Morningstar: The Malaise - 27. Chapter 27 Leaving Home and Finding Home
It's always where your heart is....
Morningstar: The Malaise
The house was a welcome escape from the heat of the afternoon. Kellar hadn’t thought of the day as hot until he walked through the side door of their place. Their place. He would never tire of those two words. Transporting his dried plants was becoming routine, and he set the box of those which could be left as they were, in the corner of the roomy kitchen. Tobyn, by now well-versed in what was required, set the box of the ones needing to be sorted and separated, on the counter top.
“These ones wrapped with aluminum foil into the fridge?”
“That’s right, thanks. And the ones in the tall jars. You’re catching on.”
“I watch and learn. Jeez,” he said after yawning, “don’t know about you, but I could use a nap.”
“I’m sleepy too. My body’s telling me it’s been a long day, and it’s wishing we could just stay in for the night. I know we need to be as social as we can, but I’m still not used to a lot of people around me. Even at my work, there was seldom more than two of us in the lunch room at one time. I gotta say that talk with your mom turned out to be an ordeal for me… nothing to do with her, though.”
He was standing behind Tobyn, who, after closing the fridge door, turned around and pulled Kellar against him. “I know. Well, I didn’t know the part about your work, but I understand it’s hard for you. You’re still nervous around Mom, and you shouldn’t be.” Tobyn breathed in deeply with his nose against Kellar’s collarbone, causing the big man to smile. He loved that he wasn’t the only one who needed to scent his mate, and he did, receiving instant benefits as his body relaxed into Tobyn’s.
“I want her to like me. Not to mention she is a pack leader… the first I’ve ever met, let alone talked to.”
“Don’t be stupid. She loves you… like a son. My mom doesn’t say something she doesn’t mean. And, she thinks you’re the second coming,” he said with a half snicker, half giggle.
Kellar felt a warmth spread through him at the thought of finally having a mom… one as amazing as Elinor. “I feel the same way about her,” he said. “But, yeah, about that second coming thing. Thanks for rescuing me. I felt like crawling under the desk. I’m just a healer, who happens to be your mate… the rest is just coincidence.”
Tobyn shook his head in disagreement as he leaned back against the counter without letting go. “I’m not so sure she’s wrong. Do you realize how much you’ve changed our entire situation in such a short time? And now, because you can see colors, we’re going to be able to find earth mates more easily, and safely.”
“It’s not going to be completely safe for us, though, and Elinor is very worried about that. I know she agreed, but it wasn’t easy for her; there’s no way she’s happy with the idea of both of us going out there on our own, especially after we told her about Reznick Junior.”
“She’s a mom, so of course she’s worried… and no, she’s not completely happy with us being in any kind of danger, but she also understands what a blessing this is for the pack. Like you said, Mom is also a leader, and she’s weighed it all out. I’m warning you, my mate… don’t you dare consider doing this by yourself.”
“Tobyn… if you think about it, there’s no real reason for you to take the risk too.”
“Like hell there isn’t! There is no way in this world you are going anywhere without me. We are in this together, and you should damn well know that!”
Tobyn’s eyes were blazing, and Kellar was now holding onto a suddenly rigid man. “Okay, okay. It was just a thought.”
“Just a stupid thought,” Tobyn said as his body started to relax.
“I’m beginning to get a complex.” Kellar tried a grin to further relieve the flash of tension.
“What do you mean? Complex about what?”
“Well, you’ve said I was being stupid twice now.”
“Yeah, well stop having these dumbass ideas and I won’t need to.”
“I’ll try…. hella bossy,” Kellar muttered as he leaned forward and kissed his mate. Tobyn responded immediately, and all was right with Kellar’s world again. “I love you.”
“Me too, doc. Now that we have that cleared up, wanna lay down on the couch for a while before we head to the lodge?”
“Okay, but why the couch? We could use the bed… it’s bigger.”
“No way. We’re less likely to fall asleep and miss dinner if we lay on the couch. You’re like a sleeping pill for me when I’m in your arms.”
“Same here. I have never in my life slept the way I do when we’re together.”
Tobyn laid his body down first, signaling for his mate to lie in front of him, between his spread legs. Kellar was dubious, but when he did as directed, he was surprised how well his large body fit. Tobyn might not be as tall, but he was still a big man, and Kellar found himself loving the feel of leaning against the broad chest, feeling the warmth of the man against his back. When Tobyn’s fingers stroked through his hair, he was in heaven, and let his heavy eyelids fall.
“Are you comfortable, mountain man?”
Kellar’s eyes popped open. He’d been drifting off. “Very. Are you? Am I too heavy?”
“Nuh uh. This feels perfect. I’m afraid to close my eyes, though. We have to leave soon.”
“I better keep mine open too. Tobyn?”
“This is our home now, right?”
“Ah… yeah… unless you want to move somewhere else? There’s lot of homes we could go look at if you want something different?”
“No, no. Are you kidding? I love this one… it’s perfect. It kind of reminds me of my cabin….”
“And, what should I do about my cabin?”
“What do you want to do about it?”
“Well, since we have to live here full-time for the benefit of the pack, I guess I should sell it.”
“Kellar, is something wrong? You sound unhappy. Do you not want to live here… at Morningstar?”
“No. I mean yes.” Kellar twisted and sat up so he could look at his mate. “It’s not that. I want to be here. This is my life now, and I won’t miss my job at all, if or when the layoff ends. It’s just hard to think of giving up my place.”
“Do you want to tell me why?” When Tobyn grabbed his mate’s hand, he brought it to his mouth and kissed it.
Kellar watched, mesmerized by the love he saw on the handsome face staring intently into his. He looked away as he cleared his throat and swallowed down some emotion. “You’re my family, my home now, but for most of my life I didn’t have that. The cabin was the first place that was truly mine… where I wasn’t living in someone else’s building or house. When I was in group homes it was what I dreamed about. For a long time I prayed I would belong somewhere, before I finally gave up. In foster homes, I always felt like a guest, you know?”
Tobyn nodded, concerned eyes never leaving Kellar’s face.
“Even at the Apsleys, where I had my own room for the first time, I wasn’t allowed to hang a picture, or move furniture around. Karen picked every damn thing that went in there, and I couldn’t make any changes. It was their place, not mine. I remember moving a lamp once, from one side of my bed to the other so I could read more comfortably; the next day when I got home from school, I saw Karen had put it back to where it was supposed to be.”
“A lamp? Jesus… I’m sorry, Kellar. You had a pretty shitty life.”
“Nah, it wasn’t all that bad. But, the day I moved into my cabin, after rebuilding and fixing it up the way I wanted… Tobyn… it was the happiest I’d ever felt… ever.”
“Then don’t sell it.”
“No, that would be stupid. We live here now, and I don’t need it anymore.” Kellar smiled at the blond man, squeezing his hand.
“So? It doesn’t mean you have to sell it. We can use it as our own little getaway.”
“Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I think it’ll come in handy when we travel around looking for other packs, and it won’t be a big chore to keep up if we make sure to visit regularly.”
“Well, taxes are ridiculously low, and the hydro bill is never very much, even when I live there full time, so there isn’t much cost.”
“And, as a member of the pack, you’ll get a dividend cheque every month, so expenses won’t be an issue anyway. So, there you go; I’m forbidding you to sell it.”
Tobyn’s grin went right to Kellar’s heart. “There you go, being bossy again… thank you… I hated the thought of letting it go.”
“And now you know there’s no reason to. I love the place, and would have hated to see us lose it too. It’s where we met… and it’s where we got ourselves sorted.”
“Sorted? Is that another way of saying sex?”
“Shut up, fool. I was trying to be subtle.”
Kellar laughed. “You never have to be subtle with me, my mate. Should we get going?”
“What’s your hurry?”
“Honestly, I just want to get dinner over with so we can come back here and maybe do some ‘sorting,’ if that’s alright with you?”
“Well, there’s the doc I know and love… always thinking ahead of me.” Tobyn slid his hand up the inside of Kellar’s thigh, stopping just short of the prominent bulge, a teasing smirk appearing as he ordered him to get up off the couch.
His first dinner at the lodge when it was so crowded wasn’t as bad as Kellar expected it to be. Instead of being overwhelmed, he felt quite the opposite. It soon became apparent as they made their way through the different groups that word had gotten around of their return to the compound, and a lot of the members had congregated to see the new pair of earth mates. He witnessed and felt the hope they gave these people, and the enthusiastic greetings and congratulations they received over and over had him steadily relaxing. Adelin’s hug was especially welcomed, and when he whispered they would like to visit her and Tilly later to discuss something, she agreed enthusiastically.
It helped that Tobyn had a solid grip on his hand, and anytime he shook hands or was embraced by someone, it was quickly reclaimed. Winding between the tables, he flickered and saw the constant feeding of their combined energy to each and every member. Kellar took note that the more people there were near them, the greater the amount of mist they generated. It was a fulfilling sight, but it would have been better if his mate could see the good they were doing with his own eyes.
It was also satisfying to witness how special Tobyn was to the pack members. There was no missing their respect and care for him, and it appeared those feelings had transferred to him, as Tobyn’s mate. His eyes lit up at seeing Miss Sybil sitting at one of the far tables, and he felt honored when this elegant lady stood for a hug.
“I’m glad you two boys finally figured it out,” she said quietly. “I had no doubts as to what I was seeing the day you visited, and I also had a strong feeling you would live up to your name. It has turned out to be a prophetic one.”
Kellar smiled, but he was a little embarrassed. He looked over at Tobyn, who was in the midst of shaking Hutch’s hand. “As least you’re not calling my healing Adelin a miracle like everyone else is.”
“Well, if it wasn’t, it was darn close, my dear, so don’t you be shy about giving your accomplishment its due. And I wasn’t referring to your healer name. I was talking about saviour. Someone named you well, because that’s what you’ve been to us, and while I haven’t had a true vision, I’ve seen images, and you, Kellar Haylan, are not finished.”
“Oh… I thought… what do you mean… what kind of images, ma’am?”
“Nothing that tells me much yet, but with all this new energy around, I expect I’ll be getting more soon.” She raised her hand to his cheek. “You and Tobyn be careful. I have seen glimpses of a big man with a tall walking stick and a rifle… I saw him once, standing in a forest, and again, hunched over on his knees… like he was praying, but I don’t think he was. I couldn’t see his face, but I saw both you boys at the same time. I don’t know what it means, but I know there is danger there. Tobyn looked especially upset. So mark my words… it does mean something.”
“Okay. We’ll be careful.” Kellar swallowed, thinking how accurate her images had been. It was a little freaky, even knowing she was a seer.
“Good. Now when are you coming to visit this old woman again?”
She moved to sit back down, and Kellar cupped her elbow to assist her. “We’re going to be doing a little traveling in the next few days, so sometime after that, we’ll call on you.” Tobyn had moved to his side, gripping his hand again. “Right?” he asked his mate.
“Right. What he said, Miss Sybil.”
“Oh my… I just got another image of you boys… inside a vehicle with Adelin and Tilly. Are they doing this traveling with you?”
“Um, yeah… possibly.” Kellar’s eyes moved to his mate.
“I see you’re getting stronger,” Tobyn said, downplaying the significance of the seer’s potential resurgence. Kellar, on the other hand, was not used to witnessing such abilities.
“Yes, dear. It appears I’m becoming my old self once more, thanks to you young men. Ever since your visit, I’ve been getting nudges. Now off you go. Your mother and her beau are waiting for you.”
The older pair rose as they reached their table. The greetings were as warm as expected, but Kellar immediately got a somber vibe. Something was definitely up, more so with the burly man, and when they sat down, his look around the table settled on his mate. Tobyn’s attention was flicking between his mother and Denver as he began engaging in seemingly normal conversation.
“So, have you got the garage organized the way you want it, Denver? Digory was always a little haphazard in his approach.”
“That’s an understatement. I don’t like anything out of place in my shop, and trying to figure out what we have in the way of inventory hasn’t been easy,” he responded with an attempt at a grin that fell short, and wasn’t matched by his eyes.
A quietness settled over the table once the night’s offering of lamb stew and crusty baked rolls was delivered. The normally vivacious Elinor was toned down considerably, and as much as he was curious, Kellar didn’t want to pry into whatever was affecting the couple.
Tobyn showed no such compunction, however. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
“Nothing, dear. It’s a delicious stew, isn’t it? I understand lambing season went well this year.”
Everyone nodded agreement, but Tobyn was not to be deterred. Elinor’s transparent attempt at deflection didn’t work. “Does it have anything to do with Kellar and me, because I can tell something is bothering you?” He was staring at his mother with unflinching determination.
Denver set down his spoon, wiping his mouth with the crisp linen napkin. “There’s nothing wrong, Tobyn. It’s just that my mood is not the best tonight.” He exhaled a shaky sigh. “Elinor told me what you did… about the hunter. She told me the whole story. The hunter’s face was scarred? How so?”
“Oh. Ah, yeah. It looked like old, deep claw marks… three of them… more like gouges than slices. Why?”
“Thought so. I saw him once.”
Kellar watched Elinor put her hand over her mate’s. Her expression was troubled… like she was dreading something. What the hell was going on?
“You did? Where?” Tobyn reached over and did the same with Kellar’s hand, nervously tapping his fingers. Kellar felt his angst at the topic of Reznick. Shit! He’d been doing so well.
The tension was becoming thicker as the older couple exchanged indecipherable glances. Another sigh from the suddenly morose man. “I saw him standing over a fire I now believe was my wife’s burning body.”
“Oh, Venus bless us. That’s awful.” Tobyn looked shook up. “Mom told you about Reznick burning his victims?”
Denver nodded. “It all makes sense finally. I never found her. All I found was a clump of fur… her coat was a beautiful red… stuck in the bark of a tree. Your mom told me about the trap too… the silver… there were a few wear marks at the bottom of the old cedar her hair was caught in. They must have been from the trap’s chain… so she wouldn’t have been able to free herself.”
“Oh man, Denver. I’m so sorry. When was this?” Kellar took over because he could feel Tobyn’s horror, sure he was reliving their own experience with the hunter.
“It’ll be two years in the fall. A month after our daughter was stillborn. It was our second time going through it, and Osanna couldn’t take it. At least now I know she didn’t take her own life. That’s what I’ve thought happened all this time, so it’s a relief to find out I was wrong, about that part anyway.” His smile was an obvious attempt to ease his mate’s visible distress at listening to his pain.
“I don’t mean to pry, and if you don’t want to talk, I understand… but… when you saw him did you smell anything?”
“It’s fine. Ask me whatever you want. My nose hadn’t worked for months, so tracking her was damn near impossible. I tried all day after finding her clothes hanging on our back shed, but I only caught faint whiffs. I didn’t or couldn’t smell the elk you guys told Elinor about. The only scent that came to me was smoke. When I went to check it out, I dropped out of my shift… couldn’t hold it very long… so I had to wait a while before I could continue. By the time I finally got there, there wasn’t much of a fire. What I never understood was how that man clued into my presence. When I got close to the fire, I was so careful. I saw him from about a hundred feet away… my vision was still pretty good at that time. He was leaning on this tall stick with his back to me one second, and in the next, he was facing me with his rifle pointed straight at my head. I’m positive I never made any sound.”
“Did Elinor tell you about the other one… the nephew?”
He and his mate both nodded.
“I swear I never made any noise either, yet he knew I was there, from a long way out.”
“Well, the son of a bitch shot me. He creased the side of my head before I bolted, but I’ll never forget his ugly mug, and you’re right, Tobyn. Those scars were more like gouges. Two inches to the left and he’d have put that bullet through my eye.” He hesitated, and Kellar watched him swallow. “I had no idea what was in the fire, and when I went back later there was nothing but ash. I didn’t put two and two together when I found Osanna’s fur, but I did think there was a chance he might have shot her. I checked around, but there was no blood anywhere, and it never occurred to me someone would have a reason to burn her body. Guess I wasn’t thinking too clearly back then.”
Tobyn finally spoke again. “I’m so sorry, Denver. You shouldn’t have to go through this.”
“Hey, buddy,” Denver said softly. “Don’t be sorry. It’s way better to finally know what happened than it is to always wonder. I owe you for what you did. Do you understand that? You avenged Osanna’s death for me, and I thank you. I don’t know you all that well yet, but I imagine it couldn’t have been easy for you.”
“No, it wasn’t, but I don’t regret it for a second.” His eyes went from his mother’s mate, and locked with Kellar’s.
Denver lifted Elinor’s hand and kissed it. “You know, as terrible as that time was, Osanna was already dead inside from losing our second child. I don’t think she would have ever come back from it. She could barely function, and her health was deteriorating. It had been years before she could conceive after the loss of our first child. At the time, I thought it would eventually work out… that she’d be okay, but I see it all clearer now. I never slept in my house again. I searched for a couple of weeks, and slept outside. We never should have set up that damn crib, and she wouldn’t let me take it down. We stared at it for a month before she vanished.” It was the only time the stoic man’s eyes watered, and Kellar was thankful he had Tobyn beside him as Elinor gave the man a hug. It was an emotional moment.
Denver regrouped quickly. “That’s when I left the pack and opened up my own garage. There was nothing there for me anymore. The sickness was taking its toll on everyone… there are no earth mates… and it wasn’t a happy place. The leader is a decent man, but there was tension throughout the pack, and his son was becoming pretty obnoxious before I left. There are some really good people there, though. Maybe you boys can help them with the malaise… explain what they need to do?”
“So, you know where they are?” Kellar asked, feeling excitement at the thought of having a lead.
“Of course. They’re more isolated than we are, and they don’t have this place’s resources, but it’s not too hard a place to find.”
“Awesome. We have a definite destination finally,” Tobyn said to his mate. “Any chance you have their phone number, Denver?”
“Your mom already asked me that,” he answered, looking reflective, but the sadness appeared to be leaving. “I left with my truck and tools, a few clothes, and not much else. I’ve never looked back. Osanna was the one who had the fancy phone… tech and I don’t get along as my mate has already found out, so no, I don’t remember what it was… if I ever did know. There is a land line, but most people had their own cell phones… even though reception was iffy a lot of the time. I guess you could look it up? The alpha’s name is Clarence Stanley, and the pack’s name is Vega, but I don’t know what it would be listed under. There is a sign that says “Vega County Lumber,” so maybe it’s under that?”
They’d all started to eat again. “Vega? I’ve heard of that pack. Mom, do you remember the name?”
“Yes, dear. It’s one I do recall hearing, but I never knew where it was.”
“In case you’re wondering, Vega is a star in the Lyra constellation, and it’s the second brightest one in the northern celestial hemisphere,” Denver explained. Tobyn’s surprised expression caused a smile, and this one reached the previously sad man’s eyes. “What? This old mechanic knows more than just motors, you know.”
Tobyn’s snort at this new sort-of father-figure seemed to take them all to a new place, and Kellar was relieved the conversation had lightened for all of them, but especially for his mate’s sake.
“Cool. What do you say, Kellar?” Tobyn’s question dripped with a new eagerness.
“I say, Vega pack here we come.”
“Right after Warren… is that the plan?”
“Yes, after we deal with Warren.” He noticed the attention of the pack leader. “And Adelin. Warren and Adelin.”
Elinor nodded, showing some amusement. “Good boy.”
“You’re learning,” Tobyn stage-whispered, and after smiles and hearty chuckles, they all began to enjoy their very first family dinner. I could get used to this, Kellar thought as he looked around the table, this time seeing only happy faces.
A big thank you to my editor, Timothy M., and to all those who read and support this story. THANK YOU!
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