NaNo 2014: Day 10

How do I decide what to post for today? 2700 words, and all of them so yummy. Some Rook time, some Jon time, some story time- oh heck, here. Have them all. 🙂


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 outside, 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.
Rain 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 puppet master 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.

“Well?”
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 rigid mask of pure grief. Jon’s arms wrapped around her as she cried and cried.

NaNo, day 6
Once Rain had exhausted herself, Jon suggested she go upstairs to lay down. Rain freaked at the idea, not wanting to be alone and most definitely not wanting to go upstairs. All those spells… uh uh. It was bad enough knowing she’d lived there all summer, oblivious, but she certainly wasn’t going to up there alone.
So Jon went upstairs to fetch her an afgan so she could curl up on the couch. Rain curled up near her mom, but not brave enough to touch her. It was creepy, seeing her sitting and staring like that, but… she was her mom. Her mom needed her, needed something, and she couldn’t just leave her… But she couldn’t shake the skeevy feeling either, so she just sat near and waited for Jon to come back and fix everything as best he could.

She was surprised to see him come down with a lit candle as well as her granny square afgan.

“The little guy seemed lonely,” Jon said with a shrug. He set the candle down on the end table and spread the blanket over Rain’s legs.
“Hey you,” Rain cooed, realizing her ifrit must still be there. How long had it waited? That was really sweet. She reached out to stroke the flame, which crackled happily at the touch.
Jon chuckled. “Cute pet. Got a name?”
Rain blinked in surprise. “Oh. I- I guess not.” She turned her focus back to the candle. “Do you have a name, little guy?” The fire popped, but nothing else. Rain turned back to Jon and shrugged. Jon made some kind of face, but his attention was drawn to her mother. Rain shifted on the couch, giving him space and drawing the blanket up over her shoulders.
“This might take a while, kiddo. Do you want to lay out on the other couch and grab a nap?”
She opened her mouth to protest, but all that came out was a yawn. Jon shook his head, but he was smiling.
“No arguing, your yawn decided for you. Go lay down. It’ll free me of distractions so I can work.”
Rain nodded, and on a whim, scooped up her candle and took it with her when she traded couches. The fire burned lower as she laid her head down, and Jon had smirk. Cute. Cute pet.
All humor faded away as he turned back to her mother with a grim sigh. This was going to be a long night.

When Rain awoke, the sun was a warm glow from the kitchen. Not exactly early early morning, but not the full sunlit glory it would be when the sun was higher. Just enough to accent the quiet stillness in the air.
Her mom was laid out on the couch under another blanket, curled up and sleeping peacefully, as far as Rain could tell. At least she wasn’t still staring blankly ahead. Jon had made himself a makeshift bed of various blankets that couldn’t be comfortable. But clearly, he hadn’t wanted to leave them alone, and Rain was grateful.
She moved carefully over him, not wanting to wake the clearly exhausted man. She could see the circles under his eyes even in the dim light, and wondered how long he’d actually been asleep.
But Nature was calling, and creepy upstairs or not, she needed to pee.
She crept toward the stairs, but at the base of them, a patch of shadow caught her eye in the kitchen. Blinking, she stepped into the brighter room.
Rook was sitting at the dining room table, gazing out the French doors. His eyes had that far away look of the unseeing, and as Rain approached, he made no motions at all as he spoke.
“Hello, Rain.”
She paused, unsure of how to proceed. Flashes of memory, of red, of that dark night danced before her eyes, but flicked away just as quickly as they appeared. What had happened that night, after finding Myles’ body, had been a blur. She’d screamed- her own scream still echoed in her head even now- but beyond that, she just wasn’t sure. Dark feathers, strong hands, red, so much red… but nothing clear. She woken again in the sunlight, in what she would later learn was Jon’s more modest bedroom upstairs at the bar. He’d taken her home, after making sure she was more or less alright. Her mom would be worried sick, with no Rain and then no husband…
Rook stood, abruptly stopping Rain’s thoughts. Her eyes locked on him as he stepped away from the table, moved towards the archway, towards the hallway Rain stood frozen in. Not even her quiet, pro-Rook voice knew what to do with this.
There was no way to say what was different about him, other than it was Other. Someday, she would come recognize this was a Rook lost too long in his magic, but for now, all she could do was stare, and wait to run. Because the animal instincts left long buried knew that what she was seeing was Death, and that it was only a matter of time.
Rook paused, and visibly collected himself. Feathers lost in the dark riot of his hair melted away, shadows pulled themselves closer around him until they faded into the blackness of his coat and the room around them brightened. He stood a little straighter, but was somehow shorter for it, or rather, filled less of the space around him. He had seemed so larger than life, and now he was just Rook. Rain went to him, hand reaching out to take his own.
“Hello, Rook.”
They stood for a moment in perfect silence, not needing words for the quiet rightness that settled over them. The last of the shadows in his eyes were chased away by her peaceful smile, and it gently coaxed out one of Rook’s own.
“I’m glad…”
He stopped, knowing how inadequate anything he could say would be. But… he wanted to say it anyways.
“I’m glad you’re ok.”
Her eyes flicked back and forth between his, searching. Finally, she slipped her arms around him and laid her cheek against his.
“I’m glad you’re ok, too.”
Rook reached up and stroked her hair, breathing in the stillness of the moment. He watched her die hundreds of times – had to be the cause of it a few dozen, for her own good- but none of that had ever prepared him for her death. Each face… Jon was right. They were their own person. He had watched countless friends die in a war that had gone on far too long.
It was time for peace again.
Rain deserved to know peace.
He patted her hair, a fine tremble filling his chest as he breathed a long sigh. Rain pulled him closer, wishing she could chase away shadows no eyes could ever see.

NaNo day 8
There was something positively comical about coming into the kitchen to see Rook cooking breakfast for Rain. The girl was at a stool at the island, feet gently kicking as she watched Rook chase sausage links around the pan. He wasn’t doing a terrible job, but still- Jon found it all damned funny.
Rook jumped, looking scandalized before tossing Jon a crossed glare. Rain gave a little o of surprise but quickly slipped down off her stool to give Jon a hug. Rook snickered smugly at Jon’s bewildered expression before he wrapped his own arms around the girl.
“What’s all this for, then?” He meant the entire scene before him, not just the hug, but he’d take whatever answers he could get.
Rain gave Jon a final squeeze with a satisfied little happy sound, then pulled back. “Thank you for saving my mom.”
Oh. Right. He’d kinda forgotten the woman meant the world to the little girl. Damn, he was out of practice at this. When Rain padded off to the fridge to get some juice, Jon pinned Rook with his eyes.
“She’s down for the moment, Jon. No need to fret.”
Damn. If Rook wasn’t playing his usual bullshit games, he was one step away from feral and trying to keep it together. That one ambiguous sentence told Jon all that he needed to know: That Rook had been lost in his magic, that Moira was temporarily dead, and that he was dancing around Rain for some reason. On the heels of Rain’s thank you, Rook’s comment sounded way too much like he’d just checked on the girl’s mother, nothing more. Jon needed a minute alone with Rook to get their story straight. There might be a good reason to keep Rain in the dark- but it might just be more of Rook’s stupid take on the world alone crap. He needed to know, but it could wait until after breakfast.
Jon shook his head at Rain’s offer of juice, moving to the table instead. He wanted a good vantage point to watch Rook play his little game with his little charge. Gods, why couldn’t they just be actual allies and play it straight with one another?
Rook was having none of that. He pursed his lips as Jon retreated, vocalizing his displeasure.
“There’s no need to be anti-social, Jonathan. Breakfast is almost ready.”
“There’s no need for you to play June Cleaver, either, but I wasn’t gonna ruin it for you.”
Rook scowled and turned away. “He’ll be cranky without coffee,” he said to Rain, who was putting frozen waffles into the toaster. “Do you all keep any?”
“Yeah, I can get some started, hold on.”
There was something going on between Rook and Jon, some tension singing high in their little banter. Rain didn’t know them well enough to interpret it, but that part of her did know them well enough to know something was off. The wildness in Rook from earlier still had her wary, and Jon too, apparently. He was an emotional time bomb, more moody than any stereotypes leveled against teenagers, and certainly worse than anyone at school. There, Rain knew the rules, and knew everyone else would play by them. Rook didn’t care about social standings or saving face- Rook didn’t care about anything, far as Rain could tell.
Except her.
That thought was waaaay too big for this early in the morning, so Rain pushed it aside and started the coffee. She measure out enough that there would be some left for Mom when she got up- Oh! Her mother! What on earth would she say to strange men making breakfast in her kitchen?
“What is it dear?”
Rain spun at Rook’s voice in her ear, she hadn’t know he was that close. Rook stepped back, bowing his head in apology. “I’m sorry, it was just clear something was distressing you. What happened?”

Oh, so that was Rook’s stupid plan. Keep her calm and happy and she won’t have any reason to choose to leave us. Goddamnit Rook. Even after centuries of chances, Jon didn’t understand how Rook could be so bad at this. He read people well enough, so why could he ever manage to treat the girl as the same? His missing magic, yes, but housed in a person, a mortal girl. Why was it so hard for him to understand that they’d want what any young woman would want?

Rain wanted to bolt. She couldn’t explain why, but a panicked feeling was scratching at the back of her skull, urging her to snatch up her mother and run.
But it wasn’t safe out there. Myles may be dead, but that thought filled her with more worry than comfort. Because something out there had killed him.
She didn’t suspect anyone she knew- Rook and Jon had been with her, and had been just as shocked to see him on their porch. Zig could never, just never. And Meliki wouldn’t bring that sort of trouble down on her people. She might kill Myles, if she thought she could get away with it, but leaving the body on someone’s door step was not the way to get away with things.
Rain had thought everything could go back to a kind of normal after Jon had fixed her mom, but who had she been kidding? This was her life now, full of strange men not-arguing with silent glances in her kitchen, and not-fey boys that pelted her with invisible Nerf darts, and fey-mothers that would kill to protect her daughters. And her mom… She hadn’t woken up yet, who knew who she would be when she did? Jon promised to do his best, but…
The magic wasn’t going to go away. She was still a victim of the spells Myles had put on her, of the memories she’d had to be put on her to function. Rain’s magical life wasn’t going to just politely stay under wraps, and more lies and memories would have to be laid down for her mother’s own protection.
And Rook was still staring at her, waiting for an answer, and Jon was still staring at him, as if he could make his skull catch on fire with a look. And Rain still felt absolutely cornered and there was nothing she could do about it.
“It’s not fair!”
She yelped at the sound of the mugs shattering on the floor. When had she grabbed them? Why had she thrown them? Why was Rook taking her by her shaking hands and leading her to the table? Why hadn’t her shout woken her mother?
Rain wrenched herself from Rook’s grasp, darting from the kitchen back to the living room. She threw herself down to the floor in front of her mother’s couch, sobbing into the blanket that covered her. She was crying, why wasn’t her mother waking up? Why wasn’t Moma waking up to comfort her, to sit up and let her curl up under the afgan and cry and cry until she got it all out. Why were these strangers standing in the entryway, watching her sob like they’d never seen a girl cry before and didn’t know what to do? Why was this all still happening?

NaNo 2014 day 9
Jon’s hand on his shoulder wasn’t the only thing keep Rook from going to Rain. He wanted to, surely, but what could he do? The girl needed a good cry, obviously, and she needed her mother. What were they going to do with the mother? Staying in a room at the bar all day would about as much good for the woman’s sanity as constantly being confronted by magic would. But they couldn’t just leave the pair of them unwarded…

Rook looked up to Jon, just as lost as the girl, in his own way. But Jon didn’t have an answer for him. Not yet. Once the mother had woken up, once he’d had a chance to see what was left of her, once he’d had a chance to go through the dead witch’s assets, see what they had to work with… but right now, all Jon could do was keep Rook from making it worse.
When the mother started to stir, Jon let out a sigh of relief. He nodded his head toward the couch, then back towards the kitchen, signaling Rook to give them some privacy. Besides, he wanted to have a few words with the bird himself.

A hand on her back brought Rain up short. She turned to snarl at Jon or Rook to leave her alone, but instead met the worried blue eyes of her mother.
“Honey? Is everything alright?”
She sounded so weak, so frail, but she was asking if Rain was ok, putting her baby girl first just like she used to-
Rain threw herself against her mother’s chest and hugged her with all her might.
“Oh Moma! You’re- Oh!”
Her voice broke with a sob, but it was just as well. Anything Rain might have been about to say would probably have been taboo, and would have left her mom with more memories to resolve. God! Would this crap ever end? But her moma was holding her and making soothing little sounds and patting her back like she used to. It didn’t fix everything, but for right now, it was the sweetest thing in the world.
“Honey, honey what’s wrong? What’s wrong, my baby?”
Rain pulled back, wanting to go on being held forever but not wanting to worry her mother. If things were better, like Jon said, then there would plenty of time to just sit and hold each other and let the monsters chase each other in the howling dark outside. Nevermind the howling dark inside.
When Rain sat up, her mother did too, pulling back the afgan and patting the couch just like Rain hoped she would. Instantly, she was by her mother’s side, snuggling in close.
“I’m ok, Moma. You’ve just been sick, and I’m glad to see you’re awake.”
Her mother nodded, and Rain felt something stir the hairs on the back of her neck. Magic?
“You’re right. I haven’t been feeling well, have I?”
It was clearly a question, but one asked in absolute faith. Her mother would believe everything she said right now, she just knew it. Rain suddenly went very still, afraid to say the wrong thing. She needed to go talk with Jon, but she didn’t want to risk disrupting whatever state her mother was in. Carefully, she sat up.
“Yes, you’ve had a fever, but you’re starting to feel better. You’re going to lie back down while I go make you some tea, ok?”
“Yes, that sounds lovely. Thank you.”
Gently, Rain eased out from her mother’s side, tucking her back under the blanket when she laid back down. Rain tried to ignore how creepy she looked, staring dead eyed at the ceiling.
“You just rest for a minute, ok? Go back to sleep if you want to.”
Instantly, her eyes closed, and Rain shuddered. Robo-mom was waaaay too creepy. She fled the livingroom as quick as she could, definitely needing to talk to Jon right away.

“Alright then, spill it.”
Jon had taken Rook outside, but left the French doors open so Rain would know where to find them when she was ready. He didn’t know how much time they had, so he pounced on Rook the moment they were outside. Thankfully, Rook seemed inclined to cooperate for once.
“I went back to Glasgow, and she followed me, like we’d hoped. Chased me down the Clyde, like a damned fool, and I drown her in the four linn. Not as strong as when I buried her beneath the cairn, but it’ll do, for now.”
The cairn. Jon always boggled at how casually Rook referenced major land marks- but then again, it hadn’t been so major at the time he’d put it there. Still, it was hard to wrap his head around.
“So she’s dead?”
Rook nodded. “For the time being. Gives us at least three days to figure out what to do about everything.”
Jon nodded in return, running a hand over his head as he stared out over the sleepy neighborhood. The early morning light hadn’t touched the shadows on some of the lower houses, leaving the little community split neatly in two, dark and light. It all seemed to be balanced on the edge of a precipice, holding its breath.
“You think she’ll finally do it?”
It wasn’t like Jon to be doubtful, or hopeful, just realistic. But something about the vista below him made him feel like the odds were truly equal for once, and he was just enough of a romantic to believe that Good would always win, if given a fair chance.

Rook was hesitant to speak, to ruin the look on Jon’s face. There was something so peaceful in those still depths- something like real hope hiding behind all the doubts. Rook was not that optimistic, but he wouldn’t take that hope from Jon for the world.
“I wouldn’t be fighting so hard for her if I didn’t think she had a chance, now would I?”
It was the best he could do. It wasn’t an outright lie, and Jon could ignore the subtext if he wanted to. They both knew Rook was fighting because it was his very Nature to fight, and he would keep up his end of this eternal battle for as long as he had breath.

Jon gave look a scrutinizing look, but before he could say anything, Rain poked her head out the door.
“Uh, Jon? Am I interrupting? I’m sorry, just… my mom?”
Rook nodded, acknowledging that there was nothing left to say on the Moira matter and they all filed back inside.

Jon kneeled before her mother, keeping his eyes steadily locked with hers. “You’ve been sick for some time. You and your husband contracted a foreign bug while overseas. He did not survive, but you are in recovery. You and your daughter have inherited your husband’s estate, but will be selling the house and moving, because you cannot bear the memory of him. In time, your pain will heal. You will not think about him, at first because of loss, but with time, because he is nothing more than a distant memory. You and your daughter will be taken care of, so for now, your focus should be resting, to recover your strength. My name is Jon, and I’m handling your late husband’s estate for you, so there’s nothing you or your daughter need worry about. You can trust me, and you can rest.”
Every word was steady, calm and deliberate. He was extremely careful with his word choice, knowing that the mind would fill in some gaps, but not all of them. This framework should give her a sense of realism- no one every accepted “magically all ok, happily ever after”- and should give Rain some room to work in. As long as nothing contradicted the main story, her mother would slowly start to fill in details for herself: where they had been vacationing, what illness they had contracted, how long she had been sick, and the like. Jon had coached Rain to keep it gentle on the details, and to simply be patient and reassuring with her mother, something that Jon suspected came naturally to the girl, despite the recent difficulties.

Rain sat by her mother’s side, holding her hand, watching her drink in every detail of Jon’s words. She herself was hardly listening, waiting for some small change, some sign that her mother was really ok. She looked better than she had yesterday, but she was still so listless… But Jon said she would need time for her mind to sort everything out, so Rain would just have to be patient.

Rook hovered between the hallway and the living room, completely at a loss. He had no business in this girl’s life, but he couldn’t let her do this alone. Because she was very, very alone. Besides he and Jon, and maybe that idiot Zig, she had no one. She couldn’t turn to her mother, she couldn’t turn to her friends- Rook had nothing but sympathy for the girl. For the first time in all these centuries, he finally understood how human his other half really was.
Of course, this was the youngest they’d ever found her.
What had happened to her, every time before, before Rook and Jon had finally found her? What had it been like, to go through all this alone, with no one to guide or explain, to guard and protect her? What had life been like, all those times before?
Rook was determined that she would never be alone again. If they failed this time, he would just find her again, and again, earlier and earlier, until he found a way to be by her side every step of the way. She would not do this alone again, not ever.
He would swear on it with his life.

By the time they had finished, Rain was supremely exhausted for some reason. All she’d done was watch, why was she so tired? But after the third yawn, Jon gave her a look, much like he had last night before sending her to bed. Without a word, Rain got up and went back to her couch, smiling as her flame flared up to greet her as she laid her head down.

“So what’s the plan?”
Jon finally finished brewing the coffee that Rain had started and brought two mugs over to where Rook sat on the edge of the table. Jon pulled out a chair for himself and leaned back, leveling his gaze on Rook.
Rook sighed, searching for answers in his coffee. When none were forthcoming, he finally spoke.
“I guess the plan is basically the usual plan- keep her alive. As far as specifics…”
Jon sipped at his coffee, staring off into space. “I’ll go see the witches’ magistrate tomorrow. Find out what we’re working with. Based on this house alone, we should be able to sell it, buy somewhere quieter, ward the girl and the mother in like mad and go from there.”
Rook nodded. “It’s as good a plan as any. I assume you transferred the thrall to yourself?”
The look Jon gave him should have blown his head open like a watermelon. As is, Rook nearly fell off the table. “What?! It’s a good back up-“
“No.”
He spoke with enough force, Rook was actually rendered silent for once. When he did speak, it was soft, not like him at all.
“Alright. We’ll do it your way.”
“We’ll do it the decent way, Rook. We’re the good guys, remember?”
Rook stared out the window, wondering if that were really true anymore, or if, in fact, it had ever been?

NaNo, day 10
The girls slept for most of the day, and Jon tucked them in with food and a movie. The food was simple- a good, solid stew that had simmered all through the day, and did much to restore Jon’s own sagging energy. It had been a difficult couple of days for everyone.
Rook wasn’t eating, which wasn’t really unusual for Rook, but it still troubled Jon. It wasn’t difficult for Rook to sustain both himself and Jonathan on pure magic alone, but the more Rook leaned on his magic in times of stress, the more he started to slip… No one knew what had driven Moira over the edge, what had tipped her from simple soul harvester into War itself, but when Rook lost himself like this, Jon could imagine it must have been something very similar for her.
He spent the night sitting on the roof, staring out over the city. Jon came up and sat with him for a bit, offering companionable silence, or an ear, if he wanted it, but Rook remained stoically silent for once. When Jon awoke the next morning, Rook had finally come inside, but was still just as quiet.
“You wanna sleep for a bit,” Jon offered as he brewed fresh coffee. Thank the gods he was still human enough to enjoy caffeine. Rook just shrugged, and Jon brought him a cup when he came to the table.
“This isn’t good for you, carid. The mortal body needs its rest.”
“You know how irrelevant that is to me, Jon.”
Jon sighed, and scooted his chair over so the line of his arm touched Rook’s. “I do, and I also know that the more mortal you allow yourself to be, the less your Death eats at you.” He nudged Rook’s coffee closer, leaning into the man as he did so. Rook needed the contact, needed things to ground him in his physical body, his mortal half. Without whatever piece of him Rain possessed, Rook was teetherless in his own soul, nearly lost in his own magic. The sex, the hedonism and general debauchery, all of the physical over-indulgence was simple a tool, a way to keep himself grounded in the tangible world. Without it, Rook would drift, and Jon needed him right now. Rain needed him now.
That thought finally seeped through and got Rook’s attention. Damn, he must be wandering, if he’d lost himself half in Jon’s thoughts. Jon carefully framed the thought that he didn’t mind, but helped Rook untangle himself from his familiar. Much as Jon railed against the word, it was a good descriptor. Jon was just another one of the many tricks Rook used to keep himself sane.
Once they were firmly back in their own skulls, and Rook’s senses for reading Though closely shut down, he finally turned to look at Jon. The distance that put between them left Rook keenly aware that his arm was now cold, but that chill was just as helpful in its own way.
“Alright, Jon. What’s the plan for the day?”
Jon reached out and patted Rook’s hand, moving it to his coffee up. Rook curled both hands around it, soaking in the warmth, but the caffeine would do him little good.
“I’d still like to see you get some sleep, but if that’s out of the question, I’ll head uptown and start the paperwork for the magistrate. Should be simple stuff, but you know how long that kind of thing can take.”
Rook nodded, and finally took a sip of his coffee. The hot liquid filled him, spreading its warmth through him, perking him up like a wilting plant finally watered. He stared into the middle distance, attention focused on the overall feel of his body. His limbs hummed with electric current, pure magic buzzing through his system. It had taken quite a lot to finally overpower Moira, but it spoke volumes of how far gone she was that he’d been able to best her at all. Both of them only held partial Deaths, fragments of what the power should be, but Rook’s magic was split further still. The girl….
The girl needed him to watch over her. There was no way he could sleep now.
Rook shook his head, turning doleful green eyes to Jon. “I’m sorry, carid. I will try, but right now…” He turned away. “It would be a waste. Let us use our time wisely. You go and deal with the magistrate, and I’ll keep watch here.”
Jon nodded, and reached over to grip Rook’s shoulder. “Be careful, Rook. Don’t push yourself too hard.”
Rook reached up to pat Jon’s hand, taking it and moving it to his lips. He placed a gentle kiss on his knuckled, and Jon squeezed Rook’s hand in response, a smile breaking through the concern on his face.
“Go- we’ll spend all morning worrying about each other, if we wait to be sure the other is fine.”
Jon laughed and shook his head. “Alright, Mr. Sentimental, I’ll go.” His smile was soft as he pushed away from the table. He was halfway to the door before he turned back. “But I’m serious, Rook,” He took a small cloth bag from his pocket and tossed it back to the smaller man. As Rook caught it, the spice scent of herb and evergreen filled the air.
“Call me if you need me.”

Twinging shoulders was not the ideal way to wake up. Rain sat up with a groan, rolling her neck til it gave a sickeningly wonderful pop. The candle jumped beside her, and Rain whipped her head around, yelping as her muscles protested the movement.
Bah. What a crappy morning.
She twisted around to the side, partly to stretch her back, but mostly to give her pet candle some much needed attention .
Neither the wax nor the wick showed any signs of being on fire for- wow, had it really been over a week? Closer to two, really. Rain didn’t actually have the slightest clue how long it’d been, and when she pulled out her phone to check, she sighed. Dead. Made sense, she hadn’t charged it in days. Man, she was gonna have so many missed messages…
It wasn’t until she was half-way up the stairs that Rain realized she still didn’t want to go up there. Jon had checked it out, said he’d cleaned all the magic up, so what was her problem?
And where was Jon, anyways? She retreated quickly downstairs, heading for the kitchen. It was totally to find Jon, not at all to avoid going upstairs. Totally.
The kitchen was empty, save for a note stuck on the fridge.
Jon’s gone to run errands. I’m upstairs if you need me. –Rook
Damnit. There was totally someone to hold her hand, but she had to face to boogey man to get to him. Rain made a face and cast her eyes to the ceiling, as if she could will Rook down with a thought.
She yelped when she turned around to find him right behind her.
“Don’t do that!” she said, smacking him on the chest. Again, a feeling of déjà vu came over her, and Rook chuckled.
“You always do like to hit me, no matter what form you’ve taken.”
Rain shook her head, trying to dispel the double thoughts. “It’s because you deserve it,” she said sourly, ducking to the side to get away from him. Rook retreated to the table to give her some space.
“How’s your mother this morning?”
Rain stopped, hand still on the cupboard she was opening. She hadn’t even given her mother a glance before leaving the living room. How awful…
And then Rook was at her side again, wrapping his arms around her. “None of that now. You are not going to feel guilty for not worrying over her every waking moment.” Rain stayed lost in her own guilt, until Rook reached into her mind and took the Thought from her. Her head snapped up and she stared at him, watching her own guilt swim behind his eyes.
“How did you-“
Rook touched the side of her head, and suddenly the Memory of their earlier conversation came singing to the front of her mind.
‘All Thoughts are within the realm of my knowing. All the thoughts of anyone who might ever have or ever will be touched by Death. Which is pretty much everyone.’ She stared at him flatly, unmoved. ’Don’t sound so impressed with yourself, it’s unbecoming.’ He simply laughed, and she returned to staring out the carriage window. Why she’d agreed to accompany this mad bird to The Capitol was beyond her.
Much earlier conversation. As in, she’d been someone else when they’d had that conversation. How. Freakin’. Weird.
“How did you do that?”
He reached to touch her temple again, but she swatted his hand away. “I know how you did that, it was a rhetorical question, Captain Literal.”

“Sorry, I’ll be a little slow on the uptake for a few days.”
Something about his tone of voice made Rain pause, and really look at him. The shadows from before still marred his face, still lingered in the space between his curls, the corners of his mouth, behind his eyes. There was a Darkness to him that had nothing to do with the lighting, and it made Rain want to pull him close and whisper lies about how the world was a perfect place until he let go of his doubts and started to believe it.
What. The hell.
She pulled away again, and he let her, but a part of both of them wanted to close the distant, to bridge a gap that no physical touching could bridge.
“What is that?” she whispered.
Rook sighed, and stepped around the island to stare out the French doors.
“That is a conversation we’ve never had, and one you’ve never been ready for.”
Well that told her a hella lot of nothing. What was that supposed to mean? But her quiet space whispered that he was right, and her gut was inclined to agree with the creepy pro-Rook voice for once. She let it go, and went back to rooting around the cupboards. Now and then, she’d steal a glance at Rook, and wonder what he was really seeing when he stared out at nothing.
She wanted to go to him. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and tell him it was alright, until she herself started to believe it. But those would be lies, and they could only hide for so long. Man, she was getting really tired of having such grown up thoughts. Wasn’t it her right as a teenage to be superficial and oblivious? This magic shit sucked.
But as much as it sucked for her, it had to be infinitely worse for Rook. Sympathy got the better of her melancholy, and Rain decided that misery loved company cause it was better than moping alone. She put down the cereal she was holding and turned to stare at Rook’s back, wondering how to break the silence and offer him companionship.
“You, uh… want some breakfast?”
Lame, but it was a start. Totally worth it, when Rook turned around with the smallest of smiles on his face.
“Yes, Rain. Breakfast would be lovely.”

The first batch of pancakes ranged from ruined black to runny, but eventually she got the hang of Myles’ fancy gas griddle and got a few short stacks on the table. Rain made a few extra and sandwiched them between two plates for her mom. She’d wake up eventually, right?
Rook nodded, and Rain gave him a confused look.
“Your mother,” he said, reaching for the butter. “She’ll wake up shortly, though I wouldn’t recommend putting her through anything too taxing for the next few days.”
Rain sat down before she fell down. “You have got to stop doing that.”
At his curious look, she gestured vaguely between their foreheads. “This creepy mind thing. It’s bad enough never knowing if I’ve been spelled, or mom will remember something, or any number of things I can’t stop. But my head space is mine, and it’s rude to answer thoughts I’ve not chosen to share.”
Rook blinked at her, then abruptly laughed.
“It’s not funn-“
“No, no, you’re right,” he said, cutting her off. “It is very rude of me, and I do apologize. I’m not normally so invasive, but with you, I don’t have to be. Your surface thoughts flow through my mind unbidden.”
At her horrified look, he quickly continued. “I don’t focus on them, normally- I’ve had decades of practice tuning out Jon-but some of your Thoughts…” He stopped, clearly searching for the words. “I don’t know what makes some Thoughts louder than others, but they are harder to ignore. I will do my best to wait for you to properly vocalize them, however.” He gave her a smile that was clearly asking for peace, so she nodded.
“Your best is all I can ask.”
“And it is all I will ever give you.”
That was way too …something, and Rain turned back to her pancakes. Nope nope nope. Too early for such heavy thoughts. Her Memory from earlier was bad enough.
She watched Rook’s lips twitch in the effort not to speak, and she sighed and gave up on her food.
“Alright, I’ll say it- What’s up with the Memory thing? And why does it sound like Thought and Memory should be capitalized sometimes?”
Rook chuckled, and pushed the syrup back to her. “Go ahead and eat. This will be a bit of a telling.”
Rain made a face, but did as he said. The pancakes were gonna get cold if she waited for the world to make sense.

He settled into his storytelling voice, feeling the first real pleasure he’d felt in days. He did so love stories. Where Thought and Memory collided, and myth became fact.
“There is little difference between Thought and Memory, so little that not even the twins themselves could tell each other apart. They walked together among the fields of men’s minds, sowing the seeds of Hopes and Dreams.
“Thought and Memory also often walked with Death, working to create gifts for those who remained after a soul had departed. Death took the piece that must walk on after the body has ceased, and Thought and Memory took the rest and planted it in the hearts of the remaining. These gifts brought the grieving great comfort, and so long as the gifts were treasured, the fallen were never truly gone. The Thoughts and Memories would pull them back, calling the piece that had gone beyond back to the arms of their loved ones when it came time to walk the earth again.
“No one knows what became of Thought and Memory when they were forgotten- for truly, once a Memory is gone, it is a gone, and no coaxing can ever convince a Thought to return to your mind once you have released it. Only Death alone is rumored to know where they have gone, and it is not healthy to ask Death to give up its secrets. The price is often too high, too precious, and its worth only realized once it is too late.”
Rook sat back, pleased with himself. Rain simply stared. Rook titlted his head in question, and Rain leveled her fork at him.
“What the hell was that? That didn’t tell me anything.”
“I-“
But she was right. He’d strung together pretty words, but they were baseless without comparison. Doubtless, Jon would be kicking him under the table right now if he were here. Should he tell the girl? How much was too much, too fast?
But Rain made up her mind for him. “You know what, never mind. It’s too early, and I don’t think I really want to know.”
It was Rook’s turn to stare at her, but Rain was ignoring him in favor of pancakes. Had she read his misgivings without knowing it, or were those words simply her own? He could drive himself mad, chasing thoughts around like this, so he too let it go and started in on his pancakes.

Rain and Jon shared an awkward moment with Rain’s mom. Raeven knew better than to try and go back and start from there. This scene didn’t want to come? It didn’t have to come. She’d cobble it together later and just deal with it then. There was a novel to write.
So Jon offers to take care of all the affairs, and they discover there’s another house…
What kind of secret life had Myles been living?
Another house? It wasn’t out the realm of his finances, but why? What did he need with another house? Rain couldn’t help but wonder if there was another freaked out little girl, like herself, not knowing whether or not daddy would come home. How would they know? Who would tell her.
Jon’s hand on her shoulder brought her back to reality.
“You ok there, kiddo?”
Rain nodded, shakily at first, but growing steadier as she pulled her thoughts together.
“Just… just wondering about his double life, that’s all.”
Jon’s face grew dark, but it was clear it wasn’t for her. He was far away- like he’d been through most of this trip.
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much. A double life, yes, but not like you’re thinking.”
He did a thing.
“I cleared this space all out myself before inviting you out here. I didn’t… I didn’t want you to see this.”
His eyes lifted back to hers. “This was a workshop, Rain, his base of operations. This is where every spell he used against you or your mother first began.”
Rain tried to recoil, but Jon reached out and took her hand. “It’s ok. It’s all gone now, I promise. I burned it all out myself.” He squeezed her hand, and Rain stepped closer, bumping her shoulder against his. She was learning this whole comfort-from-touch thing pretty quickly.
“I wouldn’t have moved you and your mom into a space that wasn’t safe, kiddo. You know that.”
She squeezed his hand with a smile and a nod. “I know. Thank you.”
Jon grinned, and held an arm out to gesture at the front door. “Shall we?”

It was a nice space. Cozy. The rooms were small, and without the electric on, dim, but she could see how with the curtains open, it would really brighten up. The living room had a big bay window and a fireplace- could be nice with some actual furniture in it. The kitchen was small, but opened into a dining room with a sturdy farm table. With that cleared out, it would be easy to put in an island and smaller table, more suited to her and mom. She could totally see them doing cookies in a kitchen like this.
Jon shifted uncomfortably at her side, and she gave him a questioning look.
“I’ll, uh, get rid of that for you.”
Rain frowned, and followed his gaze to the big table.
“I couldn’t see the spells on it before, around all the other magic lingering in this place. I’ll take it out back and burn it later, ok?”
Rain nodded, and skirted the big wooden table like it might bite. “Show me the bedrooms?” she asked, without ever taking her eyes off it.
“Of course.”
She noticed the way Jon put himself between her and the table, and though it was silly, she felt better. Especially when he let her enter the hallway first, keeping himself at her back. It called to the peaceful place inside that remembered him, and did much to soothe her nerves.
The hallway was short and dark, with two doors on the left and one on the right. A final door at the end of the hall was half-open to a tiled room with an open window, curtain blowing in the breeze.
Again, Jon made uncomfortable sounds behind her. “The bathroom is taking a little while longer to cleanse. The worst of it’s out, but there’s something that keeps lingereing- I’ll have Rook come down and take a look at it.”
Jon reached past her to open the door on the right. “Come see the room I think you’ll pick?”
“Sure.”
Rain smiled at him over her shoulder, wanting to reassure him the way he was trying so hard for her. He was doing a good job, he really was- she had no idea how she and her mother could have handled this without him. She’d told him that a million times already, but it never seemed to be enough for Jon. It was like he was trying to make something up to them.
All that left her mind when she stepped into her new room.
Jon was right, she loved it. She couldn’t even say what she loved about it, but she immediately contented and at home in the plain white space. She walked to the window, looking out over a tangled bed of herbs and flowers. Jon followed her, placing a hand on the small of her back.
“Oh Jon, I love it!” She leaned back into him, snuggling into his warm safety.
“It’s on a ley line- that’s why I didn’t want to sell the place, if we could clean it up. This particular line is air, I think, though it might be water. I have a hard time separating them sometimes, when the forms are similar.” He shrugged, and Rain smiled to feel the motion through where they touched. “It’s peace, whatever it is. That’s why the lavender and vervain are thriving.”
Rain nodded, feeling better and better about the whole thing. Maybe… maybe she would move her mom into this room, actually. She could probably use the peace.
“The line only crosses through this part of the house, sadly, but its effects should cover most of the space. This room is just the strongest, is all. Probably why Myles left it alone- didn’t want to risk upsetting its natural energies if he wanted to utilize them.”
Talk of Myles’s spells made her stomach drop, but it was hard to linger on bad memories for too long with the happy song of the plants murmuring outside the window.
“This has to be Mom’s room. She deserves a little refuge like this.” Jon flinched behind her, but Rain continued. “Even better than he never did any spells in here. I want her happy and safe.”
“Ok.”
And just like that, it was decided. No arguing, no insisting he knew better, just “Ok”.
Rain turned and wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Thank you.”
Jon’s eyes widened in surprise, but he returned the hug, patting her back.
“I told you we’d work it all out. Do you want to see the rest, or have you had enough for the day?”
She smiled, wondering if he was going all business for her benefit or his. All the same, he was right- she was burning out. She pulled back and stepped back, giving the big gruff softy a little space.
“You’re right- this is surprisingly intense. Let’s go grab some pizza and get back to Mom.”

It was so weird going back to the house that used to be Myles. Rain was glad the assets whatever was progressing so quickly. The sooner they got out of this space, the better. She didn’t want to work Jon to death or anything, but man, this space just made her skin crawl. Jon assured her all the wards were his now, but still. Knowing what Myles has done in this space, knowing this was basically her lab rat cage … too freaky.

But the junk food and movie binges were helping. They were helping a lot. Rain and her mom had basically been camping out in the living room, neither one of them really wanted to go upstairs. The living room had largely been unused when they’d all been living here together, so…
Nope, too gloomy. Bacon and mushroom garlicy goodness was the obvious cure. That, and all the RDJ movies that had come out in the past few years. They’d eaten through both Sherlocks in the first night, and now were educating themselves on Iron Man and the Avengers. Tony Stark was kind of a dick, but Rain liked Bruce Banner- bummer the same actor didn’t make the Hulk movie. She thought he was cute. Her mom favored Captain America, which made Rain supremely happy for some reason. Maybe it was because she approved of her mom liking a guy that would be that good to her.
Bah. Too much thinking, not enough root beer. Rain got up and get refills while her mom queued up the next movie.

She was hurrying she was hurrying she was hurrying- she was in PAIN! Rain sat back on the bed with a hard thump, hand flying to her forehead. The socks she’d been pulling out of her drawer fell to the ground, forgotten.
What in the… Rain rubbed her forehead, squinting to see around the throb. What had she hit? She blinked, and the smiling face of a patina Cernuous came into focus.
Oh.
How gloriously ridiculous. She’d hit her head on her altar.
When Starling had suggested she build a focus, a place to ground herself in the physical elements, she’d rearranged her room at the Underground, pulling her chest of drawers to the wall opposite the foot of her bed. For whatever reason, she liked falling asleep, knowing the smiling eyes of the Goddess and God were watching her.
But it did have its pitfalls. She still wasn’t used to the new arrangement, and every time she got distracted, she moved through the space as if it were the same as before.
She got lost in her thoughts a good deal, these days.
Aiya! She was late! She snatched up the forgotten socks, moving carefully when she bent over but pausing as she came level with the decorated surface. The animals clustered around the God’s feet seemed so peaceful, so content… She gave herself a moment to drink it all in, to touch the calm serenity of the earth, the soothing coolness of the winds, the cheery warmth of fire, the gentle whisper of water. All of this came together to form the eternal balance of spirit, made flesh by the Goddess and God. If they could take time from their cosmic dance to remind her to smile, she could take him to share that smile with them.
The pain from her head ebbed, and her smile spread. There were some real perks to this magic business.
But there was no advantage to keeping Starling waiting. Hopefully, being pre-centered would help make up for it, at least affording them a little extra time. Unlikely that Star would be so gracious, but nothing could shake Rain’s foundations now.
…she really had to learn to stop tempting Fate.
!
!!!
Rain, wtf? Where does this scene even come in?!!!

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