Timeline: December, 2007
Ramiel had spaced this conversation out as long as he could. He knew that Rey was pissed with him over what had happened with Lyla. That was two months ago. He had been waiting for Rey to come and beat on him over it, but she never did.
A few weeks ago he had seen her at the Blood and Brew when he was speaking with Iron-claw. She had even spoke to him without yelling.
Now he needed to speak to her about a couple things but he was not certain how she would receive him. So he did the one thing he could think of. He bought her flowers.
Ramiel showed up at Rey’s cabin sporting a wonderful bouquet of roses and lilies. He knocked on the door and waited.
Rey looked up with surprise. She hadn’t sensed anything, so it wasn’t a member of the pack. Once again, she was unprepared for company, wearing paint, glue and woodstain smeared sweatshirt and jeans. Setting her sketchbook and mug down, she got up and answered the door.
“Ramiel?” Her eyes widened when she saw the bouquet. “Come on in. Are you looking for Lyla, because if you are, she’s not here.” Rey stepped back out of the way to let him come inside.
Ramiel accepted her invite in. “Actually I am looking for you.” He said as he handed her the flowers.
“For me?” She looked between the bouquet and Ramiel as she closed the door. “Why? It’s too early for Christmas. Grab a seat while I find something to put these in.” She walked over to her tiny kitchen. “I don’t have any vases. Maybe the pasta pot…” she muttered to herself.
Ramiel noticed her search fro a vase. “Heh. O.K. That is my bad there. Why don’t we go into town and get a vase for you? My treat.”
“Sure. Just gimme a sec to change.” Rey set the flowers down on the table and ran upstairs.
When she came back down, Rey was wearing a clean pair of jeans and a khaki top he’d seen her wearing at the bar. “There. All ready,” she said, pulling her hair back into a ponytail.
“You’ve become quit the artist Rey. What is your inspiration.” Ramiel said with a smile.
At first, she didn’t know what he was talking about. When she realized he’d must have seen her sketchbook, Rey gave a smile of her own. “Life,” she replied. “I’m happy here in Eldon Well. Happier than I’ve been in a very long time. I’ve got family and good friends here.” She grabbed her belt pack and strapped it around her waist. “Since we’re going into town, I want to stop at the grocery store to get some cat food and stuff before I go to work.”
Rey slipped on her boots and coat, grabbed her backpack and put it on. “Let’s go.”
Ramiel returned her smile and offered his arm to her as they left.
She took his arm after locking the door door behind them.
“Life can be good here. But it still has bad things in it. I hope that you can be far from those, but I know you are strong enough to handle it when the bad things happen. Speaking of, you know that I am a litle nervous right now. I am not sure how you feel about me.”
He looked at her and emotion filled his eyes. “The business with Lyla a few months ago. I am sure it upset you. I figure you probably hate me for it. So I have given you room and since you talked to me last week I thought it might be a good chance to try speaking with you.”
Rey stopped walking and turned to face him, surprise covering her face. “Hate you?” She shook her head. “Yeah, I was upset. Furious, actually, but I don’t hate you. And believe me, if I had hated you, you’d have known it. I’m not the passive-aggressive type.”
Ramiel looked at her with a strange mixture of relief and pride. “Good. You are important to me and I would be at a loss if you did hate me. It took me some time to realize what exactly had happened and be able to understand and accept it myself.
Did you have anything you wanted to say to me, or questions to ask over it? If so now would be the time.”
“Just what I told Lyla,” Rey said calmly. “If you do it again, I don’t care the reason or what Lyla says, you’ll learn first hand what it is to piss off a witch.” Her voice wasn’t threatening at all. It was almost as if she were discussing the weather. “Shall we keep walking? It’s kinda cold just standing here.” She smiled.
“Yeah little one, let’s.” Ramiel stared into the distance as they walked. His mind was tracing the worst case scenario. He knew that Rey could hurt him, probably do some major damage to. In the end though… he shook the thought away.
“So how are your herbs doing at the blood and brew?” He asked after a few moments.
“My herbs?” Rey was puzzled for a moment, then she remembered. “Oh! Nothing really. Can’t exactly hang out a shingle and say “hedge witch with simple remedies” can you.” She chuckled. “But it’s no big deal. Between what Lyla pays me and the tips I’m making, I’ve got enough to make the payments on the cabin and such.”
“Would you like a place to sell remedies and such. To help out people from time to time?” He asked with a smile.
“The extent of my herbal knowledge doesn’t extend much beyond what could poison you and won’t. I don’t know much about remedies, just charms and talismans. And I won’t sell love potions that really work or anything else like that anymore,” Rey said with a determined frown. “It’s not that I don’t want to help people. I’m just concerned about doing more harm than good.”
“Hmm.” He thought about it for a moment. “Well what I was thinking would be bundles of sage, or warding or luck charms. Or even a blend of herbs that could banish particular spirits. See I am going to open a shop. I am thinking a mix of Dresden and the magic shop in Buffy.
“A place people could find what they are looking for, and the help they need. A place that is only found by those who need to find it. Nothing main stream. I was thinking maybe I could talk you into helping me with it. You know, identifying spirits and remedies if you could. It would also provide an outlet for your charms. I bet the tourists would love it.
“See they don’t need to know that magic is real to appreciate it. Of course those who know already would come to the shop for particular purposes. I was hoping I could persuade you. What do you think?”
“I think it’s the kind of thing the tourists would eat up, but I don’t know if this is the sort of place the tourists would think to find that kind of thing. Or even if the town would want it, given its past.” She shoved her hands in her coat pockets. “But if you get it going, I’ll definitely be a part of it.”
“I look forward to working with you then.” He smiled. “I am currently renovating the gift shop area at the house to use as the store. No worries on being approved. I have everything arranged with Aubry.”
“Are you sure you want it at the house?” Rey asked.
“I have thought about it for a while and that would make the most sense. The gift shop area is far enough away that privacy will not be an issue. If nothing else I can build a shop lower on the property.”
He laughed a little. “It will be no different than what is already there.”
They were entering town about then and Ramiel told her to pick out whatever vase she wanted so long as it was under $100 as that was all he had on him.
Rey stared at him. “I’m not going to spend a hundred bucks on a vase. That’s crazy!”
She made her choice at the grocery store: a set of three vases of different sizes, and it was under $20. When they walked past the section with band aids and such, Rey paused and picked up a tube of lotion. She turned it over to read what it said on the back with a thoughtful expression on her face, but returned it to the shelf with a sigh.
Ramiel picked up the lotion and read the label. Seeing her sigh he could not help himself. “For your back?” he asked.
“Yeah. I don’t know why I even bother looking at that stuff. Every time I come into the store, I pick it up and read the back. I have the bloody thing memorized. It won’t do anything for the scars.” She shrugged. “The doctors said it’d take major cosmetic surgery, and even then they doubted they’d be able to repair the nerve damage so that I could feel it when someone touches my back lightly.” Rey paused for a moment.
“But you know, maybe there is something you could help me with. Not getting rid of the scars, but learning something about them. I gotta pay for this stuff, but after that, why don’t we go over to the cafe to get a bite to eat. Your treat, because you’ve still got over seventy five bucks in your wallet,” Rey said with a grin.”
“Yeah my treat. Plus if you will let me I may be able to help with your back. No promises yet, but I will try.” He waited for her to check out and went to the cafe.
When they were settled into a corner booth and the waitress left to get their drinks, Rey gave the menu a cursory glance then set it aside. “About my scars… I know I said before that it was the Dark Man who was responsible for cutting my back up, but recently, I’m not so sure.”
She picked up the napkin and started to twist the end of it. “I don’t remember what happened, nothing from the moment he showed up to collect payment from my parents, to the moment I woke up in the hospital. I was wondering… Do you think you could help me find out who it really was who hurt me? Help me unlock the memories of that night, or find some way to look into the past to see who did it?”
“Have you thought about other alternatives before dealing with him? There are other courses. ” He asked as he drank his coffee.
“I’m not sure I want to do anything about him right now.” Rey took a sip of her milk. “I just want to know if he was the one who did it. If it was, then I want to find out why. If it wasn’t, I still want to find out why that person did it.
“See, I don’t know how long he was standing there in my hospital room, right next to the machine that controlled the morphine drip. If he wanted to kill me, why didn’t he do it then? He had every opportunity to.” She paused, and worried the napkin in her hands some more. “He’s a very powerful spirit. I have no idea what he’d have gained by harming or killing me. I don’t even know if that’s what he intended.”
“I have reason to doubt his intentions as well. At this time I am uncertain if he is who we want.”
“What do you mean?” Rey asked. “You don’t think he’s responsible for all those deaths?”
Ramiel shook his head in a way that told Rey he was not certain of anything. “I don’t know. I mean I am not sure it is him, or they, or what. I have been having doubts because of two things. What happened by the lake in Charolotte, and what happened with Daniel.”
“Charlotte is when my doubts started too,” Rey said with a nod. “What happened with Daniel?”
Ramiel sipped his coffee letting the warmth fill him. “He claims the Dark Man came to him in his apartment in New York. Telling him that we were not moving fast enough. So why would he appear to him in person alone in his apartment and do nothing? It seems as though he is acting with a purpose, and maybe it is not to kill. If you think about it, we have never seen him kill. We have found evidence he has given what people wished. Though it is in a twisted way.
“Now I am not saying I agree with him. I am just saying I am unsure. It almost seems like there is more than one Dark Man. Could it be competing spirits? Grey mentioned a kind of Spirit to me, but he was thinking it was unlikely to be that. Hmm… wish I could remember what kind he said.”
“I’ll ask him when I see him, if you like.” Rey smiled at the thought, and her pulse sped up a bit. “I’ll ask Hamilton too. So, do you think you might be able to help me? I just want to try and find out what happened. Try to remember it, if the memories are there.” She didn’t add that she’d started to think that maybe what the police said was true. Maybe her parents were responsible for hurting her. But that still didn’t answer why her father killed herself (if indeed he did), and what happened to the necklace. That, at the very least, she wanted to find and destroy it so nobody else could ever be used that way again.
Ramiel got a mischevous look in his eyes. “When you see him?” He smiled. “I will do what I can to help you. There may be other ways to find out what happened. My talents do not include the area of mind just yet, but that leaves a lot of things. Hypnosis, regression. Maybe Grey or Iron-Claw might know of a way. Though I would think it would be Grey.”
Ramiel noticed hte excitement in her eyes each time he mentioned Grey. “So have you got a crush then?”
“No, not a crush.” Rey’s smile broadened. “I like him a lot. I’m pretty sure he likes me too. And I don’t mean just in a he wants to fuck my brains out kind of way.” Her cheeks flushed. “He got caught at my place by the storm.”
Ramiel smiled. “I thought he liked you. He seemed very interested in hearing about you when he came to find me. Guess that is why he refused to pick up some women that night.
He will be good to you at least. I can trust in that. I wish you luck with that endeavor.”
He paused for a moment. “So what did you two do in the storm to get fur all over your pants?”
“Fur all over…” Rey thought about it for a moment, then gave Ramiel her own mischievous grin. “We talked.” Her expression became more serious (and eager). “Grey asked you about me? What did he say? What did you tell him?”
Ramiel laughed and replied, “I told him you were the biggest pain in the world. That you talk too much and snore.” His grin could not be suppressed when he saw the look on Rey’s face.
“I told him a lot of good things, I think. Truthfully I was drunk at the time. But I know it was all good. He just seemed to perk up a little when I mentioned you. So I told him about our travels and that kind of stuff. You really like him huh?”
“Yeah, I do. Enough to lose my common sense and go to Lyla and Rose for advice on how to get his attention.” Rey looked at him, her head cocked slightly to one side in a manner he was more used to seeing from one of the Uratha. “He asked if I’d gotten close to you during our travels. I told him you were like a brother to me, the kind you want to kick in the head once in while.” She grinned. “He said you’d spoken very fondly of me, and that he was glad you trusted him not to hurt me, because you’d probably kill anyone who did.”
“Yeah, I did say that. I would not go lightly upon anyone who hurt you. You’re a sister to me.” He blushed slightly. “Not the kind Lyla is either. If I had a real little sister I think she would be you. I don’t know, guess it is just how you needed me to protect you so much. I have always tried to do just that. I intend to always do that. Of course I will give you the room you need to make your own mistakes and be able to take care of yourself.”
He thought about that for a moment. “Rey you know that if the relationship becomes serious… you know they age slower right?”
She nodded. “The age thing was something we talked about. I know how old he is, and the age difference between us isn’t a problem from either side. I also know that barring an accident or misadventure, or my finding the fountain of youth, he’ll outlive me too.” Rey shrugged. “I try not to worry about stuff like that that I can’t control. Just make the most of the time we do have together.”
Rey fell silent when the waitress came to get their orders. When they were alone, she spoke again. “That’s something else that’s got me thinking. My… talents tend to run in the family, along bloodlines, but as far as I can tell, there wasn’t a drop of talented blood in either of my parents.” She shifted in her seat. “I know that anyone with enough knowledge and patience can learn to do the rituals, but I was able to see spirits since I was around two years old. You can’t tell me someone taught me to see them when I was that young.”
“Are you thinking that you are adopted? That those were not your real parents or something else?”Ramiel picked at the food he had ordered, it was a salad of all things.
“To be honest, I don’t know what to think,” Rey said. “Anything that could possibly tell me might be in Baltimore. I haven’t been back there since that night.” She ate a few bites of her own side salad. “For all I know, maybe there was someone a couple generations back who had some kind of power. I don’t ever remember them saying anything.” She grimaced. “I don’t know what happened to the house or any of that stuff.”
“We could make a trip to Baltimore if you want. Of course it means we would have to take Daniel.” He ate the chicken from his salad.
“I trust you, but do you trust him not to use what we might learn against me?” Rey asked. “And if he keeps acting like such a prig, I may not be able to control my temper very well. I’ll be under enough stress as it is.” She gave a weak but slightly evil smile. “Maybe there’ll be an accident on the way back, or we’ll lose him somehow. Think anyone would mind all too much?”
Ramiel choked on his food. He managed to clear his throat and wash it down with water. “Well one never knows. But I can not say how he would act with whatever knowledge he would learn. I don’t exactly like the idea myself hut he is the one with the ability to see the past. So really the choice is yours if you want him to try or not. I am just giving you the options I am aware of.
“I can ask Ariyah if she is aware of a way to help out.”
“Thanks. Let’s not worry about Daniel’s involvement until we know whether or not hypnosis or memory regression works. We might not need Daniel’s help at all.” Rey’s grin became stronger. “Did I shock you with my bloodthirstyness?”
“Maybe a little.” The salad did not take long to finish. ” So I take it you don’t like Daniel much?”
“I don’t know him very well, but I don’t like his attitude or the way he treats people. I know it’s not because he’s a lawyer,” Rey said, “because I’ve met a couple nice lawyers, but he’s got this whole I’m in charge, holier than thou attitude.” She set her fork down and pushed her plate of pasta away, having lost her appetite. “Reminds me a lot of my parents and the people they hung around with.”
“He is trying to change that, though it is a slow annoying process. I guess I don’t have anything against him, but he gets under my kin and grinds like sandpaper. I actually tried with him. You know I don’t do that usually. If someone pisses me off that is it, typically. Except friends.
“Bleh,” he grunted. “For some reason he attacks me every chance he gets. Any chance to mock me or anger me he takes. I can’t figure it out. So finally I stopped trying, I don’t care any more. I will work with him because he is part of this group. That’s it.
“Though he tried the other night, took me out for a beer. Tried to make peace but started it out by insulting me. For some reason I seem to be his antagonist. I guess he has chosen me as the reason for everything bad in his world.” Ramiel laughed.
“Sorry, I am bugging you with my annoyance when I was tryign to tell you maybe you wanted to give him another chance.” He laughed even louder at what he had just said.
Rey chuckled. “That’s really funny, coming from you. Maybe he’s just jealous of you. What you are and what you have.” Silently she added [i]and who you have[/i]. “But don’t worry about talking to me about this stuff. That’s what family’s for.” She smiled, then gave a soft laugh. “Grey seemed to find it very curious that you, me and Lyla made up a little family.”
She paused and thought more about that night, then continued talking. “Anyway, that reminds me about something else I wanted to talk to you about. Do you have plans for Christmas Eve? I’m having a little party for friends, and people we probably ought to give a second chance at being friends to. Starts around 8 o’clock with a late, light dinner and drinks, and then everyone who’s not spending the night out at midnight before I turn into a pumpkin. You’re invited, of course. As is Lyla.”
“I don’t remember the last time we had Christmas. I am so used to letting all that go by unoticed. Though I did spend my birthday with Grey this year. It would be nice I think. There is only one thing I could think of that might keep me away. Though I am sure that I could make stops at both places, if I am even invited to hers.” Ramiel sighed.
“This is the first time that I even remember wanting to celebrate the season. I only have one nice Christmas memory, and I’m going to try and recreate it for all the people I care about. If you can come to mine, even if it’s just for a few minutes, that’s fine. You don’t have to stay the entire time. Or you could come by earlier for some mulled cider and cookies. If Hamilton doesn’t eat all the cookies before then.” She reached over and gave Ramiel’s hand a gentle squeeze. “If she doesn’t invite you, try not to let it get you too down, okay?”
Ramiel loked at her, “Do you know who I am referring to?”
“Ariyah,” Rey said, “or am I mistaken?”
“No.” He took another drink and cleared his head. “You are right. I just didn’t realize you knew about her is all. Or the baby. But really I will be there for your party. Ariyah has been good to let me take pictures from time to time. But I am not expecting to be invited. Aubrey would, but we are both giving Ariyah room.”
“Baby?” Rey said in surprise. “No, I didn’t know anything about a baby. It’s just that you two had something going, and then you didn’t. I got the feeling that stopping wasn’t your idea.”
Ramiel flinched and made the d’oh face. “heh. Open mouth insert foot. So guess who is going to be a daddy.”
“Um, let me guess….” Rey teased, then her demeanor because subdued. “Should I be congratulating you?”
“You were not the only one who took what happened between Lyla and me badly. Ariyah knows about the pack. But she still sees Lyla as human. Many do, well can not let go of her human side anyway. So when Lyla and I faught eachother she only saw it as me being an abusive man with a problem.
She does or did, guess I don’t know. But she did not understand that fighting is normal for pack. Lyla pushed and pushed and attacked me. I thought she was really trying to kill me when she shifted, so I did not hold back. They can heal so fast.
Thanks to Grey I understand what happened. That does not mean I am ok with it. But Ariyah told me to stay away form her child. Emphasis on the HER part. So that is what I have been doing, giving her distance.
It hurts more than I thought it would. Though she did go ot with us to help, but that nearly cost us. I did not want her to go, but I let her because she wanted to.”
“Well, she has to do what she feels she needs to do. Have you asked her why she doesn’t want you around?” Rey asked.
“I don’t have to. She doesn’t feel safe around me. She is afraid that if I nearly killed the one I love more than anything, what would I do to her or the baby if I got upset? I don’t know how she feels anymore, but she chose to stay home rather than my place the other night. I told her I could watch over her since she was hurt. So that tells me she is not ready yet.
“No, she thinks I am the kind of man that beats women. The kind that takes his frustrations and anger out on those who can’t fight back. Like I said she is holding us to human standards.”
“I see,” Rey said softly. “And you thought that’s why I hated you? Because you hurt Lyla so badly?”
“I figured you would be mad at me for even hitting her. The hate came in when I nearly killed her.
“Everything changed when we did. What I saw and experienced — I will never be the same. Nothing will be the same to me. To the others, I was in my room for an hour. For me it was Milenia.
“So it was easy for me to accept that Lyla was a wolf. I wanted to be a part of it, by her side through everything. She did not think I would be safe so she made a bad choice. I can accept I reacted poorly.
“She had so much trouble letting go of her life and moving on into her new one. Accepting what she was. I had no problems with what she was but what she seemed to be becomming. All the things I saw and worried over would have been moot if I had not been shut out. I would have already known there was no reason to be concerned.
“I have done my best to make changes in my life to accommodate her change. To make her feel natural and comfortable with it. To show her that she is not a monster.
“I have done things that I never would have dreamt of before. I bought the lodge, created a home for her and her new family. I have even adopted more animalistic things in sex. Smelling and biting in the right spots. Stuff that pleases all of her.
“Granted the branding was a bit on the error side. That is what I get for basing to much on books.
“So yes. I have even accpeted that to be what she wants I ahd to be stronger than her. She wanted me to see I was nto defensless. That to be in her world I had to accept that hitting her and dominating her in the right circumstances is important. She wanted a strong mate, and that is what I have given her.
“I couldn’t deal with it at the time. I nearly killed myself before Grey found me. I know now what happened and why. I learned that to keep her happy I have to play by their rules and do things that I normally would not. Even if it means sometimes knocking her down a notch or two to keep dominance.
“I know how it sounds, but I would do anything for her.”
“You know there’s a difference between being strong and being cruel, right? Not that I’m saying you are cruel.” Rey made a face. “This is hard to explain. I don’t know how to put it into words, and I’m probably going to mess it up.” She looked Ramiel in the eye and he could see the hesitation and worry in them. “Just because they act a certain way, or expect you to act in a certain way, don’t let it become the way [i]you[/i] act. Yes, you may have to do things that you consider acceptable. But some of the things they do, we’re simply not meant to. You can’t let them drag you down. If you just accept it, let it become part of your normal thinking, it’ll be bad. Really bad.
“Promise me that if you think you’re slipping, or starting to fall down that hole, you’ll come to me for help. I can’t promise I’ll have all the answers, but I’ll do what I can.”
Ramiel took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “You have always been that light that is just out of reach. Or you are afraid to touch. No I don’t mean that sexaully either.
“You have been the good one, innocent in all of this. In all I do I hope I do not drag you down.” He paused for a moment.” I know I am cruel Rey. I know of all of us I am the monster. There is no room for me to slip. It jsut never exsisted. The more tI think about it the more I question things. What has happened how it has happened and why. I have never had delusions of who and what I am.
“I have no doubts concerning my actions and what I do for Lyla. I know there are things they do I will never be able to. That is why I try to do the little things. Yes what happened between Lyla and I could have been avoided had I known what Grey finally shared with me. There is no doubt in my mind. She tried to protect me and I can not fault her that.”
He smiled.”It is in the past now. It is done. No worries about me. OK?”
Leaning back he took a drink. “So tell me, how have you been? I mean with everything that has happened. You are OK right?”
“I’m always going to worry about you, and I warn you, I will give you that proverbial kick in the head if you start backsliding on me,” Rey said with a smile, wagging a finger at him while returning the hand squeeze with the other. She released her hold on him to pick up her milk. “How am I doing? Is there something in particular you’re concerned about, or just things in general?”
His smile was a content one.”I know you went through a lot in teh last year. I just wanted to make sure you had made peace with it. Well what peace there is. But if you would rather tell me all the hoary details of your love life with Grey I’m game.” His familair cheshire cat grin returned.
“Oh, you asking me to kiss and tell?” Rey chuckled, then sighed. “I’m good. Better than I’ve been for a long time. I’ve come to terms with some of what happened, still working on others. Like Grey says, deep wounds take time to heal.” Her smile deepened into one of contentment when she thought about him and the time they’d spent together so far.
“That smile says enough. Say why don’t we get those flowers in water before they wither?” He stood and placed money on the table and waited for Rey.