Disclaimer: Belongs solely to Jim Butcher, not me. I am just not that awesome.

Notes: I forget what originally spawned this idea but it's been sitting on my computer since July. After I finished The Difference Between Chasing and Waiting, I went back to this and looked over it again, finally deciding that I did want to post it.


"Shield up! Keep your crowbegotten shield up, Eli, or you're going to be eating someone's sword!"

"I'm keeping the bloody shield up, Derius!"

"Not high enough - I could still take your head off. Lift your arm!"

Fidelias, still wearing the guise of Valiar Marcus, heard a sigh from behind him and turned his head from watching the instruction between two of the royal children. Gaius Lucia smiled at him and asked, "How long has Derius been at Eli this time?"

"Two hours, give or take," he answered mildly, already knowing what her response would be. She sighed and bowed her head, white hair falling across her face, then lifted her chin. He heard her whisper a name and felt the slight breeze a moment later as her air fury responded and darted towards her brothers at her will. The swift, fox-shaped fury appeared for a brief instant as it swept around the legs of the elder and he let out a surprised cry before he was thrown off-balance by the wind pressing against the back of his legs.

Gaius Desiderius Tavarus lay on the floor of the training hall for a moment, eyes closed, then opened them to glare upside down at his sister. "That," he said after a moment," was unfair."

Lucia arched a pale eyebrow, her dark eyes narrowed slightly, and asked, "And tossing Eli around for two hours isn't?"

"Three," panted Gaius Eligius as he lowered his shield arm. He blinked at his brother's sprawled out form then the fourteen year-old grinned and fixed his opaque gaze on his sister. "Thanks, Lucia."

"You are welcome, little brother," she said with a smile. Then she moved forward and leaned over Derius where he still lay, hissing, "I wish to speak with you, big brother."

He sighed at that then nodded and slowly rose to his feet, sheathing his gladius as soon as he was fully upright. Looking aside at Eli, he said, "I think it's time for some lesson with Marcus, isn't it?"

"An hour and a half late," intoned Fidelias with a smile as the youngest of the House of Gaius groaned. He then said, "And it will be later still when we actually get started so we should leave now, shouldn't we?"

Eli flicked his gaze to his siblings then nodded in agreement. He quickly put shield and gladius back on their racks and stripped out of the light armor he'd been wearing before he left the hall with Fidelias at his heels. The older man paused to look over his shoulder at the pair still in the room and saw that Derius, despite his superior height and build, had his shoulders slumped slightly as he looked down at his sister. Amusingly it was exactly the same stance their father took when he knew full well that their mother was right.

At that thought, Fidelias left the hall with a chuckle and a shake of his head.

Lucia waited until she heard the door close then turned on her elder brother with rage in her eyes. "And just what," she snarled," do you think you're doing?"

"He needs the training," replied Derius stubbornly. He then straightened his shoulders as he added, "And everyone else Father would trust to train him isn't here."

"That. Is. Not. My. Point."

He frowned then said, "You're going to make Lasher frighten the servants again."

"Most of them are used to it," spat Lucia. "Though she is involved in why I'm angry at you."

Derius sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose before he began, "Look, if this is about Eli being the age of bonding..."

"This is about him being the age of bonding and not having any furycraft!"

"Father didn't have any furycraft until he was in his twenties."

"Father," snarled Lucia, "also had mitigating circumstances. Our little brother was never crafted as a baby. He naturally has nothing and you want to bring him up here to sling him around like he does?"

The air around them heated at that as Derius' temper got the better of him and his green eyes flashed with rage as he fought back the half-unconscious firecrafting he had just done. Leaning closer to his sister, he growled, "I would never put Eli in harms way if I didn't believe he would be safe, just the same as I would never put you in such a position. Every time - every time - I have sparred with him, I've been half distracted with the effort to not use my own furies because I know he doesn't have them." He glared at her for a moment then Derius shook his head and turned away so his back was to her. "Crows, Cia," he said then in a softer voice, "do you really think I would do that?"

Lucia frowned, biting her lip, and realized that she had let her own temper get away from her. She closed her eyes, drew in a breath, then expelled it slowly as she slowly gathered her thoughts for what to say.

"I'm sorry, Derius," were the first words from her mouth. When he turned to look at her in surprise, Lucia continued, "I shouldn't have accused you like that. You, however, shouldn't have kept him at that for three hours."

He shrugged his shoulders then began to strip out of the slightly battered lorica he wore. "I'll admit I was wrong there," he agreed. Then Derius smiled sheepishly at her. "I lost track of time."

Lucia huffed at that then moved forward to help him out of the armor. As she followed him while he carried it back to the racks along the hall's walls, she said softly, "Father's worried."

"About Eli," stated Derius in a toneless voice as he slung the baldric of his gladius over the shoulder of his armor. At her nod, he sighed before saying, "So is Mother. And everyone else."

She winced at that, recalling some of the things she had overheard in passing or had relayed to her by friends that had been said about her little brother. Most were merely worried...but a few were revolving around accusations that their Mother's barbarian blood had tainted the royal line. The accusation obviously wasn't true since both she and Derius had ample crafting and while Eli's lack had worried their father once upon a time, that wasn't his worry now.

Now their parents were concerned about whether their youngest child would bond with an animal like his sister had with a gifted horse from their great-aunt Hashat or follow in their mother's footsteps.

Derius' arm was around her shoulders then, drawing her into his side tightly. "We all worry too much, I think," her brother said after a moment. "Whatever happens, we'll accept it as it is obviously the will of the One. Just as the One willed we be as we are, Eli will be as he is supposed to be."

"Don't let anyone not family hear you say that," chided Lucia as she leaned into his warmth, twining her arms around his waist. Like that, she felt the snort he uttered more than she heard it.

"Anyone not family can go to the crows."

She laughed and said, "Don't let them hear you say that either."

Derius chuckled and nodded slightly before he looked down at her with a smile. "Are we all right then?" he asked.

"If we aren't, Lasher will be sure to let you know," answered Lucia with a wicked smile.

"That's it, I am never going anywhere near your horse again. Not even with you on her."

"She'll be so disappointed. I think she wanted to race you again soon."

"Please," said Derius with a snort as he turned them to head towards the hall's door, "Rufus may be her brother but he is far from her equal in speed."

Lucia giggled at that with one hand covering her mouth in a failed attempt to hide it and he blinked before moving away from her. "You," he exclaimed, "you've been crafting your horse?" At her frantic nod, Derius hissed, "You rotten cheater!"

She laughed and said, "Take solace in that you can still beat me in the air?"

"Not the bloody point!"

Lucia chuckled and opened the door, turning to smile up at her brother before she exited. "Fine then," she said, "next time I'll let Lasher beat Rufus on her own."

"Why you -!" growled Derius and lunged playfully at her, causing Lucia to take off at a sprint with her air fury lending her speed. He gave chase using the same methods and they both called out, "Sorry, Marcus!" as they blurred past Fidelias on his way up the stairs they sprinted down.

Fidelias blinked after them then shook his head before continuing up the stairs towards the room where Eligius waited for him, trying to ignore the stiffness in his limbs during the climb. He had a few honest lessons to teach his student - and a few more dishonest ones for the tricky minded youth he was secretly (with Crown permission) training as one of his covert operatives. Plus if it did turn out (as he suspected) that the boy picked up neither family trait, it would be a perfect place for him. That tricky mind so like his father's could be put to good use amongst his spies.

At least he could take solace in the fact that only one of the three children had shown themselves to be in possession of a mind that was close to that.

The old Cursor wasn't quite sure he could have taken dealing with it in Derius and Lucia.