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Nephylim

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  1. Nephylim

    Chapter 34

    Aww. You're all so sweet. Thank you!
  2. Nephylim

    Chapter 34

    Thank you. I look at these few chapters as a bit of a change of pace before things start happening again. Little things that help us learn a bit more about how everyone works and to allow the relationship to deepen before the next test.
  3. Nephylim

    Chapter 34

    The discussion about whether they should spend the night on the bus was tense. While Aria understood it would be better to arrive at their grandmother’s in the morning, he struggled with the prospect of sleeping in the bedroom, even when Drew promised he wouldn’t leave them alone at all and would keep the light on. He relented when Cerrian suggested that once the food had gone she would turn the table into a bed. Within ten minutes of taking the pain medication, Amara wouldn’t have cared if they slept on the roof. In fact, he mentioned the possibility. “We could look at the stars.” He sighed. “So pretty and so far away, like me.” “You are pretty,” Aria agreed, “but you’re not far away, you’re right here.” Amara took Aria’s hand, gazed earnestly into his eye and said in all seriousness. “Don’t you understand? I’m a cloud.” Then he sighed happily, closed his eyes and went to sleep. Aria freaked until Drew, Cerrian and Jay all assured him that it was just the pain medication that made him somewhat detached from reality. He didn’t look as if he believed them, but he settled and sipped his chai latte until he started nodding and sliding toward Amara, at which point Drew decided it was time for bed. He helped Cerrian clear away the remains of the food and convert the table. He had to admit it made a pretty decent bed. Even so, there was no way it would fit more than two small people. “I’m going to brave the coffins,” Jay said, grinning. “Are you sure,” Cerrian asked, fluttering her eyelashes in an outrageously dramatic way. “The bedroom’s plenty big enough for two.” Jay laughed. “I think I’ll give it a skip, thank you.” “You wound me. What about you Drew.?” “Drew’s going to sleep with us,” Aria said sitting up, instantly alert. “There’s no room,” Drew said, sitting beside Aria who leaned on him. “Amara needs space to breathe. It would be too cramped and that wouldn’t be fair on him.” “Don’t leave us,” Aria whispered, gazing up into his eyes. Drew melted and stroked his hair, leaning down for a brief, gentle kiss that brought a gasp from Jay. Aria simply closed his eyes and sighed, a beatific smile on his face. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to sleep right here on the seat. I’ll be arm’s reach away. Cerrian is going to leave the light on so you’ll be able to see me from the bed, okay?” Aria opened his eyes and frowned. “But it wouldn’t be comfortable to sleep here.” Drew snorted. “Trust me, I’ve slept in a lot less comfortable. I’ll be perfectly fine. You just worry about you and Amara.” “I am worried about Amara.” “Don’t be. He’ll be perfectly alright if he rests up. You’ll be surprised what a few days of lazing around will do for him. You can go for some gentle walks in the sunshine, put some colour back in your cheeks and he’ll get better every day.” “Are you sure? He thinks he’s a cloud.” “He doesn’t really think he’s a cloud. He’s—” Aria’s grin clued Drew into the fact that he was teasing. Drew cuffed him affectionately then kissed the end of his nose. “I think you’d both make adorable clouds,” Jay said. “Little white fluffy ones.” “Mine would be tinged with pink,” Aria said thoughtfully. “Yours would have glitter, obvs. I think Amara’s would have lightning and Drew…” He tilted his head and frowned. “I don’t know what Drew’s cloud would be like.” “A little rain cloud,” Cerrian teased. Aria shook his head. “No, he’d be the sheepdog one. The one who gathers up all the pink ones and glittery ones, and even the ones with lightning, and keeps them safe.” “What about me?” Cerrian asked. “What kind of cloud am I? Where do I fit in all of this?” Aria gazed at her with an absolutely straight face and said— “you drive the bus.” “Thank you.” Cerrian tried to sound offended but she was grinning too wide for that to work. Once Cerrian had made a nest on the table-bed, Drew carefully shifted Amara onto it. He half woke and spoke a jumble of words that made no sense, then settled down among the pillows and cushions Cerrian had brought from the bedroom. With a sigh, he slid back into a deep sleep. Aria climbed up behind him and snuggled under the duvet. “Promise you won’t leave. You’ll be right there all night?” “I promise. Right here.” “And the light will be on?” “If you wake up at any time during the night, I promise you that the light will be on and if you lift our head you’ll see me.” Aria seemed satisfied with that because he settled down and closed his eyes. “I’d better head off.” Jay said with a grin. “Good luck.” “Good luck to you sleeping in that thing,” Cerrian said as she passed him and headed down the corridor, diverting into the toilet. “She’s quite….something, isn’t she?” Jay said, grinning after her. “She’s something alright.” “How old is she? She wouldn’t tell me.” “Too old for you.” Jay laughed and shook their head. “Not for me. She has entirely the wrong set of tools. I was thinking of a friend.” “You obviously don’t think much of them then.” Jay gave Drew an odd look. “Don’t you like your sister?” “I love her to the moon, but like her? I guess so. We’re very different and always have been. She’s enough older than me that she considered herself practically grown up when I was born, and I was six when she left home. I suppose we never really had a chance to get close, and she’s always teased me because I’m not as laid back and free spirited and she is. She’s even worse with Sioned.” He paused and thought hard. “I’ve never actually thought about it, to be honest. The truth is, I don’t know her as well as I should but I admire her. She’s travelled all over the world alone, gone into places no other white person has been, speaks dozens of languages, works hard for I don’t know how many charities and relief organizations. I suppose it’s not so surprising I don’t know her well enough.” He pondered. “I suppose my reservations come from seeing how upset Mam is when she doesn’t come home for occasions, and how afraid she can be when Cerrian is— Oh.” “What’s wrong?” Drew gave a bitter laugh. “I just heard myself and realized every word that was coming out of my mouth could be applied to me.” “Ah. One of those moments. I guess I’m lucky in a way. I don’t have any family to worry about. At least none who give a damn.” Drew hesitated, wondering if he should ask, but while he was thinking about it, Jay headed off. When Cerrian emerged, they disappeared into the toilet. She stared after them for a moment. “What have you said to them?” Drew smiled. She hadn’t hesitated for a moment that time. “What are you smiling at? I hope you haven’t been teasing them. I don’t think they appreciated it.” “Pot meet kettle,” Drew said dryly. “Stop diverting.” “I didn’t say anything. I was talking about family and they got a bit upset, I think. They said they have no family, at least none that care.” “Ah. Well, not everyone’s lucky enough to be related to someone as fabulous as me.” On a whim, Drew pulled her into an awkward hug. “You’re right.” “Oi, what’s that for?” Drew just grinned and nudged her toward the bedroom. “Go to bed, you mad woman.” “Nighty night soldier boy.” Drew didn’t think he’d sleep that night, but surprisingly it felt as if he’d hardly closed his eyes before he was shaken awake. He sat bolt upright and almost knocked Aria over. Aria laughed, the sound like a shower of fresh water that had Drew instantly wide awake. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?” Aria laughed again. “Silly. Are you always so grumpy when you wake up?” “I am not grumpy.” “You look grumpy.” Aria laid a hand on Drew’s cheek and kissed him sweetly. “Does that make it better?” Drew smiled and gazed at Aria. “If you’re going to wake me like that every morning, I guarantee I’ll wake with a smile.” Aria beamed. “Good. That will be easy, because I really like waking you like that. You’re so sweet when you’re asleep.” “Were you watching me sleep?” “Only for a while,” Aria said, guardedly, drawing back. Drew shook his head, realizing the tone had come out rougher than he’d intended. It always rattled him when the twins were able to get this close without him having the slightest awareness. His life had been saved so many times by his skill in sleeping with one eye open and sensing whenever anyone moved nearby. Somehow, both twins had developed a knack for circumventing that. “What did I do?” Drew gathered him close, hating that he’d put uncertainty onto his face and into his voice. “You didn’t do anything. I’m just not used to anyone being able to get close without me being aware.” “We do it all the time.” Aria shrugged it off. “With everyone. We don’t try to be sneaky.” He paused and thought about it. “Not always.” “What time is it?” “Early, but I couldn’t sleep any more. I think Amara needs more of those pills because he’s moaning in his sleep and I hate it.” Drew reached out for his phone and checked the time. It was seven a.m. “Not that early. He can have another pill and maybe he’ll sleep a while longer.” “Can I come sleep with you. I’m afraid to move in case I hurt him.” “Well, there’s not much room, but I’m not going to say no to a cuddle.” Aria’s face lit up. “I’ll put all the cushions on the floor. The ones you sit on come off, too, I checked last night. With all the pretty ones, we should be able to make a nest.” “I’ve slept in worse places.” Drew crept to the kitchen, wincing at every creak, trying not to disturb anyone. Nevertheless, Jay stuck their head out of the lower cabin. “Are you getting up?” “No, just giving Amara his meds.” “Oh, okay, call me when there’s coffee.” The head disappeared and Drew grinned. Drew located both sets of pills. Considering, he figured the less strong ones would be sufficient at this point given Amara was asleep and likely to go back once he’d taken his pill. He grabbed a bottle of water and climbed onto the bed. Amara groaned and rolled his head on the pillow. “Hey you.” Drew brushed the hair out of Amara’s face. “Time for your meds, sleepy.” It took a little coaxing but eventually Amara’s eyelashes fluttered and he opened his eyes. They were dull and glazed. “Drew?” “Yes, it’s me. Are you going to sit up to take your pill or do you want me to lift you up just a bit.” Amara mumbled something incomprehensible and tried to roll onto his side. Drew stopped him. “Pills first.” “Don’t want to. Don’t like it.” “I know, but you don’t like the pain either, huh?” Amara mumbled something but struggled to sit up. Drew helped him and he lay half supported by Drew’s arm, gazing into his eyes. He sighed and raised a hand to touch Drew’s face. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured. Drew chuckled. “No, that would be you. You and Aria are the beautiful ones.” “I know, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be, too.” He sighed again as Drew nudged his hand down and deposited a pill in it. He handed the bottle of water to Amara and nudged him. “Take the pill.” “I love you, Drew, but I don’t like you much when you’re forcing me to take drugs I don’t want.” “You can kick my arse when you’re better. In the meantime, take the damn pill. Don’t worry, it’s not the strong one I gave you last night. It’ll just take the edge off so you can sleep.” “You’re grumpy.” “You’re stubborn.” “For God’s sake take the damn pill.” Jay sounded frustrated, and they made no attempt to emerge from their pod. “Traitor,” Amara mumbled, too low for Jay to hear. Nevertheless, he put the pill into his mouth with bad grace and swallowed it down with a few swigs of water. “Happy?” he grumbled. Drew helped him lie back. “I’m happy you can rest without too much pain, yes.” Amara scowled. “I hate it when you’re right.” “Get used to it.” Drew reclined next to Amara and stroked his hair until he fell asleep, already breathing more easily. He then watched him sleep for a while before carefully edging off the bed. Drew smiled when he saw the cosy nest Aria had made for them on the floor between the seats. He smiled even more when he saw that Aria was asleep, curled up like a kitten under the duvet. He visited the toilet, then slipped under the cover and cuddled up to Aria, who made a sleepy sound and curled in to him. He fell asleep stroking Aria’s hair and thinking that after having longed to do it for so long it was something he would never get tired of. The next time Drew woke, it was to the sound of someone moving around in the kitchen and not being quiet about it. He sat up and Aria followed, yawning and rubbing his eyes. “I got fed up of waiting for someone to make coffee, so I thought I’d do it myself. Imagine how disappointed I was to discover there is nothing but instant. I might have come from the gutter, but I’ve got used to the finer things in life and coffee is at the top of the list.” Jay grinned at him and put down the saucepan they were holding. “I’m not really making anything except noise. I want someone to get up so I can go and get some proper coffee. Well, closer than this.” They looked at the jar of instant coffee as if it contained worms. “I’ll come with you,” Aria said, hopping to his feet. “I’ve never been to one of those places before, not on my own. I’ve been with security, just to the toilet.” I don’t think that would be wise, Aria,” Drew said. “Don’t forget the situation. If anyone recognises you there could be trouble.” Aria’s face fell and Drew’s stomach turned. It was like kicking a puppy. Firming his lips, Aria nodded. “I understand. Sometimes it sucks to be famous.” “I’ll go,” Jay said. “I’ll get your favourites.” “How does Jay get to go,” Aria protested. “He’s famous too.” “Well yes,” Drew conceded, “but they’re not as famous as you and they’re looking very un-Jay-like at the moment.” Aria hummed and tilted his head, staring at Jay. “I suppose so. There’s no sparkle at all.” “Hey, my inner sparkle’s still there.” Jay grinned and it was true – their eyes sparkled and they bounced while standing still. “What’s all the noise? I hope someone’s been for coffee.” Cerrian emerged from the bedroom scratching at her wild hair. It was blonde, like Drew’s, but streaked with ash from spending so much time in the sun. Drew was pretty sure there was a fair sprinkling of silver in there, but Cerrian hit him every time he tried to investigate. “I was just about to,” Jay said. “I can get breakfast as well, I’m starving.” Cerrian glared at them. “It’s unfair you’re so slim when you eat like you do.” Jay grinned and shrugged. “It’s the energy I exude like expensive perfume. Don’t think about that. Come on.” They linked their arm with Cerrian and her foot was on the first step before she realised she had no shoes on. “Hang on you idiot. I’ve walked barefoot plenty of times but I’m not risking it in there.” She paused to slip on a pair of canvas pumps that lingered beside the door and ran after Jay who hadn’t waited. It was very quiet after they’d gone. “We should get the nest put away,” Aria said and tugged at the duvet. Drew stood and stretched. “It can wait a minute while I use the toilet.” He should have known Aria would have finished by the time he got back. “You should have waited.” “Why? Don’t you think I’m capable of picking up a few cushions without your help?” “No, of course not. It’s just… I like to help you. There’s something about working side to side with the man you love that I find very satisfying.” Aria froze and stared at him. “What?” “You called me a man, and said you love me.” “Well, you are a man, and I do love you so what’s the problem?” “You don’t understand. No one has ever called me a man before, and I’m pretty sure no one has ever looked at me and thought it. I know I haven’t been eighteen very long and I suppose I wasn’t a man before then, but everyone’s just seen me as a useless kid.” He shrugged. “I suppose that’s how I see myself. It’s different with Amara. Because of the kind of songs he sings he’s never really been seen as a kid. I mean, since he started singing.” Drew took Aria’s face between his hands and gazed into his eyes. “Never say that about yourself again. You are not useless and you are not a kid. You’re a strong and beautiful man. Okay, you’re a man who strongly reminds me of a kitten, but still a man.” “Maybe I should grow into a cat.” Drew stroked his hair and caressed his cheek. “If you want. I’ll support you in anything you want to do. But just so you know, I’m rather fond of the kitten, ears and all. After all, that was the first time I really looked at you and thought…wow. I think that’s the moment I fell in love with you, but I didn’t realise it at the time.” “You did? Even though I was wearing a dress and my kitten ears?” “Especially because of that.” “I was trying to impress you. I guess I was showing off a little, all night.” Aria ducked his head and glanced up from under his eyelashes, in the most unconsciously seductive glance Drew had ever received. He shivered and parts of him twitched. Aria stepped in, closing the distance between them. He took Drew’s face between his two small hands and Drew couldn’t have moved if his life had depended on it. Damn, he could barely breathe as Aria stood on tiptoe and pressed their lips together. Almost afraid to move, Drew wrapped his arms around Aria and pulled him closer. Aria gasped but didn’t pull away. Instead he sighed against Drew’s lips and Drew had to fight not to whimper. “It’s okay,” Aria whispered. “I trust you. I know you won’t force me into anything, so it’s okay for you to relax and do all the things you do, like making sounds and…you know…getting…um…hard. It’s weird, but I trust you and I know you can’t help it.” What the hell was Drew supposed to do when Aria said something as sweet as that, with his lips still against Drew’s. He groaned and deepened the kiss. Aria stiffened again, but almost immediately relaxed and clung to Drew, doing his best to follow what Drew was doing with a tentative exploration of his own. “Stop,” Aria whispered, breathless, and Drew immediately pulled away. “Was I pushing too far?” Drew asked anxiously. Aria smiled and caressed his cheek. “I need to breathe,” he said. “It was… It wasn’t too much…exactly. I want to… I don’t want to stop but… It was….” “Too much. I know. I remember what it was like when it was all new to me, too. It’s overwhelming. Don’t think we have to do this every time, or that you should do it for me at all. We’ll take it at your pace. If you want to kiss me gently, you can do that. If you want to kiss me a hundred times a day without tongues at all I would be the happiest man on earth. If you kissed me just once with your tongue half way down my throat, I’d feel exactly the same way, because I am the luckiest man in the world just to have you in my life on whatever basis you want. The important thing is that you know I’ll never hurt you. I’ll never push you farther than you want to go. You set the pace, always.” “It’s not that I didn’t like it, or that I don’t want to do it again. It’s just…all so new. I never thought I’d want to do even that. I’ve never kissed anyone like that.” “And I don’t want to spoil it. I don’t want to break something so precious before it has a chance. That’s why I want you to take it slow, too. Don’t push further than you’re comfortable with just because you think I want you too, or even because you want to. Slow, okay?” The smile that broke over Aria’s face was pure sunshine. “I love you Drew.” “I love you too, kitten.” A cloud passed over Aria’s sun. “You do know, that it won’t ever go further? That no matter how much I like kissing or how…enthusiastic I am, it will never go further. I don’t want you, or anyone else, to touch me. I don t even like touching myself. It doesn’t feel good and I don’t want to ever have to do that with anyone else.” Drew brushed the hair from Aria’s forehead and ran his thumb over the creases made by his frown. “This is why it’s so important to talk. I’m going into this with my eyes wide open, and so are you. I will never never ask you to do anything you are uncomfortable with. I know what asexual means. Okay, I don’t know exactly what it means for you, for us, but we’ll learn together what your limits and preferences are. You’ve never had the opportunity to do that before. One thing you can be absolutely sure of though, if you tell me you don’t want sex, I will accept that one hundred percent. As far as I’m concerned, it’s completely off the table and that’s how it will always be unless you tell me different. Even then, you’ll have to convince me it’s really what you want.” Aria’s eyes darted around as if afraid to settle on Drew. “What if… What if, sometimes in the future, I might want to…try things? Not sex, but maybe…maybe touching…or something?” “If you want to try, we’ll try, but only if I’m sure it’s what you want and not what you think I want. And I will never ask you to.” Aria gave a deep sigh and his sun came out again full force. “We were lucky weren’t we? Lucky to find you.” “I don’t know about that. I think I’m the lucky one.” “Well, we won’t argue about that.” Aria sighed again, his expression turning sad. “I wish… I just wish… I wish Amara had met you sooner.” Drew hugged him close and Aria hugged him back, pressing the side of his face against Drew’s chest. Drew stroked his hair. “We’ll make up for it now.” “You will make it good for him, won’t you? You won’t hurt him like… You won’t hurt him?” Drew bit his lip, fighting to keep his voice even. “I won’t hurt him, Aria. I promise. I won’t hurt either of you, ever.” Aria relaxed against him and they simply held each other for a while. “I wish Jay had you, too,” Aria murmured then sighed. “They need someone to love them, too.” “Well as much as I like Jay don’t even think about bringing them into our relationship.” “Oh.” Aria raised his head and beamed at Drew, “I would never do that. I don’t want to share you with anyone.” “You share me with Amara.” For a moment, Aria seemed confused, then he grinned. “That’s not really sharing, is it? I mean Amara’s part of me, and I’m part of him.” Drew chuckled and shook his head. “I’ve never known anyone as close as you two.” Aria shrugged. “We’ve been together right from the very start. We were just one egg and then we broke into two, but we’re still the same. We fit together like two pieces of a broken plate. Amara said that. He’s the poetic one. He writes songs. I thought about that, but I think we’re more like a press stud. We need each other to be completely whole, but when we’re apart, neither of us is actually broken.” Drew kissed Aria’s hair. “I like your version better.” Aria beamed. “Thank you. I’ll tell Amara, but don’t expect him to just accept it because he doesn’t like being wrong.” “No one likes being wrong, but the longer you live the more you get used to it.” “And of course you’ve lived such a long time, old man.”
  4. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    She's a surprise alright
  5. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Damn. Now you've got me wishing I'd written it like that. It would have been a total blast
  6. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Yeah. that's my biggest problem I'm just crossing my fingers and wishing one of my books will make the bestseller list which, frankly. is about as likely as winning the lottery
  7. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Or both
  8. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    I think you're right. There might be time for my hippie van yet. Now all I need do is win the lottery I don't think my Peugot would loo quite the same.
  9. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    He he. Me too. Especially the bus I've always had this dream of an old VW camper decked out in true hippie form. I was born just a little bit too late, I think
  10. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Drew really should have known better about the back of the bus, and particularly about leaving the boys alone in there. I think Aria coped remarkably well in the circumstances. At least he was able to relax and handle the situation when Drew was there which is a lot for him. As far as Amara's pain medication is concerned, I tend to be on your side. I think, if Amara was at home and resting the lighter pain meds would have been adequate, but they're in the middle of something that is uncomfortable for all of them. Maybe I overexaggerated a bit, but I am a writer after all. I am absolutely not like that in real life. I don't exaggerate at all. Ever. Not even a bit. Once we're settled with grandma we'll get to know a little bit more about Jay. They're a compelx character.
  11. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Jay is definitely part of the family now and they will all look after them. I love Cerrian. She's just so much fun to write. Nothing throws her off her stride. You last line made me think of Blue Oyster Cult "Don't Fear The Reaper"
  12. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    And you really do know very little about her. She is as much a force of nature as her gransons
  13. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    How did you know the bus is dripping engine oil? Cerrian really needs to get that fixed before she goes to India
  14. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Holster those slapping hands lads. You haven't even met the poor woman yet.
  15. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Hehe. Don't worry, there is going to be SUCH a showdown with Mamma Bear!! Can't wait for you guys to read it, but you need to be patient.
  16. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Stodgy harridan *snort* I'm going to tell her you said that
  17. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    You can slap whoever you want, but you might want to reserve your opinion on that until you meet Lady Jane Graice.
  18. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    Thank you so much. I've had so much fun writing this story and even more fun reading the comments
  19. Nephylim

    Chapter 33

    The interior of the bus was as colourful and eclectic as the outside. Blond wood clad the walls and curved overhead, broken up by psychedelic wall hangings and tapestries. The bright colours were echoed in the cushions that dotted the tiny seating area and round rag rug on the floor. To Drew’s right, was a small table attached to the wall, with two bench seats, and beyond that a miniature kitchen and a narrow passage that ended in a door. Drew was dubious about whether he would be able to walk down it without turning sideways. Jay was sitting alone on one of the bench seats, hugging a tapestry cushion that featured a stylised elephant in shades of bright pink and purple. “Where is everyone?” Jay shrugged. “They went down there.” They nodded toward the passage. “Are you alright?” There was something in their voice that brought to mind his mother’s last comment. “Yeah, just tired, I guess.” “Are you sure?” Jay gave him a small smile that was a shadow of their usual exuberance. “What else could it be?” Drew thought about that, as he made his way along the passage. On either side were sliding doors, one above the other. The left ones were only about half the size of the right ones and ended in a door. Curious, Drew slid open the higher of the two larger ones to reveal a bed. He assumed the bottom one was the same. One of the smaller cupboards revealed supplies of food, cleaning materials etc. The door led to a wet room with a chemical toilet and shower head. Drew chuckled. Clearly there were some amenities Cerrian wasn’t prepared to live without. That was, if they were in a place they could refill the water tanks of course. To be honest, the entire bus was pretty impressive and Cerrian wasn’t slumming it as much as she’d led them to believe. Drew grinned to himself as he tapped on the door facing him at the end. “Hang on.” In a few minutes, Cerrian slipped out of the door. “They’re all settled. Go on it, but there’s not much room. Be careful when we start up because it can get bumpy back here when the bus is moving. I’ll take Jay in the front with me, if you’re wondering where they are when you come out.” Drew was glad about that. He didn’t like to think of Jay sitting in the bus alone. Cerrian could be perceptive when she wanted. Drew was also glad she was using the correct pronouns for Jay. That must mean she liked them, because she could be a wicked cow when it came to things like that, and she liked to prod. Maybe she saw the same thing in Jay their mother did. Drew had to back out of the corridor because there wasn’t room to pass, and he smiled at Cerrian’s, “come on then you, you’re keeping me company up front”, before slipping into the room at the end of the hall. Almost the entire room was taken up by the bed. There was barely enough room to open the door. The bed was about two feet off the ground, with the underneath divided into boxes all of which contained either clothes, pillows or spare blankets. There was about a foot and a half between the wall and the bed, so there wasn’t much room at all. Flimsy voile curtains screened the bed itself, and behind them Drew could just about make out two reclining figures. Eagerly, he kicked off his shoes and parted the drapes. Amara was relining, propped up on a cloud of colourful pillows and cushions. Aria curled in next to him also half lost in a pile of bright pillows. “Christ,” Drew said as he crawled toward the twins. “It looks like it snowed cushions.” Aria sniggered. “I like them. This one is my favourite.” He threw a round, pink pillow with a big sequinned star at Drew. “Oh no, wait. This one is.” He threw another pillow. Drew laughed, caught the third one and threw it back. “Be careful, you don’t want to hurt Amara,” he warned. A grating sound accompanied by a deep vibration shook the bed, then settled in to purr. “What was that?” Aria asked, looking startled. “Just the bus starting up.” Aria nodded, his face pale. He grabbed a pillow and held it tight to his chest as the bus pulled away. Aria’s eyes flicked around the cramped space and he swallowed thickly. “Do you want to sit outside? I’ll stay with Amara.” A momentary flare of hope, faded quickly into resignation. “No, I’ll be fine. It’s not like being locked in the boot. Not at all really. It’s just the sound and the feeling.” Drew crawled in behind Aria and sandwiched him between himself and Amara. Amara turned carefully onto his side and slung his arm over Aria’s waist. “Don’t think about it,” he said. “Just think about being with me and Drew. Drew won’t let anything bad happen to you. We’re safe now.” Aria made an assenting sound but didn’t relax, not for a long time, not until Amara was asleep, and Drew fighting it off. Finally, he sagged, his tense body melting against the pillows. “Thank you,” he murmured. “There’s nothing to thank me for. This is your normal now. Well, not the bus, but having me and Amara taking care of you.” “I’ll take care of you, too.” “I know you will. Now, go to sleep.” Drew couldn’t see Aria smile but he was sure it was there, that gentle curve of the lips that turned a pretty face into an epically beautiful one. The gentle rocking of the bus, surprisingly including Cerrian’s cornering, soon lulled Drew into joining the twins in slumber. After many years of travelling in jeeps and army trucks the sensations were familiar, and he’d long ago developed the ability to sleep as and where he could. When Drew woke, the first thing he noticed was that the bus had stopped. He carefully slid out from under Aria, who was fast asleep, sprawled half over Drew, a position Drew was fast coming to conclude was his favourite. Aria stirred and muttered something in his sleep, causing Amara to throw his arm across Aria’s shoulders. However, neither of them woke and Drew backed carefully off the bed and slipped out of the door. A quick peep out of the only window on the bus that wasn’t painted out, over the sink in the kitchen, revealed they were parked in a car park of some kind, next to a coach. Drew concluded they must be in a Services. Blinking against the light after the dimness of the bedroom, Drew pulled on his boots and opened the door. There was no sign of Cerrian or Jay and Drew assumed they’d headed inside. He wondered whether to wake the twins but decided against it. They needed sleep more than services. He’d have liked to head inside for a hot drink and a stretch of his legs but there was no way he’d leave the twins alone. He jumped down and walked around for a while, stretching his back and stomping to get the circulation flowing. He didn’t recognize the Services, but assumed it was somewhere near London. From the look of the sky, evening had turned to night and they must be close. Drew glanced up to find a full moon hanging heavy and golden, almost a perfect disc, over the trees on side of the car park. There were few stars in evidence due partly to light pollution and party to patchy clouds that even now drifted in front of the moon, dark and tattered, lit to white in places by the silvery touch of moonlight. They brought to mind the trailing shrouds of nightmare figures—ghosts and wraiths and wailing spectres. He shivered, then caught himself and chuckled, shaking his head. Since when was he prone to fanciful imagery? The twins must be rubbing off on him more than he thought. As he pondered, a call from across the tarmac attracted his attention and he lowered his eyes to find Cerrian waving at him. She and Jay were loaded down with cartons, bags and carboard trays of hot drinks. Drew hurried to relieve them of some of their burdens. “Who were you expecting to find back here? Half the Welsh rugby team?” “If only,” she said and Jay hummed agreement. She shoved a bag of burgers at him. “I figured that although we ate three hours ago, knowing you, there might be trouble if we went inside and didn’t bring back food offerings.” “Fair enough, but did you have to get so much?” “Mam gave me money to feed you and told me I’d better spend it all on food or she’d tan my backside the next time she saw me.” “You didn’t spend it all on food,” Jay said. “Traitor,” she grumbled. “They had some cool audio books and I figured I was entitled to some entertainment seeing as how I’m your driver and saving all your arses.” “How many?” “Only one…and a scarf. But it will look great as a throw or maybe a cushion cover on the bus.” Drew chuckled and shook his head. “Don’t worry, I won’t breathe a word.” “I thought I was your entertainment,” Jay said mock pouting. “Not on the way back.” “Fair point.” “I was thinking,” Cerrian said as they laid out the feast of fast food on the tiny table. “From what Jay was saying, I’m not sure the kids’ grandma is going to be too pleased with us turning up this late. Maybe we should park up and stay on the bus tonight. There’s a part of the car park with twenty-four hour parking. We could get breakfast here before we move out in the morning.” “Trust me,” Jay said, “Lady Graice is not going to be too pleased with us turning up at any time.” “What? You mean she won’t be deeply impressed with the bus? Does she know how much work has gone into it, how artistic it is?” “Er…no. I can absolutely guarantee that she won’t be impressed with the bus at all.” “She clearly has no taste.” Jay snorted and took a bite out of a cheeseburger almost the size of their head. “So,” Cerrian persisted, “about staying the night.” “We’ll have to talk to the twins. I don’t know if Aria can handle the bedroom overnight.” “Why not?” “He was locked in the boot of a car, remember? And he’s claustrophobic. He almost freaked out when we went in there in the first place.” “But he didn’t,” Cerrian reminded him. “No, he didn’t. Not then. We’ll see.” “What if I said I won’t drive any further?” Cerrian folded her arms across her chest looking mutinous. “I can guarantee you wouldn’t say that to Aria, not if he’s distressed.” Cerrian pouted, and Drew knew she’d been defeated. Their squabbling was interrupted by a bloodcurdling scream from the bedroom and Drew sprinted down the corridor almost dislocating his shoulder. He threw open the door as Aria screamed again. “Drew,” Amara cried, his voice filled with anguish. “I’m scared. Where are you?” Almost, ripping down the curtains, Drew leaped onto the bed and threw himself at the vague shape of Aria, wrapping him in his arms and pressing Aria’s face against his chest. “It’s alright. I’m here. I’m here. It’s safe.” “I… I…dream…and…and…so…dark. I though…I thought I was alone and…and it was…and it…dark…small. I thought…I was…back.” Aria babbled through harsh, sobbing breaths. Amara was also breathing in hissing sobs. Drew figured it was part concern for his brother and part pain, because he wasn’t hugging Aria, but stroking him. It was difficult to see from the light coming through the door, but he seemed to have one arm wrapped around himself. “Come on,” Drew said, drawing Aria to the edge of the bed. “I was going to come and get you anyway because we’ve got food and some hot drinks. It will do you good to get out of here. Are you up to it, Amara?” “I’ll go where Aria goes.” His voice was strained but there was no point arguing, and Drew would be able to give him painkillers with food. “Come on then.” Aria calmed, but continued to hiccup as Drew led him by the hand through the corridor to the sitting area. Even though it was cold, Cerrian had left the door open and instead had turned on an electric fire, that sat against one wall. “You poor thing,” Cerrian cooed, stroking Aria’s hair. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t think. There’s a light in there. We should have put it on.” “It’s okay,” Aria sniffed, still clinging to Drew as if his life depended on it. Jay took the lid off a paper cup and handed it to Aria. “Here, I got it just for you.” Aria took the cup with a shaking hand and sniffed it. He gave Jay a wan smile. “My favourite.” “I know. I got coffee for you,” they said, offering another cup to Amara. Amara simply shook his head and walked on to one of the seats, sinking into the cushions. Like Jay had previously he chose a cushion and hugged it. Drew exchanged a glance with Jay and shook his head slightly, indicating he wasn’t able to go to Amara right then as Aria was still clinging to him, shaking but pretending to show interest in the food. Jay nodded and slipped out from the bench, heading up to Amara. Drew took his place, drawing Aria down beside him. “I’m sorry,” Aria sniffed. “I shouldn’t have made such a fuss, but I had a dream, a nightmare and…” He broke off and shuddered. “It’s alright, honey.” Cerrian nudged a pink iced doughnut toward him. “It is tight in there. If you’re not happy with confined spaces it’s completely understandable you’d be afraid waking up in darkness, even without the dream.” Aria gave her a small smile and nibbled the doughnut. “This is good.” “Have you not had one before?” Aria shook his head and took a bigger bite. He laid down his cup to give it more attention. “It’s got cream inside. Amara, it­— Where’s Amara.” Aria’s widened and he looked panicked again. “I’m over here, silly.” Aria twisted to look over his shoulder and relaxed when he saw Amara and Jay. “Do you want a doughnut? They’re really good.” Amara shook his head. “I’m not hungry.” Aria frowned and wriggled out of the seat, padding over to his brother. “Are you alright?” “Fine. I just hurt and it makes me tired.” “Did I hurt you?” “Of course not.” Aria sat next to Amara, nudging Jay out of the way. Jay moved to the other side of the bus allowing Aria to tuck his legs under him and lean on Amara. For a moment they simply hugged each other, then Aria drew back and fed Amara a piece of doughnut. Amara hummed. “It’s good isn’t it?” “Yes. Very pink.” Aria laughed, and Drew relaxed a little. “There so cute,” Cerrian said. “Like kittens. I thought you preferred dogs.” “That was when I was home with you.” “Are you calling me a bitch.” “If the name fits, wear it. I said nothing of the sort.” It felt comfortable to fall into their old pattern of teasing. Cerrian never let him forget she was the oldest and often treated him like a kid, which he hated. At other times she teased him mercilessly, which he also hated, but sometimes it was what he needed. “Are you sure?” Cerrian asked quietly, suddenly serious. “I mean, I wouldn’t have a problem but you’re so straight – for a gay man.” “I don’t know. Sometimes, I think it can work, that the only important thing is that I love them, and they love me. But sometimes I wonder what the hell I’m doing and there’s no way in hell it could ever work once we get back to reality. I mean, you’ve seen what happens with the press. They’re always there, almost everywhere they go. Proper security holds them back but they have very little privacy and any slip is flaunted over the front pages of the tabloids the next morning. Christ, one of their best friends is royalty. God knows what their grandmother will turn out to be. I know Henley is from old money but I didn’t know they were titled. That just makes everything worse.” “Why?” “Why? Are you insane? Can you imagine me in the middle of all that?” “No, but I know how resourceful you are and, much as I hate to admit it, you can be a charming little bugger when you want to. Give her those puppy eyes and you’ll have her eating out of your hand. And if you don’t…well it didn’t seem as if they’re close and every family has its embarrassing members.” “Are you talking about me or her?” “You choose.” She grinned. “You over think things. You always have. Just let it ride and see where it goes. If you start stressing about details right at the start it’s never going to go anywhere. Just relax and see what happens. This might be the best thing that ever happened to you, or it might be the worst. You won’t know if you don’t try, and I know you, if you didn’t try you’d beat yourself up over it forever. You have to give it a chance.” “I know, and I am, but what if it’s the worst thing that happens to them? They’ve had enough to cope with.” “And that’s exactly why this has a good chance of working.” “What? Because they’re hurt and vulnerable?” Drew was ready to hit her with a burger.” “No you idiot, because when you worry about whether it’s going to work, instead of thinking about what might go wrong for you—like you usually do—you’re thinking about what might go wrong for them. For what it’s worth, I think you’re great together—and also that you should let them make their own choices and not double guess what’s good for them or what they ought to do. I’ve a feeling those two are going to do exactly what they want anyway. You can run, little brother, but wherever you go they will track you down and drag you back—unless you break their hearts and I don’t think you could do that.” “No, I couldn’t.” “I guess you’re stuck with them then.” Her grin broadened. “Can I have the other one?” “Jay? You’re not serious. They’re almost half your age.” “A girl can dream. You have to admit they’re nice to look at and we’ve been talking a lot up from. They’ve not exactly had the easiest life. I can relate and I really like them. But don’t worry, I see myself more like a sexy, favourite aunt. I might ask them if they fancy coming to India though. One of my friends is only about ten years older and she’d absolutely love them.” “I don’t think she’d be their type. I can’t swear to it, but I think they’d prefer her younger brother.” “She doesn’t—oh, right. My heart is broken.” She pressed her hand against her chest and pretended to faint, then laughed loudly. “Drew?” Aria sounded so forlorn Drew felt guilty for laughing. “Are you alright,” he asked, swivelling to face the twins. “Yes, I think so. I don’t think Amara’s well, though.” “I’m alright,” Amara protested. “I told you. I’m just tired.” “Drew?” “It’s okay, Aria. I’ll get him some painkillers. He’ll be fine. But maybe this will teach him that wandering all over the country with broken ribs is not a good idea.” Amara gave a non-committal sound and let his head fall back with a thud against the wall. He groaned. “I feel like something is trying to gnaw its way out from inside.” “I told you,” Drew said, “broken ribs are not something to take lightly. It could become serious if they shift.” Amara huffed. “They’re only cracked. They’re not exactly snapped through the middle I don’t think they would have let me out of the hospital if they had been.” “They shouldn’t have let you out of the hospital anyway, until they’d found the best pain relief.” “He won’t take what they gave him,” Jay said, pursing his lips. “Not the proper ones.” “What do you mean?” “They gave him two kinds. The ones he’s taking are only supposed to be top ups to take in between the main doses if he needs it, and to go down to when he doesn’t need the strong ones anymore. He hasn’t taken a single one of the ones he’s supposed to.” Drew closed his eyes and counted to ten. “Do you have the proper ones?” “Only a few. I left the pill bag in my car. I put a few in my pocket though, in case I—or you—could get him to take some.” “Give them to me. He will take them” “No, I won’t. They make everything weird. At least the ones I was taking only make me sleepy and I hate that enough. Look, I’ll take the other ones. I promise. I’ll—” “No, you won’t. You’ll take the ones you’re supposed to be taking. Why do you think the doctor prescribed them in the first place? Fun?” “No…but—” “Give them to me, Jay,” Drew demanded, holding out his hand. “Traitor,” Amara muttered. “He’s right, Mara,” Aria said, his voice shaking. “I don’t like it when you’re in pain. It hurts me.” Amara gave Aria a long look. “You won’t like it when I take them. I can’t function and I talk nonsense. I know I’m doing it, but I can’t help it. I can’t make my words come out, and I can’t even walk properly.” “You can’t walk properly now,” Jay said dryly and Amara glared at them. Drew took the pills and glanced at them. He couldn’t tell what they were, but that wasn’t surprising. He’d done a first aid course in the army—they all needed to know basics because they were out of reach of doctors a lot of the time— but he was by no means an expert in medication. “It’s only for a few days, the doctor said,” Jay pressed on. “Until the worst of the pain is over. It’s not just the ribs. There’s deep bruising and tissue injury too.” They turned to direct their comments to Drew. “The doctor was worried about a chest infection if he didn’t breathe properly and he hasn’t been because he’s in too much pain. He pretends to be asleep, but he isn’t. He thinks I don’t notice but I’m not stupid and I’ve known him a long time.” “Shut up, Jay.” Jay turned back to their friend. “I’ve had enough, Mara. The doctor told you that even though he was discharging you, you weren’t through the worst of it and you had to have complete rest, at least for the first week. I don’t call any of this rest and I’ve been watching you get paler and more exhausted the whole time. You’re going to make yourself ill and I’m not going to stand by and watch it. You’re not being fair to any of us, especially Aria.” “Don’t bring Aria into it.” “But I am in it, Mara. I don’t want you to be ill.” Aria sounded on the verge of tears again and Amara pulled him into a hug. “Stop scaring him. Hasn’t he been through enough already?” “You both have,” Cerrian said, her voice uncharacteristically gentle. She knelt beside the boys. “I know what it’s like to have to pretend to be strong for someone else. It’s never easy, and in the end it doesn’t work.” She took Amara’s hand. “If you love some, truly love them, sometimes the best thing you can do is be vulnerable for them and allow them to help you. It’s what love does. You know your brother isn’t weak. You know he loves you, so let him help you. Let us all help you. It’s safe to be weak here.” Amara started to cry, gentle sobs as tears streamed down his face. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’ve tried to be strong, and I know I should be looking after Aria, but it hurts. It really hurts and I’m so tired.” “I don’t want you to look after me when you’re ill, Mara. I don’t need you to. I wasn’t hurt. Not on the outside. I can take care of you. I’m not a child, or an idiot, and I’m not made of glass. I want to take care of you. I promise I’m okay. Please let me and Jay and Drew take care of you.” “And me,” Cerrian said. Both Aria and Amara smiled at her. “I can’t be strong anymore,” Amara said, shaking his head sadly. “I just can’t.” Drew knelt beside Cerrian and handed Amara two pills and a glass of water. “You don’t have to be,” he said.
  20. Nephylim

    Chapter 9

    Thank you. I appreciate every comment, especially when they open into dialogue. I can't honestly say it's every author's dearest wish to communicate with readers and discuss the stories and characters they love, but it is definitely mine. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, I'm happy when I see your name
  21. Nephylim

    Chapter 7

    Sadly, you don't find too many alligators in the UK. Maybe they could break into a zoo. I mean if you're disposing of a body I guess a little breaking and entering won't be too much of a problem
  22. Nephylim

    Chapter 32

    We haven't seen the last of her
  23. Nephylim

    Chapter 32

    Thank you. She is totally based on my own family :D as is Cerrian
  24. Nephylim

    Chapter 32

    The London house will be besieged by press. They're best well away from that. No one gets into Lady Jane Graice's estate if she doesn't want them too. She won't be appearing in the next chapter, but very soon.
  25. Nephylim

    Chapter 32

    They're absolutely based on real people, even the rugby boys and my friend who works in a rugby club. She'd be glad of the distraction because it's murder when both teams are home, especially if one is the youth team. Mrs Pugh and her Alan were my next door neighbours once, although that wasn't her name of course. :D
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