Sons and Daughters

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Cy hadn't been able to reach Raven in three months. The sliver of black that had separated their colors in his head disappeared the night before but Raven's shied away from every attempt at communication.

He stretched out on the bed next to their son and brushed the soft raven curls from Mead's forehead. Mead took a deep breath and his lips curved into a small smile. "Papa," the baby whispered, turning his face towards Cy's chest.

The door to the apartment opened and the scent of Belgian chocolate wafted into the one-room space. The brothers' Félidés entered one by one with Shiloh leading the way. Three of them were carrying a sleeping baby, and they stopped at the foot of the bed.

In the sixteen years Cy had been imprisoned, Raven's sons remained, and four new cubs had been born. Shiloh and Kansas were the oldest and a year apart down to the second. They suffered under the Félidés curse and now had a daughter the same age as their youngest siblings.

Tristan and Ross were Raven's only set of twins, and they were born on the night Lucah erected Wynter House on the grounds of Juniper's Folly.

From a distance, the young men were identical: glossy raven black hair, black arched brows, pale eyes, high cheekbones, strong angled jawlines. Standing together, the differences were noted in height, stance, and style of dress. Where Tristan and Ross possessed Viper pink eyes, Kansas' were the color of snow that clouded the pink of his pupils. Shiloh's were the gray of storm clouds.

A favored few were allowed to see the young men's eyes. Most of the time the brothers wore tinted lenses to block out the lights that played havoc with the colors. Light was not only a sight, but a sound. It added to the cacophony of prayers that bombarded all of them in a constant hum. Spelled titanium plating in the walls of their homes and businesses were the only ways to block the invasion.

"Papa is here," Tristan whispered, Signing the words as he bounced.

"Well, at least you're speaking English, now," Ross said as he swayed to keep his little sister, Gracie, calm.

"We were wondering if you tried to send papa blood?" Shiloh murmured as he pushed his daughter, Edyn, higher up on his chest.

"No, because Azzy can't find Raven. The majick is set on War," Cy whispered. Kansas was silent as usual, but he was paying attention.

"What if the majick is confused?" Ross asked.

"How would that happen? We are all defined by specific things, brother." Shi arched a brow.

The bathroom door opened and Az emerged wrapped in a towel as he padded barefoot to the closet.

"Those definitions are in our colors, our Elements, our Animals, and our names," Az said.

"Okay, so what changed?" Ross asked. "I mean, Lucah thinks he's Ether, and that's a name that defines the rest, Az."

"Gemini is mated to Ether, brother." Kansas murmured, joining the conversation. Lord Cinis had come to some conclusion, but Cy had already reached it. "We need the mating contract. If we had that, we would know how papa ended up here, without--"

"Not going there," Tristan protested, causing them to look at him.

"Tris?" Ross cocked his head to the side. "Who are you talking to?"

"No one." Tristan shook his head.

"Papa in dasparkies," Mead mumbled, rubbing his forehead on Cy's chest.

"What are the sparkies, Little Man?" Shi asked.

"Papa, we go home, now?" Edyn asked, lifting her head and touching her forehead to Shi's cheek.

"Where is home?" Az asked.

"Near thasparkies," Mead replied. "Brudder, home." Mead pointed at Shiloh.

A smile crept up Kansas' face. "The cabin, brother. Last week, Mead called the bar the sparkies."

"You took Mead to Last Spirits?" Cy whispered, sitting up and pulling his son into his lap.

"Nah, we drove past it. He likes the Seven-Oh, Cy." Shi smiled. "Tris, I shielded the whole property, so the dead won't bother you, I swear."

Cy understood, then. Tristan was lord Vitae. He'd never met his Uncle Noir because they were on opposite sides of the majick. Noir was the Grim Reaper and Tristan was Life. Ross should have shared the majick with him, but they were born in the middle of the battle at Juniper's Folly and Ross didn't receive the majick for the godhood. Tristan was also closer to Kansas than Ross, and Ross had been kept out of the planes during the war.

"I'll go. You stay here." Az pointed at Cy and then Mead. "I have been to Last Spirits, and the bar opened an hour ago."

"So have I," Kansas murmured, easing a still sleeping Lou into the crook of Shiloh's free arm.

"Why the bar?" Ross frowned.

"The majick's screwed up. Justice couldn't get into Last Spirits as Justice, for so many reasons." Az raised his eyebrows.

"He'd stop the ones trying to die because he has final say," Tristan said.

"Justice waited with the dead before he was born," Shi added.

"Then wouldn't that mean he should be there?" Ross cocked his head to the side.

"No. Justice is final law, final death, and defender of the falsely dead. None of that is needed in the bar. Suicide is against our laws, Ross. It's a conflict of interest, but necessary."

"I really don't understand." Ross sighed.

"The process goes like this," Az began. "The Soul Maker places a new Soul or Essence into a Vessel. They are born, they live, and if they are slated to, they die. In the planes, the Souls and Essences come back here, to The Veil, and the Soul Maker cleans them for a new Vessel."

"The people involved in the war come with their Vessels, brother. They cannot pass on to be reborn," Kansas explained. "Aunt Catori is not doing her job, otherwise the Vessels wouldn't be here."

"Free Will allows them the decision to remain among the living, or visit Last Spirits to be reborn." Az looked up then and held out an empty vial to Cy.

"If Cat's not doing her job, then how does Last Spirits work?" Ross asked.

Cy tore his wrist open and waited for the blood to fill the glass before he answered. "They are purified when they pass through Death's Door. The Vessel ashes and the Essences and Souls are cleaned. The majick sends them to an empty Vessel needing animation."

"So, basically, Uncle automated it." Ross nodded. "I still don't get what that has to do with papa."

"It wouldn't have a damned thing to do with him if Lucah hadn't fucked with the majick," Az muttered before he crawled halfway on to the bed and kissed Mead's forehead. "I'll be back Little Man."

"Okay, papa." Mead beamed and delivered a sloppy kiss to Az's cheek. "You say papa, 'hey'."

"I'll do that." Az grinned. "Ready?" he asked Kansas, and the air shimmered around them as they counted spaces.

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