– – – –
Gibbs settled himself a little more comfortably in his seat, pretending to read. In reality, he was worrying about his mate. Tony had been quiet and compliant all day.
After sleeping poorly, unless Gibbs was holding his wrists, Tony hadn’t fussed about the pain of getting that tracker placed in his right thigh. He had quietly said goodbye to Jack and Daniel, then said nothing about having to take military transport back to DC, and Tony hated priority rides.
Worse, Tony felt like almost nothing. Like he was shrouded in a blanket of apathy. And Gibbs didn’t like that at all.
There hadn’t been an opportunity to really talk; first the tracker, then a hasty departure to catch a C-130 headed for Andrews. They had nearly four hours in the air, but it was noisy and there was no privacy. He was determined to get his mate alone as soon as possible. Periodically, Gibbs felt some emotion rise up in Tony, but it was locked down so fast, he couldn’t get a name for it. He just knew that it was really negative.
Beside him, Tony shifted, selecting a new track on his pod thingy. Gibbs could easily hear the music, but didn’t know anything about the singer, just that it was moody and sad. He reached out and laid his hand over Tony’s. His mate was still for several seconds before turning his hand over and threading his fingers with Gibbs’.
He squeezed Tony’s hand. Whatever it took, they’d get through this.
They landed at Andrews an hour later at 1600 local time. Rossi and Larabee were waiting with a large black SUV, the back windows nearly black. After they’d loaded the bags, Larabee took the passenger seat, Rossi driving, and he and Tony climbed in back. He wanted to pull Tony close, but his mate was sitting stiffly, staring out the window.
Instead of starting the car, Rossi turned in his seat, contemplating Tony for several seconds. When Tony finally looked around and noticed everyone looking at him, Rossi said, “You know, I never wanted kids… wasn’t in my plan. But if I’d had one, I’d have wanted one like you. Your father is a fucking idiot, seems like he was before you were ever in the picture. So don’t take this crap on yourself, kiddo.” With that, he turned and started the car.
Gibbs felt a crack in Tony’s emotional blackout. There was an intense sense of grief, betrayal and worthlessness. But the last seemed to be dying as quickly as it was unleashed and Gibbs was insanely grateful to Rossi for knowing what to say. Finally Tony seemed to settle into a sense of sadness and longing.
Tony didn’t resist when Gibbs wrapped an arm around him and pulled him closer. He even relaxed into his mate. Progress.
As they were pulling into the drive at Rossi’s house, Chris remarked, “Jeremy and Richard, Jim and Blair checked into a hotel about ten minutes from here, but everyone is here most of the day. It’s a full house right now.”
Gibbs nodded, but Tony didn’t react, though he could feel a sense of dread from Tony. Practically as soon as the car stopped, Abby was running out of the house – a little awkwardly in her platform boots – and practically jumped on Tony the minute he was out of the car. Gibbs knew this wasn’t what Tony needed, so he carefully pried Abby off, then gave her his own hug.
Inside it was a little bit of madness; greetings, requests to sync up, and information coming at them at a dizzying rate. After a chaotic couple minutes, Gibbs yelled for everyone’s attention. “I need to talk to Tony, so everything will need to wait a bit.”
“You’re in the same room as before,” Rossi said from near the kitchen. “We put some sound generators in each room and, when they’re on, everyone’s trying to not hear around them.”
Blair piped up. “We did some checks and found the one called ‘brown noise’ is actually harder to hear around, but more soothing to the Alpha’s senses. But use the one that is best for you.”
Gibbs nodded his thanks, herding Tony toward the stairs with their bags.
In their room, Tony busied himself with situating the bags and fiddling with the sound machine. “Is that better than white noise?” he asked with far too much interest in static considering the situation.
Not giving a damn about background noise, Gibbs pulled Tony around to face him. “What do you need, Tony?”
He could feel resistance in Tony before he almost visibly deflated. “I don’t know. I think… I think I need to finally read those damn emails, so I at least know.”
Gibbs would rather Tony not, but he knew once Tony got something in his head, there was very little chance of talking him out of it.
A few minutes later, Tony was reading his email, saying, “First email was my original worst case scenario… he goes on and on about how great this will be for us and he’d love for me to come to New York and meet his business partners. From the timestamp, it was written shortly after the news hit.”
There was a pause while Tony continued to read. “Then there are three more where he’s just getting increasingly more pushy about seeing me. In the last one he said he was coming to DC. That was sent this morning. I forwarded them all to Abby, but I don’t see anything particularly useful in them. Though, knowing Abby, she’s already hacked my father’s email and has read these.” He sighed and shut his laptop, setting it aside. He sat staring at the wall unmoving.
Deciding it was time to try something different, Gibbs said, “Get undressed,” then went about closing the blinds and turning off the lights.
Tony stared at him. “LJ, I’m not sure–”
Gibbs wondered if the name was a deliberate distancing or just a slip. “We won’t be having sex unless you’re in the mood, but I want you to get comfortable, and I doubt you can do that in jeans and a turtleneck.” It took a little bit of persuading, but finally Tony was undressed and in bed. Gibbs climbed in with him, and maneuvered Tony on his side, facing away. He wrapped himself around Tony, arm coming around his waist.
After long minutes of silence, Tony hesitantly said, “What are we doing?”
By inches, Tony started to relax and, after a long time, tentatively said, “I don’t think he ever wanted me. I’m pretty sure he married my mother because she came with money and connection, and I was an expected byproduct.”
Gibbs remained quiet, trying not to shatter the illusion of privacy for Tony. This was how he used to get Shannon to talk when she was upset. The near-dark, facing away, just being held.
“He’d pull me out of my box and show me off for company, and then forget about me. Until my mom died. Then he suddenly had to deal with me. He sent me to boarding school right after her funeral. I rarely saw him after that unless he needed to have a display child for some business reason.”
Tony hesitated for a long time, before continuing. “I stayed at boarding school year round, but the summer I was twelve, he came and got me and took me to Hawaii. I found out later he was meeting a business associate who had a thirteen year old. We had a suite, so I was in my own room, and one day I woke up and he was gone. He went home, forgetting I was there. It was days before the hotel bill caught his attention and he realized his mistake. He had the concierge get me on a plane back to school.”
Gibbs really wanted to kill Tony’s father. Knowing Tony could feel Gibbs’ emotions if he were paying attention, he focused on keeping his feelings under lock and key.
Suddenly, Tony turned, lying facing Gibbs. “I was always in a box in his life labeled, possibly useful. When I got the first email, I had a feeling I was suddenly useful again, and I just couldn’t bear that. I would rather him say ‘You’ve disgraced the family, and I’ll never speak to you again.’ But to even think that he might be… what? Trading me to someone completely corrupt? That’s… I’m afraid that being a commodity is worse than being a show pony.”
He stroked the side of Tony’s face, aching for his mate. “You know it was never about you.”
Tony tried to look away, but Gibbs wouldn’t let him.
“No, Tony. It was never about you. Your father was worthless long before you were born. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was you or some other kid, he was not a parent, and that is not your failure.”
Tony rested his forehead against Gibbs’, and was silent for a long time. “When Precious first came to talk to me, I asked It how I could possibly do this thing that fate has lined up for me.”
At Tony’s hesitation, Gibbs prompted, “And what did he say?”
“That I had to trust myself and let you love me. That’s easier and harder than I thought. On both fronts. I feel you in every part of me, and I know you love me. And that’s so far outside my realm of experience, I want to shut it down sometimes. But it doesn’t mean–”
Gibbs placed a finger over Tony’s lips. “Shh. I know what you mean, Tony. Sometimes it’s not easy to let people love you. I will always be here. Even if you’re hiding from me inside, I’ll still be here.”
Tony nodded, then pressed his lips chastely to Gibbs’. “That’s as much emo as I can take for one day. Seriously.”
Rolling his eyes, Gibbs just pulled Tony closer.
When Tony and Jethro finally appeared on the stairs, Blair nearly sprang up off the sofa, but Jim kept a restraining hand on his thigh. He desperately wanted to talk to his friend, find out what had happened on his trip, but mostly wanted to make sure he was okay. But he knew Tony needed space… they all knew it. Blair couldn’t begin to imagine being in Tony’s shoes.
Everyone had left the loveseat again for Jethro and Tony, but as soon as they sat, Abby squeezed in on the other side of Tony, resting her head on his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around her and kissed her temple. “Hey, Abbs. Missed you.”
“Missed you, too, Tony.” She and Blair had talked earlier in the day about trying to take it easy on Tony for a bit, that he might not feel up to talking about his feelings.
“So,” Tony began, “fill us in… how are things progressing?”
Abby bounced a bit in her seat. “Can I ask a question first? A little one?”
Tony smiled gently at her. “Sure. What one thing is burning a hole in your brain?”
“How did it go with the General’s Alphas? We’ve all been on pins and needles to know if you’ve midwifed anymore baby Wyverns!”
Scowling, Tony pulled at one of her pigtails. “Okay, no more midwife or mom or mommy or anything maternal, got it?”
Abby nodded emphatically. “Got it. You’re anti-girl,” she said with an amused quirk to her lips.
“No… just not a girl.” Tony sighed. “Okay, yes, they all had Wyvern bonds and somehow Daniel managed the logistics to get them all emerged last night.”
Blair’s brain wasn’t working. All? How was that even possible? But he couldn’t form a coherent sentence.
“What?” Richard blurted out. “Didn’t General O’Neill say there were six Alphas?”
Blair finally found his voice. “So in forty-eight hours you sired eight Wyverns. That’s more than have emerged in the last ten years! I… whoa, I don’t even know what to… but Jack had six in one place, but you only met three total at the meetings last week?”
Tony raised hand to stop any more questions. “I talked about that with Daniel, because one of the Alphas was at my meetings, and I didn’t detect it. We think that it’s two things. First, I was unmated and Wyvern gifts are a little staticy without a mate. And second, perhaps the three bonds I felt were of greater duration or stronger for some reason. There’s really no way to prove any of that. But my thought was that perhaps a large number of Alphas have Wyverns already.
“So after we clear up the giant mess in front of us, we could visit the various Dragon Centers and have a sort of regional gathering for Alphas in that territory, so I can meet as many as possible. We’ll have to figure out how to keep certain things confidential, but I think it’s important to get the Alphas who already have bonds mated before they do something crazy like mate with a Beta, or the Wyvern marries a human.”
Tony paused briefly before adding, “And something else to think about, all eight of the Wyverns who emerged on this trip have either seven or nine bands, so they kind of blow the averages.”
Everyone started throwing out ideas, but Jethro whistled and got everyone’s attention. “Let’s figure that out later. Can you guys get us up to speed on how the planning is going? Especially the spirit walking?”
Blair’s brain was spinning on the news about the bands and the sheer number of Wyverns, but he pulled it together and decided to start with the spirit walking first. “A few things on the spirit front. We’re able to get there, but can’t seem to maintain the connection. Though we haven’t been able to take Richard along for the ride yet. Interestingly, Vin has an easier time getting there than I do. Richard posited that it might be because of the bond Vin has with you. So he suggested we do the Wyvern bonding if you’re amenable?”
Tony nodded, but was focused on Richard. “Do you think you’re having trouble too because of a lack of bond with me?”
Richard shrugged. “I’m uncertain. I do not feel like I have been of much use to Blair. I don’t seem to have much insight into this spirit walking business.”
Tony’s brows lifted, then he frowned a bit. “Tell me exactly how you’ve been helping so far.”
Blair and Richard outlined the meditation exercises they’d been using, and their attempts to get Richard to the spirit plane so he could guide them.
Though he looked thoughtful, Tony didn’t say anything until Jethro nudged him and said, “I know how you feel when you’re figuring something out. You need to say it.”
Tony turned to Jethro. “I don’t know that it’s right… I don’t have any expertise in this area.”
“Is that your gut or your brain?” Jethro asked dryly
With a huff of laughter, Tony replied, “You already know the answer to that.” He looked back at the room. “Richard, did you know how to meditate before this?”
“Blair, did you?”
Blair nodded. “For sure. Old hand at it. What are you thinking, Tony?”
Tony looked at Richard. “I think you’re taking your gift a little too literally and not just letting it happen.”
Richard frowned and seemed to be trying to unravel the comment. “I don’t follow.”
“Well, your gift said ’meditate’ and since you know how to meditate, you thought to teach that. But I think you need to go back to your gift and say ‘now what?’ I’m not explaining it well. If I said to you, ‘what’s next?’ what is your first thought?”
“Go outside.” Richard looked incredibly frustrated. “But that doesn’t make sense. How is that teaching?”
“That’s what I think you’re taking too literally. It’s more like a guide, not a teacher. What I’m picking up from you is that you’re interpreting your instincts into something instructable, and ignoring them when they don’t make rational sense. So, let’s go outside.”
Tony got up and grabbed his coat, leaving whomever to follow.
Blair was the first to trail after Tony, quickly followed by everyone.
Once they were outside, Tony turned to Richard. “Okay, we’re outside. Your gift was leading you toward meditation, so clear the mind and then go outside. Now what?”
Cocking his head to the side as if listening to something internal, Richard finally said, “We need to shift. But I can’t explain why. How is that teaching?”
“Guide! And you are guiding,” Tony insisted.
Suddenly, Blair smacked his forehead. He couldn’t believe this hadn’t occurred to him. Everyone turned to him. “This makes sense. Once we know how to clear the mind and feel for the spirit plane, the next step is getting there. But our gifts exist because we’re dragons, so it follows that they’re stronger in our shifted form.”
“Oh good heavens,” Richard said. “So as beginners, it makes sense to shift first. Blair, I am so sorry. I’ve been getting weird impulses, but since I couldn’t explain, I thought it was nonsense.”
“We’re all learning, Richard,” Blair said wrapping an arm around his friend and giving him a quick, reassuring squeeze. “So after, we shift, I assume we meditate?”
“We need to be touching, I believe,” Richard replied.
“Makes sense. Who?” Blair asked, filing away the information even his brain was spinning with theories.
“I do believe it should be you, Vin and myself.”
Blair could tell he was leaving something out.
“And?” Tony prompted. Apparently Tony could tell, too.
Richard sighed. “Well, I had this odd notion that it would help if we had a peach Wyvern, but I just don’t know why that would be, so what good does it do to say something no one is capable of interpreting?”
Blair had to admit, he was stumped by that one.
“No one?” Tony asked with a faint smile. “Three of the Wyverns who emerged last night are peach. I might not have known before yesterday about that gift, but I do now.”
“Wow, Tony… like nearly half of all Wyverns are peach. What gift is that?” Blair queried in excitement.
“Well, they’re some of the strongest with standard empathy, meaning not the kind Spencer has, but they can amplify the abilities of other Wyverns. They were often bonded sort of like an acolyte to dragons like Blair or Daniel or Precious to help magnify their gifts.”
Blair bounced a little. “Which is why Precious has two peach dragons with him. They were bonded to him in his life. Wow. Oh, yeah, I can see how that would help.”
“But, we’re in luck,” Tony said, “Because I can stand in for a peach Wyvern. So let’s get with the shifting and see if we can get Richard to the spirit plane.”
The Alphas were all hanging around protectively, refusing to go back inside. Tony asked that Spence shift first and take care of the bond, in case Tony was tired after the spirit walk for some reason.
Even though it was still fairly early, only about six-thirty, it was dark out, but the house and yard lights glinted madly off the lavender and white scales. Blair thought the two together were insanely pretty. He found watching the Wyvern bond to be really touching. Tony and Spencer stared at each other for the longest time, and Blair could almost feel something in the air, then Spence pressed his head against Tony’s and they stayed like that for a couple minutes.
When Spence shifted back, he seemed relaxed and was smiling slightly.
“You okay?” Hotch asked, wrapping his arms around his mate, with Rossi moving up close, too.
“Yes. That was very… interesting. I need to think on it.” Instead of staying with them, the trio went inside.
Blair nudged Richard to go next, and the process was repeated, but didn’t seem to take quite as long. Instead of shifting back, Richard just moved to the side. Vin was already bonded to Tony, so Blair shifted and met Tony’s eyes.
Suddenly this awareness moved through him of safety and peace. This was the Guardian. He couldn’t quite wrap his brain around what that meant, but he knew it was important. He could have stayed in that feeling for an age, but his instincts urged him forward and he pressed his face to the Guardian’s. It was home and love and protection. Not like what he got from Jim, but what he imagined it would be like from a parent.
He wondered how many who had a bond with Tony felt that way. How many had kept that to themselves to keep from making Tony uncomfortable?
He pulled away reluctantly and settled into position with one foreleg touching Tony. Richard and Vin moved close. Rossi had a big yard but it was a little crowded with four shifted Wyverns in it. He was touching Tony and Richard, then Vin on the other side of Richard and finally Tony on the other side of Vin. Their touching forelegs made a rounded square.
They all closed their eyes and Blair cleared his mind. He knew immediately this would work. His connection to the spirit plane felt so much more profound than before. He focused on pulling himself into the other plane, taking Richard and Tony along, hoping Vin was doing the same thing.
He felt a shift in the air and opened his eyes. Everything was blue. They’d all made it. Unsure what to do next, he looked to Richard, who seemed to hesitate before shifting back to his human form.
They all followed suit. Blair worried for a second, but the connection felt stable for the moment.
Richard suddenly said, “We need to meditate again. We need to build an awareness of this plane to stay here for long. Immerse yourself in it. I think the reason you went back so quickly is because on a subconscious level, this feels peculiar.”
Things progressed rapidly. Now that Richard wasn’t ignoring his gift, he seemed to always know the next step. Sometimes Blair was right there with him on what to do next, so he knew the whole spirit plane thing was starting to gel for him. Their next task was to try to seek out the captive Wyvern, and then try to make contact.
Tony refused to go with them. “I’m going to stay here and try to find Precious. I have some questions, and I think you guys are set to find the Wyvern. If my connection here starts to fizzle, I’ll meet you back in the tangible.”
Blair wanted to argue, they might need Tony. But then he realized that Tony could start to become a crutch and that really wasn’t fair. They left him behind and Blair tried Richard’s suggestions for finding their quarry.
Somehow Tony knew if he called on Precious with intent and authority that Precious would come. “Elder,” he called, “your Guardian requests your presence and your counsel.”
Almost immediately, he felt a shift in the air, then Precious was standing right in front of him, without its acolytes. It smiled warmly. “Well done, Guardian. What would you ask of me?”
“What don’t I know? About us, about the Wyverns?”
Precious cocked its head to the side. “There is much for you to learn, what are you referring to?”
Eyes narrowing, Tony considered the elder dragon for a moment. “There’s something major that is almost shrouded from me. Usually when I think on something related to our nature for long enough, the answers come. I don’t always trust myself, but it’s there. This won’t come. And I don’t like being kept in the dark.”
Precious smiled sadly. “Ask your question, Tony.”
“What are we? Everything comes back to the Wyverns. Alphas are Alpha because of the Wyverns, which means the skills and gifts they have came from us. My intuition says that the other dragon species that could shift to human form, could only do so because of us… because we taught them. Why were we so different?”
“How can you be sure that there weren’t other gifted species that died out, simply lost to time?”
“My instinct says no. I’ve been spinning on this puzzle for days. But Daniel was the clincher. His gift, while useful, that’s not all there is to it. There’s something major to his gift, but I can’t seem to see it. It’s always just out of reach.”
“And if tell you that you’ll know in time? It’s only been days, Tony.”
Tony shook his head. “No. I feel like I’m being guided down a path, but I refuse to walk it any further if I don’t know what I’m being guided to! Trust me enough to know and still make the right choice.”
“Very well. Let’s sit.” Once they were sitting cross-legged, facing each other, Precious continued, “You are correct in your assumption that the Wyverns are the source. We were very enamored of all the dragon species, but the Drakes called out to us. There were two possible pools of beings from which we could have selected mates, and we chose the Drakes. But they had to agree to take on traits that would allow us to bond our lives together.
“So from the Drakes, we pulled forth the Alpha. We gave them what we needed to stabilize our own gifts, to anchor them and make them stronger. And in them we found worthy mates to live out a mortal life, before passing to the next phase of existence.
“We taught the Drakes how to shift forms immediately, but you’re also correct that when man became the dominant species and began to hunt us, we did teach the other dragon species how to shift. Dragons are all highly intelligent, sentient creatures. Many refused to shift, choosing to die rather than become what they had come to hate.”
Precious stopped for a moment, seemingly lost in Its memories. Eventually, It continued. “The Drakes seemed intent to go the same path. We could have saved ourselves in another way, but we hoped by taking human form, we would encourage our Drakes to follow. And they eventually did, but the separation was painful.”
“What other option did you have?” Tony asked carefully, feeling how painful those decisions had been for the Wyverns.
“Well, the other option would have given us no hope for returning to our mates. We could have returned to where we came from.”
Tony frowned. “I’m not following. Where were you from?”
“We’re not originally from here.”
“I didn’t think you were. Who is from the spirit plane?”
Precious smiled. “Poorly phrased. We’re not originally from Earth.”
Tony blinked a few times. “I’m sorry, what?”
“We were from a place that you would call Yveria. We were Yverians. On Earth, we called ourselves Wyverns, to hold on to what we had been, but to also shield it somewhat from those who might try to trace where we’re from.”
But Tony was stuck on the ‘not from Earth’ bit. “You’re an alien?”
“Well, not me personally, but going back a long time, yes, our ancestors were what you’d likely call aliens.”
Tony was really stuck on this point. He really couldn’t get his head together. That wasn’t what he was expecting. At all.
“Tony, the others aren’t ready for this yet. Well, except for Daniel and Jack.”
Tony blinked and his mind started to race. “Holy shit! Is that what they’re doing buried in that mountain? Something to do with aliens?”
“Yes. And I would firmly recommend that you keep that a secret. But when you’re ready, you, Blair, and your mates should meet with Daniel and Jack and tell them what you’ve learned.”
Tony frowned. “I haven’t really learned anything except the alien bit.”
“The rest will come to you in the next few weeks. Once I told you where we were from, the one block we had on you was lifted. Please trust me and tell no one until you’re ready to go with Blair to talk to Daniel.”
“Why the three of us?”
“Blair is your spiritual leader, he chose the title Shaman, you are the Guardian, and Daniel is the Master of the Gate, which, once you find out what Daniel does, you will find terribly ironic.”
Tony filed that away to think about later. “Why are those three positions important?”
“You are the ruling triad,” Precious stated simply as if it were obvious.
Tony held up his hands, as if he could ward it away. “Whoa… so didn’t sign up for that! I am not ruler material. And we don’t live in that kind of world anymore.”
“What do you think you’ve been doing? In mere days you’ve begun to fix what’s gone wrong for our people. Blair instinctively knows what he needs to do, but retreats frequently to be polite. Daniel struggles with his human values and a sense of what he thinks of as fair. He’ll need to get past that. Wyverns are powerful, and it’s not a matter of fairness that mundane humans are not. We’re a different species.
“You are what could be called the lynchpin in the Triad.” Tony started to reply, but Precious held up a hand. “It’s too much too soon, Tony. Let it come to you. Come see me again when you have more questions and aren’t quite so overwhelmed. Fix this problem with the corrupt Alpha, spend some time with your mate. All of this will still be there. I will still be here when you’re ready.”
Tony closed his eyes. “I won’t be able to hide this from Jethro. He’s too in tune with me… he’ll know something is on my mind all the time, because I sure as hell am not going to be able to stop thinking about this.”
“I’m not requesting that you to hide it from your mate. Even though you, Blair, and Daniel are the Wyvern rulers, your mates are there with you, ruling with you. They will have to lead all dragons.”
“I can’t hide it from Jethro, but he won’t believe me either. Jethro is more grounded than anyone I’ve ever met,” Tony said, feeling frustrated.
“Show him what we talked about.”
And that made no sense. “And how do I do that?”
“I know you could figure this out if you put your mind to it, but I’ll help you. Rest your fingers on his Alpha Mark, have him enclose your Wyvern Mark, and both of you intend to share your mind. The intent is key.”
“And which mark is the Wyvern Mark?”
Precious looked exasperated. “The ones all Wyverns have. The ones that are used in bonding, the ones that are used during mating, the ones an Alpha uses to calm an upset Wyvern.”
Tony blinked and stared at his wrist scales. “Oh.” His brain immediately went off on a tangent. “How are they used in mating?”
Precious frowned. “Your mate hasn’t held you down by the wrist at all?”
“Oh!” Tony felt himself blushing. “Yeah, that he does. A lot.”
“Of course he does,” Precious said with no small amount of exasperation.
“Okay, I get that this is perfectly obvious to you, but it’s not obvious to me,” Tony retorted, caught somewhere between amusement and annoyance. “Why do we even have those marks and what is it that’s actually happening when the Alpha uses them?
“That’s a slightly different tale. The Drakes when we first encountered them were intelligent and powerful and they had a stability, a resonance with nature, that we craved. There were so many good things, but they were also very arrogant. They were the dominant dragon species, in fact the dominant species on Earth at the time. And despite what we offered them, they wanted to be certain they would continue to be dominant. Which we agreed to… they would lead, we would follow. They would dominate, we would submit.”
“I kind of get that in my relationship with Jethro, but it doesn’t feel negative like it kind of sounds,” Tony mused out loud as he considered Precious’ words.
Precious smirked. “This is a case of be careful what you wish for. They received the power they demanded, but all they wanted to do with it was love and protect us. That’s the effect of the mating and the bond. A bonded Alpha never becomes corrupt. It can only happen to one that is unbonded, and only a tiny few at that. That abomination you’re hunting was corrupt before he ever captured and tried to bond with that poor Wyvern. Even if the Wyvern had been willing, the corrupt nature of the Alpha would not have allowed a full bond. And a spirit guide cannot merge with one who is corrupted.”
Tony nodded, mostly thinking about how the Drakes reacted to having power over the Wyverns. “So they had this notion of getting power over a powerful race and then they didn’t want to do anything with it?” Tony snickered a little.
“Yes, and we taught the Alphas to shift forms very early on, long before the danger from humans, but we agreed that each would wear a mark of their status in their alternate form. And there’s power in those marks.”
“Will all of this be downloading into my brain, too, or will I need to come back and ask you.”
“It will all come to you eventually. It may take several weeks, but should the situation become urgent, please come speak to me.”
“Okay. No, wait. You just said you taught the Drakes how to shift before there was danger. Does that mean we used to live in harmony with humans before they started hunting us?”
“No, we modeled our form on another race called the Alterans. It’s a long story… one that you will understand eventually, but now would just be clutter you don’t need. Suffice it to say, they were very difficult and caused a lot of problems. It’s quite complicated.”
“Uh… so let me try to gather back up the threads of this conversation. The marks on our wrists are the Wyvern mark and we all have them and our Alphas have some instinctive knowledge of them. What are the rest of the bands?”
“Just what you think they are… they represent how powerful a Wyvern is in their gifts. The visible display of our power was part of our agreement with the Drakes.”
“Okay. Got it. Back to the threads. Because I’m getting totally saturated. Um… So we touch each other’s marks and intend to share thoughts, and I’ll be able to show him all of this?”
“Yes. In fact, if you want to say something private to your Alpha, just touch his marks and send it to him. It takes practice to get it right.”
“Okay… I think I’ve got it. No… that implies that I have some level of comprehension and I don’t. This is so confusing,” Tony muttered rubbing his temples.
“Would you rather not know?”
Tony thought about it for a long time. “No. I felt like I was being led around by the nose, and I didn’t like it. I could see the outlines of something major but felt like it was being withheld. I don’t feel like that so much anymore.”
“I have one other thing I would like to tell you. It has to do with how we come into being.”
Tony was hesitant to take on anymore knowledge tonight, but Precious wanted to say it. He’d absorb what he could.
“It has to do with how Wyverns reproduce. It’s a lengthy topic and we should probably mostly save for when your Triad is together, because how it used to be done won’t work for you anymore. But we reproduce both physically and spiritually. We had physical children, and when we reached spiritual maturity, there was a process of birthing what you call your spirit guide.”
“Oh dear God, not the birth thing.”
“Tony, stop and listen. I realize this challenges your notion of masculinity, but I know you feel parental toward the eight Wyverns you’ve called forth. And that’s more midwife than mother. Physical reproduction is complicated by the fact that you’re male, and you’ll have to get a female involved. But that’s a topic for another day. The spiritual birth is what I need you to understand. And by ‘birth’, I don’t mean expelling something from your body, so stop getting upset.”
Tony took a few deep breaths and let go of his panic.
“All of the dragon spirits that have been called forth to merge with you and others exist because an ancestor called them into being, they created a new spiritual life that waits to be summoned. The number of spirit dragons is finite, so you will have to deal with this topic eventually if you want to give that spirit guide to future generations. This is something that is expected of every dragon that is fully mature in their gifts and connection to the spiritual plane.”
“Okay,” Tony hedged. “If we don’t have to deal with it yet why do I need to know?”
“My gift is the rarest, and only appears in times of great change for our species. Because of the way it works, I was never able to have offspring, either physical or spiritual, until right before my sacrifice which left me here. I put off the sacrifice long enough to have a physical child and birth a spirit guide for the future.”
Tony filed the facts away, not sure where it was going.
“My physical line led into your mother’s family. The Paddingtons are all my direct descendants. You are my many times removed grandson, and because you are the first Wyvern emerged in our line, I consider you more my son than grandson.”
Tony was wide-eyed, he felt like his heart was in his throat.
“Also, the dragon I birthed on the spirit plane was white, fated to be the next Guardian. You, Tony. In both the physical and the spiritual, you are my child.”
Precious paused, watching Tony carefully for several moments as Tony wrestled fiercely with his emotions. “I didn’t intend to tell you this for a long time, I didn’t want it to influence you, but I’ve been watching, and I know what’s happened with the human who sired you.
“I feel as if I’ve been with you your entire life. I’ve seen you grow and become an amazing man. But also emerge into the Wyvern our people need to lead them forward. I needed to tell you that, in any way that matters, I am your parent. And I am so proud of you,” Precious said gently.
His eyes slammed shut and he pressed the heels of his hands against his forehead, refusing to let his emotions get loose. He had to stay in control. He had to.
Then he felt arms come around him and he lost his tenuous hold on his emotions.
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