Episode 130

“I... I don’t know what to say... It would be great if you come back to us. Sebastian... He needs his brother. We all need you.”

“Please. Wake up. Let me know... You are here... ... Do not go.”

“If you can hear me, um... I, uh, hope you wake up soon. You still need to teach me more about magic. You can show me to make those plates. Then, we can pawn them off on some con grifter... Yeah...”

“Gods... Don’t lay there forever. ... Just so you know... You’re still my... Hero.”

“Come on, bro. Just wake up, please. Man... Don’t bring me back and leave... We just got this all figured out... I love you.”

In a dim hospital room, surrounding screens of vitals monitoring equipment trace out repetitious patterns of life. Hints of late morning light beam through the closed blinds and slowly drift down Sotalia’s body. Unconsciously propping her head upon her palm, a faint snore rumbles up above the quiet medical facility drone. In her seat next to the hospital bed, she slumbers, and her fingers rest upon Bach’s still hand. On the opposite side of the bed, Cideeda’s emerald green eyes sort through different articles on her aetherphone. Pausing a moment from her browsing, a furry ear flicks over to Bach. His chest gradually rises under the tucked medical bed linens, and Bach slowly exhales. The curls of a frown weighs the corners of Cideeda’s mouth, and she quietly sighs as her attention settles upon another news blurb. Her long tail coils up around her legs, and she draws them closer with a squirm as she fits herself in the large chair. Standing at the end of the medical bed, Dretphi taps the channel button on the mounted television. She sighs somberly and cycles through the different programs available. After failing to find a distraction, she glances over her shoulder and sadly frowns at the unresponsive Bach. She pulls her pained stare away and resumes her hunt for entertainment in the random channels available.

In the dull room, a faint twitch squeezes Bach’s cheek. A few moments later, a longer breath slips into his lungs. The readings on the different medical equipment screens slowly shift to more active patterns. From a cracked open eyelids, the dim light glints off a blue pupils. In the idle moments, flits of life arise from Bach’s still form. Consciousness fights to reach the surface, and purpose drives the sluggish gaze of blue eyes. Bach’s stare wanders around the space in confusion, and awareness gradually returns. He spots Dretphi near the foot of his bed, Sotalia at one side, and Cideeda at the other. Slowly turning his hand, he feels Sotalia’s fingers rest in his palm. Pulling in a deep breath, he spots Cideeda’s furry ears flick. Cracking a weak smile, he meets Dretphi curious glance. Focusing upon his exhale, a single word forms as his hand tightens. “...hey...”

Sotalia startles awake with a flutter of her golden eyes. Dretphi steely gray eyes widen in surprise. And, Cideeda snaps her emerald gaze over. Noticing the tightening grasp around her fingers, Sotalia blinks in astonishment and cranes her head over to confirm. Swiftly stepping to the side and close, Dretphi presents a warm smile while holding back tears. Cideeda softly wraps her hand around Bach’s fore arm. Bach filters through the expectant attention, and flutters his blue eyes open. “Am I... awake?”

Sotalia restrains herself, squeezes Bach’s hand gently, andn smiles while holding back tears. “Yes. Yes, you are.”

While Bach sorts through the haze of his mind, Cideeda rubs his arm, and her emerald eyes briefly meet Bach’s blue. “Yeah... Hey. Um, welcome back.”

Dretphi leans over from Cideeda’s side of the bed and brushes a stray lock of white hair off to the side of Bach’s face. “Happy to see you...”

After a few quiet seconds, Bach winces briefly and pulls another long breath into his lungs. Blinking a few times, he searches after the room and ponders out loud. “Okay... Um... Sorry... I’m really confused right now.”

Sotalia smiles kindly against the surges of emotion and rests a hand upon Bach’s shoulder. “Take your time... Really... We’re just happy... you’re awake...”

With a hard swallow, Bach grimaces and exhales with a frown. “Could I... Get some water?”

Dretphi nods quickly, pivots swiftly, and rushes over to the small bathroom connected the hospital room. After the faint background noise of water rushing out from a faucet, she returns with a paper cup in hand. Reflexively trying to lift his hand, Bach struggles to reach out to receive the container with a shaky arm, and Cideeda gently supports his arm as he lowers it back down. He sighs in a mix of disappointment and mumbles. “Sorry... Just still feel really tired...”

With a warm smile, Dretphi carefully supports the back of Bach’s head and readies the paper cup for him to drink. Pouring the container back, Bach sips the water and swallows all of it. A long sigh relief escapes as Dretphi rests his head of longer brown hair back. He flutters his eyes to a new level of consciousness and focuses between Cideeda, Dretphi, and Sotalia with greater clarity in his voice. “Thank you.”

Sotalia gently strokes his hand and smiles relieved. “So, um, how are you feeling?”

Bach furrows his brow in thought and squints momentarily. “Really tired. But... Good? All things considered. In one piece, so I got that going for me.”

Biting her lower lip, Sotalia awkwardly chuckles into a sigh. “Please forgive us, but these are questions the staff told us to ask you when you woke up. What’s your name?”

Lifting his brow barely, Bach curls a bit of amusement at the corner of his mouth. “Bach Nikola Warwick.”

Nodding, Sotalia focuses her golden eyes upon Bach. “What year is it?”

Bach searches through his mind briefly and darts a hopeful gaze between everyone. “Thirty seventeen. At least, I hope so. Gods... How long have I been out?”

Dretphi meets Bach’s confused glances and smiles reassuringly with a gentle pat on his shoulder. “Five days. Not long. Still the same year.”

Sotalia breathes out her relief and cracks a sly grin. “Who’s in charge of the GAA senate?”

Narrowing his annoyed, distant glare, Bach groans with a snort. “A bunch of self-important assholes.”

Cideeda cracks a toothy grin and rolls her emerald green eyes playfully. “That’s about the best answer you could have given.”

Dretphi nods in agreement. “Sarcasm. Good sign.”

Glancing around the hospital room with a rising degree of awareness, Bach gazes between Sotalia, Dretphi, and Cideeda. “Where’s my brother and Aristespha? I do remember, I got him back... I think...”

Cideeda perks up with a soft smile, wags the tip of her tail happily, and softly presses her claw tips upon Bach’s forearm. “They left to take care of shipping the sword back to the Grand Library.”

Bach nods slowly and cracks a smirk. “Make sense. So, what happened after I, uh... Yeah...”

Sorting through her thoughts, Sotalia straightens her posture. After a few moments, she presents a strained smile to Bach and uncomfortably sighs. “When you were in trouble. Nox- Well... Isaac, I guess technically, helped you. He brought you back... After that, we managed to get hold of the GAA forces. They were able to get through after the barriers fell. You got rushed with Aristespha here. And, we got an escort back to town.”

Sifting through his head, Bach winces briefly and cautiously asks. “What happened to Isaac?”

Pulling another chair from nearby over, Dretphi sits down and meets Bach’s curious gaze. “He is under GAA custody. Very... Heavy guard. Have not heard further. Do not know what will happen to him. No longer as threat. Cooperative. Remorseful. Different.”

Cideeda perks up her furry ears and lifts an intrigued brow. “Yeah, what happened between you and him shook him. It’s like he just gave up. Really strange after all he’s done.”

Processing the viewpoints, Bach blinks in surprise and glances between the three. “Wow... Wait... Five days? What day is it again?”

Dretphi cocks her head of platinum blond braids. “Saturday.”

Bach blinks hard and squirms gradually upon the bed. “Oh, wow. Yeah. Five days. That’d make sense. I, uh... Damn, this feel so weird. Sorry. My brain feels like it’s just catching up.”

Sotalia leans close with a calming smile and rubs Bach’s shoulder with a gentle voice. “Hey, it’s okay. We’re just really happy you’re awake. Take your time. There’s no rush.”

Bach draws in a few deep contemplative breaths and gazes appreciatively between the group. He flutters his blue eyes open wider and notices the hospital garments on him. “Where is my phone? I probably should call Sebastian. Just let him know I’m okay...”

Cideeda grits her sharp teeth and chuckles awkwardly with a roll of her emerald green eyes. “Well, we’re going to need to get you a new phone. The amount of that power going through you fried your phone. I’ve haven’t been able to get it working at all. I tried EVERYTHING.”

Reaching into her yoga pants pockets, Sotalia retrieves her phone and eyes Bach with a stern gaze. “You should call Sebastian and a few other people. But... You really should call your parents, first.”

The notion stuns Bach. A nearby vital monitor records a brief fluctuation with a momentary alert chime. Shuddering back to awareness, Bach gasps and sinks into the pillows behind him further. “Oh gods. Mom. Dad. They’ve got to be so worried.”

Dretphi nods her head and frowns with concern. “That was a hard conversation for Sebastian. He had to talk them down from getting on the first flight down here from High Alton.”

While Cideeda agrees with a glance, Bach gazes at Sotalia and summons up the strength in his arms to move around. “Yeah. Yeah... Call parents first. Then... I guess call Aristespha? Sebastian’s electronics weren’t working... That’s what I remember.”

Sotalia readies her phone, Bach recites a number from memory, Cideeda adjusts the pillows behind Bach, and Dretphi helps him sit up further.

Stepping out upon the wide city sidewalk, Sebastian walks out from the shipping company front door. As a cold wind blows down the busy street, he slips his hands into the pockets of a jacket and shrugs up his shoulders against the late autumn chill. Hanging his head of coiffed brown hair, he stares at the pavement and his boots. Silent moments later, he grinds the toe of his shoes against the gritty surface of the sidewalk and shifts his weight between his feet. His distant stare drifts upwards towards the gray sky above, and he gradually releases a long sad sigh. Fighting against a frown, he maintains a neutral expression and relaxes his shoulders when the passing wind dies back down.

The glass front door to the shipping company opens, and Aristespha steps out. Fluffing up her fuzzy jacket, she steps next to Sebastian and gazes over to him. “It is done.”

Sebastian blinks back to awareness and cracks a relieved smirk. “Good. One less thing to worry about.”

Aristespha searches Sebastian’s face and spots the somber hints with her violet eyes. She reigns in some stray silvery blue hairs over her very long pointed ears and puts a warm smile on her ivory face. “Yes. It’ll be off to the Grand Library by the afternoon on their first truck.”

Curling a faint sneer of his upper lip, Sebastian grumbles to himself and shakes his head. “Kind of wish you could pay extra for them to mishandle it on purpose. Maybe even have it lost in some warehouse for years.”

A sinister, sly grin grows from the corner Aristespha’s mouth, and she leans close against Sebastian. “Oh. You can do that. That’s why I demanded they needed to put “Fragile” stickers on all sides. And, I explicitly stated, in the most indignant tone I could muster, that it be declared as a Magical Artifact on the manifest for customs.”

Sebastian blinks his blue eyes in surprise, turns his head towards Aristespha, and settles a scrutinizing gaze upon her. After a few moments, a loving smile appears on his face and leans in to give her a peck on the cheek. “I love you, dear.”

Aristespha perks up with a flush of color in her face and hooks her arm around his. “I love you, too, Sebastian.”

The two glance down the sidewalk towards a parking and start walking that direction. The two share the relative peace of the stroll side by side, and idly watch other people go on about their days. As they travel, Aristespha watches sadness slip into Sebastian’s demeanor. She maintains a small smile but wrestles a frown attempting to appear. The two swiftly cross the city street intersection and walk towards the humvee parked tightly between the lines... and two other large vehicles. Aristespha and Sebastian stop behind the old military vehicle and bounce their perplexed glances between the two huge trucks on either side. Sebastian rolls his blue eyes and groans out annoyed. “Well, that figures. Park in the clearest spot away from everyone else.”

Aristespha furrows her brow and studies the very narrow passages between the vehicles. “How were they even able to exit their own trucks-”

She halts her thought process as a phone chime rings out and retrieves her aetherphone from her pants pocket. Checking the caller identification, she notices Sotalia’s name and glances over to Sebastian. “It’s Sotalia. They’re probably figuring out what to do for lunch.”

Sebastian nods and steps around the back of humvee while inspecting the troubling automotive geometry. “Yeah... Um, I’m not that hungry. So... Well, just order me another of what you are going to get.”

Aristespha puts the phone against her ear as she pivots around. “Hello?”

Her violet eyes spring wide open as a familiar voice sounds out, and she muffles a gasp of shock. Gazing at Sebastian, too focused upon the parking puzzle, she whispers softly with an elated smile. “How are you feeling?”

She nods as traces of Bach’s voice rise up from the background noise. “Good. That’s an excellent sign. It’s just good to hear your voice. Give me one moment, I’m going to put you on speakerphone.”

Swiftly stepping right next to Sebastian, Aristespha hooks an arm, pulls him close, and taps an on screen button on the aetherphone between them. “You’re on.”

Sebastian blinks blankly and glances confused at the phone. Bach’s voice sounds out from the speakerphone. “Hey...”

A rush of joy fills Sebastian face, and he excitedly speaks at the device. “Bro? BRO! You’re awake? I mean, yeah, it sounds like it, right?”

A weak chuckle filters in from the other side of the call, and Bach dons a playfully sarcastic tone. “No, I’m getting really good at sleep talking. No, man. I’m awake. Just waiting for everything to catch up. It been really weird, but I’m feeling a lot better. A little tired still, but I haven’t actually eaten anything yet... Or, for like... a few days? Wow.”

With a bright smile on his tan face, Sebastian supports Aristespha’s hand under the aetherphone and leans close. “It’s just awesome you’re up. Mom and Dad are going to be so relieved-”

Bach interrupts with an awkward laugh. “They are. I just got off the phone with them. That was an... interesting conversation. That everyone got to hear.”

Sotalia voice chimes in from the background on the other side of the call. “We learned new things about you two!”

A flit of embarrassment briefly silences Sebastian, and he sighs with an uneasy chuckle. “Uh, yeah. Good. Great. Well, thanks for calling them first.”

Bach sighs over the speakerphone. “Yeah. It was Sotalia’s idea. Figured it was the least I could do.”

Sebastian perks up and grins eagerly. “Hey, bro. We just got done shipping the sword back to the Grand Library. Once we figure out how to get out of the parking lot, we’ll be right over. Okay?”

After pausing a moment, Bach dons a curious tone. “Um... What do you mean figure out how to get out of the parking lot?”

Cideeda’s voice chimes in. “Yeah, what happened?”

Aristespha grumbles with a trailing groan. “We’ve been penned in by two large trucks on either side. I MIGHT be able to slide in, but I don’t know how I’m going to get the door open.”

Dretphi sounds out. “Back hatch.”

Sebastian blinks at the suggestion, glances at the rear end of the humvee, and cracks a smirk. “That’s probably our best bet there. We’ll figure out it and be over soon.”

Bach chuckles lightly. “Good luck. Love ya, man.”

Sebastian smiles softly. “Love you, too, bro.”

After the call ends, Aristespha puts away her aetherphone and pauses when her very long ear twitches at sniffing noise next to her. She turns her head and watches the first tears leave Sebastian’s blue eyes. Meeting her gaze, Sebastian sheepishly starts to mouth out an apology. Aristespha swiftly embraces him and hugs him tightly. Guiding his head down onto her shoulder, she strokes the back of his head and whispers softly. “It’s okay...”

Holding her tight, Sebastian sobs quietly and pulls in a few gasps of air. Gradually composing himself, he softly speaks. “Sorry... It’s just... Finally... Gods, it’s done. Just done. Everything is right...”

He smirks after a sniff. “Well, I mean, right enough.”

Aristespha holds the sides of Sebastian’s face and smiles lovingly at him with a faint glint of water in her eyes. “Yes. It is so nice. I... I’m just happy.”

She gently tilts Sebastian head down and kisses him. Both staring into each other eyes in the quiet moment, Aristespha wipes the tears off Sebastian’s face. She cracks a grin and chuckles. “Well... Let’s figure out how to get out from these damned trucks and get over there.”

Both gaze over at the humvee. Aristespha unlocks the back hatch with the key, and Sebastian hoists it open. Sebastian studies the approach as he steps up. “This shouldn’t be too much of a squeeze.”

Aristespha rolls her violet eyes and climbs up on the bumper towards far back seat. “So says the man that keeps running into walls and doors.”

Sebastian narrows an amused gaze at Aristespha pulling herself over the back seat. “You try being immaterial for a few months. This whole being solid thing takes a little getting used to again.”

The two crawl over the far back seat and awkwardly tumble into the aisle. After a moment of laughing themselves, they help each other to the front of the humvee.

In the living room of the two story house, Chad, Trakenthin, Tassilda, Modoran, and Deedri lounge upon the sectional sofa and watch a game show on the television. Chad glances over to Trakenthin and narrows his brown eyes at him. “Seriously? That’s what that word means?”

Trakenthin perks his brow and nods slowly. “Yes. Feeling of the inevitable end that prompts joy in contrast to sadness.”

Tilting his head away in disbelief, Chad starts to open his mouth when the host announces the answer.

“The correct choice was, A. A feeling of the inevitable end that prompts joy in contrast to sadness.”

Chad blinks blankly and tips back into his seat in surprise. “Damn. Grath really has words for EVERYTHING.”

A proud smirk sneaks out the corner of Trakenthin dark bronze face, and he chuckles softly satisfied. A chime rings out from Tassilda’s aetherphone, and she swiftly picks it up from the cushion next to her. After her light blue on black eyes quickly scan over the message, she eagerly taps out a response with a warm smile. Modoran cracks a humored grin and lifts up his eyebrow. “So, how’s Daedrican doing?”

Pausing mid typing, Tassilda wrestles down a flit of embarrassment and smirks. “He’s doing fine. The Chrome Crusaders are currently assisting the GAA to do hazard containment in the area around that perimeter wall. They ran into a few isolated pockets of those drone that still had enough power to operate.”

Modoran works a cringe off his dusky bluish gray face and settles back into a nonchalant smile. “Well, I’m glad they’re taking care of them. I think we had our fill of those things.”

Squeezing her arms tighter around Modoran, Deedri snuggles up closer and flicks her furry, tufted ears. “I still don’t understand why they had chainsaws and buzz saws.”

Furrowing her brow, her auburn eyes search through the front of her mind, and she frowns in stale disgust. “Who thought that was a good idea? Let’s give the flying magical bots almost-weapons and hope no one ever reprograms them to go after people. Ungh... Gods...”

While Modoran smiles with his dark blue eye gaze upon her, Deedri flicks her tail and rolls her auburn eyes. “Oh, well. I’m glad we took a bunch out.”

Tassilda twists her mouth and groans as she pulls her raven black hair over her swirling horns. “That is exactly the same sentiments that Daedrican and his team had. He sent me pictures they took while checking out the route we traveled.”

Straighten her posture pridefully, she dons a proud grin on her gray, patterned face, and giggles to herself. “He asked if it was some of my work.”

Chad slumps his shoulders and sighs. “After all the paperwork we had to fill out for the GAA, we should take some credit.”

Furrowing his brow, Trakenthin focuses a scrutinizing stare at Chad. “Generous for them to enroll us as contractors... Post engagement.”

Slowly shifting his brown eyes, Chad combs his hand through his short brown hair and uneasily chuckles with a stiff grin. “I think the word you are looking for is... Merciful. Gods... That conversation with Captain Hackle was one I hope to never have with another government official again.”

Sniffing in a strained breath, he exhales with a shake of his head. “I’ve never been explained to such detail how badly we were legally fucked, by such a calm, calculated man.”

Modoran blinks a moment and settles a humored grin towards Chad. “Speaking of fucked, have you told your dad about the SUV yet?”

Slowly opening his brown eyes wider, Chad swallows hard and breaths out a trailing groan. “Yeah... I really need to do that. Probably tonight. I just really wanted a few days of... not being in some kind of trouble.”

A wave of shared commiseration washes over the team and different variations of uneasy expressions appear. Tassilda hoists an annoyed eyebrow. “I am not going to lie... As convenient as delivery has been, I wish we were able to get some groceries without it costing so much extra for the taxi service.”

Deedri snorts and quells a rising growl in her tone. “You’d think they could let us borrow one of those crew vans. They’re just sitting around next door.”

Chad rolls his eyes and shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah... But, Samantha was FURIOUS about us escaping. I haven’t even been able to convince any of the crew to even run to the store for us. So, I think being able to stay here until then end of the month is about all we’re going to get from show.”

In the lull of conversation, attention returns to the game show. Minutes later, a phone alert sounds out and Deedri startles out of her embrace of Modoran. Fishing the device out of her pants pocket, she taps through the menus and opens up the latest message. Her auburn eyes read the message. A surge of excitement fluffs out her tail, and she eagerly springs up in her seat to the surprise of Modoran. “He’s awake!”

As the attention snaps to her, Deedri shows the display of her phone with pictures of Bach at the hospital with different team members surrounding. “Bach is awake!”

Chad and Trakenthin get up from the seats and lean to get a better view of the phone images, while Tassilda and Modoran crane their heads to see. The group shares their excitement and relief. From upstairs, Veevi quietly steps down and curiously peeks around at the uproar. Chad spots Veevi out of the corner of his eye, glances over his shoulder, and smiles at Veevi. “Hey. Sorry for being so loud.”

Veevi tenses briefly and averts her pink pupil eyes around. “Oh, um... No problem at all. I just heard all the loud noise and wondered what was going on.”

Turning the screen back to her view, Deedri happily paraphrases the message. “Bach woke up this morning. He’s aware, talking, and eating. So, really good signs for being unconscious for almost a week.”

A genuine smile appears on Veevi’s tan face and her pink furred tail wags. “That’s great!”

Narrowing her uneasy gaze to the side, she grimaces with hints of disgust. “I hope they got him something good to eat. The clinic food... um... yeah.”

Following her curiosity, Deedri squints at her phone screen and wrestles a faint frown. “Oh... that’s definitely the standard nutrient shake. I can tell by the look on his face. But, he should be on regular food soon.”

As the rest of the team peeks at the different pictures, Chad steps back and pulls out his aetherphone. Opening up the camera app, he lines up a shot of the group and snaps a few pictures. He pauses after feeling a soft tap on his shoulder. Glancing over, he meets Veevi’s smile. “Yes?”

Veevi points him over to the rest of the group and holds out her hand. “Go over with them. I’ll take a few pictures for you.”

Chad nods thankfully and hands over his phone. After sneaking a few pictures of the team gathering around, Veevi gets their attention for some more purposeful shots.

Late morning light slips through the blinds and drifts slowly across the bed sheets. Sebastian flutters his blue eyes open, winces against the brightening room, and fights a losing battle against a yawn. Slipping his hands out from under the sheets, he wipes the remaining sleep from his eyes and glances around the room. He groggily pulls himself up from the pillow and props himself up on his elbows. As consciousness dwells within him again, he notices the disturbed covers and empty spot next to him on the bed. He ponders a moment and angles his head when he hears faint noises bouncing down the hallway through the cracked open bedroom door. Nodding to himself, he draws in a long, slow, deep breath. Filling his chest full, he holds in the air and slowly releases it back out. Simple satisfaction radiates through Sebastian, and a relieved smile grows on his face. Sitting up all the way, he stretches out his bare arms and twists his upper body to the furthest range of motion. After a few strained grunts, he relaxes and idly watches the warm sunlight slip into the space. He distracts himself by flexing his limbs with a renewed appreciation for the physical.

Soft footsteps upon wooden floors echo down the hall. Aristespha peeks into the room from the doorway, and smiles lovingly at Sebastian. “Good. You’re finally up.”

Sebastian rubs the back of his head and chuckles. “Yeah. Sorry, dear. I’m used to you waking me up from the sword and all. I need to get a new phone, so I set an alarm.”

With a gentle giggle, Aristespha rolls her violet eyes. “There’s nothing to worry about, Sebastian. We don’t have anywhere to be.”

Idly rubbing his legs through the covers, Sebastian quirks his brow and listens intently. “Is it really quiet to you? It may have been the sword’s strange senses or something, but it’s usually a little noisier when everyone is up.”

Aristespha slowly pushes the door behind her closed and smiles warmly on her ivory face. “Oh. Yes. Everyone else headed out to get some errands done. They’re also going to take Bach some real food. Also, they’re bringing a change of his clothes, so he has something other than the patient gown to come home in tomorrow.”

A faint frown curls at the corner of Sebastian’s mouth, and he crosses his arms across his tan, defined chest. “Oh. Yeah. That makes sense. It’s gotten really cold lately. Wouldn’t my bro to quite literally freeze his ass off...”

As Aristespha deftly pulls the knot in the draw string of her pajama bottoms loose, she perks her brow and directs a curious tone to Sebastian. “Anything wrong?”

Sebastian rolls his blue eyes halfheartedly to the side and dismisses the notion with a shrug. “I’m just surprised they didn’t wait and ask me if I wanted to come along. That’s all.”

Slipping off her pajama bottoms, Aristespha steps closer to the bed with a sly smirk and soothing tone. “That’s my fault. They did ask me, and I told them you’d be busy today.”

Furrowing his brow, Sebastian’s blue eyes stare inwards. He sorts through a rush of thoughts and cocks his head. “Busy today? Wait, what’s going on today- Shit, did I forget something? Damn it, don’t tell me, I should know it then... There’s been a lot to keep track of...”

Letting her sleeping top drape down past her pale ivory hips, Aristespha shakes out her silvery blue hair and smiles lovingly at Sebastian. “It’s nothing planned. I just wanted to take advantage of an opportunity to... take care of something... we have done in a long time.”

Frantically searching his mind, Sebastian blinks between each confused flit and spark of bewilderment. He mutters to himself quietly. “...we haven’t done in a long time? ...what... ...shit... ...um...”

Grasping the bottom of her top, Aristespha gracefully pulls it off and over her head. She stands with a sultry gaze focused upon Sebastian and poses her athletic, gray and blue hinted figure suggestively next to the foot of the bed. She lifts her brow briefly in disbelief as she watches Sebastian ponder obliviously in an endless loop of fruitless memory searches. Resting her hands on her bare hips, she rolls her violet eyes. After a moment, she settles her loving gaze upon Sebastian and smiles happily. Glancing over at the top still in her grip, she starts to spin the garment up to speed and lines up a shot.

Sebastian’s train of thought screeches to a halt the moment the night shirt engulfs his face. He startles and blindly darts his covered glances around and mumbles. “What the-?”

He pulls the garment off and spots a pair of familiar thighs on the bed, with a knee on each side of his legs. As Sebastian’s blue eyes trace up the figure, Aristespha’s hands grip his shoulders, and she pushes him onto his back. The obvious conclusion finally arrives in Sebastian’s mind, and he cracks sly smile. “Oh. Yeah.”

Aristespha snorts out a quick laugh and shakes her head of long, silvery blue hair draping down to the sides of Sebastian’s face. “Gods. I am so glad we managed to get you out of that sword. I’d be afraid of what else you might start forgetting.”

Twisting a bit of embarrassment on his face, Sebastian chuckles. “Yeah. You know, I just need a good refresher course... Or two... Three?

Leaning her face close, Aristespha giggles and whispers. “Well. Do you want your refresher course before or after breakfast?”

Sebastian dons a smug smile and rests his hands on Aristespha thighs with a confident tone. “Yes.”

A seductive grin graces Aristespha’s lips, and she kisses Sebastian. “Good answer.”

A faint drone sounds out from the split unit mounted on the wall in the living area. The warm air currents drift through the space and gently sway the corners of paperwork laying upon the sunlit coffee table. A tablet upon the dining table chimes with another notification, and a slowly blinking light signals out to the world. From behind the kitchen door to the garage, a muffled, mechanical rumble sounds out. Peaking briefly over the din, a whine of vehicle powerplant spins down into the background noise.

Minutes of relative quiet later, a dull thud sounds out from the door with a mumbling curse. Laughs and snickers accompany the rattling of the door knob. Stepping through into the kitchen, Sebastian rubs his forehead and groans at himself. “I’m STILL getting used to having to open these things! I have to admit not having to worry about doors was actually a useful perk of being some kind of projection ghost.”

Climbing up the few stairs to the doorway, Bach walks out into the kitchen and glances over to his brother with amused grin. “So, how many walls have you run right into?”

Narrowing a brief glare at Bach, Sebastian rolls his blue eyes dismissively and sighs. “Way more than I want to admit. Seriously, bro, it’s been a weird experience having to worry about physical barriers again.”

Bach grants an understanding nod to Sebastian, and idly wanders out next to the dining table and gazes around the space. Aristespha steps past Bach and flops a binder of paperwork onto the sprawling pile on the tabletop. “It never ceases to amaze me how much release paperwork they can materialize from seemingly nowhere.”

Gripping the back of a dining chair, Bach surveys the chaotic mess upon the table and furrows his brow as curiosity leads his investigative gaze. “Well, I mean... I was there for week, under circumstances I’m sure the GAA didn’t fully reveal. They probably really didn’t want me to leave so soon.”

Aristespha smiles reassuringly and pats Bach gently on the back. “It was just for observation. Which I can handle, and let you sleep in a proper bed and eat good food.”

As she stacks up paperwork and organizes it off the tabletop, she smirks slyly. “Unless, you want to enjoy anymore of the fine cuisine they had on their menu.”

Quelling a cringe down to a grimace, Bach laughs uneasily and shudders. “Yeah... I’ll pass.”

Stepping right next to Bach with a gentle lean, Cideeda places two large paper bags with the Fval Spice logo upon the table and glances up to Bach. “I think your favorite is at the top of one of these.”

Bach smiles appreciatively and peeks into the sacks. Sorting through the contents, he places out the different packages of warm food upon the tabletop and creates some order to the abundance of dishes. “Damn, did we leave them anything to serve their other customers?”

Dretphi steps up close to the table and lays out large entree pans upon surface, while Aristespha scoops up another bundle of documents into a growing mass. With a warm smile, she gazes at Bach. “We have another eating. You seemed hungry yesterday.”

With a chuckle, Bach shrugs while scratching the back of his head of longer brown hair. “Yeah... Those protein shakes, whatever, they had for me... It didn’t really do much.”

Sotalia struts through the door with a cardboard beverage holder in each hand and places them on the counter near the bar. “Okay, get your drink orders here.”

She picks up her colorful drink with an elaborate order ticket still hanging on and stares over the small banquet forming on the dining table. While sipping the first tastes of her beverage, she blinks her golden eyes and perks up. “Oh, we are going to need some plates to handle this. Let me get them out.”

As the prep work activity peaks, Bach steps clear and wanders over towards his brother standing with a remote in hand. “What are you doing?”

Sebastian glances over before shifting his attention back to the programming on the television. “Just seeing what’s there to watch.”

He leans close to Bach and whispers. “It’s also kind of nice to be able to choose what I want to watch rather than hope someone else is watching something I want to.”

Bach nods with smirk. “Yeah. I bet that had to be rough.”

Sebastian shakes his head and snorts. “Not as bad as not having a phone that I could use by myself. I mean, Aristespha has been awesome letting me use hers to talk to mom and dad. But...”

He draws in a long breath through his nose and sighs slowly. “Bro, the amount of embarrassing details mom has revealed about our family... I mean... Gods...”

Directing a loving smile towards Aristespha, Sebastian chuckles to himself. “Well, if that hasn’t scared off Aristespha, nothing will.”

After a moment, Bach perks his brow and nudges Sebastian back in the shoulder. “So, what kind of phone are you going to get? I mean, we’re both in the market for them now.”

Sebastian pauses in thought and awkwardly twists his mouth indecisively. “Ah, shit. I don’t know. I think I’ll just go with whatever Cideeda suggests. I’ve been out of the loop since it was pointless me worry about it. She actually keeps up with all that.”

Nodding in agreement, Bach briefly grits his teeth. “Yeah, me too. Sad part is that I just was figuring out that last one. I was customizing my background and color scheme finally.”

Rolling his blue eyes, Sebastian snorts and whispers to Bach. “That’s Murphy for you. Figure something out, you end up having to get a new one.”

Pausing his channel surfing on the local news, he focuses his concern on Bach. “Hey... I know this might be too soon to ask given everything. But, how’s things going magically with you? I mean, a lot of crazy stuff happened and...”

Bach blinks at the question for a moment and swiftly realizes the aim of inquiry. “Oh! Yeah. Um. I think it’s good? When I got a few moments free from the doctors, I tried a few small things.”

Sebastian awaits expectantly with a bit of hope. “And?”

Smiling confidently, Bach rests a hand on Sebastian’s shoulder and nods. “Seems to all work. Felt about the same as it was before. So, I don’t think there’s been any great change in the normal magic department. So, that’s good? I have to experiment and practic, but so far... It feels just normal.”

Furrowing his brow, Sebastian glances around briefly before he bows his head slightly. “What about the elder magic department?”

Squinting his stare internally, Bach’s blue eyes search around himself, and he sighs uncertainly. “It’s... There. I don’t know how to describe the feeling. It feels... a little more distant? Well, maybe not crowding me as much? Less intense? I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel as stifling. Like I’m able to breath easier.”

He turns his head, gazes into Sebastian’s eyes, and grins happily. “And gods... I am SO okay with that.”

Sebastian smiles as a wave of relief washes over him and laughs. “I bet. Holy shit. You really NEVER need to do anything like what happened again. Please.”

Shaking his head, Bach groans out a mix of disgust and stale frustration. “Yeah, some other group can take on the next Dark Lord. We’ve fulfilled our gods damned quota in the save the world department. I don’t plan on being in that situation ever again.”

He halts as a thought jumps to the front of his mind and narrows a wary stare at Sebastian. “So... What’s the situation between all of us and the GAA military? I’ve been meaning to ask that, but kind didn’t want to bring up with everything else happening. I mean, are we good with them? Or...?”

Slowly nodding, Sebastian hisses in a long breath through gritting teeth and pivots towards Aristespha. He motions towards a tall stack of paper packets and calls out. “Oh, dear? Which one of those releases is Bach’s?”

Aristespha follows the attention from Bach and Sebastian, sifts the small mountain of paperwork, and plucks out stapled mass. She dangles it and grins with a sarcastic tone. “You get one, too, Bach! This one right here. It needs ALL your signatures.”

In a chorus of commiserating snickers and chuckles, Bach frowns in defeat and sighs. “Well. Fuck.”

Sebastian pats Bach on his back and shrugs his shoulders. “It’s not that bad. Basically, don’t talk or write about what you saw or did there until such a time it is officially declassified and you have been officially informed so.”

Bach rolls his eyes and shrugs. “Well, I wasn’t going to do that anyway. I guess that works out. Just really didn’t need some government paperwork to keep me honest about it. So much for staying off any lists.”

Near the small impromptu buffet, Dretphi motions Bach towards the plates and smiles warmly. “Bach. You are first. Eat.”

With a guiding push from Sebastian, Bach steps up to his spot in the line and fills a plate with a bountiful collection of food. The team filters around the table, sampling the different Fval Spice dishes and eagerly loading up. The group finds spots around the area to settle their plates and cups upon. Bach wanders over to the couch, slips in behind the coffee table, and clears a spot out. He sits down and leans back into the cushions. Sebastian drops down next to him and jokingly shoulder shoves him.

The television screen flashes to a local news intro sequence and imagery of a familiar tower, walls, and surrounding ancient platforms. Bach quirks his brow and cocks his head. “Huh, looks like they’re going to do some kind of segment about that place.”

Interest piques and quickly draws everyone else in. Dretphi sits next to Bach on the couch, Cideeda hops up on a couch arm, Aristespha leans against the other arm near Sebastian, and Sotalia lounges out on the golden stabilized magical chair nearby. Sebastian turns up the volume of the program. Sotalia rolls her golden eyes, points a fork with a hanging noodle towards the screen, and crosses her legs. “How much you want to bet they down play our involvement?”

Lowering her furry ears, Cideeda nods with a grumble and balances herself on the arm of the couch. “Oh, they will. After what we had to sign, you bet they’re going to put themselves first and take most the credit. It’s not like we’re going to be able to say anything about it.”

Dretphi shrugs and dons an indifferent stoic smirk. “It is fine. Would not want to have to deal with the attention. Obscurity is not bad.”

Shaking his head, Sebastian chuckles and glances down for the next morsel on his plate. “It’s not like we’re ever going to hard pressed to get work after all this. We’re going to have our choice of some exclusive guild postings.”

Aristespha smiles lovingly at Sebastian and swirls her drink. “Of course, we will worry about that AFTER we have a nice long vacation. I’ve already been researching some lovely resorts. I have actually gotten a few recommendations from Deedri.”

As the news anchor recounts the minor events leading up to the main segment, Bach wanders his gaze around the room. Aristespha, Cideeda, Dretphi, Sotalia, and Sebastian comment to each other about random bits while the stories play out, in between bites of food. In the middle of the gathering, Bach sits. A genuine, content smile grows upon his tan face, and he looks upon all the friends around with new satisfaction. In a lull of the conversation, he takes the opportunity to join in on the commentary.

After a colorful transition segment on screen, the anchor on the television clears his throat.

“Today, the GAA has released an official statement about the events that occurred in the Eagle Rock province. Following extensive GAA military investigations and the efforts of multiple contractors, the Dark Lord Noxian was located. While his actions activated previously unknown ancient ruins, his efforts were ultimately thwarted. The GAA lead containment operation, with the assistance of adventuring parties The Flames of the Phoenix and, the previous Chosen One, Sebastian Warwick’s team, managed to subdue any immediate dangers. The area will remain under GAA jurisdiction until a time that it has been deemed safe, where it will be returned to local authorities to police. The Dark Lord Noxian was captured and presently remains in GAA custody.”

“We at Nexus News would like to thank the GAA military and all supporting groups for their bravery in finally apprehending the Dark Lord and protecting all from dangers unknown. It certainly must been a long, involved journey. We wish them luck in their future adventures.”