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Deirdre Evering

The perfect girl who is sick of the consquences of being "perfect"

579 views · located in New York City

a character in “The Once and Future King: Book One”, as played by SkullsandSlippers

Description

Image

Age:19
Nickname:D
Hair:Long, wavy and light brown. Worn in a bun for so many years that she now leaves it out almost exclusively.
Eyes:Blue
Height:5'8

Reincarnation-Guinevere


Physique/facial: Small nose, full lips and fair skinned. She has a traditional ballet dancer's build with slim frame and lean arms and legs.

Works part time at a lingerie store and is a student studying history.

Once quiet, proper and overly agreeable, Deirdre has taken to speaking her mind and testing the waters of the world around her. While not "sheltered" she is still just getting a feel for who she is and the things she likes.

Her days are spent in cafes with novels or in the occassional class. She works evenings and then goes out at night. Deirdre has discovered a love of fast food, though she doesn't eat too much.

She still keeps up a few habits from her years in ballet, like regular stretching.

Clubs have become her favourite hang out at night, the crowds and anonymity appealing to her.

She has a tiny room in the apartment she shares with three other people off campus. She has her clothes, her books, and the random things found in her room but nothing that she is overly attached to save her claddagh ring that was a gift when she turned 16. She wears it on her right hand ring finger facing out and has no intention of ever turning it around.

Deirdre was the perfect little girl, all ribbons and bows, ruffles and dresses. Her favourite colour was pink and she loved unicorns. At a young age she showed a natural ability in dance.

She grew up just outside of New York City in Port Washington. By the time she was 6 she was auditioning for the American Ballet School and by the time she was 8 her parents had sent their daughter off to the school to live. She lived there most of the year, only taking breaks to visit home for a week in the summer. She was a straight A student, a model dancer and the apple of her parent's eye. Deirdre never caused an trouble and was never a source of anything but pride.

When she turned 17 she began to feel worn now by the need to be perfect. being perfect meant never making a mistake. Never getting in trouble, never doing anything out of turn and never doing what you wanted. She spent her life pleasing everyone and no one had ever bothered to ask her what she, Deirdre wanted. Expectations were high for the girl and the pressure to meet them was overbearing.

One night she met a few people outside of the school and they convinced her to go to a movie. She knew it would be past curfew but they were new and exciting friends. It was the first time she had broken a rule and the backlash was terrible. Her parents railed on her irresponsibilyt, her teachers tsked and lectured her. Deirdre grew frustrated but fell in line. The anger and resentment grew. She began to wonder if beign perfect was worth it.

When she hit 18 she was given the choice to become part of the New York City Ballet Company or leave the school for University. Everyone expected the girl to go on to join the company, perhaps rise in the ranks as expected to become a star. She chose to leave.

There were arguments and discussions, tears and screaming but none from Deirdre herself. She was tired and fed up. She wanted out. Her intial thought was to not attend school, get a job and explore the world. Her parents threatened to bring her home by force. She compromised, attending school full time to appease them. Her grades are just barely good enough to pass and she has taken on the philosophy of "No consquences and no regrets."

For the first time in her life Deirdre wants to live without any "plan" or "expectations" in place.

So begins...

Deirdre Evering's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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The half an hour before her parents were scheduled to arrive Deirdre nervously paced the hallway. She felt sick to her stomach. She had dressed and then changed about five times. She wanted to look grown up but not freak them out. In the end she settled simply for a pair of dark jeans and a loose blouse. Her hair was brushed and left long though she almost put it up out of habit. Her parents liked it when she was dressed as if she was on her way to ballet class. They had this idea that if they kept her this little dancing doll they'd keep safe and innocent forever.

Deirdre had decided that she was going to show them that she was nineteen, not five. That she had a life all her own now. She had friends, she had a boy in her life that she really liked and he liked her back.

Tim didn't know what to do to help her. He waited in the batcave, watching her pace and wanted desperately to say the right thing to her. His parents were great, supportive but not overbearing. He didn't know what to do and in honesty he was at the point of needing a physical outlet for it all. His leg bounced as he watched Deirdre.

Arin had tried to help calm Deirdre. Offering encouragement and assurances. Nothing seemed to help. His own frustration built, even before he met them, just by seeing what her parents could do to her. He spent some time working out in the training room, trying to achieve a level of calmness. He wasn't sure it was entirely effective. Near the end of the workout, as though she could read his mood, Vivienne showed up. He was surprised, and a little shocked when she asked him to refrain from immediately attending Deirdre's parents arrival. She explained that she had things to say to them and she didn't want his mood to cloud his actions. She was afraid of potential outbursts he might have would detract from her attempt to defuse the situation. Arin didn't like it, but he saw the reasoning, as he wasn't sure how he was going to react to them. He resolved to be nearby, but not in view, at least to start. Maybe more frustrated than when he started the workout, he left the training room to tell Deirdre. He doubted she would like it one bit, but he hoped she would understand he wasn't deserting her. This option might be best for the whole group, if it worked.

He knocked on her door, "D? Uh... you there?"

"Yes...Come in Arin." Her voice was soft and had an edge of tension to it. She had stopped pacing in the hall. She seemed to be making everyone anxious and it wasn't helping at all. She had taken to sitting, standing and pacing her room now.

"Yeah... I don't think... well, Viv and I don't think it's best for me to meet your parents right away. She thinks, and I don't necessarily disagree, that I might say or do something rash and cause problems before Viv has a chance to set them straight. But... I'm not leaving alone. The rest will be there. I'll be hanging around, just... out of view and out of harms way. For a bit." He was trying to explain it the best he could, even though he didn't like it. He agreed with it, in principle, but hated it in practice.

"Oh...oh I see." Her face fell. "You won't be there. O-okay...I guess that is okay...." She tried to hide her emotions, abruptly looking at the floor. Her hands pulled at her shirt. "If you and Viv feel it best I guess it is. I just hoped...." She shook her head, eyes still on the floor. Her hair swung, covering her more from sight. "I get it...I guess." She didn't, not really. What she wanted was for him to be there with her, to hold her hand and make her feel more sure about everything.

"No, it's not really okay. It's just a better idea than me showing up with you and shocking them. If there's any hope to convince them that you are capable of making your own decisions... I doubt they'd be impressed to see I'm the guy you're spending time with. And I know I'm not going to be impressed by how they react to that... D, I don't want to screw this up for you and there's a really good chance I will. I will give diplomacy a chance. But trust me, if that fails, I'll be the first to jump in beside you. I'm not leaving you. I'm just staying behind the scenes for a time." What he really wanted to say was that he'd be there and in their faces. Push them out the door and kick their asses on the way out. That really wasn't the solution anyone seemed to want though. So, he acquiesced to more rational thought.

"It's okay Arin. I don't want you to do anything that you might regret and I appreciate the support. I do." Deirdre lifted her head. "It's okay. It makes sense not to antagonize them. Helps no one. It's okay." She thought that if she said it enough she'd feel better and not be a bit sad. She understood that it really was the best thing not to make it worse from the beginning but it didn't mean she didn't really wish he'd be next to her.

Deirdre smiled a little, "It is okay. It should be fine right? Vivienne will scare them. I shouldn't be so nervous."

Arin stepped nearer her and hugged her, "It'll be fine and if Viv isn't enough to scare them, I plan to show up in my leathers and plant a massive kiss on you. I think that'll shock them into heart attacks. That'll settle it all."

She buried her face against him, hugging him back tightly. The giggle that started grew into a full laugh as she pictured Arin showing up and shocking her parents like that.

"I'm sorry I can't be the person you want right now, but I know you'll be fine and won't need me. I'll be there if there's something that I can help with though."

Her mind railed against his words. He was wrong that he wasn't the person she wanted right now, that he couldn't be that. What he was doing was better for everyone and that was who he was, the one who protected them. He couldn't be doing things wrong if he was being himself. Deirdre looked up at him. "I know and don't apologize for being who you are. I like who you are."

Arin chuckled, "Touche. You'll be great. When they settle in and accept things, I'll be happy to meet them." Arin didn't actually believe that's how he'd meet them, but he could hope.

At four o'clock Deirdre stood at the back of the store and waited. She hadn't realized she was holding her breath until her chest started to burn and she inhaled in a slow hiss.

The door chimed. Into the store walked a man and a woman, both in their early fifties. They had clearly had her late in their lives. He was wearing slacks, a button down shirt and a nice jacket. His wife was dressed much the same. They looked like the typical suburban, successful couple and judging by the looks on their faces, were completely confused by where they were.

"This is the address? But it is a store. I don't understand." He frowned and looked around.

They both approached the counter.

For her part Deirdre hid behind a shelf, watching them. She couldn't bring herself to go over there, not yet.

Tim stood near the back of the store as well, waiting for D to make the first move and ready to step in to do whatever he could. He wasn't sure what that would be but he knew in the end D wasn't leaving here without a fight.

"Welcome to the Round Tablet, how can I help you?" Kat pretending not to recognize D's parents from her perch behind the counter. Vivienne had a table set up for everyone in the back of the store that she was supposed to bring them to, but she didn't see a point in not making them work for it.

The man frowned, the woman looked around, confused. "We must have the wrong address. We are looking for.." The man eyed Kat for a moment. "Have we met before? You sound familiar."

His wife put her hand on his arm, "This is an odd place for her to meet us. A store. I think we have it wrong. I will text her." She pulled out her phone and began to type. "Where are you honey? We are in a store. I think we have the wrong address."

In her pocket Deirdre's phone began to vibrate. She pulled it out and began to type back. "I am in the apartment behind the store. I will come to you. Sec."

"Well, can't say that I have man, but it's a big city, who knows?" Kat said shrugging with her best brooklyn accent for flare. "You lookin' for someone?"

"Yes, we are. My daughter." The man frowned.

"Apartment? Oh Robert, she is living in the apartment behind this place. How?" The woman went pale.

"Name?" Kat drawled out. "Big city you know..."

"She what? With who? Where is this apartment?" Robert turned his wife, ignoring Kat. "Come on we can find it." He led her by the arm towards the door.

"I am right here dad." Deirdre stepped out from her hiding place.

"Princess! You have us very worried." Robert put his arms out for a hug.

Her mother smiled and tucked her phone into her purse. "It is good to see you dear."

Very tentatively Deirdre crossed to them. She let her father hug her tightly, her eyes on Kat. "Sorry, I should have come sooner. I just..."

"Think nothing of it sweetie. We are just happy to see you." Her mother pulled her in for a hug as well. "Oh, oh you have put on a bit of weight. Not a big deal, nothing a crack down on your diet and some extra work can't fix." She pulled back and brushed the hair from Deirdre's face. "You really should put your hair up. You look so beautiful with it up. Oh well, this can do for now."

Deirdre stood there between them, frozen as her mother preened and inspected her.

"Are your things ready? I assume you packed up the apartment if you are...living near by...." Robert frowned. "Doesn't matter now princess, show me the stuff and I will get the car packed up. Then we can get a nice dinner and your mom can tell you the exciting news."

"I'm afraid Miss Evering does not share in your desire to leave Mrs. and Mr. Evering. In fact, she has made her intent to stay perfectly clear to myself and the rest of my tenants, so that will not be necessary." Vivienne's voice rang out from the back table, which was set impecably for a large group for tea. "You are welcome to sit with us to discuss the matter, so that you can be brought up to speed, but Miss Evering's decision is her own and unlikely to alter." There was an air of finality and authority that asserted itself with her voice, and Arey, who stood next to her pouring the tea, was grateful for it.

Tim had moved to stand behind a chair at the table. He didn't like D's parents. His hands gripped the back of his chair and he tried not to openly glare at them.

Robert looked at Deirdre. "And who are you and why does this family matter concern you?" Her mother wrapped an arm around Deirdre protectively. D shrunk in the woman's hold. She had never been so happy to hear Vivienne's voice in her life. Her eyes were on the fae woman.

"It concerns me, because I am currently both Miss Evering's landlord and academic sponsor at Ambrose University, as are the vast majority of my other tenants." Vivienne said cooly, motioning for them to sit at the table. "And as Miss Evering has voiced her concerns with me, especially after your attempt for forcibly prevent her University education, I am here as both support and assurance that her wishes are being met." Vivienne said taking a sip from her cup.

"Princess I don't understand what this woman is talking about." Robert's voice grew slightly stern.

Deirdre's voice was small and shaky, "Sit and listen dad. I'll explain everything." She tried to wiggle from her mother's hold. "Just sit okay?"

It was with great reluctance that the pair moved to the table, pulling Deirdre with them. They sat, Robert holding out the chair between them for Deirdre. She shook her head and backed away, she moved quickly around the table to sit next to Vivienne. Her parents were both confused and thrown off by their daughter's behaviour.

"What is going on?" Robert folded his hands on the table. His wife was silent beside him. Her eyes were on Deirdre though.

Deirdre looked at her lap.

Tim sat and did his best to hold his tongue. He wanted to yell at them, tell the pair of them to take a hike but he knew that was not the way to handle it. Viv will take them down a peg, she will put them in their place.

"As I mentioned before," Vivienne began as Arey handed both Deirdre's parents a cup of tea. "Miss Evering has no intention of leaving school, or returning home with you at this time. She is an adult, and as I have now assured that her financial situation with the university is handled, you no longer have any bearing on her decision making on the matter." Vivienne continued, her voice filled with finality as she laid a comforting hand on Deirdre's lap.

Robert shook his head. "I don't understand. Who are you and why do you have such an interest in my daughter. And who are these people? She is leaving school, that has already been settled. She is scheduled to be back at the New York City Ballet School in two days. It is already done. They have a spot for her in the main company in two months time. There is really nothing you have to say in the matter?" His eyes drifted to Tim and then Arin.

"My name is Vivienne du Lac, and you will find that I am one of the largest private investors currently holding accounts in the city. That's what I do, invest. I take an interest in many bright young students in need of financial support to nurture their own growth. You will find Miss Trescott, and Mr. Matheson here are also such students I've taken a similar interest in." Vivienne said smoothly. "You will also find, upon contact with the New York City Ballet School, that those plans have been delayed, and that Miss Evering is currently the beneficiary of a full academic scholarship at Ambrose. You Mr. Evering, may have attempted to decide something, but I assure you that is not the reality of the situation."

For once Deirdre didn't shrink under Viv's touch. The cool hand on her lap was more comforting and reassuring than D would have ever expected it to be. She couldn't talk, couldn't find the words to express to her parents that she was not leaving. These people were her friends. She needed them in her life.

Robert's mouth formed a straight line. His wife paled. "Deirdre is not in need of financial help. How dare you go and do things behind my back that pertain to my child's future. It is none of your business. I don't know why you think you can just stick your nose in anywhere you like but I assure you that this is not the case here. Deirdre is our daughter and we decide what is best for her. Not you." Robert stood. "We are leaving, now. Deirdre get your coat and we will get your things out of here. These people are not safe for you. She is manipulating you. You, princess have a bright future and we intend for you to fulfill that."

Her mother stood and Deirdre looked up at them. "I don't want to go..." Her voice was low.

"Not up for discussion Deirdre. Come along." Her mother waved for D to stand up. "Stand."

Deirdre's lip quivered. "I don't want to go."

Robert inhaled. "Deirdre this is not a democracy. This woman is using you for...god knows what. Living here? With these other people? Do you even know them? We humoured you on the apartment in the city. There are men here. This is not alright princess. I don't know what is going on in that head of yours...maybe with your friend being killed you are frightened. I understand and that is why we need to take you home where you are safe from the crazy, dangerous people of this city."

Deirdre shook her head, "They aren't dangerous or crazy dad. They are my friends."

Her mother looked horrified. Robert shook his head, "Hardly. This woman is using you and I will take care of her." He looked at Vivienne. "My lawyers will be talking to you very soon Ms du Lac. I don't know what you are playing at but bringing innocent kids into this place and telling them you will take care of them...it is sick."

Deirdre shook her head, "You don't understand. It isn't bad. Really they are my friends. And I want-"

"Get up, we are leaving. I don't care to discuss this further." Her father barked at her and Deirdre jumped in her chair. She shrunk into herself. "But..." She whispered.

Tim was gripping the edge of the table now. He was just barely holding himself back as the man snapped at Deirdre and she tried to make herself disappear in her chair. How dare he talk as if Viv is the bad guy here! They are... He growled low in his throat.

"Mr. Evering." Vivienne said, her voice was even, but there was a dangerous edge there under the businesslike tone as well. "You will not speak in those in by shop, including your daughter, in that tone of voice again, or I will have you removed from the premises. If you do not care to discuss things further, you are welcome to leave, but Miss Evering will not be unless she expressly wishes to go as well. If you attempt to force her departure in any way, I will be contacting the authorities, and we will be pursuing legal action." Vivienne's eyes were steel as they locked with Robert's.

He stared back and Deirdre could feel the tension in the room grow as everything went silent, the two locked in a silent war.

Deirdre stood. "Dad I am not leaving."

Robert shook his head, "What are they filling your head with? Is this some weird brainwashing group? Princess come here, we are leaving."

"Stop calling me that..." The voice was quiet but hard. "Stop calling me princess." Deirdre's hands balled into fists.

Robert looked stunned for a moment before looking at Viv. "What the hell have you done to her? She was never like this. Disrespectful, disobedient."

Deirdre was shaking a little, "I am right here!" Her fist hit the table sending cups toppling. "Stop talking like I am a child who can't understand what you are saying."

Her mother shook her head and tried to come around the table. "Sweetie you are under a lot of stress. You don't know what you are saying." She moved closer. "We will go home and then once you are in the company you will get to travel and perform. Won't that be wonderful?"

Deirdre frowned, "Travel?"

"Yes dear. Travel with the company." Her mother nodded. "The best part is I will be with you and dad will join us whenever he can."

Deirdre pushed her chair back and moved to her mother. She took her hand and began to lead her to the door. Robert looked at Vivienne. "You will be hearing from my lawyer." He turned to follow, smug and self satisfied.

Deirdre stopped a foot from the door. "Go home. I am not leaving. I don't want any of that."

Robert grabbed Deirdre's arm. In the back of the room Tim stood suddenly, his chair falling to the floor as he watched the man grab Deirdre.

"Enough of this. You are coming with us. This little...stand off is done. You made your point but you are wrong."

Deirdre whimpered and shrunk in his grasp. "But..."

From the shadows of the shop, where he'd been quietly watching, Arin growled, "Now, that's gone a bit too far, sir. You have no right to manhandle anyone like that, even your own daughter." He knew he probably should have stayed hidden. He wasn't even supposed to be here, but he wasn't able to let that go.

Tim moved forward, circling opposite Arin to put the group between them. He stood, arms crossed and stared at them.

Robert stared off towards the voice. He couldn't see anyone though. "All talk. I don't know who you think you are but this is getting tedious." He looked down at Deirdre. "It is time to go now. Your friends have had their say, I have humoured them long enough."

"I don't want to go. I want to stay here. I want to be with them..." Her voice was meek.

Arin stepped out of the shadows, "Talk is not my strong point sir. And you will find that I don't do a lot of it." He looked to Deirdre, a smoldering anger in his eyes that she would notice, "Say the word D. Let me go."

Her mother gasped a little as Arin stepped out. His sudden appearance startled her. "Robert..."

"D? What is that some gang nickname? Honestly princess what has happened to you?" He pulled her in in what might be considered a hug if there was affection to it. There wasn't.

Deirdre struggled in his grasp. Her hands tried to push him away. "Nothing has happened! I am not your princess! Stop calling me that!" Her angry voice muffled against him as she tried futilely to push him away.

Robert grabbed Deirdre by her upper arms and shook her slightly. "Snap out of it. This is juvenile. Stop being ungrateful."

"Now that I think, is quite enough." A voice rang out through the shop and a loud sound of snapping fingers could be heard as both of D's parents went from standing and looking like people one second, to seated in chairs and...canine the next. Robert now was a rather grumpy looking scottish terrier, while Deirdre's mother was a maltese. Balthazar appeared in front of both of them, bending forward to make eyes contact as he flash a tight lipped mean grin. "I think it's your turn to try out some obedience and humility hmmm"

"Arin..." Deirdre sobbed slightly. Rocking on her heels. She was suddenly alone. One moment her father had her by the arms and the next she was just standing there.

Arin rushed to her and put his arms around her, "Right here."

Deirdre buried her head against his chest. "What happened?"

"Bal happened." Arin smirked.

"What?" She looked up in surprise. "Oh my god! What did you do to them?" She turned in Arin's arms to look at Balthazar and her now canine parents.

"Now..." Bal said looking at the dogs, his figure imposing upon them. "You both are going to sit there quietly while Deirdre tells you, in great detail, everything she plans to do with her life, and you are going to nod along and be grateful for her continued presence in your life. Understand?" Bal instructed, and the dogs both whined a little with their tails tucked. "That's what I thought."

Deirdre moved very slowly to Balthazar's side. Her eyes were on the dogs. "What did you do to them? Are they really....they are dogs."

"Just gave them a little taste of what they wanted from you. They don't want a daughter, they want a show dog. Until they get it through their heads that you are your own person and responsible for your own life, they're gonna get a taste of the other side. Just desserts are trickster specialties." Bal explained smoothly, flashing a grin.

Arin followed Deirdre, and stood slightly behind Balthazar. With a greater degree of respect than he'd ever had when speaking to Balthazar, Arin said, "That thing you mentioned, about us maybe getting along. I'm starting to see it too."

"I didn't know he could do that..." Arey said a little floored as she stared at the two dogs now sitting at the table, looking totally bizarre.

Tim shook his head. "Me either...." He worried that Bal might do that to any of them at some point. "So ugh...are they house broken?"

"Good to know." Bal commented lightly with a wink thrown his cousin's way. "I'm just not overly fond of authority figures, especially ones who are getting too possessive for anyone's good." At Tim's comment Bal just shrugged. "Not my problem."

Arin grinned, "Must be a family trait."

"Undoubtedly." Bal agreed, looking at Deirdre. "Whenever you're ready to talk to them, be my guest. They won't remember being dogs, but they'll remember what you tell them. No interruptions this time, be assertive. It's easier to do it with dogs than people sometimes." He said gently.

"Talk to them? But..." She looked at Bal. "Assertive." Deirdre stood up straight but didn't know how to begin. "What do I say?" She looked around at everyone. "They are panting...it is weird?"

"Incredibly." Said Arey, giving her a small smile. "Just...tell them what you wanted to say I guess. Whatever it is you feel." She encouraged.

Arin couldn't resist. He walked around the table and scratched them both behind the ears, "Cute, really. Not that weird." He grinned.

Deirdre started laughing as Arin scratched the dog's head. "Oh come on..I can't do this when you are petting them and calling them cute." Tears of amusement started to form in her eyes.

"Right, sorry." He looked suitably chagrined, but still kept the smirk in his eyes as he moved back behind Balthazar.

Calming Deirdre stepped up in front of the dogs and leaned down to look them in the face. It was hard to be angry at such cute little faces. She had to remind herself that they were her parents and she was there to make her statement.

"I am not a princess. I am not helpless. I am not going home with you. I don't need you to protect me, you aren't protecting me you are smothering me and sheltering me which by the way, not helpful like you think it is." She huffed. "I am staying here. I am going to Ambrose. I will dance because I want to. I will not call you everyday. I will drink if I want. I will go out. I will eat junk food and if I put on a pound or two I don't care. I am staying with my friends because they care about me. I like them, even though some of them tend to put their foot in their mouth." Her gaze flickered up to Tim. He blushed and looked down at his feet sheepishly.

Deirdre licked her lips. "I am going to wear my hair down or up as I want. I am going to go out and have fun. I am going to watch scary movies and tv and play video games. I am going to kiss boys...well a boy...I am going to like boys..." She fumbled over her words a little. "Hell I am going to like girls if I want and you can't say anything about it." She blushed. "I like boys and I like a boy with tattoos."

Arin gave the dogs a toothy smile and pointed at himself.

The dog that was her dad yipped and Deirdre put a finger out. "No. I get to talk. Not you. I am going to have a life and you don't get to control it anymore. No one does. No more telling me what to do and making decisions for me."

She stood up straight once again. "My place is here and no one can tell me differently." This was for all of them, not just her parents. Deirdre looked more sure than she had ever before. Her head held high, her back straight and shoulders relaxed.

With a slight turn of her head Deirdre looked at Balthazar. "That is all I need to say."

Bal knelt back down in front of the dogs, his eyes flashing amber. "You both understand what she had to say? Are you going to accept it at that, or do I need to drop you both off at a kennel for a few days?" The dogs both shuffled, whining a little with their tails tucks and throats exposed. "Excellent." He said with a toothy grin, and Mrs. and Mr. Evering were once again people, sitting, if somewhat dazed looking, in their chairs. "It's been wonderful visiting you you folks, but I think it's time you were on your way." Bal said, voice holding the same tone as when he'd spoken to the dogs.

They both nodded. Standing they looked to Deirdre. She didn't move. She looked at them, her resolve not wavering.

"P-We just wanted what was best for you." Her mother said.

"I decide that, not you. Here is what is best for me. Here makes me happy and here is where I belong." Deirdre stated.

Her father moved to hug her and Deirdre frowned. A small shake of her head stopped him. "Good bye. I will call when I have the chance."

Her parents moved to the door and outside.

Deirdre watched them go. "I-okay...everything is okay..."

"You did great darlin'. Assertive looks good on you." Bal said with a wink.

Deirdre smiled a little and then hugged Balthazar tightly. "You didn't have to do that."

Bal hugged her back gently with a small smile. "Yeah well, he didn't have to put his hands on you either. He forced that play." Bal said with a shrug, as he downplayed his own rage at the sight.

Deirdre let him go. "I guess it was either dogs or Arin punching him..." She looked over at Arin. "I just really appreciate what you did to help me. All of you."

She stepped in front of Arin. "Thank you for staying close."

"That's what I said I'd do. I guess I'm trustworthy like that." He winked.

As Deirdre stepped to talk to Arin, Vivienne moved to stand by Balthazar. "Theatrical as always." She commented lightly, but there was a note of approving affection there as well. "You should be careful about the amount of power you exert nephew. Such antics...attract attention." She said carefully.

"I'm always careful." Bal said with a reassuring smile that hid a far less cheerful emotion at that reminder. "I wouldn't be walking around a free fae today if I weren't."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Saturday morning Deirdre showered after training. She was nervous but not like when she had gone out with Arin nervous. Balthazar had been somewhat sweet to her but Viv had made it clear that fae like him were changeable. What if he suddenly stopped being so nice to her and started to tease her the way he had Kat or Tim. She didn't have the willpower Tim did or the wit that Kat had.

She dressed in a black skirt and thick grey tights. The weather was cool and since she wasn't sure everything that they would get up to today she wanted to make sure she was warm enough. Deirdre pulled on a green shirt to finish off the ensemble. Ballet flats in black, her grey fall dress coat and her beret pulled the whole look together.

She went to find Arin, one last thing on her mind before she went to find Balthazar. She paused in the doorway of the mirror, "Arin?"

"Hi D! C'mon in. You know, you don't really have to knock, right? I was teasing." Arin's voice was cheerful.

She smiled a little, 'I know...I just wanted to say...bye?" Deirdre sort of shrugged. "I didn't want to leave with Balthazar without saying goodbye to you."

"Ah, sure. Thanks? I appreciate you coming by, always happy to see you. But you sound so serious. Are you worried?" Arin was a little concerned now.

Deirdre frowned, "Oh...I just thought maybe I should say good bye because well it is nice? Important maybe when someone is seeing, well not seeing...I well." She crossed to him and quickly kissed his cheek.

Arin put his arms around her as she kissed him, "Okay, it is nice. I believe it seems fitting to claim we're 'seeing' each other by now. I like you D. I'd rather have you around than not. Is that the definition you have of 'seeing'?", Arin was genuine. He wanted to know how she was defining them in her head. He was comfortable with where they were, so he wanted to be sure she was too.

"I don't know. I have never done this before but I didn't want to leave with someone else without saying something to you, it felt well not right..." She shifted slightly in his arms to be more comfortable. Her hands went to his chest. "Do we need a definition? Is that what happens?"

"If something feels right, it usually is worth doing." Arin smiled. "And I don't know. I'm pretty easy on definitions. If you want to figure out a definition, I can work with it too. If not, we just keep doing what we feel is right."

Deirdre shook her head. "No I don't need a definition. I was just unsure. I guess I made the right decision of coming to see you to say bye before I left." She smiled. "That's really all that matters."

"Anything that let's me see you again works for me, so I agree." He smiled.

"Bye, I will see you later." She kissed Arin lightly.

Deirdre made her way back into the batcave looking for Balthazar.

"Shway outfit there darlin'. " Balthazar said from his perch on the top of the couch. He was dressed a bit more casually in dark jeans, longsleeve green shirt, and a grey jacket. "And what d'you know, we match." He said with a teasing grin.

"Oh...we do. Should I change? I don't want people thinking I was copying you or something..." Deirdre shrugged a little. "Am I dressed okay? I didn't know what we we're doing so I went middle ground...maybe I shouldn't have..." She frowned.

"Nah, you look great. Just means we both had good taste." Bal said with a wink. "So...how's your French?"

"My french? Not bad....part of basic courses and ballet is pretty much all french but...why?" Deirdre didn't know of any place in New York that was big on speaking french. She didn't know the city very well so maybe Balthazar knew something she didn't. She found that very likely in fact, he was older by centuries and she lived in a secure little bubble up until a few months ago.

"Just curious." He said grinning as he held out his hand. "You ready to do some sight seeing?"

Deirdre eyed him, amused, "You have plans...should I be worried?" She shyly took Balthazar's hand.

"Naaaaah." Bal said grinning. "Everybody likes French food." Bal said winking as D's hand slipped into his own, and the two of them both disappeared.

When they reappeared with both feet on the ground, it was in front of the Eiffel Tower, and instead of the beginning of the afternoon, it was late afternoon, early evening. "Never said which sights we were going to be seeing." He said with a grin.

Deirdre stood there stunned. She had never been anywhere outside of the state, let alone the country. "Balthazar...is that..." She was wide-eyed and looking up. "Why...are we really in France? But..."

"Yup." He said looking satisfied with her reaction. "We're in Paris to be more precise. Got us a reservation at a little place I thought you might like." He said, holding her hand as they walked around.

"This is how you want me to repay my debt? To spend time with you in Paris?" Deirdre looked over at him. "I don't know what to say..." She let him lead her. She was enraptured with the sights around her. It was so different from New York.

"Well whatever you do, don't thank me." He joked lightly. "Unless you want another outing like this that is. I've got a standing reservation at this nice little place in Maui if you're feeling something more tropical."

Deirdre smiled, "Vivienne said we need to not thank fae. I am supposed to be very careful and that you changeable so you might not always be so nice to me...I don't know if I believe that, maybe I just like to think of you as nice. Maybe a little bit of a pest but you don't seem as mean as you could be."

"Yeah well, Vivienne doesn't know everything." Bal pouted lightly. "Bit of a racial stereotype that is. We're just a bit flighty is all. We don't all go looking for trouble on principal, it just has a tendency of following us around." Bal corrected mildly before flashing her another grin and digging through his pocket and pulling out a disposable camera. "Just don't go spreading that around, I've got a rep to protect y'know." He said placing the camera in her hands.

"You want me to take your picture? Sure." She lifted the camera and pointed it at him. "Don't worry I don't know that anyone would believe me if I told them you were a gentleman or sweet or anything like that. Your rep is safe." She laughed. "Ready?"

"I'm flattered." Bal said flashing a grin as Deirdre snapped a picture of him. "But it was more for the city itself. You've got a big room of your own to decorate now, figured you'd like some pictures of your Parisian adventure."

Deidre lowered the camera. "Really? Oh..." She smiled. "That is very thoughtful of you Balthazar. Than-" She closed her mouth tightly. "Maybe you need to stop being so nice to me."

"Good catch." Bal said amused. "Sorry to say I won't make it that easy for you though. I can be perfectly nice when I want to."

Deirdre raised the camera and snapped a picture of some of the buildings. "So you choose to be nice to me but pester Tim or Kat. Interesting." She looked over at Bal. "Am I allowed to ask you things about yourself? Or is that a no, no too when it comes to fae? That whole knowledge being power and all..."

"Boy scout just makes it too easy. Even a hint of flirting and he gets all red in the face. Might as well be waving a red flag in a bulls face." Bal said grinning. "Kat can hold her own, she likes shooting me down as much as she finds me annoying. I'll grow on her." He said with confidence. "You can ask about me if you want. Other fae...probably best not mention them. Invitation for trouble, and trust me, I'm a peach compared to some of those guys."

Deirdre nodded, remembering the woman who attacked Tim and Kat. "A peach, got it." She snapped a few more pictures. "Tim puts his foot in his mouth a lot. Did you know he asked Viv to send me away on the first day we were together. Said I was trouble, she was trouble." Deirdre pointed to her head. "He is okay, just kind of...I don't know. Course you bug him and you know Arey goes ballistic."

She turned and looked at Balthazar. "I think the only person you don't really phase is Arin. You don't make me angry, well not now...the club, when we first showed up at the rink maybe...you do however, talk in a way that makes me very scared to say anything. Vivienne said words are weapons with fae. Arin told me to ask lots of questions. I don't know, I always feel ten steps behind you..and Kat...and Arin..." She shook her head, one hand on her hat to stop it from falling off. "I am talking too much."

Bal grinned cheekily. "He should be thanking me for that one. They're pretty funny to watch when she gets all territorial." As she brought up the rest of, of being scared to talk to him, he sombered a little bit.

"Not sure I would say funny....." Deirdre murmured.

"They've just got more more experience right now, don't sweat it. I happen to like when you talk a lot. I think you've got the makings of a real conversationalist." Bal said grinning as he gave her a quick one armed hug. "So fire away. Questions?"

Deirdre chuckled as Bal stated she might make a good conversationalist. "You and Arin might be the only people on the planet that think I am enjoyable when I start to talk." She tapped her lips with her finger. "Easy one...how often do you come to Paris? Have you ever lived here and when?"

"It's been a while actually." Bal said thoughtfully as she asked about his time in Paris. "I was holed up here for a while in the twenties if you'd believe. Quite the place to be back then. The music was loose, the people looser, and it was very easy to blend." He said as they came by a flower cart, and he bought her a pink rose. "Floated to Berlin and Munich for a bit after that. Not my highest recommendation. The Germans are into some weird shit, even by my standards." He joked lightly as her put the flower in her hands.

Deirdre took the flower. "Oh..." She smiled. "I wish I could express my appreciation." Her teeth bit down on her lower lip. "Where else have you lived?" She tried to change the subject.

"Don't sweat it." Bal said with a dismissive gesture. "A trip to Paris isn't complete until you've given a pretty girl a rose. Selfish intentions." Bal insisted as he took the camera and snapped a picture of her with it before handing it back.

"Lots of places." Bal continued. "England when I was younger, Ireland for a while. Spent some time in Shanghai in the thirties. Mostly just drifted around from different cities. Italy was a pretty good place to get lost back in the middle ages." He offered up. "I'm about sixteen hundred sweetheart, pretty young by fae standards granted, but I've been a whole lot of places. Any time in specific you're looking at?"

"Hmm...That is a long time. Young huh?" She smiled. "What was your favourite place and time? Middle ages?" Deirdre was enjoying talking to him. He had been places, done things that she had never even dreamed of.

"Hard to say..." Bal said, pursing his lips in thought. "Probably in England when I was younger. Those guys had a real sense of humor, especially the Welsh. Things were a little more stable back then."

"When you were young..." Deirdre looked thoughtful for a moment. "A child...Viv said you were little more than a child when I met you...." Her voice was very quiet.

Bal's green eyes were a little guarded as they flicked back to Deirdre, and he tried to sound casual. "I'd doubt you'd even be able to remember me to be honest. I wasn't exactly advertising I was a fae when we spent time together, and Guinevere had more interesting things going on in her life than to remember one overly inquisitive stable boy." He said with a smile.

Deirdre's eyes clouded a little. "Tell me...tell me about the time we spent together. I feel...she had no child....she liked them but..." She shivered.

"She was kind of sensitive about that." He said gently, rubbing her shoulder in comfort. "I was barely more than a hundred back then, must have looked about eleven...maybe twelve?" He said thoughtfully. "I grew up in the Seelie court side of things, before they started shoving anyone with Unseelie blood behind the veil. The Seelie...they're complicated, politics are constantly shifting, and the only thing that stays constant is the caste system. Even in the court there's a hierarchy, and except for the highest tier of the Queen's favorites, there isn't much forward movement if you know what I mean." He tried to explain.

"Tricksters, because we're half Unseelie, are always bottom of the barrel. They're concubines or jesters or some other menial position serving someone else. That's part of why most of us leave. Even as a kid, when we're shielded from that a little more in our houses, I knew it what was coming, so I'd skip out a lot." He said looking ahead. The information he was giving her was mostly harmless, nothing specific with any names, so he didn't mind giving that to her. "I was an angry little kid who liked causing trouble. Loosening wheels, causing misunderstandings, general mischief making. I was pretending to be a stable boy in Camelot when I met her the first time, was going to let the horses out of the stable and watch the grooms spend the day chasing after them in a flurry." He said remembering with a fond grin.

"And what did you think when you met her?" Deirdre wanted to know. She knew what she thought of her other half but perhaps having a different perspective would be good. "Was she really as self centred as they say?" Guilt began to eat at her, overriding the enjoyment of the trip. "Sorry, we don't have to talk about this. Let's talk about you. Who was the most interesting person you ever met?"

"Nothing could be further from the truth." Bal said with quiet amusement. "Considering she caught me red handed leading the King's horse out of the stable without being saddled or prompted, I thought she was going to box my ears, or make one of her guards do it for her. I was enjoying my time as Bran the stable boy, and I was willing to take it because it was better than skipping back to the seelie court. Instead she grabs me by the arm and marches me back into the stable with the horse and gives me a ten minute lecture about proper consideration and manners for others. I being the incorrigible brat that I was, spoke like a gutter rat and used some colorful language to describe what she could do with her manners." He remembered, eyes sparkling.

"After which, instead of having me rightly flogged, she decided I was going to take weekly lessons in etiquette from her. Once a week, for about a year, I saddled two horses for her, went with her on her rides, and she 'taught me how to be a gentleman'. Women in authority from my experience have always been hard, demanding, and more than a little scary. She was the first one ever met who was compassionate." He left out the part where he'd been more than a little smitten with her for Deirdre's sake.

Deirdre shook her head,"Really? Oh dear..." She took his arm. "You weren't afraid of her? You went with her?"

"Nah, there's only so much a mortal can do to a fae, and she didn't even know I was one. I was bored and she was interesting, even if those lessons never really stuck. I actually began to look forward to them." Bal replied with a small smile.

Deirdre looked shocked, "You mean you never learned to be a gentleman? Oh dear." She laughed. "Sounds like she was fond of you."

"Only with her." Bal said honestly. "And I was fond of her too." When Camelot had died, so had Bran the stable boy, and the stable peace within the Seelie court had shifted. Those days were quite honestly the more happy of his life.

Deirdre smiled, "Vivienne said you were. I like knowing someone liked her beyond her reputation." She looked at her feet.

"Hey." Bal said seriously, lifting her chin up carefully with his fingers. "Guinevere wasn't a bad person, she never was. Making some mistakes is part of being mortal...part of living in general. People say bad things about her because she's the easiest target, because it's easier to blame someone else than accept their own failings. She was a strong, beautiful, confident woman who genuinely cared about the people around her. Don't ever let people shame you for your connection to her. You should be proud of it, that you're connected to such an amazing person."

Deirdre tried to smile. "Enough about her. I am not like her. Tell me about you. Come on, most interesting person you ever met?" She pulled her eyes from his face.

"Besides Queen Guinevere?" He said with a wink. "I made out with Elanore of Aquitaine once upon a time if we want to get historical about it. That woman was real handsy, gotta say. Rudolph Valentino wasn't half bad either once he'd had a few brandies in his system. Kinda clingy and melodramatic though." He remembered with a grimace. "If we want to get more modern with it, I toured with Queen for a while back in the day. That was pretty cool." He remembered with a smile. Queen groupies were nuts in all the right ways...

Deirdre laughed. "You toured with the Queen? Of England?"

"Ha! That would have been a hoot, but no, they're a band. Bohemian Rhapsody? Somebody to Love? Hammer to Fall?" Bal prompted, listing off some of the greats.

"Oh! Music. I love music. I don't know titles, I might know them if I heard them." Deirdre looked over at him. "You play music?" She loved music but rarely put band or song names with the stuff she listened to. She knew what she liked, she knew what brought out emotions in her and she knew how to pick things that suited her mood. Who played it didn't matter as much as what it inspired.

"A little here and there. Picked up guitar in the eighties for the hell of it, not claiming to be good." Bal said with a wink. "I'll get you my record collection sometime. You can figure out who's who and if you like them." He offered.

"Wait, I am not really allowed to take favours from fae am I?" She frowned. "There are so many rules. I am worried about making Viv mad at something I might do."

"Well it's not really a favor if I'm the one offering to bring them. It's honestly more of an excuse for me to hang out with you." Bal shrugged. "Rules and structure's how we live. They have to power to bind for us. She'd just trying to look out for you is all."

"I know. I just don't want to do anything wrong." Deirdre frowned. "Hang out with me? You might find me fairly boring after a while Bal. Can...can I call you that or do you prefer your full name?"

"Call me whatever you like." Bal said with a smile, kind of liking it when she called him that. "And I don't think I could ever find you boring." He said as they stopped by the Arc de Triomphe. "You hungry yet?"

Deirdre took a few more pictures. 'Yes starving." She giggled. "But this city is so beautiful. And the conversation is very interesting, enough to forget all about food." She tucked the rose into the crook of her arm as she turned, taking another picture. "Bal, there is no way a silly mortal like me is interesting to someone who has seen and done as much as you but I appreciate the sentiment."

She tucked the camera away, the rose in her hand once more. "Alright, tell me the most boring person you ever met." She smiled at him.

Bal had to think about that one for a moment. After all, how could he be expected to remember all the boring people too? He was about to reply with a story of a British clerk he'd met during the British occupation in India when Bal felt a sudden shift in the air. Subtle, but powerful. A mortal wouldn't even have noticed it, the average fae either, but Bal did. He'd been running for the better part of eight hundred years, he knew what to look for. His head whipped around, eyes wide and intense as he searched the surrounding crowd as he tried to trample down on his rising panic.

Deirdre looked at Bal. He was looking around. He was very quiet and a little tense. She placed a hand gently on his arm. "Is something wrong?" She looked around as well seeing nothing but people.

Bal was tense, his eyes searching when they finally locked with the cold amber gaze of a brunette woman standing by the gift stand. His hackles rose immediately when he recognized her, the ghost feeling of hands running over him emerging in her presence and he ground his teeth. "Shit!" He hissed, as he grabbed hold of Deirdre's hand. "We have to leave now! When I tell you to run, run and don't look back." He said forcefully as they disappeared, blinking them back to New York with as much speed as possible.

"O-okay." Deirdre looked at Balthazar, "Wait, run?" She was slightly panicked. "What is going on?"

Bal didn't manage to get them back to the shop, but it was close, only being about a block away before the other fae grabbed hold of his arm, whipping him around and slammed him into the hard pavement. Bal at least had the presence of mind to push Deirdre out of the way, sparing her the blow.

"You've been sloppy Balthazar. I haven't been able to catch a trail on you this fresh in two hundred years." The brunette woman sneered in satisfaction.

She staggered as Bal pushed her. She was wide eyed. A woman slammed Balthazar into the pavement. It only took her a moment hesitation before she looked around and spotted a bottle near a garbage can. Deirdre moved to it and picking it up whipped it at the woman. "Let him go!" She watched the glass hit the woman in the shoulder.

Deirdre had dropped her rose and now her hands groped for something else to throw at the fae. A can this time. She threw it too. It rang out as it hit the woman's arm. Her other hand rummaged in her pocket for her phone. Pulling it out she yelled, "Call Arin" at it. It began dialing Arin's cell phone. Deirdre was shaking but she couldn't let this woman just attack them.

At the impact, the fae woman turned her gaze toward Deirdre. "Playing with mortals again Balthazar? You always did have pathetic taste. Her Highness will be woed to hear of your destitute state." The woman said with a mean kind of grin, yanking Bal up by his collar and catching the fist he threw her way as he tried to buck her off. "D, run, run now!" Bal growled, trying to body slam the other fae.

"Let him go!" A rotten apple landed with a wet thud on the woman's back. Deirdre took a step forward. If Arin picked up he'd be able to hear her words. "No! I can't leave you here!" She shook her head frantically. "Arin will come, we aren't far..." She grabbed the lid of the garbage can and not thinking ran at the woman, swinging for her head.

"She just keeps talking..." The fae woman said cocking her head in birdlike contemplation. "I think I'll make it stop. Will you cry for this one too?" Bal landed a hit to the fae woman's middle, regaining her attention. "Fuck you Syb, and fuck the Queen too, you lot can rot in faery!" Syb, as she was now named, landed a vicious backhand to Bal's face, grinning in satisfaction. "I've been waiting eight hundred years for the chance to do that." She purred.

"Y'know Syb, when a man doesn't call for eight hundred years , it's usually a hint." He growled back, earning another hit.

Deirdre went into training mode. She knew she couldn't hurt the fae for real but it didn't mean she couldn't try. She swung the lid with all her power. Her eyes were on the woman's face. She wanted to make her stop smiling.

Syb caught the lid with one hand, the metal giving way with a crunch between her fingers, as if she were gripping butter. "Your mortal wishes for death." The fae said with molten eyes. "I would give it to her." She purred. Bal flung himself against Syb, gripping her in some kind of vice hug. "Deirdre, back away, now!" He said, struggling to hold her back.

Deirdre stopped dead as the woman crushed the lid of the garbage can. She swallowed hard as the woman stated she would give her her death.

"But...." Deirdre backed away. She sought something iron, something she could use to hurt the fae who was attacking Bal. She didn't know what iron looked like.

"D, you can't hurt her, she's a hunter, she'll kill y-gah!" Bal was cut off by the blade that slipped between his ribs, forcing him to his knees as she twisted the blade cruely. "I always did like you better this way Balthazar, your natural position." The fae woman sneered as she petted through Bal's hair with her free hand and he glared, panting through the pain.

"NO!" Deirdre screamed as Balthazar crumpled to his knees. "Syb! Let him go!" She called out to the woman, hands in fists. She couldn't hurt her but she might be able to get her talking. Words are weapons. If she could delay her then Arin and the others could come. They weren't far away, surely they would come.

Syb turned her gaze back to Deirdre, looking a little more carefully this time. "You are one of Arthur's." She said contemplatively. "For that, I shall grant you life. This one," She said grasping Bal's face in her hand. "Belongs to the queen. She will want him back."

"What's wrong? She looking for a replacement for Lugh now that he's done fucking her?" Bal bit out weakly, spitting as much venom into it as he could muster

"He belongs to Arthur. He is under Arthur's protection." Deirdre countered. "You risk much by attacking him." She stood taller, trying to level her words and tone to a more neutral but commanding tone. "You should choose your next action carefully Syb. The knife was not perhaps wise."

Syb threw back her head and laughed, as the end of the blade seemed to grow a chain that wrapped itself around Balthazar. "Arthur has no claim to the Seelie or our own, and even if he tried, our claim is older and much greater. I would sooner risk the wrath of your mortal king than that of my queen. She will be wanting her jester back. If Arthur wishes to contest that claim, he may do do with the Seelie Queen herself." Syb said gripping hold of Balthazar.

"Until such time as that can be arranged Balthazar stays here. You do not get to take him. We cannot be ensured of his state if you take him." Deidre countered.

"His state is not of your concern. He is of the fae and is claimed by the Seelie. Farewell mortal, you have proved most amusing." The Fae said chuckling as she began to drag him with her back across the veil.

"D...just go, it's alright." Bal tried to call out softly between clenched teeth, before the pair of them disappeared.

"No..." Deirdre watched as the woman ignored her and walked away with Bal. "No..." She was crying now. She had failed to help him. She stood there for a moment just staring at where they had vanished. She made her way back to the batcave.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Tim had kept Arey in his lap the whole time. He didn't want to let her go. He kept giving her the tea and stroking her hair. He didn't say much, he just wanted to be with her.

Arey managed to force down three cups of that god awful tea. She felt shaky, but more herself. She just clung quietly to Tim for the majority of the break, letting herself bask in his comfort. She made a deal with herself, she could quietly wallow for the rest of the break, then when they came back together, she'd put on her big girl panties and be an adult about this and take charge like they needed her to. Just ten more minute. Ten more minutes and she'd be strong again.

Arin and D drank their tea in comfortable silence before returning to their previous positions. Arin sat and Deirdre sat once more in his lap. There were plans to make, and things to do. Deirdre inhaled and then began. "We want Bal and hopefully some sort of security for everyone once we are done protecting them. In return we offer our protection and conceed to Arey visiting with time restrictions and with someone else. What do we think?" She tried to sound as confident as she had before, to get that back but it wasn't quite the same. Thankfully Arin's presence kept her much calmer and more sure as they tried to regroup.

"That seems to be an agreeable plan." Vivienne said firmly, the matter already settled in her mind. "It will take me a few hours, but I can make the preparations. For my nephew's sake, we should be swift on this matter."

Deirdre looked at Arey and Tim. Tim nodded silently. "The faster the better and first we need to get Arey the sword right?"

Arey was still calming down from the incident from earlier, but as Deirdre reiterated the plan with a bit more grace, Arey managed to nod. They had to focus on the job at hand right now. She wasn't happy about any of this, but she could deal with it. She didn't necessarily like Balthazar, but he had helped Deirdre, been kind and supportive to her oddly enough, and Arey wasn't fond of the idea of anyone being forced into bonds of servitude like Vivienne had described. She didn't really have a choice in the matter regardless, considering they had a pact and all. Yet another deal with a high handed fae who was controlling her life. Was this ever going to stop? She thought tiredly.

"Ok. We'll do that." Arey managed, sounding stressed, but resolved. "What do I have to do to get this sword?"

Vivienne looked pensive as her gaze fell on Arin, looking as if she were warring with herself a bit as she beckoned for him to come closer. "I am the current Guardian of the Sword of Light, also known as Excalibur, and one of the four great Fae artifacts. I was entrusted with this duty long before it was given to Arthur, but after his passing, I was also entrusted with a second to ensure its protection by the former queen of the seelie."

Tim frowned, "Second...sword? As in they? You have two of them or two artifacts? I am confused."

"Artifacts." Vivienne clarified. "I have the sword and the stone. There are four artifacts in total, the other two being the spear and the cauldron." Vivienne said calmly. "The cauldron lied with the Seelie in Faery, and the Spear has been missing for millennia. No one but perhaps its current owner know its true location."

Arin reluctantly asked Deirdre to let him up as he responded to his mother's request.

Deirdre stood and let Arin move. The loss of his presence was hard but she said nothing, sitting in his spot as he moved away.

He approached Vivienne, "So, what's this? You want my help to carry stuff in, or something?"

Vivienne took a deep breath, knowing the next few moments may change her relationship with her son forever, and she did not predict in a positive way. She gestured for him to sit next to her as she ignored his question and continued speaking. "Each of these artifacts possesses their own special gifts. The Sword, as you know, is the only weapon currently in existence that can kill the fae specifically. The stone has two gifts. The first, as it's primary function, it to determine legitimacy. Mortal kings of the past were coronated and crown before the stone, pulling their royal swords from its sheath as a way to prove their claim to rule, and a throne's rightful heir. The fae used it for similar purposes of course, as it was originally created for their use." She continued to explain.

"However, it also has a second gift that is arguably more valuable, which is that it contains and conceals powerful objects or people." Vivienne paused, licking her lips before forcing herself to continue. "When Arin was a baby, his connection to Faery was very strong. Stronger than most half-blooded children should be. Due to his lineage, I should not have been surprised, but it was an issue. I might have cut ties with Faery, but that does not mean house Uisge would not want him, especially if he developed more fae traits than human. Their ability to move about earth is limited, his would not be, and I would not put it past many in my house to try and take him by forceful means."

Arin had sat easily enough. Now, he narrowed his eyes at Vivienne.

"For both of our safety, I had to keep him hidden, and when the stone in my possession took an interest in him as a baby, I did not stop the bonding that occurred. The Sword is in the Stone, and the stone, protected and concealing them both from Fae eyes, is in Arin." Vivienne finished, pausing to give them all time to process.

Deirdre paled as Vivienne talked. Her eyes went to Arin. Fae...baby...Bal was one hundred but a child of eleven. Stone, hiding him....he would be...two hundred and a bit years... Deirdre slowly let the whole concept sink in. Arin was fae, half sure but stronger than others and bonded with a stone. She started to breathe slowly and deeply. He is not a normal human or fae. He has had time to work through things he said. Time...like centuries. He holds the stone and the sword, he is meant to help Arey. She needs him. They have been waiting...oh god...

Arin frowned in confusion, "I'm what? I don't... what?" He had figured Vivienne has some deep secret to reveal and it obviously concerned him, but the Stone? What did that even mean?

"I don't get it. I'm hidden? Excalibur is hidden? Like... in me?"

"Yes." Vivienne said quietly. "In certain regards, you are the Stone which now houses Excalibur. The Sword itself is concealed safely inside you, but you are now a part of the Stone and vice verse. I was baffled by the bond you shared with the artifact as a child, had never seen anything like it honestly. Perhaps it is because of our line, as Guardians of the Sword. I could not really say, but the effect is the same." Vivienne explained.

Arin didn't know how to process what Vivienne was saying. He reverted to humour, "So, wait... you mean Arey's gotta feel me up to grab my sword?"

Tim frowned but chuckled a little. The whole situation seemed absurd. "So like you have a sword in you and no way my girlfriend is touching your sword before she touches mine." Tim eyed Arin.

Arey winced, trying to process what was happening here, but she could tell Arin wasn't dealing with it well. He made jokes like that when he was upset or internalizing she'd come to notice.

Deirdre sat very still and very quiet. Her eyes fell to her lap. Arin was trying to work through what Viv told him, his jokes not really settling in or affecting her. Her mind was working on the idea that Arin was not a man like she thought, not even a half fae in the way he thought. He was more than that.

Arin looked at Tim, "I get it man. I dunno. I'm still trying to figure it out."

"In a manner of speaking I suppose, though I doubt there will be any touching of genetalia." Vivienne remarked dryly.

"So where you hiding it though man? Or is it not that big?" Tim laughed.

"Funny man. Maybe she needs to make it big before she can retrieve it?" Arin smirked.

"Nice. You use that line a lot? 'Hey honey want to pull my sword?' " Tim laughed. He wasn't comfortable with the idea of Arey touching or feeling up Arin but the joking was better than trying to rationalize that Arin was some artifact.

"If it works, it works, right?" Arin laughed.

"Hilarious." Arey said tensely. She didn't want to ruin the light atmosphere they were trying to create, but she was far more worried about ruining the tentative peace that existed within the group. Tonight had already highlighted how easy it was for them to revert to one of those flashback past self absorbing episodes, she didn't want to bring their actual baggage into this as well. Arey wasn't sure if she was comfortable with the idea of touching Arin, and she knew Tim, despite his joking, definitely wouldn't feel any better about it. She also didn't want to hurt Deirdre or Arin. They were just starting out their relationship, and no matter how brief it had been, Arey and Arin had dated. This kind of thing would always be weird.

"Do you use the 'Hey if you stroke it right it gets bigger and you get to rule the world' line?" Tim grunted a little.

"Why not tell the truth?" Arin smiled.

"Nice." Tim shook his head. "Too bad you can't claim to be king though...you are just the holder for it. Like a scabbard."

"You aren't seeing the point, man. I'm not the king. I'm the king-maker! Way more attractive."

Tim nodded, "I salute you sir. That...yeah I got nothing." He laughed and looked at Viv. "Okay seriously? How the hell does Arin house a sword? Come on, is he like a beacon or something? Does he glow when we get close to it?"

"He just does." Vivenne replied with an almost shrug that looked out of place on her. "I've never been able to test the process. Only Arey can pull the sword from within him. It will be an exercise in trial and error." Vivienne replied. Somewhat relieved by the general reaction to this news. She knew she'd likely have words with her son about this later, but for now there was peace.

Deirdre stood. "Sounds like it will take some time. I should go." She looked pale and almost emotionless.

Tim frowned heavily. "You are serious? Arey has to feel him up to find it?" He looked at Arey and then Arin. "Right, cause why is anything ever easy and not awkward or ridiculous?" He put his head down, elbows on his knees.

Arin became a lot more serious when he saw Deirdre's reaction. He was not thinking about the implications, just the jokes. Seeing her reaction brought back the baggage, "No... I doubt it will take long. It's... why would Arey have to find it? Why can't I and then just tell her?"

"If you have not been able to feel it's presence within you for twenty odd years, I doubt you suddenly with now." Vivienne replied calmly. "The Stone itself conceals the sword's power, I would have been surprised if you have felt it." She said in comfort.

Deirdre winced. He had said something similar to her but in a different context but the words still hit her wrong. "No, I'll go. Leave you alone so it isn't weird." She looked down. Arey needs him. I knew it from the beginning.

"It will be weirder if you leave. It will feel like we're doing something wrong." Arin said softly.

Deirdre sat back down. "Nothing is wrong. It is what needs to happen."

Tim looked at Viv, "So, can she just do this or what?" He wasn't impressed but resolved to let it go. Like D he knew that things had to happen, no matter how they felt about them.

Twenty odd years...not centuries but...okay... Deirdre wasn't sure what to think now. Perhaps she really didn't understand things with the fae at all.

"Okay... I don't get it. This isn't some sort of joke... You really mean that Arey has to find the sword in me and it's entirely up to her to find it?" Arin was losing the humour of the situation.

"Yes, and I have no idea how long or how difficult it will be." Vivienne replied.

Arey paled, realizing it had become her responsibility to find the sword and find it quickly. If she couldn't it would be her fault, and everyone was just going to feel more awkward and upset about everything. Why could nothing ever be easy? They'd just managed to settle in this kind of peaceful routine of normalcy. Why now?

Arey stood up carefully, feeling insanely awkward as she walked slowly over toward Arin and Vivienne. She stood next to them, hoping one of them would tell her what she needed to do, because honestly, she had nothing.

Deirdre looked at her hands. More pain for them. This isn't right.

"Alright. Do I get to keep my clothes on or not? Tim might get a nice show. Just trying to find out." Arin was struggling to get the humour back.

Tim glared. He forced himself to watch. He needed to know. It was going to bother him not to see first hand.

"Tough crowd. Okay..." He looked over at Tim, "I'm not playing. This is as much a surprise to me as you. I really don't know how to deal with this."

Tim nodded. 'I get it man, more fucking fae tricks. Why not make it easy when things can get messed up in people's lives right? Not your fault man. I-I just..." He shook his head and watched.

"I don't know." Arey said sounding a little lost. "Just keep them. I'll try to be quick, I promise." She said quietly, not making eye contact.

"Hey, if it means anything Arey, I did like you in the bar. I didn't go for you just because I thought you were Guin. But, you know, I'll try and stand still..." Arin was babbling now. He really didn't know the best way to deal with this. He closed his eyes and raised his arms. "Have at it."

Deirdre clenched her hands together until they were white knuckled. Hearing Arin say he had like Arey was like a stab in her gut. Had she come between something like she feared? Arin had been there for her, had been at her side. Now though, maybe....she shook her head. She wanted to leave, wanted to be alone to figure out how she felt about everything but she didn't want them to have to go through it alone and Arin said it would feel wrong if she wasn't there. Suck it up princess.

"That's supposed to make this less awkward?" Arey asked almost laughing in disbelief. How was knowing that the boy she was about to have to grope, a boy she had kind of really liked not too long ago, had actually genuinely liked her supposed to make her feel like less of a creep?

"Um... Because it's okay? I really don't know. I'm new to this as much as you are. Just... Don't feel bad. It's something that has to be done. We're all friends here, right. We get it?" I hope.

Tim growled. "Just get it over with already." Arin admitting that he liked Arey was like seeing their copies all over each other again. Add to it that she'd rather have D, that he wasn't enough to bring her back and Tim was feeling slightly broken hearted. Did Arey really like him or was she just with him because Arin had pulled back in order to not make things weird? Was he the consolation prize? His eyes were on the pair.

"I know, sorry. I'll try not to screw this up." Arey replied, flinching a little bit at Tim's tone. He really wasn't ok with this, none of them were. The longer this took the more it was going to hurt them all, and the pressure of that was pretty crushing. She just wanted to be able to do something right for a change here.

"No sorry. Tim, seriously, not making a move. You got this. I'm not looking. Seriously, I'm not lacking." Arin tried to reassure everyone in the room.

"Yeah I got it..." Tim didn't sound very sure. "I am sure you have loads of girls, I know you aren't making a move. All good. Hell, you are dating D right?"

"Fuck you Tim, I don't have lots of girls. I have D." Arin now was finally showing a degree of discomfort.

Deirdre's shoulders hunched a little. Are we dating? Are we anything? Do we have to be? I... Her thoughts were a mess. Lots of girls. First with a new person...always a first...how many firsts? How many more after me? She began to spiral. She was too new to the idea of liking someone to understand where she stood. She knew she liked Arin, wanted to be around him and he seemed to feel the same. Her hands unclenched and then re clenched. She watched their movements.

Things were spiraling down fast, and if this continued, people were really going to get hurt. Arey closed her eyes and clenched her fists, taking in a sharp breath to try and calm herself down. They didn't need the Arey who was flinching and nervous and self-conscious about everything right now. That girl was never going to be able to pull a magic sword out of a boy and make sure everyone was okay. That was her job.

Arin shook his head, "Jesus guys." He opened his eyes and put his arms down. He walked past Arey, to Deirdre, pulled her out of her chair and grabbed her by the ass. He gave her a deep, passionate kiss. Trying to quell anyone's doubts. It lingered for a time before he broke it. "Fucking stop being adolescents okay?" He looked at Tim. "Arey isn't looking for me to replace you. It's just a fucking sword. Get over it." He walked back to Arey.

When Arey opened her eyes again, she'd centered herself better, was in that more confident and focused headspace that she got into before a game. Turning on her heel, she marched back over to Tim and yanked him down for a fierce but quick kiss. "I'm not replacing you, and you're not getting away from me that easy. As soon as we're done here, while Vivienne's getting her magic hocus pocus crap ready, I'm dragging you to my room and I'm going to kiss you senseless so that stupid fucking fae bitch can smell me on you." She ground out hoarsely pulling him into a hug.

Deirdre was stunned as Arin pulled her up, pulled her in and kissed her. Her arms went around his neck as she kissed him back. She was breathless when he let her go. She sat back down in the chair.

Tim was almost tight lipped as Arey kissed him. It wasn't the replacing him that bothered him, it was the doubt that he should be there to begin with. He liked her, a lot more than he had told her. He couldn't help the stupid smile that appeared on his face by the end of her rant however. With a sigh he picked her up and hugged her back.

"See, you idiot. She really likes you." Arin told Tim as he walked by.

"Yeah I am an idiot. I know." Tim said over Arey's shoulder.

"Not yet you don't. But you're learning." Arin smirked.

"Go fuck yourself man." Tim smirked back. He let Arey go. "Alright go yank that sucker out of him. You can do it." He kissed Arey once more.

"I would have if I could find that fucking sword." Arin grinned.

Tim shook his head as he let Arey go. "Nice Arin...nice."

"Ok, I'll try to be quick." Arey said again, though a bit more confidently this time as she walked back over to Arin.

Now that the mood was lighter Arin reverted to joking again, "Hey, hey. Not too quick though, right? I have a reputation." He winked.

"Maybe I'm just that good." Arey joked back, cracking a small smile.

Deirdre was the only one who remained silent. She sat in the chair looking less upset but no less worried about what was going to happen. She worried that Arin would be in pain, that Arey would have trouble and feel that she was failing. There was a multitude of worries building. The longer this took the longer Bal sat with the queen.

"Um... Really not doubting how good you are Arey, but... is this going to hurt?" He looked at Vivienne.

"I honestly don't know." Vivienne said quietly, looking apologetic.

That question made Arey feel nervous again, but now for a whole other reason. She didn't want to hurt Arin, and she didn't have a clue what she was doing here.

"Try an arm? A leg? They might house a sword." Tim offered. "Close your eyes, maybe it will call to you? I don't know. Spitballing here."

"Right..." Arey said, steeling her resolve as she carefully reached her hand out to Arin's shoulder. She felt the fabric of his clothes and the faint warmth from his skin underneath, but nothing unusual, nothing magic sword feeling inducing about it. She tried Tim's suggestion, closing her eyes as she ran her hand down his arm, trying to get the sword to call to her...whatever that felt like. She didn't feel anything but slightly embarrassed. "Any suggestions?" Arey asked lightly.

"Well, one. But that's completely inappropriate." Arin chuckled.

"Try giving his head a smack, maybe it will fall out." Tim offered with a grin.

"Man, if useful things fell out of head smacks, you'd be rich." Arin offered back.

"Haha, nice try." Arey said sarcastically, but smiled all the same.

"Stomach? Leg?" Tim shrugged.

"Okay." Arey said, bending down a little to kneel in front of him and run her hands down his legs from the knee cap down. "Not a word." She warned Arin, foreseeing a particularly crude line of jokes just begging to be aired.

"Nope. Nothing." Arin agreed. Except he couldn't resist, "Higher?"

"No...." Deirdre stood and crossed to Arey and Arin. "May I?" She looked at Arin as she stepped in front of Arey. Her hands went to the hem of his shirt.

"Uh..." Arin wasn't sure what Deirdre was planning, "If you have an idea, go for it. Not sure what it is though..."

She stepped in very close, lifting his shirt up and over his head. She dropped the garment to the ground and took him by the upper arms, turning him. Her eyes were on his face. "Try the tattoo Arey." Her voice was soft.

Arin grinned at Deirdre, "That was obvious, wasn't it?"

"Can't get it out of my head so maybe?" Her eyes shone a little. Her hands remained on his arms. "Worth a shot I think."

"Nice to know I'm stuck in your head." He smiled at Deirdre. Then he called over his shoulder, "Try it Arey. Ignore the muscles. I know Tim isn't."

Tim groaned. "Right."

Deirdre kept her eyes on Arin's face. "Take it from her hand Arey. It is a fae based weapon. They seem to enjoy this sort of thing."

Arey stood up straight again, feeling kind of awkward and out of place as Deirdre came up and pulled Arin's shirt off. Ok yeah, bloke had some serious muscle on him. Don't you dare blush! Not cool. Arey growled at herself internally, determined not to make this weird. Because listening to a girl tell you where to touch her boyfriend is super normal...[i] "Worth a try." She agreed, running her fingers tentatively over the tattoo. She felt a bit of a tingle there, and it was more than she had felt touching anywhere else, so Arey figured it was a good sign.

"Do you feel anything?" Arey asked Arin. If she felt something, maybe he would too?

When Arey ran her hand over his tattoo he felt a slight pull. Like something in his core was being tweaked. He felt as though there was a guttural attachment to himself, "Umm... yeah. Kinda." He almost squeaked.

"Umm...ok. I don't really know what I'm doing here, but if it hurts, tell me ok? I'll try to be gentle." Arey said softly, trying to comfort him after she heard his tone of voice.

Arin chuckled, "Sure thing. Firm grip, whole hand, and pull..."

Deirdre shook her head a little and bit back a comment. Her hands rubbed Arin's arms gently.

"I'm serious ok. I don't want to hurt you..." Arey said gently but firmly, though she did crack a small smile.

"I'm actually serious too. I think it's going to hurt... but not... It was weird just having you touch it... Uh... nevermind." Arin actually blushed.

"Words of encouragement every girl wants to hear." Arey quipped.

"I told you lower. Completely different response then." Arin tried to joke back, tensing up.

Deirdre felt Arin's arms tense. She reached up and gently touched his face. Her eyes were soft and full of compassion. She wished he didn't have to do this.

"Ok, just...tell me if you need me to stop." Arey said putting her left hand on his shoulder, both in a bracing and comforting gesture before putting her right hand back on the tattoo a little more firmly. The skin there was warm, warmer than skin should feel, and it looked and felt like her hand was sinking into his shoulder. Super bizarre.

"Do you want me to go?" Deirdre whispered to Arin as Arey began to move behind him.

Arin shook his head no, wincing and tense.

Deirdre grabbed onto his arms once more. She hoped that she could provide some comfort or stability. He didn't want her to go and she wasn't going to leave him. "Look here, at me and breathe." She whispered once more.

This was honestly one of the weirdest things Arey had ever done, and after the last two weeks of her life, that was saying a lot. Her entire arm, almost up to the shoulder was stuck in Arin's back as she tried to feel around carefully for something that felt vaugely sword-like. Mostly she felt like she was feeling through some kind of warm vaguely fluid mass. "You still ok?" Arey asked against his shoulder as she continued feeling around as gently as she could. He felt tense, and she was trying not to jerk around too much.

Arin had clenched his eyes closed. He was trying to quell the strangeness of the feeling. Yet, as she continued to feel and search the discomfort was matched by a different feeling. Arin's eyes shot open and he moaned lightly.

Tim had thought Arin was in pain until he moaned. Tim frowned and let out a small breath through his nose.

Deirdre looked shocked as Arin moaned but she said nothing. She still held onto him though now she felt as if she were intruding on something extremely intimate.

That sound coming out of Arin's throat made Arey's face flush red. That had not exactly been the reaction she was expecting, but she didn't comment. That had to be weird and awkward for him too, and he was the one who had a freaking arm in his back, not her. She felt around a little more purposefully now, trying to find the blasted bugger so they could just get this over with and not embarrass each other too much. When her hand finally found something more solid, she grabbed it without thinking twice. It was a handle, and the moment her hand made contact, an intense kind of shiver made its way up her arm and back down her spine leaving her feeling breathless and trembling as she exhaled a sharp breath.

Arin's legs shuddered. He wasn't sure he was going to be able to keep standing. The feeling of someone pulling his innermost guts out of him persisted. However it was backed by an intense feeling of pleasure. It wasn't like anything he'd felt before. The mix was so intense that he couldn't focus on basic tasks. His legs buckled and he knelt before Deirdre, panting, his arms above his head.

Deirdre gasped as Arin knelt in front of her. She still held his arms above him. "Pull it out Arey...." She brought Arin's arms down and knelt down with him, bracing his head on her shoulder. She draped his arms over her as best as she could manage.

Arey had gone down with him, afraid that she'd somehow hurt him and tried to minimize the damage by following his momentum and not jerking her movements about. She was kneeling behind him, gripping the handle a little more firmly. She tried to tug on it gently, not wanting to hurt Arin more than necessary, but the sword didn't budge. [i]Confident, be confident. It's not going to come out for some tentative wallflower, so man up and just yank on it.
Arey growled to herself, gritting her teeth as she committed. She tried twisting it in her hand a little this time as well as she pulled. Come on, I have to get this over with so he can relax again...go make out with Deirdre and feel better.

"Here goes..." She whispered quickly in warning. The handle felt warm in her hand, and after a tense moment, it came loose, and Arey began to gently pull it from his back.

"Nnnggg." It was all Arin could manage as the sword drew forth from his shoulder. It was the oddest, most intense feeling he could imagine. He felt as if someone were ripping his insides out. Yet, behind that he felt as though he were experiencing the most intense orgasm ever. He curled up further, both because he had no choice and because the last remnant of his self awareness didn't want anyone to realize how it was affecting him.

Deirdre remained on her knees as Arin slid down and curled up at her knees. She had a hand over her mouth, her hand shaking a little. Her eyes lifted to see Arey with the sword.

As Arey managed to fully draw the sword from Arin's back, she released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. The sword in her hand wasn't exceedingly long, about the length of her arm, maybe a little longer, and it seemed to glow like pure starlight. Arey was both a little awed and intimidated by it, as she could feel the raw power pulsing within it as it welcomed her like a long lost friend. Almost as if it had a mind of its own...

"This thing was inside of you?" Arey squeaked, eyes flying to Arin who was curled up with Deirdre on the ground. It hurt to see him that way. He was usually the cocksure one they could depend on not to be affected like that, and seeing him...so un-Arin like was kind of disturbing. She wanted to help him, but she didn't know how. He had Deirdre with him though, and if anyone could help him feel better, Arey guessed it was her. So she stayed back.

"...Well that was just fucking weird." Kat said from her spot beside Tim. She wasn't really sure what else there was to say.

Tim sat there stunned. He had just watched his girlfriend pull a sword from a man's back. She stood there holding it as if it was a simple thing to take a sword from a human body. Half...half human It didn't make it any odder. Tim nodded slowly at Kat's comment. "Fucked up."

Deirdre pulled her eyes from Arey and the sword. She looked down at Arin who was curled up on the floor. She leaned over him, one hand stroking his hair. Her head hovered near his, her lips on his ear. "It is done... " He was incoherent. His body was curling into a ball and it pained her to see him so incapacitated. Her other hand began to slowly stroke his bare back. There was a light sweat there, the experience taking a great deal out of him. His muscles tensed under her hand. "Arin. Arin...." She whispered his name over and over into his ear, concern in her soft voice. She worried that he would not want her close, that he might push her away as he tried to deal with the effects this ordeal was having on his body.

Arin struggled, trying to understand exactly what he was feeling. It was as though someone had been making intimate contact with him, but finished by ripping a piece out of him. He felt like he was missing a part of himself. Yet that part of himself didn't feel like a person. He fought to recover his sense of self. Something that would remind him of who he was. As he lay on the floor, the tattoo itself was changing. The hand lowered into the water, without the sword, leaving a tattoo of a calm lake surface. Arin shivered. When Deirdre touched him and whispered his name he flashed her a look. It was desperate, like a drowning man. He fumbled and grabbed her, tackling her to the floor and just held her. It took a concerted effort on his part to fight off an animal instinct to do more, but he managed to control himself and simply pulled her in tight, "D! Thank you..."

Deirdre was pained by the look in his eyes and scared that there was nothing she could do to help him. His arms were around her and she was suddenly surrounded by Arin. Her arms moved under his grasp as she tried to cling to him as tightly as he was holding her. "Arin..." She pressed her face into his neck. He was thanking her and she wasn't entirely sure why but he was holding her and he was coherent.

"Did anyone else see that? The tattoo?" Tim's eyes were wide as he stared at Arin's back. He watched as the man all but pinned Deirdre to the floor under him. It seemed almost violent but Tim could see the way Arin was clinging to her. It was need, a need for connection. Tim felt a little like a voyeur on their moment and he looked down. "Maybe we should get some water." His voice was low.

When Arin tackled Deirdre, Arey had practically jumped forward in instinctual concern. He was thanking Deirdre, almost incoherently so. Seeing him that out of control was putting her on edge, but she also had an instinctual kind of trust the Arin wouldn't hurt Deirdre. She hovered close by, but didn't interfere since Deirdre didn't seem distressed, and was helping Arin. Either way, she'd rather focus on them and getting everyone back to being ok than on the slightly frightening, glowing blade in her hand that seemed to be trying to talk to her in some kind of silent language she didn't understand, but felt like she should. Arey really didn't need that extra layer of weirdness right now.

Arin took a few shuddering breaths and gradually became aware of what he was doing. He slowly let Deirdre go and pushed himself up over her. He gave her a sheepish grin, "Uh... Sorry D." He rolled to the side and sat up. He put his arms on his knees and lowered his head, a bit embarrassed by many of his current reactions. He was still trying to come to terms with what happened to him. He'd never felt that unaware of himself or things around him.

"W-why?" Deirdre looked up stunned. He was gone, sitting beside her now as it was nothing. "O-okay..." She sat up slowly beside him. She felt dazed and slightly confused. She was shaking just a little as if taken with a chill. The suddenness of Arin grabbing her followed by the departure left her feeling lost.

Tim looked at Arin, "You okay man? Want some water or something? That was...intense."

Arin didn't look up yet. He spoke in a gravelly, low voice, "I think so... A beer. Or a shot of whiskey. Either or both." There was a slight tremor in his hands and arms. He found himself intensely turned on and it was kind of freaking him out.

"Second that." Arey said humorlessly. She was glad Arin looked a little more himself, but without that to focus on she had to pay attention to the thing in her hands. She didn't really want to hold it. Part of her thought it would be a good idea to lay it out on the table and keep a safe distance, but she couldn't make herself let go of it either.

Tim stood. "You got it. Be right back." He took off to Arin's apartment.

Deirdre looked at Arin. She nudged him very gently with her nose on his shoulder, her hand brushing his forearm. "Is there anything I can do for you?" Her voice was full of concern. He was more himself but not quite himself.

Arin shivered a little as Deirdre touched him. It brought instant goosebumps out all over his arms and he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He lifted his head and gave her the same kind of smile, "Not here D."

"I'm just gonna...stand over here." Arey said excusing herself to give them some space. She felt like an intruder standing so near while they had their discussion, and she didn't want to do that to them. The sword in her hand pulsed in displeasure at the added distance, but Arey ignored it. She didn't want to read into that, or even how she knew the sword was somehow mad at her.

Deirdre looked crestfallen. She didn't understand. Arin was smiling, looking like he was a little embarrassed perhaps but he told her not here. She let her hand drop away from him. "Sorry." She pulled her legs up under her chin, tucking her skirt about her thighs. Her eyes were on her knees.

Arin caught himself staring at Deirdre's legs as she adjusted her skirt and shook his head. He looked up so he could meet her eyes, "No... nothing to be sorry about. I just..." He lowered his voice, "Not something that you typically talk about in a room full of people." He shrugged. He shifted his hips a bit, trying to get comfortable.

Deirdre looked up at Arin, her eyes meeting his as he talked. "What isn't? I don't..." Arin shifted and it slowly dawned on her. She had seen him move like that before, when they were sitting on her bed. When she was touching his back, when she kissed his neck and wrapped her arms around him. "Oh." The word was breathy. "Oh...I see..."

She looked around, "I ..maybe you should sit on the chair." Deirdre looked behind her at Viv. A blush stained her cheeks. Her hand went back to Arin's arm and she leaned in to place a soft kiss on his temple. "Come sit with me?"

Tim came jogging back. "I got beer. I didn't see whiskey." He looked around. "Alright who wants one?"

Arin closed his eyes and let out a shaky sigh as Deirdre kissed him. He nodded, "Yeah... okay." He started to stand when Tim came in. Arin sat back down and raised a hand. "Toss one here."

The hand that wasn't holding Excalibur shot up quickly as Tim returned, offering beer. Arey didn't really care if it was the gross American stuff or not, she just wanted something that would burn a little on the way down, or take the edge off holding the creepy sword a bit. "Yes please."

Tim let Arey take a beer before handing one to Arin. He pushed one into Deirdre's hand. "Trust me. You need one."

He moved to Arey, "So...." He eyed the blade as he opened his beer. "You gonna open the beer with it or what? Want me to open it for you?" Tim smiled a little at Arey. She seemed almost freaked out. No not almost, she was freaked out.

Arin cracked the beer and took a deep swig. With a bit of a growl he stood, hoping people weren't watching too closely. He strode to the chair and sat. He could feel his sense of self returning.

Deirdre held her beer and watched Arin move away. With a frown she propped herself onto her knees and shuffled towards him to sit beside the chair. She didn't want to intrude now. He seemed to be trying to shake everything off. She was back to unsure and nervous.

Arey chuckled humorlessly at Tim's suggestion of using the sword to open the beer as the sword gave off an indignant air. "I'd rather not make it more pissed with me than it already is." She said with a forced smile. Crazy people. Crazy people talked to inanimate objects..."Yes please." She said quietly when he offered to open the beer for her.

Arin reached down and lifted one of Deirdre's arms, encouraging her back into his lap. He could feel his emotions settling down. The only thing that wasn't going away was his need to have someone close to him. He couldn't think of someone he'd rather have than Deirdre right now. It probably wouldn't help his arousal, but he was okay with that. That he could control.

Deirdre looked shy but smiling a little, slipped back into Arin's lap as he urged her up from the ground. She snuggled back against him and leaned in to whisper to him. "Hey you."

Arin gave her a much happier looking smile, "Hey. Thanks again. You did awesome."

"I didn't do anything but stay near you in case you needed me. I know what it is like to have someone stay close and wanted that for you. I couldn't leave you even if you wanted me to..." She smiled shyly and blushed before hiding her face behind her beer. She still hadn't opened it.

"You called my name. You reminded me who I was. I lost myself there for a bit." He took a swig of his beer. "And, you stayed close. You didn't freak out when I jumped you. You did awesome." He couldn't entirely express how much he needed her there right at that moment.

"I like it when you tackle me..." There was a gentle tease to her voice. "Arin, I didn't know you were lost I just knew that I wanted you here." Deirdre kissed him, uncaring who was around.

Tim stared at Arey, "Pissed off? Who?" He opened her beer and handed it back. "It is pissed off? Like the sword?" He frowned. "Arey, babe you okay?" He was worried something had gotten messed up during the whole process.

"Yup." Arey said simply before taking the open beer he passed her and bringing the bottle to her lips and taking a few long drinks as she closed her eyes.

"It's just seperation anxiety. The sword will settle." Vivienne said quietly from behind Arey. "She seems to have grown attached as of late is all."

"It's a she?" Arey managed to ask, wondering if she should be surprised or not.

"Vaguely. The fae concept of gender is not so fluid as humans'. For today, the sword is a she. Tommorrow? Who is to say." Vivienne replied.

"It's a she?!?" Arin said almost at the same time as Arey. "And you're telling me about separation anxiety." He shivered.

Deirdre frowned. "She? Okay..." Oh good, another woman who wants his attention or needs him. She chuckled humorlessly as she finally opened her beer and took a big drink.

Tim was trying really hard not to laugh. He was covering his mouth, looking away. "Nope can't hold it in. Arin you had a woman in you? Isn't it usually the other way around?"

"If it helps you visually, it was not always a woman for the duration of its stay." Vivienne remarked dryly, eyeing Tim. "The sword, like any other has a dual nature. That is easily reflected in gender."

"Not really, no..." Arey said running a hand over her face.

Arin shook his head, "Open your mind Tim. Don't box yourself in, you might find you enjoy yourself more." He grinned.

Tim shook his head, "Ugh I think not. I rather like my way. To each their own though." He raised his beer to Arin.

Arin chuckled and raised his before taking another swig.

"Can i just...put it somewhere?" Arey asked tentatively, holding it out away from her.

"If you're thinking of putting it back... I'm going to need you to wait a bit." Arin snorted.

"No! I didn't mean like that!" Arey said quickly, in no place or mood to repeat that process either.

Deirdre put a hand on Arin's cheek and shook her head. She took another drink of her beer. Bal was in trouble but all she could think about was locking Arin and herself in a room, curling up with him and blocking the world out. She wanted him to be okay, to connect with him. The day had been an emotionally rough one already and there was more ahead of them.

"You will keep it on your person until it needs to be returned to Arin for safe keeping. You're simply adjusting to the bond you are forming with the sword. Your discomfort is natural." Vivienne said seriously.

"Is she going to be needing it in safekeeping often? Like, should I start getting used to this?" Arin wasn't sure how often he'd want to experience that kind of thing. "What exactly did you sign me up here for, mom?"

"Until we are all confident in her ability to defend herself with the sword, then yes. Otherwise there is nothing stopping any fae from simply slaughtering her to claim it for themselves while she has it in hand." Vivienne said softly to Arin. "I regret your discomfort in the matter, but for the time being, it is necessary."

Deirdre shivered on Arin's lap at the thought of Arey putting the sword back and pulling it out again, over and over again. She wrapped her arm around Arin's neck and hugged him.

Arin grumbled, "Perfect. Looking forward to it." He looked up at Arey and shrugged, "Hope you don't mind... it's a little... intense for me. I doubt it'll get better. Don't feel bad about it. It's not you, it's the Stone that reacts that way."

"I'll try to be quicker next time." Arey said quietly, feeling guilty all over again as she put the bottle back to her lips and practically chugged the rest of her beer.

Deirdre's head went to Arin's shoulder as he spoke. She had a vision of him collapsing in the street as Arey ripped the sword from him to fight some unseen threat. She hugged him tighter, tears stinging her eyes.

"Quick, slow, not sure it'll matter. It's as though I become the Stone. Or that's the best way I can describe it. I lose track of who I am. As long as someone's there to call me back I'll be fine. I can take it. You really don't have to worry about it."

Tim shook his head and looked at Arin. "Wow." He took a drink of his beer. "That is..." He shook his head again.

Arin nodded at Tim, "Wow... yeah. It's certainly different. Good thing I like to try new stuff, I guess." He was trying to put the best spin on it he could. He didn't want any of them, especially Arey and Deirdre, worrying about how it affected him. He just needed someone to call him out. He'd be fine. Or am I trying to just convince myself now?

Arin hugged Deirdre tight. She was already clearly upset. He tried to reassure her by just running his fingers through her hair, as if it were a normal thing to have swords drawn out of you.

Tim inhaled, "So what next? Beer. Sword...we go get Bal?" He sounded hesitant. He wanted to help the guy but the night had already been super intense.

"It should be Arey's decision." Vivienne remarked calmed, eyes landing on Arey in a speculative gaze. "She is your leader. It is time she began taking up that mantle."

Arey pursed her lips in quiet displeasure at that. This was now her responsibility too then? Arin was the natural leader amongst them, not her. Why the stupid sword or god or who the hell ever was in charge up there had decided it was a good idea to put her in charge, Arey didn't think she'd ever know.

"Let's just regroup for a bit. Catch our breaths and try to get back on our feet. You said time was important here for Balthazar's sake, but we won't be much help if we're not ready to face what's coming, so lets just give that a minute." Arey decided as her grip tightened on the sword.

Arin nodded, "I could use some regroup time. But I'm not the main actor on this stage, mainly scenery. So, I'll be ready when you all are."

Deirdre tightened her hug as Arin called himself scenery. "Whenever you are ready Arey." She moved in Arin's lap to get more comfortable. "I can move if you need..." She whispered to him.

Tim finished his beer. "Okay a breather is good." He turned, ready to hug Arey but stopped as his eyes fell on the sword. "I guess I'll just go...sit." Tim backed towards the couch and sat down, elbows on his knees. He looked contemplative, his jaw set and eyes intense.

"Okay, how much time we talking? I could use... a shower, I think. Maybe a light workout." He threw back the rest of his beer. He really wanted time alone with Deirdre but was a little afraid of what he might do. He could stand to distract himself a bit.

Tim stared straight ahead, "Viv you said I needed to be dressed for the queen and we need something to catch her eye. Maybe we should do that? Let Arin shower and Arey have time with the sword?" His voice was level and had a bit of an edge to it.

"One hour. We need to be setting up at the orchard by dusk." Vivienne replied. "Timothy, come with me." Vivienne beckoned with a curled finger. "We will find you the suitable enticing apparel."

Tim stood at Vivienne's beckoning. "Arey...if you need me..." He looked unsure. "I'll come if you need me for anything." He turned to follow Viv.

Deirdre pulled back from Arin, releasing him from her hug. "I guess you want to be alone. I...I will go, I'll be in my room if you want to talk or..." She left it there.

"Nope. Not really. Last thing on my mind right now. I'd like to have you around, but maybe we hit the training room for a light workout? Or take a walk?" He didn't want to give her the impression he didn't want her, but he didn't want to put her in an awkward spot. "Just to give me a few minutes to get my head on straight?"

Deirdre nodded, "Whatever you want Arin. I am just happy to be with you." Her hand was on his cheek now. "Whatever you need, I am here. Let's go to the training room and I will talk, you can workout?" She offered him a slight smile.

He smiled, "Sure, make me put on a show for you, right?" He chuckled. "That sounds like a good idea."

Deirdre smiled and ran a hand down Arin's arm, "Well I won't complain at all about the scenery." She gave him a wink. "Come show off for me." Standing she put a hand out to him.

Arin smirked at her comment then took her hand and followed her out of the room.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Deirdre had sat and talked to Arin as he worked the heavy bag. She told him about what she saw in Paris, asked him if he had travelled. She asked about school, work. All lighter topics. She had other questions and things she was figuring out but now was not the time to prod at those topics. She wanted to know about the stone, the experience but that too would wait. They needed to calm, regroup not get riled up once more.

She could not however resist approaching him as he finished up his workout. She ran her hands up his chest. "You know you are the strongest person I have ever met and I don't mean just your physical." Deirdre looked up at Arin. "I am very fortunate to have you in my life." She brushed his lips with a soft kiss.

Arin answered her questions lightly. Focusing on her and the workout. It was exactly what he needed. Something to push his body and his mind so he couldn't focus on what had happened. Distracting but pleasant. He told her about being a bartender for a few years. That he'd not really travelled anywhere other than places he could get to on his bike. He told her about his history fascination and how he got into martial arts training.

He had never bothered putting his shirt back on, she'd asked him to show off, so he did. He toweled off after finishing the workout. He still had time for that shower. He smiled at her when she came to him, "Thanks D. I'm as strong as the people around me, really. I use you all as inspiration. I think I'm the lucky one, but let's just agree on good timing."

"Timing is everything." She placed a kiss on his shoulder. "Will you....if things go well...will you stay with me again tonight?" Deirdre raised her eyes to meet his.

Arin nodded slowly, "I think I'll be good now. Better able to control what happens. So, yeah. I would like that."

Deirdre bit her lower lip. "I would like that too." She paused. 'Arin? Better able to control what?"

"What I do with you. D, it took everything in me to not start ripping your clothes off after I tackled you. It was instinct. Animal. I needed to feel like a person again and the strongest human feeling at that time was arousal. It lasted for quite a while." He looked a little embarrassed again.

"Oh..." Heat rose in Deirdre's cheeks. "I always want to be the one to be there for you after that...." Her voice was low and a bit husky. "Perhaps you won't always have to control that urge...." Her chest rose and fell slowly. The room felt warm. She hadn't realized that he had been so close to that point. It both frightened and excited her. She hated that he didn't feel like himself but she would do anything to help him find it again. Her hands cupped his face. "I want you to know you are a person..."

Arin grinned, "Well, we'll let that get there on it's own time and not when I'm not entirely myself, okay? Especially the first time. I do appreciate your help though. I... really needed it." He said the last quietly.

Her eyes softened. "It is okay to need someone to remind yourself who you are. I know an incredible man who has helped me do that very thing." She pulled his face down so she could kiss him once more. "Better me there than Tim right? That might have gotten strange...." She knew he enjoyed humour and hoped to help him realize that he had nothing to be embarrassed by.

Arin nodded, "I forget how much we have that in common." He closed his eyes as she kissed him and left them closed until she mentioned Tim. He looked at her, head cocked, "Ha, right. Strange. Bal would have been jealous. Hell, Kat would have enjoyed it though." He chuckled.

Deirdre laughed. "Fair enough but I prefer being under you. Tim can get his own guy." She hugged him. "Bal too. I have claimed you." Deirdre inhaled. "Yes we have that in common and better for having each other. At least I think so." Her voice dropped to a soft whisper.

"Alright, I'll let him know. He might be disappointed." He laughed. He hugged her back, "I've been claimed then? I think I can live with that."

Deirdre's eyes opened, looking down at the floor. A slight panic set in. "No, I didn't mean like Tim and Arey, I just meant...no definitions I know. I am sorry. Not what I meant. I just like spending time with you and it was a tease and I..." She stiffened and took a step away. "I bet everyone is waiting. We should go."

Arin sighed, he gently took her chin in his hand and lifted it up to look at him, "I really don't mind being claimed by a beautiful woman. If you want to put the claim in, then I'm not stopping you. I don't care one way or another about definitions." He kissed her gently, "But yes. I need to shower. You heading back or wanna hang out at my apartment while I shower? It'll be quick, but I don't mind having you around as long as I can."

Deirdre felt her knees go a little weak as he kissed her. "Shower...me...you...I mean yes, I will go with you. To your apartment." She blinked a few times before reaching up to touch his hand.

Arin grinned, "Well, not so much you and I showering. We don't have time for that right now, unfortunately."

"I know I just get a bit flustered with you." Deirdre blushed profusely, "I will go with you to your apartment while you shower."

Arin nodded. He grabbed her hand and headed to his apartment.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Arin and Deirdre came back to the main room together. His hair was back in the familiar spikes. He was dressed in a suit. He actually looked like he was trying to impress people, rather than not caring.

Tim was pacing, pulling at the jewelry Viv had put on him.

Deirdre had combed her hair and fixed her skirt. She stopped dead at that sight of Tim.

Arin stifled a grin when he saw Tim. He knew the guy must not be super comfortable and he didn't want to make it worse.

Tim shook his head, 'No, not a word from either one of you. Got it? Team player here. You know where Arey is?" He looked a bit worried.

Arin shook his head, "Nothing. Not saying anything. Good job, man."

Deirdre put her hands up and shook her head. "I have no comment." Her eyes flickered to Arin.

"I'm here." Arey said as she walked back to the main chamber from her room. At Vivienne's insistence, she had changed, though she wasn't entirely comfortable in the get up. She'd put on her leather pants, and taken the leather harness Vivienne had thrust at her to put over her white long sleeved tunic top. She felt like she belonged at a renaissance fair, but decided not to complain about it after she saw what she'd dressed Tim in.

Deirdre put her hand on Arin's arm as Arey came into the room. She shook her head, pushing back memories of another life.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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The orchard was dark and almost eerie in its stillness as Vivienne performed the ritual to summon the court. There were barrels of Apples just lying around unattended, and Arey wondered vaguely if Vivienne had made some of the workers here disappear so as not to be interrupted. Arey stood there tense, the sword she had spent the last hour and a half getting frighteningly acquainted with was strapped to her back and sheathed in a shoulder holster, arms crossed in front of herself.

“Anyone else feel like a dude in a hockey mask and chainsaw’s gonna run out at us in a minute?” Kat joked from where she stood next to Tim, occasionally teasing him about his get up while they waited. She’d already snapped a couple pictures of that on her phone, and had several plans which included Photoshop and a group wide chain letter.

Tim stood, trying not to look miserable. Kat was taking pictures and he didn't even have it in him to be annoyed and banter with her. He needed to focus on the task ahead of them.

Arin stood at ease behind Deirdre and Arey. His hands clasped behind his back. He tried to focus on the plan and just stand by stoically.

Deirdre stood near Arey. She had her head high, back straight and her mind was working as it went over the deal they were to offer.

As Vivienne finished burning her incense, the orchard suddenly went from empty, to impossibly full. Men and women dressed in flowing, vaguely medieval dress, though not quite the same stylistically. They stood in orderly lines within the clearing, creating a kind of illusion of a court room. One of the apple trees distorted itself into a twisting earthy throne, upon which sat an impossibly beautiful woman, whose hair looked like spun midnight coiffed into a stylish net with star lights for gems. Her eyes were dark too, and slanted slightly in sometime that looked vaguely exotic.

“Vivienne of House Uisge. Yours is a face I have not seen in my court for some time.” The fae Queen greeted, before her eyes wandered to the rest of the group. “And you have brought with you guests. How splendid.” Her voice was silken, but there was an undercurrent of predatory intellect that make her obviously dangerous.

Deirdre didn't flinch as everyone appeared and the queen started talking. Somewhere deep in her memory she recognised the tone. It was the kind that those with power used when appearing pleasant but assessing their adversary. An odd calm came over her.

Tim knew before she started speaking who the queen was. He swallowed hard. I can do this.

"Indeed." Vivienne said in a clipped tone, standing tall and regal as she engaged in a silently staring contest with the queen for a brief moment. "Ahhh..." Maighdlin said with a small pleased smile as she stood and appeared before Arin inspecting him lightly with her eyes. "So you are the newest princeling of house Uisge? Why ever have you remained hidden from my sight for so long?" She mused as her gold and while gown seems to tinkle with the sound of tiny bells with her movement.

Arin continued to stare straight ahead. Pulling on the discipline of the martial arts training, he calmly shrugged.

"Oh no fun at all." Mai replied almost pouting. "You've spent far too long in the company of your mother. She has neglected your education in the art of pleasant conversation." She remarked. "Even my jester can manage that on occasion."

Arin reminded himself of his role. Quiet support. He wasn't the one who should be talking. He kept his soldierly stance, hands clasped.

Deirdre felt her teeth grind as this woman mentioned her jester. It was not time to speak, not time to offer a deal. Introductions weren't done and she needed to bide her time. She would know the moment when she should speak and now was not it.

Maighdlin's eyes flitted from Deirdre briefly and then Arey, eyeing her over for a moment before landing on the sword and staying there. "King Arthur I see. The rumors of your return were not simply talk them I see. And there you are, holding my great grandmother's sword." She said a bit more reserved this time, but her eyes were still appraising. "I find this summoning of my court most irregular. You are always welcome in Faery, a door always open for your return."

"Are you not fond of apples?" Arey quipped back almost managing to look innocent. "I find them rather delicious myself. Do you not care for them?" She redirected.

Maighdlin quirked a brow. "I find them pleasant enough." She said truthfully, if somewhat guarded as Vivienne suppressed a smug look.

"Then this meeting is not irregular at all, but a pleasant change of scenery." Arey said back with a tight smile. "And my name, is Arey. It would only be courteous to address me my my proper name." Arey finished, her eyes firm and hard.

"Those accompanying me are Lady Vivienne, Arin, Deirdre, Kat, and Tim. They make up my court and are under my protection here for this meeting. I greet you now in peace Queen Maighdlin." Arey greeted as Vivienne had coached her to say.

Maighdlin's eyes were equally as hard as she managed a tight courteous smile. "I welcome you to my court in peace then King Arey of Earth." She said gesturing her hand back in a circular moment towards the other waiting fae. "Before you then is also my court, who fall under my protection." She said back with a hint of smugness. "Representatives of the great houses Uisge, Réalta, and Bán are here, as well as my Hunts Woman Sybil...and my Jester." Maighdlin introduced, as yet more fae manifested themselves into the clearing. Against one of the trees by Maighdlin's makeshift throne, sat Balthazar chained to both the tree and the throne, though he gave no indication of reacting to anything that was going on. He looked a bit ragged and pale, and his eyes were unfocused with a sheen of sweat on his skin, as if he were in the grips of some kind of fever dream.

Arin's eyes flicked to Balthazar briefly. He returned to his stoic stare after he confirmed his suspicions. Discipline. You can't do anything, anyway.

Deirdre kept her composure as Bal appeared. Inwardly she was screaming for the fae queen's head. He didn't look well at all and it hurt her heart to see him like that.

Even Tim was sad to see Balthazar tamed in the way he was. The fae drove him up the wall but this was inexcusable.

“Forgive his lack of entertainment for the moment. We’re still breaking him of his nasty habit of speaking out of turn. He’s been away from court too long, you see. Lost his sense of manners.” Maighdlin explained to Arey, though her eyes were on Vivienne who stood there like a statue. She apparently saw whatever it was she was looking for, because she moved on and flitted across the group toward Tim.

“And are you not just a delightful specimen of humanity.” She purred as she took in a breath near Tim’s hair. “He even smells of sandalwood. I’m glad you keep your pets so well groomed.” Maighdlin commented without looking away as she fiddled with the torque at Tim’s throat.

It took a great deal of willpower not to pull away as Maighdlin moved to him. Tim turned to look at the queen. "You honour me with your flattery your highness."

Arey wanted to punch her in the face, do something violent that would make the Fae Queen step away from her boyfriend. This was part of the plan though, Arey reminded herself as she tried to forcefully restrain her rising blood pressure. This doesn’t work if you get distracted too. Instead, Arey focused on Balthazar, who was tied to the tree and dressed in a get up that made Tim’s look conservative in comparison. She could feel anger, anxiety and…grief through their bond as she tried to focus on communicating through it like Balthazar had shown her while Maighdlin was distracted.

Instead of talking with him, Arey blinked, and found herself in sunny daylight by a grassy hill. In the distance, she could see a small village full of thatch roofed houses, and a wooden wall. It was so blatantly early medieval that Arey had to fight down her own feeling of familiarity.

“You know, I can help you carry those.” Balthazar said playfully. He looked younger, lighter than the Balthazar she knew, almost goofy even, and was standing next to a well with a young woman whose light brown hair was tied back in a braid. She was youthful and pretty in her own way, but not any great beauty either. She had soft mosey green eyes which she now turned on Balthazar comically narrowed as she poked him with her finger.

“Oh aye, I suppose you could, and then who knows what kind of mischief you’ll be getting me up in. I know what taking help from you wee fae beasties entail.” She said, putting the other hand on her hip.

“You’ve caught me. Ulterior motive.” Bal said with a grin as he launched in for a quick kiss before taking two of the buckets in hand and walking them back towards her home in the village. “Fear not my lady, I have taken my payment preemptively, so now I’m in your debt.” He said cheekily as the girl with the other bucket full of water followed behind.

“Och I’m a milady now eh? How very fancy.” She teased back flawlessly, but for the pink dusting her cheek.

“Well your my lady…” Bal called back, showing off as he held both buckets up at shoulder height and walked backwards so he could watch her as he flashed one of his 100 watt grins and the girl just blushed and shook her head fondly.

“You didn’t deny it, so it has to be true!” Bal called out in teasing and the girl launched into a series of token protests as the scene began to fade away.

Don’t watch this… Arey heard Balthazar’s ragged voice now, the Balthazar she knew. He was telling her to leave, that was obvious, but she wanted to know what they were doing to him. Don’t watch this.[i] His voice rang out again, and this time Arey was gently pushed out through the bond.

Deirdre wanted to wait until Maighdlin and Tim interacted more, perhaps Arey would approach their reason for being here soon and things would go well, easily. [i]Not likely.
She wanted to turn, to go to Arin but knew it would do no one any favours if she so much as flinched.

"Oooh, he has manners too." Maighdlin crooned, flashing perfectly pearly teeth. "I do honor you Sir, but not with flattery. Your form truly is fine" Her hands ran over his bare biceps and gripping them around the arm torques. "Perhaps I will honor you further..."

Arey shot Arin a look, catching his eyes before looking back toward Balthazar. Arin was better at that whole thing than she was. He might have better luck figuring out what they were doing to Balthazar, because she doubted Queen bitch was going to tell them until she was damn good and ready.

Arin caught Arey’s look and followed her gaze to Balthazar. He frowned, trying to understand what she was getting at. Yes, Bal looked mistreated. The Queen had just confirmed that herself. Was Arey looking for a second opinion? It’s not like Bal could talk to them, or tell them anything. Or... could he? The bond Arey had with Bal coming back to him. How Balthazar knew all about her nightmares and other thoughts. Okay, so why look at me. She has the bond, not- He felt like an idiot. He almost shook his head in frustration, but kept his composure. Makes sense. She needs to focus on the Queen. I’m the scenery. Perfect for a little mental conversation.

He replayed the lessons with Balthazar in his head. He wasn’t sure how to go about initiating contact, but he’d give it a shot. He thought about himself back in that white room. This time, though, he started thinking about Bal and trying to find that bond they shared. He saw a fuzzy vision of the trickster start to form and he walked toward it.

"Oh Mary...what did you do?" The younger Balthazar stood in a room with sod walls and a thatch roof. His expression was pained as he gently held the shaking shoulders of the young woman from the well, tears were streaming down her cheeks.

"I couldn't get him to wake up Bal..." She croaked out around a shuddering breath, practically crumpling into his touch for comfort. "He had such a fever, I thought he would die fer sure..." Bal pulled her into a fierce hug, petting through her hair softly as he tried to sooth her.

"I've got you, it's alright Mary. What did you do?" Bal asked again as she shook in his arms.

"She said she could help him...make Davey better." Mary sobbed against him, and Balthazar felt a cold sense of doom descend down his spine.

"She who?" He asked her, barely staying calm himself.

"I see you've met my new plaything Balthazar. Peasants always do make for the best pets after all. They already come well trained." A voice rang out, and suddenly Sybil was standing in the room with them, looking smug and overly satisfied.

"Get out!" Balthazar hissed like a cat, pulling Mary behind him as he faced the other fae and bared his teeth. "You don't get to touch her!" He growled out with menace dripping from his voice.

"That's not up to you puppy. She already made the deal. Dear little Davey was ill didn't you hear? I healed him for her." Sybil chimed in condescendingly.

"Yeah, after you poisoned him first?" Balthazar accused, hackles raised when Sybil didn't bother denying it. "What did she pay with? I'll get you what she owes, but you're not touching her." He growled.

"Her." Sybil said smugly, and the color drained from his face. "The payment was her 'Bal', I own her soul. I fixed up little Davey, and now I'm here to collect." A chain appeared in Sybil's hand which glowed and connected out toward a collar around mary's neck. "Come along now pet, I don't like to dawdle here. You humans always smell like shit and fire when left to yourselves." Sybil pulled on the chain, yanking Mary forward and around Balthazar.

"I said you're not taking her!" Balthazar growled, grabbing hold of the chain and not letting go despite how it burn his hands.

"Bal don't!" Mary was sobbing again, holding onto his shoulder as his hands began to bleed from gripping the chain.

"You have no right to contest my claim infant. I obtained this human by perfectly legal means. She made the deal of her own free will. Let go now before I decide to squish her now and spare myself the annoyance." Syb threatened.

"I'll take her place!" Bal bit out desperately as Syb began to yank Mary toward her with the chain again.

"Bal no, you can't!" Mary said shaking her head, trying to push him back and away from the fae who owned her soul.

"What was that Balthazar? Your voice was so quiet." Syb replied in an almost bored tone, though there was victory that danced in her eyes.

"I said, I'll take her place!" Bal said with grim finality, holding Mary's chain in a white knuckled grip. "And you or any of your other cronies, never come near her again! EVER."

"Please don't do this Bal! I can't live with myself if you do! Please Bal, Please!" Mary openly wept, trying to drag him back and away to no effect.

"Deal." Sybil replied smugly, as the collar switched owners. The feel chaffed, but it was from his lack of freedom, not the metal. He'd promised himself years ago that he'd never end up like this, bound and chained to another's will like so many others of his kind. He'd kept a low profile, stayed out of fae politics, and yet here he was, doomed to be Sybil's hound regardless.

Mary had fallen to her knees weeping hysterically now. He reached out, wanted to comfort her. He could lie, manage a smile, pretend it wouldn't be so bad for her sake. "Mary, its o-" And then the two of them were gone. Sybil didn't even let him say goodbye.

Arin growled as the scene faded. He'd only heard of this Sybil to this point, but he didn't have a favourable opinion. Now, he knew if he had a chance to get his hands on Excalibur, Sybil might be in for a surprise. Arin tried to shake off the anger. It wouldn't help here. He looked for the Balthazar of today, not the past. "Bal? It's Arin. I don't want to intrude. We're here to help."

"Don't." Bal's voice rang out tiredly. "Just get out now while you can. You especially. That bitch will lock you down faster than a used car sales man." There was humor forced into his tone, but it was hollow and lacked inflection or it's usual effect.

"Got it. Do you have anything to help us help you? Quickly?" Arin looked around, trying to keep a watchful eye out.

"Don't let her touch you. Especially you. She'll muddle your head up. She didn't used to be able to do that..." Bal said a little distantly.

"No touching. Right." Arin wanted to ask for more, but Balthazar seemed to be struggling enough. "Bal, it's history man. You've got a lot more fun to have. Don't give up. You've got a family name to uphold, cousin." Arin said the last lightly, trying to get some laughter in a place that was too dark.

Bal laughed bitterly at that. "Ancient history. Doesn't make watching that any easier. Tell me that in two hundred years when you can't even stand to look at your mortal loved ones pictures."

"Alright. Not trying to stir you up. Trust me, if I thought pissing you off right now would help, I'd love to keep down this path. You need to focus if you want out though. We're here to help you get out. If you have anything we could leverage the Queen with, I'd be happy to hear it. Otherwise, I'm just here for moral support and to let you know we have a plan to get you out."

"If I had dirt on the bitch do you think I'd be chained to her bed right now?" Bal snarked back.

"Obviously not. I'm not an idiot. I was hoping you'd know something she likes. Something that might distract or attract her. Something we could offer that wasn't going to cost us too much. It's fine." Arin knew he was pushing him and Balthazar didn't need the extra annoyance. "Look, what about you? What can we do for you when we get you out of here?"

"Other than pretty boys?" Bal said blandly. "You're a bartender right?" He asked, sounding tired again.

"That's right. I sling drinks. Why?"

"I think I'm gonna drink the place dry once I bust out of here. Hopefully that doesn't take four centuries this time..."

"You like whiskey, or beer? I'll set you up. Tell me when we get you out of here, which will be significantly less than four hundred years. See you soon." Arin knew he needed to leave him. This was probably too long and he should check in on how the deal was going. He faded back to his own white room.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Tim blushed but only a little and mostly from the way she was touching his arm and Arey being right there. "I do not think I'd be worthy of honours from you. your majesty." He smiled at her and then looked away, trying to play up his unworthiness at her attention. Inwardly he was trying to bolster himself so that he didn't flinch or pull away. He was with Arey. It was very uncomfortable for him to have another woman so blatantly paw or flirt with him in front of her.

Deirdre moved her eyes from Bal to Arey. She hoped the woman wouldn't get too territorial but she feared that Maighdlin might push things to an extreme and Arey would go off. Can I keep things focused if she does? A bit of self doubt snuck in. Her head lowered a little. [/i]What if I mess this up? Maybe Arey will be able to negotiate this deal and I will just have to stand here. That would be okay. As long as we get Bal.[/i] She looked up at him once more. It is my fault he is here. Doubt and helplessness mixed leaving her stomach feeling ill.

"Undoubtedly." Maighdlin agreed pleasantly as she lifted her hand up to Tim's face to bring it back up to face her. "But I think you would make quite the tantalizing effort." She said stroking his face along the cheekbones where his blush was deepest. "Tell me Sir...Tim you said?" Mai turned her head briefly toward Arey, drinking in the silent waves of anger that radiated off her with satisfaction. "Are you quite skilled in the art of love making?" She queried near his ear.

Tim gasped, eyes wide. He resisted the urge to turn his head and look at Maighdlin to see if she was serious. There was no teasing in the statement but he had not expected her to be quite so forward. Flirtatious, vindictive but this was shocking. Tim's blush deepened, travelling down his neck. "How does one measure their skill in the art of sensual experiences your majesty?"

"Quite precisely." Maighdlin replied with a sly look before slotting her lips over his briefly in a quick and dominating kiss. When she pulled away, it was with a thoughtful look, as if she'd just tasted a wine she was interested in buying and not casually kissed a man. "Hmmm...not completely green, but there is so much room for molding. I will have to teach you at some point."

Arey had to physically restrain herself from blowing her top off in that moment, and the hand Vivienne placed on her shoulder seemed like a lifeline to keeping her mask of calmness in place for a few glaring moments.

Tim held his breath as she kissed him. He kept his eyes forward and hands at his sides. Socks...locker rooms. "I am not sure I would be a worthy student of such teachings from someone like yourself. Surely there are better men than I."

"None are, but I can be generous when the mood strikes me." Maighdlin replied running a hand down his back and to his backside, where it lingered. "You have quite beautiful eyes Sir Tim. I have seen few to truly compare. I can craft you into a better man if I so suit." She smirked.

"Again your words flatter me." Tim adjusted his stance a little. She was getting very touchy and unfortunately there was nothing he could do. Even his slight shift did nothing more than move him against her hand, like a dog pressing in for more petting. "I am sure your majesty is very generous."

"Yes, flattery." Arey said, managing somehow to keep her tone even and calm. "Your majesty is quite generous in that regard. We are, however, not here for the pleasure of your company." Arey bit out, drawing Maighdlin's attention back to her.

"Very." Maighdlin whispered in Tim's ear seductively. "It appears business calls my darling boy. Perhaps later." She said sighing before taking one final squeeze of Tim's ass and turning her attention back to the others. "Oh? I was merely admiring the 'pleasant scenery, as you so aptly suggested.'" She shot back with a crocodile smile.

Tim almost squeaked as she squeezed him. Her whispers had caused goosebumps to form on his arms and neck.

Deirdre swallowed, Here we go, come on Arey.

Arey was pretty sure she wanted to kill her. She could do it too, she had the magic glowing pmsing sword. She could totally shank the bitch. "You currently have a friend of ours. He's bonded with some of us, and providing us with vital information for our struggle against the Unseelie in New York. Respectfully, we ask that you honor his pacts and return him to us." Arey gritted out, managing a somewhat diplomatic tone.

"And this friend is...?" Maighdlin asked sounding bored again. She would much rather be playing with the pretty human with the arm jewelry than listen to this drivel.

"Balthazar." Arey ground out, nodding her head his way.

"Well balderdash, I'm afraid we're at a bit of an impass darling." Maighdlin said without an ounce of sincerity. "Balthazar is a criminal, a runaway slave from his master. My huntress Sybil has gifted him to me for proper training. He is my jester, and an integral part of my court. I simply can not be parted from him to simply give to you."

"We're not overly concerned with his...criminal status." Arey replied tensely. "What exactly would you like in exchange for Balthazar then? To make the parting...easier." Arey asked feeling dirty for it.

Maighdlin looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, if we are to make an equitable exchange...I'll take him." She replied, running her hand down Tim once again. "I do so enjoy pet projects."

Not a bad trade...Deirdre mused briefly before she remembered what being in Bal's position entailed and that it likely wouldn't be as enjoyable as the woman's caresses implied. She wouldn't wish servitude on anyone.

"No fucking way in hell." Arey bit back aggressively, cool officially lost. Mai's eyes just seemed to sparkle at that, placing her hands in less...appropriate places on Tim's body.

Tim's eyes went wide as Maighdlin touch him. Oh fuck..oh fuck...stop...down boy...socks...dead fish...dead fish... He didn't want his body to react. He blushed from hairline to waist, his entire body flushed. He swallowed hard.

Deirdre stepped forward. "Perhaps we can offer something else in exchange. Something else of more value? You can't simply be satisfied with a plaything in return for your jester and he is Arthur's, a reincarnated soul. To lose him might very well mean failure. And we can't have the Unseelie running amok because one of our court is being lavished with your attention, as much as I am sure he would enjoy that." She kept her voice level and diplomatic. There was no tease, no warmth. It was is if she was speaking of apples and wheat, not people.

Kat pulled on the back of Tim's trousers, yanking him back pretty forcefully behind her with a condescending smile that was all teeth. "Pretty sure our lord and master called hells no there hoebag."

Tim was startled as he was yanked backwards away from Maighdlin.

"Hoe bag?" Maighdlin repeated, trying out the foreign phrase on her tongue. "I say, am I being insulted?" She asked with narrowed eyes.

"If you listen to rap music it's a form of endearment." Kat shot back cheekily. "They call all their hot women hoes."

Deirdre cleared her throat, just a little. Kat was not exactly helping the situation though D couldn't help but be impressed with the girl.

"S'ok toots, I got chu." Kat said with her best hoodlum accent and gave Tim an affectionate pat on the tush. "See, dish my hoe." Kat continued with an unattractive lip curl."And you don't touch my hoe."

Maighdlin just stared at the girl, both utterly confused and conflicted about whether she should be annoyed or amused by her. A bit of both perhaps.

Tim looked over at Kat. He was confused and a little weirded out but he kept his face the same. He didn't want Maighdlin to know she was bothering him or anyone.

"More value you say?" Maighdlin smiled condescendingly. "Then perhaps I'll trade one son of Usige for another. I am so very charitable after all, and your Arin seems quite lacking in his education of his superior heritage."

Deirdre simply blinked, "Surely you jest. You know very well that he is Lancelot and that to have him here rids the world of a great warrior. Why not something that does not put yourself or your court at risk? I know you are simply teasing us. You are far too smart a woman to barter for such important things. Your jester for...." Deirdre looked at Tim. "Those jewels there? Something that you can show off instead of a tired looking jester who does not catch anyone's eye."

Tim looked at Deirdre, "You know these were a gift." His eyes shifted to Arey. "You cannot barter with something that means so much to me and does not belong to you." He put indignation behind his words.

Deirdre waved a hand, "I can and I do. I am discussing a deal with the queen of the Seelie court. One does not offer her things of no value."

Tim shook his head, "That isn't fair. Arey gave these.."

Deirdre put a finger to her lips, "Hush now. We are speaking." She looked at Maighdlin again. "Something of value, fit for royalty?"

"If he is so fine a warrior, why not have him by my side?" Maighdlin countered back, eyes shrewd. "My jester is entertaining, but to add such a...remarkable warrior to the defense of my court would be a reasonable sacrifice."

Deirdre shook her head. "Because his role is to stop them before they set foot in your court. Or do you wish them to grace your presence?" She shrugged. "He will not be able to defend your court your majesty without his king and his king is Arthur. You would be getting a shadow of a man who longs for his king. Ask for another payment. It is a simple jester. Surely the jewels would suffice or do you put such a price on his head that we should think him far more important to you than just entertainment?" She raised an eyebrow at Maighdlin.

"Perhaps I simply find your jewels tacky." Mai replied. "A jester is surely worth more than that, even one so lowly as he. Perhaps if they came with the mortal, I would consider it."

Tim frowned and put a hand on his neck. He looked insulted. "She cannot have them Deirdre."

Deirdre looked as if she was thinking it over. She casually waved her hand. "Hmm, I do not think losing a knight of Arthur's court is a fair trade for a jester...."

"Of course not. To trade a fae for a mortal is charity on my part, even one so finely formed as he." Mai replied dryly. "Knight or not, he is mortal, what chance has he against the unseelie that would not be exceeded ten fold by my jester?"

Deirdre shook her head, "Your jester does not stand at Arthur's side, does not fight with the one who holds excalibur. It is the only thing that can defeat them and you know it. If you wish to weaken Arthur's forces so then perhaps...." Once again she looked as if she contemplated the trade. "No, no I would not weaken the king's position by offering up one of his knight's, mortal or otherwise. It would not be sound strategy. But of course you know that. You are simply testing me by asking for such a thing. A shrewd woman you are. What is it you really want in trade for your jester?" She smiled as if conceding to Mai's superior strategic mind.

Tim stepped forward a little, away from Kat. His job was to distract and he hoped that simply moving would be enough to catch her eye, throw her off as she responded to Deirdre. D was trying to play to the woman's ego, to turn it so that she had to make a decision that would not make her look a fool in front of her court. He wanted to help but feared saying anything would just cause trouble. No foot in mouth now...

"I could bind him to your king if that is your concern." Mai sai offhandedly. "A simply matter really that would hardly leave his position weakened." She countered casually. "As it is, there is something I would rather have. Something that would ensure the safety of my court." She said with a shrewd smile. "I would give you my jester in exchange for Arthur's acceptance of my standing invitation."

Deirdre, "Your jester for Arthur accepting an invitation? An invitation to what exactly? Your bed? Your presence? What specifically is it you wish him to attend?" Her voice was cold still. Again she kept it completely business, not even referring to Arey by her name. She wondered if that would play to her favour. For Arey wasn't just Arthur. Words are weapons....

"Invitation to come to Faery and attend my court as an honored guest. If your...King wishes to join in some recreational activities whilst there, that is her business, but I would have her here. And the sword." Mai reiterated.

Deirdre frowned, "I do not see the purpose for the king spending time in faery when the threat is out here. If the distraction proves too great the unseelie may gain the upperhand. We could not allow the king to get caught up in Faery. You know as well as I that time moves differently. There would be no telling how long the visit might be. I believe if you wish the king's presence and the sword's..." Deirdre let that hang there a moment, letting Mai know it had not escaped her attention. "There would certainly need to be boundaries on what a visit would entail."

"She is welcome to bring with her Sir Tim." Maighdlin offered innocently.

"That does not address the issue of time spent here." Deirdre almost tutted her, but reigned in the desire to scold the fae for being so bold. "A visit to you put too much at risk, time wise. One visit to you, an hours time for your jester."

"An hour by your time, and on whatever occasion that I see fit to extend an invitation." The Queen countered swiftly. "And I'd have your King reaffirm his pledge to uphold the forces of order and light over chaos and darkness."

Deirdre narrowed her eyes. "An affirmation of his pledge. For a jester?"

"Do you claim your King serves the forces of chaos and darkness then?" Mai said with a raised brow. "I simply see this as a timely opportunity for her to do so, now that our courts have been reunited again in friendship."

Deirdre shook her head, a slight smile there. "No, no I do not and have not claimed such a thing. I simply feel that perhaps a reaffirmation, a visit to you that lasts an hour in our time is worth your jester and a pledge that Arthur's court is to be left in peace when the pact is complete."

"To that I can concede. The seelie have no desire to harm they who wields the sword of light, or its protectors." Maighdlin continued. "But I would have others of your court come as well. To...enjoy our hospitality."

Deirdre thought it over. "A reaffirmation of Arthur's pledge. A visit once a month, an hour our time and Arey brings whomever she chooses with her. In return we get your jester Balthazar and a pledge that the Seelie will leave all of Arthur's court in peace when the pact is complete. It is understood that Balthazar is one of Arthur's court once he is handed over to us and thus is granted the same protection upon completion of the pact."

She raised her chin a little.

"Agreed, so long as I choose with whom to seal this pact." Maighdlin replied.

Deirdre turned her head to look at Tim. "Agreed. We accept the deal as stated along with your right to choose who to seal it with."

Tim paled a little. Oh fuck no... His gaze flickered to Arin. Shit on a stick...

"Wait, I offer myself to seal the pact if it would so please the queen." He knew it would piss Arey off and he hoped that it would be enough to make Mai want to choose him. Viv did say she liked to go after the things she couldn't have. She liked to claim them. Sealing the pact would give her a bond with him that Arey and he didn't have. Maybe it is enough of an enticement.

Arey's gaze flicked to Tim's a little conflicted as her lips thinned into a hard line, but she kept herself from saying anything, despite her sudden urge to punch something. Saying no now would only make her want to pick Tim more. She still hated this though. Maighdlin having access to her boyfriend's head? Another freaking bond? Shanking that bitch just continued to seem like the most appealing plan here.

Maighdlin's eyes flicked over to Tim, lightening to amber as they seemed to exude and extend pure sensual heat. "I find that offering most...agreeable." She husked, beckoning him forward with her finger.

Tim moved forward at her call. "I am at your service your majesty." He kept his voice low. His mind wandered to Arey before he forced it back on the queen. D had made a good deal, more than they had discussed. He couldn't fail them now. "How do you wish to seal the deal?"

"I like to hear that. I will be sure to call on you then the next time I find myself...in need." Mai replied with a sly grin. "I am the queen of the seelie darling, I only seal deals in one manner."

Tim's eyebrows raised at her statement. "And that would be my lady?"

She didn't reply immediately with words, but with two hands that slid into place to grab two generous handfuls of Tim's rear, and her mouth slip into place on his throat, biting and kissing a mark into place. "By taking from you that which I desire." She husked into his ear, projecting out her natural un-glamoured essence toward him.

Tim bit back a groan as her lips marked his neck. He felt her teeth and he shivered. His knees almost buckled as she unleashed her aura on him. He kept upright though. His breathing grew heavy. "I am honoured that you would find me so deserving of your desire."

"You should be." She husked back. "I do not bother myself with mortals often." Her hands shifted, one exploring up his back while the other shifted to play in the front. "We will share a bond you and I. I will enjoy having you this way more often."

Tim's abdomen tightened as she touched him. Her hands wandered and it was all he could do not to make a noise. He looked down at the fae woman and nodded slowly. "Of course your majesty."

Deirdre cleared her throat, "Our deal is sealed then?"

"You may be Arthur's, but you're mine now too." She husked in his ear before bringing her lips up to Tim's in a bruising, claiming kiss. "You'll dream of me." She promised, biting at his lower lip. "Call out to me and beg." Her hands were gripping, exploring everywhere as she weaved her bond. She ignored Deirdre as she continued on, being...thorough.

Tim trembled in her touch. "Yes your majesty." Her mouth was hard on his, her words and hands leaving him incredibly turned on and terrified.

Maighdlin's lips came back down to the mark she'd made on his throat, licking and nipping at it with her teeth. "Say my name." She demanded in a husky voice. "Who am I?"

"You are my lady." Tim managed to get the words out. "Maighdlin, queen of the Seelie court..." He felt dazed. She played at his neck and Tim closed his eyes.

"Yes I am, and you want me. Say it." She demanded, gripping again at his backside as she trailed kisses down his throat and lower.

"I-I want you..." Tim was still trembling under her touch.

"Then as your lady I claim you Sir Tim, and our pact is complete." She husked, though didn't release him from her grasp.

Deirdre inhaled slowly. "Our side of the deal then? You are to release Balthazar to us."

Tim simply nodded. He couldn't do much else at that moment. She was still holding onto him and he didn't dare move away.

Arin came back to himself at that moment and sought out Arey. He looked at her and shrugged lightly. He had no idea what she'd hoped he'd accomplish, but other than talking Bal through a tough time, it wasn't much.

"He's yours." Maighdlin replied with a sly look, her hands still roaming over Tim as she snapped her fingers, the chains holding Balthazar in place dissipated. "Now I will take what is mine and leave this place." She said simply, her grip on Tim like steele.

Tim swallowed hard and waited for her to let him go. The way she held onto him he worried that she wouldn't let him go when she left. Not part of the deal....right? His mind went over everything D had said and he couldn't find the loophole that said she could take him with her.

Deirdre looked over at Balthazar. She closed her eyes briefly as the chains disappeared. He is free. "We appreciate your discussing things with us Maighdlin, queen of the Seelie."

"Oh course." Maighdlin purred, nipping at Tim's ear. "You will be coming with Arthur to Faery the next time I extend the invitation." She husked, more order than request.

Tim inhaled, "If Arey chooses me I will be here. As the deal states it is up to her..."

"Then I'll extend one to you too." Maighdlin said easily. "You can be your own honored guest. She could hardly oppose having an extra loyal guard now could she?"

Tim shook his head, "That is nice of you, your majesty but I will abide by the deal that is set and attend if Arey chooses. I do not think it is a matter of opposing my lady. Simply sticking to the deal as it was stated. The offer is appreciated but unnecessary."

Maighdlin was almost pouting, but didn't press the issue further as she leaned up for one more bruising kiss. "I'll have to see you by other means then." She murmured with a sly look, running a hand down his face before disappearing with the rest of the court.

Tim inhaled slowly, his body shook almost violently. "That woman...is...no boundaries!" He looked at Arey.

Deirdre rushed over to Balthazar. "Bal...oh Bal...."

Arin relaxed the stoicism. He looked around.

"Arin, help me with him." Deirdre looked over at Arin as she tried to help Bal.

When Deirdre called him over he nodded and headed that way, "So, how'd to go then? I missed a bunch."

Her eyes met Arin's, "I-I think I did okay...Arthur's court..including Bal have protection when the pact is complete." Her teeth bit down on her lower lip. She was holding back a rush of emotions.

Arin smiled at her as he leaned to help Balthazar up, "Sounds like you got what we talked about. Can't complain too much about that."

Arey hadn't really moved since Tim had begun to seal the pact with the Queen. She still didn't trust herself to move or say anything, because all she wanted to do right now was start laying into that stupidly perfect face and ruin her perfect stupid teeth and pull out her hair, maliciously. Kat had already begun to edge away from Arey the 'shits about to go down' look playing on her face.

Bal was kind of out of it as he lulled his head back against the tree.

Deirdre put one of Bal's arms over her shoulder as Arin did the same. "Bal...oh Bal I am so sorry...."

Tim felt like an idiot as he looked at Arey. Immediately his shoulders drooped, he is dropped and looked down. "Arey..." He moved slightly closer to her. "You are mad, I know and I wish..." The words died on his lips. He had upset her, angered her and it crushed him.

"Fer wha?" Bal slurred as Arin and Deirdre pulled him. "S'not yer fault Mai's a fuckin' bitch..."

Arey was angry. Most of that anger was directed at Maighdlin, but there was a small part of her that was really not okay with Tim kissing her, offering himself up for the job. Arey would have done it. She'd have much rather dealt with the queen herself than constantly have to worry about her messing around in Tim's head. Who knew what the hell she'd make him see? Nothing good, that was for sure. Listening to his talk to her that way, call her his Lady, that really chaffed. It wasn't fair to put that all on Tim, but he didn't have to look like he enjoyed it so much either. "Can we go home now?" She managed to grit out. Containing her rage until she could find something safe to pummel.

Tim closed his eyes. He had done what he thought was best for everyone and it had hurt Arey. He stood silently. No one seemed to think the same thing he did, that Mai was going to choose him or Arin and a bond of the fae queen to Arin was not a good idea. She already had power over Arin because he was seelie, Tim taking the seal meant Mai didn't have more leverage. Doesn't matter. I fucked up.

"Oh Bal if we hadn't gone...if I hadn't wanted to repay the debt when I did...if I was stronger...." Deirdre shook her head and tried to get the man onto his feet.

Arin leaned over to Deirdre after seeing Tim and Arey, and whispered, "What's the deal? Why are those two giving each other the eye now? Also, stop berating yourself." He looked to Balthazar and spoke normally, "Tell her. Doesn't matter how strong she was, none of us, or even all of us together, were stopping that Sybil bitch. We did all we could to get you back but we couldn't stop it from happening."

Deirdre looked over at Arey and Tim. "Maighdlin was feeling up Tim. When it came time to seal the deal she wanted to choose and Tim offered himself knowing she liked him. It meant playing to our advantage and I don't think Arey is at all happy with him right now. Or maybe any of us...me....I don't know." She once again lost all confidence. She had made a deal, the deal they wanted plus a bit more and yet she felt like she was the cause of so much anger and hurt. Some things never change in this life, just like in the past.

Arin looked confused, "I thought that was the whole plan... It sounds like we executed the plan to perfection. That's almost unheard of."

D closed her eyes. "Yes but we never planned on the sealing part and Tim played it the best he could. She wasn't going to seal it with me or Arey. You....that would have been bad. " She shook her head. "Tim did what he thought was best and I didn't stop him. Now..." She opened her eyes and looked at Arey. "Now there is that."

"Don't blame yerself..." Bal slurred out. "She did it...to mess with you. S'what she does..."

Arin's eyes flickered to Balthazar, "So I've heard." He looked over to Tim, "Thanks. You stood up, took the hit. I appreciate it."

Tim looked at Arin. "I-" He nodded. "I did what I thought was best. She is a conniving bitch who was going to take the advantages she could get. You would have been one of them and that wasn't alright." He shrugged as if it was nothing. He felt lousy and while Arin's response made him feel like he accomplished something, Arey's anger and hurt towards him was crushing.

Deirdre looked at Bal, "Come on, let's get you to a bed. I made you part of Arthur's court now. You are protected once we fulfill our side of the deal. No more chains."

Arin shook his head, "He doesn't want a bed." He looked at Balthazar, "There's still the matter of your order. What'll it be?"

"Order?" She looked from Bal to Arin.

Arin looked at Deirdre, "He's what? Nice work."

"Jack, gimme the whole damn bottle..." Bal slurred as his head lulled to the side onto D's shoulder. He was mentally exhausted, and things he'd spent centuries burrying felt too raw and close to the surface.

Deirdre looked down, smiling. Arin seemed proud of her. "I couldn't bare the thought of him like that again. Her free hand went to Bal's cheek. "Let's get you home." Her eyes moved to Arin. "I did what I could..."

"Right. JD. Easy done." Arin looked Deirdre in the eyes, "You did a lot. I think more than we thought we could get." He looked back to Balthazar, "Looks like we're stuck with you now."

Tim just looked at his feet and waited for everyone to be ready. He wanted to go to Arey, wanted to hug her but feared being pushed away. His jaw clenched and he fought back tears. He hadn't been this upset in a long time.

Kat was the first one to approach Tim. She didn't like seeing him like this, and she shot a bit of a reproachful look towards Arey before going in and hugging him herself, all platonic like and everything. "Come on toots, lets go get you some extra strength soap and a hot shower. We'll wash off the smell of bitch no problem." She said gently with a small encouraging wink.

Tim swallowed against the knot in his throat as Kat hugged him. There was no weirdness, no awkwardness just comfort the that he so badly needed. He couldn't look at her though. He nodded and started walking. Every step felt like his feet were cement. She hates me.

"Guys, I got the keys to Galaxy. I can explain a few bottles and cover the cost. What do you all say we grab drinks and settle nerves?" Arin carried Balthazar, with Deirdre, toward Vivienne. "Mom, you think you could get us the quick trip?"

If I go to her she is going to think I am needy. I can't apologize. I can't explain it away. The more he thought about it the worse Tim felt. Arin said something about drinks and part of Tim wanted to shower and crawl into bed. The other part just wanted to get so drunk that the world disappeared. It was like the car accident all over again. He could have done more to prevent it but he hadn't.

"Can Tim at least shower and change first?" Kat said quickly, recognizing he wasn't in a place to ask for things himself. She was also pretty sure he wasn't interested in staying in that getup any longer.

Arin nodded emphatically, "Yeah, yeah. This isn't a timed invite. Well, other than the fact I'll be going home at some point and locking up. But, whatever. I'm not going to be insulted if you all just go home. Bal and I have a date with Jack and Johnny. So... whatever."

Tim looked up at Arin, "Thanks man. As much as I want that drink I just want to go home. I don't think me and booze is a good idea right now." There was an edge to his voice. He was so very close to breaking down and so very close to getting very angry. Drinking wouldn't help either of those.

"Not legal." Kat piped up quickly, staying glued to Tim's side as she turned down the invite that probably hadn't included her to begin with.

Deirdre looked at Arin, "Am I invited or is this a private thing? I can go with them if it is."

"Invite was open to anyone who could hear me." Arin shrugged. "Pretty sure Bal isn't going to argue. I doubt he wants private time with me soooo badly."

Deirdre smiled at Arin and gave Bal a kiss on the cheek, "Well thank you for letting me tag along." She laughed lightly. Her attention went back to Arin, "Bed though...you will still....?" She really didn't want to be alone and wanted to be as close to Arin as she could. The day had been rough to say the least and she wasn't feeling entirely confident about all her decisions. Talking wasn't on the list for tonight but maybe in the morning he'd be willing to let her babble a bit, to work things out in her head.

"I'd rather just go home." Arey said after a moment. Alcohol and anger was a bad mix. She rather go to the training room right now and spend an hour hitting things until she was too tired to feel angry anymore. She didn't want to hurt Tim by ignoring him, but she was afraid she'd say something that would hurt him more if she tried to talk to him right now. She needed to work it off, get her head on straight first before she tried to talk to him again.

Tim looked up at Arey. There was still anger in her voice. At least at home he didn't have to worry about things attacking her but then again she'd have been with Arin so that worry was moot anyway. Tim's hands went out in a slightly helpless gesture as he worked through his thoughts.

Arin nodded, "Right." Obviously more than a little stress from the events of the day and his offer wasn't what people were looking for. He promised Balthazar a drink and he was going to do it. Especially after what he knew Bal had been through. Yet, seeing those two so distant didn't sit right. Not that it was his business. "Fair enough. You guys... do your things. If you care what I think, take a moment to talk and figure things out. But, that's me."

Tim cared what Arin thought and he would love to talk to Arey but everything that radiated off of her said stay away.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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D held Bal up as Arin let them into the club. The trio climbed the stairs. It was dark and empty. It looked strange to her without the press of bodies or the scarce day crew cleaning in preparation for the night crowd.

She helped settle Balthazar into a chair. With a slight smile she brushed his hair from his eyes. "Do you want water before you start drinking?" Her voice was soft.

"Fae have a pretty high tolerance for this stuff." Bal said with his eyes closed, enjoying the feel of her hand brushing back his hair. "I 'priciate yer offer though. Yer very considerate..." He was still slurring his words, but at least was a little more coherent.

"Arin is bringing you something to drink. He said you guys have a date with Jack and Johnny? Who are they?" Deirdre smiled at little as she looked at him. He looked a bit pale and tired. The back of her hand brushed his cheek. "Can I get you anything at all? I feel like I could be doing something to help you feel better." She lowered her hand. "They were horrible to you, weren't they. Vivienne said they would be. Bal...I am so sorry I couldn't stop her. I thought if I talked enough it would stall her."

"Mary, there's nothing you could have done." Bal slurred as his head fell forward resting on the bar. His head still felt muddled. "Syb...she's powerful...can never do anything against her..."

Deirdre stared at Bal. Mary? She looked over at Arin. He was getting glasses now. She said nothing to Bal about it. "Syb is a bitch. If I had a knife like that I let her see how it feels...." She hissed the words.

Bal barked out in rough laughter at that. "Syb likes making people her bitch. I'd like to stab her with something a bit more blunt in the eye."

"Oh Bal..." Deirdre rubbed the back of his neck lightly as he laid on the bar. "Arin, water and the alcohol. A cloth too please if you can?"

"I'm sorry she found you Mary...don't blame yerself ok? You didn't know..." Bal slurred out again after a minute of silence, his voice sounding ragged and distant again.

Deirdre looked down at Bal, her face full of concern. "Arin, Arin..." She looked up at him. "I need that water, the cloth...please, he isn't okay." She gently touched the back of Bal's head, stroking his hair.

Arin carried over two bottles and put them next to the glasses he'd slid down the bar. He took a cloth off his shoulder and handed it to Deirdre, "Want that wet or anything?" He pulled the fountain handle and filled one glass with water. "Deirdre, meet our dates for tonight. Misters Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker. Bal, how do you take yours? Soda? Water? Rocks? Neat?" Arin grabbed the bottle of scotch and poured a generous amount into a glass.

Deirdre took the cloth and grabbed the glass of water. She dipped the cloth in and began to wipe the back of Bal's neck. "It is very nice to meet them." Her voice was level and serious. She looked at Arin, lowering her voice as she gestured for him to come nearer. "He called me Mary. Arin I don't know what they did to him but I think he is really sick or something." There was concern in her voice as she wiped Bal's skin with the damp cloth.

Arin leaned in when she gestured. He nodded, "Yeah. He wasn't in the best head space when I visited him. I suspect he'll need a bit to gather his wits." He leaned back, "You joining us Deirdre? I'm breaking all kinds of rules tonight already, so serving a minor isn't the biggest concern currently."

"Visited him?" Her eyes met Arin's, her hand stopping mid wipe. Deirdre resumed her normal volume, "Sure, maybe one or two but if I get drunk and fall down I am blaming you. I think though someone should stay sober to call us a cab and walk you two to the car."

Deirdre turned Bal's head a little so she could wipe down the side of his face with the cool water. She was worried that the fae might have done something permanent to him.

Arin nodded, "The bond and all, right?" He grinned, "If you fall, I'll catch you. But a sober mind to keep us from doing something too stupid is likely a good idea. Bourbon or scotch then? Or something else?"

Deirdre frowned. Bond...Arin and Bal...he visited him. It was a bit upsetting knowing that Bal wasn't his usual self. "Drunk boys cause trouble, or so I have been told and well here at the club I have seen what a few of them are like. Um..." She looked the bottles over. "What do you recommend for someone who has only ever had two beers in her whole life?"

She freshened the damp cloth and ran it over Bal's cheek once more. He hadn't answered Arin and that bothered her. Had he passed out? "Bal what do you think? What are you drinking?" She tried to coax a verbal response from him. Her eyes moved to Arin and she shrugged.

"Me? Cause trouble? I don't think I've ever caused trouble." He winked. "As for a recommendation... both of these will be pretty strong for you, but I'll put some water in the scotch and you can get used to it that way. Water will cut the burn but keep the flavours."

"Bourbon, straight." Bal gritted out after a moment, voice sounding wrecked but a little more present, no longer quite in the grasp of hallucination.

"Perfect." Arin poured another generous amount of bourbon into a second glass and put it, and the bottle, in front of Bal. He then poured a more reasonable amount of scotch in a third glass, adding a splash of water before handing it to Deirdre.

Deirdre nearly dropped the cloth when Bal talked. She let out a breath. "Okay, scotch with water works." She gave Bal's face one more wipe. She placed the cloth on the counter and took the offered glass. "Cheers." She raised it to him.

The smell was strong and she frowned a moment with the glass under her nose. "Hmm." She tested it, a small trickle down her throat. Deirdre gasped a little as the alcohol went down. "Okay, that is...warm." Her stomach felt extremely warm and it was then that she realized she couldn't remember the last time she ate anything. "So this is supposed to burn or not? Because it kind of is...."

Arin smiled at her, "Cheers." He took a good sip of the scotch. "Just the stuff."

Bal sat up a little and knocked back his first glass in one go, already grabbing at the bottle to pour himself another.

"Yup. Makes you feel warmed up. It's a good burn." Arin kept at his, not throwing it back as Balthazar did, but then again, he hadn't had the same mental experience to try and recover from. If Arin was going to slug something he would have went with the bourbon.

"Oh I am warm..." Deirdre put a hand on her stomach and took another small sip. Her cheeks reddened. "Okay...I get it...I think but it is kind of intense." She put the glass down and lifted her hair from her neck, fanning herself a bit. "Bal you can just down it like that?"

"Nah, you're hot." Arin winked.

Deirdre blushed, her face turning redder as she dropped her hair. "Oh well..." Her hand reached out to take her glass again. She sipped her drink. "I can't do that...what Bal did."

"So don't. No one can tell you how you should take your drink. Enjoy it however you like." Arin shrugged. He finished his first glass and poured himself another. He wasn't going to take them all that quick. He also thought it a good idea to stay somewhat in control. Balthazar was in a rough spot and he didn't want to make Deirdre have to take care of them both.

Deirdre nodded and kept sipping her drink. "Club is different when there is no one dancing. No music....kind of peaceful. Hey Bal, what's your favourite club in the city? I love to dance. Arin took me to a fun one the other night." She was trying to help Bal focus on something other than what had gone on. The scotch didn't take long to affect her. Three quarters into her drink and she was feeling very warm. She leaned back against the bar.

"...Sapphire's good if you're looking for something classy." Bal managed after a moment, voice like gravel. "The underground clubs can get pretty wild though. Just depends on the night..."

"I don't think I would do well in a really wild club. I am not tough enough for that kind of thing. I always hit clubs with Heather and we.." Deirdre stopped talking. She took the last drink of her scotch and handed the glass to Arin. "Anyway I like the dancing but not the rest."

"You'd do great, and likely take center stage. Stick with me, I'll make sure it stays calm enough." Arin grinned, "Unless I'm not invited, I guess."

Arin took the glass and nodded sympathetically, "The dancing is the fun part. Especially watching all the pretty girls. But I guess you'd not be so much for that part." He chuckled, "Another?" He held her empty glass up.

Deirdre nodded, "'Another. I'd like to try and get used to it." She smiled. "I like going with you Arin. I bet you and Bal would get all the attention at a club. I'd be left by my lonesome." She grinned wider. "Such is the life....No, I am not much for pretty girls but I do like to watch people dance. Bodies are amazing things when they move."

"Bodies are amazing. And you'd only be alone if you wanted to be. Besides, if I went with you, I think I'd be getting all the required attention and I'd not want to give you the chance to get lonely." He smiled again. The light chatter was good for distracting. Overall, he felt pretty good with what they'd accomplished. Given their situation going in, they turned it into a good outcome. He was busy with Balthazar, so missed any details that seemed to upset Tim and Arey, but he couldn't see anything to be down about. A couple good drinks and light chatter should get Balthazar back on his feet, mostly.

Deirdre stared at Arin. Something about the way he talked, that things were just so matter of fact for him made her smile.She couldn't help wonder if his acceptance of things was due to being half fae or if he had just grown up with this outlook on things. Her mind wondered once more if he was really in his twenties or much older. She pushed those thoughts all aside.

"The city is so amazing. The clubs, the people...all of it. It is so different from how I grew up. Bal used to live in Paris, Arin. Isn't that cool?" She put a hand on Bal's shoulder. "I don't know if I would ever want to leave the city permanently but I would love to travel some." She took a drink of her refreshed glass.

"Tres frais." Arin chuckled. "And before you ask, no. I don't. Just a couple words here and there I've picked up. Being a bartender in this town is a lot like travelling vicariously. I've met a lot of people from a lot of places. But travelling would be fun. Though I think I'd love a long road trip on a bike before I got in planes. In terms of priority, I suppose."

Arin looked over a Balthazar, unsure if getting him to remember the past would be a good idea. Maybe just talking about the present would get him in a better state of mind. "So you know the underground clubs. How long you've been in New York then? What else you do for fun here? Unless it's all clubs, all the time." Arin grinned.

"Got here in the eighties...pinball man...huge. Think I was gold at it too..." Bal tried to recall, one hand on his face as he went for another large drink of the bourbon.

"Oh yes Bal, what else is fun to do in New York? I can do things now and I need to know the best places in this city." She let her eyes moved over Bal's face. He looked a bit better though still not himself. She wondered what the fae queen had done to him and what Arin witnessed in their bond. She could only imagine the things in Bal's head after so many centuries of life.

Deirdre had her glass in her hand and she walked to the middle of the dance floor. It was wide open unlike the last time she was her. She took a sip of scotch as she thought of the other bartender she had been talking to, about going to the bar and seeing Arin but never getting a chance to talk to him. She remembered the bathroom and Arey with the girl on the floor.

She closed her eyes and began to sway to music only she could hear. Arin's voice carried in the empty room and she wasn't so far that she couldn't overhear the conversation, she just needed a moment to herself.

"Pinball?" Deirdre was still dancing with herself. She took another drink. The scotch was making her feel relaxed. Deirdre hadn't realized how tense she had been. She should have known, given everything that had gone on. "Do you both like to dance? I love to dance..." Her voice had a slightly dreamy sound to it and a smile played on her lips. "I love getting lost in the music. In the crowd. I miss having a partner and doing duets..."

"A regular pinball wizard. Cool. Been a bit since I played at a real table. Did it as a kid for awhile. It was one of the few competitive things I could do that wouldn't raise too many suspicions." Arin shrugged, "Once I found bikes though, that was it. Individual, so I could push myself and the bike and no one would suspect."

He watched Deirdre move, enjoying the flow of her body. He finished his glass and slowly poured a more reasonable amount for his third, "What music do you like to dance to the most D?"

Deirdre turned and faced the guys. Bal had his back to her as he sat on his chair but Arin was facing her. She smiled at him. "Hmm. I don't know that I have a favourite. It just has to make me want to move. Fast, like club type stuff or even just fun pop is good for getting out a lot of energy, for just getting absorbed into it but slow...like emotional...I don't know bands and or stuff...I have this random mishmash on my phone..." She crossed to the bar and pulled out her phone. Bringing up the playlist she hit play. "Slow and emotional is best for connecting to it. For figuring out how you feel. I loved duets, real romantic ones. Let me experience something I hadn't even imagined."

Music came out from the speakers of the phone. Deirdre frowned and hit pause. "Meh, the phone isn't great but here..." She slid the phone towards Arin. "I download stuff I think sounds good so it is really, really random. Heather gave me stuff too. Music is sort of an obsession I guess." Deirdre took another drink. "What about you Arin? Bal? What kind of music do you listen to?"

Arin picked up the phone and flicked through the list a bit. He nodded appreciatively, "Yup. Random." He smiled. He put the phone back down and leaned under the bar, rummaging around, "Punk, mostly. Metal. Hard driving music that gets my adrenalin up. Helps training." He pulled a wire from under the bar and, with crackle, plugged it into Deirdre's phone. He vaulted the bar and handed Deirdre her phone again. "Show me. I'll try and partner. But show me your favourite."

"My favourite?" Deirdre was staring at Arin. "Song? I don't...you are going to dance with me to something not like at the club?" She smiled a little.

Arin smiled nervously, "I'd like to try. If only to see your side."

Deirdre looked down at her phone and flicked through song after song on her playlist. She hit play and put the phone down on the bar. "No laughing Bal." She nudged the fae gently and walked to Arin.

"Love, I get so lost, sometimes. Days pass and an emptiness fills my heart...."

She smiled at Arin. "It isn't exactly a slow song. Slower yes but I just really like it."

Deirdre took his right hand in her left, grabbed his left hand and put it on her waist. "Simple dancing, nothing fancy. Just move with me..." She began stepping side to side.

Arin followed her lead, "I don't mind fancy. When you're doing it. I can catch you, or whatever. Just give me a warning and where I'm supposed to hold you. The idea is I get to watch you and help you do the fancy stuff while I stand here, not getting in the way." He smiled.

"In your eyes...the light, the heat...your eyes..I'm complete..."

Deirdre smiled, "Alright." She took switched her grip in his right hand. "Going to turn away from you and when I come back, my back will be to you. My leg will be out. Grab my thigh and around my abdomen. Lift and turn on the spot, slowly." She gave him a wink and spun away from him.

Arin nodded and followed her movements. When she spun into him he did as she asked. He was able to make it look effortless, if not well timed, and his turning was more jerky than a dancer would make it. Still, he grinned the entire time, enjoying the feel of her in his arms and the sight of her lines in the mirrors behind the bar.

Deirdre was smiling as she put her foot on the floor and lowered her other leg. Turning she faced him once more. "Very nice.." Her eyes shone. "Want to try something else?"

"Playing to my strengths, literally. Absolutely will try something else."

"Love I don't like to see so much pain. So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away...."

Deirdre sat on the floor at his feet and put her hands out. "All you do is pull up. I'll jump and you catch me. If you can try for mid thigh. If you are feeling really strong you can go for calves. Takes more to pull up and get me that high. Then you just slowly let me down. Course...means my body rubbing against yours if you do it right."

She blushed though it was hidden by the red in her cheeks from the scotch.

Arin chuckled, "Yup. I'm going to like this one." He grabbed her hands and with a slight nod to tell her he was ready, he pulled. He put most of his strength into the pull, and was easily able to grab her calves. He held her up for a few seconds, turning so she could see in the mirror as well. Finally he let her slide down, slowly, keeping very precise control of how much she moved. The strength required of him was not pushing his limits at all and he smiled the whole way, making it look easy.

Deirdre looked down at Arin as he lowered her. She stayed close and he ensured she came down slowly. She was breathing hard, her arms wrapping around Arin's neck as her feet touched the ground. "Very, very nice." Her voice was a whisper in his ear. Deirdre put her lips on his cheek as the song ended.

It immediately switched to the next song. This one much heavier, more aggressive and Deirdre started to giggle. "So much for emotional and close." She wasn't sure if it was the scotch or just Arin or the combination of the two but she felt drunk.

Arin closed his eyes when Deirdre whispered to him. He didn't let her go immediately after the next song started, but he chuckled, "Oh, see, this is much more up my alley. Of course, you don't so much dance to this as you bash into the rest of the people around. Hard to duet a mosh." He swept her up in his arms and carried her back to the bar, "However, I can't say I don't like tossing you around. Actually, I think I like catching you more, but gotta toss you first."

Deirdre giggled as Arin picked her up. She nuzzled his ear with her nose as he carried her to the bar. "I like being tossed and caught. Something amazing about a good partner and the trust there. To move together, to simply know they will be there to catch you..." She kissed Arin lightly. "Have to show you some others that we can try, if you want. Maybe even some other moves..." She looked at him through her eyelashes.

"I'd love to see all your moves, D" He winked. He could tell she was a little tipsy. A few years at the bar and it became second nature to look for the signs. He didn't want to push too many tosses tonight because he didn't want her to feel ill. However, he looked forward to trying again. The training room had high enough ceilings, so he was patient. He placed her on the stool by her glass and phone. He grabbed his drink and sat next to her. The bottle in front of Balthazar was over half empty. Arin nodded to himself, "You having anything else D? I think I'm done. Bal, you can take the bottle. You heading back home, or to the shop? There's a futon in the shop."

Deirdre shook her head, "No more...I think...I think I might be a little bit...drunk." She was sitting now and she felt slightly giggly.

Arin raised an eyebrow, "You think?" He chuckled good naturedly. "That was the point." He was feeling a good buzz himself. Relaxed by well within control. He finished his scotch and corked the bottle. "I'll put this stuff back. Just a sec." He grabbed the unused glasses and the bottle and put them where they belonged. "Bal, I'll have to switch you to disposable cup. I can explain the alcohol. Easy to address from my pay. But the glass would be more frowned on. Management doesn't mind the occasional personal visit if we're responsible about it." He switched Balthazar's glass for a plastic beer cup.

"Arin you are such a good guy. All responsible and stuff. My parents would love you if you know...they actually wanted me to have a boyfriend..." Deirdre leaned on the bar. Her eyes closed.

Arin chuckled, "It's a good show, right? Nah, there are some things it's not worth being irresponsible about. The way I ride isn't all that responsible. I've had more than my share of confrontations that weren't responsible. I guess, in the end, I have let a lot of the sense of honour from Lance bleed through. It's easier that way. When I was a teenager I tried to rebel completely against that. I was quite the jerk for awhile. But every night Lance would berate me in my head and after awhile, that just got more annoying than it was worth. So, yeah... That's one of those, merge past with present things, that I mentioned."

"But you have had lots of time to learn to handle him. You are lucky. He doesn't sound like a bad guy at all..." Deirdre sighed. "I guess you aren't such a good boy after all...." She giggled. "I don't mind."

"Well, I've had maybe five or six years on you. I mean, I knew about him since as long as I could remember. Mom told me a lot before he ever really came out. Then I was about your age, maybe a bit younger, when he really started making himself known. I tried to fight it off by denying the whole thing and acting completely opposite to him. That didn't work. So, I've had a few years to find the best way to make peace. There are still things I do that he doesn't like, but we've mostly come to an agreement. He butts out and I don't start treating people like shit." He chuckled.

"By years you mean centuries right?" Deirdre leaned on one hand. "You have had a long time to work with him. I don't have that..I don't have centuries. You cool fae people have that, I am nothing special." She looked thoughtful.

Arin gave her a confused look, "Centuries? What? No. Half fae, remember? I'm only like five years older than you D. Lance came around for me at about seventeen, eighteen. Around there. So, it doesn't take centuries. And I think you're special enough. That should count for something."

Deirdre looked at Bal and then at Arin. "So you aren't like Viv or Bal? You aren't already hundreds of years old? But I thought...." She looked down at the bar.

"I'm not entirely sure how it'll work D. But I do know I am what I am, right now." He shrugged.

"Oh...okay..." Her head wasn't clear enough for her to process it all. "You think I am special?" Deirdre looked back up at Arin and she smiled shyly. Her eyes moved to Bal, concerned about him. "Maybe we should just get Bal to a bed...and then we can...talk or sleep or..." Her cheeks warmed.

Arin nodded, "Talk or sleep. Sounds good." He picked up the bar phone with a direct line to a cab and arranged for a pick up. He finished cleaning and returning the bar to normal. Then he helped Balthazar, with his bottle, outside to the waiting cab. He opened the door for Deirdre and let her climb in the back. He deposited Balthazar in the front seat, thinking fresh air from an open window might help. He climbed in next to Deirdre and gave the driver the shop's address. Balthazar had given no indication on where he wanted to go, so Arin went with the shop first. If Bal wanted to go home, he could head from there.

Deirdre laid her head on Arin's shoulder. "Wasn't calling you my boyfriend, just so you know. I know you don't like labels and stuff...I was just saying if my parents weren't assholes they might like a guy like you paying attention to me."

Arin chuckled, "I never said I don't like labels. I just meant that I wasn't going to be looking for a word to describe where we are. I'm more than happy if you want to put any kind of word you like. If you consider me your boyfriend, I'll be flattered, not offended. So, don't apologize." He ran a hand through his hair, messing up his spikes a bit, "And I think your parents might have a thing or two to pick on. End of the day, the only person's approval I want is yours. If you like the attention, I'll give it. If you don't like it, I'll stop. I won't be happy about it, but I'll stop."

"Not asking for anything. I was just talking..." Deirdre snuggled against him. "I won't call you anything, I don't own you. I like your attention. I like paying attention to you. I like you. I like you an awful lot Arin." She wrapped her arm around his arm. "If I could keep you forever I would." She giggled into his shoulder.

Arin chuckled, "I appreciate the sentiment. Might be a bit early to make that kind of commitment." He ran a hand through her hair, "You know, asking for something isn't wrong, either. As long as you're ready to accept whatever the answer is. I think we've seen enough 'owning' for one night. Let's assume neither of us is looking to control the other."

Deirdre sighed. "Control? No...no I would never want to control you. I like you the way you are. I just want to spend time with you. I like when you smile at me...I like when you touch me and how I feel better with you just near me. I am not asking you for anything, never have...okay not true I might have asked for things...but not more than...I don't know...I don't make sense in my own head right now." She put her head back to look at Arin's face. "I like you and I just would like you to like me. That is all."

Arin chuckled lightly at her comment about making sense, "I know the feeling." He smiled at her and gave her a light kiss, "Deal. Sealed and everything."

"I made another deal?" She frowned, her eyes closed now. "I can do those. I am useful."

"Yes. Quite." Arin grinned and ran his hands through her hair gently again. He had a feeling he might be carrying her to bed but he didn't mind.

"Did I make a good deal? Did anyone get hurt this time? They are mad at each other. There was nothing I could do....Tim was right to seal it. I hurt Arey again. But not you right? I haven't made you mad at me?" She was sleepy and Arin's body was warm next to her. Deirdre tried to climb into his lap, whimpering as the seat belt kept her from moving.

Arin dropped his hand around her shoulder and squeezed, "It's okay, D. Gotta stay belted in while we're driving. I'll put you to bed when we get to the shop. And no, no one got hurt because of you and no one is mad at you, least of all me. I think you made a good deal. This time, and earlier."

"Okay." Deirdre smiled sleepily. "Are you putting me to bed alone?"

"Your call. But talk or sleep was the specification."

Deirdre pouted, "I won't make you stay. I asked if you would but I know you are smarter and more experienced at these things than I am. I said if things went well and you said yes...more control...I liked the less in control you....it was a turn on..."

Arin grinned, "Thanks. You aren't making me do anything. You said if, I was making sure you felt the same as before. I will take that as a yes."

"Oh yes...laying next to you is the best feeling in the whole world...or maybe that is when you hug me...no kiss me...no...no when you put your fingers..."

The cab stopped and Deirdre's head shifted forward off of Arin's shoulder with a jerk that made her wince. "Ow."

Arin winced as Deirdre reacted to the momentum of the cab. He settled her back, briefly, as he took care of the fare, "D, be right back. Going to settle Bal." Arin helped Balthazar to the futon and then headed back outside for Deirdre.

"Okay..." She laid her head on the window.

He reached into the back of the cab and assisted her out. Scooping her up in a cradle he headed to his apartment, "Just going to take you to mine, okay? A little easier than carrying you through the whole place."

"I was supposed to be taking care of you while you got drunk. How did we end up here like this?" Deirdre wrapped her arms around his neck. "I like your bed. It smells like you. My bed smells like you too now."

"I suppose it would. I tend to be the one sleeping in it." He chuckled at her fascination with scent, "As long as you like that, I guess. There is laundry if you don't."

He brought her through the external door to his apartment, "We got like this because you were introduced to Mister Walker, and I, having met him before, know what he's like. It's fine. He's friendly right now. We'll get you some water though. Otherwise he can be pretty annoying in the morning."

"Did I like him? Was I well behaved?" Deirdre sighed slightly, "Okay water is okay."

"You were, this time. So far." Arin winked. He laid her on his bed and went to fill a glass of water. "Make yourself comfortable. I'll be back with water."

Deirdre laid out on the bed. "Comfortable..." She kicked off her shoes and wiggled out of her tights. She stretched herself out on Arin's bed. "Hmm." Sitting up she undid and removed her coat, dropping it to the floor. "Better..." Deirdre laid out on her side.

Arin came back with a glass and coaxed Deirdre into a sitting position, "Drink. You'll thank me tomorrow. Or, well, you won't know why you should thank me and therefore you'll thank me the first time you forget to have water after drinking." He chuckled. He looked over her tights and coat on the floor and leaned to pick them up. "I think I have a shirt you could use like a night shirt. Or shorts. I can't imagine sleeping in a skirt will be comfortable. If you want, I'll run down to your room and get you your own pjs."

Deirdre sat up slowly. She smiled at him. "You are always looking out for people." She took the glass and drank about half the water. "I'll take a shirt. Easier than explaining why you are going to get things from my room right?" She downed the rest of the water. "If you get it for me I will go to the bathroom and what not and change." She stood slowly. "Look own two feet!"

Arin shrugged nonchalantly, "It's what I do. Part of that deal with Lance." He stood and pulled out a shirt for her, "True. I doubt this is a good time to explain." He handed her the shirt as she stood, and chuckled. "Congrats. Good thing you didn't have that third one."

"Third one?" Deirdre cocked her head a little, wobbled on her feet and frowned. "That was not cool...Okay bathroom...I don't get the third leg thing..." She turned slowly and made her way out of the room.

"Drink, D. Third drink... nevermind."

When she returned a short time later she was wearing Arin's t-shirt and her own clothes in a neat pile in her hands. Her hair was a bit smoother and her face a little damp. "So...." Deirdre blushed. "Can I come to bed?" She put her clothes down in the corner.

Arin had taken the time to change into a pair of comfortable shorts and laid down in the bed. He patted a spot next to him, "When you're ready."

Shyly, Deirdre moved to the bed and crawled in beside him. She laid down next to him and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Tim woke the next morning feeling much better. He was up and ready in the kitchen, waiting on everyone else. He made pancakes, stacks of them and had coffee going.

Deirdre came into the kitchen. She was smiling and wore Arin's t-shirt and a pair of his shorts that she had tightened as much as she could. Arin was right behind her. "Good morning." She smiled at Tim before pouring some coffee for them both. She handed Arin's his mug. She smiled at him.

Oh crap... Kat came dashing through the kitchen in her pjs after she heard the shriek coming from Arey's bedroom, looking for a place to hide out when she say Tim, Arin and Deirdre and smiled sheepishly. "So...I might have done something stupid last night, but you guys aren't allowed to get mad or let her stab me with that sword or anything ok..."

Deirdre brushed her hair out of her face. "What did you do?"

Tim looked concerned. "What was that noise and what did you do?"

"...I might have put red dye in blondie's shampoo..." Kat winced sheepishly. "I was gonna switch the bottles out this morning after you two made up...but I kinda slept in. It'll totally come out in a couple days..."

Tim dropped the spatula. "You did what? Oh Kat." He dashed from the kitchen and down to Arey's room.

Deirdre's eyes went wide. "Why would you do that?" She put her coffee down on the counter.

"She was being all moody last night with Tim and really upset him. I was just...enacting karma..." Kat explained with a slight undertone of satisfaction.

Deirdre frowned. "I don't think that is how karma works Kat...." She moved to Arin and cuddled up to his chest.

"Sure it is. That's just what people call it when they don't get caught." Kat joked.

Arin shook his head and chuckled, "Kat... there's sparing today. Maybe I'll let you all pick your opponents today?" He winked at Kat.

"Nice work kiddo. Admitting to the crime's sloppy work though." Balthazar chirped as he appeared sitting on the kitchen countertop again, holding a mug of coffee of his own.

"Bal!" Deirdre rushed over to him and threw her arms around him. She hugged him tightly. "You are yourself again!"

"Whooaaa! Hey there sweetness." Bal said as he gently returned the hug with a soft smile. "In the flesh. Sorry you had to put up with my boring ass last night. Talk about a drag..." He joked making a comically grimacing face.

"I was so worried. I didn't know what they did to you and you weren't really talking or joking. You called me names that weren't mine." Deirdre hugged him tightly again, squeezing him. "I was afraid because it was my fault that you got caught."

"Yeah well...fae mind voodoo does a number sometimes. Don't worry about it. And don't be blaming yourself for that whole thing either. None of that's on you." Bal insisted, rubbing her back gently,

"I am so happy you are yourself Bal." Deirdre released her hold on him a little bit.

Kat looked at Bal funny, as if he'd sprouted another head or something. "Anyone else seeing this or think it's mildly creepy..?"

Deirdre pulled away from Bal and looked at Kat. "What is creepy?" She looked at Arin. "What is wrong?"

"Him." Kat said pointing at Bal. "He's like...being all nice. It's weird..."

Bal stuck his tongue out in retaliatation.

Deirdre looked confused. "Bal is always nice." She smiled at Bal and moved back to Arin.

Arin shrugged, "Sometimes first impressions aren't always accurate. Sometimes you think a guy is a ass and he turns out not so bad. I think we've seen a couple of those already." He grinned.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Tim ran to Arey's room, sliding in his stocking feet at the door. "Arey? Arey are you okay?"

"My head looks like an easter egg..." Arey moaned quietly from the bathroom, where she continued to stare at her hair in horror. Pink...she had pink hair...how did she have pink hair...?

Tim came into her room. "It can't be that bad babe. Come out and let me see." Tim gently coaxed.

"Oh yes it can!" Arey shot back adamantly. She'd tried washing it again, twice. It wasn't coming out. She tried blow drying it, hoping it at least wouldn't look so violently fuschia, but to no avail as the color was only slightly softened.

"Just come out and let me see. I bet it looks great on you." Tim tried to sound confident.

"You're not allowed to laugh!" Arey called out stubbornly.

"Cross my heart babe. No laughing." Tim edged closer to the door. "Come on out."

Very slowly, Arey edged open the door. She'd changed into a blue t-shirt and shorts rather hastily as she'd tried to solve her current hair issue, and the color just seemed to set off the pink even more.

"Oh wow...." Tim stared. "Well that is pink." He frowned and tilted his head a little. "It isn't so bad Arey. I mean it is pink."

Arey gave him a flat look. "My head looks like a strawberry puked on it." She bit out.

"Well...I was thinking more like a pink peep or um...I mean it is cute. You look like an anime character." He tried to sound reassuring. "It is cute..."

"A what?" She asked in confusion.

"You know anime, big eyes, fun coloured hair. " Tim smiled. "Japanese animation. Cute girls...like you. It is cute." Tim nodded.

Arey eyed him like she didn't quite believe his sincerity but at least stepped out of the bathroom. "I look ridiculous..."

"You look like Arey, with pink hair. Still beautiful in my book." He put his arms out, opening them for a hug. "Come on." Tim smiled.

Arey accepted the hug, laying her now pink head on his shoulder. "I just don't understand what happened...you think it was Bal?" She asked in contemplation.

Tim hugged her tightly. "No I don't think it was Bal." He didn't want to tell her it was Kat but he also didn't want it to be a secret. "Come on into the kitchen." He walked her towards the door.

"What's in the kitchen?" Arey asked as she followed him out.

"Everyone else? Nothing much I just think you need to come out of your room. It isn't that bad." Tim walked toward the kitchen, holding her hand. "They will tell you too that it isn't so bad."

Arey sighed but followed Tim to the kitchen. The others were going to laugh, she just knew it...

As they both walked into the kitchen, Kat froze mid argument with Balthazar, who in turn froze for a beat when he saw Arey before throwing back his head and howling in laughter. "Little early for Halloween there don't you think?!"

Tim put an arm around Arey. "Hey back off fae boy or I will kick your ass. Her hair is cute."

"Good luck trying!" Bal continued, holding his sides he was laughing so much. "Maybe if she's trying to date Scott Pilgrim. There you go, couples costume all picked out and ready!"

Deirdre stared at Arey. "Oh my..." Her hand grabbed Arin's shirt.

Tim growled, "Shut the fuck up Bal." He squeezed Arey, "Pancakes, coffee?"

"It is sort of cute Arey, like a doll's hair." Deirdre nodded.

Arin tilted his head, stifling a chuckle. Arey certainly didn't seem to be in the mood to be teased at the moment. He bit back any one liners that came to mind, "I can see it working Arey. Pigtails. Totally anime. Right Kat?"

Tim smiled, "See! Told you anime. Super cute. Can't go wrong."

Deirdre put her head on Arin's chest. She was trying not to stare at Arey's pink hair.

Arey shot Bal a dirty look. "This was you wasn't it!" She accused with flushed cheeks.

"Wish I could take credit for this sweetheart, but the evil genius behind this wasn't me." He said grinning

Tim grabbed Arey, holding her tightly so she didn't go after Bal. "I told you it wasn't Bal." He shot a look at Kat.

"You know normally I'd be pumped to be called an evil genius, but coming from you it just sounds dirty." Kat grumbled.

"Don't go diverting the conversation now kiddo, things are just getting interesting." Bal shot back with a grin

"Don't call me that." Kat growled back in their normal routine.

"Don't like that one? How 'bout munchkin? Or Tike? Maybe slugger if you're feeling especially desperate for approval." Bal offered.

"I'll slug you!" Kat threatened back.

"Wait, you turned my hair pink?" Arey asked Kat in confusion. "Why?"

Deirdre winced and hid against Arin. Not good...not good...

Tim held onto Arey tighter.

"Uhmmm...accident..." Kat offered. She hadn't entirely meant for that to happen.

"Alright, this is fun." Arin tried to gather attention, he stepped into the middle of the room. "So, Arey... want to learn to use that sword? We can work on some of the straw targets I have."

"Sure." Arey said slowly after eyeing Kat. She was more baffled and a little hurt by it than angry.

"Pancakes first though. I made a bunch so we should eat them. Then we can go and train. Okay?" Tim looked around.

"Sure thing." Bal agreed easily. "You can have strawberries with yours Arey." Bal suggested innocently.

Tim sneered at Bal. "Shut up Bal.Let's just sit and have pancakes. Maybe we can shut you up for a while Bal."

"Far be it from me to ruin your little show of domesticity boy scout. I bet your flapjacks are just orgasmic." Bal taunted back with a wink. "I'll be sure to give them the proper vocal response."

Arin couldn't resist a chuckle at that line. But he retained his composure quickly. "Okay... but don't stuff yourselves." He grabbed a plate and a couple pancakes. "I'll go start getting things ready when I'm done here."

Deirdre took a plate and quietly put a pancake on it. She sat at the table. There was a small smile on her lips.

Tim handed Arey a plate, "Come on, let's feed you." He put two pancakes on her plate. "Come on there is coffee too."

Arey took a plate and mug of coffee with a small smile toward Tim before sitting next to him. "Thanks. These look good."

"No problem and I hope so. It is a mix from a box. I can't really cook." Tim smiled crookedly.

"Cwoulda fhoold meh!" Bal said with a mouthful of pancakes, munching away happily. "Mhmmmm Ummm ummm!" He moaned obscenely and Arey shot him a look.

"What are you twelve?" She said shaking her head in exasperation, though was secretly just a scooch amused.

Tim blushed. "Enough of that." He growled low, shoving a forkful of pancake in his mouth.

Deirdre was wide eyed and shook her head at Bal.

Arin shook his head and chuckled, "You should be flattered Tim. Though, Bal might be a little easy. These are tasty, but..." He finished his pancakes and coffee.

"Hey, what are you implying?" Bal shot at Arin, pretending to be offended.

Arin grinned, "Just that you might have a soft spot for pancakes. Or maple syrup. Either way."

Tim snorted, "Bal easy. Not shocked."

"Actually, I'm rather picky." Bal counted easily, taking another bite of pancake. "I just enjoy licking obscenely sweet things in the morning." He said pulling the fork out of his mouth with a smooth pop.

Tim shook his head, "There are ladies here Bal. Let's keep the dirty talk down." He looked over at Kat.

"Dirty talk? I was talking about maple syrup. I don't know what you're thinking boy scout, but you should get your mind out of the gutter." Bal called back in mock scolding.

Tim blushed and turned his attention back to his plate.

"See, it was the maple syrup. Called it." Arin grinned. "I'll set targets up. I'll have to move the heavy bag out of the way. Give me a few minutes. Or come and start warming up when you want."

Tim looked up. "Oh Arin, wanted to talk about the heavy bag. I need to talk to you about replacing it."

Deirdre stood. "I should go change. I'll bring these back to you Arin after I wash them..." She glanced at Arin, a smile on her lips.

"Or don't. I'll take care of it." Arin shrugged, smiling back at her. He turned to Tim, "Replacing?"

"Ohhh..." Arey said wincing, remembering the night before. "I may have...worked out some frustrations on it. The bag did not fare the assault unscathed..."

Arin raised an eyebrow, "You assaulted my heavy bag?" He chuckled. Then laughed, "That would have been hilarious to watch. Damn, sorry I missed it."

"Yes well, don't laugh just yet." Arey said with a bit of guilt laced in her tone. "I'll go grab the sword. I probably shouldn't have left it alone to begin with." She continued, putting her empty plate into the sink and walking back toward her room.

"C'mon, attacking a heavy bag with a sword is an awesome visual. How can you not laugh? Seriously, don't worry about it Arey. Might take a bit to get another one in here, but that just means we'll have to do more sparring rather than bag work." He followed her to the hallway, "Straw targets take the blade better. No leather to split or stuffing to come out." He shrugged it off, "Minor inconvenience. If it helped you work off steam, it was a worthy sacrifice. I've ruined my share of gear in similar situations."

Tim stood and cleared his plate. "D, you weren't hungry?"

She looked over at her plate, "Oh, no...I was distracted. Sorry. Not hungry but I'll clean up." She picked up her plate and took care of her dishes. "Are we all training or just Arey?"

Tim frowned, "Everyone is weird today." He looked at Kat. "You should apologize to her. She is pretty upset about the pink hair and you.." He looked at Bal. "Stop making fun of her."

Kat just grunted in reply, not enjoying being scolded by Tim. "She deserved it anyway." She said under her breath. Maybe Kat had been planning on taking it back, but that didn't make her lest miffed with the other girl for what she'd put Tim through. Pink hair was mild compared to what Kat could dish out if she was feeling really vengeful.

Tim cleaned up the kitchen and took off to his room to get his running shoes.

No one answered her question so Deirdre shrugged to herself and headed to her room. She had left her clothes at Arin's but it was easy enough to get them later. Smiling she closed her bedroom door and began to undress. Last night had been intense and intimate. She wasn't ready for sex but last night had been about connection and desire. He was willing to go slow for her. They had spent the night wrapped up in each other. Touching and kissing. Fingers and lips over skin. Deirdre shivered pleasantly as she placed Arin's shirt on her bed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Arin headed straight to the bag to inspect the damage. He chuckled again, "Certainly did a number." He started going over each hole, each cut, nodding to himself. There's some natural ability there. Just need to tweak it. He took it down carefully, not wanting to cause too much mess. He went into the storage room and started pulling out a few scarecrow looking, straw dummies. Sword work it is. Everyone will get a shot, even if Arey's the only one with a good sword. Camaraderie.

He also pulled out sparring gear for boxing. He wasn't kidding. With no heavy bag the best lessons they could learn were defensive. Time to get them taking a few real punches so they know to get out of the way.

"Need any help there Arin?" Tim crouched to tie the lace on his running shoe. He was feeling much better today. Sure there was some nagging doubt, a bit of hurt that Arey had reacted the way she did but he was wrong to expect that of her. She was dealing with a very strong personality in Arthur. Ywaine was relatively quiet and reasonable compared to the rest. Tim just needed to learn to control his own emotions. He had to be more stoic, stronger for Arey. He gave himself a mental check, ensuring there was no fae women poking around in his head and that he was mentally prepared for the day's training.

Deirdre came into the training room. She had changed into tight cotton workout shorts and a tank top. Her hair was in a low ponytail. She smiled at Arin and then sat down to stretch.

Arey came in soon after Deirdre, having pulled the pink hair back into a high ponytail and fetched the sword, which she now held in her hands. She put it down carefully on the matted floor as she began to stretch, and tried to ignore the sense of indignation coming off of it.

Deirdre crawled over to Arey. She peered down at the sword. "Is it still a girl today? Is it still mad at you?" She looked up at Arey. I shouldn't be near her. Guilt and sadness came over her. Her eyes dropped to the mat.

"Dunno." Arey said honestly to D's question. "It doesn't seem mad anymore just...huffy I guess." Arey tried to explain the subtle shifts and feelings get got from it.

"Like on its own or is it a mood ring sort of deal?" Deirdre was curious. She did move away from Arey some though. Distance was probably best. Sitting down she stretched her arms.

Arey wondered if that comment was a hint, but she didn't feel like over analyzing right now. "On its own. I kind of get the feeling its frustrated with me or something."

Deirdre frowned. "Why would it be frustrated with you? You haven't done anything yet. It only just came out, it doesn't have the right to be bitchy." She nodded and looked over at the sword. "Sounds like it is still a girl."

Arin finished setting out the last of the gear and shook his head at Tim, "Nope. All done. Good timing. You missed all the heavy work. That means you'll be fresh for the workout." He grinned at Tim good naturedly.

Tim shrugged, "Sure thing coach." He went over to Arey. His eyes moved to the sword. "What's this now? Who is a girl?" He goosed Arey. "Yup definitely a girl" He smiled.

"Well thank you for the confirmation." Arey joked with a smile.

Arin came over to the group, "Right, so, we all know where we stand. A bunch of girls and me. Oh wait, Tim..." He winked. "Seriously though. Where's Kat? Are we all ready to start?"

"Yeah yeah, I'm here." Kat said from the doorway in her sports gear, which consisted of black short sport shorts, and a Wolverine top. "So where's the bag? I wanted to see the stab marks..." Kat said practically pouting.

Arin grinned and his eyes lit at the chance, "Sure, perfect. It will give me a chance to show you all a few things. Just a sec." He went back to where he'd put the bag. He pulled it out onto the floor a little and waved them over. "I don't want to bring it all the way over there. It'll make a mess. But come look. Arey has some raw talent here. A couple of these would be killing blows. Others... well, there's a couple at the wrong angle of attack. They might have hurt but done no real damage. And some of these cuts look like wild swings. She would have opened herself up too much while delivering these. That's all stuff I'll show you, but this is great. You can see the actual results."

Deirdre stood and crossed to the bag. "You really laid into it."

Tim rubbed Arey's back, "See raw talent."

"Right...talent." Arey mumbled as she surveyed the damage. She hadn't exactly been thinking when she'd decided to attack the bag with the sword. She'd just...needed to make it pay. Now that she wasn't in the grips of perpetual rage, it was actually kind of embarrassing.

Arin looked up, making sure everyone had a chance to see the examples he was pointing out, "So, this works for showing the after effects of a hit. But, doesn't lend itself well to repeatability. That's what the strawmen are for. I'll show you a few techniques and then let you at them. Sound good?"

Deirdre looked at Arin, "All of us?" She wasn't sure how she felt about wielding a sword.

Tim nodded. "Sounds good to me. I am looking forward to this." He honestly couldn't wait to put a sword in his hand. Ywaine pushed at him and he was eager to fulfill his request.

Arin nodded and pulled the damaged bag back into storage. "For sure D. All of us. No reason not to learn and it's best to have a lot of sparring partners. Switch between them and get a new perspective and experience." He started handing out the training swords. "You'll have to leave Excalibur for now. Too real. It'd probably hurt a lot."

He lined them all up and started going through the basics. Stance, grip, guards. He showed attacks, counters and other defences. A quick reminder of footwork, which by now was familiar to them all. He gave them all fencer's masks and had them pair up to demonstrate the sequences of attacks, counters and how each counter had another counter. It could go on forever between good sword fighters. After a half hour of technique he let them try out full force attacks on the targets to get a feel for the real weight of a sword. Here he replaced the trainers with real swords and let Arey choose if she wanted to bring in Excalibur.

"It is just straw. Not sure how happy it.. she? will be being used like that. Up to you."

Deirdre nodded. "Right sword." She took her training sword from Arin. It felt so odd in her hand. Tim on the other hand took his and instantly looked comfortable with it. Deirdre pouted. They are all knights. I don't know the first thing about swords. She didn't want to be a 'damsel in distress' but she hated always feeling so far behind everyone else. By the time they got to real swords Deirdre was very uncomfortable though understood the basics while Tim felt right at home.

"She'll get over it." Arey said after a minute, grabbing Excalibur. "I need to get used to using it sometime, Might as well be now." She felt a little more sure taking the blade in hand now that Arin had shown them the basics.

Arin watched them all carefully. Spending time with each of them to critique their movements. He was always encouraging, showing them where they did well for everything he pointed out that could be improved. He took some extra time with Deirdre, trying to show her that it wasn't as uncomfortable as it appeared. He broke down the movements slowly with her and kept them simple. With Kat, he had covered a lot already. He just ensured she wasn't getting lazy and trying to slack off now that he had to split his attention. Tim showed athletic ability and an unsurprising understanding of the basics. He still stood like a hockey player though and Arin really wanted to get him to correct it. He tried a few times before moving on to Arey.

With Arey he was very detail focused. He wasn't surprised at how easy it came to her. He remembered the influence Lancelot had when he started. He imagined Arthur was imparting a lot on her as well. Still, muscle memory plays an important part and that had to be trained. Again, he was encouraging but spent time moving her stance and attacks. He showed her by example and by taking her hand or arm and putting it where it should be. Given her easy uptake of the basics he really felt like she could quickly be taught more advanced techniques and he wanted her to get it perfect.

He had kept an eye on Tim occasionally through this process and finally got annoyed enough that he had to show him why he was having a hard time recovering from attacks.

"Look, Tim. Stop for a sec. C'mere."

Tim nodded and moved over to Arin. He was just as frustrated as Arin was. No matter what he did he couldn't fix it so that he moved like Arin showed him. He was heavy handed, too stiff and boar like when he moved or swung.

"Take your stance." Arin watched again as he stood, weight slightly forward, like a skater would. A hockey player attacking the net who needed to be ready to swing his stick on the ice. Arin took his balanced stance opposing him, "See Tim. You already lost."

"How? I-I am standing like you showed me...what is wrong?" He growled in frustration, not at Arin but at himself. "Show me again."

"Watch. I'm going to attack you low. Defend and I will come around and have an open cut at your neck. I'm telling you this because it's what will happen. Even now that you know that's my plan you will not be able to stop it." He swung his sword toward Tim's front leg. Tim performed the parry that Arin showed him flawlessly, however his slightly forward stance carried him a little further than he should have. Arin, already knowing this would happen, quickly shifted his back foot to circle around Tim's parry. A quick circle around Tim's sword and Arin's was at Tim's neck. A deadly cut would have followed uncontested.

"See. Did you not feel your balance shift forward? Did you not sense you were over committed to the parry?"

"No damn it. Again." Tim exhaled through his nose and took his stance again. He tried to adjust. "Why? Why can I not get this? I feel like we have done this a billion times...and I still can't get it the way you do."

Arin chuckled. He closed his eyes and tried to draw the memory he'd had when he first met Tim. Lancelot was always telling Ywaine to keep his off hand guard higher. He'd always kept it low and his shoulder was an easy target, "No... not this. Different. Your offhand." He shook his head, dismissing the memory.

"This time you have too much hockey in you. You stand forward. Weight on your front foot. Then when you move, you over commit."

Tim stared at Arin, "You always managed to get my side.." He smiled slightly.

Arin smiled, "You had a hard time fine tuning then. Let's see if you can get it better this time." He circled behind him, "Stay in your stance."

"You were always just too quick." Tim took his stance again and made a concerted effort to adjust his weight back more. "Like this?"

"No, I know how to see the holes and exploit them. I see the fight before it happens. You should all learn to watch your opponent. Find how they are going to make a mistake before they find yours."

Deirdre watched the men. She was pale, eyes distant. She remembered them, swords in hand. They were in the courtyard. The sound of wood hitting wood, laughter and jibes thrown at each other. "Watch...right." She shivered and lowered her sword. It all felt so far beyond her. Everyone else was moving ahead and she needed special help. Maybe Arin will show me again, just us so I am not holding them back.

"I can do that on the ice, see the play before it happens. Not here though." He ground his teeth. "This right?"

Arin gave him a firm push from behind, making him take a half step forward, "Better. That wasn't a full step. But it'll be tough. You have a lot of instinct to counter train." Arin frowned, "You're playing again, aren't you?"

Tim looked at Arin, "Maybe...is that bad?"

"Only if you don't learn to adjust for it. If you are going to insist on standing like that we'll work on attacks and counters that will work to your advantage. Just know, you will always tend to over commit to forward actions and be ready for it." Arin circled back in front of him. He stood and thought for a moment, "Like this." He showed Tim a slightly modified version of the parry. It would still protect but it would engage the opponent's sword earlier and let Tim control where it went. "Do that this time."

Arin took his stance and attacked again. This time Tim used the extension of his balance to his advantage. Engaging Arin's sword earlier, he deflected it off target. Making it harder for Arin to side step and circle. Instead, Arin stepped in close, grabbed his wrist and pulled, bringing Tim to his knees. He chuckled, "Okay, not perfect, but a lot of people won't see that opening."

Tim shook his head, "Okay I can work with this." He laughed, pushing himself up. "Okay work with what I got. We can work on this more?"

"That's the plan. Maybe, if you work hard enough, you might be a challenge for me" He winked.

"Funny." Tim stood. "I can't beat you, never could. Best I can hope is that I keep learning and someone else doesn't beat me." Tim frowned remembering the wound Ywaine took to the side, the one that killed him. "Yeah, let's work on openings I might leave."

Arin nodded, "You got it. If you can challenge me, you will be able to take anyone else who holds a sword. This isn't like then. There isn't a lot of armies training with swords now. However, iron on fae, lesser I guess, will do the job nicely. I suspect most lower fae don't spend time with a sword. You'll be fine."

"I taught you boxing and wrestling to deal with other, normal, folk. Anyone pulls a gun on you, get out of there. Cover, run, whatever. Gunfights are messy and rarely result in a winner. Keep your fights in close and you have a better chance."

Tim nodded, listening intently. "Got it. I have a lot to work on."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Deidre leaned against a wall. Right, you have a lot to work on. I can talk so that has to count for something. She suddenly felt a little grumpy. Watching Tim work with Arin, to watch them move and figure things out was fascinating but the more she watched the less it made sense to her. She put her head down. So I have to try harder. Or give up. I can't be a liability to them.

"Here." Arey said handing Deirdre a bottle of water before sliding next to her. Watching Arin help give Tim some one on one instruction was a good excuse for a water break, and with the intense session they were having today, it seemed like a good idea. "How are you holding up with the sword stuff?" Arey asked making conversation.

Deirdre looked up, pulled from her thoughts by Arey's voice. "Oh, hi." She smiled slightly as she took the bottle of water. "I am not doing very well but I am trying. You guys have the benefit of past life you helping you feel comfortable with it all. I unfortunately have no such luck with that. I was thinking of seeing if I could get in some practice time when the rest of you weren't around. I mean, you and Tim are naturals. Kat has had previous lessons so no reason for me to take all of Arin's time so he can hold my hand to make sure I don't hurt myself. Maybe if I get extra time, on my own I won't be so far behind. I don't want to slow anyone down. I also don't do well with failure and right now I kind of feel like I am. It is that whole 'expectations to live up to thing'." She shrugged. "Not you guys, my own thing you know?"

Deirdre was careful to make sure there was a good amount of space between her and Arey. She felt guilty for the previous day's flashback and how it had affected everyone but mostly Arey. The guilt made her wince. "Arey...we didn't really get a chance to talk yesterday and I just wanted to say I am sorry."

She fiddled with her water bottle. "I am sorry for a lot of what went on yesterday. The flashback, the deal with the fae."

Arey worried her bottom lip with her teeth for a moment as Deirdre tried to apologize. This conversation was overdue, but with everything that had happened yesterday, neither of them had really been up for that kind of uncomfortable and awkward conversation. "It was a bad situation." Arey offered, eyes fixated on the bottle in her hands with a little too much interest.

"We'll find a better way to handle it next time." Her comment applied to both their emotionally intense flashback, and the fae, as Arey felt equally certain both of those situations were bound to happen again. Arey didn't have a choice apparently, not with the fae anyway. She was still kind of reeling from the knowledge that her soul was somehow bound to Faery, and though she wasn't quite sure how to feel about it yet, the knowledge made her uneasy.

Deirdre nodded. "Right, next time." Arey was looking at her water bottle. "I am sure we can make things better." She shifted uncomfortably. "I did the best I could with the deal. I really am sorry Arey." She took a drink of water.

"I know you did." Arey agreed, trying to shoot her a weak smile. "What happened wasn't your fault, and maybe if I was just a stronger person it wouldn't have bothered me so much. We're not putting Tim in that position again though, or any of us for that matter. No playing bait, or distraction, or anything even remotely like that." Arey said firmly.

"I don't know what she's going to do, but I got the impression that she's going to exploit the power she has over us for all its worth. We have to make sure none of us are put in a positions to get tied to her anymore than we already are." Arey continued almost tiredly, feeling mentally exhausted just thinking about Maighdlin. "You...you handled yourself really well last night. I was the one having trouble holding it together, so don't apologize for doing a good job. If anything I need to apologize to you for not dealing with that well. God knows I need to make it up to Tim."

Deirdre shook her head. "You don't need to explain. You did fine. It was really intense, that's all. We will do what needs to get done and keep everyone safe. We can keep her blocked out as much as we can like Bal showed us. I only did what we agreed on." They still hadn't talked about the flashback. She was fine not bringing it up. It made her uncomfortable knowing what she did to Arey, the strain she had put on her. "So things are fine..."

Deirdre's eyes were on her feet. "You did fine Arey." She went to put her hand on Arey's arm but stopped, fearing a flashback. She scratched her leg instead.

"Right..." Arey sighed, catching Deirdre's aborted movement, her mind going back to the flashback they'd dealt with last night. That had been more than just intense, it had been crippling, for both of them. Just thinking about this gave Arey the strong urge to repress and ignore, because in all honesty she didn't want to deal with the fact that she often had to internally deal with the feelings and urges of a thirty something year old man, which was just all kinds of awkward as a straight not even twenty something year old girl. Ignoring this was dangerous though, they'd seen that last night. They were both going to have to figure out some kind of outlet for this, otherwise there was no telling what might happen the next time their past selves fought their way to the surface.

"Don't hate me for bringing it up, but I think we need to figure some stuff out after last night..." Arey said quietly, trying to not feel awkward about it.

"Nothing to figure out. Like you said we will just do what we can to keep that fae woman from taking advantage of us." Deirdre kept looking at her feet. "I don't hate you Arey." Her voice went low. "I just don't want you to hate me for what I did. The things that are my fault..." Guilt, not all her own washed over her. "I maybe should go...you know they are almost done..." She gestured towards Arin and Tim.

"That wasn't your fault, and I don't hate you." Arey assured calmly. "That...also wasn't what I was talking about..." She continued, feeling awkward about this again. "The um...incident last night where we kind of both...lost it...got overtaken, god I don't even know what we're supposed to call that!" Arey said with a dry humorless laugh.

"Oh. Yeah I suppose we should...look I was trying to make you feel better but Guin...I mean she just got too touchy, not touchy..emotional. It is all my fault that it got so emotional and carried away. I am sorry. I will be really, really careful from now on." Deirdre put one arm around herself.

"Please don't take this the wrong way, but D, you've got to stop blaming yourself for everything that happens here. We both had a meltdown, and we both escalated each other. That whole mess was as much Arthur's fault and mine as with was you or Guin's, so I think first off we need to assume some mutual responsibility on this ok?" Arey said firmly as she put a gentle hand on Deirdre's shoulder. "I also don't think this is a matter of us being careful. I don't know how it works for you, but for me sometimes it feels like fighting back a hurricane in my head when he wants up to the surface." She admitted.

Deirdre bit her lower lip as Arey put a hand on her shoulder. "She just takes over. If things get emotional, when I feel things similar to what she feels she takes advantage." She shook her head. "I knew better than to go near you. You were already upset and you reacted. I just have to learn how to read the situation better. With Arin I can tell what is me and what is Guinevere. With you, she just takes over." Deirdre shrugged slightly. "Not blaming myself for everything just the things I do. Yes we both escalated but I shouldn't have started it. I should have let Tim or Arin help you."

"Well historically speaking you're usually the one who gets through to me when I'm having that kind of...identity crisis. How were you supposed to know this time would be different?" Arey offered in comfort. "I have no bloody idea what I might have done to Arin if he'd tried. If you think what's going on in his head between us is confusing...jesus he's pretty much bipolar with Lance." Arey tried for ironic humor, though she wasn't sure how successful she was.

Deirdre winced. "Well we should only let Tim come near you when that happens then I guess. I really wish I was a better help instead of just this whole making him take over." She shook her head. "Hey Arey, look I don't want to do that to you. I don't want to make Arthur take over it isn't fair to you." She tried to smile. "Guess Tim was right when he said to send me away to make things easier. Sorry, stuck with me now."

"You didn't make him take over, he was already there. You're right about that taking advantage thing. When I feel something similar to him, he sometimes surges forward, tries to take charge. I was upset because that fear of people being willing to put my safety above their own, that fear that someone was going to get hurt because of me was one he constantly lived with. Letting him slip through on that almost felt natural, and that's what scares me the most about that whole thing." Arey tried to explain. "And no, as much as I adore Tim, he was dead wrong about that. I think sending you away would only agitate him more, and I wouldn't appreciate losing a friend." She said with a small smile.

"I have no plans to go anywhere. I was trying to...never mind. " Deirdre looked towards Arin and Tim then back to Arey. "It isn't that we want to put our safety above yours but Vivienne made it very clear that we are only here to do whatever it takes to make sure you succeed. I don't envy you that position, I don't and Guin is very steadfast in her belief in standing up for Arthur. It was never about him as the king...about the leader." Her voice dropped. "Never mind. Look Arey, I am not going anywhere at all. It was just really shitty to see my presence, my words impacting you so much. I will try to be careful is all. You have more than enough to deal with without me adding emotional upheaval to it. Plus it really upset Tim and Arin..." She looked over at him. "Wasn't exactly a picnic for him either. I am really good at doing things that upset you all and I just want to try not to have that happen. I guess...I guess that was the whole point of the apology." Vivienne's words, back when she first met her came to mind. Deirdre knew it wasn't for her but for Guinevere. She wondered just how much time the queen had spent apologizing and in tears. Bet I am on par with her. Deirdre's thoughts grew slightly darker. That was why she shut herself away in the convent. To keep them both from her and the damage she caused.

She shook her head, sending her ponytail swinging. "I just have to get better at holding her back. She really, really....REALLY wants to fix things but I feel like I am doomed to repeat it over and over again. The last time it felt like the guilt was going to rip me apart. The way she felt, the guilt for the things she caused, not cool." She turned her eyes back to Arey. "I'll do better. I promise and you won't lose a friend." Deirdre smiled at Arey. "Promise." She put a hand on Arey's arm and held her breath.

"I guess it wasn't." Arey agreed, shoving down the feeling of guilt over that entire situation with Arin thrown in now too. "You're not doomed to repeat anything D. We're different people. I'll try to be better about keeping Arthur back too, it shouldn't be all on you to keep that from happening again. That ass hole has been screwing with my life too much lately as it is. I have to do a better job of keeping him separate and out of the driver's seat in my head." Arey admitted quietly, pulling her legs up to her chest. She was really beginning to hate Arthur, the responsibility and the baggage he came with, but also his domineering will power. Arey could be stubborn when she wanted to be, but most I the time she didn't feel up to the challenge when it came to going up against Arthur in a battle of wills when he wanted out.

"We are different but I can't help but feel like..." Deirdre shook her head. "No, nope. I am not doing this again." She winced a little as Arey referred to Arthur as an asshole. Guinevere had some things to say on that front as well but D quickly pushed her down. "Arin has the right idea. We need to learn to merge them. Push them down when we don't need them and use their strengths when we can. Problem is they really want to fix the parts that got messed up and seem to forget that there are good parts too. Course I forget too. It is a little much is all. If we both try it should work. I just wanted to say I was sorry for making it worse yesterday."

Deirdre stood. "Looks like they are done. Time for showers." She smiled at Arey. "And thanks Arey...for this. Just going to take time I guess." In the back of her mind D made a note that avoiding Arey, just for a little while still seemed like the best option. She needed to work on Guinevere and Arey needed time. With school and work Deirdre didn't think it would be too hard not to cause another episode.
****
Deirdre waited around, lingering against the wall as everyone headed off to their showers and Arin cleaned up. She brought him over a few things. "Can I ask you a favour?"

"You can." He stood up from putting the last equipment away and looked at her, "What's up?"

She looked down at her feet. "I sort of suck at this whole sword thing. I am worried that I am going to be a detriment to the team if fighting ever occurs. I was wondering...would you mind taking time one on one with me to help me get better? I mean I don't want to take all your time in the class and I don't have the past life to help make any of this feel natural."

Arin smiled, "For sure! Easy done. A little extra one on one time with you will not be an experience I try to avoid."

Deirdre smiled and looked up at him. "Thank you Arin. I just don't want to slow the class down."

He shrugged, "The class is the class. Everyone responds differently. I'll take individual time with anyone where it's needed. Like I did with Tim today. Still, I'm more than happy to help you. If you're interested it will certainly catch you up to the past life advantage quicker."

"Thank you." Deirdre hugged Arin tightly. "I feel so terrible about how crappy I am at this. I really appreciate it!"

He hugged her back, "No worries. You're not crappy. You have grace, and balance, and body awareness. You might not have the physical strength, but you can use what you're best at. Your specialities will help you not be where a person is aiming. You can move out of the way while keeping on target. Create more openings and even if you can't get the one big killing blow you can win by a thousand paper cuts. You'll be fine." He had spent time watching each of their styles and had a good strategy for every one of them that would use their weaknesses as strength and emphasize what they were already good at. Delivering his take on Deirdre's style was easy.

"I feel so awkward and the sword is heavy." Deirdre laid her head on his shoulder. "I just need to work harder is all. Shower?"

"We'll find you the right weapon. Even if you have to use a few swords to figure it out." He winked. "Yeah, a shower is a good plan. You want to use mine? Or you want some time to yourself?"

"I can grab clothes and shower at your place if that is alright? Oh unless you have stuff to do. Maybe I should study...I have taken a lot of your time lately. Not that I haven't enjoyed it, I have really. Okay...I don't know." She sighed. "How about this. I will go grab some clothes, shower at your place and maybe spend some time with you and then I should get some studying in." Deirdre looked over at him questioningly.

Arin smiled, "Works for me. I thought you'd might... Well, I saw you talking with Arey and I didn't want to assume. You might have stuff to think about? Maybe you'd want time alone? But, no, it's great. We'll stop at yours first."

"Oh..." Deirdre looked away. "I was just trying to apologize for what I did yesterday. She told me to stop blaming myself and I said that we should maybe sort of stay away from each other for a bit but she didn't really agree but I am worried..."

He frowned slightly, “D, you know, if you and Arey have things to work out... and I kinda think you do... Just... work them out okay? Don’t worry about me. I’ll be able to handle whatever.”

Deirdre moved away from Arin, turning her back to him. “It isn’t you that I don’t think can handle things. It is me.”

Deirdre kept her back to him. “It is best for Arey and I to stay away from each other for now. At least till we both learn how to keep them tucked away better around each other. That guilt...no and I won’t ignore you to deal with it. That isn’t right. This isn’t about them and I can’t do that again.” She ran her hands through her hair in order to stop herself from making fists. She clenched her teeth together, her body going a little stiff.

Arin stepped in close and put his arms around her soothingly, “Nope. Not ignoring. Never said you were and never felt that way. There are things that need to be overcome and hiding from them won’t help it. I don’t agree. Avoiding her is not an option as it will not give you practice controlling them when they try to push through. You need to do it. And I know that. All I’m saying is, I will be there when it’s over so you can always have that anchor. I won’t interfere during unless I’m actually going to help. However, I won’t leave you. I will be there and waiting when you’re ready.”

Deirdre was glad her back was to him as he couldn’t see the tears that started to form.

“That...yesterday I thought it was going to kill me it hurt so badly. I couldn’t get her to stop. I can’t do that again Arin. I can’t do that to Arey. Or you or Tim. Until I can figure out what it is that she wants me to do to fix it I can’t do that again.”

Arin pulled her in tight and buried his face in her neck, “I’m sorry D, but yes you can. And you will. That’s just the way it’ll be. You have to remember, Arey/Arthur also need help and practice to control it. Trust me. Seeing it happen to you two... knowing exactly what you’re going through but being unable to stop it... that’s no better. No matter what, you will have to work through it. I am fine. I understand. Tim... he’ll have to learn quick or not. That’s not your problem. You can’t help him. I will try. But it’s also not the same perspective. Eventually you and Arey and Guin and Arthur will have to figure things out. When you’re ready, I will add Lance. But not too soon. We all need to work through it or else it will tear us apart again.”

Deirdre put her hands on her face. Her shoulders shook under Arin’s face. “It isn’t fair. Why am I even here if all it does is hurt everyone? You saw...you heard...I am the cause of all of that. I thought I was helping and it just got worse. I haven’t even considered what will happen if Lancelot should choose to have his say. I am not strong enough. She chose the wrong person.”

Arin snorted, “Lance will have his say when I’m damn good and ready. He doesn’t choose shit. You don’t hurt. It’s not you. All three of us have a stake.” He spun her around and lifted her head, a little more forcefully than he intended, but not enough to hurt, “And if you deny your own strength again...” He took a breath, “No... No... look, you aren’t as weak as you think you are. Stop putting yourself down. You stood up to the queen of the fae. All I could do was stand quietly and look stoic. I had nothing. You had everything. You are the reason we will come together, eventually. It will hurt. It will be hard. But it will happen.”

Her heart was pounding in her chest, so much so that her ribs hurt. Her eyes were wide, a bit of fear in them. She had nothing to say to him. He made good points but she couldn’t find any words at that moment. Arin had moved her around and it was not entirely gentle. There was a force to it that seemed very unlike him. Deirdre nodded slowly.

Arin saw the fear in her eyes and sighed. He let her go and backed away. He sunk to the floor, sitting. “Fuck you Lance, fuck you. Seriously. You want Guin so much but you get all pissed. Nice work.”

Deirdre didn’t know what to do. She stood there watching Arin sit down. “Arin...”

She swallowed. Very slowly she moved towards him and knelt in front of him. “Earendil...please...I...I am just scared. It doesn’t seem like you. I have never seen you like this...” Deirdre reached to put a hand on his knee.

Arin looked up at her sorrowfully, “D... I...” He sighed, “The one time I have difficulty controlling Lance is when he and I are angry. His temper pushes through so easy. I... don’t even know why.”

He reached out and put his hand on hers, “I don’t like to see you put yourself down so much. It was just enough of a door for him to come through. He feels like shit right now. About like what I do. He knows he shouldn’t treat you like that. He did enough times to Guin. He’s sorry. I’m sorry. But that’s not an excuse. I should be better at that. I’m not.” He lowered his head.

She shook her head. Deirdre shifted closer. “Please don’t push me away. I don’t want to hurt you too.”

Arin grabbed her and pulled her into a hug, “Oh god D, far from that. I just... I saw you scared. I didn’t want to make it worse. He doesn’t know my strength. I’m afraid. I’m scared he’ll hurt you. He has hurt a lot of people when I was younger. I need to stop him from being angry. I need to not be angry. You didn’t make me angry. It’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself. Never blame yourself for other’s reactions.”

“Why is he angry?” She whispered. She laid against Arin, hugging him as best as she could in their present positions.

“He saw Guin blame herself too often. He saw her put herself down as if it were her weakness that she was with him. It wasn’t. He should have been stronger. Arthur should have been more attentive. It wasn’t her fault that Lance was sent to her all the time. Why couldn’t Arthur be the one? She was his wife?” He faded off.

Deirdre’s stomach tightened. Her body tensed in Arin’s arms. “It wasn’t a weakness. She loved him. She relied on him. She just couldn’t help how she felt about either of them. Her fault lay in not...just she did so much the wrong way and there was so much hurt and anger. She should have left earlier but she didn’t want to.”

Arin snorted, “See. Not a single point of failure there. Guin could have stopped it by leaving. Lance could have stopped it by being more self sacrificing. Arthur could have stopped it by just paying attention to his wife. Or, in the end, they all could have just accepted the way it was and dealt with it.” He shook his head, “That’s why we all need to deal with it. That’s why you can’t avoid her. And you must stop blaming yourself as if you were the single point of failure.”

Deirdre put her head on his shoulder. “I don’t know how to do that. The guilt is really terrible. I don’t know what to do with it and Vivienne said...”

“I don’t care what Viv said. She’s biased. She’s my mom and looking out for me first and I love her for that, but it’s not helpful. I know... I know it’s terrible. Horrible guilt. You think I don’t feel it? The point is, avoiding it isn’t the answer. Being you. Deirdre. Being who you are. You are not her. You have nothing to be feeling guilty about. That will be the way you reign her in. Shut her guilt down. She had her chance. She fucked it up. Now is your turn. And you won’t.”

“I didn’t mean that you didn’t understand...” She was shaking now. “She did do it wrong.” Deirdre knew it but to hear it from Arin felt like a punch to the stomach. “I won’t do it wrong because I won’t be in the same place that she was. I did mess up though...I got in the way of you and Arey, what might have been.”

“They all did it wrong. Not just her.” Arin waved a hand dismissively, “No. Arey made her choice clear.”

“Arey tried to tell me that I need to stop blaming myself for everything. I didn’t feel like I should be here, from the moment Tim and Kat told me what was going on and now I am scared that I have made things so complicated because I don’t want to leave and this isn’t just a crush anymore.” Deirdre lifted her eyes to look at Arin. “Sorry but I think there is more there...”

Arin smiled, "How is it complicated? And why are you sorry? Crushes don't last long, one way or another."

Deirdre sighed, her eyes looking away briefly. "It is complicated because when those flashbacks happen, when the guilt pushes over everything else I can't stop it right now. It is complicated because clearly there was something with you and Arey. Bal's exercise showed that, you told her so. It is complicated because there is a connection with Arey that makes things strange at times when I don't mean it to be. It isn't simple and me being here made it that way. I am not going anywhere though. I know that for certain. And I didn't mean to imply the crush didn't exist I just think it is not the same now." She looked down. "Now is not the time for that though things are messy enough. I saw your face when you came to me on the floor after...after the whole Arthur thing. I saw you now, when Lancelot's anger got the better of the situation. I need to keep myself in check to help everyone else." She smiled sadly.

Arin shook his head, "Too many topics. You're pushing too many things all in together. No wonder you think it's complicated. How about we take them one at a time? Pick one idea and we'll see if it holds up."

Deirdre frowned. "Like what? Where do I start?"

"What's bothering you the most? What idea is making you feel so overwhelmed that you're complicating them together?"

"The flashbacks, the way it hurts everyone." Deirdre looked at her hands. "That I can't stop them."

"Okay. That's only complicated in that it doesn't have an immediate solution." He shrugged, "Unfortunately, they will continue until you've had a chance to fully incorporate them. Then, they don't go away, they just are more expected and easier to recover from. You won't be able to stop them. Don't try. That will make them more complex than they need to be. The hurt is part of the incorporation. Our pasts have a lot to work through that they never did then. We have to help them or it will always hurt."

"I don't know how to do that. I try and it just causes more. If not with them with us, now." Deirdre lifted her hands in a helpless gesture. "It is all just hurt. And more guilt. And I can't stop that either."

"Nope. You can't. Hence having to work through it. It has to happen and, hopefully, we come out better at the end. Avoiding it now just lengthens the time that it will hurt."

"I don't want that. I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to hurt you." Deirdre looked at him. "I care too much for that."

Arin smiled sadly, "Well, you can't hurt them. They already did that. And, you will hurt me. I will hurt you. Comes with the territory. And that would be true without the past lives. That just adds another layer. However, that extra layer is what we can deal with and shorten the duration. Unfortunately, this will be one time where you caring will seem in contrast to the actions you have to take. You have to work through it with all of us because you care. If you didn't, you'd be able to just walk away."

Arin took her hand, "And trust me, you walking away would hurt a hell of a lot more."

Her eyes softened. "I don't want to walk away, ever." She shrugged a little. "Hiding is what I know but I have never loved anyone or anything the way I do you. Can't just walk away from that. It is painful to even consider." Deirdre looked down.

Arin cocked his head at her, "You... what?" His voice was quiet.

"I can't walk away." Deirdre cocked her head as well.

"Yeah, yeah. Got that part. You never... me?" Arin wasn't sure he heard her right and he didn't want to put words in her mouth.

Deirdre paled. "Oh...I did that wrong. I shouldn't have told you I felt that way...It's okay...I-I only recently figured out what to call....well that it was love..."

"Why? Why do you think you shouldn't tell me?" Arin was torn between surprise and confusion. He was a little surprised by how fast and honest it was, but confused by her backtracking now.

"Because you seem a bit...I did it wrong didn't I. That isn't how you tell someone that you love them. I am sorry. I don't know how to do this Arin." Her shoulders slumped and she looked down. "I wish I had done that better, you deserve to be told in a better way."

"I'm a bit... surprised, yes. It seems so natural and easy. I didn't expect that." Arin smiled at her, "In what way would it be better?"

"It was easy. I just knew. I just couldn't name it and then I knew." Deirdre worried her lip. "I don't know but you seem...unsure and I am sure and that is okay. I don't need you to be sure." She looked away.

"Oh. No. I'm sure." Arin pulled her into him, "Sorry, I was a little thrown. I didn't process it quick enough." He kissed her.

Deirdre was stunned. She pulled away a moment and looked at him. "Thank you." She didn't know what to do now. "I am glad it is okay." She nodded. "So it is okay?"

Arin kissed her again, softly. He broke the kiss but kept his forehead on hers, "Deirdre, I love you too. Of course it's okay."

"You do?" Deirdre's eyes were on his. "Really?" She smiled. "Earendil I love you."

"I do. Like I said. It seemed easy. And I almost missed it because it is obvious." He was still smiling at her. "I'm glad you pointed it out. It may have taken me weeks to realize it."

"Did I rush it?" Deirdre was still looking at him, her smile watching his. "It is easy and right and I was laying in bed when it hit me..."

"Oh, sorry about that. I move around a lot when I sleep." He grinned.

"No, no...I meant I couldn't sleep..I was thinking about you and us and it just suddenly was there...I love you and it made sense. I didn't want to tell you, I mean I did but I didn't know how you tell someone that. No one has ever told me that so I wasn't sure and then I just went and said it...but it was okay." Deirdre rambled. "I...wow okay...you love me too."

Arin chuckled, "Yes, D. It is okay. And I do love you too. Sometimes, over planning it doesn't help. A little surprise now and then keeps you on your toes."

"I surprised you..." Deirdre smiled.

Arin smiled, "Yeah. A bit. Just kinda threw it in there, all nonchalant. Like it was an everyday thing."

"I wasn't really thinking. I was responding to you saying me walking away would be worse. I was trying to state why I couldn't and well, you are sort of the big reason." She blushed.

"Alright. I like that." Arin let her go and sat straight. "Easy enough then. You don't leave. Kinda settles the complications then?"

"Does it or does it make it worse? I guess...well it might make things harder with Arey. Easier with you. I am still going to doubt myself." Deirdre frowned. "No, not going anywhere and if this is going to be hard but has to be done at least I have you with me." She nodded slowly. "I will try not to take the blame and try not to doubt myself but I won't always succeed and I am sorry if that makes Lancelot angry."

He looked at her, "See, that's the thing. Even between you and I there is a need to deal with Lance and Guin. We have to let them free at some point to fully deal with where we're at. I just wanted to make sure you and I were a real thing before I let him cloud it. What he is thinking and what I am thinking won't always be the same. However, if there is one thing that will upset us both it's you thinking you are less than amazing. We both agree. You are fucking brilliant. As D... and as Guin. Let that be what it is and don't countermand it." He smiled, "Even if you are the queen, we still get to tell you that you are amazing and mean it."

Deirdre had to fight against herself, against the urge to argue that she wasn't a queen. She knew that was mostly from her parents, her constant struggle against the idealized version of herself that they wanted. Her eyes were on Arin's face. Her hand reached out to touch his cheek. He didn't want an ideal. He wanted her. He didn't want more than who she was, he thought who she was was amazing.

"I want to be me, just me...I am going to try really, really hard not to doubt myself or take on the blame when I didn't do anything." She closed her eyes for a moment. "You think I am amazing." She smiled slightly.

"Absolutely. No question."

"So, any other complications we can take care of then? We seemed to settle that one." He grinned.

"Complications? I don't even know anymore. Everything seems..." Deirdre shook her head. "I just need time to get a handle on Guinevere's guilt. I don't want to be consumed by it and I was pretty close to that yesterday. That won't help anyone."

"No. Being consumed by it won't. But avoiding it won't either. There's a part where we deal with the past. Accept that it's past and that we are not them. But in order to do that, we have to let them work themselves out of their own issues. Kinda easy for me to say, especially now. Lance's issue was he wanted Guin. I can check that off I guess." He grinned. "Not the same. He's not getting Guin, but he doesn't have to watch Guin and Arthur right now, so I don't have as hard of a time. But that is why you shouldn't feel bad for me when you and Arey work it out. I have the easier path. Just remember that and don't worry about me."

Deirdre's mouth formed a straight line. "Don't worry about you? I don't think that is how things work. Yes...this time Lancelot doesn't have to see them together but even if it is easier, which I am not positive it is, I am not just going to stop worrying about you." She nodded firmly. "And you can't make me not worry."

Arin chuckled, "Okay, okay. I get it. Not worrying isn't the absolute. I more meant, it's not something that you need to walk on eggshells around. I can deal with it. I don't want you avoiding her because you think I'd have a problem with it. That's all I mean."

"I was avoiding because it seemed cruel to make Arthur have that much sway over Arey. I feel terrible that he was so strong. Nothing could stop him and that was not fair. I didn't know it was going to be that...overwhelming. And then you sat there, you waited for me and I don't want to do that to anyone. I need to learn better control before I go doing that again. I can't avoid her though and it isn't what she wants either." Deirdre laid her forehead on Arin's chest.

"Okay. I'm sounding a bit self centred here. Again, not quite what I meant. I'm not the only reason for any decision you make about Guin and Arthur. I know that. I am trying to make myself not at all part of that decision. I know I can't go that far, but I can try and minimize it as much as possible." He put his arms around her, "Of course I sat there. You think I was going to walk away from you? Control comes with practice. Same as anything. Maybe you practice letting he go with me. Now that we know we're good, it'll be easier to let her out and you can practice holding her back?"

He paused, "I could try and offer the same thing with Arey. Lance and Arthur didn't have an attraction like that. We'd be more rivals. There'd be jealousy there. But it shouldn't overwhelm as much. And Arey and I should be able to deal with rivalry better than the guilt and attraction you two have. She can practice controlling Arthur while she takes out his frustrations and such on Lance." He chuckled.

"Maybe? Arey didn't seem too keen on the idea of you helping her when I mentioned it would have been better for you to go to her yesterday. She said she was worried about what she might have done but it might not be a bad idea. Maybe...have some tea nearby, just in case? You know, to help her if he is too strong. If she goes for the idea I mean."

Deirdre looked up at Arin. "As for Guin and Lance..." She chuckled. "Could we maybe let that happen after we have sex for the first time? I kind of feel like if I let her out now she is going to do things I am not ready for and I would really, really like my first time to be with you, not Lancelot. No offense to him but I don't love him."

Arin smiled, "That's a deal. I can wait for that. I'd much rather D than Guin, as well."

Deirdre shifted so that she could kiss him. Her arms circled his neck. "Alright then we are agreed. We come first."

"I guess we would." He winked.

Deirdre cocked her head and looked thoughtful before a blush slowly spread up her cheeks. "Oh, I...not what I was referring to." She looked at his shoulder. "Can we go get my clothes and shower now? I'd like some time with you that isn't spent sitting on a floor." Deirdre smiled.

"Right. Good plan." He helped her to her feet.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera

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Later that day...

Deirdre came into Kat's office. She didn't knock, she didn't say anything just came into the room and sat down in a chair. Her eyes were distant and her face a bit pale. She seemed to be thinking and occasionally shook her head or frowned.

Kat had pretty much hunkered down in her office after a much needed shower once training had finished up. She wasn't in the mood to watch Tim and Arey all made up and together again, even if she was glad to see Tim wasn't so upset anymore. She also had no intention of apologizing to Arey for the whole pink hair deal. Blondie had earned that in Kat's book, and Kat wasn't going to lie about being sorry for it. In here, she could avoid them both and work on her data sets. The one she was running on their serial killer freak show was currently marked as highest priority. Right behind was the open search for skimpy male nerd costumes. Her birthday this year was going to be epic!

"Hey D." Kat greeted in a distracted manner as she more closely examined a skimpy dude pirate costume, which mostly consisted of leather pants and a hip sash that complemented the bandanna and plastic cutlass. "Sweet. totally gonna make Tim my first mate for the June edition!" Kat said grinning as she looked over at Deirdre, and her smile faltered.

"Wow D, what's eating you?" Kat asked as she wheeled around her chair to face the older girl who looked pale and a little bit in shock.

"Kat...have you ever searched online for piercings? Or worse...sex?" Deirdre put a hand at her neck. "I-I had no idea..."

"This a trick question? I feel like admitting to searching for internet porn is a trap..." Kat said with an odd look before looking up at D's face. "Uh-oh. You find some kinky stuff?" Kat asked sympathetically.

Deirdre shook her head frantically, "Not porn. Oh god I didn't even search porn..." She put her head in her hands. "Arin is going to laugh at me and I don't think I can face him. I just wanted to know. We talked about getting my ears pierced and he told me other places people got pierced and....then I was curious about sex because I think I would like to..." She groaned.

"Alright alright, slow down tiger. Nothing wrong with being curious about sex. It is a beautiful super cool thing that everyone wants to do, even if they don't always admit it. As for piercings, ears are good...I'd avoid other places personally, but that's just my prerogative. What did you see that freaked you out? I'll give you some necessary clarification." Kat replied easily, not the least bit embarrassed by the situation.

"I tried to tell Arin..I mean I know he believed me when I said I knew nothing. I wasn't even allowed to take sex ed. My parents refused to let me. Arin has been so patient I just wanted to not feel so immature..." Deirdre pulled her legs up into the chair. "People put piercings everywhere. And they...do things to each other..." Deirdre looked at Kat. "I stole a text book. I know the basic in and out and it makes a baby. I know that you can prevent that. Not worried about that part. But some of the things I saw. Whips? I think it was a whip...And body parts...whole hands Kat!" She covered her face once more.

"Ok, well time for some damage control." Kat said with a small laugh as she rolled over and gave Deirdre a pat on the back. "First of all, you need to know that there are lots of way to have sex, and what you looked up are more of the rougher specialized kink kinds that some people are into, but a lot of people aren't. It's just about figuring out what gets your motor running and going with that. If you're uncomfortable with what you're doing, it's not going to be good for either of you regardless." Kat began to explain.

"Whips chains, shit like that all go into the BDSM category, and as far as I'm aware, not really Arin's thing, so relax. Unless you want to play his dungeon mistress of something, then maybe..." Kat joked, not sure whether to laugh or cringe at the visual. "You said you know ins and outs? How basic do we need to start here?" Kat asked, deciding she needed to be thorough.

Deirdre put her head on her knees. "Kinks? Oh god I am so over my head." She glanced at Kat. "I know basic anatomy based on a medical drawing of male and female reproductive organs and basic medical description of how sex occurs. I know what I look like naked. I know what Arin looks like without his clothes. I know that he likes to be close to me..." She blushed. "I know I like to be near him."

"Ok, so the boring stuff. Gotcha. Naked is good, naked together is better. Just get comfortable with each other and the idea of being that way together, it's all about feeling comfortable with what you guys decide to do together. More to the point of sex, those naked bits are sensitive, and for the most part feel good when stimulated." Kat began, trying to put this in the least awkward terms she could. "That can involve touching with your hands, or with your mouth, or even other things. Some people are into using ice cubes or silk scarves, or whatever. Mostly it's just about figuring out what you and your partner like. That requires you guys to talk to each other about what you like, and being honest if you don't like something he's doing."

Deirdre groaned. "Okay...so I have touched Arin...and I let him touch me but...I don't know...he mentioned I should maybe look at porn so I wouldn't feel so nervous and could talk to him about it. We haven't...I mean I only touched him a bit...Oh god I shouldn't be telling you this." She rubbed her face. "Ice cubes, mouth, scarves? I don't know what I like. I didn't even know people did things other than have intercourse for a baby and I don't even know how that actually happens. Insert penis is kind of vague..."

She wanted to curl up and vanish. "I grew up in a bubble. This neat little world where everything was kept from me. Arin has had lots of girls. He has lots of experience and I am just laughably immature. What if I don't like it? What if I do it wrong and he laughs at me? What it I hurt him? Every picture I saw everyone looked like they were in pain. Am I supposed to be in pain?"

"Your first time there's supposed to be a little pain because the hymen's breaking, but if you guys are doing everything right, getting you prepped right, it shouldn't be too bad. Some girls don't even feel it apparently. Otherwise, no, pain's not in the equation unless that's what you guys are into. Some people are. It's just a kink. Goes with that BDSM stuff." Kat explained quickly, brushing off the pictures she saw. "It's mostly just trial and error, you guys have to figure out what you like together. Just be gentle when you're touching his disco stick, but otherwise, I doubt you're going to be able to hurt him, and I know he's not going to laugh at you." Kat soothed.

"Figuring out what you like is supposed to be fun D. Experimenting with stuff, doing it with someone you trust and want to make feel good. It's about giving pleasure and getting it back in return. That's the healthy way to have sex." Kat continued. "As for porn, that's mostly geared towards guys and what they're generically into, so while that might give you some ideas, it's not going to help you figure out what feels good exactly on your end." Kat explained with a vague look of annoyance. "Unless you watch girl on girl stuff, but even that's made for guys to jack off to mostly, not us." Kat turned back to the computer pulling up a page from Barnes and Noble, shifting through some book titles.

"Romance novels aren't always the most realistic when it comes to expectations with guys, but they're the best equivalent to porn I can give you from the female perspective. Go with the trashier stuff if you're looking for tips and ideas about what you might be into, and it's less glaring than actual porn so you can just read it on your own time without feeling embarrassed about it." Kat offered up.

Deirdre stared at Kat as if she had spoken Chinese to her. "Oh okay...can...can I go back to the beginning of all of that? I have questions."

She inhaled slowly. "I don't have a hymen. I heard my doctor at the dance school tell my parents that is was already gone, like more dancers from doing the splits and stuff. It was part of the whole discussion about how screwed up my insides are. So no pain? Arin likes the pain of being pierced and tattooed, is that the same? Did your first time hurt? Gentle touching him...that I can do. Arin said...Arin said I should know how I like to be touched so I can tell him but I don't...I mean I have never..." She reddened. "I really, really like him Kat. I mean more than a crush. I want to be near him and I want to make him feel good. If porn is for guys why did Arin tell me to watch it? Jack off? Romance novels? Books I can handle, I think."

Deirdre lowered her feet back to the floor. "I don't know how to do this but I know I want to be physical with Arin and it would be easier if I knew what I was doing or what to expect. Now, well now everything is like a surprise. I mean he put his tongue in my mouth one of the first times he kissed me, and he kissed me! Arey kissed me first..." She shook her head. "I did not have an issue with his hands on my body. I liked that...a lot...and I can't even begin to explain my body's reaction to it. Then I saw him naked...do you know what men look like without their clothes? I liked that too...I should tell him that right?"

She sighed. "I want to talk to him but I don't even know what I am talking about. These books will help?" She felt muddled, there were too many topics and questions.

"No, liking the sensation of pain, at least during sex, makes someone a masochist. Getting off to other people being in pain is sadism. Big difference. As weird a visual as that is, I'd believe Arin was a masochist over a sadist any day of the week, because I really can't believe he gets off on other people's pain." Kat explained before her cheeks turned a little red. "Well technically speaking I haven't exactly done this before either. I just have pretty unlimited access to the internet, which, let's be honest here, is for porn." Kat said with a shrug.

"Technically?" Deirdre looked confused. "But you said porn was for guys..."

"The porn industry." Kat corrected, skipping over the issue of her own virginity. "There's all kinds of free lance an amature porn out there too if you know where to find it, and fan girl porn is all about what chicks like." Kat continued.

Deirdre bit her lip. "How do I find that sort of thing? Maybe that would help me know what a girl is supposed to like and do."

"Uhhh...maybe you should start with the books." Kat suggested carefully. "Some of that shit's pretty hard core, and there aren't...always chicks involved in the porn per say if you know what I mean. That's the kind of stuff you work your way up to, otherwise it's just gonna freak you out. Trust me on that one."

"No, no I don't know what you mean." Deirdre sighed. "I will look for books if you think that is best. I really like Arin, Kat. I think...I think I would like to sleep with him. I mean I have slept with him. Once in my bed and once in his but not sleep..sleep..." Now she smiled a little. "How can you technically not exactly have had sex before? I thought you either had or hadn't. Does that mean that by laying in the same bed, touching Arin and I have had sort of sex? I don't understand."

"Well um...you know how some guys get really turned on watching two chicks make out and touch each other that way?" Kat asked slowly.

Deirdre shook her head slowly. "No."

"Well, some girls get turned on watching two hot dudes going at it two. Just a thing. Some people are into it, others aren't." Kat explained, brushing over that as quickly as possibly. "An no, you haven't had sex sex until there's some kind of penetration to one of your orifices. What you guys have been doing is just some heavy petting, or touching in a sensual manner. There's two basic types of sex when you're talking about dude on chick action, oral and penetration. If a chick's giving a guy oral, it involves his disco stick being in her mouth. If a dude gives a chick oral, he's tonguing her clit, which is this sensitive little nub in your vagina that feels good to be touched, same way with a dude's penis. Penetration is when his penis is either in your vagina or anus, or you've got something to stick up his anus.

Deirdre stared at Kat wide eyed. "Oh...okay." She let all of that sink in. "Kat? What...I mean never mind...Have you done any of those things with someone?"

"I'm fifteen and I have Arin for an adoptive brother and Viv as a guardian. What do you think." Kat said defensively.

"I don't know? I guess Arin is protective enough but he doesn't seem to find sex wrong. Vivienne scares me so I wouldn't want to do things to make her angry. Though she did help me....I don't know. Is that why you technically haven't exactly done sex before?"

"Arin's not terrible at the cock blocking." Kat agreed with a sour look. "But he can pull that protective brother crap too when the mood strikes. He's eased off a bit the past couple years though. Viv's a whole other kettle of fish. I swear that woman wants me to die a virgin or something." Kat grumbled. "Yes, technically speaking I haven't exactly done the deed with anyone yet, been pretty much marooned on second base for the past two years. I'm working on that though."

"What is cock blocking and second base?" Deirdre tilted her head a little.

"Cock blocking is when someone purposely interrupts someone getting it on for whatever reason, and keeps them from continuing. second base, depending on who you ask, is some heavy petting and feeling each other up, preferably with some degree of nakedness going on. You then, have also enjoyed the awesomeness that is second base." Kat explained.

"Feeling each other up?" Deirdre blushed, "Yes I like second base. A lot."

"Yup, second base is awesome." Kat agreed with a grin. "I'm betting third base'll be even better. Let me know if you wanna try it out sometime." Kat said after a moment with a wink.

Deirdre giggled. "You don't want to go to third base with me I am sure." She sighed. "Kat...I think...I would really like to have Arin as my first. Feels like a big decision. How will I know when? Do I just go tell him this is what I want? I should read first, I guess." She frowned.

"Nah nah I get it." Kat replied waving her off in mock disappointment. "But yeah, talk to him about it. Arin's cool, but he's not a mind reader. Communication's the only way you guys are gonna know what each other wants."

Deirdre looked thoughtful. "Do you ever think about what your first time will be like? I have never thought about it...till now. Guinevere has given me some very specific dreams of what she and Lancelot did...more like moving bodies and feelings but yeah..."

"Well either way, it's going to be epic, but I haven't decided on a position yet." Kat mused thoughtfully. "It'll probably depend on whether it's with a chick or a dude, but I'm thinking cowgirl."

"Cowgirl?" Deirdre looked confused. "Okay Kat...there are positions?"

"Yeah, guy on bottom girl on top going down on him. There's reverse cowgirl too, but that one just seems stupid." Kat replied easily. "Yup, a whole bunch. Goes with that whole preference thing, and whether or not you like being in the driver's seat more or passenger seat. There's books on that too." Kat assured.

"I see..." Deirdre looked thoughtful. "Cowgirl..what an odd name. Why is it called cowgirl?"

"I'm guessing because we're doing the riding." Kat said in a half-hearted attempt to be subtle.

"Riding?" Her mind flashed to one of the dreams Guin had sent her. "Oh...oh.." Deirdre blushed. "I see."

She paused and looked at the floor a moment. "Kat? I...I told Arin that I love him." Her voice went quieter and she tensed a little.

"Can't really say I'm surprised." Kat said with a small smile. "You two have been pretty inseparable for the last week or so. Did he say it back?" She asked in curiosity.

Deirdre frowned. "Well...I surprised him with it. We were talking and I said I couldn't just leave and that I loved him and he was confused. I told him it was okay that he wasn't sure. He said he was sure. He kissed me. I was confused so I thanked him and asked if it was okay. He said it was and told me that he loved me." Deirdre's frown was a smile by the end. "So yes. Eventually after the shock wore off..."

"That's cool I guess. As long as you guys are happy." Kat said with a thumbs up and a smile. "Can't really help you in the love department though. Sex stuff, I gotcha covered. The mushy stuff, not so much." Kat confessed.

"Mushy? Arin and I aren't mushy." Deirdre stuck her tongue out. "It just...happened. I like being with him. It is just right. I can babble and he understands. I feel like myself and I feel beautiful and strong around him." Deirdre smiled and blushed. "I am happy. Happier than I think I have ever been. I just hope he is as well. So far it seems that way." She shrugged.

"Good." Kat said with a nod. "Let me know if that changes and I'll set him straight." She promised with a grin.

"Oh well...if Arin decided he didn't care about me anymore I would understand. I guess. But okay.." Deirdre smiled back.

"Pssht. I find that highly unlikely, but hey, at least you're taking that hypothetical well." Kat joked back.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering

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The next few days passed in relative peace for Arey. As promised, the pink color faded out completely by Tuesday, and with financial help from Vivienne, she was able to stay in school and continue taking classes. In some ways, it felt weird taking Vivienne's money. Arey had just shirked of her financial dependence on her father, and in a way this felt like a regression. Vivienne had been rather persuasive however that as the recognized sovereign of the human race to the fae, her education was a vital responsibility that couldn't be ignored. Arey had thought that sounded rather pretentious and overly important regarding herself, but had decided not to argue that matter any farther.

Arey also learned in this time, that she no longer shared a mental bond with Balthazar. Deirdre's negotiated pact had officially solidified Bal as a member of her court, and out of Fae jurisdiction. The Fae couldn't legally put Bal in the Unseelie prison now even if they wanted to, and their pact was finished. Arey had helped to negotiate on his behalf, and now he was free. Even without that bond to tell her, Arey could tell that Balthazar wasn't the same as when he'd been taken by the Seelie Queen. It was the subtle things she noticed, the blank look in his eyes he got sometimes when he didn't think anyone was watching, and the way he would sometimes swing at the drop of a hat between his usual obnoxious and provocative self to being almost passive and unreachable. Bal still refused to tell anyone just how long he'd been a slave to the Seelie court, because it was obvious to everyone that it had been more than just a few hours, and Arey knew at some point someone was going to have to talk to him about this. Arey wasn't sure she was the right one to broach the issue. She'd already tried once, which had simply resulted in Bal hiding behind his usual antics, and being more aggressive with them in an effort the chase her off. She suspected any attempts by Tim or Kat would end in much the same way, which left either Arin or Deridre since Vivienne also seemed unwilling to press the issue with him. And that was its own kettle of fish.

Eventually, Arey had had to put the sword back into Arin (Since she couldn't very well go hauling a magical medieval sword around campus without some serious red flags being raised, and Vivienne insisted she wasn't allowed to leave it unattended.), with much the same results as when she'd had to pull it out the first time. There already seemed to be a strained air between her and Deirdre, and Arey couldn't even imagine how Arin felt about any of this, but he was always with Deirdre, so that uncomfortable space was kept regardless.

And then there was Tim. Arey had spent the past few days doing everything she could to try to make amends for her reaction to the Maighdlin incident, trying to be as attentive and affectionate as possible. In a way, the space with D and Arin helped with that, at least in her mind. Deirdre was right, their last episode had bothered Tim, and after all the weirdness from that, the mental training, the sword, and then Maighdlin, there had been some significant strain put on their new relationship, and almost all of that was on her.

The beginning of the week found them all settling into a new routine. Once again life was slowly finding a state of normal.

Monday passed with little fanfare. Arin picked Deirdre up at school on the bike and the two took a ride before dinner. The group trained that evening and while Kat poured over information on the computer while the others poured over textbooks. Arey returned the sword to Arin and that night Deirdre and Arin found closeness and quiet at his place. The sword, both taking and returning was strange and without a threat just seemed to bring an odd tension between everyone.

Tim did his best not to be bothered by things, trying to let go of the frustration and hurt of the weekend as he focused on school, hockey and Arey. Monday night he took her to his pick up game so she could watch him play. He just wanted to put the sword, Arin, Deirdre and Maighdlin behind them. He didn’t want those things clouding the relationship he was trying to have with Arey.

Tuesday brought rainy skies and early training before classes. The school day passed as usual. Arey, Tim, and Deirdre now met up frequently in the halls and always between classes in the student union. Where before all this they wouldn’t have noticed if they pass each other now they just seemed to know when the others were around. They were more alert though did not think of Ambrose housing any real threat to them.

Deirdre fell into a comfortable though somewhat distant relationship with Arey. She didn’t want to ignore her, that had already been decided was a bad thing but she became more conscious of Arey and her emotional state. D feared setting off a flashback or bringing Arthur to the forefront when they were in public.

By Tuesday night it had become clear that Balthazar was less like himself than before. It had been mentioned in passing by Arey, by Tim but Deirdre had been too worried that Bal might silently resent her for what had happened. Sure he told her it was okay but what if it really wasn’t?

She and Arin were supposed to work after dinner. While Arin got in a workout of his own Deirdre was supposed to be studying instead of looking over her books her mind was occupied with concern over Bal. She went to seek him out.

At the moment, Bal too was holed up in a cozy corner, pouring over a book, though his was a sketchbook rather than a college textbook. He'd obtained the book and charcoal pencils on impulse, the desire to lose himself to hours of oblivion while he sat and sketched resentfully overwhelming. Bal had always had a talent for sketching, and it was a trait not uncommon among the fae. Most had gifted traits by human standards in one area of the arts or another. Some were gifted painters, others hauntingly beautiful musicians, others were simply poets, though the fae had silver tongues by nature, so that was no great surprise. Bal could sketch, and meager as it was, it was his talent. He'd owned the sketch book for little more than two days, and already it was nearly half full, some of things he saw around him, others of memories, and some weren't really about anything at all, just putting marks on paper.

Deirdre approached slowly. "Hey. What are you up to?" She stood there, looking a bit awkward in front of him.

Bal didn't respond to Deirdre immediately, too wrapped up in what he was drawing in that moment to really notice, but after a few last strokes with the pencil, Bal looked up, blinking as if coming out of a daze. "Nothing too interesting, just passing time." Bal replied as he offered a wane smile from him perch. "Thought you all were having one of your little study powwows today? Get stuck on something?" He asked.

"Well...I have to work later...Arin and I, I mean. I should be studying but something has been on my mind. Can...can I talk to you?" Deirdre worried her lower lip.

Bal quirked a brow curiously, but patted the floor next to him in invitation. "Sure. It's not like I don't have the time." Bal commented lightly. "Pop a squat

Deirdre sat down next to him. She glanced over at his book. "I didn't know you drew. I can't draw at all. What are you drawing?"

"You could call it a hobby I guess." Bal said dismissively. "Practice at it enough and anyone can do it really. After sixteen hundred odd years, I think I've worked my way up to passing." He commented, ignoring her second question entirely.

"Oh? I suppose. Dancing works the same I guess. Though it is better if you enjoy it." Deirdre leaned over a little. "What are you drawing and can I see?"

Bal hesitated a moment. He wasn't exactly shy about his work, it was just that he hadn't had anyone interested in it in so long that it just felt a bit unnatural talking about it. The fact the picture was of Mary didn't make it any easier to talk about either.

"Oh..um...sorry." She moved away a little. "I didn't think...guess it might not be a sharing thing..." Deirdre looked down at her hands.

"It um...a portrait of someone I used to know." Bal offered after a moment and clearing his throat. "I'm just not used to sharing is all."

"Someone you knew? A fae from the court or a regular person?" Deirdre tilted her head a little. "You don't have to show me, I was just really curious is all. Nosy I guess." She looked away feeling embarrassed.

After a moment, Bal extended out the sketchbook, feeling tense but willing to share with Deirdre. "She wasn't a Fae, just a perfectly normal girl from a tiny little village in Wales."

Deirdre took the book and looked over the woman's portrait. "She is pretty. How long ago did you know her? Was she someone you were friends with? Did she know you were fae?" She looked up at Bal. "This is really lovely Bal."

"Yes she was." Bal agreed, sounding a little distant. "It's been about twelve hundred years give or take. I wasn't really as concerned with dates at that point in my life, and the only times of consequence villages like that were concerned with were harvests and religious holidays." Bal explained. "And yes, she knew I was Fae. Hard not to know with as much of a show off as I was around her."

"You showed off for her?" Deirdre smiled a little. "You liked her, didn't you?" Her voice grew soft. "What was her name? If you don't mind me asking."

"A little more than liked I'd say, but yes." Bal agreed with a wane smile. "Her name was Mary."

"Mary?" Deirdre frowned. "Oh...you called me Mary...I wondered where that came from. You were so exhausted you must have not been sure where you were. It makes sense now." She handed him back his book.

"I'm sorry about that." Bal apologized with a sigh. "I haven't really...been in the best frame of mind lately. Sometimes it just takes me a while to bounce back." He explained.

"Oh Bal, there is nothing for you to apologize for." She laid her head gently on his shoulder. "I was really worried about you. And then after, at the bar you were not making sense at times and it worried me even more." Deirdre lifted her head and smiled at him. "I know you haven't been yourself, kind of what I wanted to ask you about. I am still worried about you. Well everyone is but...I...I don't know I thought maybe we could talk and if you wanted to talk about something you could and if you don't we could talk about other things. Like maybe you can show me more of your drawings or you could tell me about Mary or some other time from before." Her smile fell a little, "Or you don't have to talk at all, I can just talk."

"Everything was just a little jumbled." Bal said quietly, not really sure how to talk about this. "She was playing around in my head, crossing wires, twisting memories. It just...takes a while to put everything back in the right place if she goes at it too long." Bal explained weakly. "What exactly do you want to talk about?" He asked after a moment. He was willing to talk to her, but he didn't want to depress Deirdre either, and the story with Mary was not one that ended happily.

"Bal...she messed around in your head with your memories?" Deirdre looked sad. "Um, we can talk about anything. Show me more pictures you drew. Tell me about more bands you worked with?"

Bal handed over his sketchbook for her to flip through, explaining the different pictures there as they went.

Deirdre looked at the pictures, commenting on his skill. After a time she looked over at him. "Will you tell me about Mary? Was she the only memory that was used?" Her voice was soft as she approached what she knew was a touchy subject.

"No, she wasn't, but she was the main feature so to speak." Bal said in a strained voice, lips thinned out into a hard line before he managed to speak up again. "Mai loves playing with those memories because its proof to her that no matter what I do, she'll always have the last word. It doesn't matter how clever I am, or how well I manage to throw her own words back at her. I can't win, because she knows where to hit, and once she grabs hold of your weak point, she doesn't ever fucking let go." Bal hissed as he ran his hands up over his face and into his hair.

"Everyone has one, and she's good at ferreting them out, though honestly it's not too hard to figure out when you're ripping through someone's mind." Bal said with a humorless laugh. "Mine's that I have a bad habit of getting overly attached to mortals. Caring too much is just a road to heaping amounts of heartache and guilt, and I must be a goddamned masochist because Danu knows I never learn my lesson with that one." Bal plowed on bitterly, eyes taking on their distant quality from before.

"The truth is, Mary was a bright beautiful country girl who I ruined through association. Syb used her to get to me, because she's petty, and I was young and stupidly believed staying out of fae politics and playing human would somehow make me immune to the reality of the world I lived in. She suffered because I was a damned fool, and Syb spent the next four hundred years making sure I never forgot it." Bal confessed, trying to fight back the welling pain from that memory by inviting on the numbness, embracing the feel because it was betting than trying to patch up the bleeding wound Mai had reopened.

Deirdre looked down as she listened. "That is what Syb was referring to...when she asked if you were going to cry over this one...well me, when she said she was going to kill me. She was mocking you because you like..." She blinked back tears. "She was making fun of you because you have a heart, you care and she is a cold, heartless bitch. They all are." Her lip quivered a little. "Caring isn't a bad thing."

And that was when it hit Deirdre. ]i]He cares about women, mortal women and he is centuries old. Syb spent four hundred years reminding him that his caring led to Mary suffering? Oh god...[/i] She turned and hugged Bal tightly. "They are cruel, cruel things. They prey on your memories to hurt you. Bal I am so sorry we didn't get there sooner. I know it was only hours for us but for you...Viv said time was different."

Deirdre pulled away and wiped her eyes. "You didn't ruin Mary. You cared about her. If they...those women weren't so petty and cold you could have had a happy life and not the pain they like to keep you remembering. It isn't right." She shook her head.

"Time is different there." Bal agreed softly. "But fae perceptions of time are different too. A few years isn't much in grand scheme of things for us. You all got there quickly, believe me. I thought I was going to be there much longer than I was." Bal tried to assure Deirdre, as he rubbed her shoulders gently in comfort.

"I should have known better than to involve her in the first place." Bal denied Deirdre's absolution with a shake of his head. "They might have been the ones who hurt her, but they never even would have had her on their radar if I'd just left her alone. She was there when Syb dragged me off the first time, begging me not to take her deal. The guilt drove her mad, Syb would bring us back sometimes to watch, and the middle ages were not exactly kind to those with mental illness." Bal said miserably, as he began to wallow in memories once again. Syb had only brought him to see Mary twice, but those had been enough to witness the damage he's caused. After that, Syb had simply resorted to playing with his memories instead of the real thing, so Bal had just assumed something had happened to Mary.

"Years?" Deirdre hoped that it had not been years that he was there as they talked and worked out a plan. Bal's hand on her shoulders did only a little to ease her concerns.

As he told her about Mary and Syb taking him back Deirdre began to softly cry. "What a hateful woman. To do that to you, to that poor girl..." Her shoulders shook. "And then for them to use that to keep you in line, to teach you a lesson..." She turned her head and cried on his shoulder. Her arms wrapped around Bal. "I am so sorry that she found you. I am glad we were able to get you back." Deirdre squeezed Balthazar tightly.

“You can't help who you care for and it is not okay for them to use that against you." Her heart broke a little knowing that those women had used Bal's feelings for someone against him. Why can't they just let those who are happy be happy? They toy with people in some sort of sick game...

"It wasn't your fault at all. You cared for Mary. You are allowed to do that. You didn't do anything but love her. They had no right. Fae are cruel creatures." Deirdre lifted her head. "Not you...I didn't mean you Bal..."

Bal didn't agree, but he had centuries of baggage over this, and one day of someone telling him for once that it hadn't been his fault wasn't going to change the overwhelming guilt that had been eating away at him for so long that it felt like a part of him. Caring about mortals was dangerous, for everyone involved. It was why he'd spent the better part of eight hundred years swathing the globe like a veritable Don Juan as he created the persona of the Under King. Incubi, at least the ones who weren't stupid or homicidal, were the love them and leave them type. They feed, had fun, and never formed attachments with any but their own kind. There was safety and liberation in that lifestyle, despite the aching loneliness that came with it. Letting himself care again, shedding that mask, was hard. Not caring, that had always been his problem, but letting himself do it so openly made him feel raw.

"Probably best not to distinguish." Bal said tiredly, letting Deirdre hug him. "We all have our moments."

"I don't think of you as I do them. You aren't like those women or even Vivienne and she isn't like them..." Deirdre hugged him once more before releasing Bal. "Sorry, I don't mean to squeeze you to death." She giggled a little. "Moments sure but Bal they are cruel to their core and they like toying with people. It isn't right and you shouldn't blame yourself for other people's actions. You didn't hurt Mary, they did by toying with her like she was nothing but a thing and all to hurt you. That wasn't you that was because they are cold hearted women with nothing better in their lives. Maybe if they could ever feel something they wouldn't be the way they are."

"Maybe." Bal agreed with a sigh. He didn't really feel like arguing with Deirdre over this anymore, so it was best to just not discuss it any longer. "So how are things between you and my baby cousin? Is he treating you right, or do I need to take this opportunity to cut in?" Bal asked with a quirked brow, changing the conversation entirely.

Deirdre frowned as Bal sighed. She didn't like seeing him so subdued. She also didn't know how else to convince him that it was not his fault. She knew what it was like to be in the position of feeling guilty and how it was almost impossible to convince a person otherwise.

"Arin? Of course he is treating me...right...he is nice to me, thoughtful." Deirdre looked over at Bal. "I think it is right. I like spending time with him." She blushed and looked away. "I told him I loved him." She smiled.

"Ahhh, you all are using the L word now huh?" Bal inquired with a small smile. "That's good, as long as he makes you happy. Just be sure you both watch out for each other alright. Love is nice, but if you're not careful, if you don't work at it enough together, it can be a double edged sword. Love can make life seem like a perfect summer day that's never going to end, especially when things are going well, but it can take you to some really dark places when they aren't, make you hurt in ways you never knew possible." Bal advised cryptically. He was glad that Deirdre and Arin were happy, but they'd barely known each other for a month, and already the attachment they were growing toward each other was that strong, at least on Deirdre's end. Bonds like that could be beautiful, wonderful things, but they just stung that much more when something went wrong. Bal didn't want to see either of them hurt that way,

"Well it is what it is..." Deirdre looked down at her hands as Bal advised her. She didn't really understand what he meant but at the same time she sort of did. "I don't want to hurt him. You think I am going to don't you." Her shoulders slumped. "I promise I will do whatever I can not to do anything to hurt him. I care a great deal for him. He...he is so patient with me and I can tell him anything. We talk...a lot and want us to work, no matter what the means in the long run."

She frowned a little. "I have never had someone in my life that cared for me like Arin. I have never cared about someone like I do Arin. He said if I keep doing what I am doing I can't do it wrong. I am just so inexperienced in everything and he isn't. He told me not to worry so I try not to."

Deirdre looked at Bal and tried to smile.

"No, I don't think that." Bal reassured her gently. "I don't think either of you would intentionally try to hurt each other." He pulled her into a gentle hug, not wanting to upset her, but he wanted to make sure she was prepared for what might come in the future.

"You're just young, you'll learn about everything there is to know about love, and sex, and relationships as time goes by. My worry is that you'll learn about some of those things the hard way, that you'll be so in love at one point in your life that your whole world will seem to revolve around that other person. Love can be beautiful, but when its like that, when you love somebody that much, it can make you fragile. All it takes is one well placed attack, one misstep between the two of you, and you'll break, and maybe never put yourself back together again. It's ok to love, life's pretty empty without it, just make sure the foundations of yourself aren't built on it." Bal tried to explain.

Deirdre frowned a little more. "Arin won't be fragile. He knows, he is strong and level headed. A temper but he has control. It is me isn't it? I am the weak one." She sighed. "I have a lot more going on than just Arin but he helps keep me focused and helps me just well...not be so...I am a pushover aren't I?"

"Everyone is fragile in some way Deirdre. We all have a spot where we'll give and break if someone pushes hard enough. For some people, it's their fears, others their desires, and for some people, it's the people they love. You are not weaker than anyone else, especially when it comes to love." Bal amended for her, not allowing her to be self-deprecating.

"Perhaps, but not in a bad way, and not when it counts. A pushover wouldn't have been able to stand up to Mai the way you did." Bal went on.

"Fragile like when you tried to teach us how to block you with our mind? I don't think I will be a weak spot for Arin. He might be for me but I can learn..." Deirdre shrugged a little and looked away. "Mai wasn't a big deal. She was trying to take the upper hand and we already knew where we were going to compromise and where we weren't. The trick was letting her think she was in control and that not letting her get to anyone. Which is why I did the talking. Only investment I had was getting you back and keeping her from going after Arin. Viv made it clear she was not to get her hands on Arin. Arey could only talk so much before using Tim as bait was going to cause her to say something she shouldn't. So left me right? I can do that. I can make deals with fae. It is one thing I am good at."

She smiled a little. "I took the openings when I saw it. No one can say I didn't try."

"No, no they can not." Bal agreed with a small smile.

"I am glad I was able to make the deal. I think we got the best we could. That woman really is a bitch." Deirdre chuckled a little.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Wednesday, it was the middle of the week and somehow things were starting to feel routine. Tim was settling into this new life. He worked everyday on keeping his mind closed off to Maighdlin. He studied and spent as much time with Arey as he could. He was happy. Training was going well. Arin was a great teacher and his ability to highlight their strengths, to show them where they were doing well yet also where they could fix things was admirable. Tim didn’t think he could do anywhere near as good of a job as Arin was.

He sat on their usual couch, waiting for the girls to be done with their classes. It was an early day with everyone being done by 2:00 pm. It meant lots of time for studying, early training session before Arin and Deirdre headed off to work and if all went well, a movie in his room with Arey tonight.

Tim looked down at his book, trying to get an early start on his reading.
***
Deirdre packed up her things. She couldn’t wait to be out of here. She was going to love Wednesdays she decided. Sure it was cloudy out but it wasn’t raining as it had yesterday. Arin was going to pick her up, they were going to get a ride in before their early training and work tonight.

She shouldered her bag. She smiled. Seeing Arin after the sword was put back was hard but she had been there for him. Deirdre wasn’t sure if she would ever get used to seeing him brought to his knees like that, seeing him struggle so much to find himself but she knew that she would do whatever it took to remind him of who he was and how she felt like him.

Deirdre stepped out of her class and into the hall. She immediately turned her head to look up the hallway. She knew Arey would be done very soon and coming down the hall towards her. She stepped out the side and waited, letting people pass her.

Bio Chem had been about as frustrating as usual, but Arey had managed to get through the class understanding at least half of the material, which for this class was doing well. She couldn't find it in her heart to truly complain though, she just felt too lucky to still be here, taking comfort in normal things like college exams. It was good to see some of the girls from the team too. They hadn't been happy to see her leave, but they'd been surprisingly supportive. Arey was certain that Amanda was under the assumption that Arey was having issues with her father again, and for now, it was just easiest not to correct her. Just because Arey could no longer have that normal apple pie life she'd wanted for herself so badly didn't mean she needed to take that from her friends.

"Hey Arey!" Amanda called out at the end of class as she was making her way out of the lecture hall. Arey turned around in time for her friend and former roommate to shove a pile of envelopes into her arms. "Despite the fact that you're camping out only God knows where, your mail still gets delivered to our dorm." She explained, the half smile not completely hiding her displeasure at that fact.

"Oh, sorry." Arey apologized sheepishly, holding the mail a bit more carefully. "I'll have to get my mailing address changed." Arey commented.

"Or you could just move back in." Amanda countered not so subtly. "I know you've had something big eating at you lately, but quitting the team, this total disappearance act? We're worried about you blondie." Her friend said in about the most earnest tone Arey had ever heard her manage.

"I appreciate the offer Amanda, but right now I can't. I'm okay, really, but thanks for worrying." Arey replied with her own weak half smile. The two shared an awkward hug and a bit of idle chitchat before Arey made her way down the hallway towards Deirdre, who she saw waiting for her.

Deirdre pushed herself from her leaning position on the wall. "So how was today? Is it weird that things feel normal? I feel like I shouldn't blink or something might change." She fixed the strap of her bag on her shoulder. "Tim is probably waiting. I love early days." She smiled thinking of the things her afternoon held.

"Good. Seeing everyone here does help make things feel normal again." Arey agreed, holding her mail. "Early days are nice. How did your classes go?" Arey asked as they walked back toward home. Luckily, Ambrose was only a few blocks away from the Round Tablet, and the Chemistry building was on the closest side.

"Fine. I think I would enjoy the lectures more if I knew what in the world my goal was. I have no clue what degree I want or anything." Deirdre shrugged. "I know I eventually need to decide but life is so different now. I came here to get away from the life I had. Never expected any of this." She chuckled. "This isn't so bad though. How are things with you and Tim? Things seem less tense."

"You don't have to know yet. Just try out different classes and figure out what you like doing best. It'll come to you eventually." Arey assured her friend with a smile. "It's getting there, but I think we're definitely in a better place than we were this weekend." Arey replied as the conversation turned to Tim. "He had his first pick up game the other night, and I got to go watch him on the ice. I like seeing him like that, I think it makes him happier than he realizes to be playing again." Arey said fondly.

"I can see that. It is hard to give up something that you loved for so long. Reclaiming it is nice." Deirdre looked thoughtful for a moment. "I am glad things are better." She smiled at Arey as they walked. A lecture let out just down the hall from them. A large group of people poured out the open door. Deirdre frowned as she held her bag to her body and tried to navigate the crowd.

It took a bit but eventually they made it to where Tim waited. He smiled up at them. "Ladies, we ready to go?"

Deirdre smiled. "Yes. Arin should be waiting outside for me. Then I will see you two at home."

"Do you you want us to wait with you until he gets here?" Arey asked Deirdre after flashing Tim back a smile. Arey didn't really want to just leave her friend here alone, even if she knew Arin was coming, it felt ingrained in her to stay with Deirdre.

Tim stood and slipped his bag over his shoulder. He reached out to take Arey's hand.

Deirdre shook her head. "If he isn't out there waiting already he won't be long. Don't let me keep you two from enjoying some quiet time." She tilted her head a little. "Besides can't you tell Tim is just chomping at the bit to get out of here." She smiled a light laugh escaping. "I appreciate the offer though."

Tim gave Arey a sheepish smile. "I was kind of hoping we could take advantage of the batcave being quiet for a bit before we went back to training and studying and stuff...but I don't want to ditch you D so it isn't a huge deal for us to wait till Arin is here. Come on, we can take the walk out and see if he is waiting, like you said. If he is moot point anyway right? If he isn't, we will hang for a bit with you."

He looked at Arey, "Sound good? Then we rush home and lock ourselves away for a bit." He smiled, cheeks reddening a little.

Arey smiled as her hand slipped into Tim's. She was also grateful he was willing to wait around for a bit to make sure Arin was there to pick up Deirdre first before they left. She had this weird feeling she couldn't really explain, but the idea of any of them walking around alone left a hollow sense in the pit of her stomach.

"I think I like this plan. Did you have anything particular in mind?" Arey teased as she watched Tim's cheeks redden.

Tim stuttered. "Uh...well..." He blushed more. "Well no but well...Hey let's go take a walk to find Arin."

Deirdre giggled watching Arey and Tim. "I'll start walking, you two can discuss your plans for when I am gone." She turned and started strolling out of the building. "You two take your time just don't get caught up kissing or something...."

"I guess I'll have to think of something to pass the time then." Arey mused with a grin as they all continued down the hallway.

Tim was still unsure what to say. The conversation had gotten away from him. "Oh I can think of a few things..."

"Oh? We should definitely compare notes then." Arey teased as they made their way outside.

Arin was waiting on his bike, extra helmet in hand, "Hope the learning is going well. Need some smarts in this group at some point."

Deirdre smiled. "Don't look at me. Those two...they are the smart ones." She gestured over her shoulder at Tim and Arey. "Hi..." She stepped up next to the bike, a smile on her lips. "They were being all nice and walking me out but they really want to get back and have alone time." She giggled lightly.

Tim smirked, "Yeah because taking off for a ride to god knows where, just the two of you doesn't count as doing the same thing? Nice try Miss Innocent."

Arin shrugged, "The advantage of a bike. Max two." He grinned.

Deirdre looked at Tim. "Hey can't make out in the middle of a ride, totally not the same." She tried to hide her smile.

"Advantage, yeah no kidding." Tim chuckled. "Have fun you two and don't be too long. She likely has homework." He gave Deirdre a wink.

She groaned in response. "You are not my parent so please...don't do that. Bit weird." She tossed her bag at Tim. "Just for that you can carry that home."

Tim caught the bag with a frown. "What am I a pack mule?"

Deirdre didn't answer him. She held her hands out towards Arin. "Please?" There was excitement in her eyes. She enjoyed their rides a great deal.

Arin chuckled as he handed the extra helmet to Deirdre, "Can't make out on a bike? Depends on your definition and if it needs to be moving or not." He winked.

Deirdre blushed as she took the helmet. She tucked her hair into her coat and pulled it onto her head.

Tim put his arm around Arey. "Right. Well whatever you two do, be careful. See you later."

Deirdre slipped on behind Arin. "Of course we will be careful." Her hands slid around him, her legs hugging his hips. "I meant in the middle of you driving...never said we didn't stop to enjoy the scenery."

"Always careful. But my careful and other's may not look the same." Arin grinned again and gunned the throttle for emphasis. Cheesy way to show off, but he always liked the sound of a vtwin being used right. He saluted Tim and Arey casually and popped into first. After a quick look around he smoothly drove off.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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The ride had been long and exhilarating. As Arin pulled back into the garage Deirdre sighed with contentment. She loved going out with him like that. The rush of the wind, the speed of the bike and the way Arin handled the machine made her cheeks flush and her heart race.

Deirdre slipped off the back of the bike as Arin killed the engine. She pulled off the helmet. "That was so much fun. Thank you." She was smiling and running her fingers through her hair.

Arin pulled his helmet off and reflexively reset his spikes. He hung the helmet on his handlebars and dismounted, "Always happy to have an excuse to ride, or to spend time with you. When I can combine both..." He smiled and stepped over to her, taking the helmet from her and pushing her hand from her hair so he could fix it himself. He stood very close to her as he ran his free hand through her hair. When it was neat he left his hand on the back of her head and pulled her into a deep kiss.

Deirdre looked up at Arin as he moved closer. I love the way he smiles. The kiss took her breath away. It wasn't that she wasn't ready it was simply that he had a way of affecting her like that. Her hands went up and to his chest.

Both of their phones began to buzz. Deirdre didn't move right away. Her eyebrows shifted into a frown as she realized by the ringtone that it was a text from Arey. When their lips parted Deirdre let out a soft breath, lingering just a little in the moment before reaching for her phone.

Her eyes went from Arin to the screen and back to Arin. "Mordred." The name made her skin crawl. Deirdre couldn't imagine being in Arey's place, seeing the things that he did.

Arin frowned and looked at his phone, "Good way to spoil the mood. Right, let's check in with her. I don't like hearing that name for any reason."

Deirdre nodded. She reached out to take his hand as they walked.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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Wednesdays were boring. Most of the time, Kat didn't think she was missing out on the whole school thing. When people talked about it, it was always about how much it sucks, which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. Those garbage teen TV shows about high school also painted a less than ideal picture. On days like today however, Kat almost wished she went to one, just to have something to do. The shop was dead today, everyone, including Viv was out doing their own thing, and none of her data sets had finished crunching yet, so she couldn't even try her hand at some manual data analysis.

Kat had never dealt well with idle down time. She always needed to be doing something, whether that was actual work, video gaming, or even just run of the mill mildly obsessive Google searches on random topics. She'd already played through the last levels of her zombie game, and right now, she was reduced to playing the lowest form of online gaming; facebook apps. Candy Crush Saga was her current poison, steadfastly refusing to touch any of those ridiculous farm games. At least this was a kind of puzzle, and Kat was good at puzzles.

"God damn jelly, every fricking time!" Kat growled quietly from behind the desk in the shop, where she was currently minding the mostly empty store.

Tim came into the store, his face giving away how pissed off he was. "Where's Viv, Kat? We have a problem."

"Jesus." Kat said when she heard Tim's voice and spun around in her chair to get a look at his face. "Who took a dump in your cheerios?" She asked in confusion. Last she'd seen of Tim, he and Arey were making goo goo eyes at each other again on the way to finding a room.

"Last I heard she was in Oklahoma meeting some witch she knows who can track blood magic. Totally paranoid and lives off the grid. Couldn't tell you when she'll be back." Kat continued after a moment, seeing that Tim didn't look to be in a particularly humorous mood.

Tim hit the counter with his fist. "Fuck! She is just gone? No idea when she is back? We have an issue and she is the only one with any clue how to stop Mordred." He was angry and agitated. He wanted nothing more than to strangle the life out of the man that was tormenting Arey.

"Wow, fuck, calm down cojack. If you’re pissed don't take it out on my shop." Kat exclaimed after Tim exploded. "She left this morning after we checked the data sets again. Olivia Harris is one of the most respected witches on the continent, but she's also paranoid as shit and on that right wing anti-government conspiracy bandwagon. She's hard to find, and I can't track her without tech. Last word was Harris was camping out in some trailer in Oklahoma, so that's where Viv went. If she can get Harris' help, she thinks we'll be able to track Mordred directly through the link." Kat explained more calmly as she got out of her seat and carefully approached Tim.

"You wanna tell me what's got a bee in your bonnet all of a sudden?" Kat asked.

Tim ran his free hand through his hair. He looked around. "Gone...so no help there." He was mumbling.

"Here. See what the bastard sent Arey? Mailed it to her. Been watching her. Us." Tim tossed the photos on the counter. "We have to find him, have to do something."

Kat took the pictures, flipping through them. She saw Arey and Tim mostly, but there were some of Arey with Deirdre and Arin as well with her, and people Kat could only guess were Arey's school friends. "That little fucker..." Kat commented as she continued flipping through the pages before a rather predatory smile crept over her lips.

"Oh I gotcha now you little bitch." Kat almost cackled to herself, content to be saddled with another project as she practically bounced around the shop while closing up.

Tim looked at Kat, watching her as she closed up. He knew that smile. "Kat? What do you mean gotcha?" The anger eased a little. He had a small hope that her smile, the one that made him worried was because she had somehow come up with a way to find Mordred.

"What I mean, is that that little bastard finally fucked up." Kat explained as she flipped the sign to closed and locked up before racing back, grabbing the pictures in one hand and Tim's hand in the other as she started heading back toward the Bat cave and her Kat Corner, intent on having more data to crunch. "Polaroids, we've got him." Kat said intently, showing him the pictures again like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Tim let Kat drag him out and he looked at the pictures again but he didn't see whatever it was that she saw. He was however happy to hear that Mordred had screwed up. "He messed up but how? I don't see it Kat."

He looked over his shoulder, "Arey! Kat's found something! She says he fucked up!" He yelled as loudly as he could.

Tim looked back at Kat. "Show me where this mistake is."

"The pictures themselves, they're Polaroids!" Kat said again like it was obvious. "Don't you ever watch cop shows? What's the most obvious and cliche way that stalkers and freaks who like bad pictures of little kids get caught? When they take film in to get developed or their digital prints to get printed off. There's always someone there who can see what they're of and might call the cops if they get suspicious. Digital photo accounts through phone or digital camera on a computer can be traced too, and this guy's obsessed with keeping himself untouchable. From the way he's been handling his victims though, he definitely has a trophy complex, so how's he been keeping pictures of them without leaving any digital evidence behind? Polaroids!" Kat finished, showing him the polaroid pictures Mordred had sent them again.

"No digital trace, no outside human contact needed to develop the pictures, just the camera and the right film." Kat explained. "But they're ancient now. Only grandmas who refuse to recognize the fact that its the 21st century, and hipsters who like the nostalgia factor even use them anymore. You can't just go to a convenience store and buy this kind of film, you have to order it online from Amazon or some random guy on Ebay who just happens to have some left over from the nineties. It might take a little while, but I can hack the sites I find selling that stuff for web orders to New York, and put that information in with my data sets. This will narrow down the sets by thousands!"

Tim nodded but it wasn't really making sense. It was a lot of information. "Ancient?" Slowly what Kat was telling him sunk in. "You can find his purchase records and from those we can find him."

His eyes went wide. "Oh my god Kat you can narrow it down to New York and you can find him!"

Tim scooped her up and bear hugged her. "I never even considered that. Kat you are brilliant!" He put her down and went back to the doorway, "Arey! Kat has a way to search for him! She can narrow it down and help us find him!"

"Well yeah, this is me we're talking about!" Kat swaggered with a bright grin as Tim pulled her into the hug, preening under the positive attention once more.

"This is fantastic Kat." Tim shook his head. "This asshole is messing with us, with Arey and this has to stop...now." He sighed, relaxing just a little. "When Arin and Deirdre get back we have to fill them in too."

"Fill us in on what? Arey texted that this was about Mordred." Deirdre piped up as she and Arin appeared in the doorway of Kat's office. "Where is Arey?" She was worried about the blonde.

"Right here." Arey called out as she dragged herself out of her room, looking tense but much more calm than she had before. No one needed to see just how shaken she was right now, and it was bad enough Tim had already seen her like that. With him though, at least there was an already growing sense of intimacy between them that made her more comfortable trusting him with that more vulnerable side of herself, but she couldn't bring herself to let Deirdre and Arin see it too.

"Apparently my stalker has upped his game." She informed them blankly.

Deirdre frowned. "Upped how?"

Tim's mouth pressed into a line. "Pictures. He has been following Arey and pretty closely too. But Kat has a plan to track him down." He smiled once more as he handed Deirdre the pictures.

She held them out so Arin could see them as well as she went through them. Her face paled. "My god...he...he was everywhere. School, dates you went on..." She looked up at Arey. "So what's this plan?"

"Find him. If he's feisty, stick him. Self defense is an easy to argue case when the dead guy is a serial killer. I'm thinking he'll be feisty." Arin growled.

Deirdre looked over at Kat, "Tim said you had a plan to find him. How?" She subtly stepped closer to Arin. The idea that this guy was following Arey, taking pictures of the people around her really bothered her. After seeing her friend's body, the fact that he was anywhere near ANY of them was unnerving.

"The bastard used polaroid film. It'll take me some time since I'm willing to bet he bought it through a back channel or fake name, but I can track the online purchases of that film into the city and narrow my data spectrums considerably. It'll cut my lists down from thousands to potentially a few dozen at most." Kat explained.

"Nice. So, what, next week?" Arin grinned at Kat, knowing she'd be in her wheelhouse he couldn't resist adding a little challenge.

"A week? Ha! I'll have that nut job nailed down by the end of the weekend." Kat boasted back, raising to take the bait.

"That's more like it. That's Kat quality work." He looked over at Arey, "Kat'll make sure we don't have a lot of time to plan. You have something in mind?"

Deirdre looked at Arey, "Yes, once she finds him what are we going to do? I mean we go after him but we need a plan right?"

Arey was at a loss to answer that. They might know who Mordred was when they found him, but that didn't mean they'd be able to prove anything necessarily once they did. Somehow, a "I know he's a serial killer because he psychically taunts me in my sleep" reasoning was not going to do much to bolster and prosecution brought against him. And there was also no doubt in her mind that Mordred wouldn't stop killing unless somebody stopped him. So if they couldn't use the law to put away, that meant they'd have to find another way to do it. The warrior inside her supplied the solution easily and without hesitation, but the mere thought of it left her feeling cold. Could she bring herself to actually kill somebody, even if it was a homicidal maniac?

"Not pressuring you there. I think, the group of us versus one of him means we're in a superior position. Lets us go with the flow a bit more. However, we need to be aware that this guy will be nutso. And, apparently, has some funky powers beyond the regular dude. But, we have you, your sword and you've all been trained by the best." His smile reflected some of the cockiness that came when he talked about his own abilities.

Every mention of Mordred, his odd personality, his mental instability put Deirdre more on edge. If he could take and kill Heather the way he had what was going to stop him from getting to Arey, to Kat? All there was to stop him was the hope that they got to him before he targeted one of their own. She handed the photos back to Tim. She didn't want to look at them anymore.

As she held them out to him her phone rang and Deirdre dropped the pictures as she jumped, startled by the sound. Her hand reached into her coat pocket. She frowned at the number, unsure of who it was. Can he read minds? Is it him? Does he know how to get a hold of us? A slight nervous panic set in as she pressed the little phone symbol.

"H-Hello?" Deirdre answered apprehensively.

"Hello Miss Evering. This is detective Velazquez. We talked recently about your roommate?" David tried to make his tone as friendly as possible. It was hard to take out that authoritative tone.

The colour drained from Deirdre's face. She nodded, then remembered she was on the phone and he could not see her. "Yes...Hello Detective. H-how can I help you?" Her stomach clenched. Had someone else she knew been murdered? Her eyes moved between Arin and Arey.

Arin frowned slightly and put a supportive arm around Deirdre. He wanted her to know he was there but didn't want to distract too much.

Tim frowned and whispered. "Detective? What's going on?"

"Look, I know I'm asking a lot, but I would like to sit down with you and your friend Arey. I'm hoping that you two might have some more information for us. If you could spare some time?" David wasn't sure how much to tell her. He didn't want to scare them or imply the police were inept, but he needed something, anything to key off and start a new thread of investigation.

Deirdre leaned against Arin as she listened to the detective talk. She frowned deeper. He wanted to know if she had more information, if she and Arey could talk to him. Her teeth bit down on her lower lip as she tried to figure how best to both help but avoid telling him the things she knew.

Then...Deirdre remembered the feeling when he shook her hand. She suddenly stiffened. His voice, the feeling of familiarity as he shook her hand though she had passed it off at the time as nothing. He is one of us.

Her tone changed slightly. "Yes Detective Velazquez we have some time. Is it possible for you to come to us? We are together currently and have some time now if you are available."

"Oh? I didn't mean that you had to feel like it was an immediate request." He was a little thrown by her invitation. Not because it felt rushed or wrong, but rather because he realized part of him was expecting it. He tried to shake that feeling and resume his professionalism, "I don't want to impose on you now. I'm more than happy to set up a time if there is something more convenient for you."

"No, not imposing. Now works well. I think I might have something that could help you. Arey is here now so it is a good time." Deirdre gave him the address of the Round Tablet. "I will meet you in the storefront if you can meet me."

Part of her wanted him to come now, to rush over so that she could show him the pictures and get him on their side. She'd get Viv and everyone to show him who he was and they would add one more to their team. One more to find and track down Mordred and this one was with the police. The other part of her wanted to keep others out of their business in case they had to kill Mordred...

When she gave the name of the shop a twinge of recognition flashed through him. He knew to trust these instincts and all vestiges of polite refusal disappeared, "Good. If you have something for me then it would be best to deal with it as soon as possible. I can be there in fifteen minutes."

"See you soon." Deirdre hung up. "The detective...Velazquez is coming here. We are going to show him the pictures."

Tim shook his head, "Oh no, no police. Not yet at least. They won't be able to stop him. Why would you tell him to come here?" He frowned at Deirdre.

"He is one of us." She answered simply. She looked at Arin. "Do you trust me on this?"

Arin shrugged, "Do you really need to ask that question?"

"Arey?" She looked at the woman. "Tim?"

Tim nodded, something about her demeanor made his concerns about the situation die down. "Yes. I trust you."

Arey had been watching Deirdre navigate the conversation in silent concern throughout the exchange. She wasn't really comfortable with the idea of bringing in an outsider on this, on having to show weakness to yet another person, but Arey did trust Deirdre, even if that knowledge put her on edge. "Yes, but what makes you think he's one of us?" Arey asked in tired curiosity. "Could you just tell through the phone?"

Deirdre smiled slightly. "No..well yes....sort of. His voice is familiar but the first glimmer of it was when he shook my hand at the morgue. I knew but forgot to mention it. I was a little..." She looked down. "Then things sort of went on and I didn't think of it again until I heard his voice on the phone. I don't know who he is but he is one of us." She looked up once more. "I just know and I think it is sort of part of what I can do to help..you know, bring us..I mean your knights back together."

And just like that her confidence waivered. Was she making the right call? Was she overstepping her bounds? Was she misreading her role in all of this? Deirdre inhaled and fidgeted a little. Her voice lowered, "I guess I maybe should have let you make that call though..."

"I think the idea of making it all on one person isn't ideal. No one wants to be the dictator. You were on the phone. You had to make the call. We're behind you. Just like we're behind Arey. We support each other or we don't work." Arin replied first.

Deirdre smiled slightly. "I just..." She stopped herself. "Okay..."

"It's alright." Arey assured quietly after Arin. "Now though we need to figure out how we're going to break the news to this guy. I think we're all pretty aware that acceptance is far from the first step in this process, and this man is a police officer. We're already connected to a murder case he's working on, even if its just as potential witnesses, but there's no telling how he's going to react to that connection once we drop the crazy bomb on him."

Arin nodded, "I'd think he'd have a certain ability to accept evidence and reasoning. However, it will certainly not be easy. Having a cop on our side would work real nice in constructing a scenario where Mordred is out of the picture and none of us are in jail though."

"Sure, but that doesn't mean his first instinct is going to be accepting that the world if full of magic and monsters, or that he's somehow the reincarnation of a medieval knight." Arey argued back. "We have to figure out how we're going to approach this so he doesn't run away or try to throw us in the looney bin."

"Well we break it to him gently, let him come to his own conclusion? I mean he is a detective so I imagine he will start to notice certain things. I guess it also depends on who he is." Deirdre offered.

"Right. Both of you. No one thinks this is the greatest thing ever when they first hear it. No one wants to believe it. However, letting a detective put together the pieces himself is probably going to work in our favour. Who he is may or may not have an impact. I suppose there are enough scenarios to be concerned." Arin shrugged, "I suspect the looney bin isn't our biggest worry though. Being blamed for the killings because we are a convenient, crazy, explanation might fit more than the looney bin."

Deirdre nodded. "I am sure we can make this right without him thinking we are crazy..." She turned and headed for the store.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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Deirdre leaned back against the counter, trying to remain calm as she went through all the things she might say to him. She had picked up the pictures once more and now they sat on the counter behind her, though their images were face down so she didn't have to look at them.

Tim stood near the back of the store, near the table. He wondered who the detective might be and hoped he'd be able to help though he reminded himself that he didn't have the greatest history with this sort of thing. Best to let Arey do the talking...

Arey's hands remained folded in her lap from where she sat behind the counter next to Deirdre. It was a habit she'd developed in reaction to anxiety when trying to school her features, but it was hard to disguise the tense set to her shoulders. She wasn't sure how Detective Velazquez was going to react to his impending new reality, but her outlook was the most pessimistic amongst the group. She had a hard time believing a homicide detective was going to take any of this seriously, aside from the stalker photo collection she'd been sent. Arey also wasn't confident in her own ability to bring a new person into the fold. She didn't know what to say to someone to make them believe any of this craziness, and her own reaction to that information had not exactly been ideal.

It made Arey glad that Deirdre was there. The other girl had already proven she was better with words than Arey was. Maybe she would have an easier time with this then. "Any idea how we're going to do this?"

Deirdre frowned, "No, not at all...I think we start with the pictures and make contact when possible. See if we can't breed familiarity. If Viv were here she could tell us who he is and that would help to ease him into it." She couldn't help worry that the detective might be Morgana or Merlin even. "I think we just take it slow. He wants to talk about Mordred so we talk and see what happens." Deirdre realized that Arey was looking to her for guidance on how to play this out. That thought caused a slight panic. She took a breath and tried not to look scared.

Arin sat casually in a chair, biding time until this detective showed. He understood the concern the others had. It wasn't everyday that a person was introduced to this new worldview. Yet, Arin had now been a part of it three, or four if you included Kat, times. There was a little laissez faire in his approach now. Add to that, this was a detective, someone who was supposed to be trained at deducing this kind of thing. Arin felt that this one might be a little less eventful than previous experiences.

"Viv would probably help put a bow around this, but I suspect the initial shock will the same, regardless of her being here. This guy is supposed to figure out weird shit for his job. He's a professional problem solver and deductive thinker. We give him the evidence and he'll figure it out on his own." Arin shrugged and leaned back in his chair.

Deirdre looked over at Arin and smiled. She appreciated his laid back attitude and felt some of her concern come down a little. There was a bit of pressure still, it felt like it was on her to do this but she was okay with that. She wanted to prove that she deserved to be here, that she was useful.

"He's NYPD, not Sherlock Holmes." Arey mumbled reproachfully, but refrained from further comment. She hoped Arin was right, but she still had a hard time believing he's see the truth as the most logical explanation for the evidence.

"Yeah well, we'll figure it out when he gets here. Relax before you burst a blood vessel blondie." Kat replied from her perch in the back with her wheelie chair. Arey worried too much in Kat's opinion. She could appreciate the older girl's logical and analytical thought processes, but she stressed herself out about factors out of her control too, and that was just asking for problems in Kat's opinion.

Deirdre nodded. "One thing at a time..."

David appraised the shop. A typical computer shop with a pun for a name. Yet he felt like there was more to it. He didn't want to just barge in but he knew he was expected. He resolved himself and walked to the door. He noticed the closed sign but knocked anyway and pushed open the door.

"Hello? Detective Velazquez. Is anyone here?"

Deirdre moved to the door. "Hello. Come in. Uh Arey is here. This is Kat, Tim and Arin." She gestured to each of the others. She smiled at the detective. "I live here..well not here.. back there..." She pointed to the back of the store. "Thanks for coming to meet me here. I have information for you."

"Hello," David was a little thrown by how many others were here. He adjusted quickly though, "That would be great. What kind of information?" He approached the group and stood just outside the circle, waiting for Deirdre to speak.

Tim stepped out of the back. "Sorry, I'm Tim." He put his hand out to shake the detective's.

Deirdre watched closely hoping the contact would spark something. "Yes, Tim too. Sorry. He was hiding." Deirdre smiled slightly.

David stepped into the room confidently, "Hello Tim." He stuck out his hand. Though he was internally cautious, he had no reason to show it. He was not entirely prepared for the reaction when gripping Tim's hand though. Something like his greeting with the two girls, but more intense now. He tried to maintain his cool.

Tim took his hand and held his breath. He felt it, the feeling of family, companionship. Gawain... Something deep inside Tim simply knew who the man was. He was his cousin and his brother in arms.

"Nice to meet you"

Deirdre stepped forward, eyeing the two. "I have something...seems the killer has a thing for watching Arey." She waited a moment, letting David come back from anything he might have felt with Tim.

David shook off the feeling with Tim's handshake, trying to focus on the case, "Good to meet you too. He's watching Arey?" He turned to Deirdre, "How do you know that?"

"I got an envelope in the mail this morning with no return address." Arey started, gathering up the photos and the letter before handing them cautiously over to the detective. "He's been following me around for days. Some of these are even from last week." She explained, crossing her arms over her front in an instinctively defensive position.

David took the pictures, noticing Arey's defensive posture, "Okay. Let's take a look." He glanced over them quickly which was enough to verify her claims.

"Damn... Okay, this is definitely of interest." He looked Arey over again. Once more he was struck by the similarity to the victims. "You're sure you don't know this guy?" David caught himself. He didn't want to project responsibility onto Arey, but there was a definite connection he could not ignore.

"Not in any way that could help. I don't know what he looks like or his name or anything. I just know he's been fixated on me for a while now. This is just his latest way to taunt me." Arey explained, trying to edit out the crazy parts until the had a little bit more to stand on with him regarding that.

David frowned. There was more here, he didn't know why he knew that.

"Why would you think he's fixated on you?"

"Arey resembles all the girls he has gone after right? He really seems to want to get to her...for some reason." Deirdre offered. "She resembles Heather right?"

Tim forced himself into a chair and folded his hands, trying to remain quiet as they let things play out slowly.

David looked to Deirdre, "Yes. I noticed that too. Heather... and others. This is likely his prefered type. Yet, he has never announced himself like this before. Why now?"

"Maybe he's escalating." Kat offered up from her seat near Tim in the back. "People driven to kill due to mental imbalances or psychosis sometimes have a predictable self destructive timeline that they act upon compulsively while fixating on a single target that embodies the deeper problem that is at the root of their condition." She finished, not sounding the least bit fifteen.

Deirdre looked at Kat then back at David. "Yes, that." She shrugged.

Tim looked at Kat and smiled proudly. He said nothing, still worried that he might blurt out more than he should.

David grinned, "Nice. Someone's been studying psyche. I agree. I think he is making a more overt move. So, my question isn't why he's doing it, so much as why is it seemingly focused on Arey?"

"You said she's his type right. Maybe each murder just brings him closer to going the full monty? Triggers in mentally unbalanced people aren't always obvious or even predictable." Kat countered back as if they were playing verbal ping pong.

"Closer to full monty? I think he's done that already. If he were predictable, I'd have him already. This is different. His other's were more opportunity based. This seems to be legitimately targeted. Why? What makes Arey different from the rest? If I can answer that then I think I'm well on the way to a closure."

"Alright would one of you just touch him or something, because this talking around in circles for civilians bit is getting annoying." Kat said after a moment, looking between Arey and Arin pointedly.

"You really know how to be delicate with sensitive topics don't you Kat." Arey returned with a sour look.

"It's a gift." Kat shot back with a face of her own.

"What?" David looked them all over, "Sensitive? I'm just here to see if I can understand a bit more about this sicko. These pictures raise some interesting questions and could help us pinpoint a motive, or something. Obviously this guy has a type. Yet, Arey seems to be the focus. That's what I'm trying to discern. I'm not talking in circles."

"Wasn't talking about you skippy." Kat continued staring pointedly at Arin. "I wanna know who he is already. Just shake his hand and get it over with. This'll go like, ten times fast if he's on the same page." Kat urged. They were dealing with a serial killer here, and she wanted to have their new cop friend locked loaded and on the same page by the time she had her data finished crunching.

Tim walked over to Arey and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Gawain. He is Gawain. Don't rush it or this might backfire."

Deirdre looked over at Kat. She needed her to not be quite so pushy. She knew what it was like to have it forced on you. She had done it to Arey. "See that is what we are worried about. He seems sort of fixated on her and after what he did to...to..."

She lost her train of thought as images of Heather laying on the morgue table came back to her. Deirdre cleared her throat and looked down for a moment. "Sorry. After what has happened to the others we thought it best to show you these. I feel like we all know this man."

Deirdre moved closer to David, a hand on the table next to his as she leaned over to look at the pictures. "Some of these are from school. He knows where she goes to school and that she is friends with us. This is a message, I realize that but I don't know why Arey but...I feel like we should, you know? Do you ever feel like that with a case? That you know the person?" She looked at David, turning her head so that she faced him. She was hoping to gently prod at his memories, at least bring things to the surface before Arin or Arey 'whammied' him with his past life.

Arin shrugged at Kat. He could see where Deirdre was going with her questions. He'd give her a chance before shocking David into anything. Having seen the result of sudden, overwhelming, knowledge, a different approach might be worth pursuing.

David felt some sympathy for this girl. First her roommate and now her friend was being specifically targeted. Her insistence that they should know why was odd to him. This guy had yet to show this kind of behaviour, why would they know anything about this person.

"Do you have any reason to have interacted with this man?" He looked up at her, noticing how she looked at him, almost expectantly. There was something familiar here, but it wasn't the perp. Something in the way she looked at him. David took a step back from the table, ignoring the pictures for a moment. His instinct was telling him something more important was happening in this room. He didn't feel threatened, but he wasn't entirely sure what was going on yet.

"There's obviously something you're not telling me. I can't force you to speak to me. Though, I would like to remind you that anything you can tell me will likely help catch this guy. I'd like to do that before he gets any closer to Arey, or any of you." He was trying to stay focused on the case but something in his head kept telling him these people were quite important to the case. More so than the pictures.

Deirdre smiled sadly. "Based on those pictures it seems he is near us. I don't have a reason but what if he is like a janitor? What if he works at the coffee shop and follows her...us. I just feel like..."

She stepped closer to David. He had stepped away and she noticed the way he was now looking at her. "I am trying to help as much as I can. I don't know him but I am beginning to feel like I do. I mean look at this." She pointed at pictures. "He gets so close that it is like he is always there." She swallowed and looked scared. "Those are polaroids that means to be able to take such good pictures he has to get close to us." Deirdre handed David the pictures, her hand brushing his.

The sense of honour, duty and respectfulness that washed over her almost made knees buckle. The room flickered, shifting from the shop to stone walls and floor. Deirdre held her breath as David shifted from the man he was to another. He wore Arthur's symbol on his chest. He stood tall in front of her.

With a couple of blinks the scene returned to the present. Deirdre let out her breath.

"I'm sorry for questioning you m'lady..." David heard himself say, though he didn't recognize the thoughts. It was as though he'd blacked out and came back in the middle of a conversation. He struggled against the intense desire to kneel before Deirdre.

David shook his head, "No... wait... I'm... not feeling very well suddenly." He looked for place to sit down and found a chair near the table.

"Something's not what it seems to be and I'm not feeling quite like myself. I would be worried that you all were trying to pull something on me, but I don't get that feeling at all. Though, you do know more than you're telling me. I... I'm not even sure I want to know now, though." David was floundering a little. He wasn't used to having his thoughts so scattered like this. Something he didn't understand was pushing at the back of his mind. He felt like he should just let this woman tell him what to do but that made no sense at all. He looked up at Arey and his vision blurred. She stood in the same place as another man. Someone he hadn't seen before but knew like a brother. This man inspired faith and confidence. He knew he/she would have the right answer.

"What is going on? What am I doing? What... what should I do?"

Deirdre watched David move to a chair and sit down. She felt bad but at the same time a glimmer of flashback from her was better than a full on rush of one from Arey or Arin. It was enough to make David question and that was good. They needed him trying to solve this, who he was. It would make the concept easier if he came to it on his own, at least Deirdre hoped it would it would be easier.

She shook her head. "Not trying to pull something on you." He had called her m'lady and Deirdre had to fight down Guin. She wanted to control how things went down. Deirdre took another slow breath as David appealed to Arey for what to do.

Arey watched Deirdre and detective Velasquez interact quietly, not wanting to interfere in case she made the reaction to each other worse. The name Gawain struck a chord of familiarity in her after Tim spoke, and images of battlefields, smoky halls and colorful tournaments briefly flashed across her mind. This was a man whose past life was never idle, always in motion and almost restless.

"You should stay seated." Arey stepped in, her voice ringing with a commanding undertone that she wasn't completely comfortable with but accepted as she pulled out a chair across from him. "We'll get you some tea and talk some more. I think it would do us all some good." Arey continued, shooting a meaningful look at Kat who nodded solemnly and went toward the back to put on a fresh kettle. Arey had a feeling they were all going to be in for some unwanted and painfully detailed memories soon, and David was going to need some of Vivienne's special hoodoo tea to keep from totally freaking out.

"Just try to stay calm and tell me what you see." Arey prompted as she sat in the seat across from David and gently took his hand in hers. She wanted to make this process as painless as possible and spare the detective the stress and feelings of crushing anxiety Arey had felt when she'd first been forced to confront her true identity. In that time, Deirdre, Guin, or maybe both really, and the support they'd lent through that connection was what got her through that struggle with her sanity in tact, when it felt like her head was two small to contain herself and Arthur both. Sometimes she still feared she'd lose that battle, that Arthur would choose to take charge and she would would be washed away completely in his wake. Tim, Deirdre, Arin, they were what gave her strength against his rising tide, and offering David her support now was the only way she could think to help him through this now.

"If you start to feel overwhelmed, just squeeze my hand and listen to my voice. No one here wants to hurt you, we want to help you." Arey said gently with encouragement.

David felt oddly reassured by her words. He didn't understand her instructions about telling her what he saw. Unless there was something he was missing in the room. As she took his hands he started looking around the room more carefully. That blurred feeling returned and now he was standing...

He paced away from the window. He did not like it but he would not speak out against it. He understood why Arthur was condemning her but it still felt wrong. The men were divided now. Those that had once fought side by side as brothers now turned their back on one of their own. He, Ywaine, and some of the others had tried to convince Lancelot to ignore his attraction to the Queen, that nothing good could come of it. Now their fears have been proven true.

Gawain’s hands were behind his back. He would support Arthur’s decision but he would not participate. He would not go and stand guard. He would not tie his Queen to the stake. He would not set the wood alight. He would not wait for Lancelot to come, as they all knew he would. Lancelot would not let Guinevere die and Gawain refused to be part of the fight to stop him.

He found himself at the window once more and he looked out. Below he could see the stable hands preparing the horses for the night.

“Damn it Lancelot why couldn’t you just let her go?” Gawain’s face was a mask of sadness. He knew why, just as he knew why Guinevere had betrayed her husband and why Arthur spent more time with his men and on horseback than he did in Camelot. He was king and that left little time for a home life. Lancelot was the Queen’s man, Arthur’s right hand and it was inevitable.

He sighed heavily. Tomorrow would not be a day of victory. He only hoped that cooler heads would prevail before too much blood was shed.


Arey's hand gripped David's tighter as the shop began to fade away and the cool yet inviting modern lines of the computer store were replaced by cold stone walls and a suffocating air of anxiety. She was ready for the paralysing numbness that overtook her with Arthur's presence this time, as she stared out the tower window with unseeing eyes as her men paced the room with visible discontent. Were it caused by any other issue, Arthur would have tried to sooth it, address their concerns and let them talk their piece. He had always tried to be a King that listened to those that served him and provide for their needs. He'd always thought that a good King, a good leader, had to respond to their people, had to be a presence ready to provide reassurance and guidance, but in this Arthur could be no leader, no King. In the passing days he had felt his heart shatter twice over, and it was all he could do to build thick stone walls around it while he tried to take count of the pieces.

Guinevere, his Queen, the woman he had loved for so long that living life felt impossible without her, and the last person Arthur had ever suspected of betraying him, had done just that. She had been tried in the courts and found guilty of Adultery, which for a Queen was also treason, and she was sentenced to burn at the stake for that treason, as was law. He hadn't gone to see her since her confession, Arthur wasn't sure he'd survive it. The tearful look of regret was what haunted him the most, Guin regretted the affair because she knew it had hurt him, not because she loved him above all others, as he did her. It was a devastating realization that had sent Arthur into a tail spin from which he had still not recovered. The woman he loved, whom he'd believed had loved him back, was truly in love with the man he had regarded as his closest friend for years.

Arthur heard Sir Gawain curse softly beside him at the window, the word bringing upon him the now familiar mixture of contradictory emotions, of hurt, guilt and anger. Guin and Lance both had wounded him more deeply than he ever dared to admit, he felt guilt over having pressured Guinevere into a marriage with him it was now clear to him she had not wanted, which had put her into this now potentially fatal situation, which left all his anger over the situation, the indignation and betrayal to be directed at Lance.

"Sir Gawain." Arthur commanded lowly to the man beside him, eye fixed on the platform piled high with wood in his square. "If...if he does not come for her tomorrow, I want you to get her from the square before they can put her to the flame. Take her...take her to the nunnery at Caerleon, keep her safe." Even now, after Guin had made a cuckold of him, he couldn't stand the thought of her burning. He could no longer trust her, she could no longer be queen, but he wouldn't watch he die either. If Lancelot proved a coward as well as a traitor, he'd have his men ready to intervene. Somehow though, he was sure Lancelot would come.

David felt like an observer as he watched Gawain (himself) nod to Arthur (Arey), the vision blurring as his training kicked in. David’s attempts to gather all the details and remember his surroundings, as he was taught, allowed him to retain some self awareness. Gawain was not able to fully take over. It was an odd feeling for David to feel himself take actions he was not in control of.

Gawain nodded, relieved yet concerned by Arthur’s tone. Now was not the time for the king to be distracted by such matters. Yet, Gawain could not fault him. It was no easy choice he had to make. Break his own laws or watch his wife burn.

“Yes, Your Grace.” He hesitated, but his desire to keep the damage minimal won out, “Your Grace, he will come. Should we prepare a less than forceful resistance to his arrival?”


Feelings of love and anger warred within him as Arthur's hands gripped the sill, the desire to punish Lance and save Guin conflicting powerful goals. Arthur couldn't keep Guin safe here any longer without undermining the law of his own kingdom, the fact of that was clear, and in the end, it was that knowledge that won out. "Yes." Arthur replied after a tense moment. "Don't stop him if he comes. We will not pursue him until he's gotten her to safety."

Putting aside his anger for the moment, Arthur was left with just a bone deep sense of exhaustion. He desperately wished that Merlin was here to give him some kind of guidance and direction, but no one had seen the old wizard in months. Merlin was gone, Guin a prisoner in his own castle, and Lancelot was a traitor on the run from his former brothers in arms. All the people whom Arthur had relied upon for council, whom he would have turned to in such times as these, had abandoned him.

David felt himself nodding along with Gawain as his vision cleared. He couldn't shake the disorienting sense of doubles though. He rubbed his eyes and looked up at Arey, then to Deirdre and back to Arey, "Did you put something in that tea? Have you drugged me some how?" He frowned. He hadn't drank the tea yet. He was trying to buy time for his thoughts to coalesce. For some reason he didn't feel like he was in danger but that also didn't make sense to him. Nothing about this felt right to his police senses. He felt like he should be looking for an escape. He tried to stand but the vision had been very disorienting and he stumbled to his knees in front of Arey.

Deirdre watched, concerned as David tried to stand. He fell to his knees before Arey and she held her breath a moment. She wanted to tell him that he hadn't had any of the tea yet, there hadn't been a chance to give him anything and it wasn't a drug more something to help him come back from the vision but instead she held her tongue. She looked at Arey. Deirdre couldn't help but wonder what they saw in their vision.

Arey snapped out of the vision with a gasp, grasping the chair for purchase as she began shaking off the intense feelings of anger and self loathing that she'd felt saturated with a moment ago. those visions were always hard for her to come back from, and that one was no exception. Shakily, she extended her hand out for her cup of tea and took a steadying sip before trying to refocus her attention back on David in the here and now.

"Honestly, I wish it were that simple." Arey replied earnestly as she extended her hand to him in offer of help. "But it's not. The tea's just supposed to sooth the after effects of what we saw." Arey began to explain as she began to find her center once more. She was supposed to be a leader here, it was about time she started acting like it. Training wheels or not, she was responsible for getting the new people they found through this process, and that meant stepping up and being the rock they could rely on.

"I know this is going to sound loony, and trust me when I tell you that I was the last one to buy into any of this, but you're special, everyone here is. I'm the reincarnation of King Arthur, and from that, it seems your past life was Sir Gawain. " Arey tried to project as much comfort his way with body language as she possibly could without touching him while gently extending out his cup of tea. "There are things out there in the dark that hurt people, things that a month ago I couldn't even have imagined. We were born again to stop them, to help save people. You haven't had a chance to really explore it yet, but you're one of us, you're part of something bigger, and I need you by my side"

Deirdre's chest grew painful with the breath she held in. To hear Arey tell David that she wished things were simple, that she was Arthur and he Gawain set her on edge and panic brewed. There had been no smooth transition or platitudes for her, no needing her just responsibility and heavy expectation.

Learning he was Gawain caused a different sort of panic though. Another man who would be angry at her, angry at what she had done and the pain it had caused. Not me...her...not me... Deirdre could feel the lines blurring however. The air in the store felt thick and heavy. It pulled at her as if trying to bring her back to that time, to that life. She backed up a little though she did not want to startle anyone or break up the moment that was occurring in front of her.

Tim watched as David and Arey exchanged words. He felt for the man and almost wished he was anyone but Gawain in that moment. He was one of Arthur's most trusted men, besides Lancelot. He stayed by Arthur's side till the bitter end and died for him. Sure Tim had as well in the shared past life but really who was he compared to the rest of them? In a thought he had had since the beginning he reminded himself that he did not envy any of them. Sure it was hard for him but it was nothing compared to their past lives.

"How about we all sit and tea is a good idea?"

Tim felt like getting David up from his knees would be a good start. He'd likely have questions, he might yell or even just go quiet but all of that was better handled from chairs.

"Right." Arey nodded in agreement to Tim's suggestion. Chairs were good. Kat moved to the detective's side helping him up gingerly as she led him toward the table. Arey followed behind with Tim, wanting to help their newest addition, but recognizing it was probably best to let Kat help him up, since another flashback was probably the last thing he needed right now. Instead she reached her hand out for Tim's, entwining their fingers together for a little needed support of her own. That vision had been emotionally draining, and though she knew she needed to be strong about it for now, that didn't mean she wasn't feeling some of the after effects of that. She needed to feel that closeness with somebody, feel wanted and like she belonged after the crushing isolation she'd felt with Arthur.

Tim felt Arey's hand slip into his and he looked over at her. He smiled reassuringly as they walked to sit at the table fully. Leaning over he whispered into her ear. "Good job."

Deirdre remained behind. She watched as Tim and Arey held hands and found a spot at the table. Her heart pounded in her chest and she silently willed it to slow down. Guinevere was in a panic, wanted to distance herself now as she knew wounds were going to be opened, even just slightly. Deirdre was having a trouble distancing herself, separating her own fear from that of the her past life.

"Arin..."

The soft whisper was shaky. She needed something to bring her back to the present, something to help her focus once more on the now.

David's initial feelings were to switch to hostage negotiation. He had dealt with off kilter subjects before and knew it was best not to upset their worldview. He tried to stand up but couldn't find the strength in his legs. He grunted, "Tell me more about the things that hurt people." He wanted to buy time. When Kat came over he frowned. As she helped him up he whispered to her, "Are you okay? Are you being held here against your will?" He collapsed into the chair and looked up at Tim and Arey sitting hand in hand. Something about that stirred the feeling of being someone else again. He tried to shake it off. He looked over at Deirdre, standing alone and the feeling intensified.

Arin was watching the two handle their vision with internal caution, though externally he looked casual, almost bored. The revelation that this was Gawain sent mixed emotions through the Lancelot side of him. Guilt and camaraderie, Lancelot tried to push through, to explain, to attempt to rekindle the friendship. Arin just sighed, knowing another battle was coming. Another person he would have to convince to look beyond the past and focus on the present. Then he heard Deirdre's whisper.

He went to her side quickly, putting an arm around her lower back and nuzzling her ear as he whispered, "Right here."

"I am scared. She is scared and sad." Deirdre frowned, looking down as she did so. Her body felt tense and not quite her own. "I want to run. I want to stay. I want to cry but I know I have to stand here and answer questions."

She took a deep breath and turned a little to lay her head against his chest. "It is Gawain. We-they caused him to lose so much. What if David is angry? What if he can't separate the two?"

Arin nodded, "Then we do it all again. And we'll have to keep doing it. Every time someone new comes we all have to convince them to let the past go. It all depends on how quickly they adjust."

David looked over as Arin moved to Deirdre. Seeing those two brought resentment and he didn't understand it. He looked away and tried to focus on Arey as she was the one in charge, it seemed.

Tim sat and pointed to the cup of tea. "Have some. It helps. In fact we should all have some." He looked around at the rest, a slight tension in his face.

"I know. I mean...I know we have to explain but she...it is like reliving the hardest part of her life over and over again. Seeing the hurt she caused over and over. This one is going to be particularly hard. Gawain...he was there till the end and I am scared to know what David and Arey saw." Deirdre leaned fully into Arin. "It doesn't matter in the end because we aren't them, this isn't the same." She looked up at him. "Right?"

"Right. For sure. Both counts. Certainly not the easiest one, but if Arey, you and I can come to terms with it then the others should be able to as well." He squeezed her reassuringly. "David will need some recovery time. I'm going to try and stay out of it as much as I can. Last time I was forced into the picture too early. This time... I'd like David to have a better sense of what's going on before he has to deal with Lance."

Deirdre pulled back a little so she could see his face. "I am not certain Arey has come to terms with it but that is neither here nor there. Are you leaving or just keeping distance?"

She looked over at the table then back at Arin.

Arin shook his head and grinned, "No, no. I wouldn't leave you to deal with it alone. But I may be more quiet than usual and I didn't want you worrying why."

Deirdre sighed, relieved. "Okay. I can handle you being quiet. I didn't want to make you stay but really do prefer you here." She took his hand. "Thank you." She returned his smile.

Tim watched Arin and Deirdre, waiting for them to come to the table so that the group could address David's questions and hopefully get onto the topic of Mordred. "Theo will get us all some tea." He spoke a little louder hoping to get their attention.

Arin nodded to Tim, "Someone's impatient." He walked with Deirdre toward the table. Selecting a chair at the far end he positioned it somewhat behind Arey. He was trying to stay out of view and far enough away that he'd be a second thought, at best.

Deirdre sat but opposite the table from David. She let Tim take the place next to Arey. "So tea and questions." She looked over at David, trying to gauge how he was handling things.

Kat snorted when David asked her if she was being kept as some kind of hostage here. If anyone could recognize the signs of stockholm syndrome, it was Kat. "Oh buddy, you are barking up the wrong tree on that one." Kat replied with a pat to David's shoulder. They had their work cut out for them on this one she thought to herself as she plopped down in her own seat.

Tim looked over at Kat and David. "Wrong tree with what? The things that hurt people? They exist and it is sort of complicated." He was frowning, wondering what he missed.

"Not quite doll face. Just having a conversation with our newest edition's inner skeptic is all." Kat explained mildly as she put her feet up, the picture of ease. "Plenty of fae do live in trees though. Central Park's practically crawling with them, so not a bad guess." She continued, throwing Tim a bone.

Tim looked confused. "Inner skeptic? Trees? What?" He shook his head. "Never mind. Let's get down to things, shall we?" He looked around at Arey, David and the others. "Where do you want to start?"

David sighed and rubbed his eyes. The shifting conversations weren't helping his focus, "Tell me, in simple terms, what's going on." He needed to ensure his safety, and anyone else who might have been manipulated into thinking they wanted to be here, "I have back-up on the way if I don't report back. Tell me what all this has to do with my investigation."

Arin winced at David's reaction. He was reverting to police mode and that would just complicate things. As well, he still hadn't had the tea. Arin continued to sit quietly though. No sense adding complexities to a delicate situation.

Deirdre bit her lip and looked at Arey. She didn't know what to say and now was the time to Arey to lay things out for David. Gawain and Arthur had been close. Perhaps that past bond would be vital now.

Tim too went quiet, waiting for Arey or Deirdre to say something. He glanced at D, noticed her apprehension. It wasn't going to be easy to explain but someone had to bite the bullet soon or there was going to be major trouble.

Tim cleared his throat and looked at Arey, silently urging her and supporting her.

"This concerns your investigation, because whether or not you decide to buy into this, what I know your subconscious right now already believes, there is a psychotic serial killer out there who thinks he's the reincarnation of Sir Mordred and that I'm King Arthur. He's using girls who look like me to act out some kind of sick twisted revenge rape fantasy before butchering them and making me watch. You wanna know how I had to find out about all this bullshit? I got attacked on a date by a monster that a month ago you wouldn't have been able to convince me was real, and then wake up the next morning to a serial killing reliving his greatest hits in my head and leaving me this little gift!" Arey replied eyes bright with intensity and bristling anger as she lifted up her shirt enough to show the angry scar.

"We brought you in on this, because we're trying to stop this guy before he tries to kill anyone else while pretending its me, and we thought you might care about that too. You wanna play the denial and intimidation game with us, then get out, no ones gonna try to stop you. We're not crazy, and we're not trying to hurt you, but I'm not going to waste my time with this if I can't count on you to take us seriously or trust you." Arey finished, meaning every word. She wanted to bring in and help everyone she could through this transition, but right now, when their top priority had to be stopping a killer, she couldn't keep someone around who was thinking of the best way to throw them all into a looney bin. She had to be able to trust him, or she couldn't have him around, at least not right now.

Kat gave a soft whistle from the back, cutting the tension slightly. "Jesus, someone's PMSing." She threw out quietly. "Here's an idea, if we want him to buy into all of this, why don't we just show him the magic time/space defying cave and the actual friggin' fae we've got mooching in the back?" Kat added sarcastically.

Tim winced at Arey's harsh tone. He understood but thought perhaps she was coming at David a little too forcefully. He remained silent until she was done, he let Kat speak up though he did not entirely agree with her demeanour either and finally spoke up.

"David, no one is threatening you. We offered you tea. That is the worst of it, honest it. The rest...well the rest is hard to wrap your head around right? So that man, the one who killed those women, the one who killed Deirdre's friend, he is looking for Arey. Not because she is Arey but because of who she was. Kat is correct in the whole neat cave back there but I am not sure even that will convince you." Tim kept his tone even and calm.

Deirdre licked her lips. She felt as if she should stay out of things yet also felt as if she needed to help temper the emotions and distrust. She looked over at David, her head slightly cocked. "I understand your skepticism David. What Arey says is not wrong though her tone maybe be a bit passionate. She does not mean to be so forceful but this is greatly upsetting. I am sure you understand."

Her hands spread on the table, a gesture of openness and honesty.

"Like Arey, Tim and Arin as well as myself, this man, this killer has recollections of a past life. He remembers being Mordred, bastard son of Arthur and man killed in battle when he was so close to claiming what was his. He is living out the parts of Mordred's life that never occurred and wreaking vengeance on his past father. It is hard to understand, confusing. You saw something, with Arey. She was a man, your king...and you were...a knight, one of his devoted men. Gawain."

Her voice was her own but the words, the tone came from another. One more adept at diplomacy and reason.

"You know this name? There was familiarity there?"

David moved to stand as Arey finished her rant. He was trying to calm his own confusion and deal with the case. Being attacked for acting professional wasn't new to him, but in his current state it would be better to remove himself and try again later. The talk of some cave in the back raised alarm bells in his police mind but he tried not to focus on that. These people clearly needed some kind of help. They knew something about the case and obviously felt threatened. It was becoming clearer that they were looking to him for help. He wasn't sure how he would help when they had more information than he did.

When Deirdre mentioned Gawain, David turned to her and cocked his head, "How do you know that?" He had an urge to defer to her. He sat back down, "Look, I have very little clue about what's going on. I have no leads in the case. I came here hoping you all could help me somehow. Now, there's all this other strange stuff going on and it's not sitting well with my detective instincts." He turned back to Arey, "You talk about trust? That flows both ways."

He looked at the tea on the table in front of him and then back to Deirdre, "Okay, fine, you want an olive branch? A show that I'm on the good guys side?" He took the tea and drank as much as he could without burning himself. It surprisingly had an immediate effect of reducing his confusion and split vision. He gathered his thoughts, "Tell me everything you know about this killer."

Arey wasn't sure if her outburst had been a product of the vision of Arthur's stress and emotional state, or the fact this entire situation had been gnawing at her nerves and sense of sanity now for weeks. Hell, made she needed some more of that tea too. Watching David extend the first peace offering by drinking the tea was like balm being soothed over a wound, making her almost visibly relax. The first thing she did, was to walk over to the counter and retrieve the manilla folder filled with the captioned polaroids of her Mordred had taken and mailed to her, laying them on the table in front of David so he could take a look.

"We know you're one of the good guys, it's just a matter of whether you can accept this as reality or not, because I am not going to bring you up against a guys who can use blood magic and cover his tracks this well unprepared." Arey began crossing her arms defensively over her middle as she began. "Those he mailed to me today, just for kicks. He's stalking me, because I worked out a way to block him out of my head. He uses magic, which trust me I know sounds ridiculous, I pretty much had the same reaction as you when I first learned about all this...actually I went running down an alley and straight into a monster If I recall correctly." Arey provided off handed.

"The point though, is that he's like us, a reincarnation from the court of Camelot. Same as me, same as you. We're here because creatures called the Fae are running around our world hurting people, and we're supposed to stop them. Because of who we are, those same fae apparently seem to be able to find us more easily, and try to use us as a food source more often. You need to know that, because these things are looking for you too, and if you don't know how to protect yourself from them, they will hurt you." Arey continued.

"What I know for sure about Mordred if king of fuzzy. I could never really get a good sense of him when he invaded my head, but he's been stalking me on campus, and obviously hanging out in areas that Ambrose students go, so I think it stands to reason he could be a student these, or maybe even faculty, I'm not sure. One of us might be able to sense him if we were close enough, but even that I'm not sure about. Some of those pictures are close...almost on top of me close, and I never noticed a thing." Arey finished, hand balling into the side of her shirt.

"He could just be using a cloaking spell." Kat offered up helpfully. "There are ways to break through that, but it could explain why there's a disturbing lack of any eye witnesses around the crime scenes in any of the police reports." Kat continued. "I'm working on a compiled data set right now based on the polaroid film he used to try and track him now. If you want, I can show you the data." She offered David.

Tim relaxed as Deirdre spoke. He didn't always feel like she should be here, something he still felt guilty about, but it was times like this when the rest were so overstretched emotionally that she shone. The other side of him wanted to kneel at her feet and thank her. Diplomat, speaker...she will keep us together and everyone on Arth-Arey's side. Two lives meshed, past and present with that thought. It was something they could agree on.

Deirdre still sat, hands spread on the table but a smile formed as David drank the tea. She wanted to thank him for that, to let him know the gesture was appreciated but Arey spoke up, offering the pictures and more discussion as to what was out there. She remained silent, letting him process everything but turned to look at Arin. She offered him a small smile.

David narrowed his eyes at Kat, "Police reports? I probably don't want to know how you are gathering your data, either. This whole conversation isn't going to be admissible in court, is it?" He sighed. It might be the break he needed, but it may also mean more work to justify how he got the information. "Let's say this. You called me over because of these pictures. Following up where he bought the film is a great idea and easily something I can justify. We'll just leave out that I was helped by a minor who seems to have access to more information than she should."

He took another drink of the tea, "I'm going to focus on this as a case at the moment. This talk of magic, and fae and such... well, it'd be a good way to earn forced vacation."

Arin had grinned slightly when Arey invoked her encounter in the alley. He appreciated that David wanted to focus, but he knew Arey was right about being careful, "Detective, it's fine to separate the case from the magic talk, but you do have to realize there is legitimate danger. Arey's right in warning you about being a target. Especially if you start poking around Mordred. It's likely to draw more attention. We can fill you in on what we've learned about keeping them at bay. When you're ready."

David shrugged off Arin's concern, "I may be a detective but I keep up my officer training. I'm well versed in many methods of defusing troublesome situations."

"Fine. Your call." Arin sat back. He would force the issue later. Right now he really just wanted to be in the background. He could only hope to delay the Gawain, Lancelot confrontation as long as possible.

"Not this kind of trouble." Arey disagreed, not comfortable with David going off without knowing how to protect himself from fae. "You have no idea what those things can do. At least let us show you what you need to protect yourself."

"Dude, succubuses, the worst." Kat chimed in with agreement. "They whammy you with their sexy pheremones and try to make you their boy toys. Bad way to spend a friday night." Kat said hopping up from her stool. "I can probably find an extra iron rod laying around the back somewhere. It's the only stuff that even stings those bastards." Kat explained.

"I think we're getting a little off topic." David hastily stood, "Why not show me your data. Let's find out where this killer hangs out. Maybe the shop has security tapes or something and we can get a look at him. Then we'd know what we're looking for if he's stalking. We'd be a step ahead of him, rather than two behind."

Tim bit his lip. He wanted to say the training could wait, like Arin suggested but he felt as if there were one too many opinions chiming in if he opened his mouth. He elected instead to go find Theo and ask for tea for everyone. He had a feeling this was going to go on for a very long time.

At this point Deirdre was lost. Not that she didn't understand but more she had no more to add to talk of investigations and fighting. Her job, for the moment was done. David was here, remained here and was talking. She was ready should she need to help temper things again for the moment looked down at the table.

"Cool." Kat agreed easily. "All the data sets are running in my office though, so we'll have to go to the Bat Cave. You cool with that?" Kat asked David with a raised brow. Dude had apprehension rolling off of him in waves. She wasn't gonna pull him through a magic mirror to their secret base of operations if he wasn't ok with it.

"Other than you calling it a 'Bat Cave' why wouldn't I be okay with it?" David asked cautiously. "I'm assuming it's downstairs?"

"Something like that." Kat replied with a shrug before taking his hand in hers and walking toward the mirron on the wall. "Don't over think this, it's just gonna mess with your head if you do." Kat warned before stepping through and gently bringing him with her.

Deirdre stood. She inhaled slowly as she watched Kat take David's hand. She wanted to be ready to smooth things over should it be needed. Slowly she followed toward the mirror.

"Oh we are going..okay..Theo we will take that tea in the Batcave." Tim called over his shoulder to seemingly no one. He shrugged and followed into the mirror, reaching for Arey as he did. "Come on you..." He chuckled a little.

David pulled back on Kat's hand just before she blindly walked into a mirror. Or, at least it seemed like she was going to. When she went right through David paused in shock. That made Kat's slight pull on his hand enough to propel him through the mirror. He stumbled to his knees on the other side as his head convinced his legs they shouldn't be able to be doing what they were doing. "Oof."

He put his hands out and stayed on all fours for a moment, eyes closed.

Arin, last in the shop, stood. He sighed. Most of him wanted to head outside and go up to his apartment. Things seemed well in hand right now. The case was the main focus and so far he'd managed to keep the low profile he was going for. Yet, he knew if he just walked away now Deirdre would worry. Or worse, she might need him and he wouldn't be there. With a shrug he followed the group.

"Okay... what was that?" David started picking himself off the floor, "Wait... I don't actually want to know, do I?" Was he trapped here now? Would he be able to find his way back? Damn him for lowering his defenses. He should have known better than to be led off somewhere.

Deirdre stepped through and gently around David. She reached out to help him but quickly withdrew her hand. When he started to stand on his own she backed away a little.

"Don't worry, simple trick to keep store patrons from coming into the private residence. The owner likes smoke and mirror illusions." Deirdre offered.

"That would be the door cojack. Same way in and out." Kat replied glibly with a little too much amusement. "If that freaks you out, don't look up." She commented with a mischievous grin as she led the way toward her office.

Arey took Tim's hand easily as they made their way through the mirror, keeping a wary eye on David.

Tim gave Arey's hand a squeeze and whispered, "He will come around. Don't worry."

Deirdre bit her lip as Kat mentioned looking up. She glanced up slightly and sighed. How hell does one explain that exactly... She backed up against the wall, avoiding possible contact with David and letting him head to the smallish office before anyone else. She reasoned that Kat, David and Arey should be in there. She had nothing to really add to talk of Mordred. Even Guin had nothing to say though there were emotions that brewed beneath the surface with just the thought of the name.

"You know, telling someone to not do something is the exact opposite-" David froze as he tried to take in what he was seeing as he looked up. He stood with his head back and closed his eyes, "That looks pretty real. What? High tech, 3D screens?" His mind was struggling for answers.

Arin stepped through and almost bumped into David. He followed David's gaze. "Shit." He whispered under his breath. He took a step toward Deirdre.

"Kat told him not to look up so...." Deirdre whispered from the bit of shadow beside David. She held her hands up in a gesture of uselessness.

"That is the exact thing you don't do when you want someone to not do something." Arin shook his head.

"Which is exactly why Kat did it." Deirdre sighed, a slight smirk on her lips. "You want to field that explanation? Smoke and mirrors isn't going to cut it I think." She kep her voice low.

"Ah, somebody knows me too well." Kat chriped unrepentantly. She didn't see a point to this sugar coating the magic thing. Shit like this was like a bandaid, you just have to rip it off all at once, no point in drawing it out. "Well...it's not my aquarium, that's for sure." Kat went on as she slipped her hand back into David's and continued to lead him down the hall. "Lets just say Viv's got a thing for Lakes. I think we're technically somewhere in Wisconsin...but I've never really asked either, so hey, anybody's guess really." Kat grinned.

David wasn't as easy to move this time. As Kat moved, he stayed put until she pulled his arm straight. He opened his eyes again to see a school of fish lazily swim by. The sunlight was reflecting off the surface of the water well above them, but enough penetrated to cause flashes on their scales. Some plants had overgrown the ceiling, so the view was obscured in places. David briefly wondered what would happen if he touched the ceiling, and reached up. The thought of poking a hole in whatever was separating them from the water made him quickly lower his hand. "Wisconsin?" He whispered.

"Possibly, or Minnesota. That's lake country don't ya know." Kat replied in a Minnesotan accent.

"Kat, you broke him." Arin stated flatly.

Deirdre stepped forward, reaching out to David once more before promptly pulling away. She huffed and crossed her arms about her chest. There was nothing she could offer in the way of help and she felt bad as he had offered her sympathy when her friend had been murdered. She simply couldn't risk a flashback, not now with him processing things like the mirror and the ceiling.

"Nah, he'll be ok." Kat replied giving David a friendly pat on the shoulder. "You ready for some computer stuff or do you need a paper bag or something?"

Kat's pat on his shoulder got David's attention back. He blinked and shook his head, "No... no bag." He snuck another peak upward then looked at Kat, "What's holding that up? Nevermind... let's... just show me the data."

Tim urged Arey forward. "Go with them. You should be there to talk to him about all this. I will wait outside the door. Won't be far but I don't want to crowd or risk giving him another flashback just yet. Yeah he has had some tea but well, the group of us can be a bit much."

Deirdre slumped back against the wall. "Should someone go with them to be the voice of reason should Arey get too excited? Or should we just let them handle this stuff for now?"

Arin turned to Deirdre, "You've been the best at that this whole time." He smiled.

"I will wait here for now I think. They all seem calmer. More reasonable." Her tone sounded hopeful. "And thanks. I tried." Deirdre reached out to take Arin's hand.

"You mean Kat can be a bit much." Arey said flatly as she watched the younger girl practically bouncing as she led David toward her office. "I'll do what I can." Arey agreed, giving Tim a quick kiss and a small smile before following after them.

Once in the office Kat didn't waste any time getting down to business. "Simon, pull up my last workspace, Leonard display my polaroid spreadsheet, and Sasha...start playlist 54 pleease." Kat chipped pleasantly as her computers began whirling to life and fulfilling the commands as Lovin Spoonful's "Do You Believe in Magic?" started playing.

"Kat." Arey chided with a look. "Not helping."

"What? I'm setting the mooood!" Kat shot back with a cheeky grin.

David shrugged it off, "I appreciate the thought Kat. Do you have anything on where he bought that film? Even a short list of addresses? I can get uniforms to do the footwork." Though he was thrown off, he found himself getting quickly back into the case. Anything that was familiar to him he grabbed to help anchor his thoughts.

"I can get you a preliminary list of addresses that had polaroid film shipped to them in the city within the last six months, but this guy's been pretty diligent about covering his tracks, so I doubt he's on this list yet. Right now I'm working on hacking security cam footage on any non residential addresses having it mailed in." Kat explained, tone suddenly serious as she got down to work.

David frowned, "Online shopping? If he's as careful as you say, that would be a slip. Those are way too easy to track. I suspect you might have more luck finding shops that have no video cameras. My guess is he'd know those places. Go there. Cash only. But if we canvass them...."

"Not necessarily." Kat disagreed. "Polaroid film is a specialty item, it's expensive, out of production, and most stores would notice who they're selling it to. Online, all you need is a fake name with a paypal account and know the address of an abandoned residential building, and you just made a purchase untraceable as far as definitive paperwork is concerned."

"If you timeline one of those purchases, we'd have an IP address. Unless you're up against a hacker that's as good as you, an IP address is as good as a physical address for tracing."

"Unless you're using a local computer, like an internet cafe. Five bucks, five minutes and a camera pointed in the wrong angle and you've got nothing that could hold up in court. I doubt you'd even be able to get a search warrant on that considering even if we can link him to the film, there's nothing in those photos that could definitively tie him to the murders. Any rookie public defender could make a solid case against that." Kat continued.

"Okay, but a public shop doesn't need a warrant to ask the servers about regulars on a computer. Getting cameras of people in and out of a shop that is linked to a known IP address, etc. wouldn't be too hard to subpoena. And we'd not have to get a warrant for a murderer. Just one for a potential stalker. Given how harrassment and cyber bullying have taken a spotlight, I think I could argue that in front of a judge."

"Hmmmm...I like how he thinks, can we keep him?" Kat grinned at Arey. "I always wanted to have a cop buddy. Maybe I can even help you guys out with your cyber defenses, cuz I gotta say, it's so easy to hack you guys, it's not even fun anymore." Kat chirped.

"Kat, how long do you think that would take you?" Arey asked eagerly, jumping on the lead.

"Well, If I've got the good detective's force out being my little minions and checking addresses for me, I'd say...possibly by the end of the week. Assuming he doesn't catch our scent and go running for the hills." Kat replied.

David nodded thoughtfully, "Is he a flight risk? He's pretty obsessed with Arey. Would he leave her when he's so close?" He looked down at Kat in the chair, "And, you know, I think I'll keep you as my anonymous source for now. It'd be hard to get you a job right now, and I think I like your back door. You can get more info from the office than I can." He grinned.

"See, right there. Somebody appreciate my talents." Kat preened with the attention. "As for a flight risk, I don't know. I doubt he'd leave the city, but New York has plenty of holes for rats like him to hide in, especially in the witch community." Kat pondered aloud. "I just wouldn't let on you're looking for the serial killer until we've got a face to go with the rap sheet."

"Okay. I agree. That's our advantage. We need to know who he is before he knows we're on to him. So, should I even involve the rest of the force? If I'm leading the investigation people will figure out which case it has to do with. I can try to get another detective on the stalker case, but then you'd have to deal with them, and their questions..." David was thinking out loud. He knew he had to find a subtle way of getting the canvassing done. Sending uniforms would be too obvious.

"Yeah...no, questions bad. You could just say...you have a personal interest in the case due to the victim. Arey's a friend of a cousin or something...?" Kat offered up.

"That would play... It can't be about Arey though... Kat, you're not in those pictures, are you?"

"Ahhhh...some of them, but I don't think you want a police investigation digging in too deeply on me. I've got more fake ID's and paper work than I do real ones at this point." Kat commented offhandedly. "What about Tim though? He's in more of those pictures than me, and looking for someone stalking a guy would be way out of left field." Kat offered. "Otherwise I'm gonna need at least a day to forge some consistent paperwork."

Outside the office Deirdre pulled out her phone. "We do have to work tonight. Can we leave? I feel odd just leaving but I feel odd just staying here."

Arin shrugged, "I guess we should check in. Worse case, they can call us."

Deirdre nodded and walked towards the office door. "Sorry to interrupt but I have to work, so does Arin. Call if you need us? Assuming we are okay to leave?"

Assuming Deirdre was asking him, David nodded absently, "Yeah, I've no more questions right now." He turned back to Kat, "I guess the question of trust has been answered. You just confessed to a felony." He grinned. "Tim as an option is interesting. As a guy he would get a little less interest on the force, as well. Meaning they'd not dig too deep into why, they'd just do the job and be done with it. It would mean we wouldn't get the best work from them, but we may not need it. Really, we just need someone who's not Arey, that the uniforms can use as a reason to ask the questions. It would be best to use someone that Mordred has no knowledge of, but that's difficult, at best."

"Well he knows about Tim, that much was pretty obvious..." Kat mused to herself as she opened up one of the office drawers, and started pulling out ID's. "But he does know, Ulanda Finkle, Jody Moore, Reina Rodriguez, or Betsy Cline. Your pick." Kat returned as she laid out the ID's. "Tim or some chick I can concoct up for myself to play in the next 24 hours?"

David chuckled, "Alright, that should work. Hell, if you make her your age or a bit older, you'd have people falling over to help."

"Oh goodness officers, I'm so afraid! I just came to the big city to get myself a proper education, and now this unseemly character is sending me these horrible picture! Please help me!" Kat chimed in with her best southern belle impersonation.

"That's the winner, Kat. If we can't track him down like this, then I don't think we're going to at all."

"Well I do aim to please." Kat replied with a grin. "I'll have everything we need ready by friday morning." She promised.

This plan made Arey apprehensive. She didn't like the idea of having Tim or Kat exposed or lying like that. She would rather it be her, not using her friends as shields, but she understood why it wasn't possible, and this was their best shot at getting this guy. So Arey sucked it up, and kept her mouth shut, though she still had a feeling Tim wasn't going to like this plan much either.

Deirdre slowly backed away and turned to Arin. "David says we can go."

Tim chuckled. "Guess the shock wore off." He crossed his arms and sat on the floor. "I got this. We need something I will call or come get you or something."

Deirdre nodded. "Thanks."

Arin shrugged, "Works for me."

Deirdre headed towards her room. "I should change and I don't know, look presentable." She laughed lightly. "Give me fifteen okay? I will meet you in the garage?"

"Done. See you there. Though, I think you look just fine." Arin grinned.

"Thanks but you don't tip me and tips are what keep me with spending money." She looked over her shoulder at him as she walked away, still laughing.

"True. I don't think you'd be able to spend the tips I'd give you." Arin winked.

Deirdre blushed as she closed the door to her room.

Arin and Deirdre left for work, Tim remained sitting in the hall. He waited till they were done, took Arey by the hand and led her to his room. He had her shower, brought her clean, comfy clothes and while she cleaned up made them dinner.

They spent the night eating, watching a movie and cuddling in the bed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Arin raced to the Arcade at top speed. He pushed the bike in a way even he hadn’t done before. He hoped Deirdre would understand the risks he was taking but he couldn’t let that distract him too much as he focused on the driving. He pulled up in front of the arcade, literally. Finding a space on the sidewalk to park. He didn’t plan on being here long and didn’t want to fight New York traffic anymore than he needed to. He dismounted as soon as D had cleared the bike. He carried his helmet into the arcade and scanned the room for anyone he recognized as a regular.

Deirdre walked just behind Arin. She didn’t know the place but she followed his lead. Her helmet was in her hand. She wanted to ask him who to look for but she said nothing. She was there as support, that was all.

“Hey, nice hair dude!” One of the kids called at Arin from within the Arcade, no malice lacing the voice what-so-ever. Quite a few of the patrons here were sporting dyed hair and several piercings, which made Arin blend in quite well. The entire atmosphere of the place was a little quirky and off kilter, which explained why it was one of Kat’s haunts.

“Thanks man. Any of you all know Kat? Little blonde haired wiz kid? Probably beats the lot of you at any game she plays? I’m her brother. She said she’d be around here today and I was going to offer her a ride home.” He didn’t want to come off as an overbearing sibling, but he also didn’t want to put out a creepy stalker vibe. A ride home seemed innocent enough.

Deirdre hung back away from Arin a bit. She wanted to let him do his thing and talk to people. She didn’t blend in nearly as well as he did. She stood there, leather jacket and jeans and looked around.

“I do.” One of the girls said beside him warily. “I see her around here a lot.” She offered, brushing back magenta colored bangs back against her wavy chestnut hair. “She’s not here anymore. She left a couple of hours ago with some cop.” She continued with her arms crossed over her middle.

Arin suppressed a growl of rage. He had a pretty good idea who ‘some cop’ was, obviously. He couldn’t start acting all pissed off here though. No one knew him. It would almost guarantee they would close up if he looked angry. Instead, he looked quizzical, “Some cop? She didn’t cause trouble did she?” He put on an amused grin and stepped a little closer to her, still keeping a polite distance between them. “Did you happen to catch where they were headed?”

He hoped she had overheard something, an area of town, a landmark, anything that might give them their next lead. As he got close though he noticed a familiar sense around her. Not quite as attuned as the rest of the group, but similar. He had a feeling this girl might know her way around magic, but he’d never inquire in the open. If he could assure her he was on the up and up maybe he could talk to her more privately. She might be able to get a more supernatural trace.

“No. He said something about needing her to look at some photographs and she followed him.” The girl explained. “I don’t know...he kind of gave me a weird vibe, but she didn’t seem worried when they left, so I thought I was being paranoid. Is she in some kind of trouble?” The girl asked more quietly as the boys went back to their games and left her to it to talk to the adults.

Deirdre stood back by the door, helmet in hand and waited for Arin. She really hoped he would learn something. There was a ball in her stomach and a feeling that things were about to get very bad. She couldn’t shake it and it made her ansty and scared.

Arin didn't want to beat around the bush anymore. This girl seemed legitimately worried and he would just make it worse if he tried to brush it off. It appeared that she was going to be helpful as well, so best to get her on the same page. He nodded at her question, "It seems likely at this point. That weird vibe was probably telling you something. Kat can be a little over confident at times. I just want to find her. Do you remember anything else? Thanks for the help."

The girl stared at Arin hard for a moment, as if trying to decide whether or not to tell him something, and eventually placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. Her reaction was almost immediate, eyes wide and jerking her hand away with an aborted step back. “Oh my god, you’re-!” She stopped herself abruptly, as if remembering they weren’t in private, before gesturing for him to follow her outside. Once they made it to the relative seclusion of the back alley she continued.

“You’re a fae! How the hell did I not sense that when you walked in!” She nearly exploded with nervous energy and defensive posture. “Look, if you’re here about the coven, my mom already told you guys we’re not interested in getting involved in fae politics, so if you’re trying to intimidate me by sending one of your goons after one of us, you’re going about it wrong. Kat’s not even part of the coven, and I don’t think she even knows she’s a witch.”

Arin sighed and whispered, “Thanks mom.”

“I don’t know anything about this coven. If I did, do you think I would have pussyfooted around so much? I’d have come right to you. I couldn’t give a shit about fae politics, especially right now. Kat is missing. I didn’t want to tell you that because I didn’t want you to think I was some creep looking for her. She’s really my sister. Well, adopted, but still counts. And she’s missing and you are the last person to have seen her, it seems. I want to find her. She’s in trouble. Anything you or your coven can do would be great. No politics.” Arin was a mix of frustration and desperation as he practically begged this girl to help him. The initial relief he felt at not having to play a game anymore faded quickly.

“For all I know it could have been some elaborate scheme to get me to thank you and wind up with a debt to pay. Your kind isn’t exactly known for being straightforward and honest.” The girl replied defensively, arms crossed over her middle. As Arin began expressing his worry for Kat, however, she softened in shared concern.

“I can only really sense strong presence and fae auras if they’re in the general area, but if you have something of hers on you, I could try scrying.” She offered after a moment.

Arin shook his head, “No, no. Nothing like that. I’m half blooded. Not a true fae. Probably why you didn’t notice right away, if you can sense aura. I’m not looking for any kind of debt. Don’t like that whole process, honestly. Anyway...”

He paused and patted his jacket and pants pockets. He didn’t think he was carrying anything of Kat’s, but he checked just in case he forgot or she slipped something in his jacket, “Nothing on me. If you want to meet me at our place, I can easily show you something of hers... and I just realized that also sounds like I’m trying to take advantage and bring you home.”

He stopped and sighed, “Look, I’m really not a creep. I am honestly concerned for Kat. I can meet you in a neutral place, of your choice, with something from her? Would that work?”

The girl paused a moment before nodding slowly. “There’s a pizza place about a block from here called Juno’s. Bring something of hers and a city map, and I’ll take care of the rest.” She offered.

Arin smiled widely, “Alright. Yeah. I can do that. Maybe twenty to thirty minutes. Thanks... and now I realize I haven’t even asked your name. Some first impression. I’m Arin and this...”

Arin looked around and noticed Deirdre hadn’t followed, “Oh. Well, you’ll meet D at the pizza place.”

“I’m Marjorie Lochlan.” She replied, already heading out. “Thirty minutes.” She agreed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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David collected the trace data from communications. They had narrowed it down to an apartment building but were hard pressed to pick the floor out. He planned to head there and hope they’d get more precise on the way. After gathering his gear he headed down to the main entrance and wasn’t really surprised to see Tim and Arey walking in.

“I have an address. Let’s move. Worse case we’ll do a floor by floor but I hope to know more by the time we get there.” David called out to them as he strode over.

Tim nodded. “Whatever it takes to find her.”

“Before we go, do you have a list of names for the officers who worked on Kat’s stalker case today and the people they interviewed? This guy called her Joanne in the message, so he knew about what happened here today.” Arey interjected quickly. She could look it over on the way, but she needed to start making suspect lists in case this floor sweep turned out to be a bust. Mordred had never been sloppy about this kind of thing before, she couldn’t imagine he would be now.

“O’Keefe and...and…” Tim was frustrated as names suddenly escaped him. “Mahoney!” He growled. “Has to be one of them.”

David frowned. The idea that there was an inside leak on this case really threw him but he tried not to show it, “O’Keefe and Mahoney are beat cops. They are good. There’s no way these guys had anything to do with this. They were random. You just got them because of the time you walked in.” David thought about who else might know about this case. However, he realized the hole in their strategy. Bringing the full force to bear on the ‘stalker’ only gave an insider easier access. “Shit. We fell right into his hands. If I’d thought there was a chance of an insider...” He trailed off, “Okay. They know I’m tracing Kat’s phone right now... That means we’re unlikely to find him with the phone. However, that is still our only lead. We need to track it down and hope Kat is still in the vicinity.”

Tim stared at David. “He will know we are tracking her down. He is going to...” Tim felt his stomach knot up. “Let’s go.” He could picture Mordred watching them get closer only to kill her just as they were so close to saving her. It was the sort of thing a sick bastard like him would do. He felt indignation and anger from both of his lives.

“No. This is different. He’s never teased his victim before. He’s breaking his typical pattern. It worries me, yes. But less for Kat and more that I’m missing something...” David could feel it. In his gut there was something that this sicko was hinting at. Never before had he advertised who he was after. Why start now, unless this wasn’t his target. “I think Kat will be okay, if we find her before he gets impatient. However, we all need to be cautious here. He’s breaking his pattern. Maybe he’s making a mistake, but I doubt it.”

“If he’s devolving, it could mean he’s more dangerous than usual.” Arey agreed, trying to turn over what they knew in her head. “Maybe we can cross reference the list of officers involved with officers who have been off duty in the last four hours?” Arey suggested after a moment. “If he grabbed Kat, he couldn’t have been at the station, and if he was on duty with a partner they would have noticed. So it’s likely we’re dealing with someone who’s off the clock if its a cop.” But then they still didn’t even know for sure if that was what they were dealing with. It could have just as easily been one of the people interviewed at Ambrose today who they’d inadvertently tipped off.

“Good direction to look at. We can spend time looking into that, or head to the address I have. What do you think is best for Kat?” David liked her reasoning but was a bit concerned about sending someone within the force to look into it. Who knows where the leak was and even an internal investigation might slip more information than they were willing to at this time.

Arey had to make a decision. If she was wrong, she didn’t want to endanger Kat by not pursuing their one real lead, but if they were dealing with a killer cop, they needed to know who to be looking at if all they managed to find in the building was an abandoned phone.

“If you can get me the case files, I can look through the information from here.” Arey volunteered, the most practical option for keeping their potential leak from knowing they’d caught a scent. “You both see what you find at the building. If there’s a chance Kat is there, we have to look into it, and I think she’ll need at least one of us there when we find her.” Arey reasoned. She also didn’t think Tim was up for sitting around looking through files in the state he was in right now.

Tim frowned. “Leave you here alone?” He looked torn. She was in a police station but he wouldn’t be here. What if something happened to her while he was looking for Kat? But if he didn’t go find Kat and Mordred...he didn’t even want to consider it.

Tim looked to David.

“Getting those files will take some time though... I can set you up here. There is someone I do trust in records. She can get you what you need...” David felt odd about leaving her here. Part of him felt like she would be more than capable of taking care of himself... herself. There was that odd, dual reality again. What he referred to as his normal self didn’t think it would be a good idea to let a civilian poke through records. Sheila would cover for him though. And he’d known her a long time, so he had no doubts she’d keep it under wraps. Yet... would Mordred know all this? Would he expect this play? David growled in frustration, “He’s got me second guessing myself. I can’t ask you to stay but I can’t force you to not.”

“Right now, this is our best option. If we’re going to keep what we suspect right now under wraps, then it’s got to stay between us and your friend maybe if you really trust her. Even if Mordred is a cop, he’s not going to be able to do anything to me in here with so many other cops around, especially since he’s probably still with Kat somewhere.” Arey reasoned firmly. “And once Arin and Deirdre finish up poking around the arcade, I’ll tell them to come straight here, so I won’t be alone for long anyway.”

Tim inhaled slowly weighing his options. “Fine.” He spat out. He grabbed Arey and kissed her firmly. “You stay here. That’s the deal. You stay here and we find him then take care of him together.” He looked at her, one hand moving to her face.

“Okay.” Arey agreed easily with a small wary smile. “Trust me, I have no desire to try and face this guy alone. I’ve had a taste of that already and it's not particularly pleasant.” She replied gently holding the hand he brushed across her face. “See you soon okay?”

Tim let her go reluctantly. He turned to face David. “Let’s go.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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The call went through, but no one replied on the other end. Arey’s voice prompting Tim to leave a voicemail in her calm, primly accented voice.

The muffled voice from within the box only seems to get louder from David's attempts to placate. The kicking almost seems to follow a tempo, jerking the box around with especially violent movements.

Tim paled. “She isn’t answering David. Arey...she…”

He texted Arey. He texted Arin again telling him Arey was not answering her phone and that he needed Arin to pick him up and get to the station.

--
Arin moved back to the front of the arcade looking for Deirdre as the text from Tim arrived. He replied. Can’t. Meeting a witch about finding Kat. Dave can get you there.

Tim shook his head at the phone.

David is with Kat now. We need to find Arey. Left her at the station. NOT answering. Come get me.

Arin looked around as he stepped back inside and found Deirdre waiting by the door still. He walked over, “Why’d you wait here? Sounds like Dave and Tim found Kat but now Arey’s missing. I think Marjorie will still be able to help, but Tim’s panicking. I need to get something of Arey’s to help Marj. Do you want to meet up with her to find Arey while I go get Tim?”

Deirdre frowned. “I don’t have anything of Arey’s. What do you mean she is missing? I thought she was with Tim and David?”

“Yeah, so did I. Apparently they left her at the station. I get it, but still, we weren’t supposed to split up. Kinda why I don’t like that you hung out by the door here... Anyway, Arey’s not answering her phone but they have Kat. Good and bad, I guess.” Arin entered a quick text to Tim.

Why did you leave her? Okay, I will ask the witch to help find Arey instead. Why do you need a pickup?

Deirdre shrugged. “Your sort of people, not mine. No one here is going to talk to me and if I am with you they are less likely to talk to you. More important for you to get information than anything else.”

Tim wanted to shake the phone.

Had to. No time to explain, supposed to be fucking safer for her to stay. Need to get to Arey. Come get me and we can talk to this witch and then go get Arey.

Arin sighed, “You need to stop discounting yourself and stay involved. I would have been far less threatening with you when approaching a young girl than without you. Tim’s freaking out. We need to get moving. Can you text him and try and arrange a way to keep us all together while I talk to Marj and David takes care of Kat? He wants me to get him to talk to Marj, but I can’t leave you alone.” He started outside, typing on his phone again.

I can’t leave D. She will text you. I’m driving soon. Need to find something that belongs to Arey.

Deirdre bit her lip. “I-” She felt unsure. She followed Arin out of the arcade.

Tim was not impressed.

D isn’t the one in trouble, Arey is. Take her home and come and get me. We can go talk to the witch and find Arey.

Deirdre zipped her jacket. “I don’t know how to make this work with the bike. I mean we can’t both go with you.” She searched her pockets wishing desperately that she had something of Arey’s on her. “We need to go back home. Arey’s stuff is there.”

Arin nodded at Deirdre, “Exactly. That’s my plan. Tim isn’t seeing sense here. Sec.”

“He is worried about her. I mean Mordred is targeting her.” Deirdre felt a sense of worry building too. Had Mordred taken Arey? They had Kat but was she alright? There was too much they didn’t know yet and it was like Mordred was fifty steps ahead of them.

“Yeah, exactly. Kinda why I asked that we all stick together. Look, I’m not leaving you alone to keep repeating this fucking hide and seek game. Tim made a choice. He’s going to have to live with the consequences.”

I’m not repeating this with D. I’m not leaving her. You’re with David and Kat now. That’s three. Stay together. I’m meeting Marj with D and I’ll let you know when we find something on Arey. Right now, me coming to get you is pointless and a waste of time. Unless you have a lead on Arey’s location that you’ve yet to share?

Tim stared at the screen. He looked up at David. “Well Arin is refusing to get me so there goes your whole get going to find Arey idea.” He was beyond angry and worried. He couldn’t even reply to the text. He had nothing. Arey was gone and his only chance to help her was not going to come get him.

“I don’t get it. What’s he doing that’s more important?” David was a bit confused.

“Sticking with D and talking to some witch who might be able to help. He won’t leave D to get me so we can track Arey down. Playing fucking knight in shining armour.” Tim bit out angrily. “D isn’t the one fucking missing.”

“No, but neither was Kat. I don’t think he’s overreacting here. We shouldn’t have left her alone. I thought Kat was in danger. We were played. I don’t want to be played again. Do you have a lead on Arey? Because it sounds like Arin might. I think he’s making the right call.”

Tim threw his hands up in the air. “I am fucking useless at this point is what I am I got fuck all but Kat in a box and Arey missing.” He was barely controlling the urge to yell. “That is my girlfriend who was the target, she is missing and all he cares about is fucking D and you-”

Tim turned his back and stormed away into the hall. Kat was still in the box. Arey was missing and all they wanted to do was talk. Meanwhile he was stuck. Not a cop so he couldn’t get Kat out without ruining evidence and not out there so he couldn’t find Arey.

David shouted over his shoulder, “No Tim. He cares about Arey or he’d be here with Kat. You think he’s happy that he can’t help her right now? Stop being so bloody selfish and get in here to help with Kat. Arin is Arey’s best hope right now and you being a suck isn’t going to help anyone. Once we get Kat out of this box she will need someone. I will have shit to do, officially. You won’t. You will be able to help if you get your head out of your ass.”

“Tim stepped back in, glaring at David. “I can’t do anything here without fucking up the evidence. So go ahead and tell me how I can be here for her.”

“I get her out of the box, check her out and hand her off. That’s how you can be here for her. Because I can’t be and sure as shit Arin would want someone to be.”

“Do you have any idea how many laws I’d be breaking? I am not a cop. You gonna take the fall for that? She has evidence on her you going to vouch for the fact that it isn’t contaminated? This guy’s lawyer will be all over you for it.” Tim hated this. He wanted nothing more to be useful but he also knew he didn’t want to be the reason Mordred got off if this somehow ended up in a court. “Just tell me it won’t matter.” His voice was low and tense. “I want to do something.”

The official tones disappeared from David’s voice and he spoke so only Tim would hear, “This will not get to any earthly court, unless I’m gravely mistaken. I really have less concern for laws than for Kat’s safety and comfort. I will do what I can to collect but the relevance of what we found here will only play because we need a reason to justify putting Mordred down.”

That was all Tim needed. He just wanted to know that Mordred wasn’t likely to see a trial. That in the end the evidence meant little. Now he didn’t have to worry about being so careful.

“Open it. I am not going anywhere.”

David nodded and flipped open the chest. He scanned inside quickly for anything that looked dangerous before reaching in to help.
***
“Kat dear, are you ready to accept the truth yet and come back to us? Continuing to cling to this delusion of yours will only prolong your suffering.” The chillingly smooth voice of Abigail Lawson sounded over Kat’s cramped and overly familiar prison. The tone was obviously meant to be comforting, but Kat shivered violently at the sound of it, and kicked upward at the lid in defiance. She was back in the box, the one she’d seen used on older children before who could no longer fit in the dog cage under Ms. Lawson’s desk. It was a place that had featured in her nightmares for over a decade, and being in it, even now, was paralyzing.

This isn’t real, it can’t be possible. Even Jax doesn’t have the mind fucking juice to pull something like this off. Half her life, the memories she’d made, people she’d met, that couldn’t all be some elaborate illusion designed to punish her for bad behavior. Kat couldn’t let herself believe that, wouldn’t believe that.

“Come now dear, let us be rational for a moment. This fantasy world you’ve constructed for yourself makes no sense.” Ms. Lawson continued in a patronizing tone. “You believe you were taken from us by a rebellious fairy princess, where she raised you like her own with her only son? A son who is in fact the reincarnation of the romantic literary hero Sir Lancelot, and together you’ve constructed a mismatched team of college students to help a girl who is King Arthur reborn fight other fairies? Don’t you think that’s all a little farfetched?” She laughed at the end to emphasize just how ridiculous it sounded.

“Kat dear, you’re confused. You were being punished for failing your mission remember?” She continued, attempting a soothing motherly tone as if she actually cared about the girl she’d just locked in a box. Images, a little boy with mocha colored skin and round innocent chocolate eyes, and a playground full of children flashed across her mind. “You’re like me…?” The boy had marveled up in bewilderment, too trusting and unsuspicious. It would have been easy to take his hand and walk him away to the extraction point, who would notice two children playing in a park?

“NO!” Her mind rebelled at the very thought. A recruiting mission, kidnap a child barely older than she’d been when Kat was taken. How could she ever do to that child what had been done to her? She wouldn’t, didn’t! The next series of images confirmed that she’d walked the boy back to his mother and told her to call the police. She’d made up some story about a creep trying to make off with her son. Kat wouldn’t stick around for the questioning, but bring enough eyes on the boy, and he’d be too inconvenient to try and take. Punishment was inevitable, and she knew what that looked like.

The images were vivid, like a memory but less focused, and a terrified niggling of doubt began to take root. What if she really had never left? A part of Kat had always felt like the rescue and her new family had been too good to be true. She’d gained rescuers, protectors, and a new family that day, all things she’d craved during her years of captivity. What if her mind really had just snapped from one too many sessions with Jax, and she’d created one for herself. Another image crossed her mind, one she knew was a memory. Her mother was reading the book Kat had picked out at the library on their last visit. The Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, complete with large colored illustrations. The memory left her feeling cold at the implication.

“I know you’re angry with us right now, that’s why you’ve tried to replace us, your true family, with these fantasy figures in your mind, but that’s all they are, a fantasy. If you don’t accept that soon, I’ll have to let Jax try and piece your mind back together, and I’d hate to have to do that.”

Kat began to shake, phantom fear at the thought of Lawson’s dreaded enforcer rooting around in her head, breaking her mind over and over until she was nothing but a mindless drooling attack dog waiting on a word from its master. She’d seen it happen to people before, some tortured by Jax so often they’d never recovered. After the raid on the compound those too far gone had been put down to end their own misery and protect the general public. There’d been little of them left to save regardless.

Once the mere threat would have her cowering in the corner. These days, Kat’s knee jerk reaction to terror was a smart mouth and bravado, and this wasn’t an exception. “You’re d-dead.” Kat hissed as she shook, gaining courage as she went on. “I saw you get shot in the face you psychotic bitch, so you can go shove your fake compassion up your ass and eat a dick while you’re at it, ‘cause I’m not afraid of you!”

There was a tense pause before Ms. Lawson let out a theatrical sigh of regret. “It looks like it simply cannot be helped…” She drawled out, and the trunk began to open. The sudden light flooding her prison blinded her momentarily, and then there were large hands reaching in to grab her. Kat fought back as best she could with wrists and ankles bound, thrashing and screaming with all she had. If they were going to turn her into a vegetable, she wasn’t going to make it easy on them.
***
Kat was panicking. She thrashed and screamed as David reached in to help her, “Tim, get over here. She needs help to realize what’s going on. I don’t think she recognizes me.”

David managed to get Kat’s arms secured enough to pull her out of the box. He didn’t want to release the bonds until she was more herself. While he pulled her out he tried to reassure her as much as he could, “Kat, it’s David. Detective Velazquez. Tim’s here. You’re safe.”

Tim bolted over the moment David called for him. He was at his side and helping to pull Kat out. She looked wild and terrified.

“Kat, it is me... it’s Tim. I got you. We are here.” He tried to pull her in slowly despite her thrashing about. He took her arms from David. “Kat, hey it is okay, you are safe now.” He hated to see her like this. It tugged at his chest and all he wanted to do was pick her up and carry her to someplace else.

“I don’t want to keep her tied up but I think it’s safest for now, at least until she calms a little bit. I’ve got some cutters that’ll make short work of the ropes when you’re ready,” David pulled out a seatbelt cutter. He was in the habit of carrying one since his traffic days. He’d seen them used enough in collision responses.

Kat was hyperventilating as she was hauled out of the box, expecting to be laid out somewhere like a table or chair where her movement could be further restricted. Instead, she was in a pair of arms with familiar voices offering reassurances. The peeling green wallpaper of the room gave way to unfamiliar concrete walls as her vision seemed to shift, the earlier voices and images melting away as if made of sand.

As Kat tried to control her breathing, and looked up at Tim, she had to fight back the immediate relief at seeing him. She didn’t know what to believe at this point. Was any of this real, or had Jax already begun rooting around in her head, creating an illusion she wanted to keep her from fighting back? What kind of reality test could she even use here? Asking an illusion if it was real just seemed stupid, but playing along could just allow Jax in deeper. Kat stared at Tim’s face hard a moment, weighing options before speaking.

“Kiss me.” Kat demanded flatly, locking hazel eyes to Tim’s ultra blue ones.

Tim looked down at the suddenly non-struggling Kat. She was staring up at him. Her demand was clear, concise and it took him moment to react. “Uh.”

He was so relieved to see her. Tim leaned down and kissed her forehead, his arms wrapping about her tightly. “I am so glad we found you.”

He pulled back, holding her about the shoulders. “I think it is okay to cut her free.”

As Tim kissed her forehead in a completely chaste unromantic manner, Kat slumped forward in relief, releasing a breath she hadn’t even known she was holding. If this were some sort of fantasy illusion created to keep her happy and distracted while a hyper powered sociopath rearranged her head, she’d magically be getting to third base right now. But she wasn’t, and Kat had never been so happy to be in the friendzone in her entire life.

“You’re real. This is real. They were just in my head.” Kat mumbled into Tim’s shoulder, trying to convince herself of the reassurance.

He squeezed her in again, tighter this time.. “Of course we’re real. You’re safe. Hey David, can you cut those bonds now?” Tim let out a sigh of relief. He had been really worried and while he was trying to hold it all together and be calm, internally he was a mess. Kat was safe but Arey was still missing.

Shakily, Kat picked her head up, trying to ground herself in reality by taking in her surroundings. She didn’t recognize where she was, had no idea why her hands and feet were tied. “What happened?”

Tim frowned. “You don’t remember? What is the last thing you remember?”

Kat tried to mentally retrace her steps through the day. She remembered the police station, coming home to update her data sets, and heading out to the arcade. After that, things got fuzzy.

“Playing Star Wars pinball…” Kat groaned, her head feeling heavy and sore, as if someone had been rooting around in her skull.

David sighed, relieved that Kat seemed to be recovering well. He reached over, gently taking hold of Kat’s ankle, “Hold still a sec...”

He sliced the bonds and unwound them. Then reached for her wrist to do the same. He checked over her hands and feet for signs of damage from lack of circulation. He nodded, satisfied she didn’t seem to be physically hurt.

“Okay, good... you’re good,” He sat back to let them talk it out. He grabbed his radio and reported the situation in.

Tim looked over at David called into the station. He was glad she was free and everyone was calm. Now the police would come. Still there was Arey to worry about and he had heard nothing from Arin. “Pinball? That’s it? Its okay. The police are going to want a statement though so try and remember as much as you can.”

“It’s the last thing I remember that I’m sure was real.” Kat replied carefully as she massaged her newly freed wrists. “He got in my head, I don’t know how he did it. For a minute there I thought…” Kat shivered violently remembering the park the little boy, and the box, all so vivid, so convincing. “It wasn’t real.” Kat repeated, as much to reassure herself as explain to them.

“What do I need to tell the cops.” Kat deadpanned after taking a moment to pull her shit together.

“Exactly what you remember. Especially try to remember what the person who grabbed you looks like,” David replied as he ended his call.

“They’ll want you to ID him. Maybe get a sketch artist to help you remember details. Paramedics will want to go over you, as well. Ensure you’re okay.”

Tim put his arm around Kat’s shoulder. “Let’s take you out to see them.”

He took out his phone and checked it. Nothing more. Nothing from Arey. No news at all. Tim felt his stomach clench. He had a bad feeling.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Thirty minutes later, Marjorie sat in the relative seclusion of the back booth at Big Sal’s Famous Pizzeria. Shrouded in a dark hoodie, she seemed somehow smaller, and without the vibrant pink bangs peeking out, she might have been easily overlooked.

Arin and Deirdre stepped into the restaurant. Arin quickly picking Marjorie out while scanning the place. He nodded to Deirdre and lead her to the table.

“Hi. This is Deirdre. She’s not fae but she knows the story. We have changed our target. Kat was found by friends but another friend is missing. She’s an important friend of the fae. Please, we really need your help.”

Deirdre pulled out Arey’s soccer jersey. “Here, I brought this because she wore it a lot when she played.” She looked at the girl and then at Arin.

Marjorie scrutinized this Deirdre quickly, sensing nothing fae or glamored about her except a slight pulsing about her aura that denoted recent or prolonged contact with the fae, which based on the unconscious way those two there were standing with each other, did not particularly surprise her.

“Missing as in the same way Kat is missing, or missing to the fae?” The younger girl asked, not quite hostile, but a definite edge of suspicion in her eyes with the sudden change of target and newcomer. Helping them find an acquaintance kidnapped by a suspicious guy posing as a cop was one thing, but tracking down some girl the fae find important who may or may not wish to be found was a whole other kettle of fish that struck a particularly sensitive nerve.

“Missing from her previous location, a police station. She was supposed to stay there to be safe and now...she isn’t answering her phone and we are worried that the guy who took Kat might have her. They found Kat, our friends but Arey is missing now.” Deirdre looked at Arin and then back at the girl.

So similarly suspicious circumstances then, Marjie sighed to herself. “Alright then.” She replied holding out her hand for the jersey. “I should be able to get you at least on the right block, hopefully the building even with this, but we’re working on short notice, and if she hasn’t worn this in a while the magic might not be as potent. Emotional connections are good though.” She said offhandedly, pulling out same jars of variously odd looking plants and candles from her bag.

“Sal’s usually pretty cool about the hoodoo stuff as long as it doesn’t bug the customers, but you may have to run some interference with any hecklers.” She warned with a pointed look at Arin.

“I’m sure I can come up with something that might be more attention getting than what you’re doing. Hey D, wanna find a booth and make out?” Arin winked.

“Seriously though, whatever you can get us would be very appreciated,” Arin turned to take in all the current patrons. He liked the spot Marjorie had chosen. She’d implied this wasn’t her first time here so it should be relatively safe. He put on his most intimidating look to make people think twice about coming over.

Deirdre blushed a little and looked around. “We can…” She smiled. “I am not positive that was what she was referring to in terms of interference though.”

“Sure, but I’m thinking out of the box. Have fun, cause a distraction. Win-win if you ask me.”

Deirdre bit back a smile. “As long as we aren’t too involved that we miss someone bugging her right?”

“Yeah, that’s my worry. You’re way too distracting for me. I doubt I’ll be paying attention to anything but... Ah well, another time?” Arin grinned.

Deirdre blushed a bit more. “Another time. For now I think she wants you to play bodyguard.”

“Yeah, I can do that. Nothing wrong with keeping an eye on your body.”

Deirdre looked at the girl in the booth and then at Arin. She gave a slight nervous laugh. “Not me. Bodyguard for her.” She reached out to squeeze his hand. “You are doing an awfully good job of distracting me from my worry about Arey you know.”

Arin raised an eyebrow, “I am? I had no idea...” He winked at her again. “So, I’ll protect her while looking at you. Works for me.”

Deirdre smiled and held his hand a little tighter.

Geeze these two a pretty light hearted for having two friends kidnapped it one night. Majie thought, shooting the couple a weird look. Adults are weird…

“You can hold this.” The younger teen told Deirdre, handing her a small smoking bundle of herbs. “Just move your hand with it in small slow circles. We just want the sage to smoke, not catch fire.” She directed, before pulling out a weighted pendant with a narrow tip and a city map.

The map was laid out on the table, some of the ground mystery plants sprinkles around and a jar that looked like it had a pickled deer’s hoof inside was placed on the edge. “Ok, so what’s this missing friend’s full name?” Majie asked after tearing off a piece of the jersey to tie onto the pendant’s string and holding it over the map.

Deirdre waved the bundle the way the girl told her to. “Arianna. Arianna Trescott.”

Arin snuck a glance at the two girls before resuming his scan of the room. So far, nothing seemed threatening. That burning sage was going to get some attention though. He frowned, looking for a means to pull attention away from them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach

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Marjorie’s chanting seemed to speed up every time she said Arey’s name. If there was a purpose to that, or a reason she wasn’t speaking english, the young witch wasn’t sharing. After a few minute though, the crystal on the edge of the string fell with a heavy clank to a point on the map. Opening her eyes, the young witch spoke, looking drained.

“She was moving around too much to get a lock on her, but your friend seems to be staying in one area now. You guys know E-Z Self Storage Center? Kinda deserted. Lots of druggies hang out around there.” She asked showing them the map. “It’s like a ten minute drive from here. Maybe fewer if you’re willing to break some traffic laws.”

Arin nodded, “Harder to not break them on a bike. I can make it in 5. Thank you! I hate to get a favour and run but I hope to see you again. At least to give a proper thanks. D, let’s move.”

Arin didn’t wait for her to respond. He assumed she’d follow back to the bike. He pulled his helmet on as he walked out the door.

When Deirdre hopped on the back of the bike, Arin took off. He took alleys, bike paths, even sidewalks at times in order to get to Arey as quick as he could. He was conscious of Deirdre being on the back but she’d been through some high speed rides before. He knew she’d be able to hang on.

As he approached the storage yards he killed the engine and coasted in neutral. He didn’t want to announce his presence that noisily. He found a dark corner and parked the bike. After they dismounted, he closed his eyes and concentrated. He tried to capture that sense of her that he had when she ran off the first time. Something to help guide him around the labyrinth of storage cubes.

“This way D. I think I know where she is.”

She put her helmet on the bike and unzipped her jacket. Deirdre was scared. What was Arey doing here? Why did she come to a place like this without telling anyone?

She hid her self doubt about what she was doing here...She followed Arin and trusting him when he said he thought he knew where Arey was. She didn’t know how he knew, maybe it was some connection between Arthur and Lancelot but she didn’t know anything.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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Deirdre followed Arin as he led the way past the various units. She had a growing sense of dread. Arin and Arey had a warrior’s instinct. They had to as their pasts dictated it. She had also noticed in training while she could defend herself unlike them she was not a proficient attacker or even strategist. They knew how to pick their moments. She could talk, choose words and handle that but there was going to be no talking to a psychopath.

This sunk in more and more as they snuck around and she decided there was one thing she could do to help. Deirdre pulled out her phone and texted a group message to Kat, Tim and David.

Located Arey via scrying. Come to E-Z Self Storage Center. Come fast and be quiet.

Arin let the strange pull draw him into the maze of storage units. He had trusted that feeling once before and it led him to Arey, no reason to question it now. He also reviewed the lessons that Balthazar had run them through. Arin wasn’t going to miss his chance when it came, no matter what tricks Mordred might have planned. He tightened his grip on his ever present ‘brass’ knuckles wishing he’d brought a sword. With a dismissive chuckle he realized two things. One, it’s very hard to carry a sword on a bike. Two, he always was carrying a sword, just not one he could use. Shaking his head he resumed concentrating on the pull but now he could hear muffled voices. He turned to D, put a finger to his lips, then pointed to where the voices were coming from. He began to walk more carefully, quietly and balanced. He stood just outside unit 28, ducked low, where someone looking out wouldn’t expect to see anything, then peeked inside.

Deirdre, who was already being as quiet as she could be held her breath. She followed Arin blindly trusting him that he could find Arey. When he ducked down so did she, just behind him. She didn’t see anything but she could hear voices.

Arin saw the man holding the knife in Arey’s face. He saw the ripped open shirt. He saw the angry, yet helpless, look on Arey’s face. Then, something snapped. He didn’t so much see anymore as calculate. The scene almost took on the quality of a diagram. He sensed a sort of anger in himself, but this he directed toward the goal. The goal of destroying the threat to Arey. There was no other thought than complete termination. Arin felt, more than directed, his legs tensing. He sprinted forward, aiming low. Fully intent on driving Mordred into the wall. He wanted to leverage all the surprise he might have. He wanted to give Arey the opportunity to react without the feeling of helplessness. Even if all he did was pull Mordred’s focus, he would succeed.

Arey felt Arin’s presence before she saw him. It filled her with a sense of much needed reassurance in the moment right before she saw his body connect with Mordred’s. The blade whipped from her face, leaving behind a shallow cut as Mordred attempted to fend off Arin’s assault by sinking the blade into his shoulder. As the two men tussled, the chair Amanda was tied to toppled over, leaving her faced away from the scene as she struggled groggily with her binds.

“Ah if it isn’t the lion and his lover, come to join their king in death. How poetic.” Mordred hissed as he yanked back the blade and gave his attacker a shove, words dripping with acid. Oddly, he looked much more menacing with the small blade than he did the gun in his other hand. The modern weapon looked awkward in his grip, contrasting the rather expert way he wielded the knife. “You saved me the trouble of finding you Lancelot, I’d always regretted not slitting your throat. Though perhaps I should be more grateful. Without you I’d never have had the opportunity to split open my dear father. Would you like to see it?!” Mordred proclaimed with a maddening glint in his eyes.

Deirdre was still and tense, holding her breath as Arin rushed the crazed man. She watched them connect and forced herself to move.

“Arey!” She ran forward only then spotting the toppled chair and the woman in it. Deirdre looked at Arey and then back to the woman. “I have to-” Her eyes were soft and she reached out, grabbing Arey’s hand and pulling her lightly before running to the restrained woman.

Quickly her fingers worked at the ropes. She felt clumsy as she frantically tried to ignore the men fighting and focused on the ropes. Deirdre bit her lip and concentrated on her task.

Just undo the ropes. Arey is safe. Arin is fine.

Slowly the ropes began to let go. Deirdre left the girl there. She had no first aid training. She stood and ran back to Arey. “I need your help.” Her eyes were wide and she reached out for Arey. She tried to ignore the fighting, the nagging worry about Arin that was eating away at the pit of her stomach.

Arin grinned, the pain in his shoulder fading quickly with the rush of adrenaline, “If I knew you were looking I’d have introduced myself sooner. Maybe you remember this?”

With a swift motion Arin engaged his forearm with Mordred’s, blocking the movement of the knife. He grasped the wrist and rotated slightly. Now that the knife was controlled Arin drove from his waist, up and into Morderd’s chest and neck. Pushing him hard into the back wall. He heard the thud of Mordred’s head connect with the wall and saw his eyes glaze somewhat. With a harder turn on the wrist Arin heard the knife clatter to the ground. He shoved Mordred to the ground and reached to secure the knife.

It was like being pulled out of the mud, Arey thought in a daze as Deirdre pulled her gently from the hold of the rune circle. Her thoughts felt strangely muddled, but Arey didn’t have time to think about it as she heard D call out for her. She was with Amanda on the floor, trying to undo the ropes, and Arey rushed quickly to her side to help. This place, understandable, put Arey on edge. She wanted both her friends out of here and away from the imminent danger as quickly as possible.

“Arey, w-was goin’ on?” Amanda slurred out, eyes dilated and unfocused. Her friend was very obviously drugged Arey thought in dismay, which was going to make getting Amanda out of here more difficult. “Don’t worry, you’re safe now.” Arey tried to assure her and she undid the final knot tying her to the chair. “D, I want you to take her outside. Call an ambulance and David. Make sure they’re sending medical people.” God only knew what Mordred had put in Amanda’s system, but it nagged at her.

Deirdre looked at Arey. She didn’t want to leave. What if Arin needed help? What if Arey got hurt? She knew there was nothing more she could do here, that Arey was right and Amanda needed help.

Deirdre stood and started to come around Arey in order to help Amanda up.

As the knife dropped to the floor with a clatter, it became apparent to Mordred that he had lost the close up battle with Lance. For all his former brother in arms’ reputation for chivalry and virtue, he had never know Sir Lancelot to leave a threat with breath in their chest in the heat of battle. The little lion had the knife, and would undoubtedly go for the kill, but Mordred was going to take his prize with him. Instead of scrambling for the knife, Mordred raised a clumsy hand and leveled the gun at Arthur, pulling the trigger.

The sound of gunfire was deafening in the enclosed metal walls of the storage unit, and Arey’s ears rang as she whipped her head around to see Mordred down against the wall, smoking gun in hand as he laughed like a maniac. She looked down at herself, finding no new injuries before turning to D and Amanda, face falling.

“Yes, this is better!” Mordred cackled. “You both lose!”

It was like the wind was knocked out of her and a burning pain. Her eyes met Arin’s, confusion and pain shining in hers. Her lips parted but nothing came out. Deirdre fell sideways, partially on her knees. She had been trying to get to a better spot, someplace that would make helping the prone Amanda up easier but now she couldn’t move.

Her hands went to side where the pain was strongest. Her hands were wet. Deirdre laid down fully, collapsing to the floor. It felt as if she couldn’t take a proper breath and what little air went in sent pain through her body. Her eyes lifted to the ceiling, she couldn’t see Arin anymore.

It hurts! I can’t breathe! Her mind was a state of panic, confusion and fear.

Deirdre didn’t know what happened. She thought she had heard the bang. Now all she could hear was sound of her heart in her ears.

She coughed, choking on something. A fresh wave of pain and panic rippled through her. No new air found its way in.

Around her blood was pooling. Her shirt soaked through, her right side where the wound lay showing darkest.

Knife in hand, Arin turned and saw Deirdre on the floor covered in blood. There was hardly a thought before the soldier in Lancelot took over. He had seen many battlefield wounds. He knew how to handle this situation and he didn’t give Arin a choice. As Arin’s control faded he almost was glad to give it up as he didn’t know what to do for Dierdre.

A swift, precise move with the knife into the cervical region of Mordred's spine and his laughter cut short. The injury would ensure Mordred would never move on his own again. A commanding, gruff voice came from Arin’s mouth, “You be still now. I’ll deal with you later.”

Immediate threat dealt with, Lancelot turned to the women, “My lord, you must summon a physician. This wound is grievous and requires immediate attention.” Tearing off his shirt, he then knelt beside Deirdre and covered the wound, stemming the bleed and sealing the puncture as much as he could.

“Easy now, try to take shallow breaths.”

The breath wasn’t coming and she wanted to cough. Her throat felt full again. Her eyes were full of fear and pain as Arin leaned over her. Blood trickled out from her parted lips and down her chin.

It seemed like blood was everywhere, all at once, and for a moment it was all Arey could see. ‘He shot her.’ a cool detached part of her mind recognized immediately. And the ringing laughter only seemed to make the situation seem more surreal. Then the laughter stopped, and there was more blood, and Arin was by her side, a rock. Only, it wasn’t Arin...it was Lancelot. Arey wasn’t sure how she knew for certain, but she did, and it was that realization that helped her to focus.

“This is bad…” Arey mumbled as she added her weight to the wound, and she watched the growing pool of blood. Hearing the gurgling sounds D was making set off another red flag, and Arey tried to gently lift her friend into a better position for breathing. The pool of blood only seemed to be getting larger as Arey reached for Deirdre’s phone, her bloody fingers fumbling with the buttons. They hadn’t even called 9-1-1 yet and she’d already lost so much blood.

“They’ll never make it here in time…” Arey thought aloud in dismay as shaking hands numbly dialed for help. The human body could only lose so much blood before organ function began failing. Two liters was the average number that marked critical blood loss, and they were reaching that amount far too quickly.

Deirdre’s eyes started to roll back a little. She was no longer looking at anyone or anything in particular. Dark. Why...can’t breathe… Eyelids closed slowly as her body struggled to remain functioning.

“9-1-1 what is your emergency?” A voice chimed out from the other end of the phone.

“We need an ambulance now! My friend’s been shot and she’s losing a lot of blood-D keep your eyes open!” Arey tried to inform the responder, but seeing Deirdre’s eyes and her body seizing up, Arey abandoned the phone to gently pull Deirdre’s head into her lap to protect it in case her body started to flail.

“We’re sending an ambulance to your location now please stay where you are.” The responder’s voice replied in a tone that was meant to be soothing.

“Your grace, there is magic afoot. Surely something can be done to buy time?” Lancelot was attempting to remain calm. However, both his and Arin’s concern was showing through.

“I don’t know how to use magic.” Arey snapped before reining herself back in. “For something like that we’d need Vivienne or Bal or…” The fae, Arey thought at once feeling stupid. They’d struck that deal with Maighdlin to visit the seelie court once a month at a time of their choosing. Arey had never inquired before how to get there or summon the fae, it hadn’t seemed important at the time. “Lancelot,” Arey asked the knight seriously, eyes locking as she tried to keep back her desperation. “If you call out to a fae you’ve struck a deal with, can they hear you?” Lancelot had lived in Arthur’s court and been raised by a fae, so if either of them knew the best way to get one’s attention, it was him.

“They are fae. If they are paying attention and are in the right mood, maybe?” Lancelot shrugged. The only thing predictable about fae, in his experience, was they could not be predicted.

“Then let’s hope they’re feeling nosy today.” Arey said gravely as she gazed worriedly at Deirdre. “Maighdlin! My escort and I are ready to visit your court!” Arey called out. The room was quiet, and nothing appeared to happen.

Deirdre went limp in Arey’s lap. Her colour was waxen, pale from blood loss. This is how my story ends…

“Maighdlin, bring us to fairy now! You made the deal with Deirdre, if she dies I swear to you now I’m through with the lot of you! Your whole damn court can burn and I won’t lift a finger to save you if you ignore us now!” Arey screamed as she felt Deirdre go limp in her arms, an anger building inside her she couldn’t quite control as tears began flowing down her face. Still, they were greeted only by silence.

“Come on you Seelie bastards! Save her!” Arey’s voice suddenly seemed to echo as the backdrop of the storage unit began to melt away and was replaced by that of a dark and almost oppressively ancient forest.

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Tim jumped as his phone vibrated. “We have to go now.”

Finally news. They had found her. He looked at David. “Arey, they know where she is but we need to go now.”

David nodded to the paramedics with Kat, “You sure you’re okay with leaving her here? Should one of us stay with her?”

Tim inhaled and looked at Kat. “She needs to come too. I am not comfortable with us being separated anymore.”

“Yeah yeah, let’s do it, let’s go.” Kat remarked quickly as she shooed off the paramedics. She didn’t like being talked about in the third person, and she liked being treated like she was fragile even less. There was a bad guy out there that needed beaten, and she could damn well bury thoughts about what the hell had just happened long enough to take care of business.

“So where are we headed?” Kat asked, getting up a bit shakier than she’d like, but her eyes demanded no comment.

Tim put out a hand to take Kat’s. “To get Arey. She was supposed to stay at the station but…” His voice trailed off.

He looked at her, trying to stay positive. She didn’t need more put on her. “Arin and D are there now. We are going to meet them and help. Some storage place.”

David sighed, “Yeah. That’s pretty much what I thought you’d say, Kat. Alright, I’ve seen enough to know I shouldn’t delay with an argument. Let’s go. I’ll drive. You navigate, Tim. Kat, please at least try to take some time for yourself while enroute.” He smiled gently at her. He knew she needed a lot more support than he could give at this point, but she seemed like a strong girl so he knew not to put kid gloves on.

Kat didn’t say anything as they drove to the address Tim has been texted, though anxiety churned in her gut. The first thing she could see was a swirl of red and blue lights and the drone of sirens. They were not the first on the scene it seemed, as virtually a dozen different police cars and an ambulance were there.

Tim was out of the vehicle and running towards the storage unit.

“Arey! Arey!” There were cops and paramedics everywhere. He felt sick and scared.

“Hey!” He watched them bring someone out on a stretcher. “Who is that?” Tim saw blonde hair and his stomach dropped. He turned to look at David. “Can you get in there and see?”

He was not moving. Police cars blocked the area off but his own sense of dread was holding him in place.

David stepped out and surveyed the scene. First responders in full action, someone was hurt and being worked on. Maybe a few. He sighed, “I’ll check it out Tim. Stay here a sec.”

He pulled out his ID and held it up as he approached the scene. In the chaos he got nothing more than the instant scan and nod. He wanted to see but he also didn’t want to get in the way, so he moved to the storage unit and poked his head around the corner. Seeing only two people he was confused, “Hey, hey you,” he flagged one of the uniforms over, “Who else was here and where were they taken?”

Disinterestedly, the uniformed officer barely glanced up, “No one else, just these two. One looks like he’ll never walk again. I don’t know how the girl did it, since she’s barely conscious, but she stuck him. Self defence for sure. Easy case here.”

David shook his head, “No, no, there were three others. Two women and a man. They should have been here too.”

“Not when we got here they weren’t.”

“You’re sure?”

“Look, you see what I saw. Only thing that was odd, we were told there was someone shot here. No gunshot wounds. Though we do have a gun that’s been fired.”

“Right, okay, thanks,” David wandered back over to Tim and filled him in.

“I’m not entirely sure what to make of that.”

The colour drained from Tim’s face. “What do you mean they aren’t there? Where are they? Who was shot?” He began to pace. “They can’t just disappear! What did he do to them?”

Tim wheeled around to face David. “Mordred. Why is he alive? Arin or Arey would have-he did something to them. We need to talk to him.”

He began to walk towards David, intent on getting to the ambulance.

“Sure, okay, let’s see if we can talk to him,” David went to the ambulance as well.

He approached the paramedics, “How is the perp? Can I ask him a few questions?”

One of the paramedics looked up, “Hi detective. I doubt you’ll get much from this guy. Until he gets a speech assistance device of some kind, he’s not communicating with anyone. He can barely breathe on his own. Completely severed spine, in the cervical region. If I didn’t know better I would say this was done by a surgeon and not a girl fighting for her life.”

David frowned, “So you don’t think the girl could have done this?”

The paramedic raised his hands, “Not saying that. Just saying, she has a real steady hand or a very lucky shot.”

David turned to Tim, “No go.”

“That’s it?” He looked lost. Tim moved back to the car and leaned against it. He put his face in his hands.

“Maybe they went home?” Kat suggested from behind them, though she had a hard time thinking why they would. Kat knew Arin’s work when she say it, and there was no doubt in her mind who’d wielded that blade. Why they would have left that girl behind though, Kat wasn’t sure, but she held onto the thought regardless.

“They shouldn’t have left him alive.” Kat muttered, shivering as she walked back to the car. She’d seen weirder things than a paralyzed man able to walk again due to magic, and she didn’t like those kind of loose ends.

“We should try and call Viv again…”


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“Aren’t you a demanding little shit.” A young sounding voice rang out around them, though Arey couldn’t see the figure. “Listen to me! Save her! Fix my problems! Whine whine whine, it’s all you mortals ever do.” It began to chide.

“You’ve got yourself that magic little toothpick so that brat of a queen rushes to please you, has the gall to try and order my compliance. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.” It continued as mist began rolling in through the trees.

“I don’t know what your experience with that infant court of the seelie has been so far, but I’m as old as they come, and I bend to no little lordling of the fae. Make your case and begone. I’ve entertained your whims enough as it is.” The figure that emerged was that of a child, but her eyes were ancient, steeley, and altogether unfriendly. The pigtails in particular threw Arey off, the scene was just too bizarre, but so far she’d learned very little was ever as it appeared with the fae, so why should now be any different.

“Our friend’s been hurt, please, she’s not going to last much longer! If you need something from me I’ll do it, but we don’t have time to argue or throw insults! If you’re not going to help me then send me to someone who can!” Arey responded in kind, trying to keep her hostility in check. She had little love for the fae to begin with, and their newest acquaintance was doing little to improve her opinion.

“Time doesn’t move in this place child. It’s a living memory, separate from either your world or that of the seelie. That girl is a breath away from death. The moment she leaves this place she’ll die, as fate intended.” The fae in a child’s body replied matter of factly, as if she were explaining some menial task and not pronouncing a death sentence for her friend. For a moment, Arey was still, her insides cold.

“Maighdlin sent us to you for a reason. It means you can help her, we wouldn’t be here otherwise.” Arey argued, eyed hard as the figure of the child seemed to morph into that of a young woman.

“There are ways to bring back souls from the brink, but it is a damaging process, and not just for those who are brought back. When you trifle with the order of things, force life where there should be death, there are consequences. She didn’t send you to me so that I could help you. You’re here to have some reason knocked into your head and say your goodbyes. Be grateful I relented to that.” The woman replied with thinly veiled disapproval.

For a moment, Arey thought she’d forgotten to breath, it felt like something had a hold of her insides and was slowly squeezing. This...thing wanted to let Deirdre die, wanted her to relent, sit quietly like a good little human and just let it happen. The arrogance and conceit of the idea was maddening, and in that moment something in Arey snapped.

“Arin.” Arey said in a strained voice she hardly recognized. “Show me the tattoo.”

Lancelot had slowly faded away as they crossed into Fairy. The soldier was no longer required and Arin wanted control back. He’d been watching this exchange and holding his tongue. He knew better than to get involved with fae when his emotions were up. He looked over at Arey and shrugged, “Arey, the sword is why they need you. Don’t let them get you off your game.”

Arin finished tearing his shirt, since it was ruined already and turned so Arey could see the tattoo. He focused his breathing and closed his eyes. As he waited for Arey to draw he held Deirdre’s hand gently, steeling himself.

Normally, when Arey practised pulling the sword from Arin, there was a careful tentativeness on her part that bordered on self consciousness. In this moment however, Arey was too angry, too focus to be so painstakingly gentle as she plunged her hand in and gripped the hilt of the sword. At first, the fae woman looked vaguely perplexed by Arey’s actions, but slowly shifted to guarded discomfort as Arey pulled the sword, her eyes never leaving the blade.

“I don’t give a sodding shit who you answer to, Seelie, Unseelie, or anyone else. You’re still fae, and I’m willing to bet that if I stab you with this, you’ll die just as easily as anyone else.” Arey’s voice was strangely calm, but held a menace that was foreign and felt oddly out of place.

“So fix her. I don’t care what it takes, I don’t care what you think, just do it! Damn the bloody consequences!” Arey’s voice echoed with Arthur’s mirrored rage.

The figure of the young woman shifted once again, this time into that of a craggy and unkindly aged woman, which made her sneer all the more twisted. “An ant threatens a boot! You think to intimidate me into your service child and you will find me far less pleasant.”

“I might be an ant, but I’m an ant with bloody faery kryptonite, so I think I’ll take my chances.” Arey replied coldly, advancing on her. The smile the hag returned with was strained and mean, but she laid out her hands in a sign of surrender.

“Fine.” She said with a snap on her gnarled fingers, and from the mists emerged a simple dark caldron, roughly the size of a bath tub. Upon first glance there seemed almost nothing special about it, but the longer she stared at the caldron, the more strange and unnerving power she felt from it. In her hand, Excalibur seemed to resonate with a pulse, as if recognizing an old friend.

“Dip her into the waters.” The hag instructed curtly. “But once this is done, you leave. If you or your seelie queen call, I will not answer. Do not call on me or the caldron for help again ant, your good will is used up.”

Arin heard the instructions from the hag through the recovery of the sword withdrawal. He shook his head to clear it as much as he could and swept Deirdre up in his arms. There was a brief moment where the injury in his shoulder broke his movement. He shifted Deirdre’s weight and pushed through. He stepped toward the cauldron and looked in. He glanced back to Arey over his shoulder. “Gotta do it.”

He knelt and lowered Deirdre into the water, keeping her face above so she might breathe, in whatever way she could.

The water turned red around her. Cold. So cold… Deirdre could feel her body failing. She could feel her heart slowing and she was terrified.

Her body sunk, her head dipping under.

Heartbeats passed.

A hand reached out and clung to Arin’s arm. It pulled, using the contact as her head re-emerged and Deirdre hung onto Arin.

Blue eyes stared up at him.

Arin smiled, “Welcome back.”

He pulled her out of the water and as close into him as he could.

She clung to him, unsure and confused as to what was going on. Her face buried into his bare chest as her nails came just short of digging into skin. “Where am I?”

The last thought Deirdre had was that she was cold and she knew she was dying. Now Arin held her, though she was still cold. She remembered pain and her body curled up reflexively against him. “It hurt...what..?” Her mind was having a bit of trouble processing what was going on.

Arin stood up, drawing Deirdre with him, out of the water. He winced again and shifted her so she would stand while he still supported the majority of her weight, “Long story and not the place to tell stories, I’d think.”

“Arey? Where’s Arey?” Deirdre’s voice was a half sob muffled against his skin. “Mordred. He-” Memories were piecing together slowly. “Arin, we have to do something.”

Deirdre’s legs gave out a little as she stood, attempting to climb out of the cauldron. She stood with him, shaking and confused. “Arey? Where is she?”

“Arey’s here. Mordred... is having a little lie down right now. He won’t get far. We’ll find him right where we left him.” Arin turned so Arey was in Deirdre’s line of sight.

Deirdre looked at Arey, sword in hand. “Arey? Are you hurt?” She frowned lightly. “Where are we?” This was not where she remembered being. She also didn’t remember being wet and cold.

Arey had stayed back as Arin placed Deirdre into the water and brought her back out. Watching them together, she felt like an intruder, and she tried to give them as much privacy as possible given the situation. A phantom pang resonated in her chest, the longing Arthur felt to be the one holding her evident, and Arey ignored him resolutely.

“No D, I’m fine.” Arey reassured her friend, keeping the relief she felt out of her voice as much as possible. Deirdre didn’t need to know just how shaken they’d been, or just close they’d come to losing her. “Some fae place.” Arey tried to answer, though in truth she wasn’t really sure where they were either. Living memory was an odd description to begin with, but it was also unnervingly vague.

“It’s done.” The hag was once again a little girl, eyes a heated amber as she spoke. “Remember this day in the future little ants. When the day comes that you realize what you’ve changed, what you’ve lost, and the consequences become clear, remember whom is to blame.”

Deirdre looked towards the little girl. She was confused. “What is she talking about? What is changed? What is lost?” Her eyes fell on the cauldron, on the fae then to Arey. She was still holding onto Arin though her legs were doing a slightly better job of holding her up. Water pooled at her feet, her clothes still clung to her but Deirdre couldn’t feel the chill anymore.

“What have we lost?” Things made so little sense. Her mind was trying to block her from remembering as if there was something it did not wish her to see.

She looked back at the fae. “What do you mean?”

“We’ll take our chances thanks.” Arey replied tersely, instinctively putting herself and the sword between the fae and her friends. She also wasn’t sure if telling Deirdre exactly what the hag had said was a good idea. Deirdre already had a tendency to blame herself for things that were out of her control. This would just be fuel for that self doubting fire she didn’t need.

Arey moved and Deirdre held her breath. Were they in danger from this fae? Were they here to hurt them? Her mind warred between memories of pain and cloudiness that comes with trying to block something bad out.

“I don’t understand what is going on.” She pulled away from Arin a little. Her eyes fell on the open wound on his shoulder. “Arin.”

Deirdre instinctively reached up to cover the wound. “Is it bad? Who-”

Fighting. Mordred. A knife. Fragments flashed.

“We need to get out of here.” Deirdre’s voice was shaky.

“It’s fine D. Just caught a bit of the wrong end of a blade. I’ll be okay. But yeah, let’s get moving. Probably best to get home, right Arey?” He started walking toward Arey, encouraging Deirdre to move with him.

“Agreed.” Arey said quietly, eyes still locked on the fae. “You said once it was done you wanted us gone, so send us back. We won’t bother you again.”

“Somehow I think you’ll try. Death is a part of your life little ant. You’d best learn to get used to it if you want to keep your mind.” The fae replied unimpressed, her eyes clouding over to a murky white. “Enjoy your new path, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The world shifted around them once again. The fae and the cauldron were gone, and the oppressively ancient looking trees were replaced by the much friendlier and spaced out ones of Central Park. The sky was still dark, but light was creeping in the let them know it was the early hours of the morning. Recognizing the nearby path as a place she used to go for runs with teammates, Arey released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.

Deirdre had so many questions but right now she knew Arin was hurt and Arey...Arey looked angry and wild.

“Let’s go home.” Her tone was soothing, firm but not aggressive. Her own thoughts and confusion could wait.

Arin looked around, taking in their new location and huffed, “Right. Home. Yeah.” He winced again as he moved his arm to better position Deirdre, “Any chance either of you are good with stitches?”

“Yeah...god if it's morning already the guys must have been worried out of their minds.” Arey replied anxiously, thinking of Tim. “I’m a decent hand with a stitch. You have anything to use?” She asked Arin, shifting her attention there.

“Uh?” He looked down at himself, half naked and covered in the blood of three different people, “Can’t say that I do. Think they’d be okay if I went into the corner store and asked for some thread?”

“I think they might call the cops if they saw you walk in there honestly.” Arey replied. “I’ll go. right now I’m probably the least likely to draw attention.” She reasoned.

“We are not far from home. Let’s go there and Theo can do it?” Deirdre looked at them both. She didn’t want to argue but she also wasn’t feeling like herself. She wanted to get home, to find out what had happened and to have Arin looked after properly. She didn’t want to think about what the others, including Viv was going to say about all of this.

Arey looked down at Deirdre, quietly assessing her condition before looking around the clearing they’d wound up in to try and get her bearings. “It takes at least thirty minutes by foot to get to campus from here, but we can probably get to a main road pretty quickly. We can get a cab from there to take us back home.” Arey suggested, her eyes transfixed on the color of the leaves. Orange, yellow, and red hues dominated the landscape. Yesterday they’d been green.
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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Deirdre Evering Character Portrait: Timothy Matheson Character Portrait: Arianna Marie Trescott Character Portrait: Katrina "Kat" Rivera Character Portrait: Eärendil Ablach Character Portrait: David Velazquez

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If the cabbie was put off by their disheveled state or the amount of blood they were covered in, he kept it to himself. Another time, Arey might have wondered what the man had seen in his time to be so desensitized. Right now however, all she could feel was exhaustion. Adrenaline from all the evening’s twists and terrors had long since worn off, leaving her feeling wary and drained. She didn’t imagine Arin or Deirdre were feeling much better, and she could only imagine how Amanda was holding up. Was she at the hospital, or had she gone back to the dorms? It was still early morning, so Arey hoped she could catch up to her, explain to Amanda what had happened as best she could. That wasn’t a conversation Arey felt up to in this moment though. They needed to get home. The last couple of hours couldn’t have been easy on the others, and it was safe to say the whole team needed to come together to regroup and recuperate.

Deirdre sat in the cab next to Arin, holding his hand, but she felt so distant. The world seemed strange. The colours felt off. Sounds were odd. Her hand tightened on Arin’s. She didn’t fully understand what had happened but she was more concerned about him right now. Deirdre watched as they passed parts of New York that she knew she knew but for some reason the names escaped her. They would be home soon. Home where Arin would get help and Arey would rest and they could see everyone and rest…

Yes. Rest.
Her hand went to her stomach. She felt different but could not pinpoint what the difference was.

The ride home to the Round Tablet was finished in relative quiet, with only the sounds of the city disturbing the weary silence. Arin paid the cabbie once they arrived, the only one apparently who’d managed to keep hold of his wallet in all the chaos. It was yet another thing Arey would need to call David to retrieve, but it could wait. Gently, she eased Deirdre out of the car and through the familiar set of doors, Arin soon in tow.

It was too early for the store to be open, their only greeting a silent one from racks electronics and gaming gear, so Arey locked the store back up behind them. Given the night they’d all had, she figured what remained of the group would either be cloistered in the Batcave, or still out in the city looking for them. Regardless, the cave had a phone they could use to call everyone together, so that’s where they were headed.

Arin took over helping Deirdre through the mirror, and Arey followed a respectful distance behind as he led her to the couch where she could rest better. Arin stayed with her, keeping a quiet, comfortable vigil that conveyed such obvious care and intimacy that Arey had to turn away. Standing there felt like intruding on a private moment between them, and Arey supposed she’d already done enough of that in her lives. Her own feelings of dejection at the sight quickly mixed with guilt. That’s not you, it’s him, Arey tried to rationalize to herself, but she looked away all the same.

Looking to occupy herself with something else, Arey reached over for the ancient looking rotary phone. She needed to start making calls, the only question was who to call first. Her fingers paused over the dial in silent debate, but the clamour of footsteps stopped Arey before she came to any decision.

“Where the hell have you guys been!” Kat hollered, her hazel eyes flashing almost green as she burst into the room in batman pajamas and serious bags under her eyes. Considering what Kat had just gone through in the last twenty four hours, the signs of stress weren’t surprising.

“Sorry, we got back as quickly as we could.” Arey replied weakly, her own exhaustion beginning to show. Her response was met by an incredulous look.

“Arey, do you have any idea how long you’ve been gone?” Kat asked slowly, a note of stress in her voice that felt out of place.

“A few hours.” Arey guessed tiredly with a mounting sense of unease.

“Arey, you three have been gone for weeks...no sign, no trace, nothing. Viv couldn’t even track Arin.” Kat plowed on, unloading her pent up stress and fear.

Tim was out of his room in a flash at the sound of Kat’s yell. “Arey? Arin? Arey!”
He looked tired, extremely tired. His skin was ashen. Since the three had gone missing he had not eaten or slept much. He spent a lot of time out looking for them or with Kat as she tried to find them. It was all they could do to stop from going crazy with worry.

Tim ran towards Arey. He pulled her in, squeezing her tightly. His body shook as he held her.

Arin stood from his seat on the couch. He watched Tim and Arey. He could read the tension and relief in both Kat and Tim’s face.

A hand slipped into his and he looked down at Deirdre. She smiled up at him tiredly.

“Weeks?” Arey parroted back numbly, her mind struggling to process how they could have been been gone so long. “But we were only there a few minutes, not even half an hour…” Arey’s shock was cut short as she was pulled into Tim’s hug. He looked a mess, thinner and gaunt in a way he hadn’t been the last time she’d seen him. For Arey, it felt like only a few hours ago at the police station, but for Tim the wait had been much worse. She returned the hug gently, trying to comfort him as best she could in her own mentally and emotionally exhausted state. “It’s alright, we’re ok now.”

“Fairie realms rarely obey this world’s concept of time.” The smoothly accented voice of Vivienne rang out from the doorway, her amber eyes practically glowing from her perch in the shadow. “You’ve been to see the Cailleach…” Her gaze fixed on Deidre, her mood impermeable.

Deirdre froze under Viv’s gaze. “I-I don’t..”

Her eyes moved to Arin, then Arey.

Arin’s mind was working, processing the information. For them, they could measure the passed time in minutes, barely an hour. For those here it was weeks. There was no surprise on his face. There was concern though, in his eyes. Kat looked stressed. Tim appeared exhausted, his worry and stress visible in every inch of his body.

He glanced at Deirdre. They would add to the worry when they told them what had happened with Mordred, what had happened to Deirdre. He kept himself almost as unreadable as his mother. There was no time for emotion right now, the air was thick with it already.

Tim look confused. He kept Arey close, as if fearing she might disappear from his arms. “Caill-the what? What is that? Why were you in Fairie? Mordred-”

Tim inhaled slowly. “We went to the storage locker. We found him. He-he is alive.” There was venom in his words.

Tim shook his head and squeezed Arey. “What happened?”

On the couch Deirdre felt ill and a little off. She was the reason they were in Fairie. Everyone was going to be upset but it hadn’t been her choice. She remembered trying to get to Amanda, focusing on that and not the fighting. Arin and Arey were the fighters, the warriors- not her.

Then there was pain and confusion. Arin and Arey were looking down at her but she couldn’t do anything. Then water. So cold. She wasn’t entirely sure of what had gone on.

Deirdre closed her eyes. She could feel the cold around her and the stillness. Goosebumps formed on her skin as she sat there. The cold was so real that it almost felt as if she was there again.

Hearing Mordred’s name, learning that he was still alive, wracked a violent shiver down to Arey’s core. The movement was visceral and involuntary, and in that moment Arey hated herself for that weakness. Until this moment, she’d been able to shove aside the terror and violation that for her had only been hours ago. She’d had to be strong, there hadn’t been time to really react or really process just how vulnerable and unnerved she felt.

“He shot her...they were the only ones who could have helped...there was so much blood…” Arey rattled off, trying to make Tim understand. Arey wrapped her shredded shirt around herself more tightly, as if putting on armour that would help her hold on to her quickly fading strength. “I couldn’t think of another way.”

“The Cailleach is one of the ancient fae...archaic in fact.” Vivienne answered Tim, her voice strangely blank of it’s usual inflection. “Better known as the Crone. There was a time she was worshiped as a goddess by men and fae alike.”

“Okay...cryptic…” Kat intoned as she wrapped a blanket around Deirdre’s shoulders. All three of them had seemed exhausted coming in, but something with Deirdre was just off. Kat’s hand briefly touched Deirdre’s skin, and it was like ice. “Why do I get the feeling this old bat is a stone cold bitch?”


“That is...a surprisingly accurate description.” Vivienne replied without humor. “The Cailleach is many things, but she is first and foremost a force of nature onto herself. Her domain is the wild and winter’s chill, and the keeper of dead souls beyond the veil.” Vivienne’s hands were wringing in a sign of stress that was surprisingly human.

“She is also the guardian of the Cauldron, one of the four sacred treasures of the fae. You three are apparently now acquainted with it.” Her eyes shifted from Deirdre to Arey, closed briefly, and reopened after a deep and stabilizing breath.. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Her voice was quiet, but the reprimand was clear.

“It saved her, and you won’t make me sorry for it.” Arey bristled.

“Yes it did, for a price. What was it?” Vivienne retorted curtly, eyes intent and searching.

Arin straightened. “She said we cannot call on her or the cauldron again. She said we will one day know what we changed and lost and who is to blame.”

Deirdre looked down at her hands. Arin had let her hand go as he answered his mother and now she folded them in her lap. She shivered and hunched into the blanket Kat had placed on her. They had changed things- for her. Her eyes closed.

...and say your goodbyes

Deirdre could hear the voice talking but she couldn’t focus, couldn’t breathe and she had been scared. She was dying. She remembered now. The moment when she realized she was dying.

Her shoulders shook a little and she tried to stifle the fear that threatened once more. She wasn’t dead though. She was here and alive.

Arin stood stone still. “Arey did what she felt was right. Deirdre was dying in our arms.”

On the couch Deirdre bit back a small noise. Dying. In their arms. She remembered being lifted, carried and then the cold.

Tim looked from Arin to Deirdre and then to Viv. He hugged Arey tightly. “Keeper of dead souls? Cauldron?”

His brain worked trying to fit the pieces together. “So you found Mordred, left him pretty much a vegetable but he shot Deirdre. You went to see some Fae and she had a cauldron.”

“In a nutshell, yes. I called out to the Seelie queen first. Apparently she sent us there to that...she called it a living memory, but it looked like a forest. She, the hag, wasn’t going to help at first, so we had to...persuade her.” Arey elaborated a bit, remember the trees, and the mists, and her own rage in that moment.

“Dude! You totally went all gangster on her?” Kat crowed approvingly from her perch on the couch next to Deirdre. Kat had never been great with the whole emotional comfort thing when it came to traumatic situations, but she could offer her own supportive warmth and hope it was enough.

“You...threatened the Cailleach?” Vivienne repeated slowly, horrified disbelief playing clearly across her face. “That was an incredibly stupid and reckless thing to do.” Arey got the sense Viv had been thinking of another word to put in there, but had forcibly restrained herself.

“If I hadn’t then Deirdre would have died, and I wasn’t willing to let that happen.” Arey bit back, unwilling to budge or apologize for her actions on this issue.

“This is war Arey, people die. It’s the natural order of things, and you’ve tampered with it. You don’t get to throw a tantrum and reset the board every time you lose someone important to you, especially to assuage your own guilt over the circumstances!” Vivienne replied harshly, anger visibly spilling over.

“Do not mistake me, a part of me is glad to see Deirdre home and alive. Her loss would have been terrible for us all, but you have no idea what the repercussions of this will be. Those who tamper with fate rarely meet a good end, and the Cauldron never grants life without taking some for itself elsewhere.”

Arin frowned a little. “You mean to save Deirdre it has killed someone else? How does it decide who?”

Deirdre felt faint. She was supposed to die. Viv was angry because they had saved her, because it was not the order of things and someone, somewhere died because of her. What little colour there was in her face drained away.

“This wasn’t Arey’s fault.” Her voice was quiet. She didn’t want to interrupt Arin but she also didn’t like how Viv was blaming Arey.

“It is not nearly so simple as that.” Vivienne replied curtly. “You’ve created a ripple effect, an alternate chain of events from this point forward. Every person you help save, every decision she helps influence, it all has to be accounted for somewhere in the balance. How that will affect the world, or us, is unknowable.”

“Well, we’ll worry about that when we get there.” Kat chimed in, arms crossed with a tone of finality. “We know for sure that if they’d let D die, life would have been crappy. If there’s no way to tell which version of the timeline is better, then I’m betting my money on the one with her in it.”

Arin looked at Viv, his feelings on letting Deirdre die or not was clear in his eyes. “Arey did what she had to do and I supported the decision. We will have to face the consequences and I accept that.”

His voice was calm and level. The idea of letting Deirdre die hadn’t entered his mind. He would have done whatever it took. The sight of her had forced the soldier in him to the front because dealing with the idea that she was shot and bleeding out at his feet was not what he wanted to face.

Part of him couldn’t help but wonder, if Viv had been there would she have let Deirdre die.

Arin squashed that down. Now was not the time.

Tim tensed. He was tired, distraught and now relieved. The mix of emotions was not easy to control. He considered how he would have felt if Arey had been shot and a small guilty part of him was happy it had not been her.

“So you are saying from this point on anything Deirdre does changes the way things should have been and in the end there is a price for all that change.” He looked at Viv. “Am I understanding that correctly? That by being here and alive it changes the way things should have been and that might come back at us.”

Deirdre was feeling worse and worse the more they talked. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, a heartbeat she shouldn’t have. Her shirt was stuck to her, a reminder of the blood and then water.

She covered her face, too exhausted now to cry, too confused and scared as to what her presence meant to say anything more than “I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”

Arin looked back at her. “You have nothing to be sorry for. We made the decision, we will face the consequences.”

“Yes.” Vivienne intoned cryptically. “That is exactly what I’m getting at.” She looked more tired now than anything else, acceptance smoothing impassive neutrality back over her perfect fae features. “The damage is already done. All we can do now is prepare for the worst. Events are already progressing faster than I’d anticipated.”

“How do you mean?” Arey asked cautiously, guard still up from the previous topic of conversation.

“I mean Olivia Harris, one of the most powerful witches in North America was found mutilated in her Texas safe house last month. Among other things, she was a sitting council member of the Covenant, which has left a distinctively dangerous power vacuum in the realm of supernatural politics.” Viv continued as Kat looked up sharply.

“When were you going to tell me about this?!” Kat was up in a flash, pacing wildly as she tried to occupy her hands with something other than punching walls. “What about Drew, or Jenna? Are they ok, what happened to them?”

“We had other things to worry about without adding this to the pile.The girls are both fine given the circumstances.” Vivienne replied soothingly. “Jenna is Olivia’s obvious successor, but whether she’ll take up that responsibility has yet to be seen. She’s agree to try and help track the killer with her sister though, so that is a step in the right direction at least.”

Tim held Arey still. He was still worried that if he let her go that she might somehow disappear again. He was feeling so many things but right now he forced himself to listen to Viv.

“Okay...so witches. Clearly you both know them and this is important but what does this mean for us? Are they sure it wasn’t Mordred who did it? I mean before the Amanda...thing obviously.”

Arin crossed his arms. “Any idea of who or why?”

“It means in addition to dark fae, we may soon be dealing with war breaking out between local werewolves, vampires, and witches. The only thing that has kept any semblance of order and stability between the three factions for the last century has been motivated self interest in remaining hidden from humanity, and the power balance provided by the Covenant. Vampire covens operate in within a very complete power structure and hierarchy to begin with, but there are those with power in that structure who have always favored coming out and ruling over the human populace instead of discrete coexistence.” Vivienne tried to sum up three hundred years of complicated political workings and relationships as briefly as she could.

“Witches and werewolves are more wary of such bold moves, though there are some within their ranks who might agree. They remember the inquisitions and the witch trials that devastated their numbers in Europe, and anonymity has always been more appealing to witches in particular. They coexist with humans much more freely, some in their families are completely human as well. Without a strong and stable Covenant to keep the factions in check, or even a true balance of power within that group, we’re going to see violence breaking out all across North America, if not a complete coming out.”

Arin exhaled. Tim grunted.

“So all sorts of bad in the next little while. Where do we even start?” Tim asked. His one hand idly stroked Arey’s hair. He wanted nothing more than to take her to her room, let her shower and then hold her for a while. He knew this was more pressing at the moment though. He was tired too but again that would wait.

Deirdre was half listening. Her heart was still thudding in her ears. It was like a thumping reminder that she shouldn’t be alive.

Arin looked at Viv. “So what is our part in this? Help to find the killer? Help keep power in balance or just act as some sort of supernatural security?”

“We don’t have a claim to any kind of power within the council, or even an audience to the inner circle without an invitation. I’ve managed to keep our circle quiet amongst the supernatural community thus far, but with the kind of bold and public action we’ve been taking lately, that won’t be possible for much longer. Without a strong central power to keep them in check, you can be sure some of the more ambitious figures in the supernatural community will come after us, either to forge alliances or forcibly acquire our assets to enhance their own power.” Vivienne was clinical in her assessment, emotion gone as the master tactician emerged in its place.

“We need to prepare ourselves for these anticipated assaults, and consolidate our own base of power. With Balthazar in the fold, this will help, but we’ll need more. Recruitment needs to become the highest priority, along with training.”

Tim looked confused. “Who are we recruiting?”

Arin exhaled slowly, weariness appearing on his face for the first time. “Whoever it is we won’t be doing it right now, not like this.” He gestured to his shirt and injured arm. “We three need to clean up and we look like we could all use some food and rest.”

“The others like yourself for starters. Arthur’s court was vast, and I doubt that merely five of you would have been restored. From there...I have some ideas, however ill advised” Vivienne paused, looking over the group of children she charged herself with protecting. “Go, rest. There’s no telling when we’ll have a lull like this again, so use it to recoup wisely.”

Tim nodded and gently moved Arey towards her room. Others. Vampires, witches, werewolves. It could all wait.

“Come on..” He whispered as he turned her towards her door. “Shower will do you some good.”

Arin moved towards Viv. “We couldn’t let her die.”

He kept his voice low, not wanting Deirdre or Kat to hear. “Mordred shot her because he knew he was done. He was aiming towards Arey. He missed but in his twisted mind he thought she was a much better result. You know we couldn’t let her die.”

His mouth formed a straight line.

Vivienne’s eyes hardened as well. She understood her son’s attachment, his feelings on the matter, but there would come a day when this kind of test was posed to him again.

“You’ve made your opinion on the matter quite clear, but that won’t negate the consequences we all will have to live with, much less the nightmare she’ll be going through. Death is a part of mortal life Arin. Yours likely will be a highly extended one, so you’d best come to terms with that. History is littered with the names of men who turned themselves into monsters because they couldn’t come to grips with mortality, be cautious not to add yours to the list.”

Arin inhaled slowly. “It wasn’t just my call however...if it had been Arey he shot would the decision have been an acceptable one? Is it the decision or who was saved? If it had been Tim or Kat...Tell me what were we supposed to do? Arey made the call she thought was best.”

He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter though does it. In the end what’s done is done. I just wonder if the conversation would have been the same if it had been any one of the rest of us.”

Arin’s shoulders relaxed a little. “What do you mean by nightmare she is going to be going through?” There was concern in his eyes. “What happens to people who are brought back?”

He still kept his voice low. He didn’t want to upset Deirdre and he wanted to know what to be ready for, how to help her.

“Yes Arin, it would have. If Kat, or Tim, or even you had been the one dying, my response would have been the same. I might have raged, and mourned, and cursed every name I knew would hear me, but my answer would have been the same. I’ve had to make that decision numerous times, for lovers and family alike, your father included. My personal feelings don’t outweigh the potential damage such a selfish decision can lead to.” Vivienne responded with a note of bitterness in her voice.

“Had Arey died, there is no telling what might have happened, but the sword was free. Had she been destined to die, it may have been she had already fulfill her purpose. She is the presumed leader of mankind by the fae, but others could fill that role. Arey is the only one who can free the sword from the stone, and mankind stands the best chance of survival with it in her hands, but she is not the only one who can wield it.” Vivienne admitted grudgingly.

“It’s hard to say how bad things may get for her. Deirdre wasn’t dead when she was placed in the waters, so that may help her, but every soul responds differently. There are stories though, of souls brought back with the cauldron. They’re...different, shadows of their former selves that don’t really belong to this world. Depression, personality change, and suicide seem to be the most common responses according to the lore. She’ll need you, all of you, to get through this. Don’t leave her alone, ever. Not until we know the worst is behind her.”

“I wouldn’t leave her alone before and I wouldn’t now.” There was defiance in his tone. “You know, maybe if you had told us everything that is out there, all the things we may come into contact with or, how about you not leave things out, give us all the information instead of lecturing us after we make a decision. You tell us things after the fact as if you thought by not informing us it would keep it away from us. That is a little naive and you know that isn’t how it works. We have been unprepared and lacking all the pieces of knowledge we needed on many occasions. It isn’t fair.”

Arin looked over Viv’s shoulder for a moment as if collecting his thoughts. “I know they will likely all die in my lifetime. I know there was a chance I was going to lose Deirdre and if I had known it was going to leave her possibly...Why have you never told me about this before? That was part of my history? I might have been able to stop or persuade Arey but here I am, half fae and not told the things that I should know. I can’t train them or help as I should if I am not properly informed. Arey can’t make decisions without all the information and that is what happened. She acted on gut. I know there was a time when Arthur did too and it only tore Camelot apart more. Don’t you think we should be doing better this time around?”

“Arey acted out of anger and fear. Neither of you, in either life, have been able to make the hard choices when it comes to those you love. You said yourself the Cailleach warned you there would be consequences, refused you at first because of them, and her response was to threaten compliance from a being of immense power to achieve that end regardless. Arthur was a great man, but his emotions, his rage, is what led to the doom of his people.” Vivienne gently held his shoulders, trying to help him see what she was saying.

“I’m sorry you felt ill prepared for that encounter. I’m sorry that several thousand years worth of knowledge has yet to be fully imparted upon you. I’m simply trying to make you understand the ramification of this decision, not to lecture you, but because I know you will face decisions like these in the future. I know you, and I knew Arthur, and I’m afraid what you both might do to yourselves if you continue on this path. You both love fiercely and too deeply, and while those traits are admirable, they can lead to ruin for those in positions such as ours.”

Arin shook his head a little. “It isn’t about imparting years of wisdom but even things that are a part of my heritage, my fae side that I know nothing about. If this crone was so important why have you never spoken of her before? Why now do you expect that we should know what we are dealing with when we had no idea at all?” He waved a hand. “It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. Arthur and Lancelot may have been that way but it doesn’t mean we are exactly like them. I think anyone facing the death of a friend would have tried anything in the world to save them. That is what Arey did. I didn’t stop her. Maybe I should have fought harder but how was I to know what the end consequence might be? We can’t take it back but I-”

He looked back at Deirdre. “I won’t leave her alone and I worry now that you will be more cautious to let D do anything or go places with us for fear of what it may alter. She is still a part of this team. She- I won’t isolate her and I won’t argue that with you or Tim again. I know what he is thinking, just based on what you said he is already trying to find a way to leave D out or maybe he will blame her for the disappearance or for Arey’s decision and that isn’t going to go down well. I am putting it out there now.” His face showed his determination.
--------------
Tim said nothing as they walked. He couldn’t, not yet. There was too much on his mind and he needed the quiet of the room to really be able to get things across.

He opened the door and guided her in. “How about you go shower? I won’t go anywhere and then we can talk and stuff…”

A poor conversation starter he knew but Tim found himself suddenly unsure how to express himself and the sight of Arey, dried blood and torn shirt made it even harder to focus.

Arey nodded numbly, too tired to do anything else. The confrontation with Viv left her feeling defensive and anxious, and now that the immediate danger had passed, memories of the night before were beginning to take a toll.

The hot water helped wash away the grime and blood, and while it couldn’t undo the damage of recent events or take away the gnawing feeling of stress churning in her stomach, it helped Arey block some of it out. She stayed under the spray until her skin was pruny, before admitting defeat and leaving the warm comforting heat.

She left the torn clothing in a small heap in the corner, determined to burn them on a later date, before pulling on a pair of clean shorts and a gray cotton tank. She stared in the mirror a moment, wiping a streak clean on the steam covered surface. The face that gazed back looked older somehow, with harder eyes than she remembered. Was it just from the stress of the past couple days, or was it him staring back? Was Arthur peaking through right now, biding his time, ready to take control when he felt it necessary? Would she be strong enough to stop him if it happened? She hadn’t any time before. Would she end up like Mordred, mind fractured between two people until it turned her into a raving lunatic? The question haunted her, but it was a fear she refused to speak aloud. So Arey walked away.

The room was quiet when she entered, and Arey made a beeline for the bed that beckoned her with the dual comfort of inviting warmth, and her boyfriend. “So what happened while we were gone?” Arey asked quietly, dreading the answer, but hating the silence between them more.

Tim was sitting on the bed, his back against the wall when Arey came out. He was glad the clothes she had been wearing were nowhere in sight. He didn’t want a reminder of what had gone on. He beckoned to her to come sit with him.

“Well...There was a lot of questions, police and ambulance. Amanda got to a hospital and she is home now. You likely want to see her. We can maybe do that tomorrow.”

Tim opened his arm, hoping Arey would come in and snuggle in close. Weeks she had been missing and now he wanted her to stay by his side. “Worry. There was a lot of worrying and looking. No one could find you, not even Viv. Kat tried her voodoo-nothing. We had an inkling you had gone into Fairie but no way to find you. Wasn’t a whole lot else we could do. So we waited and hoped you would find a way home.”

“I’m sorry you worried.” Arey spoke softly laying her head on his shoulder. “If we’d known how long it would take on this side, we might have done things differently. There just wasn’t time...everything happened so fast.” Dark eyes and the glint of a knife cutting through her shirt flashed across her mind. Arey curled into herself, as much to prove to her limbs they were no longer held paralyzed in that dark room, as it was to comfort herself.

“How’s Kat? Where did you find her?” Arey changed the subject as she tried to get her mind off the events that, for her, had taken place meer hours ago.

Tim inhaled slowly. He understood her apology but he was a mix of emotions and now was not the time to let it all out. She was back, they were all back together. That is what mattered.

“We found her in a chest, a trunk. She is fine now but it was hard when we first found her. She insisted on coming to the storage unit. We saw him. Saw Amanda and then the blood.”

Tim squeezed Arey a little. “We were scared. The blood...we didn’t know whose it was or what had happened. It is okay now. You are here. Arin is back and Deirdre is back.”

So many questions, so many thoughts rolled through his mind but he stifled them all. Arey didn’t need them, not right now. Viv had already put her through the ringer. It would all come out eventually.

His hand stroked her hair. “Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”

“No, not really. I’ll be alright, I’m just a bit shaken up is all. That freezing spell was a right terror, but my shirt got the worst of it.” Arey confided, through skirting around the worst of the details. Arey was usually honest enough with herself to admit she could be a control freak, and not having the personal control to move her own body had been a deeply disturbing experience.

“Wait, a box? She was in it?” Arey remembered the dog cage used to torment a young Kat from Balthazar’s training. The residual fear and anxiety that radiated off the young teen from the memory. Arey had no doubt the box was chosen for that very horrific dramatic effect.

“How did he know..?” It’s like he could see into their minds and pick up on the things that would terrify them the most. No one was that gifted, if one could call it that. The triggers were too specific, his knowledge of them too coincidental. Magic had to be involved somehow, yet he hadn’t used any outward power during their fight. If he were some kind of warlock with the kind of power to pull off complicated rune magic and binding spells that even threw Viv for a loop, why did he fight with them over the knife? Why not attack them directly with magic? The question left a bad taste in her mouth, but landed on only one conclusion.

“He couldn’t have been working alone…”

Tim laid back, pulling Arey to lay on his chest. He kept his arm around her, holding her near. “I hadn’t thought about it...I was too busy in the moment, then worrying about you.”

He closed his eyes. “Why did he try to kill D? If he was after you I mean? And Kat was in the box and I don’t know how he knew. She isn’t one of us so it isn’t as if he has the past to pull from.”

Tim rubbed Arey’s back. “And why didn’t he use magic? You said he froze you? I think we are going to need to go over everything from the beginning, but I think you might be right.”

He kissed the top of her head. “Tomorrow though okay? Tonight let’s just lay here.”

“Yeah.” Arey agreed softly, wishing it was that easy to banish those thoughts from her mind.
--------------------
Arin helped Deirdre up, mostly carrying her to his apartment. She was quiet as they moved. Arin gently helped her change from her damp, stained clothes. They were a reminder that she had been on the brink of death. He didn’t want to think about looking into her eyes and watching the life fading away.

Deirdre sat, only moving when Arin needed her to. She felt strange still. Something was off but perhaps sleep would help. She watched Arin move, watched him take her clothes away. Her hand went to her stomach and Deirdre looked down.

There was nothing. Nothing to show what had happened but she knew. She had been dying. She hadn’t been able to breathe. She remember how warm the blood was and then how cold the water had been.

Deirdre shivered.

Arin looked at Deirdre, sitting on his bed. He was holding himself in check. He needed to be strong for her. Lancelot was angry but Arin wouldn’t give in to the feeling. He didn’t want Deirdre to see that.

He stared at her, dark hair falling about her face. Her skin was pale and she seemed somehow small and fragile in this moment.

They had almost lost her. He had almost lost her. He had held her in his arms as the blood coursed out of her. He had put her in the water, watching the light fade from her eyes. They hadn’t known each other very long but the idea of losing her, of Lance losing Guin was more than he cared to think about.

His hands balled into fists. She was here now though, and that was what mattered.

Arin frowned a little. Had they really done the wrong thing though? Had he still lost her as Viv said he might have? A shell, a ghost of her former self…

He vowed not to let that be the case.

His shirt fell to the floor, his pants too. They both contained proof of the events that had happened. He would get rid of them tomorrow. Arin grabbed a clean t-shirt from his drawer and helped Deirdre put it on.

Gentle, strong hands moved to pull her into bed. Deirdre let him guide her until she was laying with him.

As she curled up against Arin she shook and he held her closer. “I have you.”

Arin’s words were whispered and soft but held so much feeling behind them. He wouldn’t leave her side, it was his silent vow to her.