I wake to the sound of voices trying to be kept to a whisper and failing miserably. I take a few moments to try and figure out where I am without opening my eyes. I'm lying on something soft, probably a bed, I seem to be wrapped up in several blankets like a giant burrito, and I can feel sand and salt caked to my skin and hair.
Then my memories hit me like a tidal wave. I shiver with the knowledge that I almost died, but the worst part is knowing that Lewis almost succeeded in taking Abe away from me. The fear is quickly replaced by anger. What did the big blue idiot think he was doing? I lie there and stew for a minute in my warm cocoon while the 'conversation' on the other side of the room rages on.
"Mother, please answer my question," Aunt Stephanie hisses. "Was that blue thing that came out of the water with Maggie named Abe?"
I hear my grandmother sigh and shift her position. I do a quick 'check'; Sharon, Grandmother and Aunt Stephanie are in the room. I crack an eye open and take in my surroundings. I am lying on a bed as I thought, but it's not the bed in my hotel room. The décor is the same, but this room is much bigger than mine. I'm probably in Grandmother's suite. I'm facing away from my family but I can see the window and it is dark outside.
"Mother," Sharon starts, "it's late and we're all tired. Let's save the questions until after daybreak please."
"Sharon, what do you know about this?" Stephanie demands.
"Mother, please…" Sharon begs.
"Don't you 'Mother, please' me, young lady," Stephanie growls. "I demand to know what is going on. What were those things that came out of the water? Why do you know a Fire Mage? Why was a Water Mage trying to kill Maggie?"
"Enough," Grandmother simply states in a tone of voice that none dare argue with. "Sharon is right. It is late and we're all tired. We will discuss this after breakfast."
"But…" Stephanie starts to protest.
"No 'buts," Grandmother orders as only the matriarch of the family can. "Good night to you both. I will see you at breakfast."
I hear the others leave and the door shut. Grandmother comes over to the bed and looks down at me. I stare back at her.
"Thanks," I simply state. "How many know?"
"You're welcome," she replies as she sits on the edge of the bed. "All of them, and I think you're going to need to talk to Dr. Manning in the morning."
"You're right," I say while I try to squirm out of the blankets. "Something tells me that there's going to be a few more guests at the wedding next month."
"Something tells me you're right," she responds with a smile.
She stands and helps be escape my cloth prison. Holding onto her hand, I shakily stand on my feet. I look down and see my ruined clothes. What remains of the stockings are barely covering my feet, the dress is wrinkled and torn and it feels like it's shrunk a couple of sizes.
"Do I look as bad as my clothes?" I ask.
"Worse," Grandmother truthfully answers.
"Great," I quietly chuckle. "Where's my purse? I'd like to go back to my room, get cleaned up, fall into bed and sleep until next month."
"Your purse and phone are over by the door," she replies while she helps me over to them. "But no sleeping until next month, you're not leaving Sharon and me to deal with that wild horde we call a family tomorrow morning."
"Oh, all right, if you insist," I smile as I pick up my stuff. She smiles back and opens the door. "At least we've got it easy. Poor Sharon is sleeping with a member of that wild horde."
"I'm sure your cousin can find something to distract him," she responds with a knowing look in her eye. "I'll help you down to your room."
"Thank you," I say. "I don't think I could have made it by myself."
She just nods as we head towards the elevator. I lean against the wall in the hallway as we wait and when the elevator finally arrives, I lean on the wall in there too. A short time later I'm at my hotel room door. I fumble around in my purse for my room key until I finally find it. I turn to thank Grandmother and am surprised by a sudden fierce hug from her. I return the hug and when she releases me, she looks up at me with tears in her eyes.
"That's the second time I've nearly lost you," she says with barely contained emotion. "You ever do that to me again, young lady, and I will put you over my knee."
With that she turns on her heel and marches back to the elevator. I watch her until she turns the corner. Quietly laughing to myself, I open the door to my room and let myself in. I quickly strip out of my clothes and toss the ruined items in the trash. Then I take a long hot shower until I'm a giant red prune and I'm pretty sure all of the sand is out of my hair and other places I'd rather not think about. I get dressed and climb into bed. I'm asleep within moments of my head touching the pillow.
I'm woken up by someone pounding on my door. Without opening my eyes, I 'check' who it is. It's Sharon, with a groan, I make the door unlock. She hears the click, and taking it for the invitation that it is, comes into the room.
"You planning on getting up today?" she asks when she sees my prone state.
"No," I answer from under the bed covers snuggling down into the bed and pillow.
Suddenly, the bed covers are blown across the room.
"Well, guess what, cousin?" she says standing over me. "You have to get up. People are going to want answers, and since they're about you and Abe, you get to answer them."
I grab the spare pillow and throw it at her. Sharon catches it and then she hits me with it. Dropping the pillow, she grabs my ankles and drags me off of the bed. Yelling, I take the bed sheets with me as I desperately try to stay in bed.
"Ok, that does it," I snarl as I grab my pillow.
A full out pillow fight starts and we chase each other around the room. We don't stop until we're both out of breath because we're laughing so hard. Tears are running down our faces with mirth. I slide down the wall and sit down, trying to catch my breath as Sharon does the same in front of the entertainment cabinet.
"How long has it been since we've had a pillow fight?" I finally manage to gasp out.
"Way to long," she answers panting. "My bachelorette party I believe. You do need to get dressed though. The family is going to want some answers."
"How are we going to keep Pat's family from finding out?" I ask worriedly.
"Grandmother and Jeff both explained to her how important it is not to tell her family anything," she explains. "She made a promise to keep quiet before, I don't see how this is going to be any different. Our family has been instructed to stick around after breakfast is over for the grilling."
"Think any one would notice if I snuck out with Pat's family?" I jokingly ask.
"Yes," she growls at me playfully.
She staggers to her feet and goes over to my closet and starts going through the outfits there. I just sit on the floor with my legs splayed out and try to think of a way that will satisfy my family's curiosity without giving away the BPRD. I come to a certain conclusion and it's not a happy one. How am I going to explain what they saw last night?
Sharon lays out an outfit consisting of a skirt and blouse on the bed and then walks over to the dresser and starts pulling out other essential items. She casually walks over the tossed about bed clothes and places the other items next to the outfit. She heads back toward my closet and start going through my shoes.
"Where are those really cute pumps you were wearing?" she asks.
"You mean the pair I wore to the wedding yesterday?" I respond.
"Yeah, those…oh," she says as she remembers. "Well, I hope fish like designer shoes."
"I'm sure I have something else in there that will work," I suggest.
She sticks her head back in the closet for another minute before coming out with a pair of high heeled boots. She puts them on the floor next to the bed and looks at the outfit again. Finally, she nods her approval and turns back to me. She takes a good long look at me and then crouches down, staring at my neck.
"How'd you get that bruise across your neck?" she asks.
I reach up and touch my neck. I wince as my hand comes in contact with the tender flesh. I stand and go into the bathroom to have a look. The bruise goes across my throat. I pull my hair up and I discover that the bruise makes a complete circle around my neck. Sharon's standing behind me, watching.
"It must have been from the kelp that was wrapped around my neck," I quietly answer as I try not to think about what that kelp almost did to me.
"Maybe you should wear a turtle neck sweater," she suggests.
"I can't remember if I brought one," I reply.
She heads back into the bedroom and starts going through the drawers. I follow her out and watch. After a minute of rummaging around in the dresser she pulls out a blue turtle neck sweater with a green wave pattern on it. She heads back to the outfit on the bed, picks it up and heads back to the closet. After searching for a few moments more, she comes out with a pair of dark blue slacks and pumps. She puts these new items on the bed and takes the boots back to the closet. She comes back and takes another look at the clothes she picked out for me.
"You know, there're more colors to the rainbow than blue and green," she states.
"Yeah, there's indigo," I retort. "What's wrong with blue and green?"
"Nothing, but it seems they're the only colors you wear ever since you met Abe," she observes. "Keep this up and people will think you two are twins."
"Well, now that you've picked out my clothes for me and criticized my wardrobe, are you planning on dressing me as well?" I ask.
"I certainly hope you can handle doing that yourself," she retorts. "I have to go and check on Vicki. She caused a dust devil last night when Ron tried to put her to bed."
"Ok, I'll see you downstairs in a little bit," I tell her.
As soon as she leaves, I strip and take another quick shower. Despite the shower I took last night, I still feel a bit gritty. After drying off, I start to get dressed. As soon as I pull on the turtle neck I have to take it off. Not only is it pushing on my bruise but the tight feeling around my neck makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me to much of being strangled. I quickly find something else to wear.
After dressing, I fish my phone out from my purse. I make a phone call and I'm pleasantly surprised. It seems my request was anticipated and everything will be in place when I'm ready. I sit on the bed with the phone in my hand staring at it in disbelief. That went to easy. I wonder what he's up to.
After finally shaking myself out of my reverie, I go into the bathroom to do my hair and makeup. I use some cover up on my throat to make the damage a little less obvious. Then I leave my hair loose and pull it around my neck to try and hide the bruising.
I head to the Monterey Bay Room, and I'm seated with a mixture of members from both Pat's family and my own. In a tradition of my family that started who knows how long ago, the morning after the marriage of one of the men in the family, a breakfast is hosted by my family. It seems Pat has a very large family, so one of the ballrooms has been rented out.
The conversation is light and easy and no one mentions my sudden disappearance from yesterday. I guess everyone that's not related to me just assumed that I had grown tired and returned to my room. I'm not about to dissuade them from this notion.
Breakfast is eventually served and eaten without incident. Afterwards, I move about the room visiting family that I didn't have a chance to talk to yesterday. Some I haven't seen since Sharon's wedding and I'm enjoying catching up with them.
I'm relaxed and have put the events of yesterday evening out of my head until I feel a familiar presence standing behind my chair. I see the puzzled looks on the faces of my family before I turn and face Manning. I stand up and look around. There's no trace of Pat's family. I observe several agents closing the blackout curtains across the doors and windows. As soon as their done, they take up positions guarding the doors.
Without a word to anyone, my family starts to move closer to where I'm standing with Manning. Grandmother and Sharon join us as I turn and face them. More than thirty sets of eyes look at us. My aunts, cousins, spouses and children watch us, expecting an explanation, and I'm not sure what to say.
I can see the employees' entrance across the room and I do a quick 'check.' I can feel two people back there. There's probably a third that I can't detect, but that's fine with me, I know he's there. It's so quiet I can hear people breathing. Finally, the silence is broken by the last person I would have expected.
"I know you," Pat states from the back of the group. Everyone looks at her, and she's staring and pointing at Manning. "You're the guy on TV that keeps saying there's no such thing as Hellboy or the Bureau of Paranormal something or other."
"Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense," Manning corrects with a sigh. "It's my job to make sure the public doesn't know otherwise people would panic."
I see the door in the back quietly open and three forms move through it. I turn my attention back to my family and ignore the new comers.
"But why tell us?" Aunt Stephanie demands.
"Because you're a family of Mages that has kept its identity secret from us until about eleven months ago," he answers. "To find out that Mages even existed was quite the shock to say the least. We have the largest paranormal reference library in the world and there is not a single reference to Mages in any of them."
"Second largest," I correct.
"Excuse me?" he asks, turning to me.
"Your library is the second largest," I reply. "The Library that Uncle used to maintain is larger."
"Are you sure?" he questions.
"Yes," I answer. "If you don't believe me, go ask Uncle when we get home."
"EXCUSE ME!" Stephanie interrupts loudly. "But we're not here to discuss book collections. We are here to get an explanation about what happened last night."
"The big red guy that came out of the water after the pregnant lady stopped trying to blow up the bay, was that Hellboy?" Pat asks cutting off Stephanie's rant.
"Yes it was," Manning replies quietly.
"So who was the blue dude that we pulled out of the water?" Ron asks.
"That was Abe," I answer.
"Mother," Stephanie all but snarls. "Did you, or did you not tell me that Maggie had been Kissed by some guy named Abe Supine or something like that?
"Sapien," says a quiet voice from the back. "Abraham Sapien."
Everyone spins around in their seats to look toward the back of the room where Hellboy, Abe and Liz are standing. There are mostly gasps, a few squeaks of surprise and a couple of people use mild profanity. The offenders are immediately treated to Grandmothers' hand making contact with their heads.
"Everyone, this is Hellboy, Abe and Liz," I introduce. "Guys, this is my family."
Vicki, who had been sitting quietly in her father's lap, squirms out of his arms. She takes a couple of steps toward Hellboy before losing her balance and falling down. She crawls the rest of the way. Once she reaches Red's boots, she pulls herself up using his pants to hold onto and then holds her arms up to be held. Hellboy's tail circles around her little waist, picks her up and places her in his arms. Vicki happily giggles and snuggles into his chest.
Heads quickly whip around to look at Sharon to see what she's going to do about this big red guy holding her daughter. Sharon's face is priceless. Her mouth is hanging open and her eyes are about the size of saucers.
"She walked," she gasps. "My little baby just walked."
Everyone stares at Sharon in disbelief as Hellboy's chuckle rumbles out from his chest.
"I told you I wanted a daughter," he jokes with Liz.
"You get what you get," she teases back.
General pandemonium breaks out as Sharon rushes over to Vicki. Retrieving her from Hellboy, Sharon immediately starts hugging and kissing her daughter and telling her how proud Mommy is of her. Ron joins Sharon and hugs both his wife and daughter. Grandmother, Aunt Stephanie and Uncle John both rush over to them and join in the hug fest.
"Not that I want to ruin this happy moment," Aunt Ellen interrupts. "But eventually, the hotel is going to want this room back and I'm sure all of us have a lot of questions. For instance, even if Maggie has Kissed Abe, is it a real Kiss since he's…, well, he's…" She turns toward Abe. "Not to be rude, but what exactly are you?"
"Icthyo Sapien," he answers as he starts to walk toward me.
"It was a real Kiss," Grandmother informs her. "While Abe is not human, he is a man and all the signs are there to indicate that it was a real Kiss."
"So we all know that you two kissed last June," my cousin Kevin says. "Is there a wedding planned?"
"Yes," I answer. "It will be at my home in New Jersey. And to forestall the inevitable questions, you all will be invited."
Abe walks up to me and takes my right hand in his gloved one. Tilting his head to one side, he pulls the ring off of my hand. Dropping that hand and then claiming the other one, he returns my engagement ring to its proper place. I had forgotten about moving my ring.
"Sorry," I say quietly to him.
"I understand," he replies as he places a kiss on the top of my head.
"How did you two meet?" asks my cousin Wendy.
Taking a seat, I proceed to tell them about the events of last June. It takes quite a bit of time but I finally manage to get through all of the questions with the help of Grandmother, Sharon, Abe, Liz, Hellboy, and even Manning. A prolonged silence signals an end to the questions my family has, but now it's my turn.
"Dr. Manning, why did you send Liz to my family and then tell Abe to find her after he retrieved me?" I ask.
"I wanted to end this thing with Lewis," he answers. "From your report from our last encounter with her, I gathered that Ms. Sherman would be the one to eliminate Lewis, and I figured your family could help. Having Abe return to the boat was not an option since Lewis would have been able to capsize the boat."
"Dr. Manning, please don't do that again," I say. I can see the horror written on the faces of my blood relatives out of the corner of my eye. "A Mage cannot kill another Mage. And to answer the question 'why', the power that is released by the killed Mage seeks revenge on the Mage that did the killing. If Liz had succeeded last night, she would be dead now."
I can hear Hellboy growling from the back of the room. A few chairs are sent crashing across the room as his tail thrashes back and forth.
"He didn't know, Red," I state, trying to calm the big red guy before he can pound Manning into the floor like a railroad spike.
"You intentionally let my family know about Abe and Hellboy," I say, turning my attention back to Manning. "Why?"
"Your help has been invaluable to the Bureau," he tells me. "Paranormal activity has been on the rise lately. I had hoped that your family would be willing to help once and a while."
"You might have wanted to ask us first," Grandmother admonishes.
"Sorry," Manning replies.
He at least has the good grace to look a bit ashamed. As the events of last night swim around in my head, a question rises to the surface of my brain. I dread asking it, but I need to know.
"How are the SEALs?" I ask quietly.
"Luckily, none of them died," he answers. "Two are in critical condition and five of them are in serious condition. The rest got only minor injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones. The training has been called off until further notice. We'll probably be returning to New Jersey later today, by the way. Is there any way you can tell if Lewis is still around?"
"I'll go have a look," I respond.
I stand and head for one of the doors that leads to the walkway over looking the bay. Before anyone can object to me leaving, I turn to John who's guarding the door that I'm about to go through.
"Care to get some fresh air?" I ask.
"Sure," he answers as he leaves his post and follows me outside.
"Keep an eye on the water," I tell him. "If you see her, shoot."
"I thought it was a bad idea to kill a Mage," he says worriedly.
"It's a bad idea for a Mage to kill another Mage using their powers," I explain. "You can kill a Mage using mundane means and survive the experience, provided that you get in the first shot."
I turn my attention back to the water and 'search'. Liz comes out and joins us. I 'feel' her attempting to 'search' as well. I have been wondering how long it would take for that ability to form for her. I put my hand on her shoulder and 'guide' her efforts. She quickly gets the hang of it. Between the two of us, we're able to determine that there are no Water Mages in the area, either on land or sea.
"The area appears to be clear," I report to Manning when we return. "Of course that doesn't mean she's not hiding out at the bottom of the Marianas Trench for all we know."
"But that's over a mile deep," Manning exclaims.
"Yeah, so," I reply. "My point is, Dr. Manning, she is not currently in the area. Now if you'll excuse me, it sounds like I need to pack, check out and change my plane tickets so I can be back in New Jersey by this evening."
I give Abe a quick kiss goodbye and head out the door. As I leave, I can hear Manning giving orders to secure the exit area for Red and Blue. By 10:00 New Jersey time, I'm curling up in my own bed wondering where I'm going to stick an extra thirty people. Sighing, I drift off to sleep where MY blue sex god protects my dreams.