Team, 50

It’s Hard to Get a Quiet Moment to Yourselves When Everyone Just Wants to Talk about the Fate of the World

Ao3 Link

It had been a long day and a lot of people owed each other explanations, so they all kind of gathered on the deck of the large naval flagship. Gavin had started by giving the fleet admiral and Natalie’s people a rundown of how they’d gotten here, which came off as impressively coherent seeing as how it had been a mostly incomprehensible sequence of events for those of them who’d lived through them. Cal was impressed.

“So basically he just invited himself along?” Wes asked Cal quietly.

Cal nodded. “Basically. I think he was bored.”

“Worked out okay for us,” Mick said. “Though now we’re stuck with him for God knows how long.”

“No, I really don’t.” Cal had a feeling it would be a while.

“It’s a good thing we took a shortcut here, since it transpires you’d not have been in Pelican Bay when we came to help,” Gavin was saying to the fleet admiral, arms crossed.

“Apologies, your Highness. But there was a rather pressing situation involving a dangerous magic-practitioner.” The fleet admiral was old enough to be Gavin’s grandfather and was obviously nervous. Which was fair with Gavin being a prince and all, but also kind of silly. “Not to mention the fact that we didn’t know you were coming.”

“There is that,” Gavin admitted with a slightly petulant sigh. “You might also have mentioned that had you not left when you did, my people wouldn’t have had a way out of the castle.” Oh, well at least he knew he was being silly.

“I have every faith that you’d have managed to commandeer a pirate ship, your Highness,” the admiral said, smiling. “Nonetheless, I am pleased that it all worked out as it did.”

“Yes, me too. Thank you for your cooperation. I realize I was not being very rational.”

“None of us is rational when the people we care about are in peril, your Highness.”

According to Beatrice and Sully, Gavin had been almost manic about rescuing the people in the castle—about rescuing Owen. He’d evidently threatened Sully and Louis and then taken over the flagship in all in a span of fifteen minutes. Cal could relate.

“No, we’re not,” Gavin agreed. “Okay, speaking of which.” He turned, looking at Pax, who was standing there with Natalie. “You’re dating the Sea King? How’s that going?”

Cal thought he could be a little less gruff about it seeing as Pax’s boyfriend was still evil and now they didn’t know where he was. It was kind of a rough situation.

“It’s going very well, actually,” Pax said firmly. “Our relationship has never been stronger.” He didn’t sound upset, which was some good compartmentalizing.

“My son Nate is the one wearing the Sea King’s Regalia,” Natalie put in, saving poor Pax. “It’s possessed him.” Man, Cal thought. Both of them were really having a bad day then.

Poor Pax wasn’t all that interested in being saved, it seemed. “The Sea King possessed him. That’s an important distinction because it abrogates responsibility from Nate for all the evil Sea King things that the Sea King—not Nate—has been doing. Abrogate means to do away with. You seem like you probably know that, your Highness. I was defining it because I’m not sure your ox-friend here knows.” While Cal tried not to snort at the look on Owen’s face, Pax continued. “The point being that the Sea King is a malevolent consciousness who was allowed to form when the Regalia came into contact with one another and he’s taken over Nate’s body, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s Nate who’s evil.”

Well, that explained why people who held pieces of the Regalia went insane.

“You talk too much,” Owen said gruffly, giving Pax a look. “Just get to the point.”

“The point is incredibly nuanced, Sir Ox,” Pax insisted, “and I don’t want to distill it and risk missing out on important details that would lead you to stabbing my boyfriend again.”

“Which would lead to you stabbing me again,” Owen finished. Cal hadn’t realized that Pax had stabbed him. He seemed fine.

“Yes, probably,” Pax said, very confident.

“Which would lead to me stabbing you, so yeah, I can see why that would be bad.”

“You could try.” Someone should tell him that encouraging Owen was a bad idea.

“I’m very good at stabbing things,” Owen explained.

“Me too. Should we have a contest?” Pax asked, smiling nicely. “Oh, wait, we already did and I won on account of you got stabbed and I didn’t.”

Cal liked Pax. It was kind of too bad he already had a job.

“Anyway,” Gavin interrupted. “The Sea King got away. And he took your boyfriend with him.”

“Sorry about that,” Owen, sounding only slightly apologetic.

“Only part of him,” Pax said, still calm. He pulled a round medallion out from inside his shirt. “Nate’s soul is in here. The Sea King has his body—which is still bad, don’t get me wrong, I quite like Nate’s body and I do think we ought to retrieve it soon—but the important parts of Nate are in here.”

Cal glanced at his own recently recovered boyfriends, thinking that if he’d only gotten their souls back he wouldn’t be quite so pleased. Mostly because though he loved them with all his heart, there were also very physical parts of them he was very glad to have back in addition to their minds and souls.

Still, he was happy for Pax.

“Well, that’s weird,” Owen said, simplifying Cal’s thoughts rather a lot.

“Do you see me judging your relationships?” Pax snapped.

“I meant how did that happen?” Owen said, sounding tired.

Natalie had the answer to that one. “Pax’s knife cuts souls,” she said, as if that made sense.

Actually…Cal leaned back. “Didn’t we steal something like that about a year ago?” he asked Mick.

Mick nodded, speaking quietly. “Yes. From a Lady Redwater, if I remember right?”

“Sold it in Merket, didn’t you?” Wes asked. “Wonder how he got it?”

Cal wondered too, but there was no time to ask.

“One of my knives, I have several,” Pax was saying. “Listen, I don’t suppose the mysterious voice you heard at the end of the battle told you where it was taking Nate, did it? Because that would be useful.”

“No,” Owen said with a shake of his head.

“The magic it used was very powerful,” Mathilda said, arms crossed over her chest. “He could be anywhere.”

“Great,” Gavin muttered. “So we have no leads on the Sea King.”

“Not quite,” Cal said. He took a breath. He’d been thinking about this since the end of the battle. “That creature, that entity. I’ve met it before. Around the end of last winter. It was possessing a dead body in a swamp and it attacked us.” He tried to keep his voice even as he thought of Toby, but that wasn’t the part that mattered right now. What mattered was that he’d encountered that thing twice, with one common denominator. “It was trying to steal a magical stone, which isn’t important except that we were there for the stone on the orders of the same man who sent us after the Regalia.” Two jobs for Theodore in a row had ended with an encounter with that monster and Cal couldn’t imagine it was a coincidence.

“You think that thing knows Theodore?” Mick asked him, frowning. Cal hadn’t mentioned it to them yet. There hadn’t been a lot of time.

“I think they have more common interests than you’d expect from strangers,” Cal said. He wasn’t sure what to think, but it was something, anyway.

“This Theodore might know something, then,” Gavin muttered thoughtfully.

“Aren’t we getting a bit off track?” Owen asked, obviously missing the significance of all this.

“No.” Fortunately Natalie was both sensible and patient. Cal liked her too. “Because the Sea King represents a huge threat—the collected power of everyone here is not insubstantial and he overpowered all of us. That shadow is our only lead on him—and Theodore might be our only lead on the shadow.”

“We’ll go see him,” Gavin said. “Where is he?”

“Merket,” Cal told him. He thought about mentioning that Theodore was kind of a creep, but decided against that for now. It wasn’t important to the task at hand.

“I’m not going up there for the winter again,” Gavin said with a scowl. “We’ll summon him to Pelican Bay when we get there and talk to him. One of the benefits of being royal. We’ll get your Nate back,” he promised, addressing Pax.

“I know,” Pax said, sounding certain. Cal wished he’d been that certain when he’d lost Wes and Mick. “I very rarely fail at things and I suspect you’re the same. Between the two of us we’ll probably be fine. I guess everyone else will be there too. They can hold our coats.”

Well, okay then. Cal had never felt that his supposedly godlike powers were more useless than he did right now. Not that he actually seemed to have any godlike powers, so maybe Pax wasn’t wrong.

“Works for me. Actually, on that note,” Gavin turned to Cal. “Answers. You promised them to me at the Citadel. Who the fuck are you?”

Shit. Cal had hoped that Gavin would forget about that in all the chaos. But he shrugged. “I told you, I’m God. It’s kind of a long story but the short version is that the Catechism worships this guy named Nathen only they’ve forgotten his name, and I’m the reincarnation of Nathen. That’s why the demons and angels are all fucking around with my life.”

He took a bit of a page out of Pax’s book and just sort of put it out there all at once, but talking that exhaustively was harder than it seemed.

Owen seemed skeptical, which was fair. “You don’t look much like God.”

“Because, what?” Cal challenged, figuring the confidence bit didn’t work if he didn’t keep it up. “You’ve seen him before?”

“Fair enough,” Owen was forced to admit, though he looked unhappy. A lot of people looked unhappy. Too bad.

“Calvin is telling the truth,” Bartholomew said, from behind Owen. “Which he really shouldn’t be, the more people who know about this, the more people are in danger.” He said that with a pointed look at Cal.

“People are in danger anyway,” Sully snorted. “They have a right to know why.”

“Yeah, they do,” Bartholomew said, sounding resigned and leaving Cal wondering why he’d brought it up if he was just going to immediately change his mind. “I’ll be leaving shortly. I need to report all this to the archangel. But we’re very concerned about the Sea King, and I think he’ll be very concerned about that shadow as well. You’ll likely have our aid in combatting him.”

“Your aid is dubious at best,” Pax said darkly, and Cal kind of agreed. He’d had one job at the Citadel and he hadn’t managed to pull it off.

“Every effort will be made to defeat the Sea King without hurting Nate, you have my word.”

“Wonderful.” Pax didn’t sound convinced, which Cal wasn’t either. He doubted that angels were going to care about Nate in the midst of what could be something really dangerous.

“Bartholomew wouldn’t lie,” Sully said, sounding convinced.

“He did tell me his name was Augustus Drake for several weeks.”

“Well…” Sully didn’t seem to have an answer to that. “He’s a bit weird.”

“Thank you for the resounding support, Sullivan,” Bartholomew said, holding back a laugh. “Can we talk?”

At Sully’s nod, the two of them went off, leaving Cal wondering what they were talking about. Sully would probably tell him later anyway.

“This is turning into quite the coalition,” Gavin said, looking around at them like they were his court. “The crown, the navy, God, some angels, some demons, some dragons. I almost feel bad for the Sea King and company.”

“Don’t make the mistake of underestimating them,” Sharon said, just when Cal had thought she might stay quiet the whole meeting. “The Sea King is very powerful—and I expect that shadow is as well. And the pirate lord is nothing to scoff at either. From what I can tell, he’s got very powerful magic behind him. Even with most of his ships captured, he’s dangerous. All three of them are.”

“Do you know what kind of magic?” Mick asked cautiously.

“No, I’m afraid not,” Sharon told him, and Cal wondered if that were true. “There was too much going on for me to get a good sense of it.” He was watching her carefully, and felt her keeping an eye on him too.

“It felt like necromancy,” Lillian said immediately. “I was distracted during the fight. But it felt like necromancy to me.” Beatrice patted her hand.

“Necromancy doesn’t blast holes in people and walls,” Gavin accused.

“It can,” Lillian disagreed, before Cal could. “If it’s used properly.”

“You must not count me as part of your coalition,” Mathilda announced suddenly. “As a warning. I have things to do and I cannot sit around for months—if you wish to fight the Sea King again, you may call me, but I will only be staying with you until we are off this wretched ship and I can fly home.”

“Flying over water is hard,” Louis clarified. Fair enough, Cal figured.

“Too bad. Having you around is useful,” Owen said, smiling at her.

“I know,” Mathilda said, smiling back. “You are also useful. For a human.”

“I try.”

“It shows.” Mathilda looked at Gavin. “I want my Sceptre back, but I am a busy person. I will give you the means to call me when you need my help again. I trust this will be sufficient.” Cal wondered if Gavin was going to get an imp on his arm. He also wondered what exactly it was that Mathilda had to do. Did dragons have social lives?

But then, she had had furniture in her cave. Maybe she often had guests.

“Yes, it should be,” Gavin said, very graciously. “Thank you.”

Darby put his hand on Owen’s arm and started signing back and forth at him. Mick had been interpreting for him for most of the conversation, but it seemed like Owen could understand him pretty well. “What are they saying?” Cal asked Mick.

“Just that Darby wants to help Owen,” Mick muttered.

“Man, you rescue them and then they just go and bond with the first knight they see,” Cal said, shaking his head. “Kids these days.”

“No loyalty,” Wes agreed.

“He said he’s from too far away to get home,” Pax said suddenly, getting Owen’s attention. “And he’d rather stay and help you than return anyway. I think he likes you. For some reason.”

“Did you have to add that last part?” Owen asked, and Cal thought that yes, he did.

“Yes,” Pax said, signing with Darby. He was obviously fluent. Weird. “He says you’re strong, and he wants to help you.”

“Figured we’d adopt kids someday,” Gavin said to Owen, smiling. “Not quite what I had in mind, but okay.”

“He’s a trainee, calm down.”

That wasn’t the vibe Cal was getting.

“So you’re saying yes to him, then?” Gavin asked.

Owen just sighed, signed at Darby again. “Wasn’t expecting a lunkhead like him to know fingertalk,” Cal said.

“Northern sign,” Mick said. “It’s closer to what Darby uses than southern fingertalk.”

Cal nodded, yawning. Okay. “If there’s nothing else pressing, some of us have had a very long day coming at the end of a very long few months and would like to rest.”

“I can offer you all rooms on the Coral Witch,” Natalie said to Cal, but mostly to Gavin. “I know the admiral is about to do that, but he’s got at least five dozen prisoners in addition to his own crew now.” Cal had watched them take prisoners. There were a lot of them.

“It seems far more appropriate for the prince to remain on the Queen Geneva,” the admiral protested.

“Captain Natalie is right, your people are packed to the rafters already,” said Gavin. “I don’t want to kick half your crew out of what’s left of their space. I’ll kick her crew out instead.”

“Surprised he’d be that accommodating,” Wes said as the admiral relented.

Cal shrugged. “He gave up some of his rooms for us when we passed through Techen’s Stand. He’s an asshole, but he’s not an asshole about it, you know?”

Wes laughed, patting Cal on the back. “God, I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” Cal said, barely getting the chance to smile at him before he noticed Mathilda coming over. “Hold on. I’m sorry we couldn’t get your Sceptre back in the end.”

“It is fine,” Mathilda said, looking at the three of them. “At least one of us got what we wanted.”

“We’ll get it back eventually,” Cal promised her.

“I know. Once we are off this wretched flammable contraption I shall contact some friends of mine and track the Sceptre down.”

Oh. Cal narrowed his eyes at her. “And you’ll tell the rest of us when you do, right?”

“Of course.” Mathilda smiled. “As much as it pains me to admit it, I was not able to defeat him even with the minimal help offered by your friends. I would be foolish to attempt it again on my own, and do I seem like a fool to you?”

“You don’t,” Cal told her. But she wouldn’t be trying it on her own.

“Exactly. This dark creature—you’ve met it before.” Mathilda glanced around. “I should like to hear about this, but in deference to your being tired, I shall wait until another day.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you,” Wes said to Mathilda, as she turned away. “For helping Cal. And for not eating him.”

“He was useful. Eating him would be shortsighted,” Mathilda said, joking, before striding off.

“I like her,” Wes said.

“Me too.”

“It definitely worked out a lot better than it could have,” Mick agreed.

Cal nodded, but before he could say anything else he was beset by another dragon, Joey’s arms wrapping around him suddenly and from nowhere. “Uh. Hi?”

“Hi,” Joey said quietly, holding Cal. “I didn’t get a chance before. To say thank you. For helping me get Travis back.”

Cal smiled, hugged Joey back. He was warm. Cal felt warm. “You’re welcome. Thank you for helping me get Wes and Mick back.”

Joey nodded, taking a deep breath before letting Cal go. He wiped at his eyes. “I guess we should hug Sully too.”


“Why are we hugging me?” Sully asked, joining them.

Cal and Joey pulled him into that hug. “To thank you,” Cal said. “For your help.”

“I didn’t…do that much, guys…” Sully said, sounding massively uncomfortable. “But you’re welcome. I’m glad they’re back.”

“So are we,” Mick said, and arms were wrapping around them all, both of them and Travis joining into a massive, awkward six-way hug that left Cal feeling very safe and happy. “Thank you.” He kind of wanted to hug Beatrice and Lillian too, but they were over there talking to Mathilda now.

“Okay,” Mick said, not letting go. “I’m kind of starving. Do you think one of these boats has food on it?”

“I hope so,” Joey said. “I could eat a whole cow.”

“We’d better go find a cow, then,” Sully teased. “Before he eats one of you.”

“That would be shortsighted,” Cal told him, as they all broke apart and went off together to get something to eat. He finally felt strong again. He finally felt whole again. And that wasn’t a feeling that Cal ever planned to let go of.

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