It was about 2 or 3 in the morning when Ro finally rubbed her tired eyes and stretched. She could easily refresh herself and go for quite a while without sleeping, but sleeping allowed one to dream and process. Besides, Joseph was only marginally awake and she’d done all she could for this leg of Linda’s journey.
“Okay… I’m going to get a few hours of shut-eye. You do the same, huh?” Her blue eyes rested on the garou male a long moment, expression soft and a little wistful. They’d talked on and off since bringing Linda back to the house. Some surprises and ‘aha!’ moments on both sides led both of them to a greater understanding, she hoped. “Hold her tight and I’ll be back when she wakes, or a little after.”
“I’ll do that,” he said softly and flashed her a charming, white-toothed smile. Joseph was undeniably handsome, but he was also a man that knew how to listen and was good at drawing people out to talk about themselves. Also, he remembered the details later and could retell them to sound more exciting and meaningful than they had to the original teller. “Sleep well, Ro. She’ll be safe with me.”
As Ro left, he undressed and slipped into bed with Linda. He held her close in his powerfully muscled arms. They were an archer’s arms, and attached to an archer’s broad and toned chest. Linda’s slight, pale-haired comatose form stood out in stark contrast to the big golden-brown man that cradled her so carefully against him. In time, he also slept.
Ro groaned when her ‘alarm’ went off. She’d cast a spell to alert her when Linda came back to the land of the living. She opened her eyes and groaned again. “Why is it this always happens at the butt-crack of dawn?” she grumbled. Extending her senses, she realized that Amrita had made a beeline to Linda. “Well, I have some time for coffee,then.”
She flung back the blankets, ignoring Ozy’s rumbling growl of protest and shuffled out to the kitchen. Silently, she praised whatever gods there were that someone had the foresight to set up the coffee-maker. She pushed the button and wandered back to her room and pulled on her jeans and sweater from the day before.
I’m sure the wolves would have loved the sight you presented, Ozy purred when she came back into the bedroom. The comment made Ro stop and smack her forehead.
“Damn. I’m really gonna have to start adjusting my usual habits. I’ve lived by myself for too long, I guess,” she snorted and ran a brush through her dark hair.
What am I, dog food?
Ro laughed. “You’re not, but you’re not humanoid, either. You don’t have the same drives. A naked woman doesn’t do anything for you and doesn’t present an invitation.” Ozy humphed and settled back down onto a pillow, closing his eyes. Ro chuckled and went to get her coffee. It wasn’t long after that she heard Amrita in the shower, so she went to see her patient.
She knocked lightly on the door and waited for at least a nominal answer before she entered. “Hey, lady,” she smiled. “Glad to have you back.”
“Good ta be back in th’land’a the living,” Linda replied with a tired but genuine smile. Joseph was lying propped up in the bed stroking her hair, and her head was resting against his chest, her fingers tracing the edges of his tightly defined lats. It was clear that they had been talking since Amrita’s departure, but neither seemed to consider Ro’s arrival to be an intrusion.
“Morning, Ro,” Joseph added with a wave of his broad hand.
“You look… better,” the other woman continued smiling. “More alive and here, if you get my meaning. That’s a good thing. A very good thing,” she said and come to the side of the bed to offer the pale woman a hug.
“Ah like ta think it’s good,” Linda replied. She pushed up and turned over towards Ro, enfolding her in the proffered hug. “Was a bit’a a long trip back, but Ah made it.”
“Really now?” she asked, eyebrows lifted when she pulled back from the hug. “You’re going to be telling this story a lot, I can tell,” she chuckled and pulled up a chair.
“Second time this mornin’, Ah’m sure, an’ probly won’t be th’last… unless Joseph wants ta tell ya fer me,” she slotted him a mischievous glance.
He chuckled and waved her on, “I’m sure I’m going to have to tell it a few times myself. You go on ahead.”
With a dramatic sigh and a put-upon expression, she leaned towards Ro and stage whispered, “What’s the good’a sleepin’ with a bard if’n he won’ even do yer singin’ fer ya?” Joseph laughed from where he was sitting.
“Multiple orgasms?” Ro asked innocently. Or it would have been innocent, if her eyes didn’t twinkle and her lips didn’t quirk up at the corners. “Besides, I’ve already experienced his story-telling abilities while we kept watch, last night,” she waved at the Galliard, playfully dismissive.
“Okay, got me on both’a those,” Linda giggled. Joseph just lay back and rested his head in his hands with a rather self-satisfied expression. She then recounted the details of her harrowing dreamlike ordeal, from the moment that she had lost consciousness to her flying home and climbing back into her body with the dawning sun.
“How very symbolic,” Ro drawled playfully. “But appropriate. So, a shamaness without being a Fomor, now? You going to get further training as we hit the road or stay here for a while? Admittedly, I don’t know how far along that path you were, before, so the question might be moot.”
“Ah’ve always felt a connection t’the spirit world…,” Linda murmured, “But Ah couldn’t really do much with it afore, ‘cept wakin’ up fetishes an’ things like that. Jez showed me all sorts’a stuff, but that was mostly… her own power makin’ it go. Owl tole me that Jez was keepin’ me from breakin’ through on mah own… powerful, but a crutch if’n ya folla?”
“Oh, I follow,” Ro nodded seriously. “So… you’re fully Awake in the bright light of day,” she grinned. “A new life from the death of the old… and I could probably pull out more metaphors and parables, but it’s way too early for that stuff,” she chuckled. Sitting back, she sipped from her cup and let her senses extend to look at Linda’s Pattern.
“Good news is that the cancer is arrested. Not gone, but not growing anymore,” she sighed. “However, it might be something I can work with better, now that it’s not a living, growing thing inside you.”
Linda breathed a sigh of relief, “So it ain’t gettin’ a lot worse, but it ain’t goin’ away neither? Ah reckon Ah can cope with that… sure beats where it was afore.”
“It actually should start clearing up on its own, but there’s nothing saying we can’t give it a little help,” Ro grinned. “And I will. You’ve only been rid of Jez for about twelve hours, honey. Things like metastatic cancer don’t just clear up in that time frame.” She leaned forward and placed a hand on Linda’s knee, squeezing it slightly. “We’ll get you cleaned up, good and proper honey. I’d make bank on that.”
“Ah’m sure Ah don’t gotta tell ya that’s a f___in’ relief,” Linda breathed. “Got a hope’a improvin’ mah health, an’ a good man an’ friends around me, an’ Owl ta learn from… it’s been a purty good mornin’, Ah gotta say.”
“You bet your ass it’s a good day,” Ro laughed. “You’ll probably start having an actual appetite… for food,” she drawled, casting a sidelong look at Joseph that elicited a wink from Linda. “But don’t keep eating like you’re used to, ‘cause your metabolism isn’t the same, anymore. You’ll likely just bring it back up,” she grimaced. “Today, I’d say take it relatively easy. After that, do whatever you have the energy for, just don’t over do it, huh? I’d hate to have Joseph sit on you for unfun reasons.”
“He’d do it, too, if’n ya tole him to,” Linda replied, glancing over towards him with mock vitriol.
“You bet I would,” he said breezily. “I know better than to argue with the woman that’s keeping my girl alive. Besides, she’s hot,” he added with a wink.
“Traitor,” Linda smirked. “Yeah, Ah’ll take it purty easy today… got mahself a lot ta think about anyhow. Ah reckon Ah’ll get a bite ta eat, take a shower an’ stay inna house purty much.”
“Good deal, then,” Ro nodded. “I’m gonna stick around today, if that’s okay. I want to catch Ody when he wakes and sees to himself. I’ve got an idea that he can maybe help me clear up your system,” she chuckled. “If I can keep him from going off on tangents, anyway.”
“Oh baby, he’s good people,” Linda replied, “Be careful workin’ with’im though. Have ya seen his Teslarmor yet?” She tried to keep herself from outright guffawing. “Ah’m sure it works real nice, but… well… wearin’ a tesla coil like it’s a party hat?”
That rich laugh of Rowena’s blossomed to encompass the room. “This may take a bit of work,” she said, adopting a latin accent. “Good thing I’m not SoE, either or we’d be in all kinds of trouble.”
“That’s what we had back at Overwatch,” Linda remarked. “Dr. Knight was a Verbena, an’ she brought in Prof. Strago Strange – an’ yeah, that was th’fella’s name – in ta help’er out with all sortsa tests. She hadda be real specific on th’specs she gave’im, but it worked out purty well. Ah liked ‘im, but th’way he looked at me was sorta freaky. Sorta a cross between yer favorite uncle anna guy that wants ta stuff ya inna giant test tube an’ point lightnin’ zappers at it ta see if’n he can burn yer tattoos off that way.”
The Verbena both laughed and grimaced at the image. “I’ll definitely remember to be very specific about what I want and need. It’s definitely going to be a learning experience and then some,” she shook her head. “Okay… you’ve got your marching orders for the next little bit. I’m gonna hit the shower, myself and see if someone’s cookin’ up breakfast for the poor New Yorker who can’t cook more than ramen,” she grinned playfully.
Then she leaned over to place a kiss on Linda’s forehead and, surprisingly one on Joseph’s. “Take care of each other.” Linda smiled at Ro and murmured her thanks.
“I’ve got breakfast detail today,” Joseph said. “Won’t be any trouble to make some for you too.”
Ro clasped her hands over her heart and fluttered her eyelashes at him. “My hero!”
“Go on and get wet,” he replied, waving her off, “and there’ll be something cooking up by the time you’re done.” Joseph’s eyes glittered with mirth. It was shaping up to be a much better day than the one before already, for everybody.
“Done and gone,” Ro grinned and with a jaunty wave, she went out the door to grab the spare set of clothes she kept in her car, then into the shower. Fifteen minutes later, she walked into the kitchen, inhaling deeply. “Mmmm…. what are the chances I can hire you to be my personal chef?” she grinned as she poured another cup of coffee.
“I do have talents that don’t relate to the kitchen too, you know,” he quipped in reply and slid a plate of fried eggs, waffles and bacon in front of her. “You’re just in time.”
“Bless you,” she said sincerely. “I’m just glad I don’t have to cook. I’d probably end up burning water. No knack for it and no real interest in learning,” she grinned. “Always dated guys who could cook. Mom and Aunt Joyce about threw up their hands in surrender at my lack of domesticity.”
“There aren’t that many decent restaurants out here, and I spend a lot of time out in the woods anyhow, so I had to learn to make do,” Joseph said as he poured the batter into the waffle iron for another set. “Besides, growing up on the rez there’s not a whole lot of money to go round.”
“That’s true enough,” she nodded. “I’m sure I could focus my attention and learn enough to get by, but…” she shrugged and grinned around a bit of waffle. “I’ve got other places to put my energies and I prefer those to domestic tasks.” She paused a moment, then looked at him with raised eyebrows. “You going to come along with us, at least for a while?”
“I’ve offered,” he answered. “Linda may take some convincing though. She keeps talking about how this sept is my home and how I’ve got my pack… and those things are true, but I don’t think that’s why she’s saying it.”
Ro leveled her intense blue eyes at him. “Probably not why she said it, no. She may change her tune now that she doesn’t have her passenger, any longer. She doesn’t have to be afraid of slipping up or be eaten alive by the thought of having to lie to you all the time. None of us want those we love to go into dangerous situations. That was likely another part of it. Going to find and getting Krissy is likely to get ugly and nasty.
“Personally, I’d probably be the one better off staying put,” she half-laughed. “But someone’s gotta patch you guys up, afterwards.” The thought of not being able to pull her own weight in a fight still niggled at her, but she wasn’t going to back down from a promise given, so she’d do her best to see it all through.
“You’ll be fine, Ro,” he replied cheerfully. “You’re a tough New Yorker right? You’ll adapt. I didn’t learn to swim until my father threw me out of a boat out in the lake.” Joseph paced back and forth a bit as he worked on breakfast foods, keeping an eye on Ro’s progress at eating her own breakfast to make sure she was enjoying it.
“I don’t think it’s just the Bane thing that’s got her holding me at bay though,” he said after a few moments. “Has she told you anything about her past romantic history?” His expression darkened as he brought that subject up. It wasn’t a pretty topic.
“I know a little from inference,” Ro nodded. “And what I didn’t get told, I filled in some gaps.” She ate a few more bites, thoughtfully. “I’m not a shrink, but she could certainly benefit from that kind of counseling,” she sighed. “My best guess is that she’s afraid, plain and simple. Afraid of something being too good to be true, so she wants to push you away to protect herself.” That thought, voiced in the open made the woman pause and grimace a little as if a shot hit home for herself, too. “Especially since she lied to you and now has to rebuild that trust. Only way to heal that fear is time and repetitive reassurances that you’re not going to leave. Doesn’t have to be verbal… just a steady presence in her life and your willingness to forgive her.”
He nodded, his facial muscles working. “Basically, she’s never had anything even close to a healthy relationship, and even ours started out with a lie. So yeah I think she’s scared too. She doesn’t think she can make anything work,” he shook his head and flipped an egg onto a plate. “Except sex, of course. Girl’s got hangups.” The big Amerindian stepped away from the stove for a moment and smoothed down his lustrous black hair with a heavy sigh.
“She does, but like I said last night. Love will go a helluva long way to help heal her wounds. She’s not the same woman, no but in a sense…she is. That woman you caught glimpses of is now allowed out in full measure. I saw those glimpses, too and knew she was a good person, down deep. She’s gonna have trouble accepting that, but between you, me, Amrita, Ody and Owl and the others, she’ll come to believe it. It’ll just take some time, Joseph.” She chuckled. “Maybe I should start looking into those forces as a next step on my personal path.”
“Which forces?” He inquired, not quite making the mental leap with her. He certainly understood and agreed most of what she had said, both that morning and the night before, but she had lost him at the end.
“Ah…” she laughed. “Time. A mage can do a lot with Time knowledge under her belt.”
“Oh… you mean like visions of the past and portents of the future?” As a Garou and a native tribesman, he was pretty comfortable with shamanism and vision quests.
“Yeah, and so much more,” she grinned. “Healing over time, for instance… a sort of regeneration effect for someone going into a fight. Or, if I ever find that vain bone in my body, making myself stay young and fresh,” she laughed. “Might be something to look into, there.”
“I thought city girls used plastic surgery for that,” he quipped. “Just don’t go flying around in a blue telephone box and I think we’ll be fine.”
He returned to the stove and flipped the last egg out onto a plate. “So Linda’s like you now, right? Will she have the same kinds of talents?”
“Oh, I suspect so,” she nodded, finishing her plate and sitting back in her chair to finish the coffee. “Though exactly how she employs them to fit her reality is totally up to her. We all do it just a little differently, even within our Traditions.”
“She’s already pretty steeped in magic,” he said looking dubiously at the eggs and extracting the waffles from the iron. “A lot of her life she’s been exposed to it in one way or another, and a lot of it was ours. Interesting to see how that plays out.”
“You’re from a magic family, but you haven’t said a lot about them to me yet, just your time in the city after you left… what were the MacIntyres like to grow up with? And how did that affect what you do now?”
“Well, my aunt married into the McIntyres, but the Brennans have been in the area a long time, too,” she said by way of minor clarification. “It was an interesting way to grow up. I guess much like some of your Kinfolk that don’t undergo a Change. They all expected me to Awaken before I did and having a mother, aunt, cousins and all that were mages wasn’t bad. Aunt Joyce has always been a bit of a control freak, so I used to push that button a lot when I was younger,” she grinned.
“A lot of our Kin that know about their tribes struggle with that,” Joseph said with a hint of melancholy. “Growing up knowing about the Garou, and the spiritual journeys that they take beyond the boundaries of the world, and the whole running free under the sky and howling at the moon thing, but not being able to do it themselves.” He shook his head. “I don’t blame the ones that resent us, especially because some of our people aren’t that sensitive to them about it. I don’t really blame Linda for wanting to learn our magic either. I grew up among a reasonably functional Kin family – well, functional when dad wasn’t around. He was… well he was difficult. He was a Warrior, and he was always disappointed that my older brothers and sisters didn’t Change. Made sure they knew it too. Did your family give you a hard time about not catching up right away?”
“At least you knew who your father was,” she grinned wryly, eyes full of compassion. “There was more frustration and not understanding why I didn’t Awake before I did, more than any berating or brow-beating. But, I sort of always knew that I’d follow a healing path. Awake or Asleep, which is why I became a paramedic and a doctor. Destiny, Fate or maybe I was just one of the lucky ones that knew early on what my bliss would be,” she shrugged slightly. “Besides Mom and Aunt Joyce, I was raised by the coven, since Mom never married. My friends all thought we were just part of some hippie-type commune,” she chuckled. “I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I don’t think I’d recommend it to everyone, either.”
“So our families do have something in common, at least,” he said thoughtfully. “But your mother never told you anything about your father at all? Even whether he was a magician like the rest of your family?”
“She didn’t outright say he was a mage, but I was a Beltane baby,” she chuckled. “Bonfires, celebrations, naked people dancing under the stars…. that kind of thing,” she shrugged. “I was born in early February, nine months later. So I suspect he is… or was. Only other thing she did say is that I got my hair and eye color from him. I dunno why all the secrecy, but I’ve stopped badgering her about it since I was only beating my head against a brick wall. Hell, brick may have been softer,” she snorted. “I still make some inquiries to her old friends, but most come back with the answer that they didn’t remember if she was seeing anyone specifically at that point.”
“Do you think that she’s just trying to forget a fling or a bad relationship, or she’s got some special reason to hide it from you?” Ro had sparked his incessant Uktena curiosity, but he was also trying to be conscious of her feelings and not to pry more than she was comfortable with.
“I asked those questions too, you can bet,” she answered, shaking her head slightly. “Those got neatly evaded like all the rest. It didn’t feel like a bad relationship, if you get my drift. I could be wrong, though. Aunt Joyce has said that while she might have some thick walls, my mother’s got a veritable fortress around her,” she frowned. “I dunno. I don’t want to suddenly turn up on the guy’s doorstep and make up for lost time, or anything. It would just be nice to know.”
“I can understand that,” he said. “I’d want to know too, if I were you.”
Joseph tilted his head slightly and paused, half-closing his eyes. It was like he was listening to something that Ro could not hear, like dogs and wolves do.
“Oh,” He said, and his brows went up. “That’s interesting.”
“What is?” she asked, eyebrows lifting.
“Mary is talking to me,” he said. “She says that the elders wanted me to talk to you and the other medicine workers out here about the night of the full moon.”
“Seems like a party night all the way around, this month,” she grinned. “I’ve got some connections to meet up with another coven for it.” She paused and her eyebrows lifted higher. “They want to invite us to the moot?”
“Yes. Nina Howls-Down-the-Avalanche, our sept’s Gatekeeper, has secured approval from the rest of the Elders of Mount Tehama, to invite you to attend. Amrita is going to address the sept about a matter that concerns you as well, and Linda was already required to be in attendance as well by the ruling of the elders yesterday.” She could see the surprise on the tall Uktena’s face.
Ro gave out a low whistle of appreciation that managed to convey surprise as well. “Now that is something, indeed.” Her nails tapped lightly on her coffee mug as she processed that information. She had really been looking forward to the Equinox celebration with the other coven, but this… could both be trouble and a giant leap forward in building bridges. “Well… I can’t say my curiosity isn’t piqued,” she chuckled. “And honestly, I don’t think Aunt Joyce is going anywhere until Helen heals a bit more, so it would be both an honor and a pleasure to accept that invitation.”
“So you’ll come?” he asked with his own brows raised. Having a member of the Brennan family up at the caern during a moot, and a diverse coven of mages besides, was going to make it the strangest moot in his living memory.
“Yeah, it’ll be very different, all the way around,” she grinned as if sensing his thoughts. “But, I can’t think of a better way to start building bridges, here.” Her expression turned serious. “My Aunt’s going to need to do her own bridge spanning, really. But, I can help with the preliminary stuff and so can Bill, when the opportunity arises.”
“I have given them your RSVP,” he said with a little smile. “If you still want to do that naked dancing around fires thing up there, I’m sure nobody will complain.”
Ro laughed. “Don’t get your hopes up, big boy,” she said. “We’ll see how it plays out and what happens.”
“All right. I think that’s about all anybody can do, right now,” He said, and then his eyes snapped over towards the stove. “The bacon! Oh…” and he slipped back to check on it. “Oh. It’s not burned. Had me worried. I’m going to bring Linda some breakfast and showered and situated, and then I guess I’ll talk to the other magicians. Or do you think you’d better do it? I’m not really sure about the protocol, here.”
“Tell you what… we’ll both mention it to the others, depending on who sees whom first,” she grinned. “I’m going to talk to Ody, later, but you might see Ash before I do, if Amrita hasn’t told him already. I don’t think any of the mages here are going to stand on any sort of formality or protocol since we come from different Traditions, anyway.”
“All right. We’ll do that. Thank you, Ro,” he said, sliding plates onto a tray to take back to the bedroom. “Thank you for taking care of Linda. And for reaching out. There’s been bad blood for a long time, and maybe now we can start putting some of it behind us.”
“God, I hope so,” she said fervently, getting up with her plate and taking it to the sink. She placed a hand on the large bicep and squeezed. “You’re welcome, too. And thanks for your part of it. It takes two… always takes two. Go on and feed Linda. I’ll be around if anything comes up.”