Well, Rain’s second book is off to a super gloomy start. Hardly surprising, considering I ended her first book with a death. Oh yeah, spoiler alert, btw. If you haven’t read Rain’s first book, you might wanna go do that before reading any of my progress on her second one.
2893 words today, I don’t know how many hours. NaNo 2014, for all my excitement leading up to it, is off at a snails pace, by my standards. Apparently, I’m more into NaNo periphery than actual writing. 😛
But hey, 2893! That’s like a day and half of word count, so I can’t be too down on myself. 🙂
Jon wasn’t a fidgeter. But as he stood on the porch, waiting to inform the woman inside that she was now a widow… well of course he fidgeted. Anyone who didn’t know him couldn’t tell- he kept his hands clasped tightly behind his back, which was rod straight, jaw set, eyes forward. But Rook would know the lines around his eyes were too tight, would see the way he ground his teeth, would hear the occasional squeaking of his boots as he curled his toes under.
Rain noticed none of this.
It felt so strange to be standing on the porch, waiting to be invited in. While it wasn’t her home, exactly, she felt the right to be here, but Jon…
Jon didn’t belong to her world in any way.
If she could undo it, she would. They hadn’t been close, but… no one deserved to die like this. Crumpled and forgotten, left on the streets like so much trash… No, they hadn’t been close, but he had still been a part of her life, for however briefly, and his death had still rocked her.
She wrote about death all the time, playing out the scenes and stories of various people’s final moments. But this had been so different. This was real. She knew the soul that had once animated the body, had been a part of his very life, though it hadn’t exactly been of her choosing. But she never would have wished this… Not on anyone.
Finally, the door opened, and Rain and Jon both jumped as if caught in a wrong doing. Rain was quickly lost in a fierce hug, her mother smothering her with a stream of tears and concerns, while Jon waited patiently to inform her of her new husband’s untimely demise.
Her mother hadn’t let go of her since she’d opened the door. Even when one hand flew to her mouth at Jon’s news, still the other hand stayed wrapped around Rain’s shoulder, even pulled her a little closer. Rain slipped an arm around her mother’s waist, finding comfort in giving it. Rain hadn’t even particularly liked her step-father, and she was rocked by this. She couldn’t imagine how her mother felt.
Still, she invited Jon in, falling back on the security of polite routine. Please, please come in, please, have a seat, could she offer him a drink? But with those exhausted, her mother had gone frighteningly quiet. Rain looked to Jon, who gave her a sympathetic look. They sat in silence for a while, Rain rubbing useless circles on her mother’s back, waiting for her do anything but stare blankly ahead.
Jon let out a long breath, running a hand over his stubbling head. Shaving hadn’t seemed too important these past few days. A lot of priorities had shifted during those days.
The girl wasn’t safe. With Moira’s present left on their doorstep, it was clear that things had accelerated far beyond where Rook had thought they were. Rain needed to be kept close, but she couldn’t stay at the bar. That place had been marked, and undoubtedly Moira would be watching it, in her rare bouts of sanity.
No, they couldn’t count on the bar staying safe.
But they couldn’t leave her at home, either. Dumping her step-father had been a double message: I know where you are, and I know where the girl was. Moira couldn’t have known the girl was with them, or she’d have done a lot more than leave a present for them. This whole thing might have been over once and for good, if she’d known the girl was that close.
But she hadn’t been able to sense her there, and hadn’t followed when Rook had left the bar as a decoy, ferrying a fake Rain to some parts far off. She hadn’t surfaced when Zig came and went, towing away another copy on his bike. Jon had tried to talk Rain into going with him, sequestering herself in the Underground, but Rain had needed to see her mother. With one parent gone, Jon could understand that, but he’d have been so much happier if they’d all split up for a few days. At least until they could suss out what Moira did and didn’t know.
But it was possible her bloodlust had overcome her, that her madness had been what prompted her to kill right outside their door. It was possible she was already off, terrorizing somewhere else with violence and slaughter. Jon would keep an eye to the news and an ear to the ground, and hope for signs of some awful misfortune elsewhere. It was heartless, but this was still a war, and he had his own to look after.
Including, now, this widowed woman. For all his hard talk, Jon was still a tender heart, and knew this grieving woman needed somebody. By human law, she’d just inherited all of her husband’s assests, whatever they might be. By witch law, things might be a little more complicated. Entirely more complicated than she was prepared to deal with. But Jon was familiar with the ins and outs, as the local Record Keeper’s assistant. And as such, he could speak for this now solitary mother and daughter. Rain could be officially declared as anything they needed her to be, but honestly, Jon doubted they’d want to keep any of the witches more interesting assets anyways. He’d track down the right people, get listings official and un, and figure out what to do with it all.
It was the least he could do, for taking part in her husband’s death.
It was stupid, but Jon did feel somewhat responsible. He always did. Innocent mortals were always caught up in supernatural warfare they knew nothing about, and most supes simply ignored them. Collateral Damage. Jon couldn’t be so callous, no matter how convenient such a moral-less state might be. No, he had to help this woman, had to do his best to insulate her from the chaos she was caught up in and could know nothing about.
“Damn. It’s gone too far, I think.”
Finally, finally, Jon said something. It was clear her mother wasn’t going to. The silence had started to press down on Rain like a living thing, huge and smothering. She had wanted to scream, to shout, to whisper, to cry- anything to break it. She was so grateful for the sound of Jon’s voice, she didn’t realize at first that what he said didn’t make a whole lot of sense to her.
“Too far? Like, too many bad things?”
Jon nodded, turning to give Rain is full attention.
“It’s the elasticity of the human mind again- how far she can stretch her belief. Usually, it’s exposure to evidence of magic we’re talking about, but honestly, any trauma can push someone past their ability to cope.”
He looked to her mom again, seeming to look through her. Could he actually see her filling up, see her spirit straining to cope with all of the chaos from the past few weeks.
Had it really only been weeks?
Rain felt so much older than she had at the start of the school year, but it was true. It was just barely September, if that yet. She wasn’t actually quite sure what day it was.
“I think, with all of the magic she’s seen, and all of the magically induced memories she must have-“
Jon stopped, snapping Rain’s attention back to him from her own thoughts. “What?”
He shook his head, rising to his feet. “Nothing. I just thought of something I really should have realized sooner. I know this is a bit invasive, but can you show me your parents’ bedroom, so I can be sure?”
Rain nodded, and tried to rise to her feet, but her mother’s hand was still entangled in her own. She could probably pull away, but… She hated to leave her mother when she clearly needed her.
“It’s at the end of the upstairs hall, straight back. Is my mom gonna be ok?”
“She should be. Let me go look around real quick, but I’m pretty sure I already have my answer.”
Rain wished he could have at least thrown her a bone before disappearing upstairs. How hard would it have been to say “I think it’s this”? Instead, Rain was left in the suffocating silence, and her mom was starting to go from sad to creepy. Rain could understand not being able to wrap your mind around something, but this… Her mom seemed… unplugged. Like someone had just turned the juice off. Like a robot waiting to be rebooted. This was even worse than the Yay Myles! Cheerleader.
How would she be now? Without Myles around, what would happen? Who would protect her from magical overload? Rain didn’t know that Rook would protect herself, but her mom? What would he do if she insisted he take care of her mom, too? Then again, Jon was here with them, trying to get to the bottom of what was wrong with her mom- surely he would take care of them?
One thing was for sure- Rain needed to get a handle on her own magic. Being at the mercy of someone else to look after her mother was unacceptable. The plan was still the same: grow up, get an education, take care of her mother. It was only the kind of schooling she needed that had changed.
Rain would have to amp up her studies with Zig and Tripp, and get a grip on this stuff, fast. If she could keep her magic under control, fixing her mom’s memories would be a problem. She could just pretend to be a perfectly normal girl and keep all this stuff under wraps from her mom until she got it dealt with. Whatever Rook and Jon were waiting for her to grow up to be, they could just keep waiting. She wasn’t doing jack until her mom was better.
She hoped Jon was finding the answers to what he was looking for.
He really should have thought of this right away. If the step-dad was the puppetmaster he seemed to be, of course her mother would snap when her strings were cut. Doubtless, the focus of the enthrallment spell would be kept in their bedroom- somewhere her mother would be exposed to it regularly, and where the focus could be exposed to the witch’s magic to recharge. He wasn’t certain what he was looking for, but he figured he’d know it when he saw it.
Sure enough, the mirror above her bureau showed tell-tale signs of a burnt out spell. Whether it had fizzled upon his actual death, or only upon the news of his death, Jon couldn’t be sure, but it was clearly burnt out now. With no Myles to fixate on, the girl’s mother was lost, simply waiting for new programming. It would be easy to re-kindle the spell, or lay a new one, and shift its focus to a new object.
The whole thing made Jon sick.
How could people so casually manipulate each other like that? Sure, at the bar, Jon and Rook smothered everyone in an aura of pleasure and abandon, but everyone who entered that building knew what they were getting into. It’s what they came there for. This… No one asked for this, and they certainly didn’t deserve it.
If Jon had had any reservations before, not that he had, this would have sealed it. This woman deserved the right to her own life, just as surely as the girl did. Yeah, Destiny had other plans for Rain, but she was still allowed to be Rain in the meantime, and deserved the chance to fight to be Rain. When all of this had passed, when she’d triumphed or failed, she should have a life to get on with. It was her right, as much as any other creature was entitle to life and freedom.
When the glass shattered under his grip, Jon realized he’d been letting his anger get the better of him. It was probably best that he and Rook be separated for a few days. So much anger, with nowhere to go… No, better they have space to cool off alone. The last thing they needed was another episode like the one from earlier.
Jon pulled a little energy from the powerful currently lying latent in the room to smooth the cuts away from his hands. He called his blood back to him, making certain none was left lingering on the shattered spell. The last thing they needed was for Rain’s mom to enthrall on him. That would defeat the entire purpose. Another flex of power and he made sure every spell in the room fizzled and burnt out. Nothing the dead witch had left behind would do the women downstairs any good.
Rain pounced on him before more than his feet had appeared on the stairs. “Did you find what you were looking for? Is my mom gonna be ok?”
Jon quickened his pace so he could re-join them in the living room.
“Yes, and yes. With Myles gone, the spellwork on your mom became unstable. With your permission, I’ll re-set any false memories that have come loose, and make sure there aren’t any lingering traces of magic on her that shouldn’t be.”
She started to agree immediately, but also to protest just as quickly. Of course she wanted her mom fixed, but of course she didn’t want any more magic worked on her mother. But… Jon was talking about fixing things that had already been done, or undoing things that should never have been done in the first place. And Jon had been so insistent, from the very beginning, that Rain get to make her own choices- surely he’d feel just as strongly about her mom?
“Promise me you won’t hurt her?”
It was stupid, and she hated to be so mistrusting of Jon, but despite the little voice in her head whispering that he was and always had been her ally, she just couldn’t take any chances where her mother was involved.
“I promise. I will swear on whatever force you believe in that I’ll only do what I think is best for her.”
“Oooh no!” Rain said, bouncing up in her seat. “That is waaay too open ended. Promise you won’t do anything to harm her.”
Jon drew a hissing breath in through his teeth. “I can’t do that, Rain.” He held up a hand to stop her before she launched off on him.
“I don’t know exactly what’s been done to her yet, and I don’t know what it will take to fix it. It may hurt. It may harm her. But I do promise that I will do my best to keep such things to a minimum. I promise to do what I think will lead to her being the closest thing to the mom you remember from before all this.”
Well. She couldn’t really ask for more than that, could she? It was exactly what she wanted- her old mom back. If Jon said it might hurt, well, she had to respect that at least he wasn’t babying her.
“And by the way,” Jon added, interrupting her thoughts. “Binding promises to the letter of the word only matter to fey. I can tell you anything I want and be lying through my teeth without any fear of it compromising my magic.”
He smiled to soften the blow, and for a moment, Rain thought he looked a lot like Zig. She scowled- much like she would to Zig himself- and settled back on the couch with her arms crossed.
“Alright, alright. Remind me I’m stupid. Just help my mom, ok?”
Jon came around to kneel in front of the pair of them. His dark eyes were too soft and gentle, and Rain had to look away from all that sympathy. She was not going to cry damnit. It was just a stupid comment, she was not going to let it get to her this badly. Jon reached up and took her free hand, saying her name quietly until Rain finally met his eyes again.
“I didn’t mean to upset you, kiddo. It was just a friendly reminder.” Rain tried to pull away, but Jon held her hand fast. “Honestly, you should be proud of yourself for remembering. It’s big wide world you’ve found yourself suddenly a part of, with lots and lots of rules to remember, some of them contradictory, and all of them extremely important.”
Her eyes were filling up and threatening to spill over. How could she possibly expect to do this all by herself? She didn’t even know what all was out there, let alone how to handle it. It was only matter of time before something else came along to take advantage of their vulnerability. She and her mother were doomed.
“But don’t let that scare you. I’m here for you, Rain. And I’m here for your mother, too. I will take care of you. I promise.”
With a choking sob, the tears broke loose. Rain’s shoulders started to shake, her face setting into a ridig mask of pure grief. Jon’s arms wrapped around her as she cried and cried.