And here I am again, plots running through my head like crazy... I need to sleep tonight, so I'm publishing both today. :) NOTE: Annabel is Reece, if anyone forgot that...

Disclaimer: Not my characters...


She watched as her oldest son's head snapped toward the staircase, hearing just as well as she did, the slam of a bedroom door. She closed her eyes, awaiting another painful night to remember. A cold hand settled on her shoulder. Her eyes opened immediately, only to meet gold. His eyes were wide, more so than usual, and his lips were pressed together softly. "Mamma, what is wrong?" A faint smile illuminated her face. She cupped the side of his face, her smile disappearing as he winced minutely. Her mother's voice rang through her mind. No matter how much you love your children with him, they will be their father's children. Not yours, chère. Footsteps broke her train of thought. Suddenly, her son was at the base of the stairs, his posture stiff and formal. Stumbling footfalls contrasted with the silence. A little boy stood beside his brother, his eyes giving away everything. With a gentle sigh, she stood, her hand resting on her potruding belly. The footsteps were distinct, deliberately slow and precise. She had many regrets. Too many, it seemed. Her coupling with Silas. Ignoring the common knowledge of fear. Bounding head first into hell. She hated it all. However, she would never regret her sons. They had enough coming at them, if not now, then in their constant future. Their yellow-gold eyes branded them to fateful demise. Their parentage kept them in the fringe of society, at best. They were outsiders. She could feel them slipping through her fingers already. Forever damned and irrevocably lost.


She burried her face into his shoulder, sobs raking through her body. His arms held her securely, never wavering as he murmured to her incoherently, just for her to recognize her surroundings. "Shhh...It's fine, Delphine." His voice was calm and steady, a stone pillar in a mind full of waves. She heard a door close somewhere in the house, its sharp tones bouncing dangerously off the walls. She cried at the sound, sobbing harder into him. "Hush, Del. No one will harm you. I will see to it myself." She closed her eyes and shook her head, her hair wet from ramifications of tears in his shirt. His hand stroked her hair softly, maintaining the calming rhythm. "Not even Father." She stayed that way, crying into his shoulder, until the sorrow extinguished. By the time that happened, the moon had risen and was beginning its descent towards the horizon. Macon's hand stalled momentarily as another door opened. With a step back, he cupped her face and kissed her forehead. "It will be alright, Delphine." She nodded and hugged him tightly, his chin resting atop her head. "Thank you, Macon." A brief smile tugged on her lips. She let her eyes close, and her grin grew as his arms wound around her. Torment and sorrow, tears and lies, he handled it all and returned only one thing. Comfort.


She twirled a strand of her hair, curling the thin blonde line around her finger. Footsteps interrupted her thoughts. Her head snapped to the doorway, where her uncle now stood. She had told him to dress nicely, and she admitted that she wasn't disappointed. He looked every bit the gentlemen he acted like. A three piece suit was now fitted to him, the dark fabric matching his eyes perfectly. Dark slacks adorned his legs, capped with dress shoes. She stood silently, her dress contracting and expanding at the movement. He walked forward, his black stare trained on her. His hand settled on her shoulder, the other tilting her head up to look at him. "Where do you want to start, Annabel?" She smiled softly and stepped away before answering uncertainly. He nodded and offered his hand. More encouraged, she set her palm to his. He pulled her in quickly, his other hand settling on her back. She shivered at the movement. The idea of anyone...any man touching her... Pulling his hand back to him, he cradled her left and set it on his shoulder. With a tilt of his head, music started in the room. "Follow the man's lead, Annabel." His foot slipped forward, nudging hers back. She shivered gently as her legs shook. When her footing leveled more, he moved again, slower and more precise. "Step, hesitate, step, hesitate," he murmured the steps low enough for her to hear. With his cueing, minutes later they were twirling through the empty room. Her eyes wandered to her feet, making sure they were moving to her accord. The moment her eyes left his, he twisted sharply, letting her fall into the dip. Her soft gasp filled the room. He leaned closer and kissed her forehead. "Never look at your feet. Keep your eyes on your partner at all times, Annabel. If you don't, you will stumble." She suddenly found herself back upright, in his capable arms. She bit her lip, watching as a faint foreign emotion manifested in her uncle's face. He dropped his arm and freed her, glancing at the young woman once more before excusing himself. As he departed, she noted the grace of a Demon in his step.


Their relationship was...complicated. He was her brother. Her protector. The one thing that could stop her, and could get her started. Looking back now, her hands shoved into her pockets, her boots standing unsteadily on solid Gatlin ground, she couldn't have loved him less. There were many opportunities, and the timing...was difficult, to say the least. Silas wasn't quite happy about the development, but he wasn't moved enough to attend the funeral. She closed her eyes as the old man's voice rang through her. Another, younger and more urging hummed over it with welcomed vigor. Run, Leah." Rough hands cupped her face, warm lips pressing against her forehead. "I have seen too many waste their lives for pride, and you will not be one of them. Not while I'm here." She briefly thought of a Cast, willing it to life, a small smile tugging her lips. Sadness washed over her, smooth and clean, carrying the scent of Confederate jasmine and imported cigars. Blood oranges and scotch. She breathed deeply, wishing momentarily to see him once more. Her eyes opened hesitantly, lingering on the tones of his voice. Every moment with him had been a chaotic calm, a disciplined discord. Precarious perfection.


She hadn't known him when he first walked in, his black eyes meeting hers in a flash. She didn't worry when the rumors shot inside her head, matching the face and persona, corroborating all she could. In fact, she barely recognized the man who stood before her. His soul, she believed, was still the same hardened gentleman it had always been. His physical appearance had changed slightly over the years. Gray splashed across his hair, the only proof of the weight on his shoulders. His eyes had lost their light...but she suspected that hers had as well. He couldn't bear to hear her name, and his visits were less frequent than she had hoped. However, she knew that Incubi rarely survived detachment of their mates, let alone deaths. She was prepared for the worst when he walked in to meet her. She wasn't the slightest prepared for this request. He had intended to bring this to mind earlier, but had altered his course. "I have need to revise my will, Miss Ashcroft." At his side were documents, uncharacteristically unorganized. She sighed. That was nearly an hour ago. Her fingers trailed over her desk, thoughts wandering to her newest addiction. Suddenly, her fingertips stuttered across a sheet of paper. She glanced down, her brow furrowing gently. The parchment gave light to an amount of property Macon had recently purchased. Her heart leapt when she read further down. A large plot of land...some unimportant number...familiar signature crossing the bottom. Her eyes darted north instinctively. Her hands shook. Lila. He had bought his grave plot. She breathed a shaky sigh, trying to compose herself. Her thoughts ran back to Macon, tracing every moment in their little meeting. His face gave nothing away, as always. His eyes were dull and blank, alight with something and completely void of anything. His voice carried a façade of sorts, and now that she thought about the encounter, he was mostly acting on her behalf. She tucked the paper away, silently hoping for the strength to keep her head. She wondered how he kept his. His burdens were heavier than hers ever would be, and yet he barely cracked. It was one of the many things he possessed, she concluded. Composure.


She loved him. As a father. As a friend. As the one figure who stayed at her side. A constant when the world was changing. Her eyes closed. No. He was gone now. A soft voice carried across her thoughts. *I will protect you, Lena.* A broken sob started in her throat. She wanted to correct him. She hadn't been there to support him when he needed it most. She had watched as his eyes closed for the last time, the raindrop permeating his suit for the first time. A tear raced down her cheek, falling onto the grass. Her feet shuffled gently. A gust of damp wind twirled her hair. She had wanted to see her uncle again, one last time before she left. However, she didn't last a second before her thoughts betrayed her. She never knew the reason, just tagged it down as grief, as loss. The truth was primal as breathing. She had wanted to believe he was permanent. He was going to be there for as long as she was alive, according to life expectancy. He was her protector, her constant. She had never known how temporary he really was.


She leaned against the porch, closing her yellow eyes. She knew the plan by heart, understood every facet of every command. However, even she could not predict the outcome of that night. Her eyes burned softly. The way she had imagined was that either half of her family would die, or the other half would. She didn't account for the slim possibility of her cousin stunning them all. None of them had. She shakily sighed. None of them had, and now their leader was dead. Their traitor was dead. She had thrown the word at him plenty of times, many to try to make him show emotion. She had despised him for it. For choosing the Light over his place in the Order. She was jealous of his strength. He couldn't help her now, though. He was gone. For the first time in months, she murmured the word again. For once the word was an honor.


Her pen danced across the page, lingering on his name. Her hand moved with little passion, conveying her thoughts with barely any resistance. She knew Macon well, they'd almost been lovers. She had spent a few years with the man. Worked through college. He introduced her to a completely different world, one that she has come to love. She bit her lip, closing her eyes momentarily. Promise me. She sighed deeply at the memory of his voice. With a strong breath, she continued writing. A knock sounded through the study. She smiled softly, before calling out that it would only be a few minutes. As the footfalls faded, she glanced at the page again. She quickly scribbled her signature, and folded the letter. A few minutes later, she did, indeed, stand to leave. The addressed envelope sat on her desk. To any person it was a note. To him it was a glimpse of salvation.