Quinn was awake when the door swung open. He had questions sitting on his tongue; he’d spent half the night experimenting, shocked to discover that with just a little more pressure than usual he could bend utensils in half. At first he’d put it down to shoddy workmanship, but after succeeding in snapping the window’s golden handle off he had reluctantly come to accept that something was different.
Q swept into the room. His usual easy air was sullied by the tired sagging of his face. “I think I’ve got it,” he announced to the room. Kian peered up at him, rubbing sleepy eyes.
The hotel room’s door shook with the force of a knock. Quinn sat up straighter at Kian’s alarm, but Q only grinned – albeit wearily.
“Right on time.”
He motioned for Kian to hold the door open and crossed to the front. With flair he swung the door open. “Law, how lovely of you to join us.”
“Law!?” Quinn shouted, jumping up.
The animosity and confusion melted from Law’s face at his nephew’s shout and he barrelled past Q and Kian to pull the boy close to him. Quinn held on tightly, feeling his eyes prickle.
“Is it true?” His voice cracked somewhere in the middle. He felt his uncle pause and then nod, and sagged against him.
“What’s going on?” Law asked, steering his nephew back to the sofa. “You, explain yourself.” He thrust a finger at Q, who wiggled his fingers in a wave.
“Boring stuff, really. Just trying not to die.”
Between Law’s steely stare and Q’s wide grin, Kian fidgeted and looked at his socked feet. Finally the older vampire strode into the room and allowed Kian to hide away from the middle of the skirmish.
“Who are you?”
“I thought you were the smart one,” Q complained. He raised his hands as Law’s eyes narrowed. “Lukas’ older brother.”
“Surprise to us all, trust me.”
“And with my nephew.”
“A very polite fellow. You should be proud.”
“Stop joking around. Why didn’t you tell anyone that he was here?! We’ve been worried sick-”
“Would you believe that my phone broke?”
Neatly, Law pivoted his hips and sunk his fist into Q’s jaw, sending the vampire stumbling back and Law’s knuckles singing.
“Better?” Q asked, rubbing the side of his face.
“Hardly,” Law snapped back.
“Willing to shelf your anger and listen?”
Grumbling, Law folded his arms and remained in front of his nephew.
Q took a deep breath. “I’ll stick with the cliff notes, because this one is longer and more sprawling than Cervantes’ knight errant novel and I’m getting a sore throat. You know about the council, and you know about Lukas’ past and who I am, presumably? Bueno. Here’s what you don’t know. I’m number one on the Most Wanted list – both the council’s and many girls in Spain – and my debt also applies to your nieces and nephews. They’re advancing on the UK and within thirty years they’ll have the island in their grip. Your vampire cure for Lukas only reduced the virus to manageable levels; it has been passed down to his children but unless exposed to the right conditions – as in the blood of an actual vampire like yours truly, it won’t activate. But it is very dangerous if it does, because it gives the Council something they want. They’re making their moves to catch me out, using our family, because I’m more of a pain in their arse than the Greeks caused their young lovers, cumulatively. Am I forgetting something?”
Kian cleared his throat from where he had slid down against the wall.
“Oh! My friend here is an attempt to recreate the half-vampire research that they – lost.” Q cleared his throat as his gaze snapped to and from Quinn. “Didn’t quite get it right, but when Quinn returns with you, I need you to take Kian along.”
“He was the one to bite my nephew,” Law growled, though he immediately regretted it with how Kian wilted.
“Because he himself was bitten, which threatened his life and brought the vampire in him to the fore. He couldn’t help himself. Like young lovestruck teen males watching anything vaguely shapely bounce. Lo entiendes?”
“I’m gay,” Law said flatly.
For the first time since Quinn had met his paternal uncle, he saw true surprise. “Oh. Well. I’ll think of some better examples next time.”
“Next time?” Law growled, facing down his opponent. His hand stung, but Q wasn’t much stronger than a human in the day time. Law was willing to put the money on himself. “Quinn is coming home with me and I will figure it out.”
“No,” Q said, shaking his head. “You will-”
“I will keep them safe, safer than you! Why the hell did you come out of the woodwork now-”
“-because I’m juggling two simultaneous problems and had I been here to save my brother than the war would have been over!”
“And how the hell do I even know to trust you-”
“-You don’t have a choice-”
“Enough!” Quinn shouted, cradling his head in his hands. Law, panting, looked back at his nephew. Q settled against the counter and folded his arms smugly. “I think Q is right, Law. He can see the future.”
“Impossible,” Law scoffed.
“No, just incredibly rare.”
“There’s no scientific basis for seeing into the future-”
“There doesn’t have to be.” Q sounded amused at the line of defence. “It’s magic.”
“Magic is just unexplained science!” Law spluttered.
“I knew you were going to come in swinging,” Q pointed out. “It may be during the day, but I know how to duck a punch. And yet if I had ducked, the fight would have escalated, and that one little action would have sent you storming off with Quinn in tow and you would have been dead trying to keep him safe within a year.” Q’s eyes had gone flat, concealing emotion behind a mask.
“Think of it this way,” Quinn spoke up, watching the way his uncle’s muscles tightened in preparation. “It might be nonsense, but can we afford not to believe him?”
Q swung his hand out towards his nephew with a pointed look. Eventually, Law pinched the bridge of his nose. “You have to be transparent with me. Tell me the steps we need to take. You’re working with us.”
“It’s not that easy,” Q began. Law pinned him in place with a look. “There’s a lot resting on me and I’m used to making hard decisions. You’re not. We can’t save everyone. That’s something I’ve come to terms with. I’ve done this on my own for so long that I know exactly what to do and how to do it -”
“Then look into the future and see what happens when you’re not fighting alone,” Law scowled. “This is my family. I’m keeping them safe, no matter what.” His eyes narrowed. “What’s that look for?”
Q sighed. “Because there’s more to this situation.” He rolled his eyes as Law made a ‘hurry up’ gesture. “Muy bien. The council want the UK. If the UK falls, so do I, and they get the answer to things like half-vampires and blood warlocks. The rest of the world falls neatly in line for them within a century. They have a three pronged attack. One is to distract and weaken me by targeting my family. The second is to track down a descendant of their last unfilled seat and force her to make all of their edicts binding by the warlock magic which is still upon them to this day. The third is to outmanoeuvre me by finding a better Seer. The first option is succeeding but won’t stop me. The second option I’ve already taken away from them. The third is catastrophic.”
“Go on,” Law said suspiciously. He felt like he was playing Chess with a grand master.
“Law, when I was human, I once walked by a pool and saw my father leaving in the flat, still waters. That was repeated a few times in the kitchen sink. I had a second vision some years later of what I would walk into by leaving. Two visions, a handful of times, and I’m the best Seer they’ve ever had. It’s how I got away from them, how I can still stop them, how they haven’t dominated the world as of yet.” He took a deep breath. “Shanna has had the same two visions hundreds of times. Can you imagine how much more powerful she would be?”
“What are you saying?”
“I need Shanna to come with me. I’ve looked at all the futures I can think of. She’s only safe with me. If they find her, they win. That’s it.”
“She would never help them-”
“Don’t be so naive! Do you think any of us who ended up there wanted to help them? I watched my best friend get darker and darker each year until she was exactly what they wanted. My own brother ran science experiments for them! If manipulation won’t work, they will torture her. One way or another, they will get what they want.”
“You escaped,” Law pointed out.
Q threw up his hands in exasperation. “After several cycles of resistance, torture, and helping them. They don’t need her for long, Law! You don’t trust me, fine. But I will not let you get in my way. I will go around you and take Shanna to safety if I have to.”
Law steepled his fingers. Did he trust Q? The answer wasn’t as straightforward as he hoped. Q could be telling the truth, but then Law didn’t want to lose control over to someone he wasn’t sure would protect his family when it came down to it. By the sounds of it, Q had already failed once in that regard. And yet Law didn’t doubt that the vampire could easily go around him and take Shanna. Sure, he was a genius and Chase was a whizz on the computer, but if this man could sidestep a council of vampires, then being able to hide from the two of them wouldn’t be much harder. Especially if he could See the future, which now Law thought about it – and Shanna’s nightmares – made more sense than he cared to admit.
What he needed to do was force Q to keep close, if not by distance than by alliance. And he needed more control. Law had been a black belt for years, and yet he knew he wouldn’t be able to fend off a vampire at night.
So what if he evened the playing field?
Law nodded. “Fine. I’ll help you, but on one condition only.”
Q narrowed his eyes. How could this vampire be so good at outwitting the council if he wore his surprise on his face every time he hadn’t Seen something? Law made a mental note to investigate exactly how that worked.
“You’re going to Turn me.”
“If he’s okay then why isn’t he with you?” Ayr stressed, knotting his fingers into his hair. Isabelle watched the exchange silently, face pale and eyes half shut.
“Something about one Seer can’t See another.”
“Sounds stupid,” Shanna declared, airily.
“He’s safe,” Law assured them both. “And he’ll be as soon as I can make another couple of cures. Temporary cures,” he added with a sigh, raising his eyes to the ceiling. How stupid he had been not to continue to monitor Lukas for the years after he had become human! He might have been able to catch the virus count slowly but steadily rising, as Q had said. He would work on a new version as soon as he could, but temporary would keep everyone safe for the time being.
“One for Adam,” Law said. “Q will deal with it.”
“What does that mean?” Cara asked in a small voice, on the other side of the room. Ayr sighed and muttered something unkind under his breath.
“Don’t know. We had a lot to talk about. He’ll be home soon.” Law clasped his hands together and tried to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach. He willed his voice to remain strong. “We need to talk about the funeral.”
Isabelle huddled lower in her seat and Ayr swallowed back bile. Shanna was the only one who nodded in agreement.
“Lots of flowers,” she said. “Mum would have loved that.”
Ayr shot her a look as if she had betrayed them.
“What?” Shanna asked. “No point being mad at me if I’m going soon.”
“Only if you’re comfortable with it,” Law added, resisting the urge to scrub his hands over his face. “You’ll meet him beforehand. If you don’t like him, we’ll find another way.” Somehow.
Shanna clicked her tongue. “No point arguing with a man who can see the future, right?”
“No, and it’s infuriating,” Law muttered. He’d decided that honesty was the best policy with the siblings, especially given how much he wouldn’t be able to explain otherwise, but Shanna’s easy acceptance of it all had worried him. He’d have to add on another amendment to his agreements with Q: Shanna needed therapy. Hell, they all did.
“I need to talk to Chase,” Law sighed. “Are you sure you don’t want me to put something on the computer for you to watch?”
“We know how to work it,” Ayr said, sounding snippy. Law raised his hands and decided not to comment on it. Instead he went off in search of his husband, who he found watering a couple of plants on the balcony.
“Not much of a green thumb,” he said, as if it was an apology. “But I thought they looked thirsty.”
“Thank you,” Law murmured, pulling Chase towards him. They stood like that for a long time.
“There’s something on your mind?” His husband’s voice was quiet. The moment was just for the two of them. Law’s eyes burned, but he had made his decision. Q had grilled him on it. He owed it to Echo and Lukas, and the family they’d left behind; his family.
“I need to tell you something.”
Chase pulled away and wiped Law’s cheeks with his thumbs. “I’m here.”
“It’s something I need to do.”
Chase watched patiently.
“Q’s going to Turn me. It gives him much better odds – gives them much better odds.” He sniffed back more tears.
“It won’t put us in more danger?”
Law shook his head. “I’m not related to either Lukas or Q by blood. I have to do this.”
Chase nodded and pressed his lips to Law’s forehead. “Well, you stupid genius, I’m hardly letting you do this alone.”
“Are you sure?” Law murmured, concealing his overwhelming relief as well as he could.
Chase grinned, and it was the brightest thing Law had seen for days. “I think I can put up with you for a few more years.”
Quinn was welcomed with bear hugs that for once he was happy to get. He let his brother smother him, and then eventually wiggled away to wrap his arms around his sisters.
“Who’s that?” Ayr asked, staring at the doorway.
Law sighed. “This is-”
“Kian?” Isabelle asked, feeling the blood drain from her face. Then it returned, flushing her cheeks red. “I waited for you all day! You – you bastard!”
“Wait, that’s Kian?”
Law pinched the bridge of his nose yet again. “Kian, is there something you forgot to tell me?”
Kian blanched. “I thought you knew?”
“Q,” Law said, like it was a curse.
“I can go home,” the boy said, looking at his feet.
“No.” Perhaps it was Q’s warnings to do exactly what he said, or perhaps it was just the way Kian had curled in on himself, but Law felt responsible for the boy. “You’re staying here. We’ll make up a bed for you somewhere until Shanna leaves, and then you can take either Ayr or Quinn’s bed.” He looked between Isabelle and Kian for a moment, but decided now was not the time to sort out any house rules he was sure they’d break.
“Dude, what was it like being a vampire?” Ayr asked, ushering his brother into the living room. Quinn shook his head in exasperation.
“What, for all of ten minutes?” he responded sarcastically. Shanna eyed their backs and then Isabelle and Kian, who stood staring at each other, and realised what her brother had been not-so-subtly trying to do. She smirked, rolled her eyes, and trailed after them.
“I need to go down to the police station. Chase is working outside if you need him,” Law called to the siblings, pulling his coat back on for another trip into town. He dreaded the conversation with Officer Macaully, and hadn’t yet figured out what he was going to say, but deciding that his sister and brother-in-laws deaths were a weird suicide was better than the truth. He’d been mulling over what to say in response to the autopsy – that neither of them had any blood – but playing the innocent and grieving brother was easier than the raving lunatic warning them about a group of dangerous, despotic vampires.
He sent one more glance Kian’s way before leaving them to it.
“I had to wait for Q,” Kian said, by way of explanation. Isabelle’s red rimmed eyes stared at him without understanding. “He usually comes into Stirling that time every six months. To check up on me, give me things I might need.” Kian eyed the distance between them and sighed, folding his arms over his chest. He’d been quiet for so long that it hurt his throat to talk. “I never got your number.”
“You could have asked for it,” Isabelle shot back.
“I don’t really use my phone,” he admitted. The accusation in her eyes never faded. “I came back into town after I thought he wasn’t showing. I was going to go to the tree then. But he texted me and then…” Distantly, he remembered the rough way Adam had grabbed him. He swallowed the memory back down. “I’m sorry for what happened with Quinn.”
“You knew about vampires and everything?”
Kian nodded, slowly. He pulled down the side of his hoodie to show the Mark. Isabelle must have seen it before, although perhaps the only time Kian had undressed she’d been too distracted to think on it. That gave him more credit than he probably deserved, he thought.
Isabelle’s throat bobbed. “Did you know about my dad?”
“No,” Kian rushed to say. “Q just said I should live here, so I did. The rest fell into place the way he intended it to, but I was never privy to that information.”
“Why would he meddle in our lives like that?”
“There’s always a good reason. I promise. Maybe he just wanted me to be happy.”
Isabelle stared at him, her kyanite eyes flat. Kian reflected that perhaps he’d been an idiot not to notice their shade after staring into them for so long, but he had never claimed to be smart.
“What happened to you?”
Her voice was challenging him, eyes staring at the mark. Slowly, Kian dropped his hand and his hoodie fell back into place, covering it up. His internal debate raged on for almost a minute, but eventually he looked away. He knew what she wanted to know, but they weren’t memories he felt ready to dredge up. “Are you hungry?”
“Really?” she spat.
Kian shrugged. “Would you like to help me cook?”
In answer, Isabelle stormed into the living room to join her siblings. Kian let his head fall against the door with a sigh.
The day before Shanna left, and Law and Chase were Turned, was the ceremony.
Eilidh and Rhoan had flown in the night before. What had started as a sombre get together over a glass of wine had ended with Eilidh sobbing as she held Law in her arms, Rhoan losing the battle against drying the tears as they fell while he commiserated. Echo might have been the odd one out of the group in many ways, but she had been just as loved and admired. The days when they had shared a flat together had been some of the happiest years of Eilidh’s life, something she had always missed as they moved to another continent. No one could deny the love that radiated from the woman when she’d introduced Lukas to the group, and it was impossible not to join in like it was second-hand smoke.
“If you need anything, anything at all, we’re here for you,” Eilidh murmured, stroking Law’s hair. “Are you – safe?”
Chase reached over and squeezed Eilidh’s hand. They’d said as much as they could, as would be believable, without resorting to the bullshit line of the police. Rhoan and Eilidh deserved better than that, better than the ragged wound of believing those they loved had been in so much pain they had taken their own lives.
“We’ve got it covered,” Chase promised. “But if we need anything, we’ll call. I promise.”
Rhoan rubbed his eyes and let out a shaking breath. “Let us contribute to the service. Those things aren’t cheap.”
Eilidh gave a tearful giggle. “Mum’s almost bankrupted us. Of course she’d want all the best and proper things.”
“It suited her well,” Law said, half-smiling as he remembered that service. He hadn’t seen his father cry like that before or since, but he and Jasmine had grown even closer to Elspeth during her battle with cancer. He remembered Kane shaking his way through his part of the speech and wondered how the hell he was going to get through it himself.
“It’s covered too, but thank you.” Chase blew out a breath.
“What are you going to do?” Eilidh sniffed, blowing her nose. “With the kids?”
“They want to stay here.” Law thought of the box of his sister’s things he’d had to make so they could sleep in her room. It was bare, now. It felt like a betrayal, but sleeping under her memories had been worse. “And we have custody. It was something we talked about years ago, thankfully.” He took a swig of water and tried to lighten the headache behind his eyes. “Our mother hasn’t been happy about that.”
“As if Faye would be capable of taking care of them,” Rhoan snorted.
“Delusional as ever,” Law agreed. “But it’s sorted. Now we just… keep moving forward.”
Law wasn’t surprised at how large the ceremony became. Lukas may have been a recluse, but Echo was well loved by the community and her family. The seats were filled during the service, when Law had choked through his eulogy and watched his nieces and nephews huddle together as the songs were played. They were buried in a plot of land nearby, and as their coffins sank into the dark ground Law felt gutted and torn.
But he wasn’t alone, and the love and support all around him helped stitch him back together. Later they took the kids and close friends around the back of the house, where the smell of the barbecue awoke their hunger and the presence of family made what they bore a little easier.
Kian manned the cooking to give himself something to do, gave a small, shy smile when Isabelle stepped up beside him to help. Pictures of her parents cycled through a screen nearby. Kian snaked an arm loosely around her as she stared at it.
Ayr rested his head on Cara’s shoulder, their hands linked together, watching as Quinn carefully arranged some of the flowers they’d taken from the service. Behind him, Shanna sat on a fence post and swung her legs, drying tears with her sleeve and feeling guilty with relief that her nightmares were over.
Nearby, looking down at them, Q sat with his back to a thick tree trunk. He watched the party as the sun dipped low, ashes from the campfire blowing past him on the wind. Holding his hand loosely was a blonde woman, the one person he loved so much it made no sense.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, resting her head on his shoulder. “You should have saved them, not me.”
Q shook his head slowly. “I made my choice.” And he was sure one day, when the time came, he’d burn for it. Lord knew he’d hated himself for less. But then the choices he’d had were horrible – kill her and be in time to save his brother, or protect her and… lose him.
He had damned people to death before, but he couldn’t be a killer. Not even when killing her would have taken the power of the Thirteenth seat away from the council forever. The morning he’d looked into the future and seen what he’d almost lost – generations upon generations of his own family, all starting with their little boy – he’d been driven to his knees.
And yet sometimes choices like these led him down new rabbitholes he’d never considered before. With her life, and his brother’s death, he’d Seen the potentials opening up before him and had felt pure elation.
“If I do this right,” he said, quietly, “we destroy the Council forever.”
JSYK, those plans of Q’s are generation four. I hope you appreciate his sense of humour because you’re going to have to stomach it for a while yet 😛