I awoke, gasping for breath, as the sound of an angry cry wiped the fog of sleep from my mind. I shuddered as the dream came back in full Technicolor with the evidence of two babies in my arms. Kevin was awake and there was a bewildered look as he saw the babies beside me. I stared down at the porcelain face of the Winter Princess, while the other child was fast asleep. I placed him beside me on the pillow. My hands shook with exhaustion, and it took much more effort than I would care to admit to not drop him. Princess Aurora was wrapped in the crook of my left arm and, as if she knew that I was at the end of my endurance, I felt her power, very similar to my telepathy hold her weight on my arm comfortably.
It was at that time that Leila waddled through the door. She looked around searching for the sound of the infant. Her hands cupped her stomach as she too gasped at the child I held. Princess Aurora turned her face towards Leila and reached her hand out.
Leila shrieked as she was lifted off her feet and brought closer to the Princess. A shiver raced up my spine as Aurora stopped crying when her hand touched Leila's stomach.
"What is she doing?" Leila whispered, a note of hysteria creeping into her tone.
My heart started pounding. I was speechless. I was afraid that if I voiced what I thought was happening it would make it solid proof. Right now I didn't want that to be true, so I looked at Leila and shook my head. I gently moved her away from Aurora's hold, and the child squealed her displeasure.
Outside, clouds covered the sun and the scent of rain drifted through my windows. Aurora's face was scrunched up ready for a tantrum. Something overcame me then. Maybe it was shock, or the last few ordeals had peeled a few layers of sanity from my mind. Strength momentarily filled my veins and I lifted Aurora up in my arms until we were face to face. Her piercing blue eyes opened and she gave a warning whimper that she was ready to scream.
"If you do not behave like a Princess is supposed to, I will smack your bottom." Her eyes widened and her wail stopped mid cry as she looked at me. "I know that you are trying to share your power with my soon-to-be nephew and vice versa." Leila uttered a wail of terror, but I ignored her, concentrating on the little `missy' in front of me. "I know that inside this child's body, there is the mind of a powerful entity staring back at me. So we need to help each other or this will be unpleasant for the both of us. Do I make myself clear?"
Aurora gazed at me, her plump fingers pumping the air. Then her smile came out and she gave a gleeful laugh. Clapping her hands together, she began to drool. I shook my head and brought her in to me for a hug and kiss.
"You can be such a little so and so, can't you?"
She cooed her agreement. I looked up to see Kevin with a perplexed look on his face, half wanting to smile at the scene and yet afraid of what the Princess would do next. But it was Leila's whimpers that had my attention now. "My baby is a boy? Wait, is he all right?"
I ushered her towards me, and placed my hand on her belly. Aurora crowed and tried reaching her hand out where mine was placed, but I held her back with one arm. She didn't like it, but she didn't squeal. A definite improvement. I felt the pulse of my nephew's heart beneath my hands. He seemed to be resting, and I could sense that his mind was dreaming. For a second it left me cold thinking about that dream realm. My fear spiked. If my nephew was going to be a dream walker just like this other child, then Lucifvar would try and find a way to get to him too. After all, I guess the Lord of Lies was expanding his domain through dreams now. More importantly, what was the Winter Queen getting out of the bargain? I gasped as I felt my strength wanning. I collapsed back into darkness. Thankfully it was dream free.
It took me nearly a week to recover from my ordeal. Again I lost so much weight my ribs were clearly delineated. Kevin and Dad kept trying to shovel as much food into me as possible. Pounamu had been a god send; he fed the babies, changed and bathed them, all while appearing affable. When he was busy, more often than not, I would see Dad or Kevin holding one or the other of the babies, cooing at them. It left me with a large smile staring at Kev getting all clucky. As for Pounamu, I admired him for his easy ability with children and, as feeble as I felt, I would try and help while Kevin and Dad weren't looking.
Of course, Pounamu was as much of a termagant as the other two and, when he found me trying to bathe the two babies one night, I was scolded like a little child, wrapped up, and placed back in bed. I pouted and complained and made for a very disagreeable patient. I hated this inaction and, although it was supposed to be good for me, I scowled at everyone that tried to cheer me up. They endured all my tantrums with aplomb.
By the end of the week I was allowed to walk around and, due to my healing skills, my skin started looking healthy once more. My flesh filled out; however my appetite never wavered. I was eating the same amount of food I had when I was barely recognisable as only flesh and bone. Pounamu assured me that it was fine; my body was trying to rebuild the reserves of power I had depleted.
I was sitting on the back porch rocking the baby boy I had affectionately named Saetan when dad came and sat down beside me. "You know we can't keep them, right?"
I looked down at Saetan's sleeping face and nodded my head. "Yeah, I know. Tomorrow I was going to see if I could contact the Winter Crone. She sent that kelpie to search for Aurora, so at least the Winter Princess should be okay." I cradled Saetan into my chest a little more snugly. "But it's this one I'm concerned about."
"Pounamu gave me an idea about that." Dad said.
Dad nodded, "That child is obviously part human, so perhaps we can give him back to the mother or her family."
I sighed. "His name is Saetan, dad." I watched from the corner of my eye as dad shook his head in distaste. He and the family had been aghast at my choice of names, but I considered it apt and I refused to name him anything else. Naturally they had given him a boring name like Thomas. There were times that most of the family forgot to call him Thomas and called him Saetan, so my name seemed to be sticking better than boring Thomas. Concentrating on the topic at hand, I answered dad's question. "I thought about finding his human family. I've tried to see if my precog can pick anything up, but..." I shuddered. I didn't want to tell dad that Saetan's psychic scent reeked of that awful asylum. "I have had no luck so far."
Dad nodded. "Have you been sleeping properly?"
I stopped rocking Saetan and stared blindly at nothing. For the first three days after coming back from that dream place I had been afraid to sleep. I was always scared that I would end up in that terrifying place again. I knew that the Winter Queen was searching for me. I didn't need my powers to know that. The only thing that had given me the courage to go back to sleep was the fact that Saetan and Aurora had been the dreamers that kept that little realm intact. I had been keeping an eye on them and, even in my sleep, I had psychic tendrils out, testing to see if they would recreate what they had been trained to do. So far they had been happy to act and play like normal babies.
"Kind of," I replied.
"Part of this life is what terrified me when your mum decided to marry me. She turned her back on this to make sure that none of you would ever be affected by it."
I leaned my head against dad. "I know, and I understand why mum did it. But, although I sometimes want to be a normal teenager, I feel as if I was born to do this. Can you understand that?"
"How can you say risking your life every time you go off is something you were born to do? You nearly killed yourself over what the Summer Queen did in your name," he shouted.
I looked down to see if Saetan was disturbed by dad's anger. The child slept through it. But dad's words stung. "Let's not go there, dad. You did some pretty scary things yourself that day, so don't start pointing fingers."
He let out a frustrated grunt. "You know that I'm supposed to be the parent here. I'm supposed to make sure that all my children are protected. How can I just sit back and allow you to go into danger every time knowing that this might be the last time I see you?"
"Dad, stop it. You'll wake Saetan." I didn't want to have this conversation with him. I knew that there were a lot of things happening around me. I didn't need him to remind me that I was on a dangerous and most probably destructive path. What I wanted was his understanding and support. His next words made my heart pound.
"How do you think Kevin feels? When Pounamu came back from the faery realms saying you had died, and this doppelganger was your replacement, he was devastated. You weren't here trying to make sure that Kevin ate, or went to school, or even continued functioning. He hardly spoke. The only time he came to life was when that infernal sword appeared in his hands."
"Dad, that's not fair." There was a hitch in my voice, but dad was relentless.
"I'm not trying to be fair. I want you to realise that your life is very precious and think about those that have to wait behind. Think of those who love you."
I stood up, trying to stop the ache in the back of my throat from turning my eyes into a bed of tears. Using my telekinesis, I opened my window just to the right of the back porch and floated Saetan through to rest on my bed. Turning around, a tear slid down my cheek. "What do you want me to do, dad? I can't turn my power on and off. It doesn't work like that. I am the only one left to hold the barrier against the nether realms."
There was a crafty look on his face as he stood up and stared down at me. "You gave most of your control over to Pounamu. He holds the barrier. You're not needed for that. Instead, come with me and we'll see a counsellor. One of the Maori, like you suggested with me?"
I wasn't going to a shrink; I didn't have time for it so I ignored that question and concentrated on something I could deal with. "My blood runs in that chalice of Pounamu's which holds the barrier in place. He has control to a certain degree, but it is my power, and my blood, that fuels its protective properties."
"Regardless, he is the one keeping an eye on things most of the time, correct?"
"And what about the other realms? I may have control over what crosses over from the nether-realms, but there are thousands of other creatures from different realms that can travel to this plane."
Dad sighed in frustration. "Are you trying to be obtuse?"
I felt my temper flare. "No, I am trying to be realistic about your attempt to try and keep me from doing what has to be done. I don't have time for your fears. I have my own to deal with."
His face darkened with a build to his own temper. "That is what I am talking about. You're only sixteen and already you have had to face torments and horrors that would make grown men run screaming. Kevin confides in me and says that you have restless sleeps, and whimpers. Every time you go into the other realms you are destroying part of yourself doing what is necessary. It has to stop!"
"If you haven't noticed, I am shit deep in trouble at the moment. In order for me to tidy up everything that has happened so far, I have to do the necessary."
"Why can't you give those responsibilities over to the Maori or even Pounamu? You're just a child. What you're doing should be handled by older, more experienced people."
My anger burned and I looked at dad, deeply offended. "It has nearly been a year since I grew into my power. No one else has been able to do what had to be done. No one. What makes you think that the Maori would have been able to work within the nether-realms? Their power doesn't work there. Mine does. Secondly, you seem to forget, that I have the experience and knowledge of mum within me. Therefore, since the death of grams, I am the only qualified person to deal with situations that arise."
I saw a tic form on the side of dad's cheek as he glared at me. Grabbing his hand, I watched his fingers spasm as he tried to regain his temper. "I'm sorry, dad, but I can't be the little boy I was a year ago. Can't you be grateful for the man I am turning into?"
"Can you understand that it scares me to see my youngest son always in danger? Do you truly understand that concept, James?"
"No matter how you look at it, it still doesn't change reality, dad."
I watched as dad's shoulders slumped and the anger slid off him like water. "I know, son, but as a father I still worry, regardless." He grabbed me in a bear hug and held me tight. "Just... just promise me that you will see a shrink or something."
I nodded my head as his arm hid my face from view. "When everything has been sorted out, I will."
I stood outside Kevin's room and knocked. The door opened and I could hear music blaring in the background. His taste for music leaned more towards metal and rock, while mine was easy listening style. He had his books sprawled over the desk, and Leon was jumping around the room to the music.
"Hey, James, how are the two little devils?"
"Both are fast asleep. I'll be contacting the Winter Crone and hunting down family for little Saetan soon."
"I'm going to miss those two. They sure made the place lively."
"Yeah...Um, can I talk to you in private?" I clasped my hands in front of me to stop my hands from shaking with nervous tension.
He cocked his head to the side, noting my expression and nodded. Telling Leon he would be back soon and to do some revisions, he followed me as I led him to my room.
"What's up, James?"
I walked into his arms and held him. "I'm sorry."
Surprised, he hugged me back. "What's this all about?"
"Dad told me what happened to you." He stiffened in my arms, so I held him tighter.
"You didn't need to know that."
I pulled out of his arms to glare up at his face. "Yes I did!"
His face was just as determined as mine. "No, you didn't. You have been through a hell of a lot. I didn't want to add any more worry on top of what you have to carry. I had to handle things on my own. I'm older than you and yet, sometimes, I feel as if you're going to outgrow me."
"How can you say that? What kind of person do you take me for? Some fickle thing that will dump you like a pet on the side of the road!??!"
His laugh caught me off guard as he hugged me tighter to him. "God, you can be so melodramatic at times." I grumbled, but he pushed my face towards his chest and bade me to hush. "I hate feeling helpless and useless. I hate the fact that the guy I love runs off into danger and I'm not there to watch his back. My prayer was answered when I was given redemption." There was an ominous tone in his voice and I looked up to see his jaw jutting forth with steely eyes. "I made a promise that I would destroy all of Faery for what they had done to you."
I forced the words of denial back down my throat. As much as I wanted to protect him, I couldn't chop him off at the ankles either. He needed to grow just like I had to. But it was hard to see this side to Kevin. Instead, I cuddled my face into his chest, listening to the steady cadence of his heart.
He lifted my face up so he could peer into my eyes. "You make me do the craziest things, James." He gave a wry smile.
I had no answer, but I could certainly show him how crazy he made me.
We lay in a heaving pile. I was exhausted, but replete. Kevin had been vociferous in his pleasure. I had love bites all over my body, from my chest down to my groin and even on my ass. He had been hungry, my Kevin. His cock was still buried in my ass. Hours had passed. He fucked me three times, then we had showered and I had sucked him off, then we had kissed until our passions and my empathic power had us writhing again for another round. I used my hands covered in lube to pull on him while he bit upon my nipples. Then he fucked my mouth, and then my ass for the grand finale. I had never had Kevin this virile before. I loved it, but I wasn't sure I would be able to keep up if he decided this would be a regular thing. Once a month or the special occasion, I loved it. But...damn, he was talented and yeah, damn.