Allie slowly opened her eyes and was greeted by an unfamiliar ceiling. Her head was strangely light, as though something terrible had been removed. A moment’s thought brought back the events of the night before. The confrontation in the warehouse, the psychic battle with Dell, and finally the nightmare and the strangers.

Allie could remember she’d been in no state to think clearly because of some nightmarish thing inside of Dell, but when she revisited the thoughts, she found them tamed. She understood she did not know what that thing was, but she found herself unconcerned with it. Her natural curiosity seemed to die the moment her thoughts moved in that direction.

The same happened when she thought of the strange beings who had intervened. She could remember nothing of how they looked and only snatches of what they had told them. Or perhaps she didn’t care to remember?

Allie sat up and stretched. She was still wearing her clothes and tactical gear, and she could smell the reality of last night on them. She looked around to orient herself and realized she was in Amber and Goldie’s bedroom. She recognized the soft pastels and nature motif that spoke of spring and new life. She was sharing the bed with Don and Goldie who were both still fast asleep.

It wasn’t often she saw Don asleep. It wasn’t that Don slept little, but that Allie slept a lot. The protective agent was in the middle of the wide bed, her arms straight out in either direction. Goldie dozed under one arm, curled into a ball. The sudden realization Allie herself had been under the other made a slight blush run up her neck.

Allie crawled out of bed, careful not to wake its still slumbering inhabitants, and left the room. A quick check of the house found the purifiers were still present. Jason and Monica were sleeping in Don’s room. Lora was asleep on the floor in the room with Lucian like an electric guard dog. She stirred slightly when Allie peeked in, but since she didn’t enter the room, that was all. Neil and Malcolm were sleeping in the living room. Neil regarded the wandering esper with one bleary eye before passing back out.

Allie found Jack on the front porch. Dawn had started to paint the morning sky that captivating shade of purple that chases dreamers into it arms every morning. The ageless man called the seventh scion looked tired. Not from lack of sleep, but something else. Something more profound and more emotional than exhaustion. Allie couldn’t imagine what kind of life he’d had with Lucian and his mother up until now. She just knew it was over.

“Can I help you, Agent?” Jack asked, not breaking his gaze with the sunrise.

“No,” Allie said with an involuntary shake of her head. “I’m not disturbing you am I?”

Jack shook his head. “I am the only one of my kin who can watch the birth of a new day so brazenly. I suppose it’s my reward for never drinking blood. Though I sometimes wonder if that’s really true, or if this is just a lesson in a different shape.”

Allie had a seat on the step to the porch. “A lesson?”

“My father is what he is because he wanted something that wasn’t his to have. That’s the biblical definition of evil. My brethren take this truth to heart and pursue that which they feel is theirs by right of the curse Father gave us. They are destructive, this is without argument, but they are merely surviving based on the uncontrollable circumstances of their creation. Their evil is as debatable as the evil of a tiger.

“I tried to rise above that, above the curse. I policed my kin at my father behest. I never partook of blood and thus maintained my place in the sun. I do not suffer the effects of a life of killing in the same way. I will never be struck down by years of terror in a critical moment, yet…”

The pair watched the creeping sunset for a moment in silence. Allie understood what Jack was getting at. He wanted a normal life. A human life. He wanted something that wasn’t his to have. The last few days had been the price to pay for that, and he hadn’t paid it alone. Was it his curse or was that just what life was?

“You’ll be taking him, I suppose,” Jack said, his voice not betraying any emotion.

“Even if we ignored his being a shadow, we would have to because of everything else.”

“I suppose that is for the best. I clearly didn’t handle any of this correctly.” Jack chuckled.

“You’ve never had a family? A personal one, I mean,” Allie asked in spite of herself.

“I have. Just not like this one.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“Don’t be.”

It was at that moment a silver four-door sedan pulled up in front of the house, parking behind the purifiers extended van. Allie identified the man and woman who exited it immediately as Mary Kyle, Don’s mother, and Commander Nix, head of the North American Choir division.

Mary was a matronly woman with the same olive toned skin and dark hair as her daughter. She was neither tall, nor short, but she also didn’t come across as average. Her hair was cut in a long bob that framed her oval face quite kindly. She was wearing jeans and a floral print blouse that screamed vacation.

Allie had never before seen the commander outside of a full suit. He was wearing tan slacks and a simple white dress shirt, rolled halfway up the forearms. His skin was rich, dark, and flawless. He looked deceptively youthful, perhaps not a day over forty, but Allie knew full well he was older than Malcolm and nearly one of the oldest member of the choir in the world. His angular features were hard, not from active displeasure, but because that was how he looked. Allie quickly rose at the sight of him.

Allie placed a closed fist over her heart in salute. “Hello, Commander. Thank you for joining us,” she said.

Commander Nix regarded her for a moment before placing his hand on her shoulder. “Good work, Agent Piper,” He said quietly.

“Thank you, Sir,” Allie said as a wave of calm overtook her. “I’m sorry I failed to write a report last night, I-“

“It’s fine, Agent,” Nix said, cutting her off with a wave of his hand. “We received a report from Malcolm. You can do yours in due time. Are you feeling better?”

“Y-yes, Sir,” Allie stammered. The commander had a way about him that could make you feel like a child, both positively and negatively. His concern was just as substantial as his ire.

“Good. I’ve made arrangements for you and your partner to come home for a time. I’d like you checked out to make sure you are fit to return to duty then you can have a month vacation. Go wherever you’d like. How does that sound?”

“Wonderful, Sir! Thank you, Sir!” Allie said unable to hide her excitement. A month pass to lollygag was about as big a reward as could be hoped for.

“Glad to hear it. Mary?”

“Of course, Sir,” Mary said as she walked past him and took Allie’s hand. “Come, I’m sure the others are laid about like dogs in winter. Let’s see to them.”

“Right,” Allie said as she allowed herself to be pulled inside, leaving the Commander and Jack alone on the porch.

*~*~*~*

Lucian found himself being gently shaken awake by Jack. His uncle was sitting on the edge of his bed and looked exhausted, but his expression seemed oddly happy.

“Uncle Jack?” Lucian asked. The boy felt like his head was full of sand.

“Hey, Kid,” Jack said. “How are you feeling?”

“Sleepy,” Lucian said simply.

Jack chuckled softly. He reached out and ran his hand over Lucian’s face.

“Is everything okay?” Lucian asked. He got the sense that something was up, even though he couldn’t tell what.

“Better than expected, though I’m not sure how you are going to feel about it.”

Lucian sat up and rubbed his eyes, hoping to clear the sleep both from them and his head. “What do you mean?” He asked.

“Lucian, there is an organization called the Choir. Don, Allie, and the others who came to save you work for them. They are kind of like supernatural police, but they don’t work for anyone but themselves. The general public doesn’t know about them or the creatures they deal with.

“Many members have powers and are usually raised by the organization itself because they are born into it. Your great grandmother was a member but left for-” Jack paused for a moment, “personal reasons.

“I had hoped your unique powers would mean it wouldn’t be needed for you to return to the organization. You mother wanted a more normal life for you, but now, with her gone and with everything that’s happened? That’s no longer feasible.”

“Are you saying we are going to join these people?” Lucian asked, his heart a swirl of emotions.

“I’m saying you are.”

“What about you?” Lucian asked, fear now first place in the race of emotions.

“I can’t, but it doesn’t mean I won’t see you again,” Jack said, placing his hand on Lucian’s cheek. “As a matter of fact, I can see you whenever I want. Well, whenever my work allows. I have my own work to see to. Work I’ve been putting off for much longer than I should have.”

Lucian nodded slowly. He’d wished for his life to change, and he’d gotten just that. He didn’t realize how much he’d lose in the trade.  His uncle was the only family he had left, and that wasn’t a blood tie.

“Lucian, I promise you,” Jack said as he took Lucian’s face in both his hands. “I promise you it’s going to be okay. I promise you I will never abandon you. This is for the best. Years from now, when you’re a man of your own, you’ll see that.”

“Okay,” Lucian said. What else was there?

Jack stood up. “Now come. Let’s get you fed.”

The house smelled of bacon, eggs, and pancakes. Jack led him to the kitchen, where Don, Allie, and three of the people Lucian had seen last night but didn’t know were eating. One was a slim, blue-haired woman who was trying to steal food from Don’s plate. Another was a full figured woman who was feeding a bear of a man with a huge red beard a piece of bacon. Nearby, Goldie was loading pancakes onto a plate when she saw Lucian and gasped with glee. She put everything down and rushed over to wrap him in a warm hug.

“I’m so glad you’re okay!” Goldie said. “Are you scared? Excited? Are you hungry? Boys are usually hungry, right?” Lucian happy to see her energy back.

“Yes, yes, and yes?” Lucian said, trying to answer all of her questions.

Goldie giggled and hugged him again before giving him a plate and sending him to the table.

“I’ll be in the next room,” Jack said. “Eat and then join us.”

“You look sleepy,” Don said as she casually thumped the table with her fork in an attempt to keep the blue-haired woman’s thievery at bay.

“I am sleepy,” Lucian said. He took a bite of bacon and suddenly found himself ravenous. He unconsciously began shoveling food into his mouth.

“Slow down. No one is gonna steal it.” Allie said.

“You sure?” Lucian ask, eyeing the blue-haired woman suspiciously.

“I just want Don’s food,” The woman said managing to filch a sliver of pancake from Don’s plate. She popped it hurriedly into her mouth before Don could stop her.

“Hey! Give that back!” Don said with annoyance.

“Come take it!” The woman said wiggling her eyebrows.

“There is a child at the table, Lora,” The other woman said firmly as she picked an errant bit of egg from the giant man’s fiery beard.

“This kid lived at a summer camp. I’m sure he’s seen worse.” Lora winked at Lucian.

Lucian felt his cheeks flush as he suddenly realized what was being implied.

The man chucked and suddenly winced as the woman next to him tugged his beard.

“We’re being rude. Hello, Lucian. My name is Monica Warwood. This big old bear here is my husband, Jason. That’s Lora Keller. It’s nice to properly meet you.” Monica said.

Lucian choked down a mouthful of eggs. “I’m Lucian King. Nice to meet you.”

“How old are you, Lucian?” Monica asked.

“Thirteen.”

“Same age as our Ceilia,” Jason said to Monica. He looked back to Lucian. “When you get to Home, you should look for her. She’s a sweet girl, and she’ll help you find your feet.”

“Home?” Lucian asked.

“You’ll see, for now, we should get ready to go,” Monica said as she stood up. “Lora, Jason, C’mon. You’ve both had enough.”

“She is such a mom,” Lora said as she hugged Don.

“Stay safe,” Don and Allie said in unison.

The three of them nodded and left the room.

“We should probably get moving as well,” Allie said.

“You guys are going as well, right? To your home, I mean?” Goldie asked sadly.

“Yeah,” Don said, “But we’ll be back in a few months. Are you going to be okay without your mom?”

“We will be fine, Ms. Kyle,” Goldie said. Her whole demeanor was suddenly different, more refined. “The young man’s actions saw to that.”

Don and Allie stood up and moved to leave. At the last moment, Allie turned back to Lucian and leaned in close to him. “We’ll have a chance to talk about our mutual ‘friends’ in a few days. Okay?” She whispered.

Lucian nodded.

Allie patted his head, and the pair left.

Lucian continued eating as Goldie cleaned around him. When he finished, he thanked her, got hugged again, and went to the next room.

Jack was sitting with a man and a woman. The woman looked a bit like Don, but shorter and a little chubby. The man looked important, even in the plain clothes he was wearing. He regarded Lucian with expressionless eyes for a moment before smiling a warm smile and standing up.

“Lucian, correct?” The man asked.

Lucian nodded.

“My name is Joshua Nix. I am the commander of the Choir here in North America,” He gestured to the woman. “This is Mary Kyle. She is the mother of Donna Kyle, whom you’ve met.”

“Mary is going to be your foster mother for when I am not around,” Jack said.

Lucian nodded. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Nix. Nice to meet you, Ms. Kyle.”

“Such a polite boy,” Mary said.

“He is rather compliant,” The Commander said.

“His mother saw to that,” Jack said wistfully.

“I know you are tired, but we need to get moving,” Joshua said. “Your uncle was nice enough to grab some things for you for now. He’ll bring everything else later. Tell me Lucian, have you ever been on a private jet?”

Lucian shook his head.

“Then you are in for a treat. It’ll take some time to get to the airport so you can nap in the car if you like.”

They all left Amber’s house together and said their final goodbyes at the street. Jack gave Lucian one last hug before he got in the car and promised to see him in a few weeks after he settled matters in Maplenut. He watched as his uncle and Joshua shared a firm handshake and a short, unheard conversation before bidding each other goodbye.

As the car pulled away, Lucian watched Jack wave goodbye. He watched the streets and houses roll past as they left town. He watched the town of Maplenut slowly vanish into the horizon. When there was nothing left to see, but the trees and mountains of the countryside, only then did he curl up in the back seat, with a full stomach and heavy heart, and fall back asleep.

His old life was over. His new life had begun.

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