Shieldbrothers: The Bonding

BY : Lursa_and_BeTor
Category: 1 through F > Andromeda
Dragon prints: 7261
Disclaimer: I do not own Andromeda, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Chapter Five: Cat and Mouse

Harper peeks around Tyr's door, quickly glancing both ways. Not a soul in sight. Good. He eases out the door and strides down the corridor, doing his best to look brisk and business-like. Not like his legs are still trembling from the intensity of his last orgasm. Just the memory of Tyr's hot mouth on him makes his brain melt like chocolate in the sunshine. The taste of Tyr lingering on his tongue -- Vedran Caviar was right -- he couldn't get enough of the way that Tyr tasted and smelled andt. t. Already he wants Tyr again. Nothing that he's ever experienced compares to what just happened to him. He can feel a big, goofy grin spreading across his face and hastily forces his mouth back into a more neutral line as he sees a couple of colonists staring at him. He nods blankly as if unaware of thier confused faces and keeps on walking, setting a pace just fast enough to discourage questions. Can they tell what he's been doing? He didn't think to check a mirror before he left. His hair's always wild looking so no clues there, but his lips feel so sensitive -- are they swollen? He touches a tentative finger to his lower lip. He can't tell. No reason for anyone to notice or care that he's wearing a different shirt. He smoothes his hands over the blue-gray fabric covering his chest, shivering as his palms brush lightly over his nipples. He's never worn anything as expensive as silk before. And never anything tailored and handsewn to fit him exactly. For so many years he'd worn whatever he could scrounge and even after he signed on with Beka, most of his clothing had come from second-hand shops. A blush heats his face as he remembers Tyr, standing nude in the bedroom, holding out this shirt to him. Tyr said that it was a gift to replace all the shirts that he intended to rip off. How long had Tyr been planning this? He'd lacked the nerve to ask with those hot, amber eyes on him but now, he wonders. At least his remaining brain cells did, the rest of him only wants to know when Tyr intends to do it again.

He feels so good...but also so confused...like his whole world has suddenly turned inside out, but in a good way. The changed tone between him and seems so sudden. He'd been slowly becoming aware of...differences in the way that he responded to Tyr. He can still remember how he'd been shocked awake by that first erotic dream about Tyr...shock had given way to intrigue as he found himself looking at Ty a w a whole new way. He'd wonderd and considered but he'd never thought thyr myr might feel the same things...not until he'd dared that tentative caress while Tyr was seeing him off at the hanger deck. Harper shivers at the memory of the Nietzschean's response, the overt sensuality of those fingers sliding down his throat to circle his dataport. Even then he'd never really thought that Tyr might…Well, Tyr would and did and had with an almost ruthless urgency, but what does it all mean? What are they to each other now? Is this part of the shieldbrother relationship or something else? What is he to Tyr? A fling...a quick bit of pleasure like ice cream on a hot day? Or is he more?

Or is he just another human to be discarded when he's inconventient? He wants to hear Mariyam's side of the story before making up his mind, even if he doesn't trher her what she says should tell him something. Despite all the enchanting distractions that Tyr'd offered while explaining Mariyam, he had not failed to notice that the Neitzschean had never explained what had turned Tyr so adamantly against the human woman. Harper walks briskly down another corridor, eyeing loitering colonists. Where is she? He can ask Andromeda, but he doesn’t want to raise curiosity about why he wants to speak to Mariyam. He wants an “accidental” meeting. He needs to hear her side of the story even if he didn’t want to, before he can decide. Harper turns off down another corridor and glimpses Mariyam ahead of him. There she is. Harper scowls as he eyes her. He isn’t sure what his relationship is with Tyr but Mariyam had been Tyr’s wife. She had children with Tyr -- surely that must count for a great deal with a Nietzschean. She definitely fits into the babe category. What does she intend? She can’t possibly prefer that drab Wallace idiot to Tyr. There is no comparison between the two men. Still he is almost morbidly curious about her relationship with Tyr, and what or how much she knew about Tyr.

"Mariyam," Harper calls as he nears her. He gives her his biggest and best phony smile as she turns to see him. She's hiding something and he is gonna find out what.

"Mister Harper." Mariyam slows her pace, but keeps walking. She smiles widely over her shoulder at him.

Harper easily catches up with her. Her smile looks just as big and false as his own probably does. My, what big teeth you have, grandma. "Just Harper will be fine."

"Harper? Is that your first or your last name?"

"It's the only one you need to know." Ooops. A little escaping hostility showing there. Harper turns up the amps on his smile as compensation for the sharpness of his tone.

Mariyam glances sidelong at him, speculation glinting in her large brown eyes. "Ahh. I see. As you wish…'Just Harper'."

"Mind if I walk with you. These corridors look so much alike that it’s easy to get lost. I can show you the way back to your quarters," Harper offers. This is one way to find out exactly where her quarters are without asking Andromeda. Hopefully Mariyam her little brood are located far away from Tyr's rooms.

Mariyam lowers her eyes and looks demurely at him from under her long lashes. "Your expert guidance is appreciated."

Harper falls in next to her as she sways gracefully down the corridor. How to approach the subject that he wants to talk about? If he just plunges right in, he will give his interest away yet he can't think of a discreet way to ask what he wants to know. Discreet had never been his style anyway. Brash was more like it. Harper steals sidelong glances at Mariyam who seems oblivious to his study, but that's a lie. Babes always knew when a man was looking at them in his experience. Women who looked like Mariyam expected men to look at them. Yeah, she knows that he's looking all right. She's slowing down and adding an extra something to her walk. Oh, there goes the hair toss. Tyr had abandoned this woman? There had to be more to the story. Okay, brash it is. "So what was he like?"

Mariyam slants a coy look at him. "Who?"

Harper snorts. As if she didn't know perfectly well. Who the hell else would he be talking about? Wallace? "Tyr. What was he like before?"

"Before?" Her arched brows knit together in mock puzzlement.

"Before he became the big, bad, mercenary. You know 'Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Scary'."

Mariyam laughs softly, but her eyes are sharp on Harper's face. "And what is your interest?"

Harper shrugs as they turn a corner and head up an incline to the next deck. "Nothing. He's just my friend."

"Your friend." Mariyam looks at him out of the corner of her eye and arches an eyebrow. Her soft voice is warm and encouraging. "Nothing more?"

Harper feelfeel heat rushing up his face as the image of Tyr spread out beneath him rises in his mind. "Well…actually…um…well, Tyr calls us something else."

"Not friends?"

Harper frowns. Is that a smirk tugging at her lips? "No…not exactly. Tyr says we're shieldbrothers."

Mariyam blinks at the strange term. Shieldbrothers? What is that? She'd never heard Tyr use the term during thier brief marriage, not even in his thoughts or dreams had the odd term drifted to the surface. Not the way that the blonde bimbo was constantly surfacing there. In the last days of thier marriage it seemed like Tyr was constantly thinking of that Medea creature and fantasizing about sex with her when he wasn't thinking about boring things like Nietzschean literature or doing math problems. More puzzles, just what she needs right now. She sighs heavily. She's been idly wondering up and down these damn corridors for what felt like days, trying to run into Harper after seeing the way that Tyr kept looking at the engineer and the way that Harper kept looking back. There's something between the two of them, she's certain of it. How close is Harper to Tyr, and more importantly how much contact he is likely to have with her eldest sons as a result? Does she want this man around her children? Is he a threat to her boys developing some kind of relationship with Tyr? Harper seems quite possessive of Tyr. Too possessive for just a friend. Her green sari swirls softly around her as Mariyam stops walking suddenly and turns to run openly assessing eyes over Harper. His lips look rather kiss-swollen and is that reddish patch low on his throat beard burn? Her eyes widen with interest as she spots a passion mark visible just at the rim of Harper’s dataport. Ah-hah.

"What? Why are you looking at me like that?" Harper takes an uneasy step back.

"Shieldbrothers? You and Tyr?"

"Yeah." Harper lifts his chin defiantly.

Mariyam strokes a long coil of her hair, arranging it over her shoulder. She will need to play this carefully to imply to Harper that she knows all while she really knows nothing. "Did he explain what made you shieldbrothers?"

"Well, we fought Magog together. Almost died on the Magog Worldship. Both survived Magog infestation. He said it was because I proved I could do more than just survive…that I had a warrior spirit. I've always got his back…and he’s got mine."

"I see." Trying to warn her off, is he? Mariyam smiles into the hard blue gaze as she continues to play idly with her hair. The question is – what kind of threat does Harper think she is to Tyr? Or is Harper seeing her more as a threat to his relationship with Tyr? Does he think that she actually wants the bastard back? "Do you know what shieldbrothers are?"

"Not exactly. We haven't talked much about the particulars. I'm thinking it's something like a warrior slash brother slash comrade slash friend type thing." Harper watches her closely for a reaction. Does she know more about this shieldbrothers thing than he does? "Right?"

"Well, that is part of it." Mariyam smiles mysteriously. Really this is too easy. And to think that gossip had it that Harper was supposed to be some kind of genius, but perhaps his relationship with Tyr is new enough that the engineer feels uncertain? Will he take the bait?

"Part of it…what's the other part?" Harper asks, torn between doubts about Mariyam's motives and hope that she might actually know something that will shed some light on what's happening with him and Tyr.

Mariyam moves closer and gazes earnestly at Harper. "To a Nietzschean the shieldbrother relationship is second only to one."

"It is?" Harper stares suspiciously at her. "Which one?"

Mariyam looks down in mock bashfulness. "Oh, come now, 'Just Harper'…surely you don't need me to say it for you?"

"Yeah. I think I do."

"Let me just say this…It means Tyr cares for you…deeply." Mariyam tilts her head to one side as she looks at Harper, waiting for a reaction. "Do you understand?"

Harper's blue eyes widen. A blush stains his cheekbones. "Yes."

"Do you care for him, Harper?" Mariyam asks, stepping close to Harper. She eases even closer, parting her lips just so and tilting her head back to look up at Harper. She settles a hand on Harper’s shoulder and strokes sensually down his arm. Hmm. More muscle there than she would have thought. "Do you care for Tyr…deeply?"

Harper looks away. His blush deepens. "I…I'm really not comfortable with the way this conversation is going, Mariyam."

Mariyam smiles as she drops her hand, but she remains standing close. "I'll take that as a yes."

"I…I…never said yes."

"You didn't say no either." She laughs softly and raises her hand again to lightly touch the beard burn on Harper's throat. She breaths in and catches a faint scent. Ah, she remembers that smell. Someone has had an aroused Nietzschean all over him recently. "You also have a certain…glow…I wonder what would have caused that?"

Harper steps away from her touch and starts walking. "I think a change of subject is in order."

"If you wish." Mariyam catches up with him.

"Tyr said he abandoned you so he could establish Kodiak pride. Is that true?"

So that was the excuse that Tyr was using. Mariyam rolls her eyes. No, the bastard abandoned her, hoping that she would conveniently die, because he wasn't able to accept what she was, what she is. He didn't appreciate her potential power and greatness. "He told you this?"

"Yes. Is it true?"

"Not only does he care for you, 'Just Harper'…he must trust you to say such things in your presence."

Harper shrugs. "I guess he trusts me. I hope so."

Mariyam eyes him thoughtfully. So – Harper wants to know Tyr's many secrets, but not for power over Tyr as she had, but as proof that he matters to Tyr. That he is important to Tyr. When she finishes grilling Harper, she needs to find Tyr and see if she can figure out how he feels about Harper. This might be something that she can use. "Do you?"

"Yeah. Yes. I do, I guess…so…is it true?"

"Yes. He did abandon me." Mariyam tosses her head. Her full lips curl back in a sneer. And what is the man that abandoned her now? Nothing, but a common ship's officer while she holds a full measure of power and rank.

"But you were pregnant."

"I was…yes."

"How could you let him leave knowing you had the one thing that would make him stay? I don't get it?" Harper asks quietly.

Mariyam snorts. What -- after months of seeing that blond huzzy in Tyr's thoughts day and night? And by then, she had known that she had misjudged him. No, Tyr would not have been so easily managed as Wallace and her other men. She had no desire to keep him by that time. She'd be relieved when he solved her problem by leaving on his own. "Some things are not so easily explained…or understood."

"You still love him, don't you?"

Dear, dear. Harper did have an inflated idea of that man's worth. What idiot would persist in loving someone who left her to die? Please. Still, it might be useful to cultivate Harper's suspicions. It might be amusing on this dull ship to see if she can cause a rupture in thier relationship. She wouldn't mind seeing Tyr in pain. Mariyam lowers her gaze. "I also am no longer comfortable with the direction of this conversation."

"I'll take that as a yes then."

"Where is Tyr by the way?"

"Why? What do you want with him?" Harper asks sharply. "He's got enough to deal with right now."

Mariyam smiles and widens her eyes at him with patent insincerity. "Harper, I am not a barrier to your relationship with Tyr. I am happy with my life the way it is."

Harper stiffens. "I never said…"

"That you and Tyr are in a relationship?" Mariyam flutters her lashes at him.

"Yeah. 'Cause, we're not."

Now who does he think is going to buy that? Mariyam smirks. The engineer had plainly just crawled out of bed with a Nietzschean and here he is waffling about admitting it. If Tyr is anything like he used to be, Harper has passion marks all over him as well as Tyr's scent. She certainly used to. She had never been sure if the marking was just a Tyr thing or an obsession with all Nietzscheans. "What do you think being his shieldbrother is?"

Harper glances uneasily at her. "I thought….I didn't know…"

"But you have…feelings…do you not?" Mariyam asks, careful to keep her exasperation from her voice at his refusal to openly confess to whatever was going on between him and her former husband.

"Mariyam…I…am…"

"…uncomfortable with the way the conversation is going. I know."

Harper looks thoughtfully at Mariyam. "You're beautiful…I don't understand how he could leave you."

"He had his reasons. They seemed valid to him."

"Don't you hate him?"

Mariyam shrugs. Hate Tyr? There was a time when she had, but she'd quickly realized that Tyr was the loser. She had gained all that she wanted, all that she needed. Tyr lost her. What more was there to say on that point? But her sons, her oldest boys, apparently need thier father so for thier sakes, she must establish some tolerance with Tyr. "No. Not anymore. But I'm not in love with him either."

"Good. Um, if you still want to find Tyr…he's probably in the gym."

Mariyam nods. "Good. Show me. I think I'll have a little chat with Mr. Anasazi."


****


Mariyam sashays into the gym. She glances quickly around. They're alone. Good. She would rather have privacy for this first meeting even if Wallace will have six kinds of fits if he ever finds out that she had met Tyr alone. She tosses her hair. She can handle Wallace. She walks closer, watching as Tyr punches a swinging bag. It rocks with the force of his blows as he strikes it over and over in a pattern of high, middle and low attacks.

Tyr pauses and frowns at her. "You look well."

"As do you, my first husband." Mariyam walks closer. Tyr is watching her like she is some kind of poisonous insect creeping up on him. She remembers that look. He had worn it ever since he'd found out that she could read minds. She hadn't expected him to realized that he'd never mentioned Medea to her. And if even then, she hadn't expected him to figure even so small a secret of hers out.

"You cut your hair. It looks…good. I remember when your hair swept your knees."

"Ahhhh. Now you know that I know a lie when I hear one Anasazi! My hair never fell to my knees." Mariyam laughs lightly. No it wasn't her hair that fell so far, but that bitch of a Nietzschean. She can still see that woman smirking at her in Tyr's mind, long blonde hair sweeping low behind her. "Tyr, I know you don't want to speak with me…"

"It's not that…" Tyr reaches up to remove the long leather throng holding his hair back. "It's just that I had no idea you were still alive. The Drago-Kasov who captured me showed me your…your remains and I was sure that you were gone from me."

"I can imagine the relief you felt when you believed that I was finally out of your life for good. One final loose end eliminated. Remember, you were already gone from me? You had your destiny to fulfill and I had no part in it."

Tyr turns the leather throng over in his hands, staring down at it. "I never wanted you to come to harm, Mariyam."

"Really?" Mariyam asks, not bothering to hide the scorn in her voice. "You never wanted me dead?"

"No!" Tyr's tone is one of shock. He widens his eyes in mock amazement.

"You once wished me dead."

Tyr smiles, taunting while his tone remains smooth as cream. "I didn't mean that. You take my thoughts out of context."

"It sounded like you did. It also sounded like you couldn't wait to be rid of me."

"That's not the way I meant it Mari…"

"It doesn't matter one way or another, Tyr. You left to complete your destiny and I have gone on with my life." Mariyam adjusts the folds of her sari to give herself think to think. She is accomplishing nothing with these accusations. Tyr will never admit with the ship listening in that he had done anything. She can make accusations all day and he will only keep insisting there had been a misunderstanding.

"Your Wallace seems to be a good man…a worthy mate." Tyr sniffs, testing the air and smirks. "And it would seem an ardent lover. I smell him on you. Is he so insecure that he had to mark you as his before you saw me again? I know he is consumed with jealousy."

Mariyam smiles. "Actually he wanted to get my scent on him so you would smell that we'd made love."

"To remind me of what I turned my back on?"

"Something like that."

"Ahhh…He almost thinks like a Nietzschean, admirable."

"He's kind and good and has been a good father to your sons." She looks down, hiding the emotion in her eyes. She hates to ask Tyr for any favors, but she must for the sake of her sons. She knows the older her boys get, the hard things will be. "As children they have resented him…and me on occasion. They are becoming more difficult to deal with. They need you, Tyr. Let them….allow them to get to know you."

"Of course!" Tyr looks down at the throng that he is absently twining and twisting around his hands. "I was just concerned that you did not want me to have contact with them since I abandoned you. I know what you must think of me."

"I have Wallace now and he is to me what you could never be." She reaches out to touch his hand and Tyr backs away before she can touch him. Mariyam smiles slowly, daring him with her eyes. "Still afraid of my touch?"

"I have nothing to fear from you." Tyr's amber eyes hold an unease that is smoothed out of his voice, but the leather throng had snaps tight between his strong hands.

Mariyam eyes the throng. It looked unnervingly like a garrote held that way. Perhaps she should back off somewhat. She takes a casual step away. "No. You never did. But that didn't stop you from deciding my fate."

"You hate me."

"I hated you for a time." Mariyam shrugs. "I'm past that pettiness now. I did learn something else…you took and abandoned another wife."

Tyr frowns. He is not discussing his poor Freya with this woman. If Freya had survived...but she had not and there is no use in considering might have beens. "Circumstances were not to my advantage."

"A Nietzschean this time. Orca Pride, I believe. I see a pattern here, Anasazi." Mariyam puts a finger to her chin and assumes an expression of deep thoughtfulness.

"Mariyam…" Tyr takes a menacing step forward. Does she know about his son? Does she pose a danger to the boy? The throng is still looped like a garrote between his hands. He growls. "Stay out of my…"

"I didn't…I've never…" Mariyam sputters, suddenly realizing what he thinks that she is doing. She should have known. Tyr always seemed to think that she had nothing better to do than poke around his pointy little head. "Some things are either just common knowledge or common sense." She steps back from the big man looming over her.

Tyr flexes his hands and the tension in the throng eases. "I could not be all those things to you. I could not give all of myselfyou.you. We talked about that."

"No Tyr. You talked about it. You decided and I have lived with that decision for the past sixteen years. Is that what happened with your second wife? Did you make that decision as well?"

Tyr tilts his head. Mariyam is getting quite shrill and tiresome on the subject. Why such interest in Freya? He wouldn't put it past her to be trying to trick him into admitting aloud what they both knew had happened. He keeps his voice bland. "I wish circumstances had been different."

"No you don't! I will hear no more of this!" Mariyam whirls around and hits the punching ba
Ty
Tyr shakes his head as the bag barely moves. That is a pitiful as Mariyam’s verbal attacks. He hides a smile as Mariyam rubs her hand. This is pointless. He had done what he had done and he made no apologies for it. He does not care as what she thinks of him or about him as long as she does not touch him. His muscles twitch at the thought. "Mariyam…"

"No, listen to me." She turns to face him again. "You have put your past behind you and so have I. If you want to rebuild your Pride you’re going to have to stop reliving the mistakes of the past. Your sons, Bellerophon and Chimera, need you. They are floundering in their search for their Nietzschean identity. Please help them."

Tyr nods curtly. "I will try."

"Perhaps you will be able to help each other."

"Perhaps…" Tyr looks back down at the throng in his hands. It slides loose from his left hand and is a hair tie again rather than a threat.

Mariyam circles the bag, watching Tyr watch her. She trails a hand down the side of the bag. "Oh, and by the way. I like your Harper."

Tyr narrows his eyes. What does she think she knows about his new shieldbrother? His left hand catches the end of the leather throng again. "What are you babbling about? He's not 'my' Harper!"

"Ahhhhh….Tyr, Tyr…" She makes a show of delicately sniffing the air. "An…ardent…lover, is he?"

Tyr scowls fiercely at her. He will not have Harper threatened by her idle malice. "He's not MY Harper!"

Mariyam shrugs. "He is your shieldbrother, is he not?"

"How do you know that?" Tyr's jaw muscles tighten as the throng stretches taunt between his hands again. He can see Mariyam stealing nervous glances at it. He wants her to look at it. One of his own people would have laughed at such an obvious ploy but Miriyam needed to understand that he will tolerate no attempts of any kind to harm Harper.

"He told me. He seems to understand more of the nuances of that relationship than I thought. Perhaps more than you give him credit for."

Tyr loosens the throng and watches her face relax. He lifts his hair back and ties it with the leather throng while he keeps a steady stare on Mariyam. Where is she going with this? He doesn't care when she rants at him about the past, but he does not want her taking an interest in Harper. "He is still not 'my' Harper."

"But you want him to be 'yours' don’t you?" Mariyam glances at him from under her lashes. "You want him as your shieldbrother in truth, not just principle."

"NO! Not the way you mean it." Or does she even know what she means? He certainly never had occasion to mention a shieldbrothers' relationship to her. Tyr shakes his head, veiling his expression with his long hair.

"Oh, come now. You can't hide the love in your eyes when you look at him…when you think no one notices. Your eyes follow him everywhere." Mariyam chuckles slyly. "And Harper looks at you as if you're the center of his universe. Did you think no one would notice the way he somehow manages to brush against you or touch you in some way when you are in the same room?"

"He does that?" Tyr asks, keeping his tone indifferent and his face blank. She's fishing. She's never seen him with Harper excepr thr that moment in the hanger deck when he met his sons.

"Observant as ever, I see."

"It is not what you think, Mariyam."

"If he is to be your destiny…then tread softly. He has a human heart which can be easily broken."

Tyr snorts and begins hitting the bag. She's fishing still. "It's not what you think…"

"Oh? And what do I think? That you are lovers? Of course you are!" Mariyam snaps impatiently.

Tyr never pauses in the rhythm of his strikes.

Mariyam huffs at being ignored. "Just because he doesn't share your quarters does not mean you are not lovers, or that you are not in a relationship."

Tyr can feel his back muscles bunching up in response to her nearness. How he had ever had sex with her, he did not know. He would rather she stabbed him than touched him. "We're not lovers."

"Try to say it like you mean it next time…and perhaps, I'll pretend to believe you." Mariyam sneers and turns to stalk out of the gym. She's wasted enough of her important time here.


****

Harper stands outside hydrophonics. He touches his new shirt, stroking his fingertips over the soft fabric. He can't stop touching it as if he expects to find a Tyr manual in Braille on it. Tyr isn't one to go around handing out gifts so it meant something that he had this t est especially prepared. Had he done the right thing in guiding Mariyam to the gym? He hadn't liked leaving Tyr alone with her. Will her past relationship with Tyr allow her get in under the big guy's guard? What's her status with Tyr now that she had presented him with kids? Harper sighs. He doesn't trust her, but he doesn't think that Tyr trusts her either. That helps. It makes him feel a little more secure. Just as long as Tyr doesn't start handing handmade shirts out to anyone else. If that happens, well, he will think of something. He isn't anyone's toy to be picked up and put down. He has his own pride and he will be respected. The Harper is not to be taken for granted.

The lush, cool green of hydrophonics surrounds him as he walks in. Harper takes a deep breath. The rich mingled scents of damp soil and flowers soothe him. He smiles. It smells like a garden just after a rainstorm. He can hear voices at the other end. Good.
He wouldn't mind a little distraction right now. Harper walks toward the big tree where the crew likes to sit and talk. Maybe Trance will be there. He doesn't want to talk to her about Tyr but if he can keep her away from that topic, he will enjoy talking with her. He'll ask her about plants, that'll be a certain distraction for the Purple One. He tilts his head as he walks closer. Yep. That's her voice, but who is she talking to? Doesn't sound like Beka. Dylan's probably too busy with colonists to be hanging out in the garden with the Tr. H. He has the feeling that Dylan doesn’t quite trust Trance. Of course, he doesn’t completely trust Trance either.

Damn! Colonist alert. Colonist alert. And the Colonists that he least wants to see right now – the Tyr twins and their siblings. Can't he get away from the family group for a few frigging minutes! He'd just left Mom and before that Pop had pretty much crashed the Harper operating system. It just seems wrong to be thinking about things like that in front of the kids. Too late to retreat now -- the Tyr twins are looking at him. Harper pastes a big smile on his face and walks over to join the group under the tree. The tall girl wearing a blue sari – what the heck was her name? Oh, Freya. That’s it. Her twin, Freyr is standing beside her. Mariyam sure had some tall kids for such a short woman. He can understand Tyr's sons being tall, Harper thinks, as he glances at the two youths looming in the background, but Wallace isn't a tall man.

Trance smiles at him and turns her attention back to Freya. "So tell me about your colony…what do you do for fun? Do you have lots of friends? Is it pretty there?"

Harper's eyes widen as the kid casually drops down like she thinks there's a chair behind her. He opens his mouth to call a warning when one of the stools scoots from the lab to stop under the girl’s descending backside just in time. What the hell? How did that happen? Harper glances at Trance as she claps her hands with a delighted giggle. He looks back at the group of kids. How'd they...which one them...what exactly had they done. Had Dylan declared a Fuck With Harper’s Mind Day and not told him? "Whoa! What was that?"

Freya looks back at him with wide, puzzled eyes. "What was what?"

"That was my brother." Bellerophon's deep voice sounds unnervingly like Tyr's. He frowns at Freyr. "Wallace told you not to do any of that while we were on the ship."

Harper squeezes his eyes shut briefly. When he opens them the scene is still the same. What stuff? What can these kids do and does he really want to know? No way around that one. He has to know. Harper turns to face Bellerophon, trying to ignore how much the kid looks like Tyr. "What do you mean 'that was my brother'? Like he can move stuff without touching it?"

"Exactly so." Chimaera stares with open curiosity at Harper, his dark brown eyes lingering on Harper's face and then narrowing with interest on the human's throat.

"Cool." What's the kid so interested in? Mariyam had stared at his throat too. What was the…oh, shit. Harper can feel a blush heating his cheeks as he remembers the heat of Tyr's hot mouth, sucking on the skin next to his dataport. Great. Just great. He's been wandering around flashing a passion mark all morning. Terrific. No wonder Mariyam hadn't bought his we're-just-friends act. Damn it. Who else has noticed? Not Trance...she'd said something. Okay. So Tyr's sons have figured out that he's getting some. Fine. Just as long as they don’t figure out who he's getting it from. He hasn't even decided himself yet what exactly he wants with Tyr without the others prying into it. Harper leans back against the tree trunk, next to Trance. She wouldn't be able to see his mark from position. He looks back at the kids clustered around Freya. "Wish I could do that. It would really come in handy on my job."

"It's telekinesis, Harper." Trance drops to the ground and sits among the tree roots. "Freyr can move things with his mind. Isn't that right?"

"Yes." Freyr shuffles his feet and looks away. "I'm sorry. Don't tell our parents."

"Why are you sorry? I think it's wonderful." Trance beams at him, her black eyes glowing with pleasure.

Freyr sighs and continues to study the ground. "I disobeyed my father. He will not like it that you know I can do this."

"Oh, pah!" Trance waves a dismissive hand. "I know peoplat cat can do lots of different things."

Chimaera slinks closer to the tree, eyeing Harper covertly, as he speaks to Trance. "Do you know others who have this ability?"

Trance nods, her short gold curls bobbing with the motion. "Yes. I have met people who are telekinetic."

"Really?" Freya asks, eyes wide. She leans forward eagerly. "Have you met anyone like me?"

Trance shrugs. "I've met psychics before."

"No, I mean like me." Freya insists. When Trance frowns questioningly, Freya adds {Someone who can speak to you inside your head} rancrance's eyes widen and her tail curls suddenly. "Yes, Freya. Just like you."

Harper glances uneasily at Tyr's sons. They're just kids, but the slow, stalking way that the boys are circling and easing closer and closer to the tree, while giving him quick sidelong glances is unnerving to somone who has been seriously hunted by Nietzscheans. He presses his back against the tree, trying to smooth the increasing tension out of his muscles. He forces himself to look away the the boys, as ats at Freya, and then down to Trance. He hasn't seen anything, but something had happened. "What did she do Trance?"

Trance's black eyes sparkle. "She's telepathic, I think."

Bellerophon circles around the tree and moves to stand behind his sister. He places his strong hands on her shoulders and bends to kiss her cheek. "No, she is a very powerful empath, not a true telepath…she is not as powerful as Mother and Wallace."

"Not yet." Freya smiles up at her big brother and raises a hand to touch his cheek. "Mother says I'm getting stronger every day."

"Mariyam is a telepath?" Trance asks.

"Yes." Chimaera incheoseroser to Harper as he looks at Trance. "But we don't usually show outsiders our abilities."

"What are your abilities?" Trance asks. Her tail unkinks and waves behind her in the air.

Harper watches closely as Bellerophon and Chimaera look at each other. Can they communicate telepathically? Can he tell by watching them? Chimera is close enough now that Harper can see the flicker of movement as the kid's bone blades twitch beneath the gold velvet sleeves. Chimera looks away from his twin without speaking. His gaze locks on to Harper with sudden intendness and his nostrils flare slightly. Did that kid just sniff? Harper scowls at the youth. What's up with that? Mariyam had smelled him too. That's it. No more Harper sniffing. What was it with these people? Once he finds out what he wants to know, he's out of here and they can go back to sniffing flowers or Trance. Yeah, that'd be good. See how the Queen of Purple likes being sniffed over.

"They don't have any special abilities," Freyr breaks the strained silence. "But that does not make them any less than the rest of us!"

"You mean that everyone in the colony has a special mind thing?" Harper asks. He gives Chimera a sidelong look. The kid is definitely getting closer than is comfortable, but if he moves away Trance will see the mark on his throat. Harper sighes. He'd rather get sniffed again than listen to whatever damn fool comment will pop out of Trance's mouth in front of Tyr's kids. "Ye "Yes. Except for us. Chimaera and me." Bellerophon smoothes the gold velvet on his arms, pressing down lightly on his bone blades. His tone is deceptively indifferent. "Mother thinks it's our father's genes that make us psychically blind."

"She didn't say it like that, Bell!" Freya snaps, turning to look at him. "You know she didn't."

Bellerphon shrugs as if the issue is too minor to bother debating, but old anger flickers in his eyes. Things were far different for him and his brother in the colony than it was for the other set of twins. Freya and Freyr had no conception of what life in the colony was like for him and Chimera and how they spent hours planning to leave the place far behind them. "It means the same. We are not as good as the rest of you."

"No, Bell! No one even ks tks that!" Freya jumps to her feet and hugs him tightly. "And if they did, I'd make sure they would regret it!"

Chimera shakes his head. He exchanges a long look with his twin. They will allow their siblings the illusion, but Wallace cares no more for them than the rest of the colony. To Wallace they are nothing, but encumbrances to be endured or dragged out to display as proof of how saintly Wallace is to accept two Nietzscheans in his household. "You know they do. Wallace and Mother may not, but others in the colony don't like us."

"How can you say that?!" Freyr huffs as he looks from Bellerphon to Chimera.

"Wait, wait…" Harper interrupts, holding his hands up, palms out. He has to get this sorted out before it degenerates into family squabble time. Once he has the information he wants, they can quarrel with each other all they want.

"Yes?" Freya asks, sliding from Bellerphon's arms.

"You're telling me that everyone in the colony has these abilities?"

She twitches her shoulder in a dismissive gesture. "Well, not exactly like us, but…"

"But they all have some sort of extra special something, right?" Harper asks softly as if he is only mildly interested. He smiles winningly at her. Come on, kid, talk to the Harper.

Trance frowns at him in confusion. "Harper, I don't shat hat this has to do with anything."

Harper glances down at her. Of course, Trance didn't. She had completely different priorities as well as a different agenda. The oddest things struck her as vitally important while stuff like this did not sound an alert anywhere in that blond head. "Just a minute, Trance." Harper turns an encouraging smile on Freyr and Freya. "Right?"

"That's correct," Freyr finally responds with clear reluctance.

"Holy Mother of…so, so, so, let me get this straight. All of you guys have some super special ability…like reading minds or whatever…and you called us to pick you up?" Harper stares up at the leaf canopy overhead as he considers. This is not good. The colonists are definitely up to something if they've all been ordered to conceal their abilities. Of course, they might just be afraid of how people might react to the abilities, rather than planning whatever. Harper frowns and shakes his head as he thinks about Mariyam and Wallace. No, those two have an agenda. He is sure of it.

"Yes." Chimaera suddenly looms much too close for comfort.

Harper hastily pushes away from the tree trunk, his shoulder lightly brushing against the kid's. And, damn it, the kid is sniffing him again. Harper scowls. He's starting to feel like the last cup of coffee on the counter. What's with all the damned sniffing? "Er, um…Trance. I gotta run down to the engine room for a sec. I gotta work on that thing. You remember that thing, right?"

Trance shakes her head, staring at him with wide eyes.

"Well, okay, never mind. I've got to get right on it, or Dylan will have my head. I'll be back in a jiffy." Harper moves quickly back into the garden, he can almost feel Chimera and Bellerpohon staring a hole in his back as he pauses to wave at them. "See ya later, guys."

"He's a strange little man." Bellerophon stares after the retreating human. What's a jiffy? And why does that human carry his father's scent? He glances at his brother, but Chimaera only shrugs.

Trance rolls her eyes. "You have no idea."


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