Sylum Advent 2019: Day One


Author’s Note: Okay guys listen up before you click the ‘read more’ link below a few things. This wasn’t an easy chapter to write, actually this particular piece is the 4th rendition.

As we adjusted and changed storyline with Clan War, it become apparent that Aftermath and Going Home were not going to work it was too embroiled with the CSI shows storylines and we aimed to remove almost or all of the ‘fanfic’ type elements.

Loved One Lost aka Grave Danger … had already been pulled to become it’s own story (which you’ll see later in Advent).

On that note if your expecting Aftermath to look like the original – it won’t. It’s a slight change from the rest of the series, but the best ending for the Arc.

You will have question about particular characters, just wait until after Advent because a few of those will be answered.

Dear Nicolaus,

I am painfully aware that it will have taken you 100 long years of patience before you could read this letter, but knowing that you are a man of the most honorable intent, who has walked this earth for so very long with great dignity and fortitude, I am confident that the contents herewith, will not have been discovered prematurely.

The risks involved in having that happen, are simply too enormous to contemplate.

While this is undoubtedly the strangest missal I have ever written, it may prove useful in marshaling my thoughts for what still lies ahead, and I shall endeavor, of course, to present matters in as linear a form as possible, but hope that you will indulge me if I should turn to some rather unavoidable ramblings.

As I write, I am watching the sunrise over Hill Valley, California, from my living quarters above the town’s Livery Stable, where I have taken up residence in order to hide the DeLorean in which I have safely installed my crowning achievement.

The Flux Capacitor.

To explain it’s functions in scientific terms would not benefit you at this point, Nicolaus, but needless to say it forms the central unit of a larger device for which such a car was perfectly suited. Thrust to weight ratio, was one of the most difficult problems to solve, and the DeLorean is constructed with both in mind.

It is The Year of Our Lord, 1885.

And the Flux Capacitor controls a fully functioning Time Machine.

Now, before you hurl my letter into the nearest fire, it is essential that you read it to the end first, and then, once I have concluded this tale, if you still decide I am a lunatic in need of an asylum, you may dispose of it in flames.

But if I can convince you I am telling the truth, you will undoubtedly be the salvation of both Marty and I.

You see, I Turned and Bonded with him last night. He was close to death, and there was nothing to be done but save him in the only way a Vampire truly knows how.

He lies beside me, sound asleep, unaware that I am writing.

His innocence still shocks me even now.

This all began in the November of 1955, when I fell off my toilet whilst hanging a clock.

Absurdly, having cracked my forehead on the porcelain, I had a considerable vision, which was quickly swamped by a considerable headache until I’d Fed. What I saw did rather delay my intake of blood however, but I had to jot down sketches and notations, in the hope of studying it’s potential.

It took me, ironically, 30 years to achieve, for the necessary technologies required were not available to me then. It is only the miniaturization of component parts that has enabled me to build what I saw that day.

And it works.

Of course, time travel was but a theoretical possibility until now – one that I have wrestled to comprehend in company with many other scientific minds over the years. They themselves may not ever truly accept what I have done, but I can assure you, once my Mate and I are back in our proper place in the timeline, I shall destroy this infernal machine.

There is no other choice.

If I were to tell you I built it for Marty, that I might go back and correct certain issues with his family history in order for him to be granted a better chance at life, it would make me sound as though my motives were merely philanthropic. They were not, but they were the guiding motivation.

At present it is hard to be certain whether any of my interventions have fully succeeded.

All I know for certain is that I can rely on your assistance, and if all else fails, you will be there to assist Marty in what for me now is the future, but for you is the present.

I knew in 1955, on the very same day I fell off my toilet, that my vision would become a reality (or rather was already a reality) when Marty arrived on my doorstep, wearing clothes and shoes of strange design that I had never seen on anyone else before, imploring me to hear a wild tale of time travel in a futuristic car that no one had yet designed.

Knowing he was my Mate, and still barely a youth, I naturally freaked out a little.

Yet he was persistent.

He came to me from 1985.

It was his birthday, to be exact.

And he had just turned 18.

In 1985, I demonstrated the Time Machine to him in the parking lot of the Twin Pines Mall in Hill Valley. It was early in the morning, there was no one to witness what was happening with those first experiments, and my dear dog, Einstein, became the world’s first time traveler, going forward into the future exactly 1 minute. The details were fully recorded and you can find them in my notes, enclosed with this letter.

Although, it strikes me now that as Vampires, are we not all of us time travelers in our way, living through millennia, witnessing the passage of time for ourselves?

But I digress.

Initially, the power source for the Time Machine was only available to me with the use of plutonium. As you can imagine, the energy release necessary to thrust an object to greater than light speed, is in itself phenomenal, but by pushing the car on a regular fuel based engine up to 88 mph, the energy required settled at only 1.21 gigawatts, and a single plutonium rod provided that. Of course, obtaining radioactive material was not exactly easy, or safe. Being a scientist, I was fully versant in the safety measures (both I and Marty had protective suites at the time, as did Einstein), but the terrorists from whom I’d liberated the plutonium, were not so smart.

Basically, I told them I would build them a bomb with it, but all I gave them was a shoddy casing full of used pinball machine parts that made a healthy ticking sound and scared them enough to have them reconsider their plans for the destruction of Western Imperialism. It sounds dreadfully dramatic, but in the long term, the government should probably thank me.

What I hadn’t anticipated at the time, was said terrorists being rather pissed off at my second rate theatrical ‘bomb’ thing, and catching up with me in the parking lot.

It pains me to say that Marty witnessed my being shot, and in a panic, not understanding my Vampire nature, he wound up fleeing in the DeLorean from a fate that I even now shudder to contemplate.

I take full responsibility, Nicolaus.

Full.

I had loaded another plutonium rod for my next experiment, contemplating a trip into the past, but had not yet loaded a second rod for the return trip.

Not realizing this, Marty avoided being shot by leaping to safety in the DeLorean, and as soon as he put his foot on the accelerator and hit 88mph, he was gone.

To the very same day, and the very same time in the year 1955.

In 1985, once I woke up off the asphalt and staggered over to my truck for some blood, recollections began forming of in fact meeting Marty for the first time in 1955. From that alone, I knew where he had gone, but my frustration at being unable to help him, was enormous.

Over the ensuing few days, what happened in 1955 came back to me in 1985, as though I were witnessing scenes at a cinema showing for one, courtesy of having long held a most prodigious memory.

One of the strangest things I recall, was watching the illuminated sign for the Twin Pines Mall, morph itself before my astonished eyes into the sign for Lone Pine Mall. This aberration, Marty has explained to me, in that once he landed in 1955, he crashed through one of the pine trees that had hitherto given the mall it’s name. These are now facts that have been recorded in the documents of the Hill Valley Preservation Society, alleging that a UFO apparently landed on the farmland where the mall now stands. Or so I discovered in those few terrible days when I wondered whether Marty would inadvertently affect the timeline to such a degree that dinosaurs might suddenly begin walking the earth again. As this story unfolds, you may wonder how it is possible I still know this.

To be honest, I have no idea, but my movement along the timeline has enabled me to understand and retain many things I wish I could forget.

All that aside, the me in 1955 who was utterly unaware of either the terrorists, the plutonium, or the pine trees, was coming to terms with the sketches I’d made earlier that morning, being presented to me as a very real danger to the time in which I was then living.

And yet the ridiculous nature of things, has kept unfolding.

The biggest problem I faced in getting Marty back to the future, was finding something to manufacture an energetic charge of 1.21 gigawatts.

Trust me, that is an enormous figure given that in 1985 the United States as a whole is using somewhere around 400 gigawatts all told.

Nevertheless, Fate blessedly intervened, for other than plutonium the only way to generate so much energy was with a lightning bolt, and for once in the history of mankind, I knew precisely when a bolt would strike.

In his pocket from 1985, Marty carried a flier detailing the fund raising activities designed to preserve the famous Hill Valley Clock Tower, which it claimed had been struck by lightning at 10.04pm on November 12th, 1955. That date was just a few days away, and all I had to do was adapt the energy absorption system in the car, to receive a direct external, rather than internal charge. And naturally I had to keep Marty hidden from the world before he did something that could be regrettable to future events.

I was successful at the first, but not so much at the second.

Marty, being ever curious, and seeing how I could hardly lock him up in the basement, went to school. I gave him strict instructions to keep his head down and stay out of trouble, but he ran into his future mother and father, and trouble to boot, in the form of Biff Tannen, the school bully (and a Vampire too, I might add!).

I couldn’t blame Marty for thinking he was doing the right thing when he prevented his father from being hit by a car after falling out of a tree (he was spying on Marty’s mother through her bedroom window of all things!) but it prevented the meeting of mother and father and threatened the birth of Marty and his two siblings. It was a most ridiculous nightmare, that ought to be recorded as a comedy of errors worthy of Mr. Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, we avoided having Marty accidentally erased from history, and saved the marriage of his parents too, as his formerly weak-willed and easily manipulated father managed to deck Biff Tannen in one punch (a truly noteworthy feat for a human being against a Vampire) and claim his future wife in a most sweeping and romantic gesture, quite unlike their original rather more seedy meeting. Originally, Marty’s father had gotten hit by the car after falling out of the tree. The car was driven by his future father-in-law!

Not exactly a salubrious beginning, but the day was finally saved in a more stunning and less sleazy fashion, and history has played out in Marty’s favor far better than anything I could myself have hoped to achieve in giving my beloved Mate a more agreeable future.

Or rather, I should say ‘past’. In 1985, these things are already history, but Marty will remember the way things once were as well as the way things currently are. This is because he was outside of the original timeline that he first came from, when the new one was created around him.

The lightning bolt at the Clock Tower arrived perfectly on schedule, and whilst I had some bruises for my last minute efforts in securing the cables and hooks that were used to channel the power of it into the Flux Capacitor, I witnessed for myself Marty’s dramatic return to 1985 in a pair of flaming tire trails down the road toward the cinema, just past the Court House.

And that really ought to have been an end to it.

Indeed it was, as far as my 1955 self was concerned. I simply packed up my tools and went home.

But in 1985, Marty was forced to abandon the DeLorean when it’s starter motor failed to re-engage, and ran from the Court House to the Mall thinking he had time enough to save me from being shot. He had tried, on several occasions to warn me in 1955 of my coming fate in 1985, but I had refused point blank to listen to him. I could not know of my future, no matter how bleak it might at first appear. Marty even went to great lengths in writing me a letter which he slipped into my coat pocket at the last second before his voyage home that night. I tore it up, fool that I am.

But later, I taped it back together.

His anguish was something I could not live with another 30 years.

It turned out however, that he’d changed his arrival time in 1985 to a few minutes before what he thought was my death, thinking he’d have time to save me.

How can I fault him for that? I should have told him long ago, of my Vampire self.

What he found when he raced to the newly minted Lone Pine Mall, was himself. Or rather I should say, he was watching me get shot, and himself vanish into the past.

At this point, I ought to explain that the terrorists are dead. You see, when Marty vanished at 88mph, he left a pair of fire trails behind from the tires, and the terrorists crashed into a 1 hour photo booth, blowing themselves and the booth to smithereens in the fire they’d just raced through.

So, no one has to worry about them right now!

Anyway, back to the real problem.

Marty, thinking I was dead, quickly discovered that I wasn’t when I woke up and staggered to my van for some blood.

His tears of misery, are something I shall never forget.

His astonished, horrified confusion when I stood up dripping blood all down my chest, is also something I shall never forget.

Needless to say, once we’d fled the scene of the terrorists’ demise, we spent the rest of the night in a long conversation, the flow of which you can certainly imagine for yourself. The only thing I failed to tell him at that juncture was about Mates.

I figured, what the hell?

There would be time to tell him later.

After putting his letter from 1955 back together, I really should’ve known better.

The sun was already up when I delivered him to his house, and he soon discovered the new and improved family situation in which he found himself.

Trust me.

It’s better.

It’s a whole hell of a lot better.

His father is a far more confident man, and a highly successful science fiction writer, his mother is far more self-assured, and works as a tennis instructor. Even his siblings are no longer the whiny little cretins I remember, having been raised completely differently.

Everything about Marty’s family life and upbringing has changed, all because his father George, hit Biff Tannen, rescued the girl and found his courage for life.

Not a bad job!

Marty remembers who they once were, and it will take him some time to work himself into the new and improved future, but his own confidence has grown by leaps and bounds after being stuck in 1955 for a while.

To my horror, it turned out that Biff Tannen was not just the High School bully, but he was once the bully who browbeat Marty’s father at the factory job they used to have together. Only, in this new 1985, he’s very much not that man.

I’d never met him until Marty came to me in 1955, and I discovered he was a Vampire. I could only assume the man had latched himself onto George McFly and used him as an easily controllable source of nourishment for years. But in the new 1985, Biff was much reduced in both status and power, and somewhere along the intervening 30 years appeared on the surface at least, to have become far more meek and mild. In fact, we found him at his car detailing business, polishing George’s car!

Quite a turn around indeed. And if the story ended there I would be warning you of him, purely as an unknown Rogue in the Vampire world. But who knows what other mischief he could be up to? Is his possibly sworn to Knight Clan and I am unaware? Is he still browbeating others in Hill Valley?

Upon finding me in Marty’s company, Tannen’s demeanor changed markedly as he noticed my own nature, and while he did not threaten the McFly family where I could see, I am deeply concerned about his presence in their lives.

I cannot send Marty back to the future from where we are now, not with that threat still looming.

Let me explain why I am so concerned.

Having had a perfect demonstration of why exactly, the plutonium rods were unacceptable for powering the Time Machine, I determined to find alternate sources of energy, and so, leaving Marty with the new truck his father had bought him for his 18th birthday (which surprisingly it still was!) I took a short trip into the future, hoping to locate Stark Industries in Los Angeles, and secure the use of their Arc Reactor technology. I had not one single doubt that a company of such influence would still be operating in the future, and yes, I spent some time with them around the year 2025, being pleasantly rewarded for my efforts. The Time Machine no longer requires plutonium, and I have left the remaining radioactive material there with those who can dispose of it correctly. The engine of the DeLorean however, still runs on regular gasoline.

I should also tell you that the car now flies.

Certain technology from Stark Industries allows for it to do so, by folding up the wheels into the wells and activating lift, much along the same lines as the floating futuristic skateboard I found myself with the back of the car.

I only tell you this because it matters to where I am sitting right now, and why I am here.

I would dearly love to tell you of the other wonders I found, Nicolaus, but I can’t, simply because it could interfere again with far too many things. Marty and I were lucky in 1955. I couldn’t risk that luck further.

At least until I realized that I had to do something about Marty’s future.

Firstly, to my horror, it wasn’t being spent with me!!!

Yes, this is where the selfish part of me took control of the logical and rational one.

What on earth had separated us so badly?

I’ll tell you, it was a girl.

And why not?

His girlfriend, Jennifer, who from my perspective wanted him only for his car. In the 1985 we’d known before, she’d already dumped him for being a loser. In this new 1985, she seemed to find him more attractive, and she wouldn’t go away.

He was spending his future with her, growing old and cranky together just like his parents, and being bullied by someone else at his place of work, just as his own father had once been.

Needles was the man’s name. And he turned out to be a Chosen One of Biff Tannen. By 2025, Tannen was masquerading as an old man, which meant he was still in someone’s life, and couldn’t reveal himself to be a Vampire. When I realized this, after finding him sat in the back of a diner I was using on a brief stop in the future of Hill Valley, bragging about his power over ‘dweebs like McFly’, I knew I had to act.

Tracing the event that led to Marty’s descent into repetition of his father’s once horrendous mistakes in life, wasn’t easy, but it stemmed from the day of his 18th birthday yet again, his having been called ‘chicken’ and dared into racing along the Pacific Coast Highway with his brand new truck.

He’d crashed into a Rolls Royce with Jennifer in the passenger seat. She was perfectly fine, but he’d badly broken his hand, lost his ability with the guitar, lost his dreams of one day becoming a musician, and spiraled downward into a pit of self-pity that only Jennifer seemed able to lift him out of.

I really didn’t want to know what he’d said to me after that event, sufficient to walk away from what I’d hoped might be our future together, but as I hadn’t actually lived it yet, seeing that I was in the future at the time, I was spared the agony.

However, I wasn’t spared the desire to fix things.

It seemed easy enough.

Get back to 1985, where I belonged, and keep Marty away from that damned truck. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t the truck that was the problem.

The problem is his habitual inability to walk away from people who call him ‘chicken’. He’s the youngest of the McFly’s so I can see how his desire to prove himself is likely to manifest in such a way. I’m not a psychologist, but I figured I had to shock him out of his mindset on this.

He needed to know that he could walk away and his ego wouldn’t be damaged as a result.

I wonder if this is some latent gene from his previously weak and easily intimidated father?

So, I interfered.

I went back to 1985, to Marty’s birthday, and I attempted to reason with him, warning him of future events before he got in his truck. Our little stint in the past, and all my good advice and stern warnings about never knowing future events in case things don’t work out correctly, fell on particularly unproductive ears, and he ignored me completely.

You can’t imagine my agony, in watching what played out, but being resourceful, I snuck into his hospital room, and kidnapped him out of his bed that night while he was still groggy from the anesthesia.

He’s my Mate.

You know you’d do anything for your own.

I put him in the Time Machine, and we went back to the future, that I might show him his mistakes. It wasn’t easy keeping him from all the other distractions that such a time period could offer, including the sight of his future wife and children, but I managed it, and resigned myself to him wanting a normal life with Jennifer instead of being Mated to me. The thought of family excited him. And I could not deny him that possibility.

No one could.

Once he realized what he’d done, he vowed never to be so misled again by the taunts of others who might think him otherwise weak, and I determined to put him back in 1985 with instructions to learn from his own father’s mistakes. I may have inadvertently terrified him a little, but he’s young, he’ll understand with the unfolding years.

As for myself, I determined to come to the Manor, and lose myself in my own misery until I could figure out what else to do with my life.

It didn’t exactly pan out as expected.

While I was busy filling some canisters with gas so I could refuel the DeLorean without exposing it to view, Marty ended up wandering around Hill Valley, where he spotted a Antiques Store that was full of items painfully familiar to him in 1985. That was were he found what he thought might be the solution to his future difficulties.

Gray’s Sports Almanac dating from 1950-2000.

He thought to go back to 1985, place a few bets, win a fortune, and his problems would be solved.

Sound and reasonable thinking for anyone, truth be told, and he may have been subconsciously remembering some of my own financial difficulties, not realizing that you, dear Nicolaus, had actually used Clan resources to help me out.

However, such interference was utterly unconscionable, and I lectured him sternly, tossing said book of stats into the trash.

How I wish I’d known that Biff Tannen was watching us!

I suspect he’d seen us long before that moment, and believe he was following us in hopes of determining just how Marty, not being a Vampire yet, could possibly be so very young looking in 2025.

I duly filled the car.

In trying to placate Marty by showing him some of the more positive things that the future could yet hold, I secured the Time Machine in an alley near the industrial waste bins of a store by the Court House. We laughed at the Clock Tower, which I can tell you still stands and is still broken.

Some monuments never die, do they?

When we got back to the car, something was wrong. The fuel gauge was adrift, and the time circuits by which it is possible to see where you currently are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going, were flashing erratically.

I was also horrified to find the head of Biff’s walking stick in the footwell. His ‘aged disguise’ included one, with a handle shaped distinctly like a fist, with which he would rap on the heads of those he considered his minions.

Technically they’d be referred to as Chosen Ones but minions is a word that fits better.

It seemed obvious to me that Biff had been in the car. He’d used the Time Machine, and the past wasn’t going to be pretty.

This was further anticipated when I found the purchase receipt for Gray’s Sports Almanac, in the cushion crack of the passenger seat.

But we had no choice. Regardless of how 1985 might look to us, we had to return to our timeline. We didn’t belong anywhere near 2025, and we’d done enough harm.

Oh, the harm we had done.

There was no way to have anticipated how bad it really was.

Biff had given the Sports Almanac to his younger self.

And he’d used it.

This much Marty discovered at the ‘Museum of Biff Tannen: The Luckiest Man Alive’, which stood inside Biff Tannen’s Pleasure Paradise Casino and Hotel.

Tannen had won his first million betting on a horse race March 28th, 1958. He’d claimed it was his 21st birthday, but I wasn’t sure when he’d been Turned. He could’ve used it first, much earlier than that if he’d been Turned long before the 1950’s. Or alternatively, he could’ve been Turned before he was 21 and in order to not draw attention to himself, he placed a bet once he was legally able to.

Either way, we had to know when exactly, the Biff Tannen of this 1985 had gotten his hands on the damn book.

It was far from easy. Along the way, Marty discovered in this hideous version of 1985 that his father had died, his mother had married Tannen, and he was meant to be in some expensive finishing school in Switzerland.

Tannen had more money than common sense, and was set for a political run too, being made popular by wealth and fame rather than brains and hard work.

My 1985 was every bit as hideous as Marty’s, given that I’d apparently been confined to a Mental Hospital, and had all my worldly goods confiscated.

You’re no doubt wondering what such a dramatic change in the timeline might have wrought for Sylum Clan, but I could not bring myself to look. It was bad enough that Hill Valley had become a rotten, corruption infested shadow of itself, with Tannen and his Casino Hotel right there in the center of it where the Court House once stood.

It was a glittering carbuncle on the face of history.

And it had to go.

We needed to know when Biff first got that book. So Marty, braving life and limb in the face of Tannen’s minions, who were not averse to all kinds of violence, went to speak to him. He wasn’t meant to be in the country, so it was simpler for him to confront Tannen, than for me to do it.

How would I have explained my sudden freedom from the mental ward?

Marty did his job exceptionally well, driven by the fact that this nightmare was in part his own doing – his having purchased the Almanac, to begin with – and also by the unflinching desire to avenge his dead father (whom Tannen actually confessed to killing with the same gun he used to threaten Marty!).

But blustering braggarts are all the same, and once you get them to talk, the rest is fairly simple.

Biff talked.

He bragged.

He gloated.

But he told us what we needed to know.

Namely that ‘some old codger with a cane’ had shown up in 1955 and given him the book, on the night of the great Hill Valley lightning storm.

November 12th.

I couldn’t believe it.

I wonder even now if that particular date is some kind of nexus in time and space around which events of great significance were always meant to rotate? And if so, do such other points on the time-space continuum exist?

We duly went back to 1955 to correct this awful, hideous, aberration of a timeline we had created.

We already knew what that date would hold.

We’d just been there.

But we had to avoid ourselves.

Literally.

We were still there, the 1955 version of me, and the 1985 version of Marty from before his accident. We were waiting for the lightning, and giving the McFly’s what we’d originally seen as a decent future.

If we messed with THAT?

Well, if we messed with any of that, we would never have been able to fix anything.

Ever.

Time isn’t as linear as we think it is, Nicolaus.

Not by a long shot.

But it can vary, and branch off like arms on a tree.

You just have to find your way back to the trunk of it. That’s the hard part.

However, we got the job done.

It was ‘heavy’ as Marty likes to say, and was once more a comedy of errors as Strickland, the High School Principal intervened at the last minute, diverted our attention and almost cost us the whole endeavor.

Actually, I had no idea that Marty was so very adept at skateboarding. But with some clever dexterity and the bright pink floating device he’d allegedly ‘borrowed’ from a little girl skating in the town square in 2025, we got the book back, burned it and watched in delight as our real 1985 was reset.

Much like the Twin Pines Mall sign morphing into a variation of itself, so the headlines about my confinement, the picture we’d taken of George McFly’s tombstone, and the Tannen Casino and Hotel matchbook that Marty had pocketed back in the disastrous version of 1985, all morphed into something else.

The headline showed me receiving a science award.

The tombstone vanished, leaving nothing but an image of long grass.

And the matchbook showed the logo for Tannen Auto Detailing.

We breathed a happy and slightly giddy sigh of relief, and determined to go back to our real future ASAP.

However, the very lightning storm that saved Marty the first time around, was far worse outside of town, where we’d first landed (and where coincidentally Marty’s family would one day live) and from where we would remove ourselves, hopefully never to return.

He was on the ground, soaked to the bone.

I had been flying, using the DeLorean as a platform to help him steal the book back from Tannen’s car.

I had to circle around in the wind to get a good safe landing, and the DeLorean was struck by lightning.

Marty watched it happen.

Everything seemed fine though. There was a sharp smell of ozone, and on our walkie talkies (never leave home without them!) I told him I’d try another landing.

That was when I got a struck a second time.

Only because he’s here with me, do I know what Marty went through, seeing me vanish. Instead of leaving tire trails behind, I left a momentary burning spark in the air that he says looked like quotation marks.

It’s rather a shame I didn’t see it.

But the time circuits were fried.

Two lightning bolts and I was done.

I had no idea where I’d gone, and neither did he at first.

He tells me he stood around in the rain for ages, waiting for me to pop back up again, but I didn’t.

Instead, he was approached by a man from Western Union, bearing a letter addressed to him personally, with instructions that it only be opened by the intended recipient, on November 12th, 1955, at that exact time, and at those exact geographic coordinates. The Western Union rep was naturally puzzled and inquisitive, but Marty knew instantly that the letter was from me.

He just didn’t know until he’d read it, that I was in 1885.

The letter confirmed it, as did Western Union records.

I actually wrote it 3 days ago, and knowing that it was received as planned, has encouraged me to write this one to you.

You will have also received yours in 1955 with instructions to put it in your safe and not open it until the exact time specified in 1985.

I have done this deliberately.

Only when you finish reading this will you fully understand why.

In my letter to Marty, I told him precisely where he could find the Time Machine, left for him in the long abandoned Delgado silver mine, where I’d placed it the same day I’d written to him. My self in 1955 would enable him to fix it, as I have no technologies here in 1885 with which to even begin forming such circuitry. I told him under no uncertain terms to go back to his birthday in 1985 and I would wait to catch up with him in that timeline.

But given that he is here and not in 1985, suggests his grasp of the Vampire element in the situation, was not entirely certain.

I knew he was coming back for me when I started finding myself with memories from 1955 of helping him unbury the Time Machine.

Memories of my having initially sent him back to 1985 outside the Court House, were suddenly beset with recollections of finding him standing right behind me again almost instantly, the moment I turned around to congratulate myself of a successful night.

An event which, sad to say, had me passing out from shock on the road.

But Marty, being most resourceful under the circumstances, picked me up and got me home and we reread my letter while our clothes dried out, and came up with a plan.

I could see the logic of my staying in 1885. I wouldn’t age, and I’d get to see the 20th Century again. But my 1955 self had no idea that my 1985 self had previously explained the Vampire to him, and as my letter failed to mention Vampires at all in case in fell into the wrong hands, I obviously thought it best if he go fetch me and put me back in the right time where I belonged.

The circuitry that had been fried required parts that couldn’t possibly be miniaturized in 1955. I remember marveling then at how the tiny electronic board had said ‘Made In Japan’. Marty had scoffed at me of course, telling me all the best stuff was made there, but there was no way I could recreate such a thing, so I wound up strapping the much bigger and far heavier, glass tube variety that I’d managed to cobble together, straight on the hood of the DeLorean instead.

And with that, I sent Marty to go fetch me home.

What an idiot I was.

Am.

Still could be, actually.

I sent him in the only clothing I could lay my hands on that best seemed to match Western gear, so that he might blend in with the past. But his boots didn’t fit, his shiny pink shirt with the frill and all that gold embroidery was hideous, and his hat was more Roy Rogers than Clint Eastwood.

Certainly the 1950’s now appear to me a time of greater naivety than actual innocence.

But Marty was eager to get me and go home, and I don’t blame him for that.

Knowing at least, that the old West wouldn’t have roads that even vaguely resembled something of the 1950’s, I determined to send Marty backward in time, in a place where he wouldn’t be seen arriving, well outside Hill Valley, and so took him to the Drive-In. I do remember him saying it would’ve been better if the car could fly, but at that point in time, I had no idea what he was talking about. Of course the me from 1985, now in 1885, could only sympathize with what Marty was saying, especially as he ended up ripping the fuel line on the DeLorean once he reached 1885 and found there were indeed no real roads to drive on.

He said something about Indians and Cavalry, and hiding the car from both in a low overhanging cave in the mountain foothills, where he got chased by a bear who wound up chewing on his useless boots. And indeed, the car was there when we went to fetch it. The fuel line was indeed torn, and there was nothing left for us to power the regular car engine with.

I estimate that fuel will not be commercially available to me here for at least another 20 years or so.

This problem I shall return to, but I need to mention what happened that led to me Turning Marty, and saving his life.

Rather than wear his boots, as clearly the bear believed them to be a tasty snack, he wandered into town wearing his Nikes from 1985, and an outfit that marked him as some kind of traveling circus performer, according to what the locals have said. It was only a while later that he told me he’d run into his ancestor, local farmer Seamus McFly and wife, immigrants from Ireland with the red hair and freckles to go with it.

He seemed particularly horrified to discover that Seamus once had a brother named Martin McFly, who’d let men provoke him into daring-do, and gotten himself killed when someone shoved a Bowie Knife in his belly in a saloon in Virginia City. This is a part of his family history that Marty has never been told before, and hearing it straight from the actual source has certainly done more for his temperament than I did when we were in 2025.

But once more, I digress. I am only happy that Marty hasn’t upset the future again by spending time with his ancestors, and that Seamus hasn’t seen any kind of family connection between himself and Marty. And why should he? Such a thing would be virtually impossible for him to imagine, let alone determine. Seamus and his wife have a baby son named George, the first of their family born in America, and they all seem blissfully unaware of what is transpiring around them.

At first, I had no real recollection of when Marty would materialize in town, but then I certainly heard the ensuing commotion.

He’d done a very wise thing and gone to the saloon to look for information on where to find me. Apparently I hadn’t said I was in the Livery Stable, which is an oversight of idiotic proportions, though I did say I was a blacksmith. Nevertheless, Marty figured that the saloon would be a good place to start, and there would have been no problem with that at all, if he hadn’t been approached by a Tannen, who had mistaken him for Seamus.

Seamus had lent him an unfortunately designed hat that was even more noticeable than his shirt and futuristic shoes.

Yes, there’s a Tannen here, and it’s taken me a while to figure out that it’s the same Tannen from 1955, 1985, and 2025. Only here, he calls himself Buford Tannen.

So clearly the man was Turned a considerable time before 1955!!

I attempted to find some records that might shed light on Tannen’s family history here, but of course such records are sparse, as Hill Valley in this time period is only just becoming a town of any real size. In fact, there is a dedication coming shortly at the Town Festival, for the new clock that will be installed in the Tower on the Court House, just as soon as the Court House is finished construction.

How fitting then, that Marty and I should be here for this. It’s almost poetic.

But on the subject of Tannen and how he got here, I can tell you nothing. It would be wrong to make any further assumptions, but he has minions here too, who pass as his ‘gang’, and for all I know he could be even older than I think. He is, however, very dangerous, unrestrained by the influence of other Vampires. There are no others here like me, save for him, and now Marty.

My concern is all the greater now that my Mate too is a Vampire.

Tannen took offense at Mary’s sneakers, and his hat that made him seem to ‘McFly’ for his tastes, obviously indicating that Tannen has been plaguing the McFly family for far longer than any of us knew.

The situation was made all the worse by his minions, who of course delighted him in being as obnoxious as he, leading him to commit yet more violence to delight them in return.

They dragged my poor Mate through the small town, having lassoed him behind Tannen’s horse, and when they were done, they strung him up from the scaffolding frames at the Court House, declaring that for having offended them he should be the first man to die there. Which indeed he would’ve been had I not intervened.

Tannen has the entire town terrified when Marshal Strickland and the Sheriff are not around to stop him. Yes, the Stricklands have been here for a long time too, or so it would seem.

No one stopped them but I, with the use of a rifle I have modified to be far more accurate than it’s original design ever intended. I could quite literally shoot the fleas off a dog’s back with it, and having told Tannen so, I shot through the rope that bound Marty and dropped him to the ground.

Tannen wants me dead.

I don’t have to be a Vampire to know that.

He made up some pathetic excuse about me owing him money for a horse he’d shot when it threw a shoe I’d put on it.

I am the only one who knows his true nature, and he can tell I am his biggest threat. If he intends to increase his hold on power here, then he will undoubtedly cause further mayhem, and do it soon. I fear for Marshal Strickland in particular. It’s almost as if Tannen knows that the Stricklands will never go away either, and the Marshal has a young son he is training into manhood.

Once Tannen and his minions had left town, finding no sport in going against a man who could obviously kill all of them in self defense without breaking a sweat, I saw to Marty.

He was barely breathing, blue at the lips, and struggling to hold onto life itself. Though I got him to the Livery Stable, warmed and hydrated him, he was none the better. The town’s doctor was next to useless, and told me the best thing I could do for one who had already been strangled to the point of death, was let him die as painlessly as possible. He told lurid tales of those who’d survived the gallows not living long past their expiration dates, or if they did, they were but shadows of themselves ever after, behaving in a strange and unnatural manner as the brain, starved of oxygen no longer functioned as it once had.

Medicine may be improving in this time period, but it’s barbarism is horrifying to me, having seen the advances of the late 20th Century by comparison.

I could not let my Mate die.

Not then.

Not ever.

So, having told him I would make him a Vampire, though I was not entirely sure he understood me, I Turned him.

When he woke I did all the things that one must do for a Childe of the Blood, and when he was able to talk to me again, we Bonded.

Instinct simply kicked in for the pair of us at that particular juncture.

I would have preferred something more comfortable for him than my cot, and a lot less stressful, but he was in no way forced or coerced. Allow me to make that clear from the outset, for despite our strange and rather precarious position, our relationship until now has been closer than that which others might consider merely ‘friendship’. And it has solidified greatly with our newly burgeoning Bond.

I will teach him more of Vampire life later today. I will take him riding, and allow him to explore what it means to be one of us now.

Truly, Nicolaus, I had no idea how desperate I would be to save him, nor how much I cherish him the more through our Mating.

And so here we are, he asleep, I writing to you.

The DeLorean he brought with him from 1955 is quite a sight with it’s circuitry all strapped on the front, weighing down the suspension. Later, we will fetch it from where he hid it, but I know already that there is nothing I can do to put fuel in it, despite my ability to repair the broken line.

I don’t yet have a plan for us to return to 1985, but we are Vampires now and could live out the century to come together.

Tannen is the only serious problem still standing in our way for that.

But Marty wakes. We shall have breakfast, Feed, and I shall return to this letter later on.

***

Forgive me, Nicolaus, but I have not been able to finish this story for you until now. Three days have passed since I last picked up my pen to write to you, and much has occurred.

I did indeed take Marty out riding that first morning after our Mating. He is learning very fast what it means to be a Vampire, and I find I am longing for him to have instruction from others of our kind as well, who can teach him the skills I do not myself possess.

However, on that ride, we were diverted by the screams of a woman who had lost control of her buggy, the horses having spooked as she drove from the town to her new home outside Hill Valley.

Marty and I quite boldly rescued the poor dear, and the buggy went into a local ravine once the horses broke loose of their reins.

Had she still been on it, she would’ve fallen to her death, but as it stands the buggy is matchwood, her belongings are the length of the ravine floor, and her telescope is need of realignment. A miracle indeed!

Or so I thought.

Her name is Clara Clayton, and she is to be the town’s first school teacher at the newly created establishment next to her modest little house, in what will later become the suburbs (at least as far as I remember them from the future!).

She is very nice, and was very grateful to us both as we gathered what we could find of her things and got her safely to her destination.

Marty didn’t tell me until after we had deposited her on her doorstep, that the lady’s name was the same as that of Clayton Ravine. He said everyone in his school always joked about some teacher falling in there, because they all had teachers themselves whom they would like to see meeting such a nasty end.

He meant it as a joke, but upon examining a local map at the railway station, I soon discovered that Clayton Ravine is still called Shonash Ravine after it’s original Indian name.

We had changed the past by saving someone who was meant to die.

And yes, I realized that this was indeed ‘heavy’, as Marty’s favorite phrase so aptly puts it.

What were we to do?

We could hardly take her to the ravine and shove her off, although Marty joked about it once or twice.

He even suggested we might bring her with us to the future. She doesn’t belong here in the past any more than we do, so that’s not entirely implausible.

But my conscience is troubled by this even more so than when thinking about the terrible, nightmarish 1985 we had created with Tannen being rich and powerful and hellbent on ruling the country.

Clara is a lovely woman, well versed in science, widely read, keen to explore, and deserving of the life we gave her back. Though obviously I have been unable to tell her any of the truth concerning Marty and I, it is my fondest wish to save her from damaging the past by her very existence.

I don’t think she’d want that either.

And yet the truth will surely seem to her as something ludicrous.

I am in a strange position.

At the town festival, Marty and I had our picture taken with the clock before it gets installed in the tower. I have it here, and a fine pair we make together, although I look a little too rigid and uncomfortable to be entirely at ease with myself, as such a festival ought to make a person really feel. It is symbolic, nevertheless, and a reminder to me that Marty looks young enough to be my son rather than my Mate.

This may cause some difficulties for us as the years go by, and I determine to find better Feeding sources for us. The animals here are a good nourishment, but we can’t live entirely on horses, dogs, cows and chickens.

I assume that this is why the Tannen of 1885 looks so much older and more grizzled than he did in 1955, and then in 1985. I will Feed more frequently at least, that I too might appear a bit younger, and not so much the cradle-robber I might be accused of being.

The DeLorean is in a poor state, but it’s been cleaned and I am contemplating taking the fuel out of the one I left buried in the silver mine, in order to try and get the engine firing up again. The red dust out here in the wilds gets into every nook and cranny you can imagine, and not just on the car!

Yes, there are two DeLoreans here now, the one Marty dug out the mine in 1955, and the one I left for him to find just a few days ago.

Why?

Well, the one I buried for him, is still there and won’t be removed until 1955. By that time the tires will have rotted away, and the system will be dusty and rusted in places. But I have to leave it there, or Marty will not be able to come back to me in 1955, and I run the risk of watching him vanish from my sight back to the original spot where I left him waiting on the road in a lightning storm, still in the wrong time period!

What peculiar convolutions time travel is making for us! Marty understands this, but warned me that touching the car in the mine, even to remove the fuel, might alter things too much and prevent his return to me in 1985. I can’t see how, but he’s started staring at me in a deeply unnerving fashion as though sensing something yet to be.

Perhaps this traveling through time thing, has changed some of his perceptions, and allowed him to be more aware of the flow of all those threads that tie themselves around us as the events we encounter work themselves into our lives? The Vampire does enhance our ability to accept the past lives we may once have lived, and opens our senses to new possibilities.

And so, I will take his caution to heart.

With that in mind, I have come up with a plan that we shall carry it out as soon as possible.

Now, the only way here in 1885, to achieve any kind of speed even remotely close to the necessary 88mph is with a steam train, but the record for one of those in this place and time is not quite enough.

In the developmental stages of the Time Machine, I researched many different forms of speed, and I’m quite aware that in England there were Express Trains in the 1850’s that could reach 80mph and average at about 60mph. But the trains here aren’t built for that. They’re meant for endurance over speed.

So, rather than try to commission a train to be built of my own design, we’re going to steal one and use that. We just need a long enough, and straight enough stretch of track for our purpose. Oh, and some improved wheels to fit the gauge of the tracks here, which are actually easier to construct than I’d first thought.

Marty has brought with him the floating futuristic skateboard from 2025 that he’d used to get the Almanac out of Tannen’s hands in 1955. It’s floating circuits and power source are not too far removed from the technology that allowed the DeLorean to fly, but try as I might, I cannot pull the thing apart and successfully copy it. How useful it would’ve been if I could, but once again here in this infernal time, I am stuck for wont of better tools, better access to component parts, and the technology of the mid to late 20th Century! It’s infuriating!

Here’s my plan:

The bridge over the Shonash Ravine isn’t finished yet here in 1885, but in 1985 it certainly is.

We’ll steal the train, uncouple the cars, get her up to speed and use it to push the car to 88mph over the bridge.

In 1985 we should land and cross safely to the other side.

With a little chemistry, and some slightly singed eyebrows, I’ve designed some logs that we can toss into the fire to heat the train’s boiler and build the energy output sufficiently. There’s just a slight risk that the boiler might explode.

But by that time, we will be safely away and the wreck of the train will crash into the Ravine.

This is where I have a request for you.

There will be no way for us to lift the car from the railway tracks in 1985, at least not in time to stop the car from being struck by an oncoming train.

I don’t want it lifted clear.

I want the DeLorean smashed to tiny pieces.

It has to be destroyed, Nicolaus.

Utterly.

What I need your help with, is to get Marty and I safely out of the car when we arrive, before we too are reduced to tiny pieces in the wreckage.

Your Hunters move faster than either I or Marty ever can.

Which is why I am writing this entire thing to begin with.

If you could see to it as well that the car’s remains are taken away too, I would be eternally grateful.

I do not anticipate a train derailment in any way, as the DeLorean is so very light in comparison with a modern train that will undoubtedly tear it apart without so much as a flinch.

I should warn you now however, that there may be three of us.

I will do my best to explain matters in their fullest to Clara and invite her to come with us to 1985. She will listen to me at least, and whilst I can’t force her out of her time, she may take me more seriously than I’ve been fearing. She would have some considerable catching up to do, but her life wouldn’t impact her immediate surrounds if she’s no longer where she was never meant to be to start with!

And even writing such a phrase is giving me a headache.

Marty has a slight situation developing here with Tannen though.

I feel like that’s a post script to this entire story, but Tannen is the reason we are driving matters forward faster than I had originally wanted.

Here in 1885, Marty is using the name ‘Clint Eastwood’ rather than risk using his family name, for obvious reasons. Clint Eastwood doesn’t mean anything to these folks, for whom movies aren’t even a flutter on the horizon yet. But for them, their Clint Eastwood is a charming young man whom they hold close to their hearts simply because at the festival, he stood up to Tannen when the monster was trying very hard indeed to put a bullet in my head whilst I was dancing with Clara.

He threw a pie plate at Tannen’s outstretched arm, a little like a Frisbee toss on the beach, and the bullet went into my hat instead of my skull.

Only after the celebrations did we learn that Tannen had shot and killed Marshal Strickland outside of town, and left his body on the side of the road for others to find in the morning.

Tannen was beside himself with rage, and while Marty was incredibly calm and mature in the face of a highly vexed Rogue Vampire with no self-restraint, he was later given a brand new shiny Colt six-shooter so he could take on Tannen at the gunfight he was challenged to.

For yes, as Marty was about to walk away, Tannen called him ‘yellow bellied’ and my Mate having forgotten what he’d learned of himself in 2025, responded in typical fashion.

The upshot of all this is that a gunfight in the street has been scheduled for the very morning when the train comes through town, and we should much rather be away with our horses to steal the damn thing.

Really, Marty needs to learn these lessons once and for all, but the entire town heard and saw the altercation with Tannen one way or another, and he simply won’t back away for fear of losing face.

I despair.

I truly do.

He has moments of such maturity, and moments of such childishness, that I am hard pressed to recall how even now, he is barely 18 years of age. He has experienced so much in the last few weeks since this journey of ours first began in the Twin Pines Mall parking lot, that I confess to being swamped by it on occasion, and lost now as to how long we have actually been together, and how many desperate things we have had to endure.

But he is my Mate, and I adore him. And I will do whatever is necessary to see him through his problems, knowing that they stem from too fragile a young ego.

Hopefully, my love for him will remind him that he is needed and wanted in more ways than there are words to describe. And in the future we will be able to do more than just physically put all this mess behind us.

At least Jimmy taught him how to shoot, or so he said when I saw him practicing his quick draw in front of a mirror while wearing nothing but his longjohns. He got his instruction from the very best.

Thank him for me, would you?

Still, we have to have that train. It only comes through town once every two weeks and should Marty be shot by Tannen, I can hardly explain how he’s miraculously walking around again without the slightest sign of injury just a few days later when everyone saw him ‘die’ on the street.

Tannen can go to hell as far as I’m concerned, though I fear he will still be the bane of our existence even in 1985, unless Sylum Clan can step in and your own dear Van Helsing can be of assistance.

But fear not, Nicolaus, I will appeal to Marty’s better nature.

He is becoming a man before my very eyes.

And he makes me so proud.

I find myself looking forward to seeing you again soon, my friend. And I trust that this letter is not currently being consumed by the fire in your office.

Please find enclosed the photograph of Marty and I beside the clock. I would be grateful if you’d keep this for posterity.

Also enclosed are the notes and video footage from my original experiments, as well as some pertinent design schematics for the Flux Capacitor and the Time Circuits.

Help from Sylum Clan would be required on the western side of Shonash Ravine Railway Bridge, Hill Valley, California, at 7.35am on the morning of October 26th 1985.

I trust this will give you time to send whatever assistance is available.

And yes, I dare thank you for it all in advance.

Your friend in time,

Doctor Emmett L. Brown

 

PS: I am writing this to you just a few moments before I deposit this letter for you to receive in 1955.

I have spoken with Clara and she slapped me in the face, telling me that I was playing her for a fool and using her love of Jules Verne’s writings to try and manipulate her.

I can do nothing more but hope desperately that her continued life here will not overly damage the 1985 that Marty and I long to see again.

I did my best, and while I have no idea what disturbed her more (Vampires or time traveling scientists in a gullwinged car), she is furious with me, and I have lost her trust.

So, there will only be the two of now, going back to the future.

Thank you again, Nicolaus, for everything.

May we both see you soon.

***

I tossed the letter down on the table and sat back.

“I’ve seen this before. I’ve read this before – several times actually. Why make me read it again?”

The last thing I remembered was hearing Indiana Jones yell, ‘You missed!’ at Robin Longstride.

And through eyes blurred by the mortal remains of my worst enemy, I saw the Englishman flip him off in distinctly British fashion before running out over the grass toward me.

Robin Hood doesn’t miss.

Seriously.

Javert was there looming.

Warrick was trying to help me stand.

And I’d been trying desperately not to take the breath my body was craving, for fear of inhaling too much of Richelieu’s lingering grittiness in my mouth.

The fight was over.

The Clan had prevailed.

And then I found myself sitting at a horribly familiar conference table in a dark space that resided somewhere between the separation of each passing second, being smiled at indulgently by Pearly Soames.

I’d tried scrubbing at my eyes, but when I blinked again, I was still there.

And so was he.

The letter had been lying on the table between us.

“It matters,” he replied.

“Of course it does! I did what the good Doctor ordered. Noah and Jimmy went to Hill Valley, the remains of the DeLorean were taken care of and Tannen was Dusted.”

But Doc hadn’t been in the car with Marty.

In fact, Doc hadn’t been in the same era as the rest of us for at least 20 years now and with each passing birthday, the man’s Mate has done his absolute best to keep on hoping that ‘next year will be the one, Nico!’.

Pearly nodded sagely. “Read it again.”

“Really?”

That was apparently the best I could manage in response.

He chuckled. “Read it again.”

I did.

It still didn’t tell me where Doc was, or why he hadn’t been able to come back to the future, when the Time Machine he’d left in the silver mine for Marty to find in 1955 was still there but no longer required, as Marty was back in his rightful place. Even if it had taken Doc almost a century to get the parts, and find fuel for the car, he had a Time Machine! He could’ve come back for Marty without the long agony of waiting that in some ways we’d all been enduring.

I tossed the papers back one more time.

“Return them to my safe when we’re done here,” was all I said.

He frowned. “Got a headache much?”

It was my turn to frown. “Actually, yes. And when you already know the answer to that, why are you even asking?”

“You’re sensing the shift as time resets itself.”

His Irish accent was a thick as his hair was sparse, but that Meridius grin was undeniable no matter how hard I tried to pretend it wasn’t.

He was sitting opposite me, playing with a small blue crystal that danced through his fingers as he used it to focus his concentration.

“You had to bring me here to tell me that in person?” I snarked. “You couldn’t just let whatever comes next, come next?”

Wait.

It’s Pearly.

Of course he couldn’t.

He grinned almost proudly. “Being with me on occasion has made you more sensitive to these things, Nicky boy. You’re a conductor o’ the elements. You know that.”

Sadly, yes.

Yes, I did.

“Put me back where you found me.”

“Not just yet. Besides, it took me long enough to get you here! You were fightin’ it too hard.”

“Roman!” I replied, not in the least bit impressed. “I didn’t imagine any of today was your doing.”

“It’s not.”

“Then what d’you want from me, Mage? This isn’t a fine time for being all sociable suddenly.”

His smile vanished so swiftly, it was as though it had never existed, and the scar on his cheek set into a livid, knotted line.

“You’re wakin’ up, Nicky, and doin’ it faster ‘n most. All the pieces are formin’ around you now, and I can’t wait doin’ nothin’, for you to figure it out any further. This was never about Richelieu. He was a pawn. Idiot couldn’t even Mate with his own Mate, so his paymaster gave him that little French tart to keep him happy.”

My head hit the table and stayed there. “It’s Mazarin isn’t it? Are you telling me Mazarin is still roaming around too?”

“Just dangle a diamond under his nose and you’ll find him sure enough. It’s not like you don’t already have one of his in your safe already.”

Yes, I did.

‘The Heart of the Ocean’.

And I had to swallow before I let the loss of Jack and Rose Dawson get to me in a very unprofessional manner.

“Pay attention, Nicky boy. Mazarin’s not your problem. It’s not him you’ll have to stop.”

I really didn’t want whatever Pearly was about to burden me with, but it was coming whether I accepted it or not. “Why do I let you do this to me?”

He snorted. “You’re a continual source of joy.”

I made a rude noise in return as I sat back again. “You’ve been a pain in my ass long before I was born into this life.”

“And you needed me then too.”

“If I told you to leave me in peace, you’d only take it as a challenge to be more annoying.”

“Irish!!” he answered, banging his fist on the table for emphasis.

“I hate you.”

“Your love and affection give me chills, Nicky.”

We’d first met when he brought me news of my Great-Uncle’s murder in March, 44BC.

He’d thought me too young for what lay ahead after that.

Too naive.

Too weak.

I’d thought him too arrogant.

Too certain of himself.

Too boastful.

Oh, how we both have changed.

Or not.

The table that still lay between us however, was every bit as it had always been – long and smooth, made of some nameless matte finished gunmetal grey substance, that was neither warm nor cold to the touch.

If I stared past Pearly’s left shoulder intently enough, I could see through the darkness that embraced us, and gaze into the rest of the world as it moved onward like I wasn’t even in it any more.

I’ve never quite been able to understand how this works, and he certainly won’t ever tell me. But it’s oddly reassuring to know that I am not currently lying comatose on the front lawn of the Manor, but rather busy issuing orders, securing the grounds and surveying the damages we’ve suffered at Richelieu’s hands.

I’m technically with Warrick right now, attempting to determine our losses.

It’s like witnessing all the possible threads of a single strand in time, gradually weaving their way forward while I wait to catch hold of them and draw them back around me.

“Don’t be frettin’ over the Clan right now, Nicky! You’ve gone all Roman General on them, and for the newbies who’ve never seen that side o’ y’ur charmin’ personality before, it’s pretty terrifyin’ to be sure. But you’re about to Claim your Mate against that big old oak near the crater where y’ur front gate used to be. So that at least should be calmin’ you the fuck down.”

And I wasn’t, strictly speaking, altogether there to enjoy it.

Which didn’t exactly endear me any further to the permanently annoying Irish Mage I was sitting with.

I have to say though, that watching my performance as I hammered Warrick face first into the tree trunk, was something I could strangely appreciate from a distance. Being a voyeur has always had a certain interest for me, never mind how narcissistic it might seem to examine your own prowess like that…

“Nicky!”

Pearly’s the only one who gets away with calling me that.

I ignored him.

“Focus, boy! You can stare at your own bare ass in the mirror later.”

“I feel so much better already,” I grumbled.

“Good! Now pay attention. You lost 5 today. 6 though, if you count the dog.”

I was wondering what that howling had been for, and so it came as no great shock to have Boromir suddenly sit up next to Pearly and flop his Wolfhound snout on the table with a dramatic sigh, like a man cupping his cheeks in both hands.

“You can tell your boy his animal died a warrior’s death.” Pearly scritched the dog between it’s ears.

“Why is this even relevant?”

I’d already seen Rose and Jack fall at the chopper.

Then Tom and Huck as they fought to get the children away safely.

It had been fast enough to confuse anyone who’d never seen battle before, but then again I’d seen more than most before I’d turned 19 years of age.

And more than once.

“Keys, Nicky my boy. The keys. Right now you’re worrying too much about y’ur Butler.”

“What happened to Thomas?” I growled, startling the dog.

There’s been a long standing animosity between the Baron and the Mage that’s actually hard to place in terms of any one specific event. But that it began with something the Short Tails did, is absolutely assured from the fact that Thomas refuses point blank to ever permit Pearly’s rather salubrious gang of ‘assistants’ inside the Manor. Try as I might, I can’t remember what happened, and I’m not entirely sure they do either.

“He felt the shift in time today too. Hit him pretty hard. That ridiculous Pirate he’s Mated with, found him out cold on the kitchen floor. Valjean took him upstairs to lay down when he came to with a headache worse ‘n yours.”

I felt my eyes narrowing. “Does he know what happened?”

“You can tell ‘im later, when you stop gettin’ distracted and let me finish what I’ve been trying t’ explain.”

Pearly threw his hands in the air like I was some particularly annoying gnat he couldn’t squash.

“Is it my fault I’m half here and half there?”

He snorted. “That single raised Patrician eyebrow thing never worked on me back in Rome, Nicky.”

“Nothing works on you. Could you get the point made already?”

“You lost Lennie. He had no clue who he was fightin’. Blade did his best to help him, but the men who raided your place there, weren’t being paid by Richelieu.”

I could see myself standing on the bottom floor of the Underground with Blade, who was showing me a key he said the invaders had used to get into the tunnel.

But they hadn’t turned right and gone into the house once they’d secured access, which any self-respecting group of soldiers would’ve done if their intention had been to outflank their opponents.

“Who came for Lennie?” I asked, horrified that there were keys to my house in the hands of my enemies.

“Nicky!”

Pearly thumped the table again.

Boromir whined and put his head in the Irishman’s lap.

“What?” I growled bitterly. “What is this? Why are you showing me this twice now?”

Once up here.

Once down there.

“The Rogues who faced off with Lennie and Blade were tools of the Illuminati. And while you’d figure it out with Thomas sooner or later, I’d prefer sooner. The Dust you’re seriously contemplatin’ pissin’ on right now, were Rogues in the pay of Galileo, Nicky. And they were searching for the circuits that run the Time Machine. Thomas kept them locked away down there in his store cave until you moved them a while back to the Molasses Factory for McFly.”

Wait, I remember that.

Thomas would’ve done inventory in the Underground storage spaces as a matter of course, but he would, like as not, have failed to figure out that Rogues were in my house searching for something that was no longer there.

“The key you just got from Blade, came off the bunch that was under the dead dog. The Rogue who had those was meant to do a whole load of other damage, and raid the Frenchman’s Art Gallery.”

“I have a traitor.”

“You’ve been thinkin’ it for a while now.”

Okay, so when I told him to get to the point, he did just that.

I honestly think I’ve had kinder blows to the head.

“The Illuminati are real?” I asked quietly, lining up the questions as I struggled to control my anger.

“Ay,” Pearly replied, soothing Boromir’s head. “Sylum’s Art collection would’ve kept them in funds for a millennia, if not two.”

“Galileo is a part of it?” I needed to be sure I’d heard him right.

“He is it, Nicky. He’s the one at the heart of it.”

For once, he didn’t sound too overly smug about telling me something I’d not been privy too until then.

“Galileo? Galileo Galilei? That Galileo? Lealta Clan’s Advisor?”

He stared at me, unblinking. “Are there others?”

“I need to talk to Robert Langdon.”

Pearly shook his head and make disapproving clucking noises with his tongue. “It’s not his time yet. Soon though. Right now, you need to plan moves closer to home.”

I licked my lips. “Richelieu was Illuminati?”

“Richelieu was an easy tool to recruit. Nothin’ more. He just assumed some generous benefactor had found him, sympathized with his hatred of you, and paid him off with Elise to sweeten the deal. He just didn’t know it, ’cause Richelieu’s world revolved around Richelieu and everything else was whatever. But get this straight, if that French pastry had gotten her way with young Tim, she’d’ve been running Sylum Clan for the Illuminati right about now. Richelieu wanted to best you. Just you. All else was an extra added bonus.”

I couldn’t stop myself from snorting. “He’d crucify me to an oak tree better this time?”

“Something like that, boy. Ay…”

Okay, so that was probably a visual image I could’ve done without, but the darker side of my imagination had no difficulty at all in seeing Timothy enslaved to a French whore, and Antonio getting passed around as a sexual favor while the Library and Gallery were raided and sold at Galileo’s whim.

But still…

Galileo??

Now I get to see Marcus for who he truly was?” I muttered, physically sickened at how the future might have played itself out in mockery of the past.

“Damnation on Marcus!” Pearly slammed his fist on the table one more time.

Why didn’t it dent at some point?

“The man’s dead and gone, Nicky.”

“You told me that the first time around!”

“Heh! You got a point there, but he ain’t comin’ back right now, is he? Focus your attention on the could be not the what if! You’re too fuckin’ distracted y’u stubborn git.”

I blinked at him.

Of course I was distracted!

I’d wish Damnation on Pearly too, but he’s been there already.

I took a deep breath, forgetting the Dust all over my clothes and hair. “Galileo used the reach of the Illuminati to get Marcus…”

He thumped the table again, and that time even the dog barked back in impatience.

“…Richelieu,” I corrected myself, “to attack Sylum, knowing I’d be too distracted to notice him sending in thieves for the broken parts of a Time Machine that haven’t worked in 20 years?”

Wow!

The weird things you’d never imagine one day coming out of your mouth.

I was surprised my headache hadn’t gotten worse.

Pearly nodded sagely. “The bunch o’ keys suggests Galileo wasn’t all that certain Richelieu would succeed, or give him his cut once the Clan was defeated.”

“The thieves are dead?”

I glanced at myself still in the Underground, and nodded. Of course the thieves were dead.

Then it hit me. “Marty! Where is…?”

Pearly rolled his eyes and chuckled deeply. “The kid was out cold too when Jimmy found him. Noah’s with them. They’ve taken him to your ‘ospital and are refusing to leave him alone. He’s coming back from the shock o’ things. He know what this really means for him. Jimmy does too. I like that long-haired gunslinger. He’s got potential.”

“I won’t tell him you said so.” Though I had wondered more than once whether the aforementioned James Butler Hickok had come to possess his own rather unique talents courtesy of a Mage bloodline somewhere in the dim and distant past. “Marty knows Doc is coming home.”

It was the only logical thing I could conclude by that point.

“Very good, Nicky my boy! Brilliant even, seein’ how you only just met Clara Clayton.”

“That was a hundred years ago!”

“Not technically, no. You’d never set eyes on her before today.”

“She has a lineage of descendants in Sylum’s Cemetery. She’s buried there with her husband!”

“Ay! None of whom ever existed in this particular part of the world until Doc got in the Time Machine and she carried out his last instructions. When that happened, you met her. One hundred years ago today to be exact. Or, I should say, right as you were in the middle of personally dealing with Richelieu.”

I nodded slowly.

So that was why I’d felt so…

That was the reason for the…

I’d faltered.

Yeah, I’d seen her.

She’d come to the house in that incredible purple dress with the little hat that wouldn’t stay on straight.

She’d been pregnant.

She’d known everything about me.

It had seemed utterly impossible, but I hadn’t actually met Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown until the 1930’s, a few years after his Turning, and yet she’d told me all about him in 1905. She’d told me the exact date I’d first shake his hand…

“Did Galileo figure this out somehow and tell Richelieu to hit the Clan today?”

Pearly actually laughed like I’d suggested something even more outrageous than what we were already discussing. “He’s good, Nicky. He’s not that good! No no, all this comin’ to pass on the same day, at the exact same time and place is what we in the Mage business tend to call…”

“…a cock up?” I asked sweetly.

He laughed outright. “This wasn’t our doing. This was just one of those awkward moments when everything came together at once. Literally, as it were.”

Boromir sighed about as heavily as I did.

“Where is Doc Brown, right now?” I wasn’t sure if he’d randomly reappear in the driveway or something, complete with flaming tire trails behind him, especially with that big gaping hole where the gate once stood.

“He’s leaving Hill Valley, having just gotten a rude awakenin’ on what day it is and what year he’s really in. Jimmy should be pleased to know all those messages he’s been back to leave in Doc’s workshop these last 20 years ‘ave not proven futile.”

I nodded. Noah has told me how his Mate suffers, going repeatedly to places where time is no longer quite as unbroken as it should be. But as the years have passed since 1985, so his leaving a small record in Doc’s workshop, of Marty’s developing experiences in life, just in case Emmett Brown showed up again and was not exactly aware of his remaining mistakes, seemed like a really good idea, even if only to satisfy Jimmy’s personal sense of parental anguish over the situation.

“Why is Doc now 20 years adrift?” I asked.

“He’s an idiot.”

“He’s not that stupid! I mean, he did invent a Time Machine.” Personally, I couldn’t believe I was defending the man, but there it was.

“Then he’s the Prince of Idiots!” Pearly tutted again. “One who can’t read is own circuitry before he hits 88mph.”

“Hold it!” I waved my hands in the air with a chopping motion, trying to stop him from the rant I thought was coming. “It’s going to have taken Doc Brown decades to fix the Time Machine in the silver mine, and more years after that to get his hands on gas. But he’s a Vampire! He can weather the time span, reset the circuits and come back making it look like he never even left Marty’s side!”

“Yes.”

“Then why…?” I frowned. “Clara showed up in 1905. That’s 20 years from when Marty was sent to 1985 from 1885.”

I could really use a cork board and some string right about now.

Pearly sat back in his chair and stared at the crystal he was still playing with, either too bored to bother explaining, or allowing me chance to figure things out for myself.

“20 years for getting the other Time Machine in workable order.” I nodded to myself. “He never reset the circuits! It was set for 100 years forward from 1905 to 2005.”

Which, insanely, made logical sense.

“He wasn’t paying attention,” I concluded. “Or, maybe he just screwed something up in the desperation to reach Marty.”

Pearly let that thought hang between us for a while. “Nicky boy, you know why Doc still has the Time Machine, right? When it was to all intents smashed to smithereens in 1985?” He pursed his lips , not looking up at me directly but appearing to address some other version of me. It was disconcerting, yet I’d seen it happen before, and given where I was sitting, I was hardily in a position to complain.

“Loops in the String,” I answered, wanting to keep it simple when it really wasn’t. “In 1885, it was waiting for Marty to find in 1955. He did. And that was the one he rode back to 1985 and lost in front of a train. But for Doc in 1885, it was still in the mine waiting for Marty in 1955. When Marty left and got back to 1985 that thread to 1955 was no longer actionable as it had already happened, so Doc had THAT version of the Time Machine to use. And I’d really like a good strong drink right about now.”

One duly materialized on the table, with an accompanying bottle and some ice cubes.

“Very good, Nicky!”

Pearly’s smirk wasn’t friendly, though his words were jovial enough, and I felt like I’d just passed a difficult exam or something.

I stared at him as he raised his head. “Well?” I demanded.

“Well?” he echoed.

“When Doc figured out he’d gotten it wrong and it’s actually 2005, why didn’t he go back to 1985 like he was meant to?”

“He had an epiphany.”

“Excuse me?

“An epiphany. He saw all the stuff that Marty had accomplished in those intervening 20 years and realized he couldn’t get in the way of that back in 1985. He let the boy grow up, albeit by accident.”

“Okay…” I could see the sense in that actually. “But what d’you need me for? Put me back where you found me.”

“I need you to stop whining.”

“I am not whining!”

He stared at me blankly.

Okay, I was maybe whining a little bit.

“You need to hide the Time Machine from the rest of the Universe,” he said at last.

“No shit, Sherlock,” I quipped nonchalantly, downing what turned out to be a particularly fine Irish Whiskey, and pouring another. “How exactly would you like me to do that, considering I have a spy in my Clan?”

“Get creative, Nicky.”

I’ve tried to get him not calling me ‘Nicky’, but to be honest, I’ve had better success not killing Gilbert Grissom.

You do it!”

“Not my job.”

“Doc will only build another.”

“Didn’t you hear me tell y’u he had an epiphany?”

“Screw his epiphany.” I slugged back a second drink and poured a third.

I didn’t offer him one.

I was done with this crap.

“Meddling in time any more would be very, very bad, especially if your name is Galileo.”

“My name is Nicolaus Valerius Meridius and I am not your whipping boy! I’m a Roman. I have rights!”

Did I mention I was done with today?

I’m done with this week.

I’m done with this month.

And 2005 is not working out for me.

Actually, looking over at the rest of the world, it wouldn’t be long before it was tomorrow…

“You don’t get a choice, Nicky.”

“I never have,” I grumbled bitterly. Then a flash of inspiration hit me. I blame the alcohol to be honest. “When the beginning is the end is the beginning, the string makes a perfect circle. So where did I already hide the Time Machine, Pearly?”

I paused in the very act of swallowing, hand raised, breath held, ice cubes burning my tongue.

Okay, which particular thread of half remembered conversation did I pull that one from?

“You were going to stash it under the Bath House you were building for Julia and your kids in Rome, General,” he replied, the crystal making sparks as he spun it through his fingers.

I swallowed convulsively.

“You moved it,” I coughed.

“Ay, ’cause o’ Marcus.”

I coughed a little harder, having the clearest recollection of what Pearly had forced me to do in 30BC. “It’s under my tomb, isn’t it, on the Campus Martius.”

“Are you askin’ or tellin’?”

I slammed the glass down and Boromir barked at me snottily. “You had me sink it down as far as the builders could make it go. I told them it was a holy offering on which the structure would stand for an eternity.” I shook my head at the clarity I could sense from such a memory. “Why am I only remembering this now? Is it there yet, or not?”

“It’s always been there, Nicky. I’m just raising the veil a tiny bit so you can see clearer,” he whispered.

“At least now I know why you called me Nicky back then.”

He nodded. “You know what you have to do with this Time Machine.”

“I wasn’t planning on building myself another Mausoleum any time soon,” I muttered.

“No, but you were planning on building a Bath House. In fact, you’ve had the Blue Prints in your desk for a couple of decades.”

It was true.

And he was only being smug and self-satisfied because there was no way I could lie about it.

“What happens when we need it?”

He blinked.

Bluff called, Pearly.

Bluff called.

“This little thing we have going on here,” I continued, “isn’t going to end without needing Doc’s invention to find Galileo. So what happens when we have to put right what he gets wrong?”

Fire burned in the Mage’s eyes.

And it wasn’t the Vampire in his Soul that caused it.

“You can’t put it right, Nicky. Ever. There’s no fixin’ what you get wrong. If there was, you’d be rulin’ the Universe with your sister, and we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

“Then what d’ you still need me for?”

Wait.

Sister?

What is he saying…?

“’cause I’m the one who wears his mistake for all to see!” he snarled, gesturing at the scar on his face.

Two blows hadn’t proven sufficient to kill him even when he was human.

There was nothing could stop him as a Vampire, save the curse eating away at his cold, dead heart for more millennia than I could possibly comprehend.

And I’ve nearly been around for a full 2 myself.

“You can never go back to what you want the most. You can only make it worse for everyone around you,” he growled.

He’d tried.

I knew that.

“Hrothbert of Bainbridge pays a steeper price,” I whispered. “Confined in his own skull.”

Pearly clenched his fist around the crystal. “We’re all dead men walkin’, Nicky. We have our place in the way of things, and yours is in paying better attention when I tell you.”

Wasn’t that a fact?

“Tell me who the spy is then.”

“You need a spy to catch a spy. There’s process to be adhered to, Nicky. You know the rules.”

“Then what else do I need to know?” I huffed.

“Why Van Helsing’s been off his stride lately.”

I stared across at what I was doing back on planet Earth, and was strangely satisfied as my right fist connected squarely with Van Helsing’s jaw.

I’d apparently collared him in the orchard, and hit him hard enough to knock him on his ass in the bole of a tree.

The surprised look on his face was deeply pleasing, as was the ache across my knuckles.

“Where’s he been?” I asked.

“In the city. Turns out the ever delightful Ellis Cochrane’s been keeping the ever vicious John Winchester away from Sylum Clan in the last few days.”

“Ellis is here? Are you kidding? And she didn’t tell me? She knows the rules!”

“Focus, Nicky. She and Winchester were about to stumble on some of Richelieu’s Rogues but given proximity to the Clan, she steered him off. You should thank her when you see her.”

“I’ll do it right before Speed beats the crap out of her for not being safely in Diplomatic Passport Control.”

Pearly snorted. “She also drew your dumbass Lead Hunter to where Diego had been shot.”

What the hell??”

“He’s in a body bag in the back of Van Helsing’s car right now.”

“Winchester did this?”

“No. Your Mate was poking too loudly around the city looking for Richelieu, so Diego was meant to be a diversion. It didn’t work. But she heard it on her scanner, and did what she could to help. She’s smarter than her brother will ever admit she is, y’know.”

“Why do you think she’s not in Diplomatic Passport Control right now?”

He nodded. “Irish!”

“Damn right,” I muttered. “So Gabriel got Diego from the Morgue?”

“Yep.”

“And no one knows who did the shooting?”

“Wasn’t Winchester.”

“Are you sure?”

“Diego would be Dust by now.”

“Good point.”

“Van Helsing’s finally getting who you once were.”

I smirked, watching our altercation. “Did he just call me Caesar?”

“Ay, but it’ll take him a bit to fathom that out.”

“Why has he been off?”

“He’s in love, Nicky. Can’t you tell?”

I roared with laughter by way of an answer. “Not with Ellis. He helped train her. And sure as hell not with Winchester…” I chewed my lower lip for a while as I saw him skulk away to get Diego down to the hospital block. “Who then?”

“Seriously? I’m not answering that. It’s not time yet.”

I took a deep breath and poured another glass of whiskey. “You’re enjoying this to much.”

“Not as much as you are,” he replied. “By the way, good choice there on using the redhead for your new Head of Security.”

My attention turned to Horatio Caine who was standing in the doorway to the Wet Room next to Peter Woods.

“I don’t need a new Head of Security,” I growled.

“The other one’s in a body bag right now, Nicky, and he’s not going to want his old job back. Gunshots t’the head tend to make for a bit o’ the ol’ Soul Searchin’ there. Besides, he’s about to meet his own Mate and freak out like a little girl.”

As the world continued to move, I observed Horatio’s startled but determined expression.

I’d already given him the job, or so it seemed.

Diego was hauled into the hospital and given blood directly into a vein through the backs of both hands.

Calleigh ended up sitting with him.

“She’s his Mate?” I asked.

“She was ‘anging around looking for something to do. All that sniveling over a dead dog wasn’t really helpful.”

Boromir whined and Pearly duly petted him.

“At least tell me that ends well?”

“Eventually.”

“Speed’s taking care of him?”

“You needed an extra Doctor. And he’s having way too much fun at Diego’s expense.”

“What’s wrong with Ducky and Valjean?”

“Valjean’s dealing with Ducky.”

I’d missed something.

“Can you rewind that?”

“What is this? Show and tell?”

“Yes!”

Pearly snickered. “Explaining’s quicker.”

“Then explain!”

“Ducky was on his own doorstep when Jethro Turned him. The man had been working nearly 24 hours straight. He went to lie down. Heart attack. Jethro found him. Did the necessary. Him and your Frenchman got Ducky to the hospital.”

“Ducky didn’t want to be Turned!”

“Jethro didn’t know that.”

I gulped the next drink and rolled my eyes. “Kids.”

“Uh-huh.” Pearly nodded sympathetically. “The Templar told his Mate a lot of stuff. The one about not Turning people without Consent may have slipped his mind.”

“Jethro’s only been a Vampire for a couple of days.” I sighed when I remembered that. It feels like I’ve lived a couple of lifetimes lately.

Which, truth be told, I seriously have.

“Ducky’ll manage. I like him. He’s got what it’ll take to keep your new War Counsel from losing his mind.”

“My what?” I was distracted, gazing at the world, watching myself stumble onto Kevin Collard in the barn.

“You had to replace Lennie, and Jethro’s up for it. Should stop him from repeatedly trying to quit his current job.”

I nodded vaguely. “Sure.”

It was done, whether I had a conscious part in it by then or not. I think I did. But just then, who knew?

I was actually more concerned with Turning an old friend…

The Collards had been running Sylum’s stables since 1865, when at the end of the Civil War, I’d offered a barely 18 year old, freakishly talented orphan named William Coleman Collard, a job with the Clan for his unflinching service to my regiment’s horses, and for his impromptu discovery of Vampire Feeding habits without losing all sense of self-control and propriety. In many ways, the Collards had become as much a part of the Clan as our famous oak trees, and were just as solidly reliable.

Theirs had never been a vast dynasty, but they’d allied themselves to us, and been taken care of without hesitation, as all faithful Chosen Ones should be. So to find Kevin had taken two bullets to the stomach while defending his home, his horses, and his friends, was not as shocking as the sight of him dying alone and forgotten in the dark.

As a decent Crime Scene Investigator, it wasn’t exactly hard fo me to see what had happened, and how the situation had been overlooked. It had been smart to defend the barn, as setting it alight would have been devastating in the middle of a battle, but I was horrified that he’d been left there so long.

He was still clutching his gun even then, as he drifted between life and death on a bale of blood soaked hay.

I didn’t need to ask him if he wanted to live.

And I didn’t want another funeral to attend.

Pearly snapped his fingers and drew me back to our conversation. “That one’s a keeper,” he said firmly, nodding in approval. “You can apologize later that no one thought to check on ‘im.”

I could sense my worldly exhaustion by then, and not just my slightly drunk spiritual annoyance. “What else am I not really there for?”

“Peter Woods has gotten a glimpse of himself as he used to be.”

“Speed’s Irish father?”

“Ay! He’s shaken but not proverbially stirred.”

“What about his wife?”

“She knows already. She’s not stupid.”

I had to chuckle. “Yeah, no one takes to Timothy that fast without being family.”

Pearly cracked a smile. “Irish! Turns out she’s been on the phone with Warrick. She’s lovin’ Rose ‘n’ Jack’s place. Dawson House is about to get new management.”

“I didn’t see that coming.”

No, honestly.

I didn’t.

“Neither did she. But your Great Aunt Gertrude is on it, working with the Parrishes.”

“Molly Brown is there?”

“On her way. She’s coming by Sylum first to take the Dawsons home for burial.”

Molly had survived the Titanic with Rose and Jack. They’d always been friends after that.

I call her Great Aunt Gertrude ’cause that’s whose Soul she has.

Except she was Great Aunt Gratidia when I was a baby Roman.

She used to come visit whenever Julia needed help with the kids too.

I still threaten Tony and Speed with her.

She’d made their lives hell after that thing with the fountain…

“Nicky!”

“I’m awake!” I snapped, bolting upright in my seat. “Are we done yet?”

“Are you still here?” Pearly asked.

“Sadly, yes.”

“Then we’re not done yet, are we.”

I’m paying attention.

Hand to God.

“The mother of that fiery little Irish sprite didn’t see it coming either, but Fate does that. Suzy and her daughter got royally screwed by the Caine family, but their lives were spared and she’s all set to train in teaching and help Alexx and Peter. And why do I sound like I’m narrating some day time soap opera for y’u?”

“Previously, on ‘Day’s Of Our Vampire Lives’,” I snarked.

He glared. “Breakin’ news though. You got yourself a Catherine Willows problem.”

“That’s not news,” I corrected.

“She left the chopper at Baton Rouge and went back to Vegas with her kid. She’s pissed at you. And it’ll bite you on the ass, boy.”

“She wanted Warrick’s dick but she can’t have it. It’s mine.”

Pearly’s eyebrows rose. “She’s gonna turn on you.”

That sobered me up. “How?”

He pursed his lips as though contemplating whether to tell me was a good idea or not. “Keep your wits about y’u, Nicky boy. Just keep your wits about y’u.”

Don’t I always?

Except when I’m this tired.

“It’s her fault I have dead people,” I grumbled.

“Deal with it. But don’t wait too long.”

Thoughts of Warrick, had an image of him popping into view on the ‘world screen’ I was watching over Pearly’s shoulder.

He’d gotten me in the shower.

And Gods but it felt great.

Thomas had taken my weapons off me and said he’d burn my clothes.

I rather wanted to see that, but I was just too glad to find him up and about again to argue much with his plans. He’s rarely ever been one to stay abed, and his health has always been robust, so to know he’d been lying down sick, was something I didn’t like.

It wasn’t right.

At all.

Besides, you only argue with the Baron at your peril.

Glancing down, I realized I was naked.

And cold.

“Where the hell are my..?”

Pearly cocked his head. “You don’t usually shower with your clothes on,” he explained, his expression deeply appreciative of my unexpected predicament.

“There’ve been times.”

“True. You’ll be dressed again soon enough.”

I’m not entirely sure I’ve spent this long in his company before, but it was disconcerting to be influenced here, even as I was influencing what happened there.

“In the mean time you should know that Kate killed Rochefort. It was quite somethin’ to be sure. Your Anthony is forever in her debt. He gave her the sword she used in doin’ the deed, as a gift to remind her she’s always strong, no matter what else happens. He told her about her past life, and Rochefort’s part in it. She cussed him out for a pervert. And it’s done.”

I nodded, and Boromir took pity on me, moving under the table to lean against me and lend me the benefits of his furry warmth.

Though how he did that, being dead, is something I wasn’t meant to ask.

“Javert’s got patrols going around your Estate. You owe him too. Just remindin’ y’u o’ that.”

I nodded and stifled a yawn.

“Oh, and there’s Robin!” Pearly’s laugh was way too nice. “He had a Rogue pinned on the wall with an arrow, but couldn’t get much out of him. He’s got a vicious streak that one. I love it.”

I really didn’t care.

I mean I did, but I didn’t.

“The Rogue who killed your peacocks is dead. Jones was saving him for you, but keeping badly injured Vampires alive isn’t an exact science.”

For some reason I was expecting my birds to show up on the conference table, but they didn’t.

Oh, my poor babies…

I did hear them screeching in the distance somewhere though.

So there’s that.

“Gregory got Turned saving Gilbert’s stupid arse. You already suspected you’d get stuck with the pair o’ them, so get used to it.”

“They’re Mates?”

“Husband and wife. Ancient Egypt to be more precise. I’ll let you deal with your darlin’ Ma when the woman she cuckolded with your unacknowledged Pa comes out to play.”

I had no idea what that meant yet, and didn’t want to ask.

Warrick’s hands were just starting to venture into interesting territory with a lot more in mind than just soap, when all I could hear was laughter over the sound of running water in the shower.

‘Finally! Darling, our triad is complete!’

Robin Longstride’s middle England accent was strident enough to cut through my tiredness.

Warrick stuck his head out of the Wet Room shower stall and nearly fell over himself with hysterical cackling.

It was weird watching myself follow suit, only to find Tony pinned up against the wall by the kitchen door courtesy of said Englishman. He was clearly doing what long lost lovers always tend to do when they’re reunited, and being unashamedly graphic in the process.

Tony’s eyes were so huge and horrified, they were about ready to pop out of his skull any second as Jethro coughed politely and stepped into the room.

I had to admit it was very funny.

Robin’s always had an inappropriate sense of humor for the most appropriate moments.

Pearly snorted, but he was grinning too. “Long conversations bound now over that one!”

It broke the mood.

Brilliantly.

If we can still find humor, we’re still alive.

Cook was baking.

I could smell food.

Which reminds me, I need to Feed.

“Are we done now?” I whined.

The Mage gave me a look that said he was deeply concerned at my lack of grasp on the complicated situations he’d duly presented me with.

“What? There’s a test?” I demanded.

He sighed. “Not from me.”

“Then put me back where you found me, so Warrick can finally wear me out.”

“Soon enough.”

I ignored him, and focused instead on Thomas opening up the Ballroom for everyone to have food and mingle together.

It was a great idea actually.

They could catch up on what else was going on, how the fight had gone down, who was where and in need of what.

I’d long ago lost track of who had been introduced to who, who knew what about who, and who was from which part of the world.

Our gardener was outside assessing the lawn and the driveway.

I swear I could hear tow trucks reversing and gathering up the cars that still blocked the main road.

The damages were bad enough, but not so bad that they couldn’t be repaired in due time, including the front door.

As always, Thomas had everything well under way, and Brass was serving as his assistant without complaint.

The funeral for Rose and Jack would happen at Dawson House. The kids there needed closure too.

Molly came and went with a minimum of fuss for once, simply accepting the small urns that held whatever we could find of the mortal remains of her friends, gathering up Peter to go with her, and hugging Thomas.

I should’ve been there to see her but I’d gone upstairs to get a nap and answer a sudden stream of phonecalls that were coming in from other Clan members.

I think she understood.

“Call ‘er later,” Pearly advised. “She’ll need to hear your voice.”

Lennie’s ashes were put in a space in the cemetery wall with all due reverence and respect.

Tom and Huck were interned together in a single urn beside him.

They’d died in defense of the Clan and it’s people.

There was no greater honor.

Their memorial stones would be cut in the coming days.

Finding Tom and Huck’s remains had been hard given the mess at the front of the house, but a small pinch of random Dust finally had to suffice.

Somehow though, it just didn’t seem enough.

From somewhere, I heard myself saying words that had everyone in tears.

I’m not sure where I got such stirring eulogies.

I even found one for the dog as Boromir was buried in the pet area of the cemetery, over at the far end of the path.

Calleigh had found time to leave Diego’s care, and she held Speed’s hand with a fiercely tight grip.

Boromir had saved her life.

And I very much doubt she’ll ever forget that.

Pearly petted the dog’s head as we watched.

I should tell Tim his animal’s with a fellow Irishman now.

There’s probably some comfort in that, but as for me?

All I had was a growing senses of anger for what Catherine’s behavior had cost us.

And it wouldn’t go away.

Speed took Calleigh, Jimmy, Noah, Marty and a few others, including some of our human staff members down to the river later that day, where they put little paper boats with tiny tealights into the water and stood watching them drift away as they shared memories of those they’d lost.

He gave her a copy of Huckleberry Finn that had a special inscription inside from the author, just for her.

Becky Thatcher.

The woman she’d once been in Tom and Huck’s lives.

‘I should’ve known them better…’ she whispered through her tears.

And it made me despise Catherine all the more.

I’d privately buried my peacocks with Jones’s help. They too had died defending the Clan as far as I was concerned, and they deserved some respect.

There were tears in my own eyes by evening.

I’d been with Pearly for a day.

And my ass was aching from sitting there watching it all go by.

“Who’s the spy in my Clan, Pearly?”

He shook his head. “You need a spy to catch a spy. You’ll know how when the time comes.”

“Then why am I really here?” I asked at last.

“You’re a Nexus, Nicky. You’re not just the figurehead for some ancient revolution. You’re not just building a city in your Great Uncle’s memory. You’re not just a Vegas CSI from Texas. All the threads will come together. It starts now. And you have to be ready.”

I swallowed, frozen at his words.

He rarely spoke to me so calmly, and seriously.

It was akin to being with a sober Jack Sparrow.

“Who are you?” he asked, standing up and leaning over the table. “Who are you really?”

I blinked at him, momentarily thrown by such a question. “I am Nicolaus Valerius of the Meridii,” I answered with surety.

“Remember that,” he advised, “when the world stands against you.”

I took the breath I’m pretty sure I’d been holding for far too long, and was engulfed in warm cotton pillows pressed against my face.

My back was arched up off the bed, my knees beneath me on the mattress.

Warrick was inside me.

I was naked.

Sweating.

Panting.

Moaning his name as I climaxed.

My hands clenched into the sheets.

Seriously, Pearly? Now??? Now, you put me back here…!!!!

I was spent.

And so was my Mate.

He sank with me until we tangled together in our bed.

Everything fitted where it was meant to.

Where it was right to.

“Welcome back,” my Pirate whispered in my ear. “You’ve been gone a while.”

He and Thomas are the only ones who ever notice my Mage induced absences.

“Tell me it wasn’t Pearly’s name I just screamed?” I asked innocently.

Warrick pressed his hips against my neck, and I tightened my every muscle to keep us joined a while longer.

He shivered. “Blessedly, no. Don’t tell him, but he’s definitely NOT in my little black book.”

I snickered into the pillow, figuring this probably wasn’t the right moment to tell him that at some point in Egypt, Pearly had gotten his way with my ass during one of those moments when I’d lost count…

I should’ve been horrified at the thought of it, but he’d been remarkably attentive, and drawn that particular experience to a close before anyone else could step forward.

I actually owe him.

For several things.

Which is really the more disturbing fact as it stands.

“Are you with me?”

Warrick’s voice floated through my head as I closed my eyes.

“Naps,” I muttered, squirming a little bit as he moved off the bed to go get a wash cloth.

I don’t know how long I finally slept.

But I felt like a new man when I woke up with Warrick holding me protectively against a barricade of pillows he’d piled around us.

It was as close to ‘snuggly’ as a Pirate can get, and it put a smile on my face that was probably somewhat inappropriate given the last few days.

I just didn’t care.

In the shower, a great deal of Pearly’s advice gradually resurfaced in my mind, and I filed away the bits I didn’t quite understand yet.

He sees the threads of time in a way that’s hard to find words for, but I can touch it now and then. And it’s terrifying.

It makes me glad there are Mages in the world.

Or there’d be too many curious scientists like Doc Brown.

The Clan Gathering downstairs was well under way when Warrick and I stuck our heads in the Ballroom.

I was glad to see Greg up and around, with Gil close at hand and being remarkably useful.

Ducky was there too, standing with Jethro, the two of them with their heads together, deep in conversation. If I hadn’t known that the former Gunny Sergeant was Mated to Tony, I could’ve sworn they were meant to be together. But if I remember rightly, Jethro and Ducky had known each other for decades before this day ever happened.

I should rightly be angry at what amounts to a Forced Turning, but under the circumstances, I think Ducky will keep reminding Jethro about it a punishment for long enough.

Kevin was there too, still looking a bit pale and grey, but standing with his friends. Part of the Clan.

“I’ve been talking to Jim West,” he said, when we had a moment to ourselves. “Jim will be my Pseudo-Sire, and we’ll tell the world that he found me in the barn. I won’t be a weak link that could hurt you, Nico. I won’t do it. He’ll train me better with swords and the like, but I’m not a Hunter, and I’m wasn’t meant to be. Do you get what I’m saying?”

“You’re one of the finest horsemen I’ve ever met, not counting the Meridii,” I assured him. “You’re a brilliant vet too, thanks to your mom. I’m proud to call you my Childe.”

He nodded, and blushed a little. “Yeah, but in the last few days, one of your own was used against you. I won’t be responsible for that. The Clan matters too much.”

I hugged him then, trying not spill his drink. “I get it. But do me favor, eh? Tell West, he can be the one to call your parents.”

Kevin chuckled wickedly and winked at me. “Oh, hell yes.”

I circulated through as many Clan Members and friends of the Clan that I could tolerate.

Thomas kept me plied with food and mugs of blood along the way.

Good things have come from Richelieu’s attack, and I can see that when I survey the room.

Everyone is talking to each other.

New friendships are being forged.

New responsibilities are being assessed.

All I have to do, is know those around me are loyal.

And yet…

There had already been some argument about those damned keys.

The entire Estate will be newly secured in the coming weeks, and different keys issued with higher levels of security. Horatio has been doing the logistics on that, and trying to determine who needs access where, why, and when.

Not an easy task by any means, on property as vast as Sylum.

It turned out that Brass had gone into Vacherie and talked to the local locksmith, whose records showed that over the period of a couple of a years, he’d gradually been cutting ‘lost and misplaced’ keys for the Manor, and not always at the behest of the same person. Nothing seemed suspicious about it, and it’s annoying every detective in the house right now, me included.

Giles had gotten in my face about the keys too, claiming we’d be better off investigating the only person in the house who has access to all of them.

That would be Thomas.

And the answer is no.

Seriously, there are days when I’d rather have Henry Jones Sr. in the library here, but getting him out of Camelot so Giles can go back to England, is never going to happen. Hell, I’d take Henry Sturges too for the Clan’s Librarian, but with Speed newly Mated that’s not such a good idea just yet.

Still, the thought that perhaps it was Thomas who’d betrayed me? Betrayed the Clan?

No.

No way in hell.

I’m not giving that particular thought a second glance.

Thomas would die first.

Or kill the spy for me first.

Abbey and Ichabod are utterly inseparable right now too, and being ridiculously cute. There’s going to be one more Turning and Mating shortly after all this is done.

I’m not sure how I feel about that just yet.

Not that I’d get in the way, but she does have the Soul of my youngest daughter, and there’s fatherly instincts kicking in.

Warrick gets it.

“Papa Meridius,” he whispered in my ear. “You’re sighing at your kids again.”

“In a good way,” I answered. “Mostly.”

There’s still a lot of things to come to terms with.

At some point, Tony vanished with Jethro, leaving Robin to deal with Ducky.

Valjean was still with Diego, and I didn’t want to get in the way of that until my former Head of Security was capable of actually holding down a conversation. Don Diego, his father and Sire, is enroute from Spain to take him home for a while. Aguilar is coming as a bodyguard for them. Speed had forethought enough to call Diego’s family, and it makes me glad that for once my Clan Advisor was thinking further afield than he normally does with relationships.

Still, I doubt he’s told Calleigh that she’s Diego’s Mate.

That one’s going to take some wrangling.

Artemus was notable by his absence, but he’s been co-ordinating with our local repair and maintenance companies on what needs doing to the Estate to make it less of a war zone, and I’m not going to stop him while is on a logistics project.

I did that once.

It wasn’t pretty.

And I swear I can still hear tow trucks outside now and then too, but at least the road should be open by morning.

Feeling restless, I wandered around the Manor for a while, and found Tony ensconced in his bedroom with Jethro.

I probably shouldn’t have peeked in, but they were sitting in the closet doorway with an old Templar Chest, going through the precious objects it contained from Tony’s youth.

I didn’t disturb them.

And I’m not entirely sure they even knew I was there.

The Gallery was still under secure lockdown, or I would’ve lost myself for a while in the all that art.

I took the time to hug Kate, and thank her for what she’d done in dispatching Rochefort.

Not a simple thing for a human against a Vampire, even though he’d still been recovering from his previous encounter with Jethro.

I like Kate. She’s formidable and feisty.

Reminds me of Ellis.

I still need to reach her too in the next few days, if only to check in and make sure John Winchester is busy elsewhere.

Preferably in another State.

I sat for half an hour with my birds, having calmed them down, and been sat upon myself in return. They’d been more than ruffled by all the commotion and fighting, and I don’t blame them for wanting to make sure I was okay.

I rather needed to make sure I was okay too.

Which I am now.

Or at least, I’m getting there.

From time to time, I was forced to keep answering the phone, and Thomas threatened to just tie me to a chair with the handset strapped to my head. I lost track of who I’d spoken to already, but the rumors and the gossip were spreading like crazy.

Sam Axe is right, Vampires are nothing but bitchy little girls sometimes, and when they think they’re hard done by because something happened and they had to hear about it from the Chosen One of a friend in another Clan, they get way too uptight.

“Are you well, Nicolaus?”

I closed my eyes. “Been dead a while now, thanks for asking,” I snarked back.

LaCroix’s voice always runs down my spine like a snake dipped in syrup.

“Heard you had a bit of a set to with the past there.”

“We all have our demons.”

“Such as shame you can’t Dust them all.”

“It’s only January,” I whispered meaningfully, “it’s early yet.”

Talking to Imenand took a while longer.

“We’ve had Rogues plotting against an established Clan, and building an army in Russia. Tell The Shadow to call me when he’s got five minutes, so I can yell at him about his coverage of Sila.”

“This was personal, Nico. This wasn’t coming against all of us. It probably never even crossed his desk.”

“Then he needs a bigger desk.” I growled at the old man. “And you need to stop repeating Boudicca’s angst. How d’ you know this wasn’t a prelude to attacking the Council?”

“Now that’s a thought that’s going to fester.”

“Good.”

I heard him sigh. “Can you come out to us for a debrief?”

“I thought this wasn’t Clan related?”

“Nicolaus, you know how things work here.”

“Ahh, yes, but it’s too early for my once a century Counsel spanking.”

He stifled a sharp laugh. Badly. “How about I come to you? Min could use a vacation, and Vegas is nice this time of year. Been so long since we were there.”

“I’ll have a suite ready for you. Don’t rush.”

“I won’t. Take your time during this flux period, Nicolaus. Settle your Clan.”

He’s a wise ol’ buzzard, despite the crusty surface he lurks under.

From his family line had once sprung Marcus Aurelius.

Which reminds me, I should call Maximus, and delve back into The Meditations:

‘The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.’

Yeah, that’s a place to start…

As it got darker, I sat outside with Marty on the front steps, and tried to ignore the cold.

He’s done this every year on his birthday, for two whole days, having figured out that it would take about 24 hours or so to drive from Hill Valley, California, to Vacherie, Louisiana. So if Doc got back on his birthday, he’d see him again the next day.

Every year for 20 years he’s been disappointed.

But not today. And it’s not even his birthday.

Today he’s got a look on his face that’s more determined than resigned.

I shoved Jimmy and Noah inside to warm up and get some food. The front door is pushed shut about as far as it can go right now on it’s rather creaky and splinter dropping hinges, but at least it’s partly closed and offered a little protection from prying eyes.

“How’re you doing?” I asked, plopping next to him with a slight groan. “I don’t remember these steps being this low before.”

He snorted and shook his head. “Been a while since you sat with me.”

“Today is different.”

He smiled at me. “Yes.”

I patted his shoulder. “Doc’s coming.”

“I know.”

We sat side by side for a while in companionable silence, listening to the people inside, and the creak of the trees outside.

One more tow truck took a car away off the main road.

The crater at the end of the drive will be boarded up in the morning and fresh landscaping will happen shortly thereafter. Horatio has a plan for a full on guardhouse and cameras.

“Doc will need to use the side gate.”

I nodded. “Javert’s on watch. He’ll make sure the DeLorean gets in.”

I’d told my fellow Assassin what to expect.

He didn’t argue.

“When he gets here, I might have a bit of an 18 year old moment.” Marty blushed. “I probably won’t be able to help it.”

“That’s fine. Just remember to duck under the blood spray when you break his nose.”

We laughed, and it felt good.

“Are you and Thomas okay after all this?” Marty’s concern was touching.

I nodded. “Things are more stable.”

“I have a Clayton in my class now. And the school has Clayton Hall, and the Clayton Science Fair.” He scratched his head. “I’m never getting away from that woman, am I?”

I licked my lips, choosing carefully what came out of my mouth. “Some threads of time, are too well woven to pull apart.”

Wow…

…and now I sound like Pearly Soames.

Almost everyone was in the Ballroom and safely toward the back of the house when the DeLorean came screeching up to the front door from our right hand side, but it’s strange appearance naturally drew something of an audience anyway, and it’s rather clanky engine certainly made noises like it was about ready to die. If Doc had only stopped for gas and to Feed since landing in Hill Valley yesterday, he’d flogged to oblivion what was left of the car in order to reach his Mate.

We were on our feet before Doc hit the brakes.

Noah and Jimmy were instantly at Marty’s back.

I wanted to say something, but there was nothing that seemed fitting.

It’s not like Hallmark make cards for these kinds of moments.

Marty was over by the car the moment the door rose, and he was thumping Doc squarely in the face before anyone else could so much as move, and I distinctly heard Jimmy give a knowing chuckle.

There were literally, no words spoken.

Doc had probably rehearsed all kinds of things in his head on the drive here. I know I would have if it had been me in the same situation, and memories came at me then of seeing Warrick again, Turned, standing there on the Red Stallion right in front of me for the taking.

There hadn’t been too many words at that point either.

I grinned.

Doc and Marty needed some privacy, and the front driveway wasn’t offering any. They had a lot to catch up on, and not just in terms of the last 20 years.

Making out in the car really wasn’t an option.

There’s not much room in a DeLorean, no matter how desperate the urge.

“Get them to the Molasses Factory.” I winked at Jimmy and Noah who understood completely.

My phone rang.

It was Heather.

She and Evy were at Louis Armstrong Airport. They’d just met up with Harvey and they were on their way to the Manor to check up on me.

I wandered down the drive a while, trying to assure her all was well and it wasn’t really the best time for a visit just at that point, seeing how there were still bullet casings on the grass and patches of Rogue Vampire Dust to be swept onto the flowerbeds. There were broken front windows, bits of oak tree scattered everywhere, and a few other minor craters to be filled.

Indiana had deactivated and covered his traps however, so small miracles were still to be had.

My Sire refused to stay in the city though, even for the night, and was desperate to see me to make sure I was really, one hundred percent, absolutely, no doubts whatsoever, physically fine and mentally capable.

At what point exactly does she still think I don’t know she’s my mother from Egypt?

It’s a good thing that Thomas called back the rest of the staff for help at the Manor.

One more tow truck did it’s thing.

And I turned back to the DeLorean to find Giles standing by the still open driver’s side door.

“This thing is incredible! I’ve never really seen one up close. You know, these cars were so ahead of their time in terms of construction and design.” He patted the open gullwing over his head. “Remarkable automotives. Such as shame they stopped making them. There’s not too many left in working order. You really wouldn’t peg the Irish for being much in way of car manufacturers really…”

I wasn’t sure if I should be horrified that Giles was there, or just relieved that his only concern was as connoisseur of rare vehicles. But Pearly’s words were all too fresh in my head on a number of topics, not in the least of which was hiding the Time Machine from the rest of the Universe.

Sure, Pearly.

Piece of cake.

I’ll put it with Jimmy Hoffa and the crew of the Mary Celeste.

If Giles had any idea he was staring at a Time Machine, I couldn’t tell, and I wasn’t about to warn him of it either. He might have seen the Back to the Future Movie Trilogy that Marty helped his father write, but I doubt it.

Giles isn’t much of a film buff.

He’s a book snob.

And if he did suspect that the filthy, dented, battered old car was indeed something more than it appeared, he didn’t show it.

“Film Prop, huh?” he grinned, nodding. “Marty must’ve laid out a fortune for this one.”

He patted the door again and I slid in behind the wheel, thinking to move it to the nearest garage and get a tarp over it.

The Time Circuits were off.

The speedometer was showing 0mph in thick red numerals.

The passenger seat was full of odd bits of detritus I couldn’t identify at once, save for a bright pink thing that appeared to be a classic skateboard shape without wheels.

So that’s the Hoverboard…?

My curiosity was all over the place, and I didn’t even want to consider the oddly shaped donut device that sat on the back just above the rear of the roof.

Stark Industries had shrunk – or maybe have yet to shrink in the future – the Arc Reactor from it’s massive size at Long Beach, to one that would kick start a chain reaction vast enough to break light speed.

The Flux Capacitor was just behind my right shoulder, ticking and humming like an old lightbulb with a bad wire.

I stared at it longer than I probably should have, but for all it’s dangers, it seemed utterly innocuous.

I took a deep breath.

Don’t hit 88mph.

That would be bad.

I slammed the door shut on a startled Giles, who backed up the front steps and into the house with a cheerful wave.

Thankfully the keys were in the ignition.

For a few minutes I was sitting in an actual Time Machine as I carefully put my foot on the gas and turned the car around at the Library circle before steering it like a nervous horse with it’s first rider, down to the garages.

It should’ve been the most tremulous moment of my life, besides holding Meridia in my arms for the first time of course. But then again, I’d strapped on a Proton Pack and battled with poltergeists in New York City back when Doc was about ready for me to read his damn letter in 1985, so hinky technological gear could get in line and take a number as far as I was concerned.

I could totally do this Steampunk stuff.

I have to admit, the temptation though…

…well, the temptation to correct things with it was huge.

And for more than one reason.

I pocketed the keys, and left the car in the back of Winter. There’s nothing else in there but McGee’s little Mazda, and no one’s upstairs in the guest rooms either.

I didn’t feel right just leaving it there, but I’d let Jimmy and Noah watch over it later.

I had a plan, and it was going to be interesting.

I just needed to get the players in place and break ground on the Bath House.

Meh!

As Cadfael would say, ‘Harder things are done daily by the Saints, dear boy.’.

Trying not to grin at the thought of Doc and Marty finally getting to reconnect, I strolled as nonchalantly as I could manage, for a man who’d just been driving a bone fide Time Machine, back into the Ballroom.

Thomas, having gotten a call from Harvey, told me he’d prepped the Guest Room that Catherine and Lindsey had been in, for Heather and Evy’s use.

I approved.

Well, neither of them are likely to be disturbed overnight by Gil and Greg going at it next door, now are they?

Harvey was scheduled to be in the room Greg had been using.

“Put him as far away from Gil as you can manage,” I warned. “The Underground. That should work.”

Thomas gave me a brief nod, but his expression was somewhat puzzled.

I didn’t realize I’d be graphically demonstrating the problem to him about 3 hours later.

My unexpected, and yes rather unwanted guests, duly arrived, and were hurried upstairs to my wing of the house as fast as I could get them.

They came through the front, rather than the side, so avoided the Ballroom, but they had to step over some of the rubble, and some of the Dust that still lingered.

Yes, it was rude.

No, I didn’t care.

As much as it was nice to see them again, they’d foisted themselves on me, and I just had to deal with it. There was nothing in the ‘Ancient Book of Roman Etiquette’ that said I had to be particularly social along the way.

Evy, bless her prim and proper heart, was deeply apologetic, and pretended there was nothing at all out of the ordinary going on whatsoever.

Harvey, was not cut from quite the same cloth, but I’ll give him credit for not snarking off at the mess he was greeted with, or the bullet holes in the big doors that fronted my part of the Manor.

Greg had died on the top of the stairs, and been Turned right there.

The carpet was still damp from where the cleaners had been busy.

All of which I was forced to explain when Heather put her foot in the wet patch.

Refreshments were laid out in the Great Room.

Hugs and pats on the back were exchanged.

Tea was had.

Cake was eaten.

Blood was provided.

And I explained whatever else they needed to know, taking care not to mention the things they really didn’t need to know.

Like the Time Machine.

Pearly Soames.

And having a spy in my Clan.

For the most part they listened attentively.

And looked relieved.

More hugs were exchanged.

Warrick came in, said hi and left.

Speed came in, said nothing, and left.

Tony was not available.

Not that I blame him.

It was all very civilized, to be honest.

I heard more about Catherine taking Lily away, and what was going on in Las Vegas.

Everyone who’d been sequestered at the Bellagio had gone home to find themselves not in the least bit put out by the break-ins that had been repaired, and the excellent cleaning jobs that had been done in their various houses and apartments.

I’d already spoken to Danny Ocean, and all was status quo at Caesars, thank you kindly.

Well, at least that Caesar’s.

All the while, I was waiting for someone to tell me why they were really here, but in the end it just seemed that they were being particularly attentive to me.

Which was cool, but I’m not exactly a virgin when it comes to life and death struggles.

Or killing Marcus, as it happens.

They were just contemplating going to bed, and I was wondering how to tell Harvey he’d be in what he calls the ‘Sewer Rooms’, when Gil came in with Greg.

Thomas had done his best to steer people away as they too started retiring for the night and the Ballroom gradually emptied.

But alas, the best laid plans, and all that stuff…

There were hugs at first.

Heather was naturally deeply concerned for Greg, who instantly stiffened like he’d been slapped the moment she touched him.

Harvey and Gil started growling at each other like two Pitbulls going after the main prize – which rather felt too much like my ass for me to strictly comfortable with.

And Evy wasn’t at all sure whom she should chastise first.

At some point, Greg stalked away to the room he was now sharing with Gil, and the door slammed firmly shut.

Heather was clearly upset at something other than finding someone she cared about having been Turned while saving the life of someone else she cared about.

Harvey was beside himself in a fury of self-righteous anger, and babbling away in Egyptian before he could stop himself, accusing his sister of being ‘unable to keep her hands out of this man’s pants in any goddamn century’.

He may have cursed the name of Ra a few times too, just for added emphasis.

“What? Is he hung like a stallion or something? I mean look at him! He’s not exactly prime stud material this time around!”

Or words to that affect.

Hang on, how did Harvey know Gil had slept with Heather?

No, wait.

He’d slept with her before.

I think…

It took me a while to keep up with a language I don’t use that often, and when they all slipped into a more ancient dialect, I was seriously struggling.

Gil was lost and confused, and not a little bit concerned.

Not a good look for a man who normally enjoys puzzles.

But there was one hell of a shouting matching going on.

Evy tried vainly to calm the twins down, but they were off on a tear, and that was that.

From what I could glean, as they stalked around each other like they were sizing up where to hit first, Gil had been in Egypt.

What… the…?

He’d been my tutor.

And my father!!

What the hell??

Did I hear that right?

Gil had been my father in Egypt, and Greg had the Soul of the man’s wife whom Heather had cuckolded when she’d bedded Gil and conceived me!

‘Previously, on Days of Our Vampire Lives…’

Wow, Pearly was right.

Okay so that little comment he’d made suddenly came into being.

Heather was screeching something about how Gil had wanted it, but Harvey was adamant she’d coerced him.

“I couldn’t give Ra an heir, you cretin! He had far too power already! I had to conceive somehow!”

Evy stood back, pulling me and Gil out of the way.

“So you bedded the help?”

“He was handsome, intelligent, rational and kind! Which is more than I can say for my own brother!”

Heather actually threw a plate at him.

I’ve not seen that done in years.

But she’s old school.

At least it wasn’t an heirloom piece.

“And married!!”Harvey retorted, straightening his tie when he stood back up, the plate having sailed over his head and smashed against the fireplace. “Now here he is again! With his wife! Again!! And don’t you lie about sleeping with him this time around too! I knew it the moment you set eyes on each other! You’d spread your legs for me if I need a fuck badly enough!”

Evy flinched.

Yeah, that stung.

“Better thank Ra then, that you’re not my Mate, you hairy assed baboon!”

I flinched at that one.

Harvey doesn’t have a hairy ass.

I can vouch for that.

Oh, wait.

A metaphorical hairy ass.

Okay, I can keep up with this.

But seriously, Gil was my father in Egypt?

That’s going to take some getting used to, but it does explain his urge to protect me now and then.

When he’s not trying to get in my pants.

“Oh, sure, yes he’s so very smart! He’s so smart, he thought I was sleeping with Nick!” Harvey was pissed. “He thought I was hitting him too, but I’m sure he didn’t talk about that one while you were giving him instructions on your back!”

I half expected him to toss something else at her in return but he at least has a little respect for the older and more valuable objects in my house. Instead he reached for a pair of Japanese Sai that were mounted on a wall display near my office door.

I’d seen him use Sai before. and they span through his fingers with hypnotic ease.

They’re amongst his favorite weapons.

And at 21.5 inches long, they’ve got quite a reach.

If I remember rightly, he gave me the ones he’s playing with as a gift.

Okay, so things just got a bit more dangerous.

Evy was whispering to Gil, trying to explain that Heather and Harvey were siblings, and they were exceptionally old in Vampire terms. She was also translating for him, and slowly edging him to the Atrium.

Evy, for all her flighty moments of humor and fun, is actually one of the most sensible women I’ve ever met.

And one of the cleverest.

Gil, on the other hand, was staring at me with his mouth open and his lips flapping mutely.

“Are you jealous?” Heather hissed at her brother. “Of course Gil wanted my son. My son is beautiful! My son is worth fighting for! My son is well trained in all the sexual arts. Just look at him!”

Whoa!

Wait, no!

Don’t drag me into this.

“My son is worthy of being craved by…”

“…the help?” Harvey asked archly. “He’s slept with everyone!”

Hey!!

Do you mind?

That was a bit rude.

“Did you? You haven’t! You wouldn’t dare! He’s your nephew!” Heather screeched, eyes narrowing suspiciously.

“My nephew died at the hands of Ra, you idiot woman! And good job not telling him you’re his mother.”

All the color drained out of her face, and Harvey went in for the kill.

“He already knows that, your perfect in every way little boy over there! So when d’you tell him about his sister, huh? Y’know, the one whose not quite so strappingly admirable and terribly handsome but just as well trained in the sack!”

He threw the Sai in his right hand and it thudded into the column with a vibrating twang, just below Raphael’s tapestry.

I…

What?

A sister?

I have a sister?

Had a sister?

“Harvey!” I felt cold as I yelled his name. “What did you say?”

Heather was about ready to stab her brother for this, and her expression could’ve stunned a water buffalo at 20 paces.

“We’re twins, Nicolaus. When she bore you in Egypt, she had twins too.”

He’d switched back to English, just so Gil could understand it better.

“I had a sister?” I asked, wondering why I suddenly sounded like I was five years old.

Have a sister,” Harvey corrected.

“Shut up!” Heather screeched, “It’s not true! It’s not true! You lied then, and you lie still!”

Evy sighed heavily, seeming nervous and edgy.

“What is wrong with you??” Harvey’s language went straight back to his native tongue without pause. “What?? Why can’t you deal with this! You gave the baby to the midwife who gave it her apprentice. Ra would never take a second child, let alone a girl, and you knew it! You knew! You lied to him for years. You lied to everyone. You lied to yourself and you lied to him too!” He pointed the other Sai at Gil. “But I saw what happened. She didn’t live to be some pretty princess in a fairy tale, your sorry little daughter. She didn’t marry the prince and have a happy life! She was barely two hours old when a Horus Guard smashed her skull into a wall.” I watched him swallow hard at the memory. “The one who carried her, barely a woman herself…” He couldn’t find the words, and shook his head. “I’d never seen anyone kill the Horus with their bare hands. But she did, and the ground shook with her anger. She killed three before they took her down too. Ra ordered it. He ordered the deaths of every other newborn that day too, just to be safe. Just to make sure only his offspring was honored. And you did that! You! You and him, your precious tutor over there! But you didn’t tell him he had a daughter either.”

Tears were streaming down Heather’s face, but they were cold and furious, not hot with shame.

Evydidn’t move.

Clearly this was something she hadn’t been made aware of either.

Still Harvey wasn’t done. “Tell your son the truth now. Tell him! Tell him his sister came back and you won’t even look the man in the face knowing your daughter didn’t return you a princess with a family full of handsome children! Tell him!! Tell him about the limp and the stiff neck and the bad eyes, and the Mate who still makes the ground shake when he’s angry. Tell him!!”

As Gil forced his way past Evy to reach Heather, nearly tripping on the furniture in his haste to comfort her, Harvey threw the second Sai.

And it felled the man with a perfect strike, straight to the center of the chest, right through to the Moto between the two Yoku side guards above the handle.

The Sai is not a sharp weapon.

It’s for melee.

The tip is blunt.

But he threw it with such force it was deadly.

Gil took a shocked and gasping breath, staggering backward at the impact before falling to the floor with a thump as his legs gave from under him.

Evy leapt to his side with a little shrieking noise in her throat.

Heather spat at her brother’s feet in disgust.

Even Harvey seemed rather stunned at what he’d done, but he wasn’t about to apologize for it.

He doesn’t do that.

With a sniff, he straightened his tie again, smoothed back his hair and stalked out through the Atrium.

Heather went to Gil, her eyes flashing and her fangs down.

And apparently I’d been completely forgotten.

To be honest, I couldn’t move.

I really didn’t want to move.

I heard Greg opening the bedroom door again.

There was yelling.

Panic.

Running feet.

Me?

I just stood there like I was still with Pearly looking in at the world as Gil was Turned on my Great Room floor and taken to the hospital for examination.

I have no idea who moved him or how.

I stood there, staring into the past, seeing my sister, and his Mate who can make the ground shake.

All this time.

And I never knew.

We never knew.

His Mate is my oldest daughter.

I wanted to laugh at the beautiful symmetry and interconnected nature of it all.

My oldest daughter was Mated to my sister.

Mr. Rhys and Mr. Finch.

I’d Sired them both so long ago.

All this time Heather kept the secret.

All this time, and I never knew.

Warrick snapped me from my thoughts when I felt his arms around me.

I heard him whispering something in my ear but I only felt the warmth of his breath on my skin.

“Where’s Harvey?” I asked no one in particular.

“Front drive,” Thomas replied. “You may need to go calm him down, Master Nicolaus.”

I did.

With a right hook to the jaw.

“Why didn’t you tell me before this?” I demanded.

“Heather was meant to,” he huffed, sliding down a tree trunk about halfway along the line of oaks, and flopping into the root bole.

He was bleeding from his lower lip, but being well fed and fit, it healed in seconds.

Still, he took it like a man.

“It wasn’t my story, Nico. She swore she’d tell you. I wasn’t going to say anything at all, but seeing that man again…” He sighed, loosening his tie and unbuttoning his jacket.

Those expensive pants and shoes of his wouldn’t appreciate the dampness he’s sitting in, but I don’t think he cares right now.

He’ll probably send Gil his dry cleaning bill anyway.

“She can’t help herself. She loved that man back in Egypt and she loves him still.”

“She’s Turned him.”

“I know.”

“He’s not going away any time soon,” I said sourly.

“I know that too. But he’ll get a chance now to be something better, if he can stay out of Heather’s bed.”

“Seen that already,” I snorted.

He laughed up at me as I stood over him. “Even as Vampires we don’t get to pick our parents, Nico.”

I couldn’t help the eyerolling that ensued.

“Does Harold know?”

He shook his head. “His Mate does, but there’s not much escapes that man’s memory. He told me the whole story from the young midwife’s point of view. There was no doubting it was him from back then. He got it right in every detail.”

Where’s Pearly’s whiskey when I need it?

“How many other children died because of my birth?”

“Don’t go there Nico, it’s not worth it. Far too many bridges have been burned since then. You can’t change it.”

Oh, but I can, Harvey.

You see, there’s a Time Machine in the garage.

Really, the irony is too much right now.

And the smoke from all those bridges is only starting to clear.

Toeing a couple of bullet casings aside, I sat next to him in the tree roots and rubbed my knuckles thoughtfully. “I have a sister.”

He snorted rudely. “You’ll get over it. It’s not that fabulous.”

I laughed lightly. “I’ve slept with my sister.”

He snorted louder. “Yeah, you win on that one.”

I heard his head thump against the tree trunk as he leaned back.

“When you talk to Harold and John,” he continued, “tell them from me, I’m sorry it came all came out this way. You can tell them about me murdering Grissom too if you like. I’m actually rather proud of that move, but I claim full deniability.”

“You know I don’t lie.”

“I do, Nico. I’m a lawyer.”

We sat there listening to the tree, and to the sounds of the house finally calming again, watching a low growling gator plod steadily past.

“Thomas gave you a room in the Sewer,” I joked at last.

“Don’t worry, I’ll stay clear of sis and the help for a while.”

“You could stop calling Gil ‘the help’.”

“Probably not, no.” He glanced at his watch.

Like everything else he wears, it’s expensive and elegant.

I was going to ask him what time it was, but I really didn’t want to know.

“So, what’s next Nicolaus? What happens here now after all this mess?”

I took a deep breath and thought about that.

Everything had changed, for all of us.

And yet everything was still the same.

“We’ve buried the dead. We’ve celebrated their memory. We’ve made new friends. We’ve found old ones returned. Now we honor the living, and rebuild for the future.”

Harvey nodded sagely. “Sounds just like family life to me, Nico.”

“Damn right,” I replied firmly, patting him on the knee. “Damn right.”

This entry was posted in Sylum 10th Annivesary, Sylum Advent: 2019, Sylum Events and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sylum Advent 2019: Day One

  1. ladyholder says:

    Well now. Well, now.

    • Nicolaus Meridius says:

      Thanks! It feels really good to have Clan War behind me … though so much more is coming for Advent *cackles* runs away.

    • Nicolaus Meridius says:

      *grins* as said this wasn’t the easiest one to write, but it got there in the end. Well that and Pearly is an asshole.

  2. Antoinette says:

    Wow. I’m rereading tomorrow.

  3. jackbauerconnie says:

    Whoa…that was staggering, amazingly so. I loved it! Next!

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