There were voices in his head. They were from memories. There was no linear pattern to it. Memories here and there just came through and after a while, the dragon was stirred from his sleep because of it. He was stirred because of the memory of buttersoft scales the color of pale sand sleeping against his body. It was a memory he held most dear. And so, when he finally woke, it was in a good mood, despite being disoriented.  

He was in his own lair beneath the Kennedy Estate. He could hear the water from nearby and he felt a bit damp. Sniffing the air, he was surprised to smell a lavender soapy scent. He loved lavender. Used to roll around in it as a dragon to get the scent all over him – either that or rosemary.  When that memory touched his mind, Senias heard a chuckle.

He hadn’t chuckled.  

Looking down at the aurumn close to his body, the dragon realized he wasn’t alone. There, next to his scaled body, was Gabriel.  How had that happened? His head cocked a bit as he considered his own question. Things were blurry. What had comforted him along the way was feeling himself touched, massaged, and talked to, even in his fevered sleeping. Gabriel? 

“Feeling better?” Gabriel was a mess as he laid there in his wrinkled and smudged slacks and under shirt staring up at Senias. He had his arms crossed beneath his head as he relaxed in the warmed golden bed of metal. He’d done as Eva had suggested and had scrubbed Sen while the dragon slept until there was no trace of old scaling left. His body ached from it but it was a pleasant ache; one earned from hard work.

~ Very much so. And not just from the rest. Have you… cleaned me? ~ the dragon was curious because he no longer had as many aches and pains on his body. It was as if he’d had a good rub down. Not to mention, things that had been lodged in his scales were no longer there.    

“Yes. It was pointed out to me that this was a kindred duty to which I was dumbfounded. But, as you can tell, I did manage the task rather well.” Gabriel smiled proudly as he watched Sen’s reaction to the answer he gave.

Senias bent his neck so that he could look down at how his… kindred…was positioned. Kindred. Gabriel was lying on the aurumn with skin touching it. Their magical energies had touched. Their souls had danced. The memories he had been dreaming of had actually been shared, he was certain. He had no idea how many, for he had been out of it. The dragon had thought he’d be angry if anyone knew his secrets.  it would be a weakness and he didn’t ever want to be weak. He had been very protective of them and of his old soul for centuries. In this moment of realization, however, Senias did not feel angry at all. He felt like a weight had been lifted from his large, scaly shoulders. The scales and slight fins on his face and neck twitched and shivered with his skin as his mouth opened slightly and a bit of warm air moved from his lungs over Gabriel. 

Gabriel had accepted what he was and had even thrown himself into the role – even the dirty portions of that role.  He hoped that finally Senias would see that he meant business and would stop denying him; stop testing him.  

“You seem surprised. Is this really so shocking Sen?” He shortened the dragons name hoping that it wouldn’t be minded.

“It is ‘elcone,” the dragon’s voice was deep when he spoke aloud, using English human to communicate. Without easily moldable lips, some of the pronunciation was difficult. Especially W’s and M’s. “You are not… “ he paused trying to think of a speakable word that matched his sentiment. When Gabriel grasped his emotion and wonder perfectly.

“I’m not a lot of things, but I do care about you and want to see you safe.” Gabriel sat up and drew his knees up so that he could wrap his arms around them as he pressed his bare feet into the warm metal.

Senias lowered his big head close to his kindred and purred.

~ I worried that you would not see me as I am after becoming enamored and accustomed to my human form. I am not just that form. I love it, am rather attached to it, hence why it’s so old. But this is me. I could lose that human portion of me and still be… me. ~ There was a low sound in his chest and throat; a dragon’s chuckle. ~ I might have lost my human form this time around if not for you and Sam and… was Sebastian there? Seem to recall his face. ~ He was trying to piece things together from out of the fog of his memory.  

“Yes he was and I also met Inea.” Gabriel sighed as he looked at his hands and then back at Sen.

“Nea?” His dragon mate had come by? Not only that, but introduced herself? His thoughts on that were interrupted by Gabriel’s voice. 

“What made you think that going to Mira was a good idea? You could have died.”

~ It was desperate and foolish, ~ he wondered if Gabriel would make him say that out loud. It wasn’t easy to get him to admit his mistakes. 

“I won’t disagree with that.” Gabriel had feared that Sen wouldn’t recover even though Evansworth and Inea both had assured him otherwise. “And it didn’t get what you wanted accomplished either. So really wasn’t worth it.”

~ I worry about my brother, Gabriel. He won the peace with myself and Inea at each side. And now he thinks to go back into war on his own? ~  The dragon moved his head away from Gabriel to look up at the roof of the cavern. He took a deep breath, concentrated on his form, and shifted in a bright flash of light. Within seconds, the rough-cut Celt was lying beside Gabriel instead of the dragon. Curling an arm under his head, he watched the man.  “I’m still tired. Shifting took energy, too. I just have to face the fact that both of my bodies are recovering slowly. I cannot help him.”

“Devon seems pretty capable and from the stories I’ve been told, he is more than experienced for this. Besides, Inea went over with Dante, Largros and Derek to help him out.”

“That’s good to know.” Sen’s eyes looked at his hand as he moved it over the pliable aurumn. He was thinking things through on that information. “Dante is an accomplished fighter, he just pretends to be… Dante.” Sen chuckled. “Derek wanted to go over from the beginning, I bet. Largros surprises me, but he’s an able warrior.” When he lifted his face to meet Gabriel’s gaze, Sen’s big cheeks moved with his smile. “Thank you for telling me. I feel better about it, now.”

Gabriel smoothed his hand over Sen’s cheek and found himself in a moment of thought. He needed to know something. 

“If Mira would have taken you through a portal, you would have taken off without sending me word wouldn’t you have?”

“No,” Sen huffed, “Of course not. I told you my plans for a reason. I would have told you before going through. Why wouldn’t I?” he had answered truthfully without hesitation. Senias didn’t understand.

“Just something about Mira and the way this all went.” Gabriel sighed as he relaxed once more.

“Don’t hold it against her, Gabriel. She acts on her emotions and she’s jealous of you. As soon as she finds someone who will love her, she will not give a damn. Mira simply hasn’t ever known true love. She’s a confused child about such things. And Dante? He had no idea what was happening even as I realized my mistake. He was just then realizing what his sister had done. I remember that much, at least.” Senias smiled for his lover.

“I’m not so ready to forgive and just carry on like she didn’t just try to kill you. She needs to find another focus for her psychotic attention.” The words were muttered as he once more smoothed his hand over his lover’s cheek.

“We supernaturals learn to pick our fights.”  He took another deep breath. “If nothing else, this has taught me that I’m no longer ready to go to the stars.” With a great sigh, he admitted, “I would miss you, too much, my kindred.”  

With a grin Gabriel leaned down to kiss Sen’s lips, “That’s good to hear because I’d miss you too.” It wasn’t that he was less upset over what had happened – he was just a little more thankful that Sen was alive and well. The rest he could deal with later. Mira was by no means getting off free. Oh, no… the Councilor would see to it she got the punishment she deserved. For now, though? Hearing his dragon call him kindred and tasting his lips once again made his heart feel full and at ease. 

“You can kiss me and rub on me all you like,” Sen offered, his words whispered against Gabriel’s lips. When his kindred pulled back just slightly, he continued, “Since I’m not allowed nor could I very well go anywhere like this, and you said Devon is taken care of, I’m more than willing to let you continue taking care of me.” Sen rolled to his back and smiled wickedly up at Gabriel. He wanted to enjoy all the petting that he could. He highly doubted this would go on forever. After all, Gabe had things to do and research and deals to handle, right? He’d probably been away from those things for what? A night? It surprised the dragon that his kindred wasn’t going crazy from the stress of not multitasking.  

“How much time have I wasted for you? Time to scold me.” Sen waited.

“I don’t see the time as wasted but if you must know how long you’ve slept – the answer would be four days.” His fingers stroked through Sen’s red hair and he watched the amazement on his handsome face. “I busied myself caring for you and tidying your cave. My work has been rearranged and will be waiting when I return to it. Aren’t you always telling me that I need to take a break and remember to breathe between contracts?”

“Yes,” Senias was quite surprised. His blue-green eyes showed that. He couldn’t help it. But the surprise was quickly replaced with adoration. “Four days and you’ve just been taking care of me? Tidying this mess? I feel so sorry for you.” he coughed a small laugh and then his eyes fluttered to close while he enjoyed Gabriel’s touch on his human skin.

“Don’t.  I’ve enjoyed it and the cleaning has given me something to focus on other than work and worry, oh and scrubbing you.” His voice softened as he realized that Sen was drifting. He continued the strokes of his fingers through his lovers hair to soothe him further.

Eva watched from the living room set close by where the two were lying in the aurumn. Senias had always kept human sets down here for when he wanted to lounge or when he had a trusted friend such as herself, Devon, or Sebastian to speak with while shifting his forms. Of course, before this week, she hadn’t been down here in a few decades. From the look of the mess, neither had Sen. She had promised to keep Gabriel supported through this. And it was only fair. She had actually been the one to finally kick the boy in the seat of the pants to complete their bond. Besides, watching over these two was helpful for when the pups were busy or in school. Kept her mind off of her mate. She placed her hand over the lovely blue turquoise amulet she wore around her neck.  She remained quiet until Gabriel acknowledged her presence. In case he wanted to sleep more, she didn’t want to disturb. But if he noticed and wanted to get up – she had brought food and drinks.

“Mmmm… the scrubs…my true form…feels sooo….so much better now.” Senias was still healing from the magical and physical poisoning. One might assume that would make him less likely to be aggressive, but that wasn’t the case. Normally?  The fact that he knew he was weak would have made him less likely to abide someone being in his lair. Normally? He would have seen Gabriel out of his lair as soon as he was able to do so. Now? Gabriel really was his kindred and Senias was accepting that. He trusted Gabriel. Relaxing into a dozing state was quite a grand gesture for the dragon. He looked to be trying to say something else, but then his lips simply stopped moving. He was sleeping once again.

With a small smile Gabriel slipped from Sen’s grasp and moved to join Eva. As he eased into a chair he sighed, “Well at least he’s doing better. How are you doing?” They hadn’t heard from Devon or any of the others yet and so he knew that she was worried over her mate.

“I’ve not heard anything. But the dragoness took the other half of the amulet to him. So, hopefully when they come together, he won’t have to rely on a magi or portal device to let me know what is happening.” Eva handed Gabriel his coffee and pointed out a bottle of water. “I also brought down fruits and curds and some bread.”  

“Thank you, it’s appreciated.” Picking up some orange slices Gabriel bit into one and enjoyed the flavors. “I’m sure Dev will be in touch soon try not to worry too much.”

“He’s very much at ease with you. I’ve not seen such out of him, well… ever really. Or out of you, pup. Love looks good on your face.” Eva smiled before sipping her tea. Eva preferred not talk about the other side.  

Wiping his mouth on a napkin Gabriel cleared his throat. “So what have you been doing while we were napping?”

“Keeping up with pups, keeping up with the household and pack, not to mention helping with the research you had stroughed all over. I recruited someone else to help with that as well. I didn’t think you’d mind me allowing him in as he doesn’t disturb Sen here. His presence, that is. Odd, the connections between them, you know? It reminds me of a lycan and his pups.”  

As he reached for his cup Gabriel sipped and glanced towards the stairs, “Starr is here? What brought him here?”

“Oh! Starrfire, yeah, I forgot to say his name, didn’t I? Been kind of distracted. He wanted to help with those books that are only Atlantean or Draconic. He’s a polyglot. He also knows some Abyssal… I think. So when he volunteered, I told him go for it. We need to know as much as we can about the clans being hunted and the things that marked them for death.”  She sipped her tea. 

“Good it will give me something to do while Sen sleeps the rest of that mess off. At least he’s in human form now. I know it isn’t his natural form but it’s a sight easier to take care of.”

“That’s true. Perhaps we can get him into a bed, now. His aurumn won’t stay proper for him if he’s in that form. I wouldn’t want him to catch a shiver.” Eva paused in her next sip, because she noticed Senias was growling and moving in his sleep, now.

The magical torches that kept the room with enough light flared suddenly as the dragon growled again in his sleep, the noise sounding odd coming from the human form of the man.

Eva put her cup down. She got up with a quickness.

“Something’s going on.” Setting his cup aside Gabriel stood and moved to the edge of the aurumn.

Eva headed for the staircase. “If someone’s here that he doesn’t like…”  Dammit. She had wanted to enjoy some moments of relaxation and talk with Gabriel. The little cell phone she had with her vibrated and she looked down. The household kept in contact with her via this little device, even though she disliked it, Eva had to admit the things were handy. She looked at the message and sighed.

“Skinner’s here. You need to get dressed. I’ll be sure to keep him busy and away from anything he might be overly interested in. The staff know to keep him in the front living room, like any guest until you or I get there.”  Eva was already taking off when she heard Gabriel over her shoulder.

“Alright, I’ll be up there shortly.”Gabriel wasn’t sure what brought the Director of Crimson to his home, but whatever it was couldn’t be good. With Skinner it never was. He would make sure that Sen was okay before heading up to change and go find out what the man wanted.

Eva had made it to the guest bedroom door and was on her way to the stairs, when she felt the magic in the amulet. Looking down, she had just enough time to reach a hand out to the wall nearby before she heard her mate’s voice in her head.

~Eva… darlin’ can ya hear me through this thing?~ Devon’s voice was subtle and faint like a whisper. He wanted to talk to her and hear her voice at least a moment before battle. He couldn’t kiss or hold her, but he could at least tell her that he loved her.

~ Oh Devon, damn your bad timing, ~ she replied, but there was a humor about her thoughts as she mentally spoke it.  ~ I hope you’re better there than what’s happening here. Not that anything bad is happening, but just, … ~ she took a deep breath and made her way once again for the staircase. ~ I love you. I miss you. How are things on the other side? ~

As her voice came back to him Devon couldn’t help but grin, ~Things are a right mess here, but we are workin’ to clean ‘em up. How are you and the pups doin’ ?~

~ OUR Pups are just fine, save Derek – but if you’re using the other portion of this amulet, you know that by now. The adopted pup is doing well, too. He’s in love with your scaley brother sure as your scaley brother is a damned fool. I’ll leave that where it is. ~ Eva didn’t want to open a can of worms.  ~ Right now, I’ve got ta deal with them and this damned Director. Guess me hoping for things to keep me busy since you left went from my heart to the Goddess’ ears and right back at me, love. ~

Eva stopped at the bottom of the staircase when she heard the male voices. Starrfire was talking to Skinner? That might be a good thing or a bad thing.  What to do?  

Rubbing his forehead Devon gave a rough chuckle, ~ Well that is damned sure keepin’ busy. Watch yaself with Skinner darlin’, he sees way more than we ever want him to so keep on ya guard with him. Make sure Gabe does the same. If ya feel bored though I’ll send my ole man and his bunch of rejects over to ya.~ He grinned and started walking just a short ways behind the others.

~ Yer ole… Kieran? You just mentioned Kieran and you felt light? ~ Eva took that to be a positive thing. She smiled as she made her way to the door of the living room.  ~ Things are mended? ~ she asked.

~Seems that way. He’s better. Now ta get the pack better. ~

Unfortunately, she didn’t have a lot of time to continue their conversation. ~ I love you. I’m so happy to hear your voice, even like this. Now I can handle anything. ~  

“Yeah, I mean, help yourself. That’s what I do. It’s probably very good whiskey or brandy, not sure which. The Kennedys? They always keep the best of the best, though.” Starr’s voice was easily discernible from her location.

“Oh, I know. So, what has you here to see Mr. Kennedy? Uh, sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” Skinner asked.  

“OH! Mr. Skinner! I had no idea you were stopping by or I would’ve made sure you could be more welcomed in the household,” Eva said as she shoved her way into the room. She looked at Starr in disapproving fashion and the young dragon shrugged. Oh, but he liked playing with people too much! She’d nab him by the earlobe next chance she got and give him a good talking to.

“Mrs. Weylyn, pleasure to see you,” Skinner was looking over the various decanters of liquor on the cart at the side of the room.  “I hadn’t expected to stop by, but business came up. I take it you’ve made Gabriel aware? I need to speak to him.” He turned his focus on the lycan female but his eyes drifted a bit to the young man who had come to greet him as well. He didn’t want to be rude, after all. Not to mention, the young man was covered in magic. Interesting.  Was he a lover? Or…

Before Eva could answer, Gabriel appeared in the doorway immaculately dressed right down to his tie which wasn’t even remotely askew. “Indeed she has, we were discussing matters of the estate while I finished a workout,  so you’ll pardon my somewhat late arrival. I see that Starr played impromptu host to you and for that he has my gratitude.” Gabriel made his way to the decanters and poured a tumbler of bourbon for the Director.

“You’re welcome, Mr. Kennedy.” Starrfire knew his manners, especially around someone he didn’t know.  

“So tell me Mr. Skinner to what do I owe this rather unexpected visit?” Gabriel wasn’t smiling but then very few saw him ever do so and where he had been relaxed the last time he had been in a room with Eva and Starr, this time he was in full Councilor mode; chilled cool demeanor and all. He moved to the desk and took his seat. His attention and gaze fully on the Director to give the man no subtle hint as to Starr’s connection to him or that he was feeling the least bit inclined in introducing him. That would give Skinner opportunity to question and delve where Gabriel Kennedy had not desire for him to do so.

“I’ll go back to my research, now.” Starr looked over at the Director and added, “He’s tough on interns, man…” before heading toward the door. Considering the looks he was getting and the tension in the room, he figured that was the best move.

Eva opened the door for Starr but closed it behind the scamp. She had no intention of leaving unless Gabriel told her to do so.  

“I’m here because I have something to discuss with your Tasker. Unfortunately, he’s not answering his calls in the many … places… I am supposed to be able to call him. I know he had an incident recently, my men were kind enough to keep me updated, until you absconded with him.” Skinner had a very matter-of-fact look on his face.

“Absconded with him is a rather interesting way of putting it considering no one appeared to assist him prior to my arrival. So again what exactly is it that brings you to my private residence? You could have easily called my phone as you have tried his, I can assure you that I would have answered. Given it entails my Tasker who is unavailable for a time due to illness that he is currently off being treated for perhaps I can assist you.” He didn’t shoo Eva away as he wanted a witness in case any allegations were made at a later date by the Director. Gabriel had dealt with the man for years now and knew when and how to handle him. He was relieved though that Starr had exited and applauded the way he’d done so. The young man had intellect and knew how to use it. That was good to know.

“Then you know where he is?” Skinner didn’t want to say why he had need of the Tasker. For a moment, Gabriel noted a flash of pale pink light around the man’s eyes and hand.

“He’s sick.” Eva stated not just quickly, but possibly a bit aggressively. Her touch of magic allowed her to see when a spell as powerful as what Skinner was using went off right in her face. She quickly covered by explaining in a more quiet, calm voice, “That happens sometimes, Ezekial. Don’t you have other Taskers you can call on for help?” Eva had never liked this man. She crossed her arms over her chest.

“None that can handle this particular piece of reconnaissance. Raudine is quite specialized in charm and various levels of espionage. It’s a delicate subject and not something I want to involve a Councilor with if I can help it.”  

Gabriel’s knuckle rubbed along his jawline as he thought it all over along with the momentary lapse in Skinners guard that he’d seen. What had that been? After a few moments had passed Gabriel blinked and cleared his throat.

Eva noticed the pause. Did Gabriel know what was happening?

“Be that as it may Raudine truly is unavailable for a time while he recovers and will be of little use to you since my last report of his progress was that he‘d just awakened from a three day fever induced sleep. As I understand it he’s weak as a kitten and barely leaving his bed. He hasn’t even been able to tolerate food yet but they are hopeful by morning that should change.” The newly made kindred was protecting his dragon as best he could, by molding a bit of truth with omission. 

There was a very consternated look on Skinner’s face. Why? Because Gabriel was telling the truth.

“So your choices are simple. Find another Tasker qualified, entrust this to us and see what we can help you with, or wait two weeks for Raudine to return fully recovered.”

“If I speak to you about this, you will not be able to do anything but hand over findings in the end…” Skinner began to pace.

There was no doubt that Skinner was hesitant and so with a sigh Gabriel eased back in his chair, “The fact that you are here tells me that this matter is time sensitive and could not wait for Raudine to return one of your many calls.” He glanced at Eva where she was positioned at the ready for any wrong move the Director should make. He looked back at Skinner, “We may actually surprise you if you trust us.”

“The other Taskers I have available are not equipped to delve into this. They’re more suited for death and destruction. As you can see, I’m in a bind.” Skinner actually halted his pace and studied the rug beneath him. He nodded to himself, obviously struggling internally. Then, he turned to look at Gabriel and walked closer to the man’s desk. “There has been word to me that Councilor Petrard of the Paris Council is under sway from demonic influence,” Ezekial swallowed before continuing. “Since you seem so eager, and I have no Taskers available for such a mission of espionage over action, I’m now, hereby Tasking you and yours. I know you have had business and Council ties with Petrard previously and that may very well get you into his confidences quicker than I could get into them. Raudine also has some ties to the man and has tasked for him in the past. I need proof. You know the rules of the Council.”

Gabriel hadn’t actually expected Skinner to come forth with the details. The man was built of nothing but secrets and lies.

“This may take some time. You may want to wait until your Tasker is better or have him meet you for this. I had hoped to keep you unaware of the details so that you could prosecute. You’re the best I’ve ever seen at that. Now, I’ll have to choose another Councilor for that portion of the situation – should you be successful.”

“The fact that you’d entrust me to such a case is appreciated. As to Raudine, I assure you that I’ll include my Tasker as soon as he is fit to join in on this mission of yours.” Gabriel would share the information with Senias as soon as his dragon was able to comprehend it. But until that time, he’d rather protect him from feeling the need to get up and about too soon. 

“And Gabriel?” Skinner paused before leaving. “I don’t trust anyone. It’s not just you.” With that, the Director turned to leave. His frustration was worn like a coat all the way out the door to his sedan.

Once Skinner had left via the main door, and the lycan female had heard it shut, she turned her gaze upon Gabriel. “You saw it, didn’t you?” Her voice was a mixture of concern and excitement.

“Yes,” Gabriel was still staring at the door as if expecting Skinner to double back. “I saw it, I’m just not quite certain what it was that I saw.”

“The spell. You saw the magic. I saw the look in your eyes and the expression shift. You saw him use the magic on his senses. You’ve never seen magic before.”  Had the new bond affected the pup or was it that he had finally accepted that he had some talent in that stubborn noggin of his?

“No, I mean, Sen made me stand there until I saw his lair doorway, but other than the portal magic, I’ve never actually seen it cast.” The Councilor’s gaze shifted to the female lycan and then towards the stairs that led up to his room and to the dragon. “Why was Skinner casting magic in my family home?”

“I imagine it was him making sure you were telling the truth. He wants Raudine for some reason. I’m not sure if what he said was the whole truth, he always comes prepared with cover stories.” she growled.  “He knows too much, already. I don’t like him. And the fact that I had to stop a conversation with Devon to deal with him…”

“You heard from Devon?” Gabriel was elated and surprised at the same time.

Eva smiled at the memory. She couldn’t feel Devon with her now, the magic was gone. But she was thankful for those precious few moments of connection with her mate.

“Yeah. And for once, it’s not all bad.”
~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018