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Authors Note.

I would like to thank neuroparenthetical for all his help, advice and hard work on this project so far. This story would definitely be very different without his input. I am sad that we will no longer be working together on it.

As they say, the show must go on, so please welcome a new editor Dr Mark, who will be attempting to make some sense of the illiterate scratchings I send to him, and turn out something worth reading.
Caleb 26 – Christmas

I woke the next morning curled around Ness. Amanda and Mary were behind me and Jules was on Ness’s other side. To my surprise, for the first time since I could remember, I didn’t have morning wood. Apparently, my autonomic nervous system was smarter than I gave it credit for.

I attempted to disentangle myself from Ness, but she grabbed my arms tighter, whining slightly in her sleep. Eventually I managed it and slid out of bed to begin my morning routine.

I spent a couple of hours entertaining the dogs, then we all went out for a run. When I returned, the rest of the family had risen.

I went for a shower, and then joined Ness in the kitchen as she was cooking breakfast.

“Good morning,” I said, walking up behind her, hugging her, and planting a small kiss on the top of her head.

She pressed into the hug for a second, and then returned to cooking. “Morning,” she replied.

“Did you sleep well?” I asked.

“It was so good,” she said. “It felt so right being together like that. I know I’m going to miss it when you guys go back after Christmas.”

“It will only be for a few months,” I said. “You’ll be with us before you know it.”

She made a face. “It’s going to seem much longer.”

“But we’ll be coming back up for a few days for your birthday,” I said.

Her eyes lit up. “I thought since it was such a short break…”

“None of us would miss it,” I said. “We’ll be here.”

Taking care to move the pan she had been working with off the heat, she came and hugged me again.

Later that morning, Dean and I were working on his truck when his phone beeped. He looked at it.

“We’d best get cleaned up,” he said. “They’ll be here in half an hour.”

We were all standing out front when Gerry’s car pulled into the driveway and disgorged my parents and Dianna. Obviously, they had to be vetted by the dogs before they could be allowed on to the property, but by the time Terra and team had done their due diligence, Gerry had unloaded all the luggage and driven off.

My parents each got a hug from Cheryl; my mother got a hug and my father a handshake from Dean. Dianna stood back, knowing that her reintroduction wasn’t going to be quite so simple.

“It is good of you both to allow me back into your home,” she said when she finally faced them. “My behaviour last time was beyond inexcusable. I violated both your and your family’s trust, and if my word has any value at all, I give it solemnly that I will never do so again.”

“Right now,” said Dean in a measured tone, “your word has no value to us. For the sake of our future ‘daughters-in-law,’ your granddaughters, we are willing to give you the opportunity to change that. You get one shot, Dianna; don’t squander it.”

“Thank you,” said Dianna, and held her hand out to Dean. After a moment, he accepted the handshake.

Dianna turned to Cheryl, who said, “Just remember who gets hurt most if we cannot be friends. It’s your granddaughters who will suffer. If you love them as much as we do…” She didn’t finish that sentence.

Dianna nodded. “I know, and I do,” she said. “I never want to see them hurt like that again.”

Cheryl nodded too and said, “Welcome to our home.” She gave her a brief hug.

My parents then came over and were more than a little shocked when I introduced my four fiancés, each of them dying to show off their rings.

“How is that even going to work?” asked my father. “You can’t marry all four of them.”

“I know,” I said, “but we can have a ceremony with all four, like a wedding but with no legal standing. Then I’ll work out the legal aspects so that we all have the same rights as if we were legally married. It will be a longer process, but I’m certain it’s possible.”

“It’s not,” said Dianna, “but there are things you can do to get close. There are also things you probably shouldn’t do, though. Demanding unanimous agreement from four people when the fifth is unconscious in the hospital for something serious is a terrible idea.”

Dean and Cheryl were a bit taken aback. My parents weren’t. It occurred to me – and had obviously occurred to my folks, too - that a family of Empaths going back hundreds of years had probably given such matters considerable thought.

“Isn’t Ness only seventeen?” asked my mother. “Surely you’re not…”

I looked at my mother levelly until she blushed and looked away.

“Sorry,” she said. “I should have known better. It’s just that so much has changed with you recently.”

Dianna hugged the twins and Jules. Ness, however, who hadn’t seen Dianna since the last time we were there, was more hesitant.

“Vanessa,” said Dianna. “I know that last time we met, I behaved in such a way as to cause you a good deal of hurt. I am trying to rebuild my relationship with Caleb and the girls, and now you are one of those girls. I would love to get to know you too. We are going to be family, after all.”

Ness looked from Dianna to me and then to her parents. I could see from her aura that she was uncertain, but still angry at Dianna. She said nothing.

Dianna, far better at reading auras than I, nodded and moved on to me. We hugged.

Since it was almost lunch time, I went with Ness into the kitchen. We worked together making lunch. She showed me some things that she knew, both from Cheryl and from her own experience. I, in return, shared some of the knowledge I had gained from Daisy. We both had a good time.

After lunch, we all sat in the living room. It was a little cold to be sitting out on the deck despite the sunshine. Dianna was sitting chatting with the twins. Ness was with her parents, and I decided to spend some time reconnecting with mine.

It had been a while since I had seen my parents, and so I caught them up on what had been going on in my life. I told them about Rachel, the dean’s daughter, and how Amanda and I had found her. I described in detail the coffee shop incident, and my mother found it hilarious. I also told them that I had started my own hypnotherapy business and was making decent money, and also about how I had learned to cook. I hadn’t made lunch alone, but I told them that I’d helped, and they seemed impressed. I supposed I’d come a very long way. A few months prior, my ‘help’ could’ve easily ruined their meal.

Despite the fact that we had ‘reconnected’ following what had gone on, I couldn’t help feeling that there was a distance between me and my parents that hadn’t been there before. I knew our relationship had been damaged massively, and doubted that it would ever be the way it was. I felt sad that there were two places I called home, and neither of them was my parents’ house.

I saw Jules curled up with another old-looking book off and on the entire day. In the late afternoon, I went over to her.

“What you got there?” I asked her.

“It’s the memoirs of Constance Miller,” she said.

“Who was Constance Miller?” I asked.

“She was Sarah Miller’s youngest sister’s granddaughter,” she replied.

“As in, Edward Everson’s wife, Sarah Miller?” I asked.

She nodded. “Maggie’s interns apparently turned it up. Dianna brought it with her. It’s on loan. It’s a fascinating insight into the lives they had back then. Constance, apparently, fancied herself something of a family historian. There are stories in here about many of her family.”

“Anything about Sarah?” I asked, genuinely interested.

“Not so far,” she said. “I started to skim through, but then got interested in something I was reading, and decided to just read it. If there is, I’ll find it.”

I left the twins and Dianna to catch up. Since my parents and Dianna were only there for the weekend, I thought it was only fair that they got to spend as much time together as possible. I looked across the room at all the people there. Ness was curled up on her daddy’s lap while he and Cheryl chatted to my parents; Mary and Amanda were sitting with Dianna, talking animatedly; Jules was curled up on a chair, engrossed in the book Dianna had brought with her.

Feeling a little bit sorry for myself, I went into the kitchen, grabbed a handful of carrots, and went down to the stables. I decided to spend an hour brushing Blaze.

Blaze, at least, was pleased to see me, or at least pleased to get the carrots. He munched them happily as I went to work, brushing his sleek white coat. He didn’t need it, since the stable hands took good care of him, but I found it therapeutic, and he didn’t mind the attention either.

I felt a prod in the bond from Ness.

“Ness?” I sent.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“In the stables, brushing Blaze,” I returned.

“I’m starting dinner. You coming to help?”

“Sure. I’ll need a quick shower first. Give me twenty minutes.”

“Okay. Are you all right?”

“I’m good. I’ll be there soon.”

I walked back to the house and jumped in the shower. Almost exactly twenty minutes later, I joined Ness in the kitchen, and we made dinner.

After dinner, there was a change in the normal routine. There was no ‘Man Time.’ Instead, we exchanged Christmas gifts with those who wouldn’t be present on Christmas Day. It turned out that my parents had brought quite a haul. I got a new watch; the twins got matching bracelets. They bought an entire series of science fiction books for Jules, and for Ness they’d purchased another cookbook.

For Dean and Cheryl, they bought a painting, which, although small, looked expensive. It was by an artist that Cheryl apparently liked. It was only then that I figured out they must’ve tapped Jules for some ideas, just like I had.

Dianna loved her locket, and when she saw the picture inside she smiled softly. I caught her thought about a new family.

After all the other gifts had been given and received, we once again sat in the living room, and passed the time in conversation until it was time for me to go to bed.

I had been in bed for about three hours when Dean came into the room and tapped me on the foot, waking me.

“Caleb,” he said quietly, “we have a problem. Someone cut the fence on the east pasture and we have about a thousand cows out. Will you come help?”

I was out of bed and half dressed before he had left the room. Only Ness woke up; the others were used to me getting up at odd hours.

It was pitch dark and bitterly cold. I looked at my watch – one thirty in the morning.

Blaze didn’t look to happy to be roused from his warm stall either, but I soothed him and sent him a mental apology. The carrots I fed him as I got him ready also helped to cheer him up, although he made it quite clear that I owed him. I grinned. We were starting to build up quite the rapport. I wasn’t exactly communicating with him Telepathically, but we were sharing emotion and he seemed to be able to understand.

When we got to the east pasture, we could see where someone had not only cut the fence, but had torn down about ten of the fenceposts. It looked like they had also driven the cows from the pasture. Normally cows wouldn’t go far at night - they sleep too - but it was clear to me that someone had deliberately roused them and set them moving to cause problems.

Dean set a couple of the hands who had joined us to fixing the fence. I could have done it much more quickly, but there were too many witnesses. There were about thirty people there, all told.

“We need to split up and search for them,” said Dean. I did a quick scan. My range was up to about a mile, and I could feel many confused and annoyed cows in that area. I pulled Dean to one side.

“The majority of the herd is that way,” I said, pointing. “There are three other groups and a couple of stragglers all within about three quarters of a mile. I doubt that any have gone further than that, but I’ll keep my ‘eyes’ open.

He split the party up into three and sent each in the directions I had indicated. He and I went after the smallest group, which I reckoned had only about thirty animals in. We found them soon enough, exactly where I expected them to be. Dean and Blaze – I left him to it again – corralled the cows back to the gap in the fence and into the east pasture. We were just getting through the fence when I felt Ness’s spike of anger.


“There’s people at the house, trying to break in.”

“Dean!” I yelled. “With me!”

Blaze suddenly had a real sense of urgency to be back at the house, and he took off like a rocket. I did my best to hold on and not unbalance him. To his credit, Dean didn’t ask any questions. He just spurred his horse on and tried to keep up.

We were still too late to help.

Dianna had everything in hand. As we clattered onto the driveway, we found ten men, led by none other than Jasper Green, kneeling on the pavement. They all appeared to be drunk; I did a surface scan of their minds and found that the plan had been to lure the men away from the house, break in, and ‘have some fun’ with the women.

My anger flared without me even realizing what was happening.

“CALEB!!!” Dianna snapped at me as my fury built. I felt her power, and the power of Mary and Amanda, too, all hitting me with love, soothing, and calm. I took a breath and controlled my rage, letting their power help. I surely needed it.

Blaze, who was currently standing off to one side and recovering himself from his gallop, walked over to where Jasper was knelt on the floor, I saw Dianna’s eyes widen, but she was too late to stop him. Blaze stood over Jasper and pissed on him.

Jasper, for his part, wasn’t able to move. Although he tried, his muscles just wouldn’t respond and so he had to sit there while the stallion emptied a rather full bladder of about a gallon of pungent horse piss all over him. When he was done, Blaze turned away, but since his cock was still hanging down from his piss, it slapped Jasper in the face. Jasper sat up, steam rising from him in the icy air.

Dianna looked at me, a mixture of mirth and annoyance on her face.

“Was that really necessary?” she asked.

“The alternative was Blaze planting his hoof in the middle of his face,” I said without emotion, “so yes. They attacked my family. If I had been here, you would be sweeping up bodies, not cleaning up horse piss. There is no duty of retreat in this state.”

Dianna looked at me for a second. I think she was surprised by how little her power, plus the twins’, had managed to soothe me – especially since I hadn’t fought back.

The sound of sirens approaching ended the moment. Dean was talking to Cheryl.

“They kicked in the front door,” she said to him. “Waving guns around. Then Dianna appeared and just shut them down. Next thing you know, they are all out here on their knees.”

“Where are the dogs?” asked Dean.

We went to look. Terra and the other dogs were slumped unconscious at the side of the house. There were lumps of meat scattered around them. Obviously, they had been drugged. I hoped they would be okay. Dean called the vet, who said he would be there directly.

By the time we got back to the front of the house, there were a number of police cars there, along with a black SUV. Dianna identified herself to one of the officers, and the men kneeling on the ground were loaded into the back of patrol cars.

Jasper was last to be moved. The police avoided him for the obvious reason; none of them wanted him in their car. Eventually, one unlucky pair was forced to take him. All the weapons were gathered from inside the hallway and loaded into evidence bags and also placed in the trunk of various police cruisers.

“Make sure you charge them with assault on a federal agent,” Dianna said. “I clearly identified myself and they did not desist.”

“Why is Ness holding a baseball bat?” I asked, moving to Dianna’s side.

“She was going to go down swinging,” said Dianna, “She’s a fiery little thing. Jules and Amanda had to hold her back.”

Dean came over and faced Dianna.

“You protected my family,” he said. “It doesn’t erase what happened before, but it goes a long way towards earning our trust and forgiveness. Thank you.”

Since the excitement was over, I went into the kitchen, grabbed, a double handful of carrots. I collected Blaze and took him back to the stable. Dean followed with his horse.

Both of them had run hard and were lathered, although they had had time to cool down. The smaller horse was actually shivering a little in the frigid air.

We rubbed both horses down well, and then combed them as they munched on the carrots we had brought. I surrounded Blaze with feelings of trust and gratitude. As we finished with them, I went to stroke his nose before we left. He stepped forward and put his head over my shoulder, pulling me into his chest almost a hug. I patted his neck.

“Thanks buddy,” I said, and he snorted.

After we returned to the house, we found that there was someone already securing the front door. Having tradesmen working directly for you had its advantages.

It was after seven, and everyone was in the kitchen. Ness was making breakfast. It had taken hours for all the statements to be taken since nobody could tell the actual truth as to what had occurred. We had to come up with a believable story as to why Jasper’s friends all ended up disarmed and kneeling on the drive. Dianna had had me ‘implant’ some memories in the men as they were loaded into the cars so that their stories, when they were eventually persuaded to speak, would match ours.

The mood was subdued all morning, and it was almost a relief when Gerry turned up at around ten to collect my parents and Dianna to take them home.

This time Dianna got a hug from both Dean and Cheryl as well as from all the girls. Her status had gone up quite markedly with them. When it got to my turn, Dianna looked up into my face.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“You mean am I going to go on a revenge spree?” I countered.

She half smiled. “Are you?”

“I’m not going to go looking for them,” I said, “but I’m done holding back. If they come after me again, then what comes after is on them.”

She looked at me sadly. “You’re changing Caleb - becoming harder.”

I shook my head. “No,” I rebutted. “You just never saw me this angry before. My powers have nothing to do with this. This is all about some asshole attacking those I love. If I didn’t have powers, I’d be borrowing Ness’s baseball bat and going after them. In many ways, my powers are the reason that I am not. Not because they are tempering me in any way, but because I know that no matter what, if any of those boys ends up seriously hurt or dead, it would be my ass no matter whether I used powers or not.

“I still have to think of my family – and being there for them. The last thing I want is to give you an excuse to take me off the board.”

“You think I want that?” she asked.

“I don’t know what you want, Dianna,” I said. “You are always three moves ahead of me. A part of me, albeit a very small part, has the suspicion that you set this whole thing up just so you could be the hero and get back into everyone’s good books. Jasper was out on bail or whatever when he rounded up those guys to come after me on campus. The fact that he got out again after that is more than a little suspicious.”

Her eyes widened a little at that.

“I am making an effort to get along with you, and Maggie,” I said. “Partly for the girls, and partly because I am hoping to one day actually trust you. Today is not that day.”

“I thought…” she began sadly, but then sighed and shook her head. She turned away and got into the car.

“I thought you and grandmother were okay?” Mary said, looking upset.

“We are – ish” I answered. “She still has a lot of work to do before I will trust her though.”

“Does that mean…” she asked, her eyes wet.

“Absolutely not,” I said. “You, I trust completely. You, I love completely. You are a part of my family, and I’m never going to let that go.”

“Promise?” she asked, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears.

I took her hand and brought it to my face, kissing it and the ring she wore. “Promise.”

She threw her arms around me and held me tightly. Amanda, Jules, and Ness joined the group, and we all stood revelling in the feeling of each other for a while.

“How you doing Little Miss Fierce?” I asked Ness when we finally released each other.

Ness grinned a little self-consciously. “I’m good,” she said.

“She’s like her father,” said Cheryl from behind her. “More balls than sense sometimes. How did you persuade Blaze to piss on that boy?”

“I didn’t,” I said. “I asked and he agreed. He found it amusing.”

“You’re talking to the horse now?” she asked with a look of surprise on her face.

“Not talking per se, but we share a connection.”

Dean’s phone rang, and he spoke on it for a few minutes. “That was the vet,” he said. “The meat was drugged with diazepam. He’s given the dogs an antidote, but he wants to keep them overnight to observe them. If all is well he’ll bring them back in the morning.”

“Caleb,” he continued, “why don’t you and I go do a proper repair on that fence? They won’t have done more than a jury rig overnight.”

I nodded. After kissing all my girls goodbye - paying special attention to Mary - we climbed into his truck.

“I heard what you said to Dianna,” he said. “Do you really think that she could have set that up?”

“Could have?” I asked. “Definitely. Did she? No – I don’t think she did. She’s got a vengeful streak in her when it comes to men who are shitty to women. Jasper doubly qualifies.”

“But you still don’t trust her?”

“Outside of my girls,” I answered, “I can count on my thumbs the number of people I trust completely.”

I saw from his face he was trying to figure it out.

“I don’t trust my parents either,” I said, giving him a hint. “Jules said I need to trust more, but I find it difficult. Every time I lower my guard, someone tries to sucker punch me. When I get back, I have to decide whether to trust a complete stranger or not. If I don’t, I can’t learn Healing.”

“Jules told me,” he said. “What she says makes sense. If you can find someone with powers that you trust, it will make life a lot easier for you - particularly if they are a network. I can’t help you trust, and I am hoping that your thumbs are Cheryl and I. But Jules is right, you do need someone. Being on your guard twenty-four-seven will wear you down.”

James had said much the same. That seemed like years ago.

We had arrived at the hole in the fence. The hands had hammered some stakes into the ground and strung some wire across the gap. It wouldn’t last. I was weary, but not fatigued. I was tired of holding back and hiding. Before Dean could get out of the truck, I removed the wires, pulled the stakes, pulled up and replaced the damaged poles and restrung the wire properly. It took less than thirty seconds.

Dean looked at me. “If you could do that,” he asked, “why have we been spending days fixing the fences?”

I sent him the memory of our first day in the field, when he said that he enjoyed the work – it got him out in the fresh air.

“I didn’t want to spoil your fun,” I said. “Besides, I was enjoying it too. It felt good to be out working. Also, how would you explain all the fences suddenly being repaired in a single day?”

We sat side by side in the truck, staring out of the windshield at the repaired fence.

A lone cow wandered up to the fence line, on the wrong side. We were easily about half a mile from the nearest gate. Dean cursed, and then laughed as the cow simply floated up and over the fence, back into the pasture, and then began to wander down the fence line as if nothing had happened. I did a quick area scan and couldn’t detect any other cows outside the pasture.

We sat in companionable silence all the way back to the house, having been gone less than thirty minutes.

“I was going to make you guys an early lunch,” Ness said when we got back. “I wasn’t expecting you back so soon.”

Dean chuckled. “Blame Clark here,” he said.

“Ness,” I said. “Why don’t I take you, and…”

Ness’s eyes widened. A wealth of possibilities presented themselves to her mind, each one more graphic than the last.

“Teach you to make Moussaka?” I finished.

Ness grinned wryly. “Okay,” was all she said. What she thought was unrepeatable.

Having Moussaka for lunch cheered everyone up. Once we had eaten and cleaned up afterward we were almost back to ourselves, although sitting in the living room and chatting without the dogs around was strange.

I was surrounded by my girls, although technically Jules was on me rather than around me. Curled up in my lap, she was still reading the book that Dianna had given her. I was just contemplating making a start on dinner when she suddenly sat up in my lap. I grunted a little as she ground her hip bone into my unmentionables, and not in a good way.

“Guys,” she said. “I think I found something.”

We were all instantly paying attention.

She told us that Constance had been researching her genealogy, but rather than just looking at the lineage, she’d documented the history of all the people that she found.

Jules had found the entry for Sarah Everson, Nee Miller. She read it aloud. “Sarah Jane Everson, born Miller, was the oldest daughter of James Maxwell Miller and Jennifer Ann Miller. She was born in seventeen eighty-four and died aged just eighteen years and ten months. The circumstances surrounding her death are the only remarkable thing about her life.

“James Miller had an agreement that Sarah would wed the son of the local cooper, but Sarah was in love with another, by the name of Edward Everson, the son of the local healer woman. In order to defy her father’s wishes, Sarah allowed Edward to bed her, taking her maidenhead. While this would normally be just cause for a lynching - and, indeed, both the Miller and Cooper families went to the Everson house for that purpose - it did not occur. Instead, they were persuaded by some miracle to allow the young lovers to marry, and the wedding took place that afternoon in front of the local justice.

“Sadly, their marriage didn’t last. Edward, having moved into the Miller household, did not take to his matrimonial responsibilities, and spent his evenings drinking and carousing in the tavern. He would return home well into his cups. He would then wake his new bride, insisting that she fulfill her ‘wifely duties,’ no matter that he himself was unable to perform due to excessive drinking. His own failure he blamed on her, and he became abusive and violent.

“Less than six months after they were wed, Sarah was found at the foot of the stairs in their home, her neck broken. What shocked everyone was Edward’s reaction. They had been certain by his treatment of Sarah, both while drunk and while sober, that he had had no love for her. They thought the pursuit of her had been driven by lust rather than affairs of the heart. Indeed, the father was convinced that Edward had been instrumental in her death and wished the justice to investigate.

“Edward, however, apparently did love Sarah, despite appearances, as that very afternoon he took his own life due to his loss.

“There is a little bit more,” Jules added, “but that is the meat of it.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “How could he have abused her - even killed her? The bond is supposed to enforce love.”

“Is it?” asked Jules. “Or was that just our assumption? What if the bond was just that: a bond? What if it just tied them together - no more, no less? The requirements were met. At the time, they were both virgins and they were both willing participants. There is nothing we have found anywhere to say that love had anything at all to do with it. Think about who forged the bond. Why would she, of all people, have wanted to create, or even just reinforce, love between Edward and Sarah?

“What if the love you see in the bond is just the love that Mary and Amanda have for you? You assume that the bond Compels it, but does it? If the bond Compelled love, then when you suppressed your emotions, why didn’t the bond prevent it, or get disrupted by the lack of love? It’s quite reasonable to infer that neither thing happened because love has nothing at all to do with the bond.

“If I’m right, and I believe I am, the bond is nothing more than a tether. As you said, there is no way that a man in love could treat his lover like that. They even suspected that he killed her. Again, could he have done that if he loved her? What he didn’t know was that if he did kill her, the bond would enact its own revenge.”

I looked at the twins. “What do you think?”

“I think she’s right,” said Mary. “If Edward loved Sarah, there is no way that their marriage would have deteriorated that quickly. Yes, alcohol can make people abuse even loved ones, but it sounds like even when he wasn’t drunk, he didn’t treat her well.”

I looked at the twins, a sudden anguish rising in my chest. I had put them through so much, and accused them of so many things, assuming that the bond was Compelling the love. Suddenly, there was strong evidence that the love I had seen from the start had been real. The love I felt for them had been real, too, and I hadn’t trusted either.

“STOP!” Amanda yelled as I opened my mouth to try and begin to apologize.

I was shocked into speechlessness for a moment. Everyone else, including Dean and Cheryl, jumped.

“If you start down that road,” she said sternly but quietly, “I swear by all that is holy, I am going to bitch-slap you. This is good news. We now know our love is real. What went before is gone. You have forgiven Mary; you forgave Dianna and you forgave Maggie. Now it’s time to forgive yourself.

“No one here could even begin to imagine what you have had to deal with since your birthday. You have made mistakes, without a doubt. But we are past that, and now we are in a good place.” She enunciated the word ‘good’ slowly and carefully.

“Now,” she continued in a more normal tone, “I’m hungry – so go make dinner, and if I feel anything other than good feelings through the bond, I swear I’ll slap you so hard our grandchildren will feel it.”

Still somewhat stunned, I got up and went to the kitchen. Ness left me to make dinner alone - I suspect at the behest of the other girls. They knew that I needed time to think and come to terms with what we had learned. It wasn’t one-hundred percent absolute proof that the bond didn’t Compel love, but it ‘felt’ true. While I cooked, I looked at the bond over and over and examined the love I could see there from the twins. Amanda’s still held some anger, whilst Mary’s showed some amusement and a little awe.

After dinner was over, Dean and I sat out on the deck with our beer.

“How you doing?” he asked.

“I’m good,” I said ruefully. “I better not be anything else.”

“Of the four of them,” he said, chuckling, “Amanda was not the one I would have expected to have said all that.”

“Nor I,” I answered. “I put them through hell, Pops, all because I didn’t trust their or my feelings.”

“As she said,” he said quietly, “that’s in the past. Learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future. You know now. You have four beautiful girls who love you. Don’t squander that love by constantly raking up past mistakes. Enjoy it.”

We sat in silence for the rest of our ‘Man Time’ as I pondered his words and my thoughts. I took Amanda’s words to heart. I pushed down the feelings of guilt and torment, squashing them mercilessly, and then tried to examine what was left.

There was love, and happiness, and not a little amusement. I began to chuckle.

When the girls came out, both Dean and I sat quietly contemplating the scenery. I felt like a weight had been lifted from me. The bond itself was a damn nuisance and needed to be removed, but what it showed me was true, and that was wonderful.

Mary and Amanda strode up to me, each holding out a hand. They pulled me to my feet and led me back into the house.

When we reached our bedroom, they closed the door. Mary turned to me, and placed her hand over my crotch, cupping my balls. “So, what do you think, sis, three loads? One each and one to share?”

I was instantly taken back to our first time together. Back then, it had been Amanda who had said those words. Mary leaned in and kissed me, pulling me to her and pressing her body up against mine. Amanda pressed up behind me, her arms around us both, and pulled in tight too.

Suddenly I was swamped in both their powers as they literally drowned me in love. I fought back, flexing my power to reciprocate.

Mary broke the kiss, stepping back a little, and began to remove her clothing. Amanda continued to hold me, pressing into me from behind and nuzzling my neck as she began to remove mine. Mary kept her entrancing golden eyes fixed on mine as she slowly stripped. Then she stepped backward and climbed onto the bed, managing to make the movement sensuous and inviting.

“I need you to make love to me,” she said. “No tricks, no powers. I just need to feel my man moving inside me until he fills me with his love.”

Naked now, I turned to Amanda and kissed her, taking the opportunity to start removing her clothing. Although I knew Amanda would feel everything I did to Mary, I hated the possibility that she might feel like an afterthought. I needed to remind them both - as if what we could see through the bond wasn’t enough - just how much I loved them.

It took little time to undress Amanda, and once she was naked, she pressed herself to me again, her breasts flattening against my chest, and kissed me.

“Go to her,” she whispered, breaking the kiss. “Show her how much you love her.”

She turned me around and gently pushed me toward the bed where Mary was waiting. Mary was smiling softly, watching Amanda and me. I reveled in the thought that neither of them ever seemed to feel a single ounce of jealousy. They were as pleased to be seeing their sister and me together as they were to be directly involved.

I climbed on the bed and crawled up toward Mary, planting soft kisses on her feet. Then I kissed my way up her body until she was under me, my legs between hers. Normally I would have stopped to spend some time feasting on her, but that was not what she wanted. She - they - wanted simply to be loved - to wrap themselves around me and reaffirm physically the truth of our love.

There was no awkward fumbling trying to locate the way in. Mary lifted her arms and pulled me down into a long, loving kiss. While she held that kiss, she wrapped her legs around me, tilting her hips up and pulling me inside her in a single, slow, liquid thrust until I was hilted completely. It felt like liquid fire, her silken channel gripping me. I could feel every inch of me being caressed by every inch of her, and for a long moment, we just lay there, joined.

She released me from the kiss and pulled me down until my weight was pressing her into the bed. I took some of it on my arms, my elbows on either side of her head. She made it clear that she wanted

to feel my weight on her. Then she began to move. She kept her eyes fixed on mine as she started to undulate her hips, grinding herself onto me.

I took the hint and started to slowly stroke in and out of her. Tilting my hips, I pulled back and then pressed deep into her. She purred as she felt me hilting myself once again. I repeated the move, holding her golden gaze with my own the whole time.

I began to pick up the pace, gradually increasing the speed of my thrusts, still pinning her to the bed with my weight. My hardness slid in and out of her hot, slick tunnel as we moved together. Too soon, I could feel my belly start to tighten as I began the build toward my climax. I wanted to slow down - to stop or least delay the inevitable and make the experience last longer, but I knew that that was not what she wanted. Mary wanted me to love her, to give her everything I had, and to take from her everything she offered.

She could tell that I was not far away from reaching my peak. Still fixing me with her gaze, she whispered, “I love you,” and then captured my mouth with hers. Her gentle exploration with her tongue, added to the sensations of her hands running through my hair, her legs wrapped around me, her body pressed into mine, and the smooth heat gripping me as I moved in and out of her, was too much for me to stand. I groaned into her mouth as I hit my peak, pushed as deep as I could inside her and then emptied myself with several strong pulses. Mary moaned into my mouth as the feeling of my cock throbbing, delivering its load into her depths, pushed her into a gentle, rolling orgasm. I felt her stiffen under me; I maintained my motion and our kiss until she relaxed once more.

We lay joined for a few minutes more, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, before I rolled us both onto our sides. It took my weight off her but allowed me to keep her in my arms, where I wanted her to be.

“Thank you,” we said simultaneously, and then smiled at each other.

I felt Amanda move up behind me. Keeping one arm around Mary, I shifted to my back and pulled Amanda in on my other side.

“Hey, you,” I said to her as she snuggled in.

She smiled at me. “That was beautiful. Will you do that to me, please?”

I leaned in and kissed her, feeling Mary plant a gentle kiss on my neck as she released my other arm, allowing me to bring it over and pull Amanda toward me.

Amanda shuffled over until I was spooning her, my revived cock pressing against her ass, then she rolled over onto her belly, pulling me on top of her. She kept my arms around her, holding me tightly. Nearly all of my weight pressed her into the bed. She moaned in her arousal. I kissed and nibbled at the back of her neck as she pushed her hips back, thrusting her ass into my groin. My cock slid down between her legs and was trapped against her pussy.

“Take me there,” she moaned.

For Amanda, I knew exactly where ‘there’ was.

I felt a hand on my turgid member. The cold of the lube it was applying had absolutely no effect on my heat or rigidity. I tilted my hips, pulling away enough for Mary to help us both by lining me up on Amanda’s pink star.

I pushed slightly forward just to seat myself in place, and felt her begin to open up slightly. Amanda growled deep in her throat as she felt me pressing at her rear entrance and pushed her ass backward. I tried to retreat a little so as not to hurt her, but she was too quick for me. Before I realised, she had engulfed me in her fiery heat, her asshole a tight band gripping me halfway down my length.

“Yessss!” she hissed. “Deeper!”

I relaxed, allowing my weight to slowly push me deeper inside her until my groin pressed into her amazing ass, my balls resting against her pussy.

Then I began to move.

I pulled her tightly to me and began to thrust into her depths, pulling back about half my length before pushing forward, grinding myself into her ass as she moaned beneath me. She, too, was moving. Amanda pushed her ass backward to meet my thrusts, determined to get every last millimeter of my cock inside her, clenching and unclenching around me while she did so.

She began moaning low in her throat as I continued to grind in and out of her rear. She pulled my arms tighter around her, taking more of my weight on top of her until I was literally grinding her into the bed. She moved her hips in opposition to mine to give us both the maximum stimulation from each stroke, and I could feel her legs starting to tremble as her orgasm began to build.

Despite it having been less than twenty minutes since I had cum in Mary, my own orgasm had also begun; the tightening in my belly told me that I could only hold out for a few minutes more before losing myself yet again in a beautiful, golden-eyed teen. Once more I contemplated slowing or stopping, or even using my powers to delay my orgasm to make sure that Amanda got to reach her own.

I felt Mary’s hot breath in my ear as she whispered. “No powers; just take, and give.” She must have anticipated my thoughts or read my aura.

Our thrusts sped up, faster and rougher than I had been with Mary, but that was what Amanda wanted. She loved to feel me pounding deep into her, and her moans had increased both in pitch and volume.

With each stroke, my balls slapped into her pussy, getting covered in the copious juices flowing from her. It wasn’t lovemaking. I was rutting her like a beast in the fields, pounding into her as if to grind her into the dirt beneath us, and she was loving every second.

Amanda arched her back, bringing her head up beside mine and moaning loudly as her orgasm hit. She clutched me to her as I felt her asshole clenching around me, and that was my undoing.

With a moan of my own, I released everything I had into her steamy depths, my cock throbbing and pulsating as I shot ropes of thick, creamy spunk deep into her bowels. Her orgasm was still going on, her asshole tightening spasmodically around me, and she milked me of the last of my cum.

When it was over, she sighed contentedly and rested back down on her tummy, holding me in position on her back. I was still inside her, but my softening cock soon slipped out, and she let out a small coo of disappointment.

After another few minutes, I rolled us both onto our sides, taking my weight off of Amanda, but keeping her held tightly in my arms. She purred. Then she turned over and pushed me gently onto my back so that she and Mary could both hold me, and I them.

Mary suddenly got up and went into the bathroom, returning with a warm washcloth and a towel. She cleaned and dried me before passing me a pair of boxers.

“Jules and Ness will be coming to bed soon,” she said. While being naked in front of Jules wasn’t a problem, Ness was a whole other matter. We each made ourselves decent, the girls donning panties and t-shirts.

Ten minutes later Ness and Jules entered the room, both ready for bed. Amanda and Mary moved to one side of me, leaving the other clear for the newcomers, who climbed onto the bed and snuggled into my other side.

I heard Jules sniff. I was kind of expecting what came next. “You stink,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

I saw Ness lean forward a little bit to sniff. The effect on her was the total opposite. I saw her nostrils flare and the pupils of her eyes widen as she took in my scent. She made a low noise in her throat.

Disengaging from all the girls, I went to shower.


On the lead up to Christmas day, life on the farm fell into its normal, pleasant rhythm. Dean and I would work through the days, fixing fences and moving cattle. I even helped out a couple of times with milking, although that was more about me seeing the process than them actually needing any help.

“Don’t even think it,” said Dean as I picked up one of the four-way nozzles and examined it. They were placed on the udders of the cow and drew out the milk. I looked up at him. Whatever he thought I had been thinking, I really hadn’t.

“If you weren’t thinking it,” he said with a grin, “you would be the first male ever to pick up a set of those and NOT immediately wonder what it would feel like.”

I laughed. “I must have got side-tracked,” I said. “But now that you mention it…”

“I said don’t,” he said. “There have been some adventurous souls who have tried it in the past and suffered some injuries. But the main reason is that I don’t want ten thousand gallons of milk wasted, not to mention the two days of downtime to get the entire system purged and re-sterilized. That’s one of the reasons that we have CCTV in the milking sheds: to make sure that none of the hands are getting hands-off with the equipment.”

On the before Christmas day, we rode for a while, and after lunch lazed around the farm. I trained my TK and martial arts constantly, but I had nobody on which to practice my Compulsion or Telepathy. I didn’t even feel right using it on the animals, despite my adventure with the dancing cow last time around. I was sitting on the deck, staring at the scenery. It had become a favourite pastime of mine. It really was a beautiful tract of land.

“Caleb,” Jules asked, coming out to join me, “are you busy?”

“I was about halfway through counting the blades of grass in that pasture,” I said with mock annoyance. “Now I have to start again.”

She chuckled. “I’ll take that as a no.”

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Nothing’s up,” she said, starting to look a little sheepish. “I just wondered, if you weren’t busy, about, you know, the illusion?”

“The tour of the Enterprise?” I asked, and she nodded a little shyly. She obviously wanted to do it, but felt a bit embarrassed by how much she wanted to do it.

“Sure,” I said. “Come and sit.”

Since we had spent a good amount of time planning it, and I had also done some of my own research – well, that had been my excuse for watching Star Trek TNG reruns at least - the hardest part was how we would get her so far into the future. We’d decided that since she was an engineer, we would use that. I would give her memories of working on a theoretical Alcubierre drive and getting caught up in a warp bubble that somehow interacted with the warp bubble created by the Enterprise, pulling her forward in time to the twenty-fourth century.

She sat on the lawn chair next to mine.

“Ready?” I asked and she nodded her head excitedly. I spun the illusion.

“Is Jules asleep?” whispered Cheryl when she came out an hour later. I shook my head.

“She’s about halfway through an illusion,” I said.

“A what?” she asked.

I explained all about illusions - how I could make them, and some potential uses for them. Cheryl seemed interested.

“You can make any fantasy come true?” she asked.

“Not come true,” I said. “Once you come out of the fantasy, you will know it was just that, but while you are living it, if I get it right and you don’t realize, it will feel real.”

“So,” she said, blushing a little, “if I dare ask... what fantasy is Jules living right now?”

I looked around theatrically.

“Jules has this thing for tentacle monsters,” I said. “It’s kind of a fetish for her…”

Cheryl’s eyes went wide, and her jaw dropped. “You’re kidding!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, I am,” I said, laughing. “She’s touring the starship Enterprise with the TNG crew. I think right about now she should be saving them from imminent disaster.” I was keeping an eye on Jules to make sure she didn’t run into trouble or get too scared, but all I could feel from her at that moment was pleasure. She was a kid in a candy shop, loving every minute of her experience.

Cheryl blushed and grinned at me, slapping my arm gently. “You almost had me believing you then.”

“I needed to practice,” I said, “and got bored with playing a psi-pimp for our housemates. I offered the girls their own fantasy, and Jules came up with this one. She gets to have a good time; I get to practice; win-win. I just keep an eye on her in case anything unexpected happens, or her mind rejects the illusion. If that happens, I will be on hand to bring her out.”

She looked at me thoughtfully. “Can you bring more than one person into an illusion at once?” she asked.

“It’s limited by the user’s power.” I replied. “My maximum currently is two. I should be able to do more, but I haven’t tried yet. What did you have in mind?”

“Woodstock,” she said. “We weren’t born yet, but both of us would have loved to have gone. It was a three-day festival, but obviously we couldn’t do the entire thing.”

“Jules has been on the Enterprise for just under a week,” I said, “according to her timeline. Three days would probably take about thirty to forty minutes in real time.”

“So, you could do it?” she asked, and I nodded.

“I’d have to do some research,” I said. “We could spend some time planning it together, because while you are in the illusion, I can give you a few nudges to make you temporarily forget any inconvenient details. There is a caveat, though. I would need your permission to access your conscious minds while you are in there. I need to keep an eye on you both - to make sure that nothing is going wrong, and that you are having fun. You could end up getting a bad LSD trip there since it’s your brains doing most of the work to generate the illusion. If that happens, I’ll need to pull you out, but I won’t know unless I can access your minds.”

I turned to Jules; it was time for her to come out of her illusion. I wanted to be paying attention in case she became disoriented. In her illusion, she would be going to sleep at the end of the day. Only then she would wake up back in the real world.

Her eyes opened, and she looked around with a puzzled expression on her face. Then her memories returned, and she relaxed. A huge smile lit up her features.

“That – was – AWESOME!” she said, jumping up and coming to give me a huge hug.

“Did you have fun?” I asked.

She nodded animatedly and launched into what had happened, whom she had seen, and how she had managed to save the Enterprise from a Borg attack using twenty-first-century technology that the Borg had never encountered before. She started to explain the technical details to us, but then stopped and grinned sheepishly.

“It just felt so real!” she said.

“What felt real?” asked Dean as he emerged from the kitchen. Cheryl explained to him about illusion, and Jules told him all about her trip on the Enterprise. Dean looked at me, then at Cheryl.

“Woodstock!” they said together.

Over the weekend, I got to practice my illusions. Besides Cheryl and Dean’s Woodstock adventure, after which they both spent the evening looking hyper-chilled and calling everyone ‘man,’ Amanda had her Pretty Woman Rodeo Drive experience. Ness got to work in Marco Pierre White’s kitchen. She originally asked for Gordon Ramsay, but I refused on the grounds that I didn’t want her getting sworn at all the time.

The dogs had come back on that Saturday as well. None the worse for wear, they were overjoyed to be back, and were as attentive as ever to my routine on Sunday.

Monday was Christmas Day, and as usual I was up at four. What was unusual was that so was everyone else. All the girls got up with me, and since they were making a heck of a racket, Dean and

Cheryl were forced out of bed too. Neither seemed to mind. It seemed they were as excited as the girls were for Christmas.

I could take it or leave it. It was just another day as far as I was concerned. I had no interest in the religious aspects of the day, and it just seemed to me that the forced jollity only rubbed the faces of those who were alone or struggling into the dirt even more.

I kept all of that to myself, though, and painted a smile on my face. I was excited to see how my gifts would be received.

I think the dogs were disappointed not to get a show. We went straight into breakfast, and by five, everyone was crowded around the tree in the living room, which had a pile of gifts underneath.

Ness decided she was going to hand out the gifts.

The first was for Amanda, from Dean and Cheryl. They had bought her a beautiful gold bracelet. It came with earrings. She showed it to me, and I noticed that it had exactly the same heart-shaped links that the necklace I had gotten for her had. I looked across at Cheryl. She must have seen my look, because she glanced at Jules. I made a note to talk to her about that later.

Mary was next, and again, she received a bracelet and earring set which would perfectly complement the torc that I had bought for her. I could see Jules trying not to smirk at my confusion.

Ness struggled with the next package. It was a big, heavy box, and was my gift for Jules. I gave a TK assist, and Jules, who seemed to have no idea what it was, tore into it. Her eyes went as wide as saucers when she saw it. She shrieked in glee and began to unbox the microscope and check out its features until Dean intervened, telling her to wait until afterwards. She came over to me and gave me quite an un-Jules like kiss.

“Thank you,” she said. “That is awesome.”

The next gift was for Cheryl, and it was from the twins. It was obvious from the wrapper that it was a picture of some kind and I wondered if it was one from her favourite artist. It wasn’t. They had apparently got a local artist to take the picture of me standing with the girls in front of Blaze that Ness had taken and turn it into a painting. They hadn’t copied it exactly, though, as they had added Ness. It was incredibly lifelike.

Cheryl was overjoyed with it. Personally, I thought it was a little narcissistic to give someone a picture of yourself as a gift, but Jules knew her mother better than I did, so I didn’t comment.

The next gift was also for Cheryl, from me: the wine.

“Caleb!” she said when she opened it. “That’s my favourite! How did you know?”

Dean raised an eyebrow at her. “You’re asking a Telepath that?” he asked.

Cheryl turned her eyes to me.

“Jules told me,” I said quickly. I didn’t want her thinking that I had abused her trust.

Then it was my turn. I got a box from all the girls. When I opened it, I was presented with the latest gaming laptop and a bunch of accessories for it. My jaw dropped. It must have cost them a fortune. I sent them all my thanks through the bond, and promised to thank them properly later.

The next gift was for Ness herself, from Jules and the twins. It was another big box and contained a full set of titanium pans. Ness’s eyes went wide. I guessed from her expression they were good. It was only when I asked Jules about it that I learned that the set was worth over two thousand dollars.

Ness burst into tears and threw her arms around the girls, thanking them profusely. We took a few minutes’ break while she calmed down, and I made us all coffee.

Dean came next, and again it was from all the girls. They had bought him a beautiful pair of cowboy boots. They were a deep, rich brown, and heavily tooled.

Amanda was next again, and this time she got the necklace to go with her bracelet and earring set. She was delighted, and insisted that I put it on her. She had already donned the other items. We stood and she turned her back to me, gently pressing her ass into my groin as I fastened the necklace.

Then it was Dean’s turn again, and he got the box from me. Cheryl smiled wryly as he opened it and beamed with pleasure. Cheryl looked at me, then at Jules, and shook her head ruefully.

There were four boxes left under the tree. One I knew contained Mary’s necklace; another was Ness’s knives. That left two mystery packages.

It was the necklace next, and Mary’s eyes went wide when she saw it. Like Amanda, she insisted that I put it on her, but Amanda’s reaction was nothing in comparison to Mary’s when the torc fastened with a tiny ‘snick.’ The feeling of being collared again was obviously too much for her, and she actually came again, causing Amanda to squeak in sympathetic orgasm across the room.

Jules was grinning and Dean and Cheryl were busily looking at anything other than the girls, who were both blushing furiously. Ness’s eyes were narrowed again.

Ness picked up my present to her. She weighed it in her hand, trying to guess what was inside, but she didn’t wait very long to stop guessing and start ripping. Soon enough, she recognized the knife roll. It was only when she turned it over that she saw the make. “Zwilling Pro?” she said. “These are really good knives.”

“Did you want bad knives?” I asked jokingly.

She opened the roll and looked at the knives almost reverently.

“Don’t put them in the dishwasher,” I said. “It kills the edge.”

She gave me a scornful look, as if to say ‘Duhh!!’ but then rolled them up again and put them to one side. She got up and came over to me, and gave me the kind of kiss that no seventeen-year-old should know how to give. Dean and Cheryl were getting good at looking elsewhere.

Ness returned to her station by the tree while I caught my breath.

“I think you guys should open those together,” said Dean as Ness picked up the last two boxes. Each was the size of a cigarette pack, and they were both from Dean and Cheryl - one for me and one for Ness.

We did, and each found a vehicle key, both of which had the Ford logo on. I looked at Dean.

“You didn’t?” I said, but that was drowned out by Ness’s squeal of delight.

“Let’s go see,” said Dean, standing up. We all trooped out into the dawn and went across to the barn. He pulled back the doors to reveal two vehicles. For Ness they had bought an Escape, and for me an F150 Pickup with crew cab.

I turned to Dean and opened my mouth, but he interrupted.

“The best bit,” he said, “is that it’s keyless. So, you can’t leave your keys in the ignition.”

So many things ran through my head, but I knew what he, Jules, Ness and everyone else would say. Instead of that, I walked up to where Cheryl and Dean were standing, side by side, and gathered them both in for a hug.

“Thank you,” I said, emotions threatening to overwhelm me.

Both of them returned the hug. “You’re welcome, son,” said Dean.

The rest of the day, while pleasant enough, was anticlimactic. We all ate too much and sat around chatting. Ness insisted on playing party games, but I got banned from playing since my powers gave me too much of an advantage.

I was sitting thinking when Jules came and sat on my lap. “You okay?” she asked. “You look deep in thought.”

“I have two questions for you,” I said. “One, how did you know about the jewellery? And two, how long did the painting take to get created? Could we get one done before we go home?”

“I went to school with the assistant in the shop, Joanna,” she said. “She told me what you had bought.”

“What if I had bought something for you?” I asked.

“I already saw the box from the electronics store,” she said. “I knew that anything you bought would have been for the twins. The painting was another friend of mine. It took her two days to do. I don’t know if she could do one before we go home though. What did you have in mind?”

“It doesn’t have to be big,” I said, “somewhere around A4 would be fine.”

“I’ll text her,” she said, “but I’m not sure if she’ll get back to me today – you know, Christmas and all.”

As luck had it, her friend did get back to her, and told her a painting that size from a photograph would take her two days to paint and frame. The price was a little steep, but I thought it was worth it. We arranged to go over the next day to talk to her. I just had to figure out how to get the photo to her, because I only had it in my head.

Jules, Ness and I went over to Jules’ friend’s house the next day. We took my truck as I wanted to give it a test before taking a ten hour drive in it. I had swapped my insurance on line, but needed to get the dealer tags replaced. I would have to go to the DMV in the next day or so to get that sorted.

When we arrived at her friend’s house, it was more of a studio. Her friend, Helen, was a lanky girl, wearing a pair of paint-spotted dungarees and thick spectacles. Her and Jules hugged.

“Helen,” Jules said, “this is Caleb, our boyfriend.”

“Our?” asked Helen, looking from Jules to Ness and then to me. Once again, I shrugged. It seemed the thing to do under the circumstances.

“You and Ness are sharing a boyfriend?” she asked with a grin.

“With two other girls,” said Jules, grinning back. “The girls that were in the picture you did for Mom.”

“The twins?” she asked. Jules nodded.

“Good to meet you,” Helen said, enveloping me in a hug. “So where’s this photo?”

I pulled a photograph out of my pocket and showed it to her. She looked at it.

“No problem,” she said. “What size did you want?”

“A4, landscape?” I queried. She nodded. “Do you need to keep it?”

“No,” she said. “I have an eidetic memory. I’ll remember it.”

That made my life much easier. I dropped the illusion, took out my wallet and paid the fee.

“Can you collect it day after tomorrow?” she asked, and I nodded. “Perfect.” She sat down, pulled out a sheet of paper, and began attaching it to an easel. It seemed there was no time like the present. We let ourselves out.

“Helen is a little strange, but we were really good friends at school,” Jules said. “I guess that…”

“Don’t say it,” I growled at her.

She looked across at me, and then smiled. “I love you,” she said. I was about to reply when my mirror lit up with red and blue lights.

I put on my blinker and pulled over, rolling my window down and putting my hands on the steering wheel. I waited for the officer to approach.

“Good afternoon, Officer,” I said.

“Afternoon son,” he said. “Is this your truck?”

“It is,” I said. “I just got it this morning. I haven’t had the chance to get the registration from the DMV yet. I was going to do that tomorrow.”

He nodded.

“You have a license and some ID?”

“In my back pocket,” I said. “All right if I get it?”

“Go ahead.”

I pulled out my wallet, and also my FBI ID. I handed over my license first and then showed him my ID.

“Kind of young to be a fed, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I’m only a consultant,” I said. “Hoping to join.”

“You got the delivery paperwork too?” he asked.

“In the glove box,” I said. “May I?”

“Any weapons in the truck?” he asked, and I shook my head.

“No sir,” I said.

He indicated I could get the paperwork and I retrieved it and handed it to him.

“You hang tight here,” he said and went back to his patrol car.

The trooper came back a few minutes later.

“Okay,” he said. “Make sure to get that registration dealt with. You have seven days.”

“Yes sir,” I said, “I will.”

“You kids have a good day now.” He handed me back all my paperwork, license, and ID and went back to his patrol car. I checked my mirror, ready to pull out when I saw a car approaching at a very high speed. I waited, and he barrelled past us both at well over the speed limit. I stayed put and the trooper took off after the speeding car.

We caught up with them about two miles further up the road. The speeding car was in the ditch at the side of the road, and the patrol car was parked behind it, lights still showing. The trooper was on the ground. The driver of the other car kneeling over him, and they were tussling. They seemed to be fighting over the trooper’s weapon, which was out of its holster, but neither of them could bring to bear.

“Stay here,” I said to the girls as I pulled up in front of the car in the ditch.

I got out of the truck and ran back toward the fighting pair.

“FBI, hands on your head,” I shouted, imagining that the perp would do just that. He did.

“Step away from the trooper and lie down on the floor,” I yelled.

He complied. The trooper was up quickly, keeping his weapon trained on his attacker.

“Hands behind your back,” I said, and the trooper quickly cuffed his prisoner. I heard other sirens in the distance. Within a couple of minutes, another two patrol cars arrived. They assisted in getting the perp into the trooper’s car, and then the trooper came over to me.

“Thanks,” he said. “I thought you said you didn’t have any weapons in the truck.”

“I didn’t,” I said, “but he didn’t know that.”

“What would you have done if he hadn’t complied?”

“Said please?” I offered with a grin, and he laughed.

“Son, you got a pair,” he said. “I’m going to have to get a statement from you.”

“Does it have to be here?” I said, and he shook his head.

“Are you local?” he asked.

I nodded. “I’m staying at the Steadman Ranch until after the new year.”

“I’ll go get this guy booked in and then I’ll come over,” he said. “Couple of hours, okay?”

I nodded and then went back to my truck.

“Life around you isn’t going to be boring, is it?” asked Ness as I pulled back out onto the highway.

“Probably not,” I said. “There’s still time to change your mind if that’s not your thing.”

“Not a chance,” she said, turning her ring around on her finger. “You’re mine now – er, I mean ours.” She looked at Jules at little guiltily, but her older sister just smiled.

In actual fact, we had literally only just arrived back to the house when a state trooper cruiser pulled into the drive. Dean came out of the house to find out what was going on.

“Mr. Stott?” said the officer climbing out of his car.

I put my hand up and he came over to me.

“My name is Captain Brass. I just wanted to come and express my thanks for your assistance in apprehending that suspect. My officer says that they were fighting over his weapon when you stepped in. If that had gone badly, the results could have been tragic.” He held out his hand, and I shook it.

“My officer also tells me that you are a ‘consultant’ for the FBI,” he continued. “I’d like the name of your section lead so I might appraise them of your conduct. It should be recognized - especially since, as I was told, you were not armed at the time.”

“My section leader is Frank Howe,” I said, handing him my ID and pointing out the office number on the back. The officer wrote it down. “I’m only a consultant, so I’m not allowed to carry a gun.”

“Would it be okay for me to take a statement from you?” he asked. “My officer is kind of tied up with the suspect, and since I was passing I offered to come and get it done.”

“Sure,” I said.

We all went into the house and sat in the kitchen. The captain sat down, gratefully accepting the coffee that Cheryl offered. It was a cold day.

“Could you tell me what you remember?” the captain asked.

“Where would you like me to start?” I queried.

“How about from the traffic stop?” he suggested.

I went through the events as I remembered them, and, since I could pull up the memories and replay them, my summary was pretty accurate.

“What time did you leave the scene?” asked the trooper.

I remembered checking the clock in the truck as I got back in, so I knew to the minute, but I rounded to the quarter hour.

“Well once again, thank you for your assistance,” he said. “If for whatever reason the FBI doesn’t work out for you, look me up. We could use men like you on our team.”

He finished his coffee, thanked us all again, and we walked him out to his car. Before he left, he handed me a small, silver token.

“Put that in your wallet with your license,” he said quietly to me. “It’s not official, but if you get stopped and any state trooper in the country sees that, they will know you are a friend. It won’t get you off anything serious, but let’s just say the trooper may be more inclined to issue a warning than a ticket.”

“Thank you,” I said, immediately placing it in my wallet.

“Thanks again,” said the captain, shaking my hand. He got into his car and left.

Dean stood behind me. I could feel he was not pleased.

I turned around and fixed him with a glare. “Don’t you dare even say it!” I said. I think that took him by surprise. “If you think for one moment I would have gone anywhere near that if there had been any risk at all to the girls, then you and I need to have a serious talk. From the moment I stepped out of the truck, I had full control of that perp. He couldn’t have passed gas unless I permitted it. Everything else was just for show.”

“What if he had resisted?” he asked.

“There was never a chance of that,” I said. “For fuck’s sake, Pops. Do you really think I would put any of my girls at risk for anyone else?”

He stood staring for a moment and then shook his head.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just know how fluid those situations can be. I don’t understand your powers well enough to be sure he couldn’t have broken free.”

“I thought you understood me well enough to know I wouldn’t put Ness or Jules at risk.” I stepped past him and went back into the house.

Ness and I made dinner. While we cleared up afterward, I was surprised to see Dean and Jules deep in conversation. They were out on the deck and I was in the kitchen, but I could see them through the window.

“What’s going on with you and Daddy?” asked Ness as we worked.

“He got mad at me,” I said. “He thinks I put you in danger when I stopped to help that trooper.”

She considered that for a moment. “So why are you mad with him?” she asked.

“Because he should know that there is nobody in the world more precious to me than you girls,” I said. “If I thought for a microsecond that there was any danger to you, there’s no way I would have stopped. I thought he trusted me. I guess I’m just disappointed.”

When Dean grabbed the beers out of the fridge and went out onto the deck, I almost didn’t go. I saw both Cheryl and Ness watching me, and decided to join him.

“I thought you weren’t going to come out,” Dean said softly.

“I’m sorry, Pops,” I said. “I shouldn’t have gotten mad at you. I know you are only looking after your daughters. I just got so used to having you at my back that it hurt when you weren’t there. I promise you, if there had been even the slightest risk to either of them, I would never have done what I did.”

“I know you wouldn’t,” he said. “But as you said, they are my little girls, and it was a shock. I’ve seen so many things happen - situations where we thought we had everything under control and then before you know it, half the team is dead. I never worked with anyone with Compulsion. All the Psi-Ops I worked with were Empaths or Telepaths. I didn’t - don’t - know how it works.

“If you say that you had the guy controlled, then I believe you. I’m sorry for doubting you, Caleb. Hell, you don’t deserve it after all you have done for us. I should have trusted you.” He stood and pulled me up and into a hug.

“We still can’t have sex,” I said to him, and he guffawed and slapped me on the back. We took our seats again.

“Jules said I should ask you to show me what it is like to be Compelled,” he said.

“To what end?” I asked. “Aside from a couple of very horny teens with a strange fetish, I don’t know anyone who enjoys it. Illusions are fun because you have no idea what’s happening. You are still in control of your own bodies. Compulsion, by itself, can get very ugly and very traumatic.”

“It was my job for a long time to do things I didn’t enjoy,” he said. “It’s so that I can understand. She said that if I understood how complete the control is, I would never again worry if situations like that occurred.”

“What about the trust?” I asked. “If you trusted me, then you shouldn’t need proof. Besides, I really don’t want to do that to you. As stupid as it sounds, although I know I could at a whim get you to do anything I wanted, doing so would diminish you in my eyes. I don’t call you ‘Pops’ just for fun. I have started to consider you almost as a father. I am leaning on your strength, and it’s really helping me. Having you at my back makes me feel safe when so many others are looking to me for that feeling. I don’t want to lose that.”

Dean stared at me for a long moment and then nodded. “Forget I ever mentioned it,” he said at last. “I trust you, and you can trust me to always have your back.” He might have said more, but the kitchen door opened, and our evening session came to an end. He raised his bottle to me and downed the remains before standing to go and sit next to Cheryl.

I saw him talking quietly to her, and after a moment, Cheryl looked across at me. From that distance I couldn’t see, but I suspected her eyes were wet. She gave me a soft smile. I jumped a little as Ness climbed into my lap.

“Did you and Daddy make up?” she asked.

I nodded. “Although he was disappointed when I told him he would have to wait so long for the make-up sex.”

Ness’s eyes went wide. “You told him?” she asked, incredulous.

I nodded again, grinning. “He said that a promise is a promise, and that if you could wait, then so could he.”

She went scarlet and hid her face. I chuckled and put my arms around her, hugging her to me.


The next morning, I sent a text to Dianna.

_Got involved with local LEOs yesterday – assisted arrest. Will stop by on way home to give you memory.

_Already had a call from Frank about it. He seemed happy. Do need the memory though but not urgent.

I spent a good part of the morning with Ness at the DMV, getting the tags for our cars. Even during the holiday season it was a depressing place, staffed by depressing people, whose only entertainment, it seemed, was to frustrate those they were there to assist.

We got through it, though, without my causing too many people discomfort.

The days were starting to speed up again. I went alone to collect the painting from Helen. It was perfect. I had deliberately gone on my own, as I didn’t want the girls to see it. Helen was good enough to parcel it up in brown paper for me. I put it in my truck and headed back.

New Year’s was, to me, as anticlimactic as Christmas. I never really knew what all the fuss was about. I played along with the festivities though, and as the clock struck midnight and Dean kissed Cheryl, I was treated to four equally-searing kisses - one, from each of my girls.

Then the twins went and kissed Dean while Cheryl showed me perhaps where Jules and Ness had inherited their skills from.

Jules and Ness both pecked Dean on the cheek while I tried to recover my equilibrium.

Ness started to get a little clingy for the last couple of days of the holiday, wanting to be with me all the time. I didn’t mind; I was going to miss her too, and was glad to be able to spend as much time with her as possible.

The night before we were due to leave, we packed up everything and got it loaded into my new truck. We wanted to get an early start since making the detour to Dianna’s would add at least a couple of hours onto the journey. As I lay in bed that last night, I felt Ness shaking slightly as she cried quietly, trying not to disturb the others. I pulled her into my arms and whispered into her ear how much I loved her, and how we would be back for her birthday in three months. I flexed my power, letting love and comfort wash over her. My power was joined by Amanda’s and Mary’s, each of us gently consoling and soothing the teen - and, to be honest, ourselves, too, since the pending separation was already affecting us.

Jules, behind Ness, stroked her hair softly as we soothed her to sleep.

I gave my last performance to the dogs the next morning, and then showered while Ness cooked us all a final breakfast. We were going to set out immediately after, and so she loaded us up.

Once more we went along the line saying goodbye. Hugs and kisses were dispensed, and once again Ness came back to me for a final hug.

“I’m going to miss you, squirt,” I said quietly in her ear, and she sniffed. “But it’s only two months and twenty-eight days.”

She finally released me and I climbed into the truck. With a great deal of reluctance, we set off for home.

The journey was easy. The truck ate up the miles, and it was comfortable and quiet - aside from when we put music on the top-of-the-line infotainment system. We stopped for lunch about halfway between Dean’s and Dianna’s, but we didn’t stop for long, only taking the time to wolf down some food and drink before hitting the road again.

We had set off at just after six, and we rolled up outside Dianna’s house at five in the evening.

I had never been there before. I was expecting some kind of old, rambling, creepy country house. What I found was a house not too dissimilar to ours - perhaps a little smaller in footprint, but over two floors so in square footage it was probably bigger.

Dianna heard the truck pull up and came to meet us.

Amanda had texted her our approximate arrival time, and Dianna had cooked dinner. She seemed to think that I might refuse, worried about being drugged out of my powers, but I decided that I needed to put that to bed.

“Dianna,” I said. “About what I said at the ranch.”

She looked at me.

“I was angry,” I said. “No, that’s a lie. I was incandescent with rage, and you were in my way. I didn’t mean what I said. I was lashing out, and I’m sorry that you bore the brunt of it.

“I got you this,” I finished, “by way of an apology.”

The girls all crowded in. None of them had seen the picture. Indeed, they had not known it was for Dianna, only that I had commissioned it. Jules, who had been grilled mercilessly by all three of them, had not seen the photograph I had shown Helen in the illusion.

Dianna ripped open the paper and turned the picture so she could see it. It was a picture of a younger her, although she didn’t look much different. In her arms she was holding a baby – me.

Her power washed over all of us. She hadn’t even meant to do it. I felt the love. There was barely any forgiveness mixed in, and that was because she didn’t think I needed it.

“It’s perfect,” she said.

Coyote HowardReport 

2023-03-14 00:39:36
As always, another great chapter.

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