War: Chapter 1

He shuffled a few papers together in a pile on his desk and then set them aside before grabbing a different stack.  Rather than invest Mr. Ishi’s money directly into the center, he’d set up an investment fund.  From that, he funded several types of scholarships and grants.  Security deposits for kids getting their first apartments, emergency car repairs, clothes for seeking employment, and other needs.  It was rapidly becoming one of his favorite parts of the job.

Actually deciphering the applications, however…  Ted rubbed his eyes and winced.  Maybe he should have listened to Monica about having them be only online, but not all the kids had access to computers.  He’d set up a small computer lab there at the center, but perhaps he should consider expanding it.  Ted exhaled, then set the applications in a folder.  Magda and her crew would be arriving sometime today.  Perhaps he could convince Daniel and Ash to help.

There was a light rapping at the door.  “Come in.”  Ted looked up, expecting to see Margaret.  Then his face broke into a wide smile.  “Rebecca.  I wasn’t expecting you until next week.”  He stood up.

His ex-wife returned the smile.  “Plans changed at the last minute.  I hope you don’t mind me just dropping in.”  She shrugged, then looked around.  “Last time I saw this building it looked like setting it on fire would be doing it a favor.”

“We’ve put a lot of work in over the past couple years.”  He walked around the desk.  “Let me show you around.”

“Just show me to whatever room is emitting that heavenly smell.”  She nodded as they stepped into the hallway.

Ted laughed.  “Sister Margaret teaches a cooking class.  I believe this week is brownies.”  He gestured for her to follow him.  “And since she is a nun I suppose heavenly is accurate enough.”

Rebecca smiled warmly as he introduced her to the class.  He referred to her as an old friend rather than explaining to everyone that she was his ex-wife.  And it was true enough.  They’d been friends once, and after putting their disaster of a marriage behind them they’d managed to become friends again.  The kids let her taste the brownies, and she praised them all.

After the kids filed out, he turned toward her.  “So what does bring you to town?”

“I realized I’m still paying rent on that storage unit on Fifteenth.  Since I don’t recall what is in it, I thought I should check with you before heading over.”  Rebecca shrugged.

“I remember it being a lot of boxes that we never unpacked after we moved from Oregon, but beyond…”  He frowned, then waved a hand.  “That might be where all those linens are.”

“Oh, the ones we collected in Europe?”  She started nodding.  “I think you’re right.”  She gave him a hesitant look.  “Dibs?”

“All but the French ones?”  He raised an eyebrow.  Magda was going to be staying with them, after all.

“Deal.”

#

“Wahoo!”  Laura yelled when she saw the first truck pull into Ted’s driveway, hauling a camper behind it.  By the time she had her shoes on, both trucks were parked and their passengers were emerging.  She rushed out the patio door, yelled a greeting, then launched herself over the railing.

Matthias caught her easily.  “It’s raining crazy people.”  He shook his head at her.

“Did you bring me presents?”  She grinned up at him.

“You’re too old for presents.”  He set her down.

“You’re never too old for presents.”  Laura wrinkled her nose, then went to the next in line.  “Ash, did you bring me presents.”

“Yes.”  He nodded, then offered her a red squeaky bone.  She stuck it between her teeth and squeaked it, and he laughed before kissing her cheek.  “Hello.”

“Hello.”  She hugged him, then waved at the others.  “Ted’s at work, Michaels is firing up the grill, and Gabriel’s at a thing.”

“Court?”  Ash raised an eyebrow.

“No.”  She shook her head.  “Some mayoral politics thing where they are showing off the hotshots on the police force.  Michaels got out of it by backing a squad into the chief of police’s car.”

“Smart.”  Magda snickered.  “I used to hate those things.”

Daniel’s face suddenly showed a disappointed frown.  “Wait, you mean we missed the chance to see Gabriel in a suit?”

“No, it’s worse.”  She grinned at him evilly.  “He’s in dress uniform.”  Then she leaned in and whispered to him.  “I have a picture I have got to show you.”

#

Stephan stretched his leg out on the deck furniture and accepted the beer Michaels offered.  “Where did Gabriel and Matthias go?”

“To pick up Ted, and then I swear I heard something about a grenade launcher.”  Michaels shrugged before taking one of the other chairs.

“Well, it’s not that far-fetched with those two.”  Stephan glanced over the railing and saw Laura over with Daniel and Anna, cuddling Jehanne.  “Alright, what happened in San Francisco?”

“Not entirely sure.”  They brought back some kind of magic enhanced doodad and info on a couple more.  Erilon can help us duplicate them, but she is referring to that plan as Defcon 3.”  Michaels exhaled.

“And where are we at the moment?”  He raised an eyebrow.

“Defcon 5.”  Michaels shrugged.  “Which makes me very concerned about what she’s using as a measuring stick.”

“Yeah.”  Stephan nodded.  “Me too.  And…?”

“And yeah.  Confirmed our mole is Adam, and that he’s the one that Ishi took an interest in.”  Michaels sighed.  “And yeah, it’s a fucked-up situation all around.  Erilon thinks this witch has been mind-controlling the guy on various levels since he was twelve.”

“Ouch.”  Stephan winced, then sat up straighter.  “I followed up on the name Gabriel gave me.   Giroux is an asshat.”  Stephan leaned back again.  “Problem is he’s pretty close to unreachable.  Up in an ivory tower in France.  We can get there, but not with our gear and Matthias can’t be sure which of his contacts we can trust to not be tied to the Cabal.”

“We’ll think of something.”  Michaels folded his arms.  “We owe the kid.”

He looked down at where Ash was helping Magda unload their laundry.  “Yeah.  We do.”

#

Seeing Alice leaning on the door frame spoiled some of his good mood.  Rebecca’s baby sister had been rather pissed when she realized the divorce meant she would no longer be able to live off his money.  She glanced at a couple teenage boys that walked past, then smirked at him.  “Bet you love being in charge here, don’t you?”

Ted bristled just a little when he realized what she was implying.  “Alice…”  Rebecca’s voice carried a hint of irritation.

“I don’t know if I mentioned it earlier…”  Ted decided to ignore Alice.  “but I really like what you’ve done with your hair.”  She’d grown it out from the pageboy she’d worn through most of their marriage into a rather old-fashioned look that suited her well.

“Thank you.”

“How kind of you to notice.”  Alice rolled her eyes, and he could just make out her mutter of the word ‘faggot’ under her breath.  Then she straightened, her eyes widening.  He looked down the hall to see Gabriel and Matthias entering.  His heart skipped a beat at the sight of Gabriel in the dress uniform, and he momentarily lost the ability to speak.  Some small part of his mind was trying to come up with a way to get Gabriel to wear that later.  And maybe some handcuffs to complete the ensemble.  Gabriel paused to point a couple things out to Matthias.

He focused his attention back on the conversation.  “If those old framed maps are in there, I’d like those.  I think they’d look good on some of the walls in here.”

“Oh, I absolutely agree.”  Rebecca nodded.  “Speaking of which…”  She gestured at some of the paintings in his office.  “Was this a local artist?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact.”  He’d bought two of Mikaela Scott’s paintings after the vampire attack, mostly to ensure she could cover her expenses while she was recuperating.  She’d given him a third later.  “She used to come by the center often.”  He went to his desk and looked through his rolodex, then offered her a card.  “I think this is the gallery she’s at now.”

“She’s incredible.”  Rebecca took the card.  “I love how she’s done the light coming in the stained glass.”

“I agree.”  He looked up at the sound of voices, and saw Alice talking to Gabriel and Matthias.  Talking was a strong word.  She was quite clearly flirting.  He listened a little as he told Rebecca about the other galleries.

“So, you here to arrest anyone?”  Alice looked almost hopeful.

“Wasn’t planning on it.”  Gabriel shrugged.

“Then why is Ted in trouble?”  She smiled.

“Who are you?”  Matthias raised an eyebrow at her.

“Oh, I’m his ex-sister in law.”  She waved a hand dismissively at Ted.  “Until he decided he’s a cocksucker and all.”

Matthias and Gabriel exchanged a brief look with each other as Alice shot Ted an angry look.  Rebecca sighed.  “I’m sorry.  I told her to wait in the car.”

“It’s alright.”  Ted shook his head.  “I didn’t exactly do right by you.”

“I think the fault was pretty mutual.”  Rebecca sighed.

“So, who did you say you were?”  Alice put a hand on Gabriel’s arm.

Gabriel jerked his head toward Ted.  “I’m his boyfriend.”

Alice’s jaw fell open.  Rebecca blinked, looked at Gabriel, then looked back at Ted, eyes widening.  Alice made a choking sound, then glanced at Matthias.

A smirk came to the werewolf’s face.  “I’m his other boyfriend.”

When Alice took a step back, Gabriel and Matthias both walked past her into his office.  The look on Alice’s face was great.  Gabriel was absolutely beautiful, and Matthias a wonderful specimen of classic rugged manliness.  And both men walked over to greet him with a kiss on the lips.  Rebecca recovered while Alice was still gaping.  “Lovely to meet you both.”  She smiled.  “I’m Rebecca.”

“Ted’s told us a lot about you.”  Gabriel nodded to her.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“Well, I should be going.  Ted, I’ll give you a call about what else is in the unit.”  She glanced at Matthias before looking back at him.  “Especially if there is anything heavy.”

“It was good seeing you.”  Ted smiled at her.

She walked past Matthias and Gabriel to exit, and as soon as she was behind them she turned toward him, gave him a double thumbs’ up, and mouthed the word ‘nice’ to him before grabbing Alice’s arm and pulling her toward the exit.

Ted laughed.

#

“Sorry about kissing your boyfriend…”  Matthias glanced at Gabriel.  “But wasn’t passing up the opportunity to mess with little nasty girl there.”

“Pretty sure Ted didn’t mind.”  Gabriel shrugged.

Ted was still laughing.  Matthias smiled.  “We should invite those two over for dinner, get Daniel, Ash, Michaels, and Stephan in on the act.  Tell her it’s the usual weekend orgy.”

“Not sure Michaels would be okay with that.”  Ted managed to get his laughter under control.  “Matthias, thank you for coming to pick us up.”

“No problem.”  He gave Gabriel a dirty look.  “I was hoping to get my hands on a grenade launcher, but somebody has a problem with breaking into evidence lockup.”

“Don’t make me arrest you.”  Gabriel narrowed his eyes.

From anybody else, he’d have dismissed the statement as a joke.  Not only was he fairly certain Gabriel would, he was also willing to admit that Gabriel probably could.  “Mom asked me to grab some stuff on the way back.  Erilon says you are completely out of garlic and she’s ashamed to be seen with you.”

I did not.”

“Before we go, Matthias, you know cars, yes?”  Ted raised an eyebrow.

“As long as it’s older than the last five years, yeah.”

“Would you mind taking a look at…”  Ted rummaged on his desk, then picked up what looked like a mechanic’s report.  “One, is he cheating me, and two, if he’s not is the van worth fixing or should I just start looking for a new one?”

He scanned the report, then let out a low whistle.  “Pop the hood?”

“Sure.”  Ted grabbed the keys and led them out.

#

He held the flashlight up for Matthias.  Matthis made a growling noise.  “This mechanic of yours, he’s the one been doing the work on this thing up until now?”

“Yes.”  Ted frowned.

“Gabriel, take a look at this.”  Matthias pointed at something.

He leaned in, then took a second look.  “Is that a rubber band?”

“Yep.  Go arrest the bastard for fraud.”  Matthias stepped back and started wiping his hands.  “Hate to break this to you, Ted, but the kindest thing to do here would be to take it out to the corn crib and put it out of its misery.”

“Get me your receipts.”  Gabriel glanced over his shoulder at where Ted was starting to look frustrated.  “I’ll write up a report, get it where it needs to go.”

“Yeah.”  Ted sighed, then shook his head.  “No, we’ll deal with all this later. Let’s get back to my place and have a nice dinner.”

“Can we swing by my place so I can change clothes?”  Gabriel turned toward Matthias.

“We—”  Matthias started to shrug.

“No.”  Ted’s voice was blunt.  When Gabriel glanced at him, Ted just grinned.

“I’m gonna defer to Ted on this one, cause…”  Matthias stepped back and looked him up and down.  “Frankly I think Daniel’d be annoyed at me if he missed this.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes and headed toward the car.

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