The clouds were puffy pockets of steam, you could almost see them forming, sweeping their way up from the vast fields that sprawled out from their large, arid home. It was a place where sky met earth, perfect for secrets and wind.
Peter was loading his dusty, faded duffel bag into the back of the station wagon, shuffling it aside to leave more room for Philip and Nina's things. They would be traveling in their own car with Brandon, and he had agreed to carry the luggage in the Vista Cruiser to make more space. In truth, he had done it mostly to see how long Philip would last, with Brandon chattering his ear off and analyzing everything he did. Even now, the scientist was going on about what steps he would take, when they got to the university in Seattle; "To be honest, I'm surprised to find such a small monster community in Washington. The settings are idea, for your species, there's seclusion and good hunting and it's cold..."
Peter shook his head, "And cliffs. We don't like cliffs."
"Or water. The kind you can't drink, " Walter added. He had been watching the packing process from the porch, but had soon dropped from his perch to check the fluids in the car. Peter figured it was more to fill his time, as his anxiousness grew. Walter had never been fond of goodbyes.
Brandon looked amazed, "For cereal?" he questioned.
"For what?" Walter questioned flatly, but Brandon was jotting down a note. Walter rolled his eyes, shutting the hood and wiping his hands of a shop rag as he headed for the porch.
"Um, a small thing," Brandon at last spoke up, and Walter turned back toward him, frowning flatly. The man did not seem to know when he was pushing his luck, "Dr. Bishop." he held up a pen.
Walter arched a brow, cautiously curious.
"Well, ah, the thing is... I was wondering if maybe you could sign your book for me?" He produced an old, tattered hardcover, black cover faded and splotted with coffee rings, and flushed with embarrassment, his ears burning, "I've read it a million times, I guess. It was what first got me interested in undocumented species, and when I learned... when Astrid said she knew you, I just had to meet you... and I know I can get pretty annoying and everything, but-" Walter suddenly plucked the book from his fingers, and he flinched in surprise.
"You wrote a book?" Peter questioned.
"Eons ago," Walter murmured, flipping through the yellowed pages, "Dear god, this is from back in school, it started as my thesis... " Walter looked up at him, "Where did you get this?"
Brandon shrugged a shoulder shyly, "everyone in my field has read it. It's a small field, I know, but it's still pretty mind-blowing."
Peter smirked at his father, whose ears were reddening, "and how come I've never heard of this?"
"Because it's rubbish," Walter protested gruffly.
"It is not!" Brandon exclaimed in child-like defiance. He quailed again, "I-I mean, uh..."
Walter watched him for a few, hard moments, and Brandon shifted uncomfortably. Walter sighed through his nose, and Peter could tell by the way he fluffed his wings out impressively that he was trying his hardest not to seem pleased, and flipped the cover open, scribbling his appellation. He thrust the book and pen to Brandon's chest, growling "Don't tell any of them where you found me." his glare softened, "I don't think I could stand any more of your kind around here."
Brandon was dazed, smiling stupidly, "You got it, Dr. B.," he breathed.
Philip Broyles slammed the trunk of the Vista Cruiser, gruffly dusting his hands, "are toy sure this scrap heap will make it all the way to Seattle?" He questioned uncertainly.
"If she falls, I'll just grab the saddle and keep walking," Peter assured him. Philip looked strange, with the fedora tipped low on his brow, to hide his thorn-black horns. But it did not look bad- he supposed that, despite his aggression issues, Philip was a very fine specimen, disguised as a human or otherwise. Nina had made a good choice, when she had chosen him.
"This had better work, Bishop," he said gruffly, but much of his malice was lost, to tired worry, and what sounded to be faint hope.
Peter rested a hand on his shoulder briefly, in a gesture of comfort, "I won't stop until it does, I promise." Broyles shrugged off his touch with a grateful glance, and moved off to be with his mate.
The belts tightened around Peter's chest as his wings attempted to flare them with surprise when Olivia wrapped her arms around him from behind, and he chuckled, "You're getting as bad as Walter, sneaking up on me."
"You don't perceive her as a threat," Brandon piped up. Under the prompting of Peter and Olivia's gaze, he dipped his head, shuffling off for the car clutching his prized book.
"You're going to have to work hard, to get this done before you have to go to sleep again, "Olivia murmured in his ear, before he turned in her hold, draping his arms around her waist.
"I plan on it," Peter answered, nuzzling her hair gently and nipping at her ear. Her fingers trailed along the back of his neck, and he continued, "I'm coming home to sleep, though. Walter can't make this place airtight by himself."
"I was wondering," Olivia asked, pulling back at him enough to look into his face, "If..."
"If what?" Peter smiled, tracing her hair behind her ear.
"Well... I've never slept with you. Not the both of us, together. I was wondering if I might spend the first night with you, before shipping off back to New York." Her teeth grabbed at her lower lip uncertainly, as her eyes searched his face.
Peter gathered her closely, kissing her passionately, "I love you," he whispered, his voice thick. She chuckled softly.
"I'll- oop, sorry," Astrid said, stepping back the way she had come down the porch steps, her palms upraised in apology.
"No, what is it?" Peter questioned, releasing Olivia to hold her hand.
"I was going to say, I'll take good care of Walter," Astrid said, smiling at the both of them, "Feed him, and take him out for walks. I'll even have him bathing regularly, by the time you get back," she gave him a thumbs-up, and Peter laughed.
"Well, then, best of luck to you," Peter replied.
"And the first rule," Astrid said, as Walter appeared on the steps behind her, resting his chin on the top of her head and draping his arms over her shoulders lazily, "Is no eating dead mice in the house."
Walter looked offended, his wings ruffling and his tail batting her sharply on the backside. Astrid let out a laugh, reaching up to curl a finger around one of his soft horns and tug.
Peter left them there, leading Olivia back around the station wagon as he pulled open the driver's door, "Are they...?" Olivia questioned, indicating Walter and Astrid.
He glanced back at the two, Astrid happily chatting with Nina as Walter's tail quietly circled her wrist, stroking the back of her hand, "You know... I think she's got him tamed."
"Welp," Brandon said, stretching as he addressed Astrid. He slid his reflective bomber shades onto his nose, "I guess this it goodbye, babe."
Astrid smiled, and Walter returned to his defensive stance behind her, "Yeah, I guess it is." She stepped forward, kissing him lightly on the brow, and Walter looked more flustered than ever, "Thank you so much, Brandon."
Brandon was still from a few moments, before he cleared his throat, "Yeah, well. What can I say, I'm a free spirit, and I've got to feel the wind under my wings. You're a cool chick; I just don't think it would have worked out. I'm just a wild man, y'know?" he grinned, and Astrid laughed, "'Later Astrid, Dr. B," he gave them an airy salute, and sauntered to the backseat of Philip and Nina's sedan.
Walter stuck his tongue out at him.
Peter slid down into the driver's seat with a grunt, shutting the door. Olivia leaned in through the open window, giving him a kiss, "don't forget to call, and tell me where you're staying so I can visit," she told him, tapping him on the nose, and he made a small face.
"Will do," he assured her.
"I love you, Peter," Olivia smiled.
"I love you, too," he gripped her arm gently, and kissed her again. He smiled at her, and she moved away from the car, as he started the engine.
"Peter," Walter had leaned down to peer through the off driver's window at him. His blue eyes were alarmingly clear, black pupils drawn into wide slits. His voice dipped low, so low that only Peter could hear, "Remember where you come from, son." and he offered him a feather; a long flight feather, nearly the length of his forearm. It was handsomely striped with golds and dark browns, and tipped with midnight black.
From his mother.
Peter took it from him, fingering it smooth, and he returned his eyes to his father, "I won't." he left the feather in the off driver's seat, and cranked the car into gear.
"Call, Peter!" Astrid called from the front porch.
"I will!" Peter answered, waving. His last look was to Olivia, whom smiled at him.
I've finally gotten it right.
The driveway was bumpier than he remember, the ruts deeper than before, as if trying to block his path and keep him here, where he belonged. With his pride. Carefully he maneuvered the road, the junk in the back of the long car rattling and sending dust into the air. It looked as gold as the long, open fields of wheat he passed, in the noonday sun. It was wonderful, that the storm had broken for him to leave.