Khira Li Lindemann sat in her apartment, dark blue eyes staring at a place somewhere above her father’s shoulder. Where she shared her half-sister, Nele Lindemann’s shapely and sleek build and expressive hands, in her eyes and mannerisms, she was 100% Richard Kruspe’s daughter. And like her father, she had a quicksilver temper that could go from cool to near-manic rage in a heartbeat. At that moment, her temper was simmering at “’nuclear meltdown.”
“I wish you or Onkle Schneider would have said something to me earlier,” she groused, pointedly not looking at her father. “Your love life isn’t my business but…I wish you’d said something and I didn’t have to find out that my dad and one of my honorary ‘uncles’ are sleeping together. And then I find out not from either of your but from Onkle Till that you’re sleeping with the same woman on top of that.”
Richard sighed heavily and rubbed at eyes that were bright red with exhaustion, lack of sleep and more shed tears than he thought one human body could produce. He flopped back on the couch, one arm thrown over his forehead, idly noticing that the slight tremor in his hands he’d developed since the scandal of his relationship with Christoph had hit the news was growing in intensity. He was running on fumes and knew it. “I said I’m sorry, baby girl, and I mean it. It’s just…we were waiting for the right time to say anything and I guess the asshole who took and sold those pictures of us picked the time. How many times do I have to tell you I’m sorry?”
“Oh Vati, it’s okay,” Khira Li said, standing up from her seat and crossing the room to hug her father. “I’m not mad at you or anyone, just a little disappointed. You know how I feel about Lilly and Uncle Schneider.”
“I was trying to protect you,” Richard sighed, resting his head against his daughter’s shoulder. “I didn’t want you to find out about me, about us, this way. I wanted to tell you so many times but I didn’t.”
Khira Li tightened her hug as she dragged a blanket from the back of the couch and around her father’s shoulders. “I know, I know. Why don’t you crash here for an hour or so? You look like you’re dead on your feet.”
“Bless you sweetheart,” Richard mumbled, kicking his boots off and curling up on the sofa. Khira Li tucked a couple more pillows under his head, snuggled the blanket up under his chin, and pressed a kiss on his forehead, a sad smile crossing her face. Richard had fallen asleep the second his head touched the pillows, and she knew from long experience that nothing short of a fire alarm would wake him up. She padded out of the living room and into her bedroom, shutting the door quietly behind her. Pacing slowly back and forth across the carpet, she pulled her mobile out of her pants pocket, typed out a quick text message to Lilly and Schneider, letting them know where Richard was, then dropped down on her bed, massaging her temples wearily.
“Oh Vati...” she sighed. A single tear slipped down her face; more would have followed had her mobile rang with the tone she'd assigned to her half sister. Pushing the tear away, she answered, forcing her voice to be steady.
“Khira! I'm so glad I caught you! Is Onkle Richard all right? Is Lilly all right? And Onkle Schneider?” Nele exclaimed. “I overheard Vati telling you about some of the mess that’s going on.”
“Vati is asleep on my couch and as far as I know, Lilly and Uncle Schneider are okay. He sneaked over here, past the press, earlier today. He's running on his last nerve to say the very least,” Khira replied, stretching herself out on her bed and curling up under the blankets. “I don't know what else to say other than that. Has anyone from the press or the fans bothered you?”
“Nope, not a one,” Nele replied. “And God help them if they do. Vati's declared war on any of them that show up at my house or his...or anyone's, for that matter. If you need somewhere to hide out, my house is always open.”
“Same here,” Khira replied, hearing a soft whimper coming from the living room. “Schiβe, I have to go, Vatti's having a nightmare.” Clicking the phone off, she shoved it into her pants pocket and ran for the living room, coming to a stuttering stop next to the couch where her father lay, twisted up in the blanket and covered in sweat. She reached down to shake him awake, only to draw her hand back when she saw her father's wide open eyes. Instead of their normal dark blue, they were a twisting, swirling sphere of chaos, shades of blue, green, copper, scarlet and silver that saw nothing and everything, set in a pale skinned, much younger face that she barely recognized as her father. As she looked at Richard, scared out of her mind and unable to move, he came awake with a choking gasp, grabbing her wrist in a grip of steel. She tried to pull back but couldn't budge Richard's grasp at all no matter how hard she tried.
“Vati! What in the world...damn it, you're hurting my arm! Let go!” she yelled, struggling all the while. Richard said not a word, just stared up at his daughter with his unworldly eyes. A ragged, painful breath tore its way out of his chest, and he gasped, “Khira, I'm sorry...”
Light flashed before Khira's eyes and she screamed...
...She was standing on a beach she didn't recognize, the sky above full of multi-colored stars that made no recognizable pattern. At her feet, a warm surf lapped the shoreline, filling the air with the scent of salt water, tropical flowers and the odd scent of ozone. She spun about on her heel, staring at the landscape around her. Dunes thick with sea grass rose up to the sky, a pathway lined with faintly-glowing rocks meandering up and around their edges. There was a faint reddish glow at the edge of the horizon; in that glow Khira could see dolphins leaping happily out of the water.
“This isn't the way I wanted you to see this,” Richard's voice echoed from behind her. Khira turned and saw him running across the sand to catch his daughter up in his arms. “Oh sweetheart, are you all right?”
Khira pushed back from Richard anger snapping in her eyes. “What in the fuck is going on? Where is this? What have you gotten yourself into?”
“One question at a time, “ Richard said, loosing his grip on Khira's arms. “Uhm...this is going to take some explaining.”
Khira sat down on a boulder that had conveniently popped up behind her with a huff of irritation. “It had better be good or I'm going to forget you're my father and beat the shit out of you.”
Richard sat at his daughter's feet, scooping up a handful of opalescent sand and letting it slip through his fingers, gathering his thoughts. “Remember when you were a little girl and your favorite bed time stories were about warrior queens and magic lands?” Khira nodded warily, not sure where Richard was going with his story. “I remember you said you would give anything to be a warrior queen with a magical sword, out to save your kingdom and riding a white horse with wings, do you?”
“Yeah,” Khira replied, smiling quietly at the memories her father's words invoked. “I was one of the biggest geeks in my classes growing up because I'd rather read about women warriors and magic than who was the boy band of the week.”
“Well, it's...” Richard began, rubbing his nose and trying to figure out how to explain the changes that had come over himself as well as the rest of the band. “Uhm, keep that in mind,” he continued, laying a hand on his daughter's cheek and reaching his talents out. Khira's breath caught in her throat as her father's magic caught her up and held her close, just as he did when she was a baby. She saw everything he could do, everything he had become; tears gathered in her eyes as she saw the torture and horror he'd gone through at the hands of the mad doctor, the bravery Lilly had shown defending him and the rest of the band, and everything he'd experienced since then.
::I can give you all of this:: Richard said, his voice warm and soft in her mind. ::You can say yes or no, it's your choice. You'll pass whatever changes happen on to any kids you have, though. And you're going to live a long, long time. You'll see things that will make you laugh, you'll see things that will scare you shitless and...oh baby girl, I wish things could have been different. But it's your choice in the end::
Khira looked at all the memories, everything her father showed her, pressing her hands to her face with a sobbing gasp. “Dad...Vatti, why didn't you tell me about this? Why didn't you tell me how you and Lilly really met? Why didn't...”
“Would you have believed me?”
Khira opened her eyes and grasped her father's face in ice-cold hands that she forced not to shake. “Yes, I would have. You could have told me the moon was made of green cheese and mice lived on it! You've never lied to me. You've never kept anything from me that you shouldn't have! I believe you. And yes, I want the magic. I want to be a warrior queen, for real.”
Richard laughed and hugged Khira to him, saying, “When did you get to be so grown up? So wise, so...much smarter than your old man?”
“Oh, I've been pretty good at hiding it but you would have seen it eventually,” Khira laughed, hugging him in return. “Now, show me how to do all this...magic.”
Richard smiled at Khira and kissed her cheek. “You are so, so brave, little one. You’ve always been braver than me, than anyone I know.”
“I wouldn’t say braver than you. I couldn’t have left my homeland like you did, not knowing where you were heading or if you’d get there alive. I’m just too stubborn to be afraid.”
Sniffling back tears, Richard took Khira’s hands and said, “Think of some place that always made you feel safe when you were scared. Lock that place in your mind. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.”
Khira did, and when she opened them seconds later at Richard’s command, she saw a white horse with opalescent wings running across the sand towards her, its mane and tail streaming out behind it. She stood up, hands covering her mouth and knees shaking as she watched the fantastical creature come up the beach towards her. The horse came to a sliding stop right in front of her and whinnied, rising up in a rear with its hooves raking the sky. When it came back down, the horse moved so it was right next to the rock she had been sitting on, and gave her a Look.
“I think someone wants you to hop on and go for a ride,” Richard said solemnly, but humor sparkling in his eyes at the same time. “I take it this is one of the things you thought of?”
“I…oh Vatti, it is…”Khira stammered, running a trembling hand down the horse’s snow white hide, marveling in its softness and the baby powder like scent of its skin. “What’s your name?” she asked.
::You called me Swanwhite when you were little:: the horse said, settling its wings carefully. ::I think that will do nicely. Have your father help you up on my back and we’ll go for a little run, and perhaps when we come back, he’ll want to try?::
“Me?” Richard squeaked, stepping nervously away from the winged horse. “I can barely sit on an old pony that's lame in three legs and missing a fourth!”
::Well then, you'll just have to hold on tight:: Swanwhite replied, moving its wings so Khira could boost herself up behind them. Once she was settled to both hers and Swanwhite's liking, she leaned over the mare's neck and whispered “Let's go!” They were up the beach like a shot from a cannon, leaving Richard to grope for the rock and shakily sit down. Woman and horse splashed through the warm ocean water, blonde, curly locks mingling with pure white mane, Khira's laugh riding over the waves as clear as a bell.
Richard sat, eyes watering, as he watched his little girl fulfilling one of her childhood dreams. He was lost in thought when Swanwhite came to a prancing stop in front of him; looking up, he saw Khira leaning down, holding her hand out.
“We won't let you fall off,” she said, a big smile crossing her sea water-damp face. Her curls were a tangled, soaked mess, blue, blue eyes now the color of the sky at noontime. Swanwhite eased one of her wings behind Richard and ushered him up to the rock he'd been sitting on, using it as a guide so he could clumsily pull himself up behind Khira. She tugged at his hands until they were resting lightly on her waist, saying, “It's just like when you're riding behind someone on a bike.”
“The last time I rode a bike was I don't know how long ago and the last time your Uncle Schneider took me out on his motorcycle I almost had a heart attack!” Richard protested, shifting his behind until he was sure he was as comfortable as he was going to get. “If I fall off, can you make it so I land in the water and not on a rock or the beach, please?”
Swanwhite nickered softly and began strolling up the beach. ::You won't fall off, Richard. Not off of me::
Father, daughter and mare paced up the beach, the sunrise breaking over the horizon and guiding them home.
Khira opened her eyes and found herself sitting on the floor of her apartment, leaning against Richard's knee. Looking up at her father, she saw silver tears glistening on his face; she came to her feet in a rush and hugged him as hard as she could.
::So I'm a telepath and an empath now?:: she asked, slowly gaining confidence in her ability to speak without saying a word. ::Is that all or am I going to wake up one morning with antennae, green skinned and googly eyes?::
::Holy shit, no! Just the empathy and telepathy. That's all I was at the start, everything came later. I don't think you have any of my necromantic talent, thank heaven, but I've got the feeling you'll be a very strong empath down the road. You might be able to do stuff with fire, like your Uncle Till can, but I can't tell. Lilly can, she's the best at seeing what talents someone is going to develop:: Richard replied, seeing his child's 'thread' of light weaving itself into the Changeling bond, marveling at how it fluctuated from blood-red to a silvery gold as it seated itself firmly. He knew the others would know immediately what had happened, and braced himself for the wordless storm of emotions that crashed into them.
::Is that...is that everyone else?:: Khira said, eyes widening as she “saw” what Richard was seeing for the first time. ::How in the world do you people stay out of each other's heads? I mean, it's great to be able to talk like this but I certainly do NOT need to know about what you, Lilly and Onkle Schneider get up to!::
Richard bit back a snort-giggle at his daughter's astonishment [and somewhat prickly tone] and quickly 'showed' her how to keep her thoughts and emotions private and how to keep others out of her mind. ::There you go. Easy-peasy.::
::Khira Li?:: Arielle's voice came, startling her. ::How in the world did you...did your father have anything to do with this?::
::Richard, if you didn't ask this child for her permission...:: Lilly groused, followed by five more variations of “If you didn't ask nicely you're going to be sorry.”
::Hold on a second!:: Richard yelled. ::Yes I asked nicely and yes, this was wholly Khira Li's choice. What do you think I am, some kind of arrogant asshole, just come charging in and forcing my daughter to do something she doesn't want to do?::
Silence, then, ::Arrogant as the day is long, yes. An asshole...well, that's debatable. What phase is the moon in?:: came Schneider’s acerbic comment, well-flavored with impish humor.
:Gee, thank you so much Christoph!:: Richard grumpily replied. ::I thought you loved me::
::I do, I'm just being truthful. Well, Khira, what do you think?:: Christoph asked, all innocence and cheekiness.
::It's...different:: Khira replied. ::I'm going to need some time to get used to all this but...I think it's doable.::
Richard simply hugged her and said, “That's my baby girl.” He thought everyone had gotten their say in when Till protested, albeit sleepily, ::HEY! She's half my kid too!::
::Uh....wait. What?:: Lilly said, Till's comment throwing her off. ::She's always been half my kid:: Till replied smugly. ::Actually, she and the other youngsters have always been half everyone's. So to speak::
Ollie's amused snort broke up the resultant laughter. ::I don't know about the rest of you but I'm going back to bed. I think Paul fell asleep on us and Flake's chomping at the bit to be off doing whatever weird shit he does at night besides sleep::
::I'll have you know I'm in the middle of a dinner date with my daughter and the…ahem…boy… she's interested in:: Flake replied acidly. ::He’s shaking in his shoes. He's convinced, and I didn't say a word, that if he puts one toe out of line I'll rain fire and destruction down on his head. If I sneeze, he's going to faint.::
::Go pay attention to your daughter, Flake, and please don't torment the poor boy:: Richard replied. ::But if he does start something, tell him I know where we keep all of our pyrotechnic stuff and I won't be shy about setting him on fire from a distance!::
::And I know exactly where the good old “Büch Dich” dildo is stored:: Till said as he dropped out of the conversation, leaving the rest to laugh at his and Richard's comments.