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A Country That Lives Within Us

Chapter Text

I laid staring at my bedroom ceiling, alternately throwing an arm over my eyes dramatically, and huffing loudly with equal amounts of dramatics. Johannes crooned Tower through my headphones, and I tried with everything I had not to drop into a wailing childish fit.

-Where are you going, Kamilah?
- The Avatar concert! Remember? I bought tickets months ago? Its all I've been talking about? ...the metal band? Oh come on Ma, I know this rings some kind of bell...
- Ah...yes...my dear I'm afraid I have to forbid you from leaving the temple tonight.

I had stood flabbergasted for a moment when I realized she wasn't fucking with me.

-Wh--of course I'm going...I can't miss this, Ma...
- Kamilah, I've asked a thousand times if I've asked once. 'Ma' is not my name and it is not my title, and I am not your mother. You may be my ward, but you are to call me Mistress or Mother like everyone else.

Despite my best efforts, angry tears had started to leak from the corners of my eyes.

-Mistress, but I've been waiting for this for months! Why are you doing this?
-Not that its your place to question me, but the Heads will be otherwise engaged tonight and will not be available to help if something should happen to you.
-W-wh...what could possibly happen? I'll only be gone for a few hours.
-Kamilah, the answer is no.

I knew it was childish to storm off to my bedroom and slam the door, but here I was, two hours later.

Ma never did anything without a good reason, and I knew deep down that she hadn't forbade it just to be cruel. The woman was hard and cold like iron sometimes, but she didn't have a cruel bone in her body.

I growled at the empty air when I realized that sulking wasn't making me feel better, and I ran a nail over the lines of the tattoo on my thigh. It was warm enough to wear shorts and I'd been planning on showing Tim after the show if they stuck around to talk to everyone out by their bus before heading out.

Everyone told me it was silly to get a ram's head - I wasn't an Aires, nor was I chosen by Khnum, but they didn't understand how his music had touched me. How it had breathed into the most closed off and secret corners of my soul, of my consciousness. I'd fallen head over heels the first time I saw him play - the passion, the drive, it was everything I could imagine wanting in another human being.

The least I could do in return was give a piece of myself to him, and it thrilled me every time I caught a glimpse of the design under the bridge of his guitar, knowing that we shared something now, even if he didn't know.

After a couple more frustrated huffs and some grumbling, I rose slowly and shuffled to my closet.

"At least you look good," I said to my reflection, who stared back with a straight line mouth. "And now we go sweat it all off."

I pulled my Avatar t shirt off over my head, and neatly folded it, holding it to my heart for a moment and whispering to Jonas and Tim and Henrik and John and Johannes how sorry I was that I was missing them play. I placed it in my drawer and fished out my workout clothes, trading my cutoffs for leggings, and my lacey bralette for a neon yellow sports bra. After several minutes of trying to wrangle my electric blue hair into something like a submissive ponytail, I stuffed my feet into tennis shoes and shut my door behind me.

Aurora caught up with me in the hall just as I was about to push my earbuds back into my ears and touched me on the shoulder, surprise coloring her features.

"What are you still doing here? I thought you had that thing tonight"

I didn't want to talk about 'that thing' anymore, it only bummed me out.

"Ma said I couldn't go out."

"Why not? Are you grounded?"

"I am not grounded," I grumbled, trying to keep my stoic frown in place, but failing at her comical grin. She had a little gap between her front teeth that only made her natural flower child aura more convincing. Honestly, it was no wonder Geb had chosen her, she practically had daisies growing in her hair.

"She just said that they're all unavailable tonight, so if something went wrong -- and I'd again like to voice that that is bullshit -- they wouldn't be able to help. But I've been training my ass off, and getting bumped around a little in a mosh pit isn't something I'm even remotely worried about..."

She paused and looked at me, her grin fading as her big green eyes seemed to get somehow wider. She almost looked like a bushbaby.

"Wh--...all five of them are going somewhere?"

I shrugged, "That's what it sounded like. Look pêche, I need to blow off some steam, so I'll catch you later okay?"

She nodded, seemingly lost in thought now. From the outside, she seemed plain, and wallflower-ish. She was milk-white and peppered with little reddish freckles all over, up to the roots of her rust-colored hair that she was now absently twirling around her index finger. She never wore makeup, and it was just as well. I'd tried to put lipstick on her once and found that her simple natural beauty was muted by it and the red lacquer seemed out of place and almost garish on her.

"Whats going on in your head, Bean?" I asked quietly, a little disturbed by how hard she seemed to be thinking about the Heads being unreachable, the hair-twirling and lip biting now betraying her worry. When she first came to the Temple, she tried to keep up with all my nicknames for her - abbreviations of her own given name and cute little monikers that to me just suited her, but now she just answered when I called her anything.

"Mmm? Oh, I thought you were going to work out. Never mind. Can I come with you?" I raised my darkened eyebrows at her.

"You want to train with me? But I'm a fire..."

She chewed more at the inside of her lip until I put both hands on her face, bringing her wandering attention back to me. "Yes or no, Ro, you have three seconds before my ass is off down those stairs."

"Okay no I definitely don't want to train with you, I'm not even dressed for it! I have some reading to do though, and..." she shrugged, her cheeks starting to go a little pink. A huge clap of thunder rocked the building, the second of this present storm, and she jumped with fright, making me realize that this beautiful little mouse of a girl, an earth through and through, was afraid of the thunder.

She never really came all the way out of her shell enough to talk about her outside life, not even with me. All I knew was that her family weren't happy about what she was - not that she even had a choice. Our gods and goddesses chose us at birth, and I'd always disliked Ro's family, though I knew nothing about them, just from the sheer unfairness of it.

"Are you afraid of the storm?" I asked quietly, pressing a hand to her cheek and feeling a deep affection, like I was her big sister. She gave a tiny nod after a moment, and looked down at her shoes.

"Come on then, " I said, turning for the steps down to the underground training area.

The temple, our home, looked quiet and unassuming from the outside, tucked back away from the bustle of the city. There weren't gaudy statues or glyphs covering the eves. There were no banners welcoming worshipers to join in some cryptic pseudo-intellectual circle jerk to draw their attention away from the fucked up shit happening in the world while sleazy preachers lined their pockets. For all intents and purposes, no one knew what we were, and we were perfectly happy to keep it that way.

Aurora descended the steps behind me, and I was surprised to find all the lights off when I wrenched open the heavy wooden door at the bottom.

"...Hello?"

No answer.

"Huh...just you and me I guess, Ro, everyone else is off having a bangin' Friday night," I mumbled, feeling for the light switch and cursing when I couldn't find it. I finally gave up and swirled my wrist, bringing forth a tiny ball of flame, just enough to illuminate the darkness and help me find what I sought.

"Ah, much better." The fluorescent lights switched on one at a time in a long line down the length of the gym.

I breathed in the silence and solitude, grateful that I was alone enough to really vent some of my frustration, and a broad smile crossed my face as a tiny squeak followed another clap of thunder, more muffled now that we were underground.

"And you know what? Maybe I can't go see the boys tonight, but I can certainly bring them here..." I trotted off to the cabinet in the corner, plugging my phone into the stereo system and cranking the volume up to an almost abusive level.

At least she won't hear the thunder anymore.

Aurora had already pushed earplugs in and climbed up on top of a pile of mats, losing herself in her studies. She was teaching herself hieroglyphs, and proceeding much quicker than the rest of us. Channeling her elemental powers came a little harder for her, but she hit the books like a fiend to compensate, and as a result she was wittier and smarter than the lot of us when her near-crippling shyness let her show it.

My Queen of Blades playlist had all my favorite Avatar songs, and as Glory to our King closed, the hauntingly beautiful opening chords of Raven Wine hummed through the air. I closed my eyes and centered within myself, committing to mind what I felt and what I wanted to work through, asking Sekhmet to purify with fire the anger and frustration that was gripping my heart.

Chapter Text

"Honestly, I can hardly see what Kamilah finds so endearing about this music, it grates on the nerves," Sol muttered as she rounded the corner towards the bus, following the throngs of black hair and facial piercings.

The other four Heads accompanied her, wearing simple black outfits so as to not draw attention to themselves.

Sol was the servant of Ra, so she taught the Fires. Shell served Khnum, so she shepherded the Waters, though they were rare in our Temple. Raya was devoted to Shu, and taught the Air girls. Eden and Ciel were polar opposites, but the closest to each other of all five.

No one would mistake that Eden served Geb when she stood among the others though. She was earthy in every way, almost like a fairy - glowing and tinged with green energy, springy and floral. Everyone that had ever met Eden immediately loved her. She was like spring personified, a real life Persephone.

Ciel had been hand-picked by Nut herself, and her ability to practice magic was the topic of whispers throughout our halls. Her power was balanced with the wisdom divined by her goddess, and it left her with a quiet confidence that even Sol never challenged. She was witchy in a way -- protective and ethereal, like the woman of the night sky that she served. And if her slight reserve didn't snap you into line, one glare from her purple irises would. Most people out in the world assumed they were contacts, and she never corrected them.

The women hung back a little, waiting for the dense crowd to thin as each of the five men appeared one at a time, signing t shirts and grinning for selfies with fans. Sol watched quietly, contemplatively, noting how each man moved in relation to the others, one eye always watching even as they appeared to be totally absorbed with their fans.

Eden, Ciel, Shell, and Raya fanned out casually as the crowd dispersed until there was no one left, Eden watching happily as young girls raced away clutching their phones and giggling among themselves. She caught Henrik's eye as she paused, taking her position, but seemingly stopping to say hello. He breathed a small sigh of relief when she didn't pull out a phone or a pen, and returned the little smile that curved her soft lips as he approached, already intrigued by her.

"I like your curls," she beamed, and he cocked his head to the side with a return smile as he thanked her.

Ciel had been assigned to Tim, and gracefully placed a dark-wrappered cigarette between her lips as she stopped close enough to him to be casual, and started feeling her pockets for a light.

"Here, let me," he said, stepping up and lifting his lighter to the end of her cigarette before lighting his own.

"Quite a show you all put on," she said lowly, giving off all airs of being mildly impressed.

Tim half raised one eyebrow and studied the woman before him. She was older than he was for sure, but by how much, he couldn't tell.

"Thank you, I'm glad you liked it," he said politely.

"Oh, I didn't," she said with a chuckle, tossing her dark curls down around one shoulder and loving the way that he squirmed as she inhaled the smoke deeply.

"What is that?" he asked, nodding towards the cigarette as she lifted it to her lips again. The smoke was too fragrant to be rolling tobacco, but not cloying enough to be from a cigar. It was peppery, and herbal smelling, like tea leaves and spices.

"Nothing you can handle, son," she smirked, "thanks for the light."

And before he got a chance to respond, she spun her back to him, dropping her smoke to the ground and snuffing it with the toe of her boot.

Her hands flew out in front of her, forming her elemental symbol as the air electrified and crackled with a static charge and the smell of ozone.

Sol, Eden, Raya, and Ciel all did the same, guarding their respective man and forming a protective ring around the group.

Out of sheer instinct, Tim, Henrik, John, and Johannes all found themselves in a similar ring, protecting Jonas in the middle as all of their hackles immediately went up, their hair standing on end from more than the static charge.

"Whats going on," Jonas growled, pushing past Johannes' arm and standing shoulder to shoulder with his men, the way he preferred.

Neon light was streaming from the symbol created by each woman's hands and they were looking around, seemingly waiting.

But no one had to wait long.

Johannes was used to towering over almost everyone, tall as he was, but his eyes widened as he beheld the behemoth that suddenly stood before Raya. He could feel his wolf stirring, the urge to shift almost overpowering, and heightening his senses.

The man who appeared before each woman was identical - at least seven feet tall with dark hair that hung to his shoulders. He was shirtless, the broad, hairless expanse of his chest the same coppery color as the rest of him. A white linen kilt wrapped around his waist, stopping just above his knees. When one spoke, the sound came out of all of their mouths.

Henrik snarled, unsure which direction to watch, which side was best to cover from, and the beast looked at him over Eden's shoulder, the green glow of her energy shield tinging his bare skin. His mouth opened, revealing sharp, canine-like teeth, and despite his unshakable bravery, Henrik felt a chill run down his spine.

The attention turned back to the women, each standing perfectly still, pouring their energy through their elements, the outer edges of their light swirling slowly like mist and bleeding into the energy of the next.

"Priestess," they hissed as one, a hint of amusement coloring their tone. Massive jackals with dark fur snarled and snapped their jaws as they circled, their eye glowing an unnatural red as they materialized from the night as if from thin air.

"Set. Trickster. Deceiver. I call you by name, show yourself," Sol snapped, quickly losing patience with the theatrics, though even she felt a frisson of cold fear spread through her bones as a single bead of sweat dripped down her back.

Four out of the five figures disappeared, and only the one before her remained. He ran the tip of his tongue over one long canine as he watched her, then let his eyes travel over the protective ring.

"You should not be here, old woman," he growled, advancing a step.

Sol said nothing.

"In over your head," he crooned, holding her gaze as he moved from one side to the other in a demented little dance.

"Are your old bones creaking, Ma? I know they've found your replacement. A woman's servant, and of a lioness, nonetheless. I know she's come...I can smell her, Ma, I can sense her..." He gave no indication of why he had come in the first place.

"Foul usurper! I am the High Priestess of the creator of the Sky, the Earth, and the Underworld, you will show me the respect which I am due," the words were venom leaving her lips, and as he inched closer she gathered her energy, her annoyance, her rage, and channeled it into her hands. If this worked, it was only going to be the once.

One of his fingers reached out to brush the orange light emitting from the triangle formed by her touching fingers, intending to taunt her, to toy with her power.

Just a tiny....little....taste....

The current raced up his arm and into his body like an electric shock, and a bloodcurdling scream filled the air as he raised his head to the sky before he and his pack disappeared altogether.

"And I will thank you not to call me Ma," she muttered, dusting her hands off on the sides of her pants and giving the space he had been one last look before turning around.

All four other women did the same, Eden shuddering and physically shaking the energy off as she was joined by Shell, Sol, Raya, and Ciel.

Henrik snarled again, one arm spreading out defensively as he stepped in front of Jonas, the other hand reaching instinctively for the knife on his belt, which was currently tucked into his bag on the bus. Wearing weapons when meeting fans was generally discouraged in their line of work.

"Back off," he growled when Sol approached. His eyes shifted around as all the other men again re-positioned themselves defensively.

"Your Majesty, Its best if you come with us," she said, disregarding Henrik entirely and making him pull up short.

"Hey, wh--...lady, are you deaf? I said back off."

"No I am not, dear, I quite heard you the first time."

Henrik had a reputation among fans for being soft and quiet, but he was fiercely protective, and no one had ever just ignored him like this before. His mouth worked soundlessly for a moment as the sensation of being in immediate danger passed and Sol's eyes shifted back to the man behind him as he stepped out, batting the hands away that made for grabs at his shirt.

"I don't know what you're talking about, ma'am. I, ahem, I play a king on stage, but its just part of an act. We're simple musicians." He spread his hands humbly for effect. Sol actually rolled her eyes, and Shell snickered behind her hand, drawing John's gaze.

"Your majesty, I am doing you a courtesy by saying this a second time. Please come with us for the safety of yourself and your men." She stared him in the eyes, and was taken aback by what they held -- wisdom, pride, protectiveness, and pain. For someone so young, he carried more than she'd anticipated, more than his share it seemed.

"Tell me who that was," he countered, neither accepting nor rejecting her offer and nodding his head towards the empty air where the confrontation had just taken place.

"Yeah, and who the fuck you are," snapped Henrik, glaring back and forth between the gathered women.

"Peace, Henrik," John said, stepping in front of his friend and putting a hand against his chest before turning back to Shell. "I...correct me if I'm wrong, miss, but...you...you're Kemetics, yes?"

She tried but failed to stop her jaw dropping, and sputtered a few syllables before she was able to nod her head. There wasn't much of a point in denying it now that Set had made an appearance and confirmed that they were in danger.

"How do you know that?" Shell still stood flabbergasted in a way that made John's broad mouth twitch with a smile. He was good at his job, and always had been, but the satisfaction of having the element of surprise never ceased to please him.

"The elements," he held his hands in front of him in a water symbol, like hers, "the jackals. The..." he patted his hands against his thighs, "skirt, kilt, whatever you call it," referring to the white garment worn by the now-absent aggressor.

No one spoke.

"Erm. Right. My king," he turned back to Jonas, "its wise to do as they say," he dipped his lips lower to his master's ear, "I don't have much on them, but their order is ancient. Been around a hell of a lot longer than we have, and always lay pretty low."

"Finally, someone with some sense," Sol muttered, already turning away towards the car.

Eden gently placed a hand on Henrik's arm with a soft smile.

"I promise we're not going to hurt any of you or your king," she said quietly, feeling the way he flinched and removing her hand, "we're trying to protect you."

"I can protect my king just fine, and have been for a long time," he snapped.

After the five men ducked their heads to speak quietly together for a moment, Johannes stepped forward, always the mouthpiece.

"I think some explanations are in order."

"Yes, splendid, would you like some tea and perhaps a biscuit while we chat?" Sol snapped, her annoyance now thoroughly coloring her tone. "Perhaps Set will make a second appearance this night and I assure you he is far less diplomatic than I."

Johannes matched her scowl, hands clenched at his sides.

"We'll go," Jonas announced, raising an eyebrow at Johannes when he whirled around with a challenge on his lips. It quickly dissolved into a grumble and Jonas moved forward.

He'd dropped the guise of being just a touring musician, standing up straight, his posture perfect. He hardly needed the crown to identify him as what he was - regality emanated from him.

"May we have a moment to gather some personal things, Miss--..."

"Marisol. You may call me Mistress. And a moment is about all we have to spare, your majesty. Please hurry."

He nodded, and all five men disappeared quickly up onto the bus.

"How do you know they're not just going to drive off?" Eden asked quietly, moving to Ciel's side and resting her head against the taller woman's shoulder, who was staring up at the night sky.

"The drummer knows that's not wise, though I'll be damned if I know how," she mumbled, closing her eyes to listen to a phantom whisper from the stars.

True to his word, moments later, Jonas and his companions each appeared with a small duffel bag in their hands, tightly packed and identical to one another.

"My apologies, but I do require my men to bring their court uniforms for these kinds of things." He shifted his bag from one hand to the other.

"To be sure," Sol said, with an inclination of her head, the first sign of recognition she'd shown to his royal status aside from the title. She herself was strict when it came to formalities, and though this was hardly a planned diplomatic venture, a sense of propriety never hurt anyone.

"Please, follow me, sir."

She led the party away into the night, everyone silent and on high alert, the five men keeping pace, but their feet hardly making a sound as their boots moved over the gravel.

"How do you do that?" Eden asked curiously when she settled next to Henrik in the van.

"Do what," he asked, his eyes still shifting around, his body still taut with tension and his hands fidgeting with nervous energy. He didn't like anything about this - these strange women with their ability to weaponize energy, how they knew about his King being more than a fictional character cooked up to fool the audience, the equivalent of hiding in plain sight.

"When you move, you don't make any noise. I mean, Raya is the quietest person I know, being an air of course, but even she can't sneak like that. And you weren't even trying!" Eden, for all the prestige of her position, loved adventures and had a childlike sense of wonder about everything new.

"That'll be the wolf side, I imagine, pet," Ciel said over her shoulder from the front seat, and all five men went completely still, hardly even breathing, their bodies stiff.

"Oh this is absurd," Sol muttered, pulling onto the highway out of town, back towards the temple and glancing in the rear-view mirror at Jonas, flanked on one side by John and Johannes on the other. "Assume that we know almost everything about you, gentlemen. It will be a great time saver..."

Chapter Text

A half hour later, I was weaving and bobbing, jabbing at the boxing machine and ducking to avoid a swing.

My muscles burned and I was dripping sweat, but I let out a decisively victorious 'ha!' as I blocked a sneaky blow from the side.

I noticed Aurora waving her arms from on top of her mat throne, and realized she'd been trying to get my attention. I trotted off to the cabinet and let the final prolonged repetition at the end of "The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country" fade out as I slowly lowered the volume, imagining in my mind that they were taking their bows, wearing their whites, everyone cheering and happy-hungover from the bubbles.

"Whats up buttercup?" I grinned as she daintily hopped to the floor, smoothing her shirt and gathering her books up before pushing a flyaway strand of hair back off her forehead.

"They're back," she said over her shoulder as she headed for the door.

"Well wait for me!" I went to wipe my face with my shirt that was hanging over my shoulder, but then remembered the thick layer of makeup I had on. A shower would do the trick and save me the laundry headache.

I followed Ro up the stairs, rolling my shoulders when I hit the top and mentally applauding myself for deciding to workout instead of sulk for the rest of the night.

A sarcastic "and just where have you been all night, young lady?" was working its way from my brain to my lips for Sol when I rounded the corner and stopped cold.

Shell, Raya, Ciel, Eden, and Sol were there, locking doors and talking amongst themselves, and behind them stood Henrik, John, Tim, Johannes, and Jonas, glancing around warily at their surroundings.

I shrieked and dashed back around the corner as soon as they saw me and I realized who they were.

I collapsed backwards against the stone wall and clapped both hands over my mouth, hyperventilating and shaking my head back and forth violently as my eyes closed tight.

"Kamilah!!" Aurora gasped, following me and pulling me forward off the wall without a second thought. "Whats wrong?? What happened?"

"Its them, Ro, what are they doing here?!" I gasped in a shaking voice. "Am I dreaming? Pinch me. No, fuck that. Punch me."

"I--you want me to punch you?" She pulled herself back and looked at me with a worried expression.

Before I got a chance to tell her that she probably couldn't punch me if she wanted to, a stern, matronly face appeared in my periphery.

"You are behaving like a child, and I expect better from you."

To both of our surprise, I grabbed her hands and yanked her towards me in a completely undignified manner.

"What are they doing here, Ma, what the fuck is going on?!" I hissed, trying to keep my voice low.

"Kamilah, you forget yourself," she snatched her hands from my grasp, and I stepped back, lowering my head.

"Forgive me Mother," I said quietly, chastened by her reaction to my abrupt behavior.

"Aurora, please go and greet our guests and then confer with Eden to make any preparations she asks of you."

"Yes, Mistress," she whispered, barely a breath before she moved back out to the entry hall, and out of sight.

I tried to stay calm. "Mother. Please. Whats going on. Why could I not go earlier? Now they're here? My brain is about to explode. I--I don't understand!"

"I will tell you, my child, but not now. You're being terribly rude, please go and greet our guests. They will then need rooms prepared. I do not know how long they will be with us."

"Do they know what we are?" I asked, balling my hand against my sides to stop from grabbing her again when she turned away and smoothed her hands over her dark jeans.

Her voice was quiet steel. "Go."

I pulled my shirt on over my head and was pushing my arms through the sleeves when I rounded the corner again.

They were pretty much where they'd been before and five curious stares nailed my sneakered feet to the floor. They were all dressed casually, jeans or shorts and band tees to combat the heat.

"Uhm. H-hi there," I squeaked, my voice failing me as I looked at Tim and he looked back at me. His head cocked to the side a little and every fiber of my being yelled at me to tuck tail and run.

Eden sensed my extreme anxiety and was at my side in the next moment, one hand on the small of my back as she beckoned to Ro with the other.

"Ladies, may I present His Majesty, King Jonas, and his court. Your highness, this is Kamilah, and my ward, Aurora."

Ro blushed as she curtsied as well as she could in pants, and the pink in her cheeks threatened to take a turn for her hair color when Jonas took her hand and brushed his lips across her knuckles.

"Its a pleasure to meet you, Miss Aurora."

"The pleasure is mine, your majesty," she whispered in response and I wanted nothing more than to roll my eyes at her natural grace - could hardly get a peep out of her some days, and now here she was curtsying like she fucking met royalty all the time.

He glanced at me as I snorted a laugh at my own internal sass, and a slightly displeased look crossed his face.

"W--well I mean...what--you're not a real king, right? I mean..."

"KAMILAH." Ma's voice sounded over my shoulder, almost dismembering me with the sharpness of it.

"WHAT? Oh shit...are you a real king??" I ran a hand back over my hair as unabashed disbelief crossed my face. "Damn...I just thought it was a stage thing...fuck. Sorry...sir..."

My own cheeks were burning and I pressed a hand to my heart, praying to the entire pantheon that I wouldn't drop dead on the spot.

"I--I--..." I said flatly, losing the capability of speech altogether and giving up.

"Sire, I apologize, I am afraid that our Kamilah is quite fond of your music and is forgetting her manners in her excitement over your presence."

"It's no matter, Mistress."

I rounded on Ciel, "did you know that he's an actual king?" I asked, jabbing my thumb over my shoulder in Jonas' direction. "All this time and you didn't think to tell me?!"

Jonas exchanged a weary glance with Johannes and John before rubbing a hand over his forehead. It had been a long day of travel and soundcheck and then a sold-out show. A hot shower and a meal were starting to sound about equal weight to his kingdom.

"Kamilah, I believe our guests will be staying the night at the very least, please make ready the empty suite. Your Highness, if you would like some time to decompress, I am sure you're all quite weary..."

"We are, Mistress, thank you." He glanced back at me, staring at him and chewing the inside of my lip. The corner of one of his eyebrow lifted fractionally and sent my head spinning only a moment before my feet followed.

"I--I'm just gonna go...go make up those rooms now...ah...can I..." I looked at Ma and she threw me that exasperated glare that had seen quite a few miles back and forth between us. "Can I take your bags? Or...or a bag? I don't know if I can carry all five...uhm..."

"That won't be necessary," Henrik added firmly, putting a period on my ramblings.

I didn't wait for another look from Ma before I dashed out of the room and down the hall, my feet starting to run without my permission as I blindly raced for the wing that was suddenly going to house the men of my dreams.

There were twin suites at each end of the temple. One end housed Sol, Shell, Eden, Raya, and Ciel, and the other was typically vacant. They consisted of five rooms spread around one large central living area, comfortably furnished, but not lavishly so.

The inevitable chill of the stone floor was mitigated by the fireplace in the wintertime. It didn't need to be lit now, but I made sure there was wood and kindling anyways before fishing out five sets of sheets and five quilts.

My mind whirled as I made the first four. What were they doing here? What kind of mind-fuck were they playing at onstage?

I shook out the fitted sheet over the last bed, muttering to myself still.

"Gods, you're a fucking moron, Kamilah, honestly. The only thing you didn't do is fall on your face. 'Are you a real king'. They probably think you're a fucking lunatic."

I tucked one corner, then the other, making my way down to the end of the bed and snapping the flat sheet over top before propping my hands on my hips for a moment as I stared challengingly at the starched white cotton.

I tried not to wonder who was going to be sleeping in this one.

"Your hair is a different color," he said quietly and I whipped around with a gasp on my lips and a hand pressed over my heart.

Tim put one hand up as he leaned against the door frame, watching me, one ankle rested casually over the other as his arms crossed over his chest, and I wondered how long he'd been standing there listening to me berate myself.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."

I fought to keep my voice even as my brain took its leave for the moment. "I...its no problem, I just didn't hear you come in. Uhm. J-just let me put the quilt on and I'll get out of your hair."

Hair.

"Wait, I'm sorry what did you just say?" I asked, turning with the quilt in my hands as his previous comment tried to register but failed.

He pushed off the door frame and took a few steps into the room until he was standing close enough to me now that I could see the way his eyes twinkled a little when he smiled softly.

"I said your hair is a different color now than it was last time we met," Tim repeated, setting his duffel down near the bed as I stared.

"...Y-you remember me?"

"You were right up front on my side. Only your hair was that crazy teal color," he chuckled.

I slapped a hand against my forehead. "Ye-yeah I'm sure you meet lots of people with unnatural hair colors though. I--it probably wasn't me."

"Well you're not wrong there," he laughed, then turned serious, "but not so many that I ask to stay till after we're done meeting people..."

"I...oh..."

"Mmhm," he knew he'd caught me, "and I turned around and you were gone."

The flashback was so intense, and so sharp, I was surprised that the Tim standing right in front of me wasn't the one sipping a beer and putting an arm around me to take a picture.

"That was amazing!" I managed not to stutter and was intensely thankful. "I've never felt energy like that! Gods I don't think I'm ever gonna sleep again..."
Tim chuckled and smiled at my lingering excitement, glad that it was genuine.
"You've never seen us play before?"
"No, this was my first time. Man, what a fucking rush! C-can I...oh my gods is it super weird if I ask to take a picture with you?"
My cheeks started to burn, and one of his eyebrows lifted a little as he smiled.
"What, you mean super weird like literally every other person here asking the same thing?" he snickered, bending to set his beer on the sidewalk and wrapping an arm around my waist as I held my phone up and smiled.
The warmth from his hand and the sensation of his touch made me shiver a little and I internally groaned when it became clear that he felt it, giving my waist a little squeeze before letting go.
I looked down at my shoes and fussed with the hem of my shirt.
"I--thanks..." I expected him to leave, to move on to the next eager fan awaiting his attention, and he did, but not before moving a step closer to me after stooping to pick up his cup again.
"Hey...stick around for a minute, yeah?"
Pure, unadulterated fire shot up my spine, so hot that I was worried steam would come out of my ears.
He gave me one last lingering look...

"Look, I should really finish this up and then get back to Ma or she'll have my ass."

"...who is Ma?"

"What? Oh. Fuck, don't call her that, she hates it. Her name is Marisol, but everyone calls her Sol. Here she's Mistress or Mother. Probably not Mother to you though, that would be weird...uhm..."

He hummed, still watching me, and I finally bucked up my courage. He was only a human after all.

"I. Ahem. I don't know why you're here. But. I'm sorry for the way I behaved...out there," I gestured towards the hall that eventually led back to the entryway, "I didn't realize any of this Avatar Country stuff was...real..."

I shuffled my feet, staring at my sneakers, desperately wishing now that I'd foregone the workout and kept my sexy concert outfit on.

But how awkward would that be, them showing up to be greeted by me wearing cutoffs and their faces on my tits and looking surprised as hell?

"Gods," I muttered, pinching the bridge of my nose and looking up when he laughed.

My entire world went up in flames when he smiled at me, and I quickly turned away from him and spent an inordinate amount of time fussing over the way the quilt settled on the bed.

When there was nothing left to do, I turned back to him, still half-watching me as he searched in his bag for something.

"Well, I uhm. I'll leave you to it..."

He nodded silently.

"Oh. And I uhh. I'm sorry again. I was supposed to come to your show tonight but I...I got caught up in something here."

Tim crossed slowly towards me as voices sounded in the hall.

"Would you have stayed this time, I wonder," he asked quietly, brushing the backs of his fingers down my cheek and letting his hand fall back to his side just as the other four men entered the central room of the suite, following Ro.

My skin burned, like his touch was pure capsaicin, and my breaths were shallow and quick as we locked eyes.

"Yes," I whispered, before turning and almost colliding with Ro, catching her by the shoulders and moving around her, murmuring an 'excuse me' to everyone else.

I bolted for my room, my hand shaking violently as I unlocked my door and sank down against the wood on the other side.

"What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck," I carded my fingers through my hair, tearing it out of my ponytail and staring at a spot on my floor.

"This can't be happening. Its just a dream. A weird," I got to my feet and kicked off one shoe, "fucked up," the other joined it in the corner, "dream."

I stared at my reflection, my hair wild and clothes still damp with sweat.

"Super hot. Excellent." I gave my nipple a tentative pinch to see if it would wake me up. Nothing happened except pain and I heaved a sigh.

I threw my clothes into the laundry basket with a little more force than they deserved, and turned on the hot water in my shower.

I had a lot of information to digest.

Avatar Country isn't just a myth cooked up among five brilliant minds. Jonas is actually the king. Had Eden introduced the others as his court? She had. So everyone has some kind of role. Henrik is more of a dick in person than I remember, but maybe I shouldn't take that too personally...

I couldn't help but think of that half-erotic encounter with Tim that had just taken place as I rubbed a fragrant bar of soap into an abrasive washcloth and pressed it to my skin.

Would you have stayed this time, I wonder...

"You bet your bottom fucking dollar I would have," I said out loud to no one in particular.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I got a response.

"What on earth has gotten into you, child? Honestly, they're good-looking men, but men none the less. I expect better behavior from you after all these years."

I wrenched open the shower curtain a foot to reveal Sol standing with her hands on her hips, a frown pulling at the corners of her mouth.

"A knock next time?!?!"

"This is my temple. I don't have to knock."

I turned back with an exasperated noise and shut off the water before whipping open the shower curtain again. She tossed me a towel and I wrapped it around my body before stepping down out of the tub and running my fingers through my hair. I wiped the condensation from the mirror and took a deep breath as she moved behind me, settling her hands on my shoulders and looking deeply into my reflection.

"I don't understand whats going on," I whispered, feeling comforted by her touch and subconsciously reaching one of my hands up to touch hers, "I feel like I'm in one of those dreams that starts off really really well but then you end up running from an ax murderer or something..."

Sol looked at me for another moment before fondly tugging on a lock of my hair.

"I do very much like the blue. It suits you. Get dressed, and I'll explain," she sighed deeply and nudged me towards the door of my bedroom.

I kept the towel wrapped around me as I dug in my dresser for clothes.

"No, no not those," she corrected when I pulled out a pair of pajama pants, "please wear your temple uniform."

"Wh-to bed?" An eye roll was all I got as an answer, and I went to my closet to find my uniform.

We almost never wore them except when we greeted newcomers and visiting priests or priestesses from other cults. A part of me wished we wore them more often, because I looked damn good in mine - a long dress made of a slightly rough-looking cream-colored linen that swept the floor at the back and rose a little in the front. A delicately-made arm band of gold circled around my bicep to complete the look and signified to which temple I belonged and which element I represented. The Heads demanded rigorous physical training as part of our curriculum so there wasn't a girl who passed through the doors who didn't shine in her uniform after a few months. When we moved past our Calling, we received a gold necklace bearing a cartouche with our deity's name in hieroglyphs.

I hadn't had my Calling yet though, so my neck remained bare. It was just as well - our uniforms never revealed cleavage, but the two separate folds of the fabric accentuated each breast before dropping down to hug the narrow point of my waist, then flowing down my hips. A slit up one side provided mobility. All in all, the design was brilliant, harking back to the dress of the original people who served our pantheon.

I pulled the hanger down and slid the straps off the plastic.

"The king requires his men to wear their court attire, so we shall show up with nothing less."

"What are we having a ball or something?"

She snapped at me, pinching the bridge of her nose after. "Kamilah, you are my ward, and you know I care for you like I would my own child if I had been blessed with one. But it is time to step up. Your sarcasm as a defense is tiresome, and I will not be here forever to instruct you how to behave..."

I cocked my head to the side as a little frown marred my features.

"Ma whats happening? What's got you so on edge?" I went to her and didn't ask permission before I placed my hands on her shoulders, then pulled her into a tight hug. She stiffened at first, but after a moment relaxed into my embrace and dared to wrap her arms back around my waist.

"My darling, you're going to be the death of me some day, I swear to the gods. Come, come, into your dress, its terribly rude to keep a king waiting."

I didn't move and she sighed at me. "Please tell me whats going on. I can help...oh my gods, did you send food to them? They probably haven't eaten since sound check!"

"Of course I sent food to them, this is not my first time hosting, Kamilah...as for the help," she sighed, "you will have to, my child...Set came tonight. He is after these men but I don't know why. And I--...my Master is the Creator, you know this. But gods Kamilah, the fear I felt in his presence...its been an age since I experienced something so vile and so strong..."

"Woah...Set?!" I realized now why she had been so stern about not allowing me to go. She knew he would make a grab for them. But what could he possibly want with them?

"And you have no idea why he wants them?"

She shook her head silently.

I slipped the linen straps over my shoulders, securing the little gold cylinders around them, and turned to face the mirror as Ma started to weave a long fishtail braid into my blue tresses after dragging a comb through them and rubbing fragrant toner in.

"I'm sorry, Mistress," I said quietly, my heart feeling chastened by her confession of fear, "I'm here. I apologize for the childish way that I've acted tonight. Anything you need, anything that I can do to help...I'll do it."

"I know that you will, and I accept your apology. You can begin by properly welcoming the King to our Temple. "

I made my face back up as her deft fingers worked, and when we were done I met her gaze once more in the mirror.

"Oh my dear. You are lovely. Here." She fished in my jewelry box and found a pair of simple golden studs. I smiled a little at her and nodded my head in thanks as I pushed the posts through each ear.

"Ahem, I also know that your...fondness...for these men may have caused some anxiety at their sudden appearance in our home, and I apologize for not telling you that they were being targeted." She smiled softly at me, more a crinkle at the corner of her eyes than anything, "though if you had been there I hardly think you would have found my reaction to their music...appropriate."

"Why, did you mosh?" I giggled, and she yanked hard on my braid, making me yelp, but unable to wipe the smile from my face.

"If that's what you call that completely undignified behavior that those young people were engaging in, then no I did not mosh...knocking each other about...gods. Foolishness if you ask this old woman. Bones asking to be broken, fights asking to be started."

"Oh, come on, you didn't like anything about their show at all?!"

She considered it for a moment. In truth, she'd spent most of the evening on high alert, watching everyone's body language, waiting for Set to move his piece on the board. There was one thing though...

"Hmph. Well, they way they introduced the King was rather...impressive."

I snorted a laugh that turned into a hopeless giggle. "Did he come up behind the drums in the chair?! Its hot, right? Did they do Legend of the King after that? Were there bubbles at the end? Isn't Henrik kind of dreamy? Gods, somehow knowing Jonas is actually a king is..." I shivered hard and Sol rolled her eyes.

"Kamilah, but he is a king. And you must remember this. He isn't simply the musician you adore, he is the crowned head of state of a sovereign nation, who is here with his court. They demand respect, as we would demand it as well if we were visitors in their land."

"Of course," I nodded, trying to make my brain comprehend it.

"And I can hardly imagine why you would fantasize about the bass player when the mustachioed one seemed...very intent upon you."

I blushed hard and fast, looking away from her intense gaze and smoothing my hands over the material of my dress.

"Mmhm, yes..." I muttered, "well I'm sure we'll all get along just fine."

"You bet your bottom fucking dollar," she grinned in the mirror, leaning down next to my face before patting my ass in the direction of the door, and following me out.

I turned back to her for one moment. "Henrik with the curls plays bass. John with the crazy intense stare plays drums. Johannes sings, and he's the wicked tall one. Tim with the mustache plays guitar. And Jonas plays guitar too, but you obviously remember him. Do you remember everyone's names?"

She narrowed her eyes a little at me, "I'm sure you'll be available if I need a refresher."

Chapter Text

I took a deep steadying breath and closed my eyes, listening to the murmurs of male voices, a sound I was so unaccustomed to in these halls. Ma gave my hand a squeeze before entering without me.

You are the daughter of the Neteru. Hand-chosen by the warrior goddess Sekhmet -- Protector of the Pharaohs, Slayer of the Ungrateful. Healer. Provider. Don't be phased by mere men. Remember who you are.

I opened my eyes and lifted my chin, vowing to behave myself and make all five Heads proud of the woman the had trained me to become.

I entered the hall and saw Aurora standing with the king, an apple-blossom blush coloring her fair cheeks as he spoke lowly to her with a smile before standing up straight to regard me. She disappeared off to Eden's side. I took a moment to observe him too, standing in his robes with his crown sitting high on his brow. For a moment, I wondered if he took it with him in his duffel bag everywhere, but I banished the thought.

In truth, Jonas was magnificent. He was regality itself, with his dreads spilling down over his broad squared shoulders, and his eyes meeting mine intently, taking a moment to drink in the image of me standing proudly in my own uniform.

Henrik, John, Johannes, and Tim were all there too, donning their court regalia, hair combed and neatly pulled back off their faces, all looking impossibly handsome, standing at attention. What they wore onstage seemed to be a simpler version of the real thing, and everyone was shaved, clean-cut and washed. Tim clasped his hands in front of his hips, as the others did, but only he did it to stop them from shaking as he stared at me and his breath caught a little.

I disregarded them as I crossed the room and dropped to one knee before Jonas in a sign of respect, taking the hand that was automatically offered and pressing my forehead lightly to the backs of his fingers for a moment, trying to stop the thrill that shot up my spine at the sensation of his touch.

"Your majesty. Please forgive the rudeness of my behavior earlier. It was a poor welcome to our Temple." To my utter surprise, that same hand lightly touched my hair before disappearing back to his side, a whisper of a caress that was gone as soon as it had come. A string of very loud internal curses bounced around my head as I realized the slit in my dress that allowed me to kneel in the first place also plainly revealed the tattoo on my thigh.

"Rise, please, Kamilah," he replied, his voice low but colored with amusement. I did so, daring to meet his gaze for only a moment before looking respectfully back down. "I doubt any of us could hold such a thing against you. I am sure finding out myths are reality is...jarring."

I looked up again and a hint of a smile curved his pierced lip.

"They are. Thank you, sir," I replied, chancing a little smile of my own and feeling already a sense of loyalty to him.

"And while I'm sure this is entirely unnecessary, I am a stickler for form. So may I please present my friends, trusted companions, and brothers."

Jonas held out a hand to the men by his side, walking me down the line. He introduced me one at a time to Johannes, John, Henrik and Tim. Each lightly took my hand and bowed their head a little over it in formal greeting. Tim was last and looked back and forth between my eyes for a moment before following suit. His cheeks were shaved, leaving only his mustache, which was perfectly combed and waxed at the tips. The gold earrings in his ears jangled a little as he bent his head, actually touching my fingers to his forehead the same way I had with the king's.

"Its lovely to meet you all," I curtsied and mentally high-fived myself for the grace of the damn thing, "welcome to our Temple. It is simple, but it is our home, and for as long as you stay, please feel that it is yours as well."

I backed away to take my place at Sol's side, and she leaned down to murmur in my ear, "very well done. A proper introduction, my dear."

I beamed at her. Maybe this manners thing wasn't bullshit afterall.

She stepped forward to make the introductions on our part.

"Your majesty," she began each statement.

"May I present Cerith, High Priestess of Khnum, our God of the Nile and the life-giving floodwaters."

"I go by Shell," she whispered with a tiny grin as she knelt briefly before Jonas, who winked good-naturedly at her as he brought her to her feet before she went through the same formal handshake with everyone else as I had.

"Ciel, High Priestess of Nut, our Goddess of the aether and the sky."

"Raya, High Priestess of Shu, our God of the air."

"Eden, High Priestess of Geb, our God of the land." As she moved down the line, sweeping in her simple but beautiful hunter-green linen dress, designed just like mine, Henrik caught her hand a little tighter, meeting her gaze rather than bowing his head over her hand like everyone else.

"Mistress, I was rude to you earlier. It was a lack of understanding on my part, and I apologize."

Eden, true to form, pressed a quick hand to his cheek like they had known each other forever. "No worries, doll," she chimed with a charming little grin.

"And I am Marisol," Sol said, with a deep curtsy to the king, "High Priestess of Ra and Head of this Temple. Sirs, you are most welcome."

"We thank you for the hospitality, Mistress Sol, and the protection. Please accept my assurance that we will be no burden, and will do anything required of us during our stay."

"Of course, sire. May I suggest that we relocate to the sitting room?" Her smile at him was polite, but knowing. She'd been accommodating people like him in this temple since before he was born, and knew how tired he must be.

"I can hardly say no," he smiled graciously, "and please, call me Jonas. There is no need for formalities now if you don't wish to maintain them."

"Very well, Jonas," she replied, leading our whole group towards the low-lit sitting room.

I shook my head a little and rolled my shoulders, feeling a sudden and immense amount of sympathy for these men, who had to do this every time a foreign faction visited or vice verse.

Tim caught up with me as we all moved into the common room to sit more comfortably and talk. He didn't say anything, but fell into step beside me. I spoke first, figuring someone had to.

"Gods, I don't know how you guys do that all the time. That was exhausting."

He snickered a little and shrugged. "You get used to it after a while. I could do welcoming ceremonies in my sleep at this point. I think I actually may have before. Henrik did it blackout drunk once," he chuckled at the memory and I giggled at the mental image.

"Well ours are usually a little less formal, and Ma knows when you've had too much to drink, so I'd never get away with that...good practice though," I smiled politely and moved to break away and find drinks for everyone, speaking of getting drunk.

A hand on my own stopped me as he squeezed mine for only half a second to get my attention once more. It jarred me like an electrical shock and I sucked in a breath that would have been a gasp if it was any sharper.

"Kamilah, you uhm. You look really nice in that dress," he mumbled, looking away after a moment and my eyes went wide as I spoke a quick thank you, wanting to die at the sound of my name leaving his lips.

Was he blushing?

I scurried off and leaned against the cool wall of the walk-in pantry after flipping on the light. I thanked all my stars that he hadn't said anything about the tattoo. If we had to spend the next unknown number of days under the same roof, at least he would spare me the embarrassment.

I cracked my neck and rolled my shoulders with a groan. Formality was exhausting and I'd worked out extra hard tonight. But I'd also made a promise to myself and to Ma.

"Don't fuck this up, please Kamilah," I murmured to myself, my eyes closing as I willed a second wind to come. I tuned out the sounds for a second, just checking in with myself, running through a grounding mental checklist where I registered awareness in each of my body parts and gave it a little shake as I checked it off.

Right Leg. Check.
Left Leg. Check.
Right Arm. Check.
Le--

"We're just people, you know, we don't need to be waited on hand and foot," Johannes mumbled, moving past me and reaching for glasses.

"I--I, ahem. Please, but you're a guest, I can see to that," I motioned to the glassware he was pulling from the cabinet as I came to.

"Nah, its okay, saves you the trip up the stepstool," he joked, reaching up again for another round and depositing them carefully on the counter. "You missed your left arm," he said over his shoulder as he reached up for the last two glasses to make 12.

I sniffed and rolled my left wrist before opening and closing my left hand, making sure that it got its attention.

"How did you know that? Don't tell me, you guys have weird mind reading powers or something, right?"

He barked a laugh and turned to grin at me. "Hardly. You were checking in with your limbs. Connecting with yourself. I do it all the time before we go onstage. It helps with the...flailing," he gave a little shrug.

I tried hard not to laugh, but couldn't help it, grinning back at him when he smiled at me and leaned back against the counter.

"I would literally dislocate every bone in my body if I tried to move like that."

"Nahh, you're fucking sore the first couple times, but you get used to it. The first night of a new tour is always the worst. Everyone neck hurts and my entire body hurts, and we all turn into grumpy assholes for 24 hours."

"Well you have a lot more limb to check in with than I do, so maybe that's the secret," I laughed, and he chuckled with me.

"See? Do you believe now that we're just regular old people?"

"Look that whole myth becoming reality thing is super jarring, I'm sorry!"

Johannes snorted, looking inquiringly at our stash of bottles and picking one up to read the label as he replied. "Hey, I don't blame you. But don't think we didn't have a good long laugh at 'oh shit, are you a real king?' behind closed doors." He shook with laughter at the memory of surprise on my face.

"Ugh. I'm sure I'll never live that down with Ma, so I'm glad someone got a kick out of it...I...ahem...the only problem is that Set doesn't go after," I put my fingers up with quotation marks, "regular old people," I reminded, and my hand shot out to catch the bottle that slipped from his own suddenly.

"Fuck, sorry!" He almost bounced off the counter.

"Its okay, nothing broken!" His face was paler than usual when I glanced back up at him, and I had a brief thought that if he lost any more color he was going to be see-through.

Without even thinking about it, I touched his arm, slightly surprised by how soft the material of his uniform was. Two wide blue eyes stared down at me, framed by long black hair that he'd shaken out of its binding now that the official part of the evening was over.

"Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you...I..." He looked down at me as he listened with a worried expression and I heaved a sigh and dared to reach out and touch his hand, pressing one of his between my own. His long fingers were cool to the touch, but they pressed fractionally harder into my own hands, the only physical manifestation of his fear he would allow. "Johannes, you are all in the safest possible place you can be right now. We...we look simple, and it looks like you can waltz right in the front door, but I promise you that you can't. No one here is going to let anything bad happen to you guys...Sol is the most powerful woman I've ever met. A-and Ciel can do literal magic! It's gonna be okay..."

I was surprised to hear myself reassuring him like that, when I really didn't know enough about the situation to feel any kind of confidence, myself. I'd read about Set, and knew that if he was after someone, it was for something major. He didn't fuss with trivial little offenses, if I was to believe the stories.

Regardless, there was bad shit headed our way.

Henrik cleared his throat from the doorway and cocked a halfway-unimpressed eyebrow at me.

"Everything okay in here?"

I dropped Johannes' hand from between mine. "We're fine, thank you," I said curtly, "can I get you something to drink?"

"Just water will be fine, thank you," he responded, and after a moment's lingering glance that I felt like communicated something I couldn't quite grasp, Johannes excused himself and moved back out to the seating area with everyone else.

Henrik watched me pouring wine and mixing cocktails, mentally running through my checklist of what each Head preferred. Despite my peptalk, I started to feel a creeping sense of annoyance at the eyes boring holes in my back, and I finally turned when they refused to blink.

"Okay, is there a problem? Are you making sure I'm not poisoning your king?" I snapped.

He glared right back, arms folded over his chest. "Yes."

"Yes to which," I huffed, running the tap and purposefully giving him a glass of warm water.

I handed it to him without looking and then sighed after a moment, shaking my head and closing my eyes.

"Shit, I'm sorry, don't drink that," I held my hand out as the glass froze halfway to his lips. "I promise I'm not this much of an asshole normally, this is just stressing me the hell out. Please let me at least give you cold water if you don't want something stronger."

Henrik glanced down at his glass and then back at my outstretched hand. He moved next to me and poured the water in the sink, flipping the tap to cold and filling it back up himself. He lifted it to his lips but set it back down when he started laughing, surprising the hell out of me.

"Wh-whats so funny?"

"Nothing, gods, nothing, its just that that was literally the most passive aggressive thing I've ever experienced," he laughed harder, wiping a tear away from the corner of his eye as he leaned back into the counter top still shaking.

"Ugh, gods, I'm sorry," I muttered into my hands, shaking my head back and forth as they covered my face, which only made him laugh harder. "I've managed to make an utter ass of myself so far."

"Oh, no I'm sorry, fuck," he chuckled, the fit of laughter finally subsiding, "I should be the one apologizing." Henrik went serious, chewing his lip for a moment before speaking again, "I-ahem, look, I-I've always guarded him. Since we were kids getting into stupid fights, I've always been the one protecting his back...its just been what I've always done, miss, I hardly know what else to do offstage. And that...that thing earlier...it was terrifying, and massive, and...and it was more than I could handle on my own, and I've never experienced that before, so...I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm sorry for being a stiff jerk from the second we got here. I think we're all a little stressed, and the protection offered by you and your Mistresses will not be met with passivity should they follow us here. We're good fighters, strong individually and never lost a fight altogether. We can help..."

"Henrik, please call me Kamilah. I've not had my Calling, so I'm not a full-fledged priestess yet," I breathed a sigh, "Set is fierce and a serious force to be reckoned with. I can't imagine why he's after you guys...but regardless. He is part of my--our world, and you all are now in it, sorry for the harsh welcome, don't bump your head on the way in," I shrugged with a little smile. "And as for the stiff jerk thing...well honestly I'm just glad you're not a total dick. We met once before after a show, and you were so nice," it was my turn to start laughing, trying to get my words out at the same time, as I pulled my braid over one shoulder, "and I was being a dick to you because I was so mad that you were secretly this asshole masquerading as this soft squishy nice guy."

"Hey, I am not squishy."

We both snorted a laugh at that, and I felt him physically relax to the point that I wanted to just hug him tight.

"Do you trust me not to poison the king's drink now?" I asked with a grin.

"Doesn't mean I won't still watch," he countered with a chuckle.

"Fine! Have it your way, but I promise I don't have any devious intentions. I have his face on a tshirt, how could I?" I giggled, falling a little in love with the smirk I got in response. "Can I get you anything stronger to drink? And do you know what your king prefers?"

"Honestly, I doubt anyone would say no to just a whisky, neat. I'll stick with warm water, thanks."

I sputtered a laugh, and gathered drinks on trays for everyone after pouring four tumblers, two fingers of whisky in each.

"No, I can get this, its fine," I shooed him away from taking the second tray, and he rolled his eyes and picked it up anyways.

The guests all got their drinks first, and I distributed a glass to each man, trying to ignore the way Tim's fingers brushed over mine when he accepted his with a thanks and caught my gaze.

Each head got their respective cocktail, and I winked at Ro as I pressed a glass of hard cider into her hand. The only thing I knew about her family were that they owned an orchard and she loved the spiced cider her mother would make when she was little. She beamed happily at me and took a sip, humming with delight. I finally settled in the last empty chair between Sol and Johannes with a glass of wine, and crossed my legs, waiting for Sol to speak.

Chapter Text

Sol regarded Jonas with a careful eye, noting every movement, every word he murmured to Henrik, who took his place at the King's right hand.

I tipped my glass towards Johannes, who politely repeated the motion back towards me before we each took a sip and he looked down into his glass comically then winked at me. I loved the infectious way his smile lit up his face.

"Your Highness, I know that you've all had quite a long day as is, and I don't wish to keep you up longer than necessary, so I suppose we should keep this as direct as possible..."

A massive crash of thunder rocked the temple as she finished her thought. Ro's hand shot out to grab the closest thing, which happened to be Jonas. Her right hand gripped his left for a moment as she closed her eyes tight, trying not to shake. When she opened them, taking short shallow breaths, she felt the calloused fingertips brushing her own and let out a tiny squeak, relinquishing his hand like it was a viper.

"I'm so sorry, sir!" She exclaimed, turning beet red on the spot, "I--it was an accident..."

Jonas only chuckled and looked over at her inquisitively, studying the pale fingers that held a death grip on her sweating glass.

"Even kings get scared of the thunder sometimes, Aurora..." he said quietly, leaving his hand within her reach, an offer for something to latch onto that was warm and safe, even as it was unknown.

"Thank you," she whispered, peaking up at him through her eyelashes and stirring something in him that he'd thought would be cold and dead for the rest of time.

 

"I'm still puzzled by you," Raya murmured, running one long black-lacquered nail over her lips before gesturing to John, who had been sitting quietly throughout most of the conversation, "whats your role in all this? How did you know about us?"

"Wh--isn't it obvious?" I asked, looking over at her and receiving a questioning glance. "My apologies, Mistress, that was rude of me," I ducked my face back into my glass.

"No, please, Kamilah, I am curious to hear your logic. You are, after all, far more familiar with these men than myself..."

I looked up at her and received a reassuring smile.

"Okay well..." I stood, trusting my instincts and the time I'd spent studying these men.

When I walked behind his chair I felt Henrik go tense again, and chanced a hand on his shoulder to put him at ease. "No poison," I promised, and felt him relax a little as he looked back at me when I moved away.

"Its all about the right hand and the left hand, making everyone watch one, while the other still moves," I said, touching Jonas lightly on the shoulder.

"The focal point at the center..."

He looked over and up at me, nodding once. "I am."

I moved over to Johannes. "The one who draws attention to the focal point," and he nodded.

"I--I have to ask. Is the clown thing real?"

"No, no, that's just onstage, we fired the Jester last year," he teased with a little chuckle, doing it again when he saw my shoulders sag with relief. "I cover all speeches on behalf of the King when he wishes not to do the speaking himself...which is fucking often, I might add," he sassed at Jonas. "I'm a combination of propagandist-minstrel-royal-ass-kisser," he chortled, wagging his tongue at me in a way that made me want to clutch my sides laughing.

"Would you rather be out of a job or three, my friend?" Jonas snarked back, throwing him the finger, then turning, "oh, my apologies, ladies," he immediately corrected, inclining his head towards the seated women to his left.

"Ah," Eden scoffed, waving a dismissive hand, "Sol's been known to make a sailor or two blush in her time."

"Eden!" the older woman snapped, but couldn't stop the smirk that crossed her lips as she reclined a little further in her chair, relishing the effects of her cocktail and glad everyone was beginning to relax. Someone was going to have to spill the beans sooner or later as to who had done the thing that had incurred the wrath of such a mighty god.

Still, John looked inquiringly at me, waiting and I grinned, holding up my pointer finger. "I'm getting to you, I promise."

"Ah, yes, Kamilah, carry on," Ciel encouraged. She enjoyed watching the fruits of my devotion.

Another crack of thunder saw Ro's hand sneaking over to rest next to the king's, just her little finger touching his, and he smiled softly sideways at her, crossing his over hers in a minute protective gesture. He was bigger than she was, handsome and sun-bronzed, magnificent in his own royal regalia, but somehow her quiet beauty seemed to level with him. The soft to his sharp, the hushed to his bold.

I crossed to Henrik next, putting my hand back on his shoulder and letting it rest there, giving him a reassuring squeeze, and fighting my impulse to touch his hair.

"Protector of the focal point."

He nodded proudly, "I am."

I moved over behind John but didn't touch him. His body radiated tension and I was sure all of his senses were hyper aware, though the only motion he made was to cross his legs and move the elevated foot in a slow, rhythmic circle, clockwise then counterclockwise.

"And while everyone is paying attention to the focal point...someone has to be watching what they're all doing. The left hand. And you're not security, because that's Henrik. So that would make you...some kind of Intelligence, right? Spymaster? Thank kind of thing?"

Jonas threw his head back and laughed loudly, the mirth on his face accentuating the smile lines at the corners of his eyes. "My friend, you've been outed!" He laughed, as John's mouth worked silently and he launched out his seat, rounding on me.

"You can't possibly know that!" He challenged, and I felt a little spark of fear under the intensity of his stare, "how do you know that?!"

"Because you're always fucking watching, John," I countered, momentarily forgetting that he was a courtier and I was a Kemetic and raising my voice, "every time I've ever seen video footage of you or in the like two interviews you've given, you're constantly taking in and processing information. You do silly things like stare straight at the camera and not blink to cover it up, but your mind is always working..."

Johannes unhelpfully butted in with, "I've tried to get him to do more, believe me" with a mock-forlorn shrug.

John only stared down at me and I defiantly stared back

"Tell me I'm wrong," I challenged, but he didn't. He couldn't.

"Please, Mr. Alfredsson, we're not in the business of selling secrets here," Sol stepped in verbally, drawing his attention away from me as he slumped back down in his chair, and she waved her hand, "I assure you none of this information needs to leave these walls. But I will need to know what you and your agents have regarding our community."

Johannes nudged me, and I leaned down so I could hear him speaking, the grin on his lips mischievous. "Did you watch that one where he pretends not to speak English?"  I nodded, stifling my laugh at the thought of John purposefully stumbling over the introduction, repeating slowly after Johannes and being convincing as hell.

"There was this guy lurking around the festival that was kind of giving us all the creeps, and there was just something not right about him, so John said I needed to do the interview solo so he could focus on him, but the people doing the interview got all pouty and disappointed, so --" he gestured like the rest of the story told itself and I stood, one hand on my hip.

"Huh...so you just sat there and pretended not to understand what was going on? Seriously?"

John rolled his eyes. "Look, he was off, okay? Lurking around and just being sketchy..."

"Oh, John, relax," the King butted in, "you can hardly expect to keep your secrets when these ladies so kindly stepped in on our behalf earlier and gave up theirs..."

"Yes, we do need to discuss that, sir," Ciel said with a smoky voice before turning back to John, smirking in a way that make Ro and I exchange a nonplussed glance, "but you should tell your man in the crowd to be a little more...inconspicuous. He gets handsy trying to casually feel for weapons."

John paled and pinched the bridge of his nose, muttering to himself before apologizing to her.

"Wait, what about me?" the last of them asked, and I turned to look at Tim, who had one leg comfortably crossed over the other, and was relaxed into the deep back of his chair. "Aren't you going to tell me what I do?"

I thought about it for a moment, chewing at my lip as we stared at each other. He smirked at me under his waxed mustache and one finger slowly started tracing a distracting little pattern around the rim of his whisky glass. I couldn't help but start to feel the same pattern on my skin, tracing lower and lower... Eden and Ciel exchanged a knowing glance as I blinked hard, trying to remember what I was about to say.

"S-someone has to tell the King what to do with all that information, so...what, counselor? Advisor? Planner?"

I made a dramatic half-bow as Johannes cracked up and clapped his hands. "Five for five! Very good! Gods, you got all that just from watching?" He turned in his chair, folding one long leg underneath him as he shifted to look at me, fascinated by my watchfulness. He'd taken me for just a fan at first, but now it seemed that I was something else entirely.

I shrugged a little, "I...yeah...I mean I'm not a stalker or anything, so please don't get the wrong idea..."

"Perhaps I should hire you, my dear," Jonas laughed, smiling at me in a way that made my insides turn to jelly.

I turned back to Sol, who was smiling faintly at me as I came around to the front of my chair. "Sorry, Ma," I apologized with a little shrug of my shoulders and she motioned me to take a seat.

"Now that that's cleared up," she smiled at John, and I started to think that the look suited her. She wasn't dour, perse, but she was stern and strict most of the time, with an extremely low tolerance for our shit, and that didn't often leave her with a smiling face, "your highness, I'm sure you have questions, as we do."

Jonas thought for a moment as his eyes passed over each of his men, his hand stroking his beard thoughtfully after he tipped the last of his drink back.

"What can you tell me about the man who came tonight?" He asked, figuring that the basics needed to be in place before a defensive plan of action could be forged.

Sol motioned to Ciel and Eden to explain.

"His name is Set," Ciel began, "and he is no man..."

Ro paled at the mention of his name, knowing far more about him than I did, I was sure. Her hand gripped her thigh hard, bunching the material of her dress and drawing Jonas' attention for just a moment as he felt her temperament shift.

"He's a god. Like the ones we serve, but...bad. Evil," Eden elaborated. "My lord Geb, and Ciel's goddess, Nut, were siblings, then spouses at the beginning of the world--"

Johannes looked sideways at me and raised two eyebrows.

"It happens more often than you'd think," I murmured, "makes the pantheon wicked confusing. Not so much a family tree as a family wreath," I winked, relaxing him a little as he snorted a laugh at my joke.

"--and Set was one of their children, along with Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys."

"Also all married to each other," I whispered to Johannes, who made an exaggerated motion like he was going to faint and I giggled quietly. Jonas smiled wryly at me, catching me explaining to Johannes the close family bonds, and chuckled when I smiled back at him.

"I see," he said, turning back to Eden, having missed none of what she said. "And no one here serves him?"

"Oh, fuck that," Shell piped up, drawing a stern glare from Sol. "When she says evil, she means it. Killed his own brother for the throne and fought like hell to kill the rightful heir too..."

"That would be his son then, I presume," Jonas said quietly, receiving a nod.

The story struck a particular chord with him, and he stared off at the far wall, remembering the jealousy of his own brother, who thought their father was nothing but an old fool, passing the idiocy on to his hier. Henrik watched his King, and knew what he was remembering. He'd been the one there after-all when it came to physical blows, brother fighting brother. Jonas was only just old enough to take the throne himself when the aged king died, and his brother--

"Ahem. Sir, is everything quite alright?" Sol asked after a moment, watching clouds pass over the King's face that only could come from memories.

"Hmm? Oh, yes, forgive me, Sol. Mistress Shell, I'm afraid my weariness is catching up with me. Please go on."

Shell glanced at Sol then inclined her head towards the king. "No one here serves him. No one here, unless I'm mistaken," she looked around tentatively at the other Heads, "even knows who his High Priest or Priestess is now. They don't ever commune with us, so..." she shrugged.

"Well, then how did you know he was coming tonight?" asked Henrik, crossing one leg over the other and rubbing a finger absentmindedly over his lips.

"That would be my doing," Ciel piped up again. "My Goddess, Nut, Set's mother, is the ruler of the sky and the heavenly bodies," she held her hands open, palms up, and tilted her eyes towards the ceiling.

"Watch. This is the coolest thing ever," I whispered to Johannes, nodding my head upwards. His eyes drifted up too and his jaw dropped as suddenly there was no roof above our heads. We were under the cloak of the Coverer of the Sky, and I closed my eyes as I felt a tiny hint of her presence flowing through Ciel. But it wasn't just that we could see the sky, the stars, every little glint of light and material that made Nut who she was, it was that they were all so close, suspended just overhead, almost close enough to reach, to touch... And indeed, I watched Tim's fingers twitch against his leg, like he wanted to reach up and experience what a star felt like passing through his fingertips. I smiled softly at him, watching the wonder as he continued to stare upwards, completely unaware of me.

"Well that makes sense," John mumbled, looking back down when the room went a different kind of silent, "w--well you...your name...it literally means sky."

One corner of her lips turned up in a little smile that I got the impression was just for him. "Indeed it does, spymaster," she said silkily, and I buried my face in my glass to avoid giving Ro a look that I knew would make her dissolve into giggles.

"Anyways," she continued, giving John a lingering look that made him shift in his seat, "whether with humans or the neteru--" I made a circle with my hands like a wreath when Johannes looked at me, not recognizing the word, and he nodded, shaking with silent laughter at the reprise of my incest joke and gathering that she was referring to our collective, almost endless number of deities.

"--a mother always knows her child. She called on me several nights ago, telling me that Set was intent upon you all, though she did not choose to share the reason with me."

All five men started to shift in their chairs and touch their beards, their mouths, Johannes actually ran his fingers back through his hair.

"And now, we come to the important part where you tell us why Set is after you," Sol took over. "Because I believe that you now know, Jonas." She said his name carefully, purposefully, leaving no doubt that she was calling on him to respond.

He thought carefully, quietly. There really was only one thing that was different now that hadn't been before.

"I suppose I do, but I must confess, quite a few of the pieces are still missing for us to understand all of this, and for that I apologize." He sighed before standing and reaching underneath the collar of his uniform, pulling out a locket, delicately woven by some brilliant master craftsman back in his own country, I assumed. He lifted it over his head, gathering his hair down around one shoulder to pull the metal chain off the ends. I was surprised to see that the longest cords of hair still nearly hung down to his hip. He looked at John then sighed, carefully hooking his nail under the clasp and popping the small metal halves open. Something like a hum started to fill the room, a thin blue light accompanying it, as if what the King held in his palm was singing.

Johannes' hand blindly found my own next to his as a single tear fell from one corner of his eye. I didn't even notice - all my attention was bent on the little stone, flat and smooth like a river rock, that sat in Jonas' palm.

Shell cried out and fell from her chair onto her knees, both hands pressed over her mouth as her forehead bent to the ground. Henrik immediately stood to help her, but Sol's hand flew out, her eyes brighter than he'd seen them all night.

"Leave her be, she must speak with her Lord." She stared him down until he took his seat once more, stumbling backwards a step until he felt it behind his knees, then sitting heavily.

She turned to Jonas then, no emotion at all showing through the stony visage. Sol stood and stepped around Shell's prostrated form, approaching the King slowly, like he might spook if she moved too fast, just one foot in front of the other, both hands visible in front of her.

"Do you know what that is, Jonas?" She asked, conversationally, not giving a hint of the magnitude of what she was feeling.

"None of us fucking know," Johannes whispered to me, drawing my attention and making me realize that he was holding my hand. "Oh, sorry," he shrugged a little, but I waved it off. I'd never been overly attracted to Johannes, but I felt a silly fondness for him, like he was my friend that I'd known forever but had only just met.

"You're gonna want to, I promise," I whispered back, nodding my head towards Sol and redirecting his gaze.

"I do not. I know I seem young, Mistress, but I have seen much of the world. I know friend from foe, pain from pleasure, but this..." he stared down at his palm like it contained the crucifixion nails, "I just...do not. It feels like neither, like its somewhere in between two starkly different choices."

Sol reached him and carefully enveloped his hand between hers, curling his fingers back over his palm to close off the stone, and immediately the humming and the light ceased. I was shocked when her forehead pressed lightly against his knuckles.

"Please put it away," she said quietly, and he slid it back into the locket, not hesitating a moment when she held out her hand to receive it, quelling the shaking after only a moment as he placed it gently in her palm.

"Tell me what this is," he whispered, and I thought for a moment there were tears in his eyes.

Just then Shell rocketed up from the ground, an unknown force holding her up, her toes pointed like a ballerina, but hovering inches off the ground. Her eyes glowed pure white, no iris, no pupil, and she stared at Jonas. Her voice wasn't her own as she spoke.

"So, it has been found, King Jonas..."

Aurora tugged on Jonas' sleeve when he looked confused as to how to respond and whispered into his ear when he bent his head. "Its her god Khnum speaking through her, sir, he is our God of the Nile and the Inundation. This thing that you carry belongs to him."

Jonas' eyes flashed back to the white sightless vision, and he knelt on one knee briefly as a sign of deference.

"My Lord Khnum," the word formed strangely on his lips, "I apologize, I am not well familiar with yourself and your kind. Please accept my word that I did not know this stone belonged to you."

Shell's feet curled under her, until she was hovering in mid-air sitting cross-legged, the slit in her dress revealing the skin of her thigh nearly all the way up her leg. An amused look crossed her face, her cherry red lips opening to reveal gleaming white teeth as her laugh filled the room, the sound like the clear ringing of a bell.

"Ohh, human king, you would have to be a fool indeed to possess such a stone willingly if you knew what it was."

There was a pause and John and I looked at each other for a brief moment.

"I...er, I still do not know, my lord. My carrying of it was...for personal reasons." Jonas was never afraid to admit when he was wrong, but saying the same thing three times was starting to feel tiresome.

"King Jonas, what you carry is the Genesis Stone."

"I hate that band," Johannes murmured in my ear, and I bit my lip hard to keep my giggle back as I shook my head hopelessly at him. His endless stream of commentary was going to make me lose my carefully-crafted professional composure.

Jonas waited silently for some elaboration as to what the hell a Genesis Stone was and how it had ended up in his kingdom.

"My lord, if I may, he no longer holds it," Sol interjected when no one spoke, holding up the locket. Shell sank down a few inches so she was within reach when she bowed her head to receive the thinly woven necklace. The glow brightened to the point where everyone had to shield their eyes for a moment as a pleasured sound left her lips that was so damn close to a moan, I watched Henrik actually blush. Then, Shell was back to herself, gently drifting to the ground until she stood on her tiptoes, and drew in a deep breath, like she'd simply stretched and hadn't been levitating for several minutes.

"Mmm, thank you, my lord," she smiled, closing her eyes and tilting her head to the ceiling.

We all waited again, and it was Tim who finally spoke.

"Okay so...whats a Genesis Stone? And why did we piss Set off by having it if it isn't even his?"

"Its the source of the Nile," I leaned around Johannes to tell him, feeling myself start to lose patience with the pace of the evening. Part of me wanted to sit with these men forever and ask them every question that passed through my ears, and the other wanted to fall asleep in my chair for a year.

"The--wh, what like the Nile Nile? Like the flows South to North Nile? THE AFRICAN NILE?!"

"That would be the one," Shell confirmed, and Tim looked at her with an expression that was best called disbelief as his mouth worked soundlessly for a moment.

"B-but its...but its just a rock," he finally stammered.

She immediately countered, "yes, and to the eye you look like just a man, don't you, Tim?"

I furrowed my brow and glanced at Ro, but she just shrugged, not knowing any better than me what that cryptic statement was supposed to mean. She looked over at Jonas for clarification, but he was too consumed with watching, and didn't notice.

"My god Khnum forged it at the beginning of time. It has been lost for..." she took a deep breath, slouching back in her chair a little as she exhaled, "quite some time. The Nile was the source of life - it allowed our original people to settle near the banks and further out in the delta. Each year, the river broke its boundaries, bringing minerals and silt from far up in the highlands and replenishing the soil with water and nutrients. That was what sustained life for the original peoples that served our pantheon. The Genesis Stone is the source of it all."

Five mouths hung in various degrees of open-ness and I snorted a laugh into my hand at how closely their expressions mirrored each other.

"Set is chaos and disorder personified - he begrudges humans for never paying him what he considers proper homage, like that paid to our own deities. And if this is what he seeks," she gingerly touched the locket, "...gods. If he got a hold of this, he could stop the flood altogether. Stop the flow of the river even. Egypt is a modern country now, your highness, but do not mistake the great importance that the iteru still plays in its culture and the lives of its people. Seeing it dry up would be...catastrophic." Shell spread her hands over her legs, smoothing her dress before sitting up straight and awaiting the king's response.

"I see..." Jonas replied slowly, again running his hand over his beard, lost in thought.

"And how, may I ask, did someone such as yourself come by it?" Raya asked lowly, trying not to jump right to suspicion, but a little of it bleeding through into her voice anyways as she spoke to the King in a tone that made Sol frown at her.

Jonas looked at her out of the corner of his eye for a moment without answering, his gaze hard like iron, and Raya found herself drawing back when he turned, despite the immense power she herself held. But she didn't drop his stare.

"Someone such as myself, Mistress Raya?" he paused, drinking in the way she shuddered. It wasn't often that anyone spoke to him that way, intentional or not, and it rarely happened twice. "...it belonged to someone I knew once."

"That is not a sufficient answer," Raya snapped back, and I was about to interject, though I knew it would only get me in trouble. I didn't know these men personally, but in a way they had kept me company for hours and hours, getting me through long nights and rough mornings, keeping my feet moving during training and my brain working during the endless pages of studying. I felt like they were my friends.

But I didn't get a chance, because when my mouth opened, Tim spoke instead. "Well its the answer he's given," he snapped right back.

She threw him a stony glare, about to respond when another crash of thunder boomed overhead. Everyone shifted around, the tension ramping up, and only one of us sat still. Ro desperately tried to just swallow her fear, to ignore the creeping terror that had settled in her bones at the sound of thunder from a young age.

"Th-th-that's enough!" She finally said, her voice shaking. Tim and Raya both looked at her in surprise - she'd hardly made a peep since everyone sat down. Jonas' head tilted a little to the side as he looked down and regarded her. The way her hair fell down her shoulders, and the freckles that dotted across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, those wide green eyes...they pulled at that tender thing inside him again, and he heaved a sigh.

"Quite right, my dear," he said softly, reaching over to squeeze her hand, and feeling the contact all the way up his arm, like warm water against cold skin. She didn't look up at him, but the corner of her mouth curved in a smile she tried to stifle but couldn't.

"Mistress Raya, I apologize for the evasive nature of my answer. As I said before, there are a lot more questions than answers regarding this whole situation, at least for us." Raya dipped her head fractionally in acknowledgement, though her body language was still tense.

"I...ahem," Jonas looked down at his hands in the first self-conscious gesture I'd ever seen from him. I silently took in a breath that I realized was wavering a little. In addition to being just an all-around kickass musician, this man sitting across from me was everything the storybooks said a king should be. Wise, just, and stupid fucking handsome. But he was also real - he was humble, and honest, and my heart skipped a beat when he glanced up at me.

"This--this Genesis Stone. It is something that I suppose has been hidden away in my kingdom for many years," he looked over at Henrik who gave a tiny nod and a sad little twist of his lips. "It was only recently found among the possessions of, ahem...of my younger brother."

I glanced over at Henrik, and I was sure I looked floored. None of them ever shared much in the way of personal information over social media or through interviews, but for some reason finding out that he had a brother shocked me. My mind immediately started running a million miles an hour - whats his name? What does he look like? How much younger are we talking? That makes him heir apparent, I guess, right?

Henrik shook his head sadly at me, a silent answer to all my questions.

Sol finally broke the silence, which had started to become a little deafening as we processed. "Sire, you do understand that we will need to speak with him?"

"I'm afraid you can't Mistress. He's been dead for quite some time..."

A tiny gasp left my lips, and I felt Sol's sideways glance as my tears threatened to spill down my cheeks. I barely managed to keep a grip on myself, and took comfort from the hand that softly squeezed my shoulder as Johannes looked over at me with a tiny frown.

"I am sorry to hear that. My apologies for not interpreting your original meaning."

"Its no matter," Jonas said lowly, quietly. He thought of Mattias every day, but the pain had faded over the years as he got older, as he realized the underlying motives - the jealousy, the misguided fervor, the seeds of radicalism in a boy too young to be taken with such ideas. He cleared his throat, banishing the thought and chastising himself for not being honest in the first place after Sol and her companions had put themselves in harm's way for him and his men earlier, though they were strangers.

"My brother passed some years ago, shortly after I took my father's place as King, but I confess, I did not have the heart to sort through his things. His death was...was rather sudden, you see. So I had them put in storage - out of sight, away from where they would act as a constant reminder--" soft fingers touched his own and he willingly took the comfort they offered, "--but just before we left to come to the States, I figured it was finally time to let him go."

It was such a private detail of his life that he was offering, and I glanced over at Tim, who met my gaze with sadness in his own, everything about his look telling me there was more to the story that couldn't be shared.

Jonas continued, "when I finally went through his belongings, I found this...thing, this stone. I have no idea where he got it, and I'd never seen him carry it or show it to anyone, but it seemed like a small piece of him..." he sniffed as if coming to, and looked around. Sol encouraged him to continue with a little nod of her head. "Obviously, seeing what it does, I wasn't comfortable having it in my country while I wasn't there. It felt wrong. No, not wrong..." he considered for a moment, staring at the thick glass bottom of his tumbler, "it just felt out of place. That's why I brought it over with me, Mistress...I had no dishonest intentions, and I hope that you will accept my word on that." He sat back in his chair heavily, but relieved, like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

"I see...sir, I hardly need to tell you this, I am sure, but Set and his monsters will come once more for this if its what they seek and they believe you have it...so if you have any other trinkets in your pockets now would be the time to tell me, because it will come to a fight with him."

Jonas shook his head silently.

"I assure you, his pack are no match for us, Mistress Sol," Tim growled, his fingers curling around the empty tumbler.

"The hounds you witnessed tonight are not what they seem, Mr. Öhrström, let me assure you. The jackals that Set commands are..." she shuddered despite herself, "...frightful beasts."

"So are we," Henrik grinned savagely.

"What do you mean?" I asked with a furrowed forehead, drawing his gaze for a moment before he and Tim looked back to their king for permission. Jonas nodded, the motion accompanied by an almost carefree wave of his hand, as if saying "please, my friend..."

The king smirked at me, relieved that now he at least had some kind of understanding about the events of the entire night. He leaned back on his hips just a little in his chair like he was expecting some sort of show, and I felt my hackles start to go up.

"What--" I didn't get a chance to finish my thought as Tim suddenly stood, straightening his uniform with a matching smirk, making a slight bow to the king. He turned for me then, moving gracefully, one foot in front of the other, almost prowling, his gaze locked onto mine. "What are you doing," I asked suspiciously, pulling my feet up off the floor to tuck them next to me as he suddenly loomed over me, one hand on either of the armrests of my chair. "Someone tell me whats happening!"

"Its easier if I just show you," his eyes twinkled with mischief and my own narrowed as I wondered if he could hear my heart racing in my chest. The way his eyes rested on the pulse point in my throat was my answer, and he growled low enough that only I could hear it as his eyes met mine again. They were a mesmerizing swirl of blues and greens, pure and clear like snow melt and despite my suspicion, I felt that same draw to him that I had felt from the moment I watched him play for the first time.

Tim straightened, starting to circle my chair until he was out of sight behind the high back, but his lips were suddenly at my ear, making me gasp and shiver hard as he whispered lowly to me.

"And don't think we're not gonna talk about that tattoo..."

"Oh, you motherf--" I jumped up and rounded, "WHAT THE FRESH FUCK!!"

I instinctively shrank as I beheld the massive russet-colored wolf that stood behind my chair where Tim had been only a moment before. Its shoulders started to shift back and forth under the fur, as if it was laughing, watching me as my eyes darted around the room. It stepped around my chair, and I froze in fear, all my thoughts for propriety going out the window.

"One more step and I will light your ass up, pup," I warned, trying to sound tough and gathering the little energy I had into my palms, just in case. He stopped and sat back on his haunches, still watching me.

I nearly took a swing at John when I felt him behind me, but he stood close, putting one hand at the small of my back and the other arm out in front of me, his hand facing the wolf. He spoke quietly to me, and I shivered at the sound-waves now that all my senses were hyper aware.

"Easy, Kamilah, easy...he's not going to hurt you," he cooed, keeping his voice even and soft like I was the wild animal that needed calming.

"What the fuck is going on, John," I growled, still stiff as I regarded the wolf.

Aurora rose from her seat gracefully, crossing slowly over to where the wolf sat and giving off serious Snow White vibes as she knelt next to him, wary and careful. Jonas shifted in his seat, crossing one leg over the other, leaning on one elbow and absentmindedly tugging at his septum piercing as he watched her move like she was made of the wind, gentle and soft.

"Kamilah, look," she turned to me, a grin on her lips as she pointed to the wolf's ears.

"Yes, I see them, Little Red Ridinghood, thank you," I groaned.

"No, no, look at the color of his fur!"

I took a second wary glance and froze even stiffer than before. The fur in one spot on either ear was lighter than the rest in a perfect circle, just where Tim's gold earrings would have hung through his gauged ears.

"No. Fucking. Way." I looked at the wolf, really looked at him again, and he smirked for a moment before his canine lips pulled back in an absurd grin. John was still with me, watching Aurora as she scooted closer.

"Hello Tim," she smiled, "C-can I pet you?" she asked almost childishly, sitting on the floor and having to look up to meet his eyes, "I mean...rats. Not pet. Uhh..."

In a motion that made even Sol chuckle, Tim lazily flopped onto his side with his head in her lap, his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he looked up at her grinning and making her squeal with delighted laughter.

"Oh, you're so soft!" she exclaimed, brushing her fingers through his fur, and I swore his back leg started to twitch. I backed away and sat down heavily in John's chair when I felt the edge of it behind my knees, receiving a cocked eyebrow from him as I stole his seat. "

Look, I don't do dogs...its...I don't do dogs." I figured now wasn't precisely the time to elaborate.

Tim lifted his head and got to his feet as Aurora raised up to her knees. He leaned in and gave her a big wet kiss up the side of her cheek and she squeaked and wiped her face.

"Tim! Gross! I dare you to do that in human form!" She giggled, turning back to the king when he spoke.

"He's done it before and he'll do it again, dear, don't encourage him," he laughed, the smile lingering on his lips as she beamed at him and got to her feet, brushing off her dress and crossing back to his side. She looked down at him with a tender smile for a moment that made his lips part with a soft exhale and without his permission, his hand snaked out to take her own, bringing it to his lips as he had earlier, but this time he didn't drop her gaze as he stood and loomed over her. In her hunter-green uniform, cut just like the rest of ours, she was earthy. Not verdant like Eden - a quieter, more grounded kind of beautiful, like the mountains.

"Forgive me for being forward, but you are divinity itself in this color, Aurora," he said, still looking down at her and adoring the pink blush that tinted her cheeks as she bit at her bottom lip a little.

"Thank you, your majesty," she said, bowing her head and bending her knees a little in a half curtsy when she could remember enough to practice her manners.

"Please. I would very much like it if you called me by my name from now on."

She met his eyes again, hers no longer nervous and afraid under his gaze, "thank you...Jonas," she whispered, daring to squeeze his hand a little tighter.

I exchanged a glance with Johannes, who shrugged and raised his eyebrows - this behavior was as out of character for his friend as it was for mine.

"Well, I believe we're all long overdue to turn in for the evening," Shell interjected, drawing everyone's attention as she stood, once again brushing out the folds of her dress. We all followed suit, standing and stretching, and I gathered up as many glasses as I could carry, busing them back to the pantry to wash.

I set down the first round on the countertop and turned to fetch the rest, but Tim was already behind me with them in his hands, following me into the small room and setting them down on the counter with the others. He stepped back and looked at me, waiting for me to speak as I flipped on the tap and grabbed a sponge.

"Sorry I called you a motherfucker," I mumbled, and he chuckled in response.

"I think I was more offended at being called 'pup', but I accept your apology. It would hardly be the first time, kiddo," he laughed.

I poured myself another glass of wine, since I was going to be the one doing the dishes, and offered him one as well. He took it, again letting his fingers brush mine in that maddening way that threatened to make my knees give.

"Hmm. I guess before we adopt kiddo as a formal nickname, I should tell you that we're almost the same age. Oh, and I can probably deadlift you."

His glass froze halfway to his lips and his eyes went wide for a moment. "Oh my god, seriously? Is that a threat or a promise?!"

I snorted a laugh, resuming my scrubbing. "Its neither. Ma makes us train hard. Weights, sparring, boxing, extra cardio, that kind of thing. We're pretty much busy all the time here between courses and working out and practicing."

"Practicing what?" He seemed genuinely interested, and I shut off the water, putting the last glass on the drying rack and wiping my hands on a towel. I leaned back against the countertop with my glass in hand and looked at him for a moment over the rim as I took a sip.

"You should come watch tomorrow. Actually," I added, as I thought about what I was saying, "you probably all should. If Ma is right, and its gonna come to a fight -- and she's literally never wrong -- then you all need to know what we can do. And vice versa probably..."

He nodded, toying with one end of his mustache as he thought about it. There were skirmishes here and there, but Avatar Country hadn't seen an actual battle in years. They were always ready, but Jonas' diplomacy and his goodness as king seemed to always smooth any feathers that got ruffled. The precision and care that made him such a good guitar player seemed to also make him superb at handling matters of state, and there'd been nearly zero international or internal violence since the early years of his reign.

I stifled a yawn with my hand. "Honestly, I don't know how you're still even upright. I'm exhausted from today and I probably did half the shit you did."

Tim laughed lowly, finishing what was left in his glass and moving next to me to rinse it out in the sink. I didn't move and we stood shoulder to shoulder, almost touching but not quite until he leaned around behind me to put his glass with the rest on the drying rack and breathed softly down my exposed neck. My knees did buckle this time, and I gripped the counter top to hold me upright as he moved slowly around to my front, his hand pressing to the curve of my waist, pushing me harder against the counter as my breath left on a sharp exhale and my eyes closed at the sensation of his touch.

I whispered his name, feeling almost like I was flying, between the wine and the exhaustion and the thrill of them all being here.

When my eyes opened, he gently put two of his fingers against the hollow at the base of my throat, feeling the way he set me on fire and the heat of my skin. He almost seemed at war with himself, his lips pressed into a firm line as he considered, his eyes shifting back and forth between mine and my lips. He finally pulled back with a resigned sigh.

"Not like this." And then he was gone, heading back towards everyone else and leaving me by myself to try and stop the way my whole world was spinning backwards.

After a few more shaky breaths, I gathered myself up from the melted puddle on the floor and went to join the rest of the group, unsure if goodnight was going to be as formal as our welcome - I certainly hoped not.

I stood at Ma's side, and I was thankful to find that Tim was avoiding me as much as I was avoiding him. Henrik crossed to me briefly, asking if we had a library, and I nodded but the rest of my answer got drowned out by the thunderclap, which was less than a second behind a bolt of lightning that made the power flare then disappear completely, casting us into pitch darkness. The whole party stood in silence for a couple seconds, waiting to see if it would come back.

"Kamilah," Sol said from the space beside me after a moment, "give our guests some light please." Her tone sounded like she was showing off a new toy.

I was glad that it was dark so no one could see the smirk that crossed my lips as I swirled both wrists, presenting my palms upwards and suddenly both held balls of flame that melded into one. It wasn't much, but it provided enough light so that we could see each other and as soon as my eyes adjusted I caught Tim's open-mouthed stare.

"That's what you practice?!"

"Oh, what you can turn into a wolf but you're surprised that I can do cool shit too?" I scoffed, blowing a raspberry at him and making Johannes laugh.

Jonas had been mostly silent, bending under the crushing exhaustion, but too full of troubling thoughts to sleep tonight. He thought about Mattias and this enemy Set that he now faced, about Aurora, soft and innocent and floral and how naturally good it felt to have her next to him, and about the strange other young woman with the blue hair.

So she's the one Tim has been fixated on all this time. She's watchful to the point that she knows our roles, but not so much that she knew we were real. Johannes seems to like her, but then again he likes almost everyone...

After a brief mental note to ask John his thoughts about me when they got back to the room, he willed himself to untangle that mass of thoughts and emotions later as his eyes rested on me, the ball of light suspended just over my cupped hands. He'd witnessed the Heads force their energy into a protective ring earlier, but it seemed now that even the younger ladies had power too...his mind already started working strategically, but stopped cold as a short, shallow gasp next to him drew his attention at the next crash. Jonas rested his hand at the small of Aurora's back as she kept her eyes shut tight, trembling like a reed, her hands balled into fists at her sides. The vibrations ran up his arm like she was electrically charged.

"Are you okay?" He asked quietly in her ear, bending his head.

She didn't answer, fighting the tears that welled up behind her eyelids, her mouth starting to tremble as a tiny whine left her lips. Eden was at her side then, taking her hand. "Come, Aurora, lets go, we can have tea in my room till the storm passes."

"Mistress, if I may?" Jonas asked, still keeping his hand where it was, hesitant to stop touching her. Eden looked silently up from her ward to the king. There was a lot he didn't know about the shaking slip of a girl next to him, but he seemed tender towards her, and a little comfort could hardly hurt right now... She nodded silently, stepping away and giving him space for whatever he intended to do.

He didn't stop to think any further when he pulled Ro away from everyone, to the periphery of the reach of my light, and gently cupped her cheeks. His palms were warm and his hands calloused - not typical royal hands, but ones that were used to hard work. "Aurora," he spoke her name softly, like it was poetry, running his thumbs over her cheeks. "Aurora, look at me. Open your eyes." Slowly she did, still shaking a little. "Can I tell you what someone told me once when I was afraid?" His voice was soft and low, private like it was just for her that he was speaking. We all watched silently, but I got the impression that they weren't even aware of us anymore.

Ro nodded her head slowly, enraptured in the way the light from the flame in my hands sent a low illumination over his face, making his eyes dark like the deepest blue of the ocean. "B-but you're a king. You're not afraid of anything," she whispered. Jonas kept his hands on her cheeks, gently wiping away the tear that fell unnoticed from the corner of her eye.

"When I was just a boy, I would hide under my bed when it stormed. I was terrified of the thunder. But my father told me one night that I should never feel fear at the sound of a storm. In my country, Aurora, we believe that our world is guarded by the gods, and he said that the immortals who watch over and protect us get stronger by training and fighting one another, just like I did with the other lads my age. He said the sound of the thunder is the crashing of their mighty blows against each other -- building strength so they can better protect us." Aurora watched the low light glint off the metal of his septum piercing and drank in the warmth that he seemed to radiate, like he was firelight himself. Her lips parted and she tried to keep her breathing even as her heart raced for a different reason now. "So you see, precious one," he continued, watching her grass-green eyes like they were the only things in the room, and perhaps in that moment to him they were as another bolt of lightning backlit them for a moment, "there is no need to be afraid of the thunder. The longer it lasts, the safer we are..."

Sol and I exchanged a half-frown, both of us moved by the display of tenderness, but also knowing that the storm was Set. He was chaos and disorder, and unless we had missed our mark, the metaphorical storm was only just beginning, and perhaps the literal one too.

She knew everything I didn't about Aurora; Eden had gathered all the Heads and divulged her past to them when Ro had been brought here, scared and twitchy, full of discomfort and fear of judgment. Since then she'd blossomed intellectually, and was one of the smartest girls to ever pass through these halls, but her powers came a little bit stiffer. She still hesitated and the little voice at the back of her mind still told her she was an abomination, a freak, a tainted little lamb of God. \

I felt tears welling in my own eyes and turned away when Jonas leaned in and pressed his lips briefly to Ro's forehead. Her eyes fluttered shut and she melted into his touch, hardly flinching at the next pang of thunder as her breath left her lips in a soft sigh. The king pulled back a little, still cupping her cheeks gently, like she was a flower that would wither if he touched her too hard.

"Better?" He asked with a little smile.

She nodded, and he felt her blush under his palms more than saw it.

"Good." With one last, lingering look he dropped his hands back to his sides and turned back to everyone else.

"Mistresses," he inclined his head towards all five Heads who were watching curiously, "ladies," an inclination towards me and towards Aurora, "thank you for welcoming us into your home, and for putting yourselves in harm's way like this. Words of gratitude simply are not enough to express our thanks." Tim, Johannes, John, and Henrik all nodded solemnly, hands clasped in front of their hips uniformly.

"Your majesty, it is reasons like this that we've continued to exist for as many ages as we have," Ciel said quietly, "it is an honor to have you in our Temple."

Chapter Text

Silence descended for a moment, and I wondered suddenly how they were going to get back to their wing. Despite the castle-like feel of the interior, the Temple was a modern structure, and torchlight was generally frowned upon.

"Shall I see you all back to your rooms then?" I asked, offering halfway to break the silence and halfway so I could hurry this up and get the hell to bed.

"If its alright with your Mistress, I think we would all very much appreciate not having to stumble blindly through your home," Johannes chuckled, turning towards Sol.

Sol chuckled, "very well, yes Kamilah, please show our guests to their quarters."

She snagged me by the arm for a moment, whispering into my ear. "Then its straight to bed...your bed. Alone."

I looked exasperatedly at her. What, did everyone thing I was just going to crawl under the sheets with him?!

"Off we go, gents," I said, striding off towards the hall that led to their suite, holding my hands out before me to light the way, though I could have done it in my sleep. I was thankful I needed both hands to keep my flame bright enough to work, lest one of mine should find Tim's in the darkness. The image of him pressing me against the cool stone wall and tearing me out of this dress he liked so much flitted though my brain and I sputtered a cough.

"Everything okay?" John asked, falling into step beside me.

"Yup. Just, uhm. Just peachy."

"Sorry I got in your face earlier," he said, looking straight ahead, eyes taking in what he could see of the dimly lit walls.

I glanced over at him briefly. "Its okay...I'm sorry I blew your cover. I was telling Tim earlier, I think its important that you guys know what we can do, too. Its the only way everyone stays safe in this...thing." I finished flatly and he nodded. We walked in silence a little further and I stopped dead, looking at him when he did too.

"Hey. You know that you're safe here, right? I mean, no offense, but I'm the only one here who knows anything about you guys, and I'm not gonna hurt you, obviously. A-ask Henrik, I prefer the passive kind of aggression..." A laugh sounded from the dark and it made me giggle too as I looked up at John still. "If you'd just gotten on your bus, there's no telling what might have happened. Set is an asshole, sorry to be frank. He probably would have veered you into oncoming traffic and picked the Stone out of the rubble without a second thought."

John paled a little and I stepped closer. He was so beautiful - handsome in a distinct way that the others weren't, though they each had their own version of it. His face was soft, his broad mouth surrounded by a carefully-kept short beard that was a little lighter than his hair.

And his eyes.
I swayed a little.

Each one held its own little world - they were depthless, containing so much emotion and intelligence, I was sure for a moment that the secret to the universe was somewhere in there. But I snapped back to reality, realizing that I was shamelessly staring at him when a corner of his mouth twitched with a smile.

"Anyways. Just. You're in the safest place that you can possibly be. I was telling Johannes before, but I guess you all should know too," I turned to the group. "No one comes in here without all five Heads knowing, and only if they actually want him or her to. Thats the way its always worked. And this?" I held up my hands a little, "if you think this is cool, you should see what Sol can do. She's like a fucking phoenix. So...so I guess what I'm saying is you can get some rest tonight. Don't stay up pacing or watching or whatever. Set won't make another move so quickly now that you're here with us."

I didn't wait for a response before turning and heading the rest of the way down the hall to their suite of rooms, stopping in front of the big wooden door.

"Is there a key or something that we need?" Henrik asked, moving to my side.

"Uh, no. The door locks from the inside. Hang on."

My flame went out and I felt for the doorknob, turning and pushing it when my fingers touched the cool metal. The door creaked on its hinges a little as it swung open, and I was about to rekindle my light and go in, but Henrik stepped in first.

"Wait here," he said, putting an arm out and accidentally touching the front of my hip with his outstretched hand, "oops. Sorry, hope that was you Kamilah," he said with audible smile, then disappeared into the room. There was a peculiar feeling like a rush of air for a moment, and then silence. I couldn't hear his boots on the stone floor anymore, and I wondered what he was doing in there.

We waited for a full minute, and then Henrik suddenly reached out and took my hands, pulling me into the room and I yelped with surprise.

"Sorry. Just gotta check first. Force of habit."

"...b-but its dark..." My heart was still pounding. I wasn't afraid of the darkness, but this whole situation had me on edge. I swirled both wrists, again calling up my flame. To my dismay, it was lower this time, less bright and smaller.

He raised both eyebrows faintly at me as I moved past him. "That's not really an issue."

"Wh--oh, right. Wolf. Duh."

Everyone moved in behind me and I knelt in front of the fireplace, blowing the flame from my hands to the kindling underneath the logs until it sparked and crackled. The warmth felt nice and I stayed for a moment before getting back to my feet and turning to the room.

"Is there anything else you all need?" I flipped back to my formalities, though no one else seemed to, as uniform buttons started to get undone and hair got pulled out of its ties with relieved groans. I almost died at the sight of Henrik's curls in the orange firelight as he shook his head back and forth hard a couple of times, letting them fan out over his shoulders.

"No, thank you Kamilah, I believe we're fine for the night," Jonas said, the first words he'd uttered since we left the common room.

"Right...well...goodnight then," I mumbled, moving towards the door. As a last minute thought, I turned around, my hand on the doorknob. "Just...lock this tonight, okay? This place is basically impenetrable, but there's no reason to take any chances."

Henrik nodded, he'd been planning on it anyways.

"And uhm. Well. As far as dress goes..." I paused as I watched Jonas lift his crown off his head and rub the spot where it had sat against his skin for hours. "We tend towards casual for our everyday attire so jeans are fine. Or whatever you wear when you're...you know..."

Not in your court dress for the kingdom that is real that no one knows about?

"Right, okay, goodnight for real this time! Sleep tight!" I slipped out the door, latching it behind me and waiting a moment as I slumped back against the wall and took a deep breath. What a fucking whirlwind. I stayed there for a moment, checking in with myself, but froze when the door opened next to me a minute later, and Tim stepped out, closing it behind him and turning towards where I was standing.

"I'm not spying, I promise, I was just leaving," I said quickly. He chuckled and moved closer, not saying anything.

"How did you even know I was here still?" I couldn't see him in the darkness, but I suddenly felt him close, his heat and his scent swirling around me.

"I have really really good hearing," he said lowly, leaning in towards me even further and placing one hand flat against the stone on my left side. My pulse started to race again and he hummed a little before a flash of lightning illuminated us for a just a moment, and I saw the unbridled, fiery lust in his gaze as his eyes stared into mine.

"Uhm. I--I really should uhm. Should get to bed. My bed. Uhh..."

He leaned in close, his lips almost touching mine, and could feel his breath across my face.

"Or, you could stay right here with me, Kamilah," he offered and I started to tremble.

"I--Fuck. I'm not good at this. I don't know how to do this," I half-whined, panting for breath and mentally bashing my head back into the stones for not just playing it cool.

Tim paused and was silent for a moment, trying to figure out if I was actually uninterested or just being coy.

"Don't know how to do what?" He finally asked, running the tip of his index finger along the line of my jaw before letting it drop down my throat, slowly tracing the line of it down to my clavicle and back up.

"...Flirt..." I said, blushing something fierce and feeling immediately embarrassed when he pulled away from me. "I--its been a while. I mean, not that I've never...its just...okay, uhm, I really should go now."

"Oh, was you threatening to set me on fire earlier not you flirting?"

"Ugh, gods," I groaned when he started laughing and I pushed off the wall, trying to move away from him, but his other hand slapped against the stones as his laughter immediately stopped and he pressed into me, his hips pinned against mine, holding me there.

"And what if I asked to kiss you," he said lowly, "do you know how to do that, Kamilah..."

"I--" I stuttered a few syllables before my brain came to the rescue, "that depends on how nicely you ask," I said, doing a cartwheel and a backflip in my mind at the same time for coming up with such a good response.

But as usual, Tim was a step ahead of me, and better.

"Kamilah," he breathed, his lips just out of reach as he leaned in and one of his hands touched my face, the fingertips lightly moving down my cheek, "will you let me taste the softness of your lips, Kamilah..." he whispered, knowing exactly what reaction I was going to have to the way he said my name, and compensating with one arm hooked around the small of my back as I melted. "Will you let me show you how I've wanted to kiss you from the moment I saw you..."

The only thing I was capable of doing was breathing his name, and I fought to stay conscious and upright as his lips gently touched mine in the next moment, just a whisper of intimacy at first.

But the sound of our kiss breaking echoed off the stone walls, repeating a thousand times and igniting a spark between us. Tim hummed a hair's breadth away, feeling, considering, relishing, then kissed me again harder, the hand that wasn't pressing into my back moved up to grip my face, pushing his fingers into my hair with a soft groan that made me open my lips to gasp as his palm pressed to my cheekbone.

He took advantage of the opportunity and slid his tongue between them, gliding it along my own and moaning lowly at my taste.

My hands gripped his shoulders and his mouth devoured mine as his breathing became harsher, raspier and he pulled me harder against him until I pulled back with a gasp, touching my lips in shock.

"Tim, this door locks in 60 seconds," Henrik's voice sounded as a crack of firelight appeared.

"Yes, dad," Tim snarked, but the door was already closed and Henrik was gone.

"Fuck," I gasped softly, wanting nothing more than all of him at that moment, "is that what I missed when I left?"

Tim took a step back, letting his hand wander over my waist, tracing the line of it, feeling my heat as he licked his lips and tasted me there still.

"Not even close, sweetheart," he growled before moving back towards the door. He stopped midway through opening it, his hand on the doorknob, sighing and looking at the floor for a moment before looking back to me.

"Lock your door, Kamilah."

And then he was gone again, and my feet took off down the hall, dancing and skipping with an amount of energy I hadn't had all day. I was flying, unconcerned about tripping or running into anything - I knew these halls like the back of my hand.

I pushed my door open and pumped my fist in the air once when it closed behind me. I was tempted to leave it unlocked, but figured I'd be dead asleep for most of the night anyways, and flipped the deadbolt.

Chapter Text

The storm passed in the night, and I woke up the next morning to the sound of birds. I stretched and padded to the bathroom to take off last night's makeup before donning a pair of tight jeans and a flowy shirt. Once my hair was free from the confines of the braid, it fell down my shoulders in perfect waves that I eyed approvingly in the mirror.

As a last minute thought, I grabbed a book off my shelf, then headed out the door and down the hall for breakfast.

Our meals here were largely casual - we didn't dine all together, save for special occasions like a Calling or a visitor. The latter being the case today, everyone was in the Dining Hall, which was far less grand than the name supposed. It consisted of groups of tables all set with the same dishes and dishware. We ate everything family style here if he didn't cook it ourselves - Sol believed that it reinforced the idea that though there were status differences, and we all had come from vastly different backgrounds, we were each others family now.

I walked in, immediately keeping my eyes peeled for chestnut curls, and finding them after a moment, having to stifle my choked sob of utter, unbridled, stupid fucking happiness when I observed that he was wearing them down today. My heart started beating faster as my feet carried me towards the table in the corner where the King and his men were seated and eating, talking casually over breakfast and coffee like they were just regular old people.

"Good morning, sir," I said, bowing my head a little as he stood to greet me. If he expected me to curtsy in these jeans, he had another thing coming.

"Good morning, Kamilah," he smiled. His face looked a lot less tired, and there was a glint in his eye that I hadn't noticed last night.

"I trust you slept well?" I tried not to glance over at Tim, whose gaze was starting to make me feel a little bothered as it traveled down the curves of my legs.

"Never better," he responded politely, and I chewed my lip to hide my grin.

"Look, I know those mattresses aren't...ah, comfortable, in a word...I'm really sorry."

Jonas chuckled and took my hand briefly, giving it a squeeze before letting it go and stepping closer to whisper to me, dropping the formalities.

"Hey, I would happily have slept on the stone floor after everything yesterday. But I'm sure I'll walk straight in a couple of days, its no matter."

That did it. I busted out laughing, and he joined in, shaking his head before retaking his seat.

"Doesn't your Mistress ever let you rest?" He nodded towards the book in my hand as I turned to say good morning to everyone else.

"What? Oh. No, I actually brought this for you all. Its got a lot of information about Set, and theories about the Genesis Stone that will be good for you to know," I handed it off to Henrik before fidgeting a little with the hem of my shirt as I thought for a moment. It felt so much like we were just holed up here waiting for destruction to come hurtling from the sky, and it made me anxious.

I made my way around the table, politely saying good morning to everyone, and discouraging them when they moved to stand and formally greet me.

"Please, there's no need for any of that stuff now," I said with my hands up. Tim insisted on standing though, taking my hand and brushing his lips over the knuckles in an impossibly erotic way for how many people were around us.

"Sleep well?" He asked with the hint of a smirk.

"Mmm, very," I said, responding with the same wry smile, "I like your t shirt." He glanced down, like he'd forgotten which one he was wearing,

"Oh, thanks," the side smile the curved his mouth made me want to bite my lip as he narrowed his eyes a little at me, "I like your jeans."

Everything about the way he said it made it clear that he meant he liked what was under my jeans, and I tried to alleviate the sudden tension between us with a joke.

"I don't think they would look very good on you, sorry," I giggled.

Henrik was flipping through the book I brought, and broke my daze wide open as he grabbed me by the belt loop and pulled me back a step towards him to get my attention.

"Leave room for Jesus, you two," he chuckled as I yelped, "and I have a question about this," he pointed to a tomb painting of a boat with a man spearing a massive serpent down below. He pushed the book into the middle of the table so everyone could see, craning their necks and tilting their heads to try and decipher the picture as I scooted onto the seat inbetween John and Henrik.

"That's Apophis, the serpent. And Set at the bow. The stories say that the sun god Ra, Marisol's Master, sails his barge across the sky everyday. Its how we receive sunlight and track the movement of the sun from East to West. After the sun sets, he has to go down through the underworld to come back up again in the East," I made a circular motion with my finger and looked up to receive various nods of understanding. "Well, Apophis prefers the dark. He's chaos and disorder, and he doesn't want the sun to rise again, so he puts Ra under a spell that makes him too tired to sail. Everyone on the boat falls asleep, except Set. He was always awake and ready for the serpent."

"So Set's not always bad..." Johannes asked over Henrik's shoulder with a furrowed brow.

"Well...no, I guess. He wasn't always bad..." I thought about it for a moment. I didn't want them to get any false sense of comfort from this - Set was evil, and despite the time he'd spent at the bow of his master's boat, he was a usurper and a murderer, and foul to the ends of the earth. "Read the story about Set and Osiris before you let that change your minds," I said, patting him on the shoulder twice as I got up to go consult with Ma about the coming day.

"Hey, can you read these?" Tim called to my back, and I turned to see him pointing at a panel of hieroglyphs on another page.

"Yeah, but...ah, not very well. It takes me forever to translate. Ask Aurora, she's a beast at that stuff." My heart fluttered at the way Jonas' eyes lit up at the mere mention of her name, and he looked around briefly.

"Library," I winked at him before turning back to my morning mission.

--

A couple hours later, I was leaving my room again, dressed back in my gym clothes.

Ma had called us all to attention at the end of breakfast, formally introducing Jonas and the others to the girls who weren't present last night. Even in casual clothes, they were dashing, and I allowed myself one intense moment of superiority over everyone else at the memory of Tim gripping my waist and sliding his tongue between my lips when she introduced him and he formally bowed.

Gods but he was handsome.

Several of the others seemed to think so too, and I smirked as girlish whispers and giggles trickled throughout the room as he shook his hair back off his shoulders.

And I damn near died when he looked straight at me and licked his lips.

As I trotted towards the steps, I pulled my hair through one last elastic loop, piling it at the back of my head and hoping it looked halfway decent as I went upstairs, rather than down to the sub-level training center. I went to the viewing room to find Liam, who was our coach, for lack of a better word. Our Heads worked with us on our specific gifts, but Liam kicked our asses with weights and cardio.

I stopped short when I saw Jonas talking to Sol.

"If we could impose a little further, Mistress. I do require certain training regimens from my men, as you do with your ladies. We will of course wait until you all finish, but I would like to keep them prepared."

Everyone started to file in down below, the girls in variations of workout clothes - leggings, shorts, sporty tanks, tshirts.

"Of course, your majesty. Please, why don't you all take the open half at that end," she gestured, "while our girls do their weight training on this end? You're more than welcome to whatever equipment you need."

Jonas nodded in agreement.

"Again, please call me Jonas. If we're to fight together, I would prefer you use my name."

"Apologies, Jonas. Habits do die hard. Perhaps you'd like to...make things a bit more lively for our girls once you see what they can do?" One corner of her mouth curved up and he considered her for a moment, thinking about the options.

"Marisol, I am a firm believer in keeping things interesting," he grinned. Jonas noticed me then, standing behind her shoulder, and took his leave after assuring her again that they would be no bother. He touched his hand to my shoulder briefly as he passed by me, in a familiar way, and I smiled up at him, receiving one in return as he left.

"His majesty does seems quite fond of our Aurora, doesn't he," Sol mused as I crossed to her side and we looked down through the observation windows at the girls stretching.

"I'd say. That thing with the thunder last night almost made me turn into a pillar of sugar. I was looking f--oh, nevermind. Found him." She snickered at my first comment, then shooed me out, down to the training room, where I took my place with the other girls, listening to Liam's gameplan for our workout.

Distraction ensued as we watched all five men strip their shirts and explore the opposite side of the facility, testing sparring poles and loudly calling bets to each other on who would win a wrestling match against who. The King joined in for a moment before directing Henrik to practice with Johannes and John to practice with Tim. He circled the two pairs as they took their positions, going bare-handed to start.

Johannes had height, but Henrik was faster on his feet, dancing out of reach repeatedly of the long arms, taunting his friend with good-natured jabs as they loosened up.

"Don't make me put you over my knee and pull those pretty little curls," Johannes growled with a grin, lunging for Henrik again and getting a lucky jab in on his left side, making his opponent buckle momentarily with a slight "oof".

"Oh, you know I like it when you talk dirty to me," Henrik laughed, doing a complicated move with his feet that made Johannes think he was going one way, but he actually went the other and got an equally good jab into the taller man's ribs.

"You should shut up and concentrate since technically you'd both have punctured lungs now anyhow," groaned Jonas.

They continued to practice that way as we went through our weight sets with Liam, working isolated groups of muscles, until he finally called it a day. I stood and stretched, turning to watch the men just in time to see Tim getting flipped over John's head as he rolled off his back and was up on his feet again in a flash. Tim was up a second later, grinning and crooking his finger at John for more. They were all dripping sweat and I was suddenly extremely thankful that I didn't have a hundred pounds of dead weight over my chest anymore.

Aurora wrapped her arms around my shoulders and settled her chin on one as we all focused our attention on them and Jonas fought the winner, who happened to be John.

"Watch your left side," he cautioned, jabbing John in the ribs before landing an open-handed blow on the back of his head. I'd never seen anyone fight like Jonas before. Onstage his movements weren't such that required an extreme amount of grace or even awareness, but now his feet seemed to move without having to be told. They anticipated what John was going to do before he did it and reacted ahead of time.

After only a few minutes, John landed flat on his back with a grunt and Jonas dropped to his knees to put one bare tattooed forearm across his throat. Two fingers on the other man's right hand went up, a sign that he yielded, and he was hauled to his feet by his king, who clapped him on the back.

"Always expect that your opponent knows your next move. It keeps you thinking ahead," he said, reaching up and patting John twice on the cheek good-naturedly before turning to all of us and crossing the gym.

"Ladies," called Sol as she stepped forward, "please head to the mats. We're going to be...switching it up today," she grinned at Jonas, who held his hands clasped behind his back, his feet spread slightly apart, totally in his element. Just the sight of him standing there sweating with his dreads pulled back in a black elastic band made my mouth go dry. He radiated power and authority, and damn if I wasn't turned the hell on by it.

"Oh my gods," Aurora murmured, still standing close to me, "he's so...I don't know what the word is. It might not even exist. Whats the word for him, Kamilah?"

I chuckled softly at how mesmerized she was and leaned in to whisper in her ear, "I don't know, but I bet his nipple ring looks even better up close."

She shivered hard once from head to toe and I stifled my laugh with my hand.

"I leave them in your capable hands, si--Jonas," she nodded her head in deference, and he did the same, turning to us after a moment as we stood on the padded floor mats and waited. His face was like stone, betraying nothing of what was going on in his mind. The other four men gathered around him, looking equally stern, and I looked up when I felt eyes on me. My teeth sank into my lip as I watched a bead of sweat drip down Tim's neck and disappear down his chest, and he cocked one eyebrow at me when our eyes met again. He was standing up straight, his shoulders square, his hair pulled back off his high forehead, and I couldn't help but replay our kiss for what felt like the hundredth time.

Jonas started to slowly pace back and forth before our group, keeping his hands clasped behind his back.

"Ladies," he rumbled, "I must begin with how impressed I am with your strength. Your mistresses have done you all a great favor by requiring such strenuous physical training...But..."

We all exchanged sideways glances with each other. No one ever criticized the Heads.

"But," he continued, bringing our attention back to him, "it will take more than strength to combat these beasts which we now all find ourselves waiting for. It will take cooperation. It is my understanding that this Set, this trickster, has the ability to summon the children of your Anubis to his aid. Jackals with jaws like steel and teeth like knives..."

A collective shiver ran through us all.

"Someone has been doing their homework," I murmured to Ro, who nodded.

Our stories said that Set's wife Nephthys was so attracted to her brother-in-law, Osiris, that she disguised herself as his wife one night and slept with him. The ensuing pregnancy bore the god Anubis, and Set was so enraged that he enslaved the descendants of Anubis and could call them at will to do his bidding.

"Miss Kamilah, it seems that I have lost your attention." My body froze like a spike of ice as I looked up at him, and his no-nonsense expression told me a scolding was hardly what I had coming. I glanced at Tim, who only gave me a half-smirk in response.

"Apologies, your majesty," I said, bowing my head a little.

"Hmpff. I appreciate your willingness to volunteer," he responded, and I didn't get a chance to squeak 'what?!' before he continued, completely disregarding me.

"Ladies, does anyone know how a wolf hunts?" He continued to pace, searching faces, getting to know us each by our expression.

Aurora's hand slowly slid into the air halfway, tentatively. Jonas looked at her, his expression still unreadable.

"Yes?"

"I-in a pack, sir."

"I'm sorry what was that?"

"...in a pack..."

"Please say it louder, there are many people in this room who cannot hear you when you whisper."

"In A Pack, Sir," she said more firmly as she looked like she wanted to fold in on herself and disappear.

"Yes, precisely, very good...Aurora," they exchanged one more look and the corner of his mouth twitched for a second before he was back to steel.

"Wolves hunt in packs. They don't seek to show off or prove themselves. They fall in line and follow the alpha. Everyone cooperates. Everyone plays their role. That is what makes them successful. That is what ensures that every mouth gets fed."

He stopped in the center once more and stood tall, chest forward, shoulders back, hands resting on his hips.

"Cooperation, ladies. That is what will make us succeed in vanquishing this foul power that comes our way..." He waited a moment, pausing before he continued, and his voice somehow got even lower, more tinged with power.  "And today, I am your alpha."

I shuddered with arousal at his tone - dominant and confident in his ability to protect.

"As you train, you will listen for the sound of my voice. You will do exactly as I say, and you will win. Everyone has a weakness: a side left undefended, a clumsy step..." he looked at Aurora, "a fear. Today, we will find those and today, we will fix them."

I was getting amped up, ready for a fight just from his peptalk, and I vaguely wondered if he'd ever been in a battle before. Surely that kind of thing would make the news, even for an unknown place like Avatar Country, right?

"Kamilah, step forward."

Aurora nudged me when my feet remained rooted where they were.

"Kamilah," he commanded, and I mentally heard Ma's voice in my head saying my name the exact same way. I stepped forward, out of the group of girls who now stood whispering to each other. Jonas and I locked gazes for a moment, and I felt like I was going to faint. He was intense - so much more so than I remembered him being onstage.

"Ladies," his voice boomed and we all jumped a little as his eyes swept over the group, "as a king far from his own lands I do not require much, but I do demand your respect..." Everyone quieted and stood still, not daring to flinch lest they find themselves in my place.

"Now then, my dear," he said, his voice a little softer as he took a step towards me, "at the risk of sounding crude, please remove your t shirt if you have something appropriate on underneath."

"Take...what?" I turned to find Ma, to see if she actually expected me to strip half naked in front of him.

Suddenly, the material of my shirt was jerked against my body from behind, as his fist wound into the fabric, and his other hand shot out across my throat, pressing one finger against my skin and sliding it from one side to the other.

"Now, you're dead," he said in my ear, but loud enough that everyone could hear him, "Kamilah, what did I just say? Please repeat it so everyone can hear you."

My face went almost purple with burning embarrassment as he held my shirt so tight, I couldn't move either of my arms, and breathing required a bit more effort.

"Now I'm dead."

"No, dear, before that."

Oh shit.

I squirmed in his grasp. Was he really about to make me repeat that?!

"T-today you're our alpha, a-and we have to do exactly what you say..." I started burning in a different way when I said it and I heard a cough to my right that sounded suspiciously like Johannes trying to muffle a laugh when my legs shifted a little.

"Precisely. Now, Kamilah," he let me go, and I took a deep breath, as I turned to face him, "do you think I'm asking you to take half of your clothing off because I want to look at you without your permission?"

I shook my head.

"Do you believe that if I wanted you bare before me, I would have to use any authority at all? Do you believe I am incapable of making a woman desire me to the point of undress?"

I flushed again.

"N-no sir," I whispered, and he snickered darkly before putting both hands on my shoulders.

After that last question, I was acutely aware of the pressure from each fingertip, pressing against my skin as I watched his face shift into a little smile.

"Do you understand that I am doing this to teach you the best way that I know to keep you safe?" His tone softened and he finally looked at me with a gaze that wasn't made of granite.

I nodded slowly, thoroughly chastened now, and pulled my tshirt off over my head. I had a sports bra on underneath it, and it wasn't that big of a deal, but I still felt badly for doubting his intentions.

Plus I knew now that my nipples were probably clearly visible.

Jonas moved around me, facing the group once more.

In the viewing room up above, the Heads all watched carefully.

"Quite good isn't he, this young king," Sol mused to no one in particular, "I must admit, I had my doubts, but he seems..." she was rarely lost for words, and the pause drew Raya's attention.

"Well-equipped?" She chuckled, turning her attention back to the gym below and pretending not to notice Sol's exasperated eye-roll at her halfway-dirty comment.

"We never fight wearing loose clothing. Never give your opponent any chance to grab onto something that is attached to you. And seeing as how most of you have longer hair, that is included. Clothes remain tight and protective, hair stays up and as tightly wound as possible. Do you understand?"

A group nod.

"Now then. Any of you who wish to go change into something more appropriate, please take a moment to do so now." Several of the girls scurried off towards their rooms, almost tripping over each other in their haste.

I tossed my tshirt aside and turned to him. "Do you still need me, or..." I motioned back to the group, almost begging to be released from this embarrassment.

He ignored me.

"The rest of you, please pay close attention as I am not fond of repeating myself. Since the beasts we await are canine in nature, I cannot imagine a better way to train than with something of the same family. They will not be the same, but they will be close."

I groaned heavily, immediately clapping both hands over my lips, but knowing the king had heard me. He motioned to his bodyguard.

"Henrik, you're up."

A warm body suddenly stood flush against my back, bringing another wave of color to my cheeks as the muscles of his bare chest brushed against me and he leaned down over my shoulder, scenting in a line up my neck that made a tiny sigh of want escape my lips.

"Your hair needs to go up further, its too low...no telling what might happen if I got a hold of you like that," he murmured into my ear, starting to pull my ponytail out of the elastic with one hand, "may I?"

"I-I literally cannot tell you the weird fantasy I have that involves this, so please be my guest," I said, really only half joking, but making a few of the girls laugh anyways. He snapped my hairband around one wrist and started finger-combing my hair, gently but with a suggestion of roughness that made me squirm as I desperately tried to keep my vocal responses muted.

"Whats wrong, Kamilah," he purred into my ear, pressing his fingers to my scalp as he started to gather my hair up high onto my head, "you're fidgeting like you're uncomfortable...am I hurting you, Kamilah? I must be..." he still hummed in a teasing way, getting a little rougher with my hair.

"No...gods the fucking opposite," I almost moaned the words as my eyes closed, losing my mind at the sinful pleasure that was Henrik running his hands through my hair, and I let my head move however he pulled it.

"Oh dear, little Kamilah, is this turning you on?" he chuckled darkly as his nose brushed the shell of my ear and I couldn't believe this was actually happening to me in front of the entire Temple. "Ahh," he rasped into my ear, a low moan that made my back arch and all the hairs on my entire body stand up, "are you...bothered by me? Hmm? Tsk tsk tsk. My king demands focus, little Kamilah..."

He pulled my bun tight and smacked my ass hard as he moved back, and I yelped and whirled around only to be face-to-face with a massive golden-blonde wolf.

"You FUCKER!" I yelled, my brain still swirling with arousal, "you did that on purpose to make me lose focus!"

Everyone had backed away, leaving Henrik and I staring at each other.

"Listen to your instincts, Kamilah," Jonas called, "how does he strike first?"

"My instincts are telling me to run for the hills, your highness," I said snarkily, moving one foot at a time to keep Henrik in front of me as he started to circle like a shark.

"Wrong instincts," the king laughed.

"Hardy har har, asshat," I mumbled under my breath, glancing back and forth between Henrik's teeth and his paws as we continued to dance.

"I swear to the gods if you fucking bite me I will launch you into the sun, Curly," I warned, a cold frisson of fear creeping up my spine.

I'd grown up next to a family who had dogs. Big ones. Mean ones. Every time someone called animal control or the police to report their breeding conditions, they'd get their mutts taken. But somehow, they always started up again. The bull mastiff jumped the fence one day that separated our property from theirs, and chased a shrieking seven year me around my own yard until I was in tears, convinced the snapping, foaming jaws were going to be the last thing I'd see on this earth. My father had come out with a shotgun, and as I watched Henrik snap his jaws, even though it was only a playful response to my threat, I heard the blast again. I felt the dead weight pin my body to the ground, the warmth of the blood leaking through its punctured skin.

I felt like I was going to pass out.

The world started turning in a funny way around me, and I latched on to the only thing I could hear other than the ringing that was starting to get louder.

"Don't overthink, Kamilah. Read his movements. Watch his paws, not his teeth..."

With every deep breath, and every firm placement of my foot on the padded mat, I started to be more present. To tune out the crowd of girls who were still trying to play catch-up to the fact that the handsome bassist had just dropped to the floor as a wolf. I tuned out Tim and Johannes and John, calling taunts and urging Henrik to take a bite out of my ass.

Henrik lunged at me then, but I'd watched him do this move with Johannes, and knew where he was going. He bit at the thin air, turning and growling lowly at me as I jumped to the opposite side.

"Yes! Good!" Jonas' praise gave me a confidence boost as everyone else started to filter in to my stream of consciousness.

Henrik snapped at my left leg, but I moved it first, bringing my hand down against the side of his head and sending him stumbling a step or two.

"That was for smacking my ass in front of the entire Temple," I said lowly, the smile in my voice evident, though I kept it from my face. I felt the sweat start to drip down my back and all my senses now felt like they were over-performing.

I could hear the material of Ro's workout pants moving as she fidgeted back and forth and watched nervously. I could hear the way Henrik's growls vibrated through his whole body. Every strand of fur in his coat was like a technicolor masterpiece, a mix of blonde and brown, his natural hair color and the dye. His paws made no sound as they crossed one over the other in a circle around me and a fierce snarl left his lips as they curled up to reveal gleaming white teeth. I could hear the way Tim's breath became a little more ragged as he watched me.

"Watch how you move your feet, Kamilah." Jonas voiced his thought exactly as I pinned Henrik's weakness. As a human, he was lithe and deft on his feet. As a wolf, he tended to cross them, one over the other, especially when he was keeping his eyes on me and doing his best to be terrifying.

"Your king gives good counsel, wolf," I grinned, and I launched at him, tackling him from the side and we both went flying.

He weighed more than me and as we struggled on the ground, he pinned my arms with two massive front legs, baring his teeth in my face in a victorious snarl before dropping his snout to my neck and slowly licking up a drop of sweat that ran down my clavicle.

"Yeah, but you won't do that as a human...get off of me," I grumbled.

He growled back and settled his weight on top of me, as if saying, 'oh, wouldn't I?'

I laid my head back and concentrated for a moment, trying to figure my way out of this before I became catsmeat in a real life scenario. Henrik resting on top of me only made the memory more potent as I struggled to breathe. The blast. The blood. The snarling jaws. Limbs burning from exertion. The sheer, blinding terror that abruptly ended my childhood.

With a primal scream I kicked my legs up hard and sent a slightly surprised looking wolf flying back over my head and behind me, skidding across the padded mats. I was up and in a defensive posture in less than a second, breathing hard and waiting for a counter-attack that didn't come. I waited in that same crouched down position as I watched Henrik get to his feet, shaking his massive head back and forth, and then felt a hand on my shoulder.

I shot up with a fist pulled back, and it was immediately covered and stopped by one of Jonas' hands.

"Easy, dear, easy..." he used the same voice John had used on me the night before, but his face broke into a grin. "That was very, very good."

His voice dropped lower so everyone wouldn't hear.

"Sex and arousal are what turn off our overthinking brains, it tunes into something more...primal, that you need when you fight. I apologize for having him do that to you," he chuckled, "but you kicked my bodyguard's ass, and unless I'm mistaken you didn't use your energy at all."

I stared at him for a second and realized he was still holding my fist. It dropped to my side and I felt another wave of confidence, enough to make me sarcastic as I calmed down.

"So, what you're saying is that I need to get laid right before the battle? Excellent. I'll be sure to notify all my male escort friends to be on call."

"Someone closer I'm sure would be less compelled by obligation or currency," he said over his shoulder with equal snark as he walked away, and I felt a shockwave go up my spine as my eyes sought Tim's.

When he looked at me, the want was so plain on his face, I was surprised he didn't have an obvious erection.

"What the fuck is happening to me," I muttered, running my hands over my face and turning away. Henrik walked up to me then on two feet, clapping a friendly hand against my shoulder.

"That was awesome! Damn girl! You know I weigh almost 190 pounds as a wolf?! And you just launched me like I was made of paper!" He shook me again and the grin on his face made me collapse into hopeless giggles.

"Why do you know how much you weigh as a wolf?" I asked through my laughter, imagining him trying to fit all four paws on a scale, "actually, nevermind don't answer that."

He chuckled, but dropped his lips to my ear again as I turned to move away from him and back towards the crowd of girls waiting their turn. One finger slid under the thick racerback strap of my sportsbra, preventing me from going any further as he gave it a little tug back towards himself.

"Your sweat tastes good, Kamilah, and you're hot as hell when you fight mean," he half-whispered half-growled and my breath left on a hiss. He let the elastic go with a sharp snap against my back.

"You are a cruel, cruel man, Henrik Sandelin," I huffed to his utter delight as he laughed loudly and loped back towards the rest of his pack, who Jonas was pairing with individual girls to test their skills.

I joined the watchers, and a tap on my shoulder drew my attention as one of Shell's girls whispered in my ear, "that was so hot. He is so hot. Is he single? Whats their band called again? Gods, I just want to run my fingers through his hair..."

I snickered and rolled my eyes as I answered her questions, excusing myself after a moment to go take a breather.

I climbed the stairs and stepped out into the hall, putting my hands on my hips as I walked a few steps. I rubbed the spots on my biceps where Henrik's paws had pressed into the skin hard enough to bruise and winced a little at the tenderness.

"Hey."

I turned at the sound and was suddenly slammed hard into the stone wall as my mouth was crushed into a passionate kiss and my exposed skin was gripped and explored by a pair of hands that were wonderfully hungry and curious, covering my waist, my neck, my arms.

"I don't know that I've ever been as turned on as I was watching you fucking take on a full-grown adult wolf in a fight and winning," Tim growled, thrusting his tongue back between my lips and drawing a whimper from me as I wrapped my hands around the back of his neck and he pushed all his weight against me. He tasted so impossibly good and intoxicating, I couldn't stop myself when I bit teasingly at his bottom lip and he moaned, nearly flooding me with arousal.

"You should see what I can do when I get my actual powers then, little wolf," I said lowly, with as much sex appeal as I could muster, tracing the line of his lower lip with the tip of my tongue.

Tim suddenly gripped the back of my left thigh, and with more strength than I would have credited him with, wrapped it around his hip, moving his grip up to the bend of my knee and holding me hard enough to bruise as he ground his hips into me, making me roll mine back against him.

"Why should I wait that long when I'm hard for you right now, Kamilah," he said, breathing against my lips and taking a piece of my soul with every little movement against my center. I could feel how hard he was and a moan left my lips when he kissed me again savagely, the fierceness of his animal side bleeding through as his tongue filled my mouth.

"I want you so fucking bad," I gasped, my hands splaying out across his bare chest even as I tried to talk myself out of fucking him in the middle of the hallway. He growled into my mouth and the hand not holding my leg started to work its way under the waist of my workout leggings against the side of my hip, moving towards my center.

"Well, I'm afraid that will have to wait, my dear..."

Chapter Text

I squeaked as I tore my leg out of Tim's grasp and stamped it firmly on the floor.

Jonas stood royal hands on royal hips off to the side, and we both looked at him like we'd been caught in the act, which we almost had, truthfully.

"Tim, there is a fiery little thing with pink curls waiting to hand your ass to you in the training room," he said, a hint of a smile curving his lips as he nodded his head back in that direction. Tim sighed and leaned back into me, pressing his forehead to mine.

"Duty calls," he groaned before standing and making a half-bow to his king in submission. Jonas' eyes flicked down to his hips and he raised one eyebrow at his trusted adviser.   "Not a fucking word," Tim grumbled as he took a deep breath and shifted before padding off on all fours down to the training room.

"Fuck, I'm never gonna get used to seeing that," I breathed, leaning back against the wall and closing my eyes. "I can't believe you guys are even real. I mean...not that you weren't real, but I can't believe you have a--a kingdom. I mean do you wear your real crown onstage? Does anyone else know? What happens if someone accidentally ends up in Avatar Country?!" My questions started to spill forth once the floodgates were open.

Jonas chuckled and moved towards me. He was still shirtless, and the residual adrenaline and arousal coursing through my system made me spend far too long focusing on his nipple ring.

"Sorry," I said as I was still unable to stop looking at it, "I'm babbling...you're very... distracting, sir..."

He swooped up to me, his hand against my throat and his hips pressed to mine in an un-kingly manner that was mindbogglingly delicious as my back once again touched the cool stone wall.

"More distracting than Tim? Don't lie to me, I know you were going to let him touch you right here, right where anyone who leaves that training room could see you..." his nose ran in a delicate, sensual line up the side of my neck, and his tongue darted out to taste me briefly, drawing a low hum from his lips. "Henrik is right you know, you are delicious..."

"Jonas, please, I fucking can't," I gasped, not caring that I was using his name rather than his title. He backed away and looked down at me with an amused smirk.

"You guys have got to stop doing that to me! I'm going to melt into a puddle on the floor!" My exclamation drew a laugh from him and he pulled one of my arms through the crook of his own, done with teasing me for the moment at least.

"Walk with me, Kamilah, I have some questions..."

"Don't you have to watch the trainees?" I asked suspiciously, "how can you be alpha if you're out here with me?"

He chucked lowly, patting my hand that rested against the inside of his bicep. "Henrik knows what to look out for."

"Wh--ugh so he fucking let me win then didn't he..." I groaned, shaking my head.

"Oh, no. Don't think for a minute that you didn't fairly kick his ass, Kamilah," he laughed again, leading us out the side door and into the gardens. He paused on the stone steps, eyes moving over the sea of plants, their blooms open and eagerly drinking the sunlight after last night's rain. 

"Fuck me..." he whispered, eyes wide with awe.

"That was not very royal of you, sir," I giggled.

"I--forgive me, miss," he mumbled, reverting back out of habit to his courtly training, "this is quite a garden..." I watched silently as he drank in the visual assault that was the colors and shapes of all the flowers and stalks and leaves, and he closed his eyes and breathed in their scent, sighing happily after a moment. "Wow..."

When he looked at me my fingers were pressed to my lips and there were tears threatening to spill down my cheeks.

"S-sorry," I stammered, "gods, you're just...I know you know that I love your music, but...I didn't expect to get so much happiness from seeing you be happy..." I sniffled and pulled away from him to wipe my eyes, turning back for a moment to joke with him.  "Damnit, Jonas, you guys are really wreaking havoc on me!"

He laughed out loud, a deep belly laugh that made my heart beat triple time as I watched the way it lit up his face and accentuated his smile lines. An absurd thought crossed my mind, but it felt so right in the moment, I couldn't deny it.

"Can I...can I hug you?" I asked a little sheepishly. He seemed slightly amused, but held out his arms anyways. I moved into his embrace and was amazed at the instant wave of relaxation that seemed to threaten the stability of all my limbs. "Gods, you're so...warm," I sighed. All traces of lust and want were gone from us now, and he simply held onto me, taking the comfort that I gave off as I took the same from him, resting my cheek against his bare shoulder and inhaling his scent.

"Whats wrong, Kamilah," he asked lowly, the sound moving under his skin and making a humming sound under my ear.

"I'm scared," I finally mumbled into his skin, giving voice to the nagging little fear that had been chewing at me since last night, "I haven't had my Calling, and I'm afraid that...well...when Set comes...I'm not powerful on my own." I pulled back from him and wrapped my arms around myself, "I--I barely have enough energy to keep a flame alive in my hands. I mean you saw how much dimmer it was the second time last night, and..." I sniffled as I started to experience real tears of abject terror, "Jonas I don't want to die," I cried, bowing my head as my tears fell down my cheeks, feeling a bit like a fool.

"Oh, no no, none of that now," he wrapped me in his arms again, but differently this time. It wasn't mutual any longer, it was just Jonas giving me the protection and assurance of his body. "Sweetheart, I know you'll think that I'm just saying this to show off because you're a fan. But I am a damn good fighter. My father taught me to rule justly and with compassion, but he also beat my ass every single day in the training ring until he made me what I am. I know what move you're going to make before you do, and I know how to stop it." He pulled me back, pressing his palms to my cheeks and forcing me to meet his penetrating gaze. "Kamilah, I will not let anything happen to you...and not that you need me to tell you this, but I hardly doubt Tim would let anyone hurt you either. He's sarcastic and distracts with jokes so you don't know how he actually feels about anything, but..."

I blinked hard at the mention of Tim. The King had a way of talking to you that made you forget everyone else existed.

"But what..."

Jonas took a deep breath, releasing it on a sigh before continuing, "after that show, he talked about you for...a while. He looked for you everywhere we went. He wanted you in a way that I've never seen him want before, dear. Yes, there was a primal motive, but...something else was there too. As his king, I have a right to tell you this, but as his friend, I think its best that I let him do it. Expressing feelings is not something he's good at, so be patient with him, but...but he's got a big heart, Kamilah. He feels deeply, even if he behaves as if he doesn't. And he's a savage fucking fighter. Unlike any I've seen before when he's engaged."

My tears fell unheeded down my cheeks, and I found my fingers pressing into the place on my skin that I had dedicated to him. To this man, who I was now finding out cared for me in a way that I never even dared to dream was possible. Jonas dropped his eyes to my hand, pressing to my thigh, and he reached down to take it in his own before dropping a sweet kiss to the knuckles.

"I wish I could express to you the extreme joy I saw on my friend's face behind closed doors last night about that tattoo...he thought you were gone for good, and then somehow the forces of the world brought us all together again. Even if its for a shitty reason."

"I...I don't know what to say..." I stammered.

Jonas looked at me deeply, cupping my cheek again and not speaking for a moment. I got that sneaking feeling that I was being evaluated, but I didn't ask him to stop.

"Sweet Kamilah," he finally sighed, "...so much more to her than meets the eye...terrified of dogs, but takes on an adult male wolf, afraid of judgement but willing to give herself to a stranger in the hallway because she feels so strongly for him..."

"I--I...how do you do that?!" I said, pressing a hand to my heart as I snapped out of what felt like a trance and he dropped his hands from my cheeks. Jonas chuckled lowly, shaking his head.

"My dear, when you meet with as many artificial facades as I do, you learn to interpret the real from the fake with extreme precision."

"Well you're making me all...melty," I muttered, looking at the ground and pressing the toe of my shoe into the dirt, dislodging a little stone and moving it over the grass.

"Sorry, melty wasn't my intention," he laughed, leading me over to a bench amidst a tangle of fragrant rose vines.

"You said you had questions?" I asked, closing my eyes and leaning into the bushes to inhale their aroma.

"Mmhm yes," he rumbled, watching me closely and feeling a fond affection for me growing within him, almost paternal in a way, like I was one of the citizens of his kingdom who looked up to him for truth and protection. He took my hand and squeezed it quickly. "I told your Mistress that I was going to ask you a few things, and she acquiesced quickly enough, but please if you're uncomfortable telling me anything, don't feel like you have to."

I nodded, taking another deep lungful of the sweet floral scent.

"You mentioned a Calling, and I believe someone did last night at well. What is that?"

I opened my eyes and looked at him when I answered.

"Well there are two. Our respective god or goddess calls us at birth - that's the first one. We're destined to come to the temple then, and learn how to serve them, but its not...I mean its not like slavery or anything. We're gifted with powers that reflect the deity that has chosen us, and when we're here we get broken down into elements - Air, Water, Earth, Aether, Fire."

He nodded at me, urging me to go on as he pulled a rose blossom from its vine and started running a finger over the petals. A physical focal point had always helped him to interpret and understand complicated information. A part of me wanted to roll my eyes at the entire situation - of course his majesty the fucking KING was sitting with me in the stupid garden asking probing questions while stroking a rose.

"As for me," I continued and he didn't seem to notice my pause, "I was called to serve the goddess Sekhmet."

"Sekhmet?"

"Yes. She's...she's a warrior goddess, a daughter of Ra. A protector, a destroyer, a healer...she's complex and wonderful. But we don't automatically get...I guess confirmed for lack of a better word. We get called from birth, like I said, and our powers kind of...manifest a little bit. Its different for everyone. I was lucky, and my mama was a pseudo-Kemetic, and prayed for me to be the real thing the whole time she was pregnant. I started showing signs of being some kind of fire, please don't ask because that's a long story, and one day Ma showed up and swept me away to this place..." I gestured around us.

"Whats a pseudo-Keme-- oh, sorry. Please," he gestured for me to continue.

"The second one is when your god or goddess feels that you've been faithful and learned of them enough to encounter them in person. You get called into their presence and they bestow powers on you reflective of their own...its like a big ritual thing."

Jonas frowned a little. "So what, you'll just...just disappear into thin air to meet with her?"

"Ah, well no. Its different for everyone in terms of the process of getting there. Like I know for Aurora," I bit my lip at the way his expression lit up again at the mere mention of her name, "ahem. For Aurora, since she's called to serve Geb, like Eden was, her Calling involves being...ah, well...buried. Out here actually," I gestured around, "she's been working on this place since she got here."

His face shifted into something like disbelief as he looked around.

"Its not as weird as it sounds, I promise. From what she's told me, she just basically gets covered in vines and flowers and Geb calls her. She meets with him in another plane of reality, and...then he gives her her full gifts. That's my understanding of it, anyways, I might have some of it wrong, I'm not an earth."

"Hmm..." he tugged at his beard thoughtfully for a moment, "and your Calling is different then? You said you're a fire?"

I chewed at my lip. "Ah, uhm. Yes. My...my Calling is a little more...hands on?"

He raised an eyebrow at me, waiting for me to elaborate.

"I...ahem. Sekhmet is kind of like the divine feminine, so there's a certain...carnal element..."

Both his eyebrows shot up this time.

"Look, I didn't choose her, she chose me, and I'm thankful for it! She's everything I want to be - fierce, protective, wise, brave..."

"Kamilah. Tell me what your Calling is..."

"W-well...its a sex rite. There aren't many gods that have them. Fr-from what Ma has told me, another priest or apprentice to one of them comes and...we..." I shivered and started to feel like my throat was closing. "Please don't tell Tim. I don't want him to feel like I want him, but have to go sleep with someone else...I-I don't even get a say in when it happens, I mean you guys probably will be long gone..." I started to babble and was cut off by his steely glare when I looked up.

"Wh--what did I say?"

"You have to have sex with a complete stranger?"

"I--from what I understand I'll be...blindfolded..." I murmured the last word as I looked away into the rose bushes. It was the only part I was truly concerned about over what I was chosen to become. "Its always someone that the Heads know, right, I mean its not like they just pick someone off the street. They would never allow anyone that's predatory or, or...you know...they take a lot of care in choosing. And I never find out who they are. Its not about that..its...fuck, please don't think I'm some kind of sex-crazed loon making this up."

"Kamilah..."

I breathed a deep sigh, feeling my blush already coloring my cheeks at discussing something so intimate. "From what I understand...what makes me go to Her is the actual act of me and my...person...well...you know..."

"Fucking?"

"Uhm, yes, but--..."

"Oh. Coming? You have to come together, or..."

"Shit, I'm so so so sorry!" I turned beet red and buried my face in my hands. "Its so fucking intense to hear you saying that to me, I'm so sorry, sir!"

Jonas started laughing, another one of those deep laughs that set me free in an inexplicable way, and I looked up and shoved one of his bare shoulders with the heel of my hand.

"You don't understand how attractive you are, its not my fault! Coming at me sideways talking about orgasms..." I grumbled.

He laughed more, and I couldn't help but smile at him as the sound filled the garden around us and I shook my head.

"Aurora thinks so too, you know," I said softly, with a tender smile. He caught his breath, and I wondered if he even knew that his hand lifted to his heart.

"Is that so," he breathed, and I nodded, knowing that Ro would never pluck up the courage to tell him so herself.

"She's kind of crazy about you I think."

He looked at me in the most honest way at that moment, and I couldn't stop myself anymore than stop the weather when I leaned in and brushed my lips against his.

"I promise it is so," I whispered, pressing my forehead against his as his eyes fluttered shut and I finished with a little declaration, "my king..."

"Kamilah, I am not your king. You're not born of my land. You owe me no loyalty," he pulled back and looked back and forth between my eyes and he gently ran his palm down the side of my face.

"Jonas. You are my king by choice. My primary allegiance is always to my goddess and the Heads. But then, its to you," I shrugged, "and honestly in some form or another its been that way for years, even before I knew what you were, I guess. Even when I watched you rise up in that ridiculous golden chair, which, can I just say, looks awfully shaky."

He snorted a laugh, thoroughly ruining the solemnity of the moment, "it is. Half the time I'm not sure it'll hold me up. Gods when we played Download Paris, I thought for sure I was going to fall to my death from that height."

I giggled with him, feeling a closer connection than I thought was possible with another human that wasn't female, and I butted his forehead with mine again.

"I guess we should go in if the rest of your questions can wait till later?"

He nodded, rising and offering me his arm once more. When he took a step forward, I pulled back, unable to stop from speaking my heart's truth now that we were on such personal terms.

"Sir...Your Majesty...Your Highness...My King...I know you wont, because you're a good man. But I need to say it, in the case that...well whatever. Jonas, if you hurt my Aurora, I will rain the fucking fires of hell down on you and not bat an eye."

He looked startled for a moment, staring at me, but I was flabbergasted when he dropped to one knee before me, taking my hand and pressing my knuckles to his forehead as I'd done with his the previous night.

"Kamilah. I swear to you, on the souls of the all the citizens of my country that I've been entrusted with, on the very land that I rule by birthright, and on the lives of my friends here, I will never bring harm to such a bright, innocent spirit such as her...never."

It was good enough for me, and I dropped to my own knees and cupped his face.

"She's everything good left in the world, Jonas."

"And I would have her treated as no less..." He leaned in and kissed me -a seal on a promise forged between us. A protective shield on the last innocent flower either of us knew, the last slip not tainted by the evil of the real world. We both got to our feet, and I wrapped my arms around his neck, standing up on my tiptoes until his arms snaked around my waist and he lifted me off my feet, spinning me once to my shrieking delight before setting me on my feet.

"Lets go, champion, I have a mind to see how you fare against our dear Aurora in hand to hand..." He dragged me along, despite my protests that we had just talked about his.

Chapter Text

We entered the training room to a multitude of curious glances that I ignored, and I watched as Johannes took one of Ciel's girls off her feet with a hard headbutt right to her stomach. She fell back with an 'oof' and he bounded over top of her, slurping a lick up the side of her face and jumping out of reach as she went to smack him away.

He tore away, across the gym to where John was rising up from getting his own blow to the side. Johannes tackled him sideways and they started wrestling, playfully growling and yelping at each other until John got up and took off, Johannes hot on his heels as they raced laps around all of us.

"Oh my gods, they're like puppies!" I giggled, watching them go.

"Distressingly so, sometimes," Jonas groaned and stepped right into the path of the two wolves barreling towards him. They both skidded to a halt and looked sheepishly up at their master, but the stern moment was over when Johannes reached over and bit John's ear, drawing a startled little yelp from him.

"I need to go confer with the Heads about something, Kamilah. Please get two sparring rods and take Aurora into the training ring."

"Yes, sir," I nodded, then patted Johannes on the head as I moved towards the supply closet, receiving a happy bark in return that made me giggle.

--

Everyone gathered as Aurora and I each took our sparring rods in our hands.

"Gentlemen," Jonas said, holding a hand out in our direction, a wordless suggestion as his men shifted back into wolves and climbed into the ring, started to stalk around us both, snapping their teeth dangerously close to our legs. Close to the point that I realized I was actually going to get bitten if I didn't move.

"Now, Kamilah, Aurora, listen to me. Nothing is ever sufficient to prepare you for a real battlefield, I will not deceive you by letting you think so. However. The evil that comes this way walks on two legs, and on four, and you need to be prepared for both. Don't think for a moment that you will only face one opponent at a time - it doesn't work the way you see in movies. They will swarm you, and if you're not aware of every single thing happening around you, they will take you down..."

I was starting to feel nervous, the hostile sounds rumbling through each wolf only adding to my anxiety.

"Show us how you fare, ladies." He stepped back, keeping a close eye on everyone, watching for any sign that his wolves were being too lenient. Ro and I looked at each other and the fear she felt was plain on her face.

"No powers. Don't rely on your energy, rely on anticipation and moving quickly," Jonas added.

We started to circle each other, avoiding the wolves as best we good, but both of us getting nipped. Henrik caught my ankle and I turned to fight him off with my rod, opening myself up to Ro's advance. Her pole smashed into my ribs and I yelled in pain, wanting to buckle but staying on my feet as John and Johannes snarled viciously, loudly, their teeth on full display. It was such a distinct sound, like the tearing of fabric, and I started to tremble with fear, losing my focus altogether.

Jonas encouraged Aurora as she landed another blow against my right arm. "Sorry!" She called to me as she sidestepped Tim. I glanced down at my bleeding ankle and glared at Henrik as I ducked to avoid the end of her rod.

"Didn't I say I would launch you into the sun if you fucking bit me!?" I yelled, my frustration palpable at having so much happening at once. He snarled and lunged at me, receiving a solid thwack from my stick. "Serves you right!"

Jonas looked up towards the viewing room where all five Heads were gathered, spectating. He nodded once, and suddenly a massive crash of thunder rocked the entire structure.

"NO!" Aurora screamed, terror making her face pale.

"Not all battles are fought in the sun, Aurora, focus," Jonas snapped. The rain started to pour down on us, immediately soaking the little clothing we had on, and adding yet another element of difficulty as the poles in our hands became slick and harder to grasp. The water stayed inside the ring with us, never dropping to the floor, courtesy of Ciel's bewitchment. Another crash of thunder and Aurora started to shake.

"Come on, Ro, its just thunder," I called over the noise, trying to keep her mind on what we were doing, "it can't hurt you, there's no lightning. Its just sound...back the fuck off!" Tim's teeth closed around one side of my stick, and I used all my power to shake him off, sending him skidding away to one side of the ring.

"RO!" I yelled, but she stood there shaking, trembling like she was having a fit, her eyes closed tight. She didn't even notice when Johannes snapped at her calf, catching the stretchy material of her workout pants in his teeth and tearing it and inch or so up her leg.

Her eyes opened and they were glowing, but unseeing, as she started to shriek.

"Daddy, please don't!!!" She dropped her rod and waved her arms like she was fighting someone off, but we were all standing completely still, shocked.  "Please, that hurts!! Daddy, no!!" She collapsed to the floor and started rocking back and forth on her side, weeping, still so deep in her flashback that she didn't know we were there as she curled up into a ball. "I promise I'll be good! Stop! You're hurting me!! PLEASE DADDY!!!"

I threw down my sparring rod and raced to her side, gripping her by the arm and turning her over to face me. "Ro!!! Ro. Ro Ro Ro. Aurora, look at me. You're safe, you're in the Temple." I turned up to the viewing room, yelling at the one-way glass, "turn that shit off Ciel!!!"

An almost inhuman shriek left her lips and I went flying through the air as her energy hit me like a truck. my back slammed into Tim's side and sent us both rolling backwards until we crashed into one of the metal poles that marked the outside of the ring. He immediately shifted back to a human and wrapped an arm around my waist to move me off of him.

"Ouch! Fuck! Are you okay? What the hell was that?"

I was too stunned to speak, and all I could hear was the sound of her screaming. Eden was there in the next moment, grabbing Aurora and countering when she tried to send the same force through her that had sent me flying, though I watched her whole body twitch for a moment with the impact of it.

Jonas stood stock still, paling under his blonde beard, terrified that he'd already broken his promise to me as he watched the chaos unfold.

Aurora quieted down and went limp, her head lolling to the side as her eyes closed.

"Marisol!" Eden called, but Ma was already at her side, "help me get her to the garden! We need to get her in the ground now."

"I must say, Geb's timing is impeccable as always," Sol said quietly as she brushed her fingers over Ro's face, feeling her racing pulse in her neck. Tears streaked down my cheeks as Tim hauled me to my feet and kept his hand at the small of my back as we watched.

But a shadow fell over the two women as they struggled to get Aurora up. Jonas was silent as he knelt and slipped his arms under Ro's legs and behind her shoulders, lifting her like she hardly weighed a thing.

"This way, please, sir," Eden moved quickly, but the King matched her pace without a problem, carrying Ro's body like it was going to break in his hands, clutching her against him. He followed Eden and the other Heads out to the same area in the garden where we'd just been, and laid her gently on a patch of grass where there were no other vines or plants. His hand gently cupped her cheek, feeling the soft innocence of her skin, and burning from it.

"Sir," Eden gently prodded until he moved back. She closed her eyes and started whispering in a language he didn't know, and as she spoke, delicate green vines hardly thicker than his fingers started to weave over her until the was covered. The king exhaled sharply - he hadn't imagined anything like this when I told him what her Calling entailed.

We all stood back, watching, and I realized that my hand had involuntarily sought Tim's as we stood shoulder to shoulder watching my friend get reclaimed by the earth that she served. His thumb brushed slowly, rhythmically back and forth over my fingers, keeping me grounded where I was.

"Is she--" He started, then paused.

"Dead? No. Just...she'll be okay." I laid my head against his shoulder and explained a Calling as simply as I could, hoping he wouldn't ask about mine, but he did anyways.

"Do you have to do that too? Get planted like a flower?"

"I--..." Jonas looked up at me and I chewed my lip, "no. Mines...different." I didn't wait for him to respond, instead moving to Jonas' side and sitting down next to him on the ground where he was still kneeling by the green mound that was Aurora's body.

"I didn't know..." he whispered, and I watched tears well up in his eyes as Eden sat on his other side and put a soft hand on his arm.

"She hasn't ever tell anyone other than me, sir. She...I trust you understand that we didn't know while it was happening. Our girls are marked at birth, and Aurora grew up in a rather conservative home. They...he believed she was possessed by the devil. Or a devil..." Eden shuddered and a look of pure rage crossed her features. It was unfamiliar on her, and savage as she stared at Aurora's motionless body. "How you could do that to your own fucking child. Hiding under the cover of the thunder so no one would hear her. He is a monster."

"...Is?" Jonas' tone was cold and hard, his face firming into a thunderous mask of undiluted anger. He looked up to his spymaster, "John."

He didn't need to say anything else, and John quickly bowed before trotting back up the steps to the temple to find his phone and call his men.

"Sir, we...I can hardly condone--" Eden started, but her mouth snapped shut when he looked back at her. His eyes were like dangerous blue flame and everything about his expression was murderous.

"You don't have to condone anything. I would not have such a worm even breathing the same air as her, Mistress," he said lowly. She frowned, but stood after a moment, daring to place her fingers under his chin and tip it up towards her face.

"Thank you."

A cold joy filled my heart, and I reached over to take Jonas' hand, nodding once when he turned his face back to me. The seconds that our gazes were locked felt like an eternity, and I finally blinked when Ma cleared her throat from next to us.

"No, sire, please there is no need," she said, putting both hands out when Jonas moved to get up.

"Kamilah, if you need anything, I'll be in my office...the rest of you," she addressed the gathered crowd, "please resume your training. Aurora will be fine."

Jonas waved a dismissive hand to his men, "please, go back to the Temple and rest, my friends, or return to the training room. I'll be fine here."

Henrik looked like he wanted to argue, but he just glanced over at me.

"I won't let anything happen to him, I promise," I said quietly, and after a moment Henrik nodded solemnly.

"Sorry I bit you," he shuffled his feet and buried his hands in his pockets. I looked down at the little bit of blood on my ankle, then glanced up at the sun before looking back over at him. A wry smile curved his lips, and I motioned my head towards the Temple. He wandered away with everyone else, and Jonas laced his fingers through mine as we leaned back against the bench and I laid my head on his shoulder.

"That was my fault," he said quietly after several minutes, "I knew she was afraid of the thunder, and I asked for it anyways."

I butted my forehead against his bone in his shoulder. "And you knew I was afraid of dogs, but you didn't stop Henrik from biting me...you were just trying to get us to face our fears and focus through them."

Jonas nodded after a moment. My heart broke for him at the obvious distress on his face, and I shifted closer, physically turning his face to me with both hands.

"Jonas. You couldn't have known. I didn't even know. Come on, lets go inside, she may be out here a while." I let go of him and got up, brushing the stray blades of grass off my shorts before turning to offer him a hand.

"I was there when he died," he said suddenly, staring off into the trees beyond the Temple. It wasn't what he'd meant to say, not even close in fact. Why did he say that?

"...Who?"

"Mattias. My brother."

"Oh." I sat back down, closer to him than before and he offered me his hand again. It was calloused and hard, but warm and the kind of hand that you always remember the feel of, no matter how many hands you held before or after. "I'm sorry. I remember you saying last night that he'd passed."

"Mm-mmm. Not passed," he mumbled, staring off at a giant sunflower on the other side of the garden. "Died. In a messy and horrible way."

I was glad the King wasn't looking at me so he didn't see one of my eyes twitch, but I apologized again, figuring he'd share more if he wanted to, and if not, then we could just sit and listen to the quiet sounds of the early evening.

"I apologize, Kamilah, I don't know why I just told you that."

"No, its okay. I have this thing, its like an aura and people tend to just sort of...blurt stuff out in front of me. Its my trusting face or something like that," I winked at him and wiggled my nose like Samantha Stevens from Bewitched. He snorted a laugh and took his hand from mine, preferring to wrap his arm around my shoulders and pull me against his side. I tried not to let the fangirl back flips show on my face and buried my hand into the grass.

"You can tell me, if you want to, sir. I-I won't share it with anyone. I know when...when I was in a similar situation, sometimes it felt good to talk about it and sometimes it felt really awful. So no pushing from me either way."

He looked down at me as I twisted a blade of grass between my fingers and seemed engrossed in the way it bent, twisting it one way then the other before pulling it taut.

"Brother or sister," he asked softly, using the hand wrapped around my shoulder to stroke my hair lightly and get my attention.

"Uhm. Sister. Big sister."

"How?"

I was relieved that he was straight out with it - everyone always wanted to know how it happened when they first found out, but some of them were so maddeningly careful about how they asked, like I was going to be offended, or like we didn't all go home and watch the exact same serial killer documentaries on Netflix.

"Accidental overdose. Fentanyl."

He nodded, pulling me further against him until I pulled back and shifted, turning over and sitting parallel to his body. He leaned back against the bench, seated at an angle, and pulled me in so I laid across his chest, looking up at him as one of my arms wrapped around his back and the other rested against the darkness of his chestpiece. I was surprised at how comfortable it was. Half naked, he was lean, but stronger than I'd anticipated.

"When?"

"A couple years ago. After. Ahem. My mom called after I got out of your show, a-and I got the first flight out to go back home."

The look on his face was hard to describe when he tipped my chin up firmly and stared down at me, forehead furrowed, lips frowning, eyes uncertain.

"Does Tim know any of that?"

"Gods no, are you kidding?" I huffed a laugh, realizing if I didn't do something I was going to cry, "I could hardly think straight enough to call an Uber to pick me up and get me back to my apartment. I doubt I would have even been able to make a coherent sentence in his general direction."

"Of course, of course," he mumbled, removing his hand from under my chin and wrapping it around my back, pulling me up a little further against his chest until his beard was tickling my nose. I didn't miss that he did it so I wouldn't be able to see his face. "I'm sorry, Kamilah. I know the way that stays with you everywhere you go."

I nodded and we were silent for a while. The lulling combination of his breathing and his heartbeat were making me feel almost hypnotically tired.

"Can you tell me about Mattias?" I asked quietly as his left hand moved slowly over my hip, back and forth. None of his touches felt like an intrusion or the crossing of any kind of line. He was perfectly safe and inviting and I felt more connected with him emotionally that anyone else on the planet at the moment, knowing that he wasn't touching me for pleasure, he was just touching me because he could, because I was there, and offering him the same exact things that he offered me. It was a different experience, to touch someone just to feel them, but I was instantly sure I liked it.

"He was my younger brother. Just by a few years - not enough of an age gap to really separate us from growing up together. We learned how to fight together, how to hunt, how to write. Almost everything, really." He chuckled softly for a moment, "he was a good wrestler. Laid Johannes out flat on his back more than once."

I found it absurdly funny to think of a tween version of the 6'4" man housed somewhere in the Temple right now being bested by a boy several years his junior and I giggled quietly.

"My father was king, so I, being his oldest son, was supposed to take the throne when he died." He sighed heavily, the garden disappearing as he again heard his fathers voice, talking about Plato and Philosopher Kings. About the goodness of a ruler coming from more than the hardness of his fists. "He started teaching me from a young age everything he knew about being king. Everything he'd learned in all his years protecting our people and ensuring that they had good, fulfilling lives..."

I nodded, thinking that I would very much have liked his father, and wondering what he would have thought about the man and the king his son had become. Surely he would have been proud.

"He taught me to be kind and compassionate with people, to be patient with myself and those closest to me, and not to make snap judgments," he laughed again, "he--he would say 'pick a guitar scale --no I don't care which one, Jonas, just pick one -- and play it five times in your mind before you ever make any decision about something upsetting'."

The four fingers of his left hand started gently tapping one at a time against the exposed skin of my side, playing a scale I couldn't hear as he remembered the words.

"Anyways. Sorry, I didn't mean to be so long-winded..."

I lifted my head and glanced over my shoulder at Aurora's vine-covered green mound. "Still nothing, so don't apologize on my account," I smiled then laid back down, squeezing him a little.

He breathed deeply, brushing his lips against my forehead. "Out with it then, man," he said to himself.

"When my father started to decline, Mattias began voicing certain opinions that were...subversive at best. He'd rant about how we needed to expand our borders, and broaden our economy. And I didn't disagree with most of it in principle. But I wasn't raised to rule as an imperialist autocrat - if those things happened, they were going to be done by diplomacy and cooperation, not invasion and suppression..."

I nodded.

"Eventually my father died. He went exactly the way I want to - at home in his own bed, surrounded by his beautiful wife and his grown sons, knowing he'd done everything he could to pass his kingdom on in peace to me...and he did. I didn't have any concerns about taking his place. And I was 18, so Mattias was really only about 16 at my coronation."

Coronation.

I imagined some grand cathedral with Jonas kneeling proudly, having a crown placed over his tawny hair.

A shiver passed down my spine and he paused.

"Shit, sorry, just ignore me."

Gods, but this was all so overwhelming to hear, and we hadn't even gotten to the messy death yet.

His chest vibrated with a silent laugh before be continued, running a hand back over my hair again. "I like the blue by the way," he smiled softly down at me for a moment. "The whole day was perfect - the weather, the ceremony, my friends were all at my side, ready to take their places in my court basically getting paid to do what they'd always done anyways," he snickered, "and everyone was happy I think, except Mattias...as everything was winding down later, he confronted me in one of the empty halls, stumbling over his own feet like he'd been drinking. I know you're not familiar with our customs Kamilah, but you can't drink at 16 there either. Its always been 18."

"Hmm, lucky you then, I guess," I chuckled, and he did too.

"Ironically, I, the one of legal age, was sober. Stone cold. My mother made me swear it when we were figuring out the details after my father died. As soon as I was officially King, I could drown myself in a barrel of whisky if I wanted to, but until then she was still the queen and I was still her son, and I had to do exactly what she said."

I could almost hear his mother's voice coming out of his mouth, and stifled a giggle. A sad smile curved his lips and I wondered if she was gone too. Didn't he have any family at all left?

"Mattias was...dissatisfied that I didn't share his views. I think he had convinced himself that once our father was dead, I would start listening to him more, and see the light in his radicalism... but it simply wasn't the case, and I told him so. He said our father was weak, and that I'd be weak just like him, and...and I reacted stupidly - I should have just told him to go dry out, but I took a swing at him instead. Like I said, he was a good fighter - smart, lithe, even as obviously wasted as he was. We tumbled across the floor, landing punches and splitting lips and..."

I could hear his breathing start to shake as he tried to get the words out. My fingers slowly rubbed over his shoulder in a soothing pattern as I tried to communicate to him that he didn't need to rush.

"We shifted. Our father never allowed us to shift inside - too many things get broken when you have kids learning how that stuff works, but we did anyways. My wolf was always bigger than his, but he was faster than me every time. We were biting and clawing at each other, and I don't think either of us even heard Henrik until he was there, tearing Mattias off me and tossing him down the corridor."

He turned his head and pulled his hair away to reveal a set of scars that looked like puncture holes from sharp canines, just at the nape of his neck.

"Ouch," I traced the little circles, and he nodded, remembering the sharp pain as his brother sank his teeth into his flesh.

Henrik's voice played in my mind, telling me that he'd always guarded Jonas, and I sighed as I realized what a loaded statement that had been, and I just had let it go.

"You've seen Henrik shift Kamilah, he's...imposing," Jonas continued, "but Mattias wasn't afraid. I got to my feet at the same moment he shifted back and he stood up and...ah. ahem. There was something suddenly in his eyes that was so foreign, so unlike my brother. Like a...a glowing. A burning, kind of. And he...he pulled his knife from the sheath he always wore on his left hip, and said if I was going to run the country like my father, he wouldn't be around to watch. And then he...fuck, he s--...he cut his throat. Straight across while he stared at us. Didn't even blink."

Tears dropped against my skin as I froze in place. I had no fucking clue what to say. Slitting your own throat was gnarly, and a horrifying thing to witness I was sure. Especially his own brother. Gods.

The only thing I knew was that after my own sister passed, touches were what I got the most comfort from - everyone offered words, but only a few really broke from the norm and gathered all my broken pieces up to hug me and touch me and tell me how sorry they were. And that's exactly what I found myself doing. I struggled out of his arms and swung one leg over his, sitting squarely in his lap facing him and not giving a shit how it looked to a casual observer should they happen past.

"I'm so so sorry," I whispered, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and just holding him as I buried my fingers in his hair. I'd never seen a grown man cry, but Jonas shook silently, weeping against my shoulder, reliving all his grief as his tears dropped down my skin. I rocked him back and forth as his arms remained locked around my waist, holding me in a vice like grip as he calmed, eventually pulling back and looking up at me. His tears made his eyes bloodshot, but they also intensified the blue in such a powerful way. I gently wiped them away with my thumbs as his moment of vulnerability passed, and I pressed my hand to his cheeks as I dropped a tiny kiss to his forehead.

"You know, everyone tells you its not your fault when something like that happens," I said quietly, lifting to get up off his legs, but being kept there by a pair of firm hands on my waist. "But I think that its kind of silly that so many people assume that we blame ourselves in the first place..."

Jonas' face relaxed, like he was hearing something he'd thought all along but wasn't sure how to say.

"I think Henrik blamed himself for it for a lot longer than I did," he said quietly. "And I always thought there must have been something wrong with me for not being crushed by guilt..."

I nodded my head. "I thought so too, but then someone reminded me one day that we already suck at making our own decisions, and we'd never get through a single damn day if we were responsible for making other peoples' decisions for them too..." I cupped his cheeks again with both hands, feeling the softness of his facial hair, and touching his lip ring with my left thumb as his eyes met mine again. "I'm sorry about your brother, Jonas. But from what you've told me, you're a good man and a good king, and I think your father would have been proud of you."

He sighed and glanced over at Ro before looking up at me again, reaching his lips up to brush against mine tenderly.

"I don't think I've told anyone all of that before. Thank you for listening to me."

I wiggled my nose again. "Bewitched ya," I giggled, tapping my finger against his own nose once before getting up from his lap and offering him my hand. He smiled softly, but shook his head.

"I'll stay a little longer if you don't mind..." his eyes rested on Aurora's form, the flowers on the vines closing as the sunlight started to fade.

"Of course," I smiled, turning for the Temple. After a few steps I turned back around. "Hey, can you maybe not tell Tim why I didn't stay?"

He faintly raised one eyebrow at me. "These requests for kept secrets are becoming a list Kamilah. He's not a shallow man, just have some trust and tell him...unless you would prefer to have him continue to think that you were just uninterested."

I chewed my lip, then nodded, turning back to climb the steps.

Chapter Text

The king sat silently, watching Aurora as the sun sank low over the horizon.

John came and stood quietly by his side, waiting to be acknowledged.

"Is it done?" Jonas asked quietly, not looking away from her.

"It is, sir. Quick and painless."

"Not what he deserved."

"No, but the end result is still the same." John watched his king carefully, his brow furrowing at the obvious sadness that was plaguing him. He placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "What is it, my king? Is this about the girl?" he nodded towards Aurora, "because her fathers dead now. And they're never gonna find him. He's never going to get a funeral or final rest..."

"That's part of it I think..."

"And the rest?" It was making John uncomfortable to see his king this way. He had moods just like every other person, but they rarely drove him to seek bloody revenge like this.

"I told Kamilah about Mattias..." he still didn't look at John as he spoke.

John stood frozen in shock - no one every brought up Mattias, and he and the others had frankly been surprised when Jonas decided to finally go through his things. Even more so when he divulged anything at all about his death last night to a group of relative strangers.

"...Why?"

Jonas tugged at his septum piercing, lost in thought for a moment before he answered. "I'm not sure, honestly. I suppose someone here needed to know everything, just in case--..."

"Wh-- because of this Genesis Stone thing?"

Jonas nodded, looking up at the man who had been his friend for more than twenty years, who had proved to be both loyal and honest, even when it came to telling his King things he knew he wouldn't want to hear.

"John what if that's what made him...do you think its possible?"

John ran a hand back over the shaved side of his head, rubbing the back of his neck while he thought about the question.

"I don't know...I think...I can look into it, but maybe that would be a better question for Marisol or Shell. Probably Shell."

"Hmm," Jonas nodded in agreement. "I need to talk to Aurora first. So for now, perhaps we continue to let the dead lie..."

John bowed and took the dismissal, disappearing into the wooden door of the Temple and closing it behind him quietly.

The minutes ticked by, and Jonas let her screams haunt him.

Her unseeing eyes.
The child-like way she rocked back and forth on her side.
Her pleas for the pain to stop.

He didn't deserve to even be in her presence, but couldn't make himself leave.

Finally, a stirring under the vines brought him out of his mental torture and he moved to her side as she slowly struggled and eventually pushed her way out of the tangle of green. The vines, having served their purpose, began to retract and disappear into the ground until there was no trace of them left.

Aurora looked around and froze when she saw the King.

"Jonas?" her voice was barely a whisper and tears started to fall down his cheeks, "you're here..." she reached for him.

"Oh, Aurora, I can't tell you how deeply sorry I am," he moved into her embrace and she wrapped her arms around his naked shoulders as his encircled her. He whispered her name into her skin like a prayer, completely overwhelmed by the torrents of emotion coursing through him, "oh sweetheart, I'm so desperately sorry, I didn't know."

"You couldn't have known, my king, no one but Eden does," she sniffed, her own tears dropping against his skin and sliding over the tattoos there. "But thank you for what you've done."

He pulled back at hearing her refer to him that way, and as his mind processed the rest of what she's said, his hands closed around each of her shoulders.

"How do you know what I've done..."

Her plaguing anxiety was gone, taken by the one she served, and she cupped his cheeks, drawing him back to her.

"My Lord Geb told me. He showed me. I...its over." Her green eyes swam with tears that for once weren't from fear or distress, they were from thankfulness and overwhelming amounts of adoration and want.

"Yes, my love, its over," he breathed, his entire heart beating for nothing but her when she leaned up to kiss him.

Her lips were like the springtime, like the softest petals at the very center of a rose, and his brain went haywire.

She didn't speak anymore as they kissed, but slowly laid back down into the grass, pulling him with her and moving her legs apart to accommodate his hips between them as he laid over top of her. Jonas moaned lowly into her mouth when her lips parted and his tongue sought hers, drowning in her taste and shivering at the way her hands moved up and down his sides.

All he wanted was to pleasure her, to drive her to say his name over and over again until the world stopped turning.

She whispered his name, catching an echo of his thoughts as his lips moved down her neck, dropping kisses all over her exposed skin, tasting the salt from her sweat and the sweetness of the earth that seemed to flow through her.

"Love me, Jonas," she sighed, arching her back as he sucked at a tiny patch of skin near the base of her throat, marking her, making her his.

"I do," he breathed against her skin, working his hands under her shirt slowly and moving it up her body until she pushed it up off her arms.

"You're the most beautiful flower in this garden, Aurora," he rumbled, "a bloom that makes the others worthless..." He said the words lowly as he trailed kisses and licks against the creamy skin of her torso, feeling the way her breath hitched under his lips, and needing more everything she did.

"Don't stop," she moaned softly, closing her eyes and threading her fingers through his dreads as he swirled his tongue over one of her breasts, teasing the nipple with his teeth and drawing a sharp gasp from her lips before switching to the other.

Her hips bucked involuntarily, seeking.

"Tell me no if you don't want this," he said lowly as he started working her pants down off her hips, not even noticing the little tear in them from where Johannes had snagged her earlier. He wanted to make sure there was no pressure, no insistence on his part, though he hardly could imagine stopping.

She looked up at him with eyes the color of the grass that swam in the breeze around them, "you're all I want..."

"Then you shall have me, my darling," he kissed her again, slowly, lovingly, until she was shifting under him once more, pressing her skin against his and absorbing the warmth of his body as she kicked her pants down off over her feet. Her fingers moved slowly over his skin, feeling each little muscle twitch as he held perfectly still over her.

The material of his pants slid down over his hips as Aurora traced the lines of his back, the sides of each hip bone, the curve of his ass, until he mimicked her motion and kicked them off his feet.

"Your skin is like silk," he whispered, leaning down to her lips and feeling more complete with each second her exposed body touched his. He finally couldn't wait any longer and dipped his hips, slowly moving against her, sliding through her folds and drawing a sharp sigh of pleasure from her lips. She moved with him as he kissed her, slicking over him and feeling as connected to him as she was with the earth under her back.

"Take me," she gasped, sinking her teeth into her lower lip, still unsure what to expect, but unable to hold back anymore.

"Look at me, darling," he said quietly, waiting for her until she did.  Jonas pressed into her slowly, holding himself up on his palms and groaning as her fingernails scratched against his back at the sensation of being filled by him.

Her brain swirled.

There was no pain.

There was only a burning, consuming pleasure. A completeness that flowed from the way their emotional connection had become a physical one.

"Oh my Aurora, my beautiful flower," he whispered as he started moving, slowly in and out of her, relishing each little noise she made and how her body responded so perfectly to his touch.

"Yours," she breathed as she arched her back and bit her lip.

He growled lowly and picked up his pace just a little, watching her pleasure unfold for him like the delicate blooms all around. He rolled his hips a little each time he bottomed out, doing everything he could to make her feel pleasured and wanted.

Every movement he made, every shift of his hips or sharp gasp of breath was like a feast of sensation. There wasn't enough time to take it all in, to explore every ridge and muscle of his arms, his back, his hips. A fleeting thought passed through her mind that perhaps eternity itself wouldn't be enough time for them together.

"Aurora," he gasped, moving faster still as he felt his orgasm building, and finally coming at the sound of her rapturous pleasure as she arched off the grass, her rust-colored hair standing in such beautifully stark contrast with it. Jonas filled her with wave after wave as her inner walls squeezed him almost painfully tight and she cried out his name to the setting sun, their highs intertwined and swirling around them as they gasped for breath, staring at each other.

He didn't say anything as he slid out of her, moving onto his side and gathering her forward into his arms. She nestled against his chest, intertwining her legs with his with a little smile, and pressed a kiss to his pierced nipple. The hiss that fell from his lips encouraged her as she looked up, seeking his gaze before she toyed with the sensitive flesh, just the tip of her tongue caressing it through her Cheshire grin.

"You are going to find yourself over my knee if you keep that up," he growled, already feeling aroused again though his body was spent.

Ro pulled back with a giggle and snuggled closer to him, sighing happily at the feeling of the grass under her skin and the man under her fingertips.

"I am sorry," he said after several minutes of simply watching her, and she frowned up at him. "Gods, you must have thought me a fool for trying to make you not fear the thunder last night. I didn't understand..."

"No, I didn't think you were a fool. That moment was the first time in my entire life that I've heard thunder and not..." she took a deep breath -it was over now and she had nothing to fear- then looked back up at him, "I wasn't afraid for once, Jonas. You made me not afraid..."

Her delicate blush was like the clouds in a sunset, and he skimmed the backs of his fingers against her cheek.

"I never thought I would feel affection like this again," he murmured, fidgeting with his lip ring after the words left him. Aurora beamed up at him in that way that made his breath hitch in his chest, and she pushed up onto her palms.

"And I never thought my first time would be in a garden, but here we are," she laughed as she got to her knees, looking around for her clothes.

Jonas took pause. "Your...your first..."

"Oh..." her blush was crimson. "I...ahem. Well...yes."

Jonas got to his knees too, gathering her forward until the lengths of their bodies were pressed together, leaving no room for judgment or fear.

"Well, Aurora, it was an honor to be that for you," he bent his head and kissed her, rasping the words against her lips and making her sigh beautifully as she melted into his embrace and his hands worked into her hair, anchoring her there, tasting the sweetness of her mouth again. Her hands slid around his back, drinking in the smooth, tattooed skin, and the hard muscle underneath, toned from years of work.

His name fell from her lips like an incantation, and all the intentions that he'd had to stand and dress and take her inside flew out the window as he slowly sank back into the grass and her legs moved onto either side of his hips.

Chapter Text

I glanced at the clock on the wall and yawned before resigning myself to clearing my dishes and heading to bed. I hadn't seen Tim, John, Jonas, Johannes, or Henrik since the scene with Ro this afternoon and I nervously wondered if everyone was okay.

Too many things were swirling around in my head as I thought about my conversation with Jonas, and I didn't pay proper attention to where I was going. I walked right past my door, and didn't realize it until I saw the suite at the end, the large wooden door shut tight.

"Huh? Oh...idiot," I muttered, turning around and heading back towards my original destination. I must have walked right past Henrik the first time and not noticed, because he was standing halfway between where I turned around and where my room was.

His mouth was working his lower lip as he stared at one of the paintings on the wall. The Heads were always switching up portraits and paintings, and our hallways sometimes reminded me of the ones in Harry Potter where the paintings would move and talk to each other.

Neither of us said anything as I stood next to him.

It was late and I was tired, but I tugged on his shirt sleeve and quickly wrapped my arms around his waist when he turned, startling him but I didn't care.

"Whats this for?" he finally asked when he recovered and realized who I was. The blue hair was a dead giveaway for most people.

"Because you're good, Henrik," I mumbled into his chest, feeling him laugh and smiling with him.

"Well I'm glad you think so," he said softly, petting my hair with one hand. "Hows your ankle?"

I was hesitant to let go of him, but I did anyways, looking down and rolling the appendage in question. "Its okay. You're gonna have to make it up to me though," I teased with a little smile.

He stepped closer, and I knew exactly what he was going to say, but I wasn't about to cut him off and not experience the offer in person, though I found I had no intention to take him up on it.

"And how would you like me to do that, Kamilah," he said lowly, pushing a stray lock of hair back off my forehead with the tip of his index finger as he stepped closer still.

"What, grabbing my ass once today wasn't enough for you?" I snarked back with a raised eyebrow, and he rolled his eyes exasperatedly as he dropped his pretense of being a tease.

"Look, I touched it for like a single split second! And I was already shifting so it doesn't even count because I didn't get to enjoy it!"

I started laughing, covering my mouth with my hands after a moment as he grinned at me, shaking his head. 

"You have such a nice laugh," he said quietly, the smile resting on his lips still.

"Thank you." I turned back to the painting he had been studying on the wall. It was a landscape, no people at all. Rolling hills dotted with little patches of trees here and there. A thick forest off in the distance, cutting across the skyline. It was simple, but evoked a quiet sense of calm, and I wasn't surprised at all that his had been the one that drew Henrik in.

"Looks like home," he turned back to stand next to me, staring at the painting again.

"Really?"

"Mmhm. We all can shift into something - birds, wolves, foxes, bears, that kind of thing - so a ton of the land gets left open. Just left natural, you know? Even though we still think like people, you never feel quite right as an animal wandering through man-made stuff. Towns and stores and paved roads. It feels better to be out in the open. Grass and birds and big sky. Gods. You've never seen skies like we have back home, Kamilah..."

My breath stuttered a little as he talked to me about his home - it was obviously hard for him to be away.

"It seems...endless. Bigger than the ocean. And in the winter, there are lights that just...I don't even know how to describe them."

"Like the northern lights?"

He nodded his head. "That's not what we call them, but its the same phenomenon. Colors that you would never know even existed, dancing across the sky, reflecting off the snow...when we were kids, we'd all go out to this one hill. It was pretty far out of town, but we all had endless amounts of energy at that age."

I giggled, "I'm sure your moms were collectively thankful you picked one so far away."

"I'm sure," he chuckled, "we'd all take off, shifting as soon as we were out of town limits and tearing through the grass, racing to get to our spot. It was right at the crest of the hill, and if you laid flat on your back and looked up, you couldn't see anything else - no buildings, no trees, nothing except the sky and the lights. The six of us spent hours up there talking and debating, wrestling, making fun of each other. Just kid stuff, I guess."

My shoulders sagged a little at the mention of six, and I slipped my hand through his, giving it a little squeeze.

"I'm sorry about Mattias," I whispered.

Henrik stiffened for a moment, "so he did tell you."

"Yeah. We...yeah he did."

He crumbled a little with the sigh that seemed to deflate his shoulders. "I just didn't move quick enough..."

"Hey," I jerked him sideways to face me, "stop that. I know I don't have all the details, but you did everything you could have. You broke them up and protected the king, just like you'd always done, right? There's no way you could have known he would do something like that."

Henrik nodded a little, and I didn't say anything else. 

"Fuck..." he sighed, "I know. I know that. And its what I tell myself every time, but I still can't help but feel like there was something I missed. I shouldn't have left Jonas alone, or I shouldn't have let Mattias in the hall with a knife in the first place, or I should have wat--"

I gripped his face with both hands and pulled him down as I stood on my toes and pressed my lips to his, cutting off his babbling with a kiss. 

"Henrik," I whispered into his lips, painfully aware of the sudden tingling in all my limbs, "you can't do that to yourself. He's gone. There isn't anything you can do."

He blinked hard a couple times, like was was trying to wake up, "did you just kiss me?"

"Yeah, why? Do you want to see me do it again?" I snorted a laugh at his expression as he blinked owlishly again and I let go of him. But he pulled me back and wrapped his arms around me, just holding me to him and leaning his cheek against the top of my head. 

"I think...I think you and I would have become good friends if we'd met in any other situation," he mumbled into my hair, "I like talking to you. You're interesting."

I smiled and nuzzled a little closer to him, inhaling his scent and relaxing into his embrace, "well I like listening to you talk, so maybe you're right..." I stepped away again with a grin, "and I prefer dark and mysterious, but interesting works too, I guess."

Henrik barked a laugh and grinned at me, "yeah, you're dark and mysterious in the same way that John is extroverted and sociable."

I dropped my jaw and feigned a look of mock-offense as I pressed a hand to my chest.

"Oh, now you're just being rude! I'll never let you make up for biting me with that attitude!"

He snapped his teeth playfully at me before grabbing me into another hug and I giggled helplessly as he held onto me tight. 

"I want to hear more about where you're from," I said, the sound muffled against his cotton zip-up.

"I'll tell you what. Come have breakfast with us tomorrow, and I'll tell you everything you want to know," he smiled, releasing me with a little kiss dropped against my hair.

"Count on it. Goodnight Henrik, don't stay up too late," I smiled.

"Goodnight, little one," he watched me close my door before heading back down the hallway with one last look at the painting.

I didn't bother locking the deadbolt - after everything that had happened today, I'd welcome someone sneaking into my bed to ravage me.

The memory of Tim slamming me against the stone wall and telling me how hard he was for me only served to reinforce my open-lock policy.

I slid under the covers, letting my fingers slip between my legs as I replayed over and over again what his tongue felt like filling my mouth, and a tiny moan left my lips when the sudden unbidden, but not unwelcome, memory of Henrik standing impossibly close to me and whispering into my ear surfaced. I muffled a gasp into my opposite hand as I pleasured myself, letting my mind wander away with thoughts of what their hands would feel like gripping my breasts and sliding between my legs...

My orgasm left me sated and sleepy, and I rolled over, snuggling into my pillows and immediately drifting off.

I wasn't sure what time it was when I my door cracked open and I felt a warm body slip into bed with me. I turned over, expecting to find dark hair and greedy hands, but instead was greeted by a little tooth gap and a pair of bright green eyes.

"Ro! Oh, hey love," I whispered, relieved at seeing her whole and okay as my hand pressed to her cheek and I pulled her to me to hug her tight.

"Hi," she sighed, snuggling closer to me as our legs threaded together and we simply held on to one another.

"How was it? Was it crazy? Whats Geb like?" I was awake now and full of questions.

"It was...it was intense. But it was everything Kamilah. He knew everything about me. All that I've ever done, and everything I think. And he showed me...ahem. He showed me what Jonas did. Or... What he had John have someone else do."

"Woah...fuck," I breathed after a moment's silence. "Are you mad? I mean...shit. Babe you could have told me, you know that right? You know I'll never judge you for anything?"

A beautifully mischievous grin curved her lips. "Not even for fucking the king?" she giggled, her entire body shaking with laughter.

My jaw dropped. "You did not! And since when do you say fuck?!"

"Twice!" she laughed some more and we giggled together like schoolgirls, tucked under the covers, hiding from the world. "And how was your day?" She beamed with a confidence that I was unused to from her.

"Well...not nearly that eventful, but I did almost let a stranger finger me in the hallway," I chuckled.

"Who, Tim?"

I nodded, biting my lip at the memory.

"I like Tim," she mused, "you should have seen him watching you fight Henrik today. His eyes were glued to you." Ro hugged me tight when I didn't answer.

"Can I stay in here with you tonight? I feel all weird and not totally myself yet."

"Of course you can," I butted her forehead with mine and we both settled into the pillows.

"I've never been in love before," she mused with an innocence that made my heart sing, "I feel like I could just soar through the sky like a bird if I wanted to."

"Do you really think you love him?" I asked quietly and she immediately nodded, a silly grin pulling at the corners of her mouth that made me know it was true.

"Then as your best friend, I have to ask you...whats his cock like?" She snorted a laugh and swatted me on the arm.

"Kamilah! You're so bad!"

"Dude, do you have any idea how many nights I've laid in this bed wondering that?! Just put my mind to rest!" I giggled.

"He's very...regal," she grinned, biting her lip for a moment, and I wondered if she was going to last the night in my bed without sneaking off to Jonas'.

"Oh, gods," I sighed, "yeah?"

She nodded.

"Pierced?" She shook her head. "Damn. You know, I kind of always thought it would be for some reason...Well that...ah, shit. I thought I wanted to know, but now I really can't handle it."

Aurora snorted loudly, laughing into the darkness. "Yeah? And what about Tim? Are you gonna move on him? He obviously wants you."

"I know...he-he kissed me last night. After I took them back to their rooms."

Ro shot up on one elbow and shook me excitedly by the shoulder with the other hand. "Stop it! Really?! What was it like??"

"Yeah...it was...gods it was good. Better than I ever imagined, honestly. Its all I've been able to think about all day..."

She blew a raspberry into the air above my head, "I don't blame you. Did you watch him fight today? Pretty intense."

"He's so intense," I agreed, "I mean, you know me, and how I constantly worry about what other people think, but I was literally gonna let him finger-fuck my brains out right in the middle of the hallway today. I didn't even fucking care that Ma or any of the other Heads could have just walked right out."

Her grin was knowing, and she rolled onto her back to look up at the ceiling. "Its hard to believe that all this good stuff is happening, but we're all still waiting for Set...Kamilah do you think he'll really come?" She turned her face to look over at me.

"Yeah, Ro...he'll come." I yawned again, and she rolled over to peck me on the cheek.

"Sorry for waking you up. Goodnight!"

"Sweet dreams, pêche," I mumbled as I drifted off to my own dreams of a chestnut wolf with gold circles on his ears, laying on his back looking up at the lights.

Chapter Text

I woke up full of a buzzing energy.

Ro was already gone, and I wasn't sure if she stayed the whole night or not. It hardly mattered, but a fleeting image of Jonas naked among the roses, roaring with the force of his passion, passed through my brain and I shivered hard.

I showered and made then remade my bed three times, unsatisfied with how it looked after my final attempt, but giving up in favor of going to find breakfast. I was running hot, and ditched the jeans and fancy shirt for a pair of high rise cutoffs with fishnets and a Ghost tshirt, doing my makeup dark and letting my hair fall down my back rather than putting it up.

The irritability was like a nagging flame, chewing at me as I walked down the hallway towards the dining hall. I glared at girls I usually would have greeted happily, sending them scurrying past me.

My eyes involuntarily sought him as I entered the room, everywhere I went it seemed I was always looking for him now. I burned with arousal as he saw me and did a double take, pausing mid-sentence, and I found my feet moving forward, given permission by the parts of my body that shouldn't have been in control of my brain, but were. I reached their table and he looked me up and down as I stood before him, one hand on my hip, the other tipped under his chin, teasingly scratching the skin there as I smirked at him.

"Wow...hi," he said, surprised at how forward I was being with him in full view of everyone. I stepped forward and sat in his lap, bringing a startled look to his face, but precisely zero complaints as I settled further, pressing into him. A tiny part of my brain was screaming at me to stop, but the insistent throbbing between my legs refused to be silenced.

"Hey there," I purred, leaning in to kiss him with tongue, not even noticing when the bite of food on Henrik's fork fell back onto his plate as the utensil froze halfway to his lips. One of Tim's hands involuntarily wrapped around my waist, as the other settled on my leg against my tattoo, the fingertips pressing into my skin as he groaned into my lips and returned my kiss, unable to stop himself.

"Whats gotten into you?" he finally breathed, pulling back when he started to get hard and I felt it, almost imperceptibly shifting my hips forward into him. I smirked again and tipped him on the nose before rising from his lap, moving around the table to say good morning to everyone else as well.

I couldn't stop myself, it was like someone else had control over my body.

I pushed my hand into Johannes' hair and bent over his face, pressing my lips to his and drawing a surprised gasp from him. I felt the eyes on my back, but easily ignored them.

"Mmm, hello handsome," I whispered into the lips that wordlessly opened and closed under my own as I hovered and he fought for something to say, staring flat at the table when I released him and moved on.

To my surprise, Henrik kissed me back, and I moaned softly into his lips. They were like velvet, though they were less full than either Johannes' or Tim's.

"You see Henrik? If you weren't so mean to me, maybe you wouldn't miss out," I said lowly, pushing my fingers back through his hair and gripping it tight, mentally screaming at how soft and full his curls were - better than I'd ever dreamed. I dropped my lips to his ear as I spoke and relished the shiver I got in response, "or, maybe I'll let you make it up to me after all..."

"I--I...I'm really turned on and really confused," he responded when I pulled back and patted his cheek twice with a ridiculously confident smirk.

John furrowed his brow at me, though he didn't try to stop me as I kissed him. But he kept it short and didn't kiss me back. His lips didn't even move.

"Good morning, Kamilah," he said formally, and I frowned playfully, settling on the bench next to him and wrapping my hand around the back of his shaved head.

"Always quiet, always watching. Always so serious, John," I teased. He glanced at Tim with an unsure expression and received a shrug in return. "Fine then, perhaps your master will be a better sport," I breathed, kissing him one more time at the back corner of his jaw before getting up and moving towards Jonas, who stood when I reached his side.

"What are you doing, Kamilah," he asked with a suggestion of reproach in his voice.

"Just saying good morning, sir," I replied sweetly. He scoffed, not believing me for a second.

"My dear, you are distracting, and I need to discuss some things with my men," his hands wrapped around my shoulders, physically turning me, "so now would be a good time to go find yourself some breakfast elsewhere."

"Oh, no fun, your majesty," I purred, looking back up at him through my lashes. He bent his head and his lips whispered along my jaw, drawing a little sigh from me as my fingers curled into the front of his shirt.

"Kamilah if you don't start moving those beautiful legs right now, I will bend you over this table and it will be spanks to the count of five for every second that you stay...and not a soul in this room will be able to save you."

I gasped and looked up at him, almost frozen in place and flooded with arousal. He cocked an eyebrow at me and my legs started to move on their own until found myself back at Tim's side, on my way to find Ma at the Heads' table.

"Come find me later if we're done playing chase," I whispered into his ear, laying one more lingering kiss to his lips and wanting to die from the thought of him between my legs. I left before he had a chance to reply, and he looked up at his king, who was watching me go, hips swaying, confidence on overload.

"I--what the fuck? I have no idea what that was about..."

"That girl needs to get laid, Tim," John mumbled, pulling his ponytail down over one shoulder and fussing with the ends.

"Agreed, but something is off," Jonas mumbled, eyes still on my retreating form as I made my way to the table I sought. I got there and greeted Ma with a light kiss on the cheek.

"Kamilah, was that strictly necessary to do in front of the entire Temple? Have you lost all your sense?!"

"Oh, come on Ma," I grinned, "its just a bit of fun! Gods but everyone is being uptight today."

She harrumphed at me and did a little double take when she caught my gaze.

"Oh...Kamilah, come here," she moved over on the bench and made room for me to scoot in between her and Raya. As soon as I was seated her thumb pressed flat to my forehead and I squirmed under her touch.

"What are you doing? Stop!"

Her thumb lifted and she stared at the mark left, an imprinted suggestion of my fire elemental symbol.

"Hmm. Two Callings in as many days...what are the chances?" She mused more to herself than anyone else, then looked at the other Heads. "I suppose the day has come then, ladies."

"Wh--wait, what?" I pulled up short.

"Kamilah, please go back to your room. I will have breakfast sent to you and I will come find you momentarily."

I stared at her for a moment with a frown. "Ma I'm being Called now?"

"Kamilah, I asked you to go to your room. I am your Head, and you will do what I request. Now go."

I shuffled off grumbling to myself, eager to be out of the path of her withering stare.

Jonas watched me go, shifting and scratching at my skin like I was uncomfortable in it, and he glanced up at Sol, who met his gaze and nodded once.

"Excuse me," he mumbled to his men before getting up and crossing over to her table.

--

I closed my bedroom door hard. Why the hell was I being banished like this? Because I for once felt like I wanted to be hot and dominant? My fingers bunched against my fishnet tights, wanting to rip them and scream out my frustration. I hardly believed that this was what my Calling would feel like, but I collapsed backwards onto my bed and tried to prepare myself mentally for what was hurtling my way.

The tears were unexpected, but unstoppable when they began. I was terrified at the idea of having sex with a stranger. Even if he wasn't a stranger, I wouldn't be able to see him. And I was somehow expected to get off that way? I wondered briefly about what happened if I couldn't come, but my musings were interrupted with a knock at the door.

A part of me prayed that it was Tim. That we would get our chance before this massive change happened. But when I opened the door, five faces looked in at me.

"Oh, fuck. This is really happening, isn't it?"

Sol swept into my room, followed by the other Heads, and took my hands.

"Today is your Calling, Kamilah. Oh, how I've waited for this moment. My dear, Sekhmet has called upon you. Today you meet the warrior goddess face to face!"

I was thrilled at the prospect, but still a little wary of the means to get there.

"I prayed to my master to let this moment come before Set does," Sol whispered, hugging me close, "and his daughter has deemed you worthy. Well done, Kamilah. I am so proud of you. Of the woman you've become..." Her words struck a chord in my heart that made me hug her back, hiding for a moment in the safety of her embrace. But all too soon she pulled away.

"Now. It is time to prepare you."

"...Pr--what? Look I already showered this morning."

"Nonsense, Kamilah. Come, dear."

All five of them shepherded me from my room, fussing over me like mother hens, and we ran into the King as we moved to the opposite end of the temple, towards the Heads' rooms.

Tim looked inquiringly at me, one arm held by Sol, one by Shell. I stared at the floor, unwilling to meet his gaze as tears welled in my eyes. I hated that this was how it had to be, but I didn't have a choice. I glanced up at the King, and he looked down at me, a hint of sadness in his expression. 

"Sire. Please forgive our absence, we need to...tend to Kamilah for the next several hours. I trust that you understand."

"Mistress, please do not apologize, no offense is taken. We don't expect to be entertained every moment," he chuckled, ignoring Tim's burning stare at the back of his head.

We took our leave, and I ignored Tim when he called my name, hunching my shoulders and wishing a hole in the floor would open and swallow me up. Eden noticed my tears as we moved down the hallway.

"Oh, come now, sweet girl, there's no need for that," she assured me, "you've been done a great honor by being Called! Just think - today you get to meet Sekhmet! The protector of the Pharaohs of old! My sweet, if I was you, I'd be jumping for joy."

Said jumping hardly came, even as l I was sunken into a deep bath in Ma's room. I'd never been in her chambers before, but they were somehow everything I expected them to be - not lavish or ostentatious, but comfortable. A cooling gel mask rested over my eyes as my right leg was pulled out of the tub and I heard the first hauntingly beautiful notes of Regret start over Ma's stereo.

"Oh...you don't have to...I know you don't like their music, Ma...Mistress..."

"Its not everyday a girl gets her Calling, Kamilah. Today is about you and what you want and need. Besides, this song seems soft enough. Johannes has a lovely singing voice, I can hardly imagine why he would prefer to use it to make such horrendous sounds..."

I thought for a brief moment as the sound of Tim's guitar reverberated off the tile walls that all I really needed was him inside me fucking me into another universe, but I sighed with a sense of resignation, knowing that those kinds of thoughts would only make the coming task more difficult.

"Thank you, mama," I sank into the water, hardly registering the smooth glide up my leg of the razor in Raya's hand. I tried to relax and just listen to the music.

I hummed along to Fiddlers Farewell once I was shaved and soaked, and left to linger in the bath until I felt like getting out. Tears threatened under the mask which had long since gone room temp.

"I'm sorry," I whispered into the bathroom before I pulled the mask from my eyes and stood, stepping out of the bathtub and abruptly turning the stereo off.

"Are you ready?" Shell asked softly, cupping my cheek as I walked out into Sol's spacious bedroom, uncaring that I was naked. I wanted so desperately to meet my goddess, but I wanted the rite to be over as quickly as possible.

"Here, I've been saving this for you since I found out your deity," Sol sighed happily, pulling a beautiful white gown from her closet. It was sheer and bedroomy. My mouth opened and closed, searching for a response that didn't come as the silky fabric slid through my fingers.

"Underthings first, honey," Eden reminded, holding up a box to me.

"You guys, this really isn't necessary...I don't have to seduce him..."

"Too fucking bad," quipped Ciel with a grin, "you'll thank us later, come on," she held out each piece to me. The lace was white and beautiful, not the machine made, mass-produced Victoria's Secret kind of set. It sat snug against my hips, cupping me in an intimate but wonderfully comfortable way. The bra was no different, supporting my breasts and elevating them a little to expose my cleavage perfectly.

"Am I...will She see me like this?" I asked as Sol moved around to my front with a makeup palate, starting to make my eyes smoky and sexy in a way that would show even with a blindfold on.

"We don't know, dear, none of us know Her."

"Oh, right..." I stood still as I was rubbed with perfumes and oils, and Sol instructed me to open my eyes then close them, then turn this way, then that. When I finally looked at myself in the mirror, I was stunned.

"Damn, Ma, when did you get so good with makeup!?"

Sol lifted the sheer white material over my upstretched arms, and tugged and adjusted it till it sat just right against my body.

"Before you were born, my sweet...oh you are perfect," I watched her quickly wipe away a tear in the mirror as she regarded me, ready to meet my Divine.

"What happens now?" I asked nervously, biting my lip.

"All the arrangements have been made, Kamilah. He's been contacted. Now you just...lay back." She wrapped a red robe around me, tying in the front so the sheer gown was covered.

She took my hands as the other Heads filed out to the hallway, an informal procession. "Do you trust me, my darling?"

I looked into her eyes with something like shock in my own as she cupped my cheeks and let her emotions show in her gaze.

"M--of course I trust you. You're the reason I'm here. I owe you my entire life."

She gently kissed me on the cheek. "I love you, Kamilah. I know that I am hard on you. But you are like my child. I only want the best things in the world for you."

I teared up and tried my best to blink them back, lest I ruin her superb makeup job. "I love you too, Mistress."

She took me by the hand, and led me down the hall, finally entering a door to the left the I'd never been through before. There were groupings of candles in each corner of the room in rough black iron sconces, rising up from the floor in twisted spikes of dark metal. The bed had slate gray coverings, quilt and pillowcases included. I turned suddenly in panic, realizing that this was is.

"Please tell me who it is," I cried, paralyzed with fear as I moved into Sol's arms.

"Kamilah. You know better, this is custom. My dear, we have watched you all these years, we would hardly choose someone who you would not desire."

I wracked my brain, searching for the men I'd encountered in the temple that I would even remotely consider sleeping with.

They were utterly few.

I tried to stop my crying, not wanting to seem like a virgin on her wedding night, but my tears fell anyways.

"Ma," I gasped, reaching for the woman who had been my surrogate mother from the moment I stepped foot here. She was hard, but just. And when the brief moments of tenderness broke through her stern exterior, they were potent. Sol embraced me hard, gripping my hair, which had been left unbound.

"Hush now, my daughter."

I wept against her shoulder, a manifestation of all the emotions that were rolling under the surface of my skin.

"Keep your blindfold on. I promise you, everything will be just fine."

I couldn't help but think from her responses that the man they'd chosen was old. She wiped my tears away with her thumbs and pressed a quick, motherly kiss to my lips.

"Sekhmet has not chosen a woman of our stock in quite some time. Make us proud, Kamilah..."

My resolve became iron at her remark.

I was chosen.
My life was selected from amongst the billions.
I was destined to be fierce like Her, to be a protector and a healer.

I bowed deeply to Sol and the other Heads that gathered around me. "Mistresses," I spoke lowly, "I won't fail you. I won't shame you."

"We hardly believe you would, Kamilah," Eden said sweetly.

I turned back towards the room and took a deep breath. This was part of the process of becoming who I was born to be. If my goddess didn't believe I could handle it, she wouldn't have selected me. It was simply a test - an obstacle. I invoked her name aloud, bowing my head.

"I am yours, my goddess. I give you my body, as I give you my spirit. I only ask that you care for them, as they are all I have to give." Another tear dropped down my cheek as I spoke, but I felt more prepared than I ever had for what was coming.

"Okay." I took a deep breath. "I'm ready, Mistress."

"Kamilah...you may call me by my name."

"M...Marisol," the word tasted peculiar to me, "I...the blindfold, please."

"I chose this long ago, too," she whispered in my ear as dark material covered my eyes and I felt her tying a knot at the back of my head. "It has seen many places. Its been to our homeland. Its been to every continent. And now, it will see you Called." Her fingers undid the knotted belt around my waist, and the robe slid down off my arms into her hands. 

Her sigh sounded like it was from far away. "Just relax and have faith in yourself, in your goddess, and in me, Kamilah," then the door was closed and I was alone with the sound of my breathing.

Only one sconce was lit, but no light filtered in through my blindfold.

The seconds ticked by, and I waited.

Chapter Text

Eventually, the sound of a door opening at the other side of the room drew my attention.

I tried not to move like I was hyper aware, standing still and waiting.

"Hello," I spoke, thinking that I would maybe be able to pin his identity from his voice.

No response sounded though, and I heard the door close once more. The peculiar sensation of another body in the room that I couldn't see wasn't something that I'd ever felt before, but now it was unshakable, and the man shifted a little, watching me.

"I...uhm. I can't see you to get to you, so...y-you have to come to me."

Gods, but this was awkward.

I willed away the tremor in my voice. The last thing I needed was for him to think I was afraid.

Feet shuffled over the flagstone floor and two hands tentatively brushed my cheeks, just the fingertips, smoothing back my blue tresses.

The tenderness was unexpected, and I sucked in a shaky breath.

"P-please just kiss me," I whispered, wanting to get this underway so it would be over.

He hummed quietly, but nothing else happened.  His fingers just continued to move over me, down my neck across my shoulders, whispering over the material of my dress down my arms until he reached my hands. The man gently laced his fingers through my own, but made no sound. Nothing to even hint at his identity. I still couldn't peg who Marisol and the others had chosen.

"Tell me who you are, please," I whispered, practically trembling with anxiety.

There was a moment's pause.

"I think that's against the rules, sweetheart."

A gasp left my lips as my hands searched behind me for something to collapse against, but I was standing too far away from my door and had no sense of orientation anymore as I stumbled back blindly.

He wrapped one arm around my waist, guiding me forward to the bed until I sat down hard on the edge of it.

"That's is, easy now," he whispered, trying to easy my sudden extreme anxiety

I reached up two hands blindly, looking to confirm suspicions as I traced up his lean arms and slender shoulders.

His hair was pulled back into a braid at the nape of his neck, but my fingers continued to work up the skin of his throat, brushing along the bare jawline until I moved a little further up his face. The ends of his mustache weren't waxed or curled, they were simply left as they laid naturally against his skin.

"W-what color was my h-hair last time we met," I stammered, desperate to confirm that he was who I thought he was. He smiled softly, watching my lips part as I gasped for breath from stress and arousal, and he leaned in, speaking lowly into my ear.

"It was this beautiful teal color that caught the light in the most perfect way, like it was shining. It moved every time you did. You danced to our music, Kamilah, to songs I wrote laying flat on my back in my bed back home. You sang every word of every one. And, gods, but the way you looked up at me set me on fucking fire..."

"Tim, what are you doing here?! You can't be here!" I gasped, moving to push the blindfold off my eyes. His hands stopped mine and he laced his fingers through them as he settled them between us.

"I'm supposed to be here. I...I think the idea of you having to do this with a stranger really rubbed my king the wrong way."

"I--but...you and I hardly know each other either!" I wasn't complaining that Tim was here, quite the opposite in fact, but I felt so overwhelmed and stressed out to the point of tears, my body brimming with surprise and that same anxious energy I'd woken up with. I felt the stress-driven need to overthink. He was far more preferable than the other men I'd imagined with dread, their heaving bodies slamming against mine while I laid there desperately trying to make it quick.

"Is that so?" he whispered, scooting closer and scenting up my neck, moving my hair back with one finger and letting it draw a line across my skin as he did.

"Do we hardly know each other? Do you think that I haven't watched your every move since the moment I got here? Do you think I haven't wanted to make you mine from the second I recognized you in the entryway..."

"Tim," I sighed.

"Do you think that I'm capable of standing by idly while you get pleasure from someone else? I'm half-wolf Kamilah. I get territorial and jealous..." his hands explored my neck as he spoke and I gasped for oxygen like it was difficult to breathe.

"Besides, you've already given me a piece of yourself forever, have you not..." his hand ghosted over the tattoo barely visible through the cloth of my gown, "this is really beautiful. They did a nice job," he studied it for a moment, tracing the lines with his index finger. 

"It reminded me of you," I said quietly, thankful suddenly that I wasn't able to look at him, because I was sure I was blushing like a fucking maiden. 

Gods.

The blindfold was designed to preserve anonymity, but it my current situation, it only served to make everything more erotic. Every touch I couldn't see coming seemed to light up all my nerve endings, and Tim knew it. His index finger gently traced the line of my bottom lip, unable to stop himself from touching me once he started. My tongue slid out and toyed with the end of his finger, and the soft groan that left his lips sent a surge of wetness between my legs.

I didn't have to just lay back and endure it to get to meet my goddess, I could feel intense pleasure, and give it in return; I closed my lips around his finger, the taste of his skin making me shiver.

"Fuck," he groaned quietly, watching his finger disappear between my lips and feeling my tongue sliding along it, warm and slick as I starting sucking a little harder.

"Oh, do you want to know what that does to me, Kamilah," he said lowly, pulling me to my feet as he stood, "hardly a touch, and yet..."

He grabbed my hand and pressed my palm to his cock, rock hard but still restricted by the fabric of his black court uniform. The gasp that left my lips was more from arousal than anything, but I kept my hand there, squeezing and stimulating him until he was pressing his forehead hard down into my shoulder and gasping with every roll of his hips.

"I need you," he growled, "you're under my skin. You're in my lungs, in my head. You consume me, Kamilah..." His lips crashed into mine, and I felt like I was going to die from the aching emptiness between my legs. Tim's tongue was hot and demanding, stroking against mine and making me chase him back into his own mouth. But suddenly he pulled back and was gone.

I reached out to touch him, but he was too far away for me to find.

"Where are you?"
No answer.

I went to lift my blindfold, and a snarl sounded from behind me.

"Leave it."

I jumped at the closeness of the sound.
When had he moved behind me?

"I--I can't see anything, so you have to come to me..." I was thoroughly confused now as I repeated what I'd said to him earlier.

"Use your other senses, Kamilah." His voice was husky and farther away now, in the corner of the room, though he hadn't made any sound as he moved.

The air became still and heavy as I tuned into my hearing and my sense of smell. Not being part-wolf myself, they weren't as keen as Tim's, but I was pleasantly surprised at my own abilities. I could hear the ragged breath, the slide of fabric against skin as he shifted on his feet, watching me. The white gauzy material of my dress stood in stark contrast with my tan legs, oiled and gleaming in the low candlelight as I shifted back and forth, my muscles flexing and relaxing as I sightlessly took in the room.

He palmed his erection through his pants at the mental image of the material slipping down to reveal my bare skin, of taking me under his mouth and feeling my fingers gripping his hair.

I could feel the heat from the lit sconce in the corner, giving me at least some idea of my bearings within the room.

Tim's scent was intoxicating. Not cologne or antiperspirant. It was something else. Something like pine trees and cold night air, but he was warm and inviting. I trusted what I sensed and moved towards him. He didn't move as I approached, but I felt the heat from his body and stopped before I bumped into him or stepped on his toes.

"Hi there," I grinned up at him, reaching out to press my hands flat against his chest. His lungs expanded rapidly, like he was trying to catch his breath.

"Hi there," he repeated, his hands wandering over my waist, sliding the material against my torso, absorbing the heat from my over-aroused body like he could make it his own.

I explored him with my hands, touching the buttons of his uniform and trying to create a mental picture of what they looked like before dragging my fingers up his throat, along the sharp line of his jaw, to his lips. He teethed at my fingertips, just barely nipping at the pads, dancing his tongue over the exposed tips until I was sighing and pressing forward into him.

"Don't stop touching me," I breathed as his hands closed around my waist, drawing me harder against him when he bent his head to kiss me. I moaned his name into his lips and received a delicious, guttural growl in response.

He desperately tried to hold back, but couldn't when my fingers started pulling at the buttons of his uniform, needing to feel his skin against mine like I needed to breathe. He batted my hands away and quickly undid the remaining buttons, shrugging the material back off his shoulders and grabbing me once more. I blindly grasped his shirt, jerking the hem up until it came untucked, and pushing it up over his head. Tim didn't bother laying either out to avoid them getting wrinkled, he just dropped them to the floor and kissed me hard, pressing his cock against me, and letting his lust overpower all his other sense.

"If I don't get you out of this right now, I'm gonna fucking tear it to pieces," he growled, lifting the material of my gown up and over the tops of my arms, taking a moment to toss it onto a chair in the corner before returning his hands to my skin and cursing at the softness.

"I've wanted to touch you so badly," he confessed, "Kamilah I need to be inside you..." He gripped me hard, thrusting his tongue between my lips when I wrapped my arms around the back of his head and his fingertips deftly touched the lace of my panties, tracing the patterns.

"Is--oh, fuck," his lips started trailing down my neck, nipping and kissing, "is your hair in a braid?" I gasped, leaning my head back to give him more room as my fingers moved down the thick silky rope of hair that hung down his back.

"The King requires it for...formal occasions..."

"Why, are you a virgin?" I snorted a laugh and he chuckled with me.

"Fuck, you look good," he panted, turning his attention back to my body, "you smell good...you taste good," his tongue traced up the side of my neck and I moaned and shivered hard, reaching for his belt as his hands smoothly pulled the clasp of my bra, exposing my breasts to his heated gaze. I bit my lip when his pants slid down his hips and I heard them rustling against the stone floor as he kicked them to the side, then his fingers were under the waist of my panties, pushing them down my legs.

The vision of me standing before him, illuminated by low candlelight, naked and blindfolded, reaching my hands out to touch his body.

It was too much.

A snarl tore against the skin of my neck that sounded an awful lot like his wolf, and in the next moment, my feet left the ground and my legs were wrapped back around his waist as my arms encircled his neck. His cock pressed against my core, and the tip of it nudged my clit as he moved.

"Please just fucking take me," I gasped, seeking his mouth as he carried me over to the bed and threw me down with just enough roughness to make me crazy with need.

"Do not take that fucking blindfold off," he barked when my hands went to my eyes again.

"But I want to see you naked!" I huffed.

"Out of the two of us, sweetheart, I promise I'm not the sight to see here. Use your senses."

"But--" My response was cut short as he savagely bit the skin of my breast and I yelped loudly, the sound turning into gasping moans as he swirled his tongue over my nipple, holding it between his teeth and flicking his tongue over the sensitive tip.

"Touch my hair, my skin, my face," he said, the sweetness bleeding through into his stern tone, betraying just how badly he wanted me to experience abject, earth shattering pleasure. He lightly nuzzled the skin just under my breasts, kissing a little trail between them.

"Taste the sweat on my skin, Kamilah," he breathed, lifting his arm to my lips and groaning lowly as I pressed open mouth kisses against the soft skin inside his wrist, touching my tongue to it and loving the taste of him and the way his pulse jumped against my lips.

"Know my scent," he ran his nose in a soft line against my collarbone, making me squirm, and I could feel his lips curve into a smile as he did it again, "learn me, memorize how I smell..."

I was panting from arousal and need, his soft and tender almost as intense as his rough and dirty.

Tim kissed my lips softly, brushing them with his own as he came to the last sense that I had to use.

"Listen to how wet you are for me..." and he slid his cock through my folds, drinking down my cries at the sudden intense stimulation, and continuing to kiss me as I quieted, sinking into a rhythm of grinding against him. "So fucking wet," he murmured.

"Please, Tim," I whined, "if you don't fuck me right now I'm gonna lose my fucking mind..."

The room seemed almost stifling, the sheets scratchy, the air thick and heavy.

He didn't make me ask again.

Tim started pushing into me, growling and gasping as his tip was surrounded by my tight heat.

"You can't possibly feel this good," he moaned into my lips and my nails raked down his back as I cried out, "nothing in this world can possibly feel this good..."

He moved slowly until he was fully seated inside me, giving me a moment to adjust to the intense stretch as his face dropped to my neck and we gasped together.

"I--I can't--" I stammered a few words, but my brain refused to reboot my speech. Not being able to see was too much, but I couldn't pry my hands away from his skin to pull at my blindfold.

"Then don't." Tim had no idea what I was going to say, but his brain was hardly in a place to process anything more than what was happening between our combined sets of legs, so conversation at this point seemed futile anyways. 

My body immediately reacted to compensate for my lack of speech, and I launched myself up, flipping him onto his back as I started moving on and off of him. I needed to at least be in control of what was happening if I couldn't see it for myself. 

"Fuck!" he yelled, surprised but also impossibly turned on by my dominance and the sight of me sliding on and off his cock, my hands planted against his chest.

"Feel, Tim," I gasped. "Listen, Tim." I didn't have to tell him to taste, he was already pushing himself up to latch his lips around one of my nipples, raking it with his teeth as both hands gripped my ass hard.

"You feel so fucking good," I moaned, picking up my pace. I wasn't lying to him when I said it had been a while. Aside from playing with myself, I hadn't had any partners since I joined the temple. But the wet sound of our bodies colliding, mingled with our harsh breathing and gasping moans, started to make that coil deep down wind tighter.

"Fuck, fuck fuck fuck, don't stop I'm gonna come, please don't stop," I gasped, and he growled against my skin, using his punishing grip on my hips to slam me harder down onto his cock until it was almost painfully far inside me.

"Come, Kamilah, come all over my cock," he commanded, watching my expression as I came undone against him, my body convulsing and a bead of sweat dropping down my chest as I shrieked. My fingernails dug into his skin as I rode the waves of an intense orgasm and the fact that nothing divine happened barely even registered in my mind.

"I want to taste you," Tim growled, flipping us back over and wrenching my legs apart as he dropped down my body, taking in the softness and the beauty of it as I arched my back, my cum still dripping from my core. He could hardly breathe.

"Then fucking do it already," I gasped impatiently, reaching down blindly, searching for his hair and finding it with a rough grip as he pressed his face to my pussy, lapping me up and crying out as my flavor exploded onto his tongue. His hips rutted into the mattress as he shook his head back and forth, flicking his tongue over my clit and holding me open with two fingers.

"Fucking fuck!" he yelled, back on top of me in a flash and shoving his cock home with a shout. "You feel. So. Fucking good," he growled into my lips, pressing as much of his body to mine as he could with each thrust of his hips.

My head thrashed back and forth on the pillow as I screamed with pleasure, soaring into the sky and knowing that the coming orgasm was either going to kill me or send me to my goddess.

"Give me another one, Kamilah, give me everything." My hands scrabbled across his back, even as my hips lifted to meet every thrust of his own.

I was gone the instant two of his fingers slipped between us and rubbed roughly over my clit. The sound of his name echoing off the stones surrounding us and the feeling of my walls closing around him hurtled Tim right off the edge with me. His shout was savage and deep, and he gasped for air, black spots dancing at the corners of his vision.

I was laying completely still underneath him, all my limbs lax and my face resting to the side. Tim's instant reaction was panic, but as his human brain took back over his animal one, he remembered what Jonas had said...

After that bizarre encounter with me at breakfast, the King excused himself and had gone to confer with Sol. He was only gone for a few minutes, but his hand rested lightly on Tim's shoulder when he returned. Eventually, as they were headed back to their rooms, they bumped into me accompanied by all five Heads. Something was up, and Tim knew it - his hackles were itching like something was out of place, not fully up but teetering on the edge.
Jonas told all of them when the wooden door latched shut and Henrik threw the deadbolt. My Calling. What it was, what it ensued.
He didn't understand very well what a Calling was, but explained it to his men in the same terms I had used yesterday.
Tim shouted his frustration, kicking a chair hard and sending it skittering across the floor to crash into the wall.
But then Jonas finished explaining what he'd been discussing with Sol...

Tim figured that if Ro had seemed unconscious yesterday during her own Calling, mine wouldn't be that different, and his immediate concern passed. He pulled out of me with a soft groan and took a moment to stare, drinking in the red bites and marks that covered my body, watching his seed drip from me.

"So beautiful," he whispered, the sudden stream of affection and tenderness for me nearly bringing him to tears.

With a shaky breath, he stood and crossed to the small cabinet in the corner, happily finding it stocked with a basin of water and washcloths. Tim cleaned himself up, then crossed back to me, gently running the cloth over my skin, cleaning our mingled fluids off of me before untying my blindfold and and laying it on the chair with my dress.

He chuckled to himself as he picked up his court uniform and dusted it off. He went to lift his shirt over his head, but then figured there wasn't a need for clothes just yet, and hung it over the back of the chair.

Tim knelt next to me on the bed, gently picking me up and moving me, careful not to shift me around too much.

Chapter Text

I found myself hurtled through all the bends and kinks of reality and time until my hands smacked against the sandstone floor with a sharp slap and I looked up from my prostrated position when I felt eyes like lasers lighting over me.

She was regal and perfect. A red linen wrap covered most of her body down to her sandaled feet, leaving her arms exposed. A pattern that looked like the petals of a flower covered each of her breasts, and I remembered seeing pictures of her statues that had the same design.

I'd never been sure how I was going to react to her appearance, but gratefully found that I wasn't at all unsettled by the fact that her head was leonine, rather than human. In truth, she was the most beautiful being I'd ever laid eyes on.

"Kamilah," she smiled, comfortably seated on a granite throne - the only piece of furniture in the dimly lit room. A small hole in the ceiling let in daylight.

"My goddess," I whispered in response, tears streaming down my cheeks from the complete overload of emotion and satisfaction and pleasure as I pressed my forehead to the ground in a submissive gesture.

"What a journey it has been to bring you to this point, hmm?"

I raised my head again to look at her as I nodded.

"Please, stand."

I brushed the dust from my knees, noticing with a slight grimace that I was still completely naked. A bite mark on my right breast drew my attention and I touched it with one exploratory finger, pressing to see if there was pain. A little sting rose to the surface, but Tim hadn't broken the skin. She watched me carefully.

"I must say, that was quite a stroke of bravery on the young king's part. My father's high priestess is not well known for her flexibility or willingness to break with tradition," she chuckled, and I couldn't help but smile towards the floor. She was right - fluidity was not a characteristic that anyone would ever attribute to Ma.

She stood and continued to address me like we'd known each other all our lives, and I realized with a sense of gratitude that she had. She'd chosen me at birth and watched me grow into the woman who stood before her now, educated, adjusted, cultured, fit.

"You have done well, Kamilah. You've proven to be a true friend. A hard worker. Loyalty, protectiveness, compassion - these are traits that I value in my priestesses."

Two fingers tipped under my chin to make me look up at her, and another tear slid down my cheek. Her face was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The eyes of a lioness that held the compassion and wisdom of a woman. Even her mouth moved perfectly, the jaws flawlessly pronouncing every consonant and vowel that they shouldn't have been able to.

"I am blessed beyond words for having been chosen by you, Goddess," I bowed again as her fingers left my skin. The place where they had touched me retained the warmth of her caress, like the desert sands held the heat of the sun into the night time.

"And you shall continue to be so. I know you will serve me dutifully, Kamilah, you've already spoken well of me to these newcomers," she settled back onto the throne, and I stayed silent.

After several moments of neither of us speaking, I chanced a tentative glance up at her.

"Uhm. Wh-what happens now?"

An indulgent smile curved her lips as she settled against the back of her throne, her arms rested comfortably against the stone sides.

"Now, you may kiss me."

I sputtered a 'what?!' and flushed red.

"Call me by my name, and kiss me, Kamilah."

I couldn't disobey her, and my feet soundlessly crossed the floor until I was standing over her, watching the smirk play across her features as her whiskers twitched. It was now or never, and I closed my eyes as I leaned in close to her, feeling the way her aura wrapped around me like a cloak.

"Sekhmet," I whispered, "My goddess. Powerful and Mighty. The One Before Whom Evil Trembles..."

I felt more than heard sort of low chuffing that came from deep within her chest.

"I am," she growled, drinking in my words of devotion, the repetition of her names.

My lips pressed to her feline mouth briefly, and a wave of potent adoration jolted through my body like electricity. She had given me purpose, and watched over me all of my life. She kissed me like a mother, like a friend, and gently breathed across my face through her slightly parted mouth. The same mouth that breathed the desert in being.

Every power she bestowed on me manifested at once, and my whole body tingled.

"Kamilah. As my Priestess, you will face many trials. You know this, you've been told this. To reward you for your devotion and as a testament to my own power, I give you healing and I give you flame. Use them well, and use them wisely."

I fell to my knees and dropped my face into her lap, feeling her fingers stroking fondly through my hair as my tears started to fall.

"Remember Kamilah. There was a man once who said 'Egypt is not a country we live in, but a country that lives within us'. You were chosen from birth to carry on a five thousand year tradition. Let no one tell you that you are inferior or weak. Let no one say to you that you are incapable of anything. You have been chosen by One who Burns With Fire. By the Fierce Huntress..." I found myself weeping in her lap, trying to stop but unable to. "I will watch over you, dear Kamilah..." the sound of my name was like a distant whisper, getting further away, an echo sounding down a tunnel.

I hardly felt my body move, but I opened my eyes silently, taking in my surroundings for a moment.

No blindfold anymore then.

I was back in the Temple. In the ritual room. With--

"Hey, you're awake," Tim smiled down at me, leaning up on his elbow. He'd shifted me to lay underneath the covers, and had tucked a pillow under my head before crawling into bed next to me, softly petting my hair and touching the skin of my cheeks and my lips.

"Oh, I -- you're still here? I thought you would have gone back to the King..."

In truth, I'd expected Sol's face to be the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes, but I looked around and we were still alone.

"Oh, sorry, did you want me to go?" He asked a little sheepishly.

"No!" I cleared my throat. "Ahem, I..." I blushed as he smiled tenderly down at me. "Come here. No, actually...wait." I lifted the covers and peaked underneath.

"Gods," I whispered. The light wasn't very good, but he was better than I ever could have imagined naked. "I can't believe you wouldn't let me look at you before..." I reached for him and he moved closer with a laugh, pulling me against his body and intertwining his legs with mine as he kissed me slowly, deeply, laying me back against the pillows and letting his fingertips barely whisper over my breast.

His breath fanned out softly against my cheek as his tongue passed my lips, caressing mine and tasting my mouth again with a beautiful sigh as my fingers wandered over his shoulder, back down his braid.

"Mmm," he pulled back and pressed a little kiss to my forehead as I snuggled closer and laid against his chest, running my fingers over the lines of his tattoo.

"Have you seen your hair yet?"

I stiffened a little.

"Look, I was blindfolded, and you weren't very gentle! I--I didn't bring a hairbrush with me..."

He snickered, turning and burying his face in my neck as his hand started drifting down my side. "You were the one being rough with me, if I recall," he growled, nipping at the skin and pulling a tiny gasp from me as my toes started to curl, "but your sex hair wasn't what I was referring to..."

He reached behind me and pulled a lock over my shoulder. I gasped, grabbing at my hair. It was fire engine red - a beautiful deep color that was too good to come out of a box.

"Damn," I whispered. Red was Her color, and it made sense that she'd chosen it for me now that I was called. I instantly loved it.

"Looks good on you," he smiled, reaching to run a hand through my hair, and doing it again when it brought a tiny sigh from my lips. "Can you -- can I ask what happened with Her? Where'd you go? Or is it like a secret?"

I giggled, reaching up to brush my fingers against his mustache. "Its not a secret, you can ask...you know, I'm not really into facial hair normally, but I do like yours."

I did it again and he snickered, reaching over to pinch my ass playfully before pulling his hair around one shoulder to lay on his back more comfortably.

"You'd be surprised at how many people say that to me actually, I think I'm slowly converting the masses."

I giggled back and met his eyes. There were smile lines around them when his mouth curved up like it was now.

"I hardly doubt I would be."

I told him about my meeting with my Goddess - brief and no-nonsense, just like I'd always read she was. "I think, I'm not totally sure, but I think it was her temple at Luxor."

"Wow... So now you can do the energy thing like the others?" he put his hands out in front of him in an inverted triangle.

"Yeah, but I think that's gonna take a little bit of practice to harness, watch this though," I grinned cheekily, snapping my fingers and igniting the candles in one of the unlit sconces hanging from the wall. His jaw dropped as he looked back and forth between the fixture and my smirk.

"Do that again," he said lowly, the heat in his stare nearly matching that from the candles. I leaned up on both elbows until I could get to my knees, moving over top of him and straddling his hips as his hands settled hotly against my waist. One corner of my lips curved up in a sexy little grin and I cocked an eyebrow at him as I felt his cock to stiffen between my legs, another wall sconce igniting as my lips twisted.

Tim tilted his hips up, pressing his cock through my folds and making me hum with pleasure. I felt full of energy and heat, sex appeal and fiery lust. I laid one hand against his chest, pressing my nails into his skin enough to make him hiss, as the other reached down between my legs, gripping him and ripping a growl from his throat. I stroked him in time with the movement of my hips, pressing the head of his cock against my clit and sighing at the feel.

Tim's hands reached up and started toying with my nipples, running the pads of his fingers over the sensitive peaks before pinching them. He loved my confidence and the way I took my pleasure on him. I was so worked up, I wasn't surprised in the slightest when I felt my orgasm building just from this kind of light play.

"Take me, use me, Kamilah," he moaned lowly, shifting just enough that the next rock of his hips pressed his cock into me.

"Gods, you're so tight," he groaned, picking up his pace and feeling almost restricted within me. His cock pressed forward against that one particular spot, and stars danced in front of my vision as I cried out and my hands slapped flat down against his chest.

"Ohh...I liked that sound," he growled, moving his hips so he hit that spot again and pulling the noise from my lips once more. "Are you going to come for me, Kamilah," he said lowly, pounding into me, stealing my power of speech. "You are. I can feel your pussy tightening, Kamilah, I know how badly you need release..."

He swiped his thumb in slick circles over my clit as his hips slammed harder into me, setting a brutal pace that I couldn't withstand. I threw my head back and screamed into the empty air as I started squirting hard around him, looking down with my red tresses wild, like Medusa, and my eyes were pure fire.

The normally brown irises were a burning, flickering orange, like flames licking towards the sky as I panted.

"Oh, fuck, YES," he yelled, the sight and feeling of my fluids gushing over his hips more than he could handle, and he came hard, thrusting into me and filling me with himself until my body couldn't take anymore and he leaked out of me with my own dripping fluids as he shouted his pleasure into the room. I collapsed forward, completely spent, against his chest, barely registering the low chuckle that sounded there after a moment as gentle hands smoothed up and down my back.

"You okay?"

"That was...that was wow," I said dreamily, slipping off of him and nuzzling back into his side.

Neither of us cared that we were soaked, he pulled me closer and I willingly went. Tim's kisses were soft and sweet, pressing against my eyelids and my cheeks until I was giggling quietly.

"Will you stay with me a for a little bit longer?" He asked, unwilling to let me get up and leave this tiny little warm haven we'd woven around ourselves.

"I'm here, babe," I said, closing my eyes and relaxing in his embrace. After a moment I realized what I'd said, and peeked an eye open to gauge his reaction. His opposite hand not holding me was absentmindedly moving over the end of his mustache, and he was staring at the candles with a little smile on his lips.

I silently watched him - his mind was obviously working, mulling something over, and I was about to ask, but he spoke first.

"I'm glad that you were okay with me being here," he said softly, still watching the flame dance over the candlewick, "and for the record, I...I was going to tell you it was me before anything happened. I wanted you to know, when we...you know."

Jonas' words rang through my head, unrelenting in their repetition until I took a deep breath and just decided to trust the man who seemed to always have all the answers.

"There is no one else I would have rather had this experience with," I whispered back, pressing a kiss to his skin and feeling him shiver.

"Finally coming around to me then?" he chuckled, and my heart melted a little at the expression on his face when he turned to look down at me, nestled into the crook of his arm, my face laying against his shoulder. I realized that Jonas was right yet again - he'd just thought I wasn't interested enough to stay and wait for him last time.

"Did--did Jonas tell you why I didn't stay before?"

He blinked twice, obviously caught off guard by my question, and he shook his head, wondering why Jonas would know.

"My uhm. My mom called, right after we met and told me that my sister OD'd. It wasn't super surprising, but I had to obviously go home to be with my family...and....well I guess I should have said something but I wasn't thinking very clearly and I felt kind of awkward anyways and--" I chewed my lip, absently tracing little patterns against his skin.

"Shit, Kamilah, I'm so sorry." he frowned and pulled me closer, wrapping me up in his embrace and kissing my forehead. "I just assumed you weren't into me, and...ahem, I mean that was fine."

He had a scar on his chest, just a small one, and I ran my finger over it repeatedly, just tracing the faint white line that I assumed was a byproduct of getting through a 'teenage boy who is half-wolf' phase.

"You don't have to say that, your king already told me that it wasn't okay for a little while after...and, and he said I needed to tell you the real reason, unless I wanted to let you keep thinking that I wasn't stupid fucking bonkers about you from the second I met you..."

Now it was Tim's turn to freeze, his heart starting to race. "He's annoyingly good at shelling out advice sometimes," his words got mostly lost into my hair as he crushed me against him, wrapping his arms around my shoulders and my waist and gripping me like I'd disappear, "Kamilah I'm so sorry you had to go through that."

"It was an accident, but we'd been prepared for it for a long time...and just...the timing. I didn't want you to think that...you know, I didn't like you or whatever..." I shrugged, "but I guess you did. I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention."

Stupid fucking bonkers.
Very poetic.

"Well..." he tipped my chin up, studying my face for a moment and seeing that I wasn't sad, just trying to be honest with him, "if it makes you feel any better, I'm pretty stupid fucking bonkers about you too," he whispered it into my lips as he kissed me, lingering, holding me close and exploring my lips with his own.

I whimpered under his building intensity - it didn't seem like it should have been possible to be so drawn to someone.

"Gods, Kamilah," he sighed into my lips, his hand working down my body, over the curve of my hip, gripping my ass hard for a moment before dropping to the back of my leg, pulling it up over his hip. "I can't believe how beautiful you are. Everything about you..." he mumbled lowly to me, pressing little kisses to each corner of my mouth, over my jawline, my cheeks. "Thank you for telling me," he whispered between kisses, "and I'm really really sorry that she died."

My fingers wanted to tear his hair out of its binding and let it cascade over the both of us, but I just wrapped it around my fist instead, keeping him anchored to me, and answering him with another kiss. My hips pressed forward, endlessly needing, endlessly wanting, and he pulled me closer, sliding over my core as his tongue filled my mouth and he kissed me like I was oxygen.

"Tell me to stop if you don't want this," he sighed into my mouth, even as his hands worked me and gripped my ass, keeping me moving against him, slicking over his length.

"I've wanted it for too long to say no," I whispered, tilting my hips and reaching one hand down to still his. He became like stone, only breathing, only kissing me, but not moving a muscle. I used my leg draped over his waist to shift myself up fractionally, just enough that I could tease him against the ring of muscle at my opening.

"Oh my god," he half-whispered half-groaned, pressing his forehead hard against mine as he gave himself over to pure sensation. He bit his lip and whimpered as I pressed him just a little further into me, and I watched his face carefully, taking in every little gasp and groan, the way his lips moved and his eyes screwed shut. The internal fight for restraint was written plainly on his face, and I wondered briefly if no one had ever showed him that soft and slow was sometimes just as good, if not better, than hard and rough. He'd been gentle with me at first, but we'd quickly dissolved into a snarling, screaming, tangled pile of limbs.

"Open your eyes, Tim," I said softly, "look at me." He did, and his chest was heaving as he tried to even his breaths, "can I go slow with you?" I kept my tone soft, my voice quiet.

Tim looked at me like he didn't know whether to agree or not, and I tilted my hips a little, sliding off of him until he was teased at my entrance again.

"Just do whatever you want to me...please," he whispered.

"Turn your brain off, Tim, don't overthink, just be present," I whispered, kissing him softly, opening my lips and sliding my tongue against his, letting him process each sensation as it happened.

"Your lips taste sweet," he murmured, curling my hair back behind my ear and gasping a soft moan as I finally pulled him forward, slowly taking him all the way inside me until he was bottomed out.

"Tell me what else -- ohh -- what else you feel. What your senses are experiencing."

He rolled his hips into me, his body flush against mine.

"Everything about you is warm. Your skin is warm. Almost -- oh, that feels so good -- almost feverish."

"Fire," I reminded, sinking into the rhythm of our bodies moving together, letting his cock slip out an inch at a time before moving to take him again with the same level of slow intensity, pulsing my hips against him.

"You have a...a birthmark? No, a scar..." his fingers blindly explored my thigh under the blanket, moving slowly up to my hip, "woah, a big scar. Whats this from?"

"A dog bite when I was a kid."

Our conversation was dreamy in a way, like our words just hung in the air around us, looking down and admiring the juxtaposition of Tim and I getting to know each other better while engaging in arguably the most intimate act two people could do together.

"Your eyes are different now," his fingers moved from my hip up to my face, taking a moment to explore my breast along the way and making me softly cry out as he gently ran the pad of his index finger over my nipple. "They were burning before," he said lowly into my lips, "when you were coming," he rolled his hips a tiny bit harder and I gasped, "they were more orange and the colors moved..."

He kept telling me what he was experiencing, what he was thinking and feeling, and we kept up the same slow tempo, the same slide, the same gentle rocking.

"God, I'm gonna fucking burst into flames, woman," he growled into my mouth, kissing me hard, "all I want to do is fuck you until you scream and then keep going until you can't scream anymore..."

I laughed lowly, though I could hardly argue with his plan. But I wanted him to go slow, I wanted him to experience this with me.

"Yeah?" I asked teasingly, "but if you do that, then I can't do this..." I kissed a slow line across his jaw, down his neck, not moving off him anymore, but keeping him bottomed out inside me and rolling my hips against him. Tim gasped and cursed, tangling his fingers in my hair.

"Or this..." I flicked my tongue over one of his nipples, grazing it with my teeth and immediately feeling another torrent of arousal at the noise that left his lips.

I pushed him onto his back, and he made a noise of protest as I let him slip out of me, but it quickly was silenced as he realized what I was doing.

"F--you don't, fuck, you don't have to Kamilah," he stammered, running a hand over my hair as I continued to nip at and kiss his skin down his torso.

"Are you going to stop me?" I asked, glancing up at him through my lashes and mentally thanking Ma until the end of time for making my makeup perfect for the lighting we were in.

His breathing was ragged, and I was getting off on simply bending him to my will.

"Are you telling me you never imagined this?" I pressed an open-mouthed kiss to his slender hips, swirling my tongue over his skin, looking up at him again as his fingers knotted in my hair.

"You never wondered what the inside of my mouth would feel like?" I purred, running my tongue over his length. He was still slick with me, but I didn't care.

I sure as fucking hell had imagined this, whether he had or not.

"I...I mean..." he gasped, losing the rest of his thought as I pressed his cock between my lips, swirling my tongue over the head and feeling myself get wetter at the growl that vibrated through his entire body.

"Do I feel like you thought I would, Tim..." I took as much of him as I could, letting him hit the back of my throat as he attempted to speak again.

"B-better, oh my god, Kamilah, so much better..." he gasped for breath, his fingers gripping my hair hard as his hips started to roll, moving his cock over my tongue as I hollowed my cheeks. I stayed slow with him again, tasting every bit of him and letting him feel me too.

Finally, his grip on my hair tightened until it was almost painful and he pulled me sharply off of him, not wanting to come without me.

He moved so fast, I almost didn't register that anything had happened until I was flat on my back, my head back up on the pillows, and Tim was hanging over me, gasping for breath and staring down at me. The struggle broke out on his face again, the fight to suppress his animal side, his most primal wants. But I reached up and pressed one hand to his face, tracing the curve of his bottom lip with my thumb, and he seemed to make a choice when our eyes met.

He pressed into me slowly, never dropping my gaze and I gasped, opening my hips to take everything he had to give.

"You're so beautiful," he murmured, stroking slowly, taking his time and relishing every reaction he drew from me, "so soft. so warm..."

My back arched off the bed and he bent to kiss me, covering my body with his, lacing his fingers with mine.

"Ohh, come with me Kamilah, I can't last, you feel too good," he moaned quietly into my lips, trying to gasp for breath and say my name and sigh against me all at the same time.

His hips started moving fractionally faster between my legs, and I was only a second behind him, breathing his name when my orgasm hit, filling me with a glowing, smoldering warmth that rivaled the feeling of Tim spilling into me, crying out as his forehead pressed against mine and his eyes screwed shut.

I don't know how long we stayed that way, but I finally brushed my fingertips over his face and leaned up to kiss him softly as he slipped out of me.

"Are you okay?"

He looked at me with an expression I'd never seen before on anyone, let alone on him. "Better than okay, I think..."

He moved beside me and pulled me to him again.

"I can't believe this is happening," he whispered, kissing me softly but thoroughly before I had a chance to respond. I was happy just to snuggle up to him, weaving my leg through his, and settling my cheek over his heart. I burrowed into his side under the blankets, drifting off after a few moments, completely exhausted.

Tim turned onto his side and pulled me against his chest, figuring a few minutes of rest wouldn't hurt either of us. He pressed a tender kiss to my forehead and watched me sleeping for a minute. His hunger for me didn't feel sated, nor his thirst quenched, but the weren't as wild, as primal anymore.

"What are you doing to me, Kamilah," he sighed, gently pushing a lock of hair away from my face and pausing when I instinctually shifted closer to his touch. Both arms wrapped around me and we drifted off to sleep, his lips resting against my forehead. 

Chapter Text

"Kamiiiiilahhhh..."

"Wh--huh? hello?"

"Kaaammmmiiiillllaaaahhhhhhh..."

I looked around slowly, blinking, trying to make my eyes focus.

"Kammiiiillllaaahhhhh...KAMILAH...Kamilahhhh...kamilahkamILAHkamilahKamilah..."

"Who are you?!" I cried, turning in circles, trying to get any kind of idea at all where I was and find out who was calling my name in the darkness.

Ankle-deep water covered the stone floor, and it stretched as far as I could see in all directions - everywhere I turned, there was nothing but the endless, stretching dark. A low beam of light illuminated me like a weak spotlight, but I couldn't find where it was coming from.

"Kamiiiilah..."

I turned again and he was suddenly before me, towering, looming, terrifying in his intensity.

And then he was gone.

I pressed a hand to my chest, turning again, whipping my head back and forth, trying to find him in the wall-less, featureless space I was trapped in.

A breath down the back of my neck.
No one was there.

A whisper of a touch against my leg.
No one.

"How dare you enter my realm!! Murderer!"

The voice that spoke was different, a deep bass that resonated off walls that weren't there, and sent ripples through the water, making it lap at my ankles from all directions.

A low hiss sounded in response, but nothing more as the light went out.

My heart was racing, threatening to burst, but I did my best to stand up straight, to stop the shaking of my hands as I looked around, trying to tune into my senses like Tim told me to.

I couldn't hear anything.
The only scent was the damp, cavernous water smell.
I bent down and dipped my hand into the water, immediately pulling back when it sank through the solid surface that seemed to be holding my feet just fine.

The terror shot through my body - what kind of Alice in Wonderland shit had I fallen into?

I tentatively moved my right foot a step, placing it slowly, carefully on the floor, but it held.

Another test with my hands, and they both sank right through, like it was made of sand rather than stone

I stood and waited again, listening hard, trying to ignore that creeping feeling like there were eyes watching me.
That feeling that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

"Please, don't get yourself killed," I mumbled, making up my mind. I swirled both wrists, bringing forth a flame that was small, but bright.

It didn't help much - in order to be illuminated, things had to exist in the first place.

As far as I could see, there was just shallow water. No walls, no ceiling, just darkness.

But when I turned I fell to my knees with a sharp gasp and immediately extinguished my flame.

"My lord!"

His visible skin was tinged green, the black beard that covered his chin long and stiff and making his face seem hard, almost stern in a way. I found that my ingrained respect for him now bordered on fear as I experienced him in person.

Wait. Why are we experiencing him in person? Oh fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck! PLEASE DON'T LET ME BE DEAD.

"Hello, Kamilah..." The sound of my name seemed to rumble through the air, and something like a low huff of a laugh sounded. "You are not dead," he said, reading my thoughts.

I started to wonder if getting fucked three times in one day had maybe broken my brain, and the room filled with sound, a deep resonant laugh this time that instantly reminded me of the king's and I relaxed a hair, taking a deep breath.

I chanced a look up, and he crooked one finger at me, telling me silently to stand, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed, later than I probably should have, that I was clad once more in my white gown.

"Your mind is just fine, Kamilah," he stepped forward, looking me over, considering me. "The lioness has made a wise choice in you, I think." His eyes lingered on mine, and I got that same feeling that I had with the king, like I was being examined...evaluated.

"Thank you, sir," I finally bowed my head, unable to maintain eye contact, but my heart was flaming with pride.

I couldn't believe that I was in the presence of the judge of the dead, the lord of the underworld, Osiris himself, but I also had no fucking clue why I was here, in this place that seemed endless, but felt claustrophobic. Or even where this place was...

"My brother seeks your companions, Kamilah..."

"He does, sir."

I noticed with a little shiver that he didn't breathe. Even as he sighed deeply, his chest didn't move and the air didn't stir. And as I continued to keep my head bowed in deference, I also observed that his sandaled feet didn't sink into the water like mine did, nor did they make any kind of ripples at all when he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

"Come. Sit with me, child. Eat, drink."

My feet didn't move, but I found myself suddenly seated on a carved, gilded chair next to a small table, laden with fruits and wine and bread. He sat down opposite me, eyeing the table like he was mentally fixing a plate, which I realized he was when an assortment of bites and a cup of wine appeared in my lap and my hand.

"Gods, that's so cool, what a time saver!" I laughed, and one corner of his hard-line mouth twisted up in a suggestion of a smile as I sipped the wine, reminding myself that maybe I should think about what I was going to say before it came out of my mouth. When in the presence of a god, usually one waited for them to speak, so I sat and ate and drank nervously, waiting under the intensity of his stare, and hoping that I wasn't here for breaking the rules with Tim.

There had to be more than that. Sekhmet would have said something to me when we met if I was in trouble. But she'd seemed rather amused with the whole 'subbing Tim in for a stranger' situation...

Finally, the silence became too deafening.

"M-may I ask why I'm here, my lord? Have I done something to displease you?"

"We have a message for you, dear Kamilah," a softer, feminine voice said as she emerged from the darkness, walking through the water like I had.

None of my limbs worked - I couldn't speak, I couldn't think, I just stared as his wife placed her hand on his shoulder and looked graciously over at me while her husband gazed up at her, everything about his expression softening.

"I--I...I..."

Say something you idiot!

"Wow..." was all I managed.

"Oh my, you are a treat indeed," she smiled indulgently, and I blushed hard as her laugh rang through the empty space that somehow seemed brighter with her in it. I finally came to my senses and dropped to my knees, prostrating myself over the floor.

My own goddess was a combination of fierce femininity and pride, but Isis...damn. She was like a combination of every beauty queen and every actual queen I'd ever seen on TV and in magazines. A soft light seemed to emit from her very skin, illuminating the immediate space around her and casting a soft glow over everything she touched, like she was made of gold.

"Rise, please, dear Kamilah," my name was like music leaving her lips, and I sat back in my chair, feeling blessed to even be spoken to.

"Do you know why my husband was such a good king, child?" As she said it, Osiris wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her into his lap, seating her comfortably so she could still see me me and he could still touch her. My heart wanted to explode as I realized he was as taken with her as I was, even after all these millennia.

Rather than overshadowing, her beauty seemed to enhance him - the lines in his face seemed less deep, the hard set of his mouth softened until the ends curved up into a little smile. He was handsome, in fact, and I wondered briefly why I hadn't seen it before. The way she softened his steely exterior immediately made me think of Aurora and the King.

Their forms were always depicted as regal and statuesque, never affectionate with each other or even touching usually, their arms straight at their sides, with their son in between. But here, they seemed just like every other happily married couple I'd ever encountered.

"Because he is just and kind, my lady," I couldn't even look at her for fear that I was going to dissolve into tears as my heart was simply overwhelmed with adoration.

"Hmm, indeed," she hummed, looking lovingly at her husband, whom she had traveled to the ends of the earth to find and put back together, "he is a true testament of ma'at..." She leaned down to brush his lips with her own and a tear slid down my cheek.

"We always cared so much for humans, didn't we," she said to him quietly before turning her attention back to me, "its why we showed them how to plant and harvest, and how to live in peace with each other. We wanted abundance and happiness for them, Kamilah."

I nodded as I looked up at her, remembering this from the stories - as a king, Osiris was revered for his goodness, and Isis for her compassion and powerful grace. They were well-respected and loved by the Egyptian people for the way they bettered everyone's lives. But Set saw this and got jealous that the people didn't love him the same way.

My temper started to flare as I thought of him coming after my new friends and I inhaled sharply.

"Save your anger, Kamilah," Osiris rumbled, looking over to me as his hand slowly passed back and forth over Isis' before curling his fingers over hers.

"My husband is right. You know that he will come for them," she said to me, and I nodded again.

"M-may I speak, my queen?"

She nodded, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips at my recognition of her eternal royalty.

"Ma--shit, Marisol guessed that he would. That first night when they came and we found out that Jonas had the Genesis Stone..."

Our lord of the dead was notoriously wise, but I felt like I needed to offer a defense of Jonas anyways.

"He didn't know what it was, your majesties, it was an accident - he only carried it because it reminded him of his brother. Well, that and he didn't feel comfortable leaving it behind while they were out of the country."

"Wiser than most his age," Isis said softly, with a tender smile that I thought would bring even the stiffest man alive to his knees.

"He's a good man, better than most" I responded, "but he makes mistakes too, just like regular people."

No one spoke for several minutes, and my fingers started anxiously bunching the material of my gown. Isis sighed and looked at me with a sad, motherly expression when I met her gaze.

"It was never meant to be touched by human hands," she said quietly, "the Stone is beautiful, but dangerous, like the mighty river that flows from it."

"What do you mean, dangerous?"

Osiris patted her twice on the hip softly and she moved up and off his lap. I was again reminded of what an imposing figure he was as settled into the back of his chair, his body at rest and comfortable, one ankle crossing over the other as he stretched his legs out and Isis sat at his right hand in a chair equally as elaborate to his own.

"The young king's brother should never have had the Stone to begin with. As my queen says, it is dangerous. Humans are naturally weaker than our kind. Its through no fault of your own, of course, Khnum simply molds you that way on his potter's wheel. But powerful relics like the Stone are too much for the fragile seams of human sanity."

"He who controls the Stone controls the life-giving iteru. And our jealous brother has sought it from its very inception. That is why at the beginning of time, the god Khnum wove around the Stone a magical protection, declaring that the only way Set could ever possess it was if it was taken from the hand of a human..."

My jaw nearly hit the floor. That little tidbit wasn't in any of the stories I'd heard or books I'd read, but everything about Shell's almost violent reaction to seeing Jonas holding it in his hand started to make sense now.

"So Set can only get the Genesis Stone from a human, but humans are never supposed to have it?"

They both nodded, and a thousand questions immediately filled my brain about how a young boy in a country far from Egypt had managed to find the Stone, then ki--

"Oh my gods. That's why he did it, isn't it?" My voice shook as I asked and tears welled up in my eyes. No one gave me an answer and I started to cry silently, lowering my head and screwing my eyes shut as I tried to breathe. My heart broke for Jonas -- all these years, he hadn't exactly blamed himself for Mattias' actions, but at the root of it all was his kingship.

An immediate wave of calm slid through my whole body when she touched my hand.

"You do understand that you cannot tell him, Kamilah," Isis spoke softly to me, understanding how my heart was breaking for someone who I had admired for so long and was now my friend, "the King will find out when the time is right, but it must not be from your lips."

"No!" I gasped, trying to pull her up when she knelt on the ground before my knees, "no no please, you can't!"

"Hush my child," she quieted me with the words, "I know your heart weeps for him. But he will find out in time...listen to my words..."

The calm was hypnotic. Lulling and pulsing like a heartbeat. I sniffed as I looked at her, acutely aware of the way her skin had a soft, almost creamy texture as she still held my hands in my lap.

"Trust, precious Kamilah. Have trust..."

I started to feel like I was floating, only vaguely aware of her now, watching her interact with her husband like I was seeing it through a thick pane of glass, like that last moment right before you go under anesthesia.

"Tell her and send her back, wife," Osiris rumbled, "their time is short."

"Indeed. Kamilah? Can you hear me?" A motherly hand against my cheek.

"Mmmyes," I mumbled, my eyes starting to feel unbearably heavy as my head started to loll to the side, too much to hold up on such tired shoulders. "I am going to send you home, Kamilah. You must wake up and go to your Head immediately. Tell her that Set comes today, and he does not come alone. Your Mistress is out of time..."

time


time


time


time


time...

 

I was falling.
The water was gone.
The cavernous, open space was gone.
Isis was gone.
Osiris was gone.

"Ah-ahem...AHEM."

I startled awake at the sound only to find a smiling face framed by tawny dreadlocks looking amusedly down at me, standing beside the bed.

"Wh--" I gasped, looking down to make sure I was covered, then sighing with relief as I realized the blankets were up under my arms. I held one finger up to my lips, shaking my head at Jonas when I looked back at Tim and saw that he hadn't stirred from where he'd settled behind me, holding me against him with one arm over my waist.

"Let him sleep," I whispered.

"I'm sure he's quite tired, but I do need him for something, Kamilah. And you probably need to go see your Mistress, I'd guess."

He was talking about my Calling, but his mention of Ma suddenly made me remember Isis' last words from my dream and I gasped as I struggled to get up, unintentionally startling Tim, who yanked me down and positioned himself overtop of my body to protect me.

"Whats wrong, wh--oh...my king," he bowed his head in deference as his brain finished waking up and he realized there was no threat.

"At ease, my friend," the King glanced away as I righted the sheets to cover myself again.

Jonas seemed to be in a fine mood, and I suspected the little mark on his neck at the back corner of his jaw had something to do with it. He was dressed the most casual I'd seen him outside of training, wearing tight blue jeans and a button up shirt, rolled halfway up his tattooed forearms, the top buttons left undone. With his dreads pulled down around one shoulder, he almost looked normal.

He grinned down at us when he turned back, and my brain struggled to catch up as I tried to remember everything from my dream so I could tell Ma.

"Oh, shit what time is it?" Tim bolted upright, looking around, but there were no windows in our little room.

"Its morning," Jonas chuckled, "its okay," he held up two hands to calm his friend's sudden worry, "we knew where to find you if we needed either one of you..."

"I--I need to go talk to Sol, right now." I pulled the comforter off the bed and wrapped it around myself, crossing the room to find my dress.

The stones were cool under my feet and I immediately regretted not packing some sort of post-ritual outfit that included at least flip flops.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," I mumbled, blushing hard when Jonas cleared his throat and nodded his head slightly to the side, motioning to where my undergarments were laying forgotten on the floor where Tim had taken them off of me.

He fussed with his lip ring, trying to hide his smile as he looked at his friend and cocked an eyebrow before dropping into another language. I glanced back over at the two men, now engaged in conversation, and Tim reached up to take Jonas by the elbows, moving him a step to the side so his back was turned to me, and giving me an opportunity to slip into the thin lace before lifting the dress over my head.

I was so absorbed with what I needed to tell Sol, I nearly left right then.

"Woah, woah woah woah," Tim said, jumping up and grabbing his own clothes off the chair before stepping into his pants, "are you leaving in that? You know its see-through right?"

"Wh--I have to go see Marisol..." I looked down, cursing loudly as what he said registered.

I glanced back at the King, whose eyes started to travel down my body as he tugged thoughtfully at his septum piercing and tried again to stop his smile from crinkling the corners of his eyes.

"Look, you don't get to ask me to take my shirt off in front of everyone and then get freebies!" I said accusingly, pointing a finger at him and making him throw his head back laughing.

"Ah, Kamilah, my dear I am terribly sorry. I have a man's weakness for beautiful women."

"Yeah well..." I harrumphed good naturedly at him, and he held my gaze for a moment, giving me that appraising look again like he was untangling the thoughts in my head.

I so desperately wanted to tell him, but she'd been insistent that I trust her...

I turned my mind back to my task; maybe I could just make a run for it, out the door then down the hall. But if the King was here...

"...Uhm. Your highness, what are the chances that your bodyguard is on the other side of the door?"

"Pretty damn good," Jonas chuckled, and I pressed both hands over my face to hide my groan.

"Here, sweetheart, arms up," Tim said, crossing to me and smiling like we were sharing a joke, "and good morning," he kissed me softly.

I lifted both arms as we looked at each other and the tension amped up a little. Somehow him dressing me was nearly as erotic as the opposite. He slid his long-sleeve billowy white shirt up over my arms and down my torso over my dress. It was long, typically worn tucked in, and it covered everything I didn't want seen. He glanced down at me and kissed me on the cheek.

"Wow...I didn't expect you to look this good in my shirt," he shuffled his feet for a moment as I held out my hand for the other half of his uniform, and he said that he could just go without it back to their rooms to change.

"Please?" I asked softly and he looked up at me, "you guys are gonna need to come to Ma's office with me, and she...frowns on impropriety," I looked at Jonas back over Tim's shoulder and he furrowed his eyebrows.

"Why? Whats going on?"

Tim pulled his jacket on back over his shoulders, pulling his braid out from underneath and stood still while I started buttoning from the bottom.

Jonas didn't get his answer, I hardly even remembered what he'd said - I got too sucked into Tim's stare as my finger slipped each gold button through its respective loop, closing the material over his bare skin. His eyes had green swirled into the blue - it wasn't a mossy green like John's, it was darker, deeper, like water, and the way they looked at me made my breath hitch, caught in my chest like I couldn't get enough oxygen.

When I hooked the last button, I smoothed my hands over his chest and down his arms, and tried to focus on what I had to do, what I needed to tell Ma, but the way his breath shook when he inhaled was so damn distracting, and the scent of him lingering on his shirt wrapped around me like a blanket.

"Kamilah," he whispered, pushing his hands into my hair and drawing my lips against his own with a quiet moan that was only for my ears. They pulled at and caressed mine, creating delicious little sounds as he continued to kiss me for far longer than I thought he would in front of his king. His tongue teased against mine as his fingers pulled me closer, gripping my hair, the heel of each hand warm against my face.

Jonas watched thoughtfully, his arms crossed casually over his chest as he leaned one shoulder back against the wall, absentmindedly curling one end of his mustache. He observed the way I molded against Tim as he bent me back slightly, how our kiss was equal give and take, and felt a sudden burning, intense need to have Aurora under his fingertips again.

"Gods I can't get enough of you," Tim groaned into my lips.

"I hope you never do," I whispered, kissing him softly one more time before taking his hands and holding onto them.

"We need to go see Ma." Tim nodded, thinking I just needed to tell her about my Calling, and unsure why I wanted him there, but not arguing if it meant not having to be away from me. He kissed the knuckled of each of my hands before crossing the room and opening the door for his king.

"Nonsense, please," Jonas motioned us both out, almost shooing us with both hands, "its not like I'm the one who knows where we're going," he laughed, and I thought as I looked back at him that I loved him happy.

But I paused just outside the door and turned; Jonas just barely stayed on his feet as I jumped into his arms and wrapped my own around his neck as my feet left the floor.

"Thank you, gods I can't believe I forgot to say thank you!!" I loved the way I could feel his laugh as he held me tightly against him, and his arms wrapped around my waist as he set me down on my feet. Jonas didn't say anything, he just shook his head and grinned at me, kissing my forehead before I stepped back.

Henrik, true to form, was standing right outside the door, waiting. He looked me up and down briefly, the shock from my hair color registering on his face.

"Wow, you...wow," he stammered.

"I'll let you touch mine if you let me touch yours," I giggled, reaching up to tug on his ponytail, once again hanging down the nape of his neck as I pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. He smiled at me and shook his head with a roll of his eyes, falling into step next to Jonas as we all moved down the hall towards Ma's office.

Tim laced his fingers through mine, smiling sideways at me when I looked over at him.

Chapter Text

I knocked twice and waited, taking a step away from the door as Tim moved his hand to the small of my back; the heat from it passed through both layers I had on, and I failed stop the involuntary shiver that shook me for a moment.

"You know," he said conversationally, like we were talking about the weather as we both stared at the door, "that's the second time you've done that."

"Done what?"

He leaned over to kiss me softly on the cheek, whispering lowly before pulling back, "tremble for me..."

I clapped a hand over my lips to stifle the tiny noise that threatened to escape just as Ma opened the door, unable to stop the immediate rise of both her eyebrows as she took in my new hair color and smeared makeup.

"Kamilah...I wondered when you would be back. Gods, but she does take a while doesn't she?"

Tim and I exchanged a quick glance, mutually deciding to let her believe that I'd spent a majority of the last however many hours with Sekhmet, and not on top of him with his cock buried inside me, or asleep afterwards, exhausted and sated.

But Ma was never one to be fooled.

"Ah...of course. Your majesty, I suppose we have no one to blame but ourselves," she smiled at Jonas with the hint of a smirk and I blushed hard as Henrik tried and failed to stifle his snicker into a cough.

"Indeed, I suppose we don't, Mistress," the king chuckled, inclining his head to her as she beckoned us to enter her workspace. There were bookshelves covering almost every free inch of wall space, and I remembered wondering the first time I'd set foot here if she had every book ever written about Egypt.

She invited the three men to sit in the comfortable plush chairs near the windows, set up in a semi-circle around the fireplace. Sol had a fire going, and it made her office feel a tad stifling, even in the thin garb that I had on. I was sure that Henrik and Jonas were uncomfortable, and Tim pulled awkwardly at the collar of his heavy uniform, having nothing on underneath.

"Ah, gentlemen, I apologize. The cold does seem to creep into my bones even in the summer these days..." She snapped her fingers and the fire immediately went out, no trace of residual heat or ember left, and she wrapped a thick shawl around her shoulders.

"Okay, someone please remember to tell John about that, because I'm pretty sure he thought I was joking," I said out loud, drawing a low laugh from the king as he rolled his eye at me.

Sol and I both settled into chairs as well, and everyone looked to me.

"So?" Sol asked, obviously getting impatient when I didn't immediately launch into details, "what did she say?"

"Well, I guess just normal stuff, 'good job' and 'here are your gifts', and 'I'm watching you', but I had a dream afterwards and--"

"She sent you back and you fell asleep rather than coming straight to me? Odd behavior indeed, Kamilah, even from you..."

Tim looked everywhere in the room that wasn't at me thankfully, because I knew my face would be a dead giveaway if our eyes met.

Gods but he was distracting, even fully clothed and seated five feet away from me, his fingers tapping against his thigh, I assumed playing something no one else could hear. All I could think about was pulling at the buttons on his uniform and dragging him back down the hallway...

I realized after a moment that I was staring, and Henrik's face threatened to split into a knowing smile as he stared hard at his hands, and I narrowed my eyes at him when ours met, making him shake with silent laughter as he clamped his lips shut.

I fussed with the ends of my hair, then a spot on Tim's shirt from where it had gotten dirty being thrown to the floor earlier, forgotten in the wake of more important things, as I tried to figure out how to get around her question.

Honestly, going to find her hadn't even crossed my mind when I'd resurfaced to find that Tim was still very much there and still very much naked.

"Well yeah...I mean..."

Sol rolled her eyes, "Kamilah, its childish to behave like everyone in this room hasn't had sex before. I admit, I knew you two fancied each other, I hardly expected you to be gone for the entire night, though..." she frowned at me and I couldn't stop the flaming blush that crept up my throat if I tried.

Knew we fancied each other...that was certainly one way to put it, I guess. I remembered the sound that left his lips as he demanded that I come for him, that I take my pleasure on him, the way his fingers dug into my skin as my inner walls squeezed him...

My eyes widened as I stared at the floor, trying not to get lost in the torrents of arousal that threatened to overtake me, doing my best to will away the unexpected mental image of Henrik and Jonas and Tim all naked in my bed.

"I, ah...I mean. Ahem. What I meant to say was..." I mumbled, trying my best not to, but meeting Tim's stare after a moment. I almost missed his wink, it was so brief as he ran his fingers over his mustache, trying to hide his wolfish grin but knowing exactly what I was thinking.

"Well, dear, if that was all, I appreciate you coming, but I do have some business matters to attend to..."

"No, Ma, it wasn't all, so if we're done with the 'embarrassing Kamilah' portion of the event..." I grumbled, "I had a dream after she sent me back. Well, at least I think it was a dream. I'm not totally sure--"

"Spit it out Kamilah."

I furrowed my eyebrows at her...why was she being so on edge and snappy today?

"Are you okay, Ma?"

"Yes. Its only a headache. Apologies."

I looked at her worriedly. First the roaring fire and complaints of being cold in the middle of July, and now a headache? She never showed pain, as she considered it a form of weakness, and it surprised me to hear her acknowledge the existence of any ailment, especially in the presence of such a high-profile guest. Even if we were both used to his presence by now...

I glanced at Jonas with a worried expression and he nodded his head once then turned back to Sol, watching her more closely.

"Ah, anyways. I had a dream about Osiris and Isis...well, more 'with' than about I guess. They sent me a message."

Her jaw dropped as she regarded me with wide eyes.

"My dear, that is quite an honor...I certainly hope that you remembered what I taught you when speaking before the Lord of the Departed..." She stared at me with unabashed surprised and her fingers stopped rubbing her temple.

"Of course I did," I mumbled..."he was super nice for the most part. The mind-reading thing gets a little irritating though. And Isis," I slumped back into my chair, "gods, Ma, she's perfect. I don't know that I can even put into words how beautiful and wonderful she is..."

I received an exasperated look that I didn't expect. Normally, she'd have been full of questions, looking for any new information - details about their speech, their mannerisms, their clothing.

"They told me to find you a soon as I woke up and to tell you that Set is coming, and he isn't coming alone..."

Sol's eyebrows furrowed. "Well...no offense to their Eternal Majesties, of course, but...we did already know that. Was there anything else they said? Think Kamilah, you clearly missed something."

Now, I was just getting irritated.

"No, I mean like he's coming now. He's coming today...we're out of time, Marisol." I watched the color drain from her face as she went still, like she was suddenly made of marble, and I wondered if it was from my news or my unpermitted use of her full name.

"T-today?"

I nodded, "there's more that you should know, but...I uhm..." I glanced quickly at Jonas then back to her, "I'll tell you the rest of it later."

The king raised one eyebrow at me and I knew if I looked back at him, I would spill in a second, so I kept my eyes firmly on Sol. She didn't respond, or even acknowledge that she'd heard me.

"Mama?" I cautiously slid out of my chair onto the floor in front of her, pressing my hands against her knees as I knelt. Her breathing was rapid and shallow as her eyes started to look glazed over.

The thought to ask Henrik to help me get her to her room was crossing my mind when her eyes rolled back and she collapsed forward into my arms, out cold.

But not cold.

Her entire body was hot to the point that I could feel it through her heavy shawl.

Henrik was immediately there as I gasped and started to crumble under her, not having been prepared to hold up dead weight, even as light as she was, but glad I had moved when I did or else she would have fallen face first onto the stone floor.

"SOL?!" My panic hit me like a freight train as he took her from me and I watched him lay her out on the stone floor, touching her face as Jonas and Tim knelt next to him on either side of her motionless body.

I rocketed up, running my hands through my hair and hyperventilating. Set was coming, and the only thing that Osiris and Isis had told me was to tell Sol, and now I had and had possibly scared her to death. I didn't know what to do, and panic naturally filled the void.

Jonas saw my anxiety attack unfolding - the wild look in my eyes, the terror etched plainly across my face and in my body language, and he immediately took charge, seeing that I was out of pocket for the moment.

"Henrik, can you lift her?"

He bent further down, slipping his arms under her shoulders and behind her knees, and Sol was lifted gently off the floor, her face resting against his shoulder.

"Christ, she's like a fucking feather," he gasped, thoroughly surprised by how easy it was to carry her. She wasn't a big woman, but she felt weightless, like her bones were hollow.

Jonas crossed to me, taking me by the shoulders and shaking me roughly until I stopped whimpering and wringing my hands.

"Kamilah STOP," he commanded, "I need you to be right here, with me, not off in your head."

I stilled and tried to get my breathing under control as I stared at him and he still held my shoulders, gripping me and trying to keep me grounded as the panic ebbed.

"Do you remember what I told you when we were in the garden?" he asked softly, his gaze still rooting me to the floor.

Kamilah I will not let anything happen to you...

"There. I see that you do."

My head moved up and down, nodding.

"I still intend to keep that promise, but I need you to stay calm. This is your home, not mine, I don't know where anything is, and I need you to show Henrik to Marisol's room. She's very sick Kamilah." He spoke to me like I was a child.

Very sick...

"Oh my gods. I'm such a fucking idiot," I clapped a hand to my forehead. In all the annoyance and sudden fear, I'd completely forgotten that I'd been gifted the ability to heal now. I had no idea how it worked, but I figured something had to happen if I tried.

"Please don't drop her," I said to Henrik, moving towards him and pushing a lock of hair out of Sol's face. She always wore it tightly bound, but it was starting to come loose.

"Look, if I can get this one," he nodded his head sideways in Tim's direction, "back up to his bed so dead fucking drunk he can't walk, I think I can manage one old lady."

I could tell he wanted to roll his eyes, and I tried not to laugh when Tim, who obviously didn't remember being carried back to his bed, started asking probing questions about said event.

"This way please, we're not far."

We processed down the hall, miraculously running into no one, and slipped into Sol's room, where I had spent so much time yesterday worrying about what was going to happen to me. Everything felt so different now. How trivial of a thing sex seemed compared to the destructiveness that was coming our way.

Henrik laid her gently down on top of her coverlet, pressing the backs of his fingers to her forehead briefly.

"She's still warm."

"Tim," I turned and found him standing near the doorway, watching silently. I crossed to him and stopped, wondering how our lives had finally become intertwined here at the last moment, what very well might be our last day... I kissed him hard, but stayed quick about it, "I need you to go find the other Heads. Shift if you have to, whatever, I just need them here ASAFP so we can try to get something of a plan together. I don't know how much time being out of time actually leaves."

"I saw Eden outside not long ago," Henrik called, pulling at the shawl that was tangled around Sol and trying to make sure she would be comfortable if she awoke.

"And Ciel will probably still be with John back in his chambers, I believe," the king added and Tim and I both looked at him with raised eyebrows.

"Oh, I'm sorry, do either of you have anything to say about that?" he asked half-annoyed, and Tim quickly made his exit.

I crossed to the bed, climbing onto it and kneeling over Sol before touching her forehead, her neck, the insides of both wrists. Her pulse was sluggish. Henrik and Jonas both watched me, unsure what I was doing, but awaiting instruction should they be needed. I sat back on my heels and addressed them.

"Jonas, remember how I told you that you get powers that mirror your deity when you get Called?"

He nodded.

"Last night when I met with my goddess, she gifted me with the ability to summon and control flame, and to heal," I held my hands up when they both moved to speak at the same time, "but I have no idea how it works. So, just give me a second to try it, okay?"

I ignored Henrik as he tried to pick his jaw up off the floor. Jonas simply nodded, then watched, taking a step back from the bed to give me space to work.

My eyes fluttered shut and I bent all my concentration on Ma. I could feel the fever in her body, manifesting like lava - it was viscous and hot, moving like molasses through her bones, up her neck, flooding her glands, her temples. No wonder she'd complained about her headache - I was sure now by feeling her out that she'd been in a great amount of discomfort for some time before we even got there.

Gently, I started pulling with my energy at the very center of the mass, like a cloth over a table, trying to lift it upright and out of her body without tearing it. There was resistance, like it was pulling back.

"What the hell?"

Ma stirred when I used a little bit more force and the sickness gave, slowly coming away and dissolving like a vapor into my hand.

"Almost done, almost done, mama."

An actual whimper left her lips, like she was in pain.

"Henrik," I called for him but he was already there, kneeling on the ground next to her, running a hand back over her forehead like she was his own mother, murmuring to her that she was okay, that it was almost over. I wasn't surprised in the least that he had a wonderful bedside manner.

Not squishy at all, sweet Henrik...

The sweat dripped down my temples, but finally the last of the malady came away, dissolving into the air, and I hunched forward, drawing in shaky breaths as my muscles trembled.

"Well, that is certainly going to come in handy," Eden said wide-eyed from the doorway, and I whipped around, "can't ever really have enough healers in one place can we?"

Tim had returned at some point with Raya, Eden, Shell, and Ciel in tow. Johannes and John were right behind them, and I tried not to notice the way the latter had missed a button on his shirt.

Mumbled words from the old woman on the bed shifted my focus, though.

"K-m-la..." she mumbled, and Henrik pulled her up enough that she could drink some of the water from the glass in Eden's hand.

"I'm here, Mistress," I took her hand and knelt beside her again as I pressed it to my cheek briefly before setting it back down, "just rest for a couple minutes..."

"What happened?!" Raya asked, kneeling next to me and looking over Sol's face. Ma's hands weakly formed her elemental symbol, resting against her torso, still too exhausted to speak. They slipped to her sides as she drifted into unconsciousness again.

I wasn't sure what she meant, but Raya saw it too. Shell nudged past Henrik, pressing her fingers to the pulse point on Marisol's throat just under her jaw, and feeling her forehead.

"Kamilah...something's not right. She's warm again."

My stomach dropped into the feet. "What? No, I just fixed that! She can't be..." but she was. I touched her forehead to confirm, and she was hotter than before, a fire raging under the thin, pale skin. The confusion I so plainly felt was obviously written across my face as I looked back and forth between the Heads.

"I did...I just healed her, Shell..." "

We know, honey, we saw," Eden place a hand on my arm as I stared down at Ma, at a loss for what to do now.

"Kamilah," Jonas' voice brought me back to the present, "you need to tell them, now."

I needed to tell the Heads that Set was coming.
I needed to heal Ma again.
I needed to process everything that had happened with Tim last night.
I needed to try and get a fucking grip on what was happening around me.

I felt like there were a million things going on at once, and started to lose control of my breathing again, pressing a hand to my chest to try and slow the erratic beating of my heart as my chest began to feel more and more restricted, like the walls of my rib cage were closing in.

Tim crossed the room in two strides, grabbed me around the waist, and hauled me off the bed, pulling me away from the thick crowd into a corner of Sol's room and putting both hands on my cheeks.

"Kamilah. My beautiful girl. Look at me. Take a deep breath."

It was shaky, but I managed it, the possessive determiner he'd used not helping all that much with abating the shakes.

"Good girl, do it again."

Another successful inhale-exhale with fewer tremors.

"Are you listening to me, sweetheart?" His eyes bored holes into mine, looking through me.

I nodded, and received a little kiss as a reward as his hands stayed at my cheeks, but their grip was more gentle, his thumbs passing back and forth over the skin.

"You are Called now, Kamilah. You're powerful, and you're smart, you just need to listen to your instincts and stay focused. We need you sharp today. Use your senses, like I taught you. You're giving this," he tapped my heart with one finger, "too much control, and you need to use this," that finger tapped the side of my head.

He was right. I was spiraling because I was feeling too much and not thinking. Another short kiss that felt like he wanted it to be longer, and I was back at Sol's side, looking at the four gathered Heads and telling them the message that I'd been sent with.

I held up my hands to quell the coming deluge of questions. "I apologize, Mistresses, I don't mean to be rude, but I don't know how much time we have, and I don't have any more information. Their Eternal Majesties were sparse with the details." I looked back down at Ma, then over to Ciel, whose face showed nothing.

"Why would my healing work and then reverse itself?"

She shook her head. "Try it again, and tell me what you see. It may not be that your healing reversed, it may just be that the sickness is more powerful than you thought."

They all took a step back and I focused on Ma again, imagining her laid out like one of the anatomy charts, where you can look at just the lymph or skeletal or muscle system. I cleared away everything one layer at a time except the miasma that was making her temperature so high.

"Fucking hell..." I murmured, "there's more than there was before," I tentatively pulled at it and it refused to give, gripping her even tighter when I tried pulling harder. "Ciel its stronger than it was five minutes ago, and there's more of it...I'm afraid if I pull any harder I'll break her bones. What is this thing?!"

I turned to the other woman, sheer terror in my eyes. One of her hands pressed against her lips as a tear slid down her cheek, and John slipped her hand other through his, giving her a comforting squeeze.

"I--I don't know...Kamilah, I don't know. I don't have any answers..."

"Its okay, love, we'll find one," he murmured to her, his eyes moving over the floor, back and forth in that telltale way. The wheels were obviously turning. Finally he stopped, furrowing his brows for a moment before going completely still. He physically turned Ciel by her shoulders towards him, startling her a little.

"He touched her. O-or he touched her energy. Remember?" He put his hands up in an inverted triangle like Marisol's had been a few minutes before.

"What?"

"She was on the other side with Tim, John," Jonas reminded, "her back was to everything happening."

"Shit. Right. When Set came the other night, you know he was confronting Marisol...taunting her, right?"

Ciel nodded, unsure where he was going with any of this.

"And he was doing this weird thing where he like kind of danced back and forth? Shit was weird as hell, but he reached out and physically touched her energy. I thought it was just him being a fucking crazy bastard, but now--"

"What, you think he infected her with something?" Johannes asked over his shoulder and John nodded, his eyes still searching Ciel's.

"I do. Well... I mean, maybe? Tell me if you don't think that's plausible, because I still don't know a ton about your energy transfer other than what you were just showing me in b--...ah...ahem...what you were just showing me."

Jonas gave me a look when he saw me chewing my lips, looking up hard at the ceiling and trying not to drop into a hysterical giggling fit.

"Is it possible?" Henrik looked at Eden, who scratched her head for a moment, thinking.

"It might be. It works that way for plants - touch to touch for leaves and roots. If you think of our energy as a root system it makes sense - its at our core, flowing through us, animating us, that kind of thing...if it gets infected..." she shrugged, but Henrik still looked puzzled.

"Kamilah, dear, show him please." She beckoned to me and I scooted off the bed towards her, trying to be mindful of the fact that the only real protection I had on was Tim's shirt, and it was starting to feel a little inadequate.

"Now, Henrik," she smiled tenderly when she said it and I watched him physically relax in the beam of her gaze, "watch Kamilah, see how her energy moves and spreads, that might make it more clear."

As she spoke, I focused and imagined my own energy network within my body, igniting the spark and watching it spread from the center of my torso out into my limbs.

"Would you mind, dear?" Eden asked sweetly, tugging at the hem of my shirt, and I grimaced at her.

"This is becoming some kind of pattern," I grumbled, but figured modesty was basically shot at this point, and lifted the material over my head. I held my arms slightly away from my sides, palms facing Henrik so he could see.

"Woah, that's so cool," he watched with open-mouthed surprise as I opened my visibility, the fiery orange tendrils of energy snaking against the surface of my body, head to toe. I pulled the material of my dress up a foot so he could see more clearly how the patterns flowed under my skin, like veins. When he leaned down to take a closer look he caught himself.

"Oh, sorry, I'm not trying to make it weird...sorry..." I snaked a little ribbon of energy out and pulled one of his curls loose from its binding as I winked at him and gave it a little tug.

"I trust you," I smiled.

All five men crowded around me, murmuring to each other, watching the energy bands flow through me as Eden explained how if Set had passed some kind of sickness or evil into Sol through her energy, it would become a systemic infection.

I closed my eyes as I listened, shivering under the gentle prods of curious fingers, and I sensed him standing close to me. They all were, but I was completely tuned in to him now without my sight. His feel, his scent, the soft sound of his breathing. I thought I could almost hear his heartbeat a little faster, and even though we were in the midst of this horrible situation, basically crowded around a sickbed, I couldn't help but play with him.

A tiny slip of energy, barely enough to notice, sought him, wrapping around the top button of his uniform and slipping it out of its loop.

I heard the shift of fabric as he noticed and redid it, thinking he'd missed it before and murmuring to the king something about weaponizing my energy.

The button slipped again and I felt him take pause, looking at me, my eyes still closed as John and Ciel quietly consulted together and Johannes and Henrik simply watched, considering me.

"Kamilah..." he held the last syllable a little longer, a warning.

I tried to keep the corner of my mouth from turning up, but it curved into a smirk anyways.

Another button slipped.

"You do that again, and you know whats going to happen to you..."

I felt my core clench and a snicker sounded to my right as I remembered all too late that I'd made my energy visible, and it was clearly redirecting itself to one place now.

I pulled my visibility back, opening my eyes as a slow blush crept up my throat.

"Ahem so. Anyways. So we think she's infected?"

I did a double take as my eyes roamed the audience and they passed over Tim's. He'd left both buttons undone this time, and I knotted my fingers at my side so they wouldn't tear the rest from their moorings.

For just a second, just one quick moment, everyone else disappeared and it was the two of us alone. I reached out a bigger ribbon this time, brushing it across his cheek tenderly, and I watched his face turn into the gentle caress. His lips silently formed three words as I pulled back, everyone else's chatter now seeping into our moment of solitude.

Did he--?
No, he couldn't have just...

I smiled softly at him as my heart swelled to the point I thought it was going to burst in my chest.

He definitely had.

The King cleared his throat, drawing my attention. His eyes sparkled at me when he smiled, pressing Tim's shirt back into my hands. I quickly slid it over my head, pulling the hem down over my hips to hide my lacy undergarments again.

"So, what do we do?" I reminded myself to think with my head, not my heart, "I'm sure she'd kill me if she heard me say this, but Sol's too old to withstand the temperature spikes if this is going to happen every time I heal her, and I'm worried this thing will hold onto her so tight I'll break something if I pull any harder on it..."

Eden crossed over to me, tears dropping down her cheeks, "there may not be much we can do, my sweet," she whispered, cupping my cheek and pressing her forehead up to mine, "I'm sorry. We may just need to wait this one out and see what happens. She's strong, Kamilah, despite her age. She'll fight it as hard as she can."

I sniffled as my own tears overflowed.

"Come with me, dear," Raya extended her hand to me, lacing her fingers through mine softly, "ladies?" she nodded her head for them to follow.

"Excuse us for a moment, gentlemen," Ciel murmured, following us into Ma's spacious closet.

It was cramped with five bodies, and I glanced around, chuckling sadly when I noticed that nearly every hanger had something black on it. Hardly ever one to deviate from the norm, our Marisol. Eden opened the top drawer of her dresser and lifted out a small jewelry box.

"I'm sorry that Sol isn't the one giving this to you, darling, I knew she's exceedingly proud of you..." The lid lifted and her fingers pulled out a thin chain with a gold cartouche hanging from the end - an official designation of belonging.

"Kneel, dear," Ciel murmured as Shell and Raya both took my hands and my knees dropped to the floor, my head bowed forward.

"Kamilah. As High Priestess of the goddess Nut, as the servant of the Ancients, a child of the Neteru, I welcome you into our sisterhood of this Temple. We exist to serve, to defend, to protect, and we take none of the three lightly. And your presence makes us stronger." She slid the chain over my head, pulling my hair out from underneath, then dropped to her knees, nudging my chin up with one finger. "Welcome, my sister," she whispered, tears sliding down her cheeks as she embraced me hard, weaving her fingers into my red tresses and anchoring me to her as Shell, Eden and Raya wrapped their arms around us and for a moment we all wept together for the solemnity of the moment, for the fear of what was coming, and for the desperate sadness that permeated both.

Finally we all stood, righting ourselves and wiping away our tears.

"Thank you," I shook my head - in the wake of Ma collapsing and everything that had happened since, I'd completely forgotten, "thank you for agreeing to Jonas' request."

Shell giggled quietly, giving me a little wink.

"We did say you'd thank us later for these, didn't we?" Ciel grinned, moving like lightning and snapping my bra strap against my shoulder underneath Tim's shirt.

"Surprised you're standing, to be honest, that one looks like he's a savage in bed," Raya snickered, biting her lip to keep from snorting a laugh.

"Yeah well..." I started in my own defense, but then realized I had nothing to follow it up with, so I just shrugged.

"Its been a long time coming, dear," Eden kissed me softly on the cheek, "and he's obviously even crazier about you today and he was yesterday."

"Its just...stress and worry and stuff," I murmured, blushing.

"Or, its that he just threatened to fuck you in front of everyone," Ciel commented, making everyone, even me, dissolve into helpless giggles.

I shook my head at all four of them.

"We're going to get through this thing, right? We're gonna win?"

"Its all of us against one of him, sweetie, I'd say we stand a pretty damn good chance..." Raya's assurance made me feel fractionally better, and we headed back out to everyone else.

Tim eyed my new necklace and smiled widely at me, a full grin that made his eyes crinkle at the corners.

"Congratulations," he wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me to him, pressing his mouth to mine and kissing me exactly the way he wanted to, not caring that there were eight sets of eyes watching.

Eden leaned into Henrik's side, and his arms involuntarily wrapped around her shoulders.

I got lost in the way his mustache brushed against my skin, the way our lips moved together, anticipating exactly what the other was going to do and responding in perfect timing. 

"I have a theory," Tim murmured into my lips, "and I'm worried you're not going to like it."

"I don't like that the Master of Chaos is after you and your king either, and I think you'll have a rather hard time outdoing that, darling," I nudged his nose with mine and pressed one more kiss to his lips before stepping back and going to sit next to Sol on the bed.

Her temperature was still high, though it didn't seem to be climbing anymore.

"I think he doesn't want her to fight. I think John's right and he did this on purpose, and that's why he's choosing to come now. She's completely out of commission," he said, eyes shifting around to meet everyone's one at a time, receiving unsure looks. "Well, you heard him. Taunting her, asking if her old bones were creaking, and saying he knew they found her replacement..."

"What?!" My head whipped around and our eyes met for a flash of a second.

A woman's servant, and of a lioness, nonetheless...

"Whatever Marisol can do, I think Set is afraid of her. Its been his plan all along to have her right here when he comes..."

Silence descended on the room and we all looked back and forth between Sol and each other.

My head spun with a dizzying repetition of his words. He knew they found her replacement.

I looked down at Sol, frowning.

I swear to the gods, you cranky old bitch if you fucking leave me to fill your shoes without telling me, you'll never be able to hide from me in the afterlife...

The king cleared his throat, once again taking charge in Sol's absence.

"Ladies," he addressed the Heads, "as it is still unclear how much time we have, please gather everyone in the dining hall as soon as you can so we can bring them all up to speed at one time. Anyone who can fight will need to."

"John," he turned, glancing back and forth between him and Ciel, "actually both of you. Find out whatever you can about potential allies that may accompany Set. We expected the beasts, but from the sound of it, he'll have more." They both nodded and left, John's hand still gripping hers.

"Henrik, Johannes," they both stood up straight, hands at their sides as their king addressed them, "weapons. Anything you can find, and our own."

Johannes seemed to almost bounce with the amount of energy contained in his wiry frame.

"You guys travel with weapons?" I asked, cocking my head to my side.

"Just a teensy weensy arsenal, little Red" Johannes grinned, swooping to my side and dropping a kiss on top of my head before pulling on a lock of my hair, "super badass by the way," he added before turning and bowing deeply to his king.

"Sire, if I may, we have some weaponry of our own, for situations like this, though I admit they've not seen the light of day in...a while..."

"The more the better in this case, Mistress Eden, please show Henrik where they are and then gather your girls."

"Yes sir," she nodded her head, then led Johannes and Henrik away, down towards the training center.

"Tim?"

"Yes, my king," his eyes snapped from me to his sovereign.

"I know you already have eight different plans based on that look on your face. Pick the best one and tell me what you need. Kamilah..." he turned to me, and he gave me the quickest, briefest glimpse underneath the hard exterior, "please go find Aurora and take her to John and Ciel."

"Yes sir," I moved towards the door then turned back to glance at Tim.

Jonas was pacing near the window, his mind working strategically as he considered the terrain around our Temple. "Make it fast, Kamilah," he said, giving me permission to say goodbye.

Tim met me halfway, crushing me to him, kissing me hard, thrusting his tongue between my lips and tangling his fingers back into my hair.

"Don't go far, baby, I'll meet you in the dining hall with everyone else as soon as we're done here, I promise," he kissed me one more time, and I watched the words pull at his lips again, wanting to be spoken.

I nodded, and he crushed me to him, holding me close until he had to let go.

"I'll get this back to you as soon as I get a chance to change, okay?" I motioned to his shirt before trotting out the door, mentally ticking off the possible places Aurora could be, and settling on the garden.

Chapter Text

Aurora was exactly where I expected her to be - sitting cross-legged on the ground, fingertips at her sides, resting in the grass, pressed to the surface of the earth, eyes closed.

She was like the entire Summer of Love wrapped into one human body and I was hesitant to break her meditation, but quietly approached her, intending to call her name before I touched her gently on the shoulder, so I wouldn't startle her.

"Hi Kamilah," her back was still to me, and I stopped in my tracks.

"Hey Ro...how'd you know it was me?"

"Footsteps."

"Oh...sorry I didn't mean to be so loud."

"Mm-mmm, I can feel them," she tapped the ground with her fingertips before turning to me, her smile faltering a little as she took in my appearance and the look on my face. "Whats the matter? You're not as happy as I thought you'd be...oh Kamilah, was it horrible? I'm so sorry, come tell me about it."

She beckoned me to sit next to her on the grass.

"I can't right now, Ro...sweetie, somethings happened, you need to come with me."

Her body went stiff as her eyes widened, and I held up both hands when I realized what she was thinking.

"No no Jonas is fine, I promise. And I'm fine. Everyone but Ma is completely fine, and I got summoned by Isis and Osiris in a dream and the TL;DR version is that Sets coming today. I'll fill you in while we walk but Jonas asked if you would help John and Ciel figure out who might ally themselves with Set."

She was up in a flash, grabbing my hand and starting towards the Temple before turning towards me. "Whats wrong with Sol? And whose shirt is that? Is that a man's shirt?"

I shooed her forwards until she started moving once more.

"John thinks she's infected with something. I guess when Set confronted her the other night, he touched her energy, and Eden said its possible that we can become infected through a touch because our energies work like a root system...Tim thinks that he's afraid of something that Ma can do and that he orchestrated the timing, but I'll be fucked if I know what secret power she has that can frighten the gods..."

She asked a thousand questions - where was Ma, what exactly happened when I tried to heal her, exactly how high was her fever?

I answered each in turn.

"And the rest?" She cocked an eyebrow at me as we rounded a corner, heading up the stairs towards the library, "is some poor man running away from our Temple weak-kneed and shirtless?"

"Well, he's not running away, and he's not exactly shirtless..."

"Oh my gods," she turned me by the shoulders again, looking completely flabbergasted, "you know who it was?!"

"Ehm. Uhm. Ah. Well...yeah."

She started shaking me when I didn't immediately tell her, and I grabbed onto her arms to prevent myself from being thrown to the ground.

"Woah! Woah woah woah, Ro, stop! It was Tim, stop shaking me!"

She shrieked with delight, pumping her fist in the air and then pulling me against her.

"How is that possible?! I can't even believe it! How many times?! Tell me everything!!"

Her glee was infectious and I giggled and hugged her back, like we were 12 year old girls gossiping about our first kisses.

"Look, all I know is that I told Jonas what a Calling is the other day when he was asking me questions out in the garden, and he seemed pissed about the whole thing. And I guess I don't blame him, I was kinda pissed too when I found out. But...but I was blindfolded obviously and I knew him from his voice when he finally said something, and then he told me that me having to fuck a stranger rubbed his king the wrong way and...and...yeah..." I shrugged a little, realizing that I was babbling and could happily do it all day, but we had somewhere to be.

"Wow, how romantic..." she mused aloud, eyes wandering over the walls as she listened, "whats he like? In bed, I mean."

"Remember watching him fight?" I asked, aware that there was now a throbbing between my legs that hadn't been there before she'd inquired.

Ro raised both eyebrows at me.

"Yeah. A lot like that..."

"Fuck," she whispered. It was still so funny to hear her say it and I snorted a laugh, "Gods, Kamilah," she sighed, running her fingers back through her hair, "I'd never get out of bed."

"Yeah, well, when the Divine gives you a heads up that Doomsday is coming, you kinda have to listen."

We reached the heavy wooden double doors of the library and pushed them open. The air inside always felt thick and heavy, more so when they latched behind us. The vast expanse of shelving and file cabinets were housed in a hall that was windowless, to preserve the fragile manuscripts that lived alongside the mass-printed textbooks that discussed our pantheon with fact, fantasy, and every approach in-between.

I stretched my arms up and yawned, wincing a little at the pull of sore muscles that hadn't been used and abused in that way in...well ever, and I was in the middle of groaning at the stretch when Ro snagged my sleeve and put one finger over her lips as she hauled me back between the stacks, shaking her head.

"What?" I whispered, receiving another head shake.

The silence was suddenly punctuated by barely-audible sounds of pleasure - soft exhalations, whispered curses, lips breaking apart and then finding each other once more, a metal buckle tapping rhythmically against the wood of a table. I raised both eyebrows at Ro, who was making a valiant effort not to giggle, taking deep slow breaths.

'Ciel and John?!' she mouthed when she could finally look at me, making an exaggerated surprised face, both palms pressed to her cheeks and her mouth open like the Edvard Munch painting.

I shook with a silent laugh as I nodded my head and grinned.

"Guess everyone wants to get laid before the end of the world," I whispered as quietly as possible, trying to ignore my awareness of how uncomfortable I felt being away from Tim for even a few minutes.

"Yeah, well I better not get left out of that party," she snickered and I thought for a moment that I loved this new confident version of my mousy Aurora, but I'd never get used to her saying things like that. I brushed a hand over her face and smiled at her, pressing my fingers to my lips then touching them to hers. Both of us slid to the floor, and her head rested against my shoulder, mine laying on top.

We simply sat and listened, both of us longing, both of us wishing that it was us getting softly kissed and caressed in the quiet, wishing we'd gotten more time...

Nobody said anything else as the sounds became louder, more pronounced, more frenzied, and I tried not to think of what John must look like naked, all long arms and legs, his hair spilling down around one shoulder; I was sure his o-face was intense as hell, and I wondered if he kept his eyes open or closed them. I finally decided on closed.

"Gods, I need intense therapy or a hobby or something, I swear," I murmured to Aurora, trying to banish the mental image of John biting his lip and closing his eyes with pleasure as he fucked me. It seemed like finally getting laid, rather than sating my lust, had only served to make me want more of everything.

The way Ciel urgently called his name out into the silence made me shiver with need, and they both quieted down afterwards, soft, breathy laughs punctuating the panting breaths; the telltale rustling of clothes being righted finally gave us permission to step out of the stacks and approach them, talking casually like we were none the wiser and had just arrived.

"And then I said 'of course you can't trust atoms, they make up everything!'"

Ro rolled her eyes, partially at my stupid joke and partially at how obvious it was that I was trying to be inconspicuous, like we hadn't both just totally spied on them fucking.

"Ah, Aurora, Kamilah, hello girls," Ciel smoothed both hands over her blouse as she spotted us, the surprise coming and going across her face so fast, I almost missed it.

"Hello Mistress, hello John," Ro smiled, giving nothing away, and I watched them both physically relax a bit as the ingrained childlike fear of getting caught passed, "the King asked if I could come and help you both," she said sweetly.

I couldn't even look at John, and kept my eyes firmly on the table, scanning over the open pages of books that had been knocked back haphazardly away from the edge.

"Yes, I have a couple ideas, but your input would be welcome, thank you dear," Ciel smiled, "Kamilah, darling why don't you go get changed into something more..." She didn't finish.

Something more what?

Comfortable?
Proper?
Battle-appropriate?

I made a face at her. "Jeans? Leggings? Shorts? What do you wear to the end of the world?"

I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it, but I felt a gnawing panic start to creep in instead and I started twisting at the hem of my sleeve, thumbing at the fabric.

"Don't be dramatic, Kamilah, it hardly helps," she sighed, turning back to the text in front of her.

John watched me sympathetically, knowing my discomfort was fear and stress-induced, and turned back to Ciel.

"Are you okay here for a few minutes without me?"

"I've been okay without you for my entire life, I can hardly see what a few extra minutes will change, John..."

I was shocked by her abrupt change in behavior, and his face fell for just a moment before the impassive spy's mask came back and he nodded.

"Christ, I didn't mean that," she rubbed her hands over her face and looked at him sadly, "that was terribly rude of me, John, I'm so sorry." Ciel reached for his hand and stepped towards him, standing up on her toes to press a kiss to his broad mouth, not caring that Ro and I were watching.

After all, we were all adults, weren't we?

His hands wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer as he kissed her back, groaning softly into her lips and disregarding everything else for a moment.

"Me too," he chuckled as he pulled back with a little grin, "keep that in mind. I'll be right back."

And with a little smile and a squeeze to both of his hands, she nodded, beckoning Ro to look at a passage in one of the multiple texts open across the table, "look at this, do you think it could be referring to--..."

I didn't hear the rest, because when John turned back to me his eyes were so dark, the irises were almost black, empty holes hanging in the whites of his eyes.

I felt my hackles go up, and my energy pooled into my hands, ready to strike as I took a step back.

"Come on, I'll walk with you," he offered me his hand, not seeming terribly worried that I'd just physically shied away from him. We stared at each other for a moment, and I blinked hard, rubbing my eyes, only to find that his own were that beautiful half-blue half-green color again when mine re-opened.

I cautiously took the hand still outstretched and he led me to the door, not saying anything as we descended the stairs, our feet making hollow clacking noises as their steps echoed off the empty halls. I assumed everyone was outside or in the dining hall, waiting to be told that death was coming. His hand squeezed mine a little tighter.

"We're going to be fine, Kamilah," he said softly staring straight ahead as I found myself leading him down the hallway to the small room that was mine. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing, the rhythmic tapping of each footfall starting to lull me into a thoughtless, hollow mindspace.

"Tim said your eyes changed color..."

That snapped me out of it.

"Tim said what?"

"When you, ah...you know. He said that the color of your eyes went from brown to orange."

"When the fucking hell did he find time to tell you that?" I groaned, pulling on my hand but finding it firmly held in his grasp, and rubbing my other over my face.

"You don't have to hide, there's no reason to be embarrassed about it..."

We reached my door and I opened it, leaving him in the hallway, free to come in if he wanted or wait outside if he didn't.

"There's no posters up, I promise," I teased over my shoulder, glad that he seemed comfortable enough to come in from the hall, "you can sit wherever, I won't be long." I headed to the bathroom, pulling Tim's shirt off over my head and dropping it on the floor after burying my face into the fabric and inhaling. His scent was at once thrilling and calming, comforting and exciting.

I splashed water over my face, washing my makeup away, and reconnecting with myself, before blindly feeling for a towel. My fingers found one, only to touch skin under the soft cotton. I mumbled a thanks, my eyes still shut as I wicked away the excess water on my skin, sighing at the feeling of finally being fresh and clean.

"Do you ever...I don't know...like find yourself catching echoes of people's thoughts?"

"What? I can barely untangle my own thoughts most of the time, John," I huffed a laugh.

"No, I'm serious," and he was. His tone wasn't teasing or lighthearted.

"Wh--I don't know what you mean..." I squeezed past him, heading to my dresser for fresh clothes.

"I mean like sometimes do you ever kind of know what someone wants to say, even if they don't say it? And shorts are probably fine for now. He won't be here for a while."

"No, I don't. And how, pray tell do you know that?" I whirled around, an unimpressed expression on my face. I was tired of being jerked back and forth, of people dropping information bombshells on my head like it was no big deal, and little Kamilah will just keep up.

He shrugged his shoulders a little. "If all of this started because he doesn't feel like he gets enough appreciation," both hands came up when I opened my mouth to tell him what a gross simplification that was, "I get it, I know that's watered down, but still. If that's at the root of it all, why would he just...sneak up on us?"

I looked at him as I thought about it. "I mean...I don't know. I guess to wipe us all out easier and take the thing that can bring about the end of the world?"

"Right but that's only part of it. The whole thing is rooted in his desire for fear and respect. And the Stone, of course, but mostly I think he wants the recognition. So when he's coming...shit, Kamilah when he's coming we'll fucking know."

I balled my hands into fists to try and stop the shaking as a bolt of fear shot through me.

we're all going to die. we're all going to die. we're all going to die...
please no, not now. not yet. not when he's finally here with me...

John physically took me by the shoulders, and his eyes did that thing again when I looked up at him. The black bled into the blue like ink into water, until there was no discernible difference between his irises and his pupils.

"We're not going to die, Kamilah."

My heart started hammering, and my hackles went up again.

"No, no please don't be afraid of me..."

"I...I don't think I am. Whats happening?" There was a peculiar sensation like a tiny hook sinking into the front of my brain, a gentle tugging that made my head want to lean forward a few degrees.

"No...you aren't afraid, are you. Hmm..." he hummed, still staring down at me, a curious, searching look on his face.

Was he just read--...no way.

My mind balked at the idea that he could hear unspoken thoughts, though it was somehow unequivocally accepting of his ability to shift.

"I can, I promise."

No, he can't. Its your face giving you away. Purple Blue Pink Eight-Seven Fruit Agendas Bananas Watermelon.

I tried as hard as I could to think about nothing and everything.

"I don't believe you."

"You probably should..."

I scowled up at him, focusing in the next moment on thinking as hard as I could about what I'd imagined him looking like coming with Ciel - eyes closed, head thrown back, his teeth sinking into his lower lip as a low moan escaped him.

Fine. Guess that.

A slow, knowing smile curved his lips, turning one side up higher than the other, and he chuckled darkly at me.

"Eyes always open, little Kamilah. I prefer to watch my partners...shatter."

I didn't move, even as I felt my entire body flush with bloodflow, just under the surface of my skin, even as his eyes shifted back to their normal color and the hook disappeared.

John's hand slowly lifted to my cheek, pressing against the corner of one of my eyes as he spoke softly. "I thought you might be like me when Tim told us about your eyes changing color."

"I...I don't think I am..." I tried to make the same hook happen in his mind, but nothing worked, and he shrugged a little.

"Worth a shot."

"Wh--" he shooed me back to my dresser to find clothes to change into, "what, that's it? 'I can read minds, by the way I thought you might be able to also, oh well worth a shot'?!"

I heard springs creak as he laid back on my bed, ankles crossed comfortably, hands folded over his stomach as his head rested back on my pillow and his eyes closed.

"That's pretty much it."

I dug into my drawers, evaluating my options, and settling on shorts and a sports bra under a tight tshirt. The King was going to get protective or he was going to get tight, but my wardrobe didn't cover both.

I glanced at John over my shoulder. "No peaking."

He grinned and threw an arm over his eyes.

The elastic snapped against my skin as I shimmied out of my lacy undergarments and into my everyday ones.

"What does 'like you' mean? No offense...but what are you?"

"None taken," he chuckled, then went serious again, "to be honest, I'm not really sure. I've never met anyone else who can Pull like me. Well, actually, one, but that's it."

"'Pull'...is that what the hook thing is?"

He bolted upright, and I squeaked and covered myself as his eyes burned into me.

"You felt it?"

"I said no peaking!"

He rolled his eyes with a huff and closed them but remained sitting on the edge of my bed, "Kamilah answer the question."

"Yes," I snapped, buttoning my shorts, "it was like a hook in my brain, of course I could feel it..."

That answer seemed to intrigue him, and I chewed my lip so I wouldn't laugh at how silly his deep pensive look was when his eyes were closed as his hand absently rubbed at his chin.

"That's so weird, no one else ever feels it..."

"I'm sure I don't have to tell you this--okay you can open your eyes--but reading peoples' thoughts is kind of rude."

They immediately rolled when they were open. "I don't just walk around doing it, Kamilah. It has to be purposeful."

"Okay...so whats with the eyes?"

"Again, I don't know," he shrugged, then laughed softly and shook his head, "scared the shit out of my folks the first time I did it though..." he laughed again at the memory.

"Gods, I'm sure they thought you were possessed or something..."

"Not possessed, but I was obviously old enough to talk, and I started ah...sharing things out loud that shouldn't have been...shared out loud..."

I bit my bottom lip to hold back my giggles, "mmhm?"

He laid back down, his feet resting on the floor as he looked at the ceiling. "Yeah, they had no clue what the hell was happening to me, and I never had any siblings to find out if it was a weird recessive genetic thing, so they took me to the king."

"That would be Jonas' father?"

"Correct. Nice man. Good man. Jonas is a lot like him," my heart palpitated at the little smile that crossed his features, "anyways, he didn't know what I was either, but promised to help them find out."

"That must have been difficult, to be talked about like you weren't a person..."

His explanation of being literally one of a kind suddenly made a lot of his behaviors I'd witnessed make more sense - the quiet reserved nature, the shyness, the intense intellectualism.

John shrugged, "people are naturally afraid of things they don't understand, Kamilah. Always been that way. I don't think they were really scared though, just apprehensive because they didn't know how I was doing what I was doing, and I was still too young to figure it out and tell them."

"Well how did you figure it out then?"

"I didn't until I got a bit older. This guy showed up one day, and I don't mean to sound like Avatar Country is in the middle of nowhere, but we're in the fucking middle of nowhere and not a lot of people just happen through," he cracked one eye open at me as I sat on the other side of the bed and laid back so our head were next to each other but our bodies were facing opposite directions.

"He was a refugee, seeking asylum within our borders. I'm not sure what Jonas told you about his father, but he was one of the kindest people I think has ever lived -- cautious, for sure, but kind."

"Sounded like it. Good dad too."

"The best. He treated all of us like we were his sons. Made us take Tim with us everywhere, even when we bitched about him being younger than the rest of us."

"Hey, no one likes to be left out! Although I'm imagining a 12 year old with a full mustache and now things are getting weird..."

John laughed, the sound filling the room and my heart so much I leaned up and planted a kiss right on his forehead.

"You should laugh more, John. Its supposed to keep you young or something," I giggled.

"Are you telling me I look old?" both his eyebrows went up and I snorted another laugh as he grinned and then looked back up at my ceiling and continued with his story. "Anyways. Like I said, Suetekh just kind of popped up one day. Right place, right time kind of thing. The King always took refugees in, though we didn't get many, and gave them a place. He made sure there was a job for them, and a place for them to live. Basically he just plugged them in wherever they fit best."

"Makes sense."

"Mmhm. And he was a teacher, so he tutored Jonas and his brother--"

"Mattias."

"...yes. Mattias..." John reached over to squeeze my hand, but realized it wasn't there, as I was facing the other way, and ran his fingers over the side of my head instead. "Everyone gets a good solid education in our country, no matter who you are, but there's stuff that royal kids have to know that we don't, so they worked with Suetekh, and we all had other groups of teachers."

"Nothing like a good public school education to prepare you for the real world," I snickered, and he turned to look at me, rolling his eyes but grinning.

"And what would you, an American, know about a good public school education?"

I gasped and pressed the back of my hand to my forehead, "are you telling me it wasn't the War of Northern Aggression?!"

He snorted loudly at my remark and we sat in silence for a few moments, listening to the sound of each other breathing.

"I went in towards the end of Jonas' lesson one day, I can't remember what for, and we were introduced. Courtly manners and all that bullshit. But when Suetekh shook my hand I remember thinking that he was gripping it really hard, like I could almost feel my bones grinding together, and he looked straight at me and said 'a little bit of pain is good for the character, young master Alfredsson'. And I almost fucking lost it."

"Woah, so he was like you?"

"Yeah. The only other one I've ever met, though I look everywhere we go, obviously."

"And that was it?!"

"What? Oh, no I hounded him for weeks until he finally agreed to teach me about what I was and how to use it."

"That's so bizarre that he just...appeared...did everyone else know?"

"They've always know. We grew up together, Kamilah, its pretty tough to keep secrets from people who have known you your whole life."

"Oh. Right."

"He used to have me listen to them. Just as practice, like exercise. Plucking random thoughts here and there - not looking for anything in particular. There was this place we all used to go out of town--"

"The hill?"

"...how do you know about that?"

"Henrik told me."

"Of course he did. He'd live up there if we let him," he chuckled, "but we used to go up there all the time and watch the lights, and they would let me practice on them. That's why I was surprised that you could feel the hook thing. Usually I have to tell people what to look for or they don't even notice it."

"Well I mean the black eyes are pretty distracting..."

He went dead silent and completely still, and I thought for a moment that I might have offended him.

"I...sorry, I didn't mean to sound judgey, I--"

"No, I'm not upset, just...surprised."

"Wh...wait, oh fuck, everyone can see that, right? I'm not about to stroke out and imagining that your eyes go completely black?!"

The bed shook with his silent laugh, and I flicked his ear hard.

"Ouch! No everyone can see it," he chuckled, "but I'd never thought about the fact that it might be like an evolution thing. A 'watch the left while the right steals your wallet' kind of deal..."

"Like an angler fish!"

"...Well I mean I don't, like...I dunno...like lure people in..."

"...seemed to lure Ciel in just fine," I murmured under my breath, making him laugh again and knock his head into mine playfully.

"Fair point. Sure. Like an angler fish."

"Is that why you wear sunglasses all the time? What about contacts? You could wear colored contacts and no one would know the difference. You could walk around listening to people all day long!"

"Hell no. Would you want to walk around in other peoples' heads everyday?"

"I don't even like to see people everyday, John," I giggled.

"But its a yes to the sunglasses, no to the contacts. Suetekh taught me how to control it, so I'm not just randomly latching onto people and listening for anything. I only Pull when I need information, and only listen for the information I'm seeking. And at this point, I really just do it to keep tabs on people, just make sure nothing insidious is happening behind the eyes, you know? Private stuff stays private."

"What you read from me didn't manage to stay very private..." I muttered, resisting the urge to cross my arms childishly.

"Okay, well when you're yelling it at me, it kind of pops up first, ahead of colors and numbers and...bananas," he managed to say through his laughter, stamping his feet on the floor and then hauling himself up.

I got up too, turning to smooth my bed sheets and trying to ignore the gnawing fear that it might be the last time I laid in my own bed.

"So where's Suetekh now? Off defending the motherland from evil thoughts while you're away?"

"No, he's been gone for over a decade," he shrugged sadly, "no one knows where he went. After Mattias...after Mattias died, he disappeared. We all assumed it just broke his heart and he couldn't bear to be there anymore. Not that we blamed him, that was hard all the way around."

I nodded, chewing my lip and looking at the floor.

"Come on, I'll walk you to the dining hall."

"No, that's okay, you go back up to Ciel and Ro, I can manage," I smiled, trying to make it reach my eyes convincingly, and a little frown pulled one corner of his mouth down.

"You're going to be fine, Kamilah. Have some faith. I watched you take on Henrik the other day; you've got good instincts, and you're quick on your feet. You've just gotta turn down your brain a little and trust yourself."

"And the jackals? You heard the message, John, Set's coming, and he's bringing company..."

"Tim was right that first night we were here - the dogs that were with Set were big, but we're still bigger. We're bigger and we have human brains, and we fight as a team."

I frowned up at him, "your eyes didn't change."

"That one was written all over your face, Kamilah..."

Chapter Text

Rather than moving towards the dining hall, I found my feet carrying me outside, to the gardens, seeking the sunshine and the warm air.

I kicked out of my shoes and dug my toes into the fertile earth; we lived on the best patch of ground in town - acres of isolated field space where we learned how to use our gifts and built bonds with our pantheon and each other through hours of strenuous exercise and laughter.

I wandered over the open grass and thought about all the goodness this field had seen - the frustration of missing our marks or not putting enough energy behind a strike, but the fierce joy that overpowered everything else when we got something right.

Giant sunflowers on stalks as thick as my wrist bobbed in the afternoon light at one edge, their smiling featureless faces looking down at me, watching my confusion unfold.

"I just don't understand any of this," I said to them, receiving nothing but more lazy rocking, "I mean, I understand what is happening. But...its off. I feel like something is right in front of our faces that our eyes are blocking out, you know? Like how you can always see your nose, but your brain doesn't constantly tell you 'that's your nose' so you just don't think about the fact that your nose is always right there in your line of vision..."

The flowers didn't have anything to say.

"Some help you are..."

The more I thought about what John told me, the weirder I felt about his teacher just happening upon Avatar Country at exactly the right moment. It was one item in a long list of shit that felt hinky.

Suetekh. Not a common name to be sure.

It tumbled around between my ears - I couldn't get it out of my head.

*Trust yourself, my priestess...*

I gasped loudly, and turned in a circle, though I knew the voice didn't come from anyone outside of my head.

Trust myself about what?

I glanced around, figuring I had at least a moment, and if John was right no one was going to come without a significant heads up.

Set was going to let us know he was on his way, then he was going to let us sweat.

My ass hit the ground under the sunflowers, the thick green stalks supporting blooms bigger than my head, courtesy of Eden and the other earths.

Aurora made me sit right in this spot, and had tried in vain multiple times to teach me how to meditate.

-Just turn off your brain, Kamilah.
-I can't just make nothing happen, I start thinking about weird stuff!
-Then imagine this. That guy that sings for Avatar meditates all the time right? He's into yoga and stuff?
-Johannes? Yeah I think so.
-Then imagine that you are sitting on the beach. Listen for the sound of the waves - lapping not crashing. And Johannes is right in front of you, sitting just like you are.
-Close your eyes and do what he's doing Kamilah. Watch him and copy his posture and his breathing.

It was the only thing that had even come close to working, and I made an effort to do the same now.

The sand was warm, like the grass under my fingertips; after a few minutes I could hear the lulling rhythm of the ocean, the waves whooshing against the shore.
The air smelled briny, but the breeze mitigated it, blowing little grains of sand over my skin.
A seagull wheeling overhead drew my attention and I looked up, turning my face to the sun and humming happily at the summer rays.
When I looked back out at the ocean, it wasn't Johannes that was there.

Tim was my height when we both were seated and his palms were warm when he placed them underneath the backs of my hands, keeping them open and upright, supporting mine. His court uniform was gone, replaced with comfortable-looking loose-fitting cream linen beach pants and a white button up of the same material, halfway undone so his tattoo showed when he moved. 

"What are you thinking about?" he asked softly.

"I'm supposed to be thinking about nothing."

"The steam coming out of your ears begs to differ."

"Are you really going to be sassy here too?" I could almost feel his smirk as I sank deeper into my meditative state, like I was lucid dreaming.

"I'm trying to think about nothing so I can think about Suetekh."

"Why are you thinking about Suetekh?"

"Because John said he taught him how to do the Pull thing, and something feels not right about it the more I think about him. Even though its done and he's long gone."

"Maybe its your mind trying to wrap around a difficult concept. You've never encountered someone like John before."

"I haven't..." My goddess' words echoed in my ear, "but I still feel like something is strange about it."

"Why are you focusing on this right now and not on what the rest of the day is going to bring?"

"Because I'm afraid."

"What are you afraid of?"

"Dying."

Dark curls at my right side as another body sat in the sand. "Do you really think you're going to die?"

"I'm not a trained bodyguard, Henrik." 

My answers came mechanically, like I was hypnotized.

A presence at my left. "No you're not, but we're also not Kemetics and don't have special powers."

I looked over at Johannes flatly.

"I don't even know if my healing works. Ma was the only one I've tried it on."

A hand on my shoulder. "Henrik, knife."

The one to my right pulled it from behind him and handed it hilt-first to the king as he circled around to sit next to Tim, who still held his hands perfectly still under my own. His hair moved in the wind, blowing over around one shoulder, and his eyes never left me.

"Please don't cut yourself, Jonas."

He did it anyways.

"Can you heal him?" John asked, materializing from thin air a few feet down the beach and sitting on Tim's other side. They were all wearing variations of neutral linen, like the off-white clothes people wear to beach weddings. John's shirt was unbuttoned at the top too.

"I'm not supposed to be doing this. I'm supposed to be doing nothing."

"Best get this over with then, Kamilah." There was amusement in Jonas' voice, but I didn't do anything except look down at his hand. The cut was shallow, straight across his palm, but hands loved to bleed and the crimson drops colored the sand beneath.

His hand hovered above where mine were still supported by both of Tim's, the blood dripping down between them.

"Walk me through what you're thinking, Kamilah."

"Tell us what you're doing."

"How does your healing work, parse it out."

"Give it a try, my darling."

I looked at them all then down at the king's hand.

"I am imagining that if the two sides of your skin move back together, they'll rejoin and heal the cut."

"And is that working?"

I stared down at his palm, the blood still welling to the surface, and imagined the two halves knitting themselves together.

But nothing happened.

"It isn't working."

"Try something different," Henrik suggested.

I pictured a surgical needle, physically stitching the cut closed.

Still nothing.

"Is this not working because I'm dreaming?"

"Why do you think you're dreaming?" John asked.

I looked over at Johannes, who was impassively watching the blood drip from his king's palm.

"Because you were the only one who was supposed to be here."

A little smile. "Looks like we're a package deal, kid."

"You have no idea how loaded that answer is in my brain," I replied honestly, my words still coming easily, with no fear or worry about their reception.

"Tell me what you're thinking now, sweetheart."

I looked back at Tim.

"What if I have to touch to heal? What if that's why it didn't work with Ma?"

"But it did work with her, Kamilah," John reminded me, "you were just healing something that can't be healed because it comes back twice as strong."

"Is Marisol going to die, Jonas?"

The king watched me, my face soft and relaxed, the words washing over me like the waves behind him. The tide was rising, and each pulse of the ocean was sending water up around our little huddle.

"Yes, Kamilah."

He didn't apologize, and I didn't cry.

I took his hand and gently pressed my thumbs to each side of the cut.

"What do you see?"

"Blood."

Everyone scooted closer, knees touching, hands moving.

"What do you see under the blood?"

My eyes closed. "I can see..."

Henrik's fingers danced up the side of my neck. "You can see what, dear one..."

A hand to my left gathered warm sea water and sprinkled it down my arm, the drops sliding down my skin as he breathed over my shoulder.

"Focus, Kamilah..."

"What can you see, my dear, tell us..."

My eyes met the king's.

"I can see where you cut yourself. Its a bigger image in my brain, clearer when I touch you."

"Very good."

"How do you heal it, beautiful girl?" John's hand worked its way from my shin to my knee, tracing little patterns up my skin.

"I can't think when you're all touching me."

"Yes you can, Kamilah. Focus on what you're doing."

The way Henrik's lips moved over my shoulder as Johannes gathered my hair back off my neck was starting to make the mental image of Jonas' cut fade. I fought to keep it there, again pressing the pads of my thumbs to his skin.

"You didn't answer John's question," the king reminded.

"I know. I'm getting distracted."

"Well I'm not going to stop unless you tell me to, Kamilah," Johannes was pressing gentle open-mouthed kisses against my neck and shoulders.

"What happens if you do what you were just trying to do, sweetheart?"

I stared hard at the bleeding hand in front of me, noticing that the sand underneath was covered with blood now.

The skin started to pull together.

"That's it, darling..." John was suddenly behind me, kneeling, running the flats of his palms over my thighs.

"I can see your skin healing in my mind. Like a gap closing up."

"What are you thinking of, Kamilah?"

"I'm thinking of how your hand looks and feels when its not cut."

The skin continued to pull together, the cells rejoining.

The water was up around my hips now, the tide no longer receding away from us with each pull.

"How do you heal, liten låga..."

"I imagine it being whole. The broken thing being unbroken. Back to the way it was before."

"So no mental surgery then."

I shivered as John's teeth gently pulled at my ear.

"No mental surgery. I was overthinking."

"That my good girl," Jonas tipped my chin up, suddenly on his knees and looming over me, "I'm going to kiss you now, Kamilah."

"Why are you going to kiss me, sir?"

"I thought you were supposed to be thinking about nothing, precious," Johannes whispered, leaning into my ear, and pressing his forehead against my temple as his hair brushed against my upper arm.

"Kiss him, Kamilah," Tim's voice sounded from behind Jonas, still seated where he'd originally been, his tone dreamy and even like mine, "let my king taste how sweet you are."

"Let all of us taste..." murmured Henrik between kisses as he worked down my shoulder.

"Stop."

Everyone pulled back at a single word from the king, as his head lowered slowly, his lips hovering over mine, each breath soft across my face.

My eyes closed and my lips opened as his mouth settled against mine.

I hardly felt him pick me up as he turned to the ocean, moving one foot in front of the other, never breaking our kiss.

My brain went quiet, no thoughts surfacing long enough for me to grasp them.

The water licked at my skin as he shifted me in his arms, taking us into deeper water.

His tongue danced over mine, not demanding or rough, but perfectly in sync with me.

His lips made love to me, caressing and moving over my own, opening enough to receive my tongue as I reached to taste him too.

The saltwater didn't sting my eyes, nor did it blur my vision as he kept walking, submerging us both.

I could breathe.

I could speak.

But I was weightless, and shifted in his arms.

To face him.

To look at him.

My king by choice.

I felt devotion and love, and a quiet sense of peace filling my limbs.

There was a blissful, perfect mental emptiness and I reached for it, somehow becoming more acutely aware of each sensation even as they blurred together into a passive scenery of touch and sound and taste.

I could smell the saltiness of the water, and as his lips moved down my neck, I could see the red tendrils of my hair wrapping around his tawny dreadlocks, entangling themselves in the ocean current.

The sand under our feet was different than the sand on the beach - finer, lighter, like our bodies.

His name left my lips on a sigh, an echo like we were underground, and I was silenced by his mouth.

The longer he kissed me, the deeper my void became. The light refracted through the water, illuminating his skin like shattered glass, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up his forearms. 

Our bodies didn't make any sounds as we moved, swaying with the living movement of the ocean.

His hands let go of me and I let myself float away from him with one last kiss, the water enveloping me, pulling at my dress, brushing through my hair, making it dance. 

A small voice. A stranger's voice. A boy, not quite a man yet. 

Who was Suetekh...

The sand under my toes got farther away as I floated to the surface, answering the voice.

"He was Set."

Chapter Text

It took me a moment to figure out where I was and why I wasn't under water anymore.

No more ocean.
No more sand.
No more flowy dress or curious lips brushing at my skin.

My fingers touched my bottom lip, the ghost of his last kiss still lingering.

"Christ, there you are!" Tim startled me as he grabbed my hand and dragged me to my feet, "don't you ever fucking do that to me again!" he yelled, his face contorting into a mask of frustration and anger. I was still so mentally disoriented, all I could do was blink at him as my mouth worked soundlessly for a moment.

"Tim? W-whats the matter?"

"Whats the m--...whats the matter?!" He was still yelling, and shaking me now to boot, his fingers gripping my shoulders painfully tight, "I told you not to go far Kamilah, and then you disappeared! I've been looking everywhere, I thought something had happened to you!"

"Ouch, Tim you're hurting me, stop!" He was still shaking me, rocking my head back and forth, and I immediately lost my temper, sending him flying back into the grass as I planted my heels and shoved him hard. "I said stop!" I yelled back, "and I needed to fucking process some shit, asshole!"

I turned for the Temple, leaving him looking stunned, leaning up on his elbows, and before I got halfway there, his wolf was in front of me, snapping his jaws and growling lowly in his throat.

My anger overpowered my reason, and I summoned a flame to each hand, a glowing ball of heat and light, holding them out in front of me. His teeth pulled back in feral snarl -- he was as mad at me as I was at him.

"Don't you ever fucking touch me again, Tim," I warned, and he reflexively shrank from the tone in my voice, "I get that you think you know me and that a lot has happened in the last few days, but having sex doesn't make me your property, and I don't take fucking orders from you."

He couldn't be like this. Not him. He was different, he had to be.
I silently pleaded with the universe to make it be so.

Something shifted in his eyes as I breathed hard, itching for a fight to just relieve some of this tension, the frustration and the anger buzzing just under the surface of my skin.

He came back to his human form. "Kamilah...I didn't--" his voice was quiet and sad as he reached out a hand to me.

"Stay away from me." I stormed back into the Temple, angrily wiping at my tears, then turning back, unable to not make one last jab even as my brain and my heart screamed at me to stop, "and if you had fucking bothered to ask, I was out here meditating because John told me about Suetekh."

Tim pulled up short as his foot hit the bottom step to follow me, the surprise making him blink several times and momentarily forget that his heart was crumbling to ash in his chest.

"Suetekh...what the hell? No one's heard from him in ten years at least...probably more like fifteen now."

"That's because he was Set. Whatever is happening now, today, has been in the works for probably half our lives or longer."

I didn't give him time to process or even respond, instead turning on my heel and stomping to the dining hall.

Curious glances and murmurs about my Calling and my new hair spread through the waiting crowd when I entered, but I was too distraught to care. My eyes immediately sought the King, finding him at the front, murmuring quietly to Aurora, holding her hands in his, thumbs brushing back and forth over her knuckles. I was barely keeping myself together, and Henrik did a double take when he saw me, my eyes welling with tears, my face a combination of heartache and frustration and fear as I angrily swiped at them, trying to keep my gasping sobs to myself as much as possible as I stumbled a little and bumped blindly into people.

One of his arms shot out and grabbed me around the waist as I approached Jonas, making me spin and collide with him, pressing my hands flat to his chest.

"Hey, hey hey hey easy there, Kamilah. You're running like your heads on fire and...whatever else the phrase is. Whats going on?"

I couldn't help but break down, emotionally and physically as my face pressed into his shoulder. My knees failed me and he immediately compensated for the lack of support, looking up at Johannes and John with concern in his eyes as he lowered me to the floor.

"John," I gasped, my breaths not bringing nearly enough oxygen into my lungs, "wh-where's John?!"

"I'm right here, little one, whats going on? Tim's been looking everywhere for you, running around like a madman. Where have you been?"

My hand was trembling violently when he took it between his.

"I--I need...I have--I..." my speech refused to cooperate.

"Damnit, help me get her up," Henrik said quietly, calling to Jonas and trying not to draw any more attention than strictly necessary. I was hauled back into the kitchen, quiet and clean now in between meal times. Henrik set me down on a stool, holding my shoulders to keep me upright as I sobbed into my hands, no longer trying to put a damper on anything.

"Kamilah, what happened?!" Ciel pulled my hands from my face a little roughly, Eden, and Shell peaking over her shoulders.

"Set. It was Set."

"What was Set? Whats happened? You're not making sense, darling."

Aurora shooed everyone back a step, and drew me against her, letting me wrap my legs back around hers and making little shushing sounds, murmuring into my hair until my breathing was less shaky.

"Tell me what happened, lovedy," she said quietly, in that tone that was so iconically Aurora. Like the vocal personification of a little white flower.

"I...I was just meditating--"

She raised both eyebrows, cocking her head slightly in what I realized was Johannes' direction, asking silently if I'd remembered her tool.

"Yeah, plus four," I grumbled, and she snorted a laugh.

"What were you meditating on, Milah?" Gentle hands smoothing back my hair, thumbing away the tears under my eyes.

I looked at John, tapping my forehead. I wanted him to know first...he deserved to know first.

"Watch," I murmured, turning Ro by the hips. Her inhale was a little sharper than usual as John's eyes went dark, and there was that peculiar sensation of being Pulled as he sought what was most potent and at the surface of my mind.

*Can you hear me?*

A nod.

*Wait for a second, please*

I remembered being under the ocean, drifting away from Jonas, my hair dancing in the current as I floated towards the surface, towards the sunlight.

Who was Suetekh...
He was Set.

John's mouth opened with a gasp as he stumbled a step backwards, gripping the counter to hold himself up as he shook his head back and forth.

"No!" he yelled and the sound made me bow my head with fresh tears.

But the hook came back as he blindly reached out, grasping for more, for anything that wouldn't take away the one person who'd proven to him he wasn't alone.

"John, don't!" I shook my head back and forth like a fish trying to drop a lure, but I couldn't get out from under his hook. The harder I tried not to think about surfacing only to be grabbed and shaken like a rag doll, the more potent the memory became. I screamed every noun I could at him - kitchen utensils, places, presidents, prime ministers, book titles.

But his beautiful mouth twisted into a grimace and his eyes opened, black as night. "He didn't..."

"Get out of my brain, John!!" The hook disappeared and I wanted to cross the kitchen and slap him. "Don't you ever fucking dive into my thoughts like that without permission again," I snapped, "I'm trying to keep everyone up to speed and fucking informed, and all you all seem to be capable of doing is making it worse!"

But I couldn't yell or be angry anymore as I watched the tears start streaming down his cheeks as his body heaved, desperately trying to keep his sobs quiet. I flung myself across the kitchen and gathered him to me, standing on my very tiptoes to reach up around his shoulders as he gripped me tight, sobbing. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry! I'm such a fucking asshole, I'm so sorry!"

"Kamilah, I don't understand, he was just like me," he cried, his arms wrapping around me, holding onto me tight like it would make a damn bit of difference at this point.

"I don't either. I don't either...shh shh its gonna be okay..." We clung to each other in silence as everyone around us watched, exchanging questioning looks and shrugs as they waited for one of us to elaborate. John pulled back first, and I had to tilt my head up to meet his eyes, my arms slipping from around his neck to press my hands to his chest.

"How did you know his voice? I heard his voice in your head. I know it was him."

"Who?"

"That was Mattias asking who Suetekh was. I'm sure of it...didn't you hear him?"

"What?!" I stood flabbergasted, as I pulled back from him, moving my hands down to his arms right at the crook of his elbows, "I did, but how is that possible if I never knew him?! I didn't even know he existed until a few days ago."

"Fuck, I don't know," he hugged me close again, "tell me you're fucking wrong, Kamilah. Please tell me you're wrong," he sniffed.

Jonas went stiff at the mention of both names, and it felt like all the air in the room did too, like it could be smoothly cut with a sharp enough knife.

Tim appeared in the doorway behind us, watching John cry silently against my shoulder as everyone else stood back, still unsure what the hell was happening, and Johannes went to meet him.

"Not really sure what happened, she just showed up fucking wrecked, and they've been doing this," he motioned to us still holding onto each other, "for a few minutes. Something he listened to in her head about Suetekh and Mattias."

Tim tuned him out, advancing before he was done talking and stopping a few feet behind me. "Kamilah?"

I stiffened at the sound of his voice, and John's arms closed tighter around me, pulling me closer and turning me away from Tim, both of us now just hiding together in plain sight.

"Kamilah, sweetheart, look at me," he whispered.

"Back off Tim," John mumbled, looking over his shoulder before turning back to me.

"Fuck you, don't tell me to back off."

His head shot up he looked over his shoulder again. "I'll fucking tell you to back off if I want, and I'll add that we don't ever fucking lay hands on women like that, motherfucker." John was still spiraling, his long arms wrapped around my back, holding onto me like a lifeline as he vented his frustration at someone who had nothing to do with it whatsoever.

"What?" Henrik frowned at Tim, watching me hide and shrink further at John's comment. Tim opened his mouth to make a retort, but didn't get that far.

"Both of you shut the fuck up, and somebody tell me whats going on." The king's voice was usually tinged with brightness and warmth, reflective of his dazzling personality, but now it was ice cold steel. I instinctively squeezed my eyes shut and John pulled me closer to his body.

"My fault," Tim sighed, turning to his friend and his King, "I lost my temper and did something stupid," he looked over at me again and shook his head sadly, "Kamilah, I'm sorry, please talk to me..."

Jonas' mouth was a firm line, "while I don't doubt that based on the state she was in stumbling through the dining hall, that's not what I'm talking about."

He called my name sharply, losing patience with my sulking, and I turned to look sheepishly at him.

"You two are going to have to figure this out, but I outrank Tim and my answers come first." I looked away, staring at the wood grain in one of the cabinets behind him, tracing the lines with a mental finger, until he stepped forward and filled my vision, speaking lowly. "You tell me right now what you know about my brother."

I shivered, everything about his words feeling like a threat. "

KAMILAH."

"Jonas," Aurora pulled on his arm, but she was shaken off. His gaze was brimming with fear and fire and anger and a sense of helplessness, and my throat felt bone dry, like I had to learn how to speak all over again from scratch.

"Tell me!" he commanded, and I found myself squaring up to him rather than continuing to shrink. Everyone kept yelling at me and I had finally had enough.

"How the fucking fuck was I supposed to know that your brother was going to talk to me when I was meditating?! I didn't even know that's whose voice it was till right this second, and all he said was 'who was Suetekh'!"

His lips moved like he wanted to say something, probably to again demand that I tell him what was happening, but my fingers flew up and pressed against them. Not hard, but enough that his face immediately shifted into one of surprise, like no one ever dared to touch him that way.

"No. You get to shut up while I'm talking...your highness..."

We breathed hard, staring each other down silently for several moments. It was enough to finally break us, and the smile lines crinkled the outsides of his eyes as he started laughing at my stern look, shaking his head back and forth, wrapping his hand around my wrist and pressing a soft kiss to my fingers before lowering them.

"I'm sorry I yelled, my dear," he was softer, though still serious, "but I need to know."

One deep breath later, I glanced back at John. "Maybe you should tell him, since I don't really know anything about Suetekh except what you were telling me before..." "

You have all the cards, Kamilah."

"I don't really care who does the telling, just so long as we start from the beginning and turn on the subtitles," Johannes interjected, wearing a thoroughly confused expression, "because I have exactly zero clue what the fuck is happening." Various nods of agreement circulated.

"Fuck, fine," I grumbled. "John was trying to figure out if I could Pull like him because my eyes changed color, and he was explaining that he hasn't ever met anyone else who can, except Suetekh, and then he was telling me who he was, and that he was your teacher. Well you and Mattias..." The room seemed to get a little heavier at the mention of his name and I wondered what pieces I was missing. Clearly there was more to his last years than Jonas had shared. It only reinforced my belief that I was right.

"Your eyes changed?!" Ciel blinked hard as plain shock colored her lovely face and she and the other Heads exchanged surprised glances. She was right next to John, taking over my calming ministrations now, trying to understand and keep up while having hardly anything to go on. I blushed hard and nodded, hoping I didn't get asked any specifics.

"Brown to orange," Tim added, looking at me and desperately trying to draw my gaze, wanting to fall to my feet and apologize endlessly until I believed him.

A knowing grin crossed Ro's lips and she seemed to almost bounce with excitement, despite the somewhat somber mood in the room. She danced over to Johannes and whispered something in his ear; he had to bend his knees and lower his head to get down to her height, but he gave me a curious once over as she whispered.

"For real?" He raised both eyebrows at her and she nodded with a grin, "hot damn, little Red..."

"Suetekh..." Jonas interrupted Johannes and his tongue rolled over the word slowly, carefully, like he hadn't said it in years, like it was uncomfortable coming out of his mouth. "He's probably dead by now. What about him?"

"He...I don't think he was what he said he was." I held up a hand when his mouth opened again. "Sir, please just let me finish, I can't keep all of these thoughts untangled indefinitely."

He apologized and beckoned me to continue, his face an impassive mask, emotions carefully hidden.

"I think he was Set. I think this entire thing has been in play for far longer than any of us realized. I think he's been biding his time since he couldn't find the Stone originally in Avatar Country, and then suddenly you had it, and that's why he was coming for you guys after the show the other night. There are obviously a lot of holes there, but that's my working theory..."

I'd never seen the King look so pale, and I feared for a moment that he was going to fall down. Henrik, as usual, was immediately at his side. He didn't make a dramatic fuss, but stood with his shoulder just slightly behind Jonas', propping him up, as Johannes did the same on the other side, and everyone looked at me.

"The thing about Set is that he's a master deceiver, a trickster, and he plays games. And I think...well..." I took a shaky breath, looking at Henrik sadly, "I think he disguised himself as a human, to get close to the Stone, once he found out it was in Avatar Country. And somehow, that's at one end of the timeline, and Mattias having the Stone is at the other. Or maybe he came because Mattias found it, I don't know. We might never know."

I mentally ran through exactly what Isis had told me I couldn't say, and decided to tell him everything else.

"Suetekh." Aurora said it out loud, looking at Ciel, who nodded, "its one of Set's names. I just saw this in a book in the library, not twenty minutes ago. Jonas I think she's right...Jonas?..."

The king was obviously putting a great amount of effort into keeping his breaths even as his body started to shake.

"Please, sir there's more you need to know--"

John gently pulled me back, slipping a finger through my beltloop and murmuring in my ear. "probably good to give him some space right now..." and I noticed that everyone else also instinctually took a step away.

Cold terror sent my heartrate through the roof when he looked at me. I felt like actual daggers were sinking into my skin under his gaze as he shook with visible rage and his fists balled at his sides, the knuckles going white.

"If you're thinking of swinging those, I should warn you that I'm happy to cheat and I have more powers than you do," I said, tripping over my words.

"Everybody. Out."

"Sir, I don't think--" John began.

"I SAID EVERYONE GET THE FUCK OUT!"

I'd never heard him yell before, and I was the first one to the door.

"Not you. You stay right where you are."

It hardly mattered if I wanted to or not, which I didn't, his tone froze my feet to the floor as I looked to Henrik for help.

"Just answer his questions, he's not going to hurt you, little one," he gave my hand a reassuring squeeze.

"No, you stay too," the king's hand shot out to grab Aurora's and held it tightly, trying to get his potent frustration and anger under wraps. I ignored Tim as he stood next to the door, and I turned back to Jonas and Ro.

"Get out," Jonas repeated, looking over my shoulder to speak, then back to Ro as she stepped closer, frowning a little at him.

"All due respect sir, but no."

The king's head turned slowly, his eyes so smoldering, they could have melted metal. He used all four of Tim's names, one after the other, and his voice did nothing to mask his anger, "I am your king, you don't get to tell me no," he spat.

"Yeah and you're also my friend, and you're being a fucking dick." Tim took a deep, steadying breath. "I'm your adviser and you trust me to give you sound advice, but I need to understand what the fucks going on before that can happen. And I'm not leaving her again...my king." His hand hovered over my lower back for a moment, but fell against his side when he sensed my whole body go stiff and I took a step further away from him.

Jonas glared at Tim, who only returned the same look.

"Oh my gods. We're playing right into his hand..." I smacked both hands against my face and rubbed my forehead hard with the sudden realization, taking everyone's silence as acknowledgement that they were listening. "He wants us all at each others' throats - its harder to face him and fight as a cohesive unit if we're all pissed off at each other, right?"

Jonas made a motion with his hand that clearly meant 'obviously'.

"So...so we have to stop..." I finished with an awkward little shrug.

"Fucking hell," murmured the king, running his own hand over his face.

"Hey, look at me," Ro said softly, taking his hands and turning him away from us, bringing his attention down to her eyes. "Take a deep breath."

He did.

"Milah is right, and we'll tell you everything we know, my love. Of course we will, why would we ever not - we're in this, same as you. But you have to ask, okay? Don't treat us like people that you need to demand things from..."

Jonas huffed a sigh in response, his shoulders sagging a little as he drew her in and wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her ruddy hair.

"My precious Aurora," he whispered, and I turned away, letting them have their moment as he kissed her softly "will it ever be possible for me to tell you no, even if you asked for the beating heart from my chest?"

"Depends," she giggled, making him smile at the sound, "keys to the kingdom? A fancy chair like yours?" Her teasing grin was reassuring and happy, and a gentle wave of calm blanketed the room. It seemed that Geb had worked miracles for our sweet, meek little Aurora - transforming her from a shy wallflower into a magnificent blossom that was beauty and goodness for its own sake.

He wrapped one arm low around her waist, tipping his knuckle under her chin with the other, bringing her lips up to his so he could kiss her slowly, thoroughly.

"Oh you know about that, do you?" he chuckled, "come back home with me, and you'll have everything your heart could want and more, my love. Untouched land as far as you can see to turn into gardens, bouquets of flowers in every room," his lips brushed hers and his voice dropped lower, "a throne at my side, just like mine." He kissed her again before she could respond and I chewed my lip and watched.

"Why are we so much more fucked up than them," I asked sadly, finding myself looking over at Tim, still standing next to me. I hated that we'd finally found each other only to fuck and fight and now possibly die together all in the same 24 hours. He held out his hand to me silently, and I took it, blinking back the tears that started to sting my eyes. I immediately forgave him, and wanted to punch myself for it.

"Just say you'll think about it, at least," Jonas whispered into her lips.

"I don't have to, my love," she smiled sweetly, standing up on her toes to kiss him again, and his laugh was shaky as he curled her hair gently behind her ears and looked lovingly down at her.

"Maybe we should go," I whispered to Tim, wondering if Jonas and Aurora had forgotten that we were there altogether. But Jonas turned back to me, standing right where he'd left me, holding Tim's right hand with my left.

"Come, dear," he beckoned to me with an outstretched hand, and I let go of Tim's to go to him. His palms were warm as he took both my hands in his own and I was reminded of healing his hand on the beach, watching the shallow cut stitch itself back together. "I'm sorry that I was so sharp with you, Kamilah. I understand that you were just trying to tell us your theory..."

"Yes sir," I nodded, slumping to the floor with my back against the cabinets. Everyone else followed suit. "Poor John...alone afterall then," I looked sadly at the king.

"There's nothing to be done about that now, Kamilah." He gathered Ro into his lap and looked from me to Tim, then back to me.

"Whats going on with you two? Fighting already?"

"No--well, I mean--..."

"I couldn't find her after we left Marisol's room, and I looked everywhere and started to panic, and then she was in the field outside, meditating I guess. And I was so freaked out and she was so calm, and I picked her up and shook her. Really hard." He said it all flatly, like he was embarrassed but had to say it anyways.

Jonas furrowed his brow at him. "You know better, Tim."

"Of fucking course I do," he huffed, laying back on the floor and bending his knees so his feet were flat, obviously frustrated with himself as he threw an arm over his eyes and shook his head.

A combination of anger and frustration and want and tenderness flooded my brain. He was obviously nearly as upset with himself about what he'd done as I was, and I scooted closer, nudging his leg with my foot.

"Come here," I said softly, pulling him up so he could lay back against me, between my legs. My chin rested against the side of his head, just above his ear, and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as his rested over my thighs. "I'm sorry I yelled at you, and threatened to set you on fire again," I whispered, and he rubbed a hand over my arms.

"You don't have to apologize, sweetheart, I'm the one who was wrong." He turned his head to look up at me, and I bent my face to kiss him as his fingers threaded back into my hair and he held me there, just moving his lips against mine, trying to make me understand how sorry he was. "Gods, Kamilah I don't think I ever will."

"Ever will what?"

"Get enough of you," he whispered, reaching up to kiss me again, his tongue slipping between my lips, dancing against mine as he sighed beautifully against me, "I'm so sorry baby."

"Can we talk about this later?" I whispered, and he nodded, leaning his head back against my breast and running his fingertips up and down my shins.

"So I have some questions," Jonas started, breaking away from Aurora's lips with more effort than it should have taken, and shifting her in his lap so we could all see each other, the two of them leaning back against the island, Tim and I against the cabinets that lined the wall.

"I'll answer as many as I can," I said truthfully, revising my first answer, which was 'I'll tell you everything I know'.

"How was the Stone in my country in the first place?"

"I don't know. Its been lost for centuries according to the stories, no one knows exactly how long."

"And tell me again why you think Suetekh was Set?"

"Its his name, darling," Aurora said softly, "he is always Set, Seth, or Suetekh, everywhere he's referenced."

"Well, I didn't know that, to be completely honest," I played with the end of Tim's braid while I talked, smoothing the hair between my fingers, "after John told me, which--" I flicked Tim's ear hard and he startled with a little yelp.

"Ouch! Fuck what was that for?!"

"That was for telling everyone that my eyes changed colors when I was coming!"

A low laugh rumbled through him as he looked up at me and wiggled his eyebrows playfully, still rubbing his ear.

"What, was I supposed to not tell them that I made you come so hard your eyes changed colors then rolled back into your head?"

My hips squirmed a little under him, and he laughed darkly again.

"I'm sorry, babe, I didn't tell them any details, I promise. I just thought that you might be able to hear stuff like John can...which, actually, can you?"

I shook my head, "not for lack of trying though."

We looked at each other for a moment, and I squeezed my knees tighter on either side of him as my arms wrapped more securely around his shoulders. After a short kiss, I bent my lips to his ear.

"When we're done here, stick around for a minute, yeah?"

He exhaled sharply, remembering saying mostly the same words to me that first night we'd met and his pupils got a little bigger when he glanced up at me and nodded.

Jonas smiled tenderly at us, his fingers playing little games with Aurora's, making her laugh softly and grab at his hands.

"Anyways, after he told me, I couldn't stop thinking about him. The timing just seemed too weird, you know? Like all of a sudden this man just shows up who knows enough to be a royal tutor but also happens to be able to Pull like John? Hinky as hell."

"My father didn't seem to think it was concerningly strange," Jonas said quietly, and I chose my next words carefully.

"Did he know Suetekh could hear things like John?"

Jonas nodded.

"Okay...well from what everyone has told me, I think he was really sharp, and a good judge of character, but he also probably didn't know that our world exists, right?" I took a guess.

"...No, you're probably right about that," he sighed, "but Suetekh never asked us about the Stone. I would have remembered something like that."

"But you have to remember, Jonas, Set plays long games. He wouldn't just show up one day and start asking about it - that draws far too much suspicion, especially if you're trying to blend in and be normal. He might not have even known where it was at first."

My fingers played with a button on Tim's shirt absentmindedly, finding it harder to toy with than the ones on his uniform as I unbuttoned then buttoned it repeatedly.

"If you're gonna undress me, just do it already," he grinned up at me, receiving an eyeroll in return.

"Hush you, you're being distracting."

One of his arms crooked around behind his back, pressing his fingers against my pussy over my shorts.

"I don't know what you're talking about, babygirl."

I swatted him on the arm and the fingers disappeared, but not before pressing hard against my clit once, grinding the denim of my shorts against it.

"Can we focus please?" Jonas said with a hint of exasperation in his tone, though his own hands were wandering over the waistband of Aurora's jeans.

"Are you gonna whip out both my middle names again if we don't?" Tim laughed, and Jonas rolled his eyes too.

"Kamilah, please, save me from the endless sarcasm and shut him up," he teased, and I clamped a hand down over Tim's lips.

"Better?"

"Better."

"He was probably not sure where it was in the first place. But even if he did know, he still has to have it from a human hand, he can't just go get it himself."

Speaking of hands, Tim started lightly flicking the tip of his tongue against my palm, maintaining perfect airs of paying attention as he traced little patterns and circles, letting the muscle explore the ridges and lines of my palm, knowing exactly what he was doing to my concentration.

"Why?"

"I...I ah. Its just the way that uhm. Its the way that Khnum made it..."

"Everything okay Milah?" Aurora giggled, and Tim gave her a little wink that made her face light up with a grin.

"Oh, everything is j-just going...swimmingly," I stuttered, finally pulling my hand away from him mouth before I actually tore his clothes off on the spot.

"No fun," he grinned up at me.

"I'm actually lots of fun, just ask me," I teased, shushing him with a kiss, "now hush and listen, this is important."

He relaxed back into me again and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders.

"The god Khnum at the beginning of time made the Genesis Stone. Yes?"

A nod from Jonas and Ro.

"Set saw how beloved Osiris and Isis were by the people, and got jealous that he wasn't venerated the same way. Yes?"

"Got it."

"So he thought controlling the Stone would make him powerful, and therefore loved and adored."

"Misguided, but understandable," Jonas muttered.

"John said something earlier that kind of resonated with me. All of this," I gestured around, "it all started because Set didn't feel like he was appreciated. It was all jealousy. So I think that his mindset was if he was the one to control iteru, then the people would love him, because of all the good things brought by the Nile - water and minerals, transportation and protection. But over time, I think that impulse has turned sour, and now he just wants it to wield, like a weapon."

Tim hummed, the sound vibrating through his back and into my chest, "that makes sense. A good impulse to starts that degrades the longer it takes to be realized."

"Exactly. And the gods are obviously a lot smarter and longer-term thinkers than we are, so Khnum wove powerful magic around the Stone. And if you thought Ciel's magic was dope, the gods' magic is like that on every hallucinogen and upper you can think of. Its stronger and more potent, and basically unbreakable. So Khnum's spell doesn't allow Set to receive the stone unless it comes directly from human hands."

Jonas looked perplexed, and Ro wrinkled her forehead at me.

"Where did you hear that Milah?"

"Uhm. Isis told me...in my dream."

Her eyebrows shot up, "wow...that's intense..." she obviously had more questions, but refrained from sidetracking the conversation.

"Fucking tell me about it. I don't know that anyone really knew that part, but it makes my reasoning make more sense, right? Think about it. It takes Set time to find out that the Stone is in Avatar Country, but maybe he doesn't know exactly where. So he has to come to our world and find it himself, but he needs help... and in theory, who knows the kingdom better than its future king?"

"Well...I mean..." Tim looked up at me, "that would be the actual king."

"Oh...shit."

Jonas ran a hand down over his beard, staring at the tiles, obviously thinking hard.

"I know that face. Whats going through your head, my king?" Tim turned back to his friend.

"I'm just...I'm trying to find something--anything that Suetekh said that would confirm what you're saying," he frowned at me, "I'm not sure, Kamilah..." "

Maybe it wasn't you then..." I mused, and his face started to crumble.

"Mattias?" he whispered.

"I just don't know, Jonas, and I wish I did. But it makes sense. Were all your lessons together?"

He shook his head, "no, most of them, but we were two years apart so we had independent sessions with him for some things. And since I was the one who was going to be king, I had more time with my father while Mattias was with Suetekh..." he made a dismissive gesture. Aurora petted him softly, trying to keep the frustration to a minimum.

"So...maybe he pressed hi--wait..." The wheels in my brain started turning faster and faster, and my eyes darted around the room. "Thats it...thats gotta be fucking it..."

"What's up, sweetheart?" Tim looked up at me with a concerned expression.

"Shh, hang on," I murmured, pressing my fingers to his lips again, so close to making sense of my theory I could almost taste it. Everyone waited in anxious silence.

"I'm gonna go get the others," Tim murmured, rising from where he'd been reclining against me and heading for the door.

When he returned with Johannes, Henrik, and John in tow, I had my theory sharpened to a fine point.

"Eden, Ciel and Shell were ri--"

"We're right here, Henrik."

"Are we having a pow wow?" Johannes asked, settling next to me on one side and folding his long legs underneath him, straightening his back and raising his chest towards the ceiling with a groan, "gods but waiting around makes you tense, doesn't it?"

The other two sat on the countertops, Henrik's legs dangling next to my head, and John perched a few feet from Jonas and Aurora. Eden and Ciel sat next to them, the former tucking her feet up in the lotus position flawlessly, drawing a little smile from Henrik.

Tim waited, waiting to see if I would invite him back to where he'd been, which I did after a moment. I was too comfortable to rearrange myself.

"I like being right here," he whispered, settling back against me and wrapping his arm underneath my calf, stroking his fingers along my shin, and I leaned down to kiss him softly. "Almost as much as I like being inside you...almost," he added, low enough that only I could hear him, and I tried to cover my sharp inhale with a cough.

"Lets hear it, Kamilah," Jonas drew my attention, his nerves written all over his face as Aurora sat between his legs, like Tim was between mine.

"I think maybe you were the original target, but he shifted his attention to Mattias for some reason. Maybe you just didn't know where it was, I'm not sure."

"I can tell you for sure that I didn't..but how would he even know whether Mattias would be better suited to get him the Stone? I hardly think he knew more than I did..."

I glanced up at John, tapping my forehead again. The hook sunk into the front of my brain, cautiously tugging as his eyes went dark.

*Are you sure that they know you used to pull thoughts from them and then tell Suetekh?*

He paled, a frown pulling down his lovely mouth. "Yes, they all know that..."

"Hey, secrets secrets," chimed Johannes, and Shell snorted a laugh.

"Sorry! Uhm. I think that he used John too. That would make sense right? What better way to gain your trust than by making you think he was the only other one out there like you?"

John sighed sadly, running a hand back over his hair.

"I think everyone was a part of his plan, and he just nudged you so gently, moving the pieces so slowly that you didn't know better..."

"You lost me," Henrik nudged my shoulder with his foot.

"Do you remember when we used to go up to the hill and I would practice Pulling you? Just random thoughts and stuff from all of you?"

All four men nodded.

"But you said you never take like private stuff, right?" I interjected.

John nodded down at me, "never. It makes me more awkward than I already am when I know your dark and twisty side."

I couldn't help the giggles that escaped me, and pressed my lips to Tim's hair as I shook with a silent laugh before regaining my composure.

"And you never heard anything from Mattias that was hinky at all?"

"Not really...I mean he was frustrated with Jonas getting to be king, and not him, but Suetekh said that was normal stuff..."

"Oh..." Ciel sighed, reaching over to take John's hand, "darling, that's rather similar to how Set felt about his brother and sister ruling..."

"A fertile mind then," Eden murmured, looking down at Jonas sadly before unfolding her legs and slipping to the floor at his side. "Your majesty, I think Kamilah is right and Set picked your brother to exploit frustration that was already there..."

Jonas' breaths became a little faster, a little shallower, and he looked right at Eden, but his mind seemed to be far away.

"He is a master at mindgames, sire, there is a chance, if we're right, that your brother never knew what was happening."

I pressed my forehead down against Tim's hair as I felt crushed by guilt. There was a chance that Mattias didn't know what was happening, but it had driven him mad before Set could get the Stone from him.

"Then...then the last few years that Mattias...slipped..."

Tim's grip on my leg firmed a little, and all the men suddenly wore grimaces, masks of anger and rage.

"That was probably Set exerting his control, Jonas," I said quietly, aware now of Tim's body stiffening as he sat up away from me, "slowly molding him to disagree more fervently with you and your father..."

"But why?!" Henrik asked, slamming his palm against the countertop.

I thought for a moment.

"We don't know all of the powers that the Stone has, but I would hazard a guess that if Mattias already was starting to get disillusioned with his father's style of kingship, then Set simply fanned that flame with promises of places to conquer and more people to rule..."

"He poisoned his mind." It wasn't a question.

"I...we might not ever know, sir. He plants seeds of doubt and discord wherever he goes..."

Jonas lifted Aurora off his lap and set her down beside him.

"Then this fight is not your own." And with that he was up and out of the kitchen, leaving the rest of us staring at each other.

"Like hell its not," John said angrily, hopping off the counter and offering Ciel a hand before heading after his king.

Henrik, Eden, Shell, Johannes, and Aurora did the same, everyone in various stages of anger and disbelief.

I laid my head back against the cabinets and closed my eyes. "Well that went over like a fucking lead balloon."

"It all makes sense though..." Tim was on his feet and held a hand down to me to help me up.

"I want to be wrong about this, but I don't think I am," I said sadly, accepting his hand.

He shifted gears now that we were alone, stuffing his hands in his pockets, and apologizing again. There was nothing to be done about the past with Set or Suetekh or whoever he was, but he desperately hoped that things with he and I could still be mended.

"I can't believe I did that. I've never put my hands on a woman like that before, I--...shit. Kamilah I'm so sorry."

I believed him and watched the anguish break out over his face as he looked at the ground and shook his head.

"Tim, you are the most frustrating, wonderful, maddening man I've ever met...and I think I fucking love you."

I yanked him forward, gripping the front of his shirt then pressing all my fingers back over his hair as I kissed him hard. His reaction was immediate, sinking into my kiss and backing me into the wall as he grabbed both my hands and pinned them above my head, filling my mouth with his tongue and groaning heavily as his hips pressed into mine. "

Well if its any consolation, you're fucking frustrating as hell too," he growled against my lips, grinding into me, kissing me like I was the only oxygen in the room, "but gods I fucking want you."

He sank to his knees, pulling the button on my shorts and yanking them down my legs.

"Your skin smells like the ocean," he said, nuzzling against my hips as he slipped my panties down off my waist to join my shorts on the floor.

"I was in the water," the last word ended with a sharp gasp as he spread me open with two fingers and ran his tongue over my slit, sliding it back and forth, being extremely thorough.

"So wet already," he murmured into me, kissing and licking.

I clapped a hand over my lips as the other pressed down into his hair, still bound in the same braid from yesterday and my hips bucked into his face as I kicked out of my shorts.

"When?"

"When what?" My eyes closed as my head tilted back against the wall. My hand was still pressed over my lips but he seemed to understand my response.

"When were you in the ocean."

I whimpered under his attentions, each slide of his tongue over my clit sending fresh waves of wetness, making him growl as he felt it against his lips and I tried to remember what he'd just asked.

"Nevermind, doesn't fucking matter," he said before burying his face in my pussy again, grabbing my knee and throwing it over his shoulder so he could get to more of me, taste more of me, drink more of me down.

I sank my teeth into my hand so I wouldn't scream as my head thrashed back and forth across the wall, and his hands worked his belt as he ate me, flicking his tongue and sucking my clit.

"Tell me when you're going to come," he said, the sound slightly muffled into my core. He hardly needed me to say anything though, he could tell by my frantic breathing and the way my hips were grinding against his face that I was close. Tim pulled back for only a second, gathering my wetness against his hand and gripping his cock, slicking over himself as he slammed his face back against me, moaning into my pussy, sending vibrations all the way up my spine.

In that second, he was on his knees with his face buried into my center, and in the next, both my feet were off the ground, as he wrapped my legs around his hips and shoved his cock into me, slamming his lips against mine and muffling my scream to nearly nothing.

I sobbed with the overwhelming pleasure - he'd moved so quickly I hadn't even had time to come back from the edge before he was fully inside me, hurtling me over the precipice of an earth-shattering orgasm that left me clenching him hard as he pounded into me, crashing us against the wall and drinking down my cries. Both of his hands went back to my ass and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, clinging to him and holding on for dear life, taking every thrust of his hips, every panting breath and whispered repetition of my name.

"Fuck, you feel so good. Kamilah, don't fucking go where I can't find you ever again. I thought you were gone...right after we finally got our chance, you were gone," he growled into my lips.

He pushed us hard into the wall, bottoming out and holding us there as we panted and his hips rolled into me, dragging his cock along my inner walls, hitting that one spot that he'd loved so much and yelling when I clenched hard around him.

"If you ever," I gasped, rolling my hips back against him, gripping his waist harder with my legs, "put your hands on me like that again, I will fucking take you out, Tim."

His responding kiss was savage. "Never. I promise."

He started moving again, using his grip on my ass to lift me up higher as my fingers scrabbled across his back, trying to grip something without tearing his shirt.

"Goddamn I fucking love you, you hardheaded, stubborn woman," he started thrusting harder, moving faster as he felt me coming undone, "don't you dare cover your mouth," he snapped, feeling one of my hands leave his back, "scream for me Kamilah..."

I experienced a sensation that felt like being totally spent and exhausted, but also brimming with potent energy as I came again, releasing all my anger and my hurt, my fear for what was coming. His words seared into me like a brand, like a mark that made me permanently his.

The way he cried my name as he came made me shiver hard, feeling him coursing through me, filling me.

"I'm so sorry," he murmured between gasps for air, "I don't know what came over me. I was so mad and then you were there and you were okay, and-and, and I've never done that before. Fuck Kamilah I'm so so sorry."

I hushed him, petting his hair slowly, shivering through the aftershocks, and crying out softly as he slipped out of me and set me down on shaking legs.

"Its okay, baby, its okay," I murmured, still holding onto him.

"I feel like you need to take a swing at me or something to make this even," he rubbed both hands over his face after righting his clothes and helping me with mine.

"I'm not going to punch you a) because I've never punched anyone before and I don't want to break my hand, and b) I knocked you down pretty hard and was literally going to light you on fire, so I think you came close enough to getting hurt already," I laughed softly.

He smiled and shook his head at me, gently pressing me back against the wall and kissing me slowly, thoroughly, gripping my face between his palms before taking both of my hands and pressing them against his heart as he kissed me again, moaning softly into my lips. Tim didn't say anything, he just pulled back and looked at me, watching my smile unfold as I felt the way it hammered in his chest.

Jonas' voice sounded faintly, interrupting our silence. "Ladies, may I please have your attention."

"Come on," I took his hand, and he kissed me one last time before pulling me towards the door. We slipped out into the dining hall relatively unnoticed, save for Ro, who rubbed a hand over her lips to hide her grin as she winked at me. The hall was full so we stood off to the side against the wall, and Tim pulled me so I was standing just in front of him, leaning back into his body as his finger slipped down through my belt loop against my side, simply holding me there.

"Wait till he tells your our plan," he murmured into my ear, "its fucking brilliant."

Chapter Text

Jonas surveyed his gathered audience, looking back and forth over our faces in a way that was different from how he'd done it in the training room the day before yesterday.

I rubbed both hands over my face - had that really just been two days ago? It felt like an entire lifetime had passed between watching Johannes and Henrik spar with each other that morning and now watching Jonas carefully mull over what he was going to say.

"You okay sweetheart?" Tim murmured into my ear, and I nodded, smiling a little when he softly kissed the top of my head.

My heart was overflowing with everything - happiness, anxiety, anger at Set, fear for the safety of my companions here and my new friends.

But the knowledge that Set had moved Jonas and his brother and John around like inanimate pieces on a chess board was starting to really chap my ass. And he'd made Marisol sick with something that even supernatural healing couldn't cure...

Clearly, he was willing to do anything to get the Stone.

I took a calming breath and replayed Tim's words over and over in my head, leaning a little further into his body, and feeling his arms hold me tighter in response as his shoulder leaned comfortably into the wall.

He loves me.

My lips curved into a smile that seemed like it would never go away as he bent his head and kissed my temple.

"Sorry, can't stop," he said softly, nuzzling just behind my ear.

"Don't want you to," I whispered back, receiving a little kiss on my lips as I turned my head.

But my smile faltered a little when I turned back and my eyes met Jonas', still sweeping over the room. They paused on me, and a creeping sense of unease started to work its way through my body as we narrowed in on each other. I furrowed my eyebrows and cocked my head a little at him, but his stare was flat.

"Ladies," he began again, silencing the quiet murmurs that had started up in the absence of his voice, "I want to again thank you all for welcoming myself and my men into your Temple...your home. Words of gratitude are simply insufficient," he spread his hands.

Eden, Shell, and Ciel bowed their heads graciously towards him. Raya was nowhere to be seen, and I assumed had gone back to be with Sol.

"Mistress Shell," he acknowledged her, "I told you that every woman here who can fight will need to."

She nodded slowly, an unsure expression starting to furrow her eyebrows. "We're all here, Your Majesty...we are not many, but...this is all of us."

He waved off her insecurity, "Not my point, Mistress. I want to apologize for making such a heedless comment in the first place, and withdraw it - I do not wish you to think that I don't value the lives of your ladies here."

Now her confusion was impossible to hide and her head cocked just fractionally to the side.

"Whats going on?" I asked Tim, turning my head to whisper.

"I'm not sure..." he shifted his grip on my hips so he could step around me, the instinctual need to be close to the king taking over his want to be close to me as the tension in the room started to rise.

Jonas was silent, his gaze hard as he stared at the back wall for several moments, making up his mind.

"There is no need for loss of life today," he addressed all of us again, "amongst those who don't have a place in this fight."

"Oh my gods, he can't be serious," I groaned, my exact level of shock reflected on Tim's face as he stared up at his king, who carefully avoided the gazes of all four of his men.

"This evil that comes...Set..." he seemed to almost have trouble saying his name, "has never sought you. His target was never this Temple. It is me. More specifically, I suppose, it is what I carry, as Marisol told you all...unintentional, but there's nothing to be done for that now..."

Everyone started to shift in their seats as they digested what he was saying, and the muscle ticking repeatedly in his jaw betrayed just how agitated he was, though his exterior was still calm and collected. A sea of murmurs erupted, and his hand shot up to silence them.

"In conclusion, I offer my most sincere apologies for the unrest and fear that our presence has brought, and thank you again for your hospitality and willingness to help..."

And with that, he started striding towards the door, his mind obviously made up for good. I pushed my way through the throng of people murmuring and casting wary glances at the king's back, and stepped right into his path.

"Move, Kamilah."

"You can't do this by yourself, sir," I tried to reason with him, but he was having none of it, and repeated himself again.

"Do not make me move you myself, priestess. I am older than you, I am bigger than you, and I am stronger than you."

I stayed firmly planted and he glared at me, stepping closer and dropping his voice. "You of all people should know why it is me that must do this."

A muscle in my neck twitched, but I took a deep breath and dropped to my knees in front of him, taking his hand and pressing the knuckles to my forehead.

"I'm going with you."

"We are all going with you," Henrik's voice added over my shoulder as the four men gathered behind me.

"No. Not this time, my friends," Jonas' voice was tinged with a hard sadness, "this has been my destiny all these years. Today, Set faces me for what he's done."

I shivered at his tone, but the angry tears that blurred his eyes undid me altogether. I felt crushed under the weight of knowing what I knew but was unable to tell him.

*Our eternal Queen knows what is best, my priestess, heed her words...*

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, nodding once to acknowledge Her whispers in my head.

"You're right. Today he answers for what he's done. He answers for Mattias," I took a step closer, looking at him head on, letting him taste my own anger, and the corner of one eye twitched as he watched mine light up, a forest fire contained in their depths, "and he answers for Marisol."

"I won't ask this of you, Kamilah," he said lowly, giving me one last chance to take my out.

"King by choice," I responded, keeping my chin up and standing squarely up to him. The other four men stepped up, and Ro tugged my shirt to pull me back a step.

"Citizen by birth. Friend by the goodness of the gods. Brother by choice. My king, we would follow you to the end of the earth," Johannes said proudly, echoed in affirmation by each of the others. They all knelt pressing their foreheads to the back of his hand like I had before clasping each other by the forearm to be hauled to their feet.

"We fight at your side," Tim said lowly, "as we always have."

"Wouldn't have it any other way," Henrik grinned.

"Someone has to watch that pretty tattooed ass," Johannes snorted a laugh at his own remark.

Both my eyebrows shot up comically at Ro, who was shaking with silent laughter, and ran her fingers across her lips like a zipper with a quick wink at me before going serious again.

"And what about me, your majesty?" She stepped forward and everyone parted for her like the Red Sea, "am I to be left behind then, wondering what ever happened to you?"

"Aurora," he said quietly, and she pressed one finger to his lips, barely touching him but bringing silence. They stared at each other, communicating without words, and he nodded once as her hand fell back to her side.

"Sir, I hardly suppose this needs saying, but you never had to ask in the first place. Set is a scourge, and harms everything he touches," Ciel said, stepping up next to John and lacing her fingers with his, "and it would be my greatest pleasure to watch him burn..." she dropped to one knee, letting John's hand go as her head bowed towards the floor.

One by one, we all followed suit, until the King and Aurora were the only ones left standing. Her knees bent, and he grabbed her like a lightning strike, pulling her upright. "You never bow to me. Do you understand?" Jonas pressed the backs of both her hands to his lips as a tiny wry smile crossed her lovely mouth.

"Understood, my king."

He blinked hard as he took in the sea of people, all bowing in respect and deference, willing to follow him to whatever end, and his heart started pounding.

"All of you, please, rise...I...I don't know what else to say."

"I think starting with whatever plan you two have cooked up would be a good first step," I whispered, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek as I squeezed his arm.

He chuckled and shook his head, "watch out Tim, I think this one's gunning for your job after all."

Tim grabbed me with one arm around my waist and showered me with playful growls and little kisses until I was a helpless giggling mess, swatting at him with both hands.

"First my shirt, now my job?" He teased, pulling me to the front, following Jonas and the others. He sat on one of the chairs at a table, and pulled me into his lap settling his arms firmly around my waist. "Now you definitely have to come home with me," he whispered, planting a kiss between my shoulder blades and smiling as he felt the tremor run through me.

--

Jonas detailed his plan, carefully explaining the use of our terrain and our collective gifts, using the information learned from Ciel, John and Ro to pinpoint potential allies that Set may have called upon.

Those who hadn't had their calling yet and didn't have full powers were to engage hand-to-hand. Those of us who had met our deities were welcome to use both.

His demeanor was calm and collected, no longer a boiling anger that was barely contained. His voice filled the hall effortlessly, ensuring that each of us understood perfectly what was expected of us, and what we were to expect of him in return. 

My leg started to bounce, full of nervous energy as Tim shifted me on his lap, so my legs were hanging sideways over his.

"Haven't I worn you out yet?" He chuckled, placing the flat of his hand against my restless limb until the bouncing stopped.

"No, but I'd like to see you try," I snarked.

He huffed a laugh, starting to press his fingers into my skin, "there's going to come a day when you're in my bed flat on your back, begging me to stop, and I'm going to remind you about what you just said."

I swallowed hard, trying to think of something clever to say, but I could only look down at his confident smirk and do my best not to take him right there.

"I like your plan," I finally managed to say.

"Which one?"

"...both."

Chapter Text

I stood over Ma's bed, watching her chest rise and fall rhythmically, trying to ignore the slight rasp that labored her breathing. Her skin was pale - ghostly, like her color was being leached out by this thing that infected her down to her bones.

"We're gonna get that bastard back for this," I promised her, holding her hand in mine. I imagined her squeezing it lightly, patting me on the cheek fondly and saying with her clipped accent, 'I could hardly expect anything different, dear'.

Tim stood at the foot of the bed, watching me as Raya circled the room, opening drapes and stoking the fire in the hearth, trying everything to make Ma comfortable, though she'd not regained consciousness since we were all gathered around her bed earlier.

The afternoon was well underway, the sun hanging at its peak, and I'd immediately departed the dining hall for her rooms after Jonas finished his speech.

The entire Temple was full of energy - we were no longer waiting around for a potent force of destruction to come, we were inviting him to try his fucking best.

A sense of unity and one-ness had us all casting more lingering looks, letting skin touch skin for a second longer than usual, rekindling and forging anew bonds that would keep us connected and keep us safe.

I'd found myself pressed into a dark doorway twice as Tim followed me to Marisol's room, unable to quell the rising waves of collective defiance and energy, a readiness that manifested physically as a need, an insatiable hunger.

But now he simply watched, breaking the silence after a moment. "Have you tried touching her? When you heal I mean..."

My eyes wandered over a painting hanging behind her headboard - a landscape that I was sure Henrik had liked if he'd noticed it in the relative chaos of the morning.

"Why do you ask?" The smile was evident in my voice, and he could hear it, even standing behind me.

"I dunno. It just popped into my brain. Like a weird deja vu thing."

I turned and smiled softly at him. There was a little mark on his skin, just under his jaw, from where we'd gotten distracted on our way over. It was hard to comprehend how much I wanted him every time we locked eyes, but I could hear the way he moaned my name as my lips worked his neck and I wound his braid around my fist, pulling his head to the side. I'd whispered lowly to him that sooner or later I was going to get him out of that braid, and sink my fingers into his hair properly, and he shivered with delicious anticipation.

"Its because you told me that while I was meditating."

His lips twisted into a little frown under his mustache, "I what? I didn't even know where you were."

"On the beach. You asked me what would happen if I tried healing the cut again when I was touching Jonas' hand."

I knew I was confusing him, but his little frown to was too damn cute to make me stop.

"Who was cut? Are we even near a beach? You've lost me, sweetheart."

"I think that was before Henrik started kissing me, but I honestly can't really remember...no maybe that was John at that point..." I shrugged dramatically, "it really is hard to keep you all straight sometimes, what with the hair and the charming good looks."

His mouth worked soundlessly as he stared at me wide-eyed, "wh--b--when did--should I be worried?!"

I snorted a laugh, letting go of Sol's hand and moving to tuck a loose strand of chestnut hair behind his ear, pressing my forehead to his.

"That depends. Wasn't it you who just pushed me into an empty room and let me wrap my lips around your cock?" He shivered hard at the memory of coming down my throat as I kept whispering to him, teasing him, "so I don't know...are you worried, Tim?" I purred, adoring the frustrated little lines between his eyebrows.

"Look you're the one who made out with him at breakfast yesterday, so you tell me," he was only teasing me back, but my jaw dropped all the same.

"Excuse me?"

"You..." he paused, his eye twitching at the corner a little as his head cocked to the side, "you kissed Henrik at breakfast yesterday...and me. And Johannes...and John...oh my god, is none of this ringing a bell at all?"

I stood flabbergasted, blushing from the tips of my ears down to my toes.

"Wh--I most certainly did not!"

"Kamilah, the entire Temple saw it," he was the one laughing now, "Jonas threatened to bend you over the table and spank you if you didn't quit distracting us."

I shrieked into my hands, staring at him with wide eyes over the tops of my fingers.

"You're making that up!"

"No, actually he's not, dear, that'd probably be your Calling that's preventing you from remembering," Raya supplied helpfully, doing her best to not chuckle as she said it, "your brain trying to prepare itself for the presence of the Divine doesn't lend a lot of extra energy for short term memory formation. There's a change in your hormones when you're Called for a rite like yours - you want to fuck everything that moves so that you can when you need to...you'd hardly be the first to kiss perfect strangers, dear," she snickered.

"Oh my gods," I rubbed both hands over my mortified face, muttering incoherently into my palms. On the one hand, the content of my meditation on the beach made a lot more sense now but on the other, I was pissed that I'd apparently kissed Henrik with some serious passion behind it, and I didn't get to at least remember it for later.

Tim gathered me close, giving me a moment to compose myself, and whispering to me, as his hands roamed soothingly up and down my back, "I hardly remember anyone complaining, if that makes you feel better. Although, I don't personally make a habit of objecting when pretty girls in fishnets sit in my lap and kiss me with tongue...twice."

I shivered hard but groaned and tried in vain to crumble in on myself.

He just chuckled in my ear and held onto me tighter, "its okay sweetheart, no ones upset at you."

"Fuck me...anything else you want to share about my behavior yesterday morning? Did I murder anyone with an ax and conveniently forget about it?" I groaned into his shoulder, which was now shaking with a silent laugh that he couldn't keep contained. I loved the sound of his laugh - it was the happiest thing I could think of, and I lifted my head to run my fingertips over his face.

He looked tenderly down at me, dropping a little kiss to my forehead. "I meant what I said in the kitchen, you know," he whispered into the skin there, drawing me closer, holding onto me tighter, dropping his lips to my ear, "I love you, Kamilah..." he said my name like he had that first night he'd kissed me.

My knees gave and I collapsed forward into him, though it hardly mattered since he was holding me up anyways.

"I've never felt so affected by anyone," he continued, "you're like...you're a part of me." Tim's kiss was soft, not seeking, not lustful, it was only him giving every piece of himself to me, and I reciprocated without fear or hesitation.

But it started to get more heated, and a pair of hands like fire gripped my waist as his tongue slid past my lips, moving against mine, tasting my mouth and being extremely precise and thorough about it.

"Do you want to tear my hair out of this braid while I fuck you in your own bed, priestess?" he breathed into the skin of my throat, his large hand cupping my face and gently moving my head to the side to he could nip at my pulse point, "gods I love the way your heartbeat flies for me..."

I desperately wanted to say yes, and the mental image of our bodies twisted together, tangled in the softness of my sheets nearly undid me on the spot, buckling my knees ever so slightly.

"I...I need to stay with-with uhm...for a little bit...gods," I pulled back to meet his eyes with mine, the pupils so blown out, there was hardly any visible iris left to admire, "I think you might actually make me forget my name someday..."

He chuckled softly, kissing me once on the tip of my nose, then once more on my forehead, "just don't forget mine, okay?"

"Not likely, as I know all four of them now," I giggled.

"So sassy," he rolled his eyes, gathering me in for one more kiss, "I'll be with my king if you need anything, sweetheart."

I nodded, and he turned to go, rounding when I didn't release his hand.

"Hey," I whispered, kissing him again softly, brushing his lips with mine, "I love you too."

His eyes closed as he exhaled softly and a smile tugged at his beautiful mouth.

"What a strange world we've found ourselves in, my beautiful girl," he murmured, brushing the backs of his fingers down my cheek before turning to leave again. I watched him go, collapsing back onto the empty spot next to Marisol and rolling over to look at her silently. Her skin looked clammy, but her fever still raged.

"I didn't even get to say thank you," I murmured to Raya as she appeared at the other side, sitting next to Ma and feeling her pulse with a little frown.

"I'm sorry, Kamilah..."

I chewed my bottom lip, snuggling closer, taking comfort from her even if she was unconscious.

"So...how was it?" Raya peaked at me over the woman inbetween us as she stretched out on the other side, her long legs nearly reaching the end of the mattress.

"How was what?"

"Well, I guess how was everything? I've hardly gotten a chance to talk to you with everything going on."

"Oh...very intense. Sekhmet is amazing though - you know, I thought that I'd be kind of freaked out by the lioness head, but I totally wasn't at all. She was graceful and witty, and...calm. Not at all what I expected, but gods I love her."

Raya hummed, "mindblowing right? I think we need to make more of point moving forward to trying to nip expectations in the bud. I've never met anyone who said that their divine was just as they imagined."

"Yeah. And Isis was like everything good in this world on fucking steroids. She was perfect, Raya."

"Did she...ah, tell you anything? About you, I mean."

I stiffened, glancing over at her.

"Uhm...no? I don't think so?"

She waved me off before I could inquire why she'd asked and what the hell she was talking about. 

Someone eventually was going to have to address what Tim had let slip earlier about Ma's replacement. 

"And the rest of your night?" She wiggled her eyebrows at me and we both laughed, like we were sharing secrets about kissing boys behind the bleachers - discussing the unnameable.

"Gods..." I rolled onto my back, "I dunno. I keep thinking that I won't want him as much after every time, but then he looks at me and I want him twice as badly...its like...I'm helpless when it comes to him."

"Well, judging by how long it took you to get here, and the offer he just made, I'd say you're side by side in that boat, my sweet."

I didn't say anything, letting my blush answer her comment as I rolled back towards Ma, placing a hand on her abdomen.

"He suggested that I try touching her when I heal."

Raya nodded, scooting back a few inches so she wasn't touching Ma anymore. The sickness was like thorns now where it had been lava before. It wasn't sludgy and thick, like poisoned ichor, it was now old, hardened woody vines, tangled into a thicket of barbs and bristles.

I muffled my sob into her shoulder, shaking and hurting for the unfairness of the whole thing. I shook my head back and forth slowly, letting my sadness ebb eventually, and when I pulled up to wipe my eyes, the bright chain around her neck caught my eye. It had been hidden underneath her clothing, displaced slightly as I wept against her.

Raya followed my gaze. "No sense having it out there, dear," she nodded her head towards the field where Jonas had guessed any altercation that happened was going to take place, "what if someone wearing it falls and it gets taken and handed right over to Set? The whole things moot at that point."

I nodded - what she was saying made sense.

"How was this thing even in Avatar Country when people don't really know that Avatar Country exists?"

"I don't know, Kamilah. Its been gone for so long, I'm sure it passed from unknowing hand to unknowing hand until it was forgotten, hidden away, or lost...the king really doesn't seem to know how or when his brother found it..."

My frustration flared again, "I can't believe Set can just toy with people like that. Maybe he doesn't blame himself for Mattias slitting his own throat but--"

"WHAT?!" 

My lips clamped shut as I realized that I'd said too much. 

"Please don't say anything," I glanced fearfully over at her, "I didn't mean to tell you that."

She was silent for a long time, and the workings of her brain were carefully hidden behind her face. 

"Will...will it protect her?" I nodded towards Marisol, trying to change the subject before I broke all the rules altogether and told her about the Stone being too much for human sanity to manage.

"I don't know. Probably not...but we'll move her out of here just in case someone does get into the Temple."

"Where?"

"Not sure yet, but Ciel will work whatever magic Nut divines to protect her, and frankly Kamilah, that's all we can do."

Another nod from me.

"Are you afraid, Mistress?" I asked quietly after several moments of silence, her hand resting over mine against Ma's torso.

"Yes. But not by itself. I'm more angry than anything, I think," her tone changed as she took a deep breath, revealing for only a moment how truly well and pissed off she was. My hips sank into the bed a little more as I sat up.

"We're gonna make him pay."

"There's no other option that I accept, darling," she growled, and I was up and off the bed, again full of that nervous energy.

"What are we supposed to wear?"

She shrugged a little, "the king said tight and protective..."

"Yeah but that's like leggings and a tank top. I don't have clothes that are both."

"Then wear something that lets you move Kamilah. And in fact..." her eyes moved over the room before a slow grin spread her lips, "wear something that shows skin, if you're okay with it. Sorry to tell you, but leggings won't offer much protection, so you may as well wear shorts and be able to move better."

"What are we gonna make Set tuck tail by showing a little leg?" I furrowed my forehead at her.

"No, but I have an idea. Gather Aurora and the other girls and come to see me before..." she paused, unsure what to call the coming storm. 

"John thinks we'll have some kind of heads up before he comes. So we can sorta sit and fret about it or something."

"Well. When that happens, you come to me, okay?"

I agreed.

"Fretting," she scoffed lowly, rising and crossing back to the window, the rest of her words mumbled as her powerful shoulders squared to the land beyond our walls, "no fucking clue who he's gotten into bed with..."

I bowed and made my exit, though she was so consumed with mumbling to herself, she didn't notice.

I dashed back to my room and tore out of my clothes, showering quickly and throwing on tight shorts and a different sports bra. I figured, if I was going to die, then I was, and having a layer of cloth covering my skin wasn't likely to save me. Raya was right, tt made more sense to wear something that would let me move to get out of the way quicker than try to minimize damage from blows.

I pushed fragrant toner back through my hair, shaking my locks down around my shoulders, letting them fall wild, naturally, as I gazed at myself in the mirror, watching my eyes change and accepting it without shock as the burnt orange flickered through the brown. 

"I'm gonna kill you, you motherfucker," I said out loud, directing all my anger towards Set.

*Priesteeeeessssssss* The hiss from my dream sounded in my ears, just the same, raising the hair on the back of my neck.

"Come and fucking get me."

Chapter Text

I knocked softly on the door, and a moment later Johannes' face appeared in the doorway, opening it wider when I held up Tim's folded shirt in my hands.

"C-can't fight without a shirt, right?" I joked, chewing at my lip after the words left them.

"He's in his room," he said quietly, giving my hand a squeeze and pulling me inside.

Everything seemed solemn and it added to my nerves as I glanced at John, his hands steepled in front of his lips as he stared at the brick wall at the back of the empty fireplace, obviously deep in thought, not even noticing that I'd come in.

Henrik smiled softly at me, beckoning me over to his chair, and pulling me onto his knees rather than letting me sit on the arm.

"Breathe," he reminded, and I watched him closely, mirroring his inhales and exhales until my frantic pulse calmed as his eyes looked back and forth between mine.

"Your ass is catching," I said suddenly.

"...Whats my ass doing?"

"That's the rest of the phrase. Earlier you said 'you're running like your heads on fire', and you couldn't remember the rest. Its 'and your ass is catching."

"That's...okay," he said, shaking his head a little but smiling.

"Oh...and Tim told me about...erm...breakfast," I mumbled, looking down and fussing with the end of a lock of my hair.

"What about it?"

"I didn't uhm...I'm sorry I kissed you...I don't really remember it."

He snapped his fingers, grinning at Johannes, who groaned loudly, "I told you she was drunk! Pay up!"

"Well, not really...hey!" I turned on Johannes as he reached into his pocket, "were you guys making bets?!?"

"Of course we were, you were being fucking weird. Just to confirm though, drunk or no?"

"It was 8 o'clock in the morning!" I said exasperatedly.

"Why are you under the impression that everyone in this room hasn't been drunk at 8AM?" John asked over his shoulder, the hint of a smile tinging his voice.

"No, I was most certainly not drunk!"

"Damn," Henrik murmured as Johannes let out a decisively victorious 'ha-ha!' and flipped his friend both middle fingers. The silence afterwards left everyone staring at me.

"I...Raya said that my brain knows I'm Called before I do, and in the midst of trying to prepare for meeting my goddess, it doesn't really form short-term memory. Not all of them, anyways, I remember most of the rest of the day, I think..."

They all stared at me.

"What...I'd once again like to point out that I took the shape-shifting thing totally in stride," I started in my own defense, and Henrik and Johannes laughed.

"I thought it was just an excuse for you to touch my hair," Henrik teased, butting my shoulder with his forehead.

"Oh my gods, did I??" I bit my lip at him, looking wide-eyed as my pulse started to creep up again.

What the fuck brain! We didn't maybe recognize that as some kind of long-term priority that should be converted into storage?!

He grinned at me, then huffed a sigh.

"Fine," he said, taking his hand from my knee and reaching behind him to pull the tie from his hair, indulging me, "have at."

One look at my face had Johannes howling, "oh gods, someone film this please."

I shifted in his lap so I was facing him more, and tentatively reached one finger out to brush over the lock of hair that fell forward over the front of his shoulder. Henrik tried to muffled his laughter, shaking with the effort as his face reddened.

"Gods I wish I had hair like yours," I mumbled, not even aware that I had spoken as I gently brushed my fingers back through his dark hair, "are you ever going to go back to blonde?"

"Kamilah, you truly don't know how rich I would be if I had a nickel for every time someone said both those phrases to me one after the other," he snickered.

I pulled one lock taut, giggling as it bounced back to a perfect ringlet.

When I looked up the King was watching me closely. A finger barely raised from his thigh, crooking back towards himself twice, summoning me.

Henrik tipped me off his lap, and I knelt in front on the king's parted knees, looking down at the floor.

"Your Majesty."

He hummed in acknowledgement of the formality before sitting further back into his chair, running a finger over his lips repeatedly, back and forth, back and forth. There was a deep sense of comfort that he radiated that I figured was just a byproduct of his strength. Finally, he slid two fingers under my chin.

"Tell me what you're thinking, little one."

I sighed and sat flat on the floor, leaning against him and laying my cheek against his thigh, feeling that almost paternal fondness again.

"I'm just tired of waiting..."

He hummed again, leaning back, "I suppose we're all a bit more used to it by now."

It made sense - having to wait to go onstage, whether it was an hour or a minute, was something they all had to figure out how to endure without letting their nerves get totally fried.

"I feel like the longer I wait, the more my nerves come back and my resolve crumbles."

"Nerves? Come on, little Red, we heard you're some kind of badass flame-throwing diva now," Johannes snickered as he plunked down in a chair opposite John, stretching his long legs out in front of him. I turned to look over at him, and the grin stretching across his face brought a wry smile to my lips.

The fireplace erupted, and John jumped out of his chair, both feet nearly leaving the ground and making Johannes howl with laughter again, his arms crossed over his stomach like he needed to physically hold himself together.

"That was fucking AWESOME," he yelled.

Jonas pulled my hair around one side of my head and ran a hand over it, drawing my attention back to him as I giggled silently.

"Beautiful and powerful," he mused, still stroking my hair until I was almost purring, "quite a dangerous combination."

Eventually he stopped, raking his fingers back over my scalp a little harder.

"What did I tell you about this, Kamilah," he said lowly, his voice dripping dominance and demand.

"I-I'll put it up, sir," I squeaked, lifting my head out from under his grip and quickly reaching behind me to pull my hair into a high bun.

"I'll help you," a quiet voice sounded from the doorway, and I looked up to see Tim standing there, holding one hand out to me at a low angle. He looked weary, and his own hair was still in the same braid from yesterday. I looked back up at the King, who leaned down to tenderly kiss my forehead.

"Go to him," he whispered, giving me a hand to help me get to my feet and patting me gently on the hip as I turned towards Tim. I barely registered the way Henrik, Johannes, and finally John brushed their fingers against my own as I moved towards him, drawn like he had a gravitational pull.

He made a slight bow to his king, then shut the door behind us with a soft click. Tim slumped down on the edge of the bed, facing away from me, and ran both hands over his face, his elbows resting against his knees as his body hunched forward.

"Hey," I said softly, my voice full of concern as I climbed onto the bed behind him, kneeling and rubbing my hands slowly back and forth over his shoulders, down his upper arms, feeling the hard but lean lines of muscle there. "We're gonna be fine. Everyone is gonna be fine babe..."

He didn't speak, but his eyes closed as he absorbed my slightly overheated touch.

"Kamilah," he sighed finally when my hands went to the elastic securing the end of his braid. I unwound it one loop at a time, reaching around his body to take his hand and and slip the hairband onto his wrist before letting go. His hair naturally wanted to hang straight down his back, and I carefully unraveled it, weaving the strands back through each other, brushing my fingers through the soft fullness and biting my lip when he groaned softly and I watched his fingers shake a little against his thigh.

I rolled my eyes as I remembered joking with Jonas about getting laid before the battle.

How the fuck did he always know everything?

I tuned back into the man in front of me, still brushing my hand over his shoulder, down across the front of his bare chest, my other moving through his chestnut locks, surprised that there were no tangles or snags in it at all. Sometimes men got all the luck...

Tim's breathing started becoming a little more erratic, just a little heavier, and I almost exploded with arousal when I watching his hips involuntarily roll just a little.

Oh my gods.
Tim liked having his hair played with.

It was like a thousand fantasies I'd had were coming true all at once. But at the same time, I loved that I could do this for him - take away some of the stress and anxiety about the inescapable thing coming our way. For a few more moments together, we could create something that was just simply good.

My lips whispered up his neck and he shivered hard, almost a spasm as he moaned quietly. Still my left hand kept working through his hair, starting at the roots and moving over his head, down his neck, tracing the strands down his back. He whispered my name as I settled more firmly against him, spreading my legs further so my bent knees were resting just in front of his hips and my core was at his lower back as I sat back on my feet.

I kissed up the side of his neck, trailing my tongue in little heated lines and my hand dropped down his front, seeking...seeking...

The tiny gasp that left him was almost a whine as I undid the buttons of his pants, moving them just far enough out of the way that I could pull his cock out.

"Is me playing with your hair making you hard, Tim," I whispered, running a finger along his erection. His eyes fluttered as he bit his lower lip, rolling his hips into my hand as it encircled him.

"Ahh, y-your hand is s-so warm," he gasped, stuttering on the words in a way that made me know how good I was making him feel.

At that moment in time I didn't want anything in the world as badly as I wanted to make him relax further into me, to trust that my touch was only going to bring pleasure. His hands gripped my knees.

"Close your eyes, baby," I whispered lowly into his ear as his head rested back against my shoulder, and my left arm wrapped around it, still pressing my fingers into his hair at the roots, pushing back a little so it would pull, and relishing the slightly louder moan that left his lips as they sought mine.

I realized as he kissed me that I was grinding against his back, desperate for friction of my own as I pumped him slowly, swirling my thumb over the head and playing with varying degrees of pressure.

"Take off your shorts," he gasped lowly as my teeth closed around his earlobe just behind where it was stretched, the gold earrings hanging through the gauges. I ignored him, gripping his ear harder with my teeth and his cock harder with my hand as I raked my fingers across his scalp.

"I said take your fucking shorts off, Kamilah," he growled, sending a shiver up through my core.

I stood briefly behind him, not caring that I was probably getting the bedspread dirty from the bottoms of my shoes. My shorts fell down the bottoms of my legs and I knelt behind him again, running my hands over his chest, kissing the back corner of his jaw as I breathed down his neck and reached down to wrap my hand around his length again.

All five of my other fingers curled into his hair hard when his right arm twisted and I suddenly felt fingers between my legs.

"If you do this right, you won't break my wrist," he said softly, skimming the pads of his fingers against my soaked panties and growling when he deftly pushed them aside and sank his ring and middle fingers into me, laying the back of his hand flat against the bed and keeping those two fingers stiff.

His name fell from my lips like a hiss as my forehead dropped against his shoulder, my hips grinding against the heel of his hand.

"Just like that," he groaned as I stroked him harder, scratching my fingers against his scalp to get a firmer grip on his soft tresses. I moved my hips up and down, fucking myself on his fingers and rubbing my clit against the heel of his hand as he pulsed them inside me. When he kissed me, it was rough and needy, his free hand reaching to grip my thigh, sinking his nails into the skin there, desperate for grounding as he felt himself starting to spiral.

The moan the left his lips vibrated through his tongue, filling my mouth with sound and sensation as I started moving quicker, gripping his cock harder until he cried out and squeezed his eyes shut, painting my fist and gasping for air. His head fell back against my shoulder as he still felt me moving against his hand, my own orgasm so close I could almost taste it.

"Come for me, Kamilah," he urged, his hips still rolling against my hand even as he softened, "fuck you feel so good..."

My breathing started to match the way my hips rolled into his palms as he started scissoring his fingers inside me. I pressed my temple against his jaw and bit down on his shoulder when I came, making him shout with a mingled combination of pleasure and pain as he felt the ring of muscle at my opening clenching around him.

He moved his hand, his fingers pulling out of my pussy with a wet noise, and he turned to face me, slipping his fingers into his mouth with an animal growl.

Despite the lingering high from coming so hard, I felt impossibly aroused watching him lick my slick from his digits. His eyes flicked from my lips down my hand that was still covered in him.

"Ohh," I whispered, suddenly understanding what he wanted. I tasted his cum dripping down my hand, slowly gathering him against my tongue, his flavor rocketing through every sense I possessed.

His hand tore through my hair, grasping and knotting his fingers into it as pulled me forward and his lips collided with mine, our fluids mingling between our mouths and making us both cry out against each other.

I'd never experienced anything like it. On his own, he tasted good - wild even, but together, we were like a dream. Iron and saline and sweetness and bitterness all crashed through my brain as Tim devoured me, his tongue filling my mouth as his fingers threatened to tear my hair out by the roots.

Before I could pull back to draw breath, I was under him, still being ravaged by his mouth. I yanked his hair hard, desperately wanting him to fuck me but knowing he couldn't.

"You stay close to me today, Kamilah," he ordered, his kisses shifting from dominating to slow and deep, but the desire to express an unspoken need still there, "I can't protect you if I can't see you."

I pulled back a little, watching the man hovering over top of me, pressing my thighs against his hips. 

A crash of thunder made us both jump and stare at the window. The mid-summer days were long, but the sky started to cloud, obscuring the sun.

Tim looked back down at me.

"He's coming."

I nodded, running a hand over his cheek, "I need to get back to Raya and the other Heads."

He lifted off me and hauled me up to sit at the edge of the bed.

"Stay," he held up one finger, buttoning his pants back up before disappearing to retrieve something from his bag. He knelt on the bed behind me and started dragging a comb slowly through my hair. It scratched against my scalp and pulled tightly all the way down the strands.

"Head up, Kamilah," he said softly when I started to buckle. I could see now why he got off on this - it was unbelievably intimate for such a mundane, everyday task. Tim's long, deft fingers that created some of my favorite sounds in the entire world, started weaving through my hair, moving it into little sections, twisting and pulling.

"I never imagined you'd be good at styling hair," I said softly, closing my eyes when his fingers reached forward to press against my lips, silencing me so he could concentrate. Minutes later, my hairband snapped into place, and he leaned up a little, looming over me as I bent my head backwards to kiss him. His tongue passed my lips and his fingers gently worked over my throat before pushing under the tight elastic of my sports bra, cupping my breasts and shivering at the warmth of my skin.

"Time to go, my love," he whispered, sending a shiver all the way down my spine with the words. He pulled me to my feet and I briefly examined my hair in the mirror. It was a mass of braids and twists, different sizes crisscrossing and tucking under each other.

"Wow," I gasped, tempted to ask him to take a picture as I turned my face this way and that, trying to get a better look. He crossed his arms, leaning against the closed door, watching me with a hint of a smile.

"You're a vision in red," he said quietly when I moved into his embrace and his arms closed around me, holding me, needing me in the same way that I needed him.

"I--I don't want to do this," I confessed, pressing my forehead hard against his own, "I want to stay here, with you, just the two of us... I don't want to fight."

He tilted my face up, staring into my eyes, searching them, needing me to listen to every word he said like it was the gospel truth.

"I'm going to be right there with you. I'll be at your side...I'll protect you, Kamilah," he sealed it with another kiss that sent my world spinning, then he opened the door and ushered me out.

"Wait, what about your hair?" I asked, my brain trying to catch up.

"We fight with it down. Its our custom." He stood up straight and squared his shoulders proudly when he said it.

"Wh--so all that shit we got about having to put our hair up--" I was quickly distracted from finishing my sentence as I turned towards the source of the sound.

Jonas had Aurora on the floor laid out in front of the fireplace, which was still roaring, casting a hot glow over the bronzed skin of his back as his hips moved between her legs under the thin blanket and his mouth closed against her breast.

Neither of them seemed to even notice that Tim or I were there, and I stood rooted to the spot, unable to tear my eyes away from their intertwined forms as she writhed and cried out under him, weaving her fingers into his dreads and holding on tight as she panted for air.

The King claimed her mouth, pushing his tongue between her lips as he moaned deeply into her, thrusting hard and filling her with sound as he filled her with himself.

"Aurora," he said her name that way he had the first night, like he was remembering a line from a poem.

"Yes, my love," she gasped, her hair reflecting the firelight like Tiger's Eye as she arched off the flagstone flooring, dissolving into whimpers and cries of pleasure as he made her his own.

They quieted down together, and I suddenly snapped out of my trance, aware that I was being a voyeur to an extremely private moment, even if it was happening in the middle of the suite's common room.

I glanced back at Tim, but he was gone, and I slipped out the door into the hallway, unseen.

Chapter Text

I waited in the hallway, my back pressed to the stone wall, rhythmically bouncing the mass of braids at the back of my head off the solid surface as I grew impatient.

Honestly, how long could they possibly fuck in the middle of the living room? The seconds seemed to tick by like hours. 

Just as I was making up my mind to go in and drag Ro away by her lovely long hair, the wooden door opened and she stepped out, double-taking and blinking hard when she saw me.

"Milah...hi..."

"Hi babe, we gotta go," I took her hand and started dragging her back to Ma's room to find Raya.

"Whats going on?"

"Didn't you hear the thunder? I think that was our sign."

"What? I...wow...did I really miss thunder?" she trotted to keep up with me.

"Guess you were a little busy," I teased with a grin and she looked sideways at me with surprise.

"Were you spying on me? Wh--look at your hair! Wow! Oh my gods, its gorgeous!"

"I know! It only took him a couple minutes too. Fuck, leave it to me to fall in love with a man who styles my own hair better than me," I grumbled, and she yanked hard on my hand, pulling me to an abrupt stop.

"Kamilah!" Her grin was infectious. "You just said it!"

"Said what?!"

"You know what!"

"Wh--I...I mean...you're hearing things!"

"Like hell I am!" She crushed me into a tight hug, "gods what a bizarre couple of days huh?" She hardly seemed fazed by the idea that the Lord of Chaos was coming for her lover.

"Don't even get me started," I snorted a laugh as we pushed through the door into Ma's room, "and I'm not even the one who got offered a literal kingdom earlier by a man I've only known three days!"

"What, was I supposed to say no till I know his middle name?" she teased.

"Ah, girls. I thought you'd be here sooner," Raya advanced towards us, hands outstretched.

"Aurora dropped something and we had to get down on the floor to find it."

Her cough next to me sounded suspiciously like a laugh and her face threatened to crack a smile.

"Right...I'm not going to even ask what that's supposed to mean."

I snorted a laugh, "nevermind then. Did you hear it?"

All four Heads nodded, Eden perched on the bed beside Ma, holding her hand, Shell and Ciel both pacing.

"He comes soon," Ciel added, all of us taking deep breaths, steeling ourselves. It was really happening now.

"So...what was your idea?"

Raya beckoned to Ciel to join her in the middle of the room. 

"If we're to face Set, we fight in the names of our gods and our goddesses. Those who have made our way of life exist for thousands of years -who give us the gifts that will make Set's defeat possible today. Now I won't require this, but..." she nodded towards Ciel, who reached down to pull her shirt up and off her head, revealing detailed panels of hieroglyphs across her torso, covering her skin up around her bra, over her breasts, and down her arms.

Aurora started circling her like she was a piece in a museum, running a finger down each panel as her brain translated it into Coptic, then to English. Language was harder for me, but she was a natural - had been from the moment she picked up the beginners book.

"Wow! Did you do these yourselves?" She mused, coming back around Ciel's front and returning the proud little smile. 

"She might have had help," John chuckled, startling me. I hadn't seen him sitting in the chair next to Ma's bed, twirling a sharpie between his fingers. I swore he turned into stone sometimes, he was so quiet and still. 

"Did she tell you what they mean?" Aurora asked, looking over Ciel's shoulder at John.

"Mostly. Pretty clever, getting around an order not to give birth on any day of the year by adding extra days," he chuckled.

"Mmm, yes remarkably no one gambles with Thoth anymore," Shell said with a teasing grin.

"Worth it, to be indebted to the Mother of the Gods, though," Eden giggled, shrugging her shoulders before glancing at Aurora, who was softly smiling to herself. 

"He wanted you too from the moment you were born, you know," Eden said quietly, drawing her attention.

"Really?" Her smile got a little broader, almost proud in a way.

 

"Really. He asked Geb to withdraw his claim upon you - pretty ballsy for an ibis, that one," she chuckled.

"Wh-but he didn't..."

"No. No, he didn't. But it would seem, unless I'm mistaken, that they have come to a resolution of late, yes?"

I got that sneaking feeling like I didn't quite have all the pieces of the puzzle as Ro nodded slowly, and John raised an eyebrow at me, silently asking for an explanation.

He turned his head so I could whisper to him, "we get chosen at birth by our god or goddess. Geb is Earth, Thoth is magic, wisdom, writing. He's the scribe of the nerteru."

He nodded as he regarded Aurora with curious eyes.

Eden crossed the room, graceful and lithe. She moved like a dancer, and cupped Aurora's cheeks.

"We've never had someone like you here before, my dear, what a privilege it has been to watch you blossom."

I glanced at Ciel, who only gave me a quick wink. Guess it would have to wait. 

"Well I'm certainly in," I said, holding out my hand for John's sharpie.

"Gods, Raya, you're brilliant," I whispered, making a circle around Ciel and admiring John's handiwork for myself.

"Who says warpaint is just for the ancients," she smirked, and I watched John bite his lip out of the corner of my eye.

--

We gathered all the girls, instructing everyone to get changed and then meet us there once more in the dining hall.

It felt like we were all at camp, donning uniforms, making new best friends, getting ready for spirit night or something.

But we were a vision. Once word spread that a few of us were going skimp on clothing, the rest joined in. 

We were a sea of strong women, defiant together, ready to face danger head-on as it threatened the stability of our bubble of goodness.

I walked through the rows of girl, helping to pile hair on top of heads, drawing glyphs and markings, images of their deities and cartouches bearing their names.

Johannes, Henrik, Jonas, John, and Tim joined us, all shirtless and as ready as we were.

Tim caught up to me as I finished the last flourish of a horn on a daughter of Hathor.

"Want some help?"

"Are you gonna be mad if I say I forgot you were an artist?"

"No...but I'll teasingly remind you that I'm a little better at drawing than you...that's a...sheep? No, no wait, hang on," he examined it closely, being over dramatic and impossibly, irritatingly charming.

"Its a cow and you're an ass."

"I was under the impression an hour ago that you liked my ass," he laughed, pulling me away and offering me a hand as he pulled out a chair.

"Am I sitting?"

"Standing."

I looked at him uncertainly.

"Be my canvas, Kamilah," he said lowly, stepping towards me, kissing me deeply, slowly, running his hands over my skin, an artist familiarizing himself with his medium.

"I...I think that's the sexiest think anyone's ever said to me..." I accepted his hand and stood on the seat of the chair.

"Close your eyes," he said quietly, "I don't want you to see until I'm done."

I followed his instruction, but swayed on my feet, nearly losing my balance.

"Hold on to something," he pulled the cap of the marker off between his teeth. I rolled my eyes with a laugh and pressed my fingers into his hair, loving the way his lips trailed fire down the outside of my leg. I didn't care if anyone else saw it, the sexual energy in the room was almost thick enough to touch as the boys helped us with our own iterations of warpaint.

"Tim," I sighed softly, feeling his breath across my skin with each stroke of the marker. I wasn't sure how long I spent standing on the chair, moving according to his careful direction, keeping one hand on him to help me balance.

"How is it possible that you can bend like a goddamn reed and still have all the balance of a weighted scale?" He chuckled as I nearly fell off the chair when he stood abruptly.

"Because I'm mysterious and complicated, baby. Can I open my eyes now?"

He'd hit the tops of my thighs with his design, and I could hear the excited murmurs around us.

"Not yet. Do you trust me?"

"You've been drawing on my skin in permanent marker for at least twenty minutes...so I kind of feel like that's a trick question."

His arms closed around the backs of my legs and I could feel his tongue swirl against the skin of my hips as he kissed me.

"Its not. Put your hands on my shoulders so you don't fall."

He lifted me until my feet were off the plastic seat, then set me gently on the floor.

Henrik's voice sounded from nearby. "You've outdone yourself this time, brother."

I opened my eyes to glance down at him as I felt his breath against my hips again.

"No peaking," he smirked up at me, touching the very tip of his tongue to my exposed flesh and chuckling darkly at the goosebumps he raised.

"I can't help it," I purred, reaching one hand out to tip his face up until I could bend to kiss him, sliding my tongue along his, "you're so hot when you're on your knees in front of me."

He growled into my lips when I released him, "don't get yourself into trouble now, precious..."

Another clap of thunder seemed to only amp up the tension in the room. Set was coming, but rather than terror, we felt anger and the resistance bred from it. His mistake was thinking we would cower in fear - we were ready, come what may.

"How do you even know what to draw? Or are you just making it up as you go?" I asked as my eyes closed again, and I swayed on my feet.

A hand at my back.

"He spent most of yesterday morning reading that book you brought us." It was Johannes' voice. "Damn, Red, you do make a pretty little painting," he teased, making me shiver as he dropped a quick kiss against my neck, unable to help himself.

He watched me twitch and smirked, doing it again, more slowly, standing flush against my back and breathing down my neck.

"I bet you look good with a blade in your hand, don't you," he said lowly, scenting behind my ear, drawing the tips of his fingers down the underside of my arm, lifting it away from my side and trailing his hands over the skin of my palm.

I realized he was half holding me up and half teasing me, trying to alleviate some of the tension he felt, and I leaned back into him, my shoulders settling just below his chest. I rolled them just a little.

"You'll have to find me later and tell me," I smirked, my eyes still closed as I tilted my head back towards him.

"You better hope I don't, liten låga..." he whispered lowly into my ear.

"Move your bony ass out of the way, Johannes," Tim chuckled as he moved around my back.

The warm body disappeared with the ghost of a laugh and one more kiss against the ridge of my shoulder blade.

"What are you drawing, love? Can I look?"

His movements were so consistent and fluid, I wasn't sure if he was writing or drawing.

"A story I read...don't open them quite yet."

"Wh...in English?"

"No."

Tim glanced down at his phone, committing the details to memory then transferring them to my skin. He continued silently for several minutes, working around my torso, breathing a little heavier as he drew over the swells of my breasts, his strokes becoming harder, broader, like he was drawing something bigger.

"What are you thinking about?" I whispered, lulled into an almost trance-like state by the brush of the marker over my skin, the point scraping and tugging, marking me outwardly to reflect my inward devotion.

"Right now? Tearing these pretty little shorts off, throwing you back down onto that table, and shoving my tongue inside you..."

I gasped and clenched hard, my muscles tightening as my fingers found his arms and I tried to breathe.

"Almost done babygirl," he said softly, "turn your head to the left."

I followed his instruction.

"Other left, sweetheart," he chuckled, loving how flustered I was at such a small comment.

He went to press the marker to my skin, to draw one last panel, but thought twice.

"You're a masterpiece, Kamilah," he moaned lowly into my ear, dropping his lips to my neck and sucking hard, until my fingers were tangled into his hair and I gasped his name.

"Wh-what was that for?" I breathed, finally opening my eyes to look at him as he stepped closer, until his body was almost flush with mine. His eyes were bright and aware, more intense than I'd ever seen them.

"Call it my signature," he said lowly, his eyes dropping to the base of my throat to watch my erratic pulse.

"Besides," he breathed on a low laugh, "now we're even."

"Even? What?" I couldn't even think, I was so turned on. He turned hid back to me and pulled his hair around his left shoulder, showing me his right one where there was a distinct set of teeth marks that looked rather like mine.

"Not all bark after all, are you," he teased, turning back to me and grabbing me close. "I really really want to fuck you right now," he growled, kissing me hard, pressing his half-hard cock against my hips.

"Hot damn, look at you, Priestess," Jonas stood slightly off to the side, looking me up and down approvingly. I finally joined in, looking down at myself and feeling immediately stricken and overwhelmed.

"Oh my gods, do you know what these say?" I turned to find Tim, who was making a slow circle around me, admiring his own work.

"Something about burning her enemies with fire," he said lowly, looking at me head on and all but fucking me with his gaze, "it seemed appropriate."

* Mmm, tell him that his work pleases me...*

I breathed hard, refusing to let him look away.

"She says that your work pleases Her."

A slow, cocky grin pulled one side of his mouth a little higher than the other, "and what about you?"

"If you two are going to disappear, I'd suggest you do it now..." Jonas said lowly, only to be cut off by another thunder clap, right over our Temple. His eyes immediately sought Aurora, desperately searching, and finding her after a moment. The thunder didn't seem to faze her as she crossed the room, slowly, carefully, moving like she walked on water.

Her marks were simpler, the inverted triangle with a line through it that signified her as an earth repeated in straight lines of three. Up her wrists, her legs. But as she turned, I saw a picture drawn across her back - a man with the head of an ibis, a staff in one hand, an ankh in the other. 

She looked back and forth between me and Jonas, looking up to the Heads as the room quieted.

"They're here..."

Chapter Text

We stood shoulder to shoulder, waiting under the late afternoon sky.

No one spoke really, we simply watched the horizon, unsure what to expect, but prepared for it all.

Hands reached out to grasp other hands, reassuring and calming, until we all breathed as one, thought as one, moved as one.

Aurora and I stood at the front with the King's men and the Heads; the King himself stood alone, pacing back and forth before our gathered ranks, not in an impatient way, but a watchful one, hands clasped tightly behind his back.

Tim turned to me as the breeze started to blow and a slight tremor ran through the ground, like something approached.

"You remember what I said, Kamilah. Stay close to me. Stay behind me," he said, gripping my face and staring into my eyes with a gaze that was hard and frigid like steel.

"Tim I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and if you're worrying about me, then you won't be paying enough attention to whats happening, and you're gonna get hurt!"

"I know that you can, but it doesn't mean that--" he heaved a sigh then slammed his lips down against mine, kissing me forcefully, growling against my skin even as his kiss seared it, then pulling back, "if we get through this, I'm gonna fucking marry you, Kamilah."

"You're gonna what?!"

My jaw dropped as my head started spinning backwards, but suddenly all of our focus was drawn to a single figure, massive and domineering, who seemed to materialize out of thin air at the other end of the field, just beyond the tree line.

"Priiiiieeeeestessss," the voice was that same serpentine hiss, weaving around us, swirling through my hair, settling into my ears.

No one responded, no one moved.

He said it again, and Ro took my hand, squeezing it for a moment before letting go.

"Its him."

She hardly needed to say it.

"Set," Jonas' voice boomed like thunder, and a tremor went up my spine at the force behind it, "what you seek does not belong to you."

The massive shoulders shook with a laugh that then sounded off the landscape around us, reverberating off the very earth we stood on, like we were in a fish bowl. The sound was dark, maniacal in a chilling way.

He advanced a step, barefoot and dressed only in the white linen kilt, as he'd been several nights ago. I couldn't even see a weapon on him, like he intended to use his bare hands.

"Leave," Jonas commanded, his tone like ice.

It only made Set laugh harder as he continued his slow approach.

"Such a foolish little human king," he taunted, "doesn't even know what he possesses..."

Possessed.

Jonas' mind lingered on the incorrect tense, wondering if it was wise to reveal that he had given up the Stone, or if he should continue to let Set think he still possessed it. An echo of his father's voice sounded in his ears, teaching him about the burden of protecting others, of shouldering the heavier weight simply because he was the king and that's what good kings did.

It hardening his resolve, and he touched the now-empty locket around his neck.

The Stone was safe inside with Marisol in the very heart of the Temple, strong protection spells whispered into every corner of the room from Ciel's lips, reinforced by the magic from the woman of the night sky.  Jonas had insisted that the empty locket remain with him, to keep any wandering curiosities away from thinking there might be something worth their while in the Temple while everyone else was otherwise engaged outside.

Set's gaze was feral as he watched Jonas stroke the locket with one finger.

"Don't I? You spent enough years as my mentor, do you really believe me to be that dull?"

For the briefest moment the corner of Set's eye twitched.

I saw it.
The king saw it.

With the tiniest of involuntary movements, the entire narrative was confirmed and my anger seemed to instantly redouble.

"Oh, yes," Jonas said on the hint of a growl, "I know about that, too."

"Be that as it may," Set advanced another step until they were nearly face to face, "what you hold I will have. Prying it from your cold, lifeless hands would hardly be a trial, weak and mortal as you are."

I felt Ro stiffen and one of her feet moved forward like she wanted to go to him, but John's hand stopped her without taking his eyes from the pair before him.

The King gave diplomacy one last attempt.

"The Stone belongs to the earth, as the god Khnum intended, it belongs to neither of us. Come, there is no need for so much bloodshed to happen. Let us settle this, you and me - send your dogs back to their Master and I give you my word they won't be harmed."

Jonas glanced for only a moment back at the treeline.

There were no dogs. 
There were no creature.
There wasn't anyone.

But Isis had been firm and clear with her message - he wasn't alone. They had to be there somewhere.

Set towered over Jonas, over all of us, and his movements were like those of a phantom, a hazy energy trail following each shift of his legs as he closed the gap between himself and the King, looking down almost curiously, like he was beholding some kind of specimen.

"Humans...you're all the same. Millennia after millennia you never change. You destroy what you touch. You harm what you confess to love. Family is of prime importance, until they piss you off. Isn't that right, King Jonas," his words dripped mockery.

I didn't think he was wise to provoke Jonas, and the flash of steel in his gaze proved me right. But he wouldn't lose his temper so easily.

"No one else needs to die, Set."

"And are you referring to your dearest brother, or--ah, yes, how is the old bitch feeling? Pretty warm I'd imagine by now," he chuckled darkly.

My hands started to shake, and I barely kept a lid on my anger.

Tim's hand rested at the small of my back, "easy, sweetheart. You'll get your chance," he murmured, still watching his king, his other hand on the hilt of the knife at his hip.

I focused on my breathing until the ringing in my ears became just a dull, low tone.

"I bet watching her die and being unable to do anything about it just chewed you up, didn't it, Kungen. Just the way it used to chew up your brother to hear all the boys call you that. Kungen. The King. The Younger Brother of the King hardly has the same shine to it, wouldn't you agree?" he sneered.

"In truth, Set, you would know that better than I, wouldn't you..." 

Henrik and John silently bumped their fists together without ever looking at one another.

The god gritted his teeth against a snarl that barely escaped. They would not be mentioned in his presence.

"I grow tired of your games. Draw your blade, or leave - they're the only two options that you have."

I was glad that Jonas was keeping in mind the delicate, but tensile web that Set had the ability to weave with words. He could make him forget his purpose altogether with talk of the Stone and of the departed, making jabs intended to consume Jonas with guilt. And as soon as he'd lost his concentration, he would have lost his life with it.

But I considered too for a moment that Set seemed awfully ill-informed for one who was supposed to be so clever and cunning - not knowing that Jonas no longer possessed the Stone, and thinking Marisol already dead...

I was so busy knotting my brain into a ball panicking that Marisol was lying dead inside, or wondering if we should trust that these apparent deceptions were genuine, that what he responded with almost didn't register.

"I find that there is actually a third choice..." Set's head turned slightly towards us, cocking to the side without moving his body yet.

Ro nearly turned to stone under his withering glare, hardly even breathing, but she didn't shrink. He took a step to the side, towards us, his eyes burning with madness, lighting over Aurora like she was his next meal and he'd been near starvation.

Jonas sidestepped into his path and felt no fear as Henrik, John, Tim, Johannes and I all formed a wall in front of her, effectively hiding her from sight.

"You may be a god, and I may only be a man, but harming a single hair on her head will be the last thing you ever do in this realm or any other. And that is a promise."

Set slowly turned his face to Jonas, hearing what he'd said as a challenge, rather than a threat.

"Just a man. Two legs. Two arms. Nothing special about you."

I glanced sideways at Tim, whispering. "Does he know you can shift?"

A nod.

"My offer stands, Set. Take it, and you and I will finish this between the two of us."

Set swayed back and forth, like he was moving to music as his eyes passed over us, discerning one at a time, unhurried.

They stopped on me.

"I know you," he made a terrifying face of glee and surprise, "oh they didn't skimp on the good looks with you, did they, kiddo."

A low snarl sounded next to me, like the sound of paper tearing, and Tim's face was a hard mask, the only betrayal of his anger the sound leaving his lips, vibrating through his body.

I could feel Set's eyes deciphering each glyph. Reading me in a literal and figurative way that made me want to shrink and cover my exposed skin as his eyes and his grin got wider, his breaths becoming almost an excited pant.

"Well, well, well. So you're the one after all whose made all the fuss..."

When his eyes landed on mine, I could feel it - the hook, the little pull, but his irises didn't change like John's did, and his face didn't give away what he was doing. I remembered John's surprise that I'd been able to feel his Pull at all, and him saying that he had to usually tell people what sensation to look for before they even noticed the hook.

I bent all my concentration onto one thought, one image - the shining, smiling faces of his brother and sister, eternal in their majesty, adored by all, worshiped for their compassion and their goodness.

The hook yanked back and he growled at me; the sound felt almost like a physical blow, sending me backwards a step.

Someone tall stepped around in front of me, and I couldn't see anything over his shoulders, but I watched the muscles in his back twitch with a shiver as Set took pause, then laughed.

"Well, look at you...quite a bit bigger than the last time we met, aren't you, John."

He didn't respond.

"That is enough," the king snapped, well and truly getting weary of the chatter, "make your move of leave us be. I won't say it again."

Part of me prayed that he would reconsider, but Set was chaos and madness, and the only answer we got was a canine snarl, echoed and repeated by so many mouths I couldn't count them all as they began to materialize from the woods and I darted out from behind John.

"Fuck..." I breathed, trying to keep my head together and count them, but they were one solid mass, countless by definition as hordes so often were. Tim grasped my hand hard, though his face remained in a scowl as the jackals began moving towards Set, a slow, prowling gait as they poured forth from the forest.

"Deep breaths, Kamilah," he said quietly, still not taking his eyes away from the approaching creatures.

"Give me the Stone, and you shall remain unharmed," Set commanded, his eyes blazing, our defiance only making him angrier.

Jonas' face was hard, his own anger finally showing as he bared his teeth.  "You didn't have it from Mattias, and you'll not have it from me."

They stared at each other hard, unblinking.

"So be it, King Jonas..." the words were a whisper, and with them he disappeared, dissolving into the air like dust.

The jackals snarled, a wall of gnashing teeth and sandy fur.

Jonas turned on his heel, looking back and forth at us. "Remember what we learned in training, ladies," he said, his voice dropping low, a terrifying grin spreading across his face as his blade was suddenly in his hand as his eyes met mine, "remember how we hunt."

The adrenaline surged through me like an electric pulse, energizing all my limbs, bending my concentration towards the approaching mass.

The Heads joined the king just beyond our front line, two on each side as we all held whatever weapons we'd chosen tightly, shifting on our feet, taking the breath right before the plunge.

They moved slowly at first, one paw in front of the other, heads hanging low. A slow trot moved them quicker, the biggest ones in front starting to flat out run as their instincts flared up.

I only took my eyes off them for a second, glancing over at Henrik, who nodded to me once, catching the motion out of the side of his eye.

"Fight with your head, Kamilah," he reminded, watching the approaching mass now cantering across the field.

"But ideally also with your knife," Johannes reminded from my other side, the clown-like grin splitting his face as he twirled his own blades around his fingers, one in each hand. I'd half expected his warpaint to look like his stage makeup, but it was different - streaks of black that made his blue irises look like glacial ice against the paleness of his skin.

"I hope you're good with those," I nodded towards his knives, and he whirled them effortlessly again.

"I'm the best with them, little Red," he grinned, widening his eyes once for effect and then turning back with an expectant posture.

The first wave of dogs smashed against Raya's barrier as her hands flew up from her sides, bringing forth a hard current of air that met their exact level of inertia, sending the beasts at the front flying back over the heads of their followers.

The second wave of yelps was louder as Shell pulled water from the ground under their paws and Ciel sent a spark of electric shock through their ranks. Her cry was savage and loud, watching her enemies fall under her power, and John shivered hard off to my side.

"I'm so fucking glad I can't read your thoughts," I murmured.

"You should be," he murmured back.

But there were too many. The masses of teeth and fur continued to pour from the treeline like they were coming from the gates of Hell itself. Truly, the children of Anubis were endless.

"Steady," Jonas called, watching them race towards us, uncaring of the fate that had befallen the others, their red eyes rabid as they lept over fallen bodies.

I got the distinct impression that they were as much running for us as they were running from Set.

We braced as they attacked. Knives flashed in the sun, blood sprayed from opened veins, shouts and cries rose from our throats as we were enveloped.

Tim had told me a hundred times to stay with him, but I'd never been in a battle before - I'd never even been in a proper fistfight, and we were immediately separated by writhing, snapping animals.

A tiny part of my brain recognized his call for me and told me to answer, but I found that dodging and slashing and fighting to keep my feet required all my concentration as I completely lost all sense of time.

As with anything, I hit a rhythm, learning that the seemingly random way they attacked actually had a pattern.

His call got louder, and the loud snarls of wolves joined the other sounds of the fray. Something blonde dashed by me, bounding on paws the size of saucers, and tearing a path through the jackals.

I turned to slash at one that made to bite at my exposed left leg, and as soon as I did, claws sank into the skin of my back and I screamed as the skin tore, immediately diving to the ground and rolling, throwing the beast off of me before jumping up, blade ready. My heart pounded in my ears, drowning out the growls and snarls, the sound of metal clanking against metal.

Another jackal nipped at my calf, teeth barely grazing the skin as I turned and jabbed my knife between its ribs. The reverberation up my arm made me scream as I hit bone rather than flesh, but I held the hilt of my knife tight as it writhed away, and the growls and snarls behind me grabbed my attention once more.

Tim had finally found me, making ready to finish off the jackal that had attacked me from behind, but I shrieked as I turned.

The two wolves were exactly the same.
Identical down to the last strand of fur in their coats.
What one did, the other immediately mimicked so quickly, it was hard to tell who had acted first as they lunged and snarled at each other.

I searched for gold circles on pointy ears, but they both had those too.

"NO!!," I yelled, pouring my rage and my frustration into my tone.

I didn't know what to do.

How was I supposed to tell them apart?

What if I hurt Tim?

I gasped for breath, the adrenaline flowing through me in waves that threatened to make me sick as I shook from head to toe.

But his voice sounded in my head as the layers of human and canine shouts and screams fell away into nothing once more.

It was him the day before, laying over me, kissing me, skin on skin, explaining to me how to experience him with everything except my eyes.

Know my scent. Learn me. Memorize how I smell.

"Tim," I whispered, staring back and forth between them.

"Don't listen to him, Kamilah, its me," he said, suddenly standing before me, his bare chest smeared with blood, his hair wild, blowing across his forehead, slicked with sweat.

But the other wolf had shifted into Tim, too.

The blood, the sweat, it was all the same.

"Don't choose, kill us both," he growled.

"I WON'T," I yelled, tuning into my senses, desperately searching for my concentration.

They circled each other, knives drawn, prowling, stalking, dancing.

The smell of battle was overwhelming - blood and sweat and earth and ozone.

There.
It was faint, but it was there.
That scent that was solely Tim.
My Tim.
Like cold night air.
Like needled trees that the snow piled up on that created their own silence though they were full of life.

I met his eyes, and knew it was him, our gazes locked, our minds one.

"Duck," I said, and before the word was completely out of my mouth, he hit the ground, the other exploding in flame and a canine snarl leaving his human lips before he reverted back to his jackal form and writhed on the ground. I couldn't help but take pity on the poor creature's yelps of pain, and another burst of flame silenced him permanently.

Tim took my shaking hand and grasped it as I pulled him to his feet. The momentum caused him to crash into me, and his hands immediately roamed over my face, my shoulders, down my arms as his lips briefly touched mine.

"Are you okay?! Tell me you're okay!"

"I--I'm fine," I said, my voice shaking with adrenaline.

"Let me see these," he physically turned me, inspecting the wounds that dripped blood down my shoulders, "they're not deep, they'll have to wait."

"I'm fine, I promise," I assured him.

"How did you know? And please don't tell me you fucking guessed because I'll be so, so mad at you."

I couldn't help but laugh, an emotion that felt horribly out of place here.

"Know my scent. Learn me. Memorize how I smell," I repeated back to him, lunging halfway through and catching a jackal around the throat with my arm as it hurtled itself at one of Shell's girls.

"Fuck! Thanks!" She called, ducking to avoid the business end of a scythe.

"What now you decide to start listening to me?!" Tim yelled, ducking quickly as something rocketed over his head, "stay with me Kamilah!"

But we were separated again.

Chapter Text

Aurora sent an approaching jackal stumbling with a quick sweep of her hands, its legs suddenly tangled with vines, but she wasn't quick enough getting out of the way and it slammed into her, still barreling forward but now completely out of control as it pinned her to the ground under its struggling body.

She fought hard, shrieking from the pain as the dog shifted and writhed, trying to untangle itself and grinding her now-broken leg into the ground.

Jonas' head whipped around, hearing her screams, and in the next second he shifted, taking off in her direction and covering the distance between them with a speed he shouldn't have had.

Jonas' wolf was larger than an actual natural-born wolf could ever take form as and even Ciel felt terror at the sight of his massive jaws pulled back in a snarl before the struggling jackal went soaring through the air, landing twenty feet away with a sickening crunch.

"Aurora!!" He knelt, gathering her up and hushing her sobs, trying not to move her broken leg too much. Jonas was desperate to fix her, to take her pain, though he knew there was nothing he could physically do, save for offer her the protection of his body now.

A red-eyed pack approached them, and he quickly dropped a kiss to her lips.

"Don't move," he commanded, up in the next second, standing over her, a challenge in his eye that even their rabid canine brains could decipher as their pace stuttered for a moment, aware that what awaited them was death.

The King shouted my name as loud as he could and my ears perked up at the sound, my eyes desperately searching the battlefield for him.

"Behind you!" Henrik yelled, just in time for me to turn and drop to the ground, sending the approaching dog back over my head with my feet just like I'd launched Henrik in training.

"'Atta girl!" Henrik laughed, ducking himself to avoid the swinging blade of a scythe wielded by one of the now-human shape-shifters before putting his shoulder into its stomach with a wild yell, sending it crashing backwards.

The tawny wolf's head stood clear above the fray, and I knew from the way he wasn't moving that he was guarding something.

Ro.

I fought my way towards him, moving one foot at a time, desperately trying to not get swamped with the endless sets of gnashing teeth - human and canine. One latched onto my arm and I shrieked, fighting the ringing in my ears as I heard the shotgun blast and felt the weight pinning my small body again. I punched hard with my opposite hand, jabbing at the creature's head and face until it released me.

"Get behind me!" Johannes yelled, swinging his blades and slashing through the onslaught. He wielded his knives like they were a natural extension of his hands, sickening and graceful, precise and deadly, his height giving him a better sense of where we were going than I had.

He wasn't lying - the way he handled each knife was like art and I was sure there were few people, at least in Avatar Country, that were better with such weapons.

"Oh, good, you're still here," he grinned, yanking me out of the way to kill something behind me.

"I think I'm gonna barf," I moaned, panting for breath and feeling a nauseating wave of adrenaline surge through my system. I collapsed to the ground for a moment, exhausted as we reached Jonas, his vicious snarls holding off the attackers for the most part in a wide ring as he turned circles around her body.

One sneaky little mut with wiry fur and glowing blood-red eyes tucked in between Jonas' hind legs, nipping at Ro's immobilized form, trying to drag her away.  Its life ended in a wet gurgle, John closing his eyes and turning his face as the spray from its slashed throat painted his face when he hurled it away.

His eyes were intense on a regular day, but now, in the midst of slaughter and adrenaline and hyper-awareness of everything, they almost glowed too, framed with wet red blood that dripped down his face, making him savagely attractive as his dark hair hung down to his shoulders.

He nodded to me once.

A pained gasp tore my eyes from his, and I dove underneath Jonas when he launched himself at a two-legged attacker, receiving a cut across his front shoulder, but the other fared far worse as jaws like a bear trap closed around his middle, nearly halving him on the spot.

"RO!" I gasped, touching my fingers against her forehead, all over her face, "I don't have much time, tell--"

"Right leg," she gasped, her face contorting in pain as she said it and her fingers curled against her right thigh. A bloodcurdling scream left her lips as I pressed my hand against her femur and shivered hard at the feeling of the bones knitting back together as I imagined it happening. She heaved sobs, lifting and moving the now uninjured leg before staring at me with wide eyes.

"You have to keep going," I urged, "you have to get up."

She took both my hands, crossed one over the other, and pulled herself to her feet. I gripped her face, but she tore out of my grasp before I had even started to say what I was thinking, whirling away in a swirl of pale skin and tightly-bound rust hair.

Jonas was powerful, and nearly lion-esque in his animal form, but the sheer number of foes he faced now was threatening to outmatch him.

Something moved by me, one second Tim on two feet, and the next a chestnut wolf, all four paws leaving the ground as he tackled one of the snarling jackals off his master's back as it bit at the golden haunches. They rolled off the other side, growling and yelping in a mass of fur and tangled paws.

The King was getting swarmed trying to protect Aurora, willingly offering himself up.

Ro's heart started beating triple time, so fast she thought she was going to pass out for a moment, but her hands shot out to her side as her head bowed, a language no one understood leaving her lips in a voice that wasn't hers.

Henrik put his hand on my shoulder as the ground started to shake, trembling underfoot.

"What the fuck!" He pulled me back just in time as a chasm opened under my feet, shooting across the flat surface of the field and swallowing up humans and jackals alike without discrimination as they waited to get their chance against the King.

Henrik shifted, easily crossing the distance from one side to the other on all fours, and helped Johannes, John and Tim finish off the few creatures that remained around.

"Ro, watch out!" I screamed, and she whipped around to face the coming man, the last of them.

He skidded to an abrupt halt, chest heaving, his bronzed face seeming to pale in the wake of her stare, which was unrelenting and hard like stone.  A look so unlike my soft, shy Aurora.

Jonas shifted back, supported on one side by John and one side by Henrik as he panted and winced at the dozens of cuts and teeth marks that littered his skin, trickles of blood falling from each as he watched silently like the rest of us.

"Priestess," he hissed, taking a step closer to Ro, his short blade twitching in his hand.

Jonas growled in his throat and took a step forward, shaking off his support and about to intervene. 

"Enough," snapped Ro in a tone I didn't even know she was capable of using, "go back to your master in the underworld. This fight is not your own."

A smirk twisted his lips and he took another step.

"But it iiiiisss. My master's whore of a mother made it so, prieeestessssss..."

Aurora said nothing, focusing on him, waiting for him to make his move.

"Auroooooora," he cooed, the sing-song voice sending a visible tremor up her spine.

"...no..." I watched her chest start to lift faster, like she was breathing heavier.

"Daddy's just playing Aurora. You know you're his special girl, Daddy wouldn't ever hurt his special little girl, Aurooooora..." as he sang his face twisted, collapsing and folding in on itself like clay being molded, until it reformed - a man's face still, with a shock of red hair and a nose that was pink like he drank too much too often.

Her hands drifted to her back, fingers touching the drawing of the ibis, of Thoth.

"You're dead." Aurora crossed to the image of her father, who smiled and beckoned to her, holding a hand out like he wanted to go for a walk.

She stood right in front of him, looking up at his face, her expression passive.

I blinked hard several times as her empty hand suddenly contained a dagger with a golden hilt, ornately carved and unlike anything I'd seen before.

"Daddy misses you, Aurora," he said sweetly as his left arm moved like lightning, the knife aimed for her ribs.

I nearly missed the entire thing, it was so fast - her hand snapped around his wrist, putting an immediate stop to his movement, but her eyes never left his face, which was starting to show fear.

"I should have done this years ago..." Her knife pushed into him, straight through his heart, slowly, so she could feel the beating organ pulse against the metal.

"Dead," she repeated, kicking the corpse back into the trench and watching it disappear before dropping to her knees, the knife falling from her fingers into the grass as she stared blankly into the dark chasm.

"I've got you, you're okay," Henrik said softly, kneeling beside her and taking her shaking hands in his. I wondered briefly if he ever didn't immediately offer comfort when he saw someone needing it.

They were all effectively on an island now, a dry bottomless moat surrounding the spit of land. I found myself watching them, enraptured like I was in the audience again and they were onstage. They were all shirtless, hair unbound as Tim had said was customary, and what a fucking sight it was. Bodies shining with sweat, spattered with blood-spray, trembling with exertion, muscles pushed to their limits.

My own wolf looked around, searching for me immediately when he realized I wasn't there. His eyes landed on me and I resisted the urge to wave as Tim crossed the chasm easily, gracefully, turning to stand at my side.

Without thinking I reached out a hand and patted his head twice, like he was a pet. He sidestepped and nudged me with his hip, doing it again when it failed to get my attention the first time.

"What..."

His head nodded over his shoulder.

"Wh--no, oh no absolutely not! I'll just...jump or something..." I needed to get to Jonas and look at his wounds and make sure no one else was any worse off than the expected cuts and bruises.

Suddenly my human Tim was there, sitting back on his heels, staring up at me exasperatedly, "I hardly recall you having any objection earlier to riding me, sweetheart. Get on."

"Wh--b--I--that is not the same thing," I stuttered and looked down at him when he spoke again.

"Don't make me throw you, Kamilah," he growled.

"Ahhhh, fucking fine," I resigned and he shifted, kneeling low so I could sit back behind his shoulder blades. It felt like being on a horse when he was all the way upright, though he wasn't as big as one. I gripped his fur, and couldn't help but snicker as I wondered if he liked it as much as a wolf as he did as a human. The way he shifted his shoulders, rolling the scapulas under the skin gave me at least a faint idea.

"Mush, pup," I laughed, leaning up towards his head and lightly tapping my heels against his sides. He quirked a canine eyebrow at me over his shoulder and started growling lowly.

The sound vibrated through his bones, sending little tremors straight up my core and making me gasp a tiny sound of pleasure as my knees tightened on either side of him.

"Tim! Stop that!"

"You're gonna want to wrap your arms lower, Kami--," John called just in time as Tim took off and I shrieked, holding on around his neck and across the front of his shoulders for dear life.

We sailed through the air for what felt like an hour before all four paws landed soundlessly on the grass and I flew off over his head when he stopped abruptly, my back hitting the ground hard as I skidded a few feet.

"Hey, you dickhead!" I yelled, rounding on Tim, who approached me with a smirk, back to a human. He grabbed at me, holding my waist with a vice-like grip when he hauled me to my feet and let his lips hover over mine.

"'Mush pup'?" he growled playfully and I couldn't help but roll my eyes, my anger evaporating instantly. He dropped his lips to my ear as his hand traced the curve of my ass, "don't think I didn't feel the way you got off on that, little fire..."

My knees buckled, and his arm hooked lower around me, holding me up.

"I...I ah, I need to uhm..." I nodded my head in Jonas' direction.

Instead of letting me go, he dipped his head and kissed me roughly once his lips touched mine, lingering and sinking into me when my fingers gripped his hair of their own accord as I opened my lips to him and his tongue slid over mine, caressing and stroking. I instinctively pressed closer, needing more.

"Go, before I just take you right here," he growled, shaking his head and taking a deep breath. But I kissed him again, clinging to him as a wave of fear shot through me in the absence of immediate danger and fight or flight. My gasps for breath from potent arousal turned to gasps of hyperventilation.

"You're okay, sweetheart, you're okay," he said softly, kissing my forehead before pressing another kiss to my lips as I calmed down against him and he hushed me.

"You taste like blood, are you cut?" he said quietly, steadying his breathing. I touched my lips and ran my tongue over the inside of my mouth - no cuts, no breaks in the skin -- not my own then, and I shook my head, looking at him with wide eyes as I realized I had someone else's blood between my lips.

"Don't start to think, babygirl, just keep going."

I headed off to see Jonas, and stopped a foot short of him, where he was kneeling on the ground, holding Aurora and murmuring to her lowly as he rocked her back and forth. Neither of them noticed me until I was on the ground next to them.

"That was the most insane thing I've ever seen...from both of you I think...christ you weren't kidding when you said your wolf was always bigger, were you?"

Jonas chuckled, shaking his head, "always has been."

"And you," I pointed an accusatory finger at the woman in his arms, "you have some fuckin 'splaining to do, Lucy. You can change topography?! Since when? Why the hell didn't you tell me?"

She started saying how she didn't even know how she did it, and I started healing Jonas' cuts and bites, but it was taking too much time and I started to worry that we were going to become sitting ducks and shooed Aurora a few feet back before turning back to the King.

"Lay down," I instructed, pushing slightly against his shoulders until he was flat on his back on the blood-stained grass.

"May I ask what you're thinking of doing next?" He asked with raised eyebrows as I swung my leg over to his other side and straddled his hips.

"Well I was thinking of tearing your clothes off and fucking you, but I guess I'll just heal you instead," I giggled, pressing my hands flat to his chest, "doing them one by one is taking too long, and I think this might work better."

"Such a smart mouth on you," he rumbled lowly, touching my lips with one index finger and smirking when I shivered, "perhaps I should give Tim express orders to punish you until you remember how to speak in front of a king..."

I knew he was teasing, but I shivered hard again all the same - I was completely in tune with my primal side, and nothing seemed more natural in that moment than shifting my hips forward ever so slightly to put more pressure against him.

"Or, maybe that will backfire on you, sire," I purred, watching his cuts close, leaving no traces but thin lines of dried blood, "because I do love a good spanking..."

His cock twitched between my legs and it was my turn to smirk down at him as I felt it through his pants. We got stuck in that moment together for a hundred years, watching the reactions of the other, feeling the tension, exploring its boundaries, its depth. My nails sank into his chest a little as I healed the last of the marks, and he hissed, suddenly rocketing up from the ground, his arm locked around my waist, keeping me firmly where I was.

"Is this what you want, Kamilah," he asked lowly as my hands traveled around to his back, doing the same for the torn skin there as I had done across his front. "Do you want me to punish you? To wrap my hand around your throat and sink my cock into you right here, in front of everyone..."

His words moved through me like I could only feel the soundwaves rather than hear them and I whimpered, biting my lower lip as I tried to concentrate on my healing.

This was becoming annoyingly, but deliciously similar to my meditation earlier.

"Think about it, my dear," he whispered into my neck as I shifted to look down his back, checking to see if his wounds were knitting back together the way I intended them to, "what it would be like to come, to experience such life in the midst of death all around us..." he fractionally rocked his hips into me, letting me feel the beginnings of his erection.

The last of his cuts closed and I collapsed forward a little, exhausted, and his hands roamed over my skin - up and down my legs, over my back, as he hummed quietly for a moment, changing gears.

"Thank you, Kamilah," he smiled, nudging me back slightly until I was looking down at him, "gods but I am glad that we've met."

I smiled back tiredly, feeling a little like I was in a dream, experiencing every emotion and sensation I was capable of in such a short amount of time. He gently cupped my cheek and drew my lips down to his as we got sucked into another moment together just like he had in the garden only two days earlier.

We felt an obvious attraction for one another, but our connection seemed to grow more from a mutual sense of refuge than anything else - a closeness, a sense of consuming safety even in the middle of so much danger.

My own hands pressed to his cheeks, and I moaned softly at the feeling of his metal ring, pulling at and moving against my bottom lip as both of mine opened to him and he kissed me thoroughly, slowly, taking his time.

We didn't care that anyone else was watching, and even Aurora looped her arm through Tim's and laid her head against his shoulder with a happy little sigh as everyone simply observed.

He finally broke away from me and pressed his forehead against mine, keeping his eyes closed, but letting the slow smile cross his lips.

"Good girl," he praised softly, pressing one more brief kiss to my lips before looking up at me, brushing the back of his fingers down my cheek, "perhaps in another life, my dear..."

We both got to our feet and he hugged me close for one more moment, wrapping his arms around me and squeezing.

"Time to keep going, Kamilah," he said quietly, "are you ready?"

I nodded, just as a massive crash of thunder sounded and renewed waves of snarling tore through the air, hostile sounds so at odds with the colors that the setting sun had painted the sky.

"Then let it be done," he said lowly, stepping back and shifting, shaking his massive shaggy head back and forth and stretching.

I was in the middle of hoping that Tim wasn't going to make me get on his back again to get back across the gaping ditch when the ground started to shake beneath our feet once more, and I turned to Ro.

"What are you doing?"

Her face paled, "that's not me, Milah..."

We both stumbled back and forth, clinging to each other as the earth under our feet trembled. Everything seemed to happen in a matter of seconds, as Tim and Jonas were both there on four legs, offering at least a little more in the way of support than our two legs could give as we leaned against their sides.

But it all seemed suddenly inferior as a low hiss started to sound, long and pronounced like air leaking from a deflating tire.

Apophis' head was bigger than I thought possible as it rose up from the chasm, a nightmare moving effortlessly within a smooth scaley exterior.

If Jonas' wolf was big, Apophis was massive - his body looked too thick to wrap my arms around.

Even Johannes, with all his skill with a blade started to look nervous, shifting back and forth, unsure whether to face this new foe as a human or a wolf. He finally decided on the latter and his shift prompted John's and Henrik's as well.

Aurora clasped my hand as the ground stopped shaking, but still foot after foot of his body continued to appear, climbing out of the empty ground, and the sickening thought passed through my mind that there wasn't anything for him to cling to as he climbed.

He still had to be coming all the way from the bottom.

I called forth my flame, one to each hand, feeling their heat as I stepped forward. This was all so fucking insane - the last three days had turned my life upside down, backwards, right, left, diagonal, and basically every direction but straight. I'd been surprised, I'd been Called, I'd fallen madly in love, I'd faced losing my surrogate mother, and now the future of it all was uncertain in part because of the creature before me.

It wasn't fair really that he felt such a disproportionate amount of my wrath, but I only spent one second thinking about that before I took another step forward, channeling every emotion I had into my hands.

"Go back to where you came from," I commanded, looking back and forth between the gigantic eyes with the vertical pupils. His tongue was as thick as my forearm, flicking out to taste the air before disappearing back into a mouth I was sure would have no trouble swallowing me whole.

The head shook back and forth as he continued to slither around our small island, the rings of his body now coiled around the edge, barring any escape we might have made.

His movement forced us into the center, into a protective ring, standing shoulder to shoulder - five wolves and two humans.

Again I stepped forward, my palms still warm. Fear trickled over my skin like the sweat down my back, but my anger overpowered everything.

"Leave!" I said again, and the movement finally stopped as he faced me.

"Not you I sssssssseeeeeekkkk..."

"Well its me you're gonna fucking get, snake," I snarled, fully igniting my hands.

John and Tim exchanged a quick glance as they shifted their front paws, moving weight from one to the other, trying to dissipate some of the animal instinct that was telling them to attack immediately, waiting for me to say my piece.

Apophis opened his mouth wide, and for a split second I thought he was yawning, but actually he was simply showing me his fangs - curved spikes loaded with enough venom to make me drop dead instantly if they even gave me a papercut.

More dogs and shapeshifters began to attack, using the coiled serpentine body as a bridge to breach the gap between us and the mainland.

Everyone was immediately engaged once more, tearing and stabbing, sending currents of energy to trip and tangle.

It was just me and the serpent. The one whose sole desire was to stop the sun from rising.

But as we watched each other, neither of us making our move, I began to wonder how the hell Set had managed to rope him into all of this - hadn't be been the one at the bow all those nights? Travelling down through Apophis' realm, spearing the mighty serpent when he put the others under a magical sleep-inducing spell? Hadn't Set been the whole reason Ra's barge continued for another trip across the daytime sky?

"He won't give you whatever he's promised..."  I wasn't sure if snakes could laugh, but this one certainly could smirk.

"We shall ssssssssseeee...."

I launched my flame at him, testing his skin, aiming for the most sensitive parts I had immediate access to - the eyes and the mouth.

He struck back so fast in retaliation, and I wasn't skewered was sheer luck as a jackal slammed into me, knocking me several feet back and inadvertently becoming the mouthful I was supposed to be.

A midnight-black wolf with ice blue eyes pushed its head under my back until I was up on my feet, taking one extra second to butt his cheek against my ass before leaping back into the fray.

The blackened skin around Apophis' eyes made their leaf green color brighter, the pupils dilating and narrowing as he found me once more against all the moving targets.

My entire goal was to keep him away from Jonas, even if he didn't have the Stone, and the more I thought about how he hadn't asked for any of this, the angrier I became that he was currently risking his life to help us.

Apophis struck again, moving like lightning, coiling his body around me.

I stabbed with my knife over and over again, shrieking as I felt my body start to be squeezed by the constricting mass of muscle. But I may as well have been tickling him.

"Prieeeeessssssstessssssss..." he hissed, enjoying his play, tightening slowly.

Black spots danced in front of my vision and I put as much energy as I could muster into my hands, shooting a perfect circle of blue flame straight across his leering face.

The coils dropped as he writhed in pain, hissing and thumping his head against the ground so hard it was shaking as his skin smoldered, and the sickening smell of seared flesh filled the air.

"Kamilah!!"

The only thing I could think to do was dive, and I rolled as soon as my body was on the ground, just trying to get away from the coiled mass of writhing snake.

"FOUL CREATURE," he hissed, turning his head to find me with the eye that wasn't ruined. The pupil started to vibrate, the edges blurring, and I found myself enraptured, unable to think, to move, feeling impossibly tired all of a sudden, flat on my back...

Rather than sinking his fangs through my body, he pinned me to the ground, letting each long venomous spike sink into the soft earth until the roof of his mouth was digging into my ribs, my arms at my sides, my legs unable to kick.

I could feel the powerful muscles of his mouth pulling, working my feet until I started to move backwards, towards his throat.

A red, blinding terror shot through me as I realized I was about to be swallowed whole and still very much alive, but I couldn't make my body fight.

His tail shot out, barely any effort involved, but Tim went flying as he raced to help me, landing with a yelp and a crunch on the other side of the ditch.  He got up on unsteady legs, wincing at the pain of the broken ribs, shaking his head back and forth to clear it and blinking hard when he saw Her.

I thought I was hallucinating from lack of oxygen as the serpent's mouth continued to squeeze the air from my lungs, wringing every last drop of anguish out of me that he could, like it added flavor for the meal to come.

Her roar was deafening, so loud that it sent tremors through the ground, and everyone paused for a moment, their heads whipping towards the sound.

Even Apophis stopped, distracted long enough for me to draw in a gasping breath, the blue tinge around my lips starting to fade as my cells received oxygen.

She crossed to the side, looking directly at his remaining eye, the blade in her hand gold rather than steel.

"Serpent," she growled, "enemy of my father!"

His head lifted, his teeth re-emerging from the ground so he could strike at her, and as soon as I was free, two sets of hands immediately grabbed my arms, dragging me backwards as the black spots on the edge of my vision started to fade.

"Look at me," Tim commanded, kneeling over me and physically turning my face towards his, "look at me, right here..."

My body, now recognizing that there was breathable air that it could take in, started gasping, drawing oxygen into my lungs until it felt like they were going to burst. I didn't know if I moved or if he did, but my arms were suddenly around his neck and I sobbed and panted for air.

Every second felt like an eternity, but every minute felt like a millisecond - time stopped and sped up, and slowed down, never finding a rhythm, never finding a pattern.

I gasped his name over and over again, trying to ground myself, trying to draw him closer to me, but I pulled back at his grunt of pain as his arm crossed his front, obviously wanting to clutch his side, but unable to withstand the pain of physical contact.

"Let me see," I struggled to sit up, and he pushed me back down, his face pale and a little clammy looking.

"You stay put."

"Gods you're fucking stubborn as hell, Tim, has anyone ever told you that?" I groaned, sitting up anyways.

"What do you fucking think?!" Henrik yelled, fighting on two feet now, and ducking to avoid a punch thrown by one of the shapeshifters who looked exactly like him. Seeing two of Tim's wolves had been jarring and terrifying, but watching Henrik wrestle with something that looked exactly like him sent my pulse racing.

"Can you take a deep breath?" I asked Tim when I finally tore my eyes away.

He shook his head.

"Broken then, hold still, I know this is going to hurt but try not to move," I got to my knees in front of him and softly touched his side, shuddering as I felt the abnormal curves where his ribs were cracked. He was lucky they didn't snap clean off and puncture his lungs.

He made a noise that was close to a whimper of relief as his bones mended, the blood pooled under the skin dissipating after a moment.

"Try it now."

Tim inhaled tentatively, deeper after a moment, looking at me with wide eyes, "I shouldn't be thinking what I'm thinking right now..."

I snorted a laugh, wincing at my own sore ribs when I did and he saw it.

"Does the healing thing work on yourself?"

Truthfully, I had no idea, so I touched my torso, trying to push my healing energy back into an internal loop. But nothing happened.

"That's okay, I don't think anythings broken."

We were by ourselves on the little spit of land now, everyone else getting drawn further and further away by the now-dwindling forces of Set.

This thing had to be over soon...

Tim helped me to my feet, and I jumped with a scream as I watched my goddess lunge and jump easily out of the way of Apophis' sloppy strikes. All his perception was happening with one eye now, and I remembered reading somewhere that snakes could see shapes but not much in the way of detail.

Somehow my mind hadn't registered Sekhmet's presence as the thing that saved me while it was happening, but now all my loyalty bent towards her, every fiber of my being drawn towards her fierce growls and leonine snarls.

Without a second though I turned and wrapped my hand around the back of Tim's head, pressing a rough kiss to his lips.

"I love you," I reminded, before dashing off to her side, reaching for my knife that I'd managed to hang onto by some minor miracle, and thinking better after a moment.

I hurtled spears of fire, bright and hot like slivers of the sun itself, and drew his attention away from her so she could land more fatal blows, using fire hotter than anything I could ever summon.

She growled my name, pleased by my courage, and I'd never felt so fortified, so strong, so confident in my ability to do something.

"I am here, my goddess," I bowed my head, dropping to the ground as his tail swung over me.

Apophis' massive body writhed, riddled with cuts and scorch marks, too much for even a beast of his nature to withstand.

We fought as one, our minds linked, our power combined, until a bone-chilling, ghastly cry rose from the serpentine mouth, and he dove for the ditch, disappearing far quicker than he had come, seeking the shelter of his own realm.

I collapsed to my knees, breathing hard, dripping sweat, bowing before her.

"Stand," she commanded, and I did. "You've fought well today, Kamilah. But the enemies of my father are not finished here..."

She looked at something over my shoulder and one side of her mouth curved up in a beautiful smirk that almost made me cry. I could only assume from her expression and her piercing gaze that she was watching Tim, and I helplessly giggled at the thought of what his face must look like. I peaked back over my shoulder to confirm.

He was frozen in place, but damn did he look good. His body was covered with blood and dirt, little lines running through from where his sweat had dripped down his skin. I could see every breath he took as his chest expanded and relaxed, but he didn't look afraid - rather the opposite in fact.

I turned back to my goddess, but she was gone, nowhere to be found as I turned in a circle, shaking my head after a moment and wondering if I'd just made the whole thing up.

I chewed my lip as I shrugged, the shaking in my limbs hardly allowing me to do even that, and I rounded to go to Tim again.

But he was gone too, racing off as fast as all four paws could take him towards the one-on-one currently happening between his King and our god of Chaos and Violence.

Chapter Text

I raced after Tim, moving slower on two legs and quickly losing sight of him, but viciously tearing through any creature unwise enough to cross my path.

All my concentration was bent on getting to Jonas, on protecting him any way I could - it felt like a deeply ingrained, instinctual need: rally to the king, help the king, protect the king...

The distance between myself and the mainland was barely noticed as I hurtled over the chasm, landing with my feet already halfway through my next stride.

Ciel and I found ourselves fighting back to back as I yanked her out of the way of a gnashing set of teeth.

"We have to get to Jonas!" I yelled, consumed with the need, unable to think about anything else.

"Working on that, dear!" Ciel snapped through gritted teeth, sending a pair of jackals tearing away in the opposite direction, their fur crackling with electricity.

"Where are Raya and Shell and Eden? Are they okay?"

"Kamilah, I'm a little too busy to chat! DUCK!" She looped an arm through mine and pulled me to the ground just as four paws sailed through the air where my head had just been.

John's wolf was astonishing up close, strands of beautiful red fur coursing through with the black, just as Henrik's was streaked with blonde. He seemed to be just as rabid about getting to his king as I was, and tore through the circle of attackers that had formed a ring around us, haphazardly tossing humans and dogs alike with his massive jaws.

As soon as there was a path, I was out, running as quickly as I could, leaping over fallen bodies, every bit of my consciousness narrowing in on him. I could feel where he was, like he had a magnetic pull; even if Set hadn't towered over everyone else on the battlefield and I knew Jonas was with him, I would have known exactly where to go.

"NO!" Tim's arm shot out around my waist, forcing me to spin back and collide with him.

"Tim stop! I have to g--I have to--he needs me!"

"Kamilah STOP," Tim gripped my face between his palms, forcing my burning orange eyes to look at his, "this is his fight now, you know why this has to be him!"

"I can't...I can't just let him--..." Every instinct I had was telling me to intervene, to throw my body in front of him and take on Set myself, and I tore away from Tim with a strength I'd never possessed a day in my life.

I screamed his name, like he was manifesting so deeply in my consciousness that I had to let some of it out, and I skidded to a halt, one arm crossed defensively behind me to shield him as I glared up at Set.

"STOP," I commanded with an authority that surprised even me, and Set took a surprised step back despite himself.

 Jonas said my name from right behind me, but I ignored him, crouched defensively, my eyes locked onto the massive form in front of me.

"You won't touch him without going through me first." Set regarded me for a moment, narrowing his eyes, his mouth splitting slowly into a maniacal grin.

"You're just like her then, aren't you...the Protector of the Pharaohs...is it burning your insides, Priestess? The need to see him safe? Does it disturb you that I'm more powerful than he is? That there is no hope for victory..." He took a step towards me, his one stride covering an amount of ground that would take anyone else two at least.

"Not your king though...how puzzling...tell me, Kamilaaaahhhh...tell me why you your loyalty lies with one who has done nothing to earn it... is it because he's the king of that wolf you've been fucking?"

I pulled up short, but kept my focus.

His laugh rang off the landscape.

"Oh, you are a bag of contradictions, aren't you. Serves a goddess who requires a sex rite to even enter her presence, but blushes at the mere mention of the act...lusts after the man but barely able to speak a word in his presence...I see no reason at all why they chose you over the hippie one with two masters."

He glanced back at Jonas, "well...three, it would seem..."

"Your words are nothing but air, Set," I challenged, "and you're wasting my time."

Oh shit, did we just say that?

The corner of his eye twitched again and he advanced another step, until he was right in front of me, bending to look at me eye to eye.

He wasn't ugly or unpleasant looking, he didn't smell strange or pungent like evil things were always supposed to - brimstone and all the things the storybooks tell you to watch out for. He had sharp cheekbones, and a long straight nose, all covered by flawless skin that was a beautiful copper color, and eyes that seemed deep enough to swim in. Even his teeth were perfect as he leaned in to speak to me, his accent clipped and strange.

"Something is going to waste here, but it is not your time. It is your talent and your fucking loyalty."

Time did that thing again where it slowed down to an almost halt.

I could see everyone's faces in amazing detail as I went flying over their heads, my body bending and contorting in a way it shouldn't have been able to.

I watched Tim's eyes go wide as his mouth formed my name in slow motion. That mouth. Those wonderful, beautiful lips that I loved to watch smile. That I loved to feel kiss my skin. That curved up in that particularly alluring way whenever he was teasing me.

Watching Johannes shift in slow motion was like discovering an entirely new genre of art I'd never known existed. It wasn't grotesque or frightening, but strikingly beautiful as he fell to the ground, his limbs transitioning fluidly from human to canine, his eyes never leaving me as he raced to keep up with the arc of movement my body was in. His strides were fantastic as he ran almost like a dancer, leaping through the air, his paws hardly touching the ground.

The grass seemed so far away, and I wondered if I could simply take off in flight if I wanted to, remembering Ro saying something similar to me after she'd snuck into my bed, whispering about becoming the lover of a real-life, honest-to-god king.

I feel like I could just soar through the sky like a bird if I wanted to...

I glanced back at Jonas, his expression a mixture of shock, fear, and intense, searing hatred, so hot I thought maybe Set would be able to feel its heat even from where he stood. Our eyes met and I mouthed 'I'm sorry', marveling at how long it took me to form each syllable.

*Brace yourself, my dear*

I only had time to register Isis' voice before I crashed to the ground, hitting Johannes straight on as jumped onto his hind legs to break my fall, but bouncing several meters further and landing hard on my back.

Everything exploded in pain as I felt my collarbone snap, my left arm going limp at my side, unable to wipe at the blood pooling in my eyes from the gash across my forehead. I screamed in pain, wanting to cry and pass out and get up and fight all at once. I settled for the first, gasping heaving sobs as I laid on the ground unable to see or catch my breath.

Something licked at my wound, lapping up the blood and cleaning off my face until I could open my eyes.

"I'm pretending you're n-not doing th-that," I stuttered on a sob, meeting Johannes' eyes with mine as I finally blinked them open.

"Shh shh, don't talk little Red," the tone of his voice was concerning to say the least as he shifted back to answer me.

"I-I'm sorry I landed on you, but thank you for breaking my fall," I mumbled, starting to feel slightly disoriented, and trying to remember all the manners that Ma had taught me. She would be horribly disappointed if I forgot to thank him.

"That was a fucking mistake," Jonas snarled, crouching low in an attack posture, and adjusting his grip on his knife.

Set glanced over at where I landed, watching Eden race to my side, behind Tim whose wolf was flat out bolting.

"Relax, I'd imagine she's not going anywhere," Set chuckled, finally meeting Jonas' challenge, "you would be wise to shift and face me as a wolf."

"I face you as a man and a king, and would have it no other way."

"So eager to die...for what, Jonas? For fame? For glory? For some vain attempt to make your name stick in the pages of history?"

Jonas' blade flashed in the sun, just one single beam peaking through the gathering clouds, reflecting off the blood-stained metal.

"For Mattias."

He was quick, lunging and making contact with his first strike, a slash across Set's thigh that only served to make his anger towards the king more severe, and he had to move fast to sidestep the reaction of the god.

All his hatred and frustration poured out into the open through the one massive hand holding a sword that should have required two, like a claymore.

Every ounce of concentration the king possessed was going towards reading his enemy - anticipating the next footfall, dodging the blows rather than trying to parry them, keeping his own feet underneath him.

John, Henrik, Shell, Ciel, and Raya blocked all the rest of the creatures from swarming over him as they tried to jump and bite at his legs - Set apparently had no qualms about fighting dirty.

"Kamilah!!!!" Tim's knees hit the ground right next to my head as he skidded to a stop, terror plain across his features.

"Hey baby," I mumbled, delirious with the concussion from the impact, trying to smile as my head lolled to the side.

"You fucking batshit crazyass woman. No fucking sense," he bent his face and kissed my forehead as the tears started streaking down his face.

"Someone help me up," I couldn't feel the pain in my clavicle anymore and I thought maybe it was just the jarring impact of the fall that had made me think it was broken at first.

"No, no Red you need to stay right where you are."

I'd forgotten Johannes was there, and turned my face to look at him. There was red around his mouth.

"What does my blood taste like?" I asked dreamily as his features started to blur together, and his hand shot out and started tapping me on the cheek, slapping me lightly until I blinked and came back.

"Its sweet, like fruit. Ask me something else, anything you want."

"Need to get to--to the--up, need up--" I stuttered again, trying to get up, but unable to move.

Eden all but physically picked Johannes up to move him when she finally got to me, panting.

"Eden," I whispered, my consciousness fully returning after a moment, "why can't I move..." my words were so hushed, she had to read my lips to understand me. A soft hand brushed over my forehead and the tears streamed down her cheeks.

"Everything is gonna be okay, Kamilah...shh shh shh, its okay, dear."

"T-Tim--where's Tim?! Where is he?!?!" I was frantic, trying to turn my head, but I couldn't, I couldn't move anything at all and I started to panic - it was like sleep paralysis in waking life.

"Hey, shh shh, I'm right here, sweetheart, just behind you," he ran a hand down the side of my face, praying with everything he had to every deity he could think of that I had never felt pain from the jagged spike of metal protruding from my abdomen, cleanly severing my spine.

He buried his face in his hands, getting up and walking a few feet, torn between wanting to stay with me as I laid dying in the grass and wanting to go tear Set to pieces with his bare hands, uncaring of what happened to himself in the process.

With every gasp for air, blood poured from my wound that I still didn't know I had. I couldn't feel the tips of my fingers and my toes going numb, I couldn't move my head anymore, and it was taking all my concentration to keep my eyes open.

Tim collapsed back at my side, letting my tears shred his heart to pieces as they leaked from the corners of my eyes.

"C-can't move," I whispered, my throat working hard to swallow a gasp of air.

"I know, babygirl, I know," he didn't bother trying to hide his own tears anymore, letting them fall unheeded and mingle with mine, creating little patches of clean skin, washing away the dirt and the blood wherever they fell, "I'm right here, just keep your eyes right here on me..."

Tim petted me softly, whispering to me that he loved me, and telling me everything that had gone through his head the second he came out on stage and saw me that first time, so happy, smiling up at him like he was the second coming.

Eden whispered to Johannes, her mind trying to find a solution, a way to save me.

"We'd have to lift her first," Johannes grimaced at her, "you can't try that with a fucking sword sticking out of her..."

I didn't hear what they were saying, and I watched Tim with a tiny smile, wanting to reach up and brush his tears away, but knowing with the last lucid part of my brain that I was paralyzed from my fall.

"I think I'm dying...Jonas said it would be Marisol that would die...but I guess its me..."

The bizarre acceptance of my fate settled on me like a blanket, and I found that I didn't fear what was coming. I'd done my best. I'd kept my word - Set had gone through me to get to Jonas...

Every thought was slightly disjointed, not flowing easily into the next anymore as my consciousness ebbed.

"Something up top is broken for sure, but I'm not sure where," I heard Johannes say, "she hit me like a fucking brick so maybe her shoulder?"

"Gods, are you okay? I'm so sorry, I'll take a look at you in a minute, I didn't even think to ask," Eden responded and I could hear the stress in her tone. I wanted to tell her that everything was okay, but it seemed like an impossible effort to make my mouth form words.

"I'm fine. Don't you even think about that right now," Johannes growled back, "its not even close to a priority."

Eden went to nudge Tim out of the way and I whimpered - it was all I could do to express my panic at the idea of him leaving - he was the only thing keeping me alive...I was sure of it.

"Kamilah, I'm going to fix you. We're going to fix you right up, okay?" Her voice was soft and sweet, so springy and floral, and I was reminded of why I loved her so much as her hands touched my broken clavicle. I couldn't feel them but I remembered how her touch felt - hands like little flower petals, soft and delicate.

I was vaguely aware of the shouts of battle, of metal clanking viciously against metal, and watched both Tim and Johannes turn their heads, narrowing their eyes to watch from the distance as they each held one of my hands, and Eden mended my collarbone.

"Go," I whispered, the sound drawing Tim's attention right back to me.

"I'm here, love," he pulled my hand to his cheek, knowing now that he wasn't dislocating any broken bones by doing so, "I'm right here with you."

"Go to the king," I repeated again, using all my energy I had left.

"No, I'm not leaving you--"

"Help me lift her up, both of you," Eden interrupted.

A vicious snarl seemed to physically tear the air over our heads as Jonas' knife, razor sharp and deadly, passed from father to son in his family for countless generations, slid across Set's flesh like it was butter, opening a deep gash across his chest.

"Johannes, take her feet, Tim you take her shoulders, I'll...do the other thing..."

The water lapped at my face as I floated on my back at the top of the bottomless expanse. Nothing mattered so much as the gentle rocking of my body with each wave, like I was just a piece of driftwood, riding over the surface.

"Easy, easy, lift on three -- one...two...three..."

Johannes bit back a groan at the sound of my body being lifted off the spike, the wet sound of torn flesh the only thing he could hear as I dropped into unconsciousness. Eden lifted my hips, guiding me up and off, keeping me as straight as possible as she laid me out on the grass and swung her leg over mine, straddling my hips like I had Jonas' earlier.

Both her hands pressed to my stomach, one on each side of the gaping, sucking wound.

"Come on baby, come on, wake up," Tim gasped, slapping my face lightly to try and bring me back.

My hand touched something under the water as I came to a slow halt against a solid surface that moved with the waves like me. Fingers touched mine, their exploration mirroring my own.

"That was very brave of you to do that for me..."

"Hello, Jonas," I smiled, knowing the sound of his voice even as my mind let his words flow in one ear and out the other, like the water that we were adrift in, "the stories all say that my goddess rode in the chariots with the pharaohs when they went into battle. She's a divine protector, and I'm made to be like her."

"But I'm not a pharaoh."

"Pharaoh is just the Greek translation for the title of the king, silly," I giggled, like he should have known that the same way he should have known the color of the sky.

I could hear his voice both under the water and in the air, like the sound was wrapping around me on both sides.

"Am I dying Jonas?" He always had all the answers, and I didn't think for a moment he didn't hold this one too.

"Yes, my dear."

"Why are you here? Are you dying too?"

"Yes."

I wanted to cry, but couldn't.

"I don't want you to die. I love you."

It was a simple statement of fact. I loved Tim in an unshakable earth-shattering way, that made me feel like my heart was going to explode, but I loved Jonas with a devotion I'd never felt to another human being - like I would follow him to the ends of the earth, and straight over the cliff waiting there.

"I love you too, Kamilah."

"Nothings happening!! Kamilah! Kamilah PLEASE," Tim cried against my shoulder, his shoulders shaking with the sobs.

Eden was pale, losing color rapidly as she tried to pump her energy into me.

"Tim...Tim I...nothings working...my energy isn't compatible with hers when she needs this much..."

His eyes were bloodshot when he looked up at her like he was dying too as tears streamed down his face, and held out his arm.

"Its not blood she needs, honey...I mean, she does, but that's not going to help much at this point."

"No, not blood," his brain felt like it was moving too slow, "fire...she's a fire."

Eden nodded after a moment, waiting for him to explain.

"Me too. I'm an Aries, and that makes my zodiac element fire, right?"

She looked shocked, even her pale cheeks showing her obvious surprise.

"Maybe...gods Tim that might just fucking work!" She rocketed up the length of my body and pressed a hard kiss to his surprised mouth.

"You brilliant little wolf, gods its no wonder you two have found each other despite the odds. You're going to have to stay still - I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing so..." she shrugged, gripping his wrist and pressing a hand to my abdomen.

"No, her tattoo...right thigh, the ram's head...my...mine."

"Aries," she repeated, smiling softly to herself as he nodded.

He moved closer so she could lay one hand flat against his hammering heart and press her other palm to my thigh, covering the fine lines of my tattoo and forming a connection, an energy gateway. Her whole body seemed to vibrate as it passed out of him, through her, and into me.

"Goodbye, little Kamilah..." Jonas' fingers squeezed mine before he pushed me away into the current, the tide sweeping me closer to the shore.

Set's blows were becoming too much to withstand. Jonas' body was strong, but he ultimately wasn't divine - he wasn't supernatural, there were no voidless primordial waters involved in his birth. He dodged as best he could, but he couldn't fight both of them - when one attacked his front the other sliced across his back, until the king was backing away, facing both, rapidly looking back and forth, knowing what was coming.

Set knew too, reabsorbing his facsimile and facing the king, a towering, sneering giant, eyes fixed on the locket around his neck. The blood seemed to cover his body from the cuts and tears in his skin - the lovely tattoos ruined by Set's blade and the teeth of his slaves.

There was only one more thing to be done now.

A black fog emanated from his massive palm, large enough to engulf a man's head it seemed. The mist crawled through the air towards Jonas, as he collapsed onto his knees, trying to get back up, but unable to.

It drew a wracking scream from his throat the moment it touched his skin, his body writhing on the ground, the pain overwhelming like both fire and ice - burning and freezing, tearing the life from him with jagged strokes.

My back arched off the ground, off the grass soaked with my own blood, gasping a first breath of life just as the king breathed his last.

Chapter Text

My scream mingled with Aurora's, an anguished two-part harmony, a perfect fifth.

"Kamilah!!!" The warm body holding me said my name over and over again, gripping me tight, weeping into my hair. "Oh, sweetheart, I thought you were gone..."

"Tim, he's dead!! He's dying!!!"  My heart felt like its very core was missing, a black gaping emptiness, like my wound had simply relocated rather than being healed.

"I know, baby, I-I know," he sobbed, still clutching me.

Aurora threw everything she had left at Set to no avail. 

He was so close to his goal, to the realization of his most potent desire, after all these thousands of years. The power would be his. The respect would finally be his. Nothing was stopping him now as he crossed to the mangled body of the king, his face finally at peace, soft in death.

Ro threw her body over Jonas, physically protecting the only man she'd ever felt capable of loving the only way she could now, though it hardly mattered. Set paused, feeling pity for this beautiful sad woman in her grief, and rather than kicking her aside or tossing her away as he had with me, he picked her up and physically moved her, setting her gently on the ground behind him, away from Jonas, even as her fists beat against him.

"Your king died well, Priestess. He fought hard, as was his choice." He ignored her insults and snarled profanity, the moment of tenderness so foreign and uncomfortable, fleeting.

Henrik, John, and Johannes stood shoulder to shoulder as Set turned back to his task, guarding their king in death, just as they had in life.

"You just don't fucking give up do you," he sighed with exasperation, pushing his palms together before separating them, watching the men try to keep their feet, try to stay planted as they were moved by a force they couldn't see, until there was a clear path between them.

"Finally..." he whispered, dropping to his knees, reaching for the locket with a trembling right hand, the metal still grasped in Jonas' left. He held everyone where they were, the screams and cries of anguish almost becoming a low hum, just background noise.

This was it.

He pried Jonas' fingers away from the locket, using the pad of his thumb to wipe away the blood that colored the delicately carved metal as he pulled the chain until it snapped from behind the king's neck, coming away in his palm.

He paused, waiting for Khnum's magic to sear his flesh, to force the Stone to drop from his grasp, but nothing happened, and a slow, mad grin spread from ear to ear.

"At last, my brother, it is mine...you now shall kneel before me...the mortals of this earth shall--" the two sides separated revealing the emptiness inside as his thumb popped the clasp.

All the blood rushed to his head.
The world became violent shades of red and black.
Hatred like he'd never felt before coursed through his veins, and he looked down at Jonas, his head relaxed to the side, his lip ring and septum piercing glinting in the last of the sunlight, seemingly smirking at him.

"Then it all burns," Set vowed quietly with a voice that tremored with rage, "you were a fool, just like your brother. Not enough sense between the two of you to see how this was always going to end..."

Tim was holding me around the waist with a grip like a vice, trying to stop my struggles as I wailed and screamed, attempting to crawl back to the king that he knew was beyond our aid now.

"He's gone, Kamilah...he's gone, there's nothing else you can do!" he choked, his own heart breaking with the loss of his closest friend.

"Let me go, I have to go to him!!!"

"Hush, my child," she said, her fingers softly touching my hair as she passed by like a phantom, walking barefoot over the ground, the hem of her temple uniform soaking up blood as it passed over the carnage behind her.

Everyone seemed to freeze.

The last of the jackals were dead or had fled back to the safety of the underworld, the wolves wept for their lost king, and the Heads did their best to comfort them.

Only she moved, walking slowly, one foot in front of the other, her hair hanging in loose white curls down her shoulders.

She called his name, and his head raised slowly, seeking the sound of her voice, the disbelief clear across his face as he watched her approach and got to his feet, ready for this one last fight.

Marisol was graceful - she always had been, but I didn't think I'd ever really appreciated the fluidity of her movements until that moment - she embodied a quiet power, not ethereal like Ciel or earthy like Eden, but harder, like under the thin pale skin she was made of bright steel.

Sol had to look up to meet Set's gaze when she stood before him, and he marveled for a moment at her lack of fear, his head tilting a little to the side.

"I must admit, I'm surprised you're still here, old woman," he said seriously, grudgingly impressed at the apparent miracle of her survival.

"Set, let this be finished. How many more must die for your insatiable greed," she chastised him like a mother and I raised my eyebrows at Eden, both of us still in shock that she was even here, and doubly so at hearing her speak that way to him.

"You kill for what you seek, but yet, what you seek still evades you..." she continued, her voice powerful, but not loud, not a booming call.

He studied her for a moment.

"You know where it is."

"I know where it is," she responded smoothly, and opened her palm.

That same blue light that had filled the room the first time Jonas revealed the Stone seemed to emit from it now.

Set's mouth opened in a sharp exhale - it was there, his for the taking, all he had to do was pluck it from her outstretched palm - truly, what was the death of one more human... The millennia of struggle, of bending ignorant mortals only to have them snap and ruin it all...it would all be over.

His hand reached for it.

Tim threw me under him, shielding me, as a different kind of light started to shine.

Marisol tossed her head towards the sky, crying out to her master as her body started to glow brilliant shades of orange and yellow, blinding in their intensity, burning in their sheer force. Set stood with his fingers frozen in her palm, so nearly touching the Stone. The rest of his body jerked and pulled as his mouth opened in a wordless shriek and he desperately tried to pull back but was unable to.

"From the hand of a human, Set," she reminded with a savage grin.

She cried out to Ra with words I didn't understand, but finished with a primal scream.

"LET IT BE DONE."

I struggled under Tim to no avail as Sol's body started to flash with hues of the sun - fiery orange and yellow, the brightness enough to make everyone shield their eyes as she stared Set down with gritted teeth, his mouth open in that same scream.

And in the next second, it was.

They were both gone - no traces left of them or the Stone.

I started to hyperventilate, and no one stopped me, shocked as they were themselves. We all silently stared at the place where they had been, wondering if we'd collectively slipped into some alternate reality.

I pushed Tim away and fought for every lungful of oxygen as I struggled up and blindly ran, falling repeatedly as my legs remembered how to move. I covering the distance I'd been thrown and collapsed against Jonas' body, screaming with frustration and heartbreak, clutching Ro overtop of him as she made sounds just like mine.

"No no no," I wailed, desperate for something, for anything that would undo it, that would bring him back. We clung to each other, sobbing hysterically, unable to do anything but. The other four men crowded around us, their sorrow joining ours as we all mourned together.

Henrik finally pulled me away, hushing me as I beat my fists against his chest and broke down again.

"I'm gonna fucking kill him for dying," I screamed, hysterical in every way, and he could only shake with heart wrenching sobs and hold me close over the long minutes until I quieted, too numb to cry anymore.

"Wh--what happens now," I whispered, finally looking up at his beautiful blue eyes, bloodshot and puffy from his own tears. Poor Henrik, one of his lovely cheekbones had a jagged cut across it and I touched it with the tip of my pointer finger to heal it.

"Ouch," he jumped a little.

"Sorry," I apologized, my mouth moving mechanically to kiss the little mark on his cheek where the cut had been. He rocked me back and forth, finally handing me over to Tim when he was through kneeling next to his master's body, saying his own tearful goodbyes.

"Now we take him home, Kamilah, and bury him like a king." He kissed me softly on the forehead, gathering me close to him, both of us ignoring that we were filthy, covered with sweat and blood and dust. "There's a tomb up in the mountains, where he'll be next to his father and mother and Mattias..."

"W-w-well who is king then?"

John petted my hair softly until I looked up at him, "We rule as a council, little one, until we figure it out. This is...we've never not had a king, or an heir."

I tucked back into Tim's chest, shaking my head back and forth, feeling like I'd never be whole again.

"Do you know what that was that Marisol did?" He asked quietly after an eternity of silence. The sun was down now, and the faint glow from the temple didn't reach us here. We were under Khonsu's light as Set's clouds cleared away from the sky, the storm passing.

Aurora sat with Jonas, pulling his head into her lap and softly running her fingers over his forehead and his hair. She didn't cry anymore, but hummed softly, completely lost in her own world now as she wove tiny white flowers into the cords of his hair.

"No, I've never seen anything like it before," I traced that little scar on his chest again.

Ciel sat down hard, laying flat on her back after a moment as John sat next to her, doing the same, looking up at the stars.

"I'm listening, Mother," she said, closing her eyes furrowing her brow a little.

Tim turned me so my back was to his chest, keeping his arms wrapped around me like I was going to disappear or escape.

"Sunset?" Ciel asked, opening her eyes and looking up at the sky still. Her purple irises seemed almost electric, neon in a way when she listened to her goddess speak from the stars. We all waited, listening to the sounds of the evening. I sat back heavily against Tim, trusting him to hold me up, and Johannes laid his head in my lap.

John's hand touched Ciel's. "What about the sunset," he said quietly.

"No, not the sunset...Marisol's sunset...its...hang on." She closed her eyes, wrinkling her forehead again as she deciphered what was whispered down to her. A slow smile curved up the corners of her lips after a moment. "I always knew the old bird was hiding something," she said, opening her eyes and offering the first soft laugh any of us had uttered in hours.

She rolled onto her side, tucking under John's outstretched arm as he pulled her close.

"Tim was right all along about Set not wanting her to fight. Somehow he knew that she could do that. Like a walking time bomb..." she mused, tracing a little pattern in the hair on his chest without paying attention.

"You're not making much sense," he said as he looked up to the sky, watching the little shadows and craters over the surface of the moon.

"She could just...well you saw it...just go. Create her own sunset at the drop of a hat, anytime she wanted to. It makes sense, servant of Ra and all that...huh," she chuckled softly, "complete control over your own death, and she took him out too..."

My fingers combed through Johannes' hair, "why wouldn't she tell anyone that she could do that?"

She could only shrug.

"Well then why couldn't Set take the Stone from her? She basically offered it to him."

Ciel, Raya, Eden, and Shell all exchanged a quick glance with one another.

"That's something we're gonna need to talk about later, dear, but I think now isn't a good time..." Raya said softly.

I slumped back against Tim, who wrapped his arms more tightly around my waist, pressing a little kiss just above my ear and running his fingers over the scar across my stomach where the metal spike had pierced me. Everyone fell silent again, listening to Ro hum as she softly petted Jonas still.

"We thought for sure you were toast, little Red," Johannes looked up backwards at me, touching my cheek with his hand, "do you remember falling from the sky?"

My fingertips traced the lines of his face, committing them to memory as our eyes locked together.

"I remember flying. I'm sorry that I hit you, but thank you for breaking my fall," I bent down and pressed a soft upsidedown kiss to his lips, letting them linger as he touched my hair to hold me there and made a tiny sound against my mouth.

"Wait, wait, don't go yet, please" he whispered in an almost childlike way, wrapping his long fingers around the back of my head and reaching up to kiss me again softly. I pressed my cheek against his, breathing in his scent as my fingers worked over his throat, carefully, just exploring the feeling of his skin.

"Strawberries," he finally said, breaking the trance as we held onto each other and I pulled back enough to look down at him once more.

"What did you say?"

"You asked me what your blood tastes like, and it tastes sweet...l-like strawberries."

I kissed his forehead, wanting to crumble forward into his arms and hide for the rest of my life in a hole in the ground.

"Why is he gone, Johannes," I whispered, finally scooting out of Tim's grasp and sitting over next to him. He took my hand like he had that first night as we watched his king hold the Stone in his open palm.

"There are a hundred reasons, little Red," he sighed, sitting up and pulling me close, hugging me to his wiry frame, "a hundred reasons that we'll write a thousand songs about...that's what we do for dead kings - we write songs about them and we sing them forever."

"I think he deserves that," I sniffled, my tears falling fresh.

"Yes he does," Ro said softly, her eyes not leaving his face, her fingers still stroking through his hair. I swore Jonas' lips were almost smiling.

Chapter Text

Jonas looked around, turning a full circle as his consciousness more fully settled on him.

"How can this be?" He turned again, watching the colors from the sky dance off the snow.

It wasn't cold though.
He didn't feel the ice under his bare feet, and his exposed skin didn't raise with goosebumps or shiver in the frigid wind.

The king breathed deeply of the fresh air, closing his eyes and smiling as the wind whispered over his skin, through his parted fingers, stirring his beard and his hair.

"I suppose if this is death, it isn't so bad," he mused, sitting on the ground and slowly laying down onto his back, looking up at the lights, letting the tears that blurred his eyes slip down his cheeks without wiping them away.

"You fought bravely, today, King Jonas," she said, seated a few feet away from him, obviously not feeling the cold either.

He quickly got up to one knee and bowed his head.

"My apologies, I didn't see anyone else here, Miss."

She waved an easy hand, her smile getting softer, more indulgent as she watched him observe her, really take in her ethereal beauty, her glow. After all these years, it still never failed to make her smile - wowing the mortals, especially the men...such silly, flexible little creatures.

"You hardly need to apologize, King Jonas," her voice was soft, like a caress - more than a whisper, but not quite a statement, "this is after all your kingdom, is it not? Perhaps I should be the one bowing to you."

"Please, I am no king in your presence," he choked on the words, wanting to sob for joy at the presence of the wonderful, beautiful woman who spoke to him, though he had no clue who she was. Surely a goddess of some kind for the perfection of her face.

"Nonsense, you are a king in death, as you were a king in life."

Jonas' head darted up at the presence of the second voice, the speaker tall and broad across the chest. He couldn't tell if the slight green tint to his skin was from the lights over his head or if he naturally just appeared that way.

"I...I apologize again, I'm not sure who you are..."

Now he was just confused. Wasn't this supposed to be his afterlife? Why were there--

"Are you Isis?" he said out loud, daring to take another glimpse of divinity itself, of her flawless visage, smiling softly at him like a mother and a lover and a best friend all wrapped into one perfect set of features.

"I am," she chimed, inclining her head towards him.

"So that would make you--"

"Osiris, Lord of the Underworld, at your service," he repeated his wife's physical acknowledgement.

"Are you really..." Jonas mused, sitting comfortably now on the ground looking back and forth between them. He still vaguely wondered why they were here, but it seemed to matter less and less. He was home. He would miss his friends, but spending eternity on the hill under the lights seemed like as good a fate as a man could wish for if he had to be alone.

Alone.

Aurora.

His eyes closed against the tears that stung them. But at least he could remember exactly what she looked like. One hand pressed to his stilled heart, sealing her memory there forever, the sweet sounds she made looking up at him from the grass, trusting him to complete her the same way she completed him.

"I had a friend who met you once, I think," Jonas said softly, touching the surface of the snow. His hand didn't make any impression, as he had no heat anymore.

"That'd be Kamilah, I imagine," Isis smiled, the fondness she felt for me coloring her tone as she laughed, the sound bringing fresh tears to the king's eyes.

"Yes," he smiled too, "Kamilah..." He ran a finger over the snow again, twirling it around a blade of grass that poked through. "Your majesties...I don't mean to sound ungrateful or rude...but, why are you here? I...ahem," he shrugged, "I expected my find my own gods when I died. I only recently learned of your existence at all."

Osiris chuckled lowly, rubbing his lips with one finger. "You will find them eventually, Jonas, but in the mean time, we were able to reach an agreement with the deities of your people," he smirked.

Jonas looked around again, like he was expecting them to be waiting behind him, blonde hair blowing, swords proudly worn on hips.

"You are owed an explanation, King Jonas," Isis said softly, seated much closer to him than before as he turned back to her. He made to move away, like he would taint her if she came any closer, but her hand touched his, and every thought of being anywhere else immediately perished.

An explanation.
Of what?
He wondered if he was in trouble.
But of course he was.
Set.

"I would offer you my life if I weren't already dead, my queen," he whispered, hanging his head with shame and turning from her gaze, "I failed. I wasn't strong enough."

"No one ever has been...well, save for one," she smiled, beckoning to Sol, who appeared from the darkness, walking like she was enjoying a summer's evening stroll.

"Marisol?" Jonas was clearly taken aback and rose to his feet as Isis and Osiris did too, "what are you doing here?" He looked around again, glancing up over her shoulder like he expected someone else.

"She's fine, your highness," Sol chuckled, making a polite curtsy before him, "your man thinks quick on his feet. His energy probably saved her life."

"We were both dying," the king murmured, confiding in her, "we were floating and...and...dying--is Aurora okay? Tell me she's okay!" a hint of panic entered his voice and Sol took him by both shoulders. She was old enough to be his mother, and found herself pressing a maternal hand to his cheek.

"She's fine, sir, Aurora is fine..." she looked sadly between his eyes, "heartbroken to be sure, but she's physically okay. Made us all damn proud today from what I've been told."

Jonas smiled, laughing through his tears - gods but they seemed endless, was he supposed to spend the entire afterlife weeping like a maiden?

"I've never seen anything like it - she changed the face of the land itself, and summoned weapons from thin air. In truth, and I don't mean any disrespect," he inclined his head towards Osiris and Isis, both watching curiously, "I had no idea your gods were so powerful, to give humans such gifts."

"Girls like our Aurora are rare flowers indeed, your majesty," Sol smiled, "chosen at birth like the rest of us, but fought over amongst the gods. If I'm not mistaken," it was her turn to address the two deities behind her, "my lords Geb and Thoth now both claim her, yes?"

"Correct, Mistress."

Sol's hand touched her heart, "please, my queen, I claim no titles before you."

"Oh, Marisol, so modest!" Isis laughed, crossing and taking her hands. Jonas briefly thought as he watched her face that if she hadn't been so already, she'd have dropped dead on the spot.

"Using your sunset. Very clever! Very clever indeed. And you have our immense gratitude, is that not right, husband?" She beckoned to Osiris with one hand, holding Marisol's with the other, and he rose, moving slower than her, but standing at least a good head above both of them.

"My wife speaks the truth, Mistress. Our brother has craved power from the time he knew what it was - it is a flaw he's had since our divine mother and father created us. And it has led him to murder and scheme, to pit brother against brother," the briefest glance at Jonas, so fast it was almost a blink, "and all that time he has hidden like a coward. He has refused to face me for fear of my divine wrath, and retribution..."

"Retribution for what?" Jonas was thoroughly lost now, he wracked his brain, remembering the stories Aurora had told him, whispering to him as she laid tucked under his arm, smiling adoringly up at him. But they had been of creation, of the floods, tricks the gods played on one another. There was nothing about incurring the wrath of the god of the underworld. He wondered briefly how much of a fool one truly had to be to cross that line...

Osiris locked eyes with him, king watching king, and refused to let him look anywhere else. "I know you are not familiar with our history, Jonas," he wasn't chastising so much as he was conversing, "but I assume you've been told the basics."

Shell's voice rang in his head.

Killed his own brother for the throne and fought like hell to kill the rightful heir too...

"Usurpation."

"Indeed," Osiris seemed remarkably calm for the topic of discussion, "he used trickery and deception to take my kingdom. And tried to keep it from my son. He locked me in a magical box, tailored for my exact measurements, and it was many, many years until I was found again," he turned fondly to his wife.

"I never stopped looking for you," she smiled, and he received her words like it was the first time he'd heard them - pausing, unable to say more for a moment as he got lost in her gaze.

"When I was found once more, the news was widespread, for my queen and I were loved and adored by all," his hand touched hers softly, "but our brother received the word as well, and found me, cutting me into pieces and hiding the remains of my body throughout the land."

Jonas winced, willing himself not to think too hard about any of it, lest the seams of his sanity rupture and he find himself doomed to spend the rest of eternity as a madman on a hill, watching the lights.

"But I was found yet again," his voice softened and he ran his hand over Isis' hair, so soft and fluid it seemed to be made of a fine mist. "My wife searched for every piece of my body, using her divine magic to put me back together. But one piece was missing...no longer a full man, no longer a whole god, I was unable to stay in the realm of the humans. So it was by Set's hand, by the hand of my brother, that I became the keeper of the underworld, the overseer and the judge of all who pass..."

He turned to Marisol, "and now, by your hand, he must finally face me. He has no other choice - even the gods must be judged when they die."

"Wait, so its over?" Jonas asked, looking inquiringly at Marisol, who briefly, humbly explained to him the events immediately following his death.

"My lord Ra bestowed on me a gift when I had my Calling many many years ago - the ability to create my life's sunset. Any way I liked, anywhere I liked. And I must say, your highness, one lives life quite differently when there is control over its end..."

"So yes, dear," Isis smiled at Jonas, "it's done...well, nearly."

She took his hands and kissed him on each cheek softly, "you will know the magnitude of our good will for the bravery and loyalty that you have shown, King Jonas. It would have been so easy to give in, to hand our foul brother the Genesis Stone, and be done with it. But you willingly gave your life for something you've not known existed for even a week..."

His mouth worked soundlessly, unable to speak, unable to think at the overwhelming calm that flowed from her fingertips.

"But, for now, there is still someone who needs to see you."

He wasn't sure what else he could handle - gods but the afterlife had a lengthy orientation. What more could they possibly--

His heart almost started to beat. His pulse wanted to race, his blood wanted to pound in his ears, to send a sensation of tingling to his fingers and his toes.

"Brother?" the figure whispered, taking in the sight of the king, now grown into a man.

Still Jonas stared, hardly breathing, not moving, a name finally escaping his lips.

"Mattias?" It was a suggestion of a breath, but it was enough.

They crashed together, a fierce reunion, brother grasping at brother, shouting and crying out.

"My brother! Gods look at you," Jonas could hardly let go, but stepped back, turning the other by the shoulders, "you're a man now...how? You were still so young..."

"Look at me?! You're one to talk - you have dreadlocks??" He reached over to pull on one of the cords of hair.

"Fucking pain in the ass and heavy as hell," the king laughed, wiping his cheeks and knowing it was futile as his tears refused to stop falling, "whats happening Mattias? How are you here?"

His brother took both his hands.

"It will take a hundred years to explain it to you, and I'll still never be able to tell you how sorry I am, how ashamed I am..."

"Well if it saves you some breath, I know about Suetekh," Jonas interjected on a growl.

Mattias blinked hard but nodded after a moment, "How? He said you and our father didn't know about the Kemetics and their gods...ah, but I suppose that was just one more lie."

Jonas slowly looked at the ground with a sad curve of his lips, "a woman I met recently told me...Kamilah...nice girl, you'd like her."

"Who's Kamilah? Is she your girlfriend?"

"What are you, six?" The king chuckled, punching his brother playfully on the shoulder and unintentionally inciting a wrestling match.

Isis grinned over at Osiris, waggling her eyebrows playfully, "wanna wrestle with me too, brother?" she teased.  He snared his arms around her waist, pulling her off the ground with a thoroughly undignified, girlish shriek before dragging her into his lap and devouring her.

"Ouch! Okay! I give, I give!" Jonas held up two finger, rubbing his throat and throwing his arms up defensively when Mattias reached over and flicked his nipple ring hard.

"What the hell is that?"

"I'll have you know, its made me very popular with a number of different women," Jonas rolled his eyes and Mattias snorted a laugh.

Women...

"Shit. Gods, its like you forget all your fucking manners when you die," Jonas shook his head, getting to his feet and offering Mattias a hand, "Mistress Sol, I apologize, I'd like you to meet Mattias, my brother...Mattias, this is Marisol, High Priestess of the god Ra."

Mattias took Marisol's hand, bowing low over it, "its a pleasure, Mistress."

Sol chuckled softly, shaking her head and for once throwing formalities out the window. Her lord Ra had told her everything during her bout of sickness - he held all the pieces, all the understanding, and had told her about Mattias. About his choices, about his torture, the reasoning of a fractured mind.

"Such a brave young man," she said, and dropped to one knee before him, bowing her head. No one had ever bowed to him in life, and certainly not in death, and he looked taken aback, receiving an identical look of surprise from Jonas when he glanced over at him.

"I--I don't--please don't do that, Mistress," he pulled her to her feet and she immediately wrapped her arms around him, hugging him close and whispering in his ear.

"Your brother is a good, fair man. He will listen, just be honest, child...about everything." When she pulled back, she made a formal bow to the King.

"Sire, I believe my time has come."

"Wait, you're leaving? But you just got here," he couldn't hide his disappointment.

"I go to my Lord, Jonas. After all these years, I finally join him in the sun."

"Then I supposed I can hardly ask you to stay in a place like this," he smiled sadly, taking her hand and kissing her knuckles, "thank you for everything you've done for myself and my men, Marisol."

She looked around once. "Gods, but I do wish I had gotten to see your homeland in the light, what a lovely place..." she turned to Isis and Osiris, "I am ready your majesties."

"Wait!" he called, "what happened to the Stone?"

"Ah, nearly forgot, thank you sire," she winked, pulling it from a pocket subtly woven into the fabric of her uniform.

"I'll take that, Mistress, thank you."

Jonas found himself taking a step back as Khnum held out a human hand to receive the Stone, the ram's head regarding Marisol curiously as she bowed deeply, not seeming too surprised at his sudden appearance.

Gods but it was going to take some time to get used to being just coming and going from the thin air.

"Hmm," he rumbled, still looking over the older woman, "my precious Cerith has told me much of you, Mistress. You have my thanks for always treating her well."

His voice was so familiar, and the King felt that tiny pull of recognition as he turned his head to one side, then the other.

I go by Shell.

"My lord Khnum," he finally said, pinpointing the voice to the one that had left Shell's lovely mouth that first night. He bit his lips to stifle the chortle that threatened as the god's own laugh was half a chuckle and half a sheep's bleet.

"We meet again, hello King Jonas," he extended his hand and shivered a tiny bit when Jonas took it, "apologies, but I do always forget how cold you humans go," he chuckled again, and Jonas found himself joining in, not worried or the least bit insulted. If you couldn't laugh with others over your own death, what the hell could you laugh about?

Khnum's gaze wandered over to Mattias.

"Soooo..." he held the syllable long and drawn out, "you're the one who found my Stone. Simply plucked it off the river bank, I'm told..."

Mattias' color drained and he could only nod, stammering out a "yes, my lord," after a moment.

"I'm hardly angry at you son," Khnum said quietly, his ram's lips almost smiling, "rather the opposite, if I'm to believe what I've been told, that y--..." He glanced at Isis and she gave a tiny headshake, quickly shutting him up.

"I...I apologize, sir...I'm unaccustomed to...beings such as yourself," Mattias gestured with his hands to indicate the anthropomorphic deity.

"Ah?" Khnum made a confused face, then looked down at himself in an exaggerated way with a playful shriek, covering between his legs with his hands like he was naked rather than perfectly wrapped with a yellow linen kilt from hip to knee.

"Gods, sorry about that, not in my right mind clearly," he snorted, snapping his fingers and turning his body into a ram's as well, "better?"

Jonas glanced over at Sol, watching the smile and the laugh give her lifeless features so much warmth, it made him ache for his own mother for a moment.

"Ah, uhm... ah, b-better," the younger man stammered.

"My friend, have you had your fun now?" Osiris interjected, in the habit of indulging Khnum when it came to humorous interactions with humans, but also obviously enjoying it immensely.

"Oh, come on, he hasn't even gotten to the part where he's accused me of being Satan yet!" Khnum turned back with a wink at Mattias, his body now back to a man's. "Big boy down there hates it when people do that, by the way...thinks it steals his thunder or something, but I always tell him its not my fault humans are too stupid to know the difference between a ram's head and a goat--"

The look on Mattias' face made Jonas double over laughing in a way he couldn't remember ever laughing before.

Gods but it felt like no time had passed at all.

"I suppose the point is, well done, son," Khnum said, reaching to touch Mattias' hand, "and thank you."

He turned with a suggestion of a flounce back to the old woman.

"May I escort you, Marisol?" Khnum bowed before her gracefully, offering her his hand, "I imagine there's probably quite a party waiting, your arrival has been greatly anticipated."

Sol bowed her head modestly in thanks, but couldn't wipe off the little smile that curved her lips. She grasped his outstretched hand and with one last smile over her shoulder at the king, the two of them took a step and vanished.

"Gods but they're a strange bunch aren't they...ahem...shit, no offense intended, your majesties," he stammered, making a half bow to Isis and Osiris, who remained.

"You get a pass because you're so precious," she giggled, turning back to her husband to continue their conversation.

Mattias paused, stepping back and turning to Jonas, really taking a good, long look at his brother. He'd only been 18 the last time he saw him, willing to shoulder all the responsibility, as he always had been.

Jonas felt his stare. "Why are you looking at me like that?" It seemed a silly question, given the circumstances.

"You know, I always thought you'd end up tattooed head to toe...what about Tim? Same?"

Jonas nodded - he and Tim had always been the closest once they got to know each other, and everyone said it showed through onstage. Brothers by choice.

"Henrik too, got a whole sleeve and everything."

Mattias narrowed his eyes, "bullshit."

"Nope. Big, beautiful roses."

Mattias rolled his eyes, "squishy motherfucker."

Jonas threw his head back laughing, "whats bullshit is that John has a tattoo on his foot that's purposefully misspelled."

The other laughed, shaking his head, "did Johannes ever stop growing?"

"Yeah, only last year though." Jonas collapsed to the ground, watching the colors dance through the sky, swirling and moving like they were travelling somewhere, but in no rush to get wherever they were going.

"I've missed you so much, Mattias," he said softly, "why...why'd you do it?"

Mattias mimicked his position. After so many years, here they were, together again on the hill.

He sighed, "Its a long story."

"Pretty sure we've got nothing but time now, brother," Jonas reminded.

"How much do you already know?"

"...not much. The Stone was here somewhere, Set wanted it, he disguised himself as Suetekh to I assume gain enough trust to have someone give it to him as he couldn't just take it himself...that's pretty much it."

"Huh...well its more than I expected."

The two gods slipped away into the shadows, remaining present but out of sight as the two brothers reforged their bond and bared their truths.

Mattias felt the tears leak down his face, slipping from the corners of his eyes and making the night sky look like one blur of color, "I found it by accident, like...how do you say his name?"

"Khnum."

"Right, like Khnum said, just on the riverbank. Skipping rocks of all things, like a fucking child. Gods," he scoffed, "I remember picking it up and I was about to throw it, but it started humming, vibrating kind of. I thought I was about to stroke out for a minute, but it was too pretty to toss away..." He shifted like he was uncomfortable, and Jonas didn't rush him.

"And then Suetekh showed up like a week later. I wish dad had just told him to beat it, then none of this would have happened..." He started shaking with sobs when the crushing realization hit him that Jonas was here because he was dead. And he was dead because of Set. And Set had only come into their lives because of him.

The king rolled onto his side, looking over at his brother.

"Its not your fault."

"Of fucking course it is, you idiot!"

"Hey!" Jonas snapped, "I might be your brother, and I understand that its been a long time, but I'm still the king, and you don't get to call me an idiot unless you're my mother or we're sleeping together, and neither of those descriptions seem to fit you," he huffed, rolling back over and staring at the sky.

"Sorry..."

The older man pinched the bridge of his nose, "no, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped..."

After several minutes of silence, Mattias continued. "For a while, the lessons with him were just lessons. You remember how nice he was, how smart. Turned out to be just like John too...I hoped he would never go back to his own country and leave us."

Jonas breathed deeply of the crisp night air, trying to soothe his rage, his anger, the wish that he could go back and kill Set where he stood. He did remember his kindness, and now that they were together again, he remembered all the laughter, the jokes, the endless hours of Suetekh explaining to them the ways of the world and stories of far off places he'd been to.

"But eventually something started to feel...I don't know, weird. Like he was in my head even when he wasn't around. These thoughts started popping up that I could tell weren't from me."

"What kind of thoughts..." Jonas asked lowly. It seemed to take a herculean effort to control his anger.

"That...that our father was a bad king. A weak king. And that you were being groomed to be just like him...I...I admit, brother, I was jealous that you were going to be the one wearing the crown, but I never for a moment let that thought manifest into any kind of-of plan..."

Jonas looked over at Mattias, whose face so clearly showed his fear.

"I'm not angry at you, Mattias. I just want to understand."

"I-I thought at first that maybe the Stone was making me go crazy, you know, like in the Hobbit where he becomes obsessed with the ring?"

"What, did you keep it with you?" Jonas seemed genuinely surprised.

"Always. In the locket. I was afraid that he would find it and take it, which somehow seemed absurd and likely at the same time...but it wasn't like I needed to be near it - it wasn't compulsive, I think I just sensed something being off about him."

Jonas didn't say anything, and Mattias continued.

"I felt like I was going crazy. Suetekh would tell me about the Stone's power, about how we could control all the waters of the world with it, but he just needed my help."

"Fuck me, not just the Nile then?"

"Mm-mmm, its the source of the Nile, but he said that all waters can be commanded by whoever holds it. Anyways...I could feel him taking over my brain. Things would come out of my mouth that weren't my thoughts, that weren't even things I agreed with."

"About building an empire?"

"That was part of it. He would constantly whisper in my head that I should just take you and dad out of the equation, how easy it would be to just poison you both, you'd never know."

Mattias' tears were flowing freely now.

"And I was so afraid that he was going to make me do something or hurt you, and-and then dad got sick, and you were going to be king, and he kept telling me that this was it, this was my chance. One swipe of the blade and then I'd be king and everyone would have to respect me and fear me."

Jonas' choked sob joined those of his brother.

"You should have told me! Why didn't you just tell me?!"

"I didn't want you to think that I was weak! You were always perfect and strong and smart and witty, and I was always in your shadow, and I just thought that it would be one more thing that made me inferior to you," he sobbed, rolling over to meet his brother's embrace, "one more thing that you had to fix for me."

"You thickheaded, frustrating, maddening, vexing fucking boy!!!" he yelled, clutching his brother, sobbing into his tawny hair, barely down to his shoulders, "I would have done anything for you, always, without question or judgment!"

Mattias let himself be cradled, trying to get the words out, fighting to say what he had to as he pulled back and sniffled, wiping at his cheeks.

"He just kept taking more everyday, and I couldn't fight him anymore. I was so afraid that he was going to use me to hurt you, to give him the Stone and...and I just ran out of time."

Jonas was hardly breathing, reliving the day of his coronation - the sky was so blue, it hardly seemed real, he felt like he could reach up and touch it, sink his fingers into the colorful nothingness of the atmosphere. Everyone was smiling, still sad for the loss of the old king, but joyful for the exciting prospect of a new era - this fresh young man, their new ruler. He'd felt on top of the world, but it was over so quickly...his brother laying in a rapidly-growing pool of his own blood, the screams echoing in his ears that he realized were coming from his own throat, fingers gripping the dead boy as Tim and John and Johannes desperately tried to pull him away.

"I could feel him, Jonas...it was the last second I had. He was yelling at you, using my voice, my mouth, but I couldn't stop him...and-and I got that one second of agency, probably the last one I was ever going to have, I realized. And I knew if I didn't do it, the knife was going to go straight through your heart, and then he'd have both the Stone and our home."

"But why did you say that to me!" Jonas cried out his frustration, beating his lifeless fists against the snow, "you told me that if I was going to run the country like our father, then you wouldn't be around to watch!"

"Because I wanted you to hate me!!!" Mattias yelled, frustrated that Jonas didn't seem to understand even now, "I wanted you to throw my shit out and the Stone with it and never think about me again! It was all I could think to do so that the Stone wouldn't fall into his hands! And even that I clearly didn't do fucking right."

Jonas screamed towards the sky, long and loud, venting frustration and heartbreak that seemed bottomless, and his brother shivered at the sound, like a war cry.

"I'm sorry!" he said it over and over again, crawling towards the King, desperate to make him understand and Jonas wrapped him in a fierce embrace, beating the heels of his hands against his back, so angry that any of it had happened.

"It never should have been that way, my brother, I'm so so sorry," he sobbed, clutching the younger man again and rocking him back and forth until they were both quiet and calmer.

"You're right, I should have told you. I'm sorry that I didn't," he said quietly, hanging his head, "and then it was too late."

"No, I should have known. I had my head so far up my own ass I never bothered to do anything about the obvious changes that were happening with you. Its as much my own fault."

"Well, I believe it never should have happened to either of you to begin with," Isis said calmly from behind them, "apologies, my lord husband had to return to his realm to begin dealings with our brother, so it is just me here now."

"I want to go, I want to be there," Mattias struggled to his feet, "I...I need to see him and end this."

Isis watched him with a practiced eye, not unsympathetic, but cool, looking back and forth between Mattias and his brother.

"I will make you a proposition, my darling child," she said softly, reaching out for his hand, "for both of you," her other extended to Jonas.

"Ask anything of me, my queen, and I will do it for eternity," he bowed deeply, feeling an impossible affection, adoration, and maternal love for this woman who hardly seemed older than him but was clearly as old as time itself, or nearly so.

"Oh my, I do see why our Aurora is so taken with you," she blushed, her very skin seeming to glow.

"You both may come sit in on the judgment of Set, if you wish. You may speak your hearts, and you may participate in his punishment..."

The two brothers looked to each other.

"Or," they turned back to her as one, "I give you the choice to live. You will never know his fate, you will never feel his reach, and you will never speak of the Stone again..."

Jonas' eyes roamed the ground, considering the options, both incredibly generous.

Mattias watched sadly, finally touching his brother softly on the shoulder. "You should go back, Jonas," he said quietly, his voice breaking, "go live the rest of the life you should have had. Have sons, be a good king for our people, find your friend Kamilah."

Jonas' mouth moved soundlessly as the tears started fresh.

"Oh, dear heart," Isis sighed, looking at the younger of the two and almost tearing up, "its not an offer for just him."

Chapter Text

It seemed like an eternity before we started to move our tired bodies in the direction of the temple.

Limbs and hearts full of lead, we trudged across the field, still strewn with the dead corpses that we didn't know what to do about.

We miraculously had lost no one but Marisol and Jonas, and the ugly death grimaces of the jackals seemed to mock our sorrow, telling us our numbers weren't great enough to justify such heartbreak.

"Kamilah, honey, come here," Eden called.

I looked over to Tim.

"Go baby, I'll wait for you."

"I'm afraid to go away from you now..."

Raya cupped my cheek, "sweet Kamilah...go to Eden, this is important, we'll be fine."

Tim pulled me close, wrapping one arm around my waist and the other around the back of my neck. "I'm not ever going to go anywhere you can't find me, love..." He kissed me slowly, deeply, tasting of sadness and bitter despair.

I shuffled off towards Eden and missed Raya pulling Tim into her side, whispering lowly to him.

Eden laced her fingers through mine, "take a walk with me, dear."

"I--I don't think I should be away from Aurora..."

"She'll be okay, Shell is going to stay with her."

"What about Jonas?"

"Johannes and Henrik and John are going to eventually have to carry him inside and get him clean, but let them watch over their king out here for now...they need it."

My tears started fresh as another wave of realization hit me that he was gone.

"I tried so hard," I sobbed, collapsing against the smaller woman, who hushed me.

"I know, darling, we all saw. You did more for him than most people would have the bravery to. Took a sword right here," she touched my abdomen, "honey I don't think you know everything that even happened, do you..."

She took my hand and we started walking, headed nowhere in particular.

"You know that Marisol groomed you as her own from the moment you entered our Temple, Kamilah."

I nodded silently.

"She I think always knew...even though the rest of us didn't until--well really until today. Until Tim said your eyes changed."

"I...it was..." I wailed a sob, wanting to effortlessly say the words 'when I was coming', remembering Set's mockery, "when...when I was--"

"Sweetheart, I know, shh shh, I know...but the fact remains...Sol knew that you'd be her replacement. You're to be the new Head of our temple, honey."

My eyes didn't widen, I didn't gasp with shock.

"Oh."

Eden matched my slow steps. "You need to discuss it with Sekhmet, Kamilah...she's known probably since you were born, which...oh, right."

Speaking of my birth reminded her.

"Ehm. Heads like me and Shell and Ciel and Raya, we usually get appointed because we show exemplary gifts, or we're favored amongst the neteru...but, uhm. But the Head of a temple is always a little different. You're ah, you're conceived differently, dear."

That got my attention, and the waterfront came into sight as we walked.

"I don't understand..."

"Do you understand why Set couldn't take the Stone from Marisol?"

"No, I feel like I don't understand anything," I whined, "I thought it just had to be from a human hand...Isis said so, or Osiris...I'm sorry I--my brain doesn't feel like its really working."

"Well, baby you did die," she laughed softly.

"...I what?..."

Eden's step faltered a little, "...Gods but it does seem that I'm the one sharing the hard ways of the world with you today, huh..." but she took the task seriously.

"When you stepped in between Jonas and Set, do you remember getting thrown?"

I nodded.

"And falling?"

"I...I hit Johannes. Gods, Eden I watched him shift when I was in midair, and it was like art. Amazing..."

"And then?"

"I fell. I was flying but...maybe I got too close to the sun. Like Icarus."

"Oh sweetheart, vanity or hubris or whatever you want to call it has never been your weakness," she said softly, "you fell and Johannes did break your fall but, you ehm, you bounced, as it were, and landed on a rather sharp sword."

"Did I really?" I hardly had any memory of it, but it didn't seem to faze me, like she was telling me something from another lifetime. All I could recall was the soft touch of Jonas' fingers against mine, floating adrift in an endless expanse of water.

"It severed your spinal cord, and you were bleeding quiet a lot..."

I didn't respond, still trying to recall, but nothing was coming.

"We lifted you, and I tried to heal you. I pumped all the energy I had to spare into you, but nothing was working."

"Well, why am I here then?" I turned to her with a soft smile, "clearly something you did worked, Eden, you saved my life."

"I can't really take credit for being more than a conduit in the whole thing, honey. That wolf of yours is sharp. You see, when you need the amount of energy it takes to reanimate, it doesn't always work across the elements. This is important for you to know as a healer."

"Earth to fire," I said.

"Right. My energy just isn't enough, especially for someone like you--"

I glanced sideways at her.

"I'm getting to that, hon. But, gods Kamilah, the man looked like he was dying with you, like his own heart was stopping, it was heartbreaking really. But he said that maybe his energy would work."

"But I'm not a wolf like him."

"No, sweetie, but you're a fire, like him."

A low sob left my throat as I collapsed to the ground, wanting just to run back to him, to fall into his arms and spend the rest of forever holding on desperately, clinging to his warmth, his softness, never letting him out of my sight.

"I almost took too much too, you just weren't coming back..."

"Jonas pushed me. Fucking asshole," I hiccuped, "he pushed me back only to fucking die by himself out there."

"Well..." she seemed to be taking a moment to digest what I'd said, "I'd say its one more thing that we have to celebrate about him then, honey. Come on, up up you come, that's it."

She hauled me to my feet and we were nearly at the shore of the lake in the next minute.

Eden turned to me. "Kamilah. You are a daughter of the neteru, but that means more than you think for someone like you. What I was saying before is that Temple Heads are a different breed. You heard Marisol tell Set that the Stone must come from the hand of a human. Now why, if he was able to take it from her freely, could he not?"

Tears tracked down my cheeks. "Eden, I..."

She turned fierce. "Goddamnit Kamilah, because she wasn't human. Not really, not entirely. She was a daughter of Ra. A literal daughter of Ra. Her mother was visited by the great god, the face of the fucking sun itself, Kamilah."

It was so unusual to hear her curse.

"And she fell to her knees and offered herself to him, for the sake of the child she and her husband desperately wanted but were unable to have..."

"Wh-wha...Eden what the fuck are you saying?!"

"I am saying that your mother, bless her wonderful, sweet, glowing beautiful face, prayed so hard for you to be a real Kemetic, and she got what she asked for. More even, though I hardly doubt she fretted over it."

"Wh-so so she, she what, slept with someone else?!"

"Its not always sex outright, dear. Its sometimes a...a deeper connection..." she looked at me in a peculiar way and I couldn't help but feel like she was reading my secrets, learning my inner thoughts. "You understand," she said softly.

My mouth moved soundlessly for a moment as my fingers curled and uncurled in the fabric of my shorts, now torn and covered in dirt and blood.

"Sekhmet will tell you more, since that's all I know. But Kamilah, you've been chosen. Its your destiny, my sweet. You were saved from death, and now this is who you're meant to be..."

I broke down again, sobbing as she lowered me to the ground.

"Trust your goddess, Kamilah. Trust me, trust all of us. We're here to support you, to love you, to help you any ways that we can."

"Eden, I'm so scared," I bawled, "I can't handle this."

"Nonsense, daughter," Sekhmet said from the banks of the lake.

Eden collapsed into a prostrated pose, elegantly of course, like she was doing fucking yoga. I was less graceful.

"My goddess, I don't understand!!"

"You shall, if you follow me." Her soft feminine hands beckoned to me, drawing me from my knees to my feet, pulling one foot in front of the other. "You may undress," she called over her shoulder, continuing to walk into the water as I froze.

"Go baby," Eden urged, taking my hands and pressing a delicate, sweet little kiss to my lips. And then she turned to go, trotting back in the direction we had come, wanting to get back to Aurora.

I watched my goddess submerge herself into the lake until her head dipped below the surface and she was gone.

My fingers shook violently, and I worried I wasn't going to have the strength to wriggle out of the tight elastic of my sports bra.

"Here, sweetheart, hold still," a voice behind me said, and I felt the cold blunt side of a knife as it slid over my skin under the thick racerback strap, and the material snapped over my shoulders. I turned to look at Tim with fearful eyes.

"Go, baby," he urged, just like Eden. slipping his knife under my side and severing the material again until it fell from my body, exposing my breasts to the cool night air. His hands, soft and gentle, worked my shorts down my hips, pushing my panties down with them until I was standing naked in the sand.

"I'll wait up for you, love. Come find me when you're finished, I need you safe in my arms tonight," he said softly, with a parting kiss, and then he too was gone, headed back to the field where he and his friends mourned their king alone, singing low songs and sharing stories.

If they'd had any energy left, they'd have shifted and run as a pack, all equals in the absence of the alpha, running side by side, tearing through the trees.

I took a deep breath, shivering as the water lapped at my ankles, then up to my shins. "I trust you my goddess," I continued to walk until my head dipped below the surface.

It was eerily like my mediation, and I wondered if it was like Raya had said about my Calling, like my brain was trying to prepare me for something I didn't understand yet by introducing me to the concept of being able to breathe underwater. But the deeper I went into the lake, the more the water seemed to glow, like it was turning to fire.

It wasn't like it was turning to fire, I realized, it was turning to fire.

My fingertips brushed through the flames painlessly.

"Its thrilling, it is not, controlling the most dangerous element..." Her voice worked magic on me, and I instinctively relaxed knowing I was in her presence.

"Hello," I smiled softly.

"Hello, my child," she was perfect and regal, and a part of my brain wondered how I had ever thought Isis could possibly be more wondrous and beautiful than her, "the high priestess of Geb speaks many truths, Kamilah," she said quietly, standing on the sands, surrounded by flames that worshiped her very existence.

"Was my mother unfaithful to my father?" I asked, almost slipping into a trance, feeling my body sway with the lapping of the tide.

"No."

"Then how am I a literal child of the neteru, goddess?"

"Because it was I who visited your mother, Kamilah. I heard her prayers," she chuckled softly, her whiskers twitching, "endless and fervent. Your mother should have been one of our kind..."

"I hope she knows you think that," I smiled.

"She submitted to me willingly, receiving the touch of my divine hand against her womb."

I blinked slowly, looking at her somehow with even more devotion in my gaze.

"You're my mother."

"Yes, Kamilah."

"That's why I'm supposed to be head of the temple?"

"Correct."

"Why didn't you tell me before? When we were in your temple at Luxor?"

"Oh, very good, dear, I did think you would recognize it," she smiled indulgently, and I felt drawn to her like she was my mother and my sister and my friend.

"I've read about other people having divine experiences with you there," I spoke honestly, like she was my confidant rather than my master, "they say that's the last living statue of you that exists..."

"Hmm...and what would you say, Kamilah?"

"I...I say that the people who think that have never looked up at the sun and felt its warmth."

Her low growl of approval vibrated through the waters.

"That they've never spent time bothering to read our stories, or learn our ways. My goddess, I see you everywhere - in the heat of the day or the reflection of the moon, in the flowers that grow under the abundant light of your father...everywhere."

Sekhmet beamed at me, taking my hands.

"My daughter, I am made proud by the woman that you have become. I watched you defend the King today - willingly offering your life before his..." if she hadn't been a warrior goddess, I would have sworn there were tears in her eyes. "You shall receive wisdom like you've never dreamed of - powers to defend and protect as I would, my child..."

I dropped to my knees, sobbing with gratitude, and was immediately pulled up to look into her smiling eyes.

"Do you remember what happens now Kamilah," she said softly, a hint of teasing coloring her tone.

I closed my eyes and huffed a soft laugh too, "yes goddess." I leaned in and brushed my lips to her feline mouth, lingering for just a second, like I had growing up, pressing a goodnight kiss to my mother's lips.

What I had felt when she'd bestowed my powers on me during my Calling was like a shot in the dark compared to what I felt under the weight of this gift.
Secrets I'd never even wondered about were answered, dimensions of life I'd never considered were shown to me.
I knew the ancients by name, I watched the mighty kings build their pyramids on the sweating backs of men, and I watched the gods realize their divine wills.

I screamed, overwhelmed, the seams of my mind tearing, expanding, stretching to accommodate, until in a flash, it was over, and I was once more on my knees before her.

"Do you understand now what your task is, daughter?" I looked up at her with wide eyes and nodded.

"I am the shepherd."

"You are the shepherd," she kissed me on the forehead before snapping her fingers and sending me shooting to the surface.

--

John and Johannes and Henrik all stayed with their king on the edge of the field.

Carrying literal dead weight after such an exhausting day quickly left them spent, but they wanted him away from the carnage. An unmarred patch of grass was illuminated by the moon, and they laid him there gently, their tears no longer flowing, but their hearts just as heavy.

No one spoke for several minutes as they sat two at his shoulders and two at his knees.

"We'll have to go home tomorrow," Tim said quietly, his mind always thinking ahead, always planning, even when it wanted it to simply stop and be quiet during moments like this.

Everyone nodded.

"And then?"

He looked sadly at Johannes, "then you do all the talking and we do all the figuring, I guess, until we come up with something better."

"And you really think people will go for that?" Henrik asked, halfway skeptical.

Tim shrugged, crossing his legs under him and after a moment unfolding them and flipping onto his back, looking up at the sky.

Everyone else followed suit and stared hard. The sky seemed farther away here than it did in their own country, and the ground was harder than the soft turf of the hill, blanketed with fresh snow.

They reached out to their sides and took each others hands, almost like a reflex, joining them over the king's knees and behind his head. The minuted passed in hollow silence until Johannes started humming softly, a tuneless series of notes, one bleeding into the other, following no pattern. His low vibrato brought fresh tears to everyone's eyes as he sang his heart's music, letting the time just go by.

"...hey guys?..." John's voice was concerned when he finally lifted his head, "does he...does he feel warm to you?"

"What?" Henrik shot up to his knees, looming over Jonas' body, pressing the inside of his wrist to the king's forehead.

"W...yeah...he does...what the fuck?" he almost looked spooked, "he should be ice cold by now..."

"Whats happening?!"

A soft glow started to emanate from the king, little white lights moving just under the surface of his skin, zinging back and forth, traveling through his limbs, up his torso, healing the cuts and tears in his flesh.

Everyone backed away rapidly, unsure of what was happening, and equally unsure what to do about it.

"Move! Move move move move move!" Mattias ran forward from the trees, scaring the hell out of everyone who had been watching open-mouthed and silent as their king started to glow brighter, the pale luminescence back-lighting his tattoos as they started to flash brighter, more fervently.

He skidded to a halt at the king's side and slammed his closed fist down again his heart once, making Jonas cough and sputter as his mouth opened and the black poisoned mist that had emanated from Set's palm slid out from between his lips.

The king drew in a great gasp of air, making his back arch off the ground as his hands tore at the grass, pulling it out by the roots and his eyes opened wide.

Nobody moved.

Nobody spoke.

They hardly even dared to breathe.

Jonas looked up at Mattias, still looking just like he had in the afterlife, gods but he had to be 30 now - a man, no longer a scared boy.

"M-M-Mattias," his speech was slow to return as he sat up and looked around at his friends' shocked faces.

His eyes scanned the area briefly, looking for me and Ro too, but we were nowhere to be found.

Mattias took Jonas' hand and hauled him to his feel before dropping to the ground and pressing his forehead against the knuckles of his brother's right hand.

"My king, I swear to you my unending fealty, loyalty, and bodily protection."

"What. The. Fuck. whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck!!" Johannes rocketed to his feet and started pacing, his long legs whipping through the grass, trying to expend energy that now seemed to be brimming over where just minutes ago it had been drained as his fingers raked back through his hair.

"Johannes, stop, you're making me dizzy," the king half-groaned, tipping his fingers under his brother's chin and making him meet his gaze.

They locked in on one another.

"You don't kneel to me, brother."

And he pulled the other to his feet. No one else spoke, still staring wide-eyed.

Jonas turned to John, who looked like he wanted to shift, like the urge was stirring just under his skin to take off running on all fours.

"Not a ghost," he promised him with a quick wink, and the other breathed a nervous laugh.

"Well then...ah...uhm...okay."

Mattias turned to Henrik, who swallowed hard, recognizing him even before the King had used his name.

"How is this possible," he whispered, a single tear sliding down his cheek.

"Dunno, these Kemetic ladies worship some seriously powerful gods though."

Henrik started hyperventilating, reliving Mattias' final moments and feeling the seams of his sanity pulling. He'd been the one who touched the stilled pulse points all those years ago.

"No no, breathe, my friend, breathe...please...I know this is a lot but...I'm here for good I think. Isis sent me back. Sent both of us back. She said we were either able to be at Set's judgment and participate in whatever punishment they dole out to gods that do shit like that, or we were able to come back here and never have answers about what happened to him."

"Wh...but you're dead. You've been dead for, for...almost fifteen years!" Henrik stammered, glancing around warily as everyone else crowded them, looking over Mattias like he was some kind of rare specimen.

"I know...wow none of you stayed blonde, huh," Mattias chuckled, pulling his own fair hair down around one shoulder.

Johannes, John, and Henrik all took a collective breath before descending on him, wrapping him up in long arms with shouts of happiness and disbelief.

Jonas crossed to Tim, who was still watching flabbergasted, and his hand gripped his cheek, looking deeply into the bloodshot eyes of his closest friend, his brother by choice.

"Where is she."

"At the lake, my king, speaking with her goddess."

Jonas didn't wait another moment, or excuse himself, or give anyone a second glance.

--

I rose from the lake, taking a great gasp of air, feeling new but also very much the same - still Kamilah.

The water lapped at my exposed skin as I stood waist-deep, facing the great expanse of open water, looking up at the moon; it was huge and full, hanging low from the sky like it weighed too much to be held up to its usual height.

"You're a vision in the moonlight, little Kamilah," he said quietly, submerged in the water behind me up to his waist, his clothes discarded on the shore.

His palms floated on the surface, and the ends of his hair moved underneath as he shifted from one foot to the other, sinking into the sandy bottom as he took another step.

"I'm sorry that you died," I said quietly, "I didn't want you to."

"I know, you told me so."

"In the water."

"In the water," he confirmed.

"Why did you push me away then. I wanted to stay there with you."

"Because I wanted you to go back and live a full life - with Aurora, with Tim, with everyone..."

"But why do your wants matter more than mine?"

"Because I'm the king, Kamilah."

I waited quietly for a moment, sinking my toes into the sand further, feeling the coolness of the water that lapped at the skin just below my breasts.

"I miss you Jonas," I said sadly, watching the white ripples over the water where the moonlight was casting its glow across the top further out.

"Then turn around."

A tear slid down my cheek. I liked to think I could feel his warmth, his broad chest just inches away from my shoulders, making the tiny hairs on my body stand up.

"I--I can't. You won't be there and I'll be even sadder than I am now..."

"Where else would I be, little Kamilah," he said softly, speaking just into my ear, a whisper, a soft breath.

I involuntarily turned to the sound, blinking hard when I found that he actually was there.

"Is this a dream?" My pulse started to race even as my stomach fell into my feet, and my pupils dilated wide.

He shook his head twice, and it was all we needed.

The water splashed as he grabbed me forward, closing his arms around me as mine wrapped around his neck, clutching him to me, terrified that he was going to disappear from me again.

His name fell from my lips like a prayer, like a spell, and I was convinced that the more I said it, the longer he'd stay, pressing his warm body to mine, holding me with an impossibly close grip.

When his mouth found mine, his kiss was hungry, demanding, like it had been a thousand years since he'd felt a woman's touch, and his hands gripped my naked waist, pulling me to him, drawing me in, as he devoured my mouth and my legs wrapped around his hips, not thinking twice as I pressed myself against his erection.

We cried out together, never parting or stopping as he slid against me, hard and smooth, his level of need almost incomprehensible, but somehow perfectly matching mine.

"Jonas," I gasped again, tangling my fingers through his hair as he spun us and dragged us further into the water.

I couldn't press enough of my skin against his, or kiss him deeply enough, and my attempts became frantic, but equally reciprocated.

He didn't ask permission before he took me - he hardly needed to - and I felt my breath almost physically get knocked out of my body as his cock split me open and filled me to my limit, his hands gripping my hips hard enough to bruise and pulling me roughly down onto him rather than pushing into me.

I sobbed into his lips, as he did into mine, gripping my hair down to the roots under my braids to keep me anchored at his lips.

Neither of us could stand to wait or let ourselves adjust.

I felt like I was going to explode as it was, and while I found myself appreciating the hardness of his muscle and the strong grip of his hands as he grabbed my ass, our connection felt different - more than primal need and lust.

Eden's soft voice sounded in my head about sometimes it being about more than just sex. This was simply devotion.

"My king," I whispered as he started to move me on and off his cock, lavishing all my most sensitive spots with attention and splashing the surface of the water with the force of each movement. His tongue filled my mouth with a low moan, drowning me in his taste and his touch, fucking into me roughly, desperately.

"That's right, Kamilah," he growled and one of his hands left my ass and moved around my hip. seeking my clit and rolling his fingers against it as he changed our angle.

Weightless as we were in the water, it was easy for him to lean back and shift me still until he was pressing hard against my frontal wall, still rubbing my clit rapidly as my legs tightened around his hips. My panting breaths became sharper and sharper as my whole body started to shake and I cried out his name one last time.

My orgasm hit me like a force of nature and I gripped him hard, squeezing his cock until he tipped over the edge with me, prolonging my pleasure every way he could as his face dipped below the water and his tongue toyed with one of my nipples.

He hardly had time to come up for air before I was devouring him again, sobbing into his mouth and clinging to him for dear life.

"How are you here," I cried, burying my face into his neck as he rocked me slowly and shushed me, "you were dead. I felt you die."

"Magic," he whispered, breathing into my ear, running the flats of his palms over my back, up and down, as he carried me towards the shallows.

"Please don't let go," I begged, "please don't let go of me and leave again!!"

"My sweet little Kamilah," he breathed, running a hand up my back, stopping at the scar from the sword, identical to the one on my front, exploring it with the tips of his fingers.

"Such a brave girl," he whispered, "willing to take on the gods..."

He kissed me slowly this time, tenderly, and my hands pressed to each of his cheeks as he still gripped me around the waist, moving his hands down under my ass to hold me up as he carried me up onto the sand and the water no longer made me weightless.

"Again," I whispered as he knelt, laying me on the dry ground, never denying me more of the softness of his mouth, the course brush of his beard against my skin as he started to stiffen inside me once more, gently rocking his hips into me.

"Always," he whispered back.

We went slow this time, letting our souls intertwine in perfect time with our bodies as he kissed me a thousand times. His cock filled me repeatedly, taking care to savor every sensation, the tightness of my body, the perfect warmth of it as he sheathed himself, moaning my name into my lips as I tightened around him, overcome by all of it.

Jonas worked me with an expert touch, playing me like an instrument, creating music from the rhythm of our movements.

Neither of us said anything more, and he pulled two more orgasms out of my overheated, tortured body before succumbing to his own wave of pleasure, moaning deeply into my lips as he came hard and his seed filled me again.

"Kamilah...Kamilah, Kamilah, Kamilah," he said softly minutes later when he finally stopped kissing me, lifting himself on shaking arms and moving to brush my hair away from my forehead with one finger, but pausing when he noticed it was covered in sand.

"Back to the water?" I asked with a quiet laugh that turned into a gasp as he got his knees under him once more and slid out of me with a low groan.

Jonas paused, biting his lip for a moment as he felt his cock twitch yet again.

"Fucking hell, but you do look good like that, Priestess..." he murmured, watching his cum drip from me and sending a fire engine blush to my cheeks. I felt my breath catch for a moment, but then he was on his feet, reaching down to haul me up and leading me back into the water to wash off the sand.

"Why is it always water with me and you," he chuckled softly.

"Dunno. Your sign's friendlier than mine?" I giggled, "its calming, I think," I murmured into his shoulder, hooking my feet around the back of his waist and laying my cheek against his when we we were submerged again, "water quenches fire."

He hummed softly in agreement to my comment, meeting my lips gladly as I lifted my head and pressed them to his.

We stayed that way, and I couldn't help but let my tears slide silently down my cheeks.

"Do you remember being in the ocean with me then?"

He nodded slowly - he did, but it didn't feel like his own memory. It wasn't like he was watching me float through the water in front of him, the light refracting across my pale skin with his own eyes, but more like it was a scene he was watching as a spectator. "You looked so lovely with the water pulling at your hair, my dear," he said fondly, still sliding his hands over my skin, the need to have me close still gripping and powerful.

"And the water today."

"Mmhm."

"And now we're here."

"And now we're here," he confirmed, giving me a little squeeze as he still waded further out.

I dove under the surface, sinking, letting the water purify me physically and mentally, clearing my mind before kicking off the bottom and coming up behind Jonas.

"Gods you can hold your breath for a long time, I thought I was going to have to come find you."

"I'm a good swimmer," I said, scrubbing the water off my face and away from my eyes so I could look at him.

"Do we have to go back to the Temple right now Jonas?"

"We don't have to do anything, my dear," he said softly, his arms and legs moving fluidly as he treaded water.

"Good," I dove back under the surface and swam circles around him. I wasn't afraid of anything lurking in the dark crevices of the rocks, or swimming beneath us - we were easily the most powerful creatures in this lake.

I trailed my fingers over his body, touching the curve of his ass, up around his hip, brushing the little ring that pierced his nipple, letting my fingertips learn the map of his skin until I came up for air again just in front of him.

"Little fish," he teased, pulling me to him again and letting his lips brush mine.

"Why did your gods send you back?"

"They didn't. Yours did."

My surprised must have showed on my face, because he splashed water at me and I coughed as it went down my throat.

"Somethings gonna end up in that mouth if you don't close it," he laughed, and I splashed him back with a playful expression of offense.

"What do you mean my gods sent you back? Why would you go to my gods in the first place?"

He shrugged, "I didn't exactly have control over any of that, Kamilah. They were just there."

"Who was it? I-if you don't mind me asking....sir. Sorry, I've been forgetting to say that."

"Are you going to go all formal and courtly manners on me now, little fish?" he chuckled.

"W--Well, I mean, I'm not really--I don't have--" I kicked a little further away, dipping my cheeks under the water to cool the flush before looking up at him, still treading water just like me.

"Isis and Osiris were there. Just her at first--"

I suddenly squealed and did a little back flip under water, "isn't she amazing?! Nice and perfect and beautiful."

He nodded, agreeing with all that I was saying, "kind of everything I always imagined the divine being like...oh and uhm, and Marisol was there, well for a minute anyways."

I went dead still, my sudden glee gone, and I only remembered to pump my legs to keep myself afloat when I choked on the water.

"Did she t-tell you what happened?"

"Briefly. Fucking crazy, being able to control your own death like that" he shook his head, still hardly even able to understand the concept that he'd been dead too, "but she's with Ra now, in the sun she said, and she seemed perfectly happy to go."

"Did...did she uhm...did she say anything about me?"

Jonas looked sadly at me for a moment, a frown pulling at his mouth as he shook his head.

I was all cried out, my tear ducts unable to produce anything more, and I took a great gasp of air, needing a moment alone.

The water was perfect and clean, cold like snowmelt and I found that I could open my eyes underneath without any pain as I swam for the bottom, illuminated lowly by the light of the moon that broke the surface. I wasn't lying, I could hold my breath for a long time - minutes sometimes. I settled on one of the rocks at the bottom, scrubbing my hands over my face and finally just letting go and screaming at the top of my lungs, yelling profanity and insults and everything I could think of as the bubbles rose to the surface.

"Why!!!!" I screamed, "why didn't you fucking tell me you crotchety old bitch! You just left me without any kind of instructions or guidance, and now I have to do this alone!!!"

I started to crumble from lack of oxygen as I yelled all of it away. Hands grabbed me, wrapping nearly all the way around each of my biceps, and he kicked hard off the bottom, pushing us both towards the surface.

I gasped for air when my head breached, taking in lungful after lungful, but feeling undeniably better after my cathartic screaming match with the abyss.

"Stop fucking doing that!" he yelled behind me, yanking me around to face him, "I just got you back, and you go and almost fucking drown yourself."

"I wasn't going to drown! I was just...yelling..."

He rolled his eyes at me, "I know, I heard you underwater, I thought you were getting attacked or eaten or...I don't know...fucked."

I paused, staring with my head slightly cocked to the side. "By what?"

"Nevermind," he pinched the bridge of his nose, and it broke the barrier that was holding back my hysterical laughter.

I held my sides as I giggled, the stern look on his face only making it worse.

"Are you laughing at me Kamilah?"

"Nope, no sir, definitely not, ahem, not l-laughing at you," I giggled, trying valiantly to hold back but ultimately sputtering a laugh against the surface of the lake.

"That's it," he growled, and then he was gone, slipping under the water. But I felt hands on my hips that almost made me shriek as he pushed himself farther below the surface underneath my body, wrenching my legs apart and burying his face between them.

My scream of surprise quickly turned into shrieks of pleasure, and I took another gulp of air before pushing below the surface - if I was going to scream he might as well be able to hear it again. His cords of hair wrapped around my fingers as the flat of his tongue covered me, licking over my slit before flicking and sucking at my clit. He exhaled, sending streams of tiny bubbles ticking over my skin, creating so many different sensations in so many places, that I came almost immediately.

I was gone in under a minute, and he shoved his tongue inside me as the ring of muscle at my opening clenched almost shut around him, thrusting it in and out as he drank down the sound of my cries under the water.

He needed to breathe, but he wasn't done with me yet.

His middle and ring fingers sank into me and we both surfaced again, gasping for air.

"I think you're lying, little fish," he growled, and I kissed him hard as I still gasped for air, clenching through the aftershocks, but nearly getting off already again as his fingers pushed farther inside me.

"Its --ahh-- its possible, your majesty," I said, gasping as his thumb started slowly circling my clit, "I'm...I'm sorry, oh gods please don't stop that feels so fucking good," I moaned into his lips, chasing his tongue back into his mouth.

"You look fucking sensational when you come underwater," he said lowly, working my pussy, moving me towards the edge at the exact pace he wanted, "floating and writhing, god damn woman," he pulled his fingers from me and shifted me to face him as my arms wrapped around his neck again.

"Let me fuck you again," the words were muffled into my lips and ultimately lost as I shifted to take his cock anyways, sliding down onto him and crying out into the night air as he split me open again.

I trusted him to hold us up in the water as I wrapped my legs around the back of his hips, taking him all the way inside me until he bottomed out with a sharp exhale.

"Kamilah," he moaned, kissing me slowly, drinking down my whimpers and cries as I rolled my hips against him, "gods I'm so so sorry that I didn't make you get out of the way," he said quietly, "I watched you apologize when you were falling...like time just...I don't know."

"Like it stopped," I said quietly, meeting his gaze. His eyes were dark, the blue looking more black in the night, but they were honest.

"I never wanted you to get hurt trying to defend me," he said sadly.

"I would do it again, my king, without hesitation," I kissed him deeply, so badly wanting him to taste my devotion, the need that I had for him physically, but also the one that I had now to protect, to defend.

Jonas pressed his forehead to mine, "its no wonder you and Tim are going to wind up together, woman, you're as fucking stubborn and frustrating as he is."

I chuckled softly into his lips. "I think that's part of our collective charm...why are you here, Jonas? Why did they send you back?"

His feet hit the sand of the lake bed, and he bent his knees enough to keep up both submerged up to our shoulders as he slowly started rocking his hips against me, pulling out an inch then sheathing himself back inside me completely.

"My people don't have a king if I'm gone," he said softly.

Our movements were so slow they hardly stirred the water, like we knew it would be the last time we ever had each other - an experience as fleeting as it was potent.

His lips trailed fire down the skin of my throat, biting and licking at my skin until I couldn't take it anymore.

"Please move," I gasped, "please please please."

Jonas claimed my mouth in a rough kiss as he pulled his hips back, slipping out of me.

"Tell me if I hurt you," he rumbled into my lips as he reached one arm around the back of my waist, and the other slid between our bodies, running his fingers over my pussy, exploring me and drawing little gasps and cried as I held on tighter around his neck.

"W-what are you doing?" I gasped, and was answered by the slow push of his fingers, sinking two into me, and angling them to press that one particular spot that made me see stars as I clenched hard.

"Giving you something to remember me by, little fish," he chuckled, massaging my inner walls, but tilting his hips forward.

"Hold still," he whispered, his kisses turning soft, gentle even as he started pushing his cock into me alongside his fingers and I lost the power to do anything except gasp and cry out and tremble against him at the intensity of the stretch.

"Such a good girl," he growled, my tightness almost overwhelming as he pressed further inside, "opening up so well for me...let me in, Kamilah..."

He continued working me slowly until he was bottomed out, murmuring little words of encouragement and whispering an unending litany of his thoughts regarding how wet and tight I was, how he could tell even underwater how badly my pussy wanted him, such a needy little girl I was...

"You set the pace, I don't want to hurt you," he said softly into my lips, tilting me in his lap so I could adjust my grip on his hips.

"I don't...I don't think I can do anything right now...I....whats my name?"

He laughed darkly, nipping at the skin of my throat.

"High priestess..." My hips started rocking back and forth, pressing into him. "Servant of the One Who is Powerful and Mighty..."

"Jonas," I gasped his name, knowing I was already so close just from being filled this way, more than I'd ever taken before.

How was it possible that he was drawing orgasms out of me like most people drew breath?

"Of the Mistress of Dread," he growled, biting my skin harder and pulsing his fingers.

"Don't stop."

"Can you fathom it, Kamilah, the power it takes to breathe the very desert into being...how regal she must have looked, riding on a chariot under the African sun..."

I gasped a sob, and his narration devolved into filthy, growled comments and commands about how good my pussy felt, and how I loved the feeling of both his cock and his fingers inside me.

"Come for me, Kamilah...come for your king..."

The tips of his fingers started fluttering inside me and I exploded, slamming my hips down against him, grinding my clit against his rotating thumb as he swallowed my cries, snarling as he came too, jetting into me and crying out as his fingertips experiences the sensation of his own fluid mingling with mine inside me.

It was a hundred years before we finally came down, shivering together, clinging to each other.

He slid out of me but kept me close, cradling me against him and dropping little kisses against my forehead, running his fingers back over my hair.

"Hmm," he hummed, "our Tim really did work wonders with this unruly mass of hair, didn't he," he chuckled, touching my braids softly before cupping the back of my head to guide my lips up to his.

When he pulled back he softly brushed his fingertips over my cheek.

"She sent Mattias back with me."

I suppose I should have been shocked, but I only smiled and nodded - my gods were generous as the were powerful, and it was the kind of thing I'd always imagined they would do for their favored.

"I'm sure they were rather happy that you willingly died rather than give up the Stone."

Jonas nodded, but found himself incapable of saying anything about the Stone. He wanted to tell me that that wasn't what made Mattias cold and distant, but Set and his influence, his constant whispering inside his brother's mind...but he remembered Isis' words, and found himself unable to speak of the Stone anyways.

"I...I don't want to really get into it tonight, but...well...you were right, about Set being Suetekh. And he slowly I think crept into Mattias' brain and was taking control of him. And he wanted him to kill me for whatever reason," he shrugged, "and Mattias realized at the last second that he was out of time and if he didn't...ahem. If he didn't, then Set would just kill me anyways and take the...it."

I cocked my head a little to the side - his theory made perfect sense. But why had Isis and Osiris let me believe that the Stone caused madness?

*Things beyond what you're meant to know, my child*

I glanced up at the stars, closing my eyes at the sound of her voice, letting the corner of my lips curve upwards.

"What was that beautiful expression for?" He asked softly when my eyes opened and I finally looked down at him.

"Can I meet him? Your brother?"

He smiled softly and pressed a gentle, lingering kiss to my lips, "it would be my utmost pleasure to introduce you, my dear."

His fingers laced through mine as he led me back up to the beach and we put on our dry clothes, but I cursed loudly as I looked around and realized I didn't have a top any longer.

I clutched the shredded material to my chest to cover what I could and shrugged at the king when he glanced sideways at me, "look, its been a weird night okay?"

He laughed in my favorite way and his eyes twinkled when he looked back down at me and ushered me up the bank. "No kidding."

The temple was inviting and warm and my feet moved just a little faster as it came into sight.

"Here," he shifted and knelt, nodding his giant shaggy head over his shoulder.

"What is this like a fetish with you guys or something?" I giggled, but willingly got on. I wanted to be back with everyone else and safe in my own bed with Tim as soon as possible, and this seemed like the most expedient way to make that happen.

Even his trot was quicker than I could run and we were at the doors in almost no time. I hopped down off his back, landing with an undignified 'oof', and quickly covered myself with my hands as the doors opened and the light spilled out across the garden path.

Her hair was down now, clean and washed, and she stood frozen in the doorway, unable to move.

It hardly mattered, because she was swept back off her feet as Jonas' arms closed around her waist and he cried out into her neck, clutching her to him, completely overwhelmed at seeing her whole and okay and alive, after resigning himself to spending the afterlife with only her memory.

It seemed like it was only a shadow of her beauty he'd had of her there on the hill as he looked down at her now, beaming up at him, tears of disbelief and joy slipping from her beautiful green eyes.

"I can't believe you're really here," she whispered, her voice trembling as her tears continued to fall.

"I'm never leaving your side again," he promised, "I'll stay with you forever, if you'll have me, Aurora..." he kissed her slowly, softly at first, and they both forgot I was there as I stood awkwardly shuffling my feet, covering my breasts from the cool night air.

They were blocking the doorway, and figured I was just going to have to wait.

Someone next to me cleared their throat and I turned, nearly falling down at the sight of him.

He was holding out a shirt that I assumed was his, trying not to crack a smile at my obvious look of surprise.

"Ah...uhm...thank you..."

"You must be Kamilah," he smiled, and I nodded, not able to say much more. He turned around, giving me a moment to slip into his shirt and do up the front buttons.

"What are you collecting mens clothes now?" Tim chuckled, trotting down the steps towards me and pulling me off my feet to spin me around twice, to my shrieking delight.

"Gods, you guys change gears fast don't you," I giggled, wrapping my arms around his neck.

I spared a quick glance back at the doorway but Jonas and Ro were gone, and I briefly wondered how many times that man could possibly get off in one night.

"Are you okay?" Tim asked softly, cupping my cheeks and pressing a kiss to my lips, "you look...fucked."

I shook my head and giggled, "I feel fucked, good gods."

Tim chuckled with me, pulling me close and holding me against him for another moment. He hadn't gotten a chance to clean up, and I just assumed that was a byproduct of seeing someone who had been dead for fifteen years. There was probably an awful lot to talk about.

Speaking of...

I turned back to Mattias, "I'm sorry, hi, I'm Kamilah," I extended my hand and he took it, brushing his lips over my knuckles.

"Lovely to meet you Kamilah. Mattias."

"I know," I giggled again, "I doubt anyone would ever guess you two were anything but brothers." He was taller than Jonas, but had the same blonde hair, his own hanging in gentle waves down his shoulders. Mattias' eyes were the same striking shade of blue, but they didn't crinkle at the corners like Jonas' did. He was handsome as hell, and I immediately liked him.

"Welcome back, I guess...is that weird. Oh my gods, that was weird, I'm sorry, I don't know what to say to dead people..." I pinched the bridge of my nose and both men snorted a laugh as we turned to go back inside.

"Come on, weirdo," Tim chuckled, taking my hand, "I have a mind to get you out those braids then out of that shirt."

"Hey, I'll need that back!" Mattias called after us.

Chapter Text

He pulled me up the steps and through the front door, shutting it tight and throwing the lock after Mattias followed us inside.

The halls were empty and I assumed everyone was in the sitting room or in bed, exhausted from the trials of the day - I could hardly blame them and figured everyone was going to need to sleep for the next week, but it gave the temple an eeriness that was unsettling after everything we'd been through.

I pulled Tim's hand to stop him as Mattias continued down the corridor towards the king's suite, no doubt eager to be back in the company of his brother and their friends, everyone basking in the glow of reunion.

"You two coming?" he called over his shoulder, noticing that we'd stopped.

"Stay with me? Just for a minute," I whispered, turning the handle to my door, and Tim shook his head at the other.

He followed me inside and stopped behind me when I paused, running a hand over the side of my hip and taking a glance around the room to make sure there was no danger.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah, I...I just wasn't really sure I'd ever see this place again, ya know? And now everything is so different, it just feels weird."

Saying the words reminded me - we were going to have to talk about that comment he'd made about what hinged on our mutual survival. But not now.

He turned me by the shoulders and kissed me softly, nudging the door shut behind him with his foot.

"But you're here. We're here. And we're okay. Everyone's okay sweetheart."

I nodded, starting to lose the little concentration that I had left as his eyes searched mine and I got lost in the color they turned in the darkness.

"Come on, lets get you cleaned up," I sighed, brushing my fingers over his cheeks. They were flecked with blood and there was dirt in his hair, but I thought that he'd never looked so wonderful.

He nodded, dropping his gaze to my torso and slowly slipping each button of my borrowed shirt through its loop until they were all undone and the material hung open.

"Shower with me?" he asked quietly, pulling both open sides of my shirt towards him until there was no more space between us, and brushing his lips against mine as I nodded.

"Gods I love you," his words were lost into my mouth as he kissed me deeply, unable to wait any longer - the stress of everything that had happened over the day and the sorrow at his loss, then the fierce joy at having it all undone...it was all too much.

He roughly shoved my shorts off my hips after tearing the shirt back off my shoulders, throwing it to the floor and sending his own clothes with them before covering all my bare flesh with his hands, touching, gripping, squeezing me as he pulled me hard against him, skin on skin.

"I need you right now...Kamilah, please," he whispered, but I was already moving, dragging him back towards my bed and pulling him on top of me when I collapsed down backwards. I didn't care that we were getting my bedspread dirty or that my hair was still soaked from the lake.

I needed to be smothered by him like I needed oxygen.

I arched my back under the coarse brush of his mustache, dragging over my nipples as he kissed and licked the skin of my breasts, moaning into me, drawing me closer to him.

My fingers finally got to dive into his hair, gripping it hard as he lined up at my entrance, met my gaze, and filled me with a growl, pressing his tongue between my lips and matching my rhythm as I lifted my hips to take him deeper and cried out.

"I love you, IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou," I gasped, feeling wonderfully overwhelmed, like I could just drown happily in the endorphins and the sensations that he created with me.

It only took us a minute, as frantic as we were to be closer to each other.

"Kom med mig," he moaned into my lips, "baby, please..."

Our mutual release was physically and emotionally fulfilling, like we were exchanging pieces of our souls that we knew the other needed to fix some broken thing inside of us. He panted against my lips, his hips still moving, unable to stop or break the rhythm we'd set until I brushed a hand over his cheek and pressed my lips to his.

His kiss was different when he collapsed next to me, drawing me close and nudging my nose with his, dipping his fingers between my legs to feel himself spill out of me.

"I was so afraid that you were gone," he whispered and I realized that the wetness against my cheeks wasn't from me. His tears slid down his face as he kissed me again, like he needed to convince himself that his king coming back hadn't somehow taken me away. "You were just laying there, and there was nothing I could do to put you back together, and I felt like I was dying too."

"Eden said something like that...but I'm here, I'm right here babe," I rocked him gently, holding onto his shoulders until he quieted. "Thank you for what you did...f-for giving so much of your energy to me...she told me about your fire to fire idea. I probably would be dead if it wasn't for you."

I cupped his cheek and he leaned into my hand involuntarily now, drawing in my warmth and shuddering as I kissed him deeply.

No amount of him ever seemed like enough.

"I would have gladly given the rest if that's what it took to make you come back, sweetheart," he breathed with one more little kiss.

"Well I'm glad you didn't, because I think interacting with two dead men in one day is rather enough for me," I giggled, "come on, if we don't get up now, we're gonna just sleep like this."

He lifted his head to press a kiss against my shoulder, "and whats wrong with that?" he teased before standing and taking both my hands, walking backwards into my bathroom, never taking his eyes off me or letting the little crooked smile that curved his lips up at the corner go.

"Besides the dirt and the blood and the sweat? Nothing," I laughed.

"Yeah well, we didn't all get to go take a swim, did we? Come here, first things first," he chuckled, motioning me to spin towards the mirror as he started undoing the mass of braids that had been tightly bound for so many hours, "we'll never get these out if you get them wet again...this is about to be the best thing you've ever felt, trust me."

"Somehow I doubt...oh...ahhhh," I couldn't help but groan with relief as my hair was unbraided and freed, spilling in still-damp strands down my back again. I didn't realize how much tension it had created across my scalp until it was relieved and I almost crumbled to the floor as he started combing his glorious fingers back through my hair.

"I'm sorry, you were saying?" He smirked at me in the mirror and I stuck my tongue out at him.

"Careful, sweetheart, I might put that thing to good use later," he called over his shoulder as he turned to flip the tap on, letting it run over his fingers until it was hot. I rolled my shoulders and watched the muscles under his skin shift and move in the mirror.

"Hey gorgeous," he said lowly, turning back to me as I faced him and leaned back against the sink with a smirk, cocking my hips and seeing that he was half hard again, "come let me get you dirty after I get you clean..." he growled, offering me one hand as I stepped up into the tub.

He followed me up and I backed him under the steaming spray, biting my lip at the throaty sound that left him as he tilted his head back to let the water run down over his face.

"Holy shit that feels good," he groaned, visibly relaxing in the heat.

I didn't disagree at all that sex was good and stuff, but sometimes a hot shower was better.

The dirt and blood and sweat swirled down the drain until the water ran clear and he scrubbed his hands back over his hair with a relieved groan, reaching for me with closed eyes, "come here, babygirl."

But I had other plans.

"Hey gorgeous," I parroted at him from my knees, running my hands up over his thighs and wanting to die a little from his expression as he paused, looked down, and took in the sight of me.

"Get up here," he said lowly, crooking a finger.

"Or?"

"Or I'm gonna come down there and fuck you so hard you're gonna black out. Come. Here."

I bit my lip and looked up at him through my lashes, wondering vaguely where the hell all this extra energy was coming from before flashing a wicked grin and running my tongue up the length of his cock.

"FUCK!" His hands tangled into my newly-freed locks as he planted his feet and I took him into my mouth, swirling my tongue and loving the way he still tasted like me as my nose pressed against his skin and he filled my mouth.

I hummed around him, wrapping my hand around the base of his cock and taking him back into my throat again as my eyes closed and I lost myself to the sounds of his moans reverberating off the tile of my bathroom.

He watched my head bob up and down, his fingers tangled back into my red tresses.

His lips moved, mumbling words about how beautiful I was on my knees, how good I looked with my mouth too full to be sassy.

I glanced up at him with a smirk as I gave him a long, slow lick.

"Fuck, fuck I'm gonna come, fuck Kamilah don't stop," his hips snapped against my face and I felt him pulse against my tongue when I took him into my mouth again as he started coming down my throat with a shout and I swallowed everything he had to give as my fingers gripped the hard muscle of his thighs and I hummed again, the vibrations drawing another cry from him.

He softened and I finally released him, pressing a kiss to his left hip and holding up both hands so he could haul me up and draw me to his gasping, shaking body.

"How do you do that thing with your tongue," he shivered, mumbling against my shoulder as his arms encircled my waist, "it makes my fucking toes curl."

I giggled and demonstrated against the skin at the base of his neck and his fingertips pressed harder into me.

We stood like that under the hot water, holding onto each other, healing from the traumas of the day, reconnecting, until he pulled me back for a kiss, sweeping my drenched hair back off my shoulders with the tips of his fingers.

"My beautiful little fire," he murmured, watching my face, drinking in my features like he was trying to burn them into his brain, "I love you Kamilah."

"I love you too," I smiled, kissing him lightly on the nose.

"Can I wash you?" he started running his hands softly over my hips, re familiarizing himself with the curves of my body, making sure nothing had changed.

"I don't think this marker is coming off any time soon, but you can try," I shrugged with a teasing grin.

"You should seriously consider getting these tattooed head to toe, because they're fucking hot on you," he laughed, grabbing the bar of soap and my scrubbie, settling on his knees and setting to work.

Whatever he did worked some kind of black magic on me, and I was nearly asleep on my feet by the time he stood and pulled me back against him, my shoulders pressed to his chest and his fingers working shampoo through my hair.

"This soap smells good," he whispered, nuzzling the spot just behind my ear, humming a little song as he worked his fingers over my scalp, breathing a laugh as he felt me relax further against him and he adjusted his stance to prop me up.

"Poor sleepy girl," he said quietly, rinsing my hair, watching my eyelashes fan across my cheeks as my eyes stayed closed, trusting him to hold onto me.

"My turn," I finally stood up straight when he was done, turning and looking at him with a contented, sleepy little smile.

"Are you gonna be able to stay upright?"

"I'll try my level best," I rolled my eyes, motioning for him to spin as I grabbed the shampoo bottle.

"Sorry its girly smelling," I teased, lathering the soap into his hair and working it over the roots.

"Its okay, I like flowers." 

I was sure I was getting off on it nearly as much as he was as I pulled the suds through his hair, watching them slide down his skin, over his ass and down the backs of his legs.

"Have you always liked having your hair pulled?"

"Think it comes with the territory when you grow it out," he chuckled, dramatically whipping his hair back off his shoulders and sending me into a fit of giggles as the last of the soap washed away and he turned back to me.

"I love the sound of your laugh," his eyes did that thing again where they twinkled when he smiled down at me.

Tim gathered me to him, flipping the tap off behind him with his foot as he kissed me slowly, deeply, stoking that low fire that always seemed to burn between us.

"Will you stay with me tonight?" I asked softly, pulling his face up when he started to drop kisses over my jaw and down my neck, his mouth getting a little rougher with each one.

"Every night, if you want me to," he responded, shushing my response with his lips for a moment before whispering to me, "let me take you to bed, Mistress."

I froze, but he kept us going, lifting me over the high edge of the tub and setting me on the terrycloth bathmat.

"Don't freak out, Raya told me," he put both hands on my hips, guiding me as I walked backwards towards my bedroom, not bothering with towels or combing our hair, "and I guess I should ask you a bunch of questions about it, but honestly right now I just want you on top of me," he groaned, devouring me, filling my mouth with his tongue, drinking down my whimpers and little cries as both his hands reached down to grab my ass.

He flopped down on my my bed on his back after pushing my covers away and beckoned to me.

I climbed onto the mattress and let him move and shift my legs until I was where he wanted me, laying almost flat on top of him, my legs on either side of his hips, my breasts pressed to his chest, and my lips being caressed and nipped at by him.

"Gods, you're perfect," he groaned, sighing my name as I slicked back over him and his hands ran a repeated line up and down my waist, tracing the curve of my hips, setting an erotic rhythm.

He didn't let his lips leave me long enough to talk, stroking his tongue against mine, moaning into my mouth, the sound becoming a sharper cry as I shifted to take him inside me, teasing him at my entrance before sliding back further with a hard shiver.

"Fuck, Kamilah," he almost whined, "why do I have this need to possess you, I don't understand."

"Don't try to," I gasped as he bottomed out and locked an arm down around my waist, pinning my hips against his, "just love me."

We didn't say anything else as he started to move, lifting his hips off the bed and fucking into me, landing somewhere between raw animal passion and careful attention.

My hand slid between our bodies and pressed against where we were joined, my parted fingers on either side of him as he moved in and out of me, the added bit of stimulation making him growl something I didn't understand.

"You fucking perfect, divine creature," he said louder, moving faster, fucking me harder, "come for me again, Kamilah. Cover me, fuck me, use me, I don't care, just fucking come for me..."

His words were all I needed as I sailed past the point of no return, flying in the intensity of my high, not even making a sound beyond a sharp gasp as I arched into his body and closed in around him, dragging him with me until we felt bliss together.

I collapsed into his arms afterwards, trembling and thoroughly spent, but a little sex drunk and completely happy.

Tim kissed me over and over again as we quieted together and he held me as close as our anatomy would allow, crushing me against him, leaving no room for our sweating bodies to breathe.

I touched his face, brushing my fingers against his mustache with a smile before settling comfortably against his chest, laying my leg over his, as he ran his fingers back through my hair, just repeatedly brushing it away from my temple as I turned my visibility on, laying in the dark in my bed with him, watching my energy flow through my body like veins.

"Have you always been able to do that?"

"No, its only when you get Called. Can't have girls who don't know what they are walking around using it as a party trick, ya know?"

He hummed in agreement, as one of his fingers traced a glowing orange line down my arm, "my little fire..." he kept up the slow drifting of his fingertips from my elbow down to the tips of my own fingers, following the lights.

"It seems brighter than it did this morning. Does it change colors?"

"I think that's the combination of your energy with mine," I glanced up at him with a tiny smile, "you're kind of a lightning bolt of a human, in case no one's ever told you."

"Blixt," he murmured, still moving his hand over my skin.

"Can I ask what kom med mig means?" I asked, reminded by his use of his native tongue.

He only paused for a fraction of a second, chewing his lip.

"It means 'come with me'."

"Oh..." my finger absently traced a little circle around his nipple, before touching the scar on his chest, "well I did."

He sighed as he kissed my forehead softly.

"Not what I meant, sweetheart."

We were silent for several minutes as I tried to figure out what to tell him. How was it possible that our whirlwind romance was about to end like...well, a whirlwind?

He rolled onto his side, facing me and gathering me forward until the lengths of our bodies were pressed together and my leg slipped between his. He pulled the covers up over us like we were hiding from everyone.

"Raya told me that there always has to be a Head of the Temple."

"Did she tell you why it has to be me?"

"Not really, I just assumed that Sol picked you."

"Well...its kind of like that. She groomed me I think from the minute I got here, but I got chosen to be Head of this temple before I was even born. My uhm...my mom had a pretty hard labor with my sister, and when my folks decided they wanted another baby, she spent a lot of time I guess praying that...ah, well I guess that I would exist in the first place, and that I would live to term, and be delivered without all the pain from her first."

He nodded, watching my eyes as I spoke.

"And she got visited."

"Visited?"

I chewed at the inside of my cheek.

"Ah, yeah. Visited. By Sekhmet."

His eyebrows both shot up and a look of pure shock crossed his face.

"No shit?"

"No shit. And She didn't really tell me any details other than that I'm her daughter."

Tim paused. "Whose daughter?"

"Uhm, hers. Sekhmet's."

I thought he was going to shrink away from me, to slip out of my bed and bolt down the hall, to the safety of his king, but he didn't.

"Wow...that's...wow."

"That's kinda what I said. But that's why it has to be me, baby," I looked at him sadly, "I'm half-human."

"Well...that's okay..."

My eyes had been absentmindedly following the pattern on my curtains, dancing back and forth between the colors and textures, but they slowly traveled back to his.

"Its okay?"

"Well yeah, of course its okay," he laughed like it was obvious and I sat up so I could look down at him with furrowed eyebrows.

"You're taking this too well."

"No, I'm taking this as a fellow half-human," he was outright shaking now with the effort to control his laughter, losing the battle altogether when I slapped a hand against my forehead.

The wolf thing.

Fucking hell.

"You're half human?!"

"We all are, sweetheart...both parents are human of course, but every citizen of Avatar Country can shift. We five are wolves, obviously, but people can be birds, foxes, bears..."

"Lions and tigers, oh my," I mumbled through my hands as they scrubbed over my face, "how does that make you half human if both your parents are people?"

Tim shrugged, "dunno. Our DNA is different though and we can live as either human or animal, so we consider ourselves half and half."

I stared hard at him until he started to squirm.

"Don't look at me like that, I feel like I'm in school or something," he squirmed some more and I collapsed back into his arms.

"That...I didn't really expect you to take it that well...you do understand that...well...you understand that I have to stay, right?" I said sadly, feeling tears sting my eyes but blinking them away.

Tim sighed deeply, wrapping his arms a little tighter around me.

"Then maybe we split the difference...an au revoir, not a goodbye, so to speak."

"Ooh, say something else in French to me," I giggled, the words sounding silly leaving his lips. He laughed and I got my ass smacked hard for my trouble, pulling a yelp from me.

"Sass me again, Kamilah, and you get a matching handprint on the other side," he growled, though there was playfulness behind it.

I snorted a laugh and bent my head, biting his nipple and making him shout until in the next moment I was on my back and he had both my hands pinned above my head.

"How do you move so fast?" I was genuinely impressed.

"Come home with me and spend weeks naked in my bed, and maybe you'll find out, Mistress," he purred against my lips, tracing the lower one with his tongue, already enjoying the sound of my new title.

Mistress...Gods but that was going to take some getting used to.

His kiss was needy, hungry, like we hadn't already gone three rounds since walking through the door.

"Fuck, I'm too tired to go again," he mumbled into my lips, though he didn't stop kissing me, "give me like an hour to sleep."

I started laughing and he felt me vibrating against him with the effort to keep it silent.

"An hour it is, pup," I giggled, getting another smack against my ass as he rolled off me and gathered me into his side.

"Smartass," he murmured, dropping a kiss to my forehead before settling back into the pillows and immediately drifting off into a deep sleep.

I was right behind him, pulling the covers up around us and nodding off too.

--

The light from the hallway didn't wake either of us up as it spilled in through my doorway.

It wasn't until the covers were quickly yanked off the end of my bed that I was startled awake, shrieking as I was grabbed roughly around the waist and thrown over someone's shoulder.

My brain went from dead asleep to fight or flight immediately and I was instantly back on the ground as my attacker hung upside down in mid air, suspended by my energy as it emitted effortlessly from my hands, binding his arms tightly to his sides.

Two impossibly wide cerulean eyes looked flabbergasted at me as his curls hung a foot below the top of his head.

"Henrik?!"

Tim was sitting up in bed, rubbing a hand over his face with a wide yawn, awakened by my scream but instantly recognizing the source of the trouble.

"Which one of you wants to tell me why our bass player is one second away from a broken neck?" he asked half-exasperatedly, looking at Johannes and John.

"We were just trying to bring you and your girlfriend over to our little paaarrrtyyyyy," Johannes cooed, giggling the entire time as he watched Henrik spin slowly like a pinata at the command of my rotating finger as I scowled at him, "damn Red, remind me not to...to fuck with you..." he swayed on his feet slightly as he hiccuped and giggled some more.

"Wh--by throwing me over your shoulder? Wait...are you drunk?"

"Very. Are you naked?"

I glanced down, realizing Henrik was currently at eye level with my breasts, and rapidly spun him around so his back was to me, and turned away from Johannes.

"Very."

"Hey! I was enjoying that!" Henrik slurred, obviously as equally drunk.

John was right behind them both, making the world's best effort to remain stoic, though I suspected he was as far gone as the both of them from the way his mouth was twitching like he wanted to laugh.

"But to answer your question, yes we're very very drunk."

"You already answered...are any of you even going to remember this tomorrow?"

Johannes declared no as Henrik very firmly said yes, making all three of them dissolve into laughter that was too infectious not to join as I shook my head, looking exasperatedly at Tim.

"What did you bring into my life?"

He grinned and rolled his eyes at me with a shake of his head, "you'll get used to it, I promise," he chuckled.

They all exchanged good natured jabs about each others' drinking habits.

"Can I get down please? Upside down is starting to feel very very not good."

"Oh, sorry!" I gently lowered Henrik, who turned back to me, unsteady on his feet but grinning ear to ear.

"Ahem...okay..." everyone looked at me and I realized with a start that I was still naked.

"Motherfucker. Ah, uhm...be right back..." I dashed to the bathroom, closing the door behind myself and leaving a cacophony of drunken male laughter on the other side. I realized too late that my clothes didn't live in the bathroom, a fact which didn't escape any of the rest of them.

"Come out come out, little Red," Johannes sang from the other side of the door, running his fingernails down the wood and creating a low scratching sound that sent a chill down my spine.

"I promise we don't bite...hard," Henrik purred.

"Can't hide forever, Kamilah," a third voice added.

I was perfectly content to do just that until they went back to their own rooms, but I couldn't resist playing along with the game they'd started.

I snaked a little trail of energy under the door, grabbing the first thing I touched which happened to be a foot, and winding up the leg of its owner, slowly, touching the skin like a lingering fingertip, slowly moving further up...

"I hope you know where this thing is going, my dear..."

My string of expletives were muffled through the closed door, as their laughter was somewhat muted too on my side.

The doorknob turned and I hid in the corner, aware suddenly of how small my bathroom was, as I grabbed my bath towel and held it over my front.

"You changed your tune awful quick," Jonas smirked at me as he saw me covering myself, only letting himself and Tim in and giving everyone else a stern look that was greeted by goodnatured harrumphs and comments that they never got to have any fun, dad.

I mumbled something incoherent, holding out one hand for the clothes that Tim was holding, giving him a look that basically begged for mercy, but he held them back from me.

"Don't you like us anymore, sweetheart?" he teased, standing back from me as the lock on my bathroom door clicked and Jonas leaned comfortably against it, looking wonderfully, dangerously inviting, but also blocking my only exit.

"I...I feel like I should say no out of a sense of self preservation..." I looked back and forth between them cautiously, suddenly very glad that my back was against the cool tile of the wall.

The king's hand rested at his belt, "But that would be a lie, liten laga, wouldn't it."

"Uhm...I..." I reached for my clothes again, and Tim chuckled darkly as he hid them behind his back and wagged a finger at me.

"Its horribly rude to lie to a king, my love."

"Okay, this has been fun and stuff, uhm, but d-don't we have a party to go to or something?"

"I let you get away with a lie the first time," Jonas said lowly, still keeping his hand at his belt, the option to either let it rest, or to go a little further at his fingertips, all the control resting with him.

Damn but he was impossibly hot when he was dom.

"Perhaps this time, I'm not feeling so merciful..."

"I...of course I..." I swallowed hard, "of course Iike both of you...can I uhm...can I get dressed now?"

"No." They both answered in unison.

Tim took one step towards me, then another, slowly crossing the room until he was standing right in front of me.

"How much?" He asked lowly.

"Uhm...a-a lot?"

"Show me," he whispered, letting his fingertips whisper across my shoulder, down my arm, my hand, before taking it and pressing it flat against his erection.

I looked at him wide eyed.

"Had my hour, sweetheart," he laughed lowly before kissing me hard, tearing the towel from my body and crushing me into the wall, moaning into my lips as his other hand groped my breast, scraping his thumb across my nipple.

"Do you like how hard you make me, Kamilah," he rasped, "does it make you wet knowing how badly I want you...all the time...every second," he sharpy bit my pulse point and I gasped, "of every day..."

He was grinding his cock into my palm, getting off equally on the physical touch and how quickly he could make me soft and pliable in his hands.

I tore off the little clothing he had on, shoving his shorts down his hips until they hit the floor.

"Please just fuck me," I gasped, my brain flooded with need as he buried his face in my neck, kissing and sucking at my skin as I gripped his cock with my hand, pumping him hard.

Jonas was watching me with heated eyes, his erection obvious through his jeans. He held my gaze as Tim continued to devour my neck, bracing himself against the wall with one hand as the other dipped between my legs, sliding through my folds, and his hips bucked into my fist.

He refused to let me look anywhere that wasn't him, and I whimpered as Tim rolled his fingers over my clit, feeling overheated and overstimulated and desperately wanting more of everything.

A perfect crooked grin pulled at the corner of his pierced lip as he started slipping the buttons of his shirt out of their loops one by one, slowly. It may have even passed for casual if it weren't for the way his irises burned into my skin. He slid the material back off his shoulders, teasing me, making me wait for what I wanted with that same knowing smile.

Tim slid his fingers inside me, pressing two in down to the last knuckle and I cried out, the sound filling the room, bouncing off the tile to come right back to me.

"So wet...so tight," he murmured, nipping at my ear, "are you watching carefully, sweetheart?" He felt me clench hard around his fingers and chuckled darkly into my ear, "I'll take that as a yes...don't look away, love...we want you to know exactly what you're in for..."

The gasp that was supposed to be my response got lost in my pleas for him not to stop whatever he'd started doing between my legs.

But he didn't listen.

"Tsk tsk tsk, I don't think I should let you come. What do you think Kungen?" He called over his shoulder, drinking in the way I melted for them.

"I hardly think she deserves to be rewarded for lying..."

I whined when Tim's fingers started sliding out of me until just his fingertips remained, stretching me open, teasing me, but not letting me come.

Jonas kept me watching, drifting his hand down his abdomen and biting his lip as delicious anticipation crossed my face. He pulled at his belt slowly, the sound of the leather strap sliding through the metal buckle almost enough to make my knees buckle and I swallowed hard as my mouth watered.

"You're dripping down my hand," Tim purred, running his tongue up my neck, "whats got you so worked up, little Kamilah..."

The king slowly pulled at the button on his jeans, his chest moving with each breath that were far more steady than mine as I stared at his erection, remembering what he felt like inside me, what his voice sounded like shouting my name into the empty night air, how he'd pulled one orgasm after the next from my shattered body.

"Please..." I whispered to him.

Each slow movement of his hands showed a little more skin until he slid his jeans down his inhumanly perfect hips, freeing his cock and I clenched hard around Tim's exploring fingers.

"Do you see something you like, Kamilah," Jonas asked lowly, wrapping his hand around his cock and slowly pumping himself, daring to rest his shoulders back against the wall and moan softly as he worked himself.

My hand moved over Tim at the same pace, unhurried, perfectly in sync as I nodded my head, my eyes still trained on him.

He licked his lips at me with an evil grin and I almost shrieked.

Everything in my body was on fire and Tim growled lowly as he felt me clench and gush around his fingers again.

"I need to be inside you..." he whispered before kissing me hard, his tongue filling my mouth and drowning out everything else around me as his fingers slammed into me again, pressing hard enough on my frontal wall that he physically pulled my hips away from the tile at my back.

"Fuck, oh let go," he groaned, pushing my hand away from his cock, panting against my lips, "not yet...I want to come inside you again."

"Stand against the counter, Kamilah." Jonas was right next to us now, moving so quietly I hadn't heard him approach, and his fingertips whispered over my hip.

Tim pulled me over to the sink, shifting me so I was facing the mirror, looking at both of them, and he nudged the inside of my knee with his so my legs spread a little further apart as he pulled my hips back.

"I want you to watch yourself come undone, baby," he breathed, slowly pushing into me and drinking down my cries as I buckled forward against the counter under the sudden stretch and pressure.

He buried the fingers of one hand into my hair and yanked my head up so I was forced to watch his eyes over my shoulder as his hips snapped against my ass.

Jonas was standing right next to me again in the next moment, gently pressing against the front of my hips until I shifted back enough for his hand to slither down my body and between my legs, dancing one finger over my clit.

Tim let go of my hair and I collapsed forward again, barely able to keep my feet as I whimpered under their attentions and my fingers curled against the cool countertop.

"Tim, hold her up please," Jonas said casually, almost conversationally, before sliding inbetween me and the counter, sandwiching me for a moment and kissing my lips hard as he gripped my face with both hands.

"Since you insist on not standing up, perhaps we can put that mouth to good use, hmm?" he growled lowly, kissing just my bottom lip as I panted for breath and Tim rolled his hips into me, gripping my shoulder to push me farther down onto his cock.

He lifted himself on his palms and sat back comfortably on the countertop until his hips were at the edge and his feet were dangling off the floor.

"Be a good girl, now," he said softly, bringing my face forward for another kiss before pushing on the back of my head until it dropped into his lap and I gently breathed over the tip of his cock before teasing it between my lips.

"Ahhh, god," he moaned, leaning back on the heel of one hand as I dropped further down his length, the tiny part of my brain not being ravaged by want and need and overwhelming desire completely impressed with his size.

One hand wrapped around the base of his cock, stroking what of him I couldn't take, and my other forearm rested down on the counter against his leg, my fingers gripping his ass.

Jonas growled curses and words in a language I didn't recognize as my head bobbed up and down and I moaned heavily as Tim started moving too, watching me carefully, impossibly aroused by what he was seeing, every thrust of his hips pushing me further down onto Jonas' cock.

The king's fingers threaded through my hair, staying soft and following my rhythm, almost petting me as he watched me, breathing through gritted teeth.

I did the thing with my tongue that Tim had asked about earlier, and the stuttered cry that escaped him hurled me over the edge of an orgasm that left me sputtering and gasping as I pulled off his cock and pressed my forehead hard against his thigh, riding the aftershocks as Tim picked up his pace and made a series of comments that would have made the devil himself blush.

"You're not done yet, beautiful," Jonas growled, pressing me back down onto his cock and rolling his hips into my face as I slid my tongue over him.

The three of us stopped thinking collectively, just moving and caressing and crying out until we dropped into a sea of overwhelming pleasure.

"Watch this," Tim chuckled darkly, grinning at his king, who wasn't looking anyways as his head was thrown back, his mouth open, gasping with pleasure as my throat closed around him and his fingers tangled back into my hair.

"Ohh, don't stop, Kamilah, don't stop," he moaned, rolling his hips up into my face, "fuck, I'm gonna come, don't stop..."

It took every ounce of concentration I had not to choke as he exploded into my mouth at the same moment that Tim slammed his hips hard into me and strummed his fingers back and forth over my clit, making me gush hard around him as my knees buckled.

My fluids dripped down my legs, all but splashing out of me as Tim yelled a growl and came too, filling me and grabbing my shoulder again with one hand to let more leverage.

"fuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK" he yelled, spilling into me, his hips stuttering before stopping altogether as he pressed his forehead hard between my shoulder blades and slipped out of me.

He whispered my name as he pulled me back and collapsed to the floor, drawing me close until I was laying back in his arms, gasping for breath, not thinking twice when I reached for Jonas and he joined us on the floor.

I kissed him gently and his tongue teased against mine, exploring the way I tasted like him, and growling his appreciation softly. Tim gripped my chin and gently turned my face back to him so he could taste me too.

"What happened to being territorial and jealous?" I asked breathlessly, hardly able to believe where I was and what had just happened.

They both chuckled as their hands roamed over my skin, "we're part of the same pack, love," Tim whispered, burying his face in my hair, "its different."

"Plus," Jonas stroked the backs of his fingers down my cheek, "we come from a culture that approaches sex and pleasure rather differently than yours. You'd be surprised how freeing it is to find anyone you want attractive and be able to act on that as long as its reciprocated..."

"Wh--anyone?" My brain was still full of cottonballs, and I had a hard time imagining a society of people who could freely choose and be chosen without a stigma attached to any of it.

He smirked down at me, watching carefully, considering.

"Anyone," he breathed, and in the next second he exchanged a quick glance with Tim that probably said more than I understood, and the king threaded his hand into his friend's hair and pulled him closer, brushing his lips against his right overtop of me.

They lingered there for a second, and I watched Tim's lips slowly open to his king, no doubt exaggerating to drive the point home, and his tongue slid between Jonas' lips, kissing him passionately, but I missed the rest.

My head lolled to the side, back against the tile as I passed out cold.

Chapter Text

The first thing I saw when my eyes fluttered open were bright green eyes and a little front tooth gap.

"Hiya," Ro giggled down at me, smoothing my hair back away from my face.

"H-hi," I croaked, still disoriented and hazy, "gods Ro I just had the craziest dream...Jonas and Tim were k--"

"Ah-ahem..."

I froze in the middle of my sentence and even with just my peripheral vision I could see him sitting in the same chair he'd been in earlier, running a finger back and forth over his lips as he chuckled.

"Jonas and Tim were what?" he asked teasingly. I rolled my head in her lap so I could look straight at him, and he quirked one eyebrow at me. His dreads were bound together with a black elastic, spilling down over one shoulder the way I liked them best.

"Oh my gods, th--...was that r--...I'm going to pass out again."

"You can't pass out first, you haven't even had a drink yet!" Johannes slurred, pulling me to my feet and whirling me around his finger with a surprising amount of grace given how far gone he was.

Jonas and Tim had gotten me cleaned up and dressed and apparently carried me all the way down the hall to the King's suite without me coming to.

"Woah!" I lost my balance as he let me go and I stumbled back a step, only to be caught by Henrik who spun me towards him and wrapped an arm low around my waist, pulling my hips flush with his in a perfectly over familiar fashion as he waltzed us to Johannes' humming and John kept time, tapping against the arms of his chair.

"I think I like you better naked," he teased, leaning in to nudge his nose against mine.

"I think I like you better as a wolf that doesn't talk so much."

Their happiness and unadulterated joy was infectious and I finally got my feet under me and let him spin us around the room.

"And speaking of being naked, what ever happened to 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours!'," I giggled.

"Easy, you showed me yours first. Technically, I'm under no obligation to show you mine now as I was the conditional part of that statement."

He pulled me closer and his arm gripped my waist tighter. "Unless of course you're finally going to let me make it all up to you so I can watch those pretty eyes roll back in your head," he purred into my ear and I shivered hard, making him hum with a laugh.

"Jump," he whispered as he lifted me off the ground and turned me in a faster circle, still keeping perfect time, his right hand clasping my left outstretched as his arm held me effortlessly against his body.

"Gods, are you a dancer too? I honestly won't survive it if you say yes, Henrik," I sighed, giving into the happiness they emanated and wrapping my arms around his neck as I pressed a little kiss to his cheek and he set my feet down on the floor.

"Yes," he kissed the tip of my nose with a perfect little smirk and hugged me close.

"I'm really glad you're not dead," he murmured, and I couldn't help but snort a laugh.

"Come on babe, who would you have to constantly touch your hair without permission if I wasn't around?!" I tucked my fingers into his curls with a little smirk and his laugh lit up his entire face.

"Fair," he chuckled, grabbing my other hand and pressing it into his hair on the other side, letting me run my fingers through the soft fullness, "gods, that feels really good actually," he leaned into my touch.

"You're drunk," I giggled, and he playfully growled at me as I tugged on his hair before turning to find Tim.

He was seated near his king, watching him talk to his brother, a smile pulling at the corner of his lips. He glanced up at me and motioned me over with one outstretched hand.

"Nice of you to join us," he teased, pulling me into his lap to kiss me as Jonas also pulled Ro down to him, whispering something lowly to her that made her blush.

"Its not my fault!" I swatted his chest and he wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling my legs over both of his so I could lean sideways against him as he chuckled.

"No, I suppose it isn't. I'd rather kiss you anyday though, seeing as you don't have a beard," he whispered, softly brushing his lips against my own and curling my hair behind my ear with a smile that made me melt, and I happily relaxed into his embrace as John pressed a glass into my hand.

"You're behind, Kamilah," he teased, clinking his own against mine before going back to find his chair as Jonas loudly commented that his beard was in fact very regal.

"Gods do not try to keep up with them," Mattias laughed, "you'll be hungover until next year."

"Come on, every celebration has an equal or greater hangover - its the final law of physics or something," I winked, giving Tim a quick kiss before lifting off his lap to go sit with Mattias. I was beyond intrigued by the lovely blonde younger brother of the king, and his happy grin solidified in my mind that we'd be perfect friends.

"So, you're Kamilah, huh," he chuckled, turning to face me, resting his face against his knuckles as his elbow rested on the back of the couch.

"That's what they tell me."

"I like your Temple."

"Thanks, me too," I giggled, noticing acutely that he had referenced it as my temple, "how are you doing with being back?" I tucking my feet under me as I sipped from my glass, "sorry if that's a weird question...we're all kind of weird here."

He watched silently for a moment as Johannes tried to get Henrik to repeat tongue twisters in three different languages, giggling like a child when the other started to get frustrated, repeating the words in the wrong order every time.

"Its...weird. Everyone is so different now, but also kind of the same...they were basically teenagers when..." he stopped speaking and chewed his lip. I softly touched his hand, not terribly worried about being forward.

"Its okay," I smiled reassuringly, "you don't have to talk about it...but if it helps, I understand why you did it."

He swallowed hard and nodded, looking back at me with a soft smile, glad for my kindness, " its kinda hard to just yet."

"I'm sure...I...I'm glad that you're back though. Please don't feel any pressure to talk about anything you don't want to...I know we don't really know each other but--"

"Well I'm sure there will be plenty of time for that on the way home," he smiled, watching as my own faltered for a moment.

"What, what did I say? Wh--are you not?"

"I would love to, but I uhm, I kind of can't now."

Henrik stopped halfway through a mostly-correct rendition of his newest verbal puzzle, his head turning like he'd caught a strange sound. 

"What the fuck did you just say?" Our eyes met, and I realized that he was actually upset, "you're not coming with us??"

He rounded on Tim, "what did you do now?!"

"Hey, watch it," Tim scowled, tipping back the rest of the contents of his glass. They started to bicker, fighting like brothers, and I settled back into the cushions, throwing back the rest of the whisky in my glass and thanking every deity at once that I managed not to cough as it burned going down my throat.

"Didn't miss this part," Mattias frowned.

"Why not?" Henrik demanded, rounding on me now, and I regarded him with one raised eyebrow as the alcohol started to hit.

"Because I can't."

"Yes I heard that part, princess, why not," he said more firmly, and I slowly rose, never taking my eyes from his as I let mine change, burning with hot flame, the color swirling and taking over the brown. Each step I took saw him take one back until he had nowhere else to go, the wall at his back preventing his escape.

"Don't use that tone with me, Henrik."

Johannes glanced at Ro with a questioning expression and she nodded her head, confirming what she'd whispered to him earlier in the kitchen.

"Hot damn," he murmured again.

"I cannot come with you," I said quietly, "because the Temple must always have a Head," I took another step forward, still several meters from him, and he watched my shorts and t-shirt dissolve into a beautiful, flowing dress, billowing in a breeze that wasn't there, but made of flame rather than fabric. "And Marisol is gone now."

The fire licked at my skin, and I ran my fingers through it, feeling no pain.

"Do you understand now?"

He shook his head slowly back and forth, eyes trained on my body as I continued to close the gap between us, stopping when I was only a few feet away.

Jonas pulled Aurora a little closer, shifting her on his lap so she tilted back against his chest further.

"Quite a trick from our Kamilah, hmm?" He murmured into her ear, and she turned to him with a knowing smile, kissing his nose.

"My King, its no trick. She's the most powerful being in this temple. She's stronger and wiser and more important than any of the rest of us now. She's not even really a human. Well, not totally," she corrected herself.

"How?" His brow furrowed a little as he glanced back at me, my hair now perfect licking red flames.

Aurora dropped her lips to to his, murmuring the answer between kisses.

"She's a child of the gods, Jonas."

"Born of a divine union."

"Destined from her very conception for this."

She'd known the instant someone mentioned my eyes changing. A line from a book she remembered, saying that eyes changing color was a sign of being half-human, a literal child of the neteru.

Henrik's fingers twitched at his side, and I glanced down at them before meeting his wide-eyed gaze again.

"Do you want to touch me, Henrik."

"Yes, b-but you'll burn me," he answered honestly.

"I wouldn't ever hurt you," I smiled, the fire behind my eyes making them glow. I held out one hand to him, my very skin glowing like embers.

"But you're on fire, Kamilah," his words were even and soft, like he was hypnotized.

"I am the daughter of the eye of the sun, Henrik, I am fire."

Various low growls filled the room, recognition of my power, and John and Johannes both found their heads involuntarily bowed in submission. I cast each a momentary glance over my shoulder, a tiny smirk before turning back to Henrik.

"And my title is Mistress, thank you..."

Even Tim shivered at my tone - confident and perfectly accepting of the immense responsibility and power that came with this new role that I'd never expected to have.

"I am a child of the gods, Henrik. My mother is the warrior goddess Sekhmet...mighty and powerful...her very breath created the desert, darling. And now I am Head of this Temple."

Aurora felt the king's growl rolling through his chest, vibrating through her body as well, and turned to kiss him hard, drinking in the firm grip of his hands as her lips brushed against his ear, whispering exactly what her plans were for him once she got him alone.

Henrik's hand shook as he reached out to touch me, gently brushing his index finger against the tip of mine, and drawing a little sigh of pleasure from me as his eyes closed and he pressed his palm flat to mine, shivering.

"Ohh..."

"Not such a big bad wolf now, hmm?" I laughed lowly, drawing my flame back inwardly and lacing my fingers through his, watching the shock and awe wash over his lovely face. In the next second I was crushed against him, both his hands wrapping around my back, gripping me tight as he buried his face into my hair.

"Please come with us. Please please please please please," he begged and I pulled back just far enough to press a hand to his cheek.

"I can't, honey. This Temple and these women are my responsibility now..."

"But you're so young," he whispered, touching my cheek tenderly, not meaning it in an insulting way, but more mourning the idea that such a burden had been bestowed on me.

"It's my honor," I whispered, taking his hand in mine and pressing a soft kiss to the palm, "my destiny."

"Well darling, you can't expect to spend every second here," Ciel laughed, sweeping into the room followed by the Eden, Raya, and Shell, "or we'll kick you out."

Shell glanced around from face to face, looking for the one who she didn't know, and beelined for Mattias when her eyes found him, grabbing him by the hand and pulling him to his feet before reaching up and pressing a hard, passionate kiss to his lips, tangling her fingers back into his hair.

Various whistles and drunken cheers filled the room as we all laughed at the shocked look on his face, wide-eyed and innocent.

"Thank you for what you did, sweet Mattias," she smiled sweetly, still cupping both of his cheeks, "you quite literally saved our world."

His hands involuntarily settled at her waist as he looked down at her with a fierce blush that I found impossibly endearing.

"W-who are you?"

"Oh," she blushed too, taking her hands from him and curtsying deeply as she took a step back, "I am Cerith, sir. High Priestess of Khnum. Apologies, I've forgotten myself."

His head cocked a little to the side, as she peaked up at him when he didn't answer for a moment.

"We met."

"Who met?"

"We did," he glanced at Jonas who was wearing a contented smile, his hand softly stroking back and forth over Aurora's leg, "us and uhm..."

"Khnum," Jonas repeated, providing the name that his brother's mouth still had a hard time pronouncing. 

The look of shock that crossed Shell's face was brief, giving way to her best smile that drew a shaky exhale from the younger man as he watched her lips pull back, revealing a perfect set of teeth as she laughed.

"He's uhm, he's an interesting...fellow..."

Jonas snorted a laugh, chuckling as he filled her in on the details of their encounter with our god of the Nile.

"He spoke very fondly of you, Mistress Shell," Jonas finished with a small nod of his head in her direction, "I have no doubts that you serve him well."

"We do our best, your highness," she blushed again, "thank you."

"Please, I won't ask you again to call me Jonas," he replied with a soft smile.

"Wait, I thought you said your name was Cerith," Mattias interrupted, looking confused all over again.

"It is," she said over her shoulder to him as she pulled a glass from the tray in the corner, "when I was little I lisped all my soft C's, so my mum started calling me Shell so I wouldn't introduce myself as Therith," she giggled, pouring herself two fingers of whisky, and doing the same for him when she noticed his empty hand.

He looked down interestedly at her as she took a sip and handed him his.

"Thank you Cerith," he said softly, repeating her name and loving the shy smile he got in return. He pulled her down next to him on the couch and she tucked her legs underneath her as they talked quietly and she asked him more questions about his interaction with her god.

"So what happens now?" John asked as I settled back down on Tim's lap, acutely aware of the way he was breathing softly down my neck as his hands gripped my waist a little tighter than was strictly necessary.

"Now...I don't know...I guess we all just keep doing what we were doing before..."

"Pfft, yeah, good plan," Johannes rolled his eyes as he huffed back into his chair, "because everything is basically the same now."

"Look, I don't have any more answers," I snapped, starting to get frustrated.

"Well I have an idea," Raya announced, settling into the corner of the sofa and crossing her long legs, one over the other. She grinned at Ciel, Shell, and Eden, who had settled dangerously close to Henrik's wandering hands. They all seemed to exchange something unspoken before looking back at me.

"What."

"I'll tell you tomorrow."

"Wh--thats just cruel," I grumbled and she inclined her head towards me with a quick wink, "apologies, Mistress Kamilah."

"Oh, god, I do like the way that sounds," Tim growled lowly into my ear, his arms pulling me a little harder back against him.

"Gods, you guys really don't get tired, do you," I giggled, turning to kiss him and letting him slide his tongue between my lips briefly with a low moan.

"Why don't we go back to bed and you can find out for yourself," he said hotly, his mouth seeking mine again when I pulled back.

"Behave," I tipped him on the nose as he bit his lip, "or else."

"Ohh, threaten me again, it turns me on," he laughed, swatting me on the ass and pulling me tight against him, just enjoying having me close. I rested my head against the crook of his neck, breathing in his scent, that same wild, evergreen smell but mixed with my shampoo now, and played absentmindedly with the ends of his hair, pulled down over his opposite shoulder.

Everyone's laughter and chatter seemed to bleed into one low hum, disappearing eventually as I nestled closer to Tim and closed my eyes as his arms wrapped more securely around me.

John and Ciel disappeared into the hall, and everyone took their cues to say goodnight, one at a time.

Mattias settled back onto the couch after brushing his lips over Shell's knuckles, bowing lowly, formally over her hand.

"Oh...you don't have anywhere to sleep, do you?" She said, shaking her head at her own rudeness for not realizing it earlier.

"This is fine," he said, holding up two hands to stop her worrying, "I'm perfectly comfortable."

She stood silently for a moment, making up her mind, then took another step towards him.

"What if I gave you a better offer," she said quietly, looking deeply into his eyes as he stood, and she took one of his hands.

Jonas and Tim exchanged a brief look with raised eyebrows.

"I--I think--wh--" he stammered, not expecting her suggestion, but also not wanting to say no. He glanced at the king, who grinned but gave no other indication of an answer.

Without another word, she took his other hand and led him towards the door.

Raya crossed to Tim, murmuring something in his ear before running a hand over his cheek.

"Does that work, darling?" She asked softly, and he swallowed hard and nodded.

Everyone else said their goodbyes, and the barest suggestion of dawn was bleeding through the windows when Aurora lifted off Jonas' lap and turned to press a soft kiss to his lips before drifting towards his bedroom, moving like she floated from place to place.

He watched her go with a contented sigh and looked over at me, fast asleep, a little smile curving my lips. He rose and stretched, moving muscles that had been stationary for hours.

I didn't feel it when his fingers brushed fondly over my hair, cupping the back of my head in his palm.

"Quite a day for her, hmm," he hummed, and Tim nodded, kissing my cheek as he turned his face to watch me sleep, cradled to his chest.

"I'm sorry that she won't be coming with us...and, don't take this the wrong way, but ah, you're not as sad about it as I thought you'd be."

"I'm not as sad as I though I'd be either," Tim sighed, looking up tiredly at his king as he rested his head against the back of the chair, "I just...can't be. I tried."

The corner of Jonas' mouth twitched.

"We'll make it work for you two somehow, my friend...I promise."

Tim bowed his head in acknowledgement and thanks, murmuring a goodnight as Jonas moved towards his bedroom.

"Hey, Jonas?"

The king turned once more.

"I'm glad you're back."

"Me too, Tim...me too..." He bowed his head briefly and disappeared behind the door, shutting it with a soft click.

We stayed there for the rest of the night, and Tim shifted his shoulders a little more into the corner of the chair so he could look down at me, happily sleeping against him, exhausted from the trials of the day. He was tired too, but couldn't seem to stop watching me long enough to get any real rest. The sun was almost up before his eyes finally closed, his cheek resting against the top of my head.

I finally woke up to the tickling brush of his mustache against my skin as he showered me with soft little kisses.

"Morning," he whispered, capturing my lips briefly as I hummed.

"Mmm, hi," I pressed mine back to his, stretching my legs out as I sat up and yawned.

"Gods, you should have just dumped me on the couch or something, I'm sorry!" I apologized, realizing that I'd been curled up in his lap for hours and it probably wasn't very comfortable for him.

"Shut up," he laughed, pulling me back for another kiss and sighing softly into my lips, "I told you that's exactly where I wanted you for the night, don't apologize." I sank into the warm feel of him, and we stayed that way for another hour at least, not saying anymore, just enjoying the silence and each others company.

It was finally me who broke it as I wriggled out of his grasp and stood, stretching up towards the ceiling with a groan then offering him one hand.

"Shower with me?" I asked softly, and he nodded with a smile.

--

My bedroom door shut with a click and I hardly gave my rumpled bedsheets a second glance as we moved into the bathroom. I made sure this time we had clean towels, and lit my favorite candle for good measure before flipping on the tap.

We undressed each other like it was a ritual, slowly, one piece at a time, unhurried in our pace, each touch a whispered caress.

"I love you," he whispered into my lips, pulling me close when we were under the steaming spray.

I wrapped my arms low around his waist, standing flush against him.

"I love you too."

We didn't wash, and our hands didn't wander...we just stood like that, pressed together, holding each other, forging a connection that we hoped would last beyond the few short hours we had left together.

Tim finally tipped my chin up, taking my mouth under his in a kiss so wonderful and filled with passion that it stole my breath.

"I don't want you to go," I confessed, swallowing hard to keep my tears back.

His response was to kiss me again, drawing me closer to his body, letting me feel how it reacted to me.

"Then ask me to stay, Kamilah."

"I c--I can't," I shook my head, standing on my tiptoes to crush him against me. I knew if I asked, he would, but I couldn't do it, couldn't take him away from his king, his home, his friends.

"We'll figure something out, love, I promise," I whispered into his shoulder, turning my face into the water and letting it sweep my tears away as they fell silently.

We didn't part for the rest of the morning, hardly daring to even look away from each other.

He perched me next to him at breakfast, and I laid my head on his shoulder, listening to the six men talk about their travel plans. They were obviously sad to be leaving, but excited about the prospect of returning home. Mattias was full of questions, and I found myself smiling at him every time he looked at me - I was glad that he was taking this whole resurrection business so well, and seemed to be full of vibrant energy and anticipation rather than fear over what had changed.

All too soon though, they started moving back towards their rooms, packing the few things they had brought with them back into their duffels.

I excused myself and walked out the side door to the gardens. The sun was brilliant and warm, giving life to the fragrant blossoms that all turned their faced towards the light.

Daisys, roses, big hydrangea bushes, flowers that shouldn't have been able to grow together or even in the same season all bloomed side by side.

I tried to feel the same happiness that they did, but slumped down on the ground against the bench instead, resting my forehead against the heels of both hands.

He was silent when he sat down next to me, his eyes roaming over the colors and textures of the hundreds of flowers that surrounded us in a ring.

"Why do you sit on the ground and never up on the bench?"

My response was slightly muffled into my hands. "I like being under the flowers. They block everything out."

He petted my hair softly, rubbing his hand up and down my back as we basked in the silence.

"So you're a child of the gods, hmm?" He hummed, and I leaned sideways into him without ever looking up as his arms wrapped securely around me.

"Yep."

"If I may speak frankly, Mistress," he started and I glanced up at him briefly, "oh, what you can use my title and get off on it but I can't use yours?" he scoffed.

"Well, 'Mistress' hardly has the same ring to is as 'your majesty'."

He shifted us so I was leaning against his chest like he'd held me when he told me about Mattias, and his arms wrapped back around me again.

"If I may speak frankly, Mistess," he started once more, "I understand the mixed emotions you're feeling."

I didn't respond and Jonas continued.

"Its...difficult sometimes to shoulder a responsibility that you can't change. Can't give it up, can't do much about it at all."

I nodded, pressing my cheek against his chest and listening to his heart beating.

"When I was a boy and my father was still king, he used to tell me that there were going to be days that I would want to trade my crown for just about anything else."

"I'll take it if you're offering," I mumbled, smiling at the low chuckled that rolled through his chest.

"My point is, we're purposefully chosen for the fate we're given by destiny. It isn't always easy, but its never more than we're supposed to handle, even when it feels like it is."

I rolled over slightly so I could look up at him, tracing the lines on his face with the tip of my finger.

"I can do this."

"Yes you can," he smiled softly.

Jonas hugged me close as I sighed deeply, steeling myself in these last few minutes we had left as he tipped my chin up to look at me again.

"You know he would stay if you asked him to."

I nodded, "but I can't. I...Jonas I can't."

He hummed softly and bent his head to kiss me, our own private goodbye amongst the flowers.

"Up you go," he nudged me off his lap, getting to his feet too and brushing the grass from his jeans.

"Come, my dear," he took my hand and pulled me towards the door, leading me by the hand down the hall to the entrance hall, where everyone was gathered to say their goodbyes.

"Are you sure you have to go today?" I frowned up at him, holding both his hands in mine, "you can stay i-if you want to. I promise I'll get comfier beds!"

Jonas chuckled down at me, tipping one finger gently under my chin. "I need to go home and be a king to my people, little fish."

I nodded sadly, heaving a sigh for good measure and peaking up at him to see if it changed his mind.

He quirked an eyebrow and shook his head at me, shaking with a silent laugh.

"Nice try."

His final parting kiss was lingering and soft, reassuring me with a touch that we'd see each other again.

"Thank you again, Kamilah...for everything. You are more than welcome in my kingdom any time you desire."

He wrapped his arms around my back and physically lifted me off my feet, holding me close to him and burying his face into my neck for several long moments.

"You'll have to tell me how to get there," I laughed softly, and he nuzzled his nose against mine briefly.

"I'll escort you myself...goodbye for now Mistress Kamilah."

"Goodbye, your majesty," I curtsied politely when he set me down, and received a proper bow in response. It was sillier in his casual clothes, but he was no less regal.

"Are you sure I can't change your mind?" Henrik said with a hint of real sadness behind it, hugging me close for a moment when I crossed to him to say goodbye.

"I can't babe," I softly pressed a hand to his cheek as he frowned, "come on, none of that now. I'm sure we'll see each other again before you know it, and you'll be thinking of ways to get rid of me."

He huffed a laugh, grabbing me up into another hug, "never."

Johannes kissed me on the cheek, less sad than the rest of us, and I was sure glad to be going home. He bounced with that bottomless energy and twirled me around his finger again like he had last night, catching me as I lost my balance.

"Hmm, we'll work on that," he chuckled, "has anyone ever told you that you're a terrible dancer?"

I feigned offense and he laughed loudly, grinning down at me, pulling me in once more.

"Good fighter though," he murmured, tracing my fingers with the tips of his and I knew he was thinking about making a comment regarding how I looked with a blade in my hand.

I pressed one finger up to his lips, shaking my head and shrieking playfully when he nipped at me.

"Gods, I don't know how you're not a hungover wreck today."

"Nahh, I haven't had one of those since I was like fifteen."

"Fifteen, huh," I glanced over my shoulder at the king, who scowled briefly at Johannes.

"Did I say fifteen?" he rubbed the back of his neck, "I meant eighteen. Silly me."

I laughed at their antics as Jonas good-naturedly shook his fist like he was going to scold the man who towered over him by a good six inches.

John didn't make jokes or say anything really. He just wrapped his arms around me and rested his cheek on top of my head, tipping my face up after a moment with one hand gently cupping my chin.

His eyes darkened and I felt the little hook pulling at the front of my mind as I looked up at him.

*Ask Aurora to speak with Thoth when you get home. He'll know if there are other people like you.*

John smiled softly down at me and nodded.

"Will do, little one." His lips brushed my cheek and he gave my hands a squeeze before letting me go.

"I'm...I'm not sure what to say," Mattias mumbled, chewing his lip.

"That's okay, goodbye works just fine," I smiled, "we'll get to know each other eventually I'm sure."

"You'll come then, won't you? There are a million cool things we can show you and--and--..." he paused, blushing.

"I will in time," I curtsied to him and he took a deep breath.

"Ah, fuck it," he laughed, grabbing me off my feet into a big hug, "thank you again, Mistress."

"Please, its Kamilah," I kissed him on both cheeks with a wink.

"Kamilah," he nodded, humming a little laugh before turning to make his own goodbye to Shell.

I willed myself not to cry, but I couldn't stop feeling like my heart was being torn in half as I turned to the last of them.

"Promise I'll see you soon?" I whispered, pressing my forehead hard to his before sinking into his fierce embrace, clutching him to me, grounding myself in the sturdiness of his arms.

"Sooner than you think, baby," he breathed into my ear, making me pull up short and I looked at him with my head cocked to the side slightly.

"What do you mean?"

Just then a duffel bag landed loudly at my feet, and I jumped a little, staring at the thing, realizing it was mine, then looking up at Eden, Ciel, Shell, and Raya especially, who was wearing a wicked little smirk.

"Whats this?"

"That's us sending you on a well-earned vacation, Kamilah," Raya chuckled.

"A wh--" I turned back to Tim and he was wearing the same smirk. "W--...you knew about this?!" I swatted him on the shoulder as my tears started in earnest and I couldn't help but sniffle through my laughter as I realized that this was happening.

I got to go with him.

It wasn't a goodbye.

It wasn't even an au revoir.

For a little while at least, it was simply the chance to be together.

"I believe I did make you an offer that involved spending weeks naked in my bed, did I not, Mistress Kamilah," he breathed, his palms warm against my cheeks as he drew my lips up against his, quickly dropping one arm around my waist with a low chuckle when it became clear that I needed help standing.

"Plus," he said between kisses as he walked backwards and pulled me towards the group waiting to depart, hardly able to pull his mouth away from mine long enough to get the words out, "we still need to talk about that other thing..."