Journey: 1st version

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Chapter 1

Gabriel stood outside the two-story stone and log home. Long grass peeked over the stepping stones leading up to a set of wooden steps. The porch wrapped around the side of the house, large picture windows overlooking it all. The house sat far away from the city, nestled in a dense grove of trees running down the sloping mountain side. It was a good hour drive down dirt back roads to get there.

His mentor, Ezekiel, had built the house almost ten years earlier. He had picked the spot due to the nearby river and waterfall for hunting, fishing, and meditation purposes. He enjoyed the secluded area, far away from civilization. People didn’t get along very well with him since the war, and mainly treated him with hostility or fear.

He had gotten caught up in the war fifteen years ago, as a soldier for the Drakons. During the last of the battles, Ezekiel had saved Gabriel, the young boy having been separated from his father. Once they had been safe, Ezekiel went into complete shock. It was almost like he had fallen asleep with his eyes open, except for the sporadic muscle spasms in his legs and arms. Gabriel had dragged him to the nearest hospital, his small frame nearly engulfed by Ezekiel’s. At the hospital, Gabriel stuck by Ezekiel’s side his entire stay, unwilling to let anyone remove him. Even at the tender age of eight, he felt it was his responsibility to keep watch over the man who saved his life. It took Ezekiel a full week of therapy to start to recover from the initial shell shock. He was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and told it’d be something he’d live with for the rest of his life.

It had been nearly a month since Gabriel had heard from or seen the Drakon man. While vanishing wasn’t unusual for him, it usually only lasted a few days at most. This had been Gabriel’s third attempt at looking for him at his house, the worry beginning to get to him. He opened the front door and called out inside. The lights were all off and nothing looked like it had been touched in a while. His stomach felt sick at the memory that resurfaced. Slowly he walked through the house, checking the bathrooms and rooms for any sign of his friend. A small sense of relief ran through him, but was short lived at the realization that he still couldn’t find his friend.

He left the house and walked toward the nearby rushing waterfall hoping maybe he’d find him fishing or meditating nearby. His dark hair danced in the breeze created from the falling water. The sound was soothing, causing him to lose himself in thought.

It was beginning to feel like when one person returned to Gabriel’s life, another vanished. Valery, his girlfriend, had vanished five years earlier. She had just up and left without any word to anyone, even her own father. It tore the poor man apart, sending him into a frenzy. He blamed Gabriel something fierce for the disappearance of his daughter. Even going as far as suggesting Gabriel had done something to her. Ignoring the threats from her father, Gabriel never gave up looking for her. Ezekiel had been the only one to see how much her disappearance had affected the young man. When Gabriel wasn’t searching, Ezekiel put him to work trying to help occupy his mind. The two worked side by side on Ezekiel’s house, Gabriel venting his heartache while Ezekiel quietly listened.

Then about a week ago, out of the blue, she appeared on his front porch. She looked so much smaller than he remembered, smaller and tired.

She looked away, holding back tears when he walked out, “Hey,” She ran her hand shakily through her hair, “I know I’m an idiot and I made a stupid mistake, I really shouldn’t even be here-”

“Val,” Gabriel interrupted her ramblings, his eyes filling with tears, “Where have you been?”

“I’m sorry.” She breathed out, her voice breaking.

Gabriel wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him tightly, “I was so scared something terrible happened to you. Your dad has been a nervous wreck,” He leaned back, “Where have you been?” He repeated.

She took a small step to the side, revealing a small boy hiding behind her legs. Gabriel wondered dazedly how he hadn’t noticed the child before. The boy stood nervously, a thick brown fuzzy tail tucked between his legs.

“This is Ira,” She said softly pulling away. The little boy looked up at him with large brown curious eyes, “Your son.”

An unusual sound snapped Gabriel out of his thoughts. He had approached a small door sized opening of rock by the waterfall. A place he had often visited as a child to gather his thoughts and meditate. Cautiously, he moved, peering into the darkness of the cave. The shadows shifted and he instinctively slid down into a fighting stance.

“Who’s there?” He said, the shadows moving to outline a small figure.

It moved forward into the light, “Fa?” A small child, appearing to be no older than 3 years old, whimpered. His small face crumpled in disappointment at seeing Gabriel, and he immediately began to sob.

Gabriel fell out of his stance, “Whoa, hey, I’m not going to hurt you,” He said noting with disbelief the long cat-like ears and olive green tint to the child’s skin, “Hey, hey, it’s okay, kiddo,” He knelt down next to him, “What’s your name?”

The little boy rubbed at his eyes, “C-Co’.” He hiccuped, looking at Gabriel through a mop of blond hair with puffy lizard-like eyes. The boy was the spitting image of Ezekiel, right down to the white and blue gi he wore. Gabriel recognized the old gi as his own from back when he was a child.

“Co’?” He repeated, trying to translate what that could mean, “Cole?” The boy nodded and he smiled, “Hi, Cole, I’m Gabriel.” He leaned back looking around the small cave, “Do you know where your dad is?”

Cole studied Gabriel carefully, his ears flattening against his head, “N-no.” His voice wavered slightly, his small hands wiping at his eyes again.

Gabriel felt that sick feeling tighten his stomach again, “Do you know where he went?” A confused look washed over Cole’s face. He blinked a few times, then shrugged, wiping at his eyes in a vain attempt at stopping the tears.

Gabriel sighed softly, “How long have you been out here alone for?” He asked curiously.

Again, Cole shrugged, “I 'unno.”

Frowning, Gabriel looked around for any signs of Ezekiel, “Are you hungry?” Cole nodded moving closer to him, “Okay,” Gabriel carefully picked him up and stood, “Let’s go and get some breakfast?” He laughed softly at Cole’s enthusiastic nodding as they headed back towards the car.

“'m bery hung’y.” Cole said climbing into the backseat.

Gabriel helped him buckle up, “I bet! We’ll find something good then.” He ruffled Cole’s hair, climbing out of the car, “One minute, okay?”

He closed the door, pulled out his cellphone from his pocket and dialed Daniel. It rang twice before a tenor sounding voice answered, “Hey! I was just going to call you.”

“Really?” Gabriel looked in the back window at Cole and waved, smiling reassuringly, “I’m about to head over there, it’ll be about 2 hours, is that okay?” He turned, leaning his back against the car.

There were some shuffling sounds on the other end, papers it sounded like, “Yeah, yeah! Good, that’s what I was hoping you would do. Something happened, but I think it’d be better to talk about it when you get here.”

Gabriel felt his stomach drop, “Okay, I’ll get there as fast as I can.”

“Thanks Gabe, see you soon.” Daniel hung up and Gabriel climbed into the driver seat.

“Alright, Kiddo,” Gabriel buckled his seat belt and looked into the rear view mirror, “What’re you hungry for?”

“Food.” Cole replied quickly, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Gabriel chuckled, “Okay, well... Food it is.” He turned the car on, turned it around, and started down the dirt driveway.

Cole leaned against the door, looking out the window curiously. He was quiet for a good ten minutes, soaking up the scenery passing them by, “Where’s fa-fa... faaa…ther?” He frowned struggling with the word.

Gabriel looked in the rear view mirror briefly, then back to the road. The boy was still looking out the window, his hands hanging onto the seat belt across his chest. He looked so small in the two sizes too big gi.

“I’m not sure,” Gabriel said looking at the boy in the mirror again, “How old are you, Cole?”

The boy shrugged, “I ’unno,” He squirmed in his seat, “What’s that?” He pulled at his shirt.

Gabriel was amazed at how well the boy was speaking. He had to keep reminding himself that despite Cole looking to be three or four years old, he was talking to a child no more than a couple weeks at that.

The Drakon race aged a lot differently than any other race. For the first few days of their lives they aged half a year per day, slowing after they reached a week of age. Drakons were notable for reaching full maturity at the age of fifteen, and living to be a couple hundred years old. When Gabriel met Ezekiel he looked to be in his early twenties even though he was still a young teen.

“It’s how many years old you are,” Gabriel chuckled softly at the confused look Cole gave him, “We’ll find your dad after breakfast,” He looked over his shoulder at the boy and smiled, “Don’t worry, okay?” He turned back to the road, “There’s a diner up ahead. We’ll grab breakfast there.”

~*~

“Gabriel!” Daniel called out running up to the man, his gray robe swaying around his bare feet, “You just missed Isabelle.” He leaned lightly on a withered white oak staff and tapped his foot on the ground.

Daniel was short for his age and often mistaken for an old man due to his long white hair, and deep blue skin. He, like Ezekiel, was of the Drakon species. His ears twitched as he spoke, his hands opening and closing in excitement, “There’s been-“ He stopped himself and blinked, looking at the small sleeping child in Gabriel’s arms, “Who’s that?” Shaking his head dismissively, he continued quickly, “Wait... Tell me later. There was an accident.”

Gabriel carefully laid Cole down on one of the two couches in the small living room, “What kind of accident?” He turned around to Daniel.

The young Drakon straightened up, “About a week ago I noticed subtle energy changes from Ezekiel. I thought maybe he was having another episode, but something was off about it,” He studied Gabriel warily for a moment, as though he was trying to figure out a way to explain what he meant, “Like... There was two of him,” He continued, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion, “It lasted for a while, then suddenly his energy disappeared. When I went to investigate, I found him unconscious in the middle of the field you two used to train in. You know… the one near his home?”

Gabriel’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, “Is he alright? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” He asked, annoyance underlining his last question.

Daniel held his hands up in defense, “I’m sorry, I just found him yesterday. He woke up this morning with no memory from the month,” He chewed his lip nervously, “Isabelle looked him over and said she couldn’t find anything physically wrong with him. I tried to heal him as well, but there wasn’t anything to heal.”

“He has amnesia?”

Daniel shrugged, “Isabelle wasn’t sure... It looks like it, and I think it’s only short term. He has been steadily gaining older memories back, but says he can’t remember anything from the past few weeks.”

Cole woke up, climbed down off the couch and hid behind Gabriel’s leg. Cautiously he poked his head out and studied Daniel with large eyes.

“You look like fa…ther,” He said in a shy voice, “But not.” He pointed to Daniel’s hair, pulled back into a loose ponytail.

Daniel smiled, squatting down to Cole’s level, “And who’s your father?”

Cole shrugged, “I 'unno...” He whispered, bowing his head.

“You couldn’t guess?” Gabriel asked with raised eyebrows, he glanced down at Cole, “This is Cole, Ezekiel’s son.”

Daniel’s eyes widened, “What!? Ezekiel’s?!” He asked incredulously.

“Well if he isn’t yours…” Gabriel shrugged, smirking slightly.

Daniel coughed into his hand and stood up, his cheeks flushing a little in embarrassment, “Ah-ha, no,” He closed his eyes for a moment, then nodded, “That answers why it seemed like there were two of him,” Opening his eyes, he looked down at Cole, “But… where were you when I found your father?” He looked between Cole and Gabriel with a mixture of guilt and confusion.

Gabriel shrugged, “I found him in the cave near the waterfall.”

“Oh, I see,” Daniel nodded to himself, “I’m sorry I didn’t see you,” He said sincerely to Cole, “It’s nice to meet you, Cole.” He smiled.
Cole looked up at Gabriel shyly for reassurance.

Gabriel nodded to him, “It’s okay, let’s go see your dad.”
Daniel gave Gabriel a wary look, “He’s in the back bedroom.” He said gesturing towards the guest room.

~*~

Meditating at the back of the bedroom, his back pressed firmly against the wall, Ezekiel struggled to make sense of the onslaught of memories. Something about anger, fear, and a little Drakon boy stuck out the most. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what it meant, and the feeling was starting to really get to him. He opened his eyes, listening to the approaching of footsteps, then a soft knock.

“Ezekiel?” A semi deep voice called out as the door creaked open.

Unfolding his legs, Ezekiel stood up, “Gabriel,” He grunted, as the young man entered into the doorway, “Daniel said you might stop by.”

Gabriel shifted, obviously concealing something from his view. Intentional or not, Ezekiel couldn’t tell. He resisted the urge to rub his temples to ease the headache pounding behind his eyes. Instead, he ran his hands over the top of his head, spiking up the short blonde hairs in the process.

“I just found out you were here a few hours ago,” Gabriel moved further into the room, “Daniel thinks you have amnesia.” He said softly scratching at his arm, a nervous habit he had had since he was a boy. He looked Ezekiel over, his stomach flipping in worry. While he didn’t look nearly as bad as the last time he disappeared, he still didn’t look that great. His eyes were dark and tired looking, his skin pale and his bones poked out noticeably. He looked like he needed a week’s worth of sleep and a good large meal.

Ezekiel frowned, turning his side to Gabriel, “Meh, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Gabriel perked up, “Great! Then you can tell me why you didn’t tell me you had a son?” There was a soft gasp from behind him and a little head poked out from behind his leg.

“Father!” Cole smiled, bolting out from behind Gabriel and attached himself to Ezekiel’s leg.

Ezekiel’s expression remained neutral, “He’s not mine.” He said watching Cole’s face drop.

The boy staggered back a couple steps right into Gabriel.

“What do you mean he’s not yours?” Gabriel took a step forward, resting his hand on Cole’s shoulder. He suddenly felt defensive for the little boy, “I found him by your house. He certainly recognizes you. Don’t you remember having him?”

“No,” Ezekiel scowled, “I don’t,” He shook his head, as though trying to shake out the memory, “Why would I have had him? That doesn’t make sense! You know I’m not able to take care of a child.”

Cole’s eyes watered, “What?” He sniffled, not understanding the situation at hand.

Ezekiel stared down at him as if to say, ‘No son of mine would be crying either’. He looked up to Gabriel, his expression softening slightly, “I-“ He glanced down at Cole, memories of pulling an infant from egg shells running past his mind’s eye, “I might remember… I think.” He rubbed the back of his neck in pain, trying to ignore the confused look on both Gabriel and Cole’s faces.

Gabriel studied Ezekiel for a moment, “I could take him with me to my house so you can rest,” He said slowly, Cole looking up at him curiously, “My mom is watching Ira for Valery and I while Valery works and-“

“Ira?” Ezekiel cut him off. Even with the supposed amnesia, he knew that he didn’t know any ‘Ira’ person. Then the other name clicked, “Wait, did you say Valery?”

Gabriel winced slightly, “Well… that’s kind of why I was looking for you earlier. It’s a long story that I’ll tell you later, but for now,” He hesitated for a second, “Ira’s my son.”

What!?” Ezekiel’s eyes widened and he felt like his jaw might fall clean off.
If it were any other time Gabriel would have found the expression funny, instead his cheeks burned in embarrassment and he hung his head sheepishly. Ezekiel shook his head, turning his back to Gabriel and Cole, the latter looking between the two in confusion.

Ezekiel turned back, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me-“

“Can we talk about this some other time?” Gabriel pleaded, interrupting what he knew was going to be a lecture of some kind, “I’m not the only one who needs to explain things.” He gave Ezekiel a sharp look, “But for now,” He continued, his shoulders softening as he looked down at Cole, “I can take Cole to my house to play with Ira and Joseph while you rest. Have a little more time to get the rest of your memory back.”

Ezekiel gave Gabriel a scathing look, “And you got mad at me for not telling you I had a son...” He grumbled then slowly relaxed, “Alright. I’ll come by and pick him up tonight.”

~*~

“Ira! Joey! Lunch time!” Christy shouted to the two boys running around in the back yard.

Joseph froze, turning his head in the direction his mother had called from, “Coming mo-ack!“ In his moment of distraction Ira tackled him to the ground, hard.

“Got ya!” He laughed, and then squealed when Joseph flipped him over and tickled him under the arms, “I give! I give!” He shouted in between giggles, trying to squirm away.

Joseph grinned lifting the younger boy up, “Come on, it’s lunch time!” He called out running towards the house. He slid to a stop, noticing Gabriel’s car driving up the road, “Gabriel!” He waved excitedly.

Ira pushed passed Joseph squealing, “Daddy!” He grinned, running up to Gabriel as he got out of the car.

“Hey squirt!” Gabriel almost fell over as Ira tackled his leg and hung on with all his limbs, “Whoa!” He laughed, peeling his son off and gave him a big hug, “Are you having fun?” He set the boy down before turning and helping Cole out of the car.

“Yeah!” Ira jumped up and down, then froze seeing Cole.

Joseph approached the three, “Who’s that?” He asked, noticing Ira’s wide eyed innocent look towards the little green boy.

Gabriel gently pushed Cole forward, “This is Cole, Cole this is Ira and Joseph,” He gestured to each boy at their name, “Joseph’s my little brother and Ira’s my son. Cole’s going to play with you guys today until Ezekiel picks him up tonight.”

Joseph’s eyes widened briefly, “Whoa, did you say Ezekiel?” He looked Cole over with a nod, “He does look just like him.”
“Jo’,” Gabriel said gently, eyeing Joseph, “Be nice.”

Startling slightly, Joseph waved to Cole, “Hi, Cole,” He smiled, “You can call me Joey,” He bounced from the balls of his feet onto his heels, then back. “We’re going to go eat lunch, want something to eat?”

Cole nodded his head nervously, trying to ignore the curious look from Ira, “Yeah...” He said softly turning his attention to the shoes Gabriel had just bought him. On the way home from Daniel’s, Gabriel realized the boy had nothing more than the oversized gi he was wearing. Knowing it would overwhelm Ezekiel to go into town, they made a quick stop to pick up some clothes.

Ira chewed on his lip, “Why are you green?” He blurted out.
“Why do you have a tail?” Cole countered without missing a beat, causing Ira’s eyes to widen in surprise.

Gabriel gently ushered the boys towards the house, “Cole is a Drakon, and Ira you’re Lycanthrope,” He answered simply, “Come on, let’s go inside.” He said leading the three boys into the house.

“What’s a Dra...Drakon...?” Ira stammered, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion, “Drakon... What is that?” He asked, while trying to get a good look at Cole as Gabriel pushed him into the house.

Joseph caught the question, “An alien from outer space! Ezekiel’s one too, he’s really tall!” He grinned, hopping into his seat at the table, “Oh! And Daniel too. But he’s not so tall,” Pausing thoughtfully, Joseph looked up to the ceiling, “And he’s blue.”

“Stop it, Joey,” Gabriel scolded him, “They’re not aliens.”

Joseph bristled, “Yeah huh! That’s what dad said!”

Gabriel sighed rolling his eyes, give it to their father to make something up to get out of having to explain anything. Contrary to what Ezekiel had believed, his father had made it out of that battle alive. But ever since, the man wasn’t exactly there anymore. He didn’t even try to make sense half the time, and the other half of the time... Well, the other half, he just wasn’t around.

“Then we’re aliens too, did you know that?” Gabriel said, the sarcasm going over both Joseph and Ira’s heads.

Both boys’ eyes widened as they exchanged looks, “We are?!” They said in unison, Ira now clutching at his tail.

Christy, who had her back to them, frowned, “What are you talking about-” She turned around and nearly dropped her tray of sandwiches at the sight of Cole, “Gabriel, who is this?”

“This is Cole, Ezekiel’s son,” Gabriel answered quickly, “He’s only going to be here for the day, until Ezekiel picks him up tonight.”

Cole flushed, his cheeks turning almost a light purple at all the attention he was receiving. His ears lowered and he turned away to hide his face.

Christy composed herself, setting the sandwiches down on the table, “Since when has Ezekiel had a kid?” She said startlingly calm.

Gabriel winced, “Yeah... well... it’s sort of a long story...“ He trailed off with a shrug, “I don’t even know it all myself.”

“Oh,” Christy nodded slowly. She looked like she was going to say something else by the way she pressed her lips together. Gabriel was sure it was going to be another rant about being out of wedlock and having children. Just like the lecture she had given him when she found out about Ira. But she straightened up, looked at him and said, “Well, are you going to eat or not?”

Gabriel blinked, then nodded “Oh yeah, I’m starving!” He grinned, watching his brother and son scarf down their sandwiches, “Oh! Cole, would you like something to drink too?” He asked, turning to Cole and knelt down.

Cole nodded shyly, keeping his back to the room and everyone sitting at the table. His hands shakily opened and closed by his sides.

“Okay,” Gabriel stood up, “You can sit here,” He pulled out a chair at the table, then went and grabbed a cup filling it with water from the sink. When he turned around he found Cole still standing in the same place he had left him.

Christy frowned. Moving back into the kitchen to make more sandwiches, she leaned over to Gabriel, “Doesn’t Ezekiel teach manners?” She hissed under her breath.

“I think he’s only a few days old, mom. That and Ezekiel hasn’t exactly been himself for most of those days. So I’ve been told.”

Christy jaw dropped in surprise, “A few days!?” she gasped, looking at Cole, who tensed.

“Yes,” Gabriel stressed, frowning at his mother, “Drakons age differently than Lycanthropes and Humans.”

Christy shook her head, “Goodness,” She whispered, straightening her apron out, “And give it to Ezekiel not to be there for most of it.”

Gabriel, not liking the tone of her voice, frowned, “That’s enough,” He said lowly, folding his arms over his chest, “I wish you wouldn’t judge him so harshly. He’s been through a lot more than you know.”

Christy winced, she knew Gabriel was right, but didn’t want to admit it. Especially not about Ezekiel. Even as much as her husband talked about how good the Drakon people were, she still had a hard time believing him. She nodded, turning away from her son.

“Very well.”

Stunned that she dropped it without arguing, Gabriel let out the breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. He turned slowly on his heel and walked over to the table where Joseph and Ira were happily eating, oblivious to the conversation that had just taken place.

“Hey,” Gabriel said softly as he set the cup down on the table, then moved over to Cole and squatted, “I didn’t realize this would be your first time meeting this many people.” He said as the thought dawned on him.

Cole nodded, easing open his eyes to look at Gabriel.

“And you’re a little shy? You don’t have to be, you’ll like everyone here.”

Cole’s eyes darted over to the table then back to Gabriel, “Okay.” He said softly, his ears slowly standing up. He moved over to the chair Gabriel had pulled out for him and climbed up on it. He took his cup and gazed into it for a moment before cautiously taking a sip from it. Gabriel nodded, moving over to his own chair as his mother brought over another plate of sandwiches.

“Hey, Cole,” Ira said swallowing a bite of his sandwich, “Wanna spar with us after lunch?” He shoved another bite into his mouth and chewed noisily.

Christy shot the boy a look, “Ira, mouth closed.” She scolded gently.

Ira snapped his mouth shut, looking at the woman with large eyes. He chewed slower, his eyes sliding over to Cole, waiting for his answer. Cole hesitantly picked up a sandwich and looked at Ira. He wasn’t sure what ‘spar’ meant, but by the way the other boy looked so excitedly about it, it had to be something fun.

“'kay.” He smiled, taking a bite of his sandwich.

~*~

“Are you sure about this?” The engine stuttered as Daniel shifted gears into park.

Ezekiel snorted, “Yes,” He grumbled, listening to the car’s motor making louder sounds than normal, “You need to look into that,” He cocked his head to the side, leaning forward slightly, “Something come loose?”

Daniel’s eyebrows furrowed together, “I’m not sure.” He said watching Ezekiel climb out of the car and pull open the hood.

“Turn it off.” Ezekiel called out over the noise before looking back over the engine. He frowned, tapping on and touching different parts checking for loose pieces. He didn’t really care for the thing, wasn’t his type of car in the least bit. It was a boxy older model of a car that Daniel had found in the junk yard. He fell in love with it and begged Ezekiel for nearly a week to help him get it and update it to current standards. It was a work in progress, but Daniel was happy with it so far so he kept his mouth shut and helped when he could.

Daniel got out of the car, stumbling over a rock that knocked off his sandal. He shoved his foot back in with a nervous laugh, “What’s wrong with it?” He leaned in trying to follow along with what Ezekiel was doing.

Ezekiel stepped back, “One of the parts to the water converter slipped,” He waited for Daniel to move back so he could shut the hood, “I fixed it, but I think it needs a replacement. That one’s not fitting right.”

“Ah,” Daniel nodded glad that Ezekiel was using simpler terms, he couldn’t wrap his head around half of it, “But it’s okay, right?” He moved back around to the driver’s side and climbed in starting the engine back up. It rumbled noisily, but the loud clunking sounds had subsided.

Ezekiel walked around to the passenger side window, “Yeah, just take it easy. I’ll look around for parts for you.”

“Thanks,” Daniel smiled at him, “Are you going to be okay?” He said his face falling back to concern, “You know…” He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, “You’re always welcome to stay with me, Cole too, of course.” His face twitched through a range of emotions varying between confused and worried, “You don’t have to be alone.”

“Mmhm,” Ezekiel nodded, “Thanks,” He pushed closed the passenger side door, “I’ll be fine,” He leaned in a little through the window, “Stop worrying.”

Daniel shook his head, “Ha, right,” He mumbled throwing the car into reverse, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Ezekiel backed up, “Yep.” He watched Daniel turn around and head away in a cloud of dust, the chugging sound of the car gradually fading away.

Once the quiet of the forest set in, Ezekiel turned towards his house. He pressed his lips together trying to sort through the jumbled up mess of memories running through his mind. One stuck out the most, repeating itself over and over again. He was on his knees in the grass along the bank of the river breathing heavily. A pale egg lay before him in the water. The next memory was him lifting a tiny infant from pieces of shell.

“What did I do?” He groaned to himself, moving into the house and into the kitchen. He began opening cupboards, pushing around cans and containers he had received from both Gabriel and Daniel at one point or another. He growled finding the last cupboard empty and slammed it shut. Running up the stairs to the bedroom he dropped to the ground and looked under the bed.

He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling silently cursing himself. No, he sighed running his hands over his face; he couldn’t fall back down that hole again. He knew he needed to make that change. A small rise of panic crawled up his back at how easily he had let himself try to go back to drinking. The urge was so strong he could taste the cinnamon and feel the burn hitting the back of his throat. He was weak. If there was even a drop of it around, he knew he’d drink it. He’d lick out from the bottom of the sink if he had too. The thought made him cringe.

A few minutes ticked by before he forced himself up onto his feet, his mouth dry and the memory of holding an infant replaying in his mind. Slowly he staggered into the bathroom and turned the water on. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror he scowled. He looked worse for wear. There wasn’t a time he could remember himself looking so thin and gaunt in his life. If the dead really walked like they claimed, he was sure he could easily be mistaken for one.

He brushed his teeth as the steam fogged up the mirror, breaking him from his scrutinizing glare at himself. After rinsing his mouth, he climbed into the shower, the hot water relaxing the tension from his shoulders and back. He could feel himself begin to thaw out and only realized then that he had been cold.

What reason would I have to have a child?, Lathering soap up in his hair, he took a step back and leaned forward so the water ran over his face, I don’t even like kids. Suds ran into his eyes making him straightening up and wince in pain. He grabbed his towel and wiped his eyes and face, rinsed off the rest of the soap, and stepped out.

This, this has to be some kind of joke, His mind continued to race as he walked out of the warm bathroom and into the cool hall. His skin bristled up into tiny bumps at the change in temperature.

Whose bright idea was it that me having a kid would be a good idea? He scoffed pulling on a clean gi. Meditation and shadow boxing sounded like the best thing in the world at that moment, next to having a drink. He rolled his eyes at himself; the latter wasn’t going to happen.

~*~

The sun was setting when Ezekiel arrived at the Solaris household. He landed at the far end of the driveway when the first signs of an anxiety attack began prickling at the back of his neck. It was time to face reality and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do. How could anyone think it was a good idea that he take care of someone else?

His eyes rolled up to the sky, You can’t honestly think this will be a good thing, can you? He slowed as he approached the house noticing movement in the side yard. Cole and Ira were watching Gabriel and Joseph spar, their heads turned in awe at the display before them. Cole snapped out of his daze and grinned impishly at the distracted Ira. He moved slowly towards him like a cat on the prowl, steadied himself then tackled him to the ground. Ira gasped as he fell, and out of reflex grabbed Cole’s arm, pulling him down to the ground with himself. Ezekiel smirked at the scene, a sense of pride building up in his chest. He quickly shook his head, pushing the feeling away, Don’t get attached, He told himself, What if this is all a mistake?

Gabriel and Joseph paused in their fight noticing the boys fall beside them.

“You guys okay?” Gabriel called over to the two, amazed when both boys jumped up and continued their fight.

A memory of feeling sick and in more pain than he could remember popped into Ezekiel’s head. It followed up with him cradling a tiny baby to his chest. My son… He thought, watching the boys fight as if it was second nature, I have a son. His chest tightened at the thought, a dull pain running from his shoulder down his arm. He rolled his shoulders, trying to loosen the tension up.

Gabriel glanced up hearing Ezekiel’s footsteps approach. He smiled, waving to him as the two boys broke apart in an explosion of laughter, both falling into a puddle of mud. Ezekiel walked up to Gabriel as Joseph sprinted over to the two boys sitting on the ground and helped them up

“Did you see me, Joey?” Ira giggled, swiping at the mud in his bangs and on his face, “Did you see me? I was just like you!”

Joseph grinned, “I saw you.” He said ruffling Ira’s hair.

Seeing Ezekiel, Cole jumped to his feet and ran over, “Did you see me, father?” He asked excitedly, his face and gi covered in mud, “I’m gonna be a great warrior like you!”

“Great warrior?” Ezekiel repeated, glancing over at Gabriel, who looked away innocently.

Cole nodded, his blonde hair tinged brown and dripping with mud, “Uh huh, Gabriel told me! He said you saved the world!” Cole’s hands curled up in chubby fists as he stared up at his father in admiration, he grinned, “Will you train me? Like you did Gabriel?”

Ezekiel noticed the determination that shined in Cole’s eyes and suddenly felt uneasy. He nodded slowly, “Sure kid, I’ll train you.”

Cole beamed in excitement, his eyes practically screaming, ‘I won’t let you down!’ Ezekiel felt his stomach drop with guilt and anxiety, the sudden feeling of protectiveness overwhelming to him.

“Hey, Cole, look!” Ira called over to the boy, holding up a frog as large as his head, its legs dangling down to the ground.

Cole turned his head, his eyes growing wide at the sight of the frog, “Whoa!” He looked back to Ezekiel for approval. Ezekiel nodded, and Cole bounced, “That’s so cool!” He squealed, running over to where Ira stood.

The frog’s feet hit the ground and it jumped, startling Ira into letting it go. It jumped onto Cole’s head, knocking him backwards, and continued on with its escape. Joseph fell to the ground laughing at the expressions on Ira and Cole’s faces as they tried to register what had just happened.

Ira took off first, running by Cole, as the younger boy jumped to his feet and followed behind. Both chased after the poor frog as it tried to make its futile escape from them.

“That’s your son?” Ezekiel lowered one ear, watching the boys curiously.

Gabriel nodded proudly, “Yeah, I found out about him... about a week ago,” He sucked in a deep breath, “I can’t believe it’s only been a week.” He breathed, still amazed at how quickly he had fallen for the boy, his mother on the other hand, “Mom freaked. She wouldn’t talk to me for a couple of hours. So Valery and I played with Ira outside and caught up. I guess she heard Ira call me daddy,” He paused, looking to Ezekiel, “I couldn’t believe it myself how quickly he accepted me. I think that’s when it finally hit me Zeke, I’m a father... We’re fathers!” He beamed, unable to control the joy he was feeling for having a family now.

Ezekiel nodded absently, looking away. He was still feeling the anxiety clawing in his stomach towards Cole. He watched the little boy giggle at Ira trying to tackle the giant frog. How was he supposed to take care of someone else, let alone a small child?

Sighing softly, Gabriel ran a hand through his hair, “It really does amaze me how fast it’s all happened. Valery told me that she had been so afraid to tell me she was pregnant, that she ran away and had him by herself. She said… she said that she felt what we had done was out of rebellion towards our parents.” He scrunched up his eyebrows slightly, “I didn’t feel that way... But she said it was because her father was spending all his time trying to find someone to replace her mother, and me…” His face had turned solemn as he spoke. Ezekiel tore his eyes off Cole and Ira teaming up on Joseph, giving his full attention to Gabriel, “And me,” Gabriel continued softer, “Because I was mad at my father for not wanting to come back to his family. It felt like he rather be dead than see us.”

Ezekiel could hear a twinge of spite in his tone. The hurt, it seemed, would always be there. His father’s constant absence had left a mark on the young man that not many seemed to ever notice.

“Gabriel, you know that’s not true.” Ezekiel frowned, “Your father wants to be here.”

“Yeah... I know,” Gabriel nodded, forcing himself to smile, “The war really messed him up,” He shook his head wryly, “As a kid I thought your PTSD was bad, not that it wasn’t or isn’t,” He added quickly, looking at his friend sympathetically, his eyes falling to the ground, “But looking back... I mean... He was gone all the time, and it always seemed like one excuse or another. I begged him to tell me what happened once, did I tell you that?”

Ezekiel shook his head once making Gabriel sigh. The younger man drew his bottom lip into his mouth, pulling at the dead skin with his teeth as he thought over the story.

Finally he straightened up, his eyes averted to the tree line, “I asked him how he escaped that day you found me, what happened. He wouldn’t even look at me, just kept laughing softly and trying to change the subject. I begged him to tell me. I thought he had been dead! The least he could do was tell me how he got away. After the third time I asked him, he just stood up and left the room. Mom said he had been taken as a P.O.W and that they tortured him, that’s why he wouldn’t talk about it. That’s why he wasn’t right after the war,” He paused, making eye contact with Ezekiel, “That’s why he tried to kill himself. Then, after that failed, checked himself into that hospital. I don’t think he wanted us to see what kind of state he was in, he would have rather they killed him than come home like that.”

Lowering his ears in sympathy, Ezekiel looked away, “I’m sorry, kid.”

Gabriel snorted softly, “Me too. You know, I had just turned 18 when Val left, maybe she is, or was, right in some sense... But I did, I do love her.”

Ezekiel raised and lowered his eyebrows, his lip twitching up briefly. He could see the happiness breaking through in the younger man when he spoke of Valery, something that hadn’t been all that common over the past couple of years.

“Anyway,” Gabriel lightened up, the smile reaching his eyes, “Mom must have heard Ira call me daddy, because she came out of the house screaming, ‘I’m a grandmother!’ Then she broke down crying that she was too young to have grand kids.” He laughed, leaning forward slightly, “She loves him though, if she didn’t she wouldn’t have watched him for me while I went to look for you, and Valery went to work.” He grinned mischievously at Ezekiel, “God, I can’t believe we have kids!”

Ezekiel looked back to the boys letting the abnormally large frog go, “Yeah… It’s still sinking in.” The younger man was falling into his role as father a lot easier than he felt he ever could. He turned to Gabriel, raising an eyebrow, “So what’s this about me saving the world?”

Gabriel rubbed the back of his neck and laughed nervously, “What? Don’t you remember that?” He smiled sheepishly, “I may have exaggerated a little. But you did save my life...,” He laughed softly, “That part wasn’t an exaggeration.”

“My memory is a little hazy,” Ezekiel shifted his weight to the side, stretching his back, “But I couldn’t just let you die.” He shifted back to center, folding his arms across his chest.

“I have always been either in the wrong place, wrong time, or way out of my league. But you have always had faith in me. You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had, even with my father’s training.” Gabriel bounced twice on the balls of his feet.

Ezekiel nodded in acknowledgment, “Thanks, kid.” He said softly.

Sinking down into the grass, Gabriel smiled watching the boys now chasing each other in a game of tag, “You’re welcome.”
Ezekiel stood stiffly beside him, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” He admitted after a long moment of silence, his head suddenly feeling heavy with vertigo.

Gabriel looked up at him, leaning back on his hands. He knew this was big; Ezekiel wasn’t one to confide his feelings to anyone, “What do you mean?”

Ezekiel pulled at his collar, his face stoic. The anxiety was making his chest start to hurt. A dull ache was racing down his arm like a heart attack was beginning. He swallowed thickly, trying to focus beyond the quickening of his heart and cold sweat prickling at the back of his neck. He wouldn’t allow it to get the best of him. He knew he had to talk about it; he had to get some input on what he was going to do.

Gabriel watched him calmly, noting the wild look threatening to spill across the older man’s features.

“I...” Ezekiel closed his eyes briefly and opened them looking everywhere but at Gabriel in embarrassment, “I woke up this afternoon finding out that I have a son. I haven’t been able to take care of myself up until recently, how am I going to take care of him?” He shifted uneasily, his ears lying flat, “He’s so small...”

Gabriel fought back a nervous laugh. He climbed to his feet and nudged Ezekiel with his shoulder, “You went through a lot, but you’re strong. We’re not facing an all-out war. There’s no need for child soldiers anymore, he’ll be fine if you screw up training him,” Ezekiel shot Gabriel a look, the younger man shooting back a cheeky smile, “You know I’m joking,” The smile slipped from his face, “Dad obviously wasn’t thinking when he took me out there as an eight year old,” He flinched slightly, memories of the battle he witnessed as a child racing through his mind.

His father had been so excited for him to see what a fight really looked like and snuck him out onto the field. The attack was larger scale than the man had anticipated, and he quickly lost focus of his son. Gabriel had hid behind a group of boulders, watching terrified as the fight grew larger. When some of the Lycan soldiers had begun their transformations, turning into bear sized wolves, he panicked and started crying. He could vividly remember the gnashing teeth inches from his face. Before he could even react to the wolf, Ezekiel had thrown the beast off him, and was pinning it to the ground.

“Run!”

Gabriel shook his head returning to the present, “We will always be prepared now. But you can relax a little. We’re in the same boat here, Zeke, this is all new to me as well.”

Ezekiel shook his head, “That’s easy for you to say... Times are different, but it feels like it hasn’t been that long,” His eyes had changed from their deep brown to a light, almost orange color in the light of the sun, “You might not be worried, but the tension is still there. It’s still not safe.”

Gabriel’s face paled slightly at Ezekiel’s words, his tail tapping his leg nervously, “Yeah.” He agreed, his eyes glazing over in thought.

“At the end of the day,” Ezekiel continued, his face softening slightly, “You have Valery to help you with Ira. I did this to myself and I can’t even tell you why,” He scowled, “I went by town on the way here. So much has changed since the war. People aren’t the same anymore.”

Gabriel felt chills run down his back. He hadn’t seen his friend this unnerved in years, “Hey,” He said quietly, “Cole seems like a great kid. If he’s anything like you, I don’t think you have too much to worry about.”

“If he’s anything like me, I have a lot to worry about.” Ezekiel grumbled, running a hand over his eyes and top of head.

Gabriel chuckled, “You’re going to be a great father.” He said reassuringly.

The boys squealed at something and all three took off running exploding in laughter. A cool breeze picked up making the blades of grass dance across the yard.

Ezekiel sighed, tilting his head to the side, “I never thought I’d see the day.” He closed his eyes against the gust enjoying the feeling against his warm skin.

Gabriel nodded understandingly, “Joey’s birthday is this weekend. He’s turning 13 so wants a big party. Why don’t you bring Cole over?”

Opening his eyes, Ezekiel looked at Gabriel skeptically, “You know how I feel about parties...”

“It’ll give you a little break, and we can talk some more if you want. You know Cole would want to come.” Gabriel pushed, knowing not only would it make the little Drakon happy to play with his friends again, but it’d give Ezekiel a chance to breathe a bit.

Ezekiel pressed his lips together then sighed, “Alright,” He nodded looking defeated, “We’ll be there.”

~*~

“You need a bath.” Ezekiel frowned, observing Cole in disgust. His gi was soaked in sweat and dirt. Instead of his skin being a healthy light green, it was a dark greenish brown.

Cole blinked looking down at himself, “No, I don’t.” He said picking at his clothes, his ears twitching.

Ezekiel snorted, “You stink and are filthy, and you’re not going to track that all into the house. Take off your clothes and rinse off in the pond.” He said pointing to the pool of water nearby the waterfall, “Then you can take an actual bath inside.”

Cole looked at the water, its color darkening with the setting of the sun, “No…” He looked back up to Ezekiel, clutching the front of his gi, “I’ll drown.” He said with large eyes.

“You will not drown,” Ezekiel sighed, sitting down on the grassy bank, “It’s not that deep around the edge.” He said pulling off his boots.

Cole watched him for a moment then followed suit, dropping to the grass and pulled off his shoes. Ezekiel pulled off his top and tossed it to the side, then stood up and stretched his arms out a little.

Cole sat wiggling his toes in the grass, the cool blades tickling his feet, “I don’t like to swim. Ira wanted me to today, but I can’t,” He squinted up at Ezekiel, his voice lowering to a whisper, “The water was higher than me.”

“Once you learn how to swim it won’t seem as deep.” Ezekiel said walking into the water, then dived in vanishing under the surface.

Cole moved to the edge of the water and pulled his knees up to his chest. He chewed on his bottom lip, watching the bubbles disappear from the water’s surface. Ezekiel resurfaced near the center of the pond. The moon and stars taking over the sky as the sun disappeared, casting a blue glow over the land. Ezekiel ran his hand over his face, clearing the water from his eyes. He turned to Cole, watching him onshore, and swam closer until his feet could reach the sandy bottom.

“Get in.” He grunted, standing up, the water receding to his shoulders.

Cole looked up at him, seemingly snapping out of whatever thoughts he had fallen into. He stood up, took his gi off, and timidly entered the water having decided he’d at least try.
He waded up to his waist and smiled, looking up at his father standing several feet away, “Look at me, I’m doing it!”

Ezekiel nodded, “Great kid.”

Cole grinned, pleased with himself. He moved closer to Ezekiel, not expecting the sudden drop, and disappeared beneath the surface. Ezekiel’s eyes grew wide as he quickly moved to where Cole had fallen in. He reached down grabbing ahold of the boy’s arm, pulling him to the surface. Cole opened his mouth trying to breathe in. Ezekiel panicked, slapping him on the back, causing water to expel from the boy’s lungs. Cole noisily sucked in a deep breath, before being consumed with choking coughs.

“Hold your breath under water!” Ezekiel shouted in a panic over Cole’s coughing, which quickly dissolved into tears and hiccuping sobs, “You’re okay, kid!” He patted him on the back, his stomach knotting up in guilt and fear. He hesitantly tried to put Cole back in the water where he could touch, but the boy clung to his arm.

“I don’t want to do it again!” Cole cried, scrambling to wrap his arms around Ezekiel’s neck, “I don’t want to do it again!” He squeezed his eyes shut.

Ezekiel frowned, hugging Cole to his chest, and moved out of the water. He grabbed his gi top and wrapped it around Cole, setting him down on the ground.

“We’ll try again tomorrow.” He said trying to ignore the trembling working its way up his legs.

“No!” Cole jumped to his feet, his ears pinned back, “I don’t want to try again!” He stood defensively in front of Ezekiel, his jaw clenched in determination. His eyes betrayed him with fear reflecting in them, “I don’t want to swim.” He said softer, lowering his eyes to his feet and flexed his toes. They stood in silence for a moment, neither looking at the other.

Finally, looking down at his young son, Ezekiel sighed, “Alright,” Cole’s head jerked up, his eyes wide in surprise, “I won’t force you to swim.” Cole nodded as Ezekiel picked him up and started towards the house, “Tomorrow we will start your training. Let’s get some rest.”

Cole sighed in relief, “Okay.” He whispered, laying his head against Ezekiel’s chest.

Ezekiel carried his son inside the house, up the stairs to his room, and sat him on the bed. He debated for a moment on putting him in the tub, but decided he had had enough stress with water for the night. He made a mental note that he needed to get the boy his own bed and things in the morning. He was thankful that Gabriel had picked him up some clothes at least. Unfortunately he had forgotten them at the young man’s house. He mentally face palmed and dug around in his dresser, pulling out a clean T-shirt.

“This is all I have right now; we’ll get you some things in the morning.” He took the gi top off Cole, and pulled the T-shirt on over Cole’s head. The boy swam in the oversized shirt looking at Ezekiel quizzically.

Ezekiel sighed, “I promise, we’ll get you your own things tomorrow. I’m sorry I’ve been pretty absent so far.”

Cole yawned, “I love you, daddy.” He closed his eyes as he laid down.

Ezekiel leaned back in shock, his heart launching itself up into his throat. He breathed out and carefully tucked the boy in under the blankets, “You too, Cole.” He whispered, feeling strange and at the same time like everything was right at that moment. Cole smiled, snuggling into the blankets. Ezekiel watched him in awe for a moment then changed quickly into pajama pants and sat down on the floor. He breathed in through his nose deeply, preparing himself for meditation, when he felt Cole’s eyes on him. Looking over his shoulder, he found Cole lying on his side watching him.

Ezekiel raised an eyebrow, “What is it?”

Cole shrugged, “Who’s Xerxes?” He asked softly, his eyes closing again.

Ezekiel felt chills run down his back, “Where’d you hear that name?”

“I don’t know.” Cole yawned, pulling the blankets up over his head and fell asleep.

Ezekiel scowled. He knew full well where Cole had heard. There was only one possible source. Gabriel had no right telling him that name. He left the room so Cole could sleep, Why would he tell him? He paced the living room, his heart pounding in his ears.

Xerxes was his father, a man consumed with lust for power. This obsession drove him to spend years studying politics and looking for what he called, “society’s weak spot”. He targeted the Lycanthropes to help with his plan. While usually good natured, they were a strong race and a force to deal with, especially with their unique ability to transform. The ability had earned them the nickname ‘werewolf’ from both Humans and Drakons. Xerxes admired them, envied them even, to the point he was willing to turn against his own species just for the power.

When a group of Lycanthropes began rising in power, he jumped at it. He managed to convince the group into allowing him to be their leader with promises of being able to better organize their movement. He worked behind scenes, pulling strings and shifting the group’s original purposes to better fit his own agenda. He used the Drakon’s as a scapegoat for the Lycanthropes’ fears. It was only sheer coincidence and misfortune that the Humans also fell into line with the propaganda. The more the group grew, the more the Drakons rose up trying to defend themselves. Very few Lycanthropes and Humans joined the Drakons in fighting against the blatant lies circulating the media. A smear campaign against a well-known Drakon politic, followed by Project Reward, pushed the groups into war. Project Reward was Xerxes idea. It started as a dead or alive bounty for select Drakon politicians, evolving into a complete reward system for any dead Drakons. It wasn’t a well-known fact that Xerxes was the spark that ignited the war. No one ever suspected a Drakon initiating something of that caliber against their own kind.

Gabriel’s father, Kaden, was one of the few Lycanthropes who fought alongside the Drakons. Kaden saw through the systems and refused to join in the execution of a race. When the war began, he quickly approached the Drakons offering his help. While the man’s heart was in the right place, his brain was still that of a naive warrior. He dragged eight year old Gabriel out onto the battle field to watch in an attempt at training him. That battle had been one of the grizzliest battles Ezekiel had witnessed during the whole war. He had heard that Kaden managed to escape being a POW by playing dead. After which, he disappeared for nearly a year.

That same battle had caused Ezekiel to collapse from both mental and physical stress. He woke up quite some time later in the hospital, Gabriel by his side. The boy refused to leave Ezekiel, insisting the man was his brother, and only family to anyone who tried to take him away. They had both been lucky that the village had been Drakon friendly. When Kaden returned, he led the battle that killed Xerxes, disbanding the rogue Lycanthropes and sending the group scrambling for leadership. This enabled communications between the two sides that had been censored and closed off before, and allowed for more peaceful negotiations. The war ended soon after with an apology from Humans and Lycanthropes towards the Drakons.
Not that it helped much in the civilian world.

Ezekiel sank down on the couch, leaning back into it, resting his head on the back. He stared up at the ceiling drowning in his thoughts. After the war’s end, Kaden found Gabriel and took him home. Gabriel still found his way to Ezekiel nearly every day to visit. Though he’d never outright admit it, that boy helped him regain and keep a hold of his sanity. He changed him for the better in many ways. If it wasn’t for Gabriel, Ezekiel knew he wouldn’t be able to handle Cole at all. He knew he’d have drank himself to death…
He closed his eyes, fighting away images of the war and his childhood and slowly fell asleep.

~*~

Ezekiel woke up with a start, his heart racing and sweat coating his face and chest. Feeling unable to catch his breath, he sat forward, cradling his head in his hands. His ears immediately began ringing, making his stomach turn.

“One,” He breathed in deeply through his nose, releasing it out slowly, “Two,” He took another deep breath, “Three...” Slowly, the panic attack began to dissipate, and the ringing began to fade.

He waited another half hour for his stomach to settle before waking Cole up to start the day. The sun was just starting to peek over the mountains as Ezekiel shaved Cole’s head. Cole stayed as still as he could, the buzzing blade tickling as it ran over the top of his head.

He giggled squinting his eyes, “Done yet?”
Ezekiel made another pass over his head with the blade,

“Done.” He unplugged the clippers and wound up the wire to put them away.

Cole looked in the mirror at himself, turning his head this way and that way, “I look like you.”

“Without the hair in your face, you’ll be able to see better.” Ezekiel said cleaning up the hair around the sink and floor.
Cole ran his hands over his head, enjoying the new feeling,

“Feels soft.” He grinned, spiking up the short strands up hair and giggled.

Ezekiel laid out a stack of clothes on the bathroom sink, then stood in the doorway, “Get dressed, then we’ll eat.” He said disappearing down the hall and into the kitchen.

Cole dressed in the training gi left behind by Gabriel. It had been his when he was a child, an exact copy of Ezekiel’s. Gabriel had left a couple pairs at Ezekiel’s so his mother wouldn’t know he was training with the Drakon. The Human woman did not approve of her son’s friendship with Ezekiel, even knowing it was him who had saved her son during the war. The gi was a little big on Cole’s small frame, but that didn’t stop the excitement from radiating off of him.

He ran out into the kitchen and held up the blue belt to his father, “Help me, please?” He bounced a couple times then forced himself to stand still. Ezekiel took the belt and tied it securely around the boy’s waist. He then knelt down and rolled the pant legs up so they wouldn’t drag.
Cole admired the black and blue gi for a moment before turning to his father, “We have the same gi.” He grinned, tugging on his top.

Ezekiel nodded, “Yes. We have two gis, the white one, and this one. This is our family’s colors, and this,” He tapped the symbol on the right side of Cole’s chest, “Is our family’s name, Nyx.”

Cole pulled the cloth out, trying to look at the symbol, “Oh, wow.” He whispered, turning his head to the side for a better look at it.

Ezekiel smiled a little as he fixed the two of them a pan full of scrambled eggs and bacon. He dished them out onto plates, and set them out on the table. Cole slid into a chair and began scarfing down the eggs hungrily. Ezekiel raised an eyebrow as he slowly ate his own food.

“May I have a drink, please?” Cole asked around a mouthful of eggs.

The boy must have picked up some manners at Christy’s, Ezekiel noted, standing and grabbing a glass from a cupboard.
He filled it with water from the tap and brought it over to the table, “Slow down a little, you’re going to make yourself sick.” He said setting the glass down in front of his son.

Cole set his fork down, swallowed, and took a long slow drink. He looked at Ezekiel as he set the glass down, “Okay.” He gasped, remembering to breathe again.

Ezekiel shook his head, taking another bite of his food. When he looked up, Cole had finished his own breakfast and was looking at him expectantly.

“Take your plate and glass to the sink.” Ezekiel said picking up a piece of bacon and taking a bite.

Cole carefully picked up his plate and glass, and slowly walked over to the sink. Standing on tip toes, he placed the dishes in the sink. When he turned around, Ezekiel was beside him dropping off his own dishes.

“Let’s go.”

Cole bounced excitedly as Ezekiel led him outside into the back yard. The grass tickled under his bare feet, and the crisp morning air chilled his nose and ears.

“I’ll teach you basics first.” Ezekiel said, his arms folding over his chest. Cole flexed his toes in the grass and nodded.
“The martial arts are about discipline. Know your own strengths and limits.” Ezekiel motioned for Cole to sit down with him. The two sat on the ground, legs folded in lotus style.

“Every living being on the planet has energy. We have the ability to feel that, as well as to manipulate it. The more in tune with yourself, the stronger you get, the easier it’ll be to focus on that energy.”

“Oh... Energy? What does that mean?” Cole whispered watching his father close his eyes and take a deep breath in through his nose, hold it, then slowly release it. He sat with his back straight, his hands resting on his knees, palms faced up.

Ezekiel cracked open his eye, “Learning to use it will help you learn how to sense others, fly, heal, and use attacks.”

“Fly!?” Cole jumped to his feet excitedly, “You mean like you?!”

“Yes,” Ezekiel motioned for him to sit down, “But first, you need to learn to be calm. We will meditate every day before and after every training session. Start by relaxing and clearing your mind.”

Cole flopped to the ground, “Okay!” He grinned, making himself comfortable. He looked over his father then straightened up his back and attempted to mimic him. Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply through his nose, slowly letting the breath out.

Ezekiel nodded, a small smile lifting his lips, “Good.”

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