It felt good. The adrenaline made her feel alive again, the knock-down brawl bringing back fond memories of a certain backyard that always held a cooler full of Corona's. She couldn't help but grin despite the pain. Her sparring partner was as bad off as she was, bleeding heavily from the hole in his shoulder.
They both cast their life magic at the same time, healing the worst of their wounds. At least enough to keep them from bleeding out. Sal looked at her as he finished, an odd look crossing his face. He grabbed her wrist and held her close, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Did you know that you are pregnant? And if you did, I ought to whoop your ass for sparring..."
She felt the world tilt as she stared at him, blinking, unbelieving of his words. She cast a quick glance to her husband and grinned, biting back a soft laugh.
She hadn't planned it this way. They had intended to wait. But as she approached Lycka with a smile on her face, to share the good news with the man that made her whole, none of it mattered. He swept her into his arms as they giggled and grinned, ignoring the world for a moment.
She had been brutal to herself over the past two years, pushing herself to near perfection. Gone were the soft curves of her youth, replaced by the more sleek muscle, toned through her determination to her legacy and her order.
She stared at the curves, looking at her flat stomach, passing one hand over it. Lycka watched her from the bed, a smiled curving his face to see her joy.
All the dreams, all the tears...all the frustrations and the hoping and the praying. It would all come to culmination soon. With just a simple message from a tiny spirit, she had felt her heart swell to bursting.
'You've paid your debt to the spirits. Know that we won't soon forget it."
I wasn't ready. Nothing could have prepared me for it. No one told me how beautiful it was going to be.
It feels almost like a dream here. Everything is calm, everything is safe.
I went to his tomb, and I was ready to revisit that horrible night all over again. I stuffed tissue in my pocket, because I knew that I was going to end up sobbing. Wrong again. It was serene, peaceful.
It's fitting that his tomb was exactly the way he was in life. I stayed there, probably longer then I should, just happy to feel him there again.
I remember thinking once, before we went after the Seers in Colorado Springs, that I could never be an Adept. That I would never have the strength and the heart to walk that road.
Now I'm in Heaven and wrong again.
She looked out the window of the small hunting lodge and sighed. A quick glance told her that the ash tree had been there at least a hundred years.
Too bad she remembered the first time she saw it. As a sapling. Six weeks ago. The bench she had set beneath it had been transformed into a wishing well out of fairy tales.
"Fuck. First I'm overrun by beavers, now I have a magic fucking tree. Great. What the hell am I supposed to do with this?"
She pulled out her phone and went to work. She had a feeling it was going to be a long winter.
Her cousin grinned, looking like a child again before surveying the crowd, "Then by the power invested in me, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife. You may now kiss the bride."
He did, and for once, she finally had her fairy tale ending.
The dawn came earlier then she had expected. As she watched the sky begin to light, she prayed for time to stop. She prayed for the night to never end, so that they would never have to begin on the path set before them. Her prayers, as always, were in vain. The sun vanquished the last vestiges of darkness, and she felt him behind her.
For a long moment, he didn’t say a word, merely wrapped an arm around her waist and held her close, his chin resting on her shoulder. She could feel the energy surging through him and into her soul – she could nearly taste his mixture of excitement and fear. It was a heady feeling, one that only drove her own excitement and anxiety to higher levels.
His voice was soft as he kissed her cheek, “Yoga. It’ll calm us both down…” The rest was unspoken. She didn’t need to hear it from his lips, to know his words. ‘If this is the last day we spend together, I want to have these fleeting memories to hold on to.’
She could only nod, clutching his hands. She didn’t trust herself to speak yet, not with the overwhelming emotions riding through her soul. She smiled to him, before making her way to the closet and pulling out their well-used mats. She tucked them under her arm and stepped outside into the bright Rocky Mountain morning.
The chill in the air took her breath away, sending a shiver down her spine. It was cold, for August, although the cold had never been a bother to her. She had always preferred it to the warmth.
She laid the mats out meticulously as he watched. This too, was part of their ritual. It had evolved over the past year, but it was ever the same. She would drag him out to the mats and they would stretch and clear their minds together. In the beginnings, he would grumble about the mornings until she soothed him with tea. Now, any grumblings were good natured and an attempt to recapture their first days of this together.
She extended her hand to him, grasping it tightly for a moment before dropping gracefully onto the mat. She could feel the change come over her, almost immediately. Closing her eyes and tucking her feet beneath her, she exhaled slowly, pushing out the fear and negativity from her soul. She could feel it calming him as well, from the way his breath evened out. It was an intensely personal moment, filled with all of the closeness they had built over the past year.
It was all over too soon. He stood before her with a calm smile, his voice strong and sure, “We should get something to eat, and then get this show on the road.”
He helped her to her feet and she smiled softly. The overwhelming fear had dwindled to a seed, and she knew that nothing would get rid of that last bit. “We should. Lycka…” She hesitated for a moment and sighed softly, “Love…if anything happens today. To you, or to me…”
He shook his head, moving to interrupt her. She held up a hand and sighed softly, “If anything happens today, I want you to know that I love you, more then anyone I’ve ever…” She smiled and shook her head, “Thank you.”
He gathered her in his arms, holding her tightly and showering her face with kisses, “Nothing will happen today, hon. We are going to be fine. I have luck on my side, you’ll see.” He brushed the hair from her eyes, tipping her chin up so he could gaze down into them, “But if it does, I love you too. Always and forever.”
They stood like that for what seemed like an eternity, both reveling in the others company and never wanting to let go of their soul-mate. A familiar voice broke them out of their reverie, as Chevale poked his head around the corner, “Olivia! You promised me eggs and bacon!”
They all laughed together and Lycka kissed her one last time, “I’m going to make sure the circle is ready…”
She smiled softly to him, “I’ll bring something down to you.”
She watched him as he wandered away towards the circle he had meticulously prepared, his bright green hat bobbing as he wandered through the wooded area. She turned to Chevale and smiled, “Yes, breakfast.”
She watched them as they all gathered around the circle, and she couldn’t help but smile softly. All people she trusted and cared for, friends and family alike who had answered the call. Lycka paced around the circle, nudging tarot cards and dice into place. He paused, staring at a set of runes. Pulling out a dagger, he stared at one of the runes. His hand was steady as he carved into it, deepening one of the lines just slightly. He smiled and stepped back, admiring the perfection of the symbol.
She could feel his anxiety, but below that was the steady steel of his personality. He was afraid, but he would never back down. No matter how bad it might get, he would not stop the ritual.
Once he had ensured the circle was to his liking, he moved towards her, taking her hands in his. He looked at her once, his eyes serious, “Are you sure?”
She laughed softly, nodding to him, “Of course. It’ll help, and that’s why I’m here.”
He smiled, his eyes crinkling as he laughed softly. He glanced around the circle, nodding to all of the attendees. There was nothing more to be said – everyone knew their role, and everyone knew what was at stake. With a sigh, he stepped into the center of the circle.
He inhaled briefly and time seemed to stop around them. She looked around her, taking in all of it. If this was to be her last action in life, she wanted it burned into her memory for all time.
Without warning, he chanted softly. She watched as her ring began to first pulse a brilliant green and then glow the same. She couldn’t help but smile as the green pulsing light from her ring – Lycka’s soul stone – spread over the circle and surrounded them all.
Lycka glanced around the circle and nodded once. On cue, those in the circle began to chant.
She felt the drain on her soul immediately. She hazarded a glance around, wishing again that she had been able to find more Acanthus for this ritual for him. She felt her soul pulling, tearing, ripping and she wanted to scream. She bit it back and soldiered on, her eyes on Lycka.
The sun steadily climbed through the sky, and the air around them began to heat up.
She could feel the energy levels of those around her dropping and she glanced at Lycka, nodding to him. He sighed lightly and nodded in return, calling for a pause in the ritual. She pulled out a bag, handing around energy bars and bottled waters to everyone. The last thing they needed was a mage to drop dead of exhaustion.
Mere minutes passed, before Lycka signaled to them all that it was time to begin again. The joviality of the morning and the carefree nature of all of them was gone, replaced by a grim determination fueled by their leader.
The sun continued to rise, and Lycka’s eyes tracked it even as he chanted. A change came over the group as sunset approached them, Lycka’s voice hitting a fervor pitch as he pushed the ritualists on, his drive pulling them forward.
With the sun hanging low on the horizon, and dusk fast approaching, she felt something in the air change. She felt the world around her tense and quiver, and she knew that they had succeeded, at least in some form. Their voices all fell silent as a thick green mist began to swirl around the center of the circle.
They had succeeded.
And now, the storm came.
My eyes open and flick towards the clock on the nightstand. I can’t help but smile as I see the time there – 5:45 am, 15 minutes before the alarm will go off and right on time. It’s a game I’ve started to play with myself, waking up before the alarm so I can watch him sleep. The goal is to watch him until the alarm goes off – harder then it sounds.
He told me once, when he caught me, that I looked like a teenager. He said I looked like I was fifteen, and in love for the first time with the man of my dreams. Far cry from the truth – thirty with more dirty laundry then the Duggars. It’s kind of funny that he has never once held it against me. I went and visited Ashes last week – an old flame – and he didn’t say a word. He teased me of course, but in his eyes there was nothing but trust and love. Being trusted is something I don’t get that often.
I smile, and I watch him sleep, his breathing steady. Sleep wipes away the worry on his face, and makes him all the more handsome. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with him, what with his laughing and teasing, but I know how worried he is. Everything is ready for the ritual, but there are still so many uncertainties. He has solved every variable that he can, but the fact still remains that we’re summoning some kind of…something…and he has no idea what it will do.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified. At least he is letting me be there for the ritual, I suppose. When he first told me about it, I thought he would ban me from being there but he never even tried. He welcomed me, even though I’m not an Acanthus. I think he wants me there to steady him just as much as I want to be there to catch him if he falls.
There must be a change in my breath, or perhaps I shift just slightly. Whatever it is I do, it rouses him immediately. Those beautiful eyes snap open and he looks up at me with a grin, laughing softly, “Gotcha.”
I giggle and squeal as he rolls over and pins me down to the bed, showering me with kisses as punishment for waking him seven minutes before the alarm goes off. With a wink, he leans over and turns the alarm off, ensuring we won’t be bothered for the time being.
These are the moments I live for. The calm before the storm, the stolen moments with the man who has firmly stolen my heart. We both know that this won’t last forever, but we will live every moment to the fullest while we can.
I grin up at him, brushing a kiss across his lips, “Make the world stand still?” And for the moment, he does.
She sighed heavily as she drove through Owasso, running a hand through her hair.
She was almost too lost in her own world to notice the young woman standing in front of the street. The brightly colored dread-locks and the crazy clothes were just too much, and she glanced at the woman. Blinking, she looked again, not quite sure that she was seeing what she thought she was seeing.
Dox was pacing the sidewalk in front of a Doctor’s office. An office Olivia knew – she’d worked with the doctor before. An obstetrician. A moment of fear seized her stomach, thoughts of Dell in some sort of distress ran through her head.
With a muttered curse under her breath, she swerved into the parking lot, narrowing missing an oncoming vehicle and earning a sharp honk for her efforts. She closed her eyes, taking a moment to compose her thoughts and her face, before hopping out of her car.
It didn’t take a scientist to realize that Dox was not happy to see her. Olivia watched her jerky movements, and she could feel the anxiety rolling off her in waves. She inquired about Dell, and Dox gave her a look of confusion.
In a flash, it hit her. The awkward conversation at the grocery store, the way Dox moved to try to hide her body, the glow about her even though she looked terrified, the rushing to the bathroom. She could have smacked herself for not seeing it, but she knew that she hadn’t wanted to see it or believe it.
She mentioned it casually, trying to keep things light and friendly. Dox was on her like a momma bear, pinning her to the nearest wall and growling threats into her ear. She wasn’t sure if she could take Dox in a fight, but she knew that this was just her way of trying to take control of a situation she had no power over.
She closed her eyes for a moment and let a quick prayer fly. This wasn’t going to be easy.
They ended up in a corner booth, away from prying eyes and ears. Olivia examined her silently as they ate, taking in everything. Inside, she felt like she was tearing apart, but what could she say? She couldn’t tell this woman that she was so jealous she wanted to cry, especially not when Dox was so scared about the whole thing.
Though the Lady had taken her favor, Olivia felt as though she were at a cross-roads. Everything in the future hinged on what happened in this moment. It didn’t take her long to come to terms with what she needed to do. So with a soft sigh and a pounding heart, she made her offer. To help Dox through her pregnancy as her Doctor, and make sure both she and the baby were healthy and safe.
After she’d asked, and Dox had consented, the pain in her chest started to ease just a bit. Knowing that she was going to help someone through it almost made her own inability a little more tolerable.
They passed their meal as they always did together. Laughing and visiting, being brutally honest with one another. She respected Dox for her honesty, and enjoyed their visits more then the other woman would ever know – or ever believe.
They made their final farewells awkwardly, with Dox promising to call to set up an appointment. Olivia watched her go and smiled lightly, before turning back to her own vehicle. She wasn’t sure yet if this would help her through her own emotional difficulties, but it couldn’t make it any harder. If she was going to be surrounded by friends and family who were pregnant, at least she could make herself useful.
She shook her head and muttered, in part amusement and part exasperation, “Everyone’s having a fucking baby…”
The situation within
She sighed heavily as she read the e-mail in its entirety. When she had finished, she read it again, just to make sure she hadn’t missed a word in the missive. She sat back in her seat, chewing on her thumbnail, and waited for the inevitable onslaught of e-mails. The flood of accusations and angry words, cries that the Symposium had overstepped their bounds.
She waited, and she waited. E-mails continued to trickle in, all of them concerning Hoodwink and his indiscretions. She ignored them all – his fate was sealed, and he would one day pay for the crimes he had committed. Let the Ladder and those who followed the rules deal with him if they could. She knew in her soul that it would take more then an inquiry to bring down the fortress of lies he had built for himself.
Rubbing her temples, she glanced at the filter for her Arrow e-mail. An explanation from Payday, unasked for and likely unneeded. The words there, too, were mild. Frustration and disappointment, but none of the earlier vitrol surrounding Forecast and his ridiculousness.
She felt tears sting her eyes, and she couldn’t say why. Maybe anger at the Mages in
Practically on cue, the door to her small office opened, and Lycka’s smiling eyes met hers. She couldn’t help but return the smile, though it didn’t quite touch her eyes. He slid inside, careful of his hat, holding out a massive bottle of cheap wine, like a hunter bringing home dinner.
She let out a soft laugh and he grinned, producing two wine glasses and moving towards her desk, “I thought you might need this tonight, hon.”
She nodded with a soft smile, looking up at him, “I did. Thank you.” She reached out for him, pulling him close to her so she could lean her head against him, basking in the warmth and safety he exuded. He rubbed her back gently, comforting her in the way only he could.
Her voice was muffled against his coat as she sighed heavily, “It’s been a rough day. Between Gilded Song and
He nodded once, pouring a glass of wine for both of them, offering her one, “I know, hon.”
“I feel guilty, love. I feel like I should have DONE more in
He just looked at her, “None of this is your fault. It isn’t your fault that they didn’t take care of their own backyard. They have had fair warning…if they don’t get out, then that is on them. Not you.”
She nodded once and smiled a little, followed by a soft sigh, “I know. I know…”
He grinned, “As for Gilded Song…we’ll be fine. We’ll do everything we can, and we won’t lose.”
Her laugh was soft as she looked up at him with a genuine smile, “Yeah. We’ll be fine.”
His eyes glittered as he drained his wine, “Now. The kidlet is washed and in bed, and I have a fiancée that needs a distraction.”
She bit her lip and grinned, draining her wine and letting him pull her to her feet, “Lead the way, love. Distract me as much as you can…”
They tell me that there is healing in laughter, and I’ve known for a long time that is the truth. I learned at a very young age that sometimes laughing at your situation is the only way to make it through – the only way to keep yourself from going insane. It was one of the first lessons my Oma taught me and it stays with me even today. Smile when it hurts. Laugh when all you want to do is cry. Giggle and grin when it feels like your heart is going to explode out of your chest.
There are days when it’s hard to keep on smiling. Times when the frustration and the pain threaten to overwhelm me and win the day. There are moments when it takes everything to keep the smile on my face so that they don’t know.
It hurts to try to explain what is going on in my mind, how I really feel. It kills me not to be able to say it, but it would be even worse if I did. I don’t think they would know how to react if I told them anyway, if I just let loose and let it all come out. At best, they would think I was crazy and they would avoid me.
So I keep on smiling and laughing. For everyone but Lycka, I put on the happiest face I can. I try to bury the hurt and the feelings of inadequacy and the screaming rage and pain. I tell myself it’s because I’m afraid they won’t understand; really, I’m afraid they just won’t care.