Whatever Law wanted to think, Seeing was magic, plain and simple. There could be no scientific explanation for how Q could stare into still water until images broke the surface, just like there was no explaining how Shanna could dream of death and disappearances, or the other Seers could summon their power in tea leaves or whatever it was they did. Everyone was different, and Q was the best. That was how it was.
He’d wondered why over the years. The answer he’d settled on, whether it was true or not, was a mix of his stubborn determination, driving force, and the manner of which he watched futures. He liked to think it was partly to do with his brain, too, but that might have been the ego talking. Or perhaps not: being able to find the right path was about being able to out-think your enemy, and outside of the box, all in one.
When he stared down at the bowls of water, he kept questions at the forefront of his mind. He could swim past surfacing images until he found the one he knew he wanted to watch, the one that felt like it fit the answer he was searching for. And then he’d watch.
Over time he’d honed a sixth sense for his sixth sense. He could tell within the potential line when an action performed in them changed whole futures, and then he’d go down a rabbithole trying to find out where that led them. He was a connoisseur of the butterfly effect.
When he visualised the futures, they were branches on a tree, not dissimilar to the diagrams of evolution amongst the tree of life. With each action a new path blazed open, or if he was lucky, thousands did. It was finding those precious moments which did it.
He often said that one had to be able to know what to look for to See it. That was entirely true, until it wasn’t. Q had tried to look for every possible way the council could screw them over, and hadn’t seen the landslide because none of the paths he’d looked at already included it, and he hadn’t actively looked for it. Menna understood his Seeing almost better than anyone else, and that’s why she’d engineered that end.
But – and again Q thought that stumbling upon this realisation had catapulted him to the best of the best list – if he could find the future with the end he wanted by other means, he could almost reverse engineer the line to see what other actions he’d taken. It was rare because it relied on having this unknown choice dependent on another, either as a direct consequence or because someone had decided them both at the same time, or they were otherwise linked.
At this point, Danni’s eyes usually glazed over. Q couldn’t blame her: it was confusing stuff.
But when he’d started looking at his future grand nieces and nephews, when he’d realised that out of his brother’s death a whole new stream of paths opened, he’d chased some of them down. He’d come across hundreds that had ended sharply, but there had also been several golden paths which had then opened up into more and more branches, as survival of thousands of supernaturals put them on different paths.
His mind had reeled at what that meant. The council, gone. Defeated.
And in all of them, his brother’s family were responsible. If something happened to them, the Council would survive. Yet if his brother had lived, Q would never have intervened, and he’d never have found another way.
It was moments like these that made him wonder if there really was some greater force nudging him in the right direction. Even for all of his talent, coming to this point had been accidental.
Q began to look at the lines where they defeated the Council. The key was always his grand nieces and nephews, though other factors increased all of their chances of a solid win. Trying to see past that was hard, though, because Q had no idea what choices and changes to look for that would get him to those paths.
Then he had veered off his current path to talk to the fae. Saving Ayr had been at the forefront of his mind, and he couldn’t stop to consider the consequences of these actions (the trouble with Seers was that they always tried to, and it was an addiction). The fae had, Q suspected, purposefully given up her daughter to point him in the right direction.
One day Q hoped to find out how she’d known what he needed, and how she’d seen the futures more solidly than he had, but suddenly he had someone to look for. It worked like an anchor, and then he could reverse engineer to his heart’s content. (Some might call this cheating, but there was no fair game when you could see all the cards).
The plan began to fall in place. Teams of well trained individuals fighting for him, and more importantly, fighting against the Council. At the heart of his plan was his family.
Then he’d finally seen the change at the base of these paths. He had seen how he’d nudged them onto the right track. Even a quick look around proved that it was only these futures which led him to the Council’s defeat, and Q had steeled himself against the realisation of what he needed to do.
“The greater good,” he mumbled to himself.
It hadn’t been easy. He’d been working on a deadline of a few months with something that should have been years in the making, and until that day staring into the water, Q hadn’t even known things like this were possible. Fae and vampires and werewolves and warlocks – fine. He didn’t know how they’d come to be, but he knew that they were there, and that was enough. Somehow the presence of human myths had made them easier to swallow.
Q could only trust in the futures. He wasn’t endangering his family, he was protecting them.
It felt wrong even so.
“Q,” Shanna murmured, struggling to control the horror in her voice. “You did all that alone?”
“I didn’t want to risk exposing Danni, and Law would have told your siblings. They’re the only things that can stop us now.”
“Do you think they would?” she asked, belatedly realising it was a stupid question even as Q gave a sharp nod.
“Kian would trust me, but Quinn? Cara? No way. It’ll be hard enough getting the kids to the team. If they knew what I’d done, they would never let me near their families.”
“It’s the right choice,” she promised him. Even though she shuddered to think of what it meant, if this was the way to stop the Council, it was worth it. “Will it be difficult for them?”
“At times,” Q nodded, not flinching away from her hard stare. “When they learn to control it, they’ll have a unique and understated power. It’ll keep them alive, and it’ll be how we break the back of the Council.”
“I trust you.” Shanna reached out and wrapped her fingers around Q’s hand. “Whatever you need, you can let me know.”
“I know,” Q said, smiling at his niece. It was a hard truth, but if not for his brother’s death, Shanna would have been a completely different person. It was just one of the many ways that the death had put them on the path to stopping the Council. Q tried to remember that on the nights when he felt nothing more than a failure.
She’d learned from Q that they had to weigh things on a scale: one choice against another. She knew, just as he did, that hard choices had to be made to help the world around them, no matter what that meant for family.
It was a hard line to walk. He was just glad he didn’t have to do it alone anymore.
Everything happens for a reason. How much Q hated that phrase, not least because he was often the reason. Puppetry of this scale was a talent and a curse. On some early mornings his whole body ached from standing above the water, vampire healing or not. The migraine could become unbearable. How much of that was placebo pain? His body reacting to the horrifying and beautiful things he Saw, to the time-travelling guilt hovering over actions he would need to perform years into the future to get the one outcome he wanted.
How much was too much? If hell was a road paved with good intentions, but the end justified the means, where did that leave him?
He could only admit these things to Danni at night, when she couldn’t see his face. He always spit these confessions up as an offhand, off-colour, but hardly off-brand joke. And if you joke around the hole in yourself for long enough, people can see what shape it is.
She always said he was forgiven, but the problem was she didn’t have the authority on that.
Q knew that he’d surprise people by admitting to believing in a godly being. He surprised himself for it. It was equal parts Catholic fear and fateful understanding, because even though he was an ant to whomever could be out there, everything else was dirt. He was higher up, and he had a better ability to eyeball this entity.
Why did he believe it? Well, there was only so far coincidence could go. He pulled the strings and mastered the pied piper’s flute, so of course he could get a sense for when his were being pulled, and he was being played. The only reason he thought it was something of a higher power was because the outcomes had never been bad: they had always held his hand and prompted him to a better outcome. He knew better than to believe anyone powerful in the real world would help him out without expecting some quid pro pro.
Frankly, this gave him some reassurance: a safety net. He never truly relied on it, because to do so was a risk, and Q did not take risks. A risk implied he didn’t know an outcome, didn’t know the consequences. He always did.
So after paving his road to hell with his latest act, he retreated from his brother’s family – physically, at least. He always looked in on them, searched ahead. Saw that Shanna’s inevitable conversation with Dustin went well, and that Isabelle finally fell pregnant and would carry to term. He saw the cousins growing up, their close bond iron-tight with their secret but strained with the toll.
He visited them all to make sure they knew what they were, but for the most part kept to himself. He had made some mistakes with his own child, and he’d make many more, but at least he was here for it. At least he could be here for it.
Hard to take off the white knight’s armour when there were so many suffering, but he’d give enough in the future. He had to try and be okay with that, even if he never really was.
But he set his watch when he left Shanna’s house. Nine years. In nine years time, he had to start preparations.
“Do you think they suspect anything?” Dustin murmured, hovering over the crib of their precious daughter. Shanna looked over her shoulder to see Isabelle smiling as she stroked her belly, the wonderful smells of Kian’s cooking drifting through the open windows. She chewed on her lip.
“About what Q has done? No way. We keep it like that.”
Dustin nodded, curling his finger around the tiny cheek of their – so far inappropriately named – Fury. “I trust him. But will it be hard?”
“Doesn’t matter,” she replied in a whisper. “Does it?”
“Not if it keeps our children safe,” Dustin agreed, somewhat grudgingly. Shanna’s eyes sparked.
“They’ll end the Council, Dustin. Anything is worth that.”
So as you can see, I sorta changed my mind. Lukas and Echo didn’t quite die for nothing.
I hope you enjoyed my probably garbled explanation of Seeing. Maybe I contradict myself at points, maybe I’ve opened up plot holes, but Seeing is a bit like time travel. I don’t think there’s any way to really do it right (the closest I’ve seen was in Rachel Aaron’s A-good-dragon series) but I’ve tried.
Anyway… This was about half the length of a usual chapter but it just felt right. Cramming anything else in there just didn’t work. Next stop, Prologue territory!