Lycan had heard him.

“Love is… terrifying. It’s the one thing you have no control over and the one thing that can rip you apart from inside out. It makes you bend in ways you never thought possible. But love also makes you feel better than any high I’ve ever felt. It gives you a place of shelter and a home.”  Eva spoke softly. She put the bucket down where Gabriel had placed his and then walked back toward them both. however, the lycan didn’t move onto the aurumn.  That was no longer her place.  

“I don’t know if he is ready, Eva.” Gabriel really just wanted to give in and lie down right there and sleep.

“I believe it says a lot that the both of you are willing to take the risks for the rewards. You’ve dealt with an awful lot from him. Maybe you should stand up to him about it? Or have you already – and I just don’t know about it?” Eva asked point blank.   

“Told him he needed to stay here and recover. Others were already going over to help Devon and the best thing he could do right now was heal. I also told him that Mira wouldn’t be on hand to help him cross and that if he used the portals he’d be taking Crimson to the Packlands.” 

“Good. And he’s still here,” Eva pointed out.

“He didn’t like hearing any of it and I believe at that point is when he called me a bad luck charm.” Gabriel gave into the moment, knelt and leaned to press one cheek against Sen’s chest. He needed to feel the rise and fall while listening to the steady rhythm of the strong heart beating deep inside.

Senias moved his arm and wing to cover Gabriel, his snout and upper body moving enough that he was curling in a semi-circle around his lover protectively. Gabriel felt like he was encapsulated in a warm sauna.  The purring became louder for nearly a full minute before easing off again. 

Eva smirked and took a few more steps back.  “He doesn’t seem to mind you being a bad luck charm.”  She shook her head. “I wish there was a way to make love easier to understand. There’s not.”  

“It needs an instruction manual.” Gabriel hadn’t intended to relax and fall asleep but his eyes were feeling heavy and he just wasn’t sure he’d make it up stairs. He watched Eva make her way to the stairs and heard himself mumble, “Guess he likes trouble… you are sneaky Eva.. too sneaky.” She had baited him and he had fallen for it. His eyes closed. 

“No, my dear. I am just sneaky enough.”  

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018

(the picture is actually of a cave on Lake Tapolca in Hungary)