Cali McKinnon's

Fae Chronicles

Caring Touch

1.  Anticipated Child 

It was pitch black in the room when a slight noise nearby alerted him to wake.  Without hesitation, he rolled away from the warm form sleeping next to him, and reached for the knife on the bedside table.  Once it was in his hand, he stopped to listen, certain it had been nothing dangerous, but taking no chances.  Years of having to sleep with caution had made him alert to any unusual disturbances, and this noise wasn’t a shift in the structure of the dwelling.

With a catlike stealth, he slid quickly from the bed and moved in silence across the floor to stand near the door.  There he paused, all auditory and olfactory senses on alert.  He could discern no unusual noises or scents, yet he felt certain that someone had invaded his home.  After about two minutes of total silence, an idea crossed his mind and he slid from the room like a wraith in the night and started down the hallway, briefly checking each room as he passed.  Upon reaching the top of the landing, he saw an eerie blue light emanating from the kitchen below and released a slow breath, almost certain now that he had been correct.

Moving again in silence, he descended the stairs and entered the kitchen.  It was as he’d thought; an intruder was in his kitchen.  Rather than being seated at the kitchen bar with the blue lights illuminating the glass blocks of which it was composed, the intruder was standing near the huge bay of windows, looking out into the back yard.  The faint blue light was emanating from him--there were no lights on in the house.

“Hello, Caedmon,” the intruder said with ease.  “You’re still pretty good at moving stealthily.  I was debating whether to come up and wake you.  While I’ve been privy to your thoughts, I heard no noise from you until you sighed at the door.”

“How long have you been here, Nicholas?”

“The noise that woke you was made shortly after I arrived.  I opened the refrigerator to get some bottles of water for us.”  With that he reached to the breakfast bar nearby and offered Cad a bottle of cold spring water.

“Thanks,” Cad responded, taking the water and opening it.  After taking a healthy swig, he asked, “Why are you glowing?  What has upset you?”  His immediate concern was for Aleksia, his daughter and Nicholas’s very pregnant wife.

“She’s in labor.  I thought you and Rita should know--that you would want to be nearby.”  He looked calm, but Cad was familiar enough with the Sidhe fae creature to know that the blue aura around him was excess energy that he was burning off, and that it was usually a sign of extremely strong emotion.  “Perhaps you should dress,” Nicholas said, glancing briefly at his well-conditioned but very bare father-in-law who was still holding a ten-inch dagger as casually as if it were an extension of his hand.

“Did you leave her alone?” Cad queried incredulously.

“Nay, the midwife is with her.  She still refuses to go to a hospital, and I will na insist unless there is some complication.”

“It may be too late by then.”

“I will deal with it.”  It was only a faint change, but Cad noticed the blue aura shimmered slightly as Nicholas responded.

It was obvious to Cad that his willful daughter had made up her mind and they would just have to offer support as long as everything was all right.  Both of Cad’s daughters, Aleksia and Arianna, had been delivered in their home by a midwife, as had Nicholas’s son and grandson.  Aleksia had decided not to break the tradition, and he knew that once she’d taken a stand she would see it through.  Thankfully, she was healthy and had Nicholas’s unique sith abilities to see things right if there were complications.  However, Cad would have preferred his daughter take advantage of modern medical services.  When it came to his loved ones, he hated to take any chances.

“Can you transport her if she’s in labor and develops complications?” Cad asked.  He was aware that his grandson’s wife Jennifer became very ill if she transported either time or distance.

Nicholas snickered a bit and took a drink of water before replying.  “Would I risk it if na?  She loves to transport, and has done so numerous times while pregnant.  I wanted the babe to be accustomed to it before being born.  If she’s unable, then I will transport the doctor to her, or I will warp time if I must.  I would never let her or the babe be harmed Caedmon, surely you know that.”

Cad was aware of that fact but he couldn’t understand the aura, which was a very rare display for Nicholas.  He decided to voice the question, as he figured Nicholas already knew because he could easily read Cad’s mind, and usually did.  “Then why the aura, Nicholas?  Is it concern, anger, or happiness?  They all seem to trigger that sith response as far as I can tell.  Since your eyes are na flashing the cold iridescent black, I assume you are na angry.”

“You are correct, as usual.  I’m just concerned, and anticipating.  Labor and delivery are such dangerous times for a woman, and I would never take it lightly.”

“Go home, then.  Rita and I will be there in a half hour or so.”  After a brief hesitation and sigh from Nicholas, Cad asked, “What else is bothering you?”

“You’ve done this twice.  I wasn’t present when Cainnech was born, and I’ve never been present when a child was born...”

“And?”

“And, although I went to the natural childbirth training with Aleksia, and I’ve learned as much as I can, I’m still na sure what affect seeing her in distress will have on me.”

It was a legitimate concern.  For all his powers, for all the thousands of years he had lived, Nicholas was Sidhe fae, and he didn’t always react as humans did to emotional situations.  Considering this, Cad asked, “What would you like me to do to help, Nicholas?”

Nicholas’s sigh and the immediate release of tension were both evident, the blue aura faded ever so slightly.  “Please, just be there for her if I fail, I know you know what to do.”

“You know I will, as will Rita.  Now, go to Aleksia and we’ll be there soon.  But remember, Nicholas, I have faith in you, that you can do this.  When it’s over, you’ll be so happy you assisted, it gives a new dimension to the word fatherhood,” he added with a reassuring smile.  Cad wouldn’t have traded attending the delivery of his two daughters for any experience in life, except perhaps loving first Sigourney, Arianna’s mother, and then Rita, Aleksia’s mother.  The women in his life had given him such joy, and his smile became broader as he reminisced about that.

The aura faded away and Nicholas took a deep breath.  “Thanks, Caedmon.  I hope you dinna have more faith in me than I deserve.”

“I dinna.  You are a superior being and you just need to accept human labor and delivery for what it is.  Aleksia will have to work hard, verra hard, and your job is to support her and keep her focused on the work so it is productive and efficient.  Another part of your job is to keep her as comfortable and calm as possible--to allow her to depend on your strength as though it were her own.”

Nicholas considered the advice briefly before responding, “Thanks again.”  With that parting comment, the sith disappeared.

Cad stood for a few minutes considering the odd creature that had invaded his life years before.  He mused at the weird conversations and events they had shared, and wondered what it must be like for a creature like that to join with humans on the level that Nicholas had, taking human form and trying to live and experience life as humans do.  He was truly a marvel in Cad’s eyes, though he was often a nuisance as well.

“Oh, Nicholas, how interesting you have made our lives,” he mumbled beneath his breath as he returned to wake Rita.  He was aware that although Nicholas was a soul mate to his daughter, he was also a good friend, both things he would have never guessed possible given that Nicholas was a non-human creature--a faery, Sidhe fae, or sith as he preferred to be known.

Cad woke Rita and they went to wait for the birth of their grandchild.  Rita was literally bubbling with excitement at the prospect of having a grandchild.

 

As Cad expected, Aleksia was as much a trooper as her mother, and the childbirth went smoothly, despite the hard work.  Nicholas never wavered, lovingly supporting Aleksia, and with his sith ability to remember and mimic anything he had seen or heard, he turned out to be an excellent Lamaze coach.  Cad also suspected he used his sith talent to project emotions and feelings to others to add an additional blanket of calmness and security for Aleksia and the baby during the hardest times of the labor and delivery.

When all of Aleksia’s hard work was over, she had presented the family with a beautiful, healthy baby boy.  Nicholas was overjoyed, and immediately took him into his arms, crooning quietly to him in a strange almost melodic manner--a faery wish, as he explained to Aleksia when she asked.

She and Nicholas hadn’t decided on a name beforehand, but when she first saw her new son up close, she said quietly, “Duncan Keir MacDugall” and held out her arms to take him.  Although he said nothing, Nicholas looked immediately to Cad, an unspoken question clearly evident.

Cad merely raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders, uncertain why Aleksia had chosen the name.  Stepping near enough to touch the small hand that was balled tightly into a fist, he asked, “I understand the middle name, as it is mine, lass, but why Duncan?”

“Because Duncan means dark warrior, and with such a beautiful tawny complexion and his dark hair it seemed appropriate.  I’m sure he’ll be as fearless as his father and grandfather, even if he is never a warrior.  Besides, I have liked the name since Arianna and Cainnech told me about their friend Duncan from the eleventh century.  It’s such a nice Gaelic name, don’t you think, Dad?”

“It’s a fine name, lass, and he’s a fine looking lad,” her father assured her, kissing her gently on the forehead.

 

Thus began the life of Duncan.  He was an incredibly strong healthy child with straight dark auburn hair, vibrant blue eyes, and dimples that flared in both cheeks when he smiled--a smile that showed through to his eyes in the way of a mischievous elf.  He was intelligent, although less studious than his mother, and he was a gifted athlete, partial to any sport, but particularly solo sports where his individual ability was immediately challenged.  By the age of twelve, he participated in all of the family’s favorite activities such as swimming, scuba diving, and horseback riding.

Of the family, aside from Nicholas and Aleksia, his grandparents were the center of his life.  Cad and Rita often took him traveling when they went on vacation or on one of their frequent trips to the United States to visit Cad’s family in Montana.

By the age of thirteen, a part of Duncan’s character that strongly mirrored his mother’s began to show--he was beginning to withdraw from his peers, finding them childish and boring.  But that was the least of his adolescent problems, for that was the year that his grandmother was killed in an automobile accident, causing his grandfather to crumble, and his own life to be torn asunder.  Cad was shrouded with grief, blaming himself for not accompanying Rita to go shopping that fateful day.

Duncan couldn’t understand the sudden change in his grandfather who, almost overnight, changed from a strong pillar in Duncan’s life to a barely tangible existence.  Even a year after the accident, Cad was so withdrawn that the only people he would tolerate in his presence were Aleksia and Duncan, and he only tolerated them for short visits, and only because of his vague feeling of responsibility as parent and grandparent.

Try as she might, Aleksia couldn’t seem to wake her father from the fog he lived in, and Duncan visited less and less, finding excuses not to go along when his mother went to see his grandfather.  As to Cad, he rarely left the home he had built for Rita, other than to perform the early morning run for miles where he seemed to find some temporary solace.

Aleksia began to wonder if her father would even eat if someone didn’t prepare the meals and sit them in front of him daily.  Luckily, the housekeeper was patient and didn’t take offense to his lack of communication and constant habit of leaving the table after only a few bites.

After a particularly trying afternoon spent visiting her father, Aleksia returned home to find Nicholas in a state of upset.

“What’s happened now?” she asked in exasperation.

Nicholas just shook his head mildly.  “I’ll deal with it, love.  It looks as though you’ve had enough to upset you for one day,” he said, taking her into his arms to reassure her.

“It’s killing me, Nicholas.  I knew it would be hard on them were they ever separated, but somehow I always figured it would be Mom mourning Dad since he was so much older than she was.  First the tragedy of Sigourney, then Arianna, and now Mom--I feel so helpless, so unable to do anything to help him.”

Nicholas said nothing, but projected a stronger blanket of love and reassurance with his sith powers.  Aleksia smiled tentatively and said, “I wish you could do that for him.”

“As do I, but you know he won’t let me anywhere near.  How does he look?”  Nicholas asked, although he knew the answer.  It was just a ploy to get her to discuss her concerns and face her fears.

“Horrible.  He’s nothing but a skeleton, an empty one.  It’s as though the spark of life has left him completely.”

“He’ll get over it Aleksia.  Before, when Sigourney died, he had Arianna to demand his attention.  Now, he has you and Duncan, but he knows he’s na responsible for either of you.  Since you have me, he makes no effort.  It will just take time.”

“Nicholas, it took him years to get over Sigourney, even though he had to care for his physical injuries and Arianna, how long will this take?” she pleaded.

Hoping not to upset her, he reminded her, “Aleksia, it was almost three years before I got over losing Arianna, and I’m na even human.  Plus, I had the benefit of escaping away from the family to the past, to a life of daily warring where my only thoughts during the daylight hours were of survival.”  He paused briefly, remembering the grief before continuing with a supportive smile.  “Then you appeared in my life and rescued me from my grief.”

“I had forgotten that,” she admitted quietly.

“Give him time.  His housekeeper will na let him starve, and I doubt he would do it even if left to his own devices.  Caedmon’s a fighter, and he just needs to get past the guilt he’s feeling, to accept that he isn’t the reason Rita’s gone.”

Nicholas knew this wasn’t the whole truth, as he knew that Cad would have had to eventually deal with Rita’s death.  Since the curse set on Cad by the wicked sith that damned him to an existence as long as Sidhe fae live, Nicholas had known Cad would bury many loved ones, including Aleksia and Duncan someday.  But he was also aware now that the realization of that was one of the reasons that Cad was pushing others from his life, he didn’t want to live on while those he loved continued to perish around him, knowing he would lose them all--to old age if nothing else.  Out of self-preservation, he was pushing others from his life, refusing to love anyone, even his daughter and grandson.

Nicholas debated whether to tell Aleksia about the curse her father faced.  He decided to speak with Cad first, but knew it best that she know now, or at least in the very near future.

“So, what were you contemplating when I arrived in such a state of frustration?” she queried as she buried her head against Nicholas’s chest.

“As I said, I will deal with it.  However, it seems that our son skipped school again today.  When I found him and confronted him about it, he was polite and respectful, but he seemed na to care that I was concerned, and he didn’t even flinch at the punishment I deemed appropriate.  It seemed he expected it and just shrugged his shoulders and went to his room.  He wouldn’t even give me the benefit of enough conversation to explain why.”

“He’s hurting, too.”

“I know.  He lost both grandmother and grandfather at a very crucial adolescent age.”

“Perhaps if Dad knew that, he could help.”

Nicholas raised an eyebrow at the thought, but said nothing.  Instead, he hugged Aleksia closer and kissed the top of her head.  “It’s coming up on two years in a few weeks.  I’ll talk to him then,” he promised.

“How?  He refuses to see you.”

He moved away from her just enough to touch her delicately under the chin and turn her face up to meet him eye-to-eye.  “He can na refuse if I insist, and I can be very persistent,” he reminded her.

She laughed and it warmed him to see the return of her lovely smile.  “You will find no argument with me about that,” she responded.  “Should I go visit Duncan?”

“Nay.  Let him think on his disobedience and punishment for a bit.”

“Should I ask what the punishment is?”

“Nay.  What you should do is come with me,” he said, lifting her into his arms as if she were a child.  “I think we both need a respite from family issues.”

“Where are you taking me?”

“Swimming.”

“Swimming?”

“Yes.  I’ve always found the men in my human family had some interesting techniques to please their ladies, but there is a particular one that I have never had the nerve to try.  Today I feel bold, if you’re game.”

“Oh no, not Mom and Dad’s favorite?” she said pushing away to see his facial expression when he responded.  It was incredible, as she could have sworn her sith husband blushed.

“You know about that?” he asked in amazement.

“What, do I look totally naïve?  Of course, I know about it.  They never made a secret of it, although they were discreet.”

“And?”

“I’m game.  Sounds like fun--kinky, but fun.”

“I could na agree more,” he admitted as they entered the corridor leading to the enclosed swimming pool.

* * * * *