A little more character and group dynamic building here. I will get to the confrontation in time, but I believe that the story is driven by the characters and their relationships as much as by the actions and conflict. Hope you enjoy this chapter as well as the others.
After waking I looked over to the other side of the bed. Sindee was laying there sleeping peacefully with a smile brightening her features. I sat there on the side of the bed a few minutes content in watching her sleep. Every time that I looked at her I felt myself to be the luckiest man that ever lived just to have her in my life. I was fortunate in many ways; such as in the bond we shared because I knew without doubt that she felt the same as I did. Sindee was an amazing woman and I was going to ensure that nothing happened to her or any of the rest of us on the first of March. I also decided not to wake her right now so turned off the alarm. Today was the last day of vacation before she returned to the hospital for work.
I got up and through on some shorts and a T-shirt before heading to the kitchen quietly closing the bedroom door behind me as I went. I decided to surprise Sindee with breakfast in bed so I started to pull out all the fixings I would need from the fridge. It didn’t take overly long to prepare and fortunately Sindee slept until it was ready. I stepped into the back yard and grabbed a white and pink rose from the garden one of the werewolves was tending in the back yard. I used a simple bit of Life Magick to remove the buds and encourage the plant to heal and grow before applying just a little more to have both bloom fully open. I placed then in a small crystal vase on the tray with her breakfast. I made her an omelet filled with green and red peppers, scallions, cheddar cheese, chives and sausage with wheat toast, orange juice and coffee. Some may ask why I took the time to make it all by hand when as Mages there was almost nothing we couldn’t just get as at a whim. I like to think that because we have those abilities taking the time to do simple things by hand means more. It also fills me with pride that I am able to bring a smile to her face with such gestures.
I quickly opened the bedroom door before going back to the kitchen for the tray table. I carried it into the bedroom and set in on the dresser before crossing to her beside. I leaned down over her until my face was inches from her own. I gently kissed her lips as I cupped her cheek with my right hand. As Sindee woke she returned the kiss, deepening it with the passion we shared. As we broke the kiss I leaned back a little, smiled and said, “I love you more than I can ever say.”
Her eyes shined brightly in the dim light through the curtains before she replied, “I love you heart and soul and you know that. I know how much you love me because I can feel it through our bond.”
There was nothing else that needed to be said in that regard. “I brought you breakfast,” I told her as I turned to the dresser to get the tray. Sindee sat up against the headboard and slid to the middle as I returned with the tray placing it over her lap. “Enjoy my love.”
She smiled and patted her hand on the bed beside her in a gesture for me to sit. Picking up the small crystal vase, she leaned in to smell the two roses I brought in with breakfast. She placed the vase back before picking up her fork and smiling as she looked at all the food I brought her, “Are you trying to fatten me up or are you going to share this all with me?”
I chuckled at her statement, “With your metabolism and how active you keep use both I couldn’t fatten you up even if I wanted too. You’re perfect for me. You eat and if you don’t finish it, I’ll help but mine is out on the counter waiting.”
“No one is perfect Andrew, we all have our flaws,” she replied. “If you think I am perfect what happens as we change?” she asked in a serious tone.
I smiled even bigger, “I never said you were perfect, just perfect for me. We both have flaws that make us who we are and as time passes I keep falling more and more in love with you.”
“Good answer,” she said as took a bite of her omelet. The sound she made as she tasted it made me think of our conversation from the previous evening.
“Keep making noises like that and we may start working on those children before you finish eating,” I said with a lascivious grin before standing fully and stepping back. “I’ll be back in a moment with my plate to join you for breakfast.” I ran quickly to the kitchen and back.
We ate breakfast together, talking of family and growing up as we did. She convinced me to speak more of growing up within a large family, focusing me on the fonder memories from before that last summer. Sindee spoke of growing up as an only child and of her many pets and of the friends that she has lost touch with. Simply put we had a relaxing morning as any normal couple could by discussing our families past and plans for the future. We found that on one subject we were in complete agreement; both of us wanted a large family both in the children we brought into our lives and in the extended family of our friends. That and that Arthur and Jaq were the first choice for guardians in the event anything happened to either of us. Neither of us had known either Arthur or Jaq for a long period of time, but the quality of the time that we have known then told us everything we wanted to know about how fit they would be in that regard. Now all we had to do was ensure that all four of us survived what was coming in about three weeks. Unfortunately, that thought meant it was time to get out of bed.
I took the dishes out into the kitchen while Sindee got up and started. I shoved the dishes into the dishwasher but didn’t start it as I heard the shower turn on in the master bathroom. I returned to join Sindee in the shower which was a pleasant ritual for the two of us. It’s always nice to have someone to wash you back and I enjoyed washing her hair for her. Sindee’s hair flowed down her back like silk, falling almost all the way to her waist as she allowed it to grow, just trimming the ends as needed. As we assisted each other in the shower I ran my hands over her body, gently scrubbing her skin clean. Her skin was soft and warm, stretched taught over her toned muscles. While she was petite, Sindee had a core of strength and packed a lot of power in her small frame and gentle demeanor. I was reminded again that the only reason I was able to keep up with her during some of our workouts and most of the runs we took were because of my longer legs and the stamina built from the life I’ve lived over the last several years.
After our shower we dressed for a casual day, getting her ready for work the next day and my preparations for the coming fight. I had a thought that while I didn’t much like the general idea it was something that had to be done. “Sindee, I think we should work on more combat training for you, not just Magick,” I suggested to her.
She smiled at me, “I was wondering when you were going to think about that. I’ll tell you that while I have never used weapons before I have taken martial arts since I was young.” She gave me a teasing smirk, “My mother was taught to fight by her parents and decided that I should be able to protect myself as well.”
“I’m glad I’ve never made you angry then,” I smirked. “You think you can take me on?” I challenged with a grin and a laugh.
The sickeningly sweet smile she directed my way should have been warning, “I don’t know if I can beat my tough strong husband, but let’s change and I’ll try.” She turned and headed into the bedroom, returning quickly in her workout gear. “I’ll be waiting out on the back lawn,” she stated in a more serious tone without the smile.
I quickly ran into the room and threw on my sweats for working out and fight training because I wanted to see what she already knew. I also had this ominous feeling that I had said something I shouldn’t have. I was walking out to the backyard to join her when I realized that not only was the feeling still with me, it was steadily growing like a smoldering flame that could burst into an inferno. I pushed the thoughts aside as I joined Sindee and stood about five feet away from her.
She had the most serious expression I’d ever seen on her face at that moment when she said, “Whenever you’re ready Andrew.” There was no mistaking the challenge or the edge of temper in her voice.
I knew she was a red head and had the steel spine to match it before we ever got married. I knew she was an incredible multitalented woman who excelled in a male dominant profession. What I didn’t know, but would soon find out was how well she could fight.
I stepped in quickly with a jab for her rib, holding back my strength but not on speed. I knew I had her right up until the second that I was in the air. Somehow my feet had left the ground and as I tried to figure out had that happened I belly-flopped onto the grass with an audible thud having the wind knocked out of me. It took me a minute to roll over and sit up, another couple before I managed to catch my breath. I looked up at Sindee who was standing over me with a triumphant look in her eyes and a smile on her lips.
“Perhaps I should have asked questions instead of assuming that your classes were basic self-defense, and also not have underestimated a woman as amazing as you are.” I smiled at her before continuing, “I apologize for my assumption.”
She gave me that same smile from when I offered the challenge in the first place, “You’re forgiven, but I should remind you of something. I’ll quote a movie line that you seem to like: ‘Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups.’ I think that applies in this situation, don’t you?” she asked.
“Yeah, and I’ll have the lumps to remind me of it. I’m not healing these unless it becomes an issue as sometimes a little humility is a good thing,” I hung my head for a moment. “Ready to go again, and this time neither of us hold back as we evaluate what we each know and can learn.”
She gave me a mock-vicious look, “Ready whenever you are.” She reached down to give me a hand up.
I took her hand and as soon as my feet were settled I pulled her arm toward me in preparation for a throw. As soon as I started to pull she moved into my side faster than I was pulling her. I was turning my body in order to complete the throw as her foot made contact with the back of my knee causing it to collapse. As I dropped to the one knee I pulled her against my back and turned the throw into a roll. As we both came over with her pressed into my back Sindee released my elbow and swung to the side away from my back which caused both of us to hit the ground with a solid thud. We rolled away from each other and both got quickly to our feet. We continued to exchange attacks and blocks with neither of us able to gain an advantage. While I had height and reach and a slight strength advantage over her, Sindee’s agility, and speed were nothing short of amazing. We were more evenly matched than either of us realized. We were dead even on stamina and just kept going until neither of us could lift our arms to swing and could hardly continue to stand. When we were finished we just sat down on a bench by the garden together. That’s when the laughter and applause reached our ears.
I looked up to see that most of our resident pack of werewolves and a few others had shown up during the sparring match. Markus and Kyra were standing at the front of group staring at the two of us with looks of awe on their faces. Most of the other werewolves were talking, making gestures with their hands; I guessed that they were discussing the techniques we were using. The three trainers that had been sent to help with everyone’s combat abilities were looking at the two of with varied expressions of curiosity. The unarmed combat instructed decided to walk over to us. While I watched him approach I spotted Roarke standing to the one side with an evaluating expression.
The unarmed instructor, Garret, stopped a couple feet away and asked, “If I might ask, with the way you two fight why did you need to send for me?”
I looked up, making eye contact before I replied, “While I am trained I am neither focused on my fighting techniques as I have other areas and skills that I need to teach to several people, and more importantly I am not a combat instructor and would be a poor substitute for someone with your experience.”
Sindee also replied right at the end of my answer, “Like Andrew I am trained to defend myself and part of that is the ability to fight back properly. I am also still learning to use my other abilities properly and wouldn’t be able to focus on their training as they deserve.”
Garret’s features took on an evaluating cast before replying, “Fair enough, I can understand and agree with both of your reasons. I will say there is little more I can teach you but I will do so and request that you both aid me in the training when I may need you. Providing of course it doesn’t conflict with your other duties and responsibilities.”
Garret got his answer in stereo as we both replies, “Okay.”
After he turned to walk away, I waived Roarke, Marcus and Kyra over. While they approached across the yard I turned to Sindee, “Is there anything else I should know?”
She smirked, “Not that I can think of right now, but I may have a few more surprises for you as time passes.”
“I just love surprises,” I replied with a grimace.
Marcus and Kyra stepped up and he spoke up first, “I remember when you could barely defend yourself Andrew, where did you learn all of that?”
“I’ll tell you inside later as it isn’t general knowledge and I forgot until now that you didn’t know,” I replied.
Kyra was smiling and looked at Sindee, “Remind me never to get into it with you. Even as a werewolf I think you’d still kick my skinny little ass around the yard.” She laughed and the sound was one that could brighten up a room, no wonder Marcus was so taken with her.
Sindee simply laughed before joking back, “I reserve ass kicking for the men who act like asses. Besides, I think two tough women like us will agree more than argue. Especially with our taste in men.” Marcus and I both gave her looks a mild indignation before laughing; after all she had a good point.
Roarke laughed at the joke before speaking, “First I must say that I am thoroughly impressed by both of you. Second I have to ask Andrew; were you going easy on me that first day we met?” Marcus gave use both a curious look but remained silent.
I looked up at him before replying honestly, “Roarke, I wouldn’t say I was being easy on you as much as I really didn’t want to kill you when we started out. I have managed to go since my awakening without killing a pure mortal and hope to maintain that streak as long as possible. I was also unarmed against you with your Primium infused sword so I was at a disadvantage there as well, no way to use subtle magick against you.” Marcus’ look of curiosity became one of shock and confusion, which is when I remembered that he hadn’t heard about any of this yet.
Roarke however looked confused as well, “What’s Primium?”
Marcus spoke up first, “Primium is an extremely rare material that acts as a form of counter-magick. The more of the material present the more effective it is against a Mage or other spell casters. A mage would have to use spells that could cause a backlash on them to get past small quantities of Primium. The warrior wielding a sword with significant amounts of Primium would be well defended against Magick and any mage close to the weapon would find their ability to use magick limited.”
I spoke up when he stopped to take a breath, “That’s why I kept trying to open distance between us when we were fighting.” I stopped to take a breath, and then looked up at both of the mean before me, “I should have done this already, but I will correct the oversight now. Roarke this is an old friend and ally of mine, Marcus.” Roarke reached out his hand to Marcus, “And Marcus, this is Roarke; a relatively new acquaintance and I hope friend and possibly ally in what is to come. I hold no ill will toward him from our introduction as he was misinformed and manipulated by someone else.”
Marcus reached over and took Roarke’s hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you and will accept Andrew’s opinion and hold no ill will for you either.”
Roarke shook his hand before looking to both of us in turn, “Marcus, it’s my pleasure as well. Thank you both for your acceptance and forgiveness.”
I replied quickly, “Nothing to forgive, you were being used as a weapon and had no personal grudge against me. I think we need to find your benefactor however so that I may convey my feelings toward him personally.”
Roarke laughed, “Just the same, thank you. I’d also like to convey my opinion of being used to him personally.”
“If you’ve been trying to reach me for the last few days, I apologize as there was a need for Sindee and I to get out of town for a few days with a couple of friends and we just arrived back last night,” I told Roarke.
“Nothing to apologize for as this was the first time I sought you out and you are also entitled to live your lives, especially after I tried to end it,” Roarke replied sheepishly and lowered his gaze.
“Roarke, look at me,” I said. He raised his head to look me in the eyes before I continued. “You have nothing to apologize for, as I’ve said you were being used. I’d like for us to get passed that. More importantly though is that I’d like to count you as a friend at the very least. After sharing our stories, I feel that we are cut in part from the same cloth. Now, you came here today for a reason and I think we should probably get to it soon. How about we go inside and relax some.” I turned to Marcus, “If you’re willing Marcus, could you make or order something for lunch while Sindee and I shower and change so we can talk and eat together?”
“Sounds like a plan Andrew,” Marcus answered quickly. “Does anyone have a specific request for lunch?”
A few of the spectators among the werewolves and other guests shouted Pizza all at once so I looked at Marcus and told him, “Pizza it is, just order a dozen assorted pies for everyone out here. For Sindee and I an all meat and a super-supreme, get whatever Roarke wants for him and whatever you and Kyra want. Tell the pizza place to put it on the card on file and I’ll sign when it gets here.”
Sindee and I stood up and leaned on each other as we swayed back and forth while walking back into the house. Over my shoulder I shouted, “Since I’m providing the food and we already provided the entertainment, you spectators can make the Soda, Ice and Alcohol runs. We might as well make an afternoon of carousing and fun out of today’s events. Also, there are some tables in the shed for the food and drinks when it gets here. Baring rain the inside of the house is off limits due to discussions of a personal nature, alright?” The answer was a chorus of Yeses and Okays.
As I headed for our bedroom I grabbed my phone off of the counter and texted Arthur about the party and Roarke’s arrival with an invite to him and any of his people to join us if they desired. Sindee and I took quick showers to clean the seat and back lawn off of ourselves. We took them separately as we didn’t want to get too distracted and keep everyone waiting long. Sindee changed into a nice pair of fashionable black jeans and a dark forest green cami that set off her eyes and hair. I threw on a pair of black jeans and a black T-shirt, simple clothes that suited me for relaxing. Sindee went out to the living room to join the others as I ran to the basement.
On the way back up with the item I went to retrieve I checked my phone for messages and spotted a reply from Arthur: Party sounds great. Jaq, some of the Gang and I will be there soon.
I had to chuckle as I realized that Arthur, like myself, never used text messaging abbreviations. Not sure why, just an ingrained habit from how I was taught growing up. I was taught to treat any form of communication in a manner that would leave a good impression and things like that are difficult to change once you habitually practice them.
Upon entering the living room, I walked across to where Roarke was seated, “I believe this is yours and I meant to return before now.” As I spoke I handed the box I was carrying with me from the basement over to him.
Roarke carefully accepted the long box and opened the lid, “Thank you, but you bested me and have a right to keep the sword. It may sound old fashioned, but it was how I was trained when it came to such weapons, especially the more rare or unique ones.” He closed the lid and handed the box back to me.
“Am I correct in understanding that a refusal to accept it on my part would be an insult to your honor and to that of your adopted family?” I asked.
Roarke’s reply came quickly, “It could be construed that way, however I feel no slight toward that aforementioned honor at your request to return it as you were unaware of my family’s traditions and my training in that regard.”
I bowed respectfully toward his, “Then I accept the blade as earned and offered to me. Now am I correct in believing that what I do with this sword is my decision and your family and personal honor have been satisfied?”
Roarke looked at me with a curious and slightly suspicious expression before replying, “That would be an accurate assessment.”
I smiled at him with the widest grin I could situate on my face, “Than as a token of our new friendship and trust, I present you with a unique weapon that will defend and aid you in your future. I would be honored if you would accept it in that spirit and use it that you may remain alive and my friend.”
Roarke looked at me for a second and burst out laughing. It was a pleasant sound from him as when he laughed it was with his entire being and showed genuine mirth and contentment in the moment. After a minute he managed to catch enough of his breath to reply. He reached up and took the box from me, “Then it would be my pleasure to accept the sword as offered and I agree with the sentiment of calling you a friend.” He set the case before him on the table, opened the lid and ran his fingers along the length of the flat of the blade before continuing with,” And I will say well played. There are very few I know with the ability to fence verbally as well as they fight.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment as I have been told on numerous occasions that I talk too much,” I replied.
Marcus spoke up first. “That’s the truth, can’t get him to shut up most of the time.”
Sindee’s reply was right behind his, “And he’s an expert at placing his foot in his mouth.”
I looked at Sindee, “You too my incredibly gorgeous and true love?”
“After what started today’s earlier entertainment; Yes,” she replied.
I raised my hands in surrender, “Fair enough, you all win.”
The food arrived about five minutes later and Arthur, Jaq, Sam, George, Talia and even JD put in an appearance today. While the rest of the group headed out back to the garden party, Jaq and Arthur joined us in the living room. We spent the first part of the gathering getting everyone up to date on how it is that Arthur, Sindee and I had come to know Roarke. And Roarke explained that her had been doing a lot of thinking regarding the direction his life had been going and the hard truths that his recent adventures, specifically his fight with me and his conversation with Arthur at the Existence had forced him to face and work through in his mind.
Roarke was quiet for a moment before he cleared his throat, “What I had to face was that I had assumed that if you weren’t human, you were a danger to the human race. Until meeting Andrew and failing to kill him I had never had call to look at what I had been doing closely before. Not only had I failed to kill Andrew, I had expected that he would respond by killing me. When I came to in his basement he was still lying in the middle of the floor, unconscious but breathing so alive. I was sitting there tied to a chair and expected to be tortured for information when he woke again. I was resolved to pain and death by remaining silent. When he woke and Sindee came to his aid I was taken aback by their interaction. First I remembered him moving between me and the sound of a door opening right before I stabbed him and then his moving forward, pushing my sword deeper into his body to allow him to stop me from moving on after he died. The way they treated each other didn’t seem like the way the file describing his monstrous behavior would have suggested. I realized that no one really considers themselves as evil and my assessment of the situation may have been clouded by my head injury. After he was able to get up and moving he came to sit before me and talk while Sindee took my arms and healed the damage done to them while I attacked Andrew. He started talking and got me to open up and after hearing my story he was appalled to the point that he released me from my bonds without even asking for my word not to attack either of them. Not only that, but they provided me with food and drink and spoke of their own pasts to me. I was to say the least confused when I left here. After everything else, Andrew gave me advice that after talking to Arthur that night and continuing to think about everything I saw, I realized Andrew’s advice was a subtle guide to get me to find Arthur and the Existence. I arrived there and was welcomed by Arthur who sat and drank with me; spoke to me of choices and the real world behind what people see. I sat in a place surrounded by what only hours before I would have considered abominations and dangers to all humanity. I watched beings who up until I saw them there, I would picture in battles with each other that threated to spill over as a danger to the human race. I saw humans that were willing donors to vampires, not servants but friends from what I could see. I saw bitter rivals meeting in peace there. After observing and having my world flipped from black and white to all colors of the rainbow and every shade of gray as well I needed time to think. I spend the last several days wandering the city at night, watching what went on when I spotted supernatural beings. There was some fighting between the raced and even within the races but nothing that they allowed most of humanity to see. I only spotted it because I knew how to look for it and stayed hidden as not to disrupt my search. I also so races working together or holding uneasy truces with each other. Most of the feeding activity I saw left the victim alive with little memory something had happened or being done by willing donors such as in the club. I came to realize that everything I know about the supernatural is an assumption based on my limited experience of it. I thought about how I was manipulated into being someone else tool and weapons and hated myself for failing to see it on my own. I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to do for my future, but I wish to call any of you who will have me friends.”
I answered first with, “I already told you that I see you as such, and if you wish as you decide on your future I would like to call you an ally in the battle I’m fighting to save humanity and the supernatural races.”
Arthur spoke next, “I’ll have you as a friend as you are a good man at heart Roarke. Everything you’ve said here today only makes that more apparent to me. My door will always be open to you.”
Sindee spoke softly, “Our initial meeting may have been rocky at best, however I can find it in me to forgive you as you were being used and misguided. In addition to that I’ve had rocky starts with some of my best relationships, for instance Andrew was in a four day coma and my patient when I met him initially and he had just dealt with a serial killing mage of some kind. That and he was only sixteen so my feelings were still in the range of not entirely legal.” She stood and crossed over to him. She leaned down and gave him a friendly hug and peck on the cheek, “So here’s to a new start and a welcome to our extended family.” She stood and moved back to join me on the couch.
Marcus’ response suited him well, “I believe that the best way to defeat an enemy is to turn them into a friend as everyone in that situation wins. Andrew is a dear friend who accepted me into his family as did Sindee. I find that theirs is an example worthy of following and I would be honored to count you as a friend and to be counted among yours.”
Kyra who was normally quiet in similar gathering spoke up, and as she always spoke from her heart I was glad she did, “I have not had the rocky start that you had with them but they accepted me instantly and without reservation. I find them doing the same here with you. By their example, it is my honor and proud decision to do so as well.” She blushed and lowered her face. Marcus simply moved his right hand under her chin, tilting her face up and kissing her. She blushed deeper but managed not to shy away from the group again.
Jaq spoke last, “I’m not always the most forgiving person because of my profession, but I can understand people being manipulated. I’ll accept you as a friend and enjoy your company. I simply ask that you give me no reason to regret that choice”
Roarke had tears running down his face, the emotion overwhelming his control, “This is the second time I have been accepted into a family that wasn’t mine by birth. I am more honored now that I have been and will do everything in my power to ensure that none of you regret the choices or words you spoke today. I don’t know how I can remain a hunter in light of the revelations form this last week and today so I have much to think on before I decide my future. Thank you all again.
Arthur cleared his thought to speak, “I’d suggest Roarke that you go out back and talk to JD here or come into the club whenever you want to speak with him. JD was a Hunter like you are, his focus had been vampires but had hunted other beings as needed when they presented a threat to humanity. He has learned to select and research his targets for the most part. His situation is not entirely unlike yours, however a major difference. He had some special talents that weren’t strictly human and when they were discovered the other Hunters he had known stopped working with him, and then started to hunt him down. He may be able to give you some needed perspective.”
The rest of the evening turned into a party for everyone as those of us sitting inside joined in to the entertainment out back. The combat exhibitions that Sindee and I had started earlier had been taken up by different groups. As the night progressed almost everyone had joined in to show off some moves with the exceptions of Sindee and I who were already exhausted from our earlier match and Arthur and Jaq who seemed more intent of each other than on the fights. JD and Roarke put on an exhibition as they started speaking and were well matched. After about ten minutes the two of them took a walk along the property’s edge away from the crowd to converse as Arthur suggested. Sindee and I called it an early night after everyone promised to clean up when they were done, she had work in the morning and I simply wanted to spend time between the two of us.
We walked into the house, locking up behind us and headed for out room. I’d barely gotten Sindee through our bedroom door and closed it when I pulled her around to face me and kissed her with all the love and passion I had. I slid my hands to her hips and raised them slowly, lifting her top and grazing the smooth skin of her ribs as I lifted her top off. As I broke the kiss to pass the top over her head she took that moment to quickly yank mine up, making me step back and lean so she could remove it from my taller fame. There was not going to be a slow and gentle caressing tonight, all the emotion and energy we had work up today led us toward a manic, hungry need for each other. We stripped ourselves down on the way to our bed. With everything that had happened between us and all we had discussed of family we were determined to start working on those children tonight. Our bodies came together on the bed and our friends, the war, the world and everything else faded away. The only thing that mattered to either of us was the other half of our souls, the person in our arms and the sharing of pleasure and emotion between us. Nothing else existed but us for a time. It was a feeling that I wished would never end. We fell asleep with our bodies bound together as tightly as our hearts and souls and the Magick that connects all of it.