Book 5, Epilogue


The shout wasn’t meant to get Sem’s attention--he’d never hear it--but more as a warning to the people standing on the tram platform that the five-year-old was on a rampage. Cross didn’t call him back mentally yet, though. He wasn’t causing any harm and she had her eyes on him.

Already able to sign like a child several years old, Sem was scheduled to start school in winter. Cross worried, like any mother, but knew that if anything truly went wrong, she could wrap Sem in her mind and protect him.

A smile curled her lips and she tucked her hair behind her ears. She might not even have to mentally come to Sem’s defense; if anything happened to him, she was more than certain that Caine would storm the classroom like a sleepy, avenging angel, and chase off any bully or unsympathetic teacher that got in his way. Cross had to suppress a laugh at the idea of Caine bursting through the door, sending childish drawings and crayons flying, and then bodily removing little bodies from his path.

Oblivious to the people around him, Sem veered to one side, narrowly missing a woman with several bags in her hands, and disappeared behind a pillar. Cross smiled at the woman, unapologetic, glanced at her watch, then up at the display monitors. There was a delay on the line. Some kind of malfunction with the engineering program that was making the hydraulics malfunction.

Sighing, Cross glanced up for Sem, who was still hiding behind the pillar, and fished her phone out of her pocket to send a message to Caine.

Tram delay. We’ll be late.

The response was prompt. Caine must have been awake at his desk for once. Okay. I just got new items in.

Eyes wide in interest, Cross fumbled out her reply. Rabbit sent more artifacts?

He must have found something big. It’s the third box this month.

Although neither of them had any idea how Rabbit was getting the packages to Caine in the first place, when there was no post in the in between spaces, his finds were making quite a name for Caine at the university. With the research breakthroughs he’d been making in the field of Old World studies, he was in line for another pay raise. Maybe they’d be able to move to a bigger place.

I want to see them when we get there.

Sure. <3 See you soon.

The tram pulled in. The resulting breeze tugged at Cross’s skirt and hair. She stood back, waiting for the passengers to disembark before she tried to board. Closing her eyes, Cross imagined a home where Caine’s work could be locked away in an office, with new appliances and furniture that wasn’t baby-proof, with a bigger room for Sem--

Her eyes snapped open. Sem’s voice was oddly quiet in her mind. Moving against the flow of bodies from the tram, Cross approached the pillar where she had last seen him, grasping for him with her thoughts.

The feedback from him was calm, curious, and his thoughts were oddly focused on Ash. The image of the aging cat oscillated between the dust-bunny appearance he’d sported when Teyen had been alive, and the sleeker, though no less soft look he had developed due to Sem’s gentle brushing since they had adopted him.

Confused, Cross rounded the pillar to find Sem standing silent and still in front of a tall man. Cross drew closer, wary, but found nothing menacing in the man’s surface thoughts. She set her hands on Sem’s shoulders and the man’s unwavering eyes lifted to meet hers. They were brown and dark, distant but not unkind.

They stared at each other for a long time. Disturbed, Cross pressed further into his mind but met static and ozone. The sensation was itchy and acrid and she recoiled. Her grip tightened around Sem’s shoulders.

He looked away first with a murmured “Excuse me” as he stepped past her. His long coat brushed her arm, making her skin tingle.

The voice of the tram announcer broke her out of her thoughts and she lifted Caine to her hip. Boarding the tram as the doors were closing, she settled into a seat, feeling that she had missed something.

Sem’s mind chattered against hers in bursts of lightning and the smell of--

Cross blinked and turned him in her lap to look into his laughing eyes.

The smell of dish soap and greasy food?

Twisting in her seat, her mouth open in surprise, she was in time to see the man standing unmoving on the platform, looking back at her with a stranger’s face. He had his hands at his sides, his too-long sleeves hiding most of his hands. She cast out for his mind, but was still met with static that hid any sense of resonance.

He raised a hand, fingers splayed in an awkward acknowledgment, then was gone as the tram picked up speed.

Sem laughed and pressed a question into her mind that was more half-remembered sensation than words. It was cool, jittery and crackling around the edges, but strong with a steady current at its core.

Cross smiled, wiped at her eyes and hugged him, responding with a relieved, unwavering affirmative.

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