Disclaimer: Custodes Noctis and characters are owned by Muffy Morrigan and Three Raven's Press. Characters used with permission.
Author Note 1: Thanks to Muffy for the beta. Any leftover mistakes are mine.
Author Note 2: So Flash's injury is based on something I did a few weeks ago. The similarity is very very thin lol. The back story that put him there came out of nowhere. In any case I hope you enjoy the following.
Author's Note 3: Flash is singing a song called Nori that can be found on Celtic Thunder's Heritage CD.
The Root of the Matter
a Custodes Noctis fanfic
By infinite shadow
Sometimes he wondered which God he'd pissed off. Last week his prized guitar pick had gone missing, and the sound had been off ever since. The week before he'd pissed off Sarah, she'd yet to speak to him and he was still clueless as to what he'd done. Before that there was a laundry list of things that had gone wrong, gone against him and he had no patience to go through them now.
And now this.
This! For God's sake. It was pathetic, moronic and incredibly idiotic.
It was embarrassing to him as a tough lean man who had a secret side job of hunting evil.
He glared at the small offending root that was sticking out of the path. Flash sighed, and wished that he'd brought along a knife so he could cut the stupid thing out of the ground. However, if he dragged himself a little further he was sure he could rip the sucker right out of the earth, and tear the freakin' thing to pieces.
Instead, he patted his pockets looking for his cell phone, which he knew was there because he'd texted Sarah another apology and "please talk to me" text just before entering the park. He didn't think he'd get a response but he could keep going as long as he possibly could until she spoke to him. He'd take any words she'd give him. Hell, he'd even take a piss all the way off if that's what she wanted to say. It would at least open the door.
Microscopically open, but hey he'd take it.
If Galen were here he'd have laughed his ass off at him before fixing his ankle and laughing at him some more. He could even hear the words. Awww Flash get taken down by an itty bitty twig?
Bastard. Course if said bastard had been here...
Darkness had fallen, and all he had was the light of the moon that filtered slightly down through the trees. It lit the path marginally but enough for him to see the water that sparkled a few feet to his right.
At least he couldn't see the bit of bone that was sticking out of his skin just at the top of his sneakers. He was good at pain management. He'd had a few broken bones and sprains growing up and more before he'd met Galen. It sucked, it screamingly hurt like some massive bitch but, hey, he could deal.
He was just that kinda guy.
However, he wouldn't be in this position if he hadn't thought about getting some fresh air and trying to figure out just what the hell happened between him and Sarah. Just him, fresh air, pretty trees and birds and time to try and figure stuff out. By himself. Just like his aunt would make him do when he had something he was trying to figure out.
Smart lady, his aunt.
Shaking his head, he pulled himself out of his thoughts. He wondered what time it was. There was a practice at Pete's place tonight and he wondered how long they were going to wait to call him to see if he was coming or not.
Not that he ever missed a practice. Not normally anyway.
At times like this, he'd kill to have the connection that Rob and Galen had. He'd telepathically tell his sibling to get the hell here yesterday and save his ass. Course with his history with family life his brother would probably tell him off and shut down their link.
Flash sighed heavily. Giving up slightly, he lay down flat on the ground.
And that's when he heard it. Muffled but there. "Like a Virgin." He struggled as he turned and groped in the vegetation at the side of the path. It had to be there. It had to be. If Sarah was calling he had to answer.
His fingers groped in the soggy forest floor, feeling moss and dirt squelch between his fingers. "Stay on the phone. Please, please, please stay on the phone."
The ringing stopped and he was left surrounded by the sounds of water lapping close by, high buzz of insects and birds calling as they settled in for the night.
Flash's fingers stung, and he pounded the dirt floor once in frustration. "Call back. Please Sarah. Please baby. Please."
Nothing answered except the sounds of the night. He rolled slightly; carefully keeping his excruciatingly painful ankle away from anything that could touch it and add to the pain. He'd been able to wrap it but that was only going to last for so long. He laughed out loud. He was only going to last for so long. He was shaking, could be the cold, but it also could've been shock starting in.
Not giving up on his phone, he dragged himself a little closer and farther down the path. It was a matter of inches really, but he knew the phone wasn't far away.
"Come on. Someone call. Someone text. Just enough for me to see the phone light up or for it to sing to me," Flash muttered. He felt further along. Nothing but the usual things that littered the forest floor. Twigs, leafs, moss, dirt, and bugs.
"Come on. Phone. Make my phone sing so I can stop crawling around in this stuff."
He continued to move closer to the underbrush until he got to an old growth Douglas fir tree. He leaned his head against it for a moment knowing he'd gone too far the wrong way. Opening his eyes in the darkness, the few inches he needed to move looked like a hundred miles.
"Ok, Flash. You know you can do this. If you could survive Uncle Max's drunken fun when you were twelve you can crawl a few inches to your lost phone," he said, giving himself a pep talk. It wasn't working though, as he just stared at the pathway. He didn't move for several minutes. "Oh who are you kidding? It wasn't the first time Aunt Trina had to save your sorry ass."
He looked up at the tree canopy and was surprised at how many stars he could see. He felt extremely isolated and alone. Fear began to push up his heart rate. He drew in a deep breath.
He was answered again by the soft sounds of the forest night.
"Anyone?" he asked softly to the darkness.
Galen only half-listened to the sounds of the band around him. They talked, and played on their instruments. Drum beats. His own guitar riffs. Keyboard.
But no bass.
He placed his fingers over the guitar neck. "Anyone heard from Flash?"
The rest of the Urban Werewolves stopped what they were doing, and gave Galen full attention.
"Nope," Pete said softly and scratched at his cheek. "Surprised you haven't."
"Talked to him yesterday. He called to make sure I showed up after, you know, last time," Sean said with a bit of a blush. He pulled out his phone and dialed Flash's number.
They all watched as Sean waited for Flash to pick up,
and all looked worried when he didn't get an answer.
"Ok. Give me a sec guys. Why don't you work on that solo piece? It was a bit off last time, Pete?"
"Yeah, no problem. Ok Sean, give me the beat," Pete said.
Galen moved out of the garage, and sat on the front steps of Pete's house. He sighed softly as he looked at the twilight shading the front yard. 'Hey.'
'Practice over already? You've only been gone what five minutes?' Rob answered.
Galen smiled at the response. He wasn't even sure that it registered with his little brother that he'd gone out. 'Try an hour.'
'Flash didn't show.'
'Yeah, right, and the sun turned purple at sunset,' Rob shot back, laughter rippling through their connection.
'I'm serious. Flash isn't here. Sean called and he didn't answer. I'm really worried.'
'When was the last time you heard from him?'
'Yesterday just before noon. He went out to see of Sarah would speak to him,' Galen answered. 'Sean spoke to him yesterday too.'
'OK. I'll try Sarah. She'll talk to me,' Rob answered. 'Maybe I'll even find out what's gotten her so upset.'
'Thanks Brat,' Galen said. 'I'm gonna try Flash.'
'You know he's probably fine. Just moping over Sarah.'
'I'm sure you're right. Let me know what Sarah says,' Galen said, and eased back on the link. He took a moment and just stared at his phone. Realistically, he expected Flash to just pull up into the driveway any second with some wild story about a road block, maybe a police chase and a case of beer for after the practice.
With a frown he dialed the number and waited through the rings until it went to voice mail.
"Hey, man, what happened to you? We're waiting on you. Remember? Practice at Pete's? Sean's gonna have a field day with this you know," Galen said and paused. "OK. Well call me."
Flash winced and ground his teeth as he eased himself up as he held his broken ankle up. He knew there was something wrong when he could see his Aunt Trina standing nearby on the trail considering she and his uncle had passed years ago.
He leaned his head back against the Douglas fir. "Ok. I get it. I miss Aunt Trina getting me out of trouble and telling me Celtic stories. Stop with the hallucinations and get with finding the phone."
Flash wanted to cry, to scream, he'd even take passing out if it meant getting rid of some of the pain. He'd tried to stand only to be overcome by dizziness and had collapsed back to the ground. Crawling wasn't going to get him anywhere near an entrance let alone his car.
"Face it, Alvin. You're completely fucked. And all done by your own self," he laughed self deprecatingly. "Gold old Uncle Max would be laughing and telling you I told you so. God, he was so fond of those words, wasn't he Aunt Trina?"
The image of his dear, long-departed aunt smiled down at him.
"Ok. Ok. I hear you. Alvin you can't lie around in bed all day. Who's going to fill my kitchen with music while I bake? Come one sleepy head. I have cookies to make. You know I miss you cookies? I really do. No one ever made them like you did." He sighed. "Please tell me you're real? Even as a ghost? I promise not to tell Galen or Rob."
Aunt Trina shook her head at him.
Flash sighed again. "OK. I'll try again."
His eyes moved over to the forest floor to his right. The Brazillian started to play. "Sean's ring-tone," he murmured as he could see the phone light up next to the tree.
It was all he could do to stare at it until the guitar riffs and drum beats stopped playing.
"Yeah, guess I should try for it, huh?" he said then looked at his aunt. He got 'the you're being an idiot' look that he loathed. "All right fine. I'll get my phone."
Slowly he turned onto his side. He grimaced as pain lanced up his leg in waves. He stopped just to take a few breaths and the phone went in and out of focus. "I can do this. I can do this."
Can I Play With Madness filled the night air with sound. Flash closed his eyes as he forced himself up a little on the tree. "Ok, I'm gonna pick up this time."
He balanced himself on the tree and one knee. As the few bars of the song repeated his hand slipped on the bark and he fell forward. His broken ankle hit the hard path and he screamed in pain. He could hear the ring tone, feel the cool night air against his skin and the wetness of the blood now soaking his shin into his shoes around his toes.
Flash was panting as his eyes opened and sweat dripped into his eyes. But the phone, the blessed phone was right next to his face. "Thank God," he whispered.
Weakly he grabbed the phone. He pushed the button that brought up his contacts then moved down to Galen's entry. For some reason the Keeper had entered himself under the Apothecary making it the first one on Flash's phone and the musician couldn't have been happier about it at that moment.
He blinked at the brightness of the display as he pushed the green phone. And he kept staring at it as the bright light told him it was connecting.
"Hey, man, where are you? You're late for practice," Galen's voice came through the small speaker at the top.
"Galen?" Flash said softly. He squinted at the phone went in and out of focus.
Flash stared at the bright display that showed Galen's face. "Galen?"
"You don't sound so good. Where are you?"
"S'dark. It hurts," Flash said at the image. "Fix it so I can leave."
"I can do that. You gotta tell me where you are."
Flash blinked at his friend's image. His eyes moved up to the red blinking rectangle before the image went dark.
Standing in front of Pete's steps Galen pulled his cell phone away from his ear. The minutes flashed on the screen showing the call ended.
"You'd best not be completely hammered on me," Galen said, shaking his head and dialing his friend's number. He rolled his eyes as he got Flash's ridiculous voice mail message and snapped his phone closed.
'Rob? Find me Flash's location through his cell,' Galen said to his brother through their link. 'He's in trouble.'
Rob kept talking to Sarah, even though it was hard to determine what she was saying through the wobbling, crying voice on the line.
Swiftly, he pulled up the cell provider that Flash had, they all used the same one, and did his magic and was disappointed in the results.
'Hard to say, Galen. All I can get is a general area,' Rob said.
'What's going on, Rob?' Galen asked, feeling the frustration and confusion through their bond.
'Women. I love Sarah like a sister, but man I just don't understand,' Rob said exasperated.
'We'll deal with it after. Right now I need to know where he is,' Galen sent. 'We'll help Sarah after if she'll let us. Look, I have a fair idea of where he is. Meet me at the River's Walk.'
There was a jeep waiting in the parking lot when Galen arrived, with Pete coming in right behind him. They were short on time, and the guys didn't want to be left out of finding their band-mate and friend.
Galen lit up the sign that signaled the entrance to the path. He turned back to Pete and Sean.
"OK. Rob and I will start here. Seven blocks down at the end of the industrial park is the other entrance. You two head there and we'll start by running the path. Flash isn't one to just run off into the brush. Hopefully he's still on the path."
"Ah, the path of least resistance run?"
Pete shook his head once and smacked his cousin upside the head. "We're on it. Meet you wherever Flash is."
"Get in the car freak."
"How is it you end up with the weird ones?" Rob asked as Galen turned around.
"Talent and charm," Galen said, hurrying past his brother and started down the train. "Keep up, Brat."
Flash sat with his back to the tree. He was exhausted as he looked up at the stars above him. He hummed a tune off of a CD that he'd never show to Galen. Not that his friend would care but it was something he'd shared with his aunt. Something he wanted to keep that way.
"Come on now, Flash. You can do better than that," his aunt said to him softly as she knelt next to him. "I'm not familiar with this tune. Which one is it?"
"Oh, is that a new one? On one of those new shiny circles you're so fond of?"
Flash chuckled softly. "CD, Aunty. Celtic Thunder. Do you remember? I used to play some of their music for you, thinking that I'd found something new and you always knew the song already. "
"So I did. But I always loved your versions of them more," Trina said. "Now then. If you're going to lay about like that you could sing me a wee bit of this song you keep humming."
"It's not right. The lyrics. The tune is amazing, soft, and just right. But the words are all wrong," Flash said shaking his head against the bark of the tree. "Nori. The name's just wrong. Wrong. Her name is Sarah."
"Sarah, is it? Well then you've been good with your own lyrics. Give it a go," Trina prompted.
Again Flash shook his head. "She's not mine, Aunty. No one's mine."
"You are always mine, Alvin," Trina said softly to him. "You used to know that."
"Yeah." Flash's eyes began to close.
"Stop being so sad, my boy. You need to stay awake. Sing me this Nori song."
Flash huffed slightly before he hummed to get pitch and then took a deep breath. He sang the first line huffed to a stop. "No. That's wrong," Flash said, frowning up at his aunt.
"Is it? What should it be then? Go on, my boy. Sing it the way it should be for you."
Flash nodded and taking another breath closed his eyes and began to sing the first line of the song followed by the next until he reached the chorus. With his aunt smiling down encouragingly at him he continued into chorus.
"Flash!" Galen and Rob shouted at the same time.
Galen got there just ahead of Rob. "Call Pete and Sean," as he put his hand on Flash's cheek, assessing his wounds.
"Like I have their numbers," Rob said sharply.
Galen reached into his pocket and tossed his phone in his brother's general direction. He scanned Flash's body where it lay against a large tree, surprised when he kept singing.
"Oh boy," Rob said, ruefully with a shake of his head. "Is he drunk?"
"No," Galen said softly, frowning. "Shock. Broken bones. Blood loss. At least I think. Never mind. Just call them. "
Rob found the number, and took a step back out of habit to make the call.
"Flash? Hey, buddy. Can you see me?"
Flash stopped singing and focused on Galen. "I know you."
Galen smiled at him. "That's right."
"Aunt Trina's here. Do you see her?"
"No, buddy. Just hold on a sec, ok? I'm going to get this fixed up, all right? Just let me help," Galen said.
"She's here to take me with her," Flash said, his glassy eyes focusing on something Galen couldn't see. "'Cause she doesn't want me. Won't even look at me. Hates me."
"With respect to your aunt, but I'm not ready to let you go and trust me, neither is Sarah," Galen said as he put a hand over Flash's heart. Warmth began to slowly move down his arms and into his friend.
Flash frowned at his friend as the healing went through his body. The pain eased back and he started to feel normal again. He waited for Galen to open his eyes. "Ok, you know I love you man but personal space."
Galen laughed softly as he pulled back. He tapped Flash on his chest just above his heart twice. "How're you feeling now?"
Flash shrugged. "I feel just fine. Lemme up."
"Hey, Flash, you remember what you were singing?" Rob asked as he played with his brother's phone.
"I was singing?" Flash said, his eyes rising in innocence.
"Yeah, it sounded Irish or Gaelic or something. It was nice," Galen said. giving his friend a hand to stand and kept a hand on his arm until he was ok. "And I imagine it is because you said you saw your aunt."
Flash shook his head at his gentle tone. "Yeah," he sighed as he looked down and brushed his hands across his pants.
"How about we just head for," Galen started to say, but got interrupted.
"Rat's Nest? Could use a brew," Pete said as he jogged up to them.
"A shower is more like it," Rob said, shaking his head. "Go home, clean up and we'll meet back at our place?"
"Sure," Pete said then grinned. "I think I left Sean about a mile back. See you in a bit."
Rob watched them go before turning back, and seeing the lost look on Flash's face. "Come on then. I spend enough nights walking around in the dark hunting. Got a few new movies, interested?" he asked, looking at Flash, or what he could make out on Flash's face in the moonlight.
"Thanks but maybe I'll just head home," he said quietly.
"Nothin' doing. Our place. In fact I think you're gonna need a lift anyway," Galen said. "Your jeep was nowhere to be seen when we pulled up."
Flash leaned back against the trees and looked up at the stars again. "Great."
"Well, look on the bright side," Galen said, giving him a gentle shove to get him moving. He slung an arm around his shoulder.
"What bright side?"
'Oh no. Don't Galen, let me.'
Galen giggled. "You got felled by an itty bitty root."
"It was huge. And it jumped out of the ground and got me," Flash said defensively. "We may have to dig it up and burn it for its own good."
"You mean your own good," Rob said, following behind them.
"Consider it protection for the common good of the people who use this park," Flash said with a grin.
"I think you need protection," Rob said as he brushed past them and hurried down the path back towards his car. "I need coffee."
Galen and Flash watched him hurry down the path ahead of them.
"How long has he gone without a cup?" Flash asked.
"Two hours or so," Galen answered.
"Good lord how is he still standing upright and not curled into a ball crying?"
"I can still hear you asshole," Rob shouted back, humour clear in his voice.
Flash put his feet up on the coffee table, and took a long drink off the beer Rob tossed at him as he crested the top of the stairs. He sighed as he settled into the comfortable couch and glanced over at the younger Emrys. "Staring is not polite, you know?"
Rob merely smiled and nodded but continued to smile.
"Oh my God, Mr. Cat Who Ate the Canary, what's going on?"
Rob laughed out loud then shrugged. "Figured it out. God, you are so freakin' clueless."
Flash just looked at him for a moment. "Um, ok, random. Care to explain?"
"No, not really," Rob said and shifted his attention from the couch to the stairs.
"Hey," Galen said. "Comfy?"
Flash shrugged and sat up enough to look over his shoulder. Sarah stood there with a tray of coffee and a large plastic container.
"Sarah?" Flash said softly as he hurried to his feet.
"Hey," she said even softer, looking down at the items in her hand. "Galen said you were having a rough night."
Flash shrugged. "I've had better," he said, feeling bewildered and glanced at Galen before looking back at her.
"So I thought I could bring some coffee and snacks?" she said before biting her lower lip and not looking up.
Galen rolled his eyes at them and nudged her further into the room. "Deliver Rob's quick before he faints from lack of caffeine."
"Ha-ha," Rob said as he reached out and took his coffee. "Thanks, Sarah."
She nodded at him and let Galen took his cup as well.
Flash watched the brothers walk into the kitchen, then turned his attention back to Sarah. "You've been baking," he said.
"Yeah," she said as she handed him the container.
"You bake when you're upset," he said giving her a gentle smile as he took the container. "What wonderful thing did you make for us tonight?"
"One of your favourites," she said barely speaking.
Flash, still feeling way out of his depth, slowly took the lid off the container. "Cheese scones?"
"Chocolate macadamia cookies underneath them and double chocolate fudge cookies under that," Sarah said, stepping forward and lifting each layer as she spoke.
Sighing, Flash put the lid back on the container. He took Sarah's hand and led her over to the couch. He put the container on the table and looked at her. She looked like she hadn't slept for days. There was a weariness that came off her that Flash knew immediately just wasn't from being tired.
He took the take out tray with two more coffees in it and put it on the table next to the container with freshly baked goods.
"Sarah," Flash started.
"I should go," she said, taking a step away.
"Oh no. I'm not letting you go till we talk," he said, reaching out and gently taking and keeping her hand in his. "I don't know what's happening here."
"Flash I should go. Really," she said softly, and tried to pull her hand away.
"No. Sarah, sweetheart, I ...," he fumbled, forgetting whatever it was he was going to say seeing fear in her eyes. "Sarah, we're friends, aren't we?"
She hesitated but nodded.
"Good, I was starting to wonder," he said then shook his head. "I... I love that you bake when you're struggling with something. But I don't love that I've somehow messed up our friendship and upset you so badly."
"Flash," she said, shaking her head.
"Let me finish," he said then had a moment of panic as he realized he had no idea what words he had to convey what he was feeling. "I know I've upset you, said something or did something that upset you. Frankly I wish I did know so I could fix it properly. I'm sorry is a pitiful word for what I want to say, to stop you from being so angry with me. I've realized over this past week that when you stop talking to me the world gets a little darker. When you won't answer my texts or my calls or won't fill my coffee orders I feel empty. Like I've lost my best friend."
Sarah gave him a wan smile. "I think we both know your best friend is Galen."
Flash chuckled. "While that's true, I have more room in my heart for more than one best friend."
She nodded and looked away from him.
"Can you tell me? What did I do that hurt you so badly?" he asked. "'Cause I never want to do that to you again."
Sarah let out a breath and half sat half collapsed onto the couch. "Flash, it wasn't you," she whispered.
"Then who or what was it?" he asked, sitting next to her, close enough to touch, but not actually touching too afraid it would spook her into running for her car.
She shook her head. "I don't even know how to explain it."
"Try me," he said, hooking a finger under her chin and gently lifting her face so he could look into her eyes. "I'm a good listener."
Sarah sighed as she looked at him. There were tears resting on her eyelids but she didn't let them fall. Clearing her throat, she told him about the woman who had showed up at Hot Babes coffee with her friends bragging about the relationship she was having with a bass guitarist who played at Rat's Nest. How he'd gotten her pregnant and how she was going to sue for custody.
"And you thought that was me?" Flash asked with his eyes wide.
Sarah blushed deep red as she nodded. "I... We're friends, Flash. You never told me about the new person in your life and I was ... jealous I guess. I didn't want to be, I just was. It wasn't long after that you showed up with Rob for coffee and I couldn't even speak let alone look at you."
"Wow," Flash said.
"I'm sorry. This isn't how a friend reacts," she said, her shoulders slumping forward.
"Oh, I think it is," Flash said with a grin. He reached forward and brushed away a single tear that tracked down her cheek. "I can tell you that there's no one new in my life. She must mean a different hot guy who plays guitar and looks similar to me. I think his name is Ash."
"You mean you're not... Its none of my business...but you're not?"
"No, I'm not. Yes it is and no I'm not," Flash said, shaking his head and pulled her against his shoulder. He smiled as he felt one of her arms curl around him. "I'll make you a promise. The next woman that turns my head I'll have you check her out for me. If you're not there to do that for me I also promise that you'll be the first to know."
"Deal," she said, her voice muffled against Flash's shoulder.
She eased back and smiled shyly at him for a moment.
Flash reached out and brushed his thumb under the heavy bags under her eyes. "You look so tired."
"Well with the total spaz out I don't really sleep," she said and looked at the items on the table. "I bake instead."
"So I see," he answered. "How about you just relax with me for a bit."
She yawned and shook her head. "I'd better get home. I open in the morning."
Flash hummed at her and pulled her gently against him. He was surprised at how easily she snuggled against him.
"Ok. Maybe for just a minute or two," she said as her arms wrapped around him again.
He was content to hold her for a few moments.
"I'll tell you one more thing," he said softly as she began to relax against him and her breaths becoming deeper. He put his hand a little lower on her back as he leaned against the cushions.
"I'll not need to do that. Because I have all I need right here," he said before he rested his cheek against her hair.
Sarah mumbled something before sighing and stretching out between him and the back of the couch.
He kissed her hair before resting his cheek against it for a moment. He grabbed the throw and arranged it over her then put his other arm around her as well. Because it was true. He had everything he needed nestled his arms.