- Explicit Sex
- Alternate Universe
- Challenge Response
- Ménage or More
beautiful cover art by Jilly James
Aaron was sitting at his desk completing a report for his boss regarding the last case he finished when his mail was dropped off on his desk. Aaron set it all aside without looking at it right away and went back to his reports. When he was done, Aaron picked up the stack and sorted through it till his eye caught the thick padded envelope with the address of a prominent law office in London. Frowning, he stood up from his desk and walked over to the small window seat and sat down. Aaron looked out on a gray day in London, his eyes wandered towards the SIS building, and smiled thinking about his lover. Shaking his head, he opened the envelope and pulled out a set of keys and a letter.
Mr. Aaron Malcolm Hotchner, Esq.
Dear sir, we are writing to let you know that you have become the sole beneficiary to Mr. William Anthony Jamison. We are operating under the impression that you had been close to your Uncle as a young man. He named you his heir and if anything were to happen to him, this envelope, with keys to his property, and a statement of his financial affairs was to be forwarded to you immediately. Mr. Jamison was adamant that he did not want a traditional funeral or reading of the will. He wanted all of this to be executed in the strictest of confidences.
I must admit, Mr. Hotchner, all of this has been highly irregular, but we here at Markham, Wittershin, and Cole strive to accommodate our clients to the best of their wishes. If you have any questions, you may call me at any time at my office. I have included my business card for your convenience.
I am very sorry for your loss Mr. Hotchner; we were under very strict orders to tell you nothing of his ailments, though none of us at the law firm agreed with him at the time. I do wish you luck, and again, if you need help with anything, please give me a call.
Mr. Samuel Atticus Wittershin, Esq.
Aaron sat back stunned. The letter was right. He had been very close to his Uncle when he was younger, especially after his mother left his father bringing Sean and himself here to England. They lived with his Uncle for a few years, until his mother found a decent job, and they moved from Beverley in East Yorkshire, to Sussex. When Aaron later left college, he moved to London and joined the lower echelon of Scotland Yard. It hadn’t taken him long to move up through the ranks and for a short time, he worked as a DI in London proper. He had been pegged for an undercover operation by a joint investigation with Interpol because he had fit the victim pool. After the suspect was caught, he was approached by Emily Prentiss, the current head of the London branch of Interpol for a position in her office. He didn’t even question it when he found himself accepting her offer and had now been there for almost fifteen years.
During a long-term undercover operation, he ran into an agent from SIS, one Anthony Dimitri Paddington. His own family history was as wild and convoluted as Aaron’s. The operation had been a huge success, and several gun runners were put out of business all at once. A week after wrap-up, Aaron invited Tony out for dinner, and they hadn’t been separated since. Now, Tony was working as an analyst and profiler with MI6. He still went out in the field, just not as often, or so that’s what he said. Aaron knows Tony can’t tell him everything, and there were times that he thought he didn’t want to know everything. Just like Aaron couldn’t always tell Tony about his operations. They somehow made it all work, even with their demanding jobs.
Aaron looked at the letter again and thought back to those carefree days at his Uncle’s estate, where he healed, body and soul, from the evil of his father. Sean, thank goodness, had never felt the sting of the belt or heard the awful, humiliating words that would spew from Malcolm Hotchner’s mouth. Aaron knew he would need to call Sean to let him know. He wasn’t sure how Sean was going to take it. He hadn’t grown as close to Uncle William as Aaron had.
Sean was currently working at one of the best restaurants on the High Street as a sous chef. Cooking had always been a passion of his brother’s, often spending more time with Uncle Williams cooks than he did Aaron. Wiping his face, Aaron gathered up his things, signed out of his computer and headed towards home. He was thankful that his flat was within walking distance of the office. Tony was the one that had to commute, and Aaron knew how much Tony hated driving through London.
Chuckling to himself, Aaron decided to stop at one of the cafe’s that were on his way home and pick-up dinner. Then he stopped for a bottle of wine, and lastly a small bakery that was their personal favorite, and got their favorite dessert.
When Aaron entered the flat, laden with his packages, he heard soft jazz being played on a piano. He smiled to himself and knew that Tony was home. After closing the door behind him, he walked to the kitchen and set the food and the wine down on the counter. He then made his way to the living room where Tony was sitting at the piano. A wide smile graced his lover’s lips, and Aaron sighed happily.
“We got a letter from Jack. He seems to be liking his classes. I miss him like crazy.” Tony’s voice was quiet as he played. Aaron sighed and tried not to think about their son being away at boarding school. It had been an agonizing decision for them to make, but Jack wanted to go. He liked the curriculum, and when they visited the campus, Jack liked it even more. “He made the Rugby team.”
“We had no doubt that he would. All those years I had him in local Rugby clubs, he loved it.”
“I just hope he stays safe. This isn’t like the clubs for his age group, Aaron. He could get really hurt, and it worries me.”
Aaron’s expression softened as he turned Tony’s head slightly, so they were looking at each other. He placed a soft kiss on his lover’s lips then let their foreheads touch.
“I know, but we can’t always shelter him. Our problem is we know what’s out there that could potentially hurt him and it sometimes clouds us. We have to start to let him go Tony.”
“I know, I just, I miss him.”
“Me too. I picked up dinner from Angelo’s, got some wine and some dessert from that pastry place you like. Come on, let’s eat.”
As they were sitting down eating dinner, Aaron brought up the letter.
“I got a strange letter today. My Uncle William passed away, and I seem to be inheriting the whole of his estate.”
“Wow. Wait, is this the Uncle you used to tell me about? The one your Mother moved you to?”
“Yeah. Uncle Will was great. I can’t believe how much I lost touch with him. I received a key to the house and a statement of his accounts. I’m at a loss here because it is….well, it’s more than I ever imagined that he had.”
“What are we talking here Aaron? A few hundred-thousand or something?” Tony took a sip of wine, but Aaron wasn’t looking. He had his head down, moving his ravioli back and forth on his plate.
“Um, no, try several million.”
Tony couldn’t help spewing the wine he was sipping. He instantly popped off his chair and grabbed a napkin, and started to clean up the mess.
“What is it with you and your family Aaron? I mean the inheritance from your father I get. Big bad asshole shark lawyer is bound to make a few. Then your mother and the family money, but now you’re Uncle?”
“Hey, it’s not like the Paddington’s are broke now. You have that sizable trust fund, mister.”
The two of them looked at each other and laughed.
“I want to go see it, would be nice to get away for the weekend, or maybe the whole week. I know my Uncle had several servants that kept the property up, but I haven’t been there in years.”
Tony sat back and sipped at what was left of his wine as Aaron watched him contemplate.
“Why don’t we go, it’ll be nice to get away.”
Aaron smiled softly as he stood and held his hand out for Tony. He pulled his lover into his arms and kissed him.
“I love you. And thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me, love. It sounds like fun.” The two spent the evening curled around each other and watching the telly. They had their dessert and the rest of the wine, then Aaron prodded Tony into bed. His mind was too filled with thoughts of his Uncle for anything other than cuddling. He was glad that Tony didn’t insist on anything more. Aaron still didn’t know what to think about all this, but he had to wait till the weekend before even trying to figure it all out. Finally, after a fitful hour. He was slowly closing his eyes and drifting off to sleep.
Aaron was stepping out of the car and took a moment to look up at the manor that he hadn’t set eyes on in over twenty-five years. He smiled as memories of his childhood flooded his mind. He didn’t flinch when Tony moved around the car and wrapped an arm around his waist looking up at the manor as well.
“Wow, pictures didn’t do it justice.”
Aaron chuckled as he pulled Tony in closer and brushed a kiss on his temple.
“Other than finding you, this was where I was happiest. Sean never had to know pain, Mom…she healed slowly. There was always an air of melancholy around her, but she never told me what it was. Uncle William was amazing. He always told the best stories, especially when it was winter and snow was falling outside, fire blazing.”
“Sounds nice. Do you need more time or do you want to go inside?”
“Sorry, this is all still a little much. But, yeah let’s go on in.” Aaron popped the boot and grabbed their luggage before they stepped up to the front door. He took the keys out and unlocked it letting Tony go in first. The entryway was just as Aaron remembered, deep rich wood floors, a heavy foyer table to the right with a large ornately framed mirror above it, and the large tapestry that covered most of the half-wall on the left. Aaron had always been fascinated by the scene embroidered on it, especially as a child. It showed a celebration of Queen Titania and her Fey court dancing in one of the many Rafts under the known world. Next to her was Oberon looking on fondly with their children, grandchildren and many others of the court. Aaron remembered the many hours his mother had spent on the tapestry, then Uncle William hanging it in this very hall for everyone to see.
He was mesmerized by it like he always had been, but could never put his finger on the why.
“Aaron?” Tony’s voice was edged with concern as Aaron turned to look at him.
“Sorry, I’m surprised this is still here. Come on, let’s look around.” Aaron smiled as they set their things down under the table and moved on. He had been told that the servants had been given time off, but the cook would be there for their stay. He would speak with them later.
By the time they were done nothing had appeared out of the ordinary, but Aaron felt…something odd in the house. He just wasn’t sure what it was. He left Tony in the small theater, which was new and had all of Tony’s favorites readily available. This made both men pause as they looked at the titles. It was concerning, but nothing too untoward about it. Aaron chalked it up to coincidence. He made his way to the kitchens where the chef seemed to be writing out a menu, or grocery list, Aaron couldn’t tell which. There was also a delicious smell coming from the stove where a large covered pot was simmering, and the smell of fresh baked bread was in the oven.
“Ah, Master Aaron. My name is Finn O’Brien. I’m just working out a menu for yer approval.” The thick Irish brogue didn’t throw Aaron much; he knew his Uncles penchant for finding cooks and chefs from the Emerald Isle. He and Sean had always devoured Sinead’s Irish Soda bread before it had even hit the table for dinner when they were kids. As children, his Uncle’s cooks often indulged them. Sinead had taken to making smaller versions of their favorite bread for them to take on their many ‘adventures’ around the property. Though Sean was ten years younger, Aaron always made time to play with him, hoping to keep those good memories alive for the boy.
“Mr. O’Brien, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Aye and pleased to meet you too. Please, and do call me Finn.” Aaron couldn’t help the smile that graced his lips as he noticed the twinkle in the other man’s eye. He was lost for a moment, in memories of dreams as a child and faint music that couldn’t be real. Unreal trees and the boundless night sky with unfamiliar stars, dancing, and laughing, being told stories of time and love, soulmates and kingdoms. Then Finn blinked, and Aaron snapped out of his reverie. Shaking his head, he looked down at the menu and raised a brow.
“How did you know these are our favorites?”
“Oh, Yer consort is Italian is he not?”
Aaron laughed at the old-fashioned moniker and furrowed his brow.
“Yes, Tony is Italian, but like me, he was raised here in England.”
“Yes, the Paddington’s. Good family, though they were a bit daft for leaving the young Miss and Master Tony with someone so vile for so long. Glad they came to their senses.” Aaron frowned, not sure what to make of all this, but he just smiled and signed the bottom where indicated approving the menu.
“Lunch will be done shortly. A lamb stew with a mint gremolata on the side. I’ve been told that good old Soda bread is your favorite?”
“Yes. Uncle Will’s old cook used to make them for my brother and me all the time.”
“Then I hope you enjoy me own family recipe. It’s positively ancient,” Finn smiled as he ushered Aaron out of the kitchen. “I will call you and Anthony when it’s finished. Go and enjoy yer afternoon.”
Aaron frowned a little, trying to recapture the moment before he was ushered out, but the elusive memory was gone. He left the kitchen to join Tony who was still in the Theatre going through the movies that were stored in the small projection room. Aaron felt very off kilter, and he wasn’t sure why. Tony just leaned against him and hummed in happiness. Aaron plastered on a smile and tried to shake himself out of the strange mood he found himself in.
Later, after lunch, Aaron was exhausted from the drive, and all of the excitement getting to the manor. He and Tony retired to the room he used to have as a kid. It appeared to have been recently redecorated, and all of his things from his childhood were replaced with a king sized four poster bed. The kind you need a small step ladder to get into. The wardrobe in the corner was massive and carved from the same wood that could be found in a lot of the furniture in the house. A long dresser with a mounted television above it was opposite the bed. And, on either side of the bed were hefty looking nightstands with another large wardrobe on the opposite wall. When Aaron opened it, he saw it was a fully functioning desk, complete with computer and a printer/fax/scanner combination.
“Wow, this is gorgeous. Hey, what’s with all of the flower and vine carvings all over the place?” Tony asked as he stripped to his T-shirt and boxers.
“I never asked, but it’s always been a theme all through the house. My Uncle carved a lot of these himself.” Aaron ran his hand over one of the posters, his fingers lingering on the carvings. Memories of watching his Uncle hand carving the intricate decorations flooded his mind. Shaking his head, he moved stripping down to just his underclothes as well he crawled into the large bed next to Tony.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to want to leave this bed. Holy shit this is comfortable,” Tony grinned wide, and Aaron couldn’t help smiling back at him before pulling him close and kissing him.
“I love you, Tony.”
“Aaron, bello, I love you too. Are you okay?”
“Just trying to come to terms with all this still.” Aaron stretched out but was still sitting up in the bed, and pulled Tony even closer. “I can’t believe he’s gone. And I can’t believe how much I lost touch with him. It’s like, I don’t know. It’s like when I went to college all memories from here were just, repressed.”
“Did something bad happen, Aaron?”
“No, no nothing like that, just, I don’t know, Tony. I just feel like maybe, maybe I didn’t really know my Uncle at all. Why would he stay out of touch for so long? And, I can’t shake the feeling that we may have been pulled here. I’m not exactly sure why.”
“Maybe you need some sleep, and things will be clearer when you get up.”
“Yeah, yeah maybe.” Aaron scooted down under the warm covers and was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. Tony’s added warmth also contributed to him falling quickly asleep. He didn’t know how long he had been sleeping, but when Aaron opened his eyes, he wasn’t in the bedroom.
Aaron woke in a field of heather with the smell of peat floating across the cool wind. He frowned because that couldn’t be right. Standing he looked around, and everything looked too green, too bright, his heart was racing and wondered what the hell was going on.
When he looked to his left he saw a tall, slim young man with long chestnut curls. He was wearing leather, the colors green and black. A bow and arrow strapped to his back. He was sitting cross-legged, and head down as if he was looking at something.
Slowly Aaron approached the young man wondering what was going on.
“I can feel ya starin’ Aaron.” The man turned, and the smile on his face was beautiful. His skin was porcelain, almost glowing, and Aaron was struck by his sheer beauty. The thick brogue had him thinking of the chef in his kitchen.
“Where am I?” He asked breathlessly as he moved in line of sight of the man, who he could see was reading from a thick book. The words written were almost recognizable, a language that he thought he should know, that was just at the edge of his memory but wouldn’t come.
“Yer in the Raft below yer manor. The one, you and Sean, played in as lads.”
“Wait, you’re saying I’m in a Faerie Raft below where I grew up? That isn’t possible.”
“Oh Aaron, there are more things that are possible in this world than ya know. I’m not just in your dreams, and it’s been a long time since we talked. Ya grew up, and when ya left William’s area of protection, yer memories were suppressed. Yer Mother and Uncle thought it best.”
“I, I don’t understand.”
“Ya will. In time. You and Anthony, it was shown to ya many years ago.” The young man stood and moved closer to Aaron his smile soft and gentle. He reached up and cupped Aaron’s cheek, as he ran a thumb over his cheekbone and Aaron sucked in a deep breath and closed his eyes. He knew that touch. Tears formed in his eyes, but he didn’t know why. The young man leaned forward and pressed his lips against Aaron’s. “A reminder, my sweet love. In time you will understand, and Anthony will awaken.”
“Wait, who are you? What’s your name? Why do I feel like I know you, but somehow lost you? I…I have so many questions.”
The being in front of him shifted just slightly, and his features became more feminine, but not womanly. It’s as if they had no gender, yet they appeared as a man.
“And they all shall be answered, but only after Anthony awakens. I’ve waited so long, but I would wait for millennia for ya.”
“Zaza,” A young girl ran out from the trees and ran up to the being in front of Aaron. Her eyes widened as she plastered herself against them.
“Tatiana, you were to wait for me till I got back.”
“But, but Zaza..”
“Yes child, but he is not ready, not yet.”
“Grandmere was asking for ya Zaza. She told me to come find ya.”
“I’ll be there, go on with ya now.” The being ushered the young girl along and waited till she was out of sight.
“I’ll give ya my name. Spencer, and in time you will remember everything.” With one last soft kiss, Spencer disappeared, and Aaron didn’t know why his heart was shattering. It was like he was losing something he had lost before like it was slipping through his fingers yet again. He sank to his knees and tried not to let the tears flow down his face.
“….Aaron!” He bolted upright in the bed, his heart was racing as he looked around the room he was in. It took him a moment till he saw Tony there frowning. He wiped a hand over his face and felt the wetness there.
“Hey, you alright?”
It was another moment for Aaron to find his voice again as he looked at Tony, his heart still pounding from the stark realism of the dream.
“Yeah, just it was an odd dream.”
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
Aaron frowned and closed his eyes getting the images back in his mind. They were almost as clear as when he was asleep. Slowly Aaron told Tony what he saw. His hands itched for a sketchbook, something he hadn’t done since college. An image of his Uncle’s study came into his head, and Aaron grabbed his pants, slipped them on and ran there. He heard Tony behind him barraging him with questions. Aaron didn’t answer as he burst into the study and started to go through drawers and shelves. Aaron finally found what he was looking for; it was as if it just appeared for him. Aaron shook his head and grabbed the sketch book and a pencil off the desk. Sitting in the large reading chair, he didn’t say anything as he sketched out what and who it was he saw.
By the time he was done, it was, by his estimation, a couple of hours later.
“Here, this is what they looked like. Spencer, they said their name was Spencer. Their external gender kept shifting, changing but still an air of…of I don’t know maleness? Is that even right? And the girl, deep green eyes, with chestnut hair that just seemed to flow behind her. She called Spencer, Zaza. It’s not inherently Irish, or Gaelic but I’ve heard it used with non-binary people….”
“Aaron, take a deep breath.” Tony had set the sketchbook aside, then took Aaron’s hands and gripped them tight. “It was just a dream, okay?”
“No, Tony, it wasn’t just a dream. It was real, so real. A-a-and they said that you had to awaken, I-I-I don’t know what that means, but when Spencer left, God Tone, it was like I was shattering all over again. Like I had found something that I had lost, and now it’s lost again.”
Tony crawled into Aaron’s lap and straddled him, the chair giving them just enough room to do it. He took his lover’s face in his hand and gently caressed his cheeks.
“Aaron, you haven’t lost anything. I’m right here, Jack is fine, and we’re okay. Could this be stress from losing your Uncle?”
Aaron laid his head back on the chair and wrapped his arms around Tony, and pulled him close. The dream had been so real it had unsettled him. He nosed at Tony’s neck, breathing in that scent he knew so well, a mix of his cologne and the natural scent of his skin. It was enough to settle him and let him think for a moment.
“You’re right I’m sorry. It was just so damn real.”
“It’s okay we all get a little crazy sometimes. At least you aren’t going to go all Jack Nicholson in the Shining on me now. Cause as much as I love you, an ax-wielding psycho Aaron would totally get a bullet in the leg till you came to your senses.”
Aaron chuckled softly as he pulled Tony closer kissing him. He put the dream out of his mind as he deepened the kiss and grabbed Tony’s ass.
“Well, if we get too much more excited mister, we need to take this to the bedroom.” Tony’s Cheshire cat grin had Aaron moaning.
“Why not right here? It’s not like there are others around.” Aaron bussed a kiss on Tony’s jaw before gently scraping his teeth over the skin.
“No lube.” Tony laughed at the pout on Aaron’s face. Then slipped off his lap and pulled him off the chair. They didn’t stop kissing and touching all through the manor, even when they got to the bedroom.
Wrapped around each other, sweaty, sticky, and both a complete mess, but content as well, Aaron caressed Tony’s chest and stomach, settling himself even more.
“I love you, thank you for coming with me. I don’t know if I could have done this alone.”
“As if I’d let you do it alone. I love you Aaron, and I wouldn’t want you to be here all by yourself. Do you know what you’re going to do?”
“I don’t want to give this place up. There is a trust fund set-up to take care of it, and it’s all set to automatically do any payouts. Minimal paperwork, nothing would come out of our pockets.”
“Wow, so what did your Uncle do?”
Aaron sat up and leaned on his elbow, looking down at Tony as happiness radiated through him. His mind still thought back to the young person in his dream. He kept trying to convince himself it wasn’t real, but deep down in that closed off part of himself he knew it was very much real.
“You know, I don’t really remember. Something to do with mining and finance, but for the life of me I can’t really remember.” Aaron frowned as he tugged on the memories of his childhood, but nothing made sense. Shaking his head, he bussed a kiss on Tony’s cheek then sat up fully.
“I’m going to take a shower, want to join me?” He smiled as he stood up.
“Oh hell yes.” Tony bit his lip as he practically jumped out of bed and followed after Aaron.
The early evening found Aaron and Tony at the kitchen table with a veritable feast of fresh vegetables, fish, chicken, and other fowl gracing the table.
“Finn, this is too much.”
“But it all will keep well in the cooler. That way ya can snack on it as ya like. Take yer time. And here, some Heather and Rose tea.” Finn set a large tea kettle in the middle of the table and teacups at each place setting.
Aaron felt all color drain from his face as he looked at the pot.
“Aaron?” Tony let his worry known as he looked towards Aaron.
“My mother, she used to make me this exact tea when I was a child. She grew the herbs herself.”
“Aye, Aaron, the gardens are still there. Ya might want to take a walk later.” Finn suggested with that same sparkle in his eye.
“Yeah, that ah, that sounds good.”
“Then I shall make something special, and ya can take it with ya.” Finn bounced away to the kitchen leaving the two men alone together.
“He is one odd cook, but I like him.” Tony’s mischievous side was showing, and Aaron just shook his head.
“Yes, he is different. Come on, let’s eat.” Aaron served them some of the fish and chicken while Tony dished them some of the vegetables. Fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, sunchokes, different varieties of potatoes, carrots, eggplant, celery, and mushrooms were all laid out for them. They ate slowly and talked. The tea was soothing and helped to relax them even more. The two men lost all track of time as they talked like they hadn’t in awhile, their demanding jobs being what they were.
Finn came back out with a basket he set on the table.
“Some sweet wines and a decadent pastry for ya. The wild berries have been fantastic this year, so I made ya a rustic tart with some fresh cream. It’ll keep so ya take yer time now lads.” Finn smiled almost gleefully as he took plates away into the kitchen.
“I don’t know if I can eat another thing. But, that walk in the gardens sounds nice.” Tony stood, and Aaron stood with him. Aaron wrapped an arm around Tony’s waist as he picked up the basket. Aaron couldn’t help feel like this was some strange fairy tale, and they were being romanced. Turning to Tony, he kissed him, then smiled as he led him out the back doors and right into the walled off kitchen garden, as his mother called it.
“It is all still here.”
“Almost like the faeries were around and kept it up.”
“What?” Aaron felt that little niggling in the back of his head. That place that held secrets that were buried deep, but he never wanted to look at.
“I was just kidding Aaron. You know, we are in England, on the edge of Wales. Wouldn’t take much for us to get to Scotland and Ireland. The air is practically brimming with the old tales.”
“You romantic you.”
“It’s the Italian in me. Uncle Clive couldn’t get rid of all of it.” The old joke between them made them chuckle. “There are some exotic herbs here. And if I didn’t know any better there are some from the nightshade family. Those are illegal you know.”
“Not if you planted them before the law went into effect. According to Uncle Will, those particular plants are heirloom varieties, over two hundred years old, if he’s to be believed. There’s paperwork on them somewhere, I know I’ll have to check it to make sure it’s up to date.”
“This is beautiful though.”
“Yeah, Mom and Sean used to love being out here.” Fond memories of sitting and studying as Sean and his mother puttered in the herbs. Sean making a mess, his mother’s laughter, her long strawberry colored hair and clear hazel eyes. Aaron’s heart hitched in his chest, the ache of her passing never got any easier, no matter how old he got.
“Aaron, if this is too much we can go back inside.” Tony turned and wiped tears off Aaron’s face.
“No, no it’s not that. It’s just that times like now I miss her. Mom’s illness was so sudden, and she was gone so fast, but I’m glad you got to meet her.”
“I am too. Your Mother was a beautiful woman, Aaron. I too wish there was something they could have done.”
Aaron would be forever grateful for Tony being in his life. Especially during the bad times. They walked in silence till they got to the garden gate, Aaron opened it to see that the Fairy Maze was still there and still well cared for.
“Hey, a garden maze. I’ve always wanted to do one of these.” The joy on Tony’s face melted Aaron’s heart a little. He closed his eyes and smiled, remembering the path as if he had done it just yesterday.
“Well, if everything is the same, then I know the way through, and there are stone benches with a fountain. Come on.” Aaron pulled Tony through, their laughter floating on the wind as they made their way, carefree spirits opening to the beauty around them.
Off to the side stood Spencer. Ne looked on and watched for a time as their heart broke. To be so close, to not be able to touch, or kiss, or hold those ne holds dear. Closing nir eyes they felt a hand settle on their waist. Spencer looked and saw it was Titania.
“Zaza, why do you torture yourself?”
“When ya fall in love when ya find yer other half you’ll understand. It’s been so long, and they are so close that it is a torture that I’ll gladly endure with the hope that they will awaken an’ come back to us. But they need this time to remember what it is they mean to each other. Now go on, yer brothers will be wantin’ ya to go riding with them.”
“I miss them, Zaza.” Tatiana’s tears slid down her face as she too looked on.
“We all do sweetheart. Now go.”
Spencer moved through the hedges, his ethereal form letting him stay out of the sight of Tony and Aaron. When he got to the center, he saw the blanket Finn had packed spread out and Aaron leaning against a thick part of the hedge with Tony lying down, head in Aaron’s lap. Spencer’s heart again beat hard in their chest. Ne didn’t know why they were torturing themselves like this. But it had been too long, and ne wanted their family back, not matter what, they all needed to be whole again. Spencer went over to them and lightly touched each cheek, placing a kiss and breathing deep to still their heart. The reward of a smile each from Aaron and Tony renewed Spencer’s hope they would soon all be together once more. Leaving them, ne went back and tried with all their might to be patient.
“Did you feel that?” Aaron asked as he caressed Tony’s arm.
“That wasn’t you?”
“Maybe a trick of the wind.” The breeze, as if on cue, gently blew over them ruffling the leaves in the hedges behind them.
“How about we have some of that tart.” Tony sat up and leaned in kissing Aaron. He pulled out the wine and the dessert that had the layer of sweetened cream on it and grinned wide. Aaron took care of the wine while he cut the tart into pieces they could pick up with their fingers. Napkins, plates and wine glasses were all included. Aaron poured the wine, which was a late harvest rose. The sweetness of the wine went well with the tart.
Taking their time they talked even more, about Jack and missing him, about personal things they had let get in the way as of late. It felt good to let go and reconnect. It had been a while since they felt this close and this relaxed with each other. Either Aaron had been out on a case, or Tony would be waylaid by MI6 for additional help on important ops. Especially with Q Branch and getting tactical information for the 00’s that were in the field.
When the English Government had decided to combine MI5 and MI6 into one branch, now called SIS, half of the divisions were excited; the other half weren’t. Tony was happy because it meant he only had to move between floors and not across buildings to get to where he would be needed. Information was Tony’s top commodity. He made acquaintances easy, not just in London, but everywhere he and Aaron went. Tony was highly sought after within SIS which meant he didn’t have a permanent office, and he liked it that way. But it also sometimes meant long hours and missing time with Aaron and their son.
Aaron too was invaluable at Interpol. He could blend in easily in many undercover operations, from gun runners to human trafficking. He had learned several languages as a child, they were never difficult for him, and it didn’t hurt that he had an exceptional memory. It wasn’t eidetic, but many of the higher-ups at the agency doubted that. He had perfect recall and didn’t need to take many notes, though he would later on so that he didn’t have to keep the information in his head all the time.
Tony and Aaron were two very Alpha males that somehow made it all work. But, they had been strained lately because of their jobs. Coming here to the Manor, they each concluded, had been an excellent idea. They fell into a light sleep on the blanket, wrapped around each other and Aaron couldn’t help the thought that they were missing something, or someone vital.
The lazy morning had Aaron still stretched out in bed, he looked to his left and expected to see Tony, but he didn’t see him. Aaron wasn’t worried, he knew Tony liked to get a cup of coffee and wander the grounds in the morning. Smiling and closing his eyes Aaron fell back to sleep. He would get up soon, Finn would have breakfast for them in a little while.
The soft grass under his body felt cool and slightly ticklish, but at the moment he wasn’t concerned about that as hands touched his naked body. Hands he knew, ones that he had been dreaming about for…he wasn’t sure now as he had lost all sense of time. Lips kissed his warmed skin as those long and supple fingers touched him everywhere. Aaron’s mouth was dry, as his heart beat faster and his cock hardened more and more.
“Spencer,” he looked down at the chestnut curls as they splayed out around his groin, a mouth moving closer and closer to his hard cock, teeth, and tongue driving him crazy.
“Yes, my love?” The words whispered softly across his skin.
“Please, need you,” Aaron moaned as those lips took the head of his cock and licked the pre-come that had dribbled out.
Spencer moved up his body and took Aaron’s mouth in a heated kiss, as arms wrapped around him. He sat up and looked down at a face full of love and smiled.
“Then have me, love.” Spencer lifted just enough so that Aaron could slip inside him. He moaned deep in his throat as he slid down, hands gripped his hips as Aaron bent his knees and planted his feet on the ground.
“Beautiful,” Aaron’s breath caught in his throat as he held his lover there, gripping his waist he thrust up into that glorious heat that surrounded him. Then Spencer started to move up and down on his cock. His eyes rolled in the back of his head and words were whispered in a language he thought he should know. It was there, just at the edges of his memory, trying to break through. He felt like the words were being written across his skin, glowing as Spencer kept moving above him, bringing him closer and closer to release.
Aaron was desperate to remember, to say something back, but it just wouldn’t come. He growled as he rolled them, so Spencer was under him, legs wrapped around his waist as Aaron pounded out his frustrations, and love, and so many emotions that Aaron wasn’t even aware he had for the person under him. Their lovemaking became frantic, and Spencer clawed at his back, moaning and screaming for more. Aaron lost himself as he cried out his completion, emptying inside his dream lover. Pulling off he nestled between Spencer’s legs and took zir’s sex in his mouth, licking and sucking till Spencer too was crying out coming hard in Aaron’s mouth.
Panting, Aaron moved up and wrapped around Spencer’s body, kissing and tasting every part of their lips and mouth.
“I love you Aaron,” was once again whispered against his overheated skin, flushed from their frantic sex.
Aaron startled awake, his release cooling on his stomach, he flopped back on the bed wiping a hand down his face. He had lost track of how often he had that dream, though the scene was played out slightly different each time. Aaron always itched to draw right after these dreams, and he took to keeping a sketchbook by his bedside. Sitting up Aaron grabbed it and got lost in the too vivid memory. He hadn’t heard Tony come in, but when a kiss was bussed against his forehead, he looked up and smiled.
“You know, a part of me thinks I should be jealous of this dream lover you seem to have,” Tony smirked as he saw the tissues Aaron used to clean himself up with.
“I don’t know what’s going on Tone; I wish I knew because it’s driving me crazy.” Aaron put the sketchbook aside and prodded Tony onto his lap. He wrapped arms around his partner and relished in the realness of him. “I love you, Tony, I hope you don’t doubt that.” Aaron couldn’t help the bit of worry that slipped into his voice as he slipped his hands under Tony’s shirt, needing to feel that connection they had.
“Aaron, I don’t doubt you at all. I don’t understand it either, but maybe it’s something you need to work through?”
“Maybe.” Smiling wickedly he pulled Tony’s shirt off him and leaned in to kiss his warm, smooth skin. Sliding his tongue across he took a dusky nipple in his mouth and gently bit as he sucked, making Tony moan in pleasure.
Their sex life had always been good, but since coming to the Manor, it was like they couldn’t get enough of each other. Morning, noon, night, in bed, out in the Maze, among the gardens, or the bit of forest on one side, it didn’t matter. The need to touch, to kiss, to always be together was there. It was like something was pushing at them, and so far neither man was complaining.
Naked, with Tony buried inside him Aaron closed his eyes and almost felt like Spencer was there as well. His cock swelled as Tony moved inside him faster and harder. Aaron once again felt like he was on the precipice of…something and there was some sort of key he needed to unlock what was inside him. He gripped the sheets, nails digging in as Tony bent over him and took his mouth in a searing kiss that radiated all through him.
“I love you, Aaron, never doubt that my love,” Tony whispered against his lips. Aaron wrapped his legs around Tony’s waist, pulling him even closer. He closed his eyes and tried to chase that thing that was just out of reach. Each thrust of Tony’s cock inside him had him closer than ever of breaking free. He was babbling, nonsense words spilled from his lips as his cock ached with the need to be touched. Tony leaned up more as he thrust harder, spurred on by Aaron’s ramblings.
When Aaron opened his eyes to watch Tony’s face, he noticed a bright glow all around them. Aaron tried to reach out and touch, but the glow was just out of reach. When he felt Tony wrap a hand around his cock, and start to jerk him off in time to his thrusts, he threw back his head against his pillow, and gripped his fingers against Tony’s waist.
“Tony,” his voice came out strangled as he tried to keep up with everything that was happening. When a chilly breeze passed over him, he almost felt something touching him and it tipped him over the edge and he came, spilling over Tony’s hand. Tony increased the pace of his strokes, and it wasn’t long before he to found his release buried deep inside Aaron.
Dropping down on Aaron, Tony pulled out and took a few deep breaths to calm the frantic beating of his heart.
“What was that?” Tony chuckled as he collapsed on Aaron, his head on his lover’s chest.
“I’m not sure, but I think we need to get out of this bed. I’m sure Finn has breakfast ready and I need a run.” Aaron wanted to hold Tony close, but he was also feeling restless. Like they kept forgetting something crucial.
Almost as if on que, a knock was at their door, and the announcement that breakfast was indeed waiting for them had them grudgingly getting out of bed. Quick clean up, then both men were pulling on jeans and soft cotton shirts. Aaron stood at the wardrobe, holding the shirt in his hand and frowned a moment as he wondered where all the clothes had come from.
“Tony?” Aaron called out.
“Yeah?” Tony yelled out from the bathroom.
“Just how long have we been here?” Aaron frowned as he slipped the t-shirt over his head.
“What do you mean? We just got here…” Tony trailed off; then he was coming out of the bathroom with his toothbrush in his hand.
“No, we didn’t just get here. Our wardrobe is full of clothes we didn’t bring.” Aaron ran to the sketchbook and looked through it, his heart pounding in his chest. “There are too many sketches in here for it to only be a week.”
“What are you saying, Aaron?”
“I’m saying we’ve been here longer than we think we have.”
“That isn’t possible, is it?”
Aaron closed his eyes and shook his head. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening anymore.” He sat down carefully on the bed and rubbed at the ache in his heart. Something was going on, and he wanted to know exactly what it was. He had a feeling that Finn was somehow the key to all of this.
“Look, let’s go eat, and maybe we can try to figure this out. I’m sure there is a very plausible explanation.”
Aaron laughed at himself and felt he was being a little ridiculous. He touched the sketchbook and thought of Spencer. He wished he knew what was real and what wasn’t because all the dreams he had been having seemed very, very real.
Standing, he wrapped an arm around Tony’s waist and led him towards the kitchen.
“Ah, yer awake. I was wondering what was takin’ so long.”
Aaron sat down and pulled the coffee that Finn pushed towards him and took a sip.
“Finn, if I ask you something, will you tell me the truth?” Aaron glared at the Cook, who he was suspecting really wasn’t a cook. There was more to the man, and more to the reason he had been drawn here, and he wanted answers.
“Depends on the questions, Aaron.” Finn smiled, and Aaron had a glimpse at an almost impish look to him. Tony was settling next to him, and Finn slid his coffee cup over to him as well.
“How long have we been here? Truthfully?”
“Oh now, the answer depends on what you deem is the truth. Do ya want to know how long you and Anthony have been here, or do you want to know the truth of yerselves, and how long you’ve been living at the edge of it.” Finn’s eye sparkled a violet color that Aaron had never seen before.
“I don’t understand…” Aaron was poised to ask another question when there was a hard knock at the door.
“Were you expecting someone?” Aaron asked.
“No, they are yer guests, Aaron. Better go see to them.”
Frowning, Aaron stood and went to the front door as the knock came again. When he got there, he wasn’t sure what to expect. When he opened the door he was startled to see his son Jack, his boss Emily and a man Aaron didn’t know, but had heard stories of from Tony.
“What are you doing here Jack? You should be in school. Emily? And I’m going to assume that you are James?”
“Aaron, are you serious?” Emily asked as she frowned at Aaron.
“Yes?” Aaron wasn’t sure anymore. The concerned looks on the three faces in front of him had him worried.
“Dad, can we come in?” Jack frowned as he looked at his father, concern clearly shown in his eyes.
Stepping aside he let the three people inside.
“Where’s DiNozzo?” James’s cold stare didn’t intimidate Aaron, but the tone of voice outright pissed him off.
“What are you insinuating?”
James stood toe-to-toe with Aaron and glared right back at him.
“You disappear for three months. Not one word. My Boffin was getting more than concerned. He is downright scared something happened to him. When you disappeared as well…”
“James, I’m fine.” Tony sauntered into the entryway and moved up next to Aaron. “Did you think Aaron would hurt me? Don’t tell me that your famous paranoia has pushed you off the deep end of the pool there, 007. I’m sure Q wouldn’t like your accusations.” Tony crossed his arms, and Aaron could tell his husband was upset.
“What were we to think Tony, when you didn’t show for a critical mission after your week off. After a month we got concerned, after three months, well all of SIS was trying to track you. Q was more than upset.”
“Wait a minute. You’re telling us that we’ve been here for three months?”
“Aaron, don’t you know how much time has passed?” Emily was looking at him like he had lost his mind.
“It’s only been…” He started to say a couple of weeks, but then he thought about the sketchbooks, and the conversation with Tony less than an hour ago. “I don’t understand how this is possible.” Aaron started to pace, feeling like he was losing his mind. He stopped at looked at the little group that was looking at him. “I told you, Emily, where we were going to be, why didn’t you come earlier?”
“Oh, I tried. But, when I came, there was nothing here. I questioned the locals, and they all said the same thing. They didn’t know anything about a manor.”
“I don’t see how that’s possible either. I grew up in this house. My Mother brought Sean and me here when we were younger, and I didn’t leave till I went to University. I came back when I got the letter from my Uncle’s solicitor.”
“Aaron, Anthony, are yer guests gonna stay for lunch?” Finn had come out of…somewhere, Aaron didn’t know till the man was practically there upon them.
“Ummm, yes Finn, thank you.”
“My pleasure.” The man gave a slight bow of his head, then moved back to wherever he came from.
“Who was that?” Emily’s eyes widened as her eyes were trained on the spot where the man had seemingly disappeared to.
“That’s Finn, the cook. He was just here when we got here. Didn’t have the heart to let him go. The estate is self-sustaining. Come on; we’ll show you around.” Aaron got the impression that they had been in the middle of an important conversation, but now he was leading, his boss and Tony’s colleague through the house just like they had come for a visit.
“Wow, this place is gorgeous. You grew up here?” Emily asked with a smile on her face.
“Yes. I can’t believe that I ever forgot my time here.” Aaron sighed and felt a brush of a hand and a kiss on his cheek. He turned to look at Tony, but he knew that it couldn’t have been his lover, as he was showing Jack around the library. Aaron frowned but shook his head chalking it up to another strange occurrence. He felt Emily’s eyes on him, but he wasn’t going to explain, he didn’t want her looking at him any stranger than she already was.
When they came back to the main sitting room, it was time for lunch. The conversation was subdued, James and Emily asked questions to which neither Tony nor Aaron had any real answers for. Jack had chosen to stay silent as they ate. When lunch was over, Finn gently escorted James and Emily towards the front door. Aaron had a distinct impression that their cook wanted them gone. Jack had stayed behind, and Aaron wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
“Finn, we need to talk.” Aaron watched the Irishman as he walked back into the kitchen and leaned against a stool that was pulled from the kitchen Island.
“And what is it yer wantin’ to talk about?”
“What is really going on here? And stop deflecting my questions.”
Aaron knew just by his body language and the expression on his face that Finn appeared to be weighing what it was he wanted to say.
“Ye aren’t ready Aaron lad. Neither you nor Master Tony. I’m not purposefully being evasive, but yer story, it is in these walls, in the books, in yer drawings. It’s in the grounds and the flowers and trees that surround you. It’s even in yer dreams, but ye haven’t been willing to listen. Ye just have to listen, Aaron, because a lot is riding on you remembering.”
Aaron let out the breath that he had been holding onto as he stood and paced around the large kitchen.
“You are always talking in riddles, and there are times that I think I shouldn’t trust you, but somehow I know you. I have since we came here and that isn’t possible. I’ve never met you before that day.”
“Are ye sure about that laddie?” Finn smiled as he walked away, again leaving Aaron with too many questions and not enough answers. Feeling frustrated, he went to the study and pulled out the sketchpad he had kept there and started just to draw. He wasn’t even really sure what he was drawing, but Aaron let his mind wander, he stopped thinking so hard and let his hands do all the work.
After what felt like just a few minutes, but was several hours, Aaron came out of the near trance that he had found himself in. Looking down at the sketches, his breath hitched, and his heart pounded hard in his chest. They looked like something out of a Tolkien inspired painting, except there was a darker, earthier tone to it all. Frowning Aaron threw the tablet aside and strode outside and stood at the entrance to the maze. He knew there was something important about the center, but he had not figured out the mystery yet. Closing his eyes, Aaron took a deep breath and concentrated on the earthy smells of the plants and flowers blooming all around him. He felt like something inside him was cracking, he just wished he knew what it all meant.
Tony stood at the large window that looked out onto the Faerie Maze, as Aaron had called it, and worried. He sipped the scotch he had poured and watched the man he had spent the better part of his adult life with trying to understand what was happening with him.
Tony was a pragmatist, he had a hard time believing in anything ‘otherwordly,’ but since coming to this house even, he had to admit things just didn’t add up.
Tony ran a hand through his hair as he took another long sip of the alcohol, letting the burn settle in his stomach calming his nerves. Tony furrowed his brow, torn between going out to Aaron and staying inside to try to figure out his own mind. Turning from the window, Tony moved through the house, touching things here and there letting his mind still for once. His head was always going, and there were times he just couldn’t keep everything quiet. He was also feeling a little lost without his piano. As soon as the thought entered his head, a picture formed and going on some strange instinct; Tony moved through the house with a purpose this time. He went past the den, and the movie room, something inside him kept pulling at him to keep going. He went past the library, and a large sunroom that he didn’t remember being there, but would mention it to Aaron. It would be the perfect place for him to turn those sketches into paintings.
Continuing, Tony came to an intricately carved door that had instruments of bygone days entwined with the ever present trees and vines. Reaching up Tony ran his fingers over the carvings and something niggled at the back of his mind. Shaking his head slightly Tony wrapped his fingers around the curved door handle and pulled on the little trigger that released the latch. Pushing open the door Tony walked inside, his heart pounding in his chest.
Walking inside Tony say what looked like a timeworn, but well cared for piano. It was in a dark wood that he had no name for, the legs had those same intricate carvings, as did the bench. Moving forward, almost as if he as in a trance, Tony felt the pull towards the instrument. Sliding onto the bench, he took a cleansing breath before he let his eyes land on the covered keys. Tony laid slightly shaking hands on the fallboard, strangely devoid of any dust, and lifted. He pushed it forward and let it fall into its slot. Placing his fingers on the gleaming keys, Tony pressed down not expecting them to be in any kind of proper tune. He was startled by the clear, and in tune sounds from each strike of the piano keys. He had yet to put his feet on the pedals.
Closing his eyes and bringing his favorite pieces of music to the forefront of his memory, Tony played. With eyes closed, his body relaxed, he let himself get completely lost in the music. When arms wrapped around him, and a head leaned on his shoulder, Tony just smiled but continued playing, not wanting to stop. He played on, sinking even deeper into the music. Letting his fingers guide him, Tony moved from the written pieces he held in his memories, to playing whatever just felt right.
Tony’s mind had quieted, and he set aside all his fears for now. He felt lighter than he had in weeks, freer even. His smile widened as he played the music encircling him, warming him down to the core of him. The scent of heather wafted up from the ground, as the warm sun streamed down on his back. A light breeze caressed his cheek, and Tony felt that his very soul was flying free, lifted up by all the sensations coalescing around him. When he opened his eyes, he looked around and tried not to freak the fuck out.
“Aaron what the…you aren’t Aaron.” Tony looked into the most beautiful hazel eyes he had ever seen. They were clear and bright and made Tony’s heart speed up just a little. He knew those eyes, and not just from Aaron’s sketches. They looked at him like they were piercing into the very soul of him.
“No, Antoni, I’m not dear Aaron, but ‘ya know me.”
“You’re the one he keeps drawing.” Tony took his hands off the piano and felt a great sadness when he did it. Almost like the music was leaving him, although that could never happen. Music was as much a part of his life as his family and work were.
“Aye, I am. You found yer music, and it let you open yer heart. Only then was I able to reach you, Antoni.”
“Am I dreaming?”
“Depends on what ‘ya define as a dream and what is real. If I were to tell ‘ya that I pulled you into the Fae realm, what would ‘ya say?”
Tony huffed out a laugh as he stared at Spencer. Maybe we’re both going crazy Tony thought.
“I would have to say that this is a little too Brigadoon for my taste.”
“Brigadoon ‘tis but a myth Antoni, this, this is real.” Spencer lifted his hand and cupped Tony’s cheek. The air was pregnant with anticipation. The two of them so close they were practically breathing each other’s air. Tony drew in a breath, and as he slowly let it out, he leaned in those last few centimeters and pressed his lips against Spencer’s.
The soft moan that escaped from his throat encouraged his companion to deepen the kiss. There was no hurry to it. Tony opened just a bit as he tilted his head to the side to change the angle, trying to taste the beautiful creature next to him as much as he could. He lifted a hand to cup the back of Spencer’s neck holding him right where he wanted him. His other hand wasn’t idle as he slid his long fingers in soft curls. Tony lost all track of time but neither one tried to hurry the kiss along, nor did they try for anything more.
When Tony pulled back, he kept his eyes on Spencer’s face committing it to memory.
“Why do I know you? Why did that feel so familiar?”
“Because ‘ya do know me, Antoni. When you and Aaron are ready, go to the center of the Maze, place this in the nook in the fountain and I’ll be able to come to you.” Spencer pressed an object into Tony’s hand. He didn’t look at it at first. “Then, all will be explained.” Taking Tony’s face in his hands, Spencer let his forehead lay against Tony’s. “I have missed you, soon, my love. Soon you, Aaron, and I will be together again. I promise.”
Tony opened his eyes and found himself back in the music room. He wiped his face and felt the wetness in his eyes. He was more confused that he had been, but when Tony opened his hand, he found the object that Spencer had given him. It was a round silver disk with an intricate Celtic pattern carved into it. Some of it mimicked the carvings found all throughout the manor. The mystery of the house, of Spencer, of everything had only deepened. Tony wanted answers. He just hoped he would get them soon.
Tony found Aaron in the study with Jack. Tony stood just outside and watched for a few minutes, settling himself after his ‘encounter.’ His family, they meant everything to him. He hoped that he would get an explanation for everything that was happening around them. There was a feeling in his gut that their lives were going to change drastically, and soon.
Tony found it hard to keep the smile off his face as he watched father and son together. Aaron looked to be telling Jack about the sketches and a PG rated version of his dreams. When he said the name Spencer, Jack gasped. Tony had to move into the room to see the expression on the boy’s face. There was shock, and something else, recognition of some kind.
“Jack?” Tony asked as he moved closer, Aaron and the boy noticing him for the first time since he came to the study.
“Papa. It’s just, that name.” Jack took in a deep breath as he turned to look at Tony. “Before you and Dad got together, I uh, I had an imaginary friend. Or, I assumed he was imaginary. Their name was Spencer, and I could never figure out if they were a man or a woman. But, not like feminine. They didn’t feel feminine, but, well I can’t really explain it. Then Dad showed me these sketches and said their name; now I don’t know what to think.”
“I just saw them also. In fact, Spencer handed me this medallion.”
Aaron’s eyes widened as Tony held out the silver disk he had been holding onto.
“Aaron? Do you know what this is?”
Aaron took it, and when he touched it, a flood of images and memories came crashing into him. He saw, he wasn’t quite sure what it was he saw, but it felt like a dam had broken inside his mind. The pain was intense as Aaron fell forward onto his knees, holding his head trying to make sense of the flood of information. He knew people were shouting, felt them touching him, but he was having a difficult time filtering it all out. Aaron bent over, bracing his arms on the floor in front of him as the onslaught of input kept going. His eyes shut, his body tense, his breathing came in quick pants as he willed it all just to stop. Aaron wanted the assault to end.
Aaron was on the verge of collapse when all the sensory input just stopped. The sound was the first thing to filter through, and the shouting of his son and lover was almost overwhelming. He put up a hand in a gesture for them to quiet down. When they finally did Aaron lifted his head, then slowly, very slowly he opened his eyes. The shocked sounds next to him told him something was wrong.
“Tony?” his voice sounded weak and tinny to his own ears, but he chalked it up to what he had just experienced.
“Your eyes. Aaron, they changed.” Slowly Aaron stood and stretched out. He felt different, like the parts of his life that had not made sense before finally did. There were so many things Aaron needed to talk to Tony, and Jack about, he just had no clue on where to begin. For the moment he just walked to a mirror that was on one wall of the study and looked at his face. There was a slight difference, it was harder, a bit more angular than before. Aaron looked at his eyes. The color previously had been dark brown. Chocolate, Tony had often called them the color of rich chocolate. Now they were a vibrant violet color. Frowning at the itchy feeling on his arms he took off his shirt to look to see what was going on. There on both arms tattoos began to appear. They were tribal in nature. Wanting to see if they were elsewhere Aaron also pulled off the undershirt and saw that the ink spread across his chest and narrowed down his abdomen and stomach where it widened out again. He was about to strip off his pants, but Tony put a hand on his arm to stop him.
“Aaron, I think you need to tell us what the hell is going on.”
Nodding, he grabbed the undershirt and slipped it back on. Aaron went back to the couch, sat down, and took held the medallion in his hand once again.
“The spell or series of spells I was under broke when I touched this medallion. I’m not sure how much of this you are going to believe Tone, but trust me when I tell you that everything I’m going to say is the absolute truth and that we need to find the other medallion that matches this one.
I’m not sure where to start, so let me just talk, and hopefully, I’ll make some kind of sense.”
“Alright,” Tony hesitated just slightly, and Aaron heard the skepticism already in his voice. He just hoped that Tony would believe him till they found the medallion that held Tony’s memories.
“This particular medallion you handed me, it held memories, of me before my mother died, of us, of a lot of things. We have been under a heavy number of spells for a long time now. All three of us. Mainly for our protection, but something must have changed for the protections to have been lifted. Tony, I have to ask, who gave this to you?”
Tony looked Aaron right in the eye for a good long minute before he answered.
“It was Spencer. I found the music room and started to play. The music settled me. Before I knew it, that person you kept drawing and dreaming about was sitting right there on the bench with me. He called me Antoni and gave me that medallion. Told me it should fit into a slot in the fountain in the middle of the maze.”
“Of course. The fountain is the heart of the maze, but it’s also the heart of our real home.”
“Dad? What are you talking about? London is our home.”
“No. London is where we ended up, but it isn’t our real home. Not in the way you think it is. As hard as it is to believe right now, we, the three of us, are Fae.” Aaron stood and started a slow pace in front of the couch. Memories were still settling, as were emotions. It was a lot all at once, and Aaron was processing as much as he could as fast as he could.
“We lived, still on earth, but a different realm, reality even. Both of you have heard stories of faeries, and the realms of the faeries, we come from the place central to all the Fae realms, Tir Na nOg. The place where the two ruling courts of the Tuatha De Danann live. The Seelie and Unseelie courts. But, don’t believe what you’ve heard. Neither is wholly honorable or evil. Seelie, they choose the light and have attuned their magic with the light, but it does not mean that they are somehow, more honorable or admirable; just as the Unseelie are not necessarily evil just because they have attuned their magic with the dark.
“I grew up in the Unseelie court. My father was Madoc Morfryn. My Mother was a human he had seduced. But, don’t believe all the things you’ve heard about the Courts and King Arthur, those are myths wrapped in a grain of truth. You, Antoni, are the son of Oberon and Titania. Again, don’t believe all of the myths you hear. While you are pure Fae, I am not, but that is the nature of the Unseelie. Most of us are what you would call half-breeds. We met, you and I, when we were young, here in this Manor. It sits on one of the Faerie Rafts. We played together as youngsters, not really caring who our parents were. My memories are still jumbled, but I remember that a seer, name of Sylvan, had come at my Mother’s request. You and I Antoni, we are a fated pair.” Aaron let that sink in for a moment as he kept his slow pace back and forth.
“Aaron, you’re asking me to believe that we are part of a mythical Faerie realm? And opposite sides of that very realm? As well as being a fated trio?”
“I know, I know it sounds crazy, but…”
“But what?” Tony was getting frustrated. This whole experience, the last few months that felt only like days, his lover going off in these strange trances, drawing, dreaming and pulling away, but clinging at the same time. It was driving Tony crazy. Add to that him also seeing Spencer, Tony wondered if he was now sharing in Aaron’s delusions. He was having a hard time accepting all of this, whatever this really was.
“Tony, you have to believe I’m telling the truth. The only way to prove it to you is for us to go to the fountain at the heart of the maze. Though, I’m not sure why, but my instincts are telling me to go at dusk. Don’t ask me why it’s just a feeling.”
Tony stood and stopped Aaron in mid-pace. “I know you aren’t telling me everything, Aaron.”
“I know, and I’m not trying to be evasive. Everything is…” Aaron paused, letting out a sigh as he ran a hand through his short hair. “Jumbled still. It’s like both parts of my life are trying to merge and make sense in my head. I can’t explain, but I want to. I need to and, I just feel we should be doing this out there.”
Tony didn’t want to get angry at Aaron. He was trying to keep a handle on his own frustrations. He wanted to believe what Aaron was saying because he always felt like there were things about his life that just didn’t make sense. Like the pieces of the puzzle that were Anthony Dimitri Paddington was somehow hollow, or false. He always chalked it up to never being able to live up to Anthony Sr.’s bizarre expectations. His mother bringing them to England, Tony had felt the first stirrings of feeling right with himself. Then Aaron and Jack.
“There was no Haley, was there? She was a false memory also, wasn’t she?” Tony had no clue why he felt the truth of those words, but he did.
“No, there was no Haley.”
“So, Spencer? But, how?”
“I’m still sorting all of this out, Tony.”
“Well, sort faster Aaron Hotchner, even my patience is wearing thin with all of these strange goings on. I mean, if we lived near the ocean and on a cliff I’d think this was all very Rebecca, you know?”
“You think I’m trying to gaslight you?” The flare of temper in Aaron’s eyes had Tony regretting the comparison immediately.
“No, no that wasn’t my intention. I just mean the creepy, strange house, the mystery. I’m sorry I know you would never hurt me like that. God, I’m sorry.”
Aaron grabbed Tony’s hand and gently tugged him into a hug. The stress that Tony felt himself under slowly ebbed away with his lover’s arms around him and the reassuring words spoken in his ear.
“It’s okay Tone. This whole thing is stressing us both out. But, please believe that everything I’ve told you so far is the truth.”
“I’m trying here Aaron, but you have to realize how it all sounds…”
“Very. I believe that you believe it. I love you enough to go along and see how this plays out. I trust that you aren’t doing anything to hurt me, but you have to know I can only believe so much. Jack and I will come with you. We’ll go through the maze, but I swear Aaron if we get to the center and nothing happens you need to make a choice. Me, or this person that’s living inside your head. I love you, I do, but I can’t love you enough to live with some ghost.”
Aaron held him closer. Tony felt the fear coming from his lover, but he would stand his ground. If Tony had to leave to protect himself, he would. Tony did not want to, but he could no longer live this half-life they were living.
Aaron, Tony, and Jack had decided to rest up and start their journey in the morning. Snuggling down into bed, Tony was still unsure about everything that was happening around him. Even when presented with all the evidence that he was somehow part of another world, a world he had yet to remember or understand, he still had trouble believing.
The warmth of Aaron’s body wrapped around him along with the cool sheets and comforter of the bed had Tony drifting farther and farther into sleep.
A chill ran through him as he woke to the feel of a hand on his face. He looked down and saw that he was clothed in soft, thin night clothes. Tony let his eyes wander till he saw the face of Spencer hovering next to him, then awareness that the warmth he felt was from Spencer’s body that was close to him.
“You know, some could say that you’re a crazed stalker.”
The clear, almost musical laugh that emanated from Spencer had even skeptical Tony smiling.
“Yet, ye called out for me in yer own dreams, Antoni.”
Tony lifted his hand and cupped Spencer’s cheek, gently sliding his fingers over the soft, smooth skin. He took a moment and knew that Spencer was right. He had thought about the strange, beautiful being that had invaded his and Aaron’s lives.
“I guess I did. Aaron said you aren’t part of Tir Na nOg.”
“No, I come from the place where Man’s dreams reside. It is why I can come into yer dreams, Antoni.”
“Why haven’t you before?”
“An’ what make ye think I haven’t?”
Tony frowned as he tried to make sense of this strange conversation. He searched his memories, and indeed, found traces of Spencer there. Half remembered dreams as long as he and Aaron had been together.
“You’ve always been there.” Tony lifted both hands and cupped Spencer’s cheeks, bringing zir closer he kissed those strawberry colored lips that had tempted him before. Spencer sank against Tony and kissed back with a passion that Tony had ever felt with Aaron.
“Aye, I’ve always been with ye both, but never could I touch, or kiss, or hold ye like we once had. Don’t doubt anymore, Love. Yer almost there, and all will come back to you if ye let it.”
Tony reached over and pulled on Spencer till ze was laying on top of him.
“No, no more doubts. My heart has started to ache with missing you and I don’t even really know you. I want to. I want to understand all of this, everything. With Aaron, with this house, you.” Tony slid his hands in Spencer’s silky curls and held zir right where Tony wanted them. He kissed like a man drowning, and still he wanted more. Spencer moved above him, pressing their groins together, and Tony knew he was wasn’t going to last.
Bolting awake, Tony felt his release on his stomach cooling there.
“Shit,” he said under his breath as Aaron just rolled to his side. “I’m screwed.”
“Finally, he made his move. And there ‘ya are M’Lord.” Finnegan gave an exaggerated bow as Aaron, Tony and Jack walked into the kitchen. They intended to grab a few snacks and some water bottles before the three of them headed out into the maze.
“Please Finn, I’m still processing. I don’t even know all of it yet other than Spencer sent you here didn’t they?”
“Aye, ze misses ‘ya both. But ‘ya have to be ready for the hard work to come Aaron. ‘Taint gonna be easy to bring the realm together, and that’s just what ‘ya are destined to do. You, Antoni, and Spencer. ‘Ya have ‘ta be ready for anything.”
“And this is the first test, isn’t it?”
“You shall see.” Finn winked at them, then walked out of the kitchen leaving the three others standing there staring after him.
“Well, that was as strange as ever.”
“Finnegan O’Brien has always been a bit dramatic. He is Spencer’s right hand.”
“And dare I ask, is Spencer from Tir Na nOg as well?”
“No. Spencer came from one of the other realms. I can’t tell their story. You’ll have to ask them once, well, if they decide to show themselves. I have a feeling this is not going to be a simple matter of just walking through the maze to get to the heart of it.”
“No, that doesn’t sound ominous at all,” Tony deadpanned as he looked at Aaron, Jack barely stifled a laugh.
“Sarcasm will get you nowhere,” Aaron shot back as he grabbed the pack that he had filled with his own snacks and waters.
“Sarcasm always wins out, and you know it,” Tony’s mouth lifted in just the barest hint of a smile as he leaned in towards Aaron. “And I know for a fact that you love my sarcasm. You said it’s what you love best about me.”
“Oh, there’s a lot that I love about you, Tony.” Aaron’s smile set Tony’s heart racing like it always did. He didn’t know why he had ever had doubts about them. He would set aside his skepticism for now because Tony just wanted this over with, whatever the outcome.
After getting their own packs together, Jack and Tony followed Aaron outside, the three of them made their way to the entrance to the Faerie Maze. When they approached, Tony frowned. The maze had shifted somehow. It was subtle, almost imperceptible but he had spent enough time around it in the last few weeks that he noticed.
“As I’ll ever be.”
“I’m ready Dad.”
Tony nodded, and the three of them stepped forward to the entrance. Once they breached the threshold, the maze reacted, cutting each person off from the others. Tony heard a yelp and knew it was Jack. When the boy shouted he was okay, Tony breathed a sigh of relief. Aaron yelled that he was alright as well, then Tony reassured his son and partner that he was too was okay.
Though Tony prepared himself for something strange to happen, he needed to take a few deep breaths to settle himself. Looking ahead he saw that a path had opened up for him, he looked to his left, then his right at the wall of hedges cutting him off from his family. Aaron had mentioned a test, and Tony assumed this was just the beginning.
Aaron looked to the left at the path that had opened up for him. After reassuring his family that he was alright, he hefted his backpack higher up on his shoulders, took a deep breath and started forward. Aaron didn’t know what he was going to find in the maze, but he knew this for what it was, a test, Aaron just wasn’t sure what his test was going to entail. Aaron knew he had to be ready for absolutely anything. The Fae always had a bit of flair for the melodramatic, this, Aaron knew was not going to be any different.
Jack looked towards his right and chuckled. Like his father, he hitched his backpack up on his shoulders and smiled a wide innocent smile. Jack had been jaded at school, losing any sense of mystery and magic. This thing they were thrust into, right here and right now was an adventure born out of all those high fantasy books that he had devoured as a child. Jack thought to the trials in the David Eddington books, or Aragorn trying to convince the Ghost Army to follow him, that he was the true king. Or even Arthur Pendragon when he pulled Excalibur from the stone. Jack had been indulged as a child on fantasy, and both of his father’s happily supplied him with whatever books he had wanted.
Jack knew that this was probably going to be difficult, but he was going to have fun doing it.
Tony stood looking to his left and just shook his head.
“You sure do know how to get into it, don’t you Paddington.”
Tony knew he would obsess over how it all came to this. Slipping his arms into his backpack, he took a deep breath and decided that he just needed to go with it, whatever it was. Tony still was not sure if he believed everything that had happened over the last few months, but there was no denying that something strange had been going on. Tony heard Aaron say that he was alright, then Jack made sure to let them know that he was okay as well, and it set Tony more at ease. As long as his family came out of this whole, Tony would go along with it for now. Taking a deep breath, Tony called out that he was fine as well then he started forward into the unknown.
Aaron walked forward and experimented by letting his newly regained Fae senses surround him. He dropped down on one knee and closed his eyes. Aaron let the earth surround him, felt it down into his very bones. His skin itched again, so he pulled off his shirts and stuffed them in his backpack. Looking down at his arms, Aaron noticed they seemed to give off a faint glow. Reaching out, unsure of what he was reaching out for, but going on instinct, energy flowed gently from his fingers. Light engulfed him for a moment before he opened his eyes up once again, and the path now laid bare for him. Aaron knew not to rely solely on the light magic because the path could change at any moment. Standing, he started forward following the light down the corridor of hedges that stretched out in front of him. At the end of the corridor, the hedges shifted, flowers parted, and two paths appeared before him. The light tried to find the correct passage but was blocked, and Aaron saw a wall of darkness at the end of each turn. He had a choice, right or left and neither one looked promising.
Steeling himself for what was to come, Aaron decided to take the path to the right and towards the wall of darkness before him. He just knew that whatever was behind that wall, that was his first test and Aaron felt ready.
“Antoni,” a voice whispered. Of course Tony could not be sure that he really had heard his name. He took a few steps forward on his path when a light wind breezed past him. “Antoni.” He heard it again, but it was low, almost like a whistling in the gentle breeze that padded around him.
“Who’s there?” He called out. Tony felt a frown forming as he turned around in the spot he was standing in.
“Go back, Antoni. You know there isn’t anything here. Go back where you came from.”
Tony closed his eyes and concentrated on trying to block out the voices. There were many, not just the one, encouraging him to turn around, go back to the house. Visions of the small theater with a James Cagney mob movie playing up on the screen with him wrapped in a favored robe, and a warm cup of coffee with just a dollop of whiskey in it floated just in front of him. Shaking his head, Tony cleared his mind of the vision then took a step forward. His legs felt heavy, almost as if someone or something was trying to prevent him from taking any forward steps. Gritting his teeth and pressing his lips together hard Tony fought against unseen hands gripping his ankles. With a strength that even he was unaware that he possessed he took another step forward, then another, and another. Each step was slow, but soon the grip fell away, and Tony was away from those cold, strong hands.
Tony felt like running, but he knew that was foolish, the maze was awake and aware. Tony realized that it could be quite dangerous to just go off with no plan, no strategy in mind. He no longer thought Aaron was crazy because if his lover was, then he now was as well. He was beginning to believe in everything that had already transpired.
Taking a moment to collect his thoughts, Tony grabbed a bottle of water out of his backpack and took a long pull, clearing his throat and calming the fluttering of his stomach. Putting the bottle back, Tony was once again ready to move forward. He had wished that he had a walking stick, more to keep himself balanced than anything. Tony frowned at that thought, and as soon as he cleared his head, a long ornate stick appeared in his hand.
“If I’m going crazy, then it’s a pretty cool kind of crazy.” Tony chuckled to himself as he gripped the stick harder in his hand accepting that even if it wasn’t real, right now at this moment it was very real to him.
Jack had already turned several corners, walked down several corridors, and felt like he was ending up going in circles. He wasn’t frustrated; his father had taught him patience, his papa had taught him to think through each situation he found himself in critically. Jack decided that at the moment the best thing to do was to do nothing.
Pulling out the small blanket he had packed, Jack spread it out on the ground, pulled out a water bottle and some of his snacks. His stomach had been rumbling and who was he to deny filling his belly. Jack had brought a book with him, which he pulled out of his backpack as well. It had been an afterthought, but at the moment he was glad he did. Jack needed something to clear his head. After Jack ate and finished off his water, he set the book aside and pulled out the small notebook he had also thought to bring along.
Jack decided to sketch out the path he had taken so far. He knew he needed clarity and by the time he was done Jack noticed that he had indeed been going in circles.
“It’s like you don’t want me to get to the center. But, I have to.” The surety of that statement, spoken out loud settled something in Jack. A knowing, almost, that it was vital that he make it to that final destination. He was also certain, like in all good adventure stories, that the maze was actively trying to prevent him from making any progress. There was a puzzle he was sure he needed to solve, and the maze would only let him move on once it was solved. But unlike some Lara Croft adventure, there were no levers or buttons that he could manipulate to open some super secret section of the dungeon. No, this was a puzzle of the mind, something Jack didn’t understand that he needed to.
While sitting there, and after making his map Jack let his mind wander as he looked around at the part of the maze he was in. That was when he saw it. Out of the corner of his eye a flash of color that had been with him the whole time. It wasn’t till he stopped and tried to puzzle out his situation that his awareness of his surroundings changed. The little flying color thing appeared to be trying to tell him something.
“What are you?” Jack asked to no one in particular. The little color, which Jack could finally discern as a bright blue, dashed under the hedge in front of him. Jack studied that small section of the hedge and wondered. The little blue light dashed out again to fly right at his face. It was bobbing up and down like it was anxious, then it dived under the hedge again.
Jack stood and packed away all of his things back into his backpack then stared at the spot that the blue light kept dashing in and out of. Jack had a distinct impression that he was supposed to follow. As the thought came to his mind, that part of the hedge split forming an opening just big enough for him to bend down and crawl through. Pursing his lips and lifting his brow, Jack made up his mind and almost dived through the opening.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m trusting you, whatever you are little blue light thingy.” Jack almost fell when the blue light rushed at him again and…giggled? At this moment he felt like he was delving even deeper into this strange adventure, and a part of him was having the time of his life.
Aaron stood looking at an avatar of himself. But, the avatar looked a little different. Longer hair that was pulled back into a braid, sharper features, and a fighter’s body. He was also wearing fighting leathers with a pair of short swords with finely wrapped hilts were in the avatar’s hands. His eye sparkled a deep violet. He appeared well groomed with a close beard and mustache. Aaron had a memory of himself looking just like this at one time, but a lot of time had passed since he was the Queen’s assassin.
“This is very cliche, don’t you think?”
“Nothing worth having is easy.”
“Someone’s been watching too many high fantasy movies. I wonder, is this my Stepmother’s doing? Trying to make me remember that I was at one time her lap dog.” The venom in Aaron’s voice as he thought back to how manipulated he had been by his parents.
“I’m just the manifestation of however it is you see yourself.”
“I assume we are supposed to fight, I’m to have some kind of profound epiphany, and you go away, or we, what, merge?”
“It depends on what it is you truly want.”
Aaron took a deep breath and took careful steps around the avatar. He had felt his magic slowly being reawakened in him. Aaron knew he could conjure swords of his own, and they would come to him. Aaron questioned what it was he wanted, the life he had built with Tony and Jack? Or did Aaron want to reclaim his birthright and go home to Tir Na nOg with Tony and Spencer at his sides? He knew if he went back, he could no longer fight his destiny.
“If I said I wanted to return.”
“Then you need to be clear what how it is you want to return. You need to understand your place among the Fae and embrace it,” The avatar growled at him. Aaron noticed his body was primed for a fight. He watched the avatar closely and quickly came to an understanding. His doppelganger wasn’t just a representation of himself; this was an avatar of Tir Na nOg herself.
“I see you understand now Aaron, what is it you really and truly want? Think very carefully because if you want to return home, you will have to prove to me you are strong enough to not only unite the realms but strong enough to hold them together.”
Seeing himself as he had been, then thinking of all the time spent with Tony, how he had grown and changed. He knew now why he had never accepted a position to run his own office at Interpol. His life had been leading here, to this very moment. Closing his eyes, Aaron looked deep down inside himself and questioned if he could do it. Could he, with Tony and Spencer at his sides hold and rule all of the Fae realms? Was it possible? When a reassuring hand was laid on his arm, and he opened his eyes to see Spencer there next to him in their own fighting gear, he had his answer.
Smiling at the avatar, Aaron lunged forward ready for this fight, to stake his claim, even if it was against his parents and the Unseelie court itself.
“Antoni.” The voices kept whispering all around him the same things over and over. Their words were an annoying buzzing in his ears, and it took all he had to keep from actively listening to them. He turned a corner and started down a new path, the voices would follow. Encouraging, enticing him, not to go forward, but to turn around and go back.
Every step forward became difficult, but he was determined not to give up. As he felt himself moving closer to the center of the maze, Tony felt a change deep within himself. Memories started to slip in, but he willed his body to move on, not to stop, not to take the time to analyze what those memories were.
Tony walked on, feeling a deep sense of tiredness that he had not had when first starting out on this journey. He came to another dead end where he had to make a choice of going left or going right. Tony studied each path stretching out to either side of him and wondered which to take. As he was about to make his decision, his stomach grumbled in hunger. He knew he should probably stop for a few minutes to eat and drink something. Taking one more look in both directions, Tony decided to take a break.
Pulling out the towel he had brought, he laid it out then pulled out some of the snacks and a bottle of water. Getting comfortable on the towel he leaned back against the hedge that was at his back and tried to relax and think everything through.
After he was sated, Tony closed his eyes and laid his head back against the hedge, taking a few moments rest. His body relaxed, as did his mind.
“Antoni, don’t run too far, my love. Aaron don’t let him get into trouble.” The blinding smile of his Mother made Tony smile back at her. He looked for a moment as she lounged on the blanket, Aaron’s Mother next to her laughing at something her friend said. Aaron was there reaching his hand out, ready for the adventure they had cooked up for that day. His bright violet eyes and wild look always did strange things to Antoni. He knew, somehow, that Aaron would always be by his side.
“I’ll be careful Mum,” Tony called out in a bright, cheerful voice. Laughing Tony ran to his friend, grabbed his hand and together they ran off into the woods just at the edge of the property. As they made their way there, a young boy with long, curly hair, a pale but clear complexion, and a broad smile on his face stood there waiting, ready to join their game.
The dream changed and Antoni watched the landscape around him change. He looked down at himself. Tony felt older as he walked into the Great Hall of the Seelie court. Antoni looked around his eyes falling on his Mother who was seated upon the throne. His Father looked fondly at him. The whole court was there in all their shining, glittering colors. Glamor spells and charms making everyone look their absolute best. He finally looked to the front, and his heart settled as he smiled at the wild boy in formal leathers standing there waiting for him. Across the way from Aaron was Spencer in a beautiful, nondescript long sheath. He wouldn’t call it a dress, but Antoni had no other word for it. As he walked forward, he remembered what day it was. It was their promise ceremony. The day the triad would promise themselves to each other. They were still too young for the handfasting that would bind them together in marriage, but this, this was the beginning of their journey together. The beginning to uniting all of the Fae Realms under one leader. Today was the day when he gave his heart to the two young people standing there waiting for him to join them.
Tony woke with a start as his heart pounded hard inside his chest. He hadn’t remembered his Mother smiling like that. Tony felt the wetness in his eyes as he tried to reconnect with his surroundings. When he calmed down Tony remembered why he was there. Tony had lost all track of time in the maze. Standing up, he dusted himself off and re-packed his things in his backpack, grabbed the walking stick, and took the path to the left. Tony didn’t know why he was so sure this was the right way only that there was a kind of knowing in his gut. Nodding once to himself, Tony started once more on his journey through the maze.
Jack was exhausted. He felt like he had been crawling through the hedges for hours following the flying blue light. When he almost collapsed down on the ground from exhaustion, the blue light would zap him and make him continue.
“I hope Dad and Papa are doing better than I am. At least I hope they aren’t crawling on the ground,” Jack groused as he made it another few inches. He was exhausted. He slumped down on the ground and laid his head on his arms.
“Jaaaack, I wanna go ride. Zaza said we could. Daddy and Papa won’t be back till late, and you promised you’d take me.”
“Ti, you have to be patient. We have to finish chores first, remember?”
“Fine. Where are the terrible twosome?” The little girl pouted as she and Jack worked to clean up the playroom. Jack looked around and couldn’t find the twins. Sighing, he knew this meant trouble. Jack left his sister for the moment as he went in search of his brother’s.
“Carrick, Cormick where are you two?” Jack yelled as he walked down the corridor. He turned a corner and went down to the kitchens. When he got there, he saw that Cook was trying to keep the boys from climbing the shelves. “You know if Zaza finds you the two of you are in trouble. Ze has not gotten enough sleep and won’t be happy with you two. Come on. We are supposed to be cleaning up the nursery.”
“Jack, want cookies.” Carrick was trying to stretch up to where Cook kept the hidden stash of cookies for all of them. They were only allowed them once all of their chores were done for the day.
“Ah, my loves, ya’ will only get yer treats when you’ve done yer chores. Now listen to yer brother and help Tatiana to clean up yer mess.” Spencer stood in the doorway to the kitchen and raised ze brow trying to look stern.
“Zaza, you should be resting. Ti and I can take care of these little brats.”
“Ah, Jack. Ye should be with Master Deaglan, not doing what these little ones should be doin’.”
Jack kissed his parent’s cheek and smiled. “I know, but you didn’t get much sleep last night. Arial was fussy. I’ll go see Master Deaglan after I corral the boys.”
Spencer smiled and patted Jack’s cheek.
“My treasure. Alright, I’ll rest till yer Fathers get back, if ye need anything.”
“I know Zaza. Now please, go rest.”
Jack felt little stings on his cheek and neck that woke him up. He looked up, fatigue flooding his body, but the blue light was agitated. Sighing heavily, Jack repositioned the pack on his back and started forward once again following the irritating blue gnat. Jack vowed to smash the little creature when he got out of the situation he was in. Jack trudged on and felt like he was getting close to the exit. He just didn’t know what he was going to find when he finally made it out.
Aaron stood there, clothes tattered, bloody and torn. He looked down at the avatar, breathing heavy as he leaned on the sword in his hand. He knew it had to happen, that to take that place he knew was meant for him he had to subjugate not only himself but Tir Na nOg itself. The realms needed to be gathered together and the infighting be brought to an end. They were all one people, and Aaron was determined to remind them all who they were. He knew he was going to have to battle hate and prejudice. It was what had sent him and Tony away in the first place. He thought of the triad that they once were, the children they had created, and the life they had fought hard to win and his heart ached.
“Ye did well, Aaron,” the Avatar was panting heavily as he lay sprawled on the ground. “Now don’t throw away this gift. You know what to do, and you know where yer battle lay, bring them all back together, and the blessings I have given you shall be nine-fold.”
“More death, more destruction. How can you ask this of me? Of us? Isn’t that what caused this fracture in the first place?”
The Avatar stood, and Aaron stood with him.
“You know who did this. You know the evil that is trying to seep into the Realms, and you know that the three of you together, along with those you trust around you, will be able to defeat the dark pall that is trying to spread over the Fae. You’ve shown you are worthy and ready for the fight, now take what ye’ve been given and ye will be free.”
The Avatar shimmered then disappeared. Aaron felt weary, a bone-deep weariness that flooded through his whole body. He was about to take a step forward when before him a large looking glass appeared. The voice of the Avatar came back to him as he stood there waiting.
“Look and see what has happened, then you know your duty.”
Aaron watched as the scene in the looking glass swirled and changed. He saw the throne room of the Unseelie court bathed in a slick, black oiliness that seemed to ooze darkness and evil. Aaron saw his Father laughing a cruel, evil laugh as he sat there upon the throne, his corruption infecting everyone and everything around him. Aaron felt the fury inside him, his own darkness reached out, wanting to touch that of his Father’s but he fought it back and redirected. Aaron would not let his family’s evil corrupt him, he had so many reasons to stay in the light, he didn’t want his magic to turn foul, Aaron wanted to make things right.
The scene changed, and he saw Spencer with the children around them. Aaron ached with the want to be with them, wanting Tony to be there as well. The Seelie court wasn’t yet affected by the corruption, but Aaron knew it was only a matter of time. He understood, then, what the maze was all about. It was forcing the memories to the surface and making him choose sides.
“I will always choose my mates, my children, those that seek right before I would succumb to my Father’s dark whims.” Aaron stood tall and let his magic wash over him, let his hands fill with the fire that burned hot and deep within him. He glared at the looking glass as it changed again, showing him Tir Na nOg and how the corruption was leaking out over the land infecting everything it touched. Aaron felt the fire flash in his eyes then he let it loose at the looking glass, shattering it completely. Aaron’s choice made, he gathered his pack and stood, looking forward, the hedges appeared to have parted, showing him the way to the center. His heart sped up knowing his journey to remember who he was and what he was destined for was coming to an end. The rest of his life, that was just the beginning.
Tony was trying to fight off the voices in his head. They kept on going, pushing, till he thought he was going slightly insane. Tony stumbled into another small clearing where a piano sat, inviting him to play. At this point, he would believe anything, even a piano in the middle of a hedge maze if it would get the voiced to stop. He considered the piano for a moment and wondered if maybe he played, it would banish the constant voices that were battering at him, making him doubt his own reality, making him doubt himself.
Holding his head with his hands, Tony stumbled forward and slumped down on the bench, no longer even questioning what was happening to him. Taking a chance, he moved his hands away from his face, opened the fallboard, then closing his eyes he started to play.
Tony let the music wash over him as he felt the center of his very being fill with a warm light that seemed like magic. The music came to him easily as he sat there letting his fingers strike the keys almost of their own volition. His feet appeared to know what to do as well. The music wasn’t anything like he ever remembered playing. At least not on the piano in the townhouse in London, which was so very far away from where he was now. This music was strange, ethereal and came from a place that tied him to a land he had forgotten.
As the magic of the music wrapped around him, memories exploded in his mind, but he didn’t fight them this time. Tony let them come.
The feeling of Spencer under him as he slipped inside his lover’s sex was almost too much for him. He had to stop and take a breath. Then hands were wrapped around his hips, gripping tight while Aaron held him still for a moment. Lips gently kissed his shoulder, while Spencer reached up and kissed him on the lips. Antoni moaned obscenely as he sank deeper inside Spencer. A slick finger slipped inside him, and he trembled at the pleasure that swamped him.
This memory was the night of their bonding. Tony’s heart pounded in his chest as the music he played kept him firmly in the memory. He felt his eyes fill wondering what could make him forget one of the most beautiful days of his life. Their handfasting had been a lavish ceremony, Aaron dressed in formal attire, Spencer in flowing purple that was hard to define. It was gossamer thin but flattered his lines and angles in such a way that it made both Tony and Aaron catch their breath. Tony remembered the white fitted suit his mother had made him with the intricate embroidery all down the front of his jacket. Runic magic to bless their triad.
Tony remembered that this was the night that Jack had been conceived. The bonding magic had weaved around them as they came together again, and again through the evening. Their bodies slick with sweat, but still they could not get enough of each other. The magic felt like it was weaving their very souls together, creating an unbreakable bond.
When Aaron breached him, Tony almost hadn’t been able to hold back. Then as one, they came together, their release triggering the final stages of the bonding. Collapsing in a tangle of limbs, none of them wanted to be very far from the others. Touching, caressing, kissing, it wasn’t enough, and soon their coupling was repeated.
Tony felt the wetness on his face as the music weaved tighter around him. He could feel it in every part of himself, heart, mind, body, and soul. His mind opened up even more, and all those repressed memories came flooding in. The onslaught was almost too much for him, Tony stopped playing and barely kept himself upright. The wave of emotions that came with the memories was painful, and Tony felt like he was being ripped apart.
The music stopped, the instrument disappeared, and Tony felt the trunk of a fallen tree holding him up. He wiped at the wetness on his cheeks and worked to get his emotions under control.
“So, you think you can handle what comes next?” The Fae standing before him looked familiar, but Tony’s memories were still jumbled. He was trying to puzzle them out, make them fit together to make sense. The harder he fought for control, the worse the pain in his head became. He glared up at the Fae, then stood. His legs were shaky, his emotions out of control, but there was one thing Tony did better than anyone, he knew how to fake being okay. He pulled that mask that was always there, under the surface for whenever he needed it. Slipping into a role was always easy for him, and right now he needed that role to get him through the next steps.
“Oh, I think I can handle anything that is thrown my way. I’ve proven myself already, don’t you think?” Tony crossed his arms over his chest and let confidence line every single part of his body.
The Fae slowly walked around him, studying him as if Tony was under some microscope.
“I think yer afraid. Yer mate is tough. He claims his place in the world and knows what he must do. But you, even now, reject even yer own memories. You know ‘ya want to turn back, go back to the flat in London, ferget who ye really are because ye can no longer hide. No mask will help you, Antoni.”
Tony felt the rage well up inside him, an anger born of frustration and the years apart from his family, his children, Spencer. Without even thinking Tony lashed out, a bright hot light left his hands and enveloped the Fae that was taunting him.
“I’m not afraid.” Tony felt the truth of his own words as he stood up straighter, narrowing his eyes at the stranger. “I’m not afraid of what come next. I want to go home. I want my family and our life back, and I want to find the son of a bitch that did this to us.”
“And, dear Antoni, what will you do when you learn the truth?” The Fae tilted his head, his crystal like blue eyes sparkled in the setting sun, a smirk lifting the corners of his mouth as he kept a steady gaze on Tony.
Tony stared back at him and knew, deep down in the bottom of his very soul, he knew what he was willing to do to not only regain his life but to hold onto it.
“I want to kill every last one who had anything to do with trying to break my bond with my mates.”
The Fae let his head fall back, and the laughter that spilled out was almost joyful. Tony was a little afraid at the glee that the Fae was taking in Tony’s admission.
“Fair thee well, then Antoni. And don’t disappoint me.” The Fae faded from Tony’s sight, and he was left standing there knowing he passed some kind of test, he just wasn’t sure what it was. Shaking his head he turned towards the hedge that was opening up, and there before him, standing at the fountain in the center of this crazy maze were Spencer, Aaron, and an exhausted looking Jack. The fountain sparkled goldenly, and Tony’s eyes trailed down seeing the medallion placed there, with two more beside it. One for each of them.
Tony still didn’t understand everything yet, but he didn’t hesitate for a second as he ran right into Aaron’s arms. Tony was caught up and held close, love pouring from every inch of the man he loved. He turned towards Spencer, who had tears in their beautiful green eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Tony cried as he gathered Spencer in his arms and held them close. The bond that had formed so long before burst forth between the three of them wrapping them in ribbons of light and magic.
“No need ‘t be sorry, love. None of this was yer fault.” Spencer buried their head against Tony’s neck and held him close. “You’ve come home, that’s all that matters.”
Reluctantly Tony pulled away, and Jack ran to him and flung himself into his arms. Little words needed to be spoken between parent and child. Looking up at the faces that Tony held so dear, he had many questions, but there was one more pressing than the others.
“So, who the fuck did this to us, and who is going to pay for it?”
Aaron stood tall, battle lines were going to be drawn, and he knew just where to begin.
“My father. He tried to break our bond and is seeking to subjugate Tir Na nOg with his sick and twisted darkness. We need to take back our rightful places among the Fae and unite them. That is the only way to defeat Madoc and his followers.” Aaron crossed his arms, grim determination on his face.
“Then that is where we start, and we do this together.” Tony took one of Aaron’s hands, then reached for one of Spencer’s. Spencer then reached for Aaron, the three of them an unbroken circle. Magic gathered between them, healing their bond even further. They all three heard laughter and tried to find where it was coming from.
“And so it shall begin,” The voice said before it faded away leaving the trio bathed in magic and light. When finally the light faded, they looked at each other, clean with leather battle armor and circlets on each of their heads denoting their place in the Fae realms. Aaron the Leader and Warrior, Spencer the Druid and healer, Tony the Seeker and the Bard.
“So it begins,” Aaron smiled and knew that together they were an unstoppable force. Winning wasn’t even a choice. It was a necessity. For if they didn’t win, if they didn’t stop his Father, more than the Fae realms would suffer. Aaron, Spencer, and Antoni were now the protectors of both worlds. Failure was not an option.