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The dreams didn't return, and I rested peacefully. Finally I awakened when I felt Martin's arm stir under me.

"No more ghostly foes?" he asked with a smile as my eyes opened.

"All gone," I promised, dotting a quick kiss on his chin. "And what about you? Any adventurous dreams of your own?"

He laughed and pulled himself up. "I had a girl laying across me. What do you think I was dreaming of?"

Yeah, right...I bet he was dreaming about donuts.

He looked over to the place where the tray was, but saw it was gone. "Pity. What do you care to do now?"

I ticked off a few alternatives. "Search for more food, spar, make out, torment Merlin or Mandor, practice shape-shifting... We've got a lot of options. You're in charge, boyo, what sounds good to you?"

He laughed. "You really want to stay down here for a whole month? Just let time eek by in Amber while we cause havoc down here."

"Why not?" I shrugged, sitting up with him and leaning on his shoulder. "We grow stronger, faster, and they'll have no idea! Keep my shape-shifting under wraps for as long as you can help it," I pointed my finger. "It might come in handy."

"You know, this is a little like keeping me captive of my promise... Trying to reverse the power play?" he smirked.

"Well, it's up to YOU if you want the five hours to be Amber hours, or hours that we have together. Truth be told, I'm enjoying your company. Might be better if we don't rush anything, if this is something better, hm?" I batted my eyelashes teasingly. "In some cultures, lovers don't become lovers until after they marry."

"One problem with the staying here so long we become stronger, faster, et cetera... It doesn't work. Otherwise this would be a favorite Amberite spot. You grow through conflict, through surviving. Sure, time will give you tricks, but the only thing that actually makes you better is real conflict and surprise. Not fake stuff. And I know for a fact Amber isn't one of those cultures-- are you saying you're from one, oh my little pouncer? And five hours in Amber, five hours in each other's company... You decide."

"I don't mine either way," I shrugged casually...*too* casually. I felt heat rising to my cheeks, and I cautiously cleared my throat. "Which do you like? Five hours of me doing whatever you want followed by...something? Or a month of me doing whatever you want as a love slave?" I put my hands out like a scale, weighing them back and forth. "Depends on your patience, which you seem to possess so much of..."

"Five hours? My dear, we've been asleep for 6, so the five hours is well beyond up. And you're the innocent. It's up to you."

Innocent, bah... That wasn't what worried me!

Or was it? I was quickly getting flustered, and I knew it was probably showing. Luckily I was still a bit groggy, otherwise I would have started getting waspish at this point.

He moved his hand over the stone again and ordered some food, this time being very specific.

I swallowed faintly, feeling a little nervous. "Oh, I don't mind either way. It sounds enjoyable...everyone says it is...however, I know it's a binding thing. How much do you trust me?"

He looked back, confused, and for a minute tried to figure out how the one thing has anything to do with the other... "Binding? How do you figure? And what do you mean, trust..." He winked. "Were you planning on doing something nasty before?"

Again I cleared my throat. Okay, so this obviously wasn't a big deal to him, like it was to me. "Never mind, forget I mentioned it. Flip a coin, since neither of us seems to care which to go by?"

He moved back to the couch. "No, no... I'm intrigued. I told you, discomfort sits well on such a seasoned warrior."

I frowned at him, narrowing my eyes.

He sat down. "I wouldn't say neither of us cares about the arrangement. I'd say one is just too nervous to actually make a decision, which, you know, is always a bad thing. Leaving something important up to the fates."

I pulled my legs up onto the couch, tucking my ankles underneath me in a lotus position as I stared at the carpet. I was nervous, and confused, and I could feel myself getting more than a little testy. "Well, YOU certainly aren't deciding," I scowled. "And I wish you would, it would make things a lot easier for me!"

He held up his hands defensively. "Hey, never said the decision was easy. But it _is_ all yours. And I'm not going to push one way or the other, though I'm fairly certain you know how my mind tends. After all, I did try to win all the clothes off of you."

I took a deep breath, and balled my fists together. They were trembling faintly. This would have been much easier if he really WAS a stupid pimp and didn't respect me. He'd demand to take me then, I'd comply, and that would be that. But he...he was giving me the lead. It wasn't only shocking, it was disturbing! What kind of man didn't act like a barbaric sex fiend?! I needed more time to mull this over in my mind before I could make a final decisions. I just wasn't ready. "Eat. Let's eat something first."

He nodded, than touched my shaking hands and laughed. "I'm not going to pounce on you, Fae...That's your job, remember? Faetan the feared who needs no kisses or to be seduced?"

The feel of his warm hands on mine brought forth a million images. How he turned up my head when we first met Merlin...sitting next to one another in a cold freezer, gorging on ice cream for the first time...his smile...his eyes...his laugh...

~What's wrong with me?!~ I cried silently.

My smile was strained, for I didn't quite trust the words that would pop out of my mouth if I chose to speak just then.

The THING reentered, carrying a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches, all not moving. Martin looked pleased, and took one up.

I reached out to take one too, eating it slowly, one nibble at a time. It was tasteless to me, because all of my thoughts and senses were sharply focused on the matter at hand. ~How to do this...what to say...~ Quietly I mulled things over in my mind, thinking about what I wanted to say, the questions to be asked, and the level of commitment involved.

When the sandwiches were no more, I sat back and exhaled slowly, thinking it over still. Then I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. I suddenly found something to say...but lost it again and stared back down at the carpet. ~ARGH! Form, you idiot words!~

"What if I fall in love with you after this?" I glared at the floor. "Doing...that...tends to have that effect on people sometimes."

Martin stopped midchew and swallowed hard. "Hard to say, really," he said, after a pause. "I mean, I'm no seer. I can't predict the future. But if you're asking if I would just dump you and run after the next set of tennis ball boobs, then no, that's not likely to happen. If you're asking if I'm going to whisk you away to the first white chapel I can find, then no, that's not likely to happen, at least not now."

It was a good answer, one that didn't frighten me. Not that anything WOULD frighten me... I meant that it was in my comfort zone. I rubbed at my forehead, closing my eyes. "One last question then...and I'll make my decision. And be do you feel about me?" I didn't look at him as I asked the question...I *couldn't* look at him...and put my hands on my knees again as I stared at the carpet.

He was silent for a long time. "I like you, Fae. I do. I like your spitfire and your vitality and the fact you aren't bitter and you're one of my generation..."

I held my breath, dreading the 'but...' that usually got tacked onto phrases like that. My fingers knotted in my shirt as I quit breathing, waiting for that moment.

But it didn't come. There were no amendments, no additions. All he said was, "You don't have to decide anything today. I was-- I'll just shut up now, how about that?"

There was a long, pregnant pause (yes another one). All that was heard was the quiet sound of our breathing, and the faint creak of the couch springs as I shifted a little.

I'd made my decision. But I didn't know how to voice it.

I turned my head to look at Martin, and couldn't hold back the little smile that crept onto my face. I was nervous, and shy, and was like being a teen-ager all over again. "I you not only put up with my crap, but dish it back out. And don't push me into anything." I looked back down at the floor. "I like you a lot, actually. And I want to...but I don't want know...mess it up." I took a deep shuddering breath, then slowly pushed it back out. "I just can't talk right today, can I?"

He laughed. "I like a nervous Faetan. Is it something people don't usually see?" A hand moved out and touched my shoulder. "Don't worry about it, okay? You've got millenia left. I'll make sure of it."

"You're the only one to see it," I smiled at him, feeling a bit more encouraged. My eyes flickered to his hand, and I felt my heart starting to pound loudly. I swallowed. Then the last words of his statement socked me in the head. He'd just...yes, he had! He had just vowed to protect me! Not that I need protection, but--well--it still made my heart sing. "Um...thank you," I said, touched by his promise. Slowly, I shifted and sat a little closer to him, laying my hand over his. "Not a word to anyone...promise?"

He laughed lightly and leaned forward, imitaing my movement. "I thought this was supposed to be a torrid affair? Or am I supposed to be secretive on details... Techniques and such..."

I chuckled, content just to look at him. "I like the way you look," I ignored his question. There was no way I knew of to answer it. "Just thought you should know." I smiled down at his hand, stroking it gently. "And you have nice hands."

"Why thank you." He took a moment to admire them. "I guess I'm lucky. I'm stuck with them, aren't I? Now you, you have lovely everything. Do you cheat?"

Normally, yes, but not to what he was referring to. "I have ugly toes," I reassured him with a wink. "Which is why you can't see them." I shifted again, angling in to feel the heat of his closeness without actually making contact, and touched a hand to his cheek with the lightest brush of fingertips. Then I looked up at him, to make sure I was doing this right. I didn't want to make the first just seemed *wrong* if I did it first.

He took my hand and kissed it. "I'm afraid I'd have to stop there. I can't lock this door-- And it does seems a tad impolite to ravage my lover in the king's resting room. He actually does use this place, you know..."

Betrayal! Tragedy! I'd just spilled my guts to the man...for what?! I shoved him back with a noise of disgust. "Then why didn't you SAY so in the first place instead of playing me as a fool?! ARGH!!! I don't BELIEVE this!" Angrily I jumped off of the couch, stomping aimlessly around the room. I would've stomped away somewhere else, but where was I supposed to go? And besides, I was still kinda sorta held there by his presence.

He laughed. "You're beautiful when you're angry... I didn't want to assume." He got up and stopped my mini-rampage by grabbing my waist and pulling me to him. "It's not as if this is the only place in the universe, you know."

" it's the only place where we'd actually have TIME before the friggin' BALL!" I sulked, turning my head away...and yet, of course, I couldn't pull away from his gentle tug. It felt nice and warm.

He chuckled and kissed the back of my exposed neck. "You were planning on taking a month? You are woefully uninformed. But I do know a few fast places I like... They aren't Chaos, but they're still a little slice of home."

I blinked, muffling the purr in my throat at the feel of his kiss. It was a matter of principle. "You mean, still want to?" I held still, as if the slightest movement would change his mind. "Won't Merlin get mad if we leave unex..." Wait a minute!!! I was a pirate! Since when were pirates polite?! "...oh hell, let's go."

He pulled out his Trump deck and shuffled out a card-- a black beach and a bright blue sea... It shimmered and came alive, and we were standing in front of a dazzling sunset, a busy boardwalk behind us. I realized that I was witnessing twin suns setting over the water... The stark beauty of the place floored me, and all I could do was stare.

"Largo-- I named it after a place on shadow Earth. Hope you like it."

Martin's voice broke through my thoughts. I leaned forward, gaping at the rolling waves of the sea. "Of COURSE I like it! I've never seen an ocean like that before..." Then I looked at him, stunned at the implications. "You made this?"

"There's this whole pointless philisophical debate about whether there's a whole bunch of shadows out there, and we just find what we like among them, or if we actually make shadows when we walk. But that's besides the point. I found, or made, this place. Just looked for something to suit my fancy, and stuck around for a bit. Told you there was more than a river of ale."

"Right...there's an ocean of it too," I grinned at him, turning to smile at his form framed by the glow of the two setting suns. He seemed powerfully attractive to me right then...way more so than before. Was it the lighting? Something in the air? I didn't care. "Awful lot of people around, though." Why were my cheeks growing hot?

"You mean Faetan the Feared isn't an exhibitionist?" He took my hand and led me towards the town. "You don't want to play roller ball first? Or ping pong? You're sure about this?"

I thought about it for a moment, then smiled. That actually sounded good. I sucked at foreplay except when I was pretending. And I wasn't about to go into that type of gushy lying with someone I actually respected. Yes...a game would be perfect. "No...let's play a game first, something to get us warmed up. You ever before?" I grinned at him, my eyes flashing.

"Football? I love football-- I hope we have the same rules..." He paused for a moment, and I grinned. innocent little tackle, and things would fall right into place! "Touch football? Or are you a bit rougher than that. And you had better not use any of that shapeshifting to get a leg up. Save that for later."

"TOUCH football?! Touch football is for the weak!" I harumphed indignantly. "We're going all out...I'm gonna tackle you, boy!" I laughed haughtily, punching my fists into my hips. "Make sure it's a private field, though," I winked. I didn't want anyone else moving in on the action.

He did an about face, and pulled me along the beach. I guess he liked the idea! "Hope you don't mind sand, then." We traced our way down the surf, until the town disappeared and we were blissfully alone, save the sea gulls. And if they didn't keep their crap to themselves, there were going to be a lot of DEAD sea gulls.

"Now, mind, I bruise easily. I'm such a delicate one, you know... No match for super-goddess Faetan."

"You'd better hope you get the first tackle then, eh?" I grinned maliciously at him, kicking through the sand happily. I looked at the overly large shirt that I wore, holding out my arms to make the sleeves come back to my wrists. "I really should have brought a bathing suit along..."

"Pfft." HEY! He stole my phrase again!!! "Who needs bathing suits. You haven't been especially modest today, you know. Tearing off your top in front of all of Gerard's Navy... well, the ones with spy glasses, anyway. And then tearing off your top again at various poignant moments. " He looked around. "No ball though. Pity. Guess I forgot that."

It still seemed like a long time ago, I could barely believe that we'd done all that just in a day! "Maybe later," I chuckled. And I briefly speculated over whether or not anyone else got an eyeful, or if Martin was just trying to be clever. "It's just that it's my father's shirt, he might not like the fact that I'm tearing it up just like that."

Martin laughed. "Oh-- I have to give you a tour of his closets then. If he has any skeletons, which I'm sure he does, they are _exquisitely_ dressed. I don't think he believes in tossing anything that he thinks looks good on him, and of course, _everything_ looks good on him. Or so he thinks. Flora thinks differently."

I grinned, and started looking around as we walked. "If you can call upon that reservoire of patience, I could go get changed into something more...accomodating...before we start our game."

Martin sighed. "I suppose... I'll just sit here and talk to the seagulls-- count the sand-- pine, pine..." He sat on the black sand and sifted it idly, pretending to pout. "Don't run off too far, or back to that dastardly Merlin. Or worse, Mandor."

He looked cute when he sulked. I laughed, tweaking the shadow just a little bit so that I found a, of course (you weren't expecting pink, I hope)...behind a convenient little changing room. I didn't bother going inside the room, content to change behind it. "I noticed he had you bristling earlier! What was up with that?" I left my clothing there, and picked up the conveniently lost football that happened to have wandered back there as well.

I loved being a goddess.

When I returned, I found that Martin had abandoned talking to seagulls for playing absent-mindedly in the sand. A crude little castle, kind of lop-sided, crumbling as he added a bit of sand here, a bit of sand there... Such a cute little guy.

He looked up, and smiled. "Nice. You should wear that to the ball." He stood.

"Too bad we already commissioned a dress," I beamed back at him. "Ah well...can't cause a scandal in front of Bleys after all. Shall we begin?" I tossed the football from hand to hand, grinning eagerly. ~As soon as this ball touches his hand, he's going down!~

He crouched a bit and readied himself for my onslaught. "Bring it on."

I leered at him, then tossed the ball expertly. As soon as he got it, I charged forward with the intent to tackle him onto the sand. Oh yeah, this was gonna be good... "FEAR ME!"

He caught the ball, then popped it in the air a bit. I landed a direct hit at his stomach, and we both fell back, me landing on top of him, triumphant. Victory was mine!

Until the ball came back down and bonked me on the head.

"OW!" I winced with a snarl, and shook the sand out of my hair, then looked down at him with a grin. "That ended too quickly..."

"I'll try better next time," he grinned back. "Silly me. Butterfingers. But hey, the ball is on my side. It took revenge, didn't it?"

"Let's try that again," I grinned, and gave him a quick peck before rolling off of him and standing to my feet. "I don't want to be on top for my first time."

"Of course not. Though, there is some precedence for making you work for it-- Ah well, it's the lady's choice." He stood and brushed himself off. "Now, am I supposed to tackle you...? I'm not terribly familiar with this brand of foreplay."

"HA! And you're supposing that *I* am? I don't know where to begin either way!" I picked up the football, giving it a little spin.

He laughed and dug the ball of his foot into the ground, then launched forward before I really had any time to react. The football hit the ground lazily as Martin knocked me out from underneath it.

We landed, not too hard, and he stuck out his tongue at me.


"Creep," I chuckled, looking up at him. Always copying my moves...or perhaps he figured that I was relaxed around that kind of thing. My smile softened faintly, and my feelings grew more tender as I reached up to tap the tip of his tongue. "Very attractive."

Martin made a face as I realized I still had sand on my fingers... "Blegh." He laughed. "I'm no creep. I didn't call you a creep for tackling me, did I? I thought this was the way you played? Or do I need to be enlightened?"

I laughed at him. "I'm beginning to think the sand isn't such a great idea...maybe there's a large beach towel that I over-looked somehow behind that changing cabin." But I made no moves towards it, rather enjoying myself as I lied there with him. It felt really good. Better than I imagined, certainly. "What an adorable little hellion."

"A hellion? Me? Your little innocent Martin? How could that be... What are you doing to me, Fae?" He kissed me softly. "I like the sand. I could always make it softer for you-- just don't make me eat anymore."

I delighted in the soft kiss, and my eyes gleamed as I returned it again. "I think you've got yourself a deal," I ran my fingers idly through his hair, caressing the back of his neck. We kissed again, and things flowed naturally after that.


A while later, I looked at the stars-- So that's what all the fuss was about. I felt satisfied and content, and I'd never felt happier in all my life. My heart glowed with what seemed like golden light, and...I even felt like my life had new meaning.

I put my head on his chest and cuddled under the blanket he'd found after the sun went down and the air cooled. Martin held me. "Like my sky?"

"It needs a constellation of me," I chuckled, purring contentedly in his arms. I felt, even...just listening to the beating of his heart. "It's sad though...I've given up on my ocean-of-ale world. I like this one much better."

He laughed. "I'm still not whisking you away to the first white chapel I see. But you can hunker down here for a while, if you want. Bat your eyelashes at Merlin. I'm sure he'd draw you a trump for it." He touched my hair. "How long do you want to stay?"

I shrugged, nuzzling my cheek against his chest with a contented smile. "As long as you want. Until the ball starts, even." I grinned, glancing up at him as he toyed with my hair. It felt soooo nice. "What's your favorite color?"

"Oh, I think we should head back before then... You know how it is. You never know what will pop up. And no one has a trump of you yet, so I'm sure good ol' Dad's just pacing up a storm, wondering where you ran off to..."

I doubted it, Dad didn't seem to worry about much.

He paused. "Hope he's doing okay. That was one hell of a shiner."

My smile dropped, and I held onto Martin just a little tighter. "I'm worried too...did you see how it hurt him even just to toss his head? It's... I don't know. I always saw him as immortal. To see him like that was disturbing."

He was quiet a long time, staring at the stars, thinking, reliving something past. "Faetan, we can die. We bleed, just like anything else, we bruise. The only difference is that we keep going until something bigger tries to eat us. Eric died. Dierdre died. And a whole @#$*load of ones I never even knew. For a while, everyone thought Bleys was dead, and Caine too. And Corwin. We're tough. Not invincible."

I looked up at the stars with him, watching them sparkle and shine. I was suddenly possessed with a fierce notion to protect Martin, and keep him from anything that would hurt him. My arms constricted around his middle, and I kissed his cheek with my eyes still fixed on the sky overhead. "It'll be okay," I murmured, for my sake as well as his own.

He chuckled drily. "You're not going to join up with the war effort any more? I've managed to sway you? My-- I'm impressed with _myself_..."

I made a face at him, but stayed quiet and didn't avert my gaze.

He lost the joking tone. "I'm sure your dad'll be okay. It's only a few bruises. If I know Gerard, he's set a few wards about, just to make sure he doesn't have anything too bad. He'd hurt your dad. Not kill him. It wasn't all his fault, after all."

"Hmph," I grunted, not pleased with it in any case. "And you haven't kept me from it, just delayed me for a bit until I know more about what's going on. It won't be happening in the next hundred years in any case." I smiled faintly, but let it fade. "How old are you, anyway?"

"I'm an old man-- Gets tricky counting it in shadows, but I've spent a decade here, a good fifteen there... I'd say nearing my first hundred." He laughed. "Am I robbing the cradle?"

"Hardly," I purred, glad to be on a lighter topic. "But I'm beginning to see why everyone calls me 'child.' And you never answered my question...why don't you care for Mandor much?"

"Mandor? Mandor makes sport in stealing other guys' catches. I stayed in Chaos for a while, and I'll be damned if any time I met a girl, he didn't show up at some point, making her go all googly-- not that he ever did anything with them. He's too polite, of course. But the evening is shot after that."

"And did you *really* think that I would leave your side for his?" I chuckled, resting my elbow on his chest so I could look at him with a wide smile. "I coined the white hair bit. He stole it from me! Besides," I chuckled, and kissed him lightly. "I like you better."

He laughed. "No-- there was a discussion-- I claimed you, and he laid off. But I'm afraid he's the one who gets to lay claim to the white hair bit. He's older than some of the younger Amberites, you know."

I didn't care, it was still my trademark.

"But thanks for choosing me anyway."

"My pleasure," I chuckled. In the pale starlight, my eyes moved back down for a second to where my elbow landed, right next to that scar on Martin's chest. That was odd, I pondered, for I'd thought all Amberites healed fully...

"Martin...where did this come from?" I asked, gently tracing the scar with my fingertip. "Who did this to you?"

He sighed. "It's a long story. And it involves your father, and not in the best light. Are you sure you want to hear this?"

I nodded grimly. "I think I'd better. And I'd rather hear it from you than anyone else."

He rolled to his side and looked at me, the same grim expression mirrored on his face.

"A while back, your dad and Aunt Fi and Brand made a run for the throne. They figured the best way to do this was to get rid of Oberon (of course), and align themselves with Chaos. Only problem is Chaos can't get up here on their own. The nobles, sure, but the soldiers would just get sick and die. So they had to open up a road.

"They figured they could do this by spilling a lot of blood on the pattern and cracking up reality a bit... Make Amber a bit less solid. They needed a lot of blood-- and someone who wouldn't be missed.

"They drew straws, and Brand drew the short one. He trumped me-- never did find out how he got one of me-- and we chatted a bit, and the next thing I knew, I had a knife in my chest, and he was pulling me forward. I'm stronger, though, so I got away... Stayed a while with some friends of Ben's, healed up enough to walk, then ran like hell.

"It was almost fatal. And if Bleys had drawn the short straw, it would have been."

His tale turned my stomach. All right, so I'm no innocent. I'd murdered my fair share of villains, but that was just it...I killed villains, not innocent young men like Martin. But...would I have done the same thing? I didn't want to believe it. Not about me, not about Bleys. I frowned, and looked at him. "Bleys wouldn't do something like that...not to another Amberite." Would he...? "Brand's the psychotic one."

"Faetan, they weren't trying to tickle me. I was supposed to die. They needed a LOT of blood. Your dad can be as nasty as the rest of them, but he has tried to make up for it a little bit since then. You know-- bygones."

And thus, me. I wondered if this was the reason that Dad had brought me along, all the while. As a peace offering. I should've been angry about that, but lying there with Martin, a man that I cared deeply about... I couldn't summon the fury to mind. Not about that matter, anyhow. I was still fuming about the attempt on his life.

"He lost the battle. He accepted defeat, and stayed away from the castle for a while. A few times he tracked me down. Never really said he was sorry, but it's not his way."

My eyes narrowed with smoldering anger. "I can't believe... What did YOU do to deserve THAT?! Oooo...that makes me angry..." My fist landed in the sand. "That won't happen again," I vowed, looking at him seriously with my lips quirked in a frown. "I'll make sure of it!"

He sighed. "How? Are you going to finish what Gerard started? The guy who stabbed me is dead, Fae. Dee ee ay dee. He can't hurt me. And Bleys knows better than to try something. Back then, no one would have come after him with a blood debt-- or he thought. No one knew that Ben had me under his wing. Now, he wouldn't dare. Ben, Gerard, hell, Flora with one of her toys-- He'd be a greasy red-haired splat."

"I didn't mean--never mind," I sighed, sitting up and draping my arms over my knees. "Just...I've got your back covered, all right? Take it, please. There's not much else I can offer." I burned inside to help him somehow. Yes, he was more capable than me in just about everything, but I still felt like I should do *something*. I hoped that Bleys hadn't planned my birth solely as a guardian or peace-offering to Martin. It would explain the martial attitudes I'd had to learn growing up, and perhaps the reason he'd tried to wash Jaxx out of my head. But if that was the case, then my allegiance was to Martin and not my father.

And then a further thought disturbed me. Had Bleys arranged for Jaxx to die?

I shook my head, not wanting to believe it. My mind was going into suspicion overload, and I didn't like how it was changing my way of thinking.

He sat up and I felt his arms slip around me, hugging me close. "Thought you had my front covered... But I'll be okay. I was the perfect target because I was an Amberite no one really cared about-- or even knew about. My dad knew, a few of his cohorts. But that was about it. I didn't find my way into the main decks until a few years ago. I was just some bastard kid in Rebma."

Those words chilled me. How could anyone not care about... I was stiff in his arms at first...wondering how he felt, and what he was thinking...then I turned and hugged him just as tightly, and closed my eyes shut. "You're worth way more than that to me," I whispered, my voice shuddering. "I hope you know that."

He sighed. "I know Faetan. I do. I'm worth a lot more than that to a lot of people. It's okay. And being what I was wasn't so bad, you know. I was taken care of. I don't know how good Random would have been as a father before Vialle. Or how good Morganthe would have been."

"Okay." I smiled a little, and stroked my fingers through his hair. ~Whew, I almost blurted out more than I'm willing to say! He would've laughed at me if I told him...~ And I couldn't think of anything that would have hurt me more. "Just seemed like you were sort of alone. I felt protective. Matronly, as Bleys put it." I growled lightly.

"Maternal," he corrected, laughing. "No way, no how, are you a matron, Fae."

Whoops... I could've sworn Bleys had said...oh well, it didn't matter now.

"So what now? Do we vacation here awhile-- Let the fools up there worry about the ball? Or do you want to head back up... Or wander off somewhere new?" He laid back down. "I'm open to options. I have eternity, if I'm careful. And with my guardian..."

"We should go to the ball...I have a lot of questions I want to ask my father." I laid back with him, angling myself slightly so I could lay on his chest and trace my fingers over his neck and jaw. "But I suppose a few days more together can't hurt, can they?" I smiled with a mischievous chuckle. "I still have to show you my demon form, I'm so proud of it."

He pulled his head to look at me. "Then why don't you? I'm interested in seeing all of what I'm getting. Is this what I'm going to see now when I get you mad?"

"Only if you don't enjoy it," I winked. "Otherwise I'll just turn into something gross...nothing seems to shock you much! Except for me being a maiden...but that was in the past," I chuckled, and rose to my feet. I looked off in the distance for a moment, with a little smile on my face as I brought Mandor's teachings to mind. Once I was focused, I closed my eyes and started to concentrate.

My hair fluttered in unfelt wind, shimmering into a bushy mane of white locks that flowed wildly over my shoulders. A smile curved on my lips as my form shuddered, and sprouted thick, warm, reddish-brown fur with a darker ruff around the neck that covered my bare breasts. The familiar tail lashed back and forth, and I clutched at myself for a moment as my back became lumpy and large, almost as though I was becoming a hunchback. ~Just like Grandpa!~ I chuckled, and sucked in my breath sharply. This part always hurt for a few moments, but the effect was fantastic. With a roar, a pair of large, grey, feathered wings erupted from my shoulders and spread themselves wide. My face had a snout now with a single row of sharp teeth, and my eyes sparkled with a dull crimson glow. My fingers were tipped with ivory claws that glistened in the starlight.

"What do you think?" my voice rumbled from my throat, as my wings relaxed and rested in a folded position along my back.

Martin was quiet for a minute, then eyebrows raised, said, "Kinky. I'm duely intimidated. You shouldn't have any problem with a crew. Especially if you get into a habit of doing that naked."

I tromped through the sand and knelt next to him with a grin, folding one of my wings over him. "'Soft and pretty' you'd said once. I've still got the soft part," I referred to the fur and chuckled deeply, patting his hand. "I like the was always my favorite color."

He grinned evilly, and I wondered if maybe Mandor left something out of my training.

A snarl sounded out of my throat even before I could even *consider* snarling, and I opened my mouth/snout to ask what the smirk was all about, before he responded suddenly.

"I like the old Kitten better."

I started to frown, but didn't get much further than that.

"SCHANG!" he yelled, and I felt my body shudder as the wings disappeared, and my skin grew normal, and white hair vanished to black-- He cracked up.

Martin seems to find the stupidest things hilarious, like catching me off guard on things like that. Now it was time for the lecture...

"No one mentioned power words, did they?!"

I blinked, and looked down at my soft, normal hands...then quickly hid my feet underneath me where I knelt with a fierce blush. Even though I could change my pinky toe, I wasn't about to show him just in case he yelled that...that WORD again. "No, no one mentioned power words...BUT NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME!!!"

He wallowed stupidly in his mirth for a few more seconds before wiping away a tear. "It-- it made you resume your true form. Little bits of instant magic. Like magic for dummies. It's great." He tried to smother another laugh. Since he was having so much trouble, I considered 'helping' him.

"Martin?" I suddenly switched my tone to dangerously sweet. I smiled evilly/innocently at him. "I want you to teach me."

"Me? Me? Noooo..." He waved me off and curled up, still tittering like a fool. "You'll USE them against me, I know it... You have a mean streak Fae..."

Giggle giggle giggle... I suppose he had a point, I wanted to use one on him right then, and probably would have if I only knew how! "Don't make me smack you," my fist circled in the air in a mock threat. "I'll do it! I'll whoop you!"

He held his hands up defensively. "You do, I'll... I'll... I'll LOOK AT YOUR TOE! I mean it!" Before I could do anything in response, he lurched up and grabbed my middle. "I'll say it again! I swear!"

I swayed slightly, caught off guard. "It's not funny...the toe is really hideous!" Subconsciously I dug my feet into the black sand. "So what do you think? A few more days here, then back to Amber?"

He relented his pursuit of my toes, much to my relief. "Sure. If you want. I don't know what in the world we'll do to entertain ourselves... but I'm sure we'll manage."

"Lots of things...use your imagination! Football...make snails... Or experiment with my new happy power," I grinned. With a blink, I shifted the color of my eyes from black to blue.

He laughed. "Now I'm worried..."