5: Die by the Sword

The sensation of motion brought Garrett back to some semblance of consciousness, his entire body aching. When he tried to right himself from the curled and slumped position he found himself in, a groan was pulled from his lips.

He never thought that trying to heal himself would backfire so badly. The deterioration of his nerves in the damage areas had been getting steadily worse. Where it was a minor nuisance a couple of years ago, something he could bear through and ignore. It had come to a point where it was driving him to distraction. What seemed like a logical course of action – to use his own gift to fix the problem – repair the nerves and move on with life – shouldn't have knocked him on his ass like that.

Never before had a healing spell reacted as if he'd gotten caught touching another while casting an offensive spell. The feedback loop had floored him, quite literally.

How fucking embarrassing. His expression pinched. Collapsing in the shower, with his dick up, was not his most prideful moment. Daemon.

No wonder Sagira freaked out on him.

Eventually he managed to sit up properly, even as he began to hear and sense other things around him. It didn't take him long to realize he wasn't in the motel room anymore. Blinking, he focused on his surroundings and tried to remember how in the world he ended up in the passenger's seat of his own hovercar. As his hand came into contact with the skin of the door, he felt the slight vibration through his fingers as data was transferred.

It is about time you awoke.

A snarl worked over his lips as that translation formed in his head. Stupid AI. He was still feeling weak and jittery, and therefore relented on the thought he was going to tear the computer from the dash.

"You're awake." Sagira's voice was soft, small, and definitely nervous.

"Where…" He pushed yet straighter in the comfortable padding of the chair. "What have you done?"

"You threw up twice more after you went to sleep. The motel owner is going to have his work cut out for him cleaning that room up." She shook her head. "I seriously considered risking a burning to get you home earlier."

"I'm fine," he growled, running his hand up over his short hair. He was lying his ass off – he felt as if he's been run over by a transport. "Where are we?"

He peered out into the night – dots of white peeked through the pitch above them. The moon was completely absent. Below there were no lights – no domes broke the darker shade that denoted the landmass below the fins of the car.

"Almost home."

"I can't believe my car didn't kill you. It doesn't like intruders." Garrett caught himself massaging the back of his neck. It felt bruised, and he began to wonder if he hit more than his elbow in the fall earlier.

"Your AI seems to like me, opened right up."

"This isn't necessary, 'Gira." He shook his head. "I'll be fine."

She glanced over at him, her ice-colored gaze assessing him in one quick glance. "You're so red, your freckles have disappeared. You don't feel hot?"

"Burning up," Garrett admitted, throwing his aching head back against the rest.

"I want mom to take a look at you, she might be able to help you out – whatever's wrong."

"She tries to kill me I'm going to defend myself." Garrett glanced at her. "Vampires don't like dhampirs remember?"

"You'll find she'll be fine with it. Trust me."

"I want to Sagira, but I've got sixty years of experience that conditions me otherwise."

She peered over at him and smiled crookedly. "I understand. But give me the benefit of the doubt. She's my mom, I think I know her pretty well."

"Fine, but I know what my problem is already, and even if she's the most accomplished doctor in the United Territories, she's not going to be able to do a thing for me."

"You want to clue me in?"

"You already know," he dodged. "The nerves in my side, face and arm are damaged and steadily deteriorating. Neurological damage is degenerative. Not a lot that can be done." He'd just tried the strongest thing he could think of and it nearly killed him for the effort.

Debating with himself for long moments, Garrett almost told her the rest, that he wasn't just a dhampir – that his mother was a witch – that he was a warlock. She didn't need to know about Victor Sierra, about what he did for a living, about how he was here to track and kill Cabal if he could. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt.

Yet he felt guilty about keeping the secret. What did that say about how he felt for Sagira? The girl had changed some priorities for him. He could admit that in his own head that he actually felt something for her. Sure she was a great lay, experimental, knew what she wanted – but he felt for her beyond that. It was stronger than what he'd felt for Sam back when they had been an item.

He'd been a player – a dog – for so long now that it just never occurred to him that there might be someone left in the world he could get wrapped up in. He didn't invest… he leased… and when the lease ran out, he traded it in. Not this time it seemed.

He walled off that train of thought, letting it wreck against his carefully constructed indifference. A slow pounding headache had started behind his eyes by this point, but he could feel his body temperature start to lower once again. Maybe he was over the hump on this and headed for recovery.

Another thrill went through his gut, she was taking him to her house. He hid the grimace. What would that mean? If Cabal lived there, if he was there, what was Garrett going to do? If he had arrived at Cabal's home before this became personal for him, he knew what he would do – kill the dhampir and be done with it.

Now? Now he wasn't so sure. He couldn't attack the man, he wasn't even sure he'd be willing to defend himself if the dhampir attacked him first.

"'Gira, let's just go back to Jasper. I don't think I need to see your mom after all."

"Oh no, we're here already. And I don't trust that you're not just being stubborn – I don't know what I'd do if you collapsed on me like that again."

Calling attention to the fact that they'd arrived, Garrett peered out the window to note they were slowing over a field of large rounded domes.

"This is home?"

Sagira didn't answer him, maneuvering the hovercar with an expertise he hadn't realized she possessed.

"When'd you learn to fly?"

She glanced over at him, quick to turn her attention back to the formations of rock growing larger as they descended between them. A cloud of sand shortly obscured the view, and inwardly Garrett lamented the polished metallic finish.

The repellers are on – there's no harm to the skin.

"Smart ass," Garrett muttered, rubbing his eyes.

"You talking to me?" Sagira was in the process of shutting down the instrumentation, and peered over at him with a look that was curious and surprised.

"No… fucking AI."

She grinned, always humored by the odd couple routine between him and his car's on-board computer intelligence. "C'mon."

Garrett was slower to get out of the protective harness Sagira had locked him into. He admired the idea that she, all five foot ten of her, was capable of moving and maneuvering his carcass into the Holocaust. Vampire genetics were wonderful advantages, for sure.

She was already around his side of the car, opening the gull wing and looking ready to render him assistance if he showed even an inkling of weakness. He was determined to keep it from coming to that. It was a struggle to hide the weakness he felt, but he pushed to his feet and cleared the door under his own power.

"Where are we?"

"Doesn't matter." She shook her head, starting off toward the large formation to their right. "And don't go asking your AI either, I've sworn it to secrecy. And it likes me, so I'm pretty sure that it's going to side with me rather than you in an argument."

"Might as well give you the damn thing," he muttered. More loudly he said, "Your family that much into secrecy?"

He trailed more slowly in her wake. When she realized he was lagging, she slowed her pace and allowed him to catch up.

He caught her grimace as she added, "You have no idea."

"What's the deal with that?"

She sounded truly aggrieved when she finally did answer him. She was stopped by a tall standing stone that was roughly rectangular in shape. "They have some crazy-ass notion that they need to be partners with the humans in the area rather than putting them in their place. They don't want the towns to know what we are or where we live."

As he came even with her, she disappeared around the stone, and when he trailed her once again, he found an entrance to the interior. The entrance was cleverly hidden, a large oval door inset into the face of the stone.

"This… this is your house?" His incredulity was evident.

Once more she ignored his inquiry, this time because she had already moved through the door into the soft lighting of an enormous room.

Another woman's voice cut through the relative silence. "Sagira! Where have you been the past two nights?"

Garrett stepped into the interior, scanning the surroundings quickly, noting the layout and possible routes of escape in case this got as ugly as he imagined. The door at the back would be his fastest retreat, but one never knew.

Two halls led away from the large circular area, one next to what looked like a kitchen and another unmarked door perpendicular to it. Only by the furniture and where it was placed in the large open space was the purpose of any given arrangement defined. To the left and closer to the kitchen was a dining table enclosed by six matching chairs. Just before him and to his right was a dark sofa, with a low coffee table just before it. The set was closest to a fireplace burning with an otherworldly blue flame. Several large area rugs had been placed under the furniture sets surrounding him, and one could almost walk from one side to another without stepping on the stone floors.

He focused on the two figures there: Sagira standing stiff-armed and suffering in the embrace of another shorter woman. The woman might have been three, perhaps four inches shorter than Sagira, but her hair was the exact same shade, cropped to shoulder length.

Must be her mother.

"I'm a big girl now. An adult, remember?" Sagira sighed for emphasis as she backed out of the woman's embrace. The woman kept contact with Sagira, looking her over as if to assess for any damages while she was out of her sight.

"I'm not so sure about that," was the woman's tight response.

A moment later hazel eyes focused on him.

Sagira twisted around seeing where her mother's gaze had gone. "Uh… this is…"

Recognition, it seemed, hit them both at the same time. "Miss Arturo." He couldn't help it: not the smarm in his voice and not the devilish grin that worked up one corner of his mouth. She looked damn good for her age, of that he could attest. Standing there next to Sagira, Garrett knew where his girl got her looks. "Or is it Mrs. now?"

"You!" The Arturo woman snarled. "No. You aren't welcome here! Get the fuck out of my house!"

Sagira looked thunderstruck. "You two… know each other?"

Before anything else could happen, another voice drifted to them from the door perpendicular the kitchen. "Miranda? Did I hear you say Sagira was home?" It was him, goddamn it, Garrett had guessed right. This was Cabal's house, his family.

He sounded livid already.

Daemon this is going to get ugly.

"Where is sh…" the dhampir had cleared the frame of the door by that point and froze as he took in the scene.

It was a split second's hesitation, and suddenly he was vaulting the furniture between them. Garrett had forgotten just how fast his nemesis could move when he wanted to. He did an amazingly good job of being human in all things and lulled his opponents into a false sense of his abilities.

His fist was already cocked back as he completed the arch just in front of Garrett. As his feet touched down the fist did too, catching him square in the left side of his face. He felt something pop as he staggered to the side.

Cabal didn't give him the opportunity to back off or defend himself as another fist came around – this time into the right side of his face. He felt his legs buckle as a third fist landed just behind his ear.

"DAD!" Sagira screamed. "Dad, what they hell are you doing?"

Dad? Are you fucking serious? spilled through his brain as he spit blood on the dark rug near the couch. Of all the scenarios that had played through his head, Sagira being Cabal's daughter was not one he'd previously considered. Dhampirs were supposed to be sterile, after all.

How the fuck did that one work out?

Not that now was the time to contemplate it.

He was allowing himself to get pummeled.

Another fist landed, this time in the back of his head, which nearly sent him sprawling.

Cabal caught hold of Garrett's cybernetic arm and twisted it around behind him, even as the other arm latched around his throat in a choke hold. The dhampir yanked him off his feet, bending him back over a hip in order to lessen any chance of Garrett trying to counter the move.

Even if Garrett wanted to bring a defense to bear now, he would be unable.

"What are you doing here, Garrett?" Cabal's voice stabbed into the closest ear. "What are you doing with Sagira?"

"Dad, stop being such an asshole!" Sagira shouted from several arm's length away. "He's my boyfriend!"

He felt the dhampir's shift of focus through the tensing muscles in Cabal's chest. "You… brought him here willingly? Are you out of your fucking mind? Do you have any idea who this is?"

"His name's Garrett Kelly, and he's a dhampir, like you. Why the hell are you so upset?"

Hot breath was once more back on his cheek and ear.

"You'd better tell her, Wanderer." Cabal hissed at him, stretching his neck even further. "You'd better hope she understands the truth of it – or I'll make her understand it."

While Cabal loosened the grip on Garrett's throat, he didn't completely relinquish his hold.

"Tell her!" He twisted Garrett's right arm further towards his shoulders.

"I…" his gut twisted, "I haven't been completely honest with you, 'Gira."

Sagira looked confused by how her plan had so totally exploded.

"I… work for Victor Sierra."

She shook her head, appearing more confused. Her gaze refocused on her father, and then back to him. "You? How… why…?"

"I came here on a mission…" Garrett wrapped his hand around Cabal's elbow, which had tightened considerably since this conversation started and was beginning to steal oxygen from him. "Cabal, let go. I'll explain – no funny business."

"You know I don't trust you any further than I can throw you, Garrett." Instead of loosening, the grip tightened, and Garrett gagged.

"I'm not here for you… not anymore," he wheezed.

"Meaning what?"

His answer was lost in the sound of a claxon screaming through the space.

A/N: Yeah, Garrett's in over his head and now it looks as if he's trying to drag Cabal and Co. down with him! More to come next chapter!