Jess opened his eyes halfway, saw sunlight; drowsily, he nestled closer to the warm body against his. There were so many confusing things to deal with when he got up, nothing made sense anymore, but he didn't need to think about that right now. He could just relax for a little longer, and enjoy the wonderful feeling inside.
“Good morning, Jess,” his bedmate murmured affectionately.
He mumbled acknowledgement of some sort, rearranged himself a bit more comfortably; the other helpfully shifted position to make it easier, stroked his hair gently.
“Sleepy Jess. I don't mind, you can wake up whenever you want. I'll just lie here and wait and be deliriously happy as quietly as I can.”
That sounded like a fair bargain.
He wandered in and out of vividly realistic dreams; more than once, he was sure he'd already gotten up and gone about the day, and wondered why he was still in bed.
At some point, his mind decided to orient itself back on physical reality, much to Jesse's disappointment; he could have been quite content to stay in that pleasant state much longer.
Only then did it occur to him to wonder whose body it was that was coiled against his. The scent was strongly familiar, teasing at the edges of his memory, but he couldn't put a name to it; it whispered to him of love and trust and safety.
A soft chuckle. “You smell all confused, Jess. Here, I'll help you remember.” Motion, a chill briefly as whoever-it-was moved, then settled against him again.
A hand that might have been his own, slender and dark, though the nails were broken and rough, reached across him to lay a badly-tarnished silver dagger in front of him.
That same dagger had been flitting in and out of his dreams with increasing frequency, never letting him read what it said on the blade.
He sat up, wincing as stiffened muscles protested, and picked up the dagger. It fit into his hand like a part of himself; he knew, though the tarnish and dirt masked it, that the dark stones set in hilt and sheath were amethysts. The sheath stuck; he wiggled it carefully until it came free, and he laid it on his lap. His fingertips found a rougher spot on the blade, just below the hilt, and with shaking hands he rubbed at the tarnish, turned the dagger to the light so he could see what was engraved in small neat letters.
Jesse Alexis Kore-Tremayne.
How had he forgotten his own name? It didn't matter how long it had been, he knew it was his true name, the core of himself.
The perfect mirror of himself lying beside him, watching, offered a second dagger wordlessly. It didn't fit as well in his hand, but nearly so; the blade came out of the sheath more easily.
Jaisan Alastair Kore-Tremayne.
Which meant the stones in that one were sapphires.
Which meant, too, that this was Jaisan lying next to him.
Which meant... far more than words could ever explain...
“Know something Jess? If we could go far enough back, there wouldn't be two of us anymore.”
Jess raised his head, looking at him in confusion, the elm tree whispering around them and the rest of the world far away. “Huh?”
“We're twins, right? Which comes in two kinds, I checked in the library. There are fraternal twins and identical twins. Fraternal twins is when two eggs get fertilized at once. Identical is when just one egg gets fertilized and then it divides in half and each half grows into a baby. And we're identical twins, so if we went far enough back, we wouldn't be both of us at all, just one single cell.”
There was a mind-twisting idea, everything that became both of them contained in one tiny thing like the teacher showed them in the microscope in science class...
Without Jaisan, without his name, so much of him was gone, that was what the aching cold emptiness inside had always been, made all the worse because he couldn't even remember what the void was.
“Jais,” he whispered.
Jaisan smiled. “Really truly all of me. What do you remember?”
“Nothing. Sort of. I mean... there are memories there, only I don't want to look at them.”
“I'm scared.” It was out before he even thought, but it was truth.
Jaisan laced his fingers through Jesse's. “Don't have to be scared. I'm here. I won't let you get lost.”
Shivering, Jess curled up against him again, the silver daggers left at the side of the bed. The memories were there now, and he didn't think any of the awful things the counsellor had told him could happen were going to happen.
Warm soft darkness, familiar arms around him, “Good night, Jess,” utter peace...
Rough wood under him, wind and sunlight through leaves, “We can see the whole world from up here!”
“Names have power for those of demon blood. The daggers hold our names, and that both protects us and gives us one weapon outside our own bodies we can use to fight demons. Always, always keep your name safe.”
Wind and sunlight, on the beach, with Aindry and Mom and Dad, learning how to swim, Aindry teasing them and telling them to just dog-paddle.
Intense grief, Dad wasn't supposed to leave them, where was he? Samantha was fun and they loved and trusted her, but that wasn't the same, Dad was supposed to be here with them...
“Jess, Jais, wake up, right now. You have to get up and get dressed, no arguments, just do it.” The strong scent of fear, their own/Mom/Aindry/Sam, as they fled out of the house and into the forest. A song that made his head feel strange, made things unreal like in a dream, and the thunder from above, the increasing panic, realizing suddenly that he was alone with Samantha... All alone, with a grey-haired woman kneeling in front of him, it occurred to him that she'd been talking to him for some time now but the words hadn't made sense, the world didn't feel quite so fuzzy.
He looked up at Jaisan. “Mom? And Aindry?” Tears stung his eyes, made wet paths down his cheeks.
“Aindry's asleep across the hall. Mom... I don't know, Jess. The demons followed us, and we kept running. When it started to get cold, Mom found a place to leave us with friends, and she led them away. About three years ago, the demons came back looking for us. We ran away so nobody else would die.”
“Damn. That doesn't sound good. Where were you for three years?”
“Wandering all over Canada. We've been scared to stay still. We've hardly even been into the villages, and we were avoiding Haven 'cause it's so close to Unity and we thought you would be too. Otherwise we would've found you ages ago.”
He could well imagine the kind of life that would be, even with the company. “So how did you get here now?”
“We both got hurt—I've got damaged ribs, and Aindry's leg is messed up. The demons have been really running us hard lately, and we were sure we're finally hurt too much to win a fight. So we decided, if we were going to die, we'd do it in Unity. We were there I think four or five days, then yesterday we ran into Sam. She went to get our names from where she hid them, she wanted to give you the best fighting chance she could. We thought she was a demon at first and we were going to die and I'd never find you. I think Sam thought she was seeing ghosts.”
“Who knows you're here?”
“Sam was pretty tired, so she brought us here and told Kevin and Deanna to take good care of us and went home. They're very nice. Very calm about having two exhausted scared hurt paranoid wolves left on their doorstep. Very smart, too. Deanna gave us blankets that smelled like you, and we weren't as scared then although we weren't thinking about why. And we had two big bowls of chili each and we started to relax some more and Gisela made it not hurt so much to breathe and made Aindry hurt less.” He smiled. “She kept grumbling at us that you keep her busy and with three of us she'll have a full-time job, but she smelled happy and worried but not angry.”
“I don't get hurt that often. Just, well, shit happens. But I guess she does kinda spend a lot of time putting me back together. Just like Kev spends a lot of time saving my ass. I would be so screwed without them...”
“Smelling so many people around and so many wolves made us really nervous, but they kept telling us the wolves are your pack and won't see us as intruders and that the others are all friends who are going to be glad we're here. That's a lot of friends.”
“Yeah, well, they were friends with each other before I fell into the middle of things. And yeah, there's a lot of people who always seem to be around, but they're great, and I bet someone's going to want to throw a party first chance we get.” How would Bane and Evaline feel about Jaisan and Aindry being here? They'd welcome them, right?
Jaisan smiled again, then his forehead furrowed. “Can smell someone here from the lake, but didn't meet him, and I don't get how anyone from the lake can be good but Kevin and Deanna say he is and he's your friend and helped you.”
“Mmhmm. He is. Wonder how he managed that, since he usually sleeps here.”
“Anyway, I don't think it was more than, mm, hour and a half? maybe less, then Kevin brought us up here and made sure there were lots of towels and stuff in the bathroom. So we got clean, the hot water felt so good, and Aindry went to sleep in Kevin's bed and I snuck in here with you where I'm supposed to be and you never even woke up.”
Jess drew back a bit, took a closer look. Not quite a perfect mirror anymore: his own hair was long, but not that long or that wild; Jais of course lacked the claw-marks over his eye, though both ears showed signs of having been torn a few times—definitely a recurring problem for most wolves. His lower ribs had been tightly wrapped with a long strip of magesilk almost the colour of his skin, but dark livid bruising showed below the bottom edge. A liberal scattering of shallow damage and fading scars; judging from the extent, he'd been living wild so long it was a wonder he hadn't gone entirely feral.
“I want to go pounce on Aindry, and then find some food.”
Jaisan closed his eyes blissfully. “There are real honest-to-god home-made chocolate-chip cookies down there.”
“There's better stuff than that once Kev really gets going. I know the feeling, though. I haven't exactly been sitting here and happy for six years.”
“Sam wouldn't tell us. She just said you're here and you forgot and there are bad demons around.”
“I'll give you all the gory details later. I went from foster homes to getting adopted by an abusive asshole to running away and living on the streets, and luckily I tripped over Haven.” He saw Jaisan's expression turn sad with sympathetic pain, an echo of how little he himself liked to think of Jais and Aindry half-feral. Reluctantly, Jesse untangled himself from Jaisan, and went to the closet. “Real clothes, or magesilks?”
“Whatever. If it's clean, I don't care.”
“I definitely can relate.” He tossed Jaisan black magesilk pants and a silvery top, one of the few non-black ones Kevin had eventually coaxed him into accepting. “Sorry, no blue, we'll have to catch Kev later.” He got dressed, too, in black and dark purple, and found all black to take Aindry. He knew he'd gained a bit of weight since coming to Haven where he had regular healthy meals, and running with the wolves had made sure it was mostly as muscle; magesilks were generally designed loose anyway, since magesilk didn't stretch, but they weren't meant to be as loose as his were on Jaisan. Jaisan had a sling, made out of black magesilk, that supported his right arm against his body once he was up and about. At Jess' questioning look, he shrugged.
“It hurts less if I don't move that arm much.”
“Then don't move it.”
“That's what the sling's for. But it hurts much less than yesterday.”
Jess felt the wounds on his lower back pulling tight as he moved; it wasn't a limp exactly, because neither leg entirely cared for taking his full weight. Stairs were an uncomfortable thought, and he planned not to tackle them again until bedtime once he was down them.
They crossed the hall, traded glances and grins, and Jaisan circled around to the far side of the bed. As a pounce went, it lacked quite a lot, but it was still enough to make the springs groan in protest and wake Aindry with a startled yelp. A heartbeat later, all three got tangled into fierce hugs and a few tears. Jess buried his face in Aindry's bare shoulder, wary of the ugly bruise darkening her jaw, struggling still to accept the fact that they were here and real and alive.
“Leave it to you,” Aindry said, “to end up living in a house like this.”
Jess groaned. “Sure, for as long as I manage to keep living, and if present trends continue, that ain't going to be long.”
“We're a mess,” she admitted. “Doesn't matter. We get a fair fight, finally. What more can we ask?”
“No fight at all,” Jaisan grumbled halfheartedly. “Get up. Get dressed. I want cookies, but they're down there and we're up here getting each other all wet.”
“You have lots and lots of people to meet, too,” Jess told them.
Jaisan sighed. “Just forgive us if we get shy, okay?”
“Believe me, if they can put up with my behaviour, they can handle anything.”
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