lost and found

six: resolutions

Onyx couldn't keep a smile off his face as he stood in the kitchen doorway, watching his new mate try to wash the dishes. It made an interesting picture. Sineult's elbows dripped water all over the floor, there were soap suds in his hair, the front of his shirt was soaked through, and he had only succeeded in finishing one plate, one glass, and a fork to his satisfaction. The older Kindred got the idea that the whole business would have taken a lot less time if Sineult hadn't been so adamant about getting everything 'perfect', but of course he didn't say this to the youngling. Newly mated cub-bearers were said to be very fussy about perfection in their new homes for a few days after the initial settling in, and it was considered best to just let them have their fun while they could. All the same, it was funny to watch someone so intently busy have to balance on their tiptoes just to reach the sink.

He sobered then, wondering yet again how he was supposed to tell Sineult, a complete innocent, all of the intricacies of the bonding. A Kindred marriage was not officially held sacred and sealed until both participants knew all of the implications and responsibilities, and could agree to them without hesitation. Onyx knew in his soul that he and Sineult were bound in marriage already. Sineult could not even let Onyx out of his sight without complete panic setting in, and he knew that they loved each other equally, even if the small one didn't feel the sexual attraction that Onyx himself did. But it would not be Kindredly legal until Sineult knew everything he was getting himself into: sex, cubs, a lifelong bond...

"Wha's 'a matter, 'Nyx?"

Onyx startled slightly, surprised by the silence with which Sineult had crept up on him. Then he shook his head with a smile. "Was just thinking. Are you done now?"

Sineult nodded seriously. "I's all washed. Floor's wat'ry, though. I gotta clean 't." He cocked his head at Onyx. "Wha' do I do i' with? A tow'l?"

Onyx grinned and pointed to the bathroom. "Run and get a towel to mop it up with. I'll see about wiping the table."

Sineult nodded again and scampered off busily. Onyx fought the urge to laugh out loud with a short dose of housework, something he had only done occasionally before. Now he would just have to get used to it, he thought idly, giving the washrag a few good swipes across the table and discarding it back into the sink.

After all, there was more to this world than just he and Jade now...

It will be night soon, he thinks happily as he goes to put the wet towel in the clothes washer. He's too short for most things in this house, like he was in his mum's house, and he can't reach comfortably over the rim of the machine, so he pulls himself up on his toes to drop it in.

Night is good now. He remembers how good it felt the first time Onyx held him, right after he first found him in the alley. Before he was sick. He was safer there than he had ever been with his mum; warmer, more comfortable and satisfied, and he wants nothing more than to be there again, curled up with his Onyx. His own now, no one else's. He smiles and lowers himself down flat on his feet again, turning to go back into the kitchen.

And then he feels it. The first thin tremor of pain, rushing up his spine...

The cry took Onyx completely by surprise, shocking him into a full-speed dash across the kitchen and into the tiny washroom that doubled as a bathroom. Sineult met him halfway, whimpering wildly, and when the elder Kindred picked him up he burrowed as far into the embrace as he could get. Onyx took him into the bedroom and sat down on the bed, running his hands over the whole of the small body to check for physical harm.

"What? What is it, love, what's wrong?" he murmured anxiously, trying not to let fear leak through into his voice. "Are you hurt?"

Sineult's head shook once, but the whimpering didn't stop.

"Come on," Onyx begged, fishing his mate's head out of the front of his shirt to lift it and look into the wide green eyes. "Please, tell me what's wrong! Did something scare you?"

The answer came in the form of a suppressed shudder, a slight stiffening, and a high-pitched whine of pain. Onyx felt the little one's spine arch against his palm, watching his eyes grow strained, the lids flutter shut, and he realized suddenly what exactly was wrong.

"Sineult," he said, pressing his mouth to the furrowed forehead. "Love, it's alright, this is normal. Calm down, okay? It won't hurt so badly if you relax." He waited until the spasm had passed, then shifted Sineult sideways so that the youngling's body was cradled to his chest and began stroking circular patterns over the tight muscles of Sineult's face, all the while keeping up a soft, soothing litany. It took a few moments of struggling through pains, but as soon as Onyx got his mate to understand, it wasn't that hard to make him calm down, and once nothing was fighting it the Change only took another moment to complete itself. Onyx's parents had taught he and Jade all about the Change when they were very young; it had hardly occured to him that Sineult wouldn't know anything, or that the pains of the Change would drag out so long if one fought against them. He felt a pang at the thought of his small mate doing this alone the night they had first met, hurting and afraid that something awful was happening to him, with no one to tell him otherwise. The pain alone must have been terrible; never mind the fear. For all Onyx knew, that could have been the first time that such a thing had ever happened to Sineult.

His thoughts were cut off by the beginning of his own Change. Sineult was panting softly, his eyes glowing ferally in the dim lights coming from the living room and kitchen, his nostrils flaring at the scent of human blood that floated all around them. Onyx cursed under his breath, scolding himself for not getting them both outside before this happened while arguing back that it wasn't his fault, he had never had a mate to take care of before, and Jade had always gotten himself outside. He did, however, have enough sense to pick his mate up and go out while he was arguing.

By the time they reached the bottom floor, Sineult had caught his breath and was trying to get away long enough to get to the many maddening smells that now teased his newly Changed nose. Onyx was having difficulty hanging onto him and running down stairs at the same time, but eventually he did get to the last of the seemingly endless floors and manage to slip out, unnoticed for the most part, with Sineult still wiggling in his arms. Onyx suppressed a deep growl, the Change near completion and his human voice nearly gone, pushing Sineult's head down onto his shoulder and effectively stilling his movements. Sineult could feel the command hidden in the gesture; his Kindred senses told him that at the moment Onyx was head of the pack, and should be obeyed at all costs. This is the way of things, be still.

They reached the more desolate part of the city just before Onyx's last vestiges of true humanity abandoned him. The elder Kindred was left panting, forced to lie down on a patch of cracked sidewalk in order to catch his breath, while the younger hovered around him anxiously, his hunger forgotten in the face of his mate's weakness. They lay there together for some time: well after Onyx had caught his breath they were still there, silently sharing their first night as mates. The other night had been mere courting, testing the waters, but all of that had been ruined by Sineult's sickness. They did not need courting anymore, could not have left one another if they had truly wanted to. Sineult's restless, worried pacing had long since stopped, leaving the pair leaning against each other, cooled night air drifting around them and the pale moon watching their soundless trysting. Anyone walking by would have thought them human, so gentle and quiet was their demeanor.

And for the first time since he could remember after a Change, Onyx had no wish to kill. Only to sit with Sineult, with his mate, and to look at stars that had never looked so beautiful before.

The moon is glowing like a silver streetlamp in the sky, and Onyx is warm, warmer than anything he has ever felt. Even out here, out in the open in one of the more dangerous parts of town, he still feels so very safe. His mate will keep him safe.

His mouth curves into a smile, fangs pricking lightly at his lower lip. His mate. Such a strange word, and so natural at the same time; like something he had forgotten but now remembers. Like a homecoming of sorts. He may not have been to this spot in his life before, yet somehow, this is more home than his mother's home ever was. She loved him very much, he knows that, and she would have given anything to keep him from being harmed, or hungry, or unhappy...But she did not know him. She knew her son, her human son, that she had raised as such. She never saw both sides of the coin. He loved her more than anything he has ever loved save Onyx, but he can see it still, like a blatant blemish glaring at him out of the bare comfort of his former life: she never knew. And she never would have.

But Onyx knows, knows all of it. The Change, the bloodhunger, the irresistability of the kill. He is a murderer, and he was born to be a murderer. Onyx loves him in spite of it. Onyx loves him in both forms, does not fear him in either; Onyx understands that there are times when he cannot be human, when he must be the Kindred that is inside of him and run with his pack, with his mate-life, death, it does not matter then. He is something beyond what the human world wants him to be, and Onyx knows it. Accepts it all.

He has found a place where he belongs, and the stars are very beautiful tonight...

The waking was slow, impeded by the warmth and comfort of sleep. Jade wanted nothing more than to stay where he was, curled in a ball around the warm body next to him, listening to the soft breathing and the soothing thumps of the heartbeat, but it was well past sunrise already, and Jade had found out long ago that humans are not kind to those who sleep in the middle of their streets. He stirred himself reluctantly, casting his hearing about in all directions for intruders before settling down with his head on his paws-er, hands. It was always hard to recall, after waking from a Change, that he wasn't an animal after all. He dug at his eyes and yawned, shaking off the light fog left from his Change, then turned his attention on his companion. Spruce, he noted with a jolt of surprise; then a burst of joy as he recalled the previous night; finally a quiet, humming sort of pleasure.

So it hadn't been a dream.

Mates. He shivered a little, half in happiness, half in apprehension, at the realization of how much that meant. He wasn't exactly sure how it had happened at all. The world was so much simpler to the mind of a Changed Kindred: more straightforward somehow. That he and Spruce had made love was only natural, seeing as how it was 'mating season', but what had come before that was much deeper, much more important, than a mere roll in the hay. They had spoken, in their own way. True speech, as humans thought of it, was out of the question for one who had Changed, but Kindred could communicate without that, and it was easier for Jade and Spruce than it was for most. They had been together so long that they had come to the point where they understood each other's thoughts; and that was what they had gone over last night.

It was the simplicity of the mind after Change that had clinched it, Jade supposed. He didn't regret the decision, but he had the wits to see that this would never have come into being if they had been reasoning with human brains. In the human world, the human way of thinking, there were a thousand small worries, fears, and uncertainties that the baser half of a Kindred brain never had to deal with. There was no reason to! Life was an easy matter. He had blood to drink, plenty of places to sleep, and the ability to reproduce, that his kind might not die out. All he needed was a mate, and to the simplified mind, it was perfectly obvious that Spruce was the one. There was no worry that it might not last, or extraneous emotions. They were meant for each other, they both saw it, and this morning they were mates. That was all there was to it.

Jade's thoughts were cut short by a sleepy sigh as Spruce began to stir. He smiled at the owlish blinking of dark grey eyes against the sunlight seeping in over the tops of crowded buildings.

"Good morning," he said, feeling slightly shy. He had come to terms with being mates, but he had no clue whether Spruce would yet. Just wait and hope for the best, he supposed.

"Hm," Spruce agreed half-heartedly, passing a hand over his eyes and yawning. "'S it very late?"

Jade tilted his head up to survey the rooftops, noting in the back of his mind that Spruce probably had to go to his office today. He studied the position of the light. "Somewhere around midmorning, I think." He rolled onto his stomach, hesitantly reaching a hand in Spruce's direction. "Do you...do you have meetings planned today?"

Spruce took a minute to rearrange his memory enough to separate dream from reality. Then he shook his head and rolled over so that they were facing each other. "No, I canceled the two I had. I did it last night, before I came over. I always seem to sleep late when I'm with you, so I thought it would be best," he explained, smiling slightly. His face sobered all of a sudden, and he added softly, "Did you want me to have meetings?"

"No," Jade replied quickly. He paused a minute, then spit out his question as if his life depended on it. He had the frightening feeling that it very well might.

"Are you sorry about last night?"

Spruce looked at him as though he had lost his head. Jade flushed so hot that he thought his face might catch fire, but his new mate didn't seem to notice. "Are you having second thoughts again?" Spruce asked gently, running his fingers over the back of one of Jade's hands. The motion was vaguely soothing, and Jade held as still as he could, hoping that it wouldn't stop.

"No, but I thought...that maybe you were, and I wanted to know. That's all." His teeth worried at his lower lip. "You aren't?"

Something lightened in Spruce's eyes, and Jade felt a little better watching it. Maybe he wasn't the only one who was afraid of all the decisions and compromises that had yet to be made.

"No," the elder Kindred said calmly, toying with a few of the red tresses that had escaped from behind Jade's ears. "And you'd better not be, or I may have to tie you down and kiss you until you forget all about them."

"Oh," Jade sighed, turning his head enough to pillow it on Spruce's arm. So the decision was done. He tested his new name out for size, running it through his head. 'Jade Trys-Curan Danon'. A bit long, but it would do. Then his mouth turned up at the corners as his brain recognized the end of Spruce's sentence.

"What, you mean tie me down and do this?"

It took a few moments for him to finish showing his mate what he meant exactly, but when he was finished, Spruce was more than sure that it was the answer.

"Mm-hm. Just like that."

"Now everything is settled, and all that's left is for you to tell Sineult about the you-know-what," Jade told his brother reproachfully after he had finished explaining the new situation between Spruce and himself to their small family. The four of them-Onyx, Sineult, Spruce, and Jade-had gathered in Onyx's living room after breakfast to talk things over. Which for Sineult had consisted mostly of gloating over his new last name. Evidently he liked the sound of 'Sineult Brady Curan' just fine.

Onyx grimaced. "But..."

"No buts!" Jade said firmly, sounding so much like their Da that Spruce had to fight laughter. "Tell him now."

Sineult was looking from one to the other, his forehead crinkled. "Tell m' 'bout what y'kn'what?" he asked in a worried tone, turning beseeching green eyes on his mate.

"With him here?" Onyx tried once more, gesturing discreetly at Spruce.

Spruce grinned. "I can leave, if you would like..."

"No!" Jade said, his tone implying that if Onyx tried to find a way out again, he might find himself on the ground outside without ever coming anywhere near the hall or the stairway. "Now tell him!"

The elder twin groaned. "Sineult," he started hesitantly. "I...I have something to tell you. About-about us being mates and all. Before we can really be mates, you have to understand...everything that being somebody's mate means. Exactly." He flashed puppy-eyes at his brother, got no response, sighed, and went on. "Remember what I-well, what Jade said?"

The blank look he got for his troubles said very clearly that his mate had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Onyx gritted his teeth. "I mean about...having cubs and all that."

"Oh, 'bout that!" Sineult interrupted happily, looking much relieved. "Y' mean 'bout me havin' sex with y', an' cubs?" He bounced up to hug a flabbergasted Onyx. "Yup, I c'n do it! 'C'se then I c'n be y'r mate, an' I c'n stay with y' f'rever an' ever! C'mon, le's do i' now!" He jumped to his feet, trying to tug a now dazed Onyx along with him. "C'mon! Ja'e said y' w're s'posed t' do it in 'e bedroom!"

"But..." Onyx was still trying to take this all in. The fact that Spruce was snickering at him from the end of the couch wasn't helping. "Wait, you're too young...yet...What, Jade said what!"

Jade shrugged before Sineult could reply. "It seemed like the thing to say at the time. Hold on a minute, Sineult." He beckoned the youngling closer, lifted him up onto his lap, and with an exasperated glare at his brother, started fixing Onyx's mess. Meanwhile, Spruce leaned over to whisper in his new brother-in-law's ear.

"It's times like this that you just wish you had gotten a dog instead."