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(Contains: strong language)
Chapter 14

Cei stared for a while, simply sobbing when at last it fully kicked in: Jon was dead. She screamed, loosing her grip on his body as she completely fell apart.

"Jon! Don't do this! Damn it, Jon!"

Evey sobbed. They were quiet and contained, like when Alec had died in her arms. She held herself, letting the waterfall of tears soak her cheeks.

Brendan stared at Jon a long while. There was some guilt in him, but mostly there was a deep well of respect for the fallen warrior. He would ask Will later if it was all right to give Jon the same kind of burial Brendan had done for Alec.

The remaining Keatting was taking this as well as he could, crying silently while he held on to Evey. Will squeezed her closer to him, both to comfort her and himself.

Cei, however, was in hysterics. She continued to scream at Jon, as if doing so would somehow wake him, banging furiously on his chest when that didn't work. Cei couldn't believe he was really dead. Eventually Brendan had to grab Cei's hands to stop her from attacking Jon.

"It's not your fault," he said, his voice soft. "Jon fought well. He deserves to be honored. It's not your fault, Cei."

Her sobs softened, and after a while she stopped struggling against Brendan's hold.

"I know what I did," she cried. "I removed the stake that kept Ashton paralyzed. Crudelis made me watch..."

Tears continued to flow down her cheeks as she fell against Brendan.

"I couldn't do anything to stop it..."

"I know you couldn't." Brendan held her, doing his best to offer comfort, knowing there was nothing that could really comfort. "You were a captive, Cei. You didn't do anything."

There was a long silence before anyone was able to speak again.

"We need..." Will started, stopping to regain his composure. "We need to bury him... somehow. Jon... Jon needs a funeral..."

He couldn't bring himself to say they needed to dispose of his body, not when it was his brother. It was hard enough just thinking about it. Brendan looked up at the other three around it.

"If you're all up for a drive, we can go... to my home. When Alec died, a couple of my cousins came by and picked him up and took him home for his funeral. He died a warrior, so he got a warrior's funeral. I wasn't there to participate. Jon deserves a warrior's funeral."

Evey covered her mouth to stifle her sob, but she nodded, though it wasn't her call.

"If we do that, we should bring Ju and Jezz. They would want to be there too."

"Crudelis made me stake Ju," Cei muttered softly, leaning against Brendan for support. Will nodded in agreement with the detective's suggestion.

"Jon would have liked that..."

Brendan kept an arm around Cei. "Then let's go back to the warehouse and check on Ju and Jezz. Then we'll head out to give Jon the funeral he deserves."

As they all began to get up, Brendan gently picked up Jon, like he had with Alec. Both men he had carried as if they were precious, and Evey couldn't help but think that it truly showed the kind of man he was. When she stood something caught the moonlight. She called it forward with her telekinesis and found herself holding a cellphone. Ashton's cellphone. Will walked up next to her to remind her that they were leaving when he spotted the phone in her hand.

"Where did that come from?"

"Ashton was talking on it while you, Jon, and Brendan were fighting the vampires. Before I staked him," Evey said, her voice barely above a whisper. She clutched it in her hand. Later, she thought, later. She put it in her pocket and took Will's hand.

"We'll deal with it later. Now, we have to see to Cei and Jon."

She gave his hand a squeeze and followed after Brendan.

"Wish the car still worked," Will sighed. "This is going to be... awkward."

They all had to ride in Brendan's car, with Jon propped up carefully in his seat. It was an uncomfortably quite drive, but when they reached the warehouse, Ju and Jezz were waiting outside.

"I think we'll need to use my car," Ju said to them with a small frown. "We won't all fit in one."

Jezz was still very pale and weak, but she was able to function, albeit more slowly. Brendan had both Will and Ju help him empty a freezer. Brendan handled Jon's body, carefully and gently putting the hunter inside before moving the freezer into the back his SUV. By now Brendan was covered in Jon's blood.

Now the question was who rode with him and who rode with Ju.

"I didn't even know you owned a car," Will said the Ju as he was leading them to his garage in the back of the warehouse. "Let alone knew how to drive one."

"I don't use it often."

The vampire unlocked the garage's many locks before throwing open the door. Will's jaw dropped.

"I can see why..."

Behind the door was a 1927 Ford Model A in pristine condition, looking for everything like it had never left a showroom floor.

"Holy Christ," Brendan said when he looked. Evey was amazed. She looked at Jezz who was just as impressed. She'd been living with Ju over two weeks and hadn't ever seen the car apparently.

"It's beautiful, Ju," Jezz said, her voice whispery. Evey realized then how much Jezz was pushing herself to be standing at the moment.

"Thanks," he said, even giving her a small smile. "It can seat five, so there will be plenty of room for everyone between the two vehicles."

Ju walked into the garage and turn on the lights, giving them all a better view than just the streetlights had. The classic car was deep maroon, and the vampire looked at the others expectantly.

"So who rides with who?"

Brendan shrugged and walked toward his car. Evey looked at Will.

"Well, Jezz will ride with Ju... Do you want to ride with Graham and your brother?"

"Yeah..."

He solemnly followed Brendan, and Cei went with them both without saying a word. Ju looked over at Evey.

"I suppose that leave you with us, unless you want to ride with them too, although that does seem to defeat the purpose..."

Evey smiled briefly at Ju and walked toward him and Jezz, wrapping her arms around herself. So be it. She let Jezz take the front with Ju, wanting her friend to be comfortable, and sat in the back silently.

Brendan got into his car, waited until Cei and Will were seated and then began the drive home. He made sure Ju was following in the rear view mirror. By the time they got there, it had just struck one o'clock. Cei looked at her watch and yawned.

"I hope we can get do this before dawn. Things could get problematic if we don't..."

"Don't worry," Brendan said as he got out of the car. They were parked by a police station in a small town. There didn't seem to be a lot there and it looked like the entire place was abed.

When he came back ten minutes later, he had two men with him as they headed to the trunk to take Jon out.

In about an hour, half the town was awake and they were on the outskirts of the town near a deserted farm. The pyre was halfway done. Some doctors were working on Jon, cleaning his wounds and preparing the body. A priest and a shaman had come to say the last rites. Food was distributed.

Graham was talking to a handful of people. Evey sat with Jezz who had been fed till she was bursting. Evey was amazed at the people around her. Excepting them, almost every person in this town was a lycanthrope. There were a handful of humans as well, and they seemed perfectly at ease and calm and aware of the race of those around them.

One of the women Graham had been talking to, an older woman, approached Cei, Ju and Will.

"Please eat something. We know it is difficult for you, but you must keep up your strength. Brendan didn't tell you, but the pyre will burn for the rest of the night. He would like to know if you want to stay till dawn and rest during the day here, or if you would like to leave in four hours with the pyre still burning to get back to the city in time for your rest?"

"I'd much rather stay away from Caligo for a while," Cei sighed, rubbing her forehead. "After what my father made me do... what my brother did..."

Cei shivered, a few tears falling down her cheeks. Ju pushed his glasses up.

"I have to ask Jezz which she would prefer. I'm responsible for taking care of her, and if she would rather go home, then so will I."

Will said nothing, silently taking the woman's suggestion to eat something. He just wasn't in the mood to talk; he'd just lost the last family he had. The woman nodded, worried about the group of people. She approached Evey and Jezz and sent them over to the others, giving them the food to take to them.

Evey handed Will some food as she sat beside him. He was alone in the world now, just like she was. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him close. Jezz stood next to Ju, looking much better.

"We'll stay. For Will and Cei."

He nodded, willing to stay wherever she wished. Cei wandered over towards Brendan, pulling on his arm gently.

"Will you stay with me this morning?" she asked softly. "So I'm not alone..."

Brendan was a little surprised, but his expression did not reveal it. He was solemn as he nodded.

"They're about ready."

He walked with Cei back to the group and looked at Will.

"There'll be some words – a commemoration to honor the life of a warrior. Do you want to light the pyre, Will?"

The hunter looked up at him and nodded slowly, setting his plate aside. He'd barely touched anything on it. Cei turned to Brendan with a worried frown, but said nothing.

Brendan helped Will up and kept his arm clasped.

"You don't have to; no one will fault you for it. But I wanted to ask."

He released Will and led the way toward the pyre. The older woman from earlier hurried over to Brendan to walk by his side, a gentle hand on his arm. Brendan took her hand and held it. Evey walked beside Will, her heart aching for him and tears streaming down her cheeks all over again.

The crowd of people parted for them, and the priest began his quiet words.

"We are here tonight to honor the passing of a warrior – Jonathon Keatting. He fought against evil, fought to protect those whom he loved and who loved him. He fell in battle, like so many warriors before him. We honor him, we honor his creed, and we honor his life. The warrior, Jon Keatting, may no longer aid us in battle, but his spirit guides our wills and our swords. He will protect those he loved in life, even in death, for a warrior's spirit can never be broken by Death. It lives on in those who hold their memories dear."

He then began the "Our Father" and everyone joined in. When the final Amen was said, he stepped aside for the shaman.

The shaman didn't speak in English, but in Sioux. He performed a ceremony around the pyre. He threw dried herbs and fresh ones, and doused the wood in oil. As he chanted, the people added to the chant until he was through. Then he lit a torch. The shaman – a huge man with golden eyes – approached Will.

"You are not alone," the shaman said, his voice rough and hoarse. "He is with you. He will always be with you."

He pointed at Will's head.

"Here," then his heart, "here," and then he motioned around him, "and here."

He handed Will the torch gently.

"You honor his life tonight. Let his spirit be your light."

Will curled his fingers around the torch tightly, staring at the flame for a long time before he stepped up to the pyre. Taking one last look at his brother, he lowered the flame to the platform, lifting it again once it ignited.

Evey heard the ruffling as the flames licked up the pyre before she saw who it had arrived. When she saw him, though, rage filled her and exploded.

"How dare you come here?!" she screamed at the angel. Energy fairly crackled off her as she faced off against Charon.

"Get out of here, you worthless hypocrite! How dare you!"

Tears streamed down her cheeks, unfettered in her rage and horror at the injustice and the cruelty.

"What kind of cruel, sadistic god sends YOU here. You vile, disgusting thing!"
Her screaming go the attention of everyone present. The older woman with Brendan hurried to her side, saw the angel, but didn't dare touch Evey.

"Honey, he's probably here to help Jon pass on..."

"NO! NOT HIM! Anyone but him! Forget the fact that Jon died FOUR HOURS AGO!"

Evey shoved at Charon with her telekinesis with all her strength.

"Get out of here! Go away! Send someone else! You don't deserve to even come near him!"

"But it's an angel..."

"That's no angel! That's a creature of evil! It works for those who killed Jon. It destroys everything we care about! He's trying to kill my friend, he works for agents of evil! He's vile and disgusting and nothing but evil himself!"

She wanted to rip Charon apart for even appearing.

"GET AWAY. GO AWAY. Leave! DAMN YOU, leave! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HERE!" she screamed at him, her voice cracking and hoarse. "Why? Why would you come? You defile this place with your presence! Jon was a good man! He tried to stop evil! But you! YOU... BASTARD! You have no right to be his guide! You have NO RIGHT! You profane your own profession, your own existence! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE HERE! You have no right! You're a creature of evil! You have no right to TAKE A GOOD MAN! You disgusting..."

Her sobs broke through, breaking her tirade of anger and hate. God, she hated him. She hated Charon. This MOCKERY of an angel! She screamed mentally for Zuriel, begging him with her mind through her tears to come, to stop this...

"Leave," she rasped, between her sobs. "Leave, you unholy creature. You don't deserve to be an angel. You don't deserve your job. Why can't even this moment NOT be..."

Evey broke down into hard sobs, her body heaving in her anger.

"This is a sacred place. You don't deserve to be here!"

Will had lost his brother and now this THING had come to claim him. Why? Why? Why couldn't something GOOD come for Jon? Jon didn't deserve this. None of them did.

"What are you going to do while you're here, you awful thing? Are you going to kill us all for your masters? Will you tell them where we are, and condemn this entire town to their wrath? Will you kill everyone here? GET OUT OF HERE! GO AWAY! Or I swear – I swear – I will kill you," she sobbed. "I don't care how or when, but I will send you to Hell where you deserve to be!"

Charon was clearly shaken by her fury, but before it could retaliate in any way, Ju stepped in front of Evey. The vampire's eyes were narrow and glowing red with fury as he growled something incomprehensible. Charon, however, seemed to understand, its eyes widening in shock. Straightening, Ju calmed and pushed up his glasses.

"How...?" the angel started, and Ju just shrugged.

"I know everything that has ever been said aloud since I was changed," he explained, actually smiling. "Now, leave and let this job be done by another."

Charon looked like it could cry, but nodded, folding its wings and vanishing. Ju turned around to face Evey.

"Zuriel heard your call and should be here shortly."

Evey stared at Ju, shock and amazement flitting over her features before she collapsed to her knees, the energy drained out of her from her rage. Tears streamed down her cheeks from relief. Zuriel was coming. A friend would take Jon and guide him. Not an enemy. Not an agent of those who killed him.

"Thank you," she rasped. Her body was still shaking from the sharp, powerful rage that had taken hold of her.

The moment Ju stepped away from Evey, Jezz threw herself at him, her arms around his shoulders and neck as she kissed him. She kissed him full and on the lips for a long moment before she moved back, hands now on his shoulders. Her face was flushed, and she smiled before letting her hands slide down his arms to take his hands.

The young noctis was startled by the kiss, his face flushing with all the blood he had in him and his glasses falling askew. Not sure how to react, Ju smiled awkwardly, pulling one hand free to readjust his glasses.

"Uh... welcome?"

The pyre suddenly flickered, growing unnaturally dim for a moment. Out from the dancing shadows stepped Zuriel, standing ominously in front of the flames. The demon turned towards Evey, eyebrows raised in confusion.

"Didn't an angel come by now?"

Onlookers stood by in shock.

"You have to really explain in more detail what's going on, Brendan," the older woman said.

"Later," he replied. Evey's relief was evident, but she couldn't gather words at the moment. Brendan stepped forward, letting Will take care of Evey while he spoke to Zuriel.

"Only just now, and it was Charon, of all things."

His expression was like stone.

"We would rather it was you than it to take Jon."

An understatement considering how violently they'd reacted to Charon's presence. Evey looked up at Zuriel.

"Please," she whispered, her voice hoarse. The demon smiled softly at her.

"Of course."

It turned towards the pyre, its scythe materializing in its hands. Slowly, Zuriel began to chant a simple prayer in the ancient language of the divine, dipping its weapon into the body in flames. The blade began to glow with a brilliant golden light, and as soon as Zuriel removed it from the pyre, the light began to shift. It gathered at the tip in a writhing ball, which the demon reached out and removed. Turning towards the others with a small nod, it at least held to orb to the sky, releasing it in the air. For a moment, it only drifted slowly upward, but then it shot into the sky, soaring towards the heavens until it was just another star in the sky. Zuriel sighed.

"He is at peace now."

Most of the people that had gathered were in awe at what they'd seen, and a good half of them were praying.

"Thank you," Brendan said. Will had moved over to Evey to help her up. She held him close as she straightened.

"Thank you," she said to Zuriel, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Oh, thank you so much for coming."

Zuriel bowed its head, though it frowned. It knew what the others were doing, what they thought of a demon performing the rite. It couldn't be helped, but it still hurt.

"Farewell then."

Zuriel disappeared in a swirl of shadows. Will kissed Evey on the forehead.

"I guess it's over now..."

He wrapped his arms tighter around her.

"The night is over..."

Evey nodded, holding him close. She sent another telepathic message to Zuriel, thanking him again. Brendan looked toward the woman and then the others.

"We can stay at my house or at the hotel. They'll put you up for the day for free if you want to stay there. Up to you."

"Cei wants to stay here," Ju said. "So do Jezz and I."

Will yawned and rubbed his forehead.

"It would probably be safest if we all stayed a day out of the city. Let things die down a bit before we go back... Where is Cei, anyway?"

For the briefest moment, panic began to set in, but when they heard her humming from the opposite side of the pyre, they knew she was alright.

Well, as alright as she could be when she was having one of her prophecies.

"It's over now, I know inside," she sang softly. "No one must ever know..."

"The beginning of one version of Confrontation," Will said, frowning. "From the musical..."

Brendan hurried to Cei, but approached her carefully. He didn't know how she would react if he got too close. He just hoped Crudelis didn't try to possess her again. God – if he did he'd go back to the city and hunt the bastard down right now and fuck everything else.

Evey was feeling better now and walked with Will over to Cei to listen to what she said. Cei looked up at them, smiling distantly as she changed her tune.

"Masquerade... paper faces on parade. Masquerade: hide your face so the world will never find you..."

She began to close her eyes, rocking slightly as she repeated each musical excerpt until she yawned, fully closing her eyes and curling up on the ground, ready to sleep.

"That was surprisingly brief," Ju remarked. "Only the second time I've heard her make a completely musical prophecy..."

Brendan picked her up, cradling her gently in her arms. Evey looked at Cei in confusion.

"So far she's only done Jekyll and Hyde. That was Phantom of the Opera just now."

She looked to Will and Brendan.

"I guess we'll figure it out later. Right now we should go to bed."

Brendan nodded. He looked to the older woman.

"Mom, let's head home."

The others followed after him, not entirely sure where to go, except for Will. He sat down in front of the pyre and watched the flames flicker, lost in the thought of his brother's death. He didn't want to leave him.

Evey stopped when Will wasn't beside her. She touched Brendan's arm. He looked at her and at the hunter and then gave her a nod.

"I'll come by to pick you two up later," he said softly, before giving her a gentle nudge. She smiled at him and walked over to Will. She touched his hand, fingertips grazing his skin, offering him hers if he wanted to take it.

Brendan laid Cei gently in the backseat of the SUV. He told Ju and Jezz to follow them. It had been a while since he'd been home. He drove to a large house with plenty of space and a painstakingly cared for garden and yard. It had a large porch and two large trees in the front of the house, offering lots of shade. One tree clearly had an old tree house built into it; the other held up a swing.

Brendan carried Cei back into the house, his mother leading the way. She opened the front door for him and then the garage for Ju. Considering the car he drove, Brendan had asked her to let him use it.

Once Cei was put to bed, Brendan's mother hand everyone gathered in the kitchen as she made some hot chocolate. Ju yawned a thank you while he waited with the other two, one on either side of him. The night had been so long already, but he didn't want to be rude just because he was tired.

"I supposed this means I'll have to get used to a nocturnal schedule," he grumbled. "I haven't been up this late in a long time."

"You haven't been before? Brendan's mother asked, putting the hot chocolate in front of him and Jezz. She looked at Brendan in confusion.

"Was a solis and now a noctis," he said, grateful when she gave him his cup.

"Oh, well, you know more about vampires than I do, honey."

He gave her a smile before he took a sip from his cup. Jezz looked up at her.

"What's your name? Detective Graham didn't tell it to us."

"Oh."

She laughed.

"I'm Rosalind."

"I'm Jezz, and this is Ju."

"Pleasure to meet you."

Jezz smiled.

"So, uh, where will we be sleeping?"

"There are several extra rooms. All my kids have grown up and moved away. You can take your pick."

Ju nodded, looking down at the mug of hot chocolate and seriously debating on having a sip or two when the floorboards nearby creaked. Cei stood in the doorway, looking groggily at the others.

"I smell chocolate," she said, rubbing her eyes. "It smells really good..."

Rosalind quickly went to Cei and led her to a seat, putting her gently beside Brendan (who was quite focused on blowing the steam away from his cup).

"Wait, right here, dear. I'll make you a cup in a moment. I make the best hot chocolate in town, maybe even the whole county. Isn't that right, Brendan."

He muttered a low affirmative and sipped his cocoa. She smiled and went quickly to making the hot chocolate for Cei.

"I had the most fucked up dream," the vampire sighed, stretching her arms before leaning against Brendan's shoulder. "Lios was in it..."

"That's... not good," Brendan said, looking at her his eyes wide. "What happened?"

Cei frowned, burying her face in his arm as she said softly, "It isn't appropriate table conversation."

"That means we shouldn't have to think hard to guess," Ju suggested, testing his cocoa with his finger before finally tasting it. "Though I know I certainly don't want to."

Brendan bristled. A low growl rose in the back of his throat at the thought, before he fought it down. The desire to kill Druclerd rose in him again and anger filled him. Every time the bastard did something, every time Brendan swore to kill him. He was tired of swearing. He wouldn't rest until the bastard was dead. He would strike him where it hurt, and he would hunt him down like the fucking rat he was. Jezz bit her lip as she used the cocoa to warm her hands.

"Isn't there any way to stop him from taking over your mind, Miss Cei?" she whispered. Rosalind put a cup in front of Cei, filling it with the warm hot chocolate.

"There you go, sugar," she said, putting a soft hand on Cei's head before returning to the sink to clean. Cei thanked her and lifted her head to take a sip from her cup. Pausing to enjoy the drink, she shook her head as she turned to Jezz.

"I don't know how he does it in the first place. I assume it is some nature of the blood bond between pater and filia, but I don't know for certain. He's the only cruentus I've ever known to be capable of it."

"As far as I know," Ju added. "He is."

"Is there any way to sever the connection? There has to be some way he's doing it if no one else has," Brendan said.

"I think it's a combination of his blood connection and natural talents. I've been doing a little bit of research, and..."

Ju yawned mid-sentence, removing his glasses to rub his eyes.

"Maybe I should explain in the... oh, never mind. This is going to take a lot of getting used to..."

Cei smiled over at him and reached to touch his hand.

"You will get used to it. In time."

"We're going to need to put him on coffee for a while," Brendan said, smiling at Ju. "I would love to hear more about it, but it's getting closer to dawn by the minute."

He took another sip of his cocoa.

"Maybe it is best, if we called it a night."

Jezz yawned too, finished her hot chocolate and then mimicked Cei, putting her head on Ju's shoulder.

"What about Will and Evey?"

"She'll call me when they're ready," Brendan said.

"They fell asleep," Ju told them, almost forgetting his glasses as he stood up. "Will didn't want to leave until the flames died away, but he fell asleep before that."

The younger vampire turned towards Brendan's mother.

"Would you be so kind as to show me any rooms without windows, or ones that can be easily covered?"

"Oh! Of course. There's the basement and my daughter's old room," Rosalind said, drying her hands.

"I put Cei in Mia's room," Brendan said.

"Then the basement it is. Benjamin converted the basement into a bedroom several years ago."

Rosalind smiled and motioned for Ju to follow. She looked at Jezz.

"You don't need a room with no light, right?"

Jezz smiled.

"No, I'm fine, thank you."

Rosalind nodded and led the way to the basement. Cei curled up against Brendan as the other vampire left.

"Will you stay with me tonight? After that dream... I don't want to be alone..."

Brendan was surprised, but nodded.

"I'll stay."

He finished off his own hot cocoa as his mother returned. She motioned to Jezz and the girl got up and followed Rosalind the room she was going to be staying in.

Brendan waited for Cei to finish her chocolate, and when she was done he picked her up in his arms and carried her back up to her room.

She was asleep before they got there. Brenden had just set her in bed when the sound of the front door opening echoed in the quiet house, followed by a call:

"It's just me and Evey. The shaman gave us a ride."

Rosalind hurried toward them.

"Oh, I'm glad. He's a sweet man. Come on, you two. I'm running out of space. I just put your friend Jezz in Iris's old room, I suppose one of you can take Nate's but someone will have to have the couch. Oh, I have to get the sheets for the sofa bed."

She hurried away before either could answer. Evey looked at Will, holding his hand.

"Do you want to sleep by yourself?"

He shook his head, yawning before he answered.

"I would really rather not..."

Will was too tired to say much else. He'd felt so much better when she was with him during all of this. Evey smiled at him and spotted Rosalind as she rummaged through a closet.

"Um, Miss? We'll just stay in the same room. It's all right."

Rosalind looked up at Evey in surprise and then laughed.

"Miss? Oh, sweetling, you're a doll. I haven't been a miss for years. I'm Rosalind. Let me show you to the room."

She fluttered by Will and Evey took his hand as they followed Rosalind to the room. Will ran his fingers through Evey's hair for a moment before he went to help Rosalind make the bed.

"Thank you for all this," he said gratefully. "It's... it's been a trying day..."

"It's my pleasure," she said. Once the bed was ready, she gave them a nod and waved them good night. Rosalind checked on her son who was already asleep on Mia's armchair. She covered him with a blanket and finally took herself off to bed as well.

Because of the noctis among them, they had to wait until the next sunset before they could return to the city. Will woke up long enough during the day to call the director and update him on what had happened. He was understanding enough to let him take as much time as he needed to mourn, just as long as he was back at rehearsal before the final week. Ju woke up twice, asking if there were any sedatives he could take the second time around. When at last night fell again, Will was the first one awake and ready to go.

"Thanks for the coffee, Mrs. Graham," he said as he started his second cup. "And everything else. I'm glad Jon got such an honorable send-off."

Rosalind nodded.

"It's the least we could do. Brendan hasn't told me much about what was going on, but he has told me about all of you. He felt ridiculously guilty for driving you and Evey apart, especially after Alec told him how Evey was doing."

Brendan would've given his mother a glare, but the mention of Alec made it die away. Rosalind also got misty eyed.

"We've lost so much because of this, Brendan," she said to her son. "Alec shouldn't have..."

He put down his coffee and wrapped his mother in a hug as she tried to control herself. Jezz was confused, as was Evey, but Evey figured Brendan would explain later. Jezz didn't think that far ahead.

"But... Mrs. Graham, were you really close to Mr. Richardson?" she asked softly. Now Rosalind gave her son a glare.

"You didn't tell them?"

"Does it matter?"

"Of course it matters, Brendan! He was your cousin! You don't think they needed to know how much his death tore you up inside?"

Brendan picked up his coffee, closing his eyes an taking a sip. Rosalind began to serve "breakfast".

"Alec was my sister's son. Her only son. He practically lived in this house. I had four children. He was my fifth. My sister's husband died when he was still a boy, and she never remarried. Alec was all she had in the world."

"The cousins that came to pick him up are on the Graham side. I have two, but Dad's family is big and spread out. They're my cousins. Alec was like a brother," Brendan said quietly. Evey looked at Brendan in sadness. All this time, and he hadn't told anyone how much the loss had really affected him. How much he had actually lost.

"Oh, god, Brendan..."

"At least we can all take comfort knowing we aren't alone," Will said. Everyone nodded in agreement with him (except for Ju, who was still asleep, thanks to the sedatives). Even still, Cei's nod was much less enthusiastic than the others, as if she wasn't really paying attention to the conversation. Will gently rubbed her shoulder.

"Are you going to be alright Cei? You don't seem yourself. I know we all miss Jon, but..."

"It isn't Jon," she sighed, curling into herself. "It's Lios..."

Brendan stiffened, remembering his own nightmare the night before. He'd woken up half in a rage and had to leave Cei's room to run it out. The desire to tear Lios apart inch by inch was growing more and more profound. It really was a pity the man was a fucking vampire. Brendan would've LOVED to kill him slowly. But he wouldn't be able to get the pleasure because the bastard could get away if he did it too slow.

"Did you have another nightmare?" Brendan asked quietly. Evey looked worriedly at Cei. Even Brendan seemed a little pale when he mentioned the word nightmare. The cruenta nodded, a fearful tear rolling down her cheek.

"It was worse than before... only when I woke up was I able to tell it hadn't been real."

Cei began to shake, so much so that she had to put down her coffee mug to keep from spilling it.

The images from his own nightmare had been horrifying. He couldn't imagine... Wait a minute. He usually didn't dream. And that nightmare had been pointedly vivid. As if...

"We're going to have to talk to Ju about ways to protect ourselves from him, mentally. He's trying to break us from within, and I've already been told he's the least of our problems. The bastard doesn't just get into your mind, Cei. He can get into any of our minds. There has to be a way to seal him off completely, render him powerless."

Evey looked at Brendan.

"Well, no one can get into my head. I don't know if I can teach you all how to do it, but no one can read me, and I can block anyone from getting in if I choose. I can try to teach you, but I don't know if it'll work. There might be some other way to do it though."

She took a sip. Her brow furrowed.

"Ourselves, Brendan? Has Crudelis been giving you nightmares too?"

Brendan gritted his teeth, his eyes glowing in his rage.

"I think that's a yes..." Will muttered softly. Ju wandered into the kitchen, still half-asleep and nearly blind.

"I can't find my glasses," he told the others, squinting to see them better. "I think I had too many of those sedatives..."

Jezz got up, smiling at Ju and headed down to the basement. She came back a minute later and gave him glasses before sitting down at the table again.

"Ju, maybe you can help... after you've had some coffee."

Brendan smirked.

"Yes, let's get him caffeinated. We need his genius brain."

Rosalind served Ju a cup of coffee and his plate of food which she had been saving for him.

"There you go, hun. Get your strength back up."

"Thank you," he said, taking the coffee but pushing away the plate. "I think it best I not try to eat though."

"Don't take offense," Cei quickly explained. "It takes more energy than it's sometimes worth for cruenti to digest real food."

They waited for Ju to wake up a little more, and when he at last stopped yawning, they launched the discussion. Will was the first to speak.

"So, how can we go about blocking the bastard's psychic attacks? Where do we even begin to start?"

"Beats me," Cei sighed. "I've been trying to figure that one out for centuries."

She wasn't at all confident they could find a way to stop Crudelis; the nightmare still lingered in her mind. Evey shook her head.

"I'm the only one I know that's able to pull off some of things I do. Even if Crudelis tried to get into my head, my mind is on automatic. Any foreign attempt by someone to infiltrate my brain, I'm instantly aware of it and the blocks go up. I've done it for so long it's like my TK. Automatic. Like breathing. I don't know if that's any help to anyone else though."

"Not unless you can block all our minds instantly twenty-four seven," Brendan said. She shook her head.

"I've never tried this before, but I can always attempt to purge him from Cei's mind when he possesses her again. I don't know how my strength will be up against his, but I can try to force him out?"

He shook his head.

"No, we're going to need something that prevents it from happening from the beginning."

Jezz, who had been quiet this whole time thinking about what was said, looked up to Cei and asked, "Why does Crudelis leave when he possesses you? He could make you just come home. Why leave?"

Her naivete made Cei smile, and she sat up a little to face her.

"I could be followed if he did that, and he doesn't want to be found. Besides, he knows all too well that after a while, I can through him off, especially if startled."

She blushed a little, glancing at Brendan. Ju cleared his throat, trying to get the others' attentions.

"What if we attempted to artificially induce a state in which psychic energies are blocked?"

His suggestion was met by confused stares.

"In English, please," Will prompted. Ju rolled his eyes.

"Chemistry, Will: imitating something biological with something artificial. Vampires aren't corpses, you know."

Brendan smiled a little with Cei's comment, but hid it with his coffee cup.

"Well, has there ever been a state where his psychic energy was blocked from you, Cei?" Evey asked, curious now that Ju had mentioned it. The cruenta rubbed her forehead, thinking about it.

"I can't say for certain if he left on his own or not, but when I raged last night... he was no longer in my head."

"It seems logical," Ju said, closing his eyes while he considered it. "When I was in rage, my sight was severed. Seeing as both are function of psychic abilities..."

"So wait," Brendan said, looking at them both an eyebrow arched. "Having you two in a permanent rage so he doesn't get into your head is not the way to go here. This has to work for all of us... Aside from Evey who doesn't need it."

"Well, maybe we don't have to cause a rage," Evey said. "Maybe we just need to trigger the defense that rage induces that prohibits psychic influence."

Ju nodded in agreement with her.

"Like I said: artificially induce the chemical defense. Rage blocks all stimuli and desires, bringing only basic, bestial instincts to the front. If we can remove that factor and create a formula that only blocks outside psychic forces..."

"Then we can block out Crudelis entirely," Cei finished, almost jumping from her seat. "We need to do some tests!"

"Backtrack a minute," Will interrupted. "To do tests, that means one of you needs to go into a rage. How can we do that safely?"

Evey winced at that.

"Will has a point. That is not going to be easy. It's going to be hard to get any samples from an enraged cruenti."

"It could be done under control circumstances..."

They could see the wheels in Cei's head starting to turn. She looked over at Brendan.

"Lycanthropic blood instantly induces rage. If we could figure out the exact chemical reason why, we could go from there. Then, we can refine the substance further so that we block only what we want to."

Brendan shrugged.

"That makes sense. I just don't want to have to be staking you and Ju on a consistent basis."

He took another sip of his coffee. Evey looked at Ju and Cei.

"You could probably take a sample from me too. Maybe the caelestis blood in me can help enhance the protection against psychic influences."

"Any risk is worth taking at this point," Cei agreed. "Let's get a move on. The sooner we start working on this, the better."

Brendan nodded and turned to his mother.

"Thanks for the food and the coffee, Mom."

He gave her a kiss.

"Be careful, Brendan," she whispered to him, worry etched on her face.

"I will."

Evey and Jezz took turns giving Mrs. Graham a hug goodbye, thanking her for her hospitality. The men thanked her next, leaving only Cei left to give her thanks.

"Thank you," she said softly, bowing her head to the woman. "This has been... a relieving change of pace. It's... nice to have a kind family by your side in times of trouble..."

Rosalind gave Cei a hug.

"Please, take care of my boy," she said softly before releasing Cei. She then waved her off, smiling, albeit sadly.

Evey headed to the garage Brendan had opened with Ju and Jezz, fully expecting to ride with them again while Will joined Cei and Brendan. Brendan gave them a little salute and headed to his car. But Will followed Evey, wrapping his arm around her shoulder when they arrived at the car.

"Cei wanted to speak with Brendan alone on the way back. I think it might be about the nightmare she had."

He smirked at her.

"I hope you don't mind sharing the backseat with me."

Evey's expression lit up.

"I don't mind at all," she said getting into the car with a wide smile. Brendan got into his car, Cei beside him, and pulled out, waiting for Ju. He looked over at Cei.

"Big car, lots of space, nobody here."

He shrugged. She lowered her head, fidgeting a little.

"We had the same nightmare, Brendan," she said. "One Lios projected into our minds, but... was yours in first or third person?"

Brendan stiffened, hands clenching on the steering wheel.

"First," he growled, putting the car into gear once Ju was behind him and began driving back to the city. "We have to stop this."

The desire to kill Crudelis grew hot in him.

"So you saw... what he did?" Cei asked softly. "As if you were really there..."

She looked out the window, watching as the landscape change from rural back to urban. Brendan was growing angrier, and it was getting more difficult to reign in his anger.

"As if he was making me watch – and making sure I wasn't able to stop it. I don't dream much, but when I do I tend to have some control over them. I woke up ready to kill," he growled. His knuckles were white on the steering wheel. "I wish I could kill the mother fucker slowly. Just tear him apart bit by bit instead of having to kill him fast. He deserves to fucking suffer."

Cei closed her eyes as gentle tears formed in them.

"I was wondering why you didn't do anything..."

Whereas he was growing more furious, she was growing more frightened.

"Brendan, what if we can't block it? What if he does this again?"

"You're going to find a way to block it, Cei. And I'm going to find him and tear him to fucking pieces," he growled. "I won't leave your side. Besides, there was one thing about that dream that is pure fantasy on his part.

"There is no FUCKING way he can stop me."

Cei couldn't stop herself from sobbing.

"God, Brendan, this has me so frightened. I haven't faced Lios in so long..."

She was shaking with worry and fear. Cei was so used to just avoiding Crudelis, the thought of taking him on...

It scared her more than anything.

"Hey, Cei – Cei..."

His anger faded in the face of her fear. He couldn't comfort her the way he would've preferred because they were driving, but he did take one of her hands.

"Don't be frightened. I know it is, but that's what he wants. There's only one reason he gave us that dream. To make us afraid. To make us feel powerless. That he will win. That we are too weak to defeat him. But it's pure, unadulterated bull shit. He gives us those dreams because he knows he can't take us on himself. He needs us to doubt ourselves so he can win. Because even with his partner Carmilla, he's still the weakest fuck out there. Ju said it himself. Out of all our enemies – he is the weakest. Crudelis cannot defeat us unless we defeat ourselves beforehand. That's what that dream was about. It was to make you so terrified that you could do nothing to stop him. To make me feel powerless and helpless. To make you feel powerless and helpless. To make us believe that he has some kind of fucking control over us."

Brendan growled.

"He has no fucking control over any of us. He hides behind his fucking wall, because he knows if he faces us before he breaks us, we will tear him to fucking tiny, insignificant, sad, little fucking pieces. He is a coward, Cei. He is more afraid of you, me, Will and Evey, than anyone else. He is terrified of us. He lashes out with dreams because he can't get hurt that way, but he thinks he can hurt us. We can't let him. Our minds our stronger than he thinks they are. He's underestimating us. And I plan on making him choke on it."

Cei calmed a little, nodding as he spoke. When he went silent, she opened her eyes again to look at him.

"Brendan," she said softly. "Just one thing: please don't die too."

She looked out the window again.

"Everyone who has tried to protected me has died... Please, don't be the next to be killed."

"I have no intention of dying."

He smirked. The only ones who were going to die were the bastards doing this to all of them and to the city. They arrived back at Ju's warehouse shortly, and while Ju pulled his car into his garage in the back, Cei and Brendan waited patiently by the door. The cruenta wrapped her arms around one of his, leaning against him gently.

"Brendan? Will you go with me to the charity ball? The Council finally decided on a date and minimum donation to help get Evey's office back, and I'm sort of obligated to go..."

Brendan blinked in surprise.

"Of course."

If she had planned to go he probably would've shown up anyway to make sure she was safe. This was...

"My pleasure," he murmured softly.

"Still not quite sure I understand that though," Evey said, overhearing Cei as she approached them with Will. "Why make a charity ball for a lowly PI office?"

The vampire gave her a quirky little grin.

"Because your office has wrangled more cruenti cases than the Council wants to handle on its own. The way most of them see it, you're a free police service. This is a worthwhile expense to them."

Evey stared. She put her hands on her hips.

"Hey, I charge. How am I a free police service? The police are free... Though given, excepting Brendan and Malone," she rolled her eyes. "The police are ignorant of cruenti."

She crossed her arms, grumbling.

"I got to up my prices now that I run the place."

She groaned, remembering the mountain of paperwork Davidson had sent her way before he'd gone and booked it to Hawaii.

"I still have to finishing going through all that..."

Brendan gave Evey a grin.

"You really need to finish that paperwork if they're going to hold a charity ball for you."

"Why does this still not sound like a good idea?"

Cruenti holding a charity ball for her PI office, no matter how uh, "good intentioned" (though it was probably more about it being useful for them), just gave her a bad feeling. A lot like the heebie-jeebies.

"There's a saying: don't look a gift horse in the mouth," Cei said with a giggle. "It isn't hurting anyone, and you certainly benefit."

"Shall we go inside instead of standing around out here?" Ju asked when he and Jezz at last joined them. "It'll take a while before we can begin experimentation in earnest. First we need to plan how we'll be making these tests."

The group followed Ju and Jezz into the warehouse. Jezz decided to make some more coffee, making sure Ju stayed awake for the whole night. That aside, her sleep schedule was now going to be off too, and lord knew she needed a cup herself.

Brendan leaned against a wall, crossing his arms.

Evey sat on the couch, already thinking that the simplest thing to do would be to draw blood from her and Brendan and go from there. Her mind was going a mile a minute, and then – well, fuck. What an idiot! She took out Ashton's cellphone.

The phone's wallpaper was fittingly grotesque (not to mention erotic) for someone of Ashton's humor, and quickly flipping to the contact list was a welcome relief. There were at least fifty, if not more, names, some of which were easy to guess ("Daddy" for example), while others were a bit strange ("ExPDiane," "ImPGreg," and other similar names). Even better than the numbers, many had addresses attached too.

Evey waved the phone at Will, Brendan and Cei to get their attention.

"We might as well start going through this. Brendan, do you think your techs might be able to figure out who each person actually is?"

A feral grin spread over his face.

"Oh, yes. In fact, I got to ask them if they got anything off Will's computer."

Technically, Jon had been receiving the emails, but he didn't want to bring up Jon again so soon.

"They'll be able to give us plenty. Hell, they won't have to work too hard either. He's got addresses on the bitch. I can have a list tomorrow morning."

Brendan's mind was working a mile a minute. The traps they could set up... Cei pointed to the small list of names that began with "ExP."

"I think I might know what that is," she said. "I've used it as shorthand before, back when I used to ship my potions out of state. It means 'Export.'"

"So maybe the names with that prefix indicate persons in charge of handling the exporting of the drugs," Will suggested. "Which would mean that 'ImP' means 'Import'."

Brendan was already scribbling notes.

"The chief is going fucking kiss me for this."

He paused.

"Well, maybe kiss Evey," he grinned. "What else do we got in there?"

Evey finished scrolling down, but other than names, nothing hinting of exactly what these people did. But other than "Daddy" familiar names caught her eyes. Jesse. Charon. Carmilla.

A chill ran up her spine.

How they hell could they use his cell phone... wait. Evey grinned. She checked to see if he used text messages. Any information that he would have recently sent would still be there, and they could easily send a text to someone to set up a trap. Calling wouldn't help, but texting... hell yes! Cei couldn't hold back her laughter when Evey pulled up his inbox.

"God! He mustn't have deleted anything!" she exclaimed. "We could extract entire conversations from there!"

Ju watched them from the edge of the kitchen, looking less excited than the others.

"Better do it fast," he said. "It's only a matter of time before Ashton realizes he's lost his phone. He's foolish, yes, but Crudelis is not."

"What if we replace it?" Will suggested. "Get the info we need and deposit it back in the cemetery? Surely, to avoid his father's wrath, he'll go looking for it there."

"I can try taking it down to the precinct tonight. It's not like the station closes after all," Brendan said rolling his eyes. "See if there are any tech doing a late shift, and if there aren't I'll get one in. They can extract everything and put it on a thumbdrive for us. They can even set it up so we can send text messages using his number and intercept others. We'll also be able to see and hear anything that goes through that phone. Calls and texts."

He arched an eyebrow at the group.

"Shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. Then I can ditch the phone at the graveyard again."

"Then let's do that now."

Cei pulled on Brendan's sleeve, urging him towards the door.

"We know experimentation is going to take more than one night, and frankly I think we should move the whole operation here rather than in my attic lab. There just isn't the space."

Ju's body tensed at the thought of so many in his home for so long, but didn't debate it with her. Instead, he simply nodded.

"So we need to get some of my supplies from there too..."

Brendan, again, found himself surprised that Cei was coming with, but wasn't going to object.

"We can pass by your place and pick them up on the way back, if you like?" he asked her. Evey looked over at Will and then at Ju.

"Well, I guess we can get started on some experimentation while we wait for Brendan and Cei to get back. You're going to need some of my blood too, right?"

Both vampires nodded to their respective questions, and as soon as Cei and Brendan were out the door, Ju was off in one of the hidden areas of the warehouse, getting what supplies he had available.

Will sat beside Evey, leaning his head against her shoulder.

"I wonder how long this will last..."

Evey lay her head against his and put one of her hands on his thigh.

"I don't know, honey. But with the way Brendan looked this morning, he isn't going to drag out hunting Crudelis. Hopefully we can kill Ashton soon. I don't know how we're going to deal with Carmilla though," she said softly.

"One step at a time..."

Ju returned with a set of syringes that could have come from the prop table of the musical. Will eyed them suspiciously.

"They're not antiques," Ju said firmly. "They only look that way."

He looked over at Jezz in the kitchen as she was finishing up with the coffee.

"I'll need to get a sample from you too, Jezz. As of right now, you're the only normal human here."

Jezz turned to him and blinked.

"Oh! Okay? Like a constant? Sure."

She smiled and then turned back to the coffee, beginning to pour it into the mugs.

Evey was slightly flushed, only now realizing what she had unwittingly called Will. Well, that was a first for her. Not the blush. The... name-thing. Yeah. And somehow, that reminded her of something else. Something she'd always wanted to ask him, but two weeks of separation happened almost immediately afterwards. She turned to him.

"Do I smell like cookie dough?"

"What?" Will asked, raising an eyebrow, but before she could repeat her question, he continued. "Did you just call me honey?"

Even Ju smiled a little as he began to prepare the needles.

Evey's face turned bright red. Then she lifted her chin in defiance. She wasn't going to feel sorry for it. If he didn't like it, he was just going to have to say so.

"Yeah. So what if I did? 'Darling' sounds too 1800s and 'babe' is amusing, but it doesn't sound quite right, so 'honey' came out first."

She stuck her tongue out at him playfully and then waggled her finger at him.

"Don't try and dodge the question, sir."

The corners of her mouth twitched as she tried not to laugh. He smirked.

"And what if you did? You taste delicious, regardless of whether you smell like cookie dough or champagne; I won't complain either way."

Evey's cheeks burned, and the grin escaped. She leaned close and put her elbows on his shoulders, forearms outstretched and crossed at the wrists behind his head.

"Oh, well, that's good. Because if you had complained, I would've beaten you to a pulp."

She leaned closer until her lips were a breath away from his.

"But, I'm feeling generous, so I'll return the compliment. You taste delicious too."

"Would you two please stop?" Ju asked with an annoyed drawl. "Your making the sofa move out of place."

Will frowned, wrinkling his nose at the vampire.

"Boy, do you know how to kill the mood..."

"I need to draw Evey's blood now, so if you don't mind..."

Evey laughed for a moment, releasing Will and then took off her coat. She offered Ju her arm and then looked at Will.

"So, seriously, do I smell like cookie dough. Sarah said I did."

Evey really didn't like needles at all. Looking at Will and avoiding the needle was her best bet. Will shrugged.

"You smell like you always do; not sure if that's a cookie dough scent or not. I'd need some cookie dough for comparison."

Ju worked on her arm as quickly as he could, drawing what he need while Will talked to her.

"There," he said. "You can look now."

Evey flushed a little, partly surprised that Ju could read her so well. She covered the area where Ju had drawn blood with her hand, and smiled.

"Will that be enough, or will you need more later?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there. Jezz? Are you ready?"

Jezz appeared with the mugs and placed them in a specific way on the coffee table. She smiled at Ju and rolled up her sleeve. Evey was relieved Jezz was looking better than she had the night before. She didn't think she would forget the pale, weak Jezz for a while.

Ju was perhaps twice as careful with Jezz as he had been with Evey, and he had just finished drawing the blood he needed when the phone rang. He set everything in its place before he went to answer it. While he was gone, Will turned to the two ladies.

"Do you think this is really going to work? I mean, I'm as hopeful as everyone that it will, but I can't help but have my doubts..."

"Anything is worth a try," Evey said. "It's better than doing nothing. This way we're in some kind of control."

She gave him a smile.

"Besides, we have to succeed. We can't afford not to."

Jezz nodded.

"We have to stop them," she whispered. She didn't do much, she knew, but she helped what little she could. Even if it was just making Ju comfortable. Will nodded, giving the smallest hint of a smile, but still seemed unconvinced.

"It's just... God, the world has gone insane. So much has happened in so little time. Jon's gone..."

He buried his head in his hands.

"I just want this nightmare to end..."

Evey's smile fell away. She wrapped her arms around him, giving him a tight hug.

"I promise, Will," she whispered. "I'll do whatever I have to help it end. Just don't give up."

She closed her eyes and lay her head against his.

"I need you."

Ju returned to them from his phone call.

"That was Cei," he said. "They're going to be a while, a few hours at least. She has a lot of equipment to..."

He stopped abruptly, eyes darting off to one side. He stayed silent, but when Will began to ask him about it, he raised a hand and shushed him.

"Quiet."

"He's listening," Jezz mouthed to the two of them, not using any voice. Evey nodded and took Will's hand, waiting to hear from Ju. Whatever it was he was watching –
lord, she hoped it was good news. Not that they could tell from his expression, as blank as always. When his eyes at last turned back to them, he was staring directly at Will.

"Carmilla won't let them kill you."
There is hope in the darkness; could there be a way to block Crudelis's psychic assaults?

(Ok, cheesy, yes, but I like to put something here...)

This story is also available on ~dulcis-absinthe's page, though we sometimes crop chapters in different places.
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