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Incorporeal Reunion Tour

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Barry Bluejeans was humming to himself as he went about his morning routine. The goats were fed, Tess was curled up on her stool, and the coffeemaker was bubbling away. He set their mugs on the counter and flicked the radio on, wincing when he realized it had been left on one of those modern stations. Leaning over the counter, he fiddle with the tuning knob, trying to find literally anything else to listen to. It picked up a classic rock station and he smiled. Perfect. He opened the fridge, vaguely contemplating whether or not he was brave enough to try throwing on some bacon and eggs. He had been getting better at cooking over a winter of helping Lup in the kitchen.

That was where Barry was when he felt something at the edge of the wards, something being held there that felt like... He slammed the refrigerator door and started for the living room and the front door. It felt like Edward but not. There was no malicious intent, only fear and confusion humming along the magic. A glance out the window showed him a figure leaning heavily against the gate, trying the latch over and over and clearly not sure why it wouldn't just open. Barry could see short dark hair under a cap, long pointed ears, but their head was down and he couldn't see their face. It wasn't Edward though. He was sure of that much.

Opening the door, Barry took a few steps out onto the front porch.

"Hey uh... Are you okay, buddy? Do you need-"

The figure looked up and Barry froze. It was a young man, his hair shaved high and tight on the sides and cropped short on top in a familiar military style. He was wearing olive drab trousers and a jacket over a white sleeveless shirt and had one hand pressed against his side. Under the jacket, Barry could see the now familiar lines of a ghost harness, though this one clearly wasn't of Noelle's making. It was sloppier, the design less clean, but it was definitely the same thing.

“I...I need help, BB. There’s... there’s something wrong with Eddie and I can’t find Lili and... and nothing makes sense and... and I don’t know how I got home. I... I was on a patrol and...”

Barry felt like his mind was trying to move through molasses and then everything finally socketed into place. His heart started pounding so loud he could hear it in his own ears. This wasn't right. This shouldn't be happening. And yet. And yet... He blurted out the only thing his frantic mind could think, the only word he could find.

“Keats?"

------------ One Week Earlier ------------

Barry reached for his glasses as he woke up and then paused, turning to kiss Lup gently.

"I'm gonna go make coffee. Want me to throw on some uh... some toast for you?" He could hear Tess yowling downstairs, knowing somehow that they were awake and demanding food now. "Gotta go feed her highness. I was uh... I was reading about autofeeder things. Any opinions on maybe getting to sleep in sometimes?"

And then the goats started to make noise in the yard and Barry's dreams of sleeping in ever in his life or second life flew away on the wind. Oh well, it was worth it, he supposed.

Lup blinked awake at the kiss, reaching a hand up to pull Barry back into a much longer one,

“Hmmmm, gotta get one with a timer or Tess’ll roll instead of walk....”

Reluctantly, she let go of him and stretched, scrambling out of bed for her pants.

“I’ll get those complainers outside if you get the coffee, babe. Sidebar; how do humans who actually need like... sleep sleep do this and also have a sex life, asking for a friend.”

Barry snorted at that and got up to grab his jeans, jamming his glasses on as he moved.

"It uh... it involved a really silly amount of coffee. Like, unhealthy amounts of coffee. I'm amazed my heart never exploded." He made a little explosion gesture and laughed, reaching for a shirt. "Just... kaboom." Then he stretched. "Alternately, now you know why most humans are tired all the time."

“Explains why humans discovered coffee so long ago. Couldn’t make civilization without it.”

Lup pressed herself against Barry’s back, kissing up his neck and wrapping her arms around his waist,

“You have a lesson with Taako after work, right?”

"Yeah, that's right." He leaned back against her, reaching back to rest his hands on her hips and hold her close. "We're uh... we're meeting in the park for some practice on personal shields. Apparently he's going to, and I quote, throw things at my head until I do it right."

Tess was at the bottom of the stairs now, spinning circles and yowling at the top of her lungs. Barry sighed dramatically.

"She's spoiled. We spoiled our daughter. We've failed as parents. I hope you know that." He turned and kissed her again before heading for the stairs. "I'm coming, Tess. Yes, I know! We could hear you! I bet they can hear you on the space station!"

Tess ran ahead of them into the kitchen, her tail a flag of triumph. Lup nudged her with a foot as she slid on the boots she kept by the back door,

“You hear the girls? They can complain. They contribute to this household.”

Tess stretched up and batted a paw on Barry’s knee and Lup sighed,  “Failed utterly.”

The backyard was transformed from the overgrown jungle Lup had first seen nearly a year ago now. An autumn spent tearing out old, dead trees and bushes had cleared a significant area that was now occupied by fresh tilled earth, waiting for the starter seedlings lined up in the kitchen. The flat ground where the old shed used to be was now a goat pen, where a brown and a black and white Nubian goat both stared at Lup flatly and maaaaaed imperiously.

“Morning, girls. Hold your tits, Janeway, I’m coming.”

Janeway, the older nanny, was actually the one they’d intended to buy when they first started out. But the farmer who’d sold her had insisted she needed a companion and threw in her daughter for a much lower price. Starbuck wasn’t giving milk yet, and Lup suspected he’d gotten rid of her because she was a demon for escaping. But she was sweet and followed Barry around devotedly when he did yard work, so she stayed.

How they were going to keep her out of the garden was a problem she hadn’t amassed enough charms for.

Some twenty minutes later, she kicked her boots off at the door and set a pan of milk on the designated pasteurizing counter.

“Soooo, I’m thinking... cheese. Without magic this time.”

Barry turned and held Lup's coffee mug out to her. Then he paused, looking skeptical.

"Absolutely no magic even near it this time? None whatsoever? Promise?"

Tess was curled up on her stool as always, fast asleep once more. Though she looked up, annoyed as the toaster popped. Barry popped to the two slices onto a plate and reached for the jam Taako had brought by the other day.

Lup’s ears twitched back in embarrassment, “None, I promise. .....it woulda worked , we just, uh, just haven’t figured out the parameters yet.”

She scratched Tess’s head, getting a smug look and a mrrp , before sitting down at the table, glancing over their wall calendar,

“You’ll probably be done with Taako before I get home, I’m grabbing some groceries after therapy. Do we need.....”
she glanced at Tess,
“-anything not spoiled monster related?”

Barry set the plate in front of her and went back to start on his own breakfast.

"Aside from the part where someone fed the last of my midnight tuna stash to the cat again, nothing I can think of." He gave her look that was mock-angry and then started laughing. "Actually, I'd kill for something salty to crunch on. Like some uh... some cheez its or something?"

Barry tried this ploy every so often. He'd loved the crackers as a kid and loved them as a sort of guilty pleasure now even though more than a handful of them made him sick. And Lup knew perfectly well that he shouldn't be trusted with them because he would eat the whole box in a sitting if left to his own devices.

Lup gave him a sour look, “I will get you the sour cream and onion chips, babe , we have one fuckin’ bathroom for now, thanks I love you.”

Standing up, she kissed his temple before heading upstairs,
“Tell Taako if he breaks you, he doesn’t get the sous vide back!”

"What about cheetos?" He yelled up the stairs. "Those can't possibly be real cheese."

He grabbed a light jacket that was hanging by the door and his keys.

"Or like the little baggies of cheez its? The pre-portioned ones."

“And extra lactaid, got it! Okay I love you bye!”

 



Angus McDonald carefully copied his grandfather's signature onto the pension check, pulled up the banking app on his phone, and took a picture of both sides.

Your transaction is complete! Thank you!

He scrolled through his grandfather's bank accounts, making sure there was enough in the checking account for the automatic withdrawals to go through, moved fifty dollars to his own savings account, and nodded.

Putting on his last clean shirt and shorts, he trotted out the back door, locking it behind him, and jumped three yards to get to the main road, that had the gas station with an ATM that no one ever used. He withdrew enough cash for laundry and groceries before taking a different route home to get his bag of clothes.

He rotated three laundromats regularly, never on a straight schedule. That is; he had a schedule, but one that meant he was never in the same one two weeks in a row, and never ever at the same time. Detectives couldn't have patterns, that's how the perps got you.

This week's laundromat was the farthest one away from his house, and he watched the neighborhood as he dragged his cart with the bag in it behind him.

Ms. Paloma was closing up her bakery as he passed, and he hesitated. She had the best scones he'd ever tasted, but she also looked at him sharply and asked after his grandfather.
His stomach growled, and he decided to risk it. Laundry always took forever, and it would be nice to have something to eat while he read the book he brought.

"Hello, Ms. Paloma! What flavors do you have left today!"

She gave him one of her smiles that turned her whole face into a mass of wrinkles, “Angus! So good to see you, dziecinka! Today I’m having poppyseed and the very strange olliberries left. How is your dziadzia today?”

Angus carefully looked over his cash, considering his response, “I think I would like one of each, Ms Paloma. And he’s the same as always, thank you for asking.”

She tsked at him, putting four scones in a bag and rung up two, “you tell him I said hello and he needs to come by for coffee sometime!”

Angus frowned at the price and was opening his mouth to protest, before Paloma shook her finger at him, “none of that! You’re a growing boy, dziecinka! They’re not fresh tomorrow anyway.”

Angus nodded and took the bag a little reluctantly. Saying goodbye, he headed to the laundromat, munching a scone. Owing people was tricky, people remembered when you owed them

Once his laundry was started, he headed to the park next door to sit under a tree and read while he waited. It was hard to focus on his book, though, the new Caleb Cleveland author had taken things in a weird turn. Surely REAL people didn’t care that much about potato cultivars?

As his mind drifted, he listened idly to the sounds of voices behind his tree and.... and the smell of MAGIC!
A spicy, capsaicin one that kept blowing towards him, and another that was like the smell of ice and iron and fizzed in his nose.

Turning, he peeked around the tree, wanting to see who was using magic in a public area.

Barry yelped as Taako flung yet another rock at him and tried to move his shield to intercept.

"For the last time, Barold! You're supposed to cover your whole self with the wards! You are not Captain fucking America even if you are a popsicle. So keep your damn shielding in one place and make it bigger!"

That was easy for Taako to say, he wasn't having things thrown at his head while he flailed for active control. Barry already had several bruises showing on his arms and one scratch on his cheek. Earlier, they'd been using bolts of force but Taako had quickly decided they needed something a little more physical until Barry had a better grasp of fundamentals.

"Ground and center, dammit. Build your shields on a fucking foundation or so help me..."

Taako flung another rock and Barry squeezed his eyes shut, focusing on expanding his protections instead of shifting them. He flinched, turning away and was startled when he heard the rock harmlessly bounce off the ward.

"I did it? Holy shit. I did it!"

Taako rolled his eyes, “Fucking amazing . NOW-“ he bounced another rock in his hand and grinned, “-can you do it again?~”

Angus watched them, enthralled. He knew wards were things that people put up around their houses, and his grandfather’s wards were still going even without someone to tend to them properly, but wards on your self .... he wouldn’t have to be fast every day after school if he could do that.

As the elf kept throwing rocks, most of which weren’t hitting the human anymore, Angus focused on how he had his power wrapped around him. It was stuttery and uncertain, but after Angus prodded at it a little, he could tell where the man was projecting it like a bubble.

Hmm. Maybe if he did the breathing thing his grandfather taught him, he could-

There was an explosion of pain on his face as rock bounced off the shield, against his tree, and into his eye. He fell over with a yelp, scrambling for his glasses. 

Barry heard the yelp and turned, shields dissolving with his focus. Another rock smacked him hard on the back of the head and he stumbled.

"What the- Ow! Taako!" He turned to shoot a glare back over his shoulder and Taako raised an eyebrow artfully. "Let's take a break, I think you hit someone. Other than me, I mean."

Barry rubbed the back of his head, looking around for the source of the sound. Then he spotted the kid on the ground and went over to help. He knelt down and picked up the glasses. They were broken and he winced. He knew how much of a problem that could be.

"Hey, sorry about that, kid. Here uh... lemme just..." He held his hand over the shattered lense and focused, drawing the pieces back together to the way they had been. Then he held them out. "Here you go. Should be good as new."

Angus blinked up at the fuzzy blur that was the man’s face and took his glasses slowly.

“Thank you, sir! Sorry for getting in the way, only you were doing magic and I wanted to see how it worked!”

His fingers slid along his frames, and he frowned at the blood on his hand, “Oh.....”

Taako leaned over Barry’s shoulder, ears flicking back,
“Oh shit- hey, your parents aren’t around, right? We can.... totally, uh, totally fix that up super quick, no harm no foul?”

Barry smiled and offered the little boy a hand up.

“Yeah, Taako can patch you up real quick and all that. We were just uh... just having a quick lesson. If your parents don’t mind, maybe you could stick around and learn too?”

Barry looked at Taako questioningly, not totally sure if Taako was actually going to agree.

Taako shot him a glance but Angus brightened up,
“Really! Oh, I don’t-“ he thought over his words carefully, “... I don’t think anyone would mind that. If I stayed in the public area!”

He looked up at Taako with such a hopeful expression that the elf sighed dramatically,

“Honestly, you can’t be at any lower level than this nerd, so.... whatever. We’re doing wards, what’s your experience there, bubbelah?”

Rather than answering, Angus reached into his bag and pulled out his wand. It was one he had found in his grandfather’s desk, very old, and somewhat cranky. Concentrating so hard his nose scrunched up, he made the tip glow and wrote his name in floating light in front of him.

A N G U S

The letters hung there for a moment before vanishing and he glanced up at Taako for approval.

Barry grinned and gave Angus a thumbs up.

“Nice job. I’m still learning the light trick. Mine uh... mine usually blow up, if I’m being totally honest.” Then his grin turned wry. “But you didn’t answer the question, buddy. Ever made a ward before?”

“Well... no. But you were just making a bubble of magic. If you show me how to do that without a wand, I bet I can do it!”

Taako raised an eyebrow high, “how’d you figure he was doing that, Agnus?”

“It’s Angus, sir; and he was just-“ Angus frowned. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but a detective had to be able to explain his process or it didn’t count as proof.
“....his magic was.... was moving around him, but you said to ground it, and when it stopped the rock it moved around him all at the same time. Sir.”

Taako’s expression had gone far away and at its most disinterested as he looked right past Angus,
“Huh. You’re not wrong, kid.”

If he was being totally honest, Barry was impressed and a little annoyed. He still had a lot of trouble figuring out exactly how to make his magic do what he wanted after too many years of thinking it was ghost nonsense and operating purely on emotion and instinct. And this kid was really smart, seemed like the kind of kid who picked things up easily. But he shoved it off.

“Want to give it a try? I promise we won’t even throw anything at you.”

“I hope not, sir! There’s a mommy and me playgroup over there, and I bet they’d be pissed if you did.”

Still, Angus held up his wand, deciding not to try it with his hands this time around. A bubble. A bubble of power forming at his wand and surrounding him. A bubble of magic that smells like old books and peppermint, coming out of his wand like a balloon and pushing out and out and out and-

He blinked and grinned at the shiver in the air around him.
“Like that?”

It popped.

"That was great!" Barry looked at Taako, as if trying to get him to say something too. "Wasn't it, Taako?"

Barry started working on raising his own ward again, taking his own antenna wand out. He'd gotten a new one since his last ill-fated and short-lived wand. This one had seen a few months of use and he was growing rather fond of it. Enough so that he'd wrapped the handle end with string so it would be a bit more comfortable to use. The shield flickered around him and slowly came to life, holding solidly in the air.

"There we go. See, you gotta keep it anchored and uh... and stable." His shield wavered and he cursed quietly, focusing on it again. "Drop a... a root. Right, Taako? Have I got that?"

Yeah , you have the words I guess,” Taako’s eyes focused again, and he rolled them at Angus,
“You had a... passable first attempt there, Djangus, but if you’re gonna pass your ward through a wand, you gotta pass it through not focus it with . Now-“

A half hour passed, Taako making side comments to Angus about Barry’s competence, always putting a tip in there that clearly Angus would know even if Barry didn’t.

By the end, Angus was putting up a clear bubble around himself for a full thirty seconds before he got winded and had to stop. Looking up at the sky, he went a little panicked,

“Oh- oh shit , my laundry, I have to-“

He scrambled to throw his wand in his bag, turned to Taako and Barry and said quickly, “thank you very much for the lesson, sirs!” And booked it for the laundromat.

Taako raised a finger and sketched a symbol in the air. It glowed and there was a matching glow on Angus’s bag.

For a moment, he just watched Angus go. Then Barry frowned slightly at the symbol and then turned to Taako. He crossed his arms over his chest, clearly riding the edge of annoyance.

"What was that about? You didn't cast a spell on him, did you, Taako?"

That was a big sticking point with Barry, especially these days, and he didn't like how flippant it looked like Taako had just been. Sure, he trusted Taako but still.

“Put a marker on ‘im, little show off like that is gonna get in trouble if no one’s watchin’”

Taako caught Barry’s look and rolled his eyes, “don’t eyeball me, Bluejeans, he’s clearly got no one at home. Just....uhh, just making sure.”

"Wait... wait... What do you mean no one at home? He was talking about parents... Wasn't he?"

Barry tried to remember. He honestly wasn't sure now that he was thinking back. They had mentioned parents, asking to be sure they wouldn't worry and Angus had... Well, he hadn't agreed or disagreed, really. He'd just said it would be fine.

"So wait, you think he's alone and just let him run off like that?"

Taako snorted, “fuckin’ six year old with a go bag doing his own laundry at six thirty on a school night? Sure , that’s a kid with responsible guardians.”

He shrugged and started gathering his own charm bag up again, “he’s clean, so he’s denned up somewhere sorta safe. What am I gonna do? Grab him and wander around yelling ‘anyone lost a magic boy?’”

Barry exhaled slowly, mind flicking back briefly to a couple kids who had stayed with them for a summer during the early thirties. He compared the memories of those kids to Angus and nodded. Yeah, that tracked.

"He was more like... I'd guess nine? Maybe a scrawny ten." Then he sighed. "Well, we can always come back here again and like... do more lessons? Maybe bring him some food or something..."

Taako laughed, not unkindly, “dear sweet Barold, that kiddo isn’t gonna come near this place now we know his name. We’re adults , we ask questions . That’s why the marker. C’mon, Lup’s turn to cook and I want my sous vide back.”



Angus hurried home, just barely getting inside, locking the doors, and turning on the lights before the sun went down. Good. Kids his size didn’t belong on the street after dark.

The magic lesson had taken up all the time he was going to use to dry his clothes, and while that meant he had a few extra quarters, it also meant he had to hang all his clothes up and turn a fan on so they would be dry for school tomorrow.

After that was done and he had set water for mac and cheese to boil, he went to grab his wand out of his bag. Maybe now he knew how to make a ward, he could help his grandfather’s wards stay strong!

As he opened the bag, there was a whiff of capsaicin and he frowned. Running his hand over his bag, he found a sizzling mark that smelled of the elf man’s magic.

Shit-

The elf could follow him home. The elf could follow him to school.

Angus shoved the bag away and tried not to panic. How. How how how he was so STUPID. How to get it off?

It crackled at him every time he tried touching it with his magic, and eventually he gave up. He would put it.... somewhere safe on the way to school, and use one of his older backpacks. That would have to do.

Chapter Text

Late that night, Barry lay with his eyes open, staring up at the ceiling into the darkness of their bedroom. He just kept thinking about that kid they'd seen at the park today. Alright, and about the fact that the back of his head still hurt from where Taako had nailed him with a rock. He'd found blood there later when he'd washed up and he wasn't particularly happy about it, but he was coping. But that kid. If Taako was right, and it sure seemed like he was right, was that kid safe? Was he going to stay safe? Was he going to school? Did he have enough food? He didn't know. He didn't know how to find out. With a sigh, he turned towards Lup.

"Hey babe, are you awake?"

 

“MmmmmmHm...” Lup rolled over, and pushed her face into Barry’s chest, “man, you must be thinking hard. You stopped breathing like, two minutes ago, babe.”

Pressing her ear down against his chest, she traced circles along his arm, “what’s up?”

 

He took a breath then. "Sorry, hadn't even noticed." He took a few more breaths, settling into breathing properly. Then he hugged her tightly.

"I'm just... I keep thinking about that kid. I know Taako said he wouldn't come back but... If he's really alone, shouldn't someone... shouldn't someone help him? Or at least... Fuck, Lup, I just wanna make sure he's safe and he's got food. And... I mean, I know Taako's got that trace, but it's on his bag. What if something happens?" He made an annoyed sound and closed his eyes. "He's a smart kid, and he was kind of like... annoyingly smart? Almost like Mo's boy but without that uh... that undertone that makes me want to punch him. Just too smart for his own good. And I'm worried about him."

 

Lup hummed quietly, ears tilted in thought. She sent a wash of affection down their tie while she did, hoping it would help calm some anxiety. Also because Barry was good and she loved him.

“If it helps, he probably is going to school. Humans are a lot stickier about tracking that than elves. So he’s getting one or two meals a day, and whatever passes for elementary school magic learning.”

She wrinkled her nose at that thought. There was a reason there were so many scholarship programs for private magic tutoring.

 

"You're right... But... I don't know... It doesn't seem right. I just don't know what to do about it. Because if I report him, he's just going to end up getting tossed around and... Would he really be better off?"

He sighed again and then winced.

"I think I'm gonna have to sleep on my side too. My head hurts."

 

“Hey, if there’s one thing you can trust my brother to do, it’s not rat kids out to the feds.”

Lup kissed him, running her hand gently behind Barry’s head and frowning at his wince, “that asshole. I’m stealing his lunch money tomorrow.”

Curling in closer, she sighed, “I love you, and I feel bad for the kid too. Gods all know I’ve been there. And if you bug Taako about it, I bet he’ll take you along when he tracks him down.” She thought about this, “.....might even be a good thing, he’s, uh, we’ve got a kinda... skewed... perspective....on what’s normal there...”

 

Barry rolled to his side, putting an arm around her. "Love you too, babe." He half mumbled it. He knew that things had been rough for them, that she and Taako had been alone for a long time. But this was the first time he'd really thought about for how long, about how young they'd been. He frowned slightly.

"What do you mean by uh... skewed?"

Lup shrugged, face pushed into his chest, ears at a deliberately casual tilt,
“I mean... depending on how long he’s been dodging foster care, Taako might just leave him to it, if he agrees to learn some basics. Everything I’ve seen with public school magic just teaches you enough to stop you blowing yourself and your classmates up, unless you get a super devoted teacher. Taako’ll teach him, that’s, like, the code , you pass on what you know without payment. But foster care?”

She wrinkled her nose, “wasn’t around for us, but bouncing from house to house, that we know.”

 

"I get that... But... I don't know... He shouldn't be alone. You and Taako had each other. As far as we know, it's just him."

He trailed off, running a finger along her ear. Then he leaned down to kiss her forehead and held her tightly, sending reassurance and love down their bond. He knew this was probably prodding a sore spot and he wanted to remind her that she wasn't going to have to go from place to place ever again, not unless she wanted to. This was their home and this was where she belonged.

"Oh well... I'll have to see him again before I can do anything about it."

Lup kissed his chin, leaning into his hand on her ear. Pulling back, she grinned at him,

“So.... are you going to be able to sleep now or should I wear you out some?”

 

Barry chuckled quietly. "Sounds to me like you've uh... like you've got some ideas there, babe. Wanna share?"

He tugged a bit on her ear, running his thumb along the length of it. He'd been growing bolder as time passed, getting more and more used to the level of roughness she liked.

 

Lup bit her lip at the tug, slinging her leg over his to bump their hips together, "Hmmmmmm, options, options.....if you were to rate your anxious energy on a scale from 'blow job' to 'getting fucked' right now..."
She ran her fingers up the back of his neck, sending small pulses of affectionate arousal down their link.

 

His eyes went very wide and he laughed a little, almost awkwardly. "Definitely wouldn't say no to the uh... far end of that scale. But uh..." He searched for his words for a minute, trying to figure out the right way to word things. "Is that something you'd actually... be down for?"

 

"Babe, I am way too ready to swing both ways to not be a switch, what are you talking about?" She shrugged, ears up, voice cheerful, fingers not hesitating in their travel along his spine, "Just seemed like one more awkward thing to navigate for a while."

 

He looked surprised at that response and again his response came slowly as he pieced the words together, "I guess I just sort of figured... All things considered, that uh... that wasn't something you would be cool with?"

 

Lup's ears tilted in confusion, then flicked up, eyes widening in realization, " Oh , nah," she giggled, pushing her nose against his cheek, "Nahh, nah. Nah. Lights green on all panels, babe. " Tightening the leg she had thrown over his hip, Lup wiggled enticingly, "So.....we should probably just put the fucking kink talk on the calendar huh?"

 

"I can't decide if scheduling talking about kinks is literally the sexiest thing ever or the nerdiest thing ever. I'm gonna just go with both. But uh... let's just put it on the gcal and not the one in the kitchen."

He turned and caught her in a kiss, resting his hands on her hips.

"So, babe," his voice was a low growl. "How do you want me?"

 

Every retort Lup had died on her lips, her eyes going wide and dark at Barry's tone. Pressing fully against him, she leaned into another kiss, not even bothering to keep back the roar of lust barreling down their link.

Pulling back just enough, she murmured against his cheek,
"Unless you feel good with me on top, we're gonna need to get creative. I wanna see your face the whole fucking time, Bear."

 

For a moment, he considered his options. He'd definitely been doing better about that. Therapy was doing wonders. So was the fact that he could Feel her and didn't have those awful disorienting moments where he was sure where he was, when it was, or who was on top of him anymore. A flash of memory went through his mind unbidden and he shoved it away as fast as humanly possible. That was not what he wanted to be thinking about right now.

"Yeah, yeah, no, that's real good. Wanna see you too. Definitely not uh... not into not seeing you."

 

Lup pulled away and cupped his cheek, tilting his head so she could meet his eyes, "You sure? We've got ways and means, babe."

 

"I'm open to suggestions but uh... but I'm really liking this image you've painted for me." He leaned into her touch, a smile on his face. He leaned in to kiss her again. "Just gotta like..." He sat up a bit, adjusting the pillows so there was no way he could possibly hit his head, mumbling something about throwing rocks at Taako and seeing how he likes it.

 

Lup grinned and untangled herself from around him to reach for the nightstand drawer, pulling out supplies,
"Fuck, I shoulda grabbed some more gloves at the store today...."

Coming back, she settled between Barry's knees, stretching over him to trail kisses up his chest and catch his mouth hungrily. Their link was open wide now, no need to push emotion across it, her wanting moved along it in waves.

 

"We can pick 'em up tomorrow." He returned that kiss, that wanting, that need, his arms around her. "Gotta go out anyway. Get the uh... the coyote spray I read about. The rabbits are back." He mumbled it, his lips against her skin. Running his fingers over her back, he kissed her again. "Just uh... just be gentle with me, alright? S'been a while."

 

"Mmmmmm, drive you fuckin' nuts, got it-"

Kissing down his neck, Lup leaned away long enough to get on a glove and lube her fingers, before resettling, one of Barry's legs draped over her knee. Reaching her free hand up to cup his cheek, Lup kept her gaze steadily on his face as she pushed one finger in.

 

A soft whimper escaped his mouth and he reached to trail gentle fingers along her arm. He was holding as still as possible, fighting the urge to rock back against her hand. She was so gentle, so good.

 

Lup’s ears twitched forward at the sound, and really it was just impossible to NOT lean forward and kiss that whimper back into his mouth. She wasn’t made of stone.

She worked him open slowly, long and languid thrusts before finally pulling back to add a second finger, watching his face as she did so.

“Fuck, Bear, you’re so good,” her thumb on his cheek moved down to brush against his mouth, “love this, my man, always doing his best for me....”
she added a third finger, leaning forward to bite under Barry’s jaw, “..... my turn to treat you right....”

 

Barry gasped and wrapped his arms around her. He was so very aware of every place they touched, every place he could feel her skin against his, “Lup...” He only just barely didn’t moan, leaning into the hand against his cheek. “You’re so fucking amazing. Wanna be so good for you... You’re always so-mmmm so... so good.”

He was rocking against her just slightly now, begging for more with every movement and every sound.

Lup was kicking herself slightly for not asking for this sooner, not getting a chance to pull more those delightful noises out of him weeks ago. Mentally shrugging, she pushed one more finger in and bent them, searching for his sweet spot, “Think you’re ready, babe?”

 

"Very... very ready. Want you so bad, beautiful." Barry's voice suddenly pitched up as she found what she was looking for and his back arched. "F-fuck..."

 

Lup’s teeth gleamed in the small bit of moonlight filtering into their room, working her fingers in slow passes a few more times just to hear the soft sounds Barry was making.
Reluctantly pulling her fingers out, she tossed the glove, and reached for condom and lube,

“Oh yeah, we need to dig out that plug of yours again, babe.”

Lining herself up, she pressed a kiss to the side of Barry’s mouth, free hand running along his cock, “Color?”

 

He whined as she took her fingers away, cheeks reddening with embarrassment.
"Y-yeah... Definitely need to-" He cut off as she touched him again, turning to kiss her deeply, "Green for go, babe."

 

Leaning into Barry’s kiss with a small whimper, Lup slid into him. The temperature difference was.... more than his hand or mouth, and she stayed still, breathing slowly, adjusting. Finally, hand working at Barry’s cock she started moving slowly.

 

Barry rocked his hips against her as she started to move, moaning into her mouth. He felt like he was on fire in the best way, heat coursing through his veins.

“Fuck, babe, this-“ He gasped, running his hands over her back. “So good. Love you so much. Feels so damn wonderful.”

 

Lup’s ears fluttered before settling on flicking forward and low,
“Taking me so nice, Bear, gonna-“ she breathed out hard, his hands on her back making her power flex up to meet his,” fuck - treat you so good-“ Whining, she bit Barry’s lower lip, speeding her rhythm up.

 

There was absolutely no way he was going to last much longer, not with all of the things he was feeling at once, not with all of the ways he could feel her. His words were gone now, replaced with her name moaned against her skin.

 

His desperation rolled over her in waves, making Lup laugh breathlessly into Barry’s collarbone, “Feels- hmm , feels like you’re almost there, babe... whatcha need to come for me, Barry?”

Her hand moved faster over him as she sent another pulse of loveaffection mine along their bond.

 

“Tr-trying to... to...”

He whimpered, moving to stroke one of her ears, tugging a bit roughly. He grabbed the headboard of the bed with his other hand, needing something solid to hold, “Trying to wait for you…”

 

Lup’s breath caught in her throat at his words, at the sensation of his fingers on her ear, the echoing feel of his words pouring over her.

Shit , you perfect-“ she surged up to catch his mouth, kissing Barry hard as she redoubled her efforts. It wasn’t difficult to find her edge with his fingers on her ear, and she moved down his neck, kissing until she found her favorite spot at the curve of shoulder and bit down.

 

Barry's arm flew off the headboard and tight around her shoulders as he cried out, back arching and hands scrambling against her. He left long, bright scratches on her back and then lay back, panting hard.

"Holy shit, Lup. That... that was amazing." He kissed her forehead. "Love you so much."

 

“No you ,” Lup giggled tiredly, riding a dizzy euphoria.
Kissing the mark she’d left before easing back, she shook her head,“That’s gonna need a cover up charm tomorrow. Oops.”

Her tone was less than regretful.

He reached up to boop her nose, "Don't give me that oops, babe. We both know you don't feel bad at all." Then he pulled her in for a kiss. "I mean, I don't want you to so uh... so don't, but don't go all oops either."

 

Lup giggled again, clacking their teeth accidentally, before pulling away to grab for cleanup, “Can’t pull anything over on you , babe. Have to work on my ‘sorry’ voice a lot more, I guess.”  Flopping next to him after helping to wipe everything away, she grinned, “Soooo...? Think we can switch it up now and again?”

 

He laughed and rolled to his side to snuggle against her. "Fuck, I'd be sad if we didn't." Straying gentle kisses over her skin, he held her close. "How did I get so lucky as to have you in my life, Lup? You're... you're too good. Just perfect."

 

“Answered your own, own question, ba-“ Lup yawned and tucked herself against him, soft purr starting up, “I’m perfect, therefore deserve the best boyfriend possible. S’logic. Sweetest, kindest, smartest man with a sculpted ass, universe provides....”

Chapter Text

Angus frowned at the peanut butter options in front of him. He knew that the smooth, shelf stable ones had more sugar in them than the chunky ones you needed to stir up... but they also kept longer, and were cheaper, and he might be a growing boy who should be careful about how much sugar he ate, but.... he was also a growing boy who really liked the taste better.

It was probably okay, no one needed to know if he ate it with a spoon sometimes.

While he stretched up to grab the large jar, he was also turning over the matter of plant cultivars. He’d asked his science teacher after class about that, and gotten an excited explanation of why they were important and some books about it, and now his mind was reeling with words like ‘biodiversity’ and ‘monoculture’ and the Incan Empire. And then his teacher had asked about the mystery he was reading and might add it to the class so everyone could see how things like that fit into the world of science and-

It had been a pretty good day at school, altogether.

The peanut butter was just out of reach, didn’t they try to stock these so kids could get them? Stepping up on the base of his cart with one foot, Angus jumped-

Barry was contemplating two different cans of tuna, trying to sort out what the differences were, when he heard the clatter and crash behind him. He turned around, not entirely sure what he was expecting to see. The boy from the park absolutely wasn’t it. He grabbed the same tuna Lup always got it and dropped it into his basket before going to see if Angus was alright.

Angus blinked, the jar of peanut butter clutched in his hand, half hanging off the handle of his cart. Was that the-? It was the same man from last night.

“Oh.... hello, um, hello sir....”

Slowly, he got his feet fully under him, shaking his arm out, and putting the jar carefully in his cart.

“Hey there, Angus.”

Barry glanced up and down the aisle. There were no signs of anyone else who could be with the boy. More confirmation for Taako’s theory, probably.

“Running some errands?” He held up the basket with a smile. “Me too.”

He scrambled internally, trying to come up with an excuse to pry a little more without seeming to, to try and make sure the kid really was alright. Then he hit on a solution.

“You’re a smart kid. I bet you know the layout here, right? I’m still trying to figure it out and my girlfriend wanted pickles but I uh... I can only find the shelf stable ones.”

He trailed off, hoping the question was obvious and Angus would take the bait. Then he could ask more questions while they walked over to produce. Easy peasy.

Angus gave him a narrow-eyed look, “you don’t have to patronize me, sir. I found Mr. Taako’s tracker on me.”

He was just tall enough to see over the cart, which had bumped into a free-standing display, thankfully heavy enough to stop it running down the aisle and dragging him. But he would have to back up with Barry standing between him and the rest of the aisle, and he didn’t like it.

“I could tell on you, you know.”

Barry blinked a few times. Okay, time to reevaluate this entire situation. This kid may well be too smart for him.

“Tell on me for what?” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I mean... okay, yeah, Taako shouldn’t have put magic on your stuff without asking, but he just wanted to make sure you were alright getting home. And maybe I lied about the pickles a little. Lup doesn’t actually know I’m getting the good kind this time. Which is why I don’t know where they keep them.”

Angus scowled harder once Barry called his bluff; he didn’t actually want to draw attention from the management in this store, it was cheap and he could buy most of what he needed in bulk, which meant he didn’t need to shop too often.

“....they’re in the fridge section. Next to the cheese,” he muttered, pulling his cart back and obviously pointing it around Barry.

Barry took a breath and a chance.

“I’m not gonna say anything, you know. If uh... if you’re lying about parents or whatever. I’m not gonna report it.” He kept his voice low. “Neither is Taako. He’s been there. But if you ever need help, food, whatever...” He gave his address with a grin, not sure if Angus would recognize it as the haunted house just outside of town. Then he walked off with a wave. “Thanks for the help, buddy. Lup’s gonna be real happy.”

Angus frowned as he watched him go. The address niggled at him all down the pasta aisle, and it wasn’t until he was in line behind a man buying five stacks of cat food with three coupons that he finally pulled out his phone and searched it.

His eyes went wide and his head snapped around just in time to watch Barry walk out of the store with his bags, chatting with a tall, elven woman who looked very like Taako. The weird suspenders Angus had thought was an unfortunate fashion statement ran around his shirt to connect to a tiny battery pack that blinked with a cheerful indicator light.

“Thanks for being patient with me, sweetie, is this all for you?”

Angus blinked, coming back to focus on the cashier, “oh, yes thank you, ma’am!”



“I’m sorry- Babe? You invited a small, unaccompanied child to our spooky, ghost house. You gotta see how that looks, right?”

Lup was laughing as she tossed her bag of groceries into the back of the car.

Barry pressed the jar of surprise pickles into her hands and sighed, running his fingers through his hair.

"I didn't think it looked like anything. I used to go over the neighbor's house all the time when I was his age and no one said a thing. I mean, sure... it was the 30s but that shouldn't change much." He paused, looking at her uncertainly. "Right?"

Lup squeaked in delight over the jar, and kissed his cheek,

“Okay.... buuuut, the town was like, small enough you could probably name half or more of the people in it then, babe.....”

Shutting the trunk, she opened the driver’s side, still looking amused,
“Plus, it’s Beltane next week. There’s gonna be an uptick in people thinking about occult whatever.”

Barry went around to the passenger's seat and dropped into it, his head going back with a groan.

"Are we going to end up with cops at the house, babe? Because I'm really... really not feeling that. Like so very much not feeling that."

“Only if the kiddo tells someone where he’s going and disappears mysteriously, probably. Wouldn’t count on it.”

As they drove towards home, he ticked off days on his fingers. "Oh shit, you're right. Did uh... did you have plans for that ooooor were we gonna get creative, maybe?"

He was pretty familiar with the basic concept of Beltane, though he'd never celebrated it growing up. It was one of those things he'd learned later on and he was curious to see if Lup celebrated differently than... other people.

Lup gave him a sly look.

“I mean, I kinda figured we could invite people over for the bonfire. We have the most room to burn shit. If that’s cool with you anyway.”

"Absolutely, my beautiful pyromaniac." He chuckled quietly. "Does uh... does Beltane always involve a bonfire or is that just you?"

His tone was teasing but he legitimately didn't know. He was more familiar with the fertility aspects of Beltane, and the magic inherent in that. If she was talking about inviting people over, her plans were very different.

Lup glanced at him curiously, “you never jumped over the bonfire for luck? I mean, we aren’t going to blow out the pilot light or anything, but everyone gets a candle and we light ‘em from the fire and bring ‘em inside for luck. Merle will absolutely bring everyone mead which if you want my advice you will have a sip of until everyone leaves. Which they will once we’ve all eaten and the sun’s down a bit.”

"Mom didn't do Beltane, so I didn't learn about it until much later and by then mostly I learned the er... um... let's go with sex magic parts of it."

He looked more than a little sheepish and he was drumming his fingers on his thigh the way he did when he either had too much energy or felt particularly awkward.

Lup’s ears eased back slightly and her nose wrinkled, as they tended to at moments like these, “Well, he was leaving out the important bit, jumping over the fire is the whole point...”

"This sounds like fun though. Can we maybe grill? I've been dying to break in the new barbecue."

She shook her head and grinned at him,
“Yeah for sure, wouldn’t have it any other way. Gotta light the grill from the bonfire though, them’s the rules. And we sweep up the ash the next morning, it’s supposed to be super magical, but you really have to set up the rituals right for it to work like that. We can put it over the garden and it’ll be fine.”

"Of course. Anything else I should know? Anything particular you want that night? Because uh... if you don't specify, I am making an absolutely unhealthy amount of sausage and everyone else can just deal with it. In fact, I'm going to get at least three different kinds of sausage."

He considered for a minute and then smiled over at her.

"What if we did do the rituals? I mean, I'd love to see how they go and uh... and I think it could be good for like... long run, right? We could use a little extra luck. Maybe totally avoid bullshit this year. What d'you think?"

Lup’s ears flicked straight up and she grinned,
“Yeah! Yeah, we totally could. I’ll call Taako when we get home, there’s a couple things you have to make on the fire, and we’re gonna need....lots of flowers, but that’ll be fun!” She laughed, “we even have livestock to ask the blessing for, fuck’s sake.”

Barry leaned back in his seat, looking out the window, a goofy smile on his face. "I feel you should know that I just... I just pictured Janeway and Starbuck with like... flower crowns. And I'm not really sure if that's what you're going for, but I kinda want to do it. And I know what you're gonna say, they're just gonna eat them. But like... play with me in this space for a minute. Goats in flower crowns. It'll be the next hot thing."

She laughed at that and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, “-also sending everyone home after dark is key, I cannot stress this enough, the part that comes after the fire jumping is just as important. ~”

He turned a little and caught her glance, grinning. He reached over to rest his hand on her arm for a moment, "Lup, babe, if anyone even tries to stick around after dark, I might just bring back the horror movie routine to get them gone."


Angus knew better than to look at his phone while walking home, but he couldn’t help it, scrolling through the only three small articles he could find on the actual occupant of the address Barry had given him from fifty years ago. He knew it was a local legend, but it had always seemed so silly and then-

The smell of capsaicin drifted past him and he looked around sharply. There . Across the street was Taako and he was….

He was looking in the tree Angus had hidden his bag .

Angus pushed himself slowly back along the sidewalk, lifting his roller bag as much as he could so it wouldn’t make noise, and slid behind a nearby bush. Taako’s ear twitched and he turned around, frowning. He had a small metal device in his hand that was beeping before he grumbled and tapped it. Angus stared at it. He didn’t know you could follow spells with electronics! He almost yelled a question about it at Taako before realizing what a VERY stupid idea that would be.

Taako looked once more at the tree, ears tilting back in annoyance before sticking his monitor in the bag slung around his shoulder and walked down the sidewalk. Angus watched him until he stopped and got into the passenger seat of a black car, shaking his head and saying something to the driver.

Angus ducked back quickly behind the shrub as the car started and drove off.

His plan worked and Taako hadn’t found him!

He was…..less excited than he thought he would be. Now he really wanted to know how the monitor worked and Taako might have even told him if he’d asked.

Sighing, he grabbed his groceries up again and headed home. At least he would have something besides mac and cheese for dinner tonight and he could look at the public police report database for reports on murders.

That wasn’t so bad.

Chapter Text

Beltane morning dawned bright and hot, and Angus McDonald was on a mission. Several nights of research had netted him nothing but the three, old, small articles about a murder at the address that Barry had given him of one Barry Bluejeans. The pictures included were faded, but it was the same man. The case had never been solved, and there were a few ghosthunter forums that had the Bluejeans Murder House as a designated stop. ‘Super wild and unfriendly’ most of them read.... and then almost a year ago, one post by username SafetyL1ghtsR4Dudes:

consider this one Busted, dudes. House is occupied by the living now

But there weren’t any police reports on the murder being solved, and Angus was sure ghosts of murder victims didn’t just leave ....

So. It was time to investigate.

He had packed food, water, his investigation journal, money for the bus and emergencies, and loaded a few cold case podcasts for the bus ride to the suburbs on the outskirts of town. Repacking all this into his bag in it’s hiding space outside his house was a bit of a hassle, but it was his toughest and most comfortable bag, and he didn’t want to use another one.

The bus trip was almost an hour long, since it went down one of the main roads, but it wasn’t so bad. He sat near the driver and it wasn’t early enough for any of the Beltane celebrators to be drunk yet.

At the last stop before the houses got really rural, he jumped out with a wave to the driver, who asked him if he really wanted to get out here?

“Oh yes! My grandma’s house is just down the road! I’m visiting her for Beltane!”

It was a lie, but a believable one, so he didn’t feel too bad about it. Calling up his GPS, Angus started walking.

It was much longer than he thought, the GPS calculator was for adults with longer legs, and it was afternoon by the time he sat down by the road and drank the last of his water. If he couldn’t see the house by now, maybe he should go back? It would be a long way without water already and he didn’t know how far-

The bushes next to him rustled and Angus stared as a black and white goat head poked out and stared at him.
Being stared at by an ungulate is very disturbing, their eyeballs are weird and alien, and Angus wasn’t sure if it was a friendly eyeballing at all.

The silence stretched, and the goat chewed the last of a yellow flower. There were two more stuck on its horn.

STARBUCK! for fucks sake! Yeah babe, I found her over here. Swear to Pan , we should ask Merle if she’s cursed or- huh.”

The elven woman he’d seen in the grocery store stared down at him, ears flared forward curiously.

“Well, you’re wearing nikes, so you probably aren’t some ancestor of mine from beyond the veil visiting for the holiday. Uh.... hail and well met?”

 

Barry jogged over, his sandals slapping loudly with each step. He stopped with his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. Then he looked up, reaching to grab the goat's collar.

"She's just living up to her name, Lup. Any minute now, we're gonna turn around and she's gonna have... have yeeted herself back through space to get the arrow of Apollo and uh..."

Then he stopped, realizing she was looking at something else on the other side of the bush. He peered over it and grinned, waving a little.

"Hey Angus. Uh... Happy Beltane. Didn't expect to see you so soon. Everything okay?"

This time, Barry Bluejeans was in a pair of jorts, a bright red t-shirt with the Starfleet emblem on it that said Red Shirt in the Star Trek font, and a bright blue apron that read "Mr Good Lookin' is Cookin'". Over all of that was his harness, the status lights still blinking away in the back.

 

Angus flicked his eyes between the two of them, to Starbuck the goat who was rubbing her head against Barry’s thigh to unhook the rest of the yellow flowers and nibble them, and back to Barry,

“Are you dead?

 

Barry blinked a few times at the question and then looked at Lup. He didn't actually know what the policy was on telling random kids about his whole...situation.

"Um... Well... I mean..."

 

Lup grinned widely, ears high with amusement, “Did you walk eleventy-fuck miles just to ask that?”

“Google maps said it was only-“

“Yeah, I’m sure. Never quite calculates how winedy the road gets out here. C’mon, little man, you’re invited to the cookout. You look about roasted yourself.”

Angus scowled, first at her, then Barry, “are you gonna just bullshit me about my question?”

Lup threw back her head and laughed, grabbing the other side of Starbuck’s collar, “Barry, I like this kid.”

 

"Think you can get her back into the pen by yourself, babe? I'm gonna... uh..."

He gestured vaguely at Angus and then over towards the grill. "Come on, buddy, I'll... uh... fill you in, I guess? Yeah, I'm dead. Any questions? Do you like sausage?"

“Yeah sure,” Lup yanked Starbuck who went easily, probably to lull her into a false sense of security, “make him put on sunscreen- Ango! Put on sunscreen, you’re roasting!”

As she led Starbuck away Angus dug out his notebook, pinning Barry with a stare,

“Did the local police find out who murdered you, sir? There wasn’t anything in the reports.”

He thought about it and shrugged, “I like sausage, I guess, I haven’t thought about it.”

He bought the kosher hot dogs because his grandfather always had, but he wasn’t sure about all the rules, and it was hard on a budget.

 

Barry started checking the sausages on the grill, focusing on it, “The police never solved it, no... But uh... Lup did."

He was oddly quiet for a long moment. Then he shook his head and pointed towards a picnic table. "There's a box over there with sunblock in it. Go put some on before she yells at both of us. You're already a... a tiny lobster."

 

“Black kids don’t need sunscreen,” Angus said without thinking. It was something one of the big kids had said, and he had forgotten to look it up later, “Did she solve it from the case files?”

 

Barry turned and poked Angus' sunburnt nose. "Looks to me like you need sunscreen. Scoot."

"And no, she didn't." He checked one of the sausages and started flipping them. "She helped me remember and then uh... and then helped clean up the old spells that were here."

 

Reluctantly putting his notebook down, Angus got up to go smear sunscreen on his face,

“Why’d you forget?”

Lup came around the house then, hands full of kindling, “Taako and Krav are on their way, they’ve got Merle and Cap’nport. I guess Krav is the DD tonight.”

 

"Dinner should be ready by the time they get here, babe." He closed the grill top and turned towards Angus.

"Alright... Let me see if I can uh... If I can explain. As far as we can tell, I sort of... made myself forget? I... I had trusted the people that killed me, so it was hard for me to think about it that way. Any other questions?"

He grabbed a bag of chips and pulled it open, pouring them into a bag.

 

Lup gave Angus a sharp look on her way to the bonfire and he hunched slightly, making a note in his notebook, “How’d you stop being a ghost?”

 

Barry tapped the harness.

"A little help from our friends. Can't uh... can't go into that too much though. I mean, I don't really know how it works anyway so... But uh... I mean, if I take it off, I go back to being spooky." He shrugged a little and held out the bowl. "Chip?"

He turned over his shoulder. "Need any help, babe?"

 

Angus took a chip, followed by two more when Barry looked away.

Lup waved a hand, tossing handfuls of the kindling into the fire, followed by a handful of sage, “Stay with the meat, Bear.”

Angus glanced back and forth between them, chewing and working things out.
The smell of woodsmoke and cinnamon that followed Lup was magic , just as strong as the capsaicin crackling off Taako. Barry’s magic left a chill around him, even in the May heat. He flipped to a new page in his notebook and jotted that down.

Lup plopped down beside him suddenly, snagging the bowl of chips from Barry and offering them to Angus again, “You figured us out yet?”

Angus jumped and snapped his notebook shut, shoulders tense, “still- still gathering data, ma’am!”

She nodded, “cool, cool, so- you’ve asked us a lot of questions. Fair’s fair. You get to answer some of ours.”

Angus gulped.

 

Barry opened the grill top again, shuffling the sausage around so none of them burned. A disaster in the kitchen he may be, but he was a wizard with a grill. He liked to joke it was an innate skill all human males developed around middle age.

"Here's two from me. One, how much have you been bullshitting me along about having parents? And two, you're going to school, right?"

His tone was still friendly, but there was just a hint of seriousness and concern in it. He really was worried about this clever kid. Sure, clever could keep him out of trouble, but clever could also get him into a whole lot of trouble. Take today for a very good example.

 

“Absolutely none, sir! You didn’t actually ask if I have parents and everything I told you has been accurate.” There was a slight note of triumph in Angus’s voice and Lup’s ears rose in amusement. “And I go to school! I like school, my science teacher was telling us how the Incas used to freeze dry potatoes and kept their whole empire from starving.”

He crunched another potato chip, and Lup got up and moved to the drinks table, “iced tea, lemonade, or water, little man? That doesn’t count as one of our questions either.”

He met her eyes and swallowed, “lemonade would be nice, thank you, ma’am....”

 

Barry adjusted his glasses and sighed a little. Yup, definitely just got outsmarted by a ten year old. Nine year old? Alright, he had no idea how old Angus was and that was a problem he was going to deal with later when he didn't have a theoretically limited number of questions he could ask.

"Do you have someplace safe to stay and is it uh.... it is gonna stay safe?"

Barry glanced at Lup. She would know better what kinds of things to ask, how to gauge how bad this situation was. He was just guessing, really. He'd never actually been without someone to keep an eye out for him, not ever.

 

“I live at my grandfather’s house and it’s very safe. His wards are very strong.” Angus frowned, counting on his fingers, “I don’t think it’s in any danger of not being safe. And that’s four!”

Lup grinned, handing him a glass of lemonade, “boy, you’re really kicking my man’s ass here. Alright, lil dude, my turn. Barry’s done answering your questions.”

“But-“ Angus took the glass with a frown at Barry’s harness.

 

Barry rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, he's got me coming and going. It's what I get for trying to be nice."

He could hear a car pulling up out front and looked up, "Sounds like the rest of the gang is here, babe. Did uh... Is Lucretia joining us or is she doing her own thing? I don't remember if she ever said."

He moved the sausages aside, putting down the skewers of vegetables just to get a bit of that good good grill flavor on them. He turned to look at Angus again.

"How do you feel about mustard, buddy?"

 

Lup craned her neck down the driveway and waved, “think she was doing her own thing. She got that Sphinx look on her face so I didn’t ask.”

Turning back to Angus, Lup sipped her iced tea and flicked her ears forward at him, “hit me.”

“Mustard’s good, thank you, sir.” Angus looked at Lup and decided to flip to some of his later questions, “why isn’t there a police report about who killed Mr Barry?”

“Cause it was handled very carefully, kiddo, and if you want more direct answers than that , you’re gonna have to be way more straightforward with us .”

Angus stared at his notebook rather than meet her gaze, and was saved from answering by the inhabitants of the car walking up.

“Oh hey, it’s, uuuuuuuh, what’s his face. Agnes.”

 

Barry waved as Taako, Kravitz, Merle, and Davenport all came around the corner. He half expected them to be followed (or honestly, proceeded) by Merle's kids, but Mavis and Mookie were nowhere in sight. Merle noticed Barry's curious look and laughed.

"The ex-wife's got 'em today. Apparently, she doesn't think I should be trusted with two kids, alcohol, and a bonfire."

Davenport laughed quietly and went to set down two large trays. One held Merle's guacamole and chips, which seemed to be the only thing he would ever make to share. Of course, it was good enough that no one really cared but the point stood. The other tray held potato salad Davenport had made.

"You know perfectly well that isn't why she's got the kids, Merle."

Merle waved that comment off and set down what he was carrying: two very large jugs.

Taako had brought an absolutely heaping platter of macarons of all colors. He set that down on the table and put his hands on his hips. "If any of you heathens even thinks about these until after we've eaten dinner, I'm taking them home with me."

Kravitz smiled at that and raised a hand in greeting. He was still a bit awkward here but he was certainly getting more used to Taako's family (even if Taako refused to call them that). He set down a plastic container of store-bought cupcakes with cheerful colored frosting covered in little chicks and eggs and bunnies and mumbled something about wanting to contribute but not really being one for cooking.

 

“Right,” Lup clapped her hands for attention, “everyone; this is Angus, surprise guest from the universe. Ango, this is everyone.... you’ve met Taako, the dude in the I swear to all gods suit is his arm candy, Kravitz. Merle has the beard and alcohol, which you only get a single taste of if you help us out with the bonfire later. Davenport is the one pretending to be the adult here, just know it’s a lie.”

Angus’s head was spinning, not from the names which he committed to memory, but from the waves of magic coming off everyone . Taako’s capsaicin sharp power reached out and mingled with Lup’s woodsmoke and cinnamon as he hugged her, creating a weirdly harmonious single smell.

Merle smelled of.... well. Angus had once walked through the rain forest portion of the local zoo right after the sprinklers had turned on, and it was like that . With something that smelled like Starbuck only wilder.

Davenport was wreathed in cardamom, it flowed out from him and around Angus as he looked him over and offered a hand to shake, snarking something back at Lup.

Kravitz was.... Kravitz was the time Angus had snuck out of bed after it rained and walked outside to the front porch. The moon was shining on the wet pavement of the sidewalk and he almost imagined he could walk up it into the sky.

It was all so much . None of his school teachers even came close, most of the time he had to stand right next to them to tell.

“Angus? You okay?”

He blinked again; Lup was staring at him, and he had forgotten to finish shaking Davenport’s hand.

“Yes, sorry! Nice to meet you sir.... everyone....”

 

By now the food was ready and Barry was moving the sausages onto the plate designated for them.

"Mustard's on the table if you want it, but these bad boys are done. Taako, the jagerwurst is the uh... the one I've been telling you about."

He set the plate on the table by the rolls to let them have at and went to grab his. He'd left it on the grill. It was the best way to make sure he didn't miss out on the one he wanted. He kept glancing towards the front yard and then he turned towards Lup.

"Mags not coming? I know he had that thing with Julia, but I thought they uh... I thought they were supposed to be back by today."

 

Angus waited until everyone else had gone for the plate of sausages before choosing his and smothering it in mustard. Sitting at the end of the table, he swung his legs and watched the group of adults quietly as he ate.
Taako was sniffing at the jagerwurst Barry had handed out to him, ears flicked down in thought. After taking a bite, they went up in happy surprise,

“Holy fuck . Lup, these are the ones we had that one time in-“

Lup was grinning and nodding, flicking a proud glance at Barry, “ I know , he got ‘em perfect!”

Davenport and Merle were having what sounded like an argument except Angus didn’t think they were arguing. He tried following the conversation, but it had too many references to people and places he didn’t recognize, and he gave up, committing some of the places to look up later.

Kravitz was sitting next to him by default, and the unsettlingly cool wash of his magic was making Angus antsy.

It made him even more antsy when Kravitz’s gaze moved from Taako to him and he asked;

“So how did you get here, Angus?”

Angus swallowed his rudely large bite of sausage, “I walked from the bus stop, sir.”

 

Barry leaned over towards Taako. "The secret's in the garlic. I used fresh and uh... and I minced it myself. At least, that's what my mother always said to do."

He was entirely ready to jump into a full scale conversation about the proper secrets of sausage making when he heard Angus' answer to Kravitz's question and sighed. Of course he'd be nervous around Kravitz. Barry was reasonably convinced that most sane adults were nervous around Kravitz and the fact that the man went everywhere in a suit probably didn't help. He gave off an indescribable aura of Other, one that Barry had remarked on and Lup had never been able to truly explain.

"Taako and I met Angus in the park the other day during my lessons and uh... and I told him he could drop by if he wanted to. Isn't that right, buddy?"

 

Taako’s ears swiveled around from their interested prick towards Barry to focus on Angus, “Re EEaa lly? I don’t recall those words being exchanged at all.

Angus determinedly took another bit of his sausage (which was a lot better than the packs of hot dogs he’d been buying) and scowled at Taako.

“We meet a few days ago at the grocery store, and Mr Barry told me his address.” His eyes narrowed further, “ after I told him I found your trace on my bag.”

 

Barry shook his head a little. "I told you that was a bad idea, Taako."

But Kravitz was more interested now. "Taako mentioned something like that... Tell me, Angus, are you getting magic lessons?"

Certain now that Kravitz had things under control, Barry settled into a seat next to Lup. He leaned against her just slightly, enjoying the day and having their family together. Even if Starbuck was probably already escaping again.

Lup leaned her head against Barry’s shoulder, sausage in one hand, scrolling on her phone through new messages on their group chat with the other. The group server had been set up as a way for Barry to ask quick ‘why is this that way?’ questions when google wasn’t giving him an answer and had, as most things with their crew tended to, ballooned into a long list of random topics for discussion, things to make Barry watch, or read, or play, and a way to arrange group meets when talking at work simply wasn’t enough.

“Looks like something came up during the investigation and Mags and Jules are gonna be late getting back into town,” Lup turned to bonk her head against Barry’s and opened another tab, “ Ooooooh~ Lucretia’s all dressed up fancy!

“What!? Lemme see that-“ Taako turned and grabbed for her phone as Angus replied to Kravitz,

“I’m taking the after school program for beginners, sir.”

Davenport winced, looking over, “uh.... anything else?”

Angus met his gaze and shrugged, legs swinging, “my grandfather taught me to meditate?”

 

Barry was leaning in, trying to see Lup's phone too. "How come Mags is allowed to uh... to go play with Carey and Killian and I'm not?"

"Because he's dating a member of their team, Barry." Davenport responded quickly, turning to get a better look at Angus. "Don't get me wrong, the after school program is  a great foundation for raw beginners but if you've already got control, you should be learning more advanced theory. Hasn't your grandfather lined you up a teacher?"

 

“No, he hasn’t,” Angus looked down at his now empty plate and reached for his lemonade, shoulders stiff.

Lup batted Taako’s hand away, pointing to his own phone literally in his hand, before leaning forward to look at Angus,

“How long you been doing that program, little man?”

“..... since I was six. I’m ten now.” Angus refused to meet any of their faces.

 

Barry looked up, meeting Taako's eyes. He wasn't entirely sure how that sort of thing worked these days, but he definitely remembered the other kids getting private tutors for their magic when he was a boy.

"Bet you know a bunch then, right?" He pushed the bowl of chips towards Angus again. "I'd love to compare notes. I'm just learning myself. Didn't uh... didn't even know I had magic until recently."

Kravitz was almost staring through Angus now, a frown of concentration on his face.

"Angus, how old is your grandfather?"

“He turned ninety-five or ninety-seven last Candlenights,” Angus replied promptly. “He said one or two years didn’t matter, and at his age he couldn’t be arsed to remember dates and the point was to have cake anyway.”

That could explain it. Maybe the old man had just forgotten that he should get his grandson a tutor. Kravitz relaxed a little and tried a smile.

"If you need a teacher, we could always use the discovery protocols. Let me see, that would make... either Taako or Barry responsible for your lessons. But I suppose it depends on who lives closer."

Barry looked over, startled, "The what protocols?"

 

Taako groaned, throwing his head back, “ Baaaaaaabe , why you gotta throw me under a bus like that?”

Lup flicked a chip at his head, and tilted her head to Barry, “If a magic user finds a kid that needs teaching, it’s up to them to either find a teacher or do it ‘emselves. Doesn’t get used so much now that federal scholarship program went through, but you tend to see it with kids in, uuuuh,” she glanced at Angus who was eyeing Taako uncertainly, “-non magic houses. Or, like, those big homeschooling compounds in Texas.”

 

"Like I said, Taako, it depends on who lives closer." Kravitz reached over for a single chip and crunched it, thinking. "The federal program is quite nice. It means very few children fall through the cracks with undiscovered power these days. It's so much better than before." He took a drink of his soda and looked at Angus. "So, is that something you would be interested in? It would certainly make my job a lot easier, because otherwise I have to sort things out. We really can't have you running around untrained."

Barry was staring off into the middle distance, trying to remember if he'd ever read about this. It really was a great idea. Hell, maybe someone would've realized he had magic if this had existed back in his day. But then he wouldn't have ended up on the path his life had taken and while he could've done without some parts of it, this part was doing a pretty good job of making up for the rest. He put an arm around Lup's shoulders and tried to focus back in on the conversation.

"I uh... I mean, I wouldn't be much of a teacher. I'm still learning..."

 

Right , and they live out here in fuckin’ goat town. Where’s your house, Djangus?”

Angus hesitated, but the promise of learning more was too much of a draw, “um.... about twenty minutes walking away from the park....”

Taako rolled his eyes expressively at Kravitz. Lup made a note that his ears were tilted, rather than pinned down in true annoyance and glanced at Angus again. She would actually have to touch him to get a good picture of his talent, but the way Taako had described him dissecting Barry’s wards said he was a fast learner.

Taako always did like projects he could brag about.

“So do you wanna help us with the Beltane fire, Angus? Adding you to the circle would be pretty easy.”

Angus brightened at this very clear change of topic, “um, yes ma’am! What... what would I have to do?”

“Hold a candle, mostly. Put a little bit of magic outside yourself when we ask the blessings and shit.”

 

Barry nodded a little. That made more sense. Taako was closer and knew more and... and also really wasn't that great with kids and didn't seem too happy about the whole idea. Well, maybe he'd warm up to it. Instead, Barry decided to focus on the slightly more important issue.

"How are you planning on getting home tonight, buddy? Because I mean... I don't mind driving you if you need a ride. That uh... that's really far to walk and I don't think the buses run all that late on Beltane." He glanced at Lup, almost apologetically. "That, and I don't think it's totally safe for you to be out by yourself, you know?"

 

Angus drooped almost immediately, “I- I actually wasn’t- I didn’t know I’d be out this late already....”

Lup caught the look, and her ears flipped down minutely, before raising determinedly up, “you can either crash in our spare room or we can drive you home. I mean- actually we’re probably going to drive you home either way, just tonight or tomorrow. No , Krav, I’m not putting him in a car with those three after a cup each of Merle’s mead.”

Angus blinked, not sure how to feel about the sudden... parenting at he was getting. None of them seemed interested in making him admit to- they were giving him options .

“I- I probably won’t be missed tonight....”

 

"Well, sounds like that's all set. You uh... you can stay in the spare room and we'll take you home in the morning. Do uh... do you wanna call home and just let your grandfather know where you are or...?"

Barry was partially still testing the waters. He didn't like the idea that Angus wouldn't be missed. That either implied that there was no one waiting for him at home or... or that there might as well be no one there.

In all of this, Merle had wandered off and was standing looking at the seedling plant starters that had been brought out today to get the sunlight and the magic from the ritual.

"These are some real nice little plants. They're gonna grow up big and strong. Really like these squash..."

 

“And you will leave them alone , old man!” Lup jumped up off her bench and strode towards him, “those are innocent babies!”

He waved a hand at her, “calm DOWN, sis, just givin’ ‘em a lil’ blessing, they’ll be all the better for it-“

While this was going on, Angus nodded at Barry and slipped away from the table, pulling out his phone, and dialing the number for the house landline.

It rang five times and went to the answering machine, just like he knew it would, and his grandfather’s voice growled at him to leave a message, just like he knew it would.

“Hi Grandpa! I got to the friends’ house for Beltane and they asked me to stay for the bonfire! I’m going to stay- stay over tonight and be back in the morning, kay?” He paused, “okayloveyoubye!”

Hanging up and putting his phone in his pocket, he stared very hard at the front yard, which was currently a riot of green.

 

Barry watched Angus go, a slightly frown on his face. Then he shook his head and turned back to Taako.

"You uh... you are gonna teach him, right?" He still had a harder time reading Taako than he did Lup. Lup's emotions were loud and obvious, Taako's slightly less so and many of them just came across as different flavors of annoyed.

 

Taako looked like he was about to make another complaint when he caught Barry’s expression and his ears twitched in either annoyance or guilt.

“I mean yeah obviously , I told you the twerp would get in trouble otherwise.”

Angus came back then, face very cheerful as he looked between them,

“How do we do a Beltane bonfire? I’ve never seen the whole ritual up close!”

 

Barry grinned. "I don't know yet either. Lup's gonna teach me." He gestured at the now empty seat beside him and waited for Angus to sit. "We didn't celebrate Beltane when I was a kid. Mom was uh... She wasn't big into it."

He looked over to see if Lup was done trying to defend the virtue of their future garden from Merle.

"I'll be honest, I don't even know when we start."

 

“Getting drunk, usually,” Merle came over, Lup having pushed him away finally, and set the first of his mead jugs down on the table, “buuuut, since miss no fun over there says we can’t start till after the circle’s set-“

“I dunno what you want to summon, Merle, but I want my magical calling to be drawn by sober people.”

Lup had two rowan rods in her hands and tossed one to Taako, holding the other out for Angus, “show ‘im how to draw it, Munch. Babe, if you can get the goats, I’ve got the stuff almost cooked, and we can start. Oh sweet! Angus makes us seven, awesome.

 

Barry got up to go wrangle Starbuck and Janeway, who had long since eaten the flower crowns he'd made them. It took a little effort but soon he had them both over where Lup wanted them. "And seven is good because...." Barry exhaled, trying to remember. "It's prime and prime numbers are more powerful in rituals?"

"That and like there's power in seven just because people believe it." Taako bent down, demonstrating the circle for Angus. "Think you can do that, bubbeleh?"

 

Angus frowned at the circle; most of the runes he recognized from his workbooks, but there were a few that looked odd and squiggly. Stepping back from the demonstration, he copied those three times each until he liked the look of them and glanced up for approval.
Taako shrugged and nodded, which seemed the closest he’d get.


Lup was pulling Merle into throwing herbs onto the bonfire until it almost stopped smelling of wood. Carefully, she poked at it physically and not until the flames were low and sleepy, not reaching up for more fuel hungrily.

 

"Okay, we good to go, babe?" Barry had knelt down and was patting both goats to keep them calm. "The girls aren't too fond of uh... of the fire, I'm guessing. Maybe the magic. Not totally sure yet. But- OW! Starbuck! I thought you liked me!"

 

Merle bellowed a laugh as Davenport jumped to grab Starbuck and hold her down. Since he was maybe two thirds her mass, this was only effective by the way he glared into her face, and got her to stand almost still.

“Okay.... nearly; hows that circle coming, Taako?”

“Almost competently.”

“I’m so glad you’ve gone to school for thirty fuckin’ cumulative years and can manage competence. Merle, if you can grab the mead, Taako’ll hold the oat cake, and I’ll lead Janeway. Three times widdershins-“

“Just say counterclockwise , we’re not a fuckin’ coven, Lulu.”

“-three times ANTI SUN SPIN, and we can tie them up away from the fire again.”

Angus stood on the spot in front of the fire he’d been directed to and watched as Lup and Barry coaxed and dragged the goats by turns around the fire. He wasn’t sure this was an actual magic ritual as it was supposed to be done. There weren’t any spells said and everyone yelled a lot, but-

But he could feel something happening in the center of the bonfire and along the lines he and Taako has drawn. He couldn’t say what it smelled of, it almost seemed to be....everything.

 

As the power began to grow in the ritual, Barry could feel it in a very real way. It was bigger than most of the things they did, even the wards on the property, and it hummed over his skin in a way that felt distinctly odd. It sparked and fizzed and soon there were actually sparks playing around his hands and arms. They didn't seem to be interfering with his corporeal existence in any way but they were certainly bothering the goats and definitely worrying him.

He didn't say anything though. He didn't want to interrupt the ritual and mess it up. Not when it didn't actually hurt. He just sort of kept looking over at Lup, his expression clearly asking if this was normal.

 

Lup’s ears were tilted in confusion, Taako was staring in open amusement, while Kravitz looked on in calculated silence. Lup met his gaze and raised her eyebrows as they passed him on their third circuit and he shrugged,

“Because he’s dead, probably.”

That got a laugh, as Lup and Barry pulled the much less reluctant goats away from the fire to a clear patch of grass where they could graze.

“It doesn’t hurt, right?” Lup ran a hand along Barry’s arm, the sparks leaping to follow, “I’d know if it hurt, right?”

 

He held his arm out, more confused than anything else. "Not in the slightest. It just sort of... is? I guess? It sort of tickles a little, maybe?"

Holding his hands a few inches apart, he watched the sparks bounce between them. Then he looked up at Lup and shrugged.

"You know, we probably should've guessed there'd be some uh... some issues with doing a big ritual about life with a dead guy as part of it."

 

She giggled, gathering a few sparks in her palm and watching them jump and vanish into the air, “some harvest goddess looking over at us and wondering what the fuck is she supposed to do with all this .”

Grabbing his hand, Lup pulled Barry to their spots in the circle, and Merle cleared his throat,

“I thought, since we’re all here... and this is a life ritual.... that I would read-“

A groan went up.

“-from the words of Pan....”

Barry listened with fascination. Somehow, despite working with the man and being his patient, he didn't actually hear all that much about Pan. And he'd never learned much about him as a kid either.

 

Lup sighed, but didn't interrupt, it would probably be better than attempting to lead a chant or anything.

Merle waited until the noise had died down, a smug smile on his face. Even though he was holding a large cup of mead, he gave the impression of opening a large tome to read from.

"Pan calls on us to love each other, to be kind to the animals of the field, to know that as we are fed and sustained by the land, so we should feed and sustain the land. So on this night, a night of hope, a night of calling for luck, we ask Pan's blessing,"

He paused,

"And any other gods who are listening, if you feel up to it. We're not picky, and it's been a big year. Amen."

 

Barry couldn't help but grin at that. It really was a good sentiment, and the last year had been pretty big. Honestly, he wasn't sure why the others had seemed annoyed. With that done, he looked to the others to see if there was anything else. It wasn't until he gave Angus a thumbs up that he realized the sparks had finally stopped crawling over his skin. They seemed to have settled into place. Well, that was certainly an improvement. Or at least a something.



In another part of town, behind a gate wrought of twisted iron and down a winding road that wove through lawn after lawn of manicured grass and tall standing stones, stood a single figure with his hand raised over the dirt. Magic twisted and writhed under his too-tight grip as he willed it into the shape he needed, he wanted. A device lay at his side formed of scraps and stolen parts, of the things he could get his hands on without being caught. It was all he could offer, it was all he had left for this, the most important thing in his world.

"Et quasi sol ortus est, et tu quoque oriri."

He took a breath and looked towards the sky. The smoke of hundreds of bonfires large and small wafted into the air as the people of the city celebrated the holiday in their own ways. Well, he was going to celebrate it in his. There was so much magic hanging in the air, so many people who enacted the old rituals and had no idea they could walk the steps of the dance and release power even without magic in their veins. And he was going to use that, use all of it, for this one very singular purpose.

"Et sicut annos renasci, sic tu etiam renascitur."

He took another shaky breath, feeling the power coursing through him, threatening to burn him out from the inside. Gods, it was so much worse than the ritual fifty years ago had been, when he had fused soul and magic to create something new. He had been scared then, scared that he and his sister wouldn't be strong enough to take the magic. He wasn't scared now. He had so little left to be scared about.

"Sanguis sanguinis mei, et cor meum cor tuum, et voca ad te."

The only fear left was that it wouldn't work.

"Keats, et vivere rursus oriri!"


 

 

Angus had been listening intently as Merle spoke, wondering  the same as Barry. It was a good word, even with the....familiarity? At the end. And Merle was an old cleric, maybe that was allowed.

As Merle finished, he lifted the cup of mead and the fire flared brighter, the flames barely moving, but the light intensified until it was hard to look at.

As it died down, Merle laughed at everyone who had to rub their eyes to get the spots out, "Guess he liked that one."

Tipping the cup, he let a stream of mead fall into the flames, "Here's to you, buddy, hope we both have a good year."

He lifted the cup again and drank a sip, then passed it widdershins to Davenport. Taako started out of his thoughtful look and broke off a piece of the oat cake he was holding.

"Uh.....yeah what he said," he tossed it into the fire before eating a piece and passing it to Lup.

 

A feeling of warmth curled out of Barry's core as he stared into the flames, extending out through all of him. He could feel his heart beating in his ears and it was almost unnerving. But he watched everyone else, watched the food and drink pass around the circle. As the mead got to him, he took his sip and passed it on. The drink seemed the chase the feelings back down to a normal, certainly not Barry's normal, but a normal. He was warm, he was breathing steadily, his heart was beating hard and fast. A feeling settled in him then, and he knew that whatever this was, it wouldn't last, but for now, he was practically alive.

 

There was only a mouthful left in the cup when it reached Angus, and he stared at it briefly before gulping it down. It flowed, just barely thinner than honey, he tasted rosemary and cardamom before the musty aftertaste filled his mouth and heat bloomed in his cheeks and stomach.

Suddenly he could see the colors of the magic he smelled; running through all of them along the circle line like a river, passing bits of everyone’s magic into the next person and feeding into the fire like tributaries. Merle had to cough and tap his shoulder before he remembered to pass the cup along to complete the circle.

Lup grinned and held out her hands, palms up. She was almost directly across from Merle and he mirrored her;

“May this year be as fruitful, sustaining, and sweet as these we have shared, so mote it be.”

Lup and Merle brought their hands together at the same time and Angus felt it. Felt the ground under him respond as all their magics flowed and combined in the fire. He was breathless and his heart was racing like he had just ran a mile and could climb a mountain.

Merle grinned and stepped away from the circle, into Davenport’s space,
“What’s the order, sis?”

“Me and Barry last, is all I know. Wanna jump first, Angus?”

Angus met Lup’s gaze and then across the fire where Taako and Kravitz were moving out of his way.

It was a big pit, but the way he was feeling right now, the jump didn’t seem like anything dangerous.
He took two steps back, then a running start and jumped -

He was suspended in the place between earth, fire, and sky, with nothing but the sound of his heart in his ears, buoyed by swirling mixed loving alive power-

Then he landed and the breath went out of him and everyone was laughing and clapping.

Barry stepped closer to Lup and reached for her hand, a huge smile on his face. "Last, huh?"

On the opposite side of the circle, Taako turned to Kravitz, reaching for his hand. "Come on, handsome. Let's show these scrubs how it's done."

Kravitz laughed and took Taako's hand. They took a few steps backwards and then ran together towards the fire, Taako's usual aloof manner replaced with open giddiness as they sailed through the air together and landed on the other side. Kravitz swept him up into a kiss.

 

Lup took Barry’s hand as she wolf-whistled the two of them, tugging him till they were out of the way of Davenport and Merle,

“Get that boy a drink , Krav!”

As Merle and Davenport got their running start, she glanced down at their laced fingers, realizing something.

“You’re warm , babe.”

 

Kravitz led Taako off to grab a drink while Davenport and Merle jumped the bonfire. Barry turned to smile at Lup, his voice quiet and full of wonder.

"Yeah... It uh... it started after the uh... after Merle's blessing. I don't know if it's gonna last but..." He leaned in to kiss her lightly. "I think it's our turn, babe."

 

Lup smiled into his kiss, eyes sparkling,

“Should make the most of it, for sure .”

Backing up, she looked across the fire, the light was wreathing Taako as he teased Kravitz into taking a sip from his cup. Angus was watching them, eyes round and awed.
She squeezed Barry’s hand, sending a wave of love at him across their bond, and under his echoing wave she felt...his tie to this place, this land .... and now she was tied too.

Laughing, she ran in step with him and jumped.

 

As they hung in the air for a moment, Barry felt a sense of right, that this was the way the world was meant to be, and the moment their feet touched down on the grass again, he swung her into his arms and kissed her thoroughly.

"Love you." He murmured it quietly, just for her. Then he went to grab them both a drink.

Barry had been able to feel his tie to the land ever since the day he died and now he could feel Lup's tie to it as well. The land knew her as well as it knew him.

Lup chased Barry’s mouth for another kiss before letting him go and wandering to the table to sit down next to Angus, who was sipping lemonade that seemed excessively sour after the mead.

“How was your first Beltane fire, little dude?”

He looked at her face, flushed and glowing in the last bits of evening sunlight, then at Davenport and Merle, sharing a cup between them. Taako was in Kravitz’s lap, drinking the cup that Kravitz had declined having more than a sip of it to say they’d shared.

“I.... I think I’ll wait on describing it for a while, ma’am. It was too big.”

Lup’s ears flicked in interest at this, “that’s a good way of putting it... last thing is lighting candles and then everyone goes home.”

Angus looked at her then at the expression on Barry’s face as he brought her a cup of mead.

“....and goes to bed early.”

 

Barry pressed a cup into Lup's hands and kissed her again. Then he noticed Angus watching them and felt a hot blush crossing his cheeks. It was just now beginning to occur to him that their plans for the evening may have to be adjusted pretty heavily, given that there was an actual ten year old staying over.

"So uh..." He glanced around a little, and then looked at the plastic container on the table. "I think I'm gonna crack into this uh... these cupcakes. You guys want one? They uh... they look pretty good..."

He was mumbling by the end, thoroughly embarrassed.

 

“Yeah for sure, eat ‘em. I love you so much, Krav, but those are not coming in my house.”

Lup’s eyes twinkled at Barry, sending a wave of amused reassurance down their bond as Kravitz tried to protest it was his apartment too , before she handed a cupcake to Angus,

“You allergic to cats, Ango? Cause Tess will probably invade your room tonight.”

Angus accepted the cupcake, its bleached flour and heavily sugared icing washing the last of the mead taste out of his mouth and grounding him after the weird floaty feeling he’d been having since the fire,

“I like cats, I don’t think I’m allergic.”

“Baller,” Lup stretched and sipped her mead, trading the cup to Barry as he handed her a cupcake.

 

Barry took a long drink of the mead, enjoying the feeling of warmth filling him. And it was just so much more than that. Even now, he was spinning with feelings left over from the ritual, warmth and light and love and... and life. It was a heady thing and he felt absolutely wonderful. He stood, carefully unwrapping his cupcake with his teeth before he popped it into his mouth.

"And if you want, there's books and stuff in my old room. It's uh... the science in the textbooks is pretty out of date and there's uh... there's at least one psychology book that should be burned that I haven't gotten around to. But if you wanna read, go ahead. I've got some comics too. I'm told I've got some you can't get anymore."

 

Angus perked up instantly at this, nodding since he couldn’t quite talk around a mouthful of frosting.

Standing, Lup clapped her hands,

“Alright freaks and geeks, lets get this bonfire stoked and then all of you get off my lawn or else I’m turning the hose on you.”

She hadn’t gotten an extra candle for Angus, but after jumping the fire, she didn’t particularly feel that Barry holding one for the both of them would be much of a problem.

 

"She means it too. And she's being nice. I threatened the blood-from-the-walls routine, but apparently I'm not allowed to go full Kubrick now that we finished painting the walls."

Barry was grinning and it was entirely impossible to tell if he was joking or not. Taako was staring at him like he was a fucking cryptid and then turned to go grab the candles and hand them out.

"I swear to fuck, Bluejeans, if you so much as think about turning this shit into a horror movie, I'm telling Krav to deal with you. He's a bigger, scarier cryptid than you are."

Kravitz just sighed and took a candle, kissing Taako on the cheek as he passed. "I'm not a cryptid, love."

 

Lup caught Angus’s concerned look and grinned, “He’s totally a cryptid. Alright, fire!”

Standing in front of the bonfire she reached into the heart of it, feeling the mixture of magics combined into that of the earth and fire to make something whole . Teasing a strand of it out, she called a tongue of flame to run around their circle, lighting all the candles almost at once.

“Go in health, safety, and luck, fam.”

Bending, she touched the ground, Taako mirroring her, and they sent out a pulse of magic to cause the earth at the rim of the fire pit to fall in, mostly smothering the fire.

She stood and looked at Barry and Angus, their faces lit from underneath in the now real dark.

“We’ll bring those inside and put them in the fireplace before we turn on any lights.”


Barry gave her a thumbs up and turned towards the house. "We can clean up after we do that. There uh... there's definitely some stuff out in those woods that we don't want to come visiting." As he opened the kitchen door, he turned back and grinned. "Maybe they're cousins of yours, Krav." And then he vanished into the house.

Kravitz pinched the bridge of his nose. "How exactly did Beltane turn into dunk-on-Kravitz day?"

Taako put linked his arm through Kravitz's and grinned, tugging him towards the driveway. "Just lucky I guess, homes. Now come on, let's get home."

Chapter Text

Soon, both candles were set on the hearth and they could hear the sounds of cars pulling out down the driveway. Barry had gathered up the last of the food and brought it in to start putting it away. Even Tess seemed quieter and more peaceful, though she started begging for her dinner the moment they were all in the house.

While Barry was cleaning up the food, Lup found one of their toothbrush packs to get a clean one for Angus, and pulled one of Barry’s older sleep shirts out for him. She offered to let him shower off the smell of woodsmoke, and he hesitated,

“Will it- your sheets are clean, so I should....”

“Ah nah, little dude... I mean, yeah they are, but you won’t hurt ‘em. That’s Beltane smoke, if you don’t wanna wash it off yet, it’s cool.”

By the time she could hear Barry finishing in the kitchen, Tess had climbed the stairs and was investigating Angus’s backpack. He held out a hand for her to sniff and she promptly pushed her head against it, purring uproariously.

“Oh good, she likes you. She’ll probably try to sleep on your face tonight, so be warned.”

Angus only grinned as Tess shoved her way into his lap.

Barry followed Tess up the stairs, a smile on his face and a glass of milk in his hand.

"She does it to me all the time. I think she forgets that uh... that everyone else needs to breathe. Don't worry though, just give her a little push and she'll move." He held the glass out to Angus. "Here you go, buddy. Sleep tight. And if you need anything, we're just down the hall."

He paused then and looked over at Lup. "Maybe uh... maybe just knock first."

Angus took the glass of milk, somewhat confused, but mentally shrugging, “Thank you sir!”

He was already settling himself on top of the bed, a stack of books from Barry’s shelves on the stand next to him, and Tess draped herself over his lap.

Lup waved, then dropped her hand to link middle and index fingers around Barry’s in the lightest possible contact,

“Night Ango!”

And she drew Barry across the landing, not looking at him until they had closed their bedroom door, and she turned to press herself fully against him.
Magic was singing in her veins and hearing an answering song in Barry and she wantedlovedcraved-

Barry wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight against him as he kissed her. He couldn't take his eyes off her, didn't want to. The song thrumming through his veins was intoxicating and he poured loveneeddevotion back down the bond between them.

"Babe, I hope you know a way to like... muffle the room or something because I'm really really torn between wanting to fuck you so good you scream and not wanting to be the reason a kid needs therapy later."

“Fuck, right, shit, hold on-“

Letting go of Barry was unfairness itself, but she tugged him to where her charm bag was hanging and dug around for chalk. Growling, she stepped away from him and centered herself, shoving the hummingwant to the side for a moment. Tracing a circle with a few runes inside on the door, she placed a palm flat on it and threaded magic through. The door seemed to shiver and get farther away.

“Cool,” Lup turned and dived on Barry, kissing him all the harder for the brief period of not touching.

“Fuckin- Barry, Holy shit ,” she pulled away and trailed kisses along his cheek, “ I love you.... fuckin amazing -“

Barry laughed and lifted her so her legs were straddling his waist.

"Clever Lup..." He half murmured the words, desperately needing to kiss her again. "Today was... so fucking good. And... and like... a lot. I've never felt anything like that in... ever." He caught one of her hands and pressed her palm to his chest. "Feel that?"

His heart was beating loud, steady, and strong under her hand. "It’s yours."

Lup choked, eyes flaring dark and fingers curling into his shirt,

Mine....

Saying words was hard, pushing a tidal wave of loveaffectionloveminemininedesireyours was easier, as she tugged at his shirt,

My man better be shirtless in the next three seconds then-“

He dropped so he was sitting on the edge of the bed, still holding her in his lap, and pulled his shirt off fast enough that he heard it rip as it caught on the harness. Well, that was a problem for future Barry. He chucked it to the floor and kissed her again, tugging her shirt off.

"Fair's fair, babe." He slid his hands up her back, against her skin. "But uh... but this is absolutely a clothing free zone now, so you better strip before you're breaking the law."

Lup leaned into his hands, reveling in the warmth pouring off them. His magic was still like carbonated ice, and the contrast felt wonderful .

“Mmmmbreaking a whole entire law , Huh? Do I have to pay a fine or just get sent straight to jail?”

She grinned as she pushed her forehead against Barry’s meeting his eyes.

Laughing, he kissed her again. "Straight to jail, I'm afraid. Absolutely nothing-" He turned to kiss the spot right under her ear and then kiss her ear proper, nipping at the point gently. "Nothing you can do to uh... to stop it."

It was odd, not feeling that temperature contrast between them. But Barry certainly liked the way his pulse was racing under her touch. Even if it was only for now, it was something to remember.

"Don't wanna go to jail, do you?"

Lup shuddered at his teeth on her ear, one hand running along his neck and jaw, feeling at his pulse points, the other slid down his chest to run along the waistband of his shorts.

Hah- tough.... tough choice there.... I’m such a rebel, you know that, babe-“

Barry chuckled low in his throat. "Sounds like someone's under arrest." Then he stood, strong arms supporting her as he lifted her and turned. He laid her down on the bed gently and reached for one of the cuffs tucked mostly discreetly under the pillow. He was extremely happy they'd opted for this set up that went under the mattress and they could just keep out all the time. Alright, sure, it might be a little hard to explain if anyone else came into their room but dammit, doors were for knocking and they could cover it with a blanket.

He got one cuff around her wrist and kissed the palm of her hand. "See? I told you, babe, straight to sexy jail."

It was physically impossible for Lup’s eyes to get any darker, her ears flared out as Barry tightened the cuff. She opened her mouth to retort, snark back, anything ... and what came out was a purr moving down from her throat to her chest.

He adjusted the other cuff and leaned in to kiss her again. He traced light touches from her throat, following the purr down.

"Oh you really like that, don't you?" He trailed light kisses over her collarbone and then paused. "Those aren't too tight, right? Good to go?"

“All-“ her voice broke and Lup cleared her throat trying to talk past the vibrations in her chest, “all green and good to go, babe.”

She watched him move down, trying to focus on keeping her breathing even as her heart sped up.

“I love you....” it came out as barely a whisper while the feeling she sent across their bond was more of a shout.

"Love you too, Lup. More than anything in the world."

And then there were no more words as his tongue flicked her nipple and he closed his lips around it, sucking it into his mouth.

Lup gasped sharply, hips bucking up against him, mentally cursing not just taking off the fucking shorts already. Barry hadn’t cuffed her ankles yet and she pushed her heels against the sheets, whisper chanting his name through the purring rumble in her chest.

He pulled back, looking over his shoulders with a sly grin. "Knew I forgot something. But we're gonna have to uh... to get your shorts off first, huh, babe?"

He knelt between her legs and started undoing her shorts, tugging them down over her hips slowly. He paused then, looking at her curiously.

"Let's say hypothetically that I was thinking about uh... maybe going down on you and then fucking you. That a thing you'd be good for or uh...?"

Lup let out a shuddering breath, trying for composure, “ Babe. Enthusiastic consent all the way, for sure. But . On the very, very rare occasions I’m not going to want your mouth on me.” She gulped, legs tensing as she tried to keep her hips from bucking into his hands, “- very rare -“

“-But let’s assume it’s not going to be the occasion when you’re alive person amounts of warm and I’m tied up for you like a Candlenights present.”

Barry chuckled quietly. “I was more making sure you could handle it. Overstim is a thing, babe.”

Then he tugged her shorts and boxers off in one motion and flung them across the room. Kissing a trail down her stomach, he looked up at her and smiled before moving back to grab the restraints for her ankles.

“....C’n burn that bridge when we come to it....”

Lup murmured it, more interested in the way Barry was looking at her and the feeling of his hands on her legs as he tugged the restraints firm.

She was partially aware, outside of the tiny private world they had made for themselves, that the streams of magic stirred up by the ritual and brought inside via candle, were pouring into the wards, strengthening and enhancing them in a way they could have never managed on a normal night.

Magically speaking, the house was as good as a fortress, something that hummed at the back of her mind, relaxing mental muscles she didn’t even know had been tensed.

....and all that really wasn’t helping the purring thing. Which made it hard to talk at all.

Barry double checked that the restraints weren't too tight and then resettled himself, laying on his stomach with his hands firmly on her hips. He flicked his tongue over the top of her clit and then licked a stripe down before taking her in his mouth.

It was an odd sensation, the way she was purring hard enough to vibrate the entire bed, but Barry was very, very into it.

Lup keened softly his mouth was so warm and she felt like she was going to shake apart after just this much. She felt light headed from lack of air, having to make a conscious decision to breathe at a rate slow enough that she could still fill her lungs without pushing it right out again while purring.

The soft sounds she was making drove him on as he worshipped every inch of her. He fell naturally into the rhythm she preferred, the bond blown open by the magic and love and longing and desperate need flowing between them. There was just so much and Barry had to adjust, had to get on his knees just to keep himself from rutting against the bed. But he was determined that she was going to orgasm at least twice tonight if it took all night.

It was a small thing, considering everything else, and there was a LOT of everything else. Lup felt swamped by sensation be it physical emotional magical- but Barry’s hand on her hip as he leaned forward to get his knees under him, the desperation that flowed with it, knowing he absolutely refused to come until she did-

Lup arched into his mouth, soft chanting of babe babe babe babebabe- the only thing she could manage before her purr stuttered to a halt as her whole body tensed and her vision went white.

Gods, she was perfect.

Barry sat up, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand and grinned at her. "Shit, that was fast, babe. You sure you're good for more?"

He got up leaving her there on the bed while he went to the drawer and looked through it. He could just reach out and brush his fingers along her arm while he got out what he needed and tossed it onto the bed while he waited for her answer.

“Just..... gi-give me a few minutes.... can finally, finally fuckin’ breathe again....”

Tiny tremors were running down Lup’s arms and legs, and she couldn’t focus on letting those relax until she got her breath back. Cracking an eye open, she tilted an ear in Barry’s direction, asking in a very small voice,

“Come closer?”

He pushed things aside and sat beside her, running his fingers through her hair.

"This isn't too much, right?" He leaned down to kiss her forehead gently, "Got a color for me?" He did sound just a bit worried, even with the emotions running freely between them. He wanted to be sure.

Lup leaned her head into the contact, shoulders relaxing minutely,
“Green now...”

Slowly, her breath evened out and her limbs stopped trembling. Opening her eyes, she grinned up at him, “All calmed down and ready to be railed now, babe.”

He kissed her lightly and then again, more thoroughly. "As you wish."

He got back up, wiggling out of his shorts and leaving them abandoned on the floor along with his boxers. He grabbed the gloves first and pulled one on. Next came the lube and then he was on his knees between her legs again. He pressed one finger tip against her entrance, watching her face. Then he slid it in slowly, gently. He didn't think either of them were going to last very long, not with the way everything Felt tonight, and he wanted to prolong things as long as possible.

Lup's head went back and she tried to let the post orgasm noodle feeling work for her here. Keeping her breathing even and legs relaxed, she watched Barry's face from under her eyelashes, enjoying the focused look he had on. She tended to see it when she found him in his work room with a new model something, or at the lab when working out how an equation could be worked into a new spell.

Whenever he focused it on her, her stomach fluttered.

"Fuck, you're so good, babe."

He splayed the fingers of his other hand, resting it on her stomach. He curled his finger, thrusting slowly. Murmuring quiet praise, he slid a second finger, glancing up to make sure she was still alright.

After the intensity of the last round, this easy familiarity of old paths was almost calming. Lup smiled, mouth dropping open to pull in a shaky breath at the second finger, a thrill of adrenaline running up her spine. Her clit twitched in interest.

"I'm gonna write a fuckin' sonnet to your hands, Bear. That shit needs to be immortalized."

Barry felt the heat rise in his cheeks. "Shit, Lup," he leaned down to kiss her hip. "Just wanna make sure you feel good. That's all."
He slid a third finger in. "Love you so much , Lup."

"Step...step one: look up how to write a fuckin' sonnet-" Lup let out a long exhale, toes curling. "Step two: figure out how many- fuck - many words rhyme with 'super fuckin' baller', step thr- yespleaserightthereshit -"

Her heels dug into the mattress, trying to leverage herself back on Barry's fingers.

Barry bit his lower lip, whimpering softly. He kept thrusting, trying to blindly reach for the condom he'd left out at the same time. He needed to be in her, to give her everything he possibly could.

"Just... just a second, babe. Promise I won't leave you waiting long. Promise."

He pulled his fingers out slowly, fumbling with the condom as he tried to unwrap it with shaking fingers. He muttered shit shit shit quietly until he got it open and then grinned at her. A moment later, he was stroking his cock, making sure he was nice and slicked up for her.

Lup watched him through hooded eyes, taking the moment to breathe again,

"I know, babe, I know. You've got me all- all taken care of, know you'll do it again..... gods I love you so fuckin' much...."

Barry smiled at her, feelings of loveloveloveneeddesire flooding down their bond as he settled again. He rested his hands on her hips as he entered her, staying like that for a moment before rolling his hips forward. It didn't take him long to pick up to their usual pace and he could already feel that tight heat coiled inside him pushing him closer and closer to an edge that he was more than ready to jump headfirst over.

Lup whined , shoulders tensing against the mattress, no way to leverage her hips back against his thrusts, hands curling in and out of fists,

"Bear- babe, Barry, please , please kiss me, fuck , I need-"

Barry leaned in, kissing her deeply. "Already that close, babe?" His voice was a low growl, thick with need.

Lup squirmed under him, craning up as far as she could to keep their lips together,

"Just- just need all you, please -"

She was hard and aching again, the friction between them not enough to do more than bring her close to her edge and ride parallel to it.

Barry kissed her again and reached to tug on her ear. "Love you so- fuck so much, Lup."

He was so very close, so close it almost hurt, and he only needed one last little push to go right over that edge. He snapped his hips hard forward against hers, moaning into the kiss as he found his climax.

The tug on her ear pulled a high gasp out of her, and her head fell back with a cracked moan as Barry's climax washed over her down their bond. She did not come nearly as hard this time, heat curling through her instead of exploding. When she opened her eyes, they were blurry and she blinked away tears.

"Aw fuck-"

Barry blinked a few times and pushed himself up. “Everything okay, babe?”

He moved to start undoing the restraints, just a hint of worry in his tone.

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine, shit ," Lup pushed herself to sitting and wiped her eyes, leaning her forehead into Barry's shoulder,

"Just....a lot...."

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her like that for a long moment. Then he kissed her forehead gently.

“Let me get the other ones and then we can cuddle, alright?”

Lup nodded, sniffing, breathing in meditation style breaths as Barry unstrapped the restraints. She felt much calmer by the time he crawled up next to her.

“I’m real glad you suggested we do this, Bear....”

Barry reached for the blanket, pulling it with him as he snuggled down beside her. He wrapped one arm around her waist, cuddling as close as he possibly could. He made a murmuring sound of agreement and kissed her gently.

They fell asleep quickly, curled together in each other’s warmth, heart beats matching in rhythm.

Chapter Text

Angus read for maybe twenty minutes before the fact that he had done some really big magic hit him all at once and he fumbled to take his glasses off while he could still keep his eyes open.

His sheets smelled of other people’s laundry soap and spare room, but Tess was purring on his legs and the whole house had a feeling of safety he hadn’t felt since-

He fell asleep easily.

he was walking down the dark hall of a house he’d never been in before. The walls were a dark heavy wood with picture frames that were too high up for him to see clearly. Someone was crying in the room next to him.
Angus followed the sound until he found a door. Suddenly Tess was between his feet making scolding miah miah miah noises.

”it’s okay, Tess, I’m just going to see-“ he opened the door and there was an elf on the bed dressed in old clothes like in a black and white photo and a harness like Mr Barry’s. He looked up and scrubbed his face like he didn’t want Angus to guess he was crying

”You aren’t Eddie! Who- who ARE you?”

”my name is Angus McDonald why are you crying sir?”

The elf scowled and Angus saw he wasn’t an old adult like Mr Barry or Ms Lup he was more like the big kids in the high school down the road from his grandfather’s house.

”I wasn’t crying! What you doing here?” His eyes widen and looked past Angus.

“Baby brother, who are you talking to? Really, can’t we just-“

Tess hissed fiercely and Angus spun around to look up and meet the eyes of a frowning much older elf man.

“Who’s this now?”

Tess yowled and scratched Angus’s ankle.


Angus opened his eyes to bright sun light flooding into a room that wasn’t his and golden eyes staring into his face.

His ankle stung.

Tess glowered at him, sniffing all over his face before jumping off the bed and going to the door to cry for food.


 

 

For the first time since he'd put the harness on, Barry slept in. Well, slept in based on his new four hour sleep schedule. He was still curled around Lup when he woke, sunlight streaming in through the windows and the sounds of Tess crying for her food audible throughout the house. He didn't notice right away that he was cold again, that his heart rate had slowed back down. It wasn't until he had tugged his jeans on and grabbed a clean shirt out of the dresser that he noticed. He'd known it couldn't last forever, but it had been nice for the one night.

He closed the door behind him as he left their room, heading downstairs to put on a pot of coffee and set out Tess' breakfast. He wasn't sure if Lup would be up for making a more complicated breakfast this morning, so he decided to just throw on some toast and grab the nice homemade jam. If Angus wanted cereal, they had that too. The brightly colored box tucked far back in the cabinet along with several other assorted easily stored snacks with long shelf-lives was Barry's, a sugary treat he'd never been able to have as a kid.

 

Angus frowned at his clothes, which smelled of sweat and woodsmoke. Maybe he would wait on putting those on, even though all he had on right now was the night shirt.

As he walked out into the hall, the door to the other bedroom opened to briefly show Lup, whose eyes widened as she saw him and slammed the door shut again.

It opened again when he reached the stairs and she came out with a tank top and boxers, smiling at him,

“Hey Angus! How’d you sleep?”

“Fine ma’am, thank you.”

He was still feeling a little unbalanced as they walked into the kitchen and Lup draped herself across Barry’s shoulders,

“Do we want French toast?”

 

Barry turned to kiss Lup, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He gestured towards the toaster just as it dinged and two slices of toast popped up.

"I figured you'd be too worn out, but if you're down to cook, I can just put this away."

Please , I slept like a rock.” Lup kissed him again and moved to the fridge.

He moved then to finish adding cream to her coffee and pressed it into her hand with another kiss. He gave Tess a little skritch behind the ear as he turned towards Angus.

"Find any good books in there, bud?"


Angus perked up at being addressed, “yes, sir! The book on aeronautics was fascinating for the, um, little bit i was awake.”

Lup laughed, starting to beat cinnamon into egg batter, “your first big magic, huh? Kind of a kick in the pants.”

Angus blinked slowly, “....I’ve never done anything like it, nope.”

 

"If you wanna borrow it, go ahead. I don't think I've cracked that one in... ages. I've been too busy playing catch up."

He moved around Lup naturally, knowing right where she would be as she cooked and he set the table. They'd been good before but now he didn't even need to think, didn't need that moment of confirmation of who's power he could sense. He knew right where she was instinctively. He got down the good bread and started slicing it, humming an old song quietly. It really was a perfect morning.

 

Angus tried not to smile too hard, “really? You wouldn’t, um, wouldn’t mind?”

"Angus, bud, if I minded, I wouldn't have offered. Most of the stuff in there is from when I was a kid.

Lup snorted, “as far as priorities go, that room is the least work and attention of any in this house. Oh, babe, speaking of; Magnus is coming over to measure the basement for the outside door tomorrow instead. They got in late last night and he “needed sleep”.”

 


Barry laughed at that. "Yeah, because I totally buy that. But that's fine. I was thinking of uh... maybe spending some time working on the garden this afternoon. See if we can get the uh... the seedlings in."

He stretched and then checked the battery status for his harness with a sigh. "Ooooor I can spend a good chunk of the morning being a spooky boy. Gotta go on the charger, babe."

 

She snorted, soaking the bread and flipping it on the griddle, “eat first, babe, this’ll be cold by the time you’re done.”

Angus sat in his chair and watched them, legs swinging. He wasn’t sure why, but it seemed like they had simply accepted him being there. Lup passed him a plate with French toast and a bottle of real syrup with a grin.

“Yeah, I know you’re probably used to the corn syrup stuff, but trust me , this is better.”

 

Barry dropped into his seat with his coffee. "I've got a little time. Is it okay if I wait til after to take you home, Angus? I mean..." He looked over at Lup. "Unless you wanted to get home earlier. But it should only take an hour."

He grabbed his own bottle of fake maple syrup, pulling it closer to him, and stuck his tongue out at her. "Making fun of me by making it sound like you're giving Ango advice fools no one, babe."

 

Angus poured the syrup over his French toast with much more concentration than it needed as he tried to think up any excuse to stay longer that wouldn’t sound suspicious,

“I don’t mind waiting, sir, um... I’d kind of like to see the fire pit anyway? If that’s okay?”

Lup’s ears flicked up, “oh yeah! We should give you some of the ashes for your wards. Not as strong as the night of, but still got some oomph.”

Angus nodded and took a bite. His eyes widened and he started eating much faster.

 

"Perfect. I'll grab you a jar before I go charge." He was cutting his french toast into bite sized pieces and had already smothered the whole thing in syrup. "I figure I'll set up in the living room. Maybe watch that something on Netflix." He paused then. "Not that shitty thing about how we faked the moon landings. I'm still trying to decide if I want to call that guy and give him a piece of my mind or not..."

“You’ll just give him legitimacy, babe.”

As soon as he was done, he got up to head down into the basement to find an empty jar. There were a bunch on the workbench and he could just rinse one out. These ones had never held anything more innocuous than a few nails and he was perfectly happy to part with one so Angus could bring some of the bonfire ashes home.

 

As Lup cleared the dishes, she glanced at Angus’s night shirt and grinned, “you want a clean shirt, Ango? We probably have some extras..... Barry’s mom kept fuckin’ everything .”

Angus looked down at his now slightly sticky shirt, “is it okay-“

Lup waved her hand, “let’s assume I’m not gonna offer anything I don’t mean, lil dude.”

Angus stared at his plate and nodded.

When Barry came up from the basement, Lup tilted an ear at him, “hey babe? Those boxes of clothes in the attic are still in the corner under the Candlenights stuff, right? Angus’s stuff is dirty.”

 

"Uh yeah... Everything should still be up there. And there's definitely something that'll fit you. Assuming you don't mind clothes from the 30s."

He looked just slightly uncomfortable. Even now, he didn't like the attic but he'd go get things if she asked. He'd been trying on and off to get the light fixed but it didn't seem to want to stay lit no matter what he did. Even with the wiring updated, even with a brand new fixture and bulb, the attic light flickered.

“Cool, I can grab ‘em then.”

She waved Angus off as he offered to dry the dishes, and led him to the attic ladder, sending a light up above her. -“I think the light bulb might be a grumpy sentient entity, or something”-

The boxes were marked in Marlena’s scratchy cursive, obsessively labeled, if not much good at specifics .

Shaking a few boxes until she found one that felt right and she brought it down, light dancing in front of her. Angus watched it with wide eyes,

“Can you teach me that?”

Lup peered over the box as she flicked the tape open with another spell, “what, the light? Yeah, for sure, lil dude, it’s just a couple runes, you’ve probably got ‘em memorized.”

Digging through the clothes, she found a shirt and pair of shorts, “fraid you’re out of luck on underwear, but these should be okay for the day.”

 

Barry dropped onto the couch and popped his harness off, shivering slightly at the transition from solid to ethereal. Then he focused on dropping the electromagnet into place so the harness would charge. Anywhere else, he would need a ward to keep him anchored, to keep him from throwing some sort of poltergeist fit replete with objects flung all over and probably ending with his messy dissolution. Here though, here he was fine. This was his land and he was this land's ghost. He belonged here and the land would never let him go. Even if he did periodically relax and forget to stop sinking backwards into the couch cushions.

Angus was done changing by now and had reappeared in Barry's old clothes. Barry waved at him as he entered the room.

"Hey buddy. Wanna pick something to watch?"

 

Angus stopped and stared at him, eyes flicking over the obvious differences, number one; lack of legs.

“Uh..... sure. What sort of movies do you like?”

 

Barry shrugged a little.

"I'm still catching up. Mostly I watch a lot of sci fi. But pick whatever you want. Well... whatever you want short of Harry Potter. That shit's banned in this house." He gestured at the spot next to him on the couch. "It's okay, really. I'm pretty harmless. Promise."

 

”JOANNE KATHLEEN ROWLING CAN KISS MY ELVISH ASS!”

Angus looked startled to the kitchen, but shook his head,

“I like How It’s Made best.”

 

"Like I said, that shit's banned. But How It's Made is pretty good."

Barry held is hand out and floated the remote over so it dropped onto the couch cushions.

"Don't suppose you could uh... could turn it on?"

 

Angus pulled himself up on the couch and grabbed for the remote.

It was an older episode, and he could watch it while focusing on other things. Like the way Barry’s form seemed to blend into the background magic of the house- like the fact that the house had background magic, it smelled of turned earth and sun warmed wood under the usual smells of Barry and Lup’s magics.

Tess came running out of nowhere and bounced into the middle of Barry and flopped over, staring at Angus, interrupting his train of thought.

After the hour passed and the charger beeped, Barry shooed the cat out of his physical space.

"Lup, wanna come give me a hand getting this thing back on?" He turned to Angus then. "Go grab your stuff and I'll take you home, okay?"

Barry still had some concerns about taking the boy home, not entirely sure he believed the story they'd been fed. But he was going to go with it for now. At least until he had a reason to do something else.

 

“Yessir,” Angus tried not to show too much disappointment in his face. It had been.... nice being in a house full of living people.... well, people who acted alive anyway.

He hesitated over his clothes again, deciding just to roll them up and stuff them in his bag. Taako’s mark still fizzled on the flap, stinging his nose with capsaicin.

Tess came in and circled the room, mrrping discontentedly. She allowed him to pet her, shoving her face against his ankle, which stung again.

Looking down, he saw three scratch marks.

He was frowning as he came back down the stairs and saw Lup holding a jar of ashes.

“Oh! Thank you, ma’am!”

 

Barry had adjusted, getting his shirt back over the harness, and he stood in the front door with his keys in his hand.

"Got everything?"

They drove through the streets in Barry's convertible, the radio tuned to a classical station while he hummed along.

"If you wanna come over again, I can uh... I can give you my number. Then next time you won't have to take the bus. How's that sound?"

 

Angus stared straight ahead, only speaking up to give directions the closer he got to his house, and clutching the jar of ashes so tight his knuckles were turning white.

He didn’t respond to Barry right away, mind whirling between ‘now things go back to normal’ and ‘if things change they will go Wrong

He didn’t know which was a scarier prospect.

As they pulled up to his grandfather’s old two story, he winced to see the yard full of overgrown and browned grass after the riot of green at Lup and Barry’s.

“I-“

He couldn’t quite manage the words, but he pulled out his phone and looked hopefully at Barry.

 

Barry gave him the number, but he was looking at that yard, at how it looked. It reminded him... It reminded him of the first day he’d gotten the harness, the first time he’d been outside and seen what his house looked like after fifty years of neglect. Now, that certainly could be the result of a man too old to care for his yard and a boy too young to do it, but Barry couldn’t help but be reminded that that was what his yard had looked like and he was dead.

“There you go. If you ever need anything, even if it’s just like... like help with your magic, call. Alright?”

 

“....okay. Thank you, sir.” Angus stared down at his borrowed shorts, his gifted jar of ashes that still sung a soft song, and his bag with the spicy smelling mark.

People remembered when you owed them.

“Thanks for... thanks.”

He hopped out of the car and trotted up the sidewalk and let himself in, never looking back.

 

Barry drove home feeling distinctly odd, very much like he had just made a mistake, and he didn’t like it.

But by the time he’d gotten home, most of his misgivings had faded. Angus was fine. Clearly, his grandfather was still alive. Barry was just needlessly worrying.

He walked inside and hung his keys back up.

“I’m home, Lup! Wanna go get started on the garden?”

 

The wards didn’t know what to do with the ashes, or maybe it was because it was him doing it. So Angus spread them around the baseboards of his room, and put some in his backpack. Just to keep a reminder.



---THE NEXT MORNING---



Lup stared out over Barry’s shoulder at the elven.... boy, yeah, he was barely of age in human terms for sure.

“Hey babe? What, uh, what was that thing.... Magnus was saying about, um.....”

She didn’t really like the look the Keats kid was giving her.

“-the thing with Jules?”

 

Barry took a shaky breath and responded, his voice just above a whisper.

“Grave robbing. They... they were investigating a grave robbing. And... and...”

He gave the wards a little tug, just enough to let Keats in, and ran down the steps and the path.

“Keats, what... what happened? Are you...?”

He couldn’t ask if Keats was alright. Fuck, he knew Keats wasn’t alright. Keats was dead.  He’d died overseas and they’d shipped him back in a damn box. And yet here he was.

 

Lup slowly followed; Keats’ face was a mask of confusion and open hostility when he saw her and he moved so he was hiding behind Barry, eyes on Lup. That was when Barry finally realized part of what was wrong.

“Oh... oh shit. Keats, buddy, I...” he ran his fingers through his hair. “I need you understand that... that it’s been longer than you think it has and-“

“Are you cheating on my brother, Barry? Because that’s what it looks like.”

Keats’ ears were flicked straight back in anger and his eyes narrowed.

“No! Fuck, Keats, no.” He reached to grab the young man’s arm. He flailed for a minute to try to come up with a way to explain everything that happened. “Just... just let me explain, okay?”

He glanced back at Lup apologetically.

“I’ll go, uh, I think I hear Janeway complaining,” Lup turned and went back into the house, ears tilted back in curiosity she couldn’t hide.

 

Barry tugged Keats inside and sat him down at the kitchen table, automatically going to make another cup of coffee for the young man.

"What's going on? First Eddie is acting like... I've never seen him like this. Now this? Did you break up? Did something happen?"

Barry set the mug down in front of Keats and took his own seat, scrubbing at his face as he tried to think.

"Yes on both counts, bud. It's... Okay, first thing's first. I don't know if you noticed but uh... it's not '65 anymore."

Keats picked up the mug in shaking hands and took a sip.

"Yeah... I noticed. Saw some of the wildest cars I've ever seen on my way here. And... and folks talking into little boxes like they were on that show you like. The space one."

Barry took a breath. "It's been fifty years, Keats. You... I... We're both dead."

 

It was truly a pain to draw out her chores with the animals; curiosity and anxiety warred to turn her stomach into knots and her magic to spark along her skin. She managed though, and sent a quick text to Kravitz to let him know.... what? Well, Edward was finally not laying low for one....

When Lup came back, Keats was looking more shocked and less bewildered, but at least he was only looking at her with confusion and not hostility.

Kicking off her backyard boots, she plopped into the seat next to Barry,

“Sooo.... updated Kravitz. He used an emoji. So I’m a little freaked out? Or maybe it’s just that Taako got to him.”

 

"Was it the angry face or the little gun?" Barry gave her a little bit of a smile. "Because those are sort of what I'm feeling right about now."

“It was the line face one, you know. It looks like his face when I say something at the moments he’s trying to be professional.”

 

Keats' ears had flicked down and Barry was quick to ament his statement.

"No, no, not about you, bud. I'm just... I think it's pretty reasonable to say I'm kinda pissed at your brother for pulling this shit and then not even..." He turned to Lup. "Edward didn't explain anything. He just..." Barry shook his head, moving on. "Anyway, so, I guess I should introduce you two properly, huh? Lup, this is Keats. Keats, this is my girlfriend, Lup."

Keats looked Lup up and down once, a little frown of confusion on his face still.

"Um... Hello, Ma'am. It's nice to meet you... I guess."


She flashed Keats her most winning smile, “hail and well met, my dude, good to meet you, circumstances aside.”

She did not say ‘Maureen Miller and Barry say you’re the only one of your family worth a shit.’ It was very hard.

 

Keats glanced between Lup and Barry for a moment and then looked at Lup.

"Is... is it true? Everything Barry said? Am I really...? And... and Eddie... Eddie killed Barry?"

He sounded so very young and scared, and he really looked it with the way he was pulling in on himself.

 

Lup’s ears eased back, and her nose wrinkled as it tended to whenever Edward was mentioned, and she took a breath to straighten it out into sympathy.

“‘Fraid so. Not, uuuh, not really the kinda thing you expect your sibs to go off and do, huh?”

She chewed her lip, glancing at her phone for any ETA from Kravitz,
“There’s not a lot of things that could help, but....we at least know where your sister is....?

 

Keats' ears flicked up and then drooped again.

"Yeah... super secret necromancy jail apparently. I don't understand. Eddie... Eddie always liked that kind of magic, but he was having fun with it not hurting people. And... and Lili was always so gentle... and kind... and..." He pulled his knees up to his chest, feet on the chair, and rested his head on his arms.

Based on the latest text, Kravitz wasn't terribly far out. Only about twenty minutes away. Barry looked over at Lup, worry in his eyes.

"We can't just... we can't just leave him on his own, Lup."

 

“Yeah, I know, babe. Uhm..... I guess I should change the sheets after Angus slept on them....”

‘Surprise, kids’ was never a thing Lup had ever really thought she might have to deal with. Certainly not with Barry ....

“Keats, are those the clothes you were-“ buried in “-woke up with?”

 

He looked down at the uniform he was wearing and the bloodstains across the shirt and then nodded slowly. His jacket hung open and there were holes in it. There were two large stains where the blood had blossomed from wounds, one just below his sternum and the other along his side.

"I... It's what I was wearing when I went on patrol." He frowned slightly, trying to remember. "I think, anyway."

 

Lup’s ears tilted down tight against her head, “....I’m going to not question the logic of how they’re still on you and just....just go raid the attic again....”

She got up quickly, rage simmering quietly in her veins. Even if... if somehow Edward’s Raising called Keats from the moment he was killed, it had been more than a day since Beltane, and the man hadn’t even offered his little brother a new shirt?

“The man finds new and interesting ways to make me hate him more,” she muttered to Tess as she pulled the attic stairs down. Tess mahn’ed in reply. She had been skittish of their new visitor. Since Lup could still feel a remainder of the resurrection magic sticking to him, all blood and warped power that stank of Edward, she couldn’t blame the cat.

 

Barry shouted up the stairs after her. "Want me to change the bed in the uh... in the guest room?"

Keats had followed him, hands in his pockets. "If... if it's too much trouble, I could-"

"Don't even finish that sentence. Keats, buddy, you've gone through a lot and I'm not sending you out... out into the world without like... knowing what's going on at least? We've got space and we don't mind you staying."

Tess was sitting at the top of the stairs where she could see both Lup and Barry and she hissed.

"Okay, so Tess might mind, but she'll get over it."


“Yeah thanks, babe! If there aren’t any clean ones for that mattress, I might have shoved the, Uuuuuh, the Halloween ones in the back of the cupboard-“

Marlena Bluejeans’ habit of saving everything and anything that might someday be useful seemed to be a self fulfilling prophecy, even if the length of time was.... a little out there. Lup once again made a note to go through some of the boxes to see if anything of value might be in them. She’d forgotten that note to herself by the time she was at the bottom of the ladder.

She looked at Keats’ blood stained shirt, then at the bathroom, then Keats’ not at all stream lined harness.

“Hoooo boy.......babe? How do you feel like sharing your harness so this boyo can shower?”

Chapter Text

Angus walked slowly home, his backpack feeling heavier on his shoulders than usual. It wasn’t even that full of books, he hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything new today. Being at school had been a good distraction, but now he was going home and could remember walking into the house yesterday and feeling the difference between his grandfather’s aging wards and the strong and healthy ones at Lup and Barry’s house.

It didn’t feel safe at home anymore.

It felt even less safe as he opened the door and felt.... felt his own spells. Or the lack of them. The one Big Thing he’d ever done on his own, and it felt.... it felt like they’d been shredded .

The breath caught in his throat and he ran upstairs to his grandfather’s study. He put his hand on the door knob and stopped. He hadn’t opened this door in months. Only strengthened the spells from this side every week. Every week since-

But the spells weren’t there anymore.

He opened the door.

The study was exactly as he’d last seen it, except dustier. He gulped and traced the circle Ms Lup had shown him in the air and a light floated above his head.

“H- ....hello?”

And his grandfather stood up out of his chair and looked at him and smiled and said in a voice that wasn’t his Grandpa’s:

“He llo . You’re Angus McDonald , aren’t you?”

The old man walked around the desk, seeming just a bit off balance, like someone used to be taller. He leaned in slowly, looking Angus over, the smile on his face growing.

"Fascinating. I'll never figure out how it is that humans keep being the ones with so much raw power in them but, well, beggars can't be choosers, I suppose." He reached out to grab Angus by the arm and hissed, jumping back like a scalded cat. His hand came away burnt on the palm, smoking slightly.

"What did you do?"

The amusement in the light, unfamiliar and yet oddly familiar voice was gone, replaced with sharp, cold anger.

The touch had zapped like static and jolted Angus out of his frozen horror. He backed towards the door,

“You.... you arent -“ no that was a stupid thing to say, his Grandpa was dead, had been dead for five whole months. “-you’re the elf I saw.... saw in my dream....”

He was at the door.

“Tess didn’t like you-“ he bolted for his room. A less panicked Angus might have run for the front door, but this Angus could only think that he had the Beltane ash all over his floor and it felt the safest place in the house.

Edward in Grandpa McDonald's body growled and chased after the boy, coming up short as Angus ducked beyond the barrier of ash and magic. Edward felt his way along it, felt the raw power in it. This was high ritual magic and it stank of Barry and that bitch. There weren't any cracks in the power, nothing he could use for leverage to force it open. Beltane magic was strong, as he well knew. Fine. Fine. There was another way he could play this.

"I'm not going to hurt you, Angus. You don't need to hide from me. I wanted to know who was talking to my baby brother. I thought maybe we could all be friends. How does that sound, Angus?"

Angus dropped his backpack and scrambled for his wand, holding it out in front of him as he edged for the door, “You’re in my grandpa’s body.

"Well, I'll admit... that was a bit of a mistake." Edward smiled, holding his hands out. He hoped the brat couldn't spot a lie. But then honestly, what kind of child would be able to tell that he was lying when he was really putting on the works? He'd fooled tougher opponents than some magically gifted brat in borrowed clothes and hiding behind borrowed wards. "Here, I'll put it back and put an even stronger stasis spell on it for you. How does that sound?"

He did as he'd said, reappearing a moment later as a specter that flickered with red lightnings around the edges. He smiled slowly, trying to look friendly and charming.

"There now, that's better isn't it, Angus? My name is Edward. And you already know my baby brother, Keats-”

He was talking to a closed door. The moment he’d moved away from it, Angus slammed it shut and turned the lock. It was a stupidly weak one, you could open it from the other side with a butter knife. But it made him feel better, even as he pulled out the jar with the last bit of ash in it and sprinkled some of it in a circle in his closet.

Edward’s voice through his door made him flinch,

“Go away! This isn’t your house!” a stupid childish thing to say, and he tried not to burst into tears as he sat in the circle, closet door closed, wand beside him, and pulled out his phone.

Water dripped on the screen and he scrubbed it furiously.

-mr Barry please help there’s a strange man in my house and I think

He paused, not sure how to put it

-he hurt my grandpa


Barry had been in the middle of a conversation with Kravitz while he made the bed upstairs, discussing the ins and outs of exactly how they were going to deal with Keats turning up and the continuing Edward hunt with a side order of Barry promising that he wasn't going to be stupid this time and when someone told him to stay put, he was actually going to do it, when his phone started to buzz frantically in his pocket. He pulled it out, surprised to see that the messages were from Angus. Then he started running towards the first floor. 

"Kravitz, can you stay with Keats? Something just... came up and I need to go!"

He burst into the kitchen and held his phone up for Lup to see. "Lup, it's Angus."

Lup frowned as she took his phone, frowning harder as she read the whole thing, ears pinning back,

“Fucking shit , lemme get my bag, maybe call Merle if the old dude is hurt-“ she darted upstairs, waving away Kravitz’s questions, “just our other Beltane present, I.... guess. We can handle it, s’fine.”

"I'll let him know we're on the way and to stay hidden..." Barry grabbed his keys. "Call Merle on the way."

On the way out the door, he grabbed his antenna wand and shoved it into his back pocket. "I'll be in the car when you're ready."

- We're on the way. Stay put and out of sight. Have you got a ward up?

-i put the ash in my room and he can’t cross it. He keeps trying to get me to come out

Angus paused after sending this, pushing his closet door open a crack,

“You’re breaking and entering and- and possession without a license! I could call the police on you-“

Edward sighed. "I didn't break anything, I merely entered. You know, it's much more polite to have a conversation with someone face to face, Angus. You were in my house the other night, weren't you? Fair's fair."

He was starting to get irritated. He wanted to find a way past these wards without just blasting them open. Assuming he even could, of course. Every time he started to get near them or touch them too closely with his magic, it was like sticking his hand into a bonfire and one that didn't particularly like him.

"How did you do that anyway? Do you know?"

“‘The criminal act of entering a residence or other enclosed property with the slightest bit of force, unauthorized’,” Angus gulped and checked his phone; there was nothing from Barry in the last two minutes. Maybe he was driving?
“And you did use force! You shredded all my spells and entered my grandpa’s body!”

"Well, aren't you just a clever little thing." Edward was pacing now, not that his steps could be heard. "Why don't you tell me the laws about keeping a body unburied in your house then, Angus? Hmmm?"

He tried to push against the wards again and then smiled to himself and checked the top and bottom. Sure, the brat was smart, but what were the odds he'd considered three dimensional space in setting his wards?

Angus gulped, curling into himself and gripping his wand, scrubbing at the tears falling freely down his cheeks,

“Still- still breaking and entering! You aren’t CPS, Mister .”



Lup pulled straight into the driveway of the neglected looking house, ears flat as the wards washed over her. Generally you did get less strict ones in urban areas, there was just too much coming and going not to. But instead of a layered approach, these seemed to look at her and say ’well if you MUST-‘

“No one’s touched the wards in ages, babe. I don’t LIKE this, no wonder some dude was able to wander in off the street.”

Reaching into the back seat, she grabbed her bag and hopped out, glancing at the yard, the blinds pulled in all the windows, the- 

door swung halfway open.

Barry met Lup's eyes and pulled his wand out, holding it low.

"I'm not waiting for Merle. Come on."

Most wards, no matter how old, no matter how run down, could stop Barry from entering. Hell, a line of salt on the floor could stop Barry. These? It was like walking through tissue paper, just the tiniest bit of resistance and they shredded behind him. He didn't like it one bit.

Pushing the door the rest of the way open, he looked around. They didn't know the layout of this place, had never seen the inside, but he could Feel the magic from their bonfire in his bones and it called to him. Turning to make sure Lup was right behind him, he pointed towards where he could feel it. And then he heard the voice and froze.

"No, I'm not CPS, Angus, and honestly, aren't you better off that I'm not? Now come out, I told you, I just want to talk to you."

Edward.

Lup’s ears flattened and her pupils flared dark as she gripped her wand in one hand, fire flaring in the other.

Ragefurymineindignation poured across their bond as she walked quietly to the base of the stairs leading up to the pull of Their magic and sketched a spell circle in the air,

“Hey Eddie , why the fuck didn’t your parents teach you to fuckin’ knock?

Edward turned, spectral form sparking with unanchored rage. He started to trace one of his own wards, cutting the hallway off. Then he changed his mind and instead dropped the ward directly in front of Lup and curved it to throw her power right back at her.

"Brûlez dans votre propre feu, salope."

And then he vanished with a little pop.

The ward rushed at her, malice pouring off it, and Lup snarled, waving her wand through the circle, snuffing it out,

Va te faire enculer, salaud!

It was blocking their way up and she growled again, digging in her bag for ingredients,

“Gods, I hate him. We’re gonna hafta take this down together if we don’t want it exploding, babe.”

Barry moved to stand next to her, putting a hand on her shoulder and dropping an anchor for her so they were grounded.

"Got it. Just let me know what to do, babe."

The random bemused realization that he hadn't known either of them could speak French flicked through his mind. Then he focused again, concentrating on the magic at hand and on the feeling of Home that was guiding him to Angus.

Barry’s hand on her shoulder was enough for Lup to be able to shove the boiling rage in her stomach aside, and reach out to test the edges of the ward. It seemed specific to her power, and she snorted, pulling back,

“Gonna need to borrow some, babe. Confuse the shit out of this thing.”

Pinching the thread of Barry’s power offered to her between mental fingers, she used it to pluck at the anchors of the ward until they pulled up, allowing her to grab the edges with her own power and shred it thoroughly .

Barry kissed her cheek lightly.

"Gods, I love watching you work."

Then he was off again, headed down the hallway. It was odd, he realized. He could feel the change. There was a feeling like the building had expanded, like it could breathe again. And then it hit him. Edward. He could sense Edward in almost the same way he could sense Lup. Not as strong, but he could nonetheless and Edward wasn't here anymore. That was why it didn't feel tight and close and dangerous. He didn't like that one bit, but it was a problem for Future Barry.

Barry tried the knob and frowned slightly. It was locked. Alright, time to try a new trick. He pressed his palm against the door and played with the internals of the lock with his mind. It took longer than he liked, but it popped open with a satisfying click. He pushed the door to Angus' room open, not at all surprised that the wards let him pass without a question and looked around.

"Ango, buddy, you alright? It's me and Lup. He's gone."



Lup let Barry check up on the kiddo, she followed the leftover sting of Edward’s magic to a room a few doors down. Frowning, she stepped into what looked like a study, dust everywhere , and a-

“Well..... fuck.”


 

The time between the sound of the lock clicking and Barry’s voice was the second worst half second of Angus’s life. It took him much longer to get his breathing under control enough so he could scoot the closet door open enough to make a noise.

Barry saw the closet door opening and smiled, relief flooding him. He still didn't know how Edward had found Angus but knowing the boy was alright did a lot to curb the anger and fear that had been swirling in him. He took another step inside, holding out his hand.

"It's okay now. Promise. Merle's on his way and he can... he can make sure your grandfather is alright. Did E-... Did he hurt you?"

Angus looked up at Barry, throat tight with explanations, and not moving from his circle. He set down his wand and phone carefully, thinking maybe to pull himself up and explain;

And the tears he’d been mostly successfully keeping back burst through.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, sir, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t- I’m sorry-

Lup edged in the doorway then, ears flicked low, “I don’t think Merle’s gonna do a lot of good- aw hells .”

Barry glanced back at Lup, looking for an explanation. Then Angus starting crying and Barry moved without really thinking. He hugged the boy tightly, "It's okay. It's not... You didn't do anything wrong, Angus. I promise. Everything's gonna be okay."

Lup squatted down, glancing at Angus sobbing into Barry’s shoulder, and back up to Barry’s face. There wasn’t a whole lot of ways to say this tactfully.

“His... so. Grandfather’s dead in there. Don’t think it was Edward either, he’s been in stasis for a while-“ her glance flicked to Angus again, “-not really Merle’s wheelhouse for fixin’ that.”

Angus gulped, fingers tightening on Barry’s arms,

“It.... he- Last Candlenights, I found-“

Barry made soft shushing noises, "Angus, it's okay. I mean... it's not..." He took a breath and tried again. "You're not in trouble. Alright?" He looked at Lup. "I don't know if this is... if this is Kravitz's jurisdiction or not but uh... but I'm taking Ango home. Lup, I... Someone needs to deal with that and... and... Kravitz needs to know it was Edward here and..."

Barry stood, picking up Angus with just a little boost of magic to let him cheat at physics. There were tears on his cheeks too and he felt lost. Barry had been hoping this was all over, that Edward was finally gone from his life. The last few hours had proven that hope was in vain.

Lup looked around the bedroom with a frown, “Yeah... yeah. Krav can vouch for us under discovery, but I’d rather we have him in the house before I call in a body. Angus, is there anything here you need, sweetie? Clothes and shit?”

Angus’s sobs quieted as he listened to them talk, Lup’s question getting him to look up from Barry’s shoulder. “Um-“ he glanced around the room, looking at the bookshelves and small nightstand by his bed,  “my wand.... everything else’s in my bag...”

Lup nodded, understanding, and pulled open his drawers to busy herself scooping extra pairs of underwear and socks into the kid’s backpack.

“Make sure you get him in the car first if anyone comes up to ask questions, babe.”

Barry nodded and adjusted his grip on Angus slightly so he could take the backpack as well. Then he kissed Lup's cheek.

"See you at home, babe."

Getting outside, he made sure Angus was buckled in with his backpack at his feet before he texted Kravitz.

It was Edward. Angus is okay, but Lup wants you here before she calls the cops. We've finally got the story on the grandfather. I'll be home soon and I'm bringing Angus with me.

Then he remembered Keats was there and winced. Hopefully, the boys wouldn't scare each other too badly.

Chapter Text

If there was one thing Lup had gotten very good at in her century plus of life, it was talking politely and firmly to cops. Having Kravitz with his creepy aura and high powered credentials made this almost easy mode, but it was still hours of explaining, reassuring, yes we are licensed wizards with a claim to the kid, for sure we can talk to a CPS worker, but for everyone’s safety he should stay in our custody for now.

Her ears were flagging low by the time the official looking van drove the body away, and the police cars were turning off their blinking lights and pulling out of the driveway. She followed Kravitz to his car, just wanting to go home , when an old human woman pushed out from the small crowd of neighborhood onlookers and pinned her with a fierce glare,

“Angus is safe? Your man took the dziecinka away, where?”

Lup blinked at her, tired brain complaining about being used still, “Our- our house... he slept over on Beltane and we’ve got wards to keep him safe, mamaie, no shit. Promise.”

The old woman glared at her a second longer before her face relaxed into a mass of wrinkles, and she pushed a paper bag into Lup’s hands, “You give him those for breakfast, he needs the food.”


 

By now, Barry had gotten Angus home and was ready to collapse. Then he remembered that he needed to play interference between Angus and Keats until he was certain neither boy was going to spook the other. Then there was the question of where they were going to sleep. There was no question they were both staying, not in Barry's mind. He just needed to make sure everything was going to be alright.

He tasked Keats with bringing down the boxes from the attic that held his old clothes. They were going to need more than one or two spare bits of clothing now. ("They're labeled. Just grab whatever sounds right.") Then he set about finishing changing the sheets in his old room, which he was rapidly already starting to think of as Angus' room. The next step was grabbing some spare blankets and setting Keats up a bed in the basement.

They'd done it over as a rec room with a plush carpet and their brand new Switch that Barry was desperately trying to learn to play out of self defense. ("If Magnus knocks me off Rainbow Road one more time, so help me, Lup.") By the time that was done, he realized he didn't know where either boy was and a feeling of panic set in.

 

 

Angus had curled himself into the smallest ball he could on the library couch, with one of the books off the shelves that he wasn’t reading and a purring Tess in his lap.

A sort of blur had settled over the day and he wasn’t quite sure he was all the way in his own body, though whenever he felt extra floaty Tess made herself heavier and stuck her nose in his cheek.

Feeling like he was piloting his body from a million miles away, he looked over at Keats through the door into the kitchen.

“I saw you in my dream....”

 

Keats was staring back at him over one of the boxes from the attic and he nodded slowly. He'd changed out of the blood soaked clothes, thankfully, replaced with a pair of slacks and an undershirt from when Barry was a teenager, the harness over it. Even with his close cropped hair and gentle eyes, he looked a lot like Edward and Lydia. There were differences though, most of all how expressive he was. Just now, his ears were flicked all the way back in general discomfort.

"You said your name is... Angus McDonald, right? I'm Keats."

He set the box down on the table and moved to stand uncertainly in the doorway.

"Were you really there? Or... It couldn't have been just a dream right? Because I saw it. You and the cat."

 

“I don’t know... Tess scratched me and I still have it,” he pointed at his ankle, getting himself a disgruntled Look from Tess until he went back to petting her.

“The other, um, the other man who was there.... who called you his brother... he came to my house and knew my name too, so it probably wasn’t a dream.”

 

His ears drooped and he took another step forward. "His name's Eddie." Pause. "Edward."

He stopped then, looking at Tess and not coming any closer. "She doesn't like me. I think it's because I smell like him... I guess... I guess my brother isn't a very good person any more."

 

Angus sat up more, adjusting Tess on his lap, and stared at Keats, sniffing.

Keats didn’t have any magic smell all his own, just the lingering thick roof of the mouth taste of blood and pine smoke that had followed Edward in Grandpa’s study. It wasn’t a great smell, and Angus thought Tess was right not to like it.

But Keats looked sad and it wasn’t his fault.

Angus pointed at his bag he’d been carrying with him even after Mr Barry had said he could unpack upstairs.

“In the front pocket of that there’s some ashes. You should rub them on your hands.”

 

"Ashes?" Keats' ears flicked straight up. "What kind of ashes?"

But he walked over and opened the bag, even as Tess sat up and hissed at him. The jar didn't have much left in it and he looked at Angus curiously, "Are you sure?"

 

“They’re from the bonfire we had on Beltane, there’s more outside. I bet Ms Lup will give me more if I ask," He didn’t say that he’d only wanted any because his house wards were dying, and that sitting in this house smelling strongly of Safety, he didn’t need anything else.

 

Keats nodded and dumped a bit into his hands, rubbing it in as best he could. Then he moved a little closer and held a hand out to Tess nervously. She sniffed at him and then relaxed, rubbing against Angus again before settling down. Keats smiled, visibly relaxing. Then he looked back towards the stairs.

"I'm supposed to bring down more boxes... Wanna come see what else is in the attic?" He gave Angus a grin. "BB said I could bring down whatever."

 

Angus nodded, the smell of blood and pine had lessened as soon as Keats had touched the ash, and now he was just generating a slight chilled tang of iron.

“That sounds cool, I can do a light too!” He let a little bit of pride drift into his voice, “Ms Lup showed me how to make one float.”

 

"That's really cool!" His ears flicked up in interest. "I can't do magic. I tried when I was little, but I guess I just don't have it."

Then he turned, waving for Angus to follow him. "Come on! There's all kinds of stuff up here. Some of it's old too, like from the 20s."

 

Angus thought of Edward reaching for his arm with a greedy look on his Grandpa's face, then very carefully didn't think of that, beyond wondering if it was a good thing Keats was magic null.

Sketching the circle into the air, he sent the little witch light bouncing ahead of them and pouring light into the attic that put the flickering light bulb to shame.

The boxes labeled 'clothes' and 'Candlenights' weren't very interesting, but there was furniture at the edges, and Angus could smell one of the house ward bases. Crouching next to it, he stared at the construction of the circle, hovering a hand over some of the runes he recognized. It smelled strongly of Lup, Barry, and Taako, all braided together into one.

"I wonder if they'll teach me to do that ..."

 

Keats shrugged and grabbed another box of clothes, moving it closer to the ladder down. Then he put another on top of it.

"Maybe. You won't know until you ask." He looked around a little and tugged the sheet off the old dressmaker's dummy. "Look at this thing!"

 

Angus frowned at it, "How did they get that up the stairs?"

This was a good question, and one to be asked of the small wooden chest with G.B. carved into the side as well. Angus touched it lightly, and felt the faint tang of magic like a memory rubbed into it. Moving farther in, his light bobbing ahead, he found a crate of carved wooden animals, sanded to perfect smoothness.

They also had something like a memory of magic, and Angus felt a happiness like rosemary drifting off them.

 

"Find something neat?" Keats had brought the last of the boxes of clothes down the ladder and had just poked his head back up into the attic, grinning over at Angus.

 



Barry stood on the stairs, just out of sight where he could hear them but they couldn't see him, and smiled. They were getting along. Thank everything. He relaxed, leaning against the wall. Hopefully Lup would be home soon and they could figure out something for dinner. He was halfway inclined to just order a pizza and be done with it. Lactose intolerance be damned, their day had been long enough as it was. Pulling out his phone, he sent her a quick message.

- The boys are settling in. How're you doing? Think you'll be home soon? I was thinking pizza.

 

The text came back a few minutes later,

-This fuckin (pig emoji) keeps asking me how long I've lived in this area as if the answer will change the next time  (fire)(fire)(fire)(fire)
- I can make Krav drive me to pick up pizza if you call it in, sure
- How's Tess?

"Mr Barry?" Angus peeked out of the attic opening, "there's some-" toys sounded too babyish, "-wood figures up here I want to look at, is that okay if I bring them down?"

 

"Yeah, go ahead, buddy. Just don't touch the rocket ship. That uh... that's anchoring the wards." Pause. "And sounds really silly now that I say it out loud, but just go with it, okay?"

- Think 2 larges is enough for all four of us? Tess is doing great. I think she finally stopped trying to eat Keats and she's acting like Angus is her long lost kitten.

He included a picture of the cat sitting at the bottom of the attic ladder, staring forlornly up at where the boys had gone and she couldn't follow.

 

- get three, angus is a rail
- LOOK AT MY GOOD BABY GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Angus came down the steps carefully, setting the crate on the floor and digging through excitedly. Tess came over to sniff and sneeze, before rubbing along the crate, purring.

"Were these yours, Mr Barry?"

 

Barry smiled, looking into the crate. "When I was really little, yeah. My mom said my dad made them. If uh... if you want to play with them, that's fine with me." He held up his phone. "I'm ordering pizza and Lup's gonna bring it home. How do you feel about pepperoni?"

Keats stuck his head down through the opening. "I like pepperoni. Or cheese. Or anything's that's not a c-rat."

 

"Pepperoni's fine, what's a c-rat?" Angus ran his hands over a carved cow, "Did your dad have magic?"

 

"A C ration. Canned spaghetti. It was the grossest thing I ever ate and I used to eat Eddie's cooking." Keats disappeared back into the attic then, going through more boxes.

Barry knelt down, picking up a carved dog and looking at it. He could feel traces of warmth in it, a feeling of love that he realized now he'd felt in it as a very little boy but never understood. "I guess he did. I never knew him, and Mom never said."

 

“Like chef boyardee?” Angus yelled up the attic, still tracing the lines of the cow.
Catching Barry’s expression, he nodded,
“My friend June doesn’t remember her mom either.”

Barry’s phone buzzed,

- finally getting to leave, also tell angus his old lady neighbor said she hopes he’s well and she gave us kolakys

 

"What's chef boyardee?" Keats yelled back down. Then he reappeared with a box of wooden blocks. "Want these too, Angus?"

Barry pulled his phone out and grinned at the message.
"Hey Ango, one of your neighbors sent something called uh... kolakys? And she said she hopes you're doing alright." Then he stood up, tucking the carved dog back into the box. "How about you two get these things into your rooms while I go order dinner? We can go through the clothes and figure out what fits both of you tonight. How's that sound?"

Keats dropped down the ladder, his feet barely touching the rungs. "Sounds good to me!"

Angus’s eyes widened before he looked down at the box again, “Kolaches, Ms Paloma makes them best....”

He breathed steadily, nodding at Barry as he picked up the crate and went to his room.
“Sounds- sounds good, sir.”



Lup arrived, jumping out of Kravitz’s black Mercedes-Benz that she did not spend most of the drive looking for buttons to turn it into a rocket, with a stack of pizza boxes, the bag of cookies, and a folder tucked under her arm. Waving to Kravitz, she hurried up the stairs to be able to dump everything in the kitchen, sending a wave of affectionirritationTIRED down their bond.

“I swear, you’d think those guys had never had someone find a body perfectly innocently before. Hey Ango, we gotta go to an appointment with CPS tomorrow, prove we aren’t kidnapping you for nefarious reasons, but you don’t have to go to school on top of it, so that’s something.”

 

Barry had come to help, opening the door the moment he felt her cross the wards. Taking the pizzas from her in trade for a quick kiss, he set the boxes on the counter.

"Sorry I stuck you with the short end of the stick, babe. But we got everything all set here. Ango's got his room upstairs and Keats got the basement. Which uh... how exactly are we going to explain Keats to uh..." He paused then, looking at her questioningly. "What's CPS anyway?"

 

“Child protection services, takes care of kids without parents, or with parents who are shitty in various ways. Ostensibly. He’ll get a caseworker who probably has like twenty other kids to look after and if we’re lucky will just be happy we generate less paperwork with the magic thing.”

Angus climbed into a kitchen chair, giving Lup an uneasy look, “am I a ward of the state now?”

“Just till tomorrow, kiddo, someone’s coming over to make sure we’re giving you a proper bed and have food in the kitchen, and then we’re officially responsible for you while we do the whole teacher thing. We’ll go to the school to arrange pickups and shit with Taako later.”

 

“Huh... Sounds like a neat idea. Loads better than the shit I saw as a kid.” Barry still looked a little worried though, “How uh... Do we tell them about the whole... ghost... situation?”
Then he shook his head, they could talk about that later. Dinner first, “Wash up for dinner, okay, Ango? I’ll go grab Keats and tell him to do the same thing.”

 

“If they don’t ask about it, I don’t see why we need to volunteer that information specifically ,” Lup said carefully. Angus gave her an approving look, and she grinned at him. “You’re a real live person with a driver’s license and a job, babe, if you don’t have any felonies or whatever on your record, who the fuck cares.”


“Okay, cool... cool.” He went to the basement door and opened it up, shouting down. “Keats! Dinner time!”

Keats came walking up the stairs with a smile on his face. He took one look at Barry and went to sink to wash his hands. Then Barry put a hand on Angus’ shoulder and steered him towards the sink.

“You were both in the dusty attic. Clean hands or no pizza.”

Chapter Text

Two nights, a lot of paperwork, a meeting with too many Official People with glasses that they peered over a lot, a carpool schedule, and Magnus coming over to finally measure the basement for a door, Lup was laying in bed ticking off the things she needed to do the next day on her fingers.

write out a quick summary of wiki articles for Keats to look over, the kid needed SOME idea of time passing, talk to Angus’s teachers about removing him from the after school program now that he was scheduled with Taako, drive by the McDonald house to pack up the rest of Angus’s stuff, trip to the mall for Keats, file the paperwork for the stipend they got for Ango speaking of clothing bills, get Angus ON their phone bill-

At least she didn’t have to worry about Keats there yet, Taako had come by for a quick lesson and dropped off a laptop for Angus and a tablet for Keats.

“Don’t look at me like that, Lulu, we were upgrading anyway. I’d have a laptop for the ghost boy too, but Kravitz’s old hard drives have to be nuked from orbit or some shit.”

right so, where was I- grocery store for easily made school lunches-

She stopped, staring unseeing at the two fingers she had pressed together for that last point.
Turning her head, she whispered, “Hey babe? What the fuck am I doing?”

 

Barry was going through his own list, trying to remember the things he'd tripped over in those first few months. There was so much, and so much of it was social. Changes in words, of all things. That was a big thing, the way words had changed, and he was going to have to figure out the best way to explain it to Keats. He was seriously starting to consider the idea of just inviting Lucretia over and seeing if she was willing to explain it all a second time when Lup spoke.

He blinked a few times, honestly confused, "Uh... not sleeping, that's for sure. What's up?"

 

Lup turned her head back to stare at the wall, hand dropping limply, “Who the fuck is letting me be a parent? I’m not a mom person! I play with fire and hang out with weird scientists and- and- and say fuck all the time! I can’t even raise a cat to have good manners....”

 

Barry scooted closer, putting an arm around her and hugging her tight, "First off, you're not doing it alone. And, okay, I'll admit this uh... this was never exactly part of my life plan but... Fuck, has anything been? I think the universe has decided I'm not allowed to make plans. Second off, we're doing alright. It's been multiple days and... and they're both doing alright. We'll figure it out. And as to that last part, one of the kids was an actual literal Marine so like... Keats has heard worse than a couple of fucks. And Angus already has better manners than both of us. Potentially put together."

He leaned in to kiss her cheek.

"Yeah, it's pretty fucking terrifying. Good news though, one of them is functionally immortal so uh... so we're pretty okay on that count." His tone turned joking and he kissed her again.

 

Lup rolled over to bury her face in his shoulder,

“Yeah, Okay, yeah, but like- “ despite her best efforts, some of her confused almost panic jumped across their link and she winced, “-sorry. But Keats is mostly grown up, I don’t have to worry about wrecking his entire shop. That ship done sailed. Angus is practically a baby!

 

Barry hugged her tighter.

"Ango's already ten. He's almost a teenager. And...and I'll be totally real here, I don't think we're gonna fuck him up nearly as badly as actually living with a corpse." He sighed a little. "We should probably get him a therapist though... Not Merle though. One that's like... good with kids."

He kissed the top of her head and then turned just slightly to kiss her ear where he could just barely get at it without moving.

"The way I see it, Lup, is that... that kids don't need you to be perfect. Just... just there. And I mean, like, my mom managed pretty alright raising me by herself and Angus has both of us. So we're gonna do fine."

 

Lup took several deep breaths, focusing first on nothing but that, then the solid hum of the wards around them, then Barry's quiet heartbeat and the steady pulse of his affection.

"Okay. Okay, I can....fuck it, we can do this. At least you're competent enough."

 

"Having met your brother, I operate under the basic assumption you're the one who kept him alive for most of your lives. So like, if anything, you've got more experience at this shit than I do." He said it with a completely serious tone and a straight face but there was an undertone of love and humor flowing along their bond.

He kissed her again and whispered quietly. "I love you."

 

She sighed, turning her head up to kiss him properly, "love you so much, Bear. A plus boyfriend, would raise kids with."

A thought flashed through her mind, but she shoved it away for now.

"Also I'm.....gonna need to set up a permanent muffle charm on the door, I guess."

 

Barry laughed at that and kissed her again thoroughly.

"Yeah, that's a thing we're gonna need. And probably a lock spell on the drawer. Because I don't know about you, but I do not want to explain any of that to either of them."




Keats lay on his back on the couch in the basement with a blanket pulled over him. Normally, he would have already been meditating. Shit, he could meditate anywhere, through anything. He'd proven that more than enough times. Tonight, though, all he could think about was the look on Eddie's face when he'd been talking. Eddie had always been dramatic, sure, but he'd never been... never been... The only word Keats could find to describe the way his brother was acting was... evil. And he didn't like it one bit. And he couldn't shove it away enough to meditate. And he couldn't sleep either. He'd tried that. So instead he pushed the light blanket off and went to an open part of the floor, laying down on his stomach so he could do push ups.

"One... Two... Three..."

Something must have happened. Something that changed Eddie. And what about Lili? She had been part of all of this. She had been there with Eddie and let all of this happen. Something big had happened and it had hurt both of them.

"Nine... Ten... Eleven..."

The question was what and what he could do about it. And then there was the question of why Eddie had tried to hurt Angus. That... that particularly stung. Keats hadn't know the serious little boy for long, he had already stepped cheerfully into the older brother role. And the idea of anyone, let alone Eddie, trying to hurt Angus... It made him angry.

"Fifteen... Sixteen... Seventeen."

And then it hit him and he dropped, laying flat on the carpet. He rolled to his back, staring up at the wood beams and pipes of the basement ceiling. It was him. He was what had happened to Edward and Lydia. He'd left them and then he died.

And when morning came, Keats was still laying awake on the floor, trying to wrestle with that realization.


 

Being a ghost had its perks, one of which being that Lup did not at all notice Keats' bad night when she opened the basement door to call him for breakfast.
Sliding him a plate of eggs, she glanced at Barry, then back at him and smiled.

"Hey boyo, do you mind meeting Angus at the bus stop this afternoon? We've got this experiment at work that's for sure gonna run late, and we need Barry for it today."

Angus looked indignant, "I can walk by myself , it's not even twenty minutes!"

 

Keats smiled, pushing away his thoughts from the night before.

"Yeah, sure. I don't mind and I could use a run." Keats reached over and ruffled Angus' hair. "Don't complain, it's getting me out of the house, squirt."

Angus shoved Keats's hand away without much force and finished his eggs, mind spinning with plans for after school, "Taako said I had to practice the cantrips he was showing me yesterday, or else he would turn my hair green."

 

Barry nodded a little. "Yeah, that sounds like Taako. Good thing you're going to practice. I don't uh... I don't think you'd look very good with green hair. Not unless he picked a really good green."

Keats laughed and turned to look at Lup then. "Are you both gonna be out all day? I could... help with the garden or something? Maybe clean up?" He pushed his eggs around the plate a little.

 

Lup's ears flipped up, "yeah, if you want to drag the goats around to the other lawn, it's getting long again. Just literally keep Starbuck on the leash at all times ."

Keats nodded and took a bite of his breakfast at last. "Yeah, I can do that. Shouldn't be a problem."

After a moment and another sip of his coffee, Barry spoke up again. "You know, we could set up a chore schedule. That way, you two can help out a little and if we all get everything we need to do done earlier, then we've got more time for fun. How's that sound to you, Lup? Think we can put these boys to work?"

 

Lup's ears flicked up high and she looked at him wide eyed, "Wait....you're telling me we get free labor out of this set up?"

 

Barry started laughing so hard that he snorted, pushing back from the table. It took him a few seconds to get himself back under control. All the while, Keats was looking over at Angus with wide eyes and then looking back over at Barry as if to say are you seeing this?

"Shit... Yeah, babe. Chores are important. I had chores when I was five. We used to uh... We had chickens back during the Depression and I had to go out every morning and get the eggs basically forever. And I learned to do more stuff as I got bigger. It's how you learn to function like an adult."

 

Angus met Keat's gaze with his own wide eyed stare. Truth be told, he was already used to cleaning everything he did himself, but the idea of a chore schedule was something that never occurred to him.

Lup stuck her tongue out at Barry and went to go rinse her plate, "baller, then I'm leaving the dishes for Keats and laughing madly with power. Ango, we're gone in twenty minutes."

 

Barry got up and stretched. "Perfect. I'll make up a schedule so neither of you get stuck with anything. Plus keeping your own rooms clean... Which reminds me, Lup, think we can get that extra bed out of the attic and into the basement tonight? Because I bet someone is sick of sleeping on a couch."

"Yeah sure, and I'm not so sure your mom Wasn't a wizard with the way she got it up there in the first place. We can probably get a new mattress for it next month too."


Keats smiled at that but his ears flicked back. He'd never learned to conceal his emotions like his brother and sister had. It was something they had learned with experience and experience was something he didn't really have.

"Uh yeah... that'd be great."

Lup watched Keats' ears with interest, flicking a glance at Barry to see if he noticed. It was always funny to her to see how some things stood out to him or not, "Ango, scoot."

Angus rinsed his plate and scooted. It wasn't a lesson day, so he wasn't allowed to bring his wand to school, but Taako had casually pointed out a few ways to channel power that weren't wands and he wanted to pack something extra in his bag to test it.

 

Barry didn't seem to have noticed that anything was wrong as he went and put his dish in the sink, rinsing it off, "I'll meet you at the lab, alright, Lup?"
He gave her a hug on the way by and grabbed his lunch bag from where it sat on the counter.

Keats wolfed down the last of his eggs and got up, going to start washing dishes. He was quiet, ears still flicked back.

 

Lup kissed Barry's temple, slipping a hand down to squeeze his ass in a tease, before walking slowly to grab her own lunch.
Flicking a glance at Keats, she waited till Barry was in the living room before asking in a low voice,

"Probably not the chore wheel bothering you, huh?"

 

Keats took a breath and exhaled slowly, consciously flicking his ears up to a more neutral position.

“No, no. I’m pretty used to that. And I like having things to do. I just... If it’s gonna be a lot of work, I really don’t need the bed. The couch is fine. It’s not like-“ he cut himself off and looked down, ears drooping back down again the moment he wasn’t thinking about them.

 

Lup shrugged, leaning casually against the counter, “Barry can lift things with his mind, that’s no problem.”

She hesitated; at this point she generally would have draped herself over the other person for the comfort of contact. But Keats was still prone to giving her sideways looks, and she knew perfectly well he was still considering her an interloper where Barry was concerned, consciously or no.

Listen , you’ve got a laundry list of things to be legit bothered about, and I’m not gonna bug you for ‘em. Just... just know it’s okay to talk about them with someone, yeah? Heck, we put you on the server and everything. Message Barry if talking is too much.”

She reached for her own lunch bag, casually bumping her shoulder to his, “or even me if you feel like it.”

Glancing at the wall clock, she winced, “-just not now, shit.”
Quick walking to the front of the house, she called back over her shoulder,
“See ya tonight we’ll bring dinner- Ango! you ready- oh, you are.”


Keats nodded just slightly, smiled just a little, and his ears flicked up to a more neutral position. Though it was hard to tell if that was because he was feeling better or because he was trying to hide his emotions again. Maybe a little of both.

"I'll try." Then he did smile. "See you after school, Angus!"

He could settle back in to doing the dishes and think about that. And maybe after the dishes were done and the goats moved, he would grab the tablet they'd given him and play around with the 'chat' some more. Or maybe watch more of the videos on the place Taako had shown him. He'd found a man who made videos where he just read books and talked about them and he'd been enjoying that quite a bit. And maybe he could meditate a little while the house was empty.

Chapter Text

Angus swung his legs as he looked out the bus window, running his thumb over the official NASA pen Mr Barry had given him, and idly pushing his magic along and through it. They'd had a fun talk about physics and why it was worth it to develop something so specific, and also that 'because it's COOL' could be an answer too.

The bus was nearly empty, the few other kids who lived out this far were mostly older, and Angus didn't know any of them yet. As the door opened and he hopped out, he grinned and waved at Keats, standing a little farther away than the couple of cars here to pick up people.

Even if he could have walked the quarter mile, it was....nice. Nice to have someone knowing he was going to be there.

"I made a soda bottle explode today!"

"Neato."

Keats grinned and adjusted the cap he'd thrown on when he ran out the door. He was wearing one of Barry's jackets that usually hung by the door and his own uniform cap. As they walked back towards the house, he stretched, arms up behind his head lazily.

"I bet if we asked BB for some stuff, I could show you how to explode more stuff. Without magic or anything."

“Oh it wasn’t magic, we were doing the soda and pop rocks experiment, and Little Jerry put too many in even after June told him, and-“

And that was when a car pulled alongside. Keats turned, curious. It was a plain enough black sedan and then the window rolled down. Keats turned, fully expecting the driver to be a stranger, to be someone looking for directions. In his experience, that was the only reason an adult would stop to talk to a pair of kids. Instead, he turned and met his brother's eyes.

"Hello Keats. And Angus. Lovely to see you both again."

The car pulling up put Angus instantly on high alert, his hand digging into his pocket for his pen. The window rolling down caused the smell of blood and pine to waft over him and he was grabbing Keats’s hand before he even heard Edward’s voice,

“Go away! You aren’t allowed anywhere near me, I asked already!

Keats stared at Edward with his ears flicked straight up and vibrating, "Eddie, what... what are you doing?"

Edward sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, shifting the car into park. He was perfectly corporeal, harness tucked under a jacket. He leaned over, holding his hands up to show they were empty.

"I've been looking for you, Keats. I wanted to take you home." He looked at Angus for a long moment. "And I'm sorry for scaring you so badly before, Angus. I was trying to find my brother and I knew you'd seen him. I made a mistake. Do you think we can be friends?"

Angus glowered at Edward, “ no . We can’t . You called Ms Lup a bitch .”

Keats was shaking and he pulled Angus behind him, "Eddie, you killed Barry. Lili is in jail. You... you're not okay, Eddie. I don't wanna go with you."

Angus tugged harder on Keats’s hand, “let’s get off the road, Keats, I don’t want to stay here.” 

Keats nodded, taking a step backwards. He was trying to keep himself between Eddie and Angus and it hurt. The house wasn’t far, they could make it if they ran, but Eddie had a car. And Barry and Lup weren’t home yet.

Keats took a breath. Eddie wouldn’t hurt him, he knew that much was true. He could protect Angus if it came to that. They just needed to go. He turned away from his older brother and nodded.

“Yeah, let's go so you can get your homework done.”

Edward clenched his teeth. Fine. If they were going to be like this. He raised a hand, focusing power in it. He couldn’t do much to keep Angus there, not with the lingering effects of the Beltane wards still hovering around him, but the same blood flowed in Keats’ veins as in his own and he had raised Keats from the grave.

Power settled around Keats, even if he couldn’t feel it, and he froze in place, eyes going dim.

Angus felt Keats’s hand go still and colder in his and almost screamed . Then he looked up into his face and did scream, pulling his pen out of his pocket and clicking it.

He made the circle for light as Lup had taught him, mind scrambling for how to push it like he’d been going over with Taako, and that day’s experiment at school blinked into his mind.

He shoved the circle at Edward’s car, and it flared up, sending exploding spirals of light into his face.

Edward flung a hand up, breaking his concentration on the spell. Keats shook his head, mind suddenly clear. A look of horror crossed his face as he realized what had just happened.

“Run!”

He took off, keeping a tight grip on Angus’ hand and doing his best to keep pace with the smaller boy and also go fast enough. He ran away from the road, heading into one of the many open fields in the area. They could cut through that into the backyard and Eddie couldn’t follow.

Angus did the best he could, but he was a human ten-year-old and not an undead Marine trained elf. As Keats strode over a dip in the ground, Angus’s foot caught and he went down with a yelp, losing his pen in the process,

SHIT!

Edward had gotten out of the car, following after them on foot. He held an elegant wooden wand in one hand, spinning it between his fingers as he walked. The boys had stopped now and he smiled slowly.

"Baby brother, come now. We need to go home."

"I'm not going with you, Eddie. You're... you're... you're not my brother!"

Keats snapped then, training kicking in before Edward could get too much closer. He picked Angus up, hoisting him onto his back and turned to keep running. He could see the house from here.

Edward raised his wand, a snarl on his lips. "We'll see about that, Keats."

And then Keats froze again. He had no resistance to Edward's magic, nothing he could do. His grip on Angus was uncomfortably tight as he followed Edward back to the car.

Angus howled , kicking and yelling in Keats’s ear, screaming his name over and over. He nearly got free when Keats had to put him down to push him into the car, but the elf’s grip was too firm on his arm and Edward was right there .

Edward still couldn’t touch him to buckle him in and he waited until the man was getting into the driver’s seat to slip his phone out of his pocket.

Keats settled into the front seat beside Edward, having shoved Angus into the backseat. He turned slightly, looking back with those same vacant eyes.

“He has a phone, Eddie.”

Edward held out his hand and sketched a rune in the air. The phone shot out the window as they drove off.

“And now he doesn’t, baby brother. Lets go get our sister, shall we?”

Keats turned, looking straight ahead, his ears perfectly neutral.

“I’d like to see Lili again.”


 

Lup was already on edge as she drove home; she hadn’t gotten a reply from either boy when she texted to ask them for food choices, and while it might just be that Angus was distracted practicing outside and Keats was just not used to having texting, she didn’t like it.

Barry had gone to pick up a range of curries anyway, and she was nearly to the driveway when Starbuck appeared at the side of the road, bleating her annoyance at the change in routine.
Lup cursed and pulled over, scrambling out of the car to grab for Starbucks’ -

-.... picket line she’d pulled up and Lup knew Keats would not have been allowed to forget about moving them back this late. The bad feeling in her stomach churned harder.

“Okay.... okay babe, we’re gonna... gonna just put you in the back of the car and just get home and just....”

Her foot hit something that made a noise like splintering plastics and she looked down.

And that was Angus’s phone and case and now? Now things were Bad.


Barry pulled into the driveway with dinner carefully buckled into the passenger's seat and stopped. There were a lot of things he was expecting to see today but Lup taking Starbuck out of the car was none of them. He got out to help her, trusting the little warming spell he'd packed in with the food to keep it hot until they got it inside.

"Starbuck get out again, babe?"

He looked around, half expecting to see Keats or Angus coming to help, or maybe in the yard. But the only sound other than the two of them and the goats was Tess inside yowling at the top of her lungs. He exchanged a look with Lup and poked at the wards. Solid.

Lup looked at him, ears pinned back and worryangerfear crawling across their bond.

“Babe. No one’s home. And I found Ango’s phone broken on the road.”

"Maybe... maybe they..."

But all the possible explanations died on his lips and he felt his chest go tight.

"I'm going to call Kravitz. Taako's still got that trace on Ango's bag, right? See if he can track him."

“Yeah. Yeah for sure, get that food inside, and I’ll get Starbuck, and after that we’ll just-“

Lup’s ears were pinned and quivering, oscillating between panic and rage, “that fucker , I know it’s him, why can’t he just quit? it’s pathetic.”

Barry went quiet and hugged her tightly. He knew the answer, he'd heard it so many times in that laughing, careless tone. "I never lose, Barry. Didn't you know that?"

Then his head snapped up. "I've got an idea. If Taako can't... If Ango doesn't have his bag. We've still got Keats' shirt, right? The one he... he came here in?" Barry kissed her forehead and turned, running towards the house, the curry completely forgotten. "I bet I can track him with it."

Guess what, Ed? You're gonna lose this time.

Chapter Text

Angus squirmed uncomfortably. Keats had pushed him in the seat and buckled him down against his bag, and no matter how he tugged at the strap or clicked the buckle it wouldn’t move enough for him to get comfortable.

Stopping for the moment, he glared into the front seat. He was being taking to a secondary location , and he knew from his Caleb Cleveland books and the speaker that came to his school last year that that made everything twice as dangerous.

“Why’d you take me if all you wanted was Keats back?”

His voice was shriller than normal, but it didn’t wobble, so THAT was good.

 

"Because I want my sister back, you insufferable child. Now be quiet before I silence you."

Edward was done playing nice. He had what he wanted, most of it anyway. Now all he needed was a very large power boost to blast open the wards on that infernal place they were still holding Lydia. Then the three of them, minus one irritating brat that magically felt so much like that bitch's magic that it was giving him a headache, would be on board the next flight out of the country. Edward was quite certain some friends of theirs in the French countryside would be overjoyed to see them again. And he could get his physical form back in the process and be done with this damnable harness. Soon enough... soon enough...

 

Angus did as he was told, turning over the Facts he knew so far, and trying to guess where they were going.

Fact: Edward couldn’t touch him, but wanted to.
Fact: Edward had said he had power, which he did, or else he wouldn’t be staying with Lup and Barry, and learning from Taako.

Fact: Lydia was in ‘spooky necromancer jail’ and no one could or would tell him what that meant, but it was probably different from regular jail, which already had spells on them that no one was allowed to know unless you were government with NDAs.



His mind flicked back to the other day when he’d asked Ms Lup about the wards and how they felt, and she told him mixing powers was a thing that people did a lot and you could learn to be very good at it.
And then she’d pinned him with a glare and her ears tilted back that meant she wasn’t faking it and told him that he had to always ask first when sharing power.

Angus glanced at Edward again, his hands starting to tremble. He didn’t think Edward was going to ask first....

 

 

No one should have been able to find the facility who didn't already know where it was. But Edward had a tool most didn't, he had a tie to his twin that was forged in fire and quenched in blood in a very literal way. Century upon century, they had fought against this world side by side. They had been born into a world that was dying, had fought together from their first minutes of life and stubbornly refused to succumb to the diseases that ravaged Europe. They had crossed the ocean together when adventure and opportunity called in the New World and they had returned to the old only when their parents had called. They had faced the fire and the fury of a Europe in flames and had nearly met their end in that resistance more times than Edward could count. There was nothing in this world stronger than his tie to his sister and there was no ward ever made that could separate them completely. So he knew exactly where to turn off the highway to get close to the facility. It wouldn't be long now.



Keats sat in his seat, perfectly still and eyes straight ahead, but in his mind, he was screaming. Inside his mind, much younger Keats, only twelve years old, slammed his fists against a glass wall that separated him from himself, that kept him trapped inside his own mind. Tears streamed down his cheeks and his over-large ears drooped. He was scared and he was lost and Eddie had hurt him. Not once, but twice. And Eddie was going to hurt Angus. He wanted to get out. He needed to get out. But he didn't know how.

 

 

Angus stared down at his hands and counted his breaths, trying to empty his mind like his Grandpa used to tell him.

“You think a lot, Angus, it’s not always a bad thing, but if you don’t learn to not think, you’ll never learn to listen properly.”

He still didn’t quite understand what his Grandpa had meant, but right now thinking meant crying or having a panic attack, and almost certainly getting a silence put on him.

So. Counting breaths. Letting the thoughts trickle out. Pulling himself into a tight ball inside his skin. And relaxing. And-

And he was outside himself, very suddenly. He could see the back of his own head, and the backs of Edward and Keats’ heads without the seats between them and him, and there was light .

Edward was following a river of it, pouring out of himself and smelling of his magic and something sharp and astringent.
Another stream came out and connected him to Keats, laced with memory and magic, and Angus wrinkled his non corporeal nose at it.

He had a bond to Keats too. It was small, barely a trickle, but firm enough to see. Curiously, he reached out a hand, grabbed it, and yanked to see what would happen.

He slammed against a glass wall, and Keats but not quite Keats was staring at him through it.

 

Keats but not Keats, the child Keats had been and still was in many ways, slammed his fists again the glass harder when he saw Angus on the other side.

"Angus! Angus, you have to run! Eddie's gonna hurt you. He's... he's gonna do something bad to get Lili back. I don't... I don't know what but... but he's gonna!"

There were tears on the boy's cheeks and he was shaking with fear. His clothes were the same as he was wearing in the real world, but oversized. He looked like a child playing dress up in a parent's clothes. He slammed his hand into the glass again and sobbed.

 

Angus scowled, “I cant run, he’s got the child locks on, and my seatbelt won’t come off, and we’re on a freeway.”

The little stream of a bond between them went through the glass, and Angus touched it again. The way it tugged between him and Keats felt... felt stronger than the glass in a way, but he didn’t want to slam into it again to check. That had hurt .

Stepping to the side, he watched as it flowed through the barrier, always tying him and Keats.

“Hey Keats? Can you see this?” He put his hand on it and tugged.

 

"No?" Then there was a pause. "Maybe... You did something and I saw it then."

Keats stopped trying to bang on the glass and just leaned against it. He scuffed the toe of his sneaker into the ground and looked down.

"I don't have magic. Can't see it, can't feel it. Nothing. But you did something and I saw it."

 

“Okay. I’m gonna do it again, and see if you can grab it, kay?”

Angus wrapped both his hands around the stream and tugged, digging his heels in so he didn’t slam against the glass.

 

This time, Keats could see it and he wrapped both hands around the cord than ran between them. It was bright and warm and felt like trust and smelled a little like fresh cookies right out of the oven.

"Got it. What now?"

 

Angus hesitated; he didn’t know if this would work, it would probably hurt if it didn’t work. It might hurt even if it did.

“We’re gonna... on the count of three, we’re gonna both yank on it real hard, okay? One.... two..... three!

 

Keats nodded once and then when Angus got to three, he pulled as hard as he possibly could. Then Angus shot through the glass and Keats caught him, hugging him tightly.

"But... but now you're trapped here with me. How are we gonna get you away from Eddie if we're both trapped?"

 

Angus tried not to look like he was hesitating again, tried to look very smart and like he knew what he was doing.

“I’m going to... I’m going to make you a ward!”

He stared at the glass around them, calling to mind how the wards at home felt, like solid bubbles.

“...I’ve still got Beltane magic on me, or else Edward would be able to touch me. And you touched the ash so Tess would like you, and he doesn’t like that stuff. So I’m... I’m going to use it.”

He sat down, starting to count his breaths again, thinking about the circles in the basement and attic.

“Um... do you have something to focus on? Like... like Mr Barry’s rockets? Something you know how it feels and it’s home?”

 

Keats closed his eyes, trying to think. It was odd watching the place shift as he ran through memories searching for something. A cottage in the countryside somewhere, an apartment with a view of the ocean, the room Angus had first seen him in, a metal bunk in a low concrete building, a jungle full of screams... Throughout all of it there were flashes of Edward and Lydia, laughing and playing with him, teaching him, caring for him, guiding him. Even at the end, there were memories of letters.

Keats looked at Angus and shook his head.

“I don’t... I don’t think so. Sorry.”

 

Angus nodded, focusing on the ground in front of him, “Okay, so... I’ll focus it, and.... and maybe we can make a new one later.”

He needed something to write with, tracing the air wouldn’t do for this. But it was all pretend really, wasn’t it? He was here looking like he did because that’s how he thought he looked. Every movie he’d ever watched about cyberspace told him that.

He held out his hand and concentrated. His NASA space pen that Mr Barry had given him and then told him about the book Ms Lup had read to him when they first met, and given Angus the idea to practice making a focus all his own-

His space pen was in his hand, solid as the real thing. And for now it WAS real.

He drew a circle, tracing the runes for ‘home’ ‘safety’ ‘protection’ into it. He hesitated, then added ‘friendship’ into the space where the home wards were told to draw power off the land.

Reaching up, he pulled at Keats’s hand,

“I think I need your help for this. This is your place so you can do stuff here even if you don’t have magic.”

 

Keats nodded, looking at the runes. He knew each and every one of them. He’d learned them long before his family had realized he was the only one of them who didn’t have magic flowing in his veins, that he was one of the rare few magicless Elves.

“Okay, what should I do?”

He tugged at his ears with his other hand, a childish comfort mechanism that he should have long since grown out of.

 

Angus pointed at the powering rune, looking at Keats a little warily,
“I’m gonna use that as the focus cause... cause right now it’s all we got,” he wasn’t entirely sure how much Keats really did like him or was just being friendly to get along, but they didn’t have many options. “You focus on something good from the last week, and I will too, and then you’re going to give me the Beltane magic you have.”
He paused, “I can still smell- sense it on you, but you have to give it back, that’s important. Ready?”

 

Keats took a breath and started thinking. Then the whole space changed again and they were in his basement room and he smiled, remembering a weekend night they’d stayed up late playing games. Not the video games that BB and Lup came down to play sometimes, but the old board games that Keats had grown up with. It was tinged with emotions that felt an awful lot like the way Keats felt about Edward and Lydia in those old memories, in the years when they had been his home.

"Got it."

 

Angus looked around with a smile; that had been a good night, and the visual helped him focus even more.

“Okay. Put your hands on the circle and I’m gonna ask for the Beltane ash...”

Placing his own hands on the circle, he reached for his magic and the last bit of the bonfire that lingered under his skin. It twisted into his magic easily, feeling familiar and friendly, and went into his circle happily.

Reaching out a hand to Keats, he looked him in the eye, “can I have it please?”

His ward was swelling under his hand, wanting to expand out and do as the runes said. But it wouldn’t be enough, he knew that without being told, he needed Keats to want to help him to be strong enough to break the glass circle in his head.

 

Keats grabbed Angus' hand without hesitating and warmth flooded both of them. The ward expanded under their hands and then shot outward, filling the entire space and shattering the glass as it expanded. Keats lit up and his ears flicked up in excitement.

"Angus! You did it! That was amazing!"

And then... and then he was aware again and his eyes went wide.

"Oh no."

 

Angus grinned at him, squeezing his hand just before he felt a painful yank at the base of his spine and he was falling backwards, falling away from Keats’ face, then his face again, slightly older and no longer vacant, and back into his body, where there was a brief moment of darkness and then his eyes opening wide in pain PAIN PAIN

Edward was standing over him with a knife, a confused look on his face, and there was already a sheen of blood on the knife and oh gods it was his-

 

Keats blinked a few times, the light dazzling his eyes and then... and then...

"ANGUS!"

His training kicked in and Keats grabbed Edward's wrist, shoving the hand holding the knife away from Angus, and punched him under the jaw at the same time. It hurt like blazes and he heard the voice of one of his old instructors echoing in his head. Never punch a man in the jaw. You'll break your hand that way. Too late. Well, he was pretty sure nothing was broken. It would hurt more if it was.

Edward was thrown off balance by the sudden attack and seized the power he had at hand, flinging it artlessly at the wards like an explosion instead of the needle he'd been intending. He'd planned subterfuge. He'd planned to have time before they knew what was happening. He'd planned to get his sister and his body. It looked like he was only going to be able to manage one of the two. Clenching his jaw, he shoved Keats off of him and made his decision. Lydia was more important.

 


 

Lydia looked up curiously at the flux of power, right before the wards blew in, a physical force that blew her cell door out of its frame, threw the guards outside to the ground.

She got up, shook out the ridiculous baggy pants they had her in, and stepped lightly out of the door, towards Eddie’s towering raging power. Really , he had all this time to plan and this? Something must have gone wrong, and he would need backup.

Glancing down at one of her guards, who was groaning and reaching for his radio, she smiled and leaned down, kicking the walkie talkie out of reach.

So glad we had this time to get to know each other, Cam,” she purred, placing a hand on his cheek, “you’ve always been so.... helpful .”

Reaching along his veins, she found the core of him, magical flame tied to soulstuff, and yanked it out in a swift motion. It flowed into her, filling her cheeks out after almost a year of just enough food and wards that pressed her magic into a ball of nothing.

Sighing contentedly, she let the former Cam drop to the floor and walked merrily along to meet her twin.

 


 

Keats slammed Edward into the ground once more and turned. He didn’t bother checking Angus, not yet. Priority was moving. He needed to get as far away from here as fast as he possibly could.

After what seemed like years but was probably only minutes, Keats stopped and laid Angus down. Thank everything, it was a shallow cut to the arm. He ripped his own shirt and started tying strips of it as bandages.

“You’re gonna be okay... You’re gonna be okay...”

On some level, Keats was right there in the moment, focused on the boy he was already thinking of as Little Brother. On another, he was thousands of miles away, in a jungle where he desperately held bandages to another boy’s chest and hoped.

 

Angus blinked up at him, fuzzily trying to reconcile the face in his head with the face in front of him,

“I think so, he only got the one arm.”

Sitting up, he looked around, not seeing a road.

“How far away from the jail are we?”

Keats blinked a few times, trying to clear his vision. Then he hugged Angus tightly.

"I... I don't know. I just ran. I wasn't thinking. I thought... I thought Eddie was gonna kill you."

He looked around, realizing now that he didn't recognize anything he could see.

"I don't know how we're gonna get home either..."




Lydia stopped in the broken wall, staring at Edward’s bloodied face, eyes flicking over the circle he had set up, and frowning.

“You look like shit, Ed, what happened?

An alarm blared behind her, and she tsked impatiently,
“Never mind , I’ll drive. Which house?”

Edward rubbed his jaw where a bruise was rapidly spreading and winced.

"Keys are still in the ignition. And Keats happened to me. I resurrect him and this is how he thanks me."

He dropped into the passenger's seat with a grunt, finding more bruises on his back.

"Not the latest one, I'm afraid. That one's excessively compromised. Maybe the one by the ocean."

 

Lydia froze on her way to the car and stared at him, ears pinned back,

“You did what without me?!”

Her mouth went tight and she shook her head, quick walking to the driver's seat,
“I swear to the Lone Wolf, you go without me for not even a year - no. I want to hear everything from the beginning. Now, brother dearest.”


 

Barry looked up from concentrating with a frown.

"Lup, I don't think Keats and Angus are in the same place now? Or at least... Keats is in one place and uh... and Ango's backpack is still moving?"

He rubbed at his temples, starting to get a headache from maintaining a spell this long.

"Which one do you wanna follow?" They had been together until then but... "I... I don't think Keats would leave Ango... but..."

 

Lup scowled, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel and gnawing her lip,

“Let’s..... let’s chance Keats. Angus could have left his backpack somewhere. Fuck, I don’t like this.”

They’d been driving for nearly an hour now, the sun was nearing the horizon. The idea of both boys alone in the dark in this heavily wooded area alone , was only slightly better than all that and with Edward too.

 

Barry nodded and refocused.

“Next exit. Dirt road... on the right... There are uh... I see trees? That’s not helpful.”

He shook his head and then looked into his hands again, pushing the fear away. He could be afraid when they’d found the boys and not until.

 

Lup nodded, wordlessly following his directions, trying to keep the fizzing of her anxiety from scraping against their bond.
It was some twenty minutes later, bumping down a dirt road, her headlights flashed across something that looked like eyes, and she swore, slamming on her brakes.

Instead of the deer she thought she was about to hit, it materialized as Keats, followed by Angus darting out into the road,


Lup!

 

Barry was out of the car before Lup had even managed to shift into park, running towards them. He was looking around, making sure he couldn't see any other pairs of eyes shining in the dark. The last thing he wanted was for Edward to come up on them in the dark. But then he'd reached the boys and nothing else mattered.

"Are you okay? Angus, Keats, what happened? Lup found your phone and... Fuck, we've been terrified."

He scooped Angus up in a hug, not noticing at first that Keats almost moved between them. The young elf pulled himself back, ears flicked back and vibrating with tension. He too was watching the wood line, the road, everything.

 

Lup left the car running and chirping annoyance at her for leaving the door open, reaching out an arm for Keats as she ran her hand over Angus’s hair while he sobbed exhausted relief into Barry’s shoulder,

“Holy fuck, what happened to your arm, Ango?”

Angus pulled his face up to gulp,
“Edward was trying to- to use me to open the jail wards, but Keats stopped him.”

 

Keats didn't move closer. He didn't look at Lup or Barry. He was still watching the tree line.

"I think we'd know by now if he was on our six, but we should still move."

Barry looked up a little at that and picked Angus up, holding him tight. "Think Merle's still up this late?" Then he fully processed Angus' words and stopped dead in his tracks.

"Wait... wait... The jail wards? As is... as in County or as in... Oh... oh no. Taako said Kravitz got called in, right, Lup? You don't think..."

 

“I think I’m calling Merle and I don’t care if he’s awake or not.” Lup moved into Keats’s line of vision and lightly touched his shoulder,
“C’mon boyo, we’re moving.”

Keats still jumped, ears flicking up. He'd been looking through her, not at her. But Lup's words sunk in and he nodded, moving towards the car as Barry did.

 

Angus clung hard to Barry, still dizzy with relief,
“I think it was the spooky necromancer jail, but I didn’t see, I was on the ground and then Keats punched Edward, and then we were running, and we’ve been walking ever since and didn’t know where we were and I don’t think my arm is bad but it hurts , and-“

 

Barry buckled Angus in in the backseat before getting in himself. Keats sat next to Angus, finally starting to relax just slightly. He wouldn't be truly relaxed until they were home under the wards that felt like safety. Out here, anything could happen. Out here... Well, Keats had revised his world view drastically, refining it down to trusting no one and nothing, outside of Angus McDonald.


 

Merle was awake, and probably didn’t deserve the way Lup snapped at him over the phone, but by that time she was also fielding calls from a slightly hysterical Taako who was suddenly sure his new student was headed for the state border.

After reassuring him (picture included) and telling him to send that info to Kravitz, Lup  looked up to see Merle wrapping Angus’s arm in something that smelled of alfalfa of all things.

“How you feeling, Ango?”

He smiled at her, his face significantly less gray,
“Much better, thank you, ma’am.... and sir.”

 

Keats hovered near by, staying just out of Merle's line of sight but right where he could see Angus. He was jumpy and pale, looking far more like a ghost than he had even the first day he turned up on their doorstep fresh from the grave and covered in his own blood.

Barry had a migraine now from trying to sustain a spell far longer than someone with his minimal levels of training really should and all he wanted was to curl up in a ball and either pretend to sleep or take off his harness and see if ghosts could have migraines. Instead, he was on the phone with Kravitz, answering as many questions as he could about where Edward and now Lydia, apparently could possibly be going. Finally, he snapped, "I have no idea, Kravitz. Can I please go put the kids to bed now?"

 

"Tell him it's Taako's fuckin' spell already, he already knew they were headed for the border. Fucks SAKE."

Lup's ears hurt from the constantly pinning back, and she was shaking from adrenaline and hunger. Vaguely she knew that she and Barry were bouncing their discomfort off each other and it wasn't helping either of them, but she was too tired to put up the necessary mental blocks.

And when had that happened, open being the default?

Merle glanced at the two of them, eyebrows raised, and tapped Angus's bandage, "Yeah, that'll stay on for a day and he'll be fiiiiine when it falls off. I think I'm gonna mosey out before you find another fan to throw shit at."

Lup rubbed her temples and sighed, trying to center, "Yeah, thanks Merle. You’re a champion among clerics."

 

Barry took a deep breath and then smiled, the expression slightly pained, "Thanks Merle. Honestly. It uh... it means a lot. But uh... we need to eat and the boys need to go to bed and..." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Can you tell Cap'nport that neither of us are gonna be in tomorrow? I feel like shit warmed over and I can't imagine Lup feels much better. And... I know they're probably headed across state lines right now but..."

His gaze flicked to Angus and then he tried another smile, this one slightly better, "I think you're gonna stay home from school tomorrow too, unless you're overruling me, babe?"

Keats nodded slightly at that, seeming to agree, and faded further back towards the basement door.

 

"If anyone thinks I'm putting on real pants tomorrow, they're sadly mistaken,” Lup rubbed her ears again, glancing at Keats, his movement catching her eye, "You hungry, boyo? We've got reheated curry, and there's probably leftover noodles in the fridge."

Angus was already drooping into the couch cushions, the day and the healing catching up to him. He vaguely thought he didn't want to go to sleep with fear and the smell of Edward's magic on him, but then Tess hopped on his lap and he gave up moving.

 

Keats tensed, ears flicking up. Then he nodded. He put his hands in the pockets of the jacket, trying to mask how hard he was shaking. But Angus was okay. And they were safe. And everything was going to be fine.

"Yeah, I'm pretty hungry."

He would just keep an eye on things. Even if they couldn't. He could. He could make sure that Eddie never got anywhere near Angus ever again.

 

Lup nodded, waving to Merle as he stumped out the door. As she passed Keats to head to the kitchen, she hesitated, then added in Elvish,

"[The battle is done, be at peace, warrior.]"

It was an old thing to say, and she felt a little silly, but impulses were like that.

 

Keats looked at her oddly for a long moment, then he went and sat at the table. He tugged Barry's jacket off and hung it on the back of the chair, sitting there in just the harness.

"Angus is gonna be okay, right? Eddie... Eddie didn't do anything magic to him, right?"

Lup shook her head absently, setting plates and bowls on the counter and going to the fridge to pull Tupperware containers out, “no, and it wouldn’t survive contact with Merle if he had…. Necromancy doesn’t play nice with him.


Barry went to start helping Lup set the table and winced as he caught the light again. He only barely caught the plate he'd nearly dropped and braced himself against the counter.

"I'm gonna go lie down, Lup. I can barely see straight. I'll uh... I'll eat something later, okay?"


Lup turned, ears flicking in concern and ran a hand over his cheek, anxiety pinging down their bond.
"Aw fuck, babe....you overdid it. Yeah, go lay down, you wouldn't be any use for work tomorrow anyway."

She kissed his forehead and moved the plate off the counter.

"Angus? You okay there, kiddo?"

Angus blinked at her, Tess purring like a motor, "I'm....I'm hungry, but...."

"I'll bring you a bowl."

Crisis mode and Feeding People mode was engaged, and Lup could stop thinking so much and just....just heat up food and dish it out, and not think about how much everything was terrible because at this moment it wasn't , they were safe , Edward and Lydia were demonstrably on the run. Everyone was fine.

Chapter Text

It was late, Keats knew that much. Lup had carried Angus up to bed a few hours ago now and Tess had followed, staying with him. As far as he knew, everyone else in the house was asleep. And he wandered the main floor, watching out the windows. He knew he should've gone down to his room at least. Lup and Barry seemed so very convinced that everything was fine. But he just couldn't believe it. He didn't trust that. So he stayed alert and on guard through the night, even if it only served to strain his already frayed nerves further.

The next day was.....not fun.

Barry slept real sleep for a full eight hours, Lup managed four hours of meditation before she gave up and into cleaning anxiety. Luckily Angus was sleeping like the dead, and Tess was determined to keep him safe so she didn't come running out for an early breakfast.

Lup didn't comment on Keats wandering the house, beyond shoving a dusting cloth at him.

Keats had taken the dusting cloth with a confused look on his face and then started dusting vaguely. That was one of the chores he didn't know how to do. He'd never had a reason to learn. They'd always had a maid or someone else to do that kind of cleaning and you didn't dust a barracks.

Dawn came, and she could go outside to feed and milk goats, start coffee, feed Tess, and answer the sudden barrage of texts from Taako who was coming over, yes thank you Lulu he believed that Angus existed he was just...he was just coming over ok?

Then there was the inquiries from the rest of the crew, the problem with knowing when everyone was out of work and why not.

By the time lunch came around, Lup was fizzing as bad as Barry's magic, and turned on her favorite playlist of Loud Dance Songs just to work out some energy while she finished making sandwiches and prepping a lasagna for dinner.

Barry finally appeared sometime around lunch time, awake, mercifully headache-free, and showered. His magic was stretched thin though and seemed to be hovering just out of reach. Any time he tried to reach for it out of habit, pain would blossom behind his eyes again until he stopped. It was bad enough that he grumblingly threatened to just take his damn harness off until his magic wasn't bruised. He didn't though. Instead, he settled in the kitchen to give Lup a hand and sing along with one of the songs he'd learned since they'd met.

"...That's because I'm a good old-fashioned lover boy..."

Lup hummed happily along, eyeing Barry and prodding at him somewhat along their bond, which felt floppy and stretched out, before she was satisfied it was only backlash. Slowly, her anxious tension relaxed somewhat, able to see and sense all her household around her. Even Tess was on her stool, never one to pass up the possibility of food.

Angus watched them from his spot at the kitchen table, looking over some of the homework assignments he'd asked for replacements on his laptop. Lup had grumbled about useless makework, but made the calls anyway, and since Angus seemed happy to have something NORMAL to focus on, maybe they’re weren’t completely useless.

The sounds of Queen faded into the fingersnapping opening of Janelle Monae, and Lup bounced up on the balls of her feet, grinning toothily at Barry.

"Baby, don't make me spell it out for ya-"

Barry laughed and kissed her cheek on the way by to the fridge. He grabbed a pint of blackberries and popped it on the table in front of Angus with a thumbs up. Then he moved behind Lup, resting his hands on her hips as he leaned in to kiss her cheek again. He was bouncing along with the song as well now, dancing in his own reserved way.

Keats had stopped, tossing the dusting cloth in with the rest of the dirty laundry which he'd carried down into the basement. Now he stood in the doorway to the basement watching the others uncertainly.

Lup spun in Barry’s arms and slid down his chest, ears flared forward in amusement, seeming to forget their audience,

"It's like I'm powerful witha little bit of tender-"

Sliding up again, she draped over his shoulders, pressing their foreheads together, "An emotion al sexual bender-"

Pulling away, she laced their hands together and pulled him a few steps into a slow lindy hop as the chorus started.

Angus watched in fascination, homework forgotten. He didn't know that dancing was a thing people did outside movies and grown up parties. And the way Lup was swaying around Barry made it seem like this wasn't even the first time they'd ever done it.

Barry was laughing now, not even caring that he messed up the steps just like he always did. Neither of them were really leading, they just seemed to move, to know how the other was going to go. His smile was full of joy and his eyes full of love. When she slid her hands into his back pockets during the second verse, he leaned in and whispered, "Babe, the kids, remember." But he kissed her forehead, not really all that worried about it.

Lup giggled at the reminder, but did pull away into an acceptable space for dancing Barry in a small flurried square of steps for the bridge,
"Please! I can't help it!"

Keats' eyes narrowed and his ears flicked back. He crossed his arms over his chest and watched them with an expression unnervingly like the one Edward wore when he was sizing someone up and deciding how best to handle them.

Barry laughed and kissed Lup lightly. As the next song started, he reached past her for the plate of finished sandwiches, turning to at least put it on the table where Angus could grab one if he wanted. He heard the familiar opening and his grin grew wider.

“Oh don’t you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me...”

Lup shouted a laugh and flung her hands out to Angus, encouraging him to his feet, “she said shut up and dance with me!

Angus blinked and let himself be pulled to his feet. Lup took both his hands and placed her feet in front of his, tapping an easy pattern for him to mimic as the first verse started.

Barry leaned against the counter, clapping along with the music. He was completely relaxed now, with the feeling of the wards humming around them protectively and everyone right here and safe.

"That's it, buddy!"

Keats' frown deepened and he edged along the wall, trying to decide if he was going to go back down into the basement or if he wanted to stay up here and make sure everything was as fine as it seemed.

Angus was starting to frown in concentration at getting the steps right, and Lup shook her head briefly,

“And strikeapose -BOUND TO GET TOGETHER!” She flung an arm back in a vogue, Angus laughed and mirrored her, “BOUND to get together!”

Taking his other hand again, she gave up on steps and just seesawed their arms, Angus bouncing on his toes through the chorus.

Keats watched all of this, irritation growing. He was conflicted between the obvious fun Angus was having and his own sensibilities. He knew dancing. He'd seen it often enough. And this? Whatever this was wasn't it. Memory warred with the now, and memory was winning. His ears flicked to a neutral position, quivering just slightly as he held them there, keeping his expression as blank as he possibly could.

The music gap before the bridge started and Lup spun Angus in a circle before pushing him to Barry,

“Partner swap!”

Angus was grinning widely as he grabbed Barry’s hands and Lup spun past him to hold hers out to Keats.

Barry was laughing and he started showing Angus the steps to the lindy hop they'd been doing before with a quiet "It's real easy. Just pick the pieces apart, okay?"

Keats froze, trying to backup further, and banged into the wall he was already pressed against. Then he shoved Lup back away from him as hard as he could, shouting in Elvish.

"[I don't want to dance like some halfway!]"

Lup froze, ears pinned back and face numb.

“[Wouldst thou like to explain that to us again, michen?]” The diminutive dropped out of her mouth automatically, for all it had been close to a decade since she’d used her own dialect. The version of his she was using was much older, and stiff in her mouth. “[Usually ‘no thank you’ is enough for us.]”

Barry had stopped at the shouting, tensing up. He didn't speak Elvish, not really. He knew a few scattered words and phrases, most of which weren't appropriate for outside the bedroom, and just about none of it was what he was hearing. He did recognize one of the words Keats had yelled, though he didn't know what it meant. Just that he'd heard Edward say it sometimes when he was angry at someone.

Keats took a breath, consciously keeping his ears level and his expression neutral. His voice cracked a little when he spoke again, but he doubled down.

"[I said I don't want to dance like some halfway . Assuming you want to call that dancing.]"

Angus had startled, pressing behind Barry automatically, eyes wide,
“Keats.....?”

Lup’s ears dropped in their pin to an angry position, “[Oh michen , art we going to have to talk with thee about appropriate word choices?]”

It was coming back easier now, the formal and informal conjugations, biting off each word like she was striking them against flint.
“[Thou shouldst be more careful about spitting bile in a kitchen.]”

Barry kept a hand on Angus’ shoulder and whispered.

“Come on, bud. Let’s... let’s grab your laptop and I’ll give you a hand with your homework for a bit. Maybe... maybe give them some space.”

Keats was having a little trouble keeping up with the way she was switching around her words, old-fashioned as they were, but all the anger that had been burning inside him since he first got here, all the confusion and distrust, finally boiled over.

“[Why should I care what words you think I’m allowed to say? You don’t even belong here! You’re just some stupid replacement for my brother because BB doesn’t know how to function on his own.]”

Lup’s rage boiled through her veins, along her bond with Barry, out her fingers into little tongues of flame.

She clenched them tight, the smoke wafting into the air.

The impulse to tear into this brat this ignorant twerp clawed up her throat, insults in five different languages to flay him into shreds and leaving him quivering, spells to cause minor pain just to prove he should watch his mouth-

She breathed out. Angus was still in the doorway, Barry hadn’t managed to tug him into the living room.

Right. Parenting.

“I’m going outside. You are going to wait two minutes and follow me. We will stop disturbing the peace under this roof.”

The switch back to English was deliberately for Barry, as was the turning on her heel to toe her boots on and walk out the back door.

Barry exhaled, not realizing until then that he'd been holding his breath. He could feel Lup's anger, could see the way her ears were pinned back. Both of them looked like angry cats, thought some distant, irreverent part of him. He sent her a wave of love and support down the bond and gave Angus one more gentle push into the living room.

"Don't worry, Ango, they'll be fine." He hoped he was telling the truth. "So, what sort of homework have you got?"

Keats grabbed his sneakers from where they sat by the door and tugged them on roughly, fumbling as he tried to get them laced. His hands were shaking too badly. He stopped then, taking a breath and counting, forcing the anger back inside. Back down to neutral. Conceal. Don't feel. Neutral. Keep it inside. He could do that. When he finally managed to get his shoes tied, he stood. Head high, back straight, and ears neutral, he walked outside.

Lup strode out into the backyard, heading for the wood pile. They hadn’t really bothered to rebuild it much since the winter ended, but there were still a few big pieces of tree from their reclaiming of the property edges. She grabbed one and the axe, sending a pulse of pure heat into the stump before swinging the axe one handed.

It split cleanly.

She had three more of those done before Keats followed her out. Not looking at him, she grabbed another stump, keeping her tone level.

“So there’s this human author, super prejudiced against elves right up until the end, which was a shame, because he wrote some real good stuff. He wrote once that all evil starts when you treat people as things .”

Heat pulse, swing, chop.

“-and that’s the best way I’d ever heard it put in my life. And it’s easy to do, if you think like your brother and sister.”

Heat pulse, swing, chop.

“Thinkin’ the things you do don’t matter too much because the people you do ‘em to won’t be here in a few decades, so why not?”

Heat pulse, flare -

“- fuck .” She yanked the heat and fire up out of the now charred log into the air where it dispersed.
“-anyway. S’bad and too common way of thinking.” Turning she pointed the head of the axe at Keats, aiming at his harness. “It’s stupid too. Because here and now? We’re alive . And we live with other people every fuckin’ moment.”

Dropping the axe, she met his eyes steadily.
“Now you’ve had a rough couple weeks, and I know that. And that shit can and will color every single thing you think. And I’m sympathetic and we can find people to help you process all this.”

Her eyes narrowed and her ears went back, “-but I will not allow Barry to be treated like some thing that stepped out of line, and I will not be spoken to like that. I’ve earned my place here in ways you can’t even imagine, and I’m not having it.”

Keats stumbled backwards, his eyes on the axe even as it hit the ground. Then his gaze flicked back up to her face. The swirling ball of anger and hurt and confusion in him tightened and his ears flicked back. His hands were fists at his sides and he took a breath.

"Do... do you even know what they were like before... before all... all this?" He was stumbling over his words in his haste, trying to pour out the emotions that were choking him, the fear tangled up around the hurt and the anger. "Eddie and Lili... They... they weren't like that. They saved people. They were heroes in France. And... and... and they could've just left. I was a baby then and they could've just taken me and come back to the States and they didn't. They stayed and they saved people and took care of me at the same time. Eddie's not... he wasn't bad! Not... not until..."

Keats didn't seem there were tears on his cheeks.

"Lili was gentle and kind and she just wanted to make things pretty and she had this really nice garden at home and... and..."

He sniffed and wiped at his eyes then, finally realizing he was crying just before he started purring in distress.

Lup sighed, taking a step forward and offering a hand for a side hug.

“No, I didn’t get the privilege. I mean.... might have passed ‘em in France, but who even knows. I only know ‘em from what they did after.

they were kind to YOU , she did NOT say.

He accepted the hug, head down.
“I wanted... I wanted to be like them. That’s why I went to... that’s why I left. But...”

He was still purring loudly and it was hard for him to talk through that and the tears.
“I... I didn’t mean to... to...”

“To get killed?” Lup frowned, reaching up to run her fingers through his short hair in a way that always calmed Taako, “Most kids sent there didn’t, boyo, that’s not on you.”

“[I didn’t mean to... to hurt them.]”
He leaned into the touch, not realizing until that moment how much he needed it.
“[I didn’t mean to change them. But I did.]”

Lup’s ears flew straight up and she stiffened, before consciously relaxing her body, keeping her hand moving along Keats’ hair.

“[Oh michen.... no michen, thou art not the cause. Only the excuse. What they did was not the sudden rage of grief, it was long term and cold.]”

His ears flicked up and he pulled away.

"[No. That can't be right. Eddie... Eddie wasn't like that. Like...]" He gestured vaguely down the street. "[He used magic on me! He trapped me in my own mind and he was going to kill Angus. He wasn't like that before I died and I did that to him!]"

Lup’s mouth twitched and she shrugged,

“[And how long have you known him to how long he’s lived? I’ve been many different people in my life, and I’m only a century and thirty.]”

He balled his hands into tight fists again.

"[I... Then how do you know you won't change like him? If it wasn't me, what keeps you from doing the same stuff? What makes you better than him?]"

Sighing again, Lup pulled Keats gently to sit on some of the stumps still waiting to be cut up, and leaned him against her,

“I’unno, luck maybe? Ask me in a few centuries. But....” she wrinkled her nose, letting her mind roll past the decades, “-back when it was just me and Taako, I could see where your brother is coming from. You protect the people that matter to you and fuck everything else. But I- we , we found other people to care about, and that made all the difference. At some point, your sibs stopped making the effort to care, and that’s.... that’s sad .”

She ran her fingers through his hair again, a deeper purr starting up in her chest in answer to his own.

“Gotta keep caring about other people, boyo, and it’s hard when they grow old and die, but it’s worth it in the end.”

Keats rested his head against her shoulder, tears still silently falling.

“[I thought... I always thought... Eddie loved him... And now I don’t even know if he loves me and Lili. I don’t think he does. And I just...]” He tried to pull away again but gave up quickly. “[I don’t want to hurt like this, Lup. I want... I want it to stop.]”

Lup’s mouth twisted until she consciously relaxed it,

“[He does love you, michen, or he did. It’s been fifty years, though, and he isn’t thinking of you as ‘Keats’ anymore. You’re ‘my little brother’, see the difference? You’re a memory and when you came back and didn’t match that memory, he got angry.]”

She squeezed him tighter, letting the vibration of her purr roll over him,
“[Can’t make it stop without cutting out everything good, I’m sorry....]”

The last barrier came down and he turned, hugging her tightly.

"I... I'm sorry I called you..." He swallowed hard. "I'm sorry I said that before. I just... I'm sorry."

He sniffed again and wiped his eyes. Then he looked up at her, tugging on one ear slightly.

"You're not... you're not gonna get rid of me, right?"

Lup reached up and tugged his other ear gently,
“No, I’m not tossing you out on your ass for being rude. We are both gonna go in and apologize for yelling in front of Ango, though.”
She squeezed him again, purring fading out.

"Not even for being like Eddie?" He said it quietly, not looking at her.

Lup tilted his chin up and met his gaze squarely, “You gonna say ‘fuck your feelings’ and use it at me again the next time you’re mad, or you going to put it on the ‘do not use’ list?”

"I... I'm gonna try and remember..." Keats blinked and turned away as she let go of his chin. He picked up a stick, poking little holes in the ground with it. "They say stuff like that all the time. I mean, I knew it was bad but..." He looked up then. "What does it mean?"

Whoof , right, make sure to ask Barry about that list of ‘words we don’t use anymore’.”
Lup blew a raspberry and relaxed against Keats more, “It’s a rude term for someone who’s half elf. And you use it on someone like me or you with full heritage it means we’re too low class to know how to act right. So it’s got some layers of nasty.”

Keats' ears shot straight up and he turned, looking startled.

"I didn't mean anything like that!" He hesitated then, looking down again. "I... I just... How come BB's so different with you?"

“Regardless of what you meant, that’s what you said,” Lup let some sharpness creep into her tone, hoping to make the lesson stick.

His question made her bite her tongue and count backwards from twenty. Oh the reasons she could give-
Letting loose a stream of bile would not help the tentative peace between them, and some things Keats really didn’t need to know, not from her.

“....because I respect him as a person and don’t assume I can do things to him because it’s me.”

His ears stayed straight up in alarm as he put things together. He was eighteen, he’d been a soldier, and he wasn’t stupid. He knew perfectly well what Lup was saying and it was hard to put in the context of his brother, until he thought about the glass walls inside his mind and the horrifying, terrifying moments when he hadn’t been in control of his own body.

He looked down, eyes shadowed. Maybe... maybe he didn’t care if Eddie loved him any more, because maybe he didn’t love Eddie any more. Not if this was who he was now.

Lup kept her arm around Keats, humming softly, not really wanting to interrupt his train of thought. Her ears twitched as a wave of worry tinged curiosity came from inside the house and she shook herself, bumping her forehead against Keats’ cheek,

“C’mon, boyo, we still have lunch and the boys to soothe.”

As she pulled him to his feet, she grinned lopsidedly, “ For the record, there’s so many dances in the world. You don’t even know. And the low class ones are always the most fun.”

Keats let her pull him to his feet, a smile on his face now.

"Maybe I'll learn."


Barry was getting more and more anxious, even as he tried to hide his worry and focus on helping Angus with his homework. Not that Ango needed it in the slightest. The kid was brilliant, and that was coming from an actual honest to goodness rocket scientist. Then he felt Lup walking back into the house, so much less tense than when she'd walked out. It hadn't really hit him until that moment that he wasn't just worried because they'd been shouting at each other, it was the idea of her angry and walking out the door. Well, time to add that to the list of things to talk to Merle about. It was getting to be a very long list.

"Hey Ango, I think I heard the door. Wanna go see if uh... if it's lunch time?"

Angus shoved his laptop away and scrambled off the couch to run to the kitchen door and stare at both of them in unconcealed anxiety. Lup’s ears flickered down at the sight of him, and she crouched down to offer a hug,

“Hey Ango, I’m sorry about doing that in front of you. Super uncool of me.”

Angus nodded, leaning into her hug, looking up worriedly at Keats.

Keats smiled a little and then reached to ruffle his hair.

"Sorry, Angus. I shouldn't have yelled. Or... said what I said... Or a lot of stuff." He paused then. "We still okay?"

Angus nodded and reached out to hug him too.

Barry followed at a slower pace, leaning against the door frame and smiled as he watched them. Everything was fine. This was just a bump in the road and they were fine. Maybe they should go do something this weekend, just to get out of the house for a while. Spend some time together in a different place. He'd talk to Lup about that tonight. Then he sighed internally and added 'also I panic when you walk out the door angry' to the list of things to talk to her about. Even if it had been the best idea. Fighting in the kitchen wasn't great and fighting in Keats' room wouldn't be much better. He sent a wave of love down the bond towards her.

"So, everybody ready for lunch?"



Lydia drummed her well manicured fingers on the steering wheel, turning Edward’s story in her mind, poking at it for new angles.

“You royally fucked this up, Ed,” she snorted and added sharply, “-and I’m going to be pissed about Keats for a while . I thought we were agreed on that timeline.”

"Yes well, you were otherwise occupied and I had all that Beltane energy. It wasn't enough to break those wards but it was more than enough to resurrect our baby brother. So I went for the one I could do."

Edward drummed his fingers on the arm rest on the car door. He was staring out the window, periodically rubbing his jaw. One of the side effects of his current state, he'd discovered, was an increased duration of bruising. And Keats had hit him rather hard. That was going to sting for a while.

Shaking her head, her mouth tight, Lydia sighed, “Nothing for it. We’ll have to wipe his mind of the last few weeks.”

"Fine, fine, that should work well enough. But we're going to have to get him back." He gestured broadly, flicking his fingers in irritation. "I can't believe he went to Barry. Honestly, of all people..."

Lydia scoffed, throwing him a tight look, ears pinned back, “ Please , brother. You are NOT stupid, so don’t act like it. Of course he’d go there if you didn’t tell him time had passed. You’re the one who kept Barry around through his whole childhood!”

She ground her teeth, turning onto an off ramp, “I don’t like leaving him there much longer, but we may have to and let them relax. Ugh , at that point it might be safer for his mind to just unmake him and resurrect him again....”

Edward started to protest but then he closed his mouth, thinking it through.

"Honestly, that might be tidier in the long run. But we're going to need a sizable power source to pull off both."

He played with electrical sparks between his fingers and smiled slowly. "You know, I have a new trick, dearest sister. Did you know I can still tap dear Barry's power when he's not under his wards? And would you believe he's opened an unrestricted channel with that bitch? If I reach just a bit, I can tap into her magic as well. How would you like to end all of this and get our baby brother back, all at once?"

Lydia waved a hand, “ You’re the one with a vengeance quest, darling, I just want Keats back.”

She tapped a finger against her lip and nodded slowly,
“....that is better than waiting till the next holiday, though. And if they’re playing at happy families together, we might as well make use of that mouse child. See? Useful you didn’t kill him.”

"We'll just have to thank Keats for stopping me later then, I suppose."

He closed his fist, snuffing the sparks. "Shall I assume you have a plan?"

“Hmmm. Midsummer. Nearly a month, but if we’re going to unmake him, I won’t have to worry about what the latent memories would do.  And power sources or no, I don’t want to take chances on this.”

Edward nodded. "Lay in what we need and start building the ritual. And add building me a new body to the list. Assuming we can get that working and I can get rid of this infernal device, maybe we can do the same for Keats. I'm perfectly content to be a guinea pig for him."

He stretched, opening the window as they got closer to the shore. He could smell the salt air. Smiling lazily, he hung his arm out the window, moving his hand up and down with the breeze.

"And as much as I want to, I won't gloat when we destroy them. We can be sensible and efficient. Happy?"

Lydia tilted her head, a small smile playing around her lips, “Oh... I didn’t say that ... a little gloating is good for the soul, darling.”

“Oh good , in that case, I want to make absolutely certain the little mouse dies first and the lovebirds get to watch.”

Edward’s smile grew and he looked out the window.

“Oh look, the ice cream stand is open for the season. Simply delightful. We’ll have to take Keats once this is all behind us.”

Chapter Text

It was some fuck off hour of the morning and Lup growled internally at getting an anxiety spike again . She knew perfectly well it was all the Stuff going on, and had been tracking it at the behest of her therapist, but it didn’t help .

And she had run out of things to clean.

She only just remembered to put on a shirt before wandering downstairs, and was glad of it when she saw a light in the kitchen.
Wandering in, she was unsurprised to see Keats scrolling through his tablet, a cold mug of tea next to him.

“Hey boyo, any hot water left in the kettle?”

 

His ears flicked up just before he looked up, eyes wide. He pulled his tablet closer to his chest, hiding whatever he'd been up to. He had pajamas on for once. Not the new ones he'd picked up at the mall, but older ones of Barry's that they'd pulled out of the attic his first night there. He also had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and a stuffed bear tucked in at his side.

"I... don't know. It's probably gone cold by now. I made it when I... woke up. And that was a while ago."

 

“Cool cool,” Lup tapped the electric kettle to check the water level and pushed the lever down. Wandering to the tea cupboard, she pushed various boxes and bags around, ears twitching as she calculated her mood. More sleep later? Just chill some anxiety? What taste.....

“Taako warned you about the kinda malware you can get off porn sites, right?”

 

His ears couldn't go any more into alarm and he just about dropped his tablet in his haste to put it down on the table.

"That'snotwhatIwasdoing!" His words came out in a rush but it certainly seemed like he was telling the truth.

 

Lup cackled, unscrewing a jar full of one of Merle’s blends,

“Relax kiddo, I was yanking your ears.”

She measured the tea into the teapot strainer and poured the now hot water over it before setting it between them and glancing at his tablet curiously. Her ears went up and back, and she picked it up with a glance for permission to tap through a couple other tabs as well.

 

He nodded a little, pulling his blanket tighter around him.

His screen was full of tab after tab of google searches. It looked like he'd been at this for a while. The most recent search had landed him on a page talking about how to identify ptsd triggers and what to do once you had. He pulled his knees up to his chest and looked over at her.

"I'd like another cup if you're making more. I don't think I wanna go back to sleep tonight."

He'd been looking up a lot of things it seemed. He had several tabs open on how to avoid other people's triggers, on the evolution of language in the last 50 years, several articles on the concept of privilege, and at least three tabs that looked like they were just tumblr discourse.

"[I was doing some research...]" He switched back to Elvish often when it was just the two of them talking, especially when he was upset. He'd learned it first and it was more comforting, almost soothing. "[I was taking notes too. I've got a bunch of questions.]"

 

“[I am sure you do,]” Lup scrolled through some of the tabs and winced, “oh no, oh michen , Okay, gonna make a hard rule here; please don’t make yourself any accounts without running ‘em by me first for a while. Especially not tumblr, ye gods and little fishes.....”

She didn’t even want to ask what sort of password he’d used.
Handing the tablet back with the account deletion screen up, she grimaced.

“Tumblr [art a HIGH level cesspit, you’re just not ready for that noise. What questions to start?]”

 

His ears flicked down. “[I saw kids on it so I figured it was okay. Human kids even.]”

“[That’s debatable for them, but it’s, hmm, it’s like stories of the Old Land. Growing up there and knowing your way around the high and low courts is safer than a stranger coming in and giving their Name away to everyone.]”

Keats’ ears pinned tighter but he nodded and pushed the button to delete his account anyway. Then he set the tablet down and reached for his tea. Getting up, he dumped the cold tea and went about grabbing sugar and a bit of milk for it before sitting back down.

“[Should I not call Barry BB anymore? Because I know Eddie called him that sometimes. Or BJ or Buzz sometimes. And I don’t want to... to remind him of all of the bad stuff.]”


Lup sipped her tea and watched him, content to let the silence stretch until he spoke. Tilting her head, she thought back to how Barry felt whenever Keats used that name.

“[I think that one is fine. Maureen still calls him BB and I’ve never felt him uncomfortable.]”

She smirked slightly, “[Don’t call him Buzz in front of Taako, no matter how he feels about it. He’ll feel negative about it after no question.]”

 

Keats tilted his head to the side, ears flared out with curiosity, “[Why?]”

 

“[Because my brother is an asshole and if it doesn’t trigger Barry it will annoy him.]” Lup shrugged, “[Barry’s family now, which comes with all the brotherly teasing.]”

She did not quite keep the smugness out of her voice at that. Taako’s quick acceptance of Barry was one of her private victories of the year.

 

Keats’ ears pressed tightly against his head. He didn’t like Taako very much, particularly not the way Taako made biting comments about everyone. Including him and Angus. He figured that he probably deserved it for something or other, but Angus certainly didn’t.

“[As long as it’s okay... Um... and I’ve figured out a bunch of words I definitely shouldn’t say any more. Some of them I guessed. And some stuff is really confusing. Like they can’t decide if it’s bad or not?]”

 

Lup groaned and leaned forward to press her forehead to the table, “and that is why you don’t get a tumblr account, mcfuckin queer discourse .”
Sighing, she sat up again and tucked her chin into her hand, “don’t scream ‘queer fag’ in someone’s face, and if someone gay doesn’t want it used on ‘em don’t do it. Otherwise, it’s the best catch all term humans have.”

 

"[That.... That makes a lot more sense than all the people yelling at each other did.]"
He smiled, looking more than a little relieved and took a sip of his tea. Then he looked down, "[You know how you guys said you're gonna get Angus a therapist? Can um... can I too?"]"

 

Lup’s ears flicked up high in surprise, “[By all means, michen,]” she chewed her lip in thought, running through options.
“[Might have to ask Kravitz, I’ll wager he knows some who have, uh, experience in odd matters.]” She shrugged, “[You and Barry don’t both need seeing Merle.]”

 

He actually laughed at that, leaning forward and letting the blanket fall a little.

"[Merle's weird. Do the plants really talk back to him or does he just think they do?]"

“[I don’t know and he’ll never tell.]”

He laughed again and grabbed his tablet back, flipping through the tabs until he found the puzzle game he'd been playing earlier.

"[I found this too. It really helped with...]" He paused then, uncertain, and switched back to English. "If... If I was meditating, how did I have a nightmare, anyway?"


Lup leaned forward to run her hand through his hair, nose wrinkled, “ugh those . I fuckin’ hate ‘em. They’re like,” she waved her free hand back and forth, “memories? Panic attacks? You can learn to head ‘em off with help and practice. I never got very good at it, but I prefer sleeping anyway.”

 

He nodded at that, ears pressed back tight against his head, "I don't want... to be back there. It was bad enough being there the first time."But he smiled after, just a little, and his ears flicked back into a more comfortable position, "I'm glad I can learn to stop it though. That was... awful. Oh... I think I broke something downstairs... I uh... I threw something when I woke up."

He looked just a little guilty.

 

Lup laughed a little, getting up to move to the seat next to Keats, and resuming fingercombing his hair, “yeah, Barry did that a couple times our first few months in the house. Panic attacks, poltergeisting, and lamps don’t mix.”

She hummed thoughtfully, ears twitching, “if you want we can get a white noise machine or something. Depending on what freaks you out.”

 

"I meant like... I threw it. With my hand. I don't have magic..."

He mumbled that last part. It was still a bit of a sore subject for him after eighteen years of people hovering over him waiting for him to sprout magic.

"Maybe. I don't really know what caused it. That's how I got started looking stuff up."

 

Lup eyed him, fingers not pausing in their movement, before shrugging,

“Hey, you’re already doing better than I did. I went years just yelling at myself to go the fuck to sleep before i realized I should maybe figure out my insomnia patterns.”

 

"Well, I didn't find anything useful."

He sighed and leaned against her, closing his eyes as he started purring softly.

"I did find a neat little game that helped me calm back down though. It has jigsaw puzzles in the tablet. I didn't know they could do that... I like puzzles a lot."

 

Lup leaned her cheek on his head, her own purr echoing his, “Really? I’ll tell Luce to bring her fuckety hundred piece jigsaw puzzles over sometime then.”

She still wasn’t tired, but she suspected Keats was going to catch up on some of the sleep he’d missed. So much for making the coffee before Barry.

 

Keats giggled. "Fuckety hundred sounds like a lot..."

Then he yawned and his ears drooped into a sleepy position. He tried to reposition his blanket a little as it slipped again.

"[Thanks, Mom...]" He murmured it quietly, just barely above a whisper, as he fell asleep.

 

Lup’s ears flew straight up, eyes wide. Her hand only faltered for an instant though, continuing its soothing motion over Keats’ hair, as her mind whirled in a happy?????confusion.

She certainly wasn’t moving for anything now .


 

A few hours later, Barry came wandering down the stairs and moved to flick the lights on out of habit, surprised to find them already on. Then he saw Lup sitting there with Keats still leaning against her, fast asleep and his rumbling purr audible from here.

 

Lup moved her head barely enough to meet his eyes and mouth ‘ help ’, only somewhat joking. She was pretty sure most of her limbs were asleep, but she couldn’t feel them to tell.

Very slowly and quietly, raising one finger to his lips in the universal sign for shhh, he raised his phone and snapped a picture. Then he walked over and kissed her forehead on his way to turn on the coffee machine.

 

“I’m going to kick your ass from here to Canada, Bluejeans,” Lup murmured, barely vocalizing at all, a swirl of amusement and annoyance moving across their link in equal measure.

 

"You know you'll want the picture later," he whispered.

Then he stuck his phone in his pocket. "Want me to put him back to bed?"

Honestly, Barry couldn't believe what he was seeing after the shouting match. He hadn't entirely believed things were fine between them but this begged otherwise. Reaching for their usual coffee mugs, he smiled to himself. Our kid now. Sucks to be you, Ed.

 

"I hate you so much but also yes please I need to pee so bad-"

That was the moment Tess ran into the kitchen, yelling for breakfast, followed by a yawning Angus, who paused in the doorway, stopped rubbing his eyes, and raised his glasses up to his face.

Keats sat up fast, ears flicking straight up and eyes wide. His purr stopped immediately and he looked around, startled. Then he realized where he was and relaxed.

"Morning?"

 

"For reals this time, even," Lup stretched, regretting so many things in that moment, and trying to hide her wince as many many muscles that hadn't moved in far too long yelled at her almost as loud as Tess.

Angus trotted to the cupboard with the cat food in it, not bothering to hide his grin, "Morning Keats!"

 

Barry started to reach for bowls and then he stopped. It was Saturday. No one had to go to school, no one had to go to work. Angus' homework was done. Turning away from the cabinets, he grinned.

"How does everybody feel about going out for breakfast? I'm about 80% sure a diner from when I was a kid is still open."

 

Lup grinned at him as Angus shouted agreement, "You're just saying that because we're out of the fake maple syrup." Creaking to her feet, she ruffled Keats' hair and headed for the stairs, "Sounds good, but I'm drinking coffee here! "

 

Barry laughed and followed her, leaning out of the kitchen door to yell back. "The only cereal we've got left is my sugar puffs and... and those aren't for sharing!"


"'Dear Abby, my boyfriend is addicted to sugar and keeps drinking milk even though he's lactose intolerant and we bought a fucking goat; at what point can I steal his cereal?'"

The door to the bathroom shut behind Lup, and Angus giggled quietly as he poured dry food into Tess's bowl. It already was looking like a pretty good weekend.

Chapter Text

Lup bumped the front door open and dropped her bag on the side table with a long sigh of relief. Taako was picking up Angus from school, he was sleeping over at their house, Barry would be back from dropping Keats over at Magnus and Jules's, Noelle had finally finished his new harness (and was insisting on taking the old one, complaining about intellectual property theft and it being SO SLOPPY-)

And considering the last time he'd met Johann, they'd just decided he could stay there for the night as well.

Lup resigned herself to adopting a puppy in the near future and wandered into the kitchen to make dinner for only two for once-

She stopped as she reached for the fridge door. No kids. In the house. All night.

Holy shit .

Grabbing her phone, she texted Barry to ask him to pick up a bottle of wine to go with dinner and they were low on his beer, if he wanted more than just the one, row of so many winky faces.

As she pulled chicken out of the fridge, she calculated exactly how much time she'd have between finishing this and Barry getting home to get out of her work clothes, this needed to be done right-


Barry spotted the text just before he got back on the road from dropping Keats off and he grinned, realizing what Lup had already realized. Jumping back in the car, he shot off a text seeing if she wanted anything else for herself for later and headed off to the liquor store.

A bit after that, he was walking in the front door with a large paper bag in his arms. He set it down to take his shoes off.

"I wasn't sure which you'd want, so I got a white and uh... and a red. As a warning, I know nothing about wine, so I hope I picked alright."

Hanging up his jacket, he picked the bag back up and walked into the kitchen.

Lup looked over her shoulder and grinned, affection and anticipation crackling along their bond,

"The white's the one I wanted, but I'm sure we can use the red for something else, babe. I'll be more specific next time."

Not bothering to turn around, she finished dishing the lemon chicken onto rice and sauntered over to the table, which was already set.

And it wasn't that she was wearing nothing under the apron, it was just that the red lacy draping baby doll lingerie set left very little to the imagination, including the fact that she had dug up Barry's glass butt plug.

The bag started to slip from his fingers and Barry turned quickly to get it onto the counter before he could actually drop it.

"H-holy shit, babe." He exhaled slowly. "You uh... wow."

He tried a few more times to form a coherent thought and failed utterly. All he could manage was to send a wave of pure emotion down their bond and grin like an idiot.

Lup tilted her head and grinned, eyes practically sparkling with mischief, "Sooooooo....saw this when we were looking at toys online," she flicked the ends of the outfit as she sat down, still grinning,

"I'm guessing it worked?"

Her happinesslustanticipationfondness danced across their link teasingly.

He wrapped his arms around her from behind, kissing her neck.

"I mean, you're always beautiful but uh... but I was not expecting to come home to find you all dolled up just for me."

Running his hands down her arms, he kissed her again. "Fuck, I'm the luckiest man in the universe."

Lup leaned into the touch, eyes fluttering shut, and trying to keep from grinning just as idiotically back at him, "If you think you aren't worth getting pretty for, Bear, I have some words for you."

Turning, she caught Barry's mouth with hers and kissed him deeply, before pulling back, and grasping his hands to peel them off her,
" But , I also made dinner , and by fuck we are going to eat it, Barold."

It took an absolutely stunning amount of self control for him to grab the bottle of wine and go through the odds and ends drawer until he found something to open it with before he sat. He exhaled slowly, jeans suddenly rather too tight. Oh this was going to be an exquisite kind of torment and he was very, very into it.

"It smells amazing, Lup." He reached to fill her glass before he filled his own. "Anything in particular you'd uh... that you'd like to toast?"

His voice was just a bit deeper than usual, his breaths just a bit shuddery.

Lup leaned forward, chin in her hand and swirling her glass with the other, knowing perfectly well how the pose accentuated what little chest she had.

"Nothing especially comes to mind....kinda got everything I want in life right now," she flashed him a grin, "to more and better years than this one?"

Barry raised his glass, not even hiding where his eyes kept wandering. He knew perfectly well she enjoyed knowing his eyes were on her.

"Couldn't agree more." He held his glass out and the quiet clink hung in the air for a moment before he took a sip. "Gods, I... I can't... I keep going back and forth between I can't believe it's been a whole year and I can't believe it's only been a year."

Lup laughed, loud and cackling, before sipping her own wine, "I fuckin' know! I've gone five year stretches with less shit happening in them than this year-"

Shaking her head, she started serving out the chicken and rice, making a show of leaning farther across the table than need be, teasing pings sliding along their bond, before sitting back in her chair. Purposefully out of reach of Barry's hands or legs.

"So. Sexy conversation or non sexy?"

"Lup, babe, love of my life, I literally cannot get harder than I already am. If I wasn't already dead, I'd be dying right now. You are wonderful and sexy and downright evil."

He started cutting his chicken into bite sized pieces, paying far more attention to her than to what he was doing, “Non sexy, unless you want me to be... Fuck, I don't even know. More of a mess?"

Grinning, Lup cut into her chicken, ears tilted high and colored pink, "Gotcha, wanna be the worst stereotype of suburban parents and talk about our kids instead?"

Barry laughed and took a sip of his wine, “Sure, why not. You know, we’re a picket fence away from uh... from what my mom always told me to shoot for, so I think we’re doing alright. Well, mostly.”

He took a bite of the chicken and made a soft appreciative sound.

“This is fucking amazing. I love spices.” Then he smiled. “So, on the topic of the boys, I gotta say, I didn’t think they’d get on this well this fast, you know?”

Lup grinned, “s’amazing what you can do with food when you don’t just boil the fuck out of it.”

Sipping her wine, she shook her head, “I think it works because Ango is old for his age and Keats is younger- Okay, I know we went over this, but I need to stress ; that mind ward Ango said he did? Isn't how it should work at all.

She waved her fork in the air dramatically, “and I’m not saying he’s lying, I’m saying Davenport is on my ass to write down everything I can about it, breakthrough stuff.”

Barry nodded a little. That thought had occurred to him, but it was hard to be sure since he certainly didn’t follow all the rules sometimes either.

“I was wondering about that. And uh... and about what Ango keeps talking about with being other places? But not physically? That’s some pretty neat shit but it doesn’t sound like anything in any of the books Taako’s given me.”

“Oh yeah, that’s astral projection. Not really common , but documented enough. The problem is that you google it and it gets mixed up in some of the weird ass psychic movements of the late 1800s and the 70s. Lucretia probably has some of the few good books on it somewhere....”

Lup chewed a moment, ears flicking down, “-for instance, what to do about protecting your body when you leave it, cause I seriously doubt he had anything like that.”

“I’ll call Luce in the morning and see if she’s got any suggestions. Baby’s first Astral bullshit kinda thing...”

This really was a wonderful meal. Nothing like the kinds of things he was used to, but delicious. Lup had a way with flavors, knowing exactly how to blend spices in a way that wasn’t too overwhelming for the man who’d grown up in a world where a little black pepper was a luxury of spice. Gods, he was a lucky man.

“I’m glad you and Keats are getting on. Scared the shit out of me for a minute there.”

Lup shrugged, not quite meeting his eyes, “I think I was an easy target for..... basically everything that happened, I mean shit. His whole world view was crumbling and all.”

She poked at her food before sliding her hand down her face, ears twitching uncertainly,

“He called me [mom] ........”

Barry could see the uncertainty and was confused. He didn't know that word or what it could possibly mean, but it didn't sound like anything he'd heard during their shouting match and it certainly didn't sound like she was angry about it.

"What uh...?" Then he sighed and rubbed his temples. "Alright, you know the angry language owl? Does uh... does he have Elvish?"

That startled a whoop of laughter of her, and Lup grabbed for a napkin to cough into, " fuck- okay. Yeah, I love you, he does. You'll want Quenya for what Keats uses."

Clearing her throat and giggling, she picked up her wine again, "It, um, it's a diminutive of....of 'mother'."

Barry's eyebrows shot up and he set his wine back down.

"He... he did?" He sounded more than a little poleaxed and then he smiled. "How uh... Is that um..." He searched for words for a moment and then tried again. "Doing alright with all this, babe? I mean, I remember you sort of... freaking out a little at the idea but uh... Shit, we're really doing this, huh?"

"I think I'm....I think I'm okay with it? Shit, babe, he was asking to get a therapist like Angus and looking up how not to trigger you on stuff, and he's trying so fuckin' hard and I just....."
Lup ran her hands up her ears, tugging lightly, "-I guess I just 'mine now'." Leaning back, she blew out a breath before reaching for her food again.
".......and the smug feeling directed at Edward only came in third , so I'm doing better there..."

"He's a real good kid... Amazing given how the other two turned out,” Barry sighed a little and looked down.

"You know, I met him when he was twelve. He was a good kid then too. No parents to speak of. It was just the three of them. I uh... I never did find out if their parents had fucked off or if something had happened. I asked once and Lydia just... stared at me and said something vague and cryptic about France."

Lup grimaced, “yeah, he said something about them staying in France to help with the resistance during that war. Dead then, probably, shit ton of Houses were destroyed or scattered during all..... that . There were a bunch of survivors with me and Taako at one point.”

She chewed slowly and wrinkled her nose, “When I said ‘non-sexy’ conversation I didn’t mean quite this much.”

"Sorry," he looked more than a little embarrassed. Then he perked up. "Oh! So I had an idea the other day and I wanted to toss it by you without uh... without the kids hearing. How's a beach trip sound? It's getting warm enough for it to be fun."

He grabbed the bottle and topped off her wine.

"I know a place with these little cottages you can rent overnight. Set up temporary wards and we can have a nice weekend away."

Lup perked up instantly, “ Fuck yeah, I bet Magnus would love to watch things here, and now Keats has the waterproof harness.”

She tapped her fork on her now empty plate, considering.
“We could wait until the weekend after Ango’s out of school.... fuck, we’re going to have to figure out where they can go during the summer that’s not just staying here.....”

“We’ll figure something out. And we can do Like day trips and stuff.”

He considered and then shook his head, “One of us is gonna have to teach Keats to drive. With like... laws and shit. I think it’s gonna have to be you.”

“Introduce him to the joys of an automatic transmission.”
Lup glanced at her plate, then Barry’s, eyes flicking to the leftover chicken in the dish between them, then back to Barry, and she grinned, “-so I used the dish that came with its own lid for a reason, if you wanna just toss that in the fridge, babe.”

He stood, pushing his chair back perhaps a little harder than he meant to, and went to grab the lid. Putting that in the fridge, he turned around.

“Pleeeeease tell me I can just put the dishes in the sink and don’t have to uh... to wash them until much later. Like tomorrow.”

“As incredibly tempting as that image is-“ Lup paused in her stretch to flash him a grin and got out of her chair, “-I’ll save it for a time when you’re wearing a plug, not me.”

Pushing her chair in and leaning over it, she watched him clear the table, a hungry look in her eyes, “Which sounds like a good thing to plan for next kids sleepover.”

“Oh hot damn, yes.”

Dishes in the sink, he moved to close the distance between them, “So we should go upstairs, huh? Before I’m tempted to fuck you on the table. That’s probably not uh... not a good idea.”

“Yeah.....” Lup stood up straight before Barry could reach her, ears and eyes alert, “-but aren’t you skipping a couple steps there, babe?”

Leaning forward into his space, she reached out a hand to push his down as he automatically reached for her,
“Forgetting the part where I’m not ready to let you touch me just yet.”

Taking the same step back, she smiled, languid and proprietary, sending a ping of inquiry? down their bond.

“I’m going upstairs first, and you’re going to follow, two steps behind.”

"O-oh!"

His eyes lit up and he stopped, lowering his hands and fizzing with excitement. He responded with excitementeagernessdesire and nodded. He clasped his hands behind his back, watching her and just barely not bouncing on the balls of his feet.

"Yes, ma'am~"

Lup’s ears twitched up happily, before consciously being tilted into her proprietary look, “Come on then.”

She turned and walked at a deliberately casual pace, hips twitching, keeping their line open with a constant background noise of affectionloveminemineminelustWANTing .

Walking into their bedroom, she waved a hand with, “close the door, babe,” before turning and arranging herself on the edge of the bed, eyes bright.

“How do you feel about going down on me?”

Following behind her, Barry’s gaze lingered on her hips and he kept his hands behind his back to keep following her instructions.

Barry closed the door behind him, leaning against it for a moment. He nodded again and licked his lips.

“I... Fuck, yes. I would love that. Can I?”

She tilted her head again, and her pause might have been for show if there wasn’t a ripple of self-conscious uncertainty over want across their bond,

“And your feelings on me making a mess of your face when you make me come?”

“Y-yes, yes please.”

He took a breath and moved to stand just in front of her but far enough back that he couldn’t touch, “Should I take my glasses off first?”

“Yeah, those and your shirt, but keep your pants on,” Lup leaned back to look at him, hungry look back in her eyes. She’d been half hard all through dinner and was fully now, easily seen through the barely there lace.

“You can touch my clit and nothing else, babe. If you need me to stop, what’s the signal?”

"Two taps."

He folded his glasses carefully and put them down on the table and then tugged his shirt off and tossed it into the laundry pile. Then he knelt in front of her, longing and love plain on his face.

That look made Lup break character for just long enough to reach down, cup Barry’s face, and kiss him deeply, sending affection rolling over him like a wave.

“Gods, but you’re pretty like this, babe.”
Pulling away, Lup leaned back on her hands, grinning down at him,
“Well, get to it, Bluejeans.”

He ran his fingers gently over her clit, chewing his lower lip as his eyes flicked up at her face. The lace was thin and he was certain it would rip if he did much.

“Can... May I take these off? Please?”

“Sure can, so good of you to ask,” Lup raised her hips to give him room, not even bothering to hide the drooping of her eyelids as his hands ran down her legs.

He slid her panties down gently, careful not to tear them. He set them aside with care before he smiled and leaned in. He ran his tongue over the tip of her clit and then down the length. He kept his hands fisted in his lap because despite how badly he wanted to touch her, he wanted to please her even more.

Lup let out a long, shuddering breath, one hand moving to run through his curls.

“Gods above and below, you’re so good . Doin’ so well for me, fucking luckiest woman ever.”

He took her in his mouth, whimpering around her. He was so hard and he couldn’t get any relief. Not yet. Not until she let him. His magic fizzed across the surface of his skin as the anticipation built in him.

Lup inhaled sharply and turned it into a laugh, enjoying the texture of Barry’s magic running off him,

“Oh you do like being called good? Well that’s an easy one we can both enjoy ~”

She ran her fingers through Barry’s hair to the curves of his ears, so adorably small and rounded off and she loved them. Running a nail along them, her voice dropped low and crooning.

“So good, always good for me, my man, my Bear, so gorgeous and perfect and practically made for me just wonderful- hah-

Leaning over Barry, Lup tried to regain her rapidly unraveling composure.

Normally, Barry would have his hands on her hips, partially for a little extra leverage and partially because he loved getting to put his hands on her. He was seriously considering leaning on the bed on either side of her when her fingers brushed against his ears. Between that and the praise pouring from her lips like sweet honey, gods, he was drunk on it, on her.

The plug was not nearly long enough for Lup to fuck herself back on it properly, only providing a steady pressure as she changed her sitting position. But rocking forward into Barry’s mouth and back again was slowly, maddenly ,driving herself to her edge.

Her ears twitched at the soft whimper he made as she lean forward again, and that was it, she was done,

“Babe, babe , pull off, I-“ She shuddered, whining.

He moved back immediately, his body obeying her before his mind had even fully processed the words.

The sudden temperature change made Lup gasp, and she hardly had to stroke herself once before she was shuddering again, other hand clenched in Barry’s curls.

“Fuckin gorgeous , babe, “ she was panting as she leaned over to kiss him deeply.

There was a brief moment where Barry's mind went blank, but he opened his eyes again, looking up at her. He sent a wave of loveneedtrust and returned that kiss.

He wiggled a little in place as she pulled back, eager and awaiting her next instruction.

Lup giggled, rubbing her thumb along Barry’s lip, face gone soft and fond, trying hard to slip back into character. “Normally after a performance like that , I’d feel like flipping you on the bed and riding you into oblivion....”

She tilted her ears, watching his reaction as she ran a finger down the front seam of his jeans, “-but honestly I think if I even tried that right now, you’d come much too fast for either of us to have fun ~”

Barry bit back a whine, just barely keeping himself from rolling his hips forward against her hand. His jeans were far, far too tight and he desperately wanted them off.

"Y-yeah. I'm... I'm already really close, Lup. You... that was... really, really fuckin' sexy."

He bit his lower lip, meeting her eyes.

Lup grinned slowly, eyelids lowering, “I think I need you out of those pants, babe. Grab a wipe for me while you’re at it, and I’ll clean your face.”

He stood, sneaking a kiss as he moved, and went to grab the wipes. He wiggled out of his jeans and turned towards her, standing there in nothing but a pair of bright blue boxers covered in goldfish, and grinned.

"Want these off too?"

Lup stuck her tongue out at him, “ Now you’re just being an ass. Strip and get over here, I want your help getting this plug out.”

She couldn’t keep the adoring look off her face as Barry moved toward her, and didn’t bother keeping the affectionlustMinelove from moving between them.

He dropped his boxers on the floor and walked over, a smile on his face.

"Aw come on, that's not what you're supposed to say." He held out the box of wipes for her. "You're supposed to say that I uh... that I broke the rules. You did give me very, very clear instructions about what I wasn't allowed to do and then I went and did it anyway, didn't I?"

His tone was teasing though and he knelt in front of her again, looking up at her with adoration plain on his face.

Lup wrinkled her nose, running the wipe gently over Barry’s face, free hand cupping his cleaner cheek.

“Aw fuck, that means thinking up punishments right? And it’s no good you suggesting them either....”

Barry laughed quietly as she wiped his face and went quiet, excited as she thought. Some distant part of his mind was reflecting on just how different things were, just how much the knowledge that he could trust her implicitly changed the dynamic. It was so much, much more. He was so eager to please her.

Finishing his face, Lup cleaned her hands and tossed the wipes, glancing at the restraints they kept under the mattress, chewing her lip.

For all the current mood was light and happy, she was well aware how fragile it could be, and she didn’t want to take any chances breaking it. Not here in this first experimental time.

“Hmmm, we’ll give you a chance to redeem yourself. How about you keeping your hands on the headboard while I ride you?”

"I can do that." The words came out in a rush, a blush mantling his cheeks. "I'm uh... I'm still not sure how long I'm gonna last though, being perfectly honestly, Lup."

She cupped Barry’s face again, pressing a kiss to his forehead,

“Maybe not, buuuuut-“ Lup gave him a smile that was all teeth, “won’t it be fun to try?

“Gods, I’ll try for you, Lup.”

Scooting back onto the bed, she beckoned him forward, “Come on, use your clever hands to get this out before you can’t use ‘em at all.”

He stood, running the fingers of one hand along her leg while he reached for the base of the plug with the other hand.

“How long, babe? How long have you been getting ready for my cock?”

Lup let her head fall back, running her leg up Barry’s arm to his shoulder because she could .

“Hmmmm, got dinner in the oven, took a shower, took the edge off in the shower while prepping so i didn’t just jump you when you walked in the door....”

She tilted a grin at him, “‘bout two hours?”

“Two hours. I’m amazed you didn’t jump me in the kitchen, babe.”

He got his fingers around it and slowly, carefully pulled the plug out, watching her face the entire time.

Lup’s eyelids fluttered and she inhaled slowly as he pulled, “To- to be fair only about ha- half that was waiting for you- fuck -“

“Gods, you’re perfect. You treat me so good.” Setting it aside, he looked around for the box of condoms. “Gonna last as long as I fucking can. Gotta make sure I make you feel amazing.”

Easing her leg off Barry’s shoulder, Lup patted his cheek, eyes going sharp again, “This is part is my job, babe. Lay down and put your hands on the headboard.”

He sat on the bed and then scooted over to lay down, resting against the pillows. He reached back and grabbed the headboard firmly.

"All good, babe."

Lup picked up the condom packet and lube and knee walked over to kneel between his legs as she opened them both, a sidewise smile on her face,

“Gods, you’re pretty. Most of the time it’s ‘hell yeah, that’s my banging hot man’ but like this?” She bent over, putting the condom on him with slightly more touch than needed,
“Like this you’re so pretty ....”

Barry looked away and smiled, a blush on his cheeks. "Babe..."

He bit his lower lip as she got the condom all the way on him and let his head roll back. He tightened his grip on the headboard for a moment and then looked up at her again.

"I love you so much, Lup. So... so much."

Lup leaned forward, ears flared out and pink with emotion, and kissed him softly, letting a soft river of lovelovelovelovelove flow back and forth between them.

Pulling away, she smirked,
“That’s sweet, but I’m still not gonna let you touch me yet.”
She straddled his hips, hand running along his cock as she arranged herself.

"I know, I know... I remember, babe."

He exhaled slowly, doing his best not to rock his hips despite how much he wanted to. Not yet. Not yet- "I... I want to... be good for you."

Lup sighed, sinking down on him, “you’re so good, Bear, fuck -“

She stayed still, rolling her hips to get used to the feel. Exhaling, she rose up again, putting a steadying hand on Barry’s chest, smiling down at him.

“Love this...look at you....”

A shuddering moan escaped from his lips and Barry reflexively grabbed the headboard tighter. Inhibition vanished as she took him to the hilt and he rolled his hips against hers. Her name became a chant on his lips, one that slowly devolved into incoherent begging.

"Lup... Lup, please."

“Please what , Bear?” Lup rose and fell, grinning wider, “be specific ~”

She rose up on her knees again, snapping her hips down harder, inhaling sharply.

He gasped and his head went back. He started to move his hands and grabbed the headboard again with a little growl.

"Can...? Can... uh... more? Please?"

Lup leaned forward, slowing her pace as she ran her hand up Barry’s chest to his neck to the side of his face,

“What’s that, babe?” She rolled her hips in a slow movement that was going to leave her aching the next day, “didn’t quite catch it.”

"Fuck... Babe, please. I..."

He tried to buck his hips up to meet her, trying to get back to the faster pace. He couldn't get the leverage and keep holding onto the headboard. Barry whined, arching his back as he tried to find another way to fuck her hard like he wanted and still obey.

“Baaaaaa rrrry~” Lup sing-songed his name, pulling up and trailing her nails along his chest, not speeding up her pace in the slightest, “If you want something, you have to ask for iiiiiit.....”

"Faster. I... Can... can you please faster? Lup, you feel so fucking good. Need more. Need you so bad."

He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, the tight, swirling coil of lust burning through him. It was taking everything he had to keep his hands where she wanted them. It was so hard, but so very worth it.

Lup clicked her tongue, keeping her pace steady while she pretended to think about it.

“That would take an awful lot of effort and you getting to just lay there and all....”

Pausing in her motions completely, she leaned down over Barry again, tapping his nose to get him to focus on her.

“Tell you what, babe. You’ve been so good for me, making up for that mistake from before, and lasting this long. We’re going to swap, and you’re going to pound me till you come, and I want to feel every bit of it.”

She sent a pulse of heat along their bond to accentuate her meaning.

He opened his eyes, gazing up at her with love and lust and need. For a moment, he kept still, processing. He didn’t move his hands just yet though.

“May... may I touch you now?”

“MmHm, Barry? I want you to leave bruises all up and down my hips, you’re grabbing so hard; could you do that for me?”

Lup grinned all teeth at him as she raised herself off and flopped over on her back.

He let go of the headboard, taking just a moment to clench and unclench his hands, stretching out a bit of the tightness. Then he moved, one hand guiding himself into her and the other already on her hip.

"Fuck, yes, I can. Gonna... gonna make sure I leave all kinds of marks on you."

There was none of his usual build up. The moment his other hand settled on her hip, gripping hard enough to bruise without question, he snapped his hips against hers hard and fast.

Lup gasped, one hand going to grip her now very hard again clit, the other fisting in the sheet as she pushed her heels into the mattress to try to meet him,

Fuck yes, babe, like that -“

She panted, head going back, composure failing,

“Fuckin’ me so good, Gods, I love you FUCK-

"Gonna scream for me, babe?"

He pulled her hips into a better angle and then gasped. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to force his scrambling mind down into something so he could outlast her. Two twos is four... Two fours is FUCK.

Barry's head went back as he snapped his hips tight against hers and held her there as he came so hard he was shaking.

Lup shouted a breathless laugh as Barry’s orgasm flared across their bond, hand still moving as he stopped,

Beautiful , Bear. S’fuckin amazing -“

Even with that, his ceased movement meant she couldn’t quite reach her edge, and she reached up a trembling hand towards him,

“Ba- babe, c’mere, I need-“

He adjusted then, sitting back and pulling her into his lap. He kissed her hard and moved his hand down to join hers on her clit. His other hand went up to tug on one of her ears.

"Come for me, babe. Want you to feel as good as I do right now."

Lup kissed him back, moving down his neck to a nearly healed bruise and bit down hard.

Barry’s hand on her ear and the follow up wash of his affection over her was the tipping point and she whined into his neck as she came again, closing her eyes against the pleasure.

Laying back, he hugged her tightly. "You're amazing. Just... just wonderful, you know that? And you come so... so pretty."

He kissed her forehead and closed his eyes. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to not touch you?"

Humming, Lup squirmed so she could kiss his jaw, content to be held while she floated on the last buoyant feelings of pleasure.

“Aww, here I was thinking it’d be a first time easy mode....”

Wrapping her arms around Barry’s chest she enjoyed the fizzing contentment of his magic flowing over her hands.

He ran his hands up and down her back, just enjoying that casual contact.

"Don't uh... don't get me wrong here, I loved every second of it. You in charge? Very good. Ten out of ten, would love to get dominated again."

“Mmmmmm-“ Lup nuzzled his neck, casually licking at the furious looking bruise she’d left.

“Giving myself a nine, room for improvement.”

Moving made her aware of the mess between them, and she wriggled out of his arms with another quick kiss to Barry’s mouth before grabbing the wipes and cleaned them both.

Settling against him again, Lup pressed a kiss to Barry’s ear, soft purr starting.
“Love you.”

He wrapped an arm around her waist as she settled again.

"Love you too, Lup."

Closing his eyes, he started his quiet hum in response and then grinned. He kissed her forehead.

"Maybe later, I'll wake you up for round two. Since we've got this whole house to ourselves and all that."

Lup grinned, burrowing against his chest,
“Okay but I’m closing this ass for business tonight. I’m gonna need an hour long soak just to be able to walk tomorrow....”

He chuckled quietly, running his fingers through her hair, "That's okay..." he murmured quietly. "My turn..."

Chapter Text

Barry pulled into a parking space in the lot for Taako and Kravitz’s building and looked around. There was the entrance. The whole place was gorgeous with plants all over and several signs talking about a gym and a pool and a rooftop garden and how green it was. The way it was capitalized and assumed that meant something special. He made a note to ask about it later.

He walked up to the door and pulled out his phone, calling up.

“Hey Taako, I’m here. Is Ango ready to go or do you wanna buzz me up?”

 

“Yeah, the boychik is all packed and loaded, I’ll walk ‘im down,”

There was a murmur of voices in the background and Taako audibly rolling his eyes, “yeah, I know you can, bubbelah; what? I can’t say hi to my own brother in law? -we’ll be down in a sec, Barold.”

There was a click of the phone hanging up and a full two minutes before Angus hopped out of the elevator into the lobby and waved at the receptionist, Taako walking behind him.

His hair, pulled into easy twists when he’d been dropped off the night before, was now in cornrow braids with colored beads at the ends. Some of which buzzed with gentle charms as he opened the door and hugged Barry hello.

Taako sauntered out, stretching out a casual arm to drape on Barry’s shoulders,

“See ya Tuesday, bubbelah, and I want that essay on mind wards emailed to me, got it?”

Angus nodded, his braids jangling, and Taako flicked his fingers at him, “shoo, I gotta talk boring shit.”

 

Barry returned the hug and then handed Angus the keys with a grin.

“I’ll be right behind you, Ango. And don’t even think about doing anything but turning on the radio. If I’m not letting Keats drive, I’m sure as hell not letting you drive yet, kiddo.”

As soon as Angus was gone, he turned and raised an eyebrow at Taako.

“Everything okay?”

Taako’s ears had eased down as soon as Angus’s back was turned and he ran a nervous hand through his hair, not meeting Barry’s eyes.

“Soooooo.... I may have fucked, uh, fucked up. A little bit, minorly,  with the lesson. That we did last night, OKAY BUT-“ he threw his hands up in frustration, “he was doing so well with wards and like this was just a lateral move, and I wasn’t thinking about- he did really good at first, wasn’t till casting he-“

 

Barry frowned, eyebrows raised.

“Taako... What exactly happened? Is Angus okay? What were you working on?”

He turned, looking back to be sure Angus was getting to the car alright. He was worried now and it showed.

 

“Wedidstasiswards and look , I already got the lecture from Kravitz after we put him to bed and I know I’m gonna get it from Lup later, and we got him calmed down and everything he was fine this morning-“

 

Barry took a deep breath and then another before he spoke. When he did, his voice was calm and level, maybe even just a little too calm.

"Taako, I know... I know Lup told you how we found... everything... when we brought Angus home. And... and I just... I'm not angry, I just... I don't understand how you didn't remember that."

He shook his head and turned to follow Angus, anxiety bubbling up inside him. He didn't actually know what he could do other than talk but he hoped that would help.

"I'll see you at work."

 

Taako’s ears drooped and he rubbed his face, “Yeah.... yeah I know... real fuckin sorry.... see ya later, Barry.”

Angus was scanning the radio when Barry came back, giving him a glance before sliding the tuner past more static, “Was Taako telling you how I fucked up and exploded the blender?”

Barry dropped into the driver's seat and stared at Angus in awe for a long moment.

"I... No? How?"

He was, honestly, a little impressed, but also if this was what Angus wanted to talk about, then that was what they would talk about until he figured out how to broach the topic of his magic lessons.

 

Angus shrugged, still sliding the radio past static, “We were trying to put it in stasis while it was turned on, and, um, I couldn’t.”

 

Barry shifted the car into reverse, quiet until he gotten turned around and was turning out onto the road to head home.

"Taako said you're doing great with wards." He considered his words for a moment. "You know it's alright to speak up if uh... if something's wrong, right? If you don't like something or you don't want to do something, you can say no. No matter what."

 

Angus squirmed, finding a classical music station and leaving it on, “yeah I know.... that’s what Kravitz said. Thought I could , it wasn’t... there wasn’t anything.... it was just a blender, seemed easy....”

He was quiet for a while, hugging his replacement backpack, which was tough, and better quality, but still smelled new and not right .

“....he was mad, Kravitz was. He tried to hide it, but his magic was all frosty while he was braiding my hair.”

 

"He wasn't at you, I promise you that. Well..." He amended. "Maybe he was a little mad about the blender. Somehow, he doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who likes to clean ceilings. But uh... but he was more angry at Taako for asking you to do that, I bet."

He took a breath and turned onto the highway.

"Taako should've known better. Remember how Lup and I told you to uh... to be careful with Keats about certain things because he's been through a lot? You've been through a lot too and, sure, it wasn't the same but it was still a lot for you and Taako knows that."

 

“Okay,” Angus nodded, somewhat more firmly than he felt, “Okay.....”

He reached up to play with the beads on his braids, one of which chimed and sent up the smell of cinnamon bread and a sense of well being. He knew that one was a minor calming emotions charm, and there were charms for focus and safety on the others, and a tracking one. Taako had explained every one, chatting hectically as he passed them to Kravitz, ears at a guilty half pin.

“It’s gonna... it’s not gonna be like this forever, right? ‘Cause I- “ Angus gulped, tightening his grip on the bead, “-uh, I really, really want to be able to make stases again..... and I know you sent me to Ms Silver but all she wants to talk about is how sad I am that Grandpa’s gone and I am- “ his voice choked off, tugging on the braid harder, unconsciously mimicking Keats’ way of tugging on an ear, “-but that’s not.... that’s not what made the blender explode....”

 

Barry glanced over and then reached over to squeeze Angus' shoulder gently.

"You can bring stuff up to, if there's something you wanna talk to her about. Plus you can talk to us, if you want. About anything."

They were almost to the exit for home. It wasn't a long drive, after all.

"Things... things get better. I promise you that. It may take a while and you have to work at it, but it'll get better." He paused then and glanced over again. "If that's not why the blender exploded... What happened? I mean, if you wanna talk about it. You don't have to if you don't want to."

 

Angus leaned into the touch and was quiet for a while, staring out the side of the car at the trees rushing past. They were nearly to the driveway when he spoke up,

“His will is on file and they did what- what he wanted with his body, right? He showed me his copy before-“
His voice failed and he looked down at his lap.

 

Barry pulled into the driveway and shifted the car into park before he turned to hug Angus tightly.

"They did, buddy. Don't you worry about that one bit."

Grabbing his keys, he looked around. It was still early and Lup was getting Keats. They'd beat her home.

"Go toss your bag on the porch, bud. We can go for a little walk before Lup and Keats get home."

 

“Kay-“ Angus did as he was told, letting the wash of the wards calm some of his anxiety. Tess was at the window, having heard the car, and she arched her back, yelling a greeting. When Angus only waved and walked back towards Barry, she sat down and began to wash her ears angrily.

 

Barry tucked his keys into his pocket and waited for Angus at the end of the driveway, looking up towards the sky. There was a breeze and a few clouds but it was warm and sunny.

"See how the wind is flipping the leaves? My mom always that means there's gonna be a storm. And I'll let you in on a secret, but you have to promise to help me come up with a plan, okay?"

 

“Okay?” Angus looked confused at this change in topic, but leaned against Barry’s side and waited.

 

He put a hand on Angus' shoulder and started walking, headed down the street. There was an old field that way where there had been a playground of sorts once upon a time. It had long since faded with time, most of it having been wood and open space.

"Well, this is gonna be the first thunderstorm since Keats moved in and uh... and we already know he doesn't like sudden noises like that. Plus," he lowered his voice to a whisper, leaning in a little. "You'd never guess it, but Lup is afraid of storms."

He smiled conspiratorially and raised his voice back to the normal level.

"Now, we can't just make the storm go away, right? So how are we gonna help them?"

Barry had a plan, one he thought was pretty clever. Angus really liked to help people. He was good at it too, and good at solving problems. And there was a second more subtle layer to it, too. He would get to see how they could help each other through things like this. How had Merle put it? Normalize it. That was right. He could normalize the idea that even adults had things they had to work through and that they could all help each other. Perfect.

 

“She is? ” Angus frowned, considering this, “is it because of when she was in France?”

He had asked a lot of questions after hearing Edward yell French swear words, and googling PTSD because of Keats had netted some.... long explanations.

"No, no, it's not from the war. She uh... she had an incident with lightning once."

Barry’s question pulled him off that line of thought and onto a new track. Leaning against him, Angus let the iron ice smell of Barry’s magic move against his own and poked at the problem.

“Could we.... put a muffle charm on the roof? Like the one on your door, only big?”

 

They could see the old playground now and Barry wondered idly if anyone owned the lot now. Would they mind if he mowed the grass and let the kids play here sometimes? He could rehang the swing... Then he focused again. A little blush mantled his cheeks at the mention of the muffle charm on the door.

"Oh uh... you noticed that, huh? Should've guessed. Well uh... we could but that's an awfully big spell to maintain. And where would we anchor it?"

 

Angus scowled harder, not really looking where he was putting his feet as he turned this over in his mind,

“We could.... put it in one room. Maybe the basement? So Keats can sleep.”

 

"That's a good idea. And I bet you could help me set it up. But I bet this storm is going to come in a long time before bed time. So uh... so what are we gonna do until then? And I've got another question for you. Can you uh... can you feel the lightning in your magic? When it strikes, I mean. Do you feel it?"

He kept them walking down the street, a hand on Angus' shoulder the whole time. Periodically, he would steer them around a pothole and internally sigh about the changes in street paving quality.

 

Angus looked up at him curiously, “No? Should I?”

"I don't know, honestly. I do but I'm a weird case." He tapped the harness with one hand. "Lup does too, because she's an evocation specialist and it's part of her magic. It uh... it makes it a lot harder to just ignore."

Angus nodded and tugged another braid in thought, this one sent up a tang of catmint and lemongrass,

“Could we..... could we build a blanket fort?”

 

As they turned the corner, Barry watched him, trying to decide if this was working.

"I like that idea. A blanket fort and maybe... maybe popcorn and a movie? How's that sound, bud? See any problems?"

 

“We could put a calm emotion charm on the blanket too?”

Angus was perking up, getting more excited, “have you ever seen The Great Mouse Detective?”

 

"Is uh... is that a Disney one? I've been trying to get caught up and there's a lot."

He considered for a long moment and then nodded. He ruffled Angus' hair.

"I think that'll work just fine. Good job, Ango." After a moment, he smiled and looked down. "So, do you see what I'm doing?"

 

“Distracting me,” Angus replied promptly, then frowned. It was true, but it didn’t feel all the way true.

“Making... making it.... okay? To not- to not be okay.” He glanced up, unsure if that was the right answer.

 

"That second one. You're smart enough that I figured just... just trying to distract you wouldn't work. You're more than smart enough to see through my horseshit."

Barry gave Angus a huge smile and turned another corner. Pretty soon, they'd be back on their own street and headed towards the house. He could feel the house, was drawn to it like the needle of a compass.

"No matter what, just remember that. We've all got our own problems that we've gotta deal with and uh... and we're all better off if we talk about it and work together. You're a real good kid, Ango. I'm proud of you and... and if you ever want help, I'm right here. Alright?"

 

Angus took a moment to think about this and compare what Barry had said against what he did . You had to do that a lot with adults, he’d noticed. It didn’t take very long, though, Barry and Lup were straightforward enough, and didn’t play games.

He nodded, firmly, “Okay. I’ll remember.”

He leaned back into Barry’s side, one hand coming up to catch at the hand on his shoulder,
“You’re pretty good at the dad thing, I found a parenting book at the library and I did the test in it. You got a 38 out of 50.”

Barry chuckled quietly at that.

"Glad to know I got a passing grade. What're you doing reading parenting books? I mean, besides critiquing our technique."

At the same time, he was trying very hard to calm down the little fizz of excitement at Angus' words. He had just said he was doing pretty good at this, not anything else. Angus might never call them Mom and Dad and that was something Barry kept having to remind himself. He probably had other people he thought of as that once and it would be weird. Or whatever. Barry shoved those thoughts aside. They could see the house now as it looked like Lup was home.

 

“Lup said she was going to pretend she knew what she was doing when she went to meet my teachers, and I thought she might like it. I had to check it wasn’t one of those that says hitting your kids is okay though.”

"Even if some book said that was a good idea, we would never. Remember, bud, I grew up in the 30s when people thought that was a good idea. I've seen it and... never again. Above and beyond... other people I could mention."

As soon as they stepped over the ward line, Lup appeared at the front door, holding an outrageously purring Tess who kept trying to shove her face into Lup’s ear.

“Oh cool, you are home, saw the car and wondered-“

Anxiety swirled across her link to Barry, heightened by the growing darkness in the north west, “I mean I could tell you weren’t far, it was fine- Tess, for crying out loud!”

Tess reached a paw up to bat her mouth and Lup spat, “Ugh, you menace-“


Barry gave Angus a little push towards the door and leaned down to speak in a hushed tone. "Go see if you and Keats can get Operation Blanket Fort ready before Lup figures out what's going on, okay?"

Then he smiled up at Lup and spoke in a more normal volume as he went to grab his jacket from the car.

"We went for a walk, that's all. Sorry, I probably should've texted, huh?"

 

“I knew you were down the road, I’m just- just antsy...” Lup’s eyes flicked to the horizon again and reached out a hand to stop Angus as he rushed past her into the house, “Hey hold on, who did this?”

She ran a hand over his braids, fingers twitching at the charmed beads, “these are Taako’s but he could never get rows these straight....”

“Kravitz did them after I exploded the blender!” Angus chirped, giving her a brief hug and darting for the basement door.

“After you did WHAT-!” Lup turned to Barry, ears flicking uncertainly.

 

Barry sighed and walked up the steps, putting an arm around her waist and leaning against her.

"Taako decided Ango had wards under control and it was time to work on stasis. You can guess how that went since it ended with one exploded blender. That's why the walk. Taako's expecting you to uh... to yell at him for that, by the way."

He turned and kissed her cheek.

"He's doing alright now. Angus, I mean. I went all 'I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed' on Taako and he looked like a kicked puppy."

 

Lup leaned into him, her whole body relaxing at the feeling. Tess moved across her chest to butt Barry’s glasses and purr.

“My brother is a dipshit .... hah, maybe since he expects me to yell, I’ll let him stew on that one for a while.”

She shook her head and pressed her face into Barry’s shoulder, “the wards are better this round. From Beltane, I think. The magic’s all.... all different kinds and disrupting the energy....”

 

He hugged her tightly.

"It's okay, babe. I saw the weather and cooked up a little surprise. Let's... let's you and me go make sure the goats are alright and uh... and check over the garden and then we'll go see how the boys are doing."

Then he kissed her forehead and took her hand, tugging her towards the backyard.

 

Angus made sure to knock twice on the basement door before bursting in,

Keats! Come up, we’re gonna make something!”

He ran halfway down the stairs to lean over the banister and catch Keats’s eye, “it’s a surprise for Lup!”

 

Keats sat up, setting his tablet aside, and his ears perked up.

“Okay! Do I need anything?”

He slid off his bed and grabbed a shirt, tugging it on over his harness before he headed up the stairs.

 

“Grab some blankets and your pillows- oh! Is that your new harness? I wanna see!”

Angus reached for Keats’ shirt as he walked up the stairs, beads rattling as he couldn’t keep from bouncing with excitement.

 

Keats laughed and pulled his shirt up so Angus could see. It was streamlined, like Barry’s, and he now had the watch for monitoring the status.

Then he turned back towards the bed and started grabbing things.

“What are we doing that needs blankets?”

His ears pinned back for a moment and he looked uncomfortable. Then he shook his head. It definitely had nothing to do with that.

 

“We’re gonna make a pillow fort and do movie night!” Angus practically crowed, “it was my idea, ‘cause Lup doesn’t like thunderstorms.”

And maybe Barry had asked him to have the idea but details . If Taako was teaching him anything, it was to defend your intellectual property.

“I’m going to try Calm Emotions on a pillow or something.”

 

“Oh! That sounds like a lot of fun. What’re we gonna watch?”

“The Great Mouse Detective! It’s got some of the first CGI Disney every did and it’s a Sherlock Holmes story.”

Keats grabbed the bundle of blankets and started dragging it all up the stairs. His ears were still pinned back.

“There’s gonna be a thunderstorm?”


Angus opened the door and peeked out, making sure Lup wasn’t in the kitchen. Spotting them both out with the goats in the back, he waved a hand to Keats,

“Yeah, but it’ll be okay! I’ll ask Lup how she put that muffle spell on their door, and we can put it in your room.”

 

Keats hauled the blankets into the living room and then turned, hugging Angus tightly.

"You're the best little brother ever, you know that?"

 

Angus hugged him back, grinning too wide to really respond.

Pulling away, he pointed at the couch, “you take the cushions off that, I’ll get more pillows.”

 

Keats tossed the couch cushions into a pile and stood there, considering. He hadn't built a pillow fort in a long time, and back then they'd been small, just big enough for him and maybe one other person. Usually Lili. How would they build one big enough for all four of them and probably Tess too? He wasn't sure and he was excited to see what Angus had planned.

 

Angus came down the stairs a lot slower, trailing his blankets behind him and Tess following, mrrp ing disapproval.

“Okay, we’re going to need all the kitchen chairs. If we turn the couch around, we can use that as the back and pull the blankets over it-“




Lup walked in the back door to find the kitchen chairs gone, and the sound of Angus calling Tess a name she didn’t know, but sounded Polish as Keats laughed. Following the noise, she saw the couch had been turned to face the wall and the chairs standing out from it in a square.

They used to be holding up a series of blankets, but those were now on top of Angus as he flailed, and Tess was sitting on the top of the stairs looking smug.

“....okay but what the fuck”

 

Keats started trying to pull the blankets off Angus and then looked up, like a deer in the headlights.

"Abort! Abort! The mission's been compromised!"

And he turned to run, laughing the whole way up the stairs as he dove into Angus' room.

 

Lup blinked as Angus finally got his head free and stared at the blankets, huffily.

“Angus....” Lup said very slowly and as if she was navigating some alien ritual, “ why is the living room.... like this?”

“We were nearly done with the fort and Tess jumped on it,” Angus glared up at Tess who miaued innocently.

Lup felt even more lost, “....fort?”

Barry walked into the living room and rested his hands on Lup's waist. Then he looked around her at Angus.

"Need more time, bud? Come on, Lup, let's go make some popcorn and the boys can explain when everything's all set, okay?"

Keats reappeared as soon as Barry had steered Lup back into the kitchen, dragging the blankets and pillows from Lup and Barry's room behind him. He put a finger to his lips and pointed at them excitedly.

 

Angus grinned and nodded, beckoning Keats down as he started redraping the blankets.

Lup pulled out the pot big enough for enough popcorn for four people one of whom was Keats and turned to Barry as she grabbed the popcorn jar,

“Barry, why the fuck is the living room a disaster?”

 

Barry chuckled and hugged her. "I don't want to ruin the surprise."

Then he stopped, running a finger along one of her ears. "Babe, have you never... have you never seen a pillow fort before? I mean, I know it was collapsed, but that uh... that was a pretty impressive one they've got going."

 

Lup frowned, leaning into the touch all the same, “Oh is that what they look like? Huh. Okay, that’s fine I guess.....”

From the living room came an angry; “TESS, DON’T YOU DARE!”

 

"It'll be fun. Angus came up with a whole plan for uh... for the storm." He kissed her cheek. "We've got us a real good pair of kids, you know that?"

Keats walked through the kitchen then, Tess in his grip and yowling her protestations. He set her on the top step of the basement stairs and closed the door. Then he turned and looked at Barry and Lup.

"[I'll let her out later, Mom. She's just being a brat.]"

And he turned to walk back into the living room.

 

The tip of Lup’s ear went red under Barry’s finger but she just snickered and started heating the oil, “[You’re depriving her of her life’s purpose, michen!]”

Angus peeked into the kitchen, attempting to look sneaky, “do we have flashlights?”

 

Barry pointed. "Front hall closet, kiddo. And you know what, I'm gonna make some lemonade. Lemonade goes with popcorn, right?"

He grabbed the pitcher and then looked at Lup.

"Alright, I know I'm learning to understand Elvish... But like... so far I can say hello, goodbye, and bread so like... it's gonna be a while. What'd he say that's got you blushing, babe?"

 

“-called me mom again....” Lup stared into the pan as if the heating oil held all the secrets of the universe. “Seems like it’s gonna stick, no big deal.”

The red was traveling down her ears and she grabbed the popcorn to distract herself. A plaintive mewing came from the basement door, the sound of utter tragedy and abandonment.

 

Barry grabbed the wooden spoon and the sugar and kissed her cheek, "You've gotta admit, you make a pretty good mom."

-

Keats surveyed their creation and nodded before turning towards Angus. "Okay, it looks good to me. Think it's Tess-proof?"

 

Angus paced the perimeter of the fort, frowning in thought.

They had thrown Lup and Barry’s blanket over the chairs and back of the couch as the main, draping the rest over the chairs to block out the light. The couch cushions were on the floor as a base and every other pillow that they had been able to lay hands on were piled in a nest at the back. Angus’s laptop was sitting on a cooling pad just to the side of the entrance with a pile of flashlights.

“Maybe I should stick them down with magic or something. Make sure ....”

 

Keats snapped his fingers then. "Get me some string. I've got this. It's just like the tents from basic. I'll even show you the knots."

He made a few adjustments and grinned. He absolutely could secure the tops with some string and, sure it would be hard to take back down, but it would definitely stay up.

 

Angus peeked up and ran into the kitchen again, “Do we have string? Lots of it?”

Lup looked over from seasoning the large bowl of popcorn, “What the fuck are y’all doing in my living room?”

He gave her his best most innocent little boy smile and looked to Barry.

 

Barry fished around in the junk drawer and tossed Angus a ball of string.

"I better not come in there and find either of you tied to anything. Got it, bud?"

Keats grabbed the string the second Angus reappeared and started showing him the nice secure knots that would keep it all in place. A few minutes later, it was done and almost definitely Tess-proof. And just in time, as the first rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance. Keats' ears flicked back but then he gave Angus a little push towards the kitchen.

"Go get [Mom.] It was your plan."

 

Angus looked at him curiously as he walked to the kitchen, “what’s that one mean?”

Not waiting for an answer, he trotted past them and opened the basement door, “be good , Tess.” He beamed up at Barry, “it’s ready .”

 

Keats turned beet red with embarrassment when he realized what he'd said but he stayed firmly in the living room, watching and waiting.

Barry gave Angus a thumbs up. "Lemonade's almost all set. How's the uh... how's the popcorn, babe? Ready to find out what the boys've been up to?"

 

Lup was leaning on the counter, head down, eyes closed, breathing deeply, her ears pinned back.
It was fine . The wards drew away lightning. The added mix would confuse it anyway. It wasn’t even close yet. She was fine. She was safe .

Turning to look at Angus, she gave him a weak grin and hoped her face wasn’t too pale yet.

“Sounds, sounds great, kiddo. Popcorn’s done. Are we aiming for any other food tonight?”

 

Barry put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her.

"I'll take care of that, Lup. Go on." He gave her a little push towards the living room. "Ango, you gonna explain or uh...?"

 

Lup hesitated, pulling their bond and Barry’s magic over her skin briefly, but Angus was holding out his hand and looking so excited -

She took his hand, her ears quivering with the effort of keeping them neutral.


“Alright, Djangus, please enlighten me in the ways of the pillow fort.”

He beamed at her, pulling her into the living room, “we made it big enough for everyone! And we can watch a movie in there and if you show me how to put the muffle charm from your bedroom on it, Keats won’t hear the thunder and I can put one in the basement for him-“

He got down on his hands and knees, still holding Lup’s hand and tugging her in under the blankets, “See? It’s safe in here!”

Lup blinked hard, trying not to burst into tears and give either of them the wrong idea, “Hey.... look at that.... it is....”

 

Keats followed Lup inside the fort, grabbing one of the flashlights as he went. His ears were pinned back as the next rumble of thunder came and he squeezed his eyes shut. He wasn't sure which was worse, the long rolls of thunder or the loud cracks that would come later. Each one was too like another sound, like things he'd heard There. He didn't realize that he'd frozen in place right there in the entrance to the fort with a white knuckled grip on his flashlight.

 

Lup was trying to get enough emotional fortitude together to show Angus the enthusiasm he really had earned, dammit, she almost didn’t catch Keats’ look until she realized why it was so dim in here,

“Oh- oh fuck, [hey michen, come on. We’ve a safe rabbit burrow right here...]”

Reaching past Angus she gripped Keats’ arm, tugging gently.
Angus looked startled and scooted until he was at Keats’ shoulder and leaned against it,

“Can you do the muffle, Lup?”

 

Keats took a shaky breath and let them guide him further into the fort.

"[I thought rabbit was a bad word... Eddie punched someone who called me that once.]"

His voice sounded distant, but he leaned back against Angus and opened his eyes. "S-sorry. I'm okay. Promise."

 

“[Its okay if we say it. Like] queer, [one of those words.”

“You can’t keep doing that, it’s not fair! ” Angus burst out, looking almost like he was going to cry, “no elvish in my pillow fort, I made it and I should be able to understand you!”

 

Keats' ears flicked straight up and he looked at Angus, startled.

"I... I keep forgetting you don't speak it. I'm really, really sorry." Then he lit up excitedly. "I can teach you!" He turned to look at Lup. "Can I?"

 

"Go for it, dude, help Barry learn while you're at it, it'll be nicer than that owl that keeps yelling at him."

Speaking of, she looked up at the blanket above her and calculated the best way to get a charm to stick, and raised her voice as if she didn't know Barry was hovering just within earshot, “Hey babe? Could you grab me my chalk and some paper?"

Angus was pulling out his phone and scrolling through apps until he found the right one to download, scowling fiercely, "Okay, but until I know how, no elvish in the pillow fort."

 

"Got it!"

Barry knelt down and handed Angus the bowl of popcorn and then Lup paper and chalk. He gave them all a grin.

"I called for pizza. I'm gonna wait for that and then uh... and then I'll be in to join you, okay? Everyone doing alright?"

Keats smiled and slung an arm around Angus' shoulders. Though he winced at the next sound of thunder and his grip tightened.

Lup closed her eyes and let the attempt at panic wash through her, inhaling deeply and exhaling a long breath to let it go. Once the roll of thunder had faded, she set the paper on the ground outside the cushions and sketched the circle,

"See Angus? When you want to muffle outside you switch these two runes. That's how ours looks. But since we want to muffle inside ...."

She sketched them out quickly, and pushed the paper against the blanket, tracing her finger around the edge so the paper and blanket thought of each other as friendly and it stayed. When she pushed her finger against the paper and threaded her magic through it, the outside noise faded to nearly nothing.

Angus watched all this intently, including the bit where Lup's ears stopped quivering in their neutral position and relaxed into a happy one.

 

Keats relaxed the moment the sounds from outside stopped coming to his ears and that distant jungle lost its hold on him once again. He turned, ears relaxed and a smile on his face. He opened his mouth and then closed it again, glancing at Angus. Then he smiled and opened his mouth again to speak.

"Thanks, Mom."

 

Angus sat up straighter, and Lup briefly imagined what he would look like with proper elven ears flicking up in surprise.

“Is that what-“ he frowned, trying to recall, “[mom] means?”

“Yeah,” Lup managed, weakly, “add one more to your vocab, I guess.”

She slung an arm around Keats’ shoulder and held out her other for Angus, “c’mon kiddo, if you made this for cuddling, let’s get our cuddle on.”


 

When Barry poked his head in again, pushing a pizza box in front of him and with visibly wet hair, he found all three of them in a cuddle pile. Keats was purring like an engine, resting his head on Lup’s shoulder.

“Alright, make some room and lets get this movie started.”

He sent a short querying ping down his bond to Lup, noticing that she looked relaxed. Then Tess sauntered into the blanket fort around him and nestled in between Lup and Angus.

 

Angus brightened at the sight of the pizza box, carefully placing Tess on Lup’s lap before scooting forward to pull his laptop into an angle everyone could see.

Lup’s ears twitched at Barry’s ping and she sent sleepy contentment back, scratching Tess behind the ears, “Hey Miss Thing, did you give the thunder a good what for?”

It was still close quarters, and Angus waited until Barry could sit beside Lup before coming back with the small wireless speaker, reaching for the pizza box.

“Did you get pineapple?”

 

Barry raised an eyebrow. "Did you want pineapple?"

Keats shifted slightly to make some more room and Barry reached over to ruffle his hair. It was starting to grow out again and it was at that odd length where it stuck up in some places. Keats sleepily flopped across Lup and poked Angus in the arm. Then he held out his hand for a slice.


“Maybe....” Angus doled out slices, not bothering with the stack of plates until Lup snapped her fingers and made a grabbing gesture for napkins.

Calling up the movie, he scooted back between Lup and Barry, Tess rearranging herself to drape between him and Lup,

Lup leaned against Barry, fighting down the urge to purr until after she ate.
She was draped in her boys, the air smelled of popcorn and was slightly stuffy, and Angus’s speaker was tinnily piping out the Disney logo theme.

There were worse ways to spend a thunderstorm.

Chapter Text

Barry pulled up in front of Maureen's house, humming along with the radio. Keats was all but bouncing in the back seat and he'd been talking about how cool he thought Maureen was the whole way there, trying to explain to Angus just how smart and funny she is. His ears were flicked up with excitement and he grabbed Angus' arm as they pulled up.

"Come on!"

Barry glanced over at Lup, a little bit of worry knitting his brows. He'd tried to explain to Keats a few times that time had passed, that Maureen was human, that she was going to look different. He hadn't wanted it to be a shock. But after listening to him through this whole ride, he wasn't sure it had really sunken in.

Lup blew out a breath and shrugged, eyebrows raised, as she got out of the car to follow quickly.

The door opened as they came up the sidewalk and Maureen stepped out, a firm 'Not Crying' look on her face. This lasted all of a second before her hand was flying to her mouth and she looked past him to Barry,

"Gods dammit , BB, I know you said, but- fuck! "

Wiping, the palm of her hand against her eyes, she met Keats' gaze, mouth twisting slightly. "Hey Yoot, what's happening?"

Keats had stopped the moment Maureen walked out the door, his ears flicking back and his eyes wide. He looked over at Barry and then back at Maureen, throat feeling tight.

“H-hey, Mo.”

His voice caught and his ears drooped even more.

Barry stepped up beside him, resting a hand on his shoulder and shrugged at Maureen.

“You should’ve seen the look on my face when uh... when the little monster came up the walk.” He turned back, making sure he knew right where Angus was. “And this is Angus. Say hi, bud.”

Angus looked in concern at Keats but stepped forward and offered his hand to Maureen,

“Please to meet you, ma’am, my name is Angus McDonald. I liked your TED talk on crystal frequencies.”

Maureen gave a slightly stronger laugh and shook his hand,
“Oh, THAT’S good to hear! That one is a pet project, no one really wants to invest- well, come on in, no good getting emotional in front of the neighbors....”

Since the nearest house was a good half a block away, this was clearly a joke.

Barry gave Keats a little push when he didn't start moving and the young man inhaled slowly. He took a few steps up to the house, tugging at one ear uncertainly. Barry frowned at that and glanced towards Lup again.

Keats got all the way up the steps and looked at Maureen again. His lower lip quivered just slightly and then he hugged her tightly. He was just as cold as Barry always was and he was shaking just slightly as emotions he couldn't name coursed through him.

Maureen didn’t hesitate to hug him back, squeezing tightly and rocking them both,

“Aw Hell, Yoot, time travel’s a bitch , and this isn’t fair..... I’m so sorry....”



Keats lay on his stomach on one of the deck chairs, playing with the View-Master that Barry had gotten him recently. This one had images from a British sci-fi show they watched together sometimes and he was giggling as he clicked through. Lydia was sitting next to him, painting her nails while Barry and Edward were swimming in the pool. Their new intern from work, Maureen Miller, was sitting next to Lydia. She was quiet and didn't seem entirely like she belonged yet, but Keats keep glancing up over the View-Master at her when he didn't think anyone else was looking. She was pretty and he heard them all talking about work before, so he knew she was smart too. She'd even cracked a joke that had Edward laughing. The next time he glanced up, Lydia caught him and she followed his gaze. His ears flicked up and she frowned. Carefully, he schooled them back down into the neutral position he was trying to learn.

"Mo-Most, darling, why don't you go grab us some cokes from the fridge."

Maureen sighed a little, but she got up to go grab it. She was the intern, after all, even if they weren't at work. They'd made that clear enough from the get-go.

The moment she was gone, Lydia looked down at Keats.

"If you're going to go falling in love with a human, baby brother, at least know what you're getting yourself into. They're not like us. They get old and we don't. Remember that."



"Y-yeah, it's sure a... sure something alright."

He pulled back just enough to be able to look at her. She was so different, so... so old. And he silently shoved down the old memories and daydreams that were still playing through his mind and tried to smile.

"Missed you. Lots."

Maureen squeezed him again and gestured them all into the open kitchen dining room area.

....unfortunately the kitchen table was currently occupied by the trailing wire guts of a small boxy robot with a screen face. Maureen stopped in the doorway, her eyebrows snapping together at the man currently digging through the open compartment.

“I know I left that table clear ten minutes ago, and I know you have a workbench in the lab for this exact reason , Lucas.”

Barry looked over the array of parts and tools and then looked at the man who was frowning slightly as he looked at all of them. Lucas Miller looked down at the robot he was working on and then back up at his mother.

“And you told me to be social, for once. So I brought my work with me.”

Keats’ ears were pinned back as he looked at Lucas and then at Maureen and then back at Lucas. After a moment, he held out his hand, trying to be friendly and definitely trying not to think about the fact that he was pretty sure the way humans aged probably meant this was Mo’s kid.

“Hi. I’m Keats. It’s swell to meet you.”

Maureen’s jaw clenched and relaxed, “well we need the table, so if you would remove Hodge Podge. Please .”

Lucas huffed annoyance and looked at Keats’ hand, then to his harness, then to Lup and Barry looming in the background before awkwardly taking the hand.

“.....Lucas Miller. Likewise?”

Barry relaxed just slightly. He'd been worried about those two interacting. Particularly since the whole 'Lucas got punched by Julia and almost by Magnus' incident. Lucas bundled his robot back into a box and turned to go move to another table near the kitchen. He set the box down and then stopped, turning to watch Barry as the man moved through the kitchen.

Barry smiled and grabbed the tools Lucas had left behind. "Here, lemme give you a hand."

Keats turned towards Lup, the bit of confusion and discomfort still obvious in the set of his ears. But he was trying to relax, trying to smile.

Lup slung an arm around his shoulders, squeezing comfortingly as Maureen moved to the kitchen to grab the tray of lasagna and bowls of sides,
“Ango, help Maur with the plates, won’t you?”

She directed Keats to one of the chairs, ears twitched in Angus’s direction.

Keats dropped into a chair, grinning as he saw the food. He was pretty much always hungry.

“Didn’t know you could cook, Mo.”

Lucas gave Barry an awkward smile and held out his hands for the tools.
“Thanks.... hey, did Noelle upgrade this again? I keep asking her if she’ll share specs but-“

Without waiting for Barry to answer, Lucas stepped around him and pressed a finger to the power pack.

Barry turned a little, trying to get back facing Lucas instead of letting him touch the pack.

“Yeah, she uh... she did and... Lucas, don’t touch that-“

Lucas had moved with Barry, staying so he could see all of the status lights and things on the pack. There was a small release back there, something Noelle had added recently along with a few spare power cores so they’d didn’t have charging emergencies. (“Just charge up a spare and anchor for a second while you pop in the new one. No more half hour of terror.”) Lucas found the edge of that release and pressed it, the power core popping out into his hand.

“Huh, how does this-?”

He was cut off in the middle of his question by the harness dropping to the floor and a sudden crackling of magic throughout the room. Barry’s eyes went wide with panic and his edges started to blur and fade, almost like the static between the channels.

Lup spun around, ears flared low in shock as Barry’s panic roiled across their bond,

BARRY!

Shoving chairs out of the way (leaving scorch marks on a few) Lup scrambled for the harness on the floor, shoving a shocked looking Lucas aside.

“Get OUT of the WAY you FUCKING DIPSHIT!”

Grasping the harness, Lup reached into the core of Barry, ignoring the carbonated ice that ran up her arm... it felt more and more like static and she DIDN'T like that.

“Babe, fuck, focus on me, okay? Just get semi-solid enough, c’mon Bear-“

Barry was staring at his own hands, watching them turn to static quickly as fear started to replaced with ice and nothing. Then he looked up at Lup and tried. He could still feel the bond, could feel her anger, her fear, her love. He grabbed that bond for all he was worth and tried to focus. Solidifying just enough that he could get one arm through the harness strap. But nothing happened.

Lucas still looked shocked, still held the power core for the harness. He stared at it and then shoved it back where it went in the harness, backing away until he had his back against a wall.

The harness clicked as the power core was resocketed and it settled against Barry's back, halfway on but there enough. He leaned heavily against Lup, terror still humming through him.

Lup grabbed him and squeezed for all she was worth, murmuring relieved nonsense. Barry was ice cold but solid and here and she could feel his terror and panic and matched it with her own, but at least it wasn’t that cold distant sensation.

There was a scrape of ceramic as Maureen tremblingly set the pan down, her face a tight mask of fury.

Lucas . Get out of my house.”

Lucas backed up a step, blinking at the look on his mother’s face, glanced at Lup and Barry, just as Lup turned to look at him, and decided retreating was safer.

“Sorry. I’m sorry, sorry- ....sorry.”

He back away to the kitchen door that led outside to the workshop.

Barry took a deep breath and then another and then another. He wrapped his arms around Lup, closing his eyes and just listening. He was trying to ground himself, trying to calm down again.

After a long moment, he took another breath and looked up at her.

"Gotta... gotta get this thing back on right, babe. It uh..." He only had one strap actually on right. The rest were still buckled and very much not around him. "Hold it in place and I'll fix it?"

Keats was standing again, watching Barry and Lup with alarm on his face.

"What... what just happened? I... That doesn't happen at home. Is that gonna happen to me?"

“Idiot fucking white boys is what happened,” Lup tried to make it come out jokingly, but there was too much snap in her tone. “Julia warned me about them before.” She moved her shaking hands up the straps to hold them right.
“You, uh, you died different, Keats. You’re more like Julia, I don’t think- it probably won’t be the same for you.”

Angus put the plates he’d had a white-knuckled grip on through the whole fucktastrophe on the table.

“Why’d- Why’d that happen to him? What was it?”

Barry quickly unbuckled and rebuckled the straps and then adjusted them. When he felt the weight of the harness resting comfortably against his skin again, he relaxed.

"It uh... it has to do with how I died. Ritual murder is... it's a bitch." He ran his fingers through his hair for a moment and then smiled and kissed Lup. He rested his head against her shoulder again, still trying to get the fizzing fear to calm. "I'm okay now though, promise. Just... just got a real good scare. That's all."

“I’m going to disown him and leave my patents to AWIS,” Maureen’s voice was slightly choked and she collapsed into a chair heavily, rubbing her face. “That fucking idiot-

As soon as Barry’s harness was settled, Angus ran forward and threw his arms around them both, squeezing his eyes tight so he didn’t cry.

Barry put a hand on Angus’ shoulder, keeping an arm around Lup’s waist. Keats hung back for a moment but then he went and joined the hug. After a long moment, Barry looked up again, magic fully contained within his skin again.

“Come on, kids. Let’s uh... let’s go eat, okay?”

He went over and gave Maureen a side hug. “It’s okay, no harm done. And maybe he finally got scared bad enough that he’ll knock it off. If not, I uh... I’ve got some suggestions for making the house seem haunted, if you think that might work.”

His tone was full of humor and his expression joking, but there was definitely still discomfort and fear behind his eyes.

Maureen laughed and shook her head, scrubbing at her face, “it is so fucking far from fine.....alright, sit down, BB, you all look like you want to collapse as much as I do.”

Lup ran a hand over both Keats’ and Angus’ hair before walking into the kitchen to get the rest of the food. She felt lightheaded with rage now that her terror was receding, not wanting to vocalize any of the other suggestions she had for what Maureen might do.

“And he wonders why Noelle never answers his emails.”

Barry made sure the boys were both in their seats and dropped into his own.

“I mean... Yeah.” He smiled a little, still trying to project calm. “So... What uh...what were we talking about before...?”

Keats looked over at Maureen and tilted his head to the side, ears flicked back.

“He comes near me and gonna punch him. Just so you know. The fancy punches too.”

Angus scooted closer to Keats and put his new NASA pen on the table within easy reach as Maureen waved a hand,

“Go right ahead, it wouldn’t even be the first time in regards to those harnesses. And somehow he likes to brag on his genius-“ her mouth tightened and she shook her head, as Lup placed the last of the food and the serving stuff on the table.

“We were talking about time traveling,” Lup even managed to get her tone cheerful, “Keats has been having fun googling words that’ve gone out of fashion.”

Keats nodded at that and smiled at Lup.

“I’ve been doing pretty good at figuring everything out too. There’s a whole lot of stuff I’ve had to learn though. Lots to get caught up and to unlearn.”

He stopped then, looking down. Even now, even through everything, it was hard for him to think about how awful his brother and sister were. How insidiously, subtly awful they had been. But he looked up again and smiled.

“Plus I’ve been learning all the new slang.” He flexed with a wry grin. “Like shredded.”

Maureen laughed and the tension in the room eased. Dinner was a mix of reminiscing and talking about Keats’ and Barry’s current plans for life after death. It wasn’t till dinner was over and goodbye hugs were being passed around that Maureen squeezed Keats tight and looked fiercely over his shoulder at Barry,

“We won’t see a repeat of.... of tonight’s behavior again, you have my word on that.”

Barry grinned. "I believe it, Mo. I've seen you angry. He's in for a world of trouble."

Keats looked up a Maureen and bit his lower lip. It was still odd for him, seeing her like this. But she was still his friend Mo and that was really, really good for him to know.

"Do you think maybe I could come over again? I... I could help around the house. Or... or mow the lawn?" He looked a little anxious and tried to shove it back down, tugging on one ear. "Or whatever."

Maureen squeezed him again, barely restraining herself from tugging his other ear,

“Aw Yoot, I’d be sad if you thought you needed an excuse to visit. Just call and come over any time, I’m not nearly busy enough.”

She smiled brightly at Barry, “maybe you’ll even take me for a swing in BB’s rod-“

Barry snorted. "Kiddo needs a license first. But I can drop him off whenever you guys wanna hang out."

"Come on, I got my license fifty years ago!" Keats looked indignantly at Barry and then over at Lup. "[Mom!] Tell him!"

“Haven’t renewed it since then, michen,” Lup shrugged, “also? I saw how Barry drove when he first got his license, sooooo....”

She gave Barry an innocent smile.

Barry gave her a slightly guilty smile and then ruffled Keats' hair.

"The part he's leaving out, babe, is that someone learned to drive a troop transport. Not even a car."

Keats rolled his eyes. "Eddie and Lili wouldn't let me learn to drive because I was too little! That's not my fault! Just because they were already like five hundred when cars got invented..."

Angus leaned his forehead against Barry’s waist, close to drifting off to sleep,
“Can I have the keys?”

He whispered it, hoping only Barry would hear if they were going to keep talking, but he was tired ...

Barry smiled down at Angus and put a hand on his back.

"It was great catching up, Mo. But we gotta get the kids home before Ango falls asleep on me." He handed Angus the keys. "Go ahead and wait in the car if you want, bud. We shouldn't be long."

Keats reached for Angus' hand. "Come on, let's go."

Maureen waited until the door shut behind them before letting a long breath, “ Jesus, Mary, and Joseph-“

Wrapping her arms around herself, she flicked her eyes between Lup and Barry,
“And Edward just.... just pulled him from- and it’s one thing for you , BB, you at least knew time was passing, gods ....”
She rubbed a hand over her face, “he looked like I was the ghost....”

Barry nodded a little, going just a bit pale.

“Yeah... and it’s worse than all that. I uh... I highly recommend never seeing him without the harness.”

He exhaled slowly, trying once again to purge that memory from his mind. The boy was a skeleton and nothing else. What Edward had done was... unthinkable.

“He’s been catching up pretty well but uh... you know, none of them were ever any good at dealing with humans aging. And he didn’t have time to... to really think of what that meant in terms of you. Gods know I tried but...”

He looked over at Lup and shrugged helplessly.

Lup shrugged back, grimacing, “He’s a baby , honestly. Angus is, uh, Angus is relatively older than him by a lot of ways. Mind you, I’m pretty sure Angus would be shocked by traveling into the future and seeing one of his school friends aged fifty years. So....”

Maureen let out a choked laugh,
“Good to know.... good to keep in mind.”

She flicked another glance at Lup, clearly hesitating. “Did he- does he know what all they did?”

Barry looked uncomfortable and he shook his head a little, though not in response to her question.

“Depends on what parts you mean. He uh... he knows they killed me, he knows Edward brought him back, and he knows that Edward wasn’t... great. I left out a lot about... about exactly how bad and about things that happened in the last year.”

He looked at Lup, just a little guiltily.

“Like.... the whole... uh... mind whammy thing.”

Lup’s ears tilted back, nose wrinkling, “well, Edward did a mind whammy on him, so it’s not really like he needs the confirmation...”

Maureen shuddered and straightened, “Gods, I’m glad he has you two. And I figured he must know... must know enough if he’s using [mom] “

Lup flushed bright red, “LOOK at the time, we gotta- gotta get the kiddos in bed, so glad we did this dinner was great-“

Barry started laughing and put an arm around Lup’s shoulders.

“See you around, Mo!”

Barry kissed Lup’s cheek as they walked back towards the car.

Lup stuck her tongue out at him, flushed ears hidden by the dark,
“I’m gonna get better about that, I swear....”


The drive home was uneventful and Angus had fallen asleep against Keats by the time they pulled up the drive. 

Lup thought she’d never been so grateful to feel the wards wash over her in welcome, squeezing Barry’s hand tight as Keats carried Angus upstairs and Tess had to be soothed at being left alone at night.

She didn’t have the energy to do much more than wave to Keats as he headed downstairs, and shut the door behind Barry, reaching a hand out and sending soothing comfort over their bond instead of the rolls of panic they’d been stifling all night.

The moment the boys were gone to bed and Barry was secure in the knowledge that no one was going to hear but Lup, he turned and hugged her tightly. The wall he’d put up around his emotions from the moment they’d gotten his harness back on shattered and he sobbed brokenly into her shoulder.

He’d really, honestly, truly thought that moment was going to be the end. The end of him. The end of everything. And he had been, and still was, terrified.

Lup wrapped around him, lowering them both to the floor, purring in anxiety and distress, and kneading at Barry’s shoulders under the harness.

“I’ll kill him,” her voice quavered thin through the purring, but there was a viciousness to it that did not make her words sound like hyperbole. “I’ll kill him the for real kind of dead so fast his heart will keep beating in confusion for touching you, that self-entitled assfuck-!

Barry shook his head and held her tighter. He didn’t want to talk about that. He just... he just wanted this. Real, solid, there. Even if he could feel through their bond that she was as scared as he was and this was her way of dealing with it, it was too close to... to before. The tone, the words, of not the feelings behind them, were too close.

He buried his face against the side of her neck and listened to the sound of her breathing, the sound of her heart beating. He could still hear that awful nothing, feel the static that had threatened to rip him to pieces, and he was shaking in her arms.

Lup felt his distaste and grimaced, shoving her face into his shoulder,

“....sorry.”

Her hands kept circling his back, kneading at muscles frantically as if to keep reassuring herself they weren’t going to vanish into cold static.

“Sorry that was- wasn’t helpful.”

His face was cold against her neck, but there was a breath there, and his hair brushing against her ear, which pressed hard back and fuck she was crying now.

Lup took a shuddering breath to at least keep her voice steady, purr juttering in her chest,

“I thought I’d- that you-“

He held her tightly, running his hand over her back. Gods, it had been so close. Too close. He closed his eyes, focusing entirely on feeling, hearing.

"I know... me... me too. I thought... I... I thought..."

He took another shaky breath and he turned, holding her face in his hands.

"Lup, I love you so much. I... I've never been as afraid as... as afraid as I was when I thought... when I thought I was leaving you and the boys and... and... ten years ago, if... if I could've... I might've taken it. But now? Never."

Lup sobbed something that might have been trying to be a laugh and gripped his hands with her own,

“You aren’t fucking allowed , okay? I just- I just got you, you can’t leave yet....” Leaning into his touch, she didn’t do anything about the tears streaming down her face, and one of her hands moved to cup his cheek in return.

“Do you hear me, Barry Jacob Bluejeans? You are not allowed to fuck off into the afterlife without me, I forbid it.”

Taking a shaky breath, her ears relaxed somewhat out of their tight pin, “......maybe in five hundred years when.... when there’s colonies on Mars and the ice caps are all melted and we’ve investigated every- every sex position we can with only four limbs and invented some and Angus’s descendants if he has any don’t even know what a car used to be- ...Maybe then we’ll revisit this. But not now .”

He leaned in and kissed her deeply, trying to express everything he could in it. He poured loveneedaffectionlovetrust down their bond.

"Never. I'm never leaving you. Remember? Fuckety hundred and still... still leaving you butter knives and... and..." He took a deep breath and kissed her nose. "I'm never leaving you or the boys. Not ever. You hear me, Lup? I'm yours and that's never changing."

He kissed her forehead and then rested his head against hers.

"Fuck though... I'm... I'm not even angry. I probably should be. I'm just... I'm still scared."

Lup whimpered into the kiss, catching his sending and returning  lovecravingMINEtrustlovelovelovelov- washing back in a wave.

Pulling back she wiped at her face and laughed a little bitterly, “s’cool, I’ll be angry for us both. That’s, uhh, that’s partnership, right?”

Sniffing Lup got to her feet and tugged Barry to his.
“So I’m thinking shuck these clothes and find the softest, grungiest, comfy stuff we have and not get out of bed until we both stop feeling like shit. Whether that four hours or four days, I don’t feel like responsibilities right now....”

He hugged her again and grinned.

"I like the sounds of both of those but uh... but not so much with... uh... with the four days. I don't think the kids would like that much."

Then he grimaced. "That's the part that makes me mad. That the boys saw that... I just... How are they supposed to deal with... with seeing that?"

Lup growled, moving to the dresser without letting go of Barry’s hand until she absolutely had to,
“An object lesson on not touching people’s stuff?”

She caught Barry’s look and shrugged helplessly, yanking her top and bra off with more force than needed, “ I dunno, babe! I’m not sure how I’m dealing with it! And I knew what was happening!”

Barry wrapped his arms around her and rested his head against her shoulder. "I'm sorry, babe. I... fuck that shouldn't have happened. None of us should've had to go through that."

Then he pulled away reluctantly to go grab a pair of pajamas that while not ratty and old, were the comfiest things he'd ever encountered. They also had feet and a hood and were covered in rocket ships which was pretty much perfect. Especially because they helped him feel warm and that was something he needed right now.

Lup put on a shirt that was so old and washed and faded the original color was nowhere to be seen and it was just a dingy grey-brown, and a pair of pajama shorts with ice cream cones on them.

Crawling into bed, she made grabbing motions at Barry, ears still flicked low,

“I know we can’t do four days, but I want more than four hours.”

Barry crawled into bed and snuggled her close and wrapped his arms around her. He kissed her cheek and tugged the blankets up over them both.

"We can stay right here as long as you want, Lup. I think the boys can figure out where the peanut butter and the bread is if we're uh... if we're up here past breakfast and lunch."

“And Tess will get them up to feed everyone,” Lup burrowed her head into Barry’s chest, ear pressed close for the abnormally slow heartbeat that was still clear and still him .

“I love you, y’know? Like. So much.”

"I love you too, Lup. More than... more than I have words for."

He ran his fingers through her hair and kissed the top of her head, feeling better with her weight and heat on him.

Chapter Text

She was dancing with Barry in the kitchen light shining in through the windows and his hand was warm. She laughed as he turned a stumble into pulling her down for a dip lifting her up into a spin her ears brushing his forearm as he twirled her. She straightened and turned pulling his hand back to-

Barry’s hand was cold again and his face empty and slack behind his glasses. He stared at their intertwined fingers as if confused and loosened his grip. She reached out with her other hand to keep a hold of him, sending lovepleadingtrustminepleasepleaseplease-

It was like screaming into a void he didn’t even look up as he pulled his hand out of hers. Suddenly Edward was at his side hand on Barry’s shoulder smirking at her.

“Thought you won, little girl? Thought I wouldn’t ALWAYS come back for what is Mine?

Keats was next to him face slack blood on his front again and Lup knew knew knew knew it wasn’t his WASN’T HIS-

Edward’s hand moved down Barry’s back and Barry flickered and fuzzed out and she could only feel cold cold cold no matter how much she poured out screaming SCREAMING for him-!

 

Barry snapped into wakefulness before Lup had moved and he sat up, looking around at first until he realized she was still asleep. He pulled her into his arms, trying to wake her and provide comfort at the same time. He could feel her calling for him and poured back loveloveyourstrustlove.

"Babe, Lup, I'm right here. Everything's alright. Wake up. It's... it's okay."

 

he was gone gone gone Edward was laughing hand on Keats now his hands covered in blood staring mockingly at her she would burn-

The smell of scorched wood and paint finally shot through her sleep addled brain, Barry's loveaffectionshock exploding into her head.

Panting, she stared at the black mark on the wall above the dresser.

"Fuck. That's never going to be the right color again...."

 

Barry didn’t even turn to look. All of his attention was focused on her.

“I’ll unburn it later.” He hugged her as tightly as he could. “Are you okay? What... I mean... do... do you wanna... talk about it or uh...?”

He was running his hands over her arms, her shoulders, her back, reassuring both of them that they were there and real and solid and safe and together.

 

Lup inhaled and exhaled shakily, staring at the burned spot, eyes unfocused.

"I really gotta.... gotta bring that reaction up next appointment....s'probably not a super good, um, good habit to have......."

Slowly she relaxed under Barry's hands, mind easing out of its half awake fighting stance, feeling his solid presence at her back and the back of her mind. When she didn't feel like jumping out of her skin, she turned and wrapped herself into Barry.

"Nightmare. You were vanishing, Edward was there, it was great. All- all the anxiety in one package."

 

He kissed her again, still running his hands up and down her back.

“I’m not going anywhere and... and definitely not with him.” He kissed her forehead and smiled. “Want me to fix the wall?”

 

Lup burrowed against him, rubbing her nose into the ridiculous rocket footie pajamas that he loved and she loved him and they smelled of him of his magic and made him generate just enough heat for sweat smell and he was real and here-

"Fuck the wall, I don't want you moving right now, okay?"

 

“Then I won’t.”

He held her close, his face in her hair. He nuzzled against her and kissed the top of her head. He ran his fingers along one of her ears.

“I’ll fix it in the morning...”

 

Lup tried to let her breathing even out, tried to relax into Barry's petting, tried to get to a zen place where she could maybe meditate even if sleep wasn’t happening yet.

She did relax, but that just seemed to allow tears to come.

"Fuckin'...." her fingers tightened on his pajamas, "I don't.....I don't want this...I wanna enjoy what I got...."
It's petulant and never worked to say it before, but she still felt better for having vocalized it.

 

Barry tilted her chin up and kissed her cheeks and then wiped the tears away.

“We’ll get through this. I’ll talk to Noelle about some safeguards for the harness and... and we’ll get through this. Alright? No matter what happens, I’m not leaving you.”

 

Lup closed her eyes and let his being there wash over her again.

Barry was steady and solid and loyal and ridiculously honest and might not be able to promise her the world but would put his head down and stubbornly do what he could to MAKE what he said happen.

She loved him for it, that bull headedness. And she sent that feeling back to him, glad for some way to let him know the depths of how much she loved him. Words never seemed enough; they came out reedy and thin when she wanted them to ring like a giant bell.

LOVE mine LOVE mine LOVE.......

Maybe she couldn't express it entirely and wouldn't ever be able to, and that was alright as long as she kept trying. Loosening her grip on him enough to curl up and relax, she started counting her breathing and his heart beats.

 

Barry lay back down, keeping himself wrapped around her. He felt her love and he responded in kind. She was so strong, so brave, so very willing to stand up and do something if she thought it needed doing and he loved her. He poured love and affection and permanence. He swore with every fiber of his being, on his life and his second life, that he would always be there.

always yours

And soon he was drifting off to sleep again, one leg hitched up over her hip and half sprawled on top of her. And it was perfect.


 

Lup woke again in the pre dawn light, a feeling of satisfaction that they had both of them slept all the way through the night for once. Every time they managed that together felt like a victory for how rare it was.
She was on her back, half star fished out, one arm wrapped around Barry’s shoulders, with his leg hooked around her hip and his face in her neck.

It was wonderful .

Turning her face to nuzzle the side of his head, she could feel a soft purr starting up in her chest. Idly tracing circles on Barry’s back, she contemplated how the last year had really gotten her in the habit of that when she hadn’t felt like it for.... a couple of decades. Never more than a handful of times a year and now-

She kissed Barry’s temple, triumphantly letting the purr grow louder as she hugged him closer.

 

Barry blinked into wakefulness and smiled, feeling her solidly in his arms, warm and very much there and purring up a storm. This right here. This made everything that had happened in the last five decades worth it. Just waking up with her and knowing this was how their forever was going to be. Warm and close and soft and perfect.


He kissed her neck and ran lazy fingers down her arm.  "Mor'in, babe." Another gentle kiss. "Sleep a'right?"

As far as he could remember, they hadn't woken up again with nightmares and that was an accomplishment. The fact that neither of them had had another, especially given their yesterday. It was a new record. And he didn't feel like static was looming at the corners of his vision waiting for him to be alone to snap him up and dissolve him into nothingness, which was a way better feeling than he'd had when they went to bed.

 

“Mmmm much better after....” Lup turned her head, trying to catch at his mouth with hers without shifting so much he thought she wanted him to move his weight off her. “S’good mornin’, you’re here, Bear....”

Her hand traced its way up to run through his curls, and she wondered idly if he was going to grow them out longer. His hair grew so slowly he might have forgotten, “Feeling better?”

 

Barry leaned into her touch and made a soft sound of appreciation. He closed his eyes again, just enjoying this peaceful moment.

"Don't know how I could feel anything but uh... but real good, waking up with you right here."

 

“Sap,” she grinned and finally caught his mouth in the kiss she wanted, slow and languid, enjoying the feel of him and having all the time in the world.

Barry returned that kiss, hand sliding down her back and then up again. He pushed her shirt up, wanting to feel her skin under his hand.

"Yup. That's me. Big ol' sap."

 

Lup purred into the kiss, sending warm tides of affection and soft wanting along their link. Running her hand along his chest, she caught the zipper of Barry’s pajamas and tugged.

“Hey, I have a super cool idea.....”

 

Barry wiggled a little, giving her space to get at the rest of the zipper.

"Tell me more about this idea because uh... because I think I like where this is going, babe."

 

“So I’m thinking you take these off and ride me, hows that sound?”

The zipper ran all the way down to his hips, and Lup brushed her hand over Barry’s cock as she pulled back to push the pajamas off his shoulders, “See I’m really enjoying this whole ‘you being on top of me’ thing, buuuuuut-“ She pecked at his cheek, giving him a wide grin, “-cravin’ some butt time....”

 

Barry’s eyes widened with surprise and then excitement. He sat up to wiggle the pajamas the rest of the way off, tugging with annoyance when they wouldn’t come off quickly.

“Sounds like there best way to uh... to start the day, babe.” He leaned in to kiss her and the drawer of their nightstand popped open with a bang as it hit the end of the tracks it slid on.

 

Lup cackled, sitting up and rummaging in the drawer, “The best part of waking up.... is fuckin’ your boyfriend in the butt.....”

Grabbing the supplies, she kicked off her shorts and scooted back to the middle of the bed.

 

Barry stared at her for a long moment, confused, “Babe... was that a song? Did... did you just...” He started laughing, one hand over his mouth. “Did you just make up a song about... about...? Gods, I love you.”

 

Lup giggled, pulling a glove on,
“Right, you missed so many ear worms....”
She made grabby hands at him, ears flared forward in amusement.

 

He moved to kneel straddling her hips and leaned in to kiss her.

“So what do I google to find out what the hell you’re singing this time?”

 

Lup grinned into his kiss, sliding her hand down to the small of his back, “Okay listen , you’re going to google ‘Folgers’ and the first thing that’s going to come up is ‘incest commercial’ and I promise that wasn’t a reference.”
She teased at Barry’s entrance, kissing along his jaw.

 

“There are so so many questions I could be asking right-“
His words dissolved into a whimper at her touch and he turned to catch her in another kiss.

 

“MmmmHmmm, or -
Lup returned the kiss, heatedly, slipping her finger in up to the first knuckle, and teased at him,
“- or you pay attention to your very attentive girlfriend right now ~”

 

"Y-yeah, really... really feeling that second option right now."

He balanced his weight carefully on his knees and one arm, making sure he wasn't going to pitch forward. That certain, he reached to run his fingers along her ear, tugging a little as he reached the tip, "My wonderful girlfriend taking such good care of me~"

 

Lup smiled, her eyelids fluttering at the touch, and slid her finger in the rest of the way, bending her wrist so she could explore for that one spot-
“Turnabout is fair play, Bear...love this....”

 

Barry's back arched and he tried to stay still, fighting the urge to rock back against her hand.
"Right there, Lup... Right... right- Fuck." He did rock back then, despite his best attempts.

 

Lup grinned with all her teeth, reaching her free hand up to cup his cheek, “Hold still for me, just one second, babe...”

She arched her wrist to add another finger, playing with longer strokes and scissoring him open.

 

“S’hard when it feels good...”

He murmured it and turned to kiss her palm and then her wrist, “Love being good for you, babe.”

 

“There we go.... you are , always so fucking gorgeous for me, babe…” She was moving faster now, watching his face intently, a small smile playing around her lips, “You gonna want three fingers or four today, Bear?”

 

Barry's head went back and he bit his lower lip.

"Th-three. Want you soonest, Lup."

He whimpered and leaned down to kiss her deeply, running his fingers along her ear again.

 

Lup hummed into his mouth, angling her wrist for a third finger just to feel his gasp against her lips.

“I can do that for you...gonna make you feel amazing , babe, just, hah! -just like you always-“

Her head pushed against his fingers, seeking more contact along the edge of her ear, whining softly.

 

He moaned into her mouth, tugging on her ear. He pulled back, projecting loveneedadorationdesirelovetrust as hard as he could.

"Always... always gotta make sure you feel good." He gasped as she thrust her fingers hard into him. "L-love you so much."

 

“I love you too, babe.... Gods, you’ve gone all flushed and pretty....” Lup cupped his cheek again, smiling adoringly up at him, “think you’re good, babe?”

She pressed her fingers down on his sweet spot, running her thumb over his lips. The teasing needlovefondnesslust she sent after was a direct response to the noises he made.

 

He nodded just a little and then grinned, closing his lips around her thumb, he ran his tongue over it, meeting her eyes.

Lup grinned back, tongue caught between her teeth as she pulled her fingers out and tossed the glove. Condom and lube were within reach and she had to pull her thumb out of Barry's mouth with a press against his tongue to grab them. Still smirking, she held them out,
"Wanna?"

 

A shiver ran down his spine at the sudden feeling of being empty, at the return to his normal lack of heat, and he took both, shifting with care. He took his time getting the condom on and making sure she was nice and slick with lube. He stroked her clit, watching her face with a little smile.

"All ready, babe."

 

Lup leaned in, hand up to caress his cheek and pull him in for a kiss, before tugging at him to move back up,

"Then come on up and ride this train to pound town."

 

Barry stopped for just a moment to look at her. Then he laughed quietly, letting her tug him back into place.

"Next time someone calls me a dork, I'm telling them you said that."

 

Lup's eyes widened, ears tilted up in alarm as she leaned back and adjusted him, taking her clit in hand, " Barry Jacob Bluejeans you would not DARE-! "

 

He chuckled quietly and leaned in to kiss the tip of her nose.

"Oh yeah, no, I wouldn't actually because... because we all know who's most likely to call me a dork and I'm not saying that to your brother."

 

Her ears relaxed into an overdramatic droop, "Oh thank shit , I was seeing my entire life pass in front of my eyes-"

Easing her hand along the small of Barry's back, she directed him as needed and pushed her hips up slowly, head leaning back in satisfaction.

" There we go....feels so nice, Bear..."

 

He rocked his hips back, making a quiet sound of agreement and pleasure. For a moment, he stayed like that with his hands on her stomach. He rose back up and then dropped down again slowly, moaning softly.

 

Lup's ears were nearly limp in relaxation, head tilted back to look at Barry from under her eyelashes, mouth open slightly. She drew her hands from the small of his back to his hips, tightening and stroking at the soft skin there, her heels pulled up to press into the mattress for leverage. Humming, she tilted her hips, starting to catch his rhythm.

 

Barry moved to a faster pace, gasping praise for her as he slid his hands up to cup her breasts. Gods, he loved her. Loved everything about her.

The sheer terror of the night before had subsided as he lay in her arms, replaced with an intense relief and an appreciation of the fact that they were both there, they were both alright, and they were very much in love, and nothing was going to change any of those things.

 

Lup arched up to meet his hands, snapping her hips to match his pace, not bothering to do anything about the adoring grin that was all she could manage as she looked up and watched his face and felt him around and through her, his temperature making her feel flushed and burning by comparison, and his reliefloveappreciation lapping against the shores of her mind.

The part of her that lived in the back of her mind, that shouted anxieties about any change, that repeated over and over that nothing lasted, there was only her and Taako, that everything good came to an end and you had to always start over from nothing....that part of her occasionally liked to rear its head at times like these, the previous night had given it plenty to feed on.
But she couldn't hear it, not now with Barry whisper chanting her name, his love echoing louder and louder at the back of her skull the closer he got.

This was hers . This was a future she had fought for, was making daily, would defend with every breath in her, and after death if she had to, she would find a way if need be.

She let out a breathless laugh at a particularly loud whine of Barry's and reached for his cock, beaming up at him, “Need some help, babe?"

 

He was so very close to his edge, could feel it right there waiting for him to drop over. His head was back and he gasped a "Please?" that pitched up into moan as she closed her hand around his cock.

His chant wasn't a whisper any more. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And some distant part of him really hoped Lup had put made sure the muffle charm on the door was active. He wasn't going to check now though, that much was for sure.

 

Lup could feel herself moving close to her own edge, but distantly. It barely mattered, right now all that mattered was Barry's weight on her hips, his hands on her breasts, the feeling of his cock in her hand, and his voice above her, calling her name. Pressing her other hand to the small of his back, she jerked her hips up, moving her hand in the rhythm he liked best, throwing a tidal wave of adorationlovedesireMINE- at him.

"C'mon, Bear, c'mon [beloved], so good for me, fuckin shit , I love you, gorgeous stunning man, my man, come on, babe-"

 

And there it was.

A shiver ran down his spine and his chant was suddenly cut off as he went silent, gasping for breath as his vision went white. He managed to pull his words back, reaching for one of her ears and giving it a tug that was perhaps a bit rougher than usual.

"You- you too, babe. Please..."

The sharp pull went straight to her core, and she gasped, still smiling, head tilting against Barry's hand. She could almost laugh with how close she was now, his pleasure rippling through her like an echo. Pulling her knees up more, gripping Barry's hips, she snapped her hips up hard into him, trying to make her mouth form words around her grin.

She did gasp a laugh as she came, giddy with sensation.

 

He caught his breath and then leaned in to kiss her deeply. Then he laughed a little as he shifted.

"Where'd the wipes go, babe?"

 

"Fuck- left 'em inna drawer," Lup was still gasping slightly, caught up in giggles. "Gonna haft- hafta move, I regret some shit...."

 

He kissed her again and sighed a little. "Clean first, cuddle second. But uh... but I'm pretty sure we're still not leaving here for at least a few more hours."

Leaning over, he reached into the drawer for the wipes and dropped them onto the bed beside them.

 

"Aw fuck no, son, I'm not moving until noon ," Lup grabbed several wipes and tossed the box back in the drawer, frowning slightly.
"We're running low on condoms....feel like we just bought some...."

 

Barry chuckled quietly as he started helping her clean both of them.

"Well, I mean, we have been using a lot of them. Don't know if you noticed."

 

Lup stuck her tongue out at him and flopped onto a new part of the bed that didn't feel like her sweaty back, "Gonna need to get one of those giant ass Costco packs.....or two......keep the whole thing under the bed and hope Tess doesn't go looking for something to play with."

Wriggling under the blankets again, she set her chin on her fist and looked him over fondly.

 

"I can see it now." He rolled to lay on his back and gestured broadly at the ceiling. "We'll come home one day and... and there'll just be condoms everywhere. And there's Tess, calmly sitting in the middle of the floor with one in her mouth like 'hi Mom and Dad, I found your secret stash of cat toys. Why have you been holding out on me?'"

 

Lup threw back her head and cackled, flopping forward to lay on his chest, "We'll be finding them in the corners for weeks , 'oh this one is still not ripped, thinks it's good?'"

 

"Micro-tears, babe. Did you even read the articles you sent me?" He teased, one arm automatically falling around her.

 

“Micro-tears and cat spit , sounds like the next zombie virus movie.....” Lup leaned her head on his chest and frowned, “.......and now I have to pee . Babe, we need.... another bathroom.... very soon....”

 

"Don't know where we're gonna put it. Unless it's going in the basement. There aren't water hook ups anywhere else, babe."

Barry ran his fingers through her hair. "Alternately, we could just like... I dunno, turn the linen closet into a portal to a bathroom somewhere else."

 

“Perfect place for Taako’s spell way to nowhere, piss into the void.”

Lup crawled backward out of bed and headed for the door, pausing to turn and give Barry a fond look,
“.....love you, dork.”

 

"I love you too."

Then Barry sat up, reaching for the shorts she'd left on the bed. He threw them at her and laughed.

"Babe, kids, remember?"

 

Lup scoffed and picked up the shorts, rolling her eyes,
“I changed my mind, we’re adding an entire wing to the house right there -“ she pointed to the far wall, “ just so I can walk naked out of the shower again. Fuck.”

 

He flopped back down and reached for the blanket. "You can get naked again when you come back here."


Oooooh, Mr Bluejeans, Ooooooh~ ” Lup was still cackling as she opened the door.

Chapter Text

Angus was walking down the hallway to his Grandpa’s study knowing something was horribly wrong the walls pressed in on him and the house felt empty. Opening the door, he called for his Grandpa and there was no answer. His stomach dropped as he walked to the big chair at the desk not wanting to see what he knew he would find-

Barry stared at him from the chair eye wide in terror as his edges fuzzed turned to static and he was gone leaving nothing behind but cold COLD-

Angus jolted awake, Tess purring loud in his ear. He managed one, two, three long trembling breaths before he reached a shaking hand up to pet her.

“I didn’t go anywhere did I? That was just a dream?”

Tess purred louder and kneaded his shoulder, claws catching at the skin on his neck and seeming inexplicably heavier.
Muttering, he shoved her off and reached for his glasses.
His room felt heavy, still, too quiet. Even after more than a month, he really wasn’t used to the change in ambient noises from traffic and person voices to crickets and wind and animals going about their business.

Angus did NOT want to be alone right now...

Getting up, he wrapped his blanket around him, clicked for Tess, and walked out onto the landing. He took a few steps towards Lup and Barry’s room, tentatively wondering if they wouldn’t mind him making sure Barry was still... still there -
But the muffle charm was active, hitting his nose strong with the smell of cinnamon.
They were probably freaked out too and wouldn’t want him to get in the middle of it.

Turning, he went downstairs and through the kitchen, knocking on the basement door,
“Keats?”

Keats had tried to sleep. He really, honestly, truly had. But the dim basement that was his room seemed somehow wrong tonight, like he was intruding on a space that he, of all people, should not be in. And at the same time, every noise was too loud and too quiet. He had moved to the floor, wrapping his blanket around him as tightly as he could, and stared defiance at the darkness.

He could almost feel that cold at the edges of him, that nothing that fizzed and tore and seemed to hunger. It wanted to eat him, to consume him, to strip his flesh and leave only the bones that should have been lying in the earth. Tears streamed down his face as he started purring in a desperate effort to soothe himself. The darkness had been his enemy once before, darkness in which there were too many plants and trees for his low-light vision to be useful. And here again, where the enemy was nothing, there was nothing for him to see in that darkness and there was only fear.

And then... and then he heard someone calling his name. It took a minute for him to process that it was Angus and he sat up, grabbing a discarded shirt from the floor and tugging it on over his harness.

"M'awake." He stood up in a pair of pajama shorts and the striped shirt he'd grabbed. "Come on in."

Angus trotted down the stairs, blanket trailing behind him, and peered down at the dim figure of Keats.
He could feel the thrum of the warding circle base under its Tess proof cage, but Keats in the opposite end of the basement seemed much farther away in a way that wasn’t distance.

“Can I sleep in here? I had a nightmare....”

Keats looked up at Angus, eyes catching the light, and he smiled. "Yeah. Yeah... I haven't been sleeping so..."

He walked to the bottom of the stairs, padding silently on the carpet. "Wanna talk about it?"

Angus shrugged, trotting the rest of the way down and leaning into Keats' side as Tess wound through their legs.
Barry's voice came back to him, reminding him he could talk about these things anytime, and maybe.....maybe Keats needed that too. So they could swap.

"Maybe....wanna build a pillow fort?"

Keats grinned and looked around.

“I don’t have as many blankets, but sure, let’s do it.”

Luckily they were able to string some blankets between the couch and the new bed and pile pillows on the floor to accomplish something like a fort.
When they were done Angus pulled Tess into his lap and started petting her, leaning against the old bean bag Lup had come home with one day in triumph.

"I dreamed I was back at Grandpa's and I was gonna find him dead again only it was Barry and he vanished."

He grimaced, burying his face against Tess's fur, "least I wasn't there there....I don't....I don't wanna go back there right now..."

Keats settled, laying on his back next to Angus. He reached over to pat Tess as well.

“I couldn’t sleep because... because every time I closed my eyes, I saw... that... that but it was me instead. And I was just... I was just bones and...”

He scrubbed at his face. And then looked up at Angus.

“You okay?”

“I don’t think so, but that’s fine....” Agnus shuffled more so he was half on the bean bag half on Keats, like he’d seen Lup and Taako do to Barry the last time he and Kravitz had been over for dinner. “It was a big thing of scary bullshit. “

“Are you supposed to say stuff like that? You’re only ten.”

Angus grinned against Keats’ shirt, eyes closing at the contact, “Lup said swearing is a life-long skill and I should learn how to do it right starting now.”

Keats snorted and moved from patting the cat to stroking Angus’ hair like Lup did for him when he was upset. He closed his eyes and started purring again, trying to soothe both of them, “They won’t let it happen. Not again. Not to either of us.”

Angus thought, but did not vocalize, that Barry had been surprised by Lucas and both of them weren’t expecting Edward before.
Getting blindsided happened, and you couldn’t depend on someone to save you just ‘cause they were older .

But that didn’t feel right for this space right now, not when they were both trying to feel safe.

“Do you really think of Lup as... as [mom]?” He fumbled over pronouncing the word, trying to be accurate. “You don’t call Barry ‘dad’....”

Keats was quiet for a long moment, just staring into the near darkness.

“I... I guess I do, yeah. Or at least... You know, she’s what a mom is supposed to be. And I... I never had that before. Eddie and Lili were the ones that raised me.”

He paused for a moment and then grinned.

“The word is [dad].” He said it carefully, stressing the pronunciation so Angus could copy him. “For dad, I mean. And... I dunno, I guess I think of him like that but he also used to...” He paused, making a face. “He dated my brother, it’s weird.”

He sighed and closed his eyes, voice going quiet, “But I guess Eddie wasn’t much of a brother...”

“Yeah, that makes sense....[dad]....” Angus tried the feeling of the word in his mouth. “I had parents but they died. I don’t.... I don’t really remember their faces anymore....Grandpa-“ his voice thinned out and he cleared his throat, “-Grandpa has- there’s pictures but I don’t-“

Giving up, he ran a hand along Tess’s back, feeling the vibration of her purr and Keats’.

Keats hugged Angus, still stroking his hair. Then he smiled, -“[Little brother.] That’s what you are. My little brother. And it’s [big brother] for me.”

In the back of his mind, Keats was thinking, remembering. He’d been twelve the first time he’d met Barry and that wasn’t very old for an elf. Barry had taught him to ride a bike while Eddie watched. He’d helped Keats with his homework. He’d been there for Candlenights, for Thanksgiving, for birthdays, for Beltane. For everything.

Angus’s breathing evened out under Keats’ touch and he nodded, “[Big brother], I’ll remember....”

As he petted Tess, Angus turned over the past weeks in his head. A few of his classmates had step-parents, and the things they called them varied by how long they’d been around, how much they liked them, and in a few cases, what race they were. The few halflings in his class had explained they had words for every way you could be related to someone.

But Lup and Barry were foster parents, and foster parents could change .....

Barry had hugged him and said he was proud of him and didn’t talk like he expected Angus to only understand if he used very small words. And Lup showed him how to make spells and asked pointed questions about how Taako was treating him and showed him how to make his favorite cookies.

His eyes drooped, the day catching up and the warm and stuffy feeling under their [brother] fort was sending him to sleep.

“I think you’re right...s’what parents should be....” he pressed his head against Keats’ hand, “....even if Eddie wasn’t a good brother, now you have me and now you have Tess , so you got all the replacement siblings you need.”

Keats purred harder then, switching without even realizing it from soothing to happy. He had parents, he had a brother. He didn't need Eddie and- He stopped then, thinking. He'd heard Barry a few times cut himself off, change to being absolutely sure he said Edward and not just Ed. Edward. Edward and Lydia.

In that moment, Keats made a conscious choice. He would call them Edward and Lydia and nothing else. They weren't his family. Angus was. Lup and Barry were. Tess was. Even the goats were. Maybe even Taako and Kravitz. But not Edward and not Lydia.

"You're the best [little brother] I could ever want."

“S’good....” Angus was nearly asleep now, assured by the purring and solid presence of them both that he wasn’t alone, “didn’t know I wanted ‘n [big brother] now I got a good one....”

His pronunciation was mangled by accent and sleep, but the words were clear enough before he slid into proper sleep and no nightmares.

Keats stayed awake for a while long, just listening to the quiet. Soon, the purring and Angus' soft breathing were more than enough to lull him into sleep.

Chapter Text

Angus yanked on one of his braids, the smell of catmint hitting his nose as he chewed his pencil and stared at the workbook he had to fill out for school. Lup tended to scoff at them as useless makework and Barry got annoyed with how repetitive they were, but he liked filling them out. The repetition was soothing, and he’d learned a lot about how to rephrase something three different times so it sounded like you were asking three questions not one, and best of all, there was one right answer for every question, you just had to find it.

He was having trouble finding the right one to this one, though.

“They say this spelling rule IS a rule, but there’s, there’s a list of six different exceptions!”

Lup laughed from the sink, rinsing out a glass,

“English is a pidgin language of three different families that got snooty about itself, Ango. Half the rules don’t make sense, and the others only apply to SOME things.”

Angus groaned and shoved the workbook away, yanking on his braid again. He felt a flare of frustration that traveled along his fingers and there was a sting of citrus mixed with catmint and a ckcht .

The bead dropped into his hand, cracked neatly in two. He stared at it, horrified.

“Well, that’s impressive,” Lup had casually moved from the sink to the table in a breath. “Usually those are nigh indestructible while the charm’s new.”

Angus felt like the time he’d been surrounded by three of the big kids who followed him home, one of them had kicked him in the stomach before he’d pushed them away with a gust of wind.

“I’m.... I’m sorry, I didn’t-“ his throat was tightening, making talking hard. Taako had made this for him. “....I didn’t mean to, it- it was an accident....”

“Those happen,” Lup eyed him. Angus was staring at the bead like it was a murder victim, and she could feel his usually tidy magic starting to roil in confused knots, “Hey kiddo, it’s okay . C’mere, I have beads of my own, I’ll redo some of your cornrows while we’re at it, yeah?”

His hand flew to another braid, “do they look bad?”

She grinned and tugged the beadless one, “Nah, Krav did a good job, you’ve just yanked some whispies out.”

Angus still hesitated, looking at the pieces of bead in his hand.  

“....I didn’t mean to....”

Lup’s ears eased down slightly before she moved them back to neutral, “Angus, you didn’t do anything wrong. C’mon, that workbook can wait. ....or be thrown in the fireplace, whichever.”

Angus laughed, a little tremulously, but got up the follow her into the living room.

Once Lup had a brush and a box of charm beads out of her bag, she sat on the couch and directed him in front of her, throwing down a cushion and the box of beads next to it.

“I’ll just redo them one at a time, and you tell me which beads go where, right? That one was for…..focus?”

“Yeah, one of them,” he mumbled, “Taako gave me a lot for focus….”

She snorted and ran her finger over the remaining braids, “he’s projecting like no one’s business.”

Starting with the left most, Lup ran her fingers through Angus’s hair and along his scalp until it was all loose and began rebraiding it again.

“You want ribbon sometime? I have some sparkly kind that’ll add loads of color.” Her voice was grinning and he couldn’t help but smile a little.

“Just beads, Lup, I like, um… I like how they feel. Ribbon isn’t….it doesn’t FEEL right.”

“Totally kosher, lil man,” her fingers were fast and even, not like Kravitz’s slow, soothing ones. But he had been trying to calm Angus out of a panic attack, so maybe that was the difference. Her hand reached forward, “Pick a replacement bead and hand it over, kiddo.”

He blinked and looked down, feeling the tug of his hair against her fingers. He ran his fingers through the variously marked separators and chose one for clarity. He sniffed it, making sure the scent was good before handing it back.

Nice , I like that one’s feel too.” Lup slid it on and wrapped a fastener at the end, “Some of those are magicless, maybe try for complimentary colors and I’ll put two on the ends.”

 

Angus nodded and pulled the box into his lap as she started in on reworking his next one. It wasn’t till she was a third of the way through and had a grip on his head she spoke up again;

 

“You know me and Barry aren’t going to kick you out for messing shit up, right? Like….we haven’t...haven’t implied that somehow?”

 

He froze, fingers that had been trailing through the little containers and stirring up their spell scents stilling in panic.

“N-......no? No, you haven’t….”

 

“Uh- huh ……” Lup kept braiding, “and I know Barry gave you the speech about it being okay to not BE okay, so you know we aren’t expecting some perfect angel of a kid…..actually, that would be scary, and I don’t like it. Scratch that idea from the record.”

 

She reached a hand forward for another bead and he giggled, handing her one,

 

“Nooooo, he told me….”

 

“Good.” Lup tugged his finished braid and started on the next one. Angus stayed alert to more of this conversation, but Lup seemed to be finished, and he relaxed slowly. But once again when she was a third of the way through, she spoke up,

 

“So Taako wouldn’t tell you any of this shit, but we kinda had the same deal as you. Parents died, kicked around various relatives, yadda yadda...that whole time between arriving to a new place and settling in? Total shit show. Didn’t know the rules, might do something normal from the last place and get yelled at in the new one, didn’t know which rule breakings were little stuff or major…. didn’t have the same, uuuuuh, same legal framework, so we just booked it after a while. Gave up on it.”

 

She held out her hand for a bead and he handed her two, one for protection, another magicless glass one.

 

“Oooooh, I remember this one… pretty .”

Angus swallowed, feeling the tug of her wrapping a fastener in his hair and undoing the next, “He didn’t say anything…”

 

“Nah, he hates spilling his sob story unless he can spin it to his advantage.” Lup’s fingers had slowed down from their quick efficiency to a slower, more soothing rhythm. Angus closed his eyes against it. “What’s interesting to me, though, is how you’ve picked up some of the stuff we did without going through most of it.”

 

His eyes flew open again.

 

“I-.....what do you mean, ma’am?”

She tugged his hair as she seperated it, “Oh, you’ve been doing so well usin’ my name and everything.”

 

“Sorry, Lup.”

 

“And don’t you forget it,” Lup smoothed out the locks of hair she had and started braiding, “What I mean is...you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, and panicking when you don’t know the rules. Now, I’m pretty sure I’m not reading your Grandpa as the sort to get loud and throw shit when you were bad-”

“He WASN’T -” Angus whipped his head around to glare at her, never minding the sting on his head. “He was good to me and loved me and he would never-

“Ahhh, no, kiddo, michen, I KNOW that…..” Lup reached out to touch his shoulder gently, “That’s what I’m saying…..

 

“He taught me everything and, and…. and I miss him….”

Angus froze, realizing he was about to cry and not wanting to. Had he ever cried for Grandpa? No, that was one more thing he’d messed up, keeping him alone in the study until Edward-

 

Lup reached out and pulled him up and onto the couch next to her, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and rubbing his back.

“Hey…. hey I believe you, lil’ man, I do….”

 

Her magic flexed, trying to wrap around him like he’d sensed her doing to Barry. Cinnamon and wood smoke wafted across his face and he breathed in trying to calm down.

 

“He… he showed me his will and he…. he made sure I get… get enough money for college and everything….”

 

“I’m leaving it all to you now, Angus. Everyone else is dead or soon will be, and you’ll be smart about it.”

 

“Yeah, that was in the paperwork,” Lup admitted, “S’good chunk there, and some of the interest comes with the stipend we get for feeding you and buying clothes and school shit.”

 

Angus nodded, leaning against her. He was glad they didn’t have to stretch everything to take care of him. He knew they worked and Barry owned the house, but he’d always stretched his pension allowance money as far as he could and ate at school and still there never seemed to be much left at the end.

 

“....but he didn’t leave me to anybody!” The words felt pushed out of a simmering hurt he’d been stuffing down for half a year. “He…. he didn’t- didn’t make plans for what- what did happen, just assumed he would…. would live longer than he did or I would figure it out and I did….” his voice trailed off into a mumble. “I’d already helped him set up the bills to go automatic because he kept forgetting the dates and… and I made my allowance bigger- not by much!” He rushed to add, looking panicked again, “just… just enough I could buy my own food and- and I did figure it out, it was working….” He was muttering again, head pushed into Lup’s side as she ran a hand over his hair and kept her face as carefully blank as she could, pretending not to notice his tears if he was still willing to talk.

 

“I shouldn’t have had to,” Angus said, his voice thick, “he shouldn’t- shouldn’t have made me.”

 

No , no he shouldn’t have, michen, that was nothing you should have had to shoulder, and I’m fuckin’ sorry.”

 

“I’m angry still…. but I miss him and he-“ Angus choked off again, and Lup hugged him tight.

 

“And that’s okay , Angus, you’ve every right to be fuckin’ angry. I’m angry too, because you were alone and scared and he should have known better.”

 

“....but I miss him….”

 

“Yeah well, life is complicated and so are feelings, michen,” Lup ran a hand down his back, feeling grumpy at the way his ribs stood out under her hand. Even if he was a natural bean of a kid, that feeling offended her. Half consciously she started a soft purr.

 

Angus relaxed slowly against her, breathing evening out and his shoulders stopped shaking.

 

“What’s ‘michen’? You call Keats that….”

 

Lup grinned, ears flicking in amusement, “it means ‘little’ in the version of Elvish I speak. You attach it to words to mean ‘smaller’ or ‘lesser’, and as a name it means ‘child’.”

 

“Oh….” Angus thought about that for a while. “Is that the Elvish you and Taako swear in?”

 

Lup laughed hard, “ Yes , yes that is the Elvish we swear in… I learned Quenya later, out of books, which is why Keats looks at me funny sometimes.”

 

Angus nodded, fully relaxed now that he had something new to turn over in his mind, “can you teach me that one?”

 

Lup eyed him and gave one of his redone braids a tug, “if you want. It’s a bitch of a language to learn, though. If you think ENGLISH rules are bad….”

 

He frowned, “but I can try.

 

“You sure can,” Lup tugged a braid on the other side of his head, “want me to finish?”

 

“Yes please,” sliding off the couch, he leaned back into her knees and closed his eyes against the feeling of her hands again.

 

“....so, just to bring it around a little bit,” Lup kept her voice casual, “this is probably something you could bring up with Ms. Silver, like…. literally what she’s there to help you with… and she can’t help if you don’t give her shit to work with.”

 

“Okay…” he handed her another pair of beads.

 

“And Barry and I have plans for if we’re…. indisposed of, or at least I am. We’re not throwing you out to fend for yourself, kiddo. Not until you’re thirty and have your first PhD, anyway.”

 

She patted his head and he grinned.

 

“Yes, Lup.”

Chapter Text

Lup stood in the ‘family planning and feminine hygiene’ aisle at Costco, tapping a nail against her teeth, weighing out costs versus storage versus the length of time she’d have to buy more packages-

Thankfully Keats was off getting the other half of the list they needed for their upcoming beach trip. She’d happily downloaded everyone an app for a shared grocery list and so far she and Angus had been the only ones to bother adding to it.

And while she empathized with Barry and Keats’ wish for physical paper, she did not want to write out four separate lists and compare them.
So she’d opened it for him and sent him out into the wilds of Costco with an added price range for each item in parentheses so he could get used to the inflation of money and such.

That, and she wasn’t sure he knew how much things cost way back when anyway. Lydia and Edward seemed to be the type to throw money at a problem they couldn’t solve with magic.

Dragging her mind back to the aisle in front of her, she grabbed two mega packs.
There was a price drop on them anyway, whatever.

Keats walked through the store, slightly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff. He kept checking over his list, trying to figure out where he could find everything. He also kept looking at the numbers and trying to compare them to what he remembered. Barry complained a lot about how prices had gone up and he was trying to figure it out. Of course, it didn't help that the only thing he could clearly remember paying for was an ice cream sundae at the Woolworths once. He was pretty sure it had been a quarter.

He grabbed the bananas, staring at the them for a long moment and then watching a half-orc woman examining hers. He tried to figure out what she was looking for and then shrugged, just dropping them into the cart. They were bananas. They'd be fine. After a few more things from the list (and a few bulk snacks that weren't on the list), he texted Lup.

- Found everything. Where are you?

-hygiene stuff, look for the shampoo

Lup moved her cart along, chewing her lip as she consulted her list. Honestly, she should just buy a huge tub of shea butter and everyone could deal-

Keats looked up through the sea of aisles and turned towards the one that said shampoo and conditioner. On the way, he grabbed a free sample of cookies and was munching on them when he found Lup.

“Check these out, Mom. They’re giving out cookies and they’re really really good. I mean, not as good as yours, but they’re good. Want me to put everything in one cart? I can push it.”

Lup accepted the cookies thoughtfully, still comparing the various hair texture needs of the household,
“Huh, not bad actually. Little too much sugar, but I bet Barry’ll like ‘em. Yeah, toss everything in, I’m nearly done....”

Grabbing the Shea butter and some more generic stuff, she started rearranging her cart to make room.

“I see you discovered how far mass produced snacks have come.”

His ears flicked back, a little defensive. "They're tasty... And I'm hungry a lot... And you know what they say about trying to feed teenage boys. Me and Angus are gonna need a lot of snacks."

Lup grinned, reaching out to tweak an ear gently, “Relax, michen, we’re going on a road trip so it’s fine. Just ask first next time.”

He started transferring things from one cart to the other, blushing a little at the sheer amount of snack food he'd grabbed. Then he spotted the industrial box of condoms and his ears flicked rapidly between alarmed and confused.

"What uh... what do you...? I thought you couldn't um..." He was rapidly turning more and more red, staring at her and then looking back into the cart and then back at her. "Why do you need condoms?"

He said the last in an undertone, every line of his body looking like he was talking about something awful and bad.

Lup was pushing the extra cart to the head of the aisle to leave it and threw a confused look over her shoulder.

“Because I have a healthy sex life, thank you for asking, what’s the deal?”

“Because... because [neither of you can get pregnant.]”

His ears were pinned to the sides of his head and he was just staring at her, bright red and the blush proceeding rapidly up his ears, “You don’t need them.”

Lup’s ears went back, then tilted in amusement,  “[Gods all witness I’m not having this conversation in the] Costco toothbrush aisle.”

Shoving the extra cart into a more or less out of the way spot, she beckoned to Keats to follow to the checkout line, and deliberately talked about nothing but his choices and how they matched to the price ranges she’d given him, mostly nodding in approval, until they were headed to the car with ‘survived the Costco experience’ yogurt.

“So the army for sure gave you the ‘don’t get the locals pregnant’ speech, and I’m going to assume your brother gave you.... some ideas on how things work, please nod yes or no I don’t want details. So why’s it bother you we use barriers?”

"It doesn't bother me. I'm just confused. We learned about all that, yeah. And Edward taught me... things. But like... if you can't get pregnant and you're not in a communist war zone. Why bother?"

He was still red as a tomato, eating his yogurt with his head down. He was trying to keep his voice calm and level but on one hand, he was extremely confused and on the other he was trying very, very hard not to think about the fact that his parents had an active sex life (and also trying to ignore the things he'd been taught that meant long ago).

“Because you can catch other stuff beyond kids,” Lup said crisply, unlocking the car and starting the loading process, “and Barry might be undead and safe, but I’m not. People are messy microbe machines and more so when-“ she tossed a look over her shoulder at a pair of middle aged halfling women walking by, chatting, and shook her head, grinning.

“Well, use your imagination. Or actually, I can give you resources that’ll actually help you know which questions to ask. Angus too, I guess, he’ll be getting that class soon....”

Keats started putting bags and boxes into the car, considering her words. He chewed his lower lip and paused, oversized box of crackers in his hands.

"I remember them talking about that stuff in training but... People don't get that here, right? I mean... they made it sound like it was an over there problem.” Setting the crackers down, he tilted his head to the side. "Resources for..." And his ears flicked up. "I mean... I... I know how uh... I definitely know how sex works, if that's what you mean."

He turned, grabbing another box and hoping she didn't catch the look on his face as he tried very hard not to think about the parties from the early sixties. He'd usually stayed in his room but it didn't mean he hadn't seen things.

Lup blew a raspberry, “yeah, and they called AIDS a gay men disease for a while, until we voted Reagan out.”

Shaking her head, she tossed one of the packs of snack food into the front for easy access, and tilted an ear at Keats, “and do you know how consent works and how to deal with a body that isn’t yours?”

Keats looked uncomfortable again, ears flicked back. He tossed the last box into the car and grabbed the cart, taking it to the corral to put it away. Then he walked back over.

"Um... no... means... no? I know all the stuff they told us not to do overseas... And like... I dunno, it was all stuff I wouldn't do anyway. If..."

He stopped then and looked away, suddenly uncertain.

Lup was sitting in the driver’s seat as he came back, finishing her yogurt, “Yeah well, a war zone where you’re technically a tool of the imperialist war machine isn’t a fantastic place to learn enthusiastic consent anyway.”

The way her ears flicked suggested this was probably less a joke than her tone implied. Tossing her cup in the car trash bag and starting the car, she threw a look at him,
“So what’s the thing you really don’t wanna say?”


Keats wasn't really paying attention to the conversation Eddie and Lili were having. They had friends over and the four of them were joking about something or other. He was mostly thinking about maybe going for a walk in the woods after dinner, or maybe a swim. He pushed the little mushrooms in their fancy sauce around his plate and looked over. They were laughing at some joke Lili had just made and Eddie leaned forward.

"But anyway, it's like I always say. There's no such thing as a straight elf. Every single one of us is at least a little bent."

Keats kept his ears level and neutral and looked back down at his plate. Eddie was still talking but Keats was back to tuning it out. Maybe... maybe he would go for a run instead. Yeah, that sounded good. Down to the track at the high school. Away from the house for a while.



"I um..." He leaned against the door and stared out the window. Then he closed his eyes tight. "Promise you're not... Promise you won't say anything bad?"

He wanted to hope she would be alright with this, but he couldn't be sure. Every elf he'd ever met had laughed at Edward's jokes, had agreed with what Edward said.

"Edward... used to say stuff. About um... about how all elves are... And... and I never told him. Because I figured there was just something I was missing? That maybe I'd figure it out someday and maybe... I don't know..." He took a breath. "I just like girls. That's all."

Lup’s ears flicked up in amusement and she opened her mouth to say ‘oh is that all?’ And shut it again at the pin of his ears and the clearly nervous line of his shoulders.

She reached over to ruffle his hair before backing the car out, “michen, if I’m reading your brother right, please think about the types of elves he’d prefer hanging around anyway. There’s plenty with preferences only one way or another.” She snorted, “hells, Taako’s so fucking gay, he could- can- shoot rainbows out his butt....”

Keats looked startled and turned, staring at her.

"But Lydia agreed. Everyone agreed." His ears flicked up. "It's okay? Because... because I..."

And then he looked excited and the floodgates opened. He bounced a little in his seat, a huge smile of relief on his face.

"I met this really pretty girl and... and I sort of wanted to say something but I was nervous. Plus I don't really know how to talk to her. I mean, I've been trying. She laughs at my jokes and stuff, so I think she likes me. But I don't know how to tell her I like her. Plus there's the whole like... dating while dead issue, I guess? How do I kiss her without it being cold and weird?"

As he spoke, his words blurred together more and more with excitement and nervousness. On one hand, it was his first time really talking about a crush. On the other, it was the first time he'd felt alright talking about a crush.

Lup laughed, caught off guard by his sudden enthusiasm,
“Okay well first of all, hells yes it’s okay, girls? Girls are amazing . Secondly, is she human and still in high school, because there’s, uuuh, some issues with that until she’s officially of age and all.....”

She gave him a fond, sideways smile, “and thirdly, figuring out talking is way more important than the temperature difference. Some things can be worked around.”

"She's on Angus' bus. Her name's Savannah and she's just... she's really pretty and smart and funny and... Right, uh... she's um... she's a senior and a tiefling."

He ducked his head for a second and then smiled back up at her.

"I really am trying to figure out the talking. But sometimes I get excited and the wrong slang comes out. And... and I don't know how to explain it. And I never was any good at talking to girls even then. I just... Girls are pretty and my brain goes stupid."

Lup started laughing so hard tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes and she missed the turn for the freeway,
“Oh fuck , oh holy shit, michen, that’s a mood, you don’t even- “

Giggling, she turned down a side street to get them right.
“Gods witness, that eventually gets better I’m told , but get caught off guard by one gorgeous woman and you start aaaaalll over again....”

Wiping at her eyes with the heel of her palm, Lup breathed until she was calm and they were on the freeway again.

“Cool, so she’s in the neighborhood as much as that means anything. We can cook up a story for you while we wait till Kravitz comes up with your real person papers, so you at least can explain the slang. Starting off with ‘I was dead for fifty years but this past Beltane-‘ isn’t going to help you much with friendships, except the kinds you maybe don’t want.”

He nodded a little and leaned back in his seat. It felt really good getting to talk. It felt good, it felt right. He smiled over at her.

"I wanted to ask her on a date but I wasn't sure what people do anymore. I tried google and uh... it got really confusing. Plus I guess... I dunno... I know I've got all this weird stuff and I know I learned things from... from my brother and sister that were bad. And I guess I'm just... worried about screwing up? I don't know what would be worse... if she doesn't like me or if she does until she realizes I'm... not alive."

"Worrying about screwing up is better than not caring when you do, honestly," Lup tapped one fingernail against her teeth, actually starting to think about it. Gods, she hadn't going on a date dated in a couple decades, not since before Luce.....She briefly considered asking Taako and discarded this idea as regrettable.

"Movies are good, not in the 'lets get into a dark room at the back of the theater' way, but because it's got a beginning and an end and you have something to talk about when it’s over and you know it's gone good if she wants to get food after."
She hummed, giving him a sympathetic look, "The whole dead thing is just gonna be part of your life, michen, I'm sorry. It sucks and isn't fair."

"It's not fair..." He sighed a little. "But I guess there's nothing I can do about it."

As they were driving along, he turned to look at her, deep in thought. Then he tilted his head, curious, "How come you don't mind that BB is cold? Isn't it weird?"

Lup tilted a hand back and forth, "Ehn, I've made out with dragonborn and dwarves, everyone's got their thing . You can get used to anything, you do it enough,” Her ears tilted into amusement and her tone went sly, "And slash or enjoy it a whole lot ~ "

Keats covered his eyes with one hand and tugged on an ear with another.
"Mom!" He made a face. "I can't know that! Don't tell me that! Can we just... pretend I never asked??"

Lup cackled loud, reaching out a hand to shove his shoulder, "Nooooo takebacksies! This is for your education , boyo!"

He made a frustrated, embarrassed sound and pulled down in his seat.

"I didn't want this kind of education." Then he smiled a little. "But... thanks. I think. If I do ask her out, is there um... can I borrow the car? Or I guess get a ride, but that would be really embarrassing."

"NoPE!" Lup pops the end syllable, and gets into the exit lane, "Not until you've passed your driver's test and are all legal and shit. Also? If I find out you've been sneaking weed or alcohol and driving, I will kick your ass to Canada and back, just so's we're clear."

"I thought you were the cool parent." Keats shook his head a little, grinning. "Don't worry, I won't. I don't even really like that stuff. I don't like feeling like I'm not in control of myself."

Then he blinked a few times and looked at her, "You didn't say if you'd drive us or not."

"Oh for sure, I will deffo drive you and the cute girl you are taking out on a date to wherever you want me to go and ask her all the questions about her family and college plans and political leanings....."

Keats groaned and leaned forward, his head in his hands, "Fine! I'll figure out how the bus works!"

Lup cackled again, shaking her head, "C'mooooon, I gotta commit to the whole aesthetic here. Mom jeans and aprons and shit, the whole nine yards."

She gave him a fond look as she turned down their drive, ".....you'll do okay, michen, you're a good kid and you ask questions without assuming you know the answer. Which let me tell you.....head and shoulders above a lot of people, for sure."

Keats smiled at that and reached back to grab one of the bags from the back.

“Thanks, Mom.”

He checked the time and grinned. He could go meet the school bus in an hour. Maybe this time, he’d say something.

“What’s even showing? Is it any good?”

Lup frowned, her hands full of a box making it hard to check her phone,

“Not sure... but if she suggests a Marvel movie, tell her you haven’t seen the last couple and that’ll be good reason enough. So fuckin’ many-“

Opening the door and shoving Tess back with a foot, hers ears twitched in amusement,
Or you could try the old theater that’s always showing older shit. Catch up on some classics.”

Keats nodded and grabbed a few more things, carefully balancing a fairly large stack of bags and boxes. Setting them down on the porch, he came back for more.

"I should probably go for the new stuff... Explaining why I haven't seen older movies feels harder. Plus Dad said there's some stuff I should ask you and him about before watching because its war stuff."

He didn't seem to realize what he'd said until he had the next pile of groceries in his arms and was carrying them to the porch. His ears flicked up and he went bright red.

Lup’s ears were up and she deliberately did not turn the wide smile taken over her face towards him,

“That makes sense. On the other hand, some of those old movies are from before she was born, so you might get away with it.”

She was chewing her lip trying to tame the smile as she put groceries away, piling the excess amount of snack food on the table for easy packing later.

Keats started carrying things inside and set several large boxes on the counter.

"I'll talk to her today." Then he chewed his lower lip. "But that still doesn't help if she realizes how cold I am all the time... Do I lie?"

“Looking uncomfortable and saying it’s a medical condition might stave off most questions for a while.” Lup reached out and gave him a hug as she passed the table, “hey, ask Angus. He’s tops at thinking up technically true if not accurate ways of describing stuff.”

"I'll try that." Then he groaned. "But I won't be able to until after I talk to her because they're on the same bus."

Keats scrubbed at his face and then went back outside for the rest of the groceries.


Angus swung his legs impatiently as the bus pulled up to his stop, tapping the cover of his new book. He wanted to get home and ask Lup about baking chemistry, now that he knew how baking soda worked. 

Next to him, Savannah leaned over his shoulder, looking out the window, “Is that your brother waiting for you?”

Her tone was pretending to be casual, but her tail had curled around her ankle, so Angus figured she was actually excited.
Besides, she knew what Keats looked like.

“Yup! Barry has his appointment after work today, so he gets to pick me up!”

Savannah was nice, and didn’t talk down to him like some of the other kids, and she was teaching him some words of Infernal to use in spells, so he didn’t really mind when Keats looked right over his head at her face instead.
His books said Keats especially needed friends at this stage of his life, and Savannah was very cool, like Lup. Maybe now he could invite her over to try those spells.


Lydia tapped the glass, adjusting the angle as she watched Keats, the mouse boy, and NOW a bloody tiefling girl of all things walk down the road... really, Keats had no taste at all.

“Leaving them alone seems to have done the trick, at least. No traveling wards at all, and they still let the boys walk home alone.” She shook her head

Edward leaned over her should, trying to get a look into the glass. He made a face when he saw the image and shook his head.

“Is he flirting with that imp girl?” Then he took a breath, focusing himself. “Good, good. With any luck, they should give us something we can use. You know how Barry enjoys his little road trips.”

Still, irritation was clear in his eyes as Keats ducked his head and smiled shyly, clearly asking the girl something.

Trying to, anyway,” Lydia looked on in discontentment as the girl laughed and pulled her phone out, asking a question. Keats looked momentarily panicked before Angus tugged his arm, holding his own phone out.
“Oh for fucks sake, he needs a mouse child as a wingman. Ed, we’ve clearly been slacking on his education.”

Edward casually slung an arm around Lydia's shoulders.

"And we can correct that shortly. Just as soon as we've remade him, darling sister."

As they watched, the tiefling girl moved closer to Keats. Her hand just barely brushed his and Keats took a breath and took a chance, holding her hand. She looked just a little surprised but laced her fingers together with his as they walked.

"Which I rather hope we can do soon." Edward sneered. "Are you certain this viewing can follow them through the wards?"

Reasonably sure, not certain,” Lydia replied crisply, “I won’t be sure until it does . But the extra layers I added and the lack of power diversion from audio should- ah, there we are....”

Keats and Angus were waving goodbye to the tiefling girl and heading up their driveway. The mirror fuzzed briefly, and Lydia laid a hand on the frame, adding power, “come on , come on .....”

The picture restabilized, though with a grainy appearance. Lydia smiled in satisfaction,

Quite certain. Now. What sort of ridiculous set up do they have....Barry always was too fond of white picket fences.”

Keats stopped, looking around briefly. He shouted something and then headed towards the backyard.

Edward gestured at the image. "As you can see, his tastes haven't much changed. Oh, and they have a cat." Then he raised an eyebrow. "Oh look, the bitch and I agree about something. She made him get rid of the dead bushes." He sounded bored more than anything else.

“A stopped clock and all that,” Lydia tapped the glass and it fuzzed harder. Grimacing, she adjusted it to the backyard, “no peeking inside, I suppose. How mutts like those two got so much talent, I just don’t understand. Perhaps because they’re twins....”

Angus was standing at the back door calling inside until Lup appeared, eyebrows raised. Angus hopped around her, grinning and pointing at Keats, and Lup laughed before shoving him towards the goat pen with a clear order.

Keats was already working on getting to get the goats out, yelling something as one of them tried to chew on his jacket. But he got the lead rope on and hauled one of the goats over to where they were grazing today.

Edward checked his nails. "A garden and goats? Ugh... Poor Keats is practically living on a farm." Then he scowled. "Can you make it follow her into the house?"

Lydia tapped again and the fuzzing came back, “Ugh, not in the least.”

Lup looked up, ears tilted thoughtfully and Lydia cursed in elvish, pulling the perspective back much higher, “[Halfway bitch] is too clever for our own good.”

With the perspective higher, they could see as the chevy pulled into the driveway in front of the house and Barry got out, headed towards the front door.

Edward's head snapped up. "There! Follow him. We both know he won't notice."

Lydia shook her head, tapping to focus on Barry, “I’m not going to be able to get into the house without tipping our hand. They’ve mixed their magic with.... three or four others at this point. I can’t draw a bead on any specific one to slip past.”

Angus came running around to the front yelling a greeting to Barry, waving a grade sheet in clear triumph.

Barry caught Angus in a hug and took the grade sheet, looking it over and asking questions.

"Fine, fine..." Edward looked around the image and his eyebrows went up. "Is that a suitcase on the porch?"

He dug out his phone, quickly pulling up the twitter for the local school system. He turned to smile at Lydia as he checked the dates.

"Would you look at that? The last day of school for the little mouse was today. Now all we have to figure out is where they're going..."

As if summoned, Lup opened the front door, a paper map book in one hand, her phone in the other. She shook her head at Barry, clearly saying his name as she shook the map at him. Lydia’s ears snapped up and she held her hand in a hover over the mirror, ready to zoom in.

“Come on, come on, open it, ridiculous [halfway bitch], you know you want to-“

Lup did not open the map, tossing it instead on the suitcase, reaching out to cup Barry’s cheek and kiss him in greeting, before holding her phone in front of him with a-

THERE!

Lydia zoomed in fast to get a clear picture of the road map on Lup’s phone, pulling it off the mirror and throwing it into a glass bowl of water where it hovered.

Lup’s ears went straight up and she turned to look them in the face, though her gaze looked through them. Her face twisted into a snarl and she held out a hand. The mirror image went grey and the mirror cracked .

Edward leaned in to examine the image floating in the water. Turning towards Lydia again, he had a smug look on his face. There was the coastline with a line running up it and a few stops marked. There was also a search for an ice cream shack, by name no less. But of course they would be looking for that one. It was Keats’ favorite.

“Would you look at that? So predictable.”

Lydia ran a hand mournfully over her mirror before turning to Edward, “never complain of your enemy’s stupidity, brother dear. But after that stunt, the bitch will probably be putting extra protections around the boys at least. I hope your trick with Barry works as you think it will.”

Chapter Text

Keats lay on his stomach across his bed while music played on the radio in the corner and Angus poked through the language app on his phone. He was trying to learn to speak Elvish in an almost defensive way, trying to make sure he was keeping up with Lup and Keats, and Keats was trying to help. It was slow going though and Keats' ears were flicked back with frustration. He leaned over Angus' shoulder, skimming the phrase. The people eat the bread. This one should be easy but Angus had scrunched his eyebrows together in concentration. Then he hit the button to record.

"I núr m-medi- i bas?"

Keats looked at him oddly and then swung around to sit on the edge of the bed.

"No, no, not like that." His ears flicked into a neutral position and he laughed a little. "I mean, unless you're trying to sound like some backcountry West Virginia wood elf. Honestly, Angus."

Both boys stared at each other for a long moment and Keats went pale. Had those words really just come out of his mouth? Gods, he'd sounded like Edward. Angus' eyes were wide and he looked... uncomfortable? Confused? Keats wasn't sure and both options hurt. He started to reach out, opening his mouth to apologize, and Angus dropped his phone, running up the stairs. For a long moment, Keats just sat there with his head in his hands, anger and confusion building in him. He needed to work through this. He needed to figure out what had just happened and make sure it never happened again. Staring at his hands, he tried to think and then landed on an idea. Lup always went out to work on the wood pile when she was angry. Maybe he could do that too? It wasn't like he couldn't chop a little wood. He stood, grabbing his jacket and jamming it on roughly as he all but stomped up the stairs and stormed through the kitchen. Barry was just turning the water off, setting a dish aside.

"Ango, you okay, bud?" Then he saw Keats head out the back door and the door slammed. "Kiddo? Keats?"

 

Barry pulled off his gloves and set them on the back of the sink. Alright, the boys had clearly had a fight. Time to see what the damage was. He stuck his head into the living room and saw Angus already pulling down a book and flopping on the couch, Tess at his side. Angus was fine. Or at least, Angus was something he could deal with later. Going to the back door, Barry looked out into the yard and saw Keats grabbing the wood axe. He set one of the logs up to be split and yelled loudly as he brought the axe down into the wood. It didn't split smoothly like when Lup did it, but Keats also wasn't cheating with magic. Barry stepped out into the yard, letting the door close more quietly.

"Everything okay, Keats?"

 

Keats looked up and his ears flicked back. For just a moment, he looked defiant. Then he looked down at the ground.

"I didn't mean to say that stuff to Angus. It just came out... and... and I didn't mean it." He took a breath and then dropped the axe. "I... I don't... I don't want to be like him and I don't know how to make it stop because it just keeps coming out."

For a long moment, Keats just stood there with his shoulders slumped and Barry watched him. Then Barry closed the distance between them and hugged Keats tightly.

"Buddy, it's... I mean, alright, it's not okay, but it's something you can work on. You know it's a problem and that means you can fix it." He looked down at the axe and the woodpile and then gave Keats a wry smile. "I know this is uh... I know it's what Lup does when she's mad, but how about we try something else, huh?"

 

Keats gave him a little nod and Barry turned, leading him towards the back of the property. There was a trailhead there, one that they had cleared out and cleaned up. It led into the woods and up a rise into where Barry had played as a boy.

"Where are we going?"

Keats looked around a little and Barry smiled, pushing Keats forward a little.

"Just up into the woods a little. Far enough that you can uh... can yell if you want to and not bother anybody."

 

They walked further, through the trees and past flowering bushes. All the while, Barry was silent, waiting for Keats to say something first. And as they walked into a clearing, he did.

 

"It's just... it's not fair. " The words exploded out of him and Keats flung his arms wide, turning around. "I shouldn't have to worry about not being like my brother. He... he should've been someone I could want to be like. I thought... Dammit, I always thought he was."

His voice was pitching up as it got louder and Barry nodded, letting the young man vent for now. Edward and Lydia had always hidden their emotions, had been teaching Keats to do the same. How long had he been suppressing this? It was impossible to know.

"I just wanted to help people. I thought... I thought that's what they had done. I thought that's what they were doing. But no! They were killing people and stealing magic and... and... hurting people. I thought he loved you and now I don't think either of them even know what love is. And just- FUCK . I just want to go back to not knowing but that's even worse because then I'd still be doing things but without realizing they're wrong."

 

Barry leaned against a tree, watching him and considering. Then he nodded.

"Listen, I know it's pretty much shit. I did... I did the same thing, you know? Woke up one day and found out that everything I thought I knew was a lie. And it took Lup for me to see it. You're doing alright, Keats. You just... you're angry and I get that. You just have to find the right way to work it out. And uh... and don't let it consume you." He grabbed a rock off the ground, weighing it in his hand. Then he handed it to Keats. "Huck that into the trees and see if it helps. Think about uh... think about something bad and just... throw it."

Keats took the stone and stared at it for a long moment. Then he turned towards the woods and flung it as hard as he could into the bushes.

"I hate him!" Barry was startled by the vitriol, the vehemence, in Keats' voice. "He's a selfish asshole and he hurt everyone! And I can't get his voice out of my head, telling me who I'm supposed to be and I don't want it! I don't wanna be like that!"

Keats turned towards Barry, tears pouring down his face. He was shaking.

"What if I can't make it stop? What if I have to fight against that for... forever?"

 

Barry hugged Keats tightly, letting the young man cry himself out while he rubbed his back.

"Keats, buddy, have you talked to the therapist about this? I mean... I know this is a lot and... and shit, but sometimes I wish I realized what they were doing to you so I could've done something about it. But we can do something now and..." He took a breath and pulled back so he could look Keats in the face. "No matter what happens, we're not gonna let them anywhere near you again if we can help it. And... and you don't have to be afraid to show your emotions anymore or to say you think something is wrong. Alright?"

Keats nodded a little and then smiled, hugging Barry again.

"I'll try and remember. Thanks... thanks."

Then Keats groaned.

"And now I have to go apologize to Angus for saying something stupid without thinking. Again."

Barry nodded a little and then ruffled Keats' hair.

"Come on, let's go. And we'll figure out some other stuff to help too, alright?" He paused for a moment. "And Keats? The fact that you're actually apologizing? Saying you're sorry and trying to like... learn from it? That's a lot better than anything your brother ever did."

Keats had turned towards the path to head home and he stopped, looking back at Barry.

"What's that supposed to mean? He apologized for stuff all the time... I think. I mean, I remember Lydia telling him to make sure he apologized."

For a moment, Barry's face was shadowed. Then he sighed.

“Buying someone something and then never changing isn’t an apology, Keats. It’s manipulation.”

 

Chapter Text

Barry stowed the last of the bags in the trunk and double checked that the backseat had a trash bag and all the snacks the boys had wanted. Plus there was the little drinks cooler to pack and Angus had mentioned something called license plate bingo that he still needed to google before they hit the road.

There was also the matter of portable wards. They’d spent a few days working with Taako and Lucretia to come up with the system they’d settled on. It should serve to obscure their presence from anyone who was looking and to keep strangers out. If that wasn’t enough to keep Edward and Lydia from finding them, well... Barry didn’t want to think about that.

He turned towards the sound of a car and smiled as Lup pulled in.

“How’d Tess get on with Luce?”

Lup rolled her eyes as she got out of the Chevy, her prejudice against manual transmissions slowly being worked out of her as the need to swap around cars happened more and more.

Lucretia , the determined sayer of ‘not a pet person’ past, had a selection of cat food and canned meats ready to bribe our daughter into submission, and I swear I saw a mini cat tree in the dining room.”

Kissing Barry’s cheek, she glanced into the trunk, ears pricked happily, “nearly done?”

“I told you she was lying when uh... pretty much everything she said about not liking cats. Or at least Tess. You can’t not like Tess. It’s basically illegal.”

Barry closed the trunk and hugged her around the waist.

“Almost. Just a couple more things...” He chuckled and whispered low. “And the latest round of 'google what Angus offhandedly mentioned'. Should just be like... ten minutes tops?”

Keats she’s back!
Angus appeared on the porch and bounced down the walkway, his bag looking suspiciously squarish for someone who had been given a book space limit and told to pack clothes .

“He’s starting to find things I need to google, that boy is a menace with a library card-“

Lup narrowed her eyes at said child and his backpack,
“How many pairs of underwear are in that bag, Angus?”

“Five,” he said, promptly, which heightened her suspicions even more, “and six pairs of socks because it’s the beach in case I need extra.”

“Uh- huh , and what amount of actual shorts and shirts have you packed in around the books?”

He gave her his most innocent little boy look, “Enough for five days, ma’am!”

Keats, by comparison, had managed to get his luggage folded down into a hilariously small amount of space. Of course, he’d used the rest of his allotted packing space to tuck in a few extra books for Angus and the tablet he, strictly speaking, hadn’t been told not to pack. It had just been implied. Heavily.

But he’d been talking Savannah late into the night last night and he wanted to keep talking to her. They’d spun a pretty good not-really-a-lie about him being from one of those insular Elven Houses which was why he was trying to catch up on the world constantly. And she was more than happy, she said, to help him. She also said she thought it was cute when he blushed so badly that his ears turned red.

Barry looked at the both of them as Keats paused in putting his bag into the backseat. The young man hesitated and then set his bag down. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he turned towards Lup.

"I'll go finish you. You wanna handle bag inspections? Or are we just gonna make it their problem if they don't have enough clothes?"

He grabbed the small cooler to head towards the house to finish filling it.

"Oh! Merle said Mavis is gonna help him with the goats so he's good and we don't have to worry about a thing. And uh... and I'll text Taako and let him know we're on the road once I've got this in, if you're good to drive the first leg."

Keats had just gotten his bag settled on the floor when the tablet hidden inside, wrapped in a t-shirt, took that exact moment to ding with multiple messages.

“Yeah, that’s fine, I-“ Lup’s ear swiveled towards Keats and she turned to stare into the backseat as Angus looked serenely innocent and stared at his phone.

“Fuck! Fine! On your own heads be it! And by ‘it’ I mean figuring out laundry!”

Pinning Keats with a glare, Lup’s ears flicked, amused. “.... and if you’re going to be sneaky figure out how to mute that thing, crying out loud.”

Keats looked just slightly guilty and dug through his bag for the tablet.

"It was muted um... for everyone but Savannah... and uh..."

He looked up at her and then dropped into his seat, grinning when he recognized the set of her ears. "I'll be sneaky better next time, Mom."

Barry came back out with his phone in one hand and the cooler in the other. He set it in the backseat between the boys and looked at the two of them, shaking his head.

"If either of you get carsick back here, just remember I warned you." Then he dropped a trash bag next to the cooler and went to the passenger's seat, still typing out his message to Taako.

We're hitting the road. One of us will text when we've got the wards up. Be back soon.

“I don’t get carsick,” Angus announced, leaning forward to dig through his bag and get out his first book, “Lup, if I got a kindle, I wouldn’t take up so much packing room....”

Lup snorted, turning the car on, “you make a valid point, kiddo. Seatbelts , everyone!”

Angus giggled, opening his book to the marker he’d left.

Barry’s phone buzzed,

- have a chill time, homie, tell Lulu to get me an ugly souvenir

Barry chuckled quietly and flicked the radio on. Quiet music started to play and he smiled over at Lup. This was going to be a good trip, he could feel it.


Angus was penned in by dark stone walls glistening with moisture and the roar of the sea in the distance. Moving forward he could hear echoes down the long carved tunnel that resolved into voices as he got closer.

“Six days is not enough time to make a proper simulacrum, Ed, not if you want it to last . Yes, you can pour power into it before the deadline but that just means it will disintegrate when it reaches the end of its life faster!”

“Better than depending on the halfling’s harness, Lyds! That was part of the problem , him being able to wander off on his own. We can rush job this and set another one to baking properly!”

Angus knew that voice and didn’t like it. He hugged the wall and peered around the corner. Edward and Lydia were glaring at each other over a stone slab with a. Body. On it. Keats’ body was on it and it was wrong-

Lydia’s eyes snapped from Edward’s face to meet Angus’s eyes.

Angus McDonald , you will forget this dream!”

His eyes snapped open, his head jerking up from where it had been laying on Keats’ leg.

“Whazzagon?”

Keats had been leaning back while he chatted on his tablet, a big grin on his face. They were making plans for when he got back. Not for the movies, since she had said he couldn't possibly see Infinity War without seeing the other ones first. Then her eyes had gone huge and she declared they were going to binge them properly. But they weren't making plans for that yet. No, they were currently making plans for a hike. She was really into outdoorsy stuff and had a trail she wanted to show him.

When Angus spoke, he looked down and then looked out the window. It wasn't until that moment that he realized he could see the ocean.

"We're almost there! Look! Look! The ice cream shack!" He dropped his tablet, totally forgetting about it as he rolled his window down to let the salt air smells in.

Angus rubbed his eyes, feeling disoriented and not fully in his body. Keats’ shouting and the sea breeze helped ground him and he was distracted from the feeling he really ought to remember something....

Lup rolled her own window down, grinning broadly, “I guess that’s a cue for us, babe.”

Barry sighed. "Alright, let's go get the kids some ice cream."

He had distinct memories of coming to this place decades ago and getting a soda while everyone else got ice cream. So when they pulled in and he saw frozen yogurt on the menu, he let out a whoop of excitement.

Keats was laughing and stumbled getting out of the car. "Come on, Angus! This place has the best ice cream ever. And there's a sundae that's bigger than my head!"

Angus blinked, looking over at the adults, “Hey Lup , can we-“

“You can split one, sure why not.” Lup was also scanning the outside menu, her eyebrows raising, “Hey baller, they have local goats milk ice cream. I wonder if they’ll share any tips....”

The half elf behind the counter blinked and looked at them, somewhat surprised before his customer service face smoothed over and he smiled,
“What can I get for you folks today!”

"I wonder which I'd do better with..."

Barry was considering that as Keats pointed excitedly at the sundae and then at him and Angus. "We want one of those!" He was practically bouncing up and down in excitement, ears straight up.

Smiling at that, Barry ordered a chocolate frozen yogurt and watched the half elf behind the counter, stepping aside so Lup could order. He started to pull out a five and then looked up at the menu again, doing some quick math before just pulling out a credit card.

Lup leaned on the counter, flashing the cashier her most winning of smiles, and asking for his recommendations on flavors. Once she’d ordered, she nipped the five out of Barry’s wallet and tossed it in the tip jar, blowing him a kiss,

“I’ll get dinner, babe!”

Barry tensed just slightly as he waited for their ice cream and exhaled slowly, mentally counting down from twenty. It was the one thing he still had trouble with. Too many nights spent in jealousy while Edward was with someone else that he just hadn’t been able to shake. He reached for her hand and squeezed it, half just reminding himself that it wasn’t like that anymore. This was just how Lup was. That was all. He looked at her and then relaxed again. He kissed her cheek and smiled at her.

“Sounds good to me.”

Keats was watching through the window while the ice cream was scooped and he kept looking back at Barry and Lup with a huge smile on his face. Angus had found them a table outside, facing down the street that lead to the beach, and he was raised up on his knees in his chair trying to see all the way.

Lup leaned into his touch, ears flicked up happily as she watched Keats, giving the cashier an extra smile as she accepted her and Barry’s cups. As Keats carried out the fucknormous bowl of ice cream to where Angus was waiting, she muttered in an undertone to Barry;

“I did not realize that routine is not going to work when I have kids with me, Holy shit.”

"Honestly? I uh... I'm sort of okay with that?" He gave her a little smile. She knew his past. She would understand what he meant.

Lup glanced at him, ears flicking in surprise, before pinning back slightly. A trickle of shame eased across their link.

“Aw shit.... sorry, babe....”

Keats put the sundae down and held out a spoon victoriously to Angus. "Tada! One sundae, bigger than my head, as promised." He dropped down to sit next to him and started digging in.

Angus’s attention was dragged away from the almost view of the ocean to the platter of ice cream, his eyes going round, “Holy fuck!

Barry turned to frown slightly at Angus. “Language, buddy.” Then he looked back at Lup and leaned in to kiss her cheek.

“It’s okay, babe. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. And I didn’t wanna be all... all this makes me jealous so don’t do it. It’s not like you’re gonna run off with the kid from the ice cream stand. And I know that. Just have to remind myself sometimes.”

Lup grimaced, “Yeah well... I don’t have to be a bitch about it either....”

Angus spoke around his giant bite of ice cream, “I’m just imitating the example set by my role models! I’m at a very impressionable age, you know-“

Barry took a big bite of his yogurt and leaned against Lup, sending love and reassurance down their bond. Then he pointed his spoon at Angus.

“Alright, but next lesson, kiddo. There are some places you don’t cuss. Like when there are littler kids around. Got it? Never be the reason some poor person has to write 'shit' as their kid’s first word in the baby book.”

Keats was laughing at that and then tossed the cherry from the top of the sundae at Angus. “Here. I don’t eat these.”

“Yes, sir,” Angus picked up the cherry with a curious look and bit into it. His face twisted in disgust the next moment and he threw it in the direction of a seagull that had been eyeing them.

Yuck , neither do I -“

Barry laughed at Angus and reached over to ruffle his hair. "Try real cherries. Those things are uh... they're basically sugar and crimes masquerading as dessert."

Keats nodded in agreement, a cheerful look on his face and his tone just as chipper. "Their existence definitely breaks at least one of the Geneva Conventions. I'm sure of it."

Lup grinned, resting her head on Barry’s and appreciating her ice cream,

“So- new thing to buy: ice cream maker. Let’s see if I can get this sh-“ a glance at Angus and a grin, “ stuff right before Starbuck starts producing and we’re drowning.”

Angus nodded and took another large bite of ice cream to clear the taste of fake cherry out of his mouth,

“C’n we ‘alk d’n an see the oc’n?”

Lup raised an eyebrow at him, scraping the last of her ice cream, “Wanna try that once more with feeling?”

Swallowing, Angus grabbed a napkin and dabbed exaggeratedly at his face.
“Can we walk down the street to the ocean after this, ma’am?

His smile was extremely sunny and innocent, and Lup’s ears tilted in amusement.
“You sound more and more like Taako every day. Yes we can, and that cute face of yours won’t last forever, kiddo.”

Keats looked up, excited. "Can we swim too, Mom? Or do we have to wait? If I take my shoes off, can I wade? I won't get sand in the car. I promise." His ears flicked up in excitement and he shoveled in another oversized scoop of ice cream.

Lup shrugged,
“Let’s stick with shoes off only until we’ve checked in and have access to a shower.”

Angus brightened and took another bite before scooting his chair away,
“I’m done!”
Barry laughed and pushed the stack of napkins towards the boys. "Calm down there, buddy. Finish your ice cream. The ocean's not going anywhere."

They could hear the gulls overhead, easily smell it, see the sun glancing off of it in the distance, and hear the waves in quieter moments. Admittedly, Barry was just slightly nervous about the ocean. He wasn't a great swimmer in general and there was also that looming issue of 'can a ghost swim in salt water?' that had been in the back of his mind. He hadn't come up with a good reason why not, but it was still something to be aware of.

Angus mopped his face and bounced wildly in his seat. He wanted to take off his shoes now right now . He’d been feeling the rush of the ocean since getting out of the car, and it felt... it felt like the Beltane fire only massive . He wanted to see it.

Keats smiled and grabbed the sundae, cramming the rest in his mouth and then tossing it into the trash.

“Come on!” Then he stopped short and looked back, ears flicked back. “Mom, Dad? Can we go ahead or should we stay with you?”

Barry shrugged at Lup. He didn’t see why they wouldn’t be alright.

“We’ll be right behind you. Just uh... just don’t get in the water until we catch up. How’s that sound, Lup?”

“For sure for sure,” Lup waved them out, gathering their trash with deliberate slowness.

Angus whooped and chased Keats up the street, blood pounding in his ears and feet pounding in time with the surf he could hear-

They reach the rise at the top of the street and Angus froze, poleaxed with wonder.

It was so.......... big .

The part of him that liked to read the thesaurus and dictionary for fun kept trying to throw words like ‘massive’ and ‘awe-inspiring’, and they were thin words without the depth to them needed for this.

Maybe you couldn’t put words to it.

Slowly, he stepped forward, stumbling a little as his shoes hit the sand, and he stopped again, looking up and down the coast.
He could feel the ancient cold powerful strength of the tide moving in its endless cycle, and he felt very small and insignificant as he stood there.

Keats stopped, trying to tug his sneakers off and then turned. He was surprised to see Angus standing stock still and then realized, ears flicking straight up and a smile crossing his face.

"Never seen the ocean before, [little brother?]"

He walked back and held out his hand. "Come on. It's big, but it's not too scary once you get used to it."

Keats knew the power of the sea as the feeling of splashing in the waves, as letting them crest over his head and laughing as they tried to tug him off his feet, as standing a the edge of the water and letting it pull away the sand around his feet. He didn't feel the magic in it and never had. He didn't understand what Angus was feeling in that moment and had no idea it was even there to feel.

“It’s.... it’s just so big ...” there were tears leaking out of the corners of Angus’s eyes and he gripped Keats’ hand tight. “It’s old ....”
He bent double trying to unlace his shoes, not letting go of Keats’ hand.

Keats toed his own shoes off and tugged his socks off to leave them on the shore. Then he bent down to help Angus get his shoes off faster.

"Come on, come on, come on."

The moment they got Angus' shoes off, Keats picked him up and kept moving towards the ocean, very much pretending he was going to throw the younger boy into the water.

Angus clung tight to Keats’ neck,
“Don’t..... dontdontdont- [big brother] please-

“Hey, I thought we said don’t go in the water!”

Lup came over the rise, holding Barry’s hand, ears pricked in interest.

Keats turned around, laughing. He was still holding Angus off the ground, arms tight around him.

"I wasn't gonna really! You know I wouldn't!"

Barry was barely concealing a grin. "Keats, did you ask Angus before you picked him up?"

And then Keats' ears drooped and he put Angus back on his feet carefully. "No, Dad... Sorry, Angus..."

Angus wobbled looking from Lup to Barry,

“It’s so big....”

Lup let go of Barry’s hand and reached out for Angus, pulling him into a tight hug,

“Yeah.... yeah, it’s big. Makes you feel real small, huh kiddo?”

Angus nodded, clutching her, “You- you can, can feel it?”

Lup swayed, patting his back, “yeahhh, yeah, it doesn’t like me much....you gonna be okay, michen?”

Angus took a deep breath and let go of her slowly, reaching for Keats.
“Y-yeah... yeah, can I go in the water now?”

Keats held out his hand again. "Don't worry, I won't let go. And I won't toss you either." He grinned then. "Maybe tomorrow when you've got trunks on."

He turned towards the water, leading Angus in.

"It gets kind of cold, because it's got salt in it and stuff, but it's really nice. You just need to be careful about rip currents. But I won't let one get you, okay?"

Barry smiled, watching them, and put an arm around Lup's shoulders. Then he remembered his lingering concerns and leaned in to whisper. "You think we're gonna be okay with the uh... the salt and all that? I still haven't gotten around to uh... to doing salt tests."

Lup watched the boys walk toward the tide line, ears tilted back slightly in concern,

“Well, we’re gonna find out reeeaaal quick one way or the other....”

Angus gripped Keats’ hand, drawn in by the movement of the waves, the constant sense of agepowerVAST ness fading into the background, leaving him feeling giddy and slightly dizzy but no longer overwhelmed.

His feet thumped on the hard packed wet sand and a wave washed over his bare feet, and he shrieked in surprise and and glee at the way it pulled at him. Angus planted his feet firmly and held still despite the tugging, grinning defiance at the tide.

Keats followed Angus into the water, hesitating for only a moment. He could feel it in a way he hadn't before and it felt odd and warm. The water wasn't freezing cold like he remembered and he wasn't sure if it was because he was cold now or because the water was different. Either way, it was alright, he supposed.

"Whaddaya think, Angus? Isn't it great?"

Angus kicked a leg out, laughing at the splash he made,
“Yes! It’s awesome!

He took several more steps into the water, feeling the tide create canyons around his feet as it pulled sand back with it.

On the next breaking wave, he reached out a hand, splashing it through the surf, and a sliver of power came with it, rushing along his arm into his core.
His eyes widened and he tried again with the next wave, clenching his hand to see if he could gather more that way-

It almost knocked the breath out of him and he was laughing again, splashing Keats, turning his back to the next wave and wondering what would happen if he grabbed as the wave went out-

NOPE!

Suddenly Lup was scooping him up out of the water and spinning, breaking his concentration and connection to the water, “fuckin’ nope , weeeee are going to check in if you can’t handle yourself, Djangus.”

Keats turned, startled and ears pinned back.

"What's wrong? What'd he do? I don't mind being splashed and..."

Barry's eyes were huge. He could sense the power that Angus had been pulling on and he kept looking between the boys and the ocean. "Oh, holy shit."

Angus gasped, his limbs felt tingly like they’d fallen asleep,
“I wasn’t gonna do anything, I was just seeing-“

Lup tugged one of his braids harder than normal, tucking him under one arm and keeping his feet out of the water, “youuuuu are not allowed to play with tides until you’re sixteen at least , Bucko. How the fuck are you even- you know what, I should stop asking shouldn’t I?”

She tilted an ear at Keats, “neither of you are in trouble, I caught him before anyone regretted.”

"I don't understand. What do you mean 'play with the tides'? Like magic?" Keats thought about that for a second, running through the things he'd absorbed about magic as a kid when they still thought he might sprout it at any time. "Unless... Is that like pattern magic?"

He stepped out off the water, pulling off his shirt to ring it out. "They... they taught me about that when I was little. About not jumping into pattern without a way back out and without knowing what you're doing because you can get trapped. Is it like that?"

Barry gathered Angus' shoes back up and held them out while Keats got his own.

“Yup, pretty much that. One, uuuuuh, one of the oldest fuckin’ patterns there is,” Lup hauled Angus up past the tide line, not letting his feet touch the ground until they were on perfectly dry sand.

“But it’s.... it’s BIG , Lup, it’s so much we could, could power whole big cities Lup, why aren’t we- Lup there’s a lot, we could-“
Angus babbled as Lup took his shoes from Barry and held his shoulder so he could put them on.

“S’one of our long-term projects at work, kiddo, cause if you set one or two wizards to doing it without a shitton of spell circles and machinery between them, they burn out in maybe an hour.”

She gripped Angus’s chin, forcing him to look her in the face, hoping he could focus his dilated eyes, “You do not come out here without me or Barry, understand, Angus? Angus McDonald, do you swear?

He gulped and nodded, “Okay... okay, I swear....”

Barry's eyebrows shot up even more. He knew that project, even if he hadn't been let anywhere near it. He didn't have the training and control necessary, even if Lucretia had said a few times she wished they could have used his ability to shape raw power. Without the control they had, there were no guarantees the power in the patterns wouldn't rip him to shreds. Now, he didn't fully know what it could do to a living person, but he was pretty sure it wasn't good. Especially when that living person was his kid.

"Come on, buddy, let's go get checked in and we'll figure out what's in the area. A lot of things have changed. I haven't-"

"-Been here in fifty years~" came the chorus of voices, laughing.

Barry chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, that."

Keats tugged his sneakers back on and shoved his socks in the pockets of his shorts. "How come the water felt hot? Shouldn't it still be cold?"

Lup glanced at him, curious, “But it didn’t burn you? Huh. One more for the write-ups, I guess...”

Suddenly realizing how bad this must sound, she added, “....right, salt is usually a deterrent against ghosts, but this must be way too diluted to be much trouble.”

That didn’t sound any better...

Keats paused for a long moment, staring back and forth between them.

"Holy shit, did you guys just use me as a fucking paranormal guinea pig?" His ears flicked straight up and he spread his arms wide. "Angus, are you hearing this?"

Barry looked alarmed and opened his mouth to say something. Then Keats turned around, walking backward up the sand. He was laughing now.

"It's okay. I already know you guys have a whole notebook of spooky science for Cap'nport."

“In fairness, you ran a Lot faster than Barry,” Lup grinned at him, hand still on Angus’s shoulder.

Angus stumbled as the ground went from sand to pavement, the feeling of the tide’s pulse suddenly diminishing, no longer grabbing his blood up in its pattern. Lup kept a firm grip on him, face determinedly cheerful, even though her ears kept pinning back when she looked at him.

The car wasn’t far, and the cottage even less so. Lup was glad as she could feel Angus starting to run out of the manic energy the ocean gave him.

Barry came back with the keys to the little cottage and a grin on his face.

“Alright! Wards first and then bags. Keats, wanna start unloading while we get these bad boys set up?”

Keats shrugged and started moving towards the trunk.

Lup handed Angus off to Barry, who by now was looking like he might fall straight asleep, and followed Keats to the car for her charm bag.

Slinging an arm around his shoulders, she kissed Keats’ temple very quickly before unlocking the door and grabbing her bag.

Keats smiled at Lup, ears flicking up out of the neutral position they slid to every time they started talking about doing group magic. Instead, he popped the trunk and started grabbing bags. He made sure to bring Angus' stuff in first so he could get his pajamas if he wanted them. Then he went back for the rest.

Lup grabbed her bag, and paused before going into the house ahead of Keats,
“[You’re a good brother, michen, and I’m proud of you.]”

Hurrying back in, feeling slightly that she’d overstepped in the way she always did when Parenting.

Keats blushed but his ears flicked up and he stood a little straighter as he grabbed his bag and slung it over his shoulder. He was humming cheerfully when he walked back in and dumped his bag by the empty bed in the room he was going to share with Angus.

Barry had carried Angus inside and set him down on one of the two low beds. They'd worry about getting him into pajamas once the bags were in and the cottage was warded. But first, he wanted to check and make sure the area was clear. He sat cross-legged on the floor in the center of the room and closed his eyes, extending his senses until he'd found the boundary lines and could call them up in his mind with a thought. The space was layered over with memories, good and bad, and traces of old magic. It was mostly the bases for wards and a no-fire spell or two. He also detected the barest traces of an old spell to keep young children from wandering off and chuckled quietly.

Lup found him there and stood, scanning the house with her hands on her hips as Barry felt out the boundaries. Two bedrooms, and an open plan kitchen and living room. Her ears twitched as she sussed out the space and finally pointed to a space next to the tiny fireplace.

“Seem good?”


Barry looked up at Lup and then followed where she was pointing. "Yeah, that should be good."

He stood, stretching his back. It was surprising how stiff it could get in the scant minutes of sitting on the floor it took for him to feel out a space that wasn't his own. He moved over to the small fireplace, looking it over.

"Alright, how do you wanna do this, babe?"

Lup ran her chalk through her fingers, fidgeting with the pre-powered quartz stones they had brought.

“Rutile in the east, carnelian in the west, rose in the north, and citrine in the south. And amethysts in the circle.”

She handed him the carnelian and rose quartz, walking the few steps to the east side of the house.
“No matter how we try to arrange it, you’re probably going to end up boosting me on top, babe.”

"Yeah, I know."

He looked a little chagrined. There was the lack of control coming back to bite him. If he'd figured out control just a little more, they'd be able to twist their power together like Lup and Taako could do. As it was, he just launched whoever he was doing spells with practically into space. He'd joked about that once, saying if he couldn't get himself to the moon, he might as well just blast his magic there.

"Might as well just ward inside the cottage... I don't think we're going to want to try to keep stones anchored out there."

He adjusted his glasses a little, thinking.

"I've got a dumb idea for next time but yeah... let's do that for now. Next time, I'm getting some of those dumb key hider things to hide spell anchors in."

Lup paused, struck by this idea.

“Hey... I like that. Bet I could put a Don’t Notice on them beforehand too...”

Placing her stones, she walked back to the designated spot and chalked out the circle, waiting for Barry to finish.

“But yeah, for now all we really, mmm, really want is something to keep out lookie-loos.... and uninvited guests,” her ears tilted back slightly. “I have pendants for the boys too, first defense and to help us, uuuuh, keep an eye on ‘em.”

"Don't uh... don't hold your breath thinking they won't figure out those are trackers, babe. First off, Angus is smarter than that. Second, Keats had a tracker on him for most of his life. I've literally never met anyone so paranoid about a kid going out in the yard to play as Lydia."

Lup’s ears tilted in confusion, “Well duh I’d tell ‘em what they’re for, why else would they keep ‘em ON....”

He shook his head a little and set the stones in the right places. Then he pulled out the modified spell diagram with alarm spells layered into it. It was the fruit of his labors with Lucretia and Taako, a ward that should cover most of their uses. Granted, he would still need ad hoc wards anchored specifically by Lup when he needed to charge his batteries in a few days, but that was a bridge they could burn when they got there.

"Everything's set here. We just need to throw down circle number two and we're good."


She put her hand down on her circle and waited for Barry to touch his,
“On three - one... two....-“


Angus felt the wards go up, the feeling of Home sliding over the echoing waves in his head, and he frowned. The ocean felt like it had poured through him, leaving him limp and clean. 

Sitting up, he stared at Keats.

“Lydia and Edward are by the ocean.”

Chapter Text

Barry smiled, tension in his shoulders releasing as the wards settled over him. He turned and wrapped his arms around Lup. "We gonna go uh... go put one of those muffle charms on our room too or...?"

 

Lup laughed and fished in her bag for a tiny twisted metal pendant, “Got you covered, babe.”


She looked up as Angus opened their bedroom door, Keats looking panicked behind him, “Lydia and Edward are by the ocean and Lydia made me forget. Can you tell Kravitz?”

Luckily for Lup’s preparation, the ribbon the pendent was hanging from wasn’t necessary to the spell as it went up in a flare of smoke and the charm clattered to the floor. She bent to pick it up, fighting to keep tone, face, and ears neutral.


“Sure thing, kiddo, anything else you can give him?”

 

“They were in a cave and there was ocean sounds and they were arguing,” Angus frowned. It didn’t have the crystal clear image his other times astral projecting did, except for Lydia’s face when she stared at him, told him to forget .

Lup smiled in a brittle way, “ Well , I guess now is as good a time as any to toss my trackers at you!”

 

Barry looked at both of the boys and then at Lup. "I'll call him. Maybe... maybe just don't go anywhere by yourselves for now. Unless you've got more than that, buddy, we don't know that they're near here. I mean... we uh..."

He trailed off then, remember the tracker on Angus' backpack going north across state lines. Plus this was the beach they'd always gone to together. That's how Keats knew so much about the ice cream shack. Barry chewed his lower lip and then nodded a little, pulling his phone out. He was trying to project calm but looked very much like he wanted to yell, like if he had fire magic the same way Lup did, things would be going up in flames around him. The windows rattled a little and then he took a breath and walked into the bedroom to make a phone call. Hadn't Edward and Lydia already done enough damage? He had no way of knowing if that cave was anywhere near here. For all he knew, they were in Canada. And yet, the mere idea that they might be nearby was more than enough to cause his entire family to go from relaxed and having fun on their vacation to living in fear once more.

He pressed call perhaps a little too hard and gritted his teeth as he waited for Kravitz to pick up, trying very hard to keep from making everything in the bedroom shake as he tried to pull his magic back under his skin.

"Barry? I thought you were just going to text Taako when-"

"Angus astral projected again and he said Edward and Lydia are in a cave near the ocean."

 

There was a pause.

“I see,” Kravitz sounded slightly strangled. “Barry, did you know that before I started dating Taako I was very consistently bored?”

There was another silence with the sound of a pen writing on paper, “Very well, further north, along the coast in a cave. Did he tell you when he saw this?”

 

“He just brought it up now. Apparently, Lydia made him forget.”

Barry’s voice was tight. One of the suitcases sitting at the foot of the bed slammed against the wall and he winced. He was going to need to get his temper back in hand before he actually broke something.

“That’s all I’ve got. But it sounded like... like she saw him when he was projecting.”

 

There was another long silence.
“And he.... remembered anyway?” Another pause. “How long until he’s twenty one again?”

 

“Years. You can play recruiter after he’s done with college and if he agrees. Got it? And I’ll even send you my notes on the apparently impossible mental wards he made for Keats. Can we focus now, please?”

Barry’s voice was uncharacteristically steady as he tried to keep his temper from rising any further. He wasn’t angry at Kravitz. He was angry at everything else. Yelling at Kravitz would do absolutely nothing constructive and really, would probably do the opposite.

“If we get anything else, I’ll text you.”

There was another bang as the bedroom door shot open and Barry really hoped Kravitz didn’t hear that one.

 

“Yes, right, thank you for this. It narrows our search considerably.”

Lup walked in then, ears deliberately neutral as she leaned against Barry and sent a wash of calm over him. It wasn’t calm she really felt , but faking it would help both of them more than bouncing anxiety and anger off each other.

“Tell Taako I’m getting him something with googly eyes.”

There was a chuckle, “I will do so. Do try to enjoy yourselves.”

 

"I'll try." Barry paused, taking a deep breath and inhaling the calm that Lup offered. Then he spoke, tone just a bit less clipped. "Thanks, Krav. Really."

He hung up and tossed his phone onto the bed, leaning against Lup for a moment. He closed his eyes, focusing on the smell of her shampoo and the warmth of her against him. Then he took another breath.

"Alright, time to go uh... make sure the kids aren't too freaked out, I guess... Any suggestions before I default to blanket fort and cuddle pile? My uh... my backup involves the box of fireworks I brought along as a surprise."

 

“Nah, save those for staying up all night on Midsummer.”

Angus walked in then, pulling Keats, and climbing up on the bed to lean against Barry.
“Can we get dinner?”

Lup huffed, reaching an arm out for Keats, “sure kiddo, you wanna order in or think you can stay awake long enough to go out?”

 

Keats dropped onto the bed and leaned into Lup's hug, ears still pinned back. "Is going out... okay?"

Barry hugged Angus. "It'll be fine, kiddo." He took a deep breath, pulling calm into himself and pushing it back out.

"Think about it this way. If we're so scared of them that... that we spend this whole trip hiding in the cottage or we go home early or whatever... then they win, right?  Because we don't know that they're at this beach. They could be anywhere, on any coast. I happen to remember them talking about owning an island in France. How do we know they're not there? Don't get me wrong here. We're gonna be... we're gonna be careful but not like... not paranoid. And we're not going to let this ruin the trip. Sound about right, Lup?"

 

Lup took a breath, then another, stroking Keats’ hair. Reaching along their bond, she caught the edge of Barry’s anger and pulled it back to her own, wrapping it into a tight honed edge. Anger was excellent fuel when you knew how to make it work for you.

Smiling dangerously, she kissed Barry’s cheek, ruffled Angus’s hair, and bumped her nose against the side of Keats’ head.
“Hell yeah, babe. We’ve kicked their asses twice already, we’re ready if they come back.”

Squeezing Keats tight, she murmured, “[We’re only rabbits when we say, right?]”

 

Keats nodded a little. He didn't want to be a rabbit hiding in a warren, if anything he wanted to be a wolf and fight against those who would threaten his pack and his territory. He made a decision then, a plan he would implement later, after Mom and Dad had gone to sleep. Hopefully Angus would still be awake, because Keats was going to need help to set this up.

Barry smiled at Lup's confident words. Maybe they were a little overconfident, sure, but they would do alright with the four of them. And there were no guarantees that anything would even happen. "So, there's uh... there's a really great place for chowder near here. How's everybody feel about that for dinner?" He hugged Angus around the middle, tickling him a little. "Think you can stay awake or are you gonna fall asleep in your clam soup?"

 

Angus yelped, pushing ineffectually at Barry, giggling, “I’m awake! I can do it, I swear!”

And he did manage to stay awake all through dinner, though Lup vetoed staying for dessert when she saw him drooping. He refused to be carried back to the house, walking determinedly the two blocks and stayed upright through his shower and was asleep as soon as he lay down on his bed, not even managing to pull the covers up.

Lup snorted, having Keats lift him up so she could tuck him in.
“Apparently the family character trait we all share is blind headed stubbornness.....”

 

Keats, who was in the middle of mentally reviewing the area around the cottage and the non-obvious directions of approach, looked up and grinned.

"Yeah, you're probably right. I thought Dad was gonna break a window earlier. How come he can't control that? I've never seen anybody else do stuff like that when they lose their temper."

He went to grab his own pajamas, laying them out but not pulling them on yet. He was going to talk to Savannah and then sneak out to start setting his traps. He knew perfectly well how to get out without being noticed, wards or no wards.

 

The corners of Lup’s mouth tucked in and she smoothed a corner of Angus’s duvet as she thought.

“Hmmm, that feels complicated to explain, but probably isn’t....Basically, his magic was kept latent and tidy all his life and he didn’t know it was there until he was- until he died and was basically made of magic. So he spent fifty years using it to throw shit around and it became inextricably linked in with his emotions. “

She shrugged, walking over to hug Keats goodnight before turning towards the door,
“None of us fits into a neat little box, and that includes you. And we’re all better for it, having to work harder to figure where we fit together .”

 

Keats smiled at that and reached for his tablet. "That makes sense. I was gonna say, he didn't even used to do that. But it makes sense. And it explains why it's like a bad horror movie."

He sat on the floor and pulled up discord. His ears flicked up in excitement. He had messages.

A few hours later, he tucked his tablet aside and listened. The cottage was silent. Alright, sure, he wasn't sure if the muffle charm was active or not, but he was pretty sure that if it was, Mom and Dad wouldn't be noticing jack or shit for at least an hour. So he headed out the front door to the cottage to start surveying the ground he had to work with. Get a few simple traps shouldn't be too hard. Nothing that would hurt someone, just in case he caught one of them in it. But something that would make noise and would be hard to see, even with low light vision. If they were going to get an unexpected visit from Edward and Lydia, he wanted as much warning as he could give them.

 


 

Angus slept hard for two hours and then drifted. Gradually, his subconscious became aware that this was NOT his room and everything was not Correct. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked in confusion around the room.

Right, cottage, vacation.
Keats’ bed was still made and empty.

Terror gripped him, and even more when there was a shuffling sound from the window and a figure-

Sliding out of bed, Angus grabbed his NASA pen from where Lup had left it on his nightstand and crept to the window, sliding the slats of the blinds up enough to-

He blinked, pulled the blinds open and then the window, “Keats?”

 

Keats looked up and turned towards Angus. He put a finger to his lips and then pointed towards the front door to the cabin. He made a few strange gestures and then stopped, suddenly realizing Angus wouldn’t actually understand all that.

“I’ll be back in in a second.”

He moved as silently as he could, getting both doors behind him and grabbing his pajamas off the bed before he turned to Angus again, changing quickly.

“I didn’t wake you up, right?”

 

“No, I woke up and you weren’t here,” Angus hoped his voice didn’t quaver too much on that last word. Frowning, he imitated one of the gestures Keats had made. “What’s this mean?”

 

Keats rubbed the back of his neck, an embarrassed smile on his face. “It um.... door breach, basically.”

He went back through the gestures one by one.

“I was calling a time and a point of entry. Basically saying I was coming back in in a minute... but I used the sign for breach, so probably not the best way to put it.”

 

Angus giggled, mimicking him, “‘Door breach’ sounds noisy, isn’t there one for being sneaky?”

“Yeah, it’s usually pretty loud. Lots of guys yelling 'go go go!' and sometimes you have to break the door down.”

 

He sat on the edge of the bed and Angus sat next to him, kicking his feet, “why were you outside?”

 

“I was setting traps outside. Just in case.”

 

Angus brightened, “like.... like nets? And-“ he paused, eyes squinting as he thought, “.... snares , that’s the word.”

 

"And noisemakers. Stuff that should give us a warning if they show up."

He tucked his sneakers under the bed and then lay back against the pillows, staring up at the ceiling,"I've been ambushed before... I don't want it to happen again."

 

“I don’t like it either, I’m glad I get picked up from school now.” Angus tilted his head in thought, not moving from the bed, “......They’re not gonna think about that, are they? If they try something, they’re gonna look for ways past Lup and Barry’s wards, not.... not down at their own feet.”

 

"Maybe... I don't know. They... they've seen stuff like I have but... I don't know. Probably. I think most people with magic look for magic first even though people without magic can be just as big a threat. Like, if you're focused trying to cast a spell and I punch you in the face, you're definitely not gonna be able to cast your spell, right?"

Keats sighed a little. "Mom and Dad are smart but they think that way too. Wards are great and all, until someone gets right up on you and then takes your wards apart. And they don't mean a thing if you're trapped inside them."

 

Angus nodded slowly, swinging his feet, “Taako said something like that.... said sometimes it’s more effort to do shit WITH magic and you should just be lazy.”

Not meeting Keats’ eyes he added, “c’n I sleep in your bed?”

 

Keats scooted over and patted the spot next to him, "Come on. Tomorrow, we can push the beds together, if you want."

 

Angus promptly scrambled under the covers, curling tight against Keats and relaxing,
“Yeah, can we? I’d like that.”

He closed his eyes and inhaled, starting meditation breaths. Keats no longer smelled of Edward’s pine and blood magic, now that he had Noelle’s harness on. He smelled of the home wards, and Lup and Barry’s charms, mixed cinnamon woodsmoke with iron ice, and Angus’s own lemon citrus magic that said his mind was warded . There were the physical smells too; Lup’s cooking, the trees around the property, the smell of goat that eventually lingered on all of them.

Angus liked it, liked that home and family was mixed in something physical that you carried around always.
“Can you show me how to make a snare tomorrow?”

 

Keats curled around Angus and pulled the light blanket up to cover both of them. He started purring almost immediately and closed his eyes.

"Yeah, sure. And I can teach you more of the signs too, if you want..."

 

Angus nodded, purring sending him off to sleep again almost instantly,

“Teach me how t’say ‘this bitch empty’....”


Keats' eyes snapped open and he slapped his hand over his mouth, trying not to laugh. He would have to figure out how to explain that military hand sign wasn't ASL and he couldn't sign funny things. Mostly just stuff like door and gun. But that was a problem for future Keats.

As he fell asleep curled up around his little brother and purring loudly, he decided that once all of this was over, he'd see if he could convince them all to go camping. Real camping, with no magic, and then he could show off all the things he knew how to do and teach Angus too. Someone should.

Chapter Text

The cottage came with a fully stocked kitchen, according to the travel site Barry had booked it through, but Lup had been suspicious of this and brought several of her own kitchen supplies Just In Case.

The kitchen wasn’t up to her standards, but still passable enough that she could mix her own premade pancake mix up in a few minutes, and wake everyone up with the smell of bacon.

This was her vacation and it was going to be fun and happy . Even if she had to include the fake maple syrup on the table.

Barry had taken some time to shower before he wandered into the kitchen in shorts and a t-shirt. The shower hadn’t been what he would call great. It was a little tight and it definitely didn’t get warm enough for his cold boy self. But he was clean and his hair was still damp as always, so he was calling it a win.

He grinned as he walked into the kitchen and leaned over to flick on the radio. It started with a weather report, proclaiming clear skies and high temperatures, and then he scanned until he found some music.

“Morning, babe. That smells amazing.”

“‘Course it does,” Lup tossed him a smug look before sliding a full plate onto the table, “got any ideas for an agenda today?”

Filling her own plate and turning off the stove, she wrapped her free arm around Barry’s waist to kiss his cheek.

“Just the beach.” He gestured down. “Look what I found before we left.”

He gave a little spin, showing off the navy blue shorts he was wearing. They were an older style and stopped just above his knees.

“I thought I lost these in ‘66. I’m told they make-“

He cut off where that sentence was going as the door to the boys’ room opened and Keats and Angus poked their heads out.

“Mom, do I smell bacon?”

“You sure do,” Lup did not bother pausing in her admiration of Barry’s modeling as she answered, “there’s also-“

“PANCAKES!”
Angus pushed passed Keats out the door, hair beads clinking from his bouncing run.

“-those. We’re doing the beach today, which means sunscreen after breakfast, Angus .”

Keats laughed at that and went to sit at the table, ruffling Angus’ hair on the way by. He leaned back in the chair.

“Are we going to go swim today? Can I bring my tablet? I want to take pictures and stuff.” He stopped, frowning a little. “And I won’t post them on Instagram until we get home. Complete operational radio silence on where we are, promise.”

Lup’s mouth twitched at the phrasing, but she gave him a look of approval.

“Sure thing, just bring a designated tablet towel or something. The sand will fuck your screen up real fast if you aren’t careful.”

Angus sat down next to Keats and reached for both syrups. He’d piled his pancakes into two separate stacks with a wall of bacon between them.

Keats shredded his pancake and bacon into pieces and tossed it all together with the syrup before cramming some into his mouth.

"S'not like 've got fo'owers." Keats spoke with his mouth full. "Just Ma'nus and-" He swallowed and reached for a glass of milk. "Savannah. Oh, and Taako. But he usually just leaves comments about filters?"

Barry looked perplexed but shrugged and went to top off Lup's coffee and get his own.

Lup smiled at Barry and kissed him in thanks before shrugging and Keats and starting in on her own bacon.

“Yeah, still..... either not posting till we get home or making sure your account is private-“

“-it is!” Angus broke in, still chewing, “I made sure when he made it!”

“Oh then go hog wild,” Lup waved a hand and went back to her coffee.

"Oh, cool!" Then he made a face. "Ugh... I have to figure out how to explain the harness if it's gonna be in pictures..."

Unlike Barry who never seemed to care whether his harness was under his shirt or over it, Keats put in a lot of effort to make certain his harness was covered and concealed. Especially when he was taking pictures or going out. Unlike Barry, his pictures also didn't blur and no one had quite figured out why. It was on Davenport's exceedingly long to do list.

“‘Medical device.’” “Say it’s a medical aid.” Lup and Angus spoke up at the same time.

Lup grinned at him, “I should leave all the cover stories to you, huh.”

Angus shrugged, “it’s what Miss Julia uses.”

Keats nodded a little and shoved more into his mouth.

“M’kay. ‘A migh’ wor’.”

Barry sighed and sat at the table.

“Keats, don’t talk with your mouth full.”

The entire table exchanged guilty looks and didn’t meet Barry’s eyes.



The computer sitting to the side of Lydia’s workstation chirped an alert and she leaned over to tap at it.
Ah. Keats had updated his Instagram again.

It really had been too easy to find him commenting on the posts of that oversized magic null human, and practically nothing to discover his password. She had made a note to teach him better next time.

Scrolling through, she wrinkled her nose. It was a video of the mouse child buried in the sand yelling “ FUCK OFF! ” at the ocean. So vulgar.

“You’ll be happy to know Keats can still swim, Ed.”

Edward was reclining in a nearby chair, his phone his hand while he looked at property in Europe for sale. He looked up at Lydia’s comment and smiled.

“Oh good, I’d been wondering about that, actually.” Then his tone turned sarcastic. “Does that means they’ve settled in for their happily little family vacation?”

“Almost defiantly so,” Lydia clicked on the next post and smirked. “Oh DO come look, you’ll like this one ~”
Her voice was entirely too innocent, especially when the video in question was one of Lup and Barry walking ahead of Keats, holding hands. The camera zoomed in, a pink filter clouding it, as prerecorded tinkly music played.

“I pushed you in the river when we were small and there is very little keeping me from doing it now,” he snapped.

Then he skimmed the video and his frown deepened.

“I made him buy those shorts and he only ever wore them when I made him, the asshole. But... I also know precisely where they are. What do you bet they’re staying in those little shacks he used to stay in with mommy dearest?”

Lydia scrolled to a day ago, tapping another picture of Keats and Angus making faces, Keats disappointed, Angus disgusted, as Lup waved coyly from the bar behind them,

“Chesney’s is still there, so I won’t take that bet. Thankfully, someone let the darling boy know NOT to let this automatically tag his locations.”

"Well, we'll have to teach him again once we've enacted your little hard reset, now won't we?"

He set his phone down and looked at the images on the screen. There were comments, of course. One caught his eye.

-Looks like you're having fun. Miss you though <3

"Lydia, is he dating that imp girl?" His voice pitched up in irritation and disbelief. "Where did we go wrong?"

Lydia rolled her eyes, “ Really , Ed, we’re all entitled to a few unfortunate romantic choices in our youth. I could name a few of yours without even mentioning Barry ....”

She scrolled up, glancing through the pictures again, critically.
“Hmmm, I was right, that bitch put protections on them, and that’s just the necklaces they’re wearing so I can see....no getting cocky, Ed. Barry might be mostly untrained, but that just means he might surprise us. And the [halfway bitch] is sure to have picked up plenty of nasty cheating tricks, like her brother.”

"I swear to the Seldarine that I won't gloat until we have them well and truly trapped and until such time I will follow your lead, darling brilliant sister."

He reached for one of the two iced coffees on the worktop, taking a sip and making a face. Setting it back down, he grabbed the other one.

"And I won't even remind you about your.... orc-shaped transgressions."

“As I said ,” Lydia snapped, cheeks flushing slightly, “we are all entitled to the occasional bad decision .”

She scrolled through Keats’ followed accounts, grimacing at a picture of Lup and Barry. It was a full body shot, taken from a lower angle that suggested Angus had the camera. Lup was sitting in Barry’s lap, head thrown back in a laugh, and Barry’s face was clear enough through several colored filters to show him looking slyly up at her, probably the cause of her laughter, his hands resting on her hips.

“Except her . Gods and Goddesses, even if she HAS that unfortunate hair, she could do better with it. Even her brother at least straightens his.”

Scoffing, she minimized the browser, turning back to her work table.

“Would you suggest lure or ambush better?”

"Ambush. They'll see bait for what it is, unless you feel like kidnapping her useless brother and dragging him up here to be bait. Which I recommend against, by the way, having faced them together a few too many times for my taste."

He swirled his iced coffee and then took another sip. "We could figure out which shack they're in easily enough. I doubt anyone else will have wards that feel like... that. The wards would be less permanent. We should be able to shatter them easily enough."

Lydia nodded absently, picking at a stitch in the embroidery hoop she was working on.

“Very true. Good. We can use that little overlook down the road, and the moon will be dark. Some lucky timing for us there.”

"Perfect." Edward smiled and put an arm around her shoulders. "Soon enough, Lili, soon enough we'll have our baby brother back and everything will be back to normal."

Chapter Text

Lup leaned back against the bar counter, eyes running over the dance floor, ears pricked forward at the music.
It was surprising how much she hadn’t missed this kind of outing, living so rural as she had for a year, but now that she could only have it once in a while it became even more fun .

She tilted her head back at Barry, who somehow managed to give the impression he was sitting on his barstool backwards , even if that wasn’t technically possible.

“Have we picked an ‘our song’ yet? It’s been a year, I think it’s illegal if we don’t at this point.”

 

The bar was pretty packed from Barry's perspective, though he was pretty sure from one trip to a modern city-based nightclub that this was a quieter night. Their beer selection was absolute piss so instead, he had a whiskey sitting close to his hand on the bar (even if Lup kept reminding him not to set it down).

Barry been tapping one foot, nodding along with the music that was playing. He leaned against her, put an arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple.

"Not yet, babe, but uh... you wanna go cut a rug? Because I don't know what this song is, but it's a real bop."

 

Lup beamed, biting her lip against the impulse to laugh, “Thought you’d never ask , handsome.”

Turning to catch his mouth in a proper kiss, however briefly, she slid off her stool and downed the rest of her Moscow mule.

“I’ll show you the full lyrics tomorrow, I think you’ll like ‘em.”

Grabbing Barry’s hand, Lup strode through the press of people to the dance floor, not so crowded yet, and spun them both closer to the center.

So raise your glass if you are wrong/in all the right ways-

 

Barry wrapped one arm around her waist, pulling her close. He stole a quick kiss and grinned, "It sure sounds like my kind of song."

He was so much more relaxed dancing with her than he had ever been with anyone else and it showed. He didn't care if anyone was watching, he was here with her and that was all that mattered. They laughed and spun and danced through the whole song, Barry even singing along as he started to pick up the chorus.

 

Lup was practically glowing as they moved together. She danced as if the whole room, the whole world was watching and should be grateful for the chance.

Moving through the steps of various older dances for Barry to follow, or making it up as she went along, she orbited him, letting anyone who cared look know that this man was the chosen center of her heart.

The song ended and she squeezed his hand, fingers still interlaced, “Another?”

 

He tilted his head, listening for the opening chords. "Always."

"Isn't this...?" And then the words picked up and he laughed, spinning her into his arms.

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby-

It was a slower song than most of the modern ones, even if it was a cheery one, and he swayed along with the music, holding her close.

"Haven't heard this in years." He said it close to her ear and then kissed her cheek.

 

“Neither have I! ” she was laughing again, pressing close, feet moving in a simple four step pattern that matched the tempo well enough.

It was so much fun watching him; the happy relaxed feeling rolling off him as he forgot to be self-conscious, their joy in each other’s company pinging back and forth, and even the pleasant alcoholic buzz amplified the sensation of being the only two in this room that mattered.

I need you (I need you) more than anyone, Darlin’/you know I have from the start-

 

Barry was singing along, a smile on his face, and for the first time in over a year, he didn't flinch at the word 'darlin''. It didn't seem to bother him. There wasn't even a flicker across their bond. He just kept singing, his arms around her as they danced close.

He cupped her cheek with one hand and closed the distance, just barely not kissing her as he kept singing along.

 

Lup couldn’t sing along, hard as she smiling, hands resting on Barry’s waist and ears flared as far forward as they could go. As the song ended, she shoved her cheek into his hand, a flush moving up under it to her eartips.

“Are you getting fresh with me, mister?”

 

"Maybe I am~" he teased and then he kissed her.

When the next song started, it was absolutely one of those modern dance songs that absolutely called for his hands on her hips, holding her tight against him with the heat of the dance floor swirling between them.

but you took me by the hand / Now every morning I wake up with you right next to me

 

Lup was singing along by the second line, very clearly singing to Barry, grabbing his hand to spin away and curl in again, back to his front.

I’m walkin’ on air, kickin’ my blues/ everything stops when I’m with you-

It was too much temptation, and she ground back slowly against him very slightly.

so slide over here, tell me the truth/ I know you love me wearing nothin’ but your boots-

Winking, she twirled till they were facing each other again, tethered by one hand.

 

Barry only barely didn't slide his hands under her shirt, to brush over the soft skin of her stomach, in that moment when she was against him. It was a close margin though. He pulled her back towards him so they were face to face and he was the one grinding against her.

Baby, pick me up, spin me 'round, take me on a ride

He had a little smile on his face and he bit his lower lip, his eyes only for her. His hand free hand slid down her back and he held her there.

Pull you by the belt, recognize that you're mine tonight

 

Lup was burning under his gaze, unable to look away or sing along anymore. A very small yappy voice at the back of her head suggested the time for a fast exit was soon , and normally she kept at least half an ear on that voice that remembered things like decency laws and angry bartenders, but-

But Barry was right here , spinning her as instructed, waves of desire rushing across their bond, and then he was dipping her-

everything stops  AH-!

They froze for the beat, staring into each other’s eyes, perfectly in sync.

-when I’m wearing, when I’m wearing, baby, nothin’ but your boots

 

Barry kissed her deeply and then stood straight again, holding her close.

"Think we should maybe uh... maybe get out of here?"

His voice was just a bit husky, his breath coming fast and his heart racing (as much as it ever did) "Because uh... if we stick around here, I definitely think we're gonna end up in trouble."

 

“Ab-absol utely a whole mess of trouble,” Lup tried to calm down her own heavy breathing, if only because she was wearing a shirt that really emphasized when she did so.

“Door’s behind you, we already closed our tab, and I get to see if I can keep my hands still for two blocks.”

 

"I'm gonna guess there are laws about things like uh... like me taking you down to the beach instead and just... going down on you by the ocean? That sounds like that kind of thing there'd be laws against."

He said it as he tugged her towards the exit, a grin on his face. Another song had come on and they could hear just a few strains of it as they stumbled, laughing, out into the night.

You play me like I am made of strings / I'm the violin, a melody /I want your lips to sing

 

“Very- very definitely. Lots of laws about it. shit -“

Lup stumbled, suddenly aware that her very nice low heeled wedges were going to be hellish to walk in when she was this inebriated.

Straightening and rotating her ankle, she eyed a small alcove between two closed souvenir stores,

“Hey, new plan-“ gripping Barry’s arm, she tugged him into the space, pulling him against her to kiss him deeply.

 

He opened his mouth to ask a question but then changed his mind, returning that kiss for all he was worth. There was a wall behind her and he pushed her against it, deepening the kiss.

On one level, he was pretty sure they were still going to get in trouble if they got caught here. On the other hand, he wasn't sure he cared. He ran his hands down over her chest to rest on her hips for a moment and then back up, pushing her shirt up.

"Love you so much, Lup~"

 

Lup gasped into his mouth, pouring lovewantminelovelovelustLOVE down their bond rather than stop kissing him. Bringing one hand up to cup his cheek, she slid the other down his back, bending her knees enough to push her hand into his back pocket.

 

He cupped her breasts in his hands, teasing her nipples with his thumbs. The wall at her back was hard brick, solid and rough, and he pushed her against it in another kiss. Emotions poured through him and he whimpered into that kiss, reveling in the taste of her and the feel of her body against his.

 

Her back arched into his touch, nipples hardening under his cold fingers, and she pressed the hand in his jeans pocket to pull him tighter against her.
Breaking the kiss, she mouthed along his jaw, nipping all her favorite spots.

Fuck - I love you, natch, but babe , you are so sexy it’s a real crim- hh -criminal crime-“

 

"Gonna arrest me?"

His voice was low and he nipped her ear lightly, a smile playing at his lips.

That was when they heard the giggling getting close and the stumbling footsteps of other inebriated revelers who seemed to have also noticed the alleyway they had found.

 

Lup’s ear flicked towards the sound and she huffed,

Tempting , but-“ she leaned in close, breath brushing his ear, “I want your hands in my hair when I suck your dick, so -“

She ground against him once more, pressing her palm before sliding it out of his pocket and straightening.
Hooking her elbow through his, she sauntered them both out onto the sidewalk.

 

It wasn't long before they walked through the door of the cottage. There was a light coming from under the door to the boys' room and he pointed at it before putting a finger to his lips and sneaking towards their room. The moment they had the door closed, he reached to activate the muffle charm.

Just as soon as he felt the spell settle around them, he had her in his arms again. He pushed her against the door and kissed her. He poured love and lust and need in equal measure down their bond, eagerness in every line of his body.

 

Lup moaned against him, one leg coming up to hook over his hip, wanting closer closer CLOSER

“Wasn’t- ah!- was not kidding about sucking your dick, babe.”

She kissed his jaw again, finding the beginnings of a bruise she’d left in the alleyway and helping it along.

 

He pulled back just enough to kiss the tip of her nose.

"I know, you don't kid about that." He paused, smiling just slightly.

He cupped her cheek in his hand and brushed his thumb gently over her lips. "Want me sitting or standing, babe?"

 

Lup’s tongue darted out to lick his thumb, eyes catching the low light in the room.

“Sitting, deffo sitting, that mule had a kick to it.”

Dropping her leg, she draped her arms over Barry’s shoulders and kissed him, open mouthed and slow. Walking them backwards, she kicked her shoes off and pushed him onto the bed.

“Those are some baller shorts, and they frame you ass magnificently. Buuuuuut, they should be on the floor right now.”

 

Barry popped the button one-handed and started trying to tug the zipper down.

"Can't uh... can't get them off sitting, babe."

He kissed her thoroughly and then stood just enough to tug shorts and boxers down in one go, leaving both abandoned on the floor.

 

“That’s quitters talk-“

She backed up enough to let him stand and tugged her shirt and bralette off, shucking her capris. Normally, she wouldn’t mind leaving those on for Barry to unwrap later, but they made kneeling harder.

Yoinking a pillow off the bed, she dropped it between his feet and knelt, running her hands up Barry’s thighs,

“Leaving marks where the boys can see is probably bad parenting, right?”

She traced an older one on his hip, giving him a coy look.

 

"Pr-probably, babe." He touched two fingers to the bruise she'd left on his jaw. "Not that I'm expecting that to stop you."

He ran his hand over her hair, still cupping her cheek with the other hand. "You're a real pretty sight on your knees, you know that?"

 

Lup grinned, tilting her head against Barry’s hand, running her fingers along his cock in a deliberate pose.

“I do know, but, hmmm, but please feel to expand on this idea all you like, babe.”

Stroking her thumb over the head of his cock, she licked a stripe up it in a tease.

 

"Did uh... did you pack the handcuffs, babe?"

He shivered at that first contact and then leaned down to kiss her forehead.

"Cause I'm thinking about... about cuffing your hands behind your back. How's that sound to you?"

 

“Mmm hmm ,” Lup trailed kisses down him, ears lifting in interest, “they’re in the inside pocket of my bag, please expand on this idea, babe...”

She flicked her tongue over his slit and took him into her mouth, slowly working her way down.

 

"Meant I was gonna cuff you before-" His words dissolved into a whimper and he held a hand out, trying to tug the bag across the room with magic rather than move.

 

Lup hummed around him questioningly, ears flicked in amusement. A teasing challenge trickled across their link as her ear swiveled towards the bag and she pulled up to swirl her tongue around the head of his cock.

 

He tangled his fingers in her hair, eyes half-lidded as he gazed down at her.

“Lup,” he gasped her name out and reached towards the bag again. “Please?”

 

She pulled away, pressing her head into the pressure of his fingers, grinning wide.

“When you ask so nicely ....”

 

the bag had scooted a bit closer but not nearly close enough and Barry leaned as far as he could to catch one of the straps and tugged it over. He pulled out the cuffs and grinned at the other things she'd packed.

"Oh, I see~ Someone has plans."

Then he reached for her wrists and very carefully closed the cuffs, making sure they weren't too tight.

"There we go. How's that, babe?"

 

Lup tossed her head, smirking at him over her shoulder,
“Just the essentials... and some just in case items. ‘Be prepared’, right?”

Rolling her shoulders back, Lup tilted her head back and forth to gauge her range of motion,
“Feels good, Bear.”

Her muscles were forced to flex in a way that would burn later, but that was part of the fun.

 

He brushed gentle fingers over her cheek and then tilted her chin up to kiss her lightly.

"Fuck, you're gorgeous, babe. Just... just entirely, unfairly beautiful. And like... and here you are, wanting to make me happy. I love you so much, Lup."

 

Lup’s cheeks and ears flared hot and she pressed her face into Barry’s leg to cool them down.

“Makes my job harder when you get me smiling too much, babe,” she mumbled into his skin, grinning harder and ears twitching upright and happy.

 

"Yeah but like..."

He ran a finger up the length of her ear and gave it a little tug. "I can't not praise you. Not when you're so... so good."

 

She shuddered at the touch, face relaxing in pleasure, “Ah- alright, s’long as you pull that anti- anti- blow job sabotage lever there....”

Kissing quickly up his thigh, she nosed Barry’s cock, blinking up at him through her eyelashes before taking him into her mouth again.

 

"You don't know, I could also be being selfish. Maybe I just want to uh... to recreate that time you were purring around my cock."

He tone was teasing and he sighed happily. Her mouth felt so good, so warm, around him. He couldn't help rocking his hips forward a bit, his fingers tangled in her hair and a moan on his lips.

 

Lup huffed amusement through her nose, relaxing her jaw and closing her eyes. It was harder to control her forward motion with her hands behind her, easier to lean into Barry’s grip on her hair, easier to let him take the lead, sending adoration and trust across their bond.

 

Barry eased himself forward carefully, making sure his feet were on the floor. He was just tipsy enough that he didn't trust his sense of balance without that solid base. Then he rocked his hips forward with more purpose, murmuring quiet praise.

He kept the pace slow at first, love and trust bouncing back and forth between them and twining with the hot lust that swirled through their magics. The hand not clenched in her hair kept running up and down her ear, periodically giving it just a bit of a tug, just a bit of encouragement.

 

Lup tilted her head into the touch as much as she could and still keep her gag reflex suppressed. Every word, every hitch of breath had her ears twitching up in interest, then slowly relaxing down into a happy flare.

As Barry’s breath started coming quicker, his voice pitched higher, she opened her eyes wider and she glanced up as far as she could as he pulled her down farther. A year of steady practice in not suppressing purring had turned it from a somewhat involuntary reaction to something she actually could control much better.

She sent a teasing ping dancing along their bond as her only warning before starting up a soft rumble.

 

His breath hitched and his grip on her hair tightened. He was so very close already, the swirling ball of lust and pleasure in him tightening even further. A sharper tug on her ear as he rutted senselessly into her mouth was the only warning before his head went back in a voiceless cry.

 

Lup whined around him, her breath coming faster as she tried to keep up. She shifted her knees, clit bobbing, feeling like she was burning up with no respite.

Barry kept her there as he gasped just slightly longer than was comfortable, and she tugged their link, wanting up.

 

He pulled back immediately, sitting back. Then he smiled down at her, sending a little pulse of worry still colored heavily by desire.

"Everything alright? I uh... I didn't... too hard, right?"

 

Lup turned her head to cough, sending reassurance heavily laced with wanting back. Laying her cheek against his thigh and closing her eyes, she smiled at the feeling of his cool skin against her overheated face.

“Just needed to breathe, babe....”

 

"Alright. Had me worried for a second there, babe."

He chuckled quietly and then leaned down as far as he could to kiss the top of her head. "Because uh... because I've got a next step in this whole little fantasy I've been dreaming up if you're interested."

 

She tilted her head back, seeking another kiss, “Help me up off my knees and I’m all ears, Bear.”

 

He kissed her again and gave her other ear a little tug. Then he stood and instead of just helping her to her feet, he lifted her into his arms and settled back on the bed. Positioning her carefully in his lap, he kissed her again and traced his hand up and down her stomach. Then he dropped his hand all the way and stroked her clit with gentle fingers.

"How about this, babe? Just like this."

 

Lup stretched her legs out behind him, and curled them in to press at Barry’s back, swaying backwards into his supporting arm.

“....you know that’s, that’s hot as fuck, right? S’not fair you, uhhh, you showing off like that when I’m all hot and panting already...

 

"See, you say that, but-" He wrapped his hand around her, stroking just a bit faster. "But I also know how much you like it. And I just... I love making you happy."

 

Lup choked, leaning forward to kiss him, open mouthed and heated.

“So good , s’fuc-“ she gasped, leaning forward into his shoulders, hips twitching forward into his hand with all the leverage she could manage, which wasn’t much in this position.

Fuckin amazing , Barry, gods, love you, so good-“

Her voice pitched up higher, keening softly.

 

He reached with one hand to pop the release on the cuffs. "Love you so much, beautiful."

Picking up the pace, he strayed kisses over the side of her neck and down as far as he could reach. With a little smile, he remembered that twisting motion she particularly liked and put it to good use. "Gonna come for me, sweetheart?"

 

Lup shook the cuffs off with a rattle as they hit the floor and swung her arms around to wrap around Barry’s shoulders, kissing him deeply.

“Barry fuck m’so close, [beloved], please-“

Her magic was pressing at his wherever they touched, twining around it, pushing heat along his arms and chest.

 

Now that he wasn't keeping her upright, his hand moved to her breasts, teasing first one nipple and then the other.

"Want you to come for me real good, Lup. Can you come for me right now?"

He put just a little heat in the question, making it almost an order instead of a request.

 

Lup gasped, back arching as her whole body stiffened almost before she processed his words,

Shit-!

Slowly, she relaxed into rolling shudders, keening softly in almost words as she came down.

 

When he was sure she was spent, he held her tight against him, rubbing circles on her back.

“Gods, you’re so good.”

 

Lup muttered something incomprehensible that might have been Elvish into his shoulder and turned to kiss Barry’s neck.

 

"What was that?" He turned to kiss her forehead and then rested his head against hers.

 

A small trickle of embarrassment leaked across their bond before Lup could stop it,

“S’nothing, fucked my brains ‘n talking out of me, babe.”

 

"Nuh uh, you can't bullshit me, Lup." He nuzzled against her, kissing her neck. "I'm pretty sure it was Elvish, but I don't know what you said."

 

Lup squeezed her legs against the small of his back, grumbling, “S’something ridiculously sappy out of a fuckin’ old elvish romance novel. I blame Keats, digging up all the language stuff i forgot....”

 

"Oh come on, now you gotta tell me. It's basically required." He kissed her again and nipped at her ear.

 

Lup pulled back, ears flicking back slightly and very pink, “Can we clean up first and then I’ll translate my teenage guilty pleasure books?”

 

Barry leaned in to kiss her, laughing, "I can't believe this. You're embarrassed? Here I was thinking there was nothing that uh... that you'd get embarrassed about."

But he leaned over and grabbed the box of wipes. "Here. I'm gonna just have to throw my shirt into the uh... laundry. You made a mess of me, [beloved.]"

His accent wasn't great but he managed to stumble through the word he was getting more and more used to hearing on her lips.

 

Lup flushed more, ears flicking up happily,
“I’m, uh, I’m gonna emphasize that they were really bad .... you think human romance authors can get purple....”

She grabbed one of the wipes and leaned past him to fall onto the bed.

 

Barry tossed his shirt aside into the laundry bag and quickly cleaned himself up. Then he lay down beside her.

"Come ooooon, you gotta tell me. Please?" He was only teasing a little.

 

Lup threw an arm over her eyes to further cover her blushing,

“‘Ni vanda ana....t-tye?’ -fuck I never figured out the pronunciation on that one- ‘an i aeges o’ elena,’” she lifted her hand briefly to look at him, “‘I pledge to you for all the ages of stars’ is how I think it would go. Probably ‘unto thee’ would fit better.... s’personal thing....”

 

His eyebrows shot up and he blushed, a little smile on his face. Then he turned and wrapped his arms around her, snuggling as close as he could.

 

Lup buried into his chest, face still flushed, and her ears flicked uncertainly.

“Can’t be held, held responsible for anything I say, um, after- after you blow my mind like that, babe....” She frowned, “.....-wait, that sounds like I didn’t mean it....”

 

"Shhhhhh. It was one of the... the cutest things ever. So, let's uh... let's just enjoy that."

He ran his fingers through her hair. "How do you say that again?" He tried to stumble through a few of the words and then grimaced.

 

Lup turned her head to be able to speak clearly and enunciating slowly.

“For context, the main character is saying this to the love interest whom is not a good marriage match of course , and then they die dramatically with paragraphs of tragic last words and their souls ascend into heaven and make a new, single star.”

 

"Isn't that the plot to Stardust?"

He kissed her forehead and smiled. "Sadly, I can't share my sordid literary past. Not unless you want some very bad sci-fi romance from the 30s. Lots of uh... hmmm... aliens come down in search of love. And uh... assuming any copies still exist."

 

Lup grinned at him, “bet you I read some of ‘em? Taako would sneak them after I finished, acting like he didn’t like them almost more than I did.”

 

"The genre turned awful in the 60s. Too uh... too clinical. Too many probes."

He hitched one leg up over her hip and closed his eyes. "Love you, Lup."

 

“Love you so much , Barry....” Lup nuzzled against him, enjoying the fact that it might be high summer hot out there , but in here she had a personal body cooling unit.

“Stars ain’t got nothing on me...”

Chapter Text

Keats was tired but happy as they walked back to the cottage and his mind was far away from this moment, far away from the worries and fears of a few days before. He was soaking wet and still had a linger bit of warmth to him from the salt water that clung to him. He'd spent a good chunk of the day splashing in the water with Angus, had even learned how to use a thing called a boogie board that was almost like surfing, and was seriously considering seeing if Taako could teach him to surf some summer. Several pictures of him in the water and generally showing off his muscles now existed on his instagram, along with a not insignificant number of pictures of him goofing around with Angus. There was one picture he was particularly proud of where he'd managed to climb one of the rock outcroppings far out in the water and Angus had gotten a picture of him at the top. Magnus had liked it and Savannah had left a whole series of emojis on that one, which he was pretty sure meant she liked it.

Barry was humming to himself as they walked along, his fingers laced with Lup's. The sun was setting and he was a little nervous, mostly out of old habit. He had never liked the dark and fifty years alone in it hadn't made him like it any more. But he was with Lup and the boys, so he was doing his best not to show it. Even as a strange feeling like burning ice came over him. Even as he felt the space around him grow tight and uncomfortable. Even as he felt something in his magic answer that strange feeling outside of him. No. Everything was fine and they were almost to the wards anyway. They were safe, dammit.

Lup was holding Angus’s hand, briefly thinking he really ought to be between her and Barry while he was still small enough to do that lifting thing when she felt him stiffen and yank her back. She glanced down about to ask what was wrong only to see him swiveling around, his magic flaring in anxiety.

“He’s- he’s here , I can smell him, it’s- he’s all blood and pine I know it’s him-“

That’s when the wrench of magic hit the shoulder of the arm holding Barry’s hand, and Lup’s entire side went numb.

Keats grabbed Angus by the arm, cursing his own inattention. Where the hell had that spell come from? Turning, he saw the flare of another spell starting and shoved Angus behind him. That was a mistake. He recognized a holding spell the moment his body stopped obeying him. The good news was that it hadn't gotten Angus. The bad news was that his grip on Angus was solid and there was just about no way the smaller boy was going to be able to break free.

Barry was furious and he didn't even think, he just launched several bolts of pure energy towards where the first attack had come from. With the light as the power connected, he saw Lydia. He didn't look back, focusing on the two of them. He couldn't afford to look away.

"Boys, run. Get to the wards. Go."

Angus screamed in rage and fear as Keats’ hand went still and cold on his arm againagainnotagainNOT. AGAIN.

He grabbed the hand holding his and thought in layers, thought of Taako wrapping his spells around a mug to settle in and change the color, thought of Lup speaking of pulling of the edges of spells to shred them.

The spell wrapped around Keats and it stank of pine trees and blood and Keats wasnt his . Shoving his magic at the space where it started and his [BIG BROTHER] ended he peeled the spell off and threw it on the ground.

RUN!

For half a beat, it looked like Keats was going to change direction and rush in in true Magnus style. But then he remembered he was still holding onto Angus and started running towards the cottage.

"Angus, can you get it unlocked before we get there?"

Lup was down on one knee, her leg and casting arm numb. Growling, she drew a bead on Edward and threw the worst most pitiful flame at him that she could remember throwing for a good thirty years.

“But seriously , FUCK OFF!

Barry shoved power at Lup, hoping she could use it to break Lydia's spell, and began trying to shape a shield like Lucretia had taught him. It took effort and concentration to drop one normally but he had pent up fury on his side and the shield popped into place like it had always been there just in time for Edward's next spell to slam into it.

Barry’s power fizzed through her, reacting badly to the spell on her skin, and Lup hissed. Feeling rushed into her leg but she couldn’t move it properly.

Lydia tittered, wand waving lazily in Lup’s direction,
“Had one too many, darling?~ It’s sooo embarrassing watching someone who can’t.... handle themselves...”

Deine Mutter geht in der Stadt huren! ” Lup snapped, slamming her free hand onto the ground, sending power pulsing under Barry’s shield, the earth punched up under Lydia’s feet, throwing her off balance.

Now that Barry had a target he could see clearly in the twilight of the evening, he lashed out in her direction with a snarl. But with no real plan, the magic fizzled long before it got to her.

Edward stepped into the light and chuckled quietly. Then he raised his hands. "You have something of mine, darling. I will be having it back." And that's when Barry felt something hook deep in his magic down burnt, raw channels that he had thought had healed. He dropped to his knees, screaming.

BARRY! ” Lup pushed off the ground, limping towards him and reaching magically, trying to wrap her magic where she knew those hooks were if she could block them off, if she could dam him with her own power-

Angus reached for the door ahead of them, searching for the mechanism, he knew locks, he could-

Lup’s scream stopped him in her tracks, spinning around, wide eyed and magic flaring out towards her, to help somehow.

“MOM!”

Lydia stared at him, smirking, and pointed her wand at Angus,

SLEEP

Angus folded to the ground instantly.

Lup snarled, throwing a sharp slash of unfocused magic at her, “Get OFF my BOY , miststück!”

Lydia’s head snapped back and she stared at Lup, a gash forming across her forehead down to her nose.

Keats froze.

Angus was laying on the ground at his feet, Dad was screaming, Mom had become fury herself, and... and Lydia was bleeding. His memories of her as his gentle sister who held him when he was scared and sung to him so he could sleep when he was still too young to know how to trance vanished, replaced with this. With her face contorted with rage and covered in her own blood.

The blood was the worst part of it, honestly. Keats had been alright with blood once, had been used to seeing it around from time to time. His own when he fell playing or Edward's sometimes for bigger spells. But not now. Not this much. His vision went dim and sound rushed in his ears. Dropping to his knees, Keats grabbed Angus and pulled him close as the jungle took him again.

Lydia snarled and threw a spell at Lup’s face. Lup brought her good arm up to block it, her still magicked one crumpled, and she yelped in shock, then pain as the spell hit the back of her forearm and burned .

Fuck-

Now both arms were useless, wonderful .

Lydia inhaled slowly, looking over at Edward.
“[Finish your brilliant plan, brother, I’m going to get Keats.]”

Lup growled, sending another pulse of magic through the earth, and making Lydia stumble again. The way she was limping was coldly satisfying, but didn’t do more than slow her.

Lydia wiped her forehead, stopping the trickle of blood from going into her eye, and snapped her fingers. Suddenly, her face was clean, her hair was styled, it was the face Keats had seen every morning of his life, smiling at him gently.

“[Come now, darling boy, it’s time for us to go home.]” Lydia closed her fist around her blood, using its power and connection to Keats to layer along her voice. “[Pick up the- ...the boy and we’ll all get in the car and things will be just fine!]”

Keats blinked a few times, trying to breath, trying to think. He looked down at Angus and then looked up at Lydia. When he spoke, his voice was small and far away, scared.

"Angus doesn't like it when I talk in Elvish. He doesn't speak it yet, Lili."

And he stood, cradling Angus in his arms. There was no compulsion on him, only confusion. Only the indistinct, blank feeling that swamped his mind and left him feeling hollow and empty. Some distant part of his mind screamed, though whether it was not to trust Lydia or because he was trying to get cover under enemy fire was uncertain.

Edward smiled and grabbed hold of the cord of power he'd discovered he could access, the cord that ran from him, through darling Barry, and to the man's new bit of amusement. He gave it a small tug, something that could have been a warning coming from anyone else. Then he yanked for all he was worth, tearing power out of Lup and into himself. Barry swayed, the pain redoubling just before he collapsed.

Lup felt the tug and had a brief moment of confusion as her brain scrambled for a similar sensation (Barry. The House. The Parasite. Barry throwing her power from it it being WRONG it-) before the wave of pain, of claws dragging along her lines of power, her mind, her soul and she was screaming in pain, yes, but in rage too how dare he? How dare he do this thing on top of everything else THAT’S OURS OURS-
The physical body can only handle so much, and Lup’s had reached her threshold. She went limply unconscious, injured hand still clenched into a fist as she tried to gather enough for one spell.

Edward walked over to where Lup lay unmoving next to Barry and nudged her with one booted foot until he had rolled her to her back. He looked down at the pair of them for a long moment, face completely blank and neutral. Then he kicked Lup in the gut as hard as he possibly could. When she didn't move, didn't respond, he smiled.

"[It worked perfectly, just as I said it would, darling sister.]"

Then he stretched lazily.

"[I assume we still want them as a power conduit, unless you think the boy is going to be enough.]"

Lydia did not look away from Keats, keeping her smile soft and maternal,

"Keats, the car is over there, can you both get in? We're going to the old beach house, darling, you remember- it has that sunroom you loved so much."

Only then did she turn partially to Edward, ears swiveling to keep focused on Keats.
"[Waste not, want not, Brother.]"



Angus was outside his body and he could see it too laid out on his back like he was in a vampire coffin. He didn't like looking at it much so he turned and he was at the point of a compass rose the east most point closest to the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. Even like this he could feel the sea tugging at his power and he remembered Lup's warning about his soul being dragged out with the tide to wander forever. He turned away from the ocean.

Lup was there to his left on the southern point of the compass laid on her back too but HER wrists and ankles were tied and she was snarling swear words in languages he didn't recognize her voice was hoarse and tears were leaking out of the corners of her eyes.

He didn't like that. He stepped towards her to untie the ropes and saw Barry to his right the north point of the compass. He was tied too but didn't seem to be moving and Angus liked THAT even less.

The center of the circle was empty but there was another shape in the west point of the circle and Angus knew he wouldn't like it WOULDN'T LIKE IT but he needed to see-

He walked over carefully avoiding the middle and stared down. It was Keats. But not Keats. This Keats' face was waxen and doll like even when Keats slept or meditated he didn't look that. Angus remembered with a new clarity the Wrong Keats before in the ocean cave.

"Keats! Please darling, it's for your own good!"

Angus spun and there were Lydia and Edward in front of the car, Lydia leaning against it and pleading.

"It won't take but an hour and you'll feel so much better after!"

Lydia and Edward could see him like this. He COULDN'T let them see him. He wasn't tied down he could think and remember and DO things. He stared at his body still sleeping. But he always woke up when he finished astral projecting and Lydia wasn't concentrating on KEEPING him asleep. He moved fast running for his body and slipping in.

Angus opened and shut his eyes again quickly, listening for Edward and Lydia. Lup had gone quiet, breathing in slowly and clearly trying to do something that pained her. He hoped he could figure out how to fix it, he didn't know how to fight Edward and Lydia and she did .

Keats was still swimming in and out of that blank space that smelled of wet earth, flowers he could never name, and a summer rain that never seemed to end. He could still smell blood and the iron tang seemed to fill his nostrils. He wavered on his feet, looking back and forth between Edward and Lydia. He knew something was wrong. He knew there were enemies behind the trees. But he wasn't sure who the enemies were anymore.

"Keats, please." Edward stepped closer, trying to ignore it when the boy tried to flinch away from his touch. Resting his hands on Keats' shoulders, he leaned in. "We're doing this for you, [little brother]. Let us help you. We love you."

Keats slammed back into this time and this place but kept his face neutral. Any weapon you've got is a weapon you're gonna use, kid. Even if it's just your own silence. The words shot through his mind and he took a shaky breath, ears flicking to the same neutral position instead of being straight up and panicked. What could he hear? Quiet. Quiet. Gods, he knew Mom and Dad and Angus were here. Was he the only one awake? How was he going to get them out of this? Lydia was hurt, he remembered that much. And Edward had a knife on his belt, something jagged and uncomfortable looking. He could maybe get his hands on it but he would need to make sure neither of them could get a spell on him before he'd used it. Maybe... maybe it was time to play along and see what he could leverage that way, even if it was just keeping them off balance. He knew one thing for certain. He would rather get blood on his hands again than have them hurt his [little brother.]

"Alright, Eddie."

There’s our good boy,” Lydia said approvingly,  reaching up to ruffle his hair, “just come along to our arrangement, I promise this won’t take very long.”

Chapter Text

Lup was swimming in and out of consciousness, pain in her side suggested broken ribs, her tied down arrangement was making it hard to breath, and her magic felt scorched .

(A small irreverent part of her yelled that Edward had ruined one of her favorite bed play positions for a while with this and she would make him HURT for it)

She couldn’t hear Barry, couldn’t reach down their connection without pain and possibly tipping Edward off. Angus was.... was breathing? She was pretty sure she heard Angus breathing on the grass to her right and her heart broke all over and steeled into resolve at the same time.

He was a CHILD. And they DARED.

Footsteps. Three pairs of them. She turned her head as much as she could manage and Keats was between them and looking blank faced and she couldn’t stand it

“[They’re lying , michen....]”

 

"[Ignore her, baby brother. Her words mean less than-]"

But Keats had what he wanted. He knew someone else was awake. He dropped low and swept Edward's feet out from under him, grabbing the knife in the same motion. He flipped it, keeping the blade against the inside of his forearm and used the hilt to brace his hand as he punched Lydia as hard as he possibly could. Then he ran for Lup, dropping to his knees as he tried to cut the rope as fast as possible.

"I know, Mom. His mouth was moving, wasn't it?"

He focused on the ropes and tried to ignore the fact that Barry still wasn't moving.

 

Lydia didn’t even have time to yell before she was crumpled on the ground, gasping and holding her side. Her ears were up in alarmed surprise and her face was contorted in rage as she looked at Keats,

WHAT the fuck did you call her??”



Lup grinned, pushing herself up to sitting as Keats sawed at the ropes on her feet. Her arms were in pain as feeling rushed into them, but she could use them and that’s all that mattered.

“He said I’m his mom , shitface.”

She cupped her hands together, pressing fire into a blue ball and launched it at both of them.

 

Edward stayed low, grabbing Lydia to keep her just under the flames. It was hot, sure, but they would be alright. This was how they had always played things. Lydia was the thinker, he brought the action. And now was time for action.

"You little bitch."

He grabbed both magical tethers and gave them a sharp yank, power flowing into him. Still bound and one shoulder definitely dislocated, Barry came around at the new burning, screaming pain. He blinked back into consciousness, whimpering with pain.

"We were going to be nice about this, Keats. But clearly, they've corrupted you." He got to his feet, wrenching the power again, and walked towards Angus. "I was going to make sure his death didn't hurt. For you, baby brother. This is your fault."

Keats got the knife through the last of the ropes binding Lup's feet and his head snapped up. There was no way he could get to Angus in time.

"Fuck you, Edward."

 

Angus’s eyes flew open and he scrambled to his feet, hands going to his braids and yanking the ties down as Edward stalked towards him.

Clarity lemongrass smell filled his nose and his mind jumped ahead.

Magic. He had Taako and Lup’s spells on his hair contained in clay and plastic- clay and plastic weren’t great magical foci but they didn’t HAVE to be for long all he needed was a few seconds-

He grabbed the bead smelling of cinnamon and sealing wax protection against harm and flooded it with magic and intent. It came off in his hand and he threw it at Edward’s feet, a shimmering bubble bursting up out of the ground.

Turning, he pounded towards Barry,

“Dad, Dad! please- please get up, we gotta help-“

Ropes, he was bound at the wrists and ankles. Angus grabbed another of Taako’s beads capsaicin and black pepper clear sight through anything and thought about seeing clearly through the ropes, like they weren’t there anymore or at least not the parts touching Barry-

The ropes split and so did the bead. They all would probably, but he had a lot of them .

 

When the ropes split, Barry started to pull in on himself. Everything hurt. His shoulder, his arms, his legs, the bump on the back of his head, the burning, searing pain that shot through his magic. But he pulled himself up and got an arm around Angus. Some part of his mind that was working past the pain processed Angus' words and his heart lifted. Dad. Yeah, he was Angus' dad.

"We will, bud. I just..." He winced just before Edward shattered the bubble. He had to find a way to separate Edward from his and Lup's magic, once and for all. But there was only one way he would be strong enough, only one way he would have enough magic answering his call to be able to stand a chance against Edward. And the thought filled him with terror. "Angus. Whatever... whatever happens. I'm... I'm proud of you."

The good news was, probably nothing could hurt more than he hurt right now. He looked over at Lup, who was being supported by Keats. Hopefully... hopefully she would know what he meant. Hopefully she would be able to pull off something. A miracle. Either way, he was going to give her time. He grabbed the bond between them, shoving a wave of love and reassurance down it, and held it tight.

"Whatever you do, Lup, don't let go."

His voice was tight with fear as he reached up and popped the release on his harness. A second later, it dropped to the ground.

 

Lup felt like she was moving in slow motion, the wave of Barry down their link, their bond, their connection was a giddy relief followed by utter terror as she turned her head and saw his harness fall and Angus was framed by a crackling specter, red lightning running over it, the edges blurring into static.

She could feel Barry gripping her tight, and that’s all that kept her from losing it in that moment. Throwing her entire being along that connection, she gripped with magic, mind, heart, and bull headed stubbornness.

I FORBID YOU LEAVING WITHOUT ME, BARRY JACOB BLUEJEANS!

 

"I'm not going anywhere."

Barry turned grabbing his own magic in Edward and pulled. He had expected resistance. He had expected a fight. He hadn't expected Edward's look of smug superiority to turn into one of existential horror. He hadn't expected Edward to freeze.

Edward's eyes were wide and he took a stumbling step backwards. Barry was... was floating, was covered in blood and lightning and... Images flashed through his mind, memories dredged up from nowhere and everywhere of this man smiling, gentle, and happy only to be juxtaposed to this. This was the face of a man pushed too far too many times. For the first time in his very long life, Edward felt regret. And he felt fear.

Barry tore the power out of Edward, channeling it to Lup just as the sun was rising.

 

Lup had always liked staying up to watch the sunrise on the summer solstice. It wasn’t a powerful magic holy day, but every solstice and equinox had its own power; that of natural patterns. And being an evocation specialist, drawing her main magic from flame and heat and the burning of energy meant she always got a delicious flare of power sitting up to watch the sun as it rose, laughing, having defeated the short night.

Barry poured magic into her, and she was overflowing it with; for a moment she was a second sun, phantasmal and resplendent .

Turning her attention to Edward, the thorn in her side for too long, this parasite who dared hurt her family her love with his entitled cruelty....

She smiled.

“I’m going to fucking kill you now ~”

 

Edward grabbed for Lydia, trying to pull on that power again, trying to do anything. But Barry was unyielding, as constant and steady an anchor as he could be for the woman he loved. He was a barrier keeping Edward from getting anywhere near the power he needed. And there was absolutely nothing Edward could do about that.

Keats dropped the knife at last, letting it sit by his feet while he kept an arm around Lup to keep her standing. He wasn't sure how long either of them could keep this up but he kept his terror suppressed. He had a job to do and dammit, he was going to do it even if that job was just keeping them whole.

 

Lup was burning but this burn was good , it was a burn that was old and familiar and sang along her veins, and the weight of Keats’ arm was the barest reminder to not let the heat escape her skin until she was ready .

Inhaling, she extended her hands, pressing the mixed power down and TWISTING until it was solidified into one, one that was all hers, anchored by the carbonated ice that was Barry was his love was his stubborn determination a match for hers.

She leaned forward and blew, a shimmering globe of heated power forming in the just barely dawn air in front of her, curling and wavering until it was perfect, hanging incandescent and shining.


Then it punched into the ground under Edward’s feet.

 

Edward's scream hung in the air for a beat beyond the moment when he disintegrated, rendered into nothing by the flames that ate him and left only a battered and charred harness behind.

No longer needing to serve as a buffer, Barry focused on the first thing that caught his attention and flung it full force at Lydia. She was staring at the space where Edward had been as his knife embedded itself in her throat.

"Told you that... that was a lot harder..."

Barry wavered, reaching blindly for something to hold onto as the darkness and cold and static threatened to take him. He could swear he was hearing the cawing of ravens just on the edges of his hearing but he clung to their connection for all he was worth.

 

Lup had sagged as she released her spell, her body clamoring at her that it was injured and channeling magic wasn’t the greatest idea she ever had . But her head snapped up as the knife flew past her, looking for Barry.

Fuck-! ” scrambling against the pain, she stumbled towards him, half pulling Keats half being supported by him.

Angus’s frozen stare at Barry was dragged away at the sound of Lup and Keats’ approach and he turned to them for help, and that’s why he was the only one to see the crackling darkness rise out of Lydia’s body, swirling in shimmering color, coalescing into something like a robed figure.

”YOU’VE TAKEN EVERYTHING FROM ME!”

 

Keats turned and stared in horror. Then he interposed himself between Angus and Lydia.

“I hope you can do something, [little brother], because I can’t punch that.”

 

Lup couldn’t pay attention to Lydia, beyond flicking her ears back at the screech; all her focus was on Barry, on holding their bond together and using the sun’s power to send heat and solidity to him,

“C’mon babe, your boys need you, I need you, come back come back come back-“

Angus gulped and grabbed another bead. This one was purple green sea glass that Lup had smiled and said ‘it’s pretty’ about when she twisted it onto his braid. It had the barest traces of her cinnamon woodsmoke unfocused magic from when she drilled a hole in it. Glass was slightly better as a focus and conduit, he could... he could do something with this, surely.

Lydia’s form was growing indistinct, power circling around her as she pointed her fingers at them. Angus closed his eyes to think, which he couldn’t do while staring his probable death in the face. He was only ten, for fuck’s sake, why was he supposed to deal with this?

He was back in his grandfather’s study, staring at Grandpa’s corpse, feeling numb and uncertain. It wasn’t FAIR! He didn’t want to be alone! But there was only him to make decisions now only him to make it work-

His beads clacked as he trembled, sending up the mixed scents of various charms, all feeling of home and Lup and Taako and Keats was next to him and Lup was trying to keep Barry from leaving them and he wasn’t alone. He was doing this with and for them

The waves crashed on the shore under their cliff and Angus opened his eyes, fingers clenched around his bit of sea glass.

 

Keats had a hand on Angus’s shoulder and suddenly the boy felt hot. Not the warm feeling of temperature difference between him and the living, no. A furious, roiling heat that ebbed and flowed with the tide and ran in waves through them both.

Keats had never felt the magic inherent in the sea... until now. Still, he knew that power in his very soul. It tore at him and he refused to let go of Angus for even a moment. He knew what pattern magic could do, he knew what a pattern as old as the sea could do, and he wasn’t going to lose his brother.

Then he looked up and saw how the heat and the salt and the power were being channeled. Lydia was being drawn towards the cliff, towards the ocean below them. Angus was sending her into the pattern, not himself. Clever boy.

With one last shriek, Lydia dissolved as her spirit was shattered on the rocks below, lost in the tides and the deep water forever.

“Let it go.” Keats hugged Angus tightly, feeling him going wispy as the tides dragged at him. “Let it go. You’ve gotta stay here.”

 

Angus shuddered, feeling the deep deep deep call pulling at his bones and blood, not making promises, that was too petty for something so old; it was simply a CALL a command a song so ancient the melody had been written before anything Angus would recognize as a person had been born.

Keats’ voice was high and thin and tinny in comparison, shrill piping like the gulls that flew over the ocean’s waters... but Angus knew that voice, trusted it implicitly, and he moved towards it. Towards the feeling of solid, if chilled, arms; towards blanket forts and sand castles and learning to tie knots.



Opening his eyes, he gripped Keats’ hand and grinned, wobbling.

“She’s gone .”

“Love you both so much, so proud, please give me a boost to pull Barry back,” Lup’s voice was hoarse and exhausted, the harness in her hands trembling as she reached into Barry.

 

Barry felt thin and distant, felt the grave calling to him in a way it never had in fifty long years of loneliness and grief. He was afraid to look away from Lup, afraid that he would see a light there waiting for him.

Keats put a hand on Lup's shoulder and nodded, trying to push down the cold fear inside him as he offered whatever he could. He didn't have magic, but he had love, acceptance, belonging. He had hopes and dreams and a future he reached for desperately with both hands. "We're right here, Mom."



Barry Bluejeans met Lup's eyes, looked at the boys, and reached. If there was one truth in this world, it was that he refused to go quietly into that good night no matter how many ravens called his name from the dark. Even if his mother had walked out of the light and told him it was time to go, he wouldn't go. Not now. Not ever.

 

Lup sighed as she felt Keats’ solid presence at her back, and Angus’s small hand pressing into her hip. The last surge of power from Angus, the energy from Keats’ words were more than enough for her to redouble her grip on their bond and pull determinedly,

“Put your fucking harness on and give us a hug , babe.”

 

Barry snapped almost violently into solid, firm reality and stumbled as his feet hit the unyielding ground. Lightning played over his skin, around his eyes, for just a moment longer as the harness settled against his back and then he gasped, breathing hard. He reached for Lup, for Keats, for Angus, for his family. They were here and alive (well, as alive as some of them ever were) and safe. There were tears on his cheeks and he rested his head against Lup's shoulder.

Keats grabbed onto Barry the moment he was solid, needing to be sure. It hadn't really hit him yet that Edward and Lydia were gone forever. Not yet. And that was something he would have to come to terms with someday. But right now, all he cared about was that his family, his chosen family, was safe and here and they were going to stay that way.

 

Lup wrapped her arms around Barry as tightly as she could, letting her tears flow out of her eyes but not quite giving into the need to have a real sob fest because if she did that she’d be useless for hours and things.... things needed to be done.

Hells, they still had two days left, maybe they should just go home and curl into a large pile in the living room for a day.

The thought of going home finally raised her, and she pulled away from Barry with a ruffle to Angus’s hair and a squeeze around Keats’ waist.

“Okay. Okay ,” she sniffed and scrubbed her face, “so what’re the chances the keys were in Edward’s pocket and I’m going to have to figure out how hot wiring a car has changed in fifteen years?”

 


The keys were actually in the ignition, which Lup scoffed at, and a net bag of all their phones was in the passenger seat. Probably for easy throwing into the ocean later.
Lup pulled hers out, crossing fingers for any reception and cheered when she actually got two bars.

Dialing a number, she leaned against the car and stared out into the fully risen sun over the ocean. It looked like it was going to be a nice day.

“Hey Kravitz? Remember that time you pulled strings to let me into your super top secret workplace and I accidentally set Edward free by punching him?”

Lup paused, hoping Kravitz wasn’t too sleep addled to not understand this.

“....well, I fixed it. Okay, helped fix it. He’s dead now. Again. For good I think?”

Chapter Text

Barry was chatting amiably with the mail carrier while Starbuck tried to get her head through the hedges to eat their mailbag. He got a hand around her collar, pulling her back.

"I'm really glad I caught you and not one of the boys." He held a large tan envelope in his hand as he spoke. "Gotta keep this thing a surprise. Anyway, thanks a lot. See you tomorrow!"

Turning, he surveyed the yard with its riot of flowers and life and the three cars that were lined up in the driveway now that that Keats finally had his license. Tess was lounging in the window and she looked up as he walked towards the door. This... this was home and it was perfect.

"Lup, mail's here!" There was a hint of excitement in his tone and he hoped she caught his meaning.

Barry’s fizzing excitement caught her attention and Lup’s ears flipped high as she peered up at him from the couch where she had been frowning over her edits on her long form incident write up for Cap’nport (cc’d Kravitz).

Setting her laptop aside, her eyes got huge at the envelope in his hand.

“Is that....?” She couldn’t stop the grin spreading over her face.

He held it out, a huge smile on his face. Then he bent down to kiss her forehead.

"Yeah, it is. We uh... we probably should've figured out how we were gonna tell them, huh?"

He looked around, half expecting them to be under foot somewhere.

“They’re downstairs, Savannah came over,” she said promptly, taking the envelope and staring at the official return address, biting her lip.

I personally am a fan of just fuckin’ yelling it, but if you want to wait till tonight I can get fancy with dinner.”

"I mean, we still have to like... sign shit and send it back. Plus uh... plus we have to ask them if they want the uh... name change form stuff."

He settled next to her, leaning his head on her shoulder. "Is she staying for dinner?"

Lup shrugged, unconcerned, “Probably. They were playing Portal Co-op last time I checked, and that’s going to eat up hours .”

Sliding a fingernail under the envelope flap, she peeked at the forms inside,
“Holy shit, it’s the real stuff.....”

He laughed at that. "No, babe, I ordered fake forms from the black market." He kissed her temple. "Yeah, they're real. Kravitz helped with some uh... expediting. Apparently his boss said I should consider it an apology? And then never uh... never clarified what for?" He went quiet, excitement still coursing through him. "I almost wanna go get them now, you know?"

Lup wiggled, pinging her own excitement back at him, “Fuck it, patience was never something I learned very well.”

She bounced off the couch and held out a hand for him.
As they opened the basement door, there was a shout of “GET THE FUCK OFF, KEATS!” Angus laughing hysterically, and a cold, robotic voice asking “ Did you think that would be funny?

Lup grinned and leaned over the railing flapping the envelope at them,

“Hey, we’re pausing the science testing for a minute, get the fuck up here!”

Keats was the first one up the stairs, ears flared with worry, "I wasn't doing anything! It was in the game, Mom. I swear."

Angus bounced up after him, grinning, “he dropped Savannah in the lava!

Savannah followed after them, a grin on her face. "And I'll get him back for it later."

“You traitorous fiend , nah get up here, it’s a good surprise.”

Barry gestured towards the kitchen table. "Have a seat, kids. Lup, you wanna tell them?"

Lup bounced on the balls of her feet slightly, waiting until they were seated, Angus sending her a sharp, curious look.

SO , sooo, So we got a thing today-“ she slid the envelope across the table to them, several sheets of paper sliding out, which Angus reached for. “We’re probably gonna hafta go over some of the forms together, make sure they’re filled right, and there’s some court dates we have to schedule for you, Angus, but mostly -“

She had to stop then, not able to make her mouth move around her smile. Angus’s eyes had gone wide and he was shuffling through the paperwork.

"There's some for Keats too, but that's a little easier, you being eighteen and all." Barry shuffled the rest of the papers out and slid them to Keats who stared at them in wonder.

"Dad... is this...? I mean... Mom, are you...?" Keats lost his words, just smiling up at both of them.

Angus pushed back out of his chair and ran around the table, plowing into Barry with a hug. There was a tiny sob from Barry’s shirt and Angus’s arms were trembling. Lup laughed and clapped her hands,

Yeah! You’ll both be officially and legally and whateverly our kids soon as that’s done- awww, Ango, if you cry, I’m going to cry and it’s gonna be a mess-“

Keats knocked his chair over getting up and didn't even stop to fix it. He hugged Lup tightly, not even caring that Savannah had pulled out her phone and was absolutely putting pictures of this on instagram at that very moment.

Barry returned Angus' hug. "Everything's right there. And it's gonna take some time but uh... but we're gonna do it together. And I bet we'll have it all done by Candlenights, right Lup?"

Then he cleared his throat, trying to control the emotions the were threatening to take over. "There uh... there's one thing you boys need to decide though. For uh... for all the forms. See, you're allowed to pick whether you keep your current last name or if you take... well, mine, I guess." He glanced over at Lup at that. "And it's up to you."

Angus hiccuped and pulled away, scrubbing at his face under his glasses,
“You.... you won’t- uhm, wont mind if I ke- keep mine, right? I just, I- I love you, but I’m-“

Lup reached around Keats with the hand not stroking his hair to tussle Angus’s braids,

“‘Course not, kiddo, doesn’t make you any less ours , and it’s your name.”

"Of course we won't mind, Ango. I said it was up to you, right?"

Keats looked up at Lup, expression rather serious. "[My House name can die in a fire for all I care.]" He switched back to English then and grinned. "If I have to be a fancy Elf boy, I can just use Mom's and confuse some stuffy old bloods. It'll be great. And... and I think Keats Bluejeans sounds pretty alright, Dad."

Lup kissed his forehead in understanding, before looking blank,

“Aw hells, now I have to ask Taako if he remembers our House name... Teosinva? Maybe? I don’t think it’s even on any of our school paperwork...”

Shaking her head, she gave Savannah an amused look, “You’re tagging me in those, right?”

"Absolutely, Ma'am!" Savannah gave her a thumbs up. "And I've already got a bunch of likes. And Magnus commented, quote, I'm not crying, you're crying, unquote. Followed by six little crying emojis and a puppy."

Keats laughed at that. "That sounds like Magnus alright." Then he absolutely lit up and started laughing. "Hah! It's Uncle Taako for reals now and he can't say shit!"

Lup snorted and hugged Angus as he peeled off Barry and reached for her,
“Bet you five dollars he won’t hear you unless you address him as such your next lesson?”

Angus shook his head, squeezing her, “next lesson he’s gonna act offended, the lesson after that he’ll insist.”

In the back of his mind, Barry Bluejeans wondered what his mother would say if she could see him now, if she could see the old house full of laughter and love and family the way she had always wanted it to be. He put an arm around Lup's shoulders and kissed her cheek as Keats turned to hug him tightly as well, Savannah still snapping pictures with a smile on her face. He thought that, probably, if Marlena Bluejeans had been able to see him now, she would have laughed and said he'd done alright for himself, even if he did things in the wrong order, just like he did everything else. And he was pretty alright with that.