Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(37) by Connie Suttle
"He asked to stay. Said he wanted to be with his brothers. Asked if I'd take him in."
"You and Marco."
"What did you tell him?" Ashe wiped moisture from his face with a napkin.
"That I'd be happy to act as his guardian, and pay for his education if he wanted one. After he graduates from high school."
"Thank you, Mr. Winkler," Ashe slumped in relief at Winkler's words and wiped his face again.
"I didn't do it just for him and Marco, Ashe. I did it for you, too. Felt like that's what you'd want."
"It is." Ashe agreed, cutting another bite of ham. His appetite, which had threatened to desert him, had returned quickly. "Will Sali live in Star Cove, or will he live here?"
"I told him to pack his things. I figure you can get him moved in, and then get him to school every morning," Winkler grinned.
"Yeah. I can do that. I just want to wait until," Ashe sighed. Things were so weird, suddenly. He'd never known a life where Marcus DeLuca hadn't been Packmaster.
"Until he can say good-bye to his parents? Ashe, they're welcome to keep in touch. That won't change, as long as they don't go rogue."
"I'll probably bring him home tonight, then. He can come to dinner with me at my parents' house."
"Sounds good. There's an empty bedroom next to Marco's on the second floor."
"Thanks, Mr. Winkler."
* * *
Ashe? Sali's text came through while Ashe was running on the beach with Trace.
Sali? Everything okay? Ashe texted as he ran beside Trace. Trace just shook his head and kept running.
As good as can be expected. Mom and Dad are only packing clothes. Said they'd send a moving van for their other stuff when they decided where they were going.
I'm sorry things turned out this way.
Me, too. I had no idea this was happening. It hurt a lot of people, Ashe. I don't know what to do or say. Nobody is blaming me, looks like, but it's still awkward.
Yeah. Awkward. A good word to use, Sal.
Two syllables, Sali returned. Dad isn't saying anything. Mom, well, things aren't so good on that front. The Grand Master stayed with the Rocklins, last night. I guess to go over protocol. And to make sure of things here, probably.
Sal, this isn't your fault. None of it. People make their own decisions. We all have to live with the consequences.
I know. Look, I've been given the day off from school, but I have to pack.
I heard. Come to my house for dinner tonight, around seven. I hear there'll be meat loaf. I'll bring you home afterward.
Home. Won't ever be the same, will it?
Welcome to my world, Sal.
Yeah. See you tonight.
* * *
"Salidar?" Adele gave Sali a hug when he walked into the kitchen with Ashe.
"I heard there'd be meatloaf," Sali mumbled when Adele let him go.
"There is. Plenty of meatloaf. Hungry?"
"Yeah." Sali hunched his shoulders.
Ashe watched as Sali moved uncomfortably. Marcus and Denise had left two hours earlier, taking only one vehicle. Denise's small import remained in the garage. The plan was to send for furniture and the car later. Ashe had no idea where they might go and hadn't bothered to consult the medallions on his arm. Sali's parents had moved outside his sphere.
"It's almost ready, I just have to mash the potatoes," Adele offered brightly before hugging Ashe and standing on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek.
"I'll set the table," Ashe offered. He and Sali set three plates around the table as Adele mashed potatoes for dinner.
"It is and isn't like old times, huh?" Sali said quietly.
* * *
"Son," Aedan's hand dropped on Ashe's shoulder as Ashe and Sali loaded the dishwasher and cleaned cabinets after dinner.
Ashe's body stiffened as visions crowded his mind. Visions of his father, sitting atop a broad, flat-topped rock as fingers of sunlight crept across Aedan's body. Ashe shuddered as Aedan's skin began to smoke and burn in his visions, the top layers turning to ash as Aedan jerked his head back and howled.
"Daddy?" Ashe turned swiftly and buried himself in Aedan's arms as he wept.
* * *
"I don't know why Wlodek appeared when he did," Aedan shook his head. He'd lifted Ashe in his arms and carried him to the back deck, leaving a gaping Sali behind in the kitchen. Aedan had eventually convinced Ashe that things were fine and he'd never consider giving himself to the sun again. "He only said that someone paid him a visit, and pointed out the error of his ways. I'm not about to argue. He said that he wouldn't recall me until after your mother was gone."
"Maybe that will be a very long time." Ashe stared at the night sky. A few stars twinkled overhead and the moon was beginning to make its presence known. "Dad?"
"Have you ever wondered what's out there?"
"In the stars?"
"Upon occasion. Not in a while, I guess."
"There has to be something. The Elemaiya aren't native to Earth."
"You're right. I suppose I've never thought about that before."
"I'm glad Wlodek made it in time."
"I'm glad he got a visit from somebody."
"Yeah. Me, too, Dad."
* * *
"Ready to go, Sal?" Ashe appeared inside Sali's bedroom later. Sali was playing a game on his laptop, but he shut it when Ashe became corporeal.
"Yeah. Can we take this stuff like this?" Sali had emptied his closet, laying clothes across his bed for the move, since he only had two boxes and a suitcase to carry his belongings.
"No problem," Ashe nodded. "I think I could take the whole house, if you wanted."
"Nah. Leave the house, dude. I only need my stuff."
"Mr. Winkler says you can have the bedroom next to Marco's on the second floor. Trajan says your ass is his in the weight room tomorrow morning before school, and Trace says I can wait to run with you tomorrow, when school is out."
"Tomorrow's Friday, man. The weekend is here," Sali stood and grinned.
"Gonna be a busy weekend," Ashe nodded. "Let's go."
* * *
"Principal Wright has shifters coming in this weekend. Around three hundred," Sali informed Winkler as he passed the bag of microwave popcorn to Ashe.
"I heard that," Winkler nodded, shoving a second bag of popcorn in the microwave. "It's one of the things the Grand Master discussed with Micah."
"Micah will be okay," Sali sighed. Ashe handed him a fresh can of soda from the fridge and settled on a barstool to grab a handful of popcorn from the bag.
"I know. He's been a Second for a long time. He knows what to do."
"Mrs. Rocklin has always been sympathetic to shifters," Ashe pointed out. "She's been teaching Transformational Arts for a long time."
"Very true," Winkler agreed. "Perhaps Bear should invite her to the meetings. As soon as you're done eating popcorn, brush your teeth and go to bed. We'll get you up at six for breakfast and then it's a workout for both of you."
* * *
"Dude, that's two-fifty." Sali struggled to lift one-seventy-five while Trajan watched both boys work with weights.
"Yeah. Maybe I'll grow muscles after all," Ashe huffed, lowering the weights.
"You're a lot better off than you were when we started," Trajan pointed out. "You've got muscles. You'll get more. So will Sali. He's got werewolf mojo working for him. Come on, two more and it's off to the shower."
* * *
"Hey, it's Ashe and Sali." Wynn and Dori trotted to the sidewalk the moment Ashe appeared, dropping Sali in front of the school.
"That is the awesomest way to show up," Jeff and Larry walked up to Ashe.
"And it saved a half-hour drive," Sali grinned. Nobody was treating him different. He was grateful for that.
"Ashe?" Bear Wright walked through the double doors of the school building and approached Ashe.
"Hey, Mr. Wright," Ashe nodded to Star Cove's Principal.
"Ashe, we'll be taking the vote on whether we should form a shifter council on Monday night. I want anyone over the age of sixteen there, so that means you can vote, too. I'd like for you to come, if you can."
"I think I can be here, Mr. Wright," Ashe nodded. "I'd like to be here, actually."
"We got invited last night," Wynn said, offering a smile to the Principal. "My parents and I are coming."
"Mom, Cori and I will be there," Dori said. "Dad said he'd drop by after nightfall, if that's all right."
"He's welcome to come, as a spouse and father of shapeshifters," Bear Wright confirmed. "Ashe, your mother is coming as well. I think your father may come by at some point."
"Good. I'll let Mr. Winkler know. I should go; I have homework and a lot of other things to do," Ashe waved at his friends and turned to mist.
"It really is the awesomest way to get around," Sali sighed.
* * *
"I don't know why I couldn't say anything to that reporter," Curtis Roberts grumped as Calhoun laid papers on his desk.
"About what, Director Roberts?" Calhoun asked.
"I can't say," Curtis found himself saying before he could consciously decide otherwise. "I really don't know why."
"If you change your mind, I'll be right outside at my desk."
"I know. Thanks, Calhoun."
* * *
"Mr. Thompson?" Ashe found Amos Thompson in buffalo form, standing guard behind Winkler's beach house when he came back from dropping Sali off at school. The early morning light was bright as it reflected off the water of the gulf, making Mr. Thompson's white buffalo glow as he stood amid the dunes and creepers at the back of Winkler's property. "Look, if you want to do what we talked about, meet me here in ten minutes, dressed and ready to go. I'll bring a weapon with me. Okay?" Ashe said.
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