CHAPTER NINE

Dusty studied the scenes on the screens of his command center, agitated at the weather hindering their ability to deal with Talon's vamps. Radar and thermal image coverage was decent, indicating the vamps were mainly gathered in one spot. He took in the various scenes, to include the local news, which blasted photos of the black skies and mounting waves of the tropical-storm-turned-hurricane.

The Black God was back, which meant Bianca wasn't far from him. It took effort to repress his anger and his desire to tear outta there to find her.

"No word on Talon," Jenn said from beside him.

"The Black God's there?" Jonny asked. "What about B?"

"Shut up, kid," Dusty replied. "How many vamps?"

"A few hundred, close to a thousand."

The young man drew away from the table. Jenn touched the earpiece tucked in her ear, frowning.

"And so is Darian."

"Darian?" Dusty echoed.

"Hey, boss, the storm blew out our explosives work," Jimmy's scratchy voice came across the intercom. "We can blow half the place up and send in a team to finish off the rest."

"Wait one," Dusty said and whipped out his phone.

He prepared himself for the worst and dialed the Grey God.

"Don't yell!" Darian picked up after the first ring. "I have to, Dusty! You'll understand!"

"We're gonna blow the place, Darian! Get the fuck outta there!"

"Dusty, you can't! Bianca's here!"

"What happened to taking care of Ohio?" he asked after a pause. "Shouldn't you be saving those people so I don't blow them up?"

"I will, I will. Iggy found a temporary solution to stop the spread, and I sealed the area around the town. Nothing can get in or out. Trust me, Dusty!"

Dusty wanted nothing more than to order Darian back to Ohio to finish one mess before dragging them into another. Instead, he drew a deep breath and said,

"Find Bianca. I'll be there soon."

"Talon just showed up," Jenn said quietly.

It's time.

Dusty hung up the phone and gazed at the screens.

"Jimmy, throw everything you've got at the target in 30 minutes," he said into the intercom. "Jenn, keep Jonny away from that place and safe."

He checked his weapons and pulled off his jacket, clipping as many magazines to his belt as he could.

"Got it. The thing blows at 11:30."

"What're you doing?" Jenn asked, watching him closely.

"Whatever I have to," he replied. "Watch the kid and get word to Damian tomorrow morning."

"Dusty, just send in a team to pull her out. We've done this a million times!"

"Not this time, Jenn. Talon and Czerno are about to face off, and Talon can't be the one to walk away from there."

"At least hold off on - "

"Jenn!" he said, gripping her arms. "I don't have time for this shit! Watch the kid, and make sure nothing - and I mean nothing - leaves that place alive! If I can't do what I need to in 30 minutes, we're all fucked!"

Jenn appeared torn but gave a nod. Dusty released her, strapped in the last weapon, and looked around.

"Where the fuck's Jonny?"

"I'll take care of it. You're running out of time," she said tightly. "He can't go anywhere anyway."

Dusty gave a curt nod and closed his eyes. Coldness, then the sound of the storm beating the building around him. The conference hall was dimly lit, and he immediately smelled the blood of a recent kill. His senses thrummed with presence of so many vamps. Drawing a weapon, he walked through the hall and into a corridor. He sensed Darian and Czerno distinctly, the level of power the gods possessed distinguishable despite the massive presence of vamps.

He moved through the building towards Darian, finding him on the ground floor away from the vamps. The Grey God was pacing, his golden eyes glowing in the dark room.

"Are you even trying to find Bianca?" Dusty snapped.

"I know where she is."

"This place is gonna blow soon. You need to leave, Darian."

"No, Dusty!" the Grey God said firmly. "I have to be here, same as you."

Something in his voice had changed. The teenage whininess was gone, replaced by confidence.

"Where's Jonny?" Darian asked.

"With Jenn at HQ. He's too chicken shit to kill you, Darian."

"Not worried about him killing me."

"Where's Bianca?"

"You don't wanna go after her yet, Dusty."

"Just answer the fucking question!"

The Grey God gave a familiar, noisy sigh and turned, pointing out a window. Dusty's gaze followed his finger, where Talon and the Black God stood a part from the others under the protection of a small verandah. Bianca hung back from both, kept in place by two vamps on either side of her.

She was pale beneath her warm color with dark circles beneath her eyes. He studied her, feeling as though he was seeing her for the first time and the last.

She was the most beautiful being he'd ever seen.

If he weren't damned to die this night, he could see himself with her forever. His gut twisted at the idea of never again seeing her bright smile, holding her, smelling her sweet scent.

But if he didn't act, no one walked away from here alive, even her.

He looked away and steeled himself.

"Take this," he said, handing Darian the phone. "If you let anything happen to her, I swear to the Original Beings I'll haunt you from the grave for the rest of your life!"

Darian accepted the phone.

"What're you doing?" he asked in a hushed voice.

"I believe in you, Darian. Always have," Dusty said, slapping him on the shoulder. "Don't fuck up."

"Dusty, we can just blow everything up," Darian said, a note of panic in his voice.

"We will. You've got 27 minutes to get the fuck outta here before Jimmy levels this place."

Dusty walked away, drawing his weapons. He strode through the vacant hallways to the verandah doors. Rain and wind battered him. The vamps around Bianca whirled, and he raised the hand cannons, blasting all four before they reached the door.

Bianca gasped as he strode by. Talon drew his weapons, but the Black God smiled.

"Damian's assassin," Czerno purred.

Talon's nostrils flared, and Dusty lowered his weapons.

"My beef isn't with you, Czerno, but with your pet," he said.

"Fuck off, Dusty. Pop, blast this fuck!" Talon snarled.

"Looks like a convenient match-up between demi-gods," Czerno responded. "Do your own dirty work, son."

Talon's sneer faded. The Black God held out a hand, and Dusty took it, feeling the cold of transporting from one place to another. They appeared in the conference hall, whose seats were filling with vamps eager to see Talon's show.

Czerno had left Bianca, giving Darian the opportunity he needed to snatch her and run.

At least, he hoped that's what Darian did. He glanced at his watch.

24 minutes. He needed to draw this out as long as possible, so Jimmy's explosions took out Talon and all the vamps if he couldn't.

"You're too young to remember, but in my time, we didn't have guns," he said. "I don't give a shit how I have to kill you!" Talon replied. "You want knives, I got knives. You want swords, I got swords. Either way, you're dead."

Dusty stripped off the clunky modern weaponry, keeping his sword and knives. He removed the bullet-proof vest and the body armor on his arms and legs to help free his movement.

Czerno was gone. He looked around, bristling, then saw the Black God reappear with Bianca.

"Fucking Darian!" he muttered.

"It's cool, bro," Darian said from nearby. "I'm here to make sure you don't fuck up the universe."

"I don't give two shits about the universe!" he said, turning to face the Grey God.

Darian's eyes glowed and swirled. They were pinned on Czerno, his power once again bending light and dark around him.

"Just fight, Dustin," the Grey God said in a hushed voice. "I'll take care of everything else, I promise."

The Grey God looked possessed. Dusty studied him a moment longer, recalling his conversation with the Watcher. Czerno gave the Darian a warning look, and Dusty stepped onto the dais, where Talon awaited him.

At this point, he had no choice but to trust Darian.

Bianca watched in horror and awe as the two men fought. The brutal display of strength and speed was unlike anything she'd ever seen. Swords clashed and spit sparks while their feet danced too fast for her to follow. Talon fought with fury, his eyes glowing red, while Dusty fought with a calm, controlled intensity.

Several times she'd thought Dusty had the upper hand and could've killed the leering vamp, and several times, he'd deferred, once with a glance at his watch. Lightening tore across the otherwise silent room, where vamps stood enraptured by the battle before them.

Darian hadn't been able to look away from the Black God, whose hand was clenched with painful tightness around her forearm. She quelled her rising panic. She hadn't seen Darian since he dumped her with the Black God in the alternate dimension, and she didn't like the way the air around him shimmered, at once dark and light. While he stood in Dusty's corner, she wasn't convinced he'd chosen a side.

Talon stumbled, and Dusty froze rather than pounced, his head whipping around. The Black God tensed simultaneously, and Darian's eyes glowed brighter. They stared towards a hallway too dark for her to see into. Talon lashed out at Dusty, and she gasped as he barely blocked in time. The two continued, but the Black God snatched her by the neck and moved out of the candlelight, into the darkness.

Whatever was in the hallway distracted Dusty again, and red splashed across his forearm as Talon's blow grazed him.

"Dusty!" she cried.

Czerno squeezed her neck hard with a shake, and she gasped as he cut off her air. Across the room, Darian shifted closer to the battle, one hand rubbing the back of his head.

Lightening split the ceiling with a boom, frying several vamps in the crowd. The force of the strike knocked everyone off their feet and deadened the firelight, except for the torches in the corners. The storm roared in through the ceiling, hail and water pelting her body while thunder deafened her.

Still, Czerno didn't let go of her. He pulled her to her feet and against the wall, where the rain was less harsh. He'd stopped draining her healing power, and she felt a change in his body. He was weak, a type of weakness she couldn't heal.

In another flash of lightening, she saw a form dart from the hallway, around the stunned crowd, towards her. The scent of burning flesh filled the hall, and she shuddered beneath the onslaught of rain and wind.

Dusty and Talon rose, Talon taking the chance to launch himself at Dusty. She gave a strangled cry as Dusty twisted out of reach, the sword slicing through the back of his shirt. Sparks soon flew again.

Some vamps raced out of the hall while others crowded around them, the Black God forgotten. Still others torched the wooden chairs until a fire blazed in the back of the hall.

On Dusty and Talon fought. Dusty's shout to Darian was lost in another burst of thunder. He pointed to his watch.

Suddenly, she was flung to the wet floor. Surprised, she twisted in time to see a tall form hack again and again at the Black God, whose own knife was planted in the attacker's chest. Lightening revealed Jonny's face.

"B!" he shouted, dropping beside her. He pulled the knife from his chest, tossing it on the still body of the Black God. His face was drawn and pale, his eyes wild.

"Jonny!" she flung her arms around him.

His body drank her healing power. She squeezed him tight.

"I got you, B, don't worry!" he said, breathing hard. "I got you!"

He shuddered as her magic worked on him then wobbled to his feet, taking her hand.

"Dusty's gonna blow this place up! We gotta go!"

"Blow it up?" she shouted above the storm, careening into him as he maneuvered around a fallen table.

"C'mon, B!"

She stopped him, heart wrenching.

"Jonny, we can't leave him!"

"B, we have to go! Now!"

"No, Jonny, I - "

He pulled her towards the dark hallway, staying close to the walls. They ducked into the hall, and she pulled away.

"Jonny, please! We have to - "

"Bianca!" he said, shaking her. "Come with me, please! We don't have much time!"

His attention was drawn over her head, and his mouth went lax. She turned to see the hall in disarray, a mist darker than night slowly creeping through the crowd. Talon and Dusty no longer fought, instead searching their surroundings wildly in the light of strobing lightening and the fire at the far end of the hall. Talon knelt where Czerno had fallen then rose, roaring in anger. His gaze turned towards the hallway.

Darian was a black hole for light and dark, both swimming around him until he appeared encapsulated by them. In the distance, she heard the familiar, unmistakable sound of an explosion. The dark mist slid to the floor and crept towards them. Vamps, chairs, the floor - all disintegrated at its touch.

"I don't have much time," Jonny whispered. "Run to the end of this hall, then go out the double doors to the left. It'll take you outside to the west lawn. Run, B, and don't stop."

He dropped her hand and started back to the hall.

"Jonny? Jonny!"

"B, go, please!"

He pushed her further into the corridor, and she watched, horrified when he broke into a run, headed straight towards the dark mist.

Talon grabbed him, his movement blurred. She rushed forward, screaming when his dagger fell twice, thrice, five times.

Jonny fell and didn't move. Talon stood with a roar.

Suddenly, Dusty was there. He knocked Talon off his feet, and the two began their battle anew.

"Jonny!" she shouted, running to drop beside him.

Talon had torn his chest and abdomen open. Jonny's eyes were open and blank, his face pale.

The ground beneath them shook, and suddenly, the world slowed and fell quiet. She looked up at Darian a short distance away, watching his dark-light power streak around the room. Raindrops fell as if in slow motion, and lightening stayed, brighter than the midday sun.

The vamps moved as if in slow motion. Dusty, Talon, Darian, Jonny, and she alone weren't affected. She touched Jonny's lifeless body, recalling the Watcher's words.

"Come back to me, Jonny," she whispered, crying as she placed her hands on his face.

She concentrated as hard as she could, listening for his body to speak to her. At first, there was nothing. She concentrated harder. A tiny cry and a spark reached out to her. She channeled her energy towards it, and it roared awake, thirsty and demanding.

Jonny breathed. She sat back, dizzy with effort. He sat with effort and looked around.

"Jonny! I can't hold this!" Darian bellowed. His face blazed red from exertion, his eyes glowing brightly.

Her brother rose, helping her to her feet. The world continued in its delayed movement, and they turned to watch the battling duo. Talon went down hard. Within seconds, his head flew across the room.

She watched as the mist swallowed his body and paused at Dusty's, creeping up his boot without harming him. It moved up his leg. His body shook, and he flung his head back to the sky with a hoarse shout.

"Dusty!" she whispered, stricken.

The earth trembled, and her legs crumbled beneath her. She felt Jonny's intent gaze on her as he knelt.

"None of us are gonna survive this!" she cried, looking up at the sky.

"I love you, B," he said and hugged her.

"I love you, Jonny."

He kissed her forehead and launched to his feet. Startled, she watched him dart towards Dusty. Jonny snatched the sword Dusty used against Talon and plunged it through the frozen demi-god.

Dusty fell, the mist swallowed Jonny, and Bianca screamed.

Darian shouted, staggering. She crawled and clawed her way to Dusty, looking wildly for her brother. She collapsed on top of him, her healing powers flowing unabated.

"Bianca!"

The Grey God snatched her in one arm and Dusty in the other. The slow motion world around them snapped into real time, throwing them against a wall. Explosions ripped the ground from beneath them and blinded her.

Familiar coldness and silence washed over her before the quiet was replaced by the storm's furious bellow.

Darian staggered, dropped her, and landed hard on his backside. She looked around, disoriented. Her ears still rung from the explosions lighting up the sky.

"Jimmy's … real good … at that," Darian managed, gasping.

"Jonny," she whispered.

"He's ok."

She twisted to see the Grey God, whose ashen face and dulled eyes were trained on the still body beside her.

"He escaped?" she rasped.

"Sorta."

"Where is he?"

"He's ok, I promise. Can you fix him?"

She looked at Dusty's still body, feeling overjoyed and fearful. With effort, she rolled him onto his back. He was alive and unconscious. His body drank what healing she had to give. She brushed water from his face and traced a finger along his jaw

"Damian's gonna be so pissed," Darian said to no one in particular.

"Dustin!"

The familiar voice was carried on the wind. She squinted towards the blazing buildings to see a dark figure half-trotting, half-limping towards them. Jenn reached them and bent at the waist, gasping.

"Don't even try … to help," she griped at Darian.

"I didn't know you were here," he said with some chagrin.

"That little shit Jonny made me bring him then knocked me out. Where is he? He needs an ass beating!"

"He's ok."

"Whatever happened drained all my power," Jenn said. "You?"

"Kinda used up all my resources and then stole everyone else's. Figured everything'd turn out ok," he said with a weak shrug. "Looks like I was right."

"You are a shithead! Didn't stop to think we might be in the middle of helping when you sucked us dry? Gods, I don't know what might've happened if I'd been in mid-transport or some shit! Not to sound like Dusty, but you gotta learn some self-control! Who knows what the f-"

Darian grumbled as Jenn berated him.

Bianca listened, numb. Her hands rested on Dusty while her gaze remained on the burning clubhouse. She waited for Jonny, her gut twisting in fear.

* * *

"Trinka," he said, kneeling in front of his little sister.

"Hi Dusty," she murmured.

She flung her arms around him, the sweet smell of innocence and softness of her body making him melt. Gods how he missed her!

"I brought you something," she said, holding up her tiny, balled up fist.

He held out his hand, and she deposited a small trinket in it. He recognized one of the orbs she'd played with. The orbs resembled marbles with colorful lights that danced. He'd given her more than one as a child.

"It's so you don't forget me."

"I've never forgotten you, Trinka."

"Yes, you did, Dusty!" she said in as stern of a voice as a ten year old could muster.

"You brought me here to lecture me, little one?" he asked with gentle gruffness.

"You died, Dusty. I just wanted to say hi before you left. I miss you."

At the mournful note in her voice, he hugged her tightly.

"I miss you," he whispered.

"I want you to be happy."

"Very hard when I'm there and you're here," he said with forced lightness.

"I'm there, too! I'm always there!" she said stubbornly. "And you're not happy. But now you will be."

He hadn't thought himself un-happy; he'd never thought about it at all. He was content with his life, and yet, at her words, he remembered what it was like when he truly was happy. Long ago, before her death.

If he let himself, he'd feel that again with Bianca.

"You have to go," Trinka said with some sadness. "You have my plaything. Now you won't forget me!"

He squeezed it, not wanting to let her go.

His first vision that of Bianca's wet, pale face with dark curls stuck to her cheeks. He felt completely depleted of his power, the sense of being fully human again returning. He'd felt similar when the Black God's powers crept through him, stripping his demi-god powers in preparation to give him something more.

Jonny. Trinka.

Dusty's memories righted themselves. He sat, surprising Bianca, who wrapped her arms around him. He almost dropped the orb in his hand.

"I thought I lost you!"

"Poor excuse for not following my rules," he grumbled.

Darian looked like shit, a stone wall propping him up. Jenn was hurt and pissed, and the woman in his arms shaking from cold and fear. He gazed at the distant blaze, the scent of burning vamps carried on a wind along with the rain.

He looked at his watch, satisfied to see it was past dawn despite the storm-blackened sky. Bianca's cool magic ran through his body, repairing all but his exhaustion. He held her, never imagining anything could feel so right despite the rain and cold. Carefully, he shifted her and placed Trinka's orb in his pocket.

"Uh oh," Darian whispered.

He felt the Black God's presence and released Bianca. He stood. A tall form stood halfway between the fire and them, flanked by two vamps.

"Jonny!" Bianca cried, seeing the man as well.

He caught her arm as she launched forward. She looked up, eyes bright.

"I didn't lose either of you!"

Dusty looked at Darian, who frowned. He took her hand, his other pulling his remaining knife free. They moved towards the three. Jonny looked healthy and rested, his dark eyes swirling, his clothing dry and neat despite the storm. He motioned the vamps away.

Dusty stopped a safe distance from the Black God, sensing Bianca's confusion. Jonny held out a hand, and Dusty reluctantly let her go. She closed the distance between them and hugged her brother.

"You're him, aren't you?" she whispered.

Jonny nodded and smoothed her hair from her face with a gloved hand.

"I wronged you and had to make it right," Jonny's voice was coldly monotonous but soft.

"I forgive you, Jonny. I'll always love you. Will you still come to papa's grave tomorrow evening?"

"I will," Jonny said then looked to Dusty. "Tell your king I will abide by the divine code, but that I have a duty to perform. You will take care of my sister."

Dusty gave a nod of agreement. The Black God released his sister. She stepped away from him. Jonny turned and walked away, disappearing after a few steps. Exhausted, Dusty took a silent Bianca's hand and led her back to the others.

An odd ring punctuated the rumbling storm. Surprised, Dusty turned to see Darian pull his cell from a pocket. By the Grey God's cringe, it could only be one person.

He held out his hand, and the Grey God tossed it to him.

"Damian!" Dusty greeted the White God.

"So … what's up?"

Dusty smiled, then chuckled, relieved.

"Jule and I were transporting back. Kinda felt like our power short circuited. Dropped me in … not sure where, but Jule thinks he's in Ireland. My batteries are low - think I can transport in an hour or so. Jule's shit outta luck," Damian continued with forced calmness. "The fucking Watcher just popped in with a furious Sofi who refuses to talk to me. What did Darian do this time?"

"I'll tell you everything when you get here."

"That bad?"

"I missed you, bro."

Damiam snorted. The phone beeped, and Dusty glanced at it, not surprised to see his other brother and Damian's commander of the Eastern Hemisphere, Jule, on the other line.

"See you in a few. D out," the White God said.

Dusty waited to hear Jule's voice, never imagining how happy he would be to hear from either of his brothers again.

"There's a man on the corner with a sign saying the world is going to end, but the sign's dated last year," Jule said. "Any fucking idea what that means?"

"I'm going on vacation," Dusty replied.

"Good call. Looks like I'm on an involuntary one myself," Jule said with a warm chuckle. "Say hi to Darian. Tell him I got a new tattoo. Oh, and I look forward to kicking his ass."

"Will do. Safe travels, bro."

They weren't any closer than they had been, but the sound of their voices made him realize how alone he'd really felt the past two weeks.

And how fortunate he was to have people who cared for him. His eyes found Bianca, who stood shivering in the rain, staring towards the fire, as if waiting for Jonny to reappear.

"Jenn, looks like we need a ride. And comms to Ohio. I need to know if the infected town is still under lockdown. Looks like Darian took out everyone's power but Damian's."

"I'm on it," the pissed Guardian replied and tugged a phone free. "If I wanted to be a fucking mortal, I would be!"

"I think I can transport," Darian said as he pushed himself up.

Dusty looked at Bianca, not wanting to send her away before talking to her. His gaze caught the movement of a few vamps that had escaped gathering around the edges of the fire.

"Take Bianca home then come back for us," he said.

She didn't respond to his words. Darian moved sluggishly towards the shivering woman. Dusty watched her until they disappeared. Jenn met his gaze, and he looked again towards the fire.

"I think you need to be somewhere else," she said. "Why don't you let me take care of Ohio?"

He clenched his jaw, torn between his heart and his duty. He reached into his pocket to wrap his hand around the orb.

"I am capable, you know," Jenn said and crossed her arms.

"I've never walked away from a battle," he said with some difficulty.

"You have a reason to now."

He said nothing, one hand going to the chest wound she'd healed.

* * *

She hoped Dusty's direction wasn't as farewell-ish as it sounded. When she opened her eyes, she was distraught to see the cozy living room of her father's apartment.

It was where she belonged, now that she'd helped those that needed it and lost her brother.

She felt crushed.

"Maybe tomorrow … would you … you know," Darian said.

"Peanut butter?"

He nodded, concerned gaze on her face.

"Sure," she said, forcing a smile. "And maybe you can bring Sunny back, too."

"Yeah."

"Thanks, Darian."

He waited. When she moved woodenly towards her bedroom, he disappeared. She paused in the hallway to gaze at a picture of Jonny and her from the previous summer. He'd been wearing his vampire gear and refused to smile, but she'd wrapped her arms around him and beamed.

Even then his gaze was haunted, as if he somehow knew his fate.

She shivered and shrugged the sense away. He was alive, after all, and there was some good to him for wanting to make things right.

She'd lost her father and her brother. She'd hoped not to lose the man she loved as well.

"Peanut butter," Darian hissed.

She turned in time to see Dusty glare hard at the Grey God, who took the hint and left. Dusty was bloodied and drenched, his clothing torn from his battle with Talon. He remained every bit the noble Greek prince with his commanding blue gaze and chiseled features.

"Shouldn't you be saving people in Ohio or something?" she asked, crossing her arms.

"I am where I belong," he said with his unflappable confidence.

Any resistance she might have mustered melted at his words. She flung herself into his arms, gratified when he squeezed her hard.

"I owe you one for bringing me back from the dead," he whispered into her hair.

"Yes, you do!" she replied in a small voice.

"I'm sorry I couldn't spare you or Jonny from all this shit, Bianca."

Her heart somersaulted.

"Rule number 5: you are mine for all eternity."

"You're the most unromantic man I've ever known," she said, a laugh bubbling free. "I'll agree, if I won't be second rung to your duty or other women."

"Where the fuck did those come from?" he asked.

"I've had bad luck with men."

"Gods. No, woman, you won't be second rung."

"Ok, then, I have some rules for you," she continued.

He eyed her.

"Rule one: I get to decorate your apartment next time. Rule two: Sunny is coming with us. Rule three: you will eat three square meals a day and sleep every night with me, because you couldn't take care of yourself if you tried. Rule four: I want to try to help turn vamps into humans again."

He snorted.

"Rule five: Jonny is still my brother. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of our father's death, and we made a pact a few months ago to go there every year at the same time. I want to go every year, peacefully, without any gunfights or whatever."

She stopped and waited.

"Yes to the first four," he said. "The last will require some discussion with Damian. He'll have to talk temporary truces with the Black God."

She looked up at him, surprised at his easy agreement.

"Now, you wanna get outta these wet clothes or not?" he asked.

She smiled in response, needing his touch.

* * *

. A team of Guardians lined one road on the small country cemetery while a team of vamps lined the opposite road.

Two figures stood between the two lines in front of a headstone.

"Your brother-in-law's the Black God," Damian said with a snort.

Dusty glanced up at the sky, where the clouds had gone from black to slate. The rain had stopped, and the landscape around the graveyard was dotted with reflective pools.

He met the White God's golden gaze. Damian's silver-white hair was braided down his back, his thick body causing him to sink two inches into the mud.

"Kinda fucked up."

"What's fucked up is the fact none of us can use our power," Dusty replied. "And Jule's stuck overseas."

"Whatever the Watcher did to keep us there is preventing me from going back," Damian said with a frown. "Hate those little bastards."

Dusty didn't say what they both knew, that Darian's attempt to save the world broke something they didn't know how to fix. None of the Guardians, save Damian and Darian, had their immortal powers, though the Naturals seemed unaffected.

"What's worse is they want to use our backyard as their warzone. Thank the gods they picked a fool like Talon," Damian continued.

Both their gazes returned to the two figures talking quietly in front of their father's grave.

Poor Jonny.

Dusty didn't think he had an ounce of sympathy in him, but he couldn't help wishing he could spare Bianca's brother the hell that came with being the Black God. Jonny's penance for betraying his sister would last an eternity.

"Shit happens, bro," Damian stated softly, reading his thoughts. "We got a war to fight and women waiting for us. Darian won't stop talking about Bianca's cookies."

"Darian's grounded 'til further notice. When he finishes clean-up in Ohio, he's been instructed to count the stalks of wheat in the field outside Speck's farmhouse and not return until he's done," Dusty growled. "Cookies are absolutely forbidden."

"Good thing Bianca sent him off this morning with a bag full."

"Fucking women."

They were quiet, watching the siblings talk. Both were dressed in black, the Black God pale and stoic and Bianca smiling sadly while a stiff breeze whipped her curls around.

Her brother was alive. It was something. That he was the Black God was another issue he and Damian didn't know what to do with. Jule would remember the last Black God's transition, but Czerno had been the Black God since long before Damian's birth.

"We're going on vacation. I left you a mess to clean up in Ohio," he said.

"The whole world saw that go down," Damian said with a sidelong look at him. "You could blame the explosions and shit down here on the hurricane. A little harder in Ohio."

"Just one massive gas leak," he said with a shrug. "Shit happens, bro."

He slapped the White God on the arm and moved towards the two figures, holding his arms out to the side of his body to keep the vamps across the cemetery from blasting him.

The Black God turned at his approach, Jonny's brown eyes now black. They traveled past Dusty to Damian. He gave a nod of greeting, then spun on his heel and strode towards the awaiting vamps.

Dusty gave Bianca a moment. She knelt beside her father's grave to place flowers, then rose and turned.

Her smile lit up his day. Her eyes were watery, and she crossed to him, sinking into his arms. He breathed in her familiar scent, her curls tickling his face.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she whispered.

"Let's go home, kiri," he replied.

She took his hand. They walked towards the White God and the Guardians. He felt the Black God's piercing gaze on him.

Good-bye, Jonny.