MiddleVeil County

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Raven shook the dirt from his hair and looked around the now empty field. He'd come, he'd saved his mate, and the world took Cy away again. Sonny, Kate, and Az were gone, too and Raven was left with the field of Jane. The purple blossoms had faded to brown, falling from their pedestals, and even the grass that sprung up from his blood was dead. The air in front of him shimmered and his backpack solidified.

He'd jumped through the hoops and someone raised them higher, set them on fire, and told him to do it all again. Alone.

The colors stuttered to a halt as he watched the sun rising, a large ball of white noise in a vast pale gray. The loud buzz vibrated the ground beneath him and he frowned as he wondered how he'd gotten there. Where was he? Why was he dirty? Whose blood was he wearing?

"Sir?"

Where had she come from? Raven blinked up at the female standing between him and the noise that softened enough for him to hear her.

"This is private property and you are trespassing," she said, squatting down in front of him. "Are you hurt?"

"Hurt?" Raven blinked again. Yeah, he was, but she wouldn't understand. "No. I'm fine. Thank you for asking." he answered.

"This is Paddens. I have a homeless man sitting in Juniper's Folly, Sheriff."

A voice erupted from somewhere on her person, but Raven wasn't paying attention. He'd stopped after she said 'homeless'. Her hand touched his shoulder, and he jerked away, but she took it as resistance. She snatched him up then, reading him his rights as she shoved him towards the SUV parked a few feet away. The engine was running and the driver's side door stood open.

'SHERIFF' spanned the length, and beneath it, it read, 'MiddleVeil County'.

Raven had never heard of it.

The handcuffs chaffed, but he endured it and twenty minutes later the cell door clanked closed. Rubbing his wrists, he looked around the cinder block room before he crossed to the far corner opposite the toilet and sat down on the floor.

'It never happened' chanted through his mind. He leaned his back against the wall, drawing his knees to his chest. The gleaming white floor was cold to his bare feet but he didn't care. No one else did, so why should he?

Voices beyond the door grew closer but Raven didn't pay attention. Someone came to look at him and left again, their footfalls echoing in the hall. The sound bounced and added a squeak from the breaking of new leather. Ah, Paddens. Raven had become an attraction in the freak show that was now his life.

"He so tall!" a male whispered.

"His toe nails are black, Jared. I think he paints them!" Paddens whispered back.

"Where in the hell did he come from?"

"I don't know. Just saw him sittin'there after an anonymous tip that someone was squattin' on Juniper's Folly."

Squatting? Raven laughed and two faces peered around the wall to gawk at him. "Should I dance?" he asked and they jerked out of sight again.

"Dance? Is he like offerin'to get naked?" Jared whispered as the whispered of a door closing reached Raven.

"Hello?"

Raven didn't recognize the voice, so he went back to his mantra, changing it to 'Never create anything I can't control or destroy'. 'Never let my battle lines become a circle'.

"Sir?"

Good gods! The female was back!

"That's my dad."

"Are you sure? He doesn't look like you," Paddens said.

"I look like my mom."

"What was he doing at Juniper's Folly?"

"He owns it? You've arrested him for being on his own property."

"The records say that it belongs to Draven Thorne, Tristan. Your last name is Feeleeday."

"Fellideh, and Draven Thorne is a corporation," Tristan 'Fellideh' replied. Raven turned his head enough to see the boy, but he, like the rest of Raven's world view, was monochrome.

"He doesn't have identification, Tristan. I can't just let him go without--"

Two more young men joined the first, and Jared, who reminded Raven of a watery court jester. All the man lacked was the hat. Well, and colors. Colors would be good.

Throaty laughter erupted from the female and Raven glared at her. She flinched, turning to look at Raven, who smiled.

"Oh, hell. Miss Paddens, please don't piss him off," the taller of the trio said, rubbing his forehead.

"It's Deputy Sheriff Paddens, and who might you be?"

"Shiloh. I'm Shiloh, and these are my brothers, Kansas and Tristan. You called me to see if I wanted to press charges? I don't. That's my dad."

Deputy Sheriff Paddens laughed again. "He's not old enough."

"Does it really matter? I'm not pressing charges and he hasn't done anything."

"He's dirty, bloody, and shoeless," she argued.

"None of those things are a crime," Tristan said.

"Well, the blood came from somewhere."

"Shh," Kansas, who hadn't said a word, placed his hand on the good almost sheriff, and she crumpled. Tristan caught her and Jared fumbled with his keys.

The door swung open with a whine and Tristan placed one Miss Lou Paddens into Jared's waiting arms. "We weren't here," the boy said.

"That'll last if they never see us again, brother," Shiloh said as he and Kansas stepped into the cell. Raven pushed himself to stand, hoping they found his backpack. "Dad, I'm taking your hand, now. Don't bite me."

Raven hadn't planned on biting any of them. He could still smell. The three young men were his sons even if he didn't remember where they'd come from. At the moment he couldn't remember what he'd been doing or how he ended up in a field.

"Where are we?" he asked.

"Home, papa. You're home."

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