Abe leapt to his feet as Hellboy slowly set Liz back upright and stepped in front of her. Liz resisted the urge to roll her eyes—after all, she was an agent too, and probably had a better chance of taking the elf out from a distance than Red did. Still, better safe than sorry, she was fighting for three now.
"Stay away from her," Abe said sternly. "Haven't you hurt her enough?"
Nuada spread his arms wide, tilting his head slightly to the side. "Why not call it even?" he asked in a darkly ironic tone.
"I don't think he's looking for your girlfriend, Blue," Hellboy said reassuringly.
Liz watched as the elf prince turned to stare at the ichthyio sapien in surprise. He spoke. "Astonishing, I assumed dear sister was merely ensuring your assistance—to think, she actually liked you."
"I thought you were some kind of mind reader," Hellboy asked contemptuously.
"Not quite," Nuada said calmly, "I don't wonder that grasping the concept of a link is beyond your skill." He smiled, "But I'm afraid I must suspend further pleasantries; you seem to have misplaced something of mine."
"We don't know where she is," Liz interjected, as Red began to growl under his breath. "She told me she was leaving for a few days, and that no one would be able to follow her…except maybe you." Nuada's black eyes bored into her and she nervously finished the rest of the statement in a rush. The guy was creepy, no doubt about it.
"Ridiculous," Nuada stated in tones of cold disbelief, "you have forced her out of her home. If Nuala believes that removing my heir from the palace will distort his claim, she will soon learn how mistaken she is. I allow her to sit on my throne. I may reclaim it at any time. It is my right and I will drive every elf, troll, and goblin from Bethamora before I allow what is mine to be abused," he finished in a threateningly soft voice. Liz glared at him; Talk about possessive, what did Devon see in this jerk?
"Nuala," Abraham breathed suddenly. A moment later the doors were thrown open to admit the tiny princess. It seemed as though everyone in the room was holding their breath as the siblings stared at each other in silence.
Nuada's face was a blank, cold mask, but his eyes were pained. Nuala looked as serene as ever, but her skin was a shade paler than usual. The silver lance tracked Nuala's movements ever so slightly as she walked over to stand protectively in front of Abe. He gripped her wrist gently for a moment, then released her after a moment of silent communication.
"Brother," Nuada said in her soft, musical voice. "We need not be combative. I am not your enemy."
Nuada frowned, his dark eyes flashing. "No, you make allies of my enemies."
"It does not have to be so-"
"Enough. I came here with a purpose."
"To take back your throne," Nuala stated quietly, as though she were afraid to scare her brother…or send him into another rant.
"How can I take what is already mine? No, Sister, I am here for my consort; what have you done with her?"
"Hey, I think the lady has said all she wants to," Hellboy said, stretching so that his muscles bulged beneath his t-shirt.
Nuada curled his lip disdainfully. "You bested me on cursed ground demon, the place where your kind are strongest. Now you face me in my palace, on land that has served my family since before mortals crept on this earth. You will find it a harder battle here, I think."
"Good, then maybe you'll actually be a challenge," Hellboy retorted, smirking at the elf's calm visage.
Nuada shifted his weight in preparation for a lunge that would take the creature's head off—and froze. He spun with the grace of a cat and glared directly at the she-elf that had just arrived. Devon had stepped seemingly from one of the sunbeams, for she hadn't been in the room a moment before, when Liz had scanned the room for quick exits. The elf priestess was back to her tall, willowy, pre-baby form, Liz noticed with a hint of jealousy, though the child was conspicuously absent.
"Where have you been?" Nuada demanded of her, as Devon glanced about in surprised amusement.
"My apologies, had I known there was to be a family reunion, I would have returned earlier," Devon replied. Liz smirked, because the priestess was clearly picking up human speech patterns—though she carried it off pretty well.
"You disappear for days with my son, hide yourself from my senses, force me to descend to this level to discover your whereabouts—do you do these things to torment me?" he demanded.
Devon raised an imperious eyebrow. "You speak to me of disappearing? Of concealment?"
"I cannot protect you or the child if I do not know where you are," Nuada replied, gritting his teeth in frustration.
Devon's already cold visage iced over, "No one is better able to protect my son than I."
Liz shuffled her feet uncomfortably and caught Nuala's embarrassed look. Her brother definitely wasn't showing off the family dignity today and Devon probably wasn't going to keep her cool much longer. When she had thought she would see the arrogant prince get the beating he richly deserved, she had been all for staying, but this fight was fast turning into a family squabble—one she had no desire to witness. After all, she wouldn't want any of her friends to hear her fights with Red.
"Uh, guys, if you're good here, I've got to go to the bathroom again, so we're just going to…" Liz said, trailing off as Nuada and Devon both pinned her with an angry glare before her friend realized what she was saying. Nuada ignored her in favor of continuing the argument he was fast losing.
A flicker of irritation chased its way across the prince's face. "And where is my son?"
"The Grove—where else?" She held out her hand invitingly. Nuada hesitated and Devon's eyes narrowed. "I could have trapped you a hundred times, my Prince. You have been in my power more often than you know. Outside of the council chambers where you slew your father, in the Bureau the night we created life, or in those perilous moments just after your bond was broken—trust me."
"Wait a minute," Hellboy interrupted, looking belligerent. "You mean this whole thing was all about you getting together with prince hippie hair?"
Devon smiled, an ancient, infinitely wise expression. "Did you think this was a comedy or an adventure, demon?" She laughed, low and sweet. "It has always been a romance."
For a moment there was silence in the room as everyone warily watched the spot where they had vanished. Finally Liz spoke up, mostly because she was desperate. "Ok guys, can we go, because I wasn't kidding about the bathroom."
They appeared in The Grove moments later; it was exactly the same as the last time Nuada had seen it—eternally blooming, forever perfect. Cradled in a bed of moss and leaves was a naked baby—his pointed ears proclaiming his parentage more than his plump body. The child was sleeping, the tiny limbs twitching in response to dream stimuli. Devon scooped him up without hesitation, proffering the boy to him, her actions easy with familiarity. He took him automatically, checking him over carefully as sleepy eyes opened and blinked at him. Nuada expected the child to cry out in alarm or anger, but the vibrantly red eyes merely gave him a suspicious look before closing again.
He felt his mouth stretch in an unfamiliar smile and searched for Devon's eyes. She was smiling too; for once her face was completely relaxed in a peaceful, open expression. Part of it could have been the atmosphere, the serenity The Grove produced was almost invasive, but he knew her well enough to know that it was more. This was what she had always wanted, him bound to her, and her alone, forever. This child would tie him to her more securely than any ceremony could—strangely it wasn't as upsetting as he expected it to be.
Perhaps it was because he had always assumed he would marry Devon, albeit much sooner than this. He was comfortable with the idea and their union would most certainly have produced children—his family being magically gifted to an astonishing extent and the legendary fertility of her sisterhood practically guaranteed it. He had manipulated her freely in those early days to prepare her to bond with him and Nuala, was it so surprising that she should use his own tactics against him in order to achieve her desires?
For the first time, he stepped out of himself and looked at the situation from Devon's point of view. Had she required him to share her with another, even a brother, could he have allowed the competition for her affection? Knowing that Devon could find comfort in his arms alone had sustained him over the many centuries they'd been parted—he was so certain that she would come to him, eventually. Had she had another to draw affection from and share herself with, he wouldn't have been understanding…
"What are you thinking of?" Devon asked him, settling down on the grass near the child.
Nuada gracefully dropped down beside her. "Of this new life, of the future, and of the past."
"I worry sometimes that we will never stop thinking of the past—it is the way of our people. We define ourselves by what we were and not what we could be."
He cocked his head to the side. "What could we be?"
She shook her head, blonde hair flowing in the light breeze. "I am not a seer."
"I do not ask you what will be."
For a moment, he thought she would merely shake her head again, but she reclined back against the tree, one hand reaching out to stroke the baby's head, and began. "Bethamora restored and a new heir to the throne—the Golden Age of the elves begins. Magic will return to the Earth, not as prevalent as it once was, but no longer invisible. Creatures human and not will interact freely. I will bless our people with fertility and our race will flourish with the humans. We do not need to conquer them with arms, for we will co-mingle with their race and, inevitably, there will be born a new breed of people—fair as folk but adaptable as humanity. The best of both worlds."
"You believe that any elf would willingly mate with a human?" he asked, disbelief coloring his tone. He wasn't even angry—the idea was so ludicrous. "They are our ancient enemies."
"Hardly ancient. I remember a time when they were merely an annoyance. Intermarriage with humans is inevitable."
"We shall see, Priestess."
"Indeed, you shall, Silverlance."
He kissed her, softly, because she would never stop surprising him, challenging him, and making him desire her. He had no doubt that centuries from now she would still be able to infuriate him beyond anyone else. Yet she was completely necessary to him and his pride was no longer reason enough to be separate from her.
He whispered into her ear as he kissed his way to the tip and back towards her mouth, "I dreamed of you every night, even when we slept beside one another, you were in my mind." Nuada smiled as she sighed into his mouth. He felt himself beginning to melt into her body and allowed his mind to open into hers—the first time she had ever had total, willing access.
It seemed to inflame her with lust, not the reaction he had expected, but hardly unwelcome. He stretched into her mind, probing her reaction as she tore the clothing off of his body. Something about him trusting her made her passions explode; he wished he had discovered this sooner. Her lips found his neck and he couldn't help but moan, quickly stifling it for fear of waking his son. Devon's excitement was inciting his; he had never seen her so desperate to have him.
"Devon," he said, kneading her breasts through her dress, "We should—" Nuada bit the sentence off as her hand enclosed about him, drawing firmly down and then back up.
"Shhh," she whispered. "Now is not the time to speak."
"will sleep for hours yet."
Her expression turned ferocious and he found himself blinking in surprise. "I have waited ten hundred years for this moment, Silverlance. I will wait no longer."
He let her draw him back down, easily distracted by her hands and mouth on his bare skin. Nuada felt completely out of control, as though he were being attacked, but in an oddly satisfying way. He could barely move as she overwhelmed him with pleasure, and though he knew she was using her magic to stimulate his mind as well, he couldn't bring himself to care. She flipped them over, sliding on top of him and easily completing their joining. The sensations doubled as her senses washed into him and he couldn't help but cry out. She had taken complete control of his body, thrusting down onto him as he tried to fight off his release for a moment longer.
"Please," he breathed.
It sparked something in her. Her mind opened to him like a flower. That was when he felt it, the moment when his heartbeat became hers and their senses abruptly poured into each other to the point where he could no longer feel where he was. He was one person now, as the world exploded around him, though he heard himself cry out with two voices. It was pleasure as he had never known it, as pure as anyone had ever felt, and it was almost too much. For a long second he hovered—flying on a wave of sensation—before it ebbed and he could breathe again. As he slowly fell back to earth, spiraling back into his own mind, he could feel Devon against him and inside him at the same time. The bonding was complete, the thin silver thread connecting them was almost a formality.
Boneless, he lay beneath his Priestess and concentrated on staying conscious. She laboriously lifted her head, her brow slick with exertion, and pulled herself up to meet his lips in a chaste kiss. Her cheek brushed his then as they curled together. "Thank you," she whispered. And then they were all three asleep.