“You can’t…” Father Williams ran a hand down his face. “Seriously talking about declaring war on the Vatican?”
“I really don’t see that ending well.” Laura’s eyes were glowing faintly.
“I’m not.” Jormun sighed before giving a shake of his head. “There is absolutely no way that would avoid the notice of humanity at large and I’d rather not set off another go of inquisitions.”
“Or find out if missile fire could take you down?” Christophe glanced at him.
“That too.” Jormun exhaled. “We are going to need a better plan.”
“Could sneak in as tourists?” Felipa chewed her lower lip. “Okay, I’m not really okay with this, but I mean, that would at least get you past the front door and surely someone here can turn invisible or something?”
“Can anyone here turn invisible?” Laura frowned as she tapped her lips thoughtfully. “Though Erilon is guessing they’d have some sort of counterspell anyway.”
“Uh…” Adam shrugged. “I mean, I can go like gnat sized or something.”
“Can make enchantment. Temporary.” Lykos nodded. “Ten minutes maybe.”
“I’m a nun.” Sister Doris blinked when they all turned toward her. “I’m a nun, it’s the Vatican. That’s about as close to invisible as it gets.”
“I don’t even want to consider what Gabriel would do to us if we got his aunt hurt.” Michaels winced. “So, let’s cross that one right off the list.”
“Alright, back to the whole ‘better plan’ thing…” Jormun sighed. “It is full of tourists, with cameras. And reporters. With cameras. And security. With cameras. There are satellites trained on it. With cameras. I think that’s above even what Tobias and Zeke can handle for us.”
“Is that really such a bad thing?” Sister Doris started looking around.
“Humans learned of dwarves.” Lykos folded his arms. “Now is only one dwarf.”
“I…” Sister Doris took another look at him, then nodded. “I see your point.”
“We are getting nowhere tonight.” Magda rubbed the back of her neck. “Jormun, you are still recovering from the last fight. I suggest we all get some rest and ponder what we know. We can look at everything with fresh eyes tomorrow.”
Adele paused before going out to the deck. Jim sat in one of the lounges, looking out over the lake. He smiled when he saw her, then moved over to make room for her next to him. She sat down, then stretched her legs as she leaned back into him. She took a couple deep breaths before twining her fingers around his. His arm went around her shoulders, and she felt him kiss the top of her head. “Moments like these…” She exhaled. “Things almost feel normal.”
“Moments like these…” His breath made her hair move. “Make everything else worthwhile.”
She smiled as she closed her eyes, letting herself sink into him. After a few moments of listening to his heart beat, she raised her head and looked up at him. “Bridget and I talked a bit earlier. We are both going to be helping Lykos.”
“I…” Jim blinked. “Both of…” He raised an eyebrow. “You?”
“He’s your grandson.” She raised a hand to touch his cheek. “It’s the closest you and I can get to…” He caught her hand, then kissed her palm. “It’s alright, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Gently, he pulled her to him and kissed her. “I would keep you, Adele. For as long as you are willing to have me.” His hand caressed the back of her neck as he kissed her again. “I love you.”
“I love you.” It had been strange, realizing that was true. Even stranger to realize he meant the words as honestly as she did. “And I think I’ll keep you a while longer.” She lay in his arms, watching the moon making its journey across the sky. “Don’t do anything stupid, alright? Like pull that expendable line again.”
“I will try…” He pulled her in to a closer snuggle. “Very hard…” His smile became mischievous as he ran a hand down her side, then brought it back up to tug the collar of her blouse down so he could nibble at one of her breasts. “Very hard.”
“Mmmm…” She moaned softly as he began to caress her.
Khait accepted the drink the nun handed him. There had been another nun bustling about. She’d made cookies and had pinched his cheek before taking the two youngest girls off again. He was fairly confident the other one had been completely oblivious to everything going on around her. For that matter, he was half convinced that she’d have remained that way even had they not bothered to be discrete. This nun, however, had eyes a bit more shrewd. “Sorry…” He gave a small shake of his head. “I’m just trying to process the information that my brother has a mother.”
“You know, under most circumstances, that particular statement wouldn’t make any sort of sense.” Abigail accepted the other drink. “Then again, under most circumstances, a nun wouldn’t be mixing me a mai tai.” She took a sip, then blinked. “A good one.”
“Chemistry is chemistry.” Sister Doris sat down, taking a glass of water for herself. “I’m still processing that my nephew…” She made a soft sound, then set the water down next to her. “Can I see them again?”
He stood before obligingly unfurling his wings for her. Khait tilted the left one down so she could see it better. “Abigail already called dibs on any lost feathers.”
“I was about to ask.” Sister Doris stroked a hand down his wing. “It’s funny. Just the other day I was telling Ted that I didn’t really believe in…” She swallowed.
“To be fair, the stories do get a lot wrong.” Khait shrugged. “Like that whole full moon thing.”
“And you are an…” She looked up at him.
“Incubus.” He nodded.
“A…” Her eyes went wide again, and her hand came off his wing as though she’d been burned, making Abigail giggle. “Oh, my.” She took a couple deep breaths. “I suppose the stories get some things wrong about you.”
“No, he really is a sex maniac.” Abigail grinned. “It’s half the reason I keep him around.” She leaned back on the couch, stretching her legs.
Sister Doris promptly turned a rather impressive shade of crimson. “I dread what the other half might be.”
“He’s a good man.” Abigail smiled up at him, and he returned the smile. “A bit on the heroic side, when it matters most.”
“She lies.” He leaned toward Sister Doris conspiratorially.
“My nephew permits you within a mile of his friends.” Sister Doris folded her arms. “If anything, I’m certain Abigail is understating the matter.” She hesitated, shifting her weight from foot to foot, then just sighed. “How does this incubus thing even…” She shook her head. “I cannot believe I’m asking.”
“You’re really not the first nun I’ve —”
“Khait.” Abigail gave him a warning look.
“Held a polite conversation with about…” He tilted his head, then frowned. “No, actually, you are the first nun I’ve had a polite conversation with.” He sat down on the couch, putting an arm around Abigail. Sister Doris sat across from them. He could tell enough that her question was asked from curiosity. Her lust for knowledge was by far her strongest desire. “Sex produces energy. Life energy. I feed off this.”
“You feed off Abigail?” Sister Doris shot a concerned look at the woman next to him.
“I feed of everyone. You would not believe the amount of sex this group has. I mean…” He trailed off when Abigail smacked him lightly on the back of the head.
“And you just go around seducing…” Sister Doris wrinkled her nose. “For your own pleasure?”
“Well, uh…” He twitched a shoulder. “Not in the way you are thinking. I don’t experience sexual pleasure the same way a human does.”
“Really?” Abigail leaned away and gave him a sardonic look. “Could have fooled me. Like, a lot.”
“It’s a little more complicated than…” He leaned back, and then shrugged. “I derive my pleasure entirely from my partner. Or partners, if the case warrants. If I want to enjoy myself, I have to ensure they are enjoying themselves. Fortunately, my psychic —”
“Hang on.” Abigail made a time out sign. “So, you really mean if I don’t get off, you don’t get off?”
“Precisely.” He nodded to her and grinned. “But since I know instinctively what it takes to get someone off, I rarely have trouble in that regard.”
“Oh, my. Abigail, darling, if I weren’t a nun…” Sister Doris took a deep breath. “I would be very jealous of you.”
“Mmmm…” Abigail made a small purring noise.
“I mean, after everything is done, anyway. I am not going into a fight pregnant.” Bridget shook her head. “I don’t see that ending well.”
“For the enemy forces.” Lykos nodded to her. “Strong and smart. Will bear strong child.”
“Children.” When he blinked, she shrugged. “I mean, if you don’t mind. My uh…” She twitched a shoulder. “I mean, when I did the whole picturing of a house with a picket fence, I was always kind of imagining at least three. And a dog.”
“You’re willing to have…” Christophe stared at her like she had gone mad. “Three of Lykos’s kids?”
“Well, I…” She shrugged. “Not sure raising three as stubborn as he is would be good for my sanity, but I figured at least two, and wasn’t sure if you two would want a surrogate.” Bridget smiled at Christophe.
“Certainly appreciate the offer.” Christophe chuckled. “Zeke made a few remarks about artificial wombs that had me seriously concerned about cybernetic dwarf clones and…” He shook his head. “I played Shadowrun in high school. That way lies madness.” He glanced at Lykos, who had started to tilt his head thoughtfully. Christophe’s eyes went wide, and his voice became horrified. “No.”
“Oh god.” Bridget shook her head and winced. “No. Oh god, no.”
She arched her back, letting out a soft moan. Then she reached down and pulled Ash up to lay beside her, stroking a hand down his side. He responded by lowering his head to tongue her breast, and she purred in response. Magda moved her hand down to fondle his manhood and felt him groan in response to the sensation. Early in their relationship, she’d learned if she let him, he’d focus on her pleasure to the exclusion of his own. While that was occasionally appreciated, there was something about laying in the arms of a mutually spent lover that appealed to her immensely.
They moved together slowly, luxuriating in the feel of each other’s passion. Magda moaned in pleasure when she felt him finally shudder in orgasm and pulled Ash in close to her. “That’s my good boy.” She ran her fingers through his hair and felt him lean into the petting before letting out a contented sigh. “My very good boy.”
Despite her words, Ash was nowhere near as submissive as he’d been when they first started sleeping together. More often than not, he was the one that initiated their lovemaking sessions. Sometimes when she tried to pull him up beside her he’d instead catch her wrists and pin them next to her to continue playing his tongue between her legs until he was satisfied he’d elicited an appropriate orgasm from her. Not long ago, he’d actually bitten her shoulder during a session. Apparently, he’d liked the reaction he’d gotten from her, as he’d done it several times since. It was nice.
Magda never bit him. Never grabbed his wrists or pinned him. She knew if she wanted, he’d let her. She also knew he wouldn’t enjoy it, and the idea of causing him to flash back while they were together made her sick to her stomach. Whatever tiny pleasure she might derive from it wasn’t worth the cost. She held him close, listening to him breath. Ash wasn’t a mate she’d ever expected to have, let alone be madly in love with. She smiled.
“You’re happy.” His voice was soft.
“How can you tell?” She brushed a bit of hair from his face as he looked up at her.
He grinned. “I could give you some sort of mystic answer like ‘I can feel when you smile’ or ‘the force told me’.” Ash leaned up a little to kiss her, then reached over and gently tweaked her left nipple. “But the truth is these told me.”
Laughter bubbled out of her. She kissed him, then drew back and brushed his hair from his face again. The smile died. When he raised an eyebrow, she sighed. “You’re young.”
“Almost twenty-six.” He tilted his head, then he frowned. “That bothers you?”
“Not…” She closed her eyes for a moment, then reopened them. “Did you ever want children, Ash?”
“The birth certificate says Jehanne is mine.” Ash shrugged. “So, I guess I —”
“Ash.” She shook her head at him.
“I thought about it.” He lay back, his head on her shoulder again. “Never seriously. It was some far-off future thing.” He went quiet for a moment, then turned to look up at her. “Magda, don’t ever think for a moment that I’m not happy and content with what we have.” He smiled, then reached up to caress her cheek. “I love you, Magda.”
He stood in the doorway for a few moments. Then he headed out to the back porch. Michaels set the other drink down next to Ted, then shrugged. “I was going to go have a drink on the deck, but uh…” He shook his head. “Really don’t want to find out what happens when you interrupt a dragon mid coitus.” Ted picked up the drink but didn’t respond. Michaels sighed. “You alright, Ted?”
“I was just…” Ted sighed. “Contemplating mortality.”
“Yeah.” He rubbed where the bullet wound had been. “Done that a couple times myself, lately.”
“Gabriel and I talked, not long before all this began. He’s stopped aging.” Ted started to take a sip of the whiskey, then shrugged and downed the glass before setting it upside down on the table.
“Matthias actually gave himself a proper shave one day while we were in France, instead of just sort of swipe the razor at his face every five days thing he normally does.” Michaels shook his head. “He’s over a hundred years old, and I would card the guy for cigarettes.” He sighed, then set his drink down. “Then you have folks like Khait and Lykos. Or Jormun. Beings that saw the human race…” He shrugged. “Khait told me this story about cavemen and the shepards. How the dwarves and the elves each have favorite tribes, and one day had a bet over who could get their tribesmen to make fire first. The dwarves went with the flint and metal method, while the elves taught their tribe how to rub two sticks together. Except the dwarves got distracted by the metal they’d found, and spent the day teaching their tribe a better technique for making flint knives.” He took a deep breath. “I asked if that meant the elves had won, and he said no. Apparently, the elves forgot to teach their tribe how to build a proper fire pit.”
“That…” Ted started shaking his head. “That’s a terrible story.”
“Yeah.” Michaels nodded. “Frankly, I think it says a lot more about dwarves and elves than it does about humans, but…” He frowned. “Hang on, I had a point.”
“You and I are ephemeral beings.” Ted leaned back in his chair. “Surrounded by beings that are anything but.”
“Assuming ephemeral means what I think it does…” Michaels picked his drink up again and took a sip. “Yeah.” He set the drink back down. “I remember the day I first met Gabe. Saw a couple of the older officers picking on the skinny, rookie kid, and went over to protect him. Imagine that.” He chuckled. “Me. Protecting him. Guy doesn’t need me.”
“Yes, he does.” Ted slowly looked up, meeting his eyes. “Michaels, you were the one that got his heart going again.”
“I…” Michaels blinked. It took him a moment, then he leaned back in the chair. “Yeah. Guess I did.”
“That’s the part that has me worried, sometimes.” Ted reached over and patted his hand. “When you and I are gone, who is going to look after them?”
“We are.” When Ted turned to blink at him, Michaels shrugged. “All the shit they’ve put us through over the last few years?” He grabbed his drink and downed it. “I am absolutely going to haunt their asses.”