by Shadowy Star
She shoved the picture into her father's hands and turned to leave.
Figuring he needed them more right now, she left her pile of books where it sat and exited the room.
Damien stared after her for a while before looking again at the picture in his hands. In doing so, his gaze fell at the topmost book.
'Semantics' the title ran.
He swore violently and rushed out of the room. Except for that he wasn't trying to find his mischievous daughter this time, rushing out of a room was something he did quite often lately. At this rate, he was going to be an expert in a few days.
He found Gerald, unsurprisingly, in the library, sitting in one of those very comfortable armchairs, carefully turning pages of an ancient looking book.
He stomped over to the chair which caused the man he loved to put the book aside and look up at him with a slightly irritated expression.
"Is something the matter?"
"Yes," Damien hissed and thrust the picture he held into Gerald's hands. "What's this?" he demanded.
Gerald looked at him as if he'd lost his mind. "Very obviously it is a picture of your annoying self," he said then.
"Oh, at least we know you don't need glasses!"
"Thankfully, no, I don't need them."
"Neither do I."
"And what's wrong with that?"
"What's wrong? Gerald, I'm fifty-eight. And this," he motioned to the picture, "was taken on Geraldine's first birthday, almost precisely eighteen years ago. Now you tell me how it is possible for me not to have aged a day since then, because as a medic, I fail to find an explanation that doesn't involve you and a very complex Working or two!"
"Again, what's wrong with that?"
"Your reasons which I'm not sure I want to think about, that's what's wrong! You play with very complex mechanisms here and all I want to know is why!"
Anger flashed briefly in Gerald's eyes as he stood. "What's wrong with wanting to spend your life with the person you love?" he spat. "What's wrong with wishing that life would last longer than a few years? What's wrong with being content with knowing said person lives somewhere, even if it isn't with you?" He averted his eyes, face unreadable once more.
Damien stared at his other in complete shock. "Gerald… Do you know what you're saying? Do you mean what you're saying?" Slowly he raised his hand and placed it onto Gerald's chest, right above the sternum. The heartbeat he felt was rapid, belying the other man's impassive expression. Ever so gently, he let his hand slide up and turned Gerald's face to him.
Gerald looked at him then, eyes intense and for once, he wasn't having any difficulty to recognize the emotions in those black depths. There was lust and there was fear, there was insecurity that made Damien's heart clench, and a wonder Damien had never thought he'd see reflected there but first and foremost there was love.
For a second, neither spoke, both being afraid to scare the other away.
Then, Gerald smirked. "You know, as much as I hate to get entangled in that sugary, syrupy, caries inducing heart-to-heart we seem unable to avoid I probably have to admit‒"
Damien grinned. "Admit later. You always talk too much." And with that, he gripped Gerald's fine silk shirt, yanked him closer and crushed their lips together.
"What were you doing?" Damien da Silva asked his wife outside the very same library.
"Trying to talk some sense into my father," she answered. "Doing so to yours is a waste of time!"
He kissed her lightly on the lips.
"How was work?" she asked.
"Not so great. The after quake prognosis is downright depressing."
She looked at him, all the sympathy and support in the world in her eyes. "How so?"
"That fault is quite active and given the rock morphology there, it's only a question of time for the next quake to strike, and we're talking days here not weeks."
Geraldine looked thoughtful. "Is the hypocenter moving up or down?"
"Damn!" The shallower a quake was, the more damage to buildings it caused.
"Yeah. We were lucky last time."
"You know, I always disliked shortsightedness in people. Like sealing the fae against humans' influences, for example."
"Completely agree with you. How much power do you think do the wards hold? Enough for a quake, let's say about 6,5?"
"The majority of them, yes. Though I wouldn't want to be caught somewhere in the outer districts during a quake this strong."
"Do you think we need to evacuate?"
"To answer that I need to have a look or two at the wards. How convenient then I was planning to go there anyway."
He looked at her. "I'm not sure I want to know."
"You're a really fast learner, Love," she smirked, kissed him on the lips and turned to go.
A quite disheveled looking Damien Vryce stepped out of the library, carefully closing the door behind him.
That, even more than the state of his clothes, earned him two synchronously raised eyebrows on two equally smirking faces.
"What are you up to – again?" Damien Vryce asked his daughter, surely the initiator of whatever it was, suspiciously.
"Meeting family," she answered serenely. "I thought it were traditional. Besides, I need to decide whom to invite to the wedding."
"What wedding? I thought you were already married," he said.
"I wasn't talking about my wedding, Dad," she pointed out sweetly.
He looked as if he wasn't sure whether to hyperventilate or drop dead immediately until Geraldine shook her head.
"It's pointless," she said, "to get a heart attack – for a cardiologist."
Walking away, she still could hear both Damiens laugh.
The next morning held promises of a wonderful day, the sky palest of blues painted with pinks, yellows and oranges where the bright Ernan sun was mischievously peaking from behind the horizon. The Core was up already, bathing everything in its golden light. Geraldine smiled just as mischievously. It could be a wonderful day indeed, she mused, entering the Temple of Pleasure. Being here that early, she hoped to catch Karril's attention before his numerous worshipers flooded the Temple.
"Karril," she called. She hadn't much experience in communicating with Erna's part-human, part-alien 'gods' but figured a direct approach may be the best.
"Do you want to join our community?" a priestess asked, full red lips smiling, bright green eyes twinkling. Her nearly transparent silk gown left almost nothing to one's imagination.
Geraldine smiled. To her eyes, the nature of this being was as clear as the sunlit sky outside.
"Nice to meet you," she said politely. "God of Pleasure."
The Iezu raised his hands in acknowledgment.
Then, the shape of the priestess immediately was replaced by those of a handsome young man with hair like molten copper and eyes as violet as amethysts, an appearance designed solely to match Geraldine's –who liked her lovers exotic, alright, alright, had liked her lovers exotic– expectations on male beauty. She smiled as the attempt failed.
"Ohh," Karril said, disappointed. Then, he started grinning brightly. "Newly-wed, are you?"
"Yes," she nodded. "Which, by the way, is the reason to visit you. Believe it or not but we're …umm… some kind of step-siblings I guess. Or step-cousins."
"What?" Karril suddenly looked almost immaterial from sheer surprise.
"Since I'm married to the son of a certain brilliant and even more stubborn scientist. Which makes me some sort of step-aunt to this beautiful baby," she pointed to her right.
'This beautiful baby' decided to take shape of an eight-foot-tall, violet-skinned, naked woman with three pairs of arms as the goddess of dance appeared before her father and his visitor. Dance. Of course. The child born of the union of the god of ecstasy and the goddess of beauty…
"Kasari," the former said. "Be nice to your … step-aunt. This is Lady Geraldine da Silva of Sheva. Lady," he said, "this is my daughter, Kasari."
"She's also my daughter, dear brother. I was involved in the procreation processes as much as you were if not more," Saris said smiling, taking shape to Geraldine's left.
The goddess of beauty was –of course– beautiful. Her silvery skin glowed with an inner light and her face was perfect beyond description. When she smiled it was like thousand suns breaking through the clouds.
Geraldine averted her eyes. Beyond some point perfect beauty hurts.
"Sorry," Saris said and changed her appearance, lessening her beauty. "However, I was only reacting to your imagination. You should become an artist with an imagination like this."
Geraldine nodded. "Maybe I will. Actually, I like to draw. I would do it more often than necessary in my line of work if I weren't that occupied lately. Which, as I told your …umm… partner, is the reason to pay you a visit."
Saris smiled brightly at the 'partner'.
"I was going to ask you how we could be related," Karril said, looking at the only human being in this room.
Kasari chose this moment to disappear, clearly thinking the situation boring.
"Don't stop on my account," Saris encouraged her partner.
"I'm not sure if I got it all straight, Iezu relationships and family membership being as confusing as they are, but all of you have the same mother. Which makes each of you Riven Forrest's half-brother or -sister."
Karril and Saris nodded simultaneously.
"And the Hunter being his father, well… that would make Damien da Silva his half-brother as well, only on the other side – and thus your step-brother. And therefore it makes me, as his wife, your step-sister-in-law!" she exclaimed happily.
"You've lost me," Karril admitted, making a great show of scratching his forehead.
"She's right, darling," Saris said. "But, dearest sister," she turned to Geraldine, her perfect features practically gleaming with mischief, "if you claim being a relative you of course will do have your share of baby-sitting!"
Geraldine broke into laughter.
"Why can't they be a little less stubborn?" she asked much later with a frustrated sigh after having related the whole story to the two Iezu.
Karril shrugged. "Why are you complaining? You're just as stubborn yourself."
"You know, I was looking for someone to take care of my father before he gets too depressed and jumps into the Serpent or something. Now, I have two of that kind to look after!"
"Well, that's great for you. I hope you can cook."
"No!" she exclaimed, horrified. "And I don't intend to learn how to. They survived jungle," she began to count down on the fingers of her right hand, "a trip across Novatlantis, and a journey to Hell. I'm sure they'll manage to survive my cooking. Besides, I fully intend to let my husband do it all. He's really, really good at it."
"I'm think I'm inclined to explore the concept of human food," Saris said.
Geraldine smiled deviously. "Then I'm highly honored to invite my newly found family to my father's wedding!"
Back at home, she was met with a suspicious silence.
A look at her wristwatch told her it was nearing midday so her husband was probably still at work or at least on his way home. That left the question of what exactly the other two inhabitants ot the large beautiful villa were doing. Geraldine had an idea what may have happened between them yesterday. Well, about time, she thought.
Ascending the stairs, she heard sounds from the library that hardly could be mistaken. Grinning, she turned and sneaked to the large wooden door which was left open just a tad. The door didn't as much as creak when she pushed it open enough for her to creep in, then closed it behind her without making a sound. The thick carpets out of Sattin swallowed her footsteps completely.
With a wicked smile, Geraldine walked around a ceiling-high bookshelf and stopped there, looking at the two who were making the noises. They looked that occupied she could have probably stayed there watching for all eternity – completely unnoticed.
She made a politely light coughing sound.
They drew back rather hastily and stared up at her in shock.
"Well," she said, quirking one eyebrow. "I do not think reading books produces that kind of noise."
"That depends on the kind of book," Gerald retorted nonchalantly, his hands still buried in her father's hair.
"Umm…" the latter said, looking quite sheepishly. "I can explain that…"
"We had a difficult matter to discuss," the other man offered hastily, trying to be of help.
"I can see that," Geraldine said dryly, working hard on keeping her face expressionless. "Well then, I'm leaving the two of you alone. Just go on with your … discussion."
She stepped out of the library, unsuccessfully stifling a laugh. Sometimes, things did proceed well.
The entrance door opened and closed with a soft 'click', letting in her tired looking husband.
"Don't tell me you want to read a book," she said by way of greeting.
"No," Damien da Silva answered, confused. "Actually, I wasn't planning to do that. Why?" Then, Geraldine saw realization creep into his eyes, and there was a slight catch in his voice. "They – not really?"
"Yessss!" she said, pleased with herself.
"Exactly what I thought. I suggest we leave them alone for a while," she grinned suggestively. "Too much shock might be contra-productive to their ... conditions."
He raised a brow. "And what exactly are you up to again?"
"I need to go shopping."
With a long, meaningful look to the library door, she answered.
He broke into laughter.
With her husband having left for the University's Library to look up old charts of geological faults that dated back to the Landing, Geraldine was about to leave for shopping when she spotted a maid rushing down the stairs. Strange, she thought. Does Gerald have servants?
Only that the 'maid' wasn't a maid. Neither human.
Geraldine grinned. "Hey, step-brother," she said.
Karril nearly jumped. "Damn," he said then, changing his appearance once again. "You scared the living daylights out of me!"
"Not exactly my problem," Geraldine smiled. "Where are you going?"
"I believe a drink would be useful down there," the maid's voice answered from Karill's lips. "I only aim to please." He was carrying a tray with two goblets and a bottle of red wine.
Geraldine broke into laughter. "Sorry, Karril, but you might want to work on that. You sound like a courtesan."
Karril changed his appearance again, this time to that of a curvaceous woman wearing practically nothing. "Oh, but I have been, many times," he made, fluttering his lashes and striking a suggestive pose.
Geraldine raised an eyebrow. "But, dear step-brother, I didn't know you were after my fathers. Otherwise I would've suggested a threesome instead of a wedding!" she said sweetly.
"Oh, I'm so sad, they won't have me!" Karril cried theatrically, rapidly flowing into the maidservant again.
"My poor, poor step-brother," Geraldine made artfully.
Karril laughed. "Oh, you're an evil one, my lovely step-sister," he said with an exaggerated bow and a sweeping movement of his arm that still held the bottle.
Geraldine smirked and gave the bottle a closer look. "How much aphrodisiac did you put into that?" she asked, quirking a curious brow.
"Uhm … I didn't…?" he started just to realize the very next second she didn't believe a word. "Why do you want to know?"
Geraldine smiled brightly. "Oh, I just wondered if they might need a second bottle of this," she said innocently, pulling something out of her pocket. It turned out to be a small vial filled with an amber-colored fluid.
"Is it what I think it is?" he asked smugly after taking a closer look at the vial.
"I'm not the one capable of reading minds," she said, giving him a very slight, very wicked smile.
Once finished with what she'd suggested, Karril broke into laughter.
Three weeks and a wedding later…
"Oh, and Dad," Geraldine said, "don't forget to write."
"Write?" he asked. "But we're only moving back to Sheva."
She grinned. "Not really, no. Actually, you're moving to Yamas. Closer to your new line of business."
With that, she threw something toward Gerald. He caught it one-handed. After taking a look at whatever it was he broke into soft laughter.
"Is there anything you didn't think of?" he asked, mockingly.
"Umm… No, Daddy," Geraldine answered, smiling serenely.
"What is it?" her father demanded.
Gerald stretched out his arm and opened his hand.
Damien stared at the two sets of keys for a long moment.
"Does it mean what I think it does?" he said, not sure himself whom indeed he was asking. "Our children are throwing us out?"
"Wrong tense," the other man said dryly. "Our children have thrown us out."
"It's just a suggestion," Geraldine said, her tone making quite clear it was anything but that. "We figured it all out: you two breed horses, Damien and I look after the hospital and have fun!"
"With children like these, who needs enemies?" Gerald da Silva-Vryce said, a fleeting smile curling his lips.
"Yeah. I can tell," Damien da Silva-Vryce agreed.
Geraldine grinned, stepping back. "Hey Dad, just send us some unhorses next year," she said and waved.
"We will," he said, waved back, and kneed his three-toed mount into motion.
"There, look, they're riding off into the sunset," she sighed. "What an ending to this tale…"
"Do you think we'll ever see them again?" her husband asked.
"Sure as Hell we will. Or do you really think they can manage to stay out of trouble for two days at a stretch?" asked Geraldine.
He broke into laughter. "One can hope, can't I?"
"With a father like this I'm surprised how you manage to grow up that naive." She smiled. "You do know we have a hell of a lot of work to do now, don't you?"
He sighed. "Unfortunately."
"To quote from my father: Yeah, I can tell."
They smiled at each other and they kissed and then, they went inside.
But that's another story for another time…
(1) February, 1. is Imbolc (or Candlemas), one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid, in the Christian period it was adopted as St. Brigid's Day. In Wiccan tradition Imbolc is a festival to celebrate the Light, represents The Beginning and is astrologically defined as a cross-quarter day, midway between the winter solstice (Yule) and the spring equinox (Ostara). The precise astrological midpoint in the Northern hemisphere is when the sun reaches fifteen degrees of Aquarius. In the Southern hemisphere, if celebrated as the beginning of Spring, the date is the midpoint of Leo.
I just thought it fitting for Damien, as a Bringer of Light, to be born on that date. Of course, Gerald's birthday is on October, 31. Antagonism at its best. And yes, there'll be a story… some day…
(2) Contrary to Damien da Silva I'm not a seismologist. I asked a friend who is to explain the mechanics of a quake, so I know most faults don't behave as described by Geraldine, having components of both dip-slip and strike-slip. I just wanted to avoid a lengthy explanation but still maintain some level of authenticity. So if you're a seismologist and think I made it too simple and it bothers you, I'm sorry.
(3) Damien talks about the Richter magnitude scale, of course. I figured they may still use it on Erna. According to it, a quake of 6-6.9 is labeled as 'strong' and can be destructive in areas up to 160km across.