Disclaimer: Raven and its denizens belong to a lot of other people including Frank Lupo.

Aaron Beauregard Acton is dragon's contribution. (and if you want an idea of what he looks like, try a slightly older John Bly (Billy Drago) from Brisco County, Jr. I adore that actor)

This is all the fault of Timelock.

Time: Current

Place: Hawaii, fantasy Japan, New Orleans as it isn't

Spoilers: Possibly - possibly not.

Synopsis: Jonathan catches the flu, and a few oddball questions as to where his life is going and where its been. (As in: how did a boy his age get to stay in Japan after his family died? Why wasn't he repatriated to the States and whatever family his father and mother had back there? A father and mother who were also only children with nothing but dead parents seems just a little too good to be true g [And with nearly a full season of shows, how come none of the writers ever glommed onto this anomaly?])

Fever Dreams and Family Ties

Jonathan Raven was hot; dripping sweat, although all he was doing was sitting still on the meditation deck hed built in his back yard, overlooking the ocean. He swallowed; his throat tight, raspy. Somehow, he'd caught the flu. Great. He closed his eyes, hoping for some respite from the heat, the aches, the throbbing at his temples. Nope. He got to his feet, staggered off the deck and sat down again on the grass. It felt cool against his skin. He flopped backwards, lying there, feeling the cool, shivering in spite of the full sun beating down on him. He wasn't certain how long he lay there, too sick to rise, too sick to even think.

A shadow fell across him. He fought to open his eyes, lifting leaden eyelids just a trifle. "Ski?" he whispered hopefully as he pulled the face above him into focus. A stranger. A man. Older, hair graying, a worn face with long, sloping eyes. The man blinked and then a slow smile stretched his lips, curving upwards.

"Jonathan," he said softly. "You don't look so good, boy." The voice was even timbered, a slight southern drawl touching the vowels. "Looks like maybe my timing was better than I thought." He reached down a hand to help Jonathan up.

With something akin to wonder, Jonathan accepted the assist. He made it to his feet, then wobbled again. The older man, only slightly shorter, slid under his arm and gave him support. He managed to hit only grass as his stomach made the final rebellion and emptied abruptly. They made it into the house with no more mishaps. The older man took him into the bathroom and lowered him to the floor, making certain there was a wall close enough for him to lean against.

Jonathan watched incuriously as the man filled the tub with steaming hot water. He frowned as he wondered what the water was for. He got an answer as he was pulled to his feet and then somewhat unceremoniously dumped into the tub. The shock was - not such a shock. The water felt good, relaxing. He let things drift away in the heat... Aaron Beauregard Acton regarded his nephew curiously. He saw a lean, dark haired man in his mid to late thirties. Fine bone structure. Sick as a dog. He shook his head. He had meant to come looking for the boy sooner, but life had gotten in his way. Well, the flu was seldom terminal for people in good health otherwise.

He made certain that slipping beneath the surface was not an option, even if the boy fell asleep, and went to investigate the rest of the house. The kitchen was disappointing. He understood the younger man had spent a great deal of his time growing up in Japan, but that left his pantry a bit bare of the things Aaron was used to cooking. He looked in on Jonathan, realized the man was asleep and the water was getting cooler.

He touched the back of his hand to Jonathan's forehead. Better. Still warm, but not burning. The first fever had broken. He shook the younger man to awaken him. He was a little surprised by the violence of the reaction, but managed to avoid getting hurt.

"Slow down, boy. Not here to hurt you. You're sick. We need to get you into bed." Jonathan blinked at the unfamiliar face, yet he could hear sincerity in the voice. He allowed the man to help him out of the bath and to strip him out of his sodden pants. He managed to stay upright while the other dried him off and helped him into an embroidered black kimono.

Bed. Yes. Wonderful idea. He collapsed gratefully onto the black silk sheets, almost oblivious to the hands pulling the sheets and blankets up around him. Jonathan drifted off into hallucinatory dreams.

Jonathan Raven, just over twenty, trained in ninja fighting styles and secrecy, stole like a shadow into the Black Dragon compound. Swathed in traditional black, he carried a sword in his hand and death in his heart. Finally, he would have vengeance on those murdered his family. He would be death and destruction as he had been taught to be. Honor, family, blood, death -all intertwined in his existence over the next quarter of an hour.

He found himself standing alone, surrounded by bodies and blood, his sword no longer gleaming silver, but slicked with the gore of the dead around him. Nothing moved. He swallowed convulsively, fighting down the nausea that suddenly engulfed him. He could smell the stench of death. Over. It was over, and done. He could leave.

Like the wind, he left the compound, leaving no trace behind him. Outside, the crisp autumn air cleansed his senses, took the stench of death from him. He stopped, cleaned his sword and slid it into the scabbard. He knew an instant's desire to toss the sword away, yet his fingers remained clenched around it. The sword was evidence. His fingerprints were all over the sword, the scabbard. He would keep it with him: keep it as a symbol of the justice he had served.

Faces of the dead rose to deny his thoughts. So many. So very many. All those lives for two who had been dear to him. All that blood for the blood that splashed the walls of his parent's room. He fell to his knees as nausea overwhelmed him. He voided the contents of his stomach and continued to heave long after anything would come up. Finally, the convulsive spasms stopped. He hurt. His throat was raw. His belly ached from the fierce contractions. He wanted to curl in on himself and go away. His life was gone.

The life they had taken from him, the life they had given him. The Black Dragons had taken it all from him now. There was nothing left. Nothing, but the desire to live. A fierce determination boiled up within him, forcing him out of the depression, the black despair he faced. He would live. He would get to Aki and take her with him.

But, would she come? Would she still want him? His ears alerted him to the approach of sirens. Did someone still live inside the compound? He had made certain there were no children present, that they were all away at school. He had killed only adults, only those who would know, who would bear the guilt. He ran. He found the stash of clothing and money he had hidden. He changed clothes, tried to be as nonchalant about entering the foreign territory of the airport as he could be. He had a passport. He had a ticket for a flight out of Japan. He was free. Aki. Aki - could he leave without her?

"Jonathan."

He spun to face a man he did not recognize. The voice was American. The man was American. A tourist. How did this man know his name? He stared at him in silence.

"Jonathan Raven."

No mistake. Jonathan started to deny his name, then nodded curtly. "What do you want?"

"You."

"Why?"

"I'm your Uncle Aaron. Your mama's brother," the softly drawling accent told him.

"You're mistaken."

"No. I'm Aaron Acton. Your mama told me when she had you, when she and your dad moved here."

"Why now?" The unvoiced questions: Where have you been? Why did you leave me? Why didn't you come sooner?

"I didn't know until after you'd been adopted. They wouldn't let me see you."

"What? Why not?" But he knew the answer to that. Black Dragons were ninja. The young gaijin might have said something to give them away. They never trusted him, not fully. Damn them.

"You'd been adopted. As far as anyone here was concerned, you were not in need of 'gaijin' relatives."

Jonathan caught the touch of bitterness in the man's voice, even through the drawl. That had hurt him. Family meant something to this man. But could he afford to trust him?

Could he afford to take anything he said at face value? "I'm leaving Japan."

"Are you? Going where?"

Where was he going? Did he dare make himself look foolish by looking at the ticket? He knew there was a stop in Hawaii. "Hawaii."

"Nice place. I'm booked through there on my way to Los Angeles."

Coincidence? The Black Dragons had taught him there were no coincidences. He stuck his hand in his jacket pocket. The familiar shape of a gun lay there. A swift conclusion to this interview.

Wind howled up from nowhere, slamming him against a wall, holding him pinned. The airport dissolved around him. The blackness took shape, took form. Fire bloomed out of a mouth lined with curved fangs, eyes like hot coals stared down at him. Talons on paws that were almost hands, reached for him. He shook in terror. No. Dragons were not real! Dragons were not real! Dragons were - not - not - real. He slid down the wall into unconsciousness.

Aaron looked at the slumped body of his nephew. His bright, dark eyes regarded the still form with knowledge and curiosity. The boy was so young. Too young to do what he had done. Too young to bear that burden of hate and guilt. Well, he needed time to heal, to find himself. Gently, he hoisted the unconscious body onto his shoulders and carried him out of the airport.

"It didn't happen that way," a cool female voice pointed out.

"It should have."

"It didn't. He got out on his own."

"The boy should never have been on his own."

"The "boy" isn't a boy. He's a man. He is responsible for his own choices, his own decisions. You can't change that now."

"I should have been there."

"You were in jail."

"I can be there now."

"Aaron, you're dead."

"He doesn't know that."

"It's out of my hands."

"Let me show him."

"Show him what?"

"That he's not alone. That he's not the monster he sometimes thinks he is."

She stared at him for a long moment. Then her face softened and she reached out and stroked the side of his face. "And maybe you aren't either?" she added softly.

"I'm Beau Acton," he reminded her, his face hardening. "I am who and what I am."

"No apologies?"

"And only one regret. We'd have made a helluva team."

She made an exasperated sound and turned away from him. "Go."

Fade.

Jonathan Raven became aware of someone speaking to him. "Come, boy. Wake up."

He looked up at an unfamiliar face. A part of him wanted to ask questions, to get rid of this invader of his privacy. Another part just wanted him to go away and let him die in peace. Neither seemed to be options the man was interested in.

"Jonathan, wake up. You're dehydrated and you're getting past the "just add water" stage."

Feeling like death would be a welcome surcease, Jonathan pulled himself together enough to pay attention. He allowed the man to help him sit up and sucked orange juice out of a glass with a straw in it. At first he wanted nothing to do with the juice. But its cool wet feel down his parched throat was enough to make him want more. He finished the glass without a word.

A little more in touch with the world, he looked into the other man's eyes and tried for questions. "Who -?"

"Aaron Acton."

Acton. The name hovered around the edge of his consciousness with an odd familiarity. He frowned. "I should -"

"Don't worry about it, boy."

"Don't call me 'boy'."

Aaron smiled at the instinctive reaction.. "Jonny?"

A look of revulsion met that sally.

"Jonathan," he said more formally.

"Jon, if you must."

Aaron chuckled. "Jonathan. You deserve the respect. Now, care to try some soup?" Jonathan regarded him suspiciously. He regarded the soup suspiciously. It smelled good.

"Miso Chicken," Aaron identified it as Jonathan took a tentative sip.

"Miso? Chicken?" It tasted good, whatever adjustments the man had made. He drank the cup slowly. By the time he finished, his eyelids were refusing to stay open for more than seconds at a time. Did he dare let go? Did he dare go to sleep with a stranger in his home? Did he have a choice? No.

A lovely Japanese woman with long silken hair sat on the grass in a park, watching children play. She turned her face toward him. Aki. She smiled at him, welcoming him. He joined her on the grass, taking her in his arms, against all convention and etiquette. It was a measure of her feelings for him that she allowed the familiarity in public. A brief kiss and she pulled away.

"Raven-san," she addressed him primly.

He laughed. "Watching the children?"

"Yes. You want children?"

"With you? Yes."

She looked up into his fathomless dark eyes. She wished she knew what he was thinking, but he was such an unreadable combination of gaijin and Nippon. There was no getting behind the face he turned to the world. Only when they were alone, in the midst of passion, then did the mask slip and she saw behind it. What she saw frightened her as much as it made her love him. There was still much of the angry child in the man, there was still so much hurt he had never let the world see, so much he had not let go. Her beloved set of contradictions.

She knew he was dangerous. Yet the danger she sensed in him was not just that of the whispered ninja, but more than that. Should she tell him? Was the time right? She looked at his profile watching the children at play. No. Not yet. Let him see the world without worries for a while longer, there was time to tell him.

Aki could not see the dark heart of her beloved, could not know that the idyll would end so soon in blood and death. Jonathan looked at her and felt himself change. Could she not see the darkness, the evil that lurked beneath the laughing surface? How could she love him? How could she wish to bear his child, the heartbeat he could sense within her? How could she love him? How could he love her and plan to do what he planned to do? How could he love an enemy? But Aki was not an enemy, she was his love. He would take her with him when he left. They would be always together.

Always. The laughing girl in his arms turned into a skeleton, crumbled to dust. The day became overcast. The children disappeared, except for one small indistinct form. A baby cried, whimpered, became silent. Jonathan came to his feet, searching. Hikari. It had to be. His son. But where? He tried to focus on the small moving form.

"Looking for someone?"

He wrenched around to face - Aaron. Impeccably dressed, the man lounged against the trunk of a cherry tree. His impassive dark eyes watched the younger man closely.

"My - son."

"Your son? I didn't know you had a son."

"Neither did I, at first."

"Love 'em and leave 'em?" He dodged the attack Jonathan launched. He stepped out of the way, batting Jonathan's strikes aside. He defended with the ease of a ranking belt.

"Not exactly, I take it."

"I loved Aki."

"Did you? Or was she just convenient? A Jap girl who fell for a gaijin?"

Blood rushed to Jonathan's face as his anger surged. How dare this man question his feelings for Aki? Sword in hand he hunted this fool who dared question his emotions. He wrenched himself to a halt. He trembled with the effort, yet he knew there was something else to this. Why did his questions hurt so much? Why had he asked himself the same questions when he found out he had not returned in time? Would Aki be alive, would she have survived the birth of their son, had he been where he should have been instead of where he was?

His shoulders slumped. The sword evaporated. He stood in a desolate, withered open space in a dead park. He looked up into the eyes of the older man. He frowned. Understanding? Sympathy? Why? Why would he feel these things from this man?

"Who are you?" he whispered again.

"I told you, you mother's brother. Your Uncle. Aaron Acton."

"Aaron. Why don't I remember you?"

Aaron smiled. "Black sheep don't get mentioned very often."

"Black sheep? Black dragons. Outcasts."

"Together?" The older man held out a hand to the younger.. Jonathan looked into the man's face, saw a mirror of his own unreadable visage and accepted the hand. Pain surged through him. Betrayed, again! He looked down. No. The steel of a sword had plunged through them both, binding them together in damage, in agony.

They wrenched apart. Blood poured from the wounds each had suffered. Both men looked around, searching out the enemy who had tried to kill them. Back to back, they stood their ground, facing the dark wraiths of their enemies. Death would take them together, or not at all. In the distance, the wail of a small child went almost unheard.

"Enough!" Jonathan bellowed and jerked wide awake. The room was dark. The sheets were damp with sweat. He lay in the darkness trying to orient himself. Silence. He shivered. He slid out of bed, steadying himself with one hand against a wall. Bathroom. Quickly.

He shed the kimono he was wearing and stepped under a fall of hot water in his shower. After a moment, the shivering stopped. He was getting warm again. He turned off the water and dried off, locating a second black kimono to wrap around him as he walked out of the bathroom. He could smell something hot in the kitchen. A bowl of hot, fresh soup sat on the counter.

"Ski?" he called, assuming it was his friend who had left him the food. He ate slowly, calming the flutters of nausea around the edges of his stomach. He looked around. Nothing. No sign of his friend. He checked his phone message machine.

One call. "Jonathan. This is Ski. I've got a lead on the case I'm workin' on. I'll be gone a

couple of days. Call you when I get back."

Something with several hundred icy feet danced up and down his spine as he looked at the half empty bowl in his hands. He set it down carefully and wondered just what might have been in it.

"Chicken broth. A few noodles," came a drawling response. Aaron stepped out of the shadows. "Finish it. It'll do you good."

"Who -?" He stopped himself from finishing the question. He felt he had asked it too many times lately. He knew the face, knew the voice, but from where?

Aaron grinned. "We've been through this before, but I think you weren't all here at the time. I'm your Uncle Aaron."

"I don't have an uncle."

"You don't have an uncle you know about."

"How - " He thought about it. Neither his mother or father had talked much about family. He searched for some resemblance to his father in the man's face and found none. "Mother?"

"Yeah. Black sheep of the family, I'm afraid."

"Where were you?" he didn't dare finish the question..

"Jail."

"Jail? For?"

"Murder."

"Murder?"

"Murder. Yes, I was guilty. He deserved it. But the law takes a dim view of vigilantism. Too civilized. I was in jail when they died. I was in jail when I heard about it."

"And after?" But he knew the answer to that. Having taken him in, the Black Dragons could not afford to have him taken away. He was gaijin, but he was also Dragon. Even if this man had come looking, they would never have admitted to having him.

"Getting out of the US and into Japan was difficult. Finding out what had happened was more difficult. The consulate didn't want to talk about it. The Japanese didn't want to talk about it. The Japanese didn't want to talk about you at all. It was as though you'd been swept away and no one knew where. I didn't have enough contacts in the country to find you. I wish I had."

"You left."

"I got escorted out."

That brought a smile to Jonathan's lips, just before he yawned. He didn't look forward to going back to bed just yet.

"Let me get your sheets changed. Wet silk has its place, but not on a sick bed." Jonathan watched the man work. He moved with a fluid grace that matched Jonathan's. When he was well.

"You've trained."

That slow smile surfaced again. "Some. Your bed's ready."

Jonathan settled into his bed, the sheets clean and inviting. He started to drift back to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillows.

"You're cheating."

A female voice. An unfamiliar voice. He tried desperately to wake up.

"He won't remember when he's well."

Aaron, he identified that voice. What was he talking about? And to whom?

"You're in trouble."

"This is not news."

"Aaron Beauregard Acton, this is serious."

"So is this," came the soft reply. "So is family."

Jonathan Raven, early 20's, slayer of ninjas, awoke with a start. He looked wildly around him, trying to place the sounds and sights. He was in the cabin of a small Lear jet. There was no one else in the jet cabin.

Cautiously, he unlatched his seat belt and moved forward to the cockpit. A man with shoulder length graying hair sat in the pilot's seat. He gestured for Jonathan to join him. The younger man regarded him suspiciously, but took the co-pilot's seat.

"Ever learn to fly?"

"No."

"Now's as good a time as any." He took his hands off the wheel.

Jonathan moved to catch the wheel on his side, then stopped. Nothing had happened. He frowned at the other man. "Auto-pilot?"

"You catch on quick."

"Where are we going?"

"Hawaii."

"Why?"

"Seems like a good place to go. Warm. Sunny. Breezes. You'll like it."

"And you?"

"I already like it."

"Oh."

"And I think your girl will like it, too."

"What girl?"

"The little Nipponese girl you've been going with for a while, the one carrying your child."

"What?" He hadn't wanted to sound like that.

"What's her name? Aki. Yeah. Aki. She's pregnant."

"How do you know?"

"I do."

"She would have told me."

"Would she?"

"Yes." Doubts crowded into his mind. "Of course. She knows I love her."

"Does she?"

"I told her."

"Before or after you killed all those people?"

He knew. How did he know? Who the hell was he? Am I dead?

"You're not dead. I'm your Uncle Aaron. I *am* dead."

Jonathan goggled at the last. He tried not to do so. He tried very hard not to do so. Ghosts are a part of Japanese mythology and cosmology, very close to the living. He swallowed hard and tried to understand what was going on. He failed.

"Try that again."

Aaron laughed. He turned to look at his nephew. "This is not real. We're talking because I need to let you know I did not ignore or forget you. I could not come to you."

"Because you were dead?"

"Because I was in jail. Because the Japanese government officials involved did not want problems. Because the US officials involved thought you were better off where you were than you would be with a jailbird uncle. Because - because by the time I found out where and who you were with, you were gone. I finally figured out I must have missed you by about an hour. I wasn't dead when this actually happened."

Jonathan shook his head. None of this was making sense. "But you're dead now."

"My now. Yes."

"Your *now* - your - "

Jonathan's eyes snapped open into darkness. He blinked, focusing on nothing. What had he said? Aaron Acton was dead? But - He shivered, frowned and tried to go back to sleep.

He couldn't get comfortable.

He got up, still weak feeling, but without the staggers, and got a drink from the kitchen. The juice was cool and filling. He went back to bed and settled in, hoping he would not dream again. The dreams were almost as exhausting as being ill was.

He tried to sort out dream from reality. He had fallen ill. That much was real. He could feel the debilitating effects of the illness as he lay there thinking. He had - had what? Hallucinated an uncle where there was none? Maybe. He certainly didn't know exactly what was going on. Why would he invent an uncle who couldn't do anything?. 'Because when you needed family, clan, it wasn't there,' the calm, reasoning portion of his mind answered him. 'Because you still need an answer as to why your real family abandoned you to the Japanese when you were a child.'

He shook his head. That made no sense. They did not abandon him, they died.

'All of them? Or just the ones you avenged?'

The ones he avenged, of course, he thought irritably, annoyed at his other self for asking stupid questions. Or were they? This was no time to get into this argument with himself. He drifted off to sleep.

"Jonathan. Jonathan."

He was aware of Ski's abrasive voice calling to him. He sounded excited. He opened his eyes with a groan. "Ski, not now," he told him in a tired voice. What he needed now was sleep. A lot of sleep.

"Jonathan. It's important."

It was always important - to Ski. With an effort he opened his eyes again to gaze at the graying blond bear of a man he called friend. He frowned. There was something odd about Ski, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what. Maybe it was the outdated uniform.

Maybe it was the 35-10 haircut. Maybe it was the slightly dream-like quality of the moment.

"What?"

"I found him."

That was urgent.

"Found who?"

Ski looked disgusted. "*Him*, for cryin' out loud. The kid. H'kari."

Ski's entire attitude told him he should be more enthusiastic than he felt. "Good."

Ski deflated. "Good. Good? Just "good"? Jonathan, *your son*, the boy you been movin' heaven and earth to find for the last 10 years. I found him! But we gotta move fast." Fast? Fast. Yeah, right. A snail on prozac would be faster than Jonathan at the moment. "Why?"

"'Cause it looks like the dragons may have found him, too," Ski informed him in a

conspiratorial stage whisper with exaggerated looks around him.

Dragons. Black Dragons, to be exact. What was left of the clan still trying to exact vengeance for his act of vengeance. Where did it all end? With his and H'kari's deaths? No, dammit. He would keep the boy alive if it cost him his life, his honor, his friends.

"Where?"

"Come on."

He followed Ski out to a white Jeep Renegade. It was only after they were on the road he thought to question where his own vehicle, a black Jeep of the same model, was and why Ski was driving.

"You're in no shape to drive. Gotta be fresh for the kid, for meeting him."

"No point in wearing yourself out this early in the game," a slight southern drawl confirmed from the back seat.

Jonathan froze. He turned his head slowly to meet the unperturbed gaze of his uncle. He shot a sharp glance at Ski. Nothing. What the hell was going on here?

"Ski?"

"Yeah?"

"Have you met my Uncle?"

"You got an Uncle? I didn't know you had any family left."

He looked around at the man in the back seat. "I'm hallucinating," he mouthed.

Aaron grinned at him. "Let's just say, you're experiencing an altered state of consciousness."

"Why?"

"Unresolved issues."

"Psycho-babble double-speak," Jonathan muttered.

"What?" Ski asked as he concentrated on getting them where they were going.

"Nothing."

"You OK?"

"I'm fine," he shot back a little too quickly.

Ski shot him a troubled glance. Jonathan felt apologetic for worrying his friend, then reminded himself that none of this was real and sat on the feeling.

"So, what is this all about?" he mouthed at the other phantasm, wondering why he bothered, since both this non-Uncle and Ski were figments of his imagination.

"Family."

"I don't have a family," he pointed out, surprised at the bitter bite to the words. The Black Dragon clan had destroyed his family. Then he had destroyed the family they became for him. There was nothing left..

"You have a son."

"Where? I've searched for years. I'm no closer to him now than I have ever been. The boy could be dead, for all I know."

"The Dragons still seek him."

"Then they're bigger fools than I am." He sagged in the seat. He felt drained, defeated. He was wondering why he fought so hard when he was losing.

"Maybe you're not losing."

"What?"

"We're here!"

The Jeep came to a screeching halt, nearly throwing Jonathan, who had neglected to fasten his seatbelt, through the windshield. "Ski - watch it."

"Oh, sure. We're here."

"I'd gathered." He ignored the smirk on his Uncle's face. After all, the smirk and the face were all in his mind. Weren't they?

He looked around at sand and surf and a large gang of kids between 18 and 10 on the beach. Most of them were locals. One of the older ones stood out, fair skinned, long dark hair braided out of his face, almond eyes nearly black, he was slender and well muscled.

The girls on the beach seemed to be watching only him as he moved among the group.

"H'kari?" Jonathan breathed.

"Your son," Aaron drawled softly behind him..

The boy was apparently teaching basic martial arts to the group. Jonathan watched him move, felt the years drop away and saw himself training at the same age. His mouth went dry. The boy was better than he had been, much better. He moved with a grace and ability it had taken Jonathan years to master.

He shook his head. If the boy had been training for years, it was not so difficult to understand.

"Ski -?" It was a whispered plea to his friend to break the spell, or not. He was afraid to move, afraid he would lose this knowledge, this sight.

Ski wasn't in the car. He was on the beach, approaching the mob of kids. One of the older ones intercepted the golden bear of a man who was Jonathan's friend. They spoke for a moment, and Ski headed back to the Jeep.

"Come on, the boy's agreed to meet you."

The dream-like feel of the situation did not abate as he stepped out of the Jeep and took a deep breath. He walked onto the sand to meet the young man Ski believed to be his son.. As they neared each other, he could see a touch of Aki here and there in the lines of the boy's face. He revised his definition as they came face to face. Young man, that was what he faced, not a boy.

They stopped about five feet apart. The younger man regarded the older warily. He gave Jonathan a curt nod. "You are the one Mr. Jablonski spoke of?" he asked in fluent Japanese.

Jonathan nodded slowly. "I am Jonathan Raven," he responded formally in the same language. "I seek a son I have never met."

"I was told of a father who did not care."

Jonathan flushed at that. "A father who did not know until it was too late," he edited softly. "Aki did not tell me. We were - lovers, not husband and wife."

"Discarded," the young man shot back harshly.

Jonathan met his gaze squarely. "No. I - I had to leave the country, swiftly. Actions I took precluded finding and bringing your mother with me. When it was - safe to arrange for her to join me, it was too late."

For just a moment, a soul deep desolation showed in Jonathan 's eyes. The younger man saw it, felt it. "My mother gave me a name at birth."

"Hikari."

"My mother said you trained as a ghost warrior."

"I am Black Dragon."

A surprised intake of breath greeted that admission. "Ninja."

"You've heard of them?" Jonathan felt a sudden chill inside. How would his son have heard of the clan?

"Mom told me tales of the Japan she knew. One of them was of a gaijin who destroyed a ninja clan. " He saw Jonathan's frown. "Your woman was my birthmother, the one who gives me rights as a Japanese citizen if I want to claim them. Mom is the woman who raised me. Osuna Mai Luna. Japanese-American. She married a soldier boy from New Mexico. She knew the woman my mother trusted to find a home for me."

"She knew about the Black Dragons?"

"She was told many things to keep me safe."

Jonathan looked the young man up and down and smiled. "She does a fine job."

"Yeah," he came back in American, with a slight blush. "Mom's pretty good at keeping her kids safe. Look, you have answers to questions I was told were important if my father came looking for me. But Mom and Dad are - well, Mom and Dad."

"They're both still alive?"

"Yeah. Dad retired from the Army a couple of years ago after 30 years. They decided to move here because it - well, it's beautiful, it's warm and it's not inclined to get earthquakes," he told Jonathan with a laugh.

"And you don't know exactly where to fit me into this picture."

"No. I mean - Oh, hell."

"It's all right. I was never certain what would happen when I found my son. Found you.

At a younger age, under different circumstances, I wanted to be able to provide a home.

You don't need a home."

"But I might need to know my father, my blood father, better."

Jonathan smiled again. "And I would like to know my son."

"I would like to know my son," Jonathan muttered, half waking. The images of his dream slipped away from him like smoke on a light breeze. He tried to hold onto the image of his son, of the beach. Somehow, all this seemed so important.

"Jonathan?" Ski's voice from the front of the house.

Jonathan lay there for a few moments more, wishing he knew where the beach in his dream was, where to find the faintly golden skinned young man whose face he was even now having a hard time remembering.

"Jonathan?" Ski's voice was closer.

"In here."

Ski poked his head through the doorway. "Damn, you look like hell."

"Thank you."

"Aw, I didn't mean nothin' by it. But you look like you been sick for a while."

"I have."

"There was a letter in your mail box. I brought it in for you."

'

Jonathan frowned. He hardly ever got mail. He looked at the envelope. It seemed a bit weathered. The return address was a discreet post office box. Frowning, he opened it. There were two sheets of thin legal paper inside, and a key. The letter was from a New Orleans lawyer informing him of a bequest left him by one Aaron Beauregard Acton. The key was to a lock box at the Hibernia National Bank in New Orleans. The contents were his. The box was paid up through the end of the year 2000.

"Aaron Beauregard Acton," Jonathan read the name aloud and with wonder in his voice.

"Who's that?".He looked up at Ski, having almost forgotten he was there. "I'm - not sure. Maybe the lock box will have some clues." He folded the letter back into the envelope and got up.

He felt much better than he had a few hours ago. "Where have you been?"

"Checking out a kid I heard about. No luck. No birthmark. Good lookin' kid, though."

Jonathan gave him a warm look and a smile as he headed into the bathroom for a shower. He was thoughtful as he soaped up and rinsed off. Acton. Aaron Acton. The name seemed as though it should be familiar. Very familiar. Yet he couldn't place it. Well, he'd find out. New Orleans was one city he had not visited in a very long time. This could be interesting.

When he was dressed, he joined Ski in the kitchen. "Finding what you want?"

"No."

They both laughed. The younger man found he was hungry. The refrigerator was disappointingly bare. They went out for dinner.

"So, you gonna go to New Orleans to check out the lock box?" Ski asked when he was about half way through his hamburger.

Jonathan looked up from his thoughts as though he'd almost forgotten Ski's presence.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"New Orleans. You going?"

"Yes."

"Why? Sounds serious."

"It is."

"Why?"

Jonathan thought about it for a moment, then looked up to meet Ski's open blue gaze. "Family, Ski. This is family."

End of Fever Dreams and Family Ties

To be continued in The Acton Legacy