Chapter Thirty- Five: Ashe
It's Been Lovely
He had a bare patch at the back of his head where the feathers had been shaved off, but they would grow back in time.
He could hardly believe it was time to go home already. A couple days before, in the midst of all the death and destruction, the idea of a normal life had seemed unlikely at best.
Akemi had stopped by to bring them their dragon tickets. The kitsune had given him a big hug, which seemed suspiciously out of character.
Now Jaxx waited for him to get himself together.
Funny thing, though. He wasn’t sure he wanted to return to a normal life.
Sure, it seemed like a pleasant enough idea, but here, for a few weeks, he’d been a part of something bigger than himself. He’d found new friends, and together they’d made a difference in some things that really mattered.
Rolly and Tibo were already gone. The pair had made their rounds earlier in the day, and apparently were heading for the banshee’s familial estate in Ireland.
Ashe shook his head. Tibo was going to go crazy in the countryside. He was lucky he had Rolly.
For his part, Ashe felt lucky to call the two of them friends.
“You about ready?” Jaxx asked, coming up behind him to put his hands around Ashe’s waist.
“I guess so.”
“It’s weird, isn’t it?”
Ashe turned to face his satyr. “Yeah, It kind of is.”
“To go from something like this…” Jaxx gestured to the room and the facility surrounding them, “…to making rounds back at the University of Arizona, looking at bunions and goiters and magical curses.”
“Hospital to hospital.”
Jaxx laughed. “I guess so.”
“So what do we do next?”
Jaxx shrugged. “I don’t know. But I’m encouraged that you said ‘we’. Not planning to leave me behind again, are you?”
Ashe pulled him in. “Never.” He kissed Jaxx, and Jaxx responded. Ashe smiled through the kiss. “A little eager, are we?” he asked, looking down.
“Let’s just say I can’t wait to get you home.”
“Am I interrupting something?” Mal poked his head into the room.
“Not at all. Come on in.” Ashe and Jaxx sat on the bed together, and Mal and Kaden came to sit in the two plastic visitor chairs. “I’m glad you came, actually.” Ashe looked at Jaxx, who nodded. “I wanted to talk with you before we left.”
“Ever forgive me for breaking them wings of yours?” Mal asked with a lazy grin.
“It was only the one. It’s not like I really needed it.”
“Yeah, right. I was being careful or I would have broken them both.”
Ashe snorted. “I wanted to tell you. I found the man who had my parents killed. His name is Dr. Dexter Cooper—he’s a phoenix too.”
Jaxx jumped in. “He and Ashe had a knock-down, drag-out mid-air fight.”
Ashe laughed. “It wasn’t that big of a deal. Anyhow, Akemi has him now.”
“I wouldn’t want to be in her clutches.” Mal’s smile said he’d like to see what she did to the good doctor, though.
“Me neither,” Ashe said. “But Mal, he was working on something the Guild should know about.”
“A dragon, right?”
Ashe nodded. “Yeah. A dragon that could take out a medium-sized city all by itself.”
“What in the ever-loving fuck?” Mal sat up, his face white.
Ashe nodded. “They were weaponizing dragons.”
“That’s the stupidest piece of shit I’ve ever heard. We spend half our time running down rogue jennys, trying to limit the damage natural dragons can do, and someone’s breeding dragons for World War III?”
“The program’s been shut down, or at least Akemi said so. But you should tell the guild. If they’ll listen.”
“All right, mate.” He shook his head. “Weaponized dragons. Don’t that take all.”
Kaden laughed. “Sometimes I think Nidhogg is weaponized. At least, he has daggers for eyes.”
“Only when he doesn’t like you.” Mal sighed. “So you’re off?”
Jaxx nodded. “Akemi chartered us a dragon. It’s a long flight, but at least it’s direct. It will be nice to be back home.”
“You’re telling me. If Tucson were on our way home, I’d volunteer to take you with us.”
Ashe laughed. “I think you’ve already filled your passenger roster.”
They stood, and Mal grabbed Ashe and hugged him fiercely, slapping him on the back. “Good luck, friends. We’ll see each other again.”
“You think so?” Ashe asked. They lived so far apart, and had literally nothing in common but this accursed quest.
“There’s always the next great conspiracy.” Kaden hugged him too.
“Bite your tongue,” Jaxx said with a bitter laugh. “One of these was enough for me.”
Jaxx followed Ashe out of the hospital into the afternoon sun. They’d stopped to check in with Edwige, Aegeus and Nootau. There was going to have to be some serious healing there, both inside and out.
"Take care of the boys,” he’d whispered to Edwige, and she’d given him a gentle peck on the cheek.
There was a black car waiting for them in the courtyard of the facility. They threw their bags in the back, and turned to find Akemi waiting for them. She was spooky quiet like that, sometimes.
“Safe travels,” she said. “You and your friends have done us a great service.”
“Without much help from you,” Ashe grumbled.
“What was that?” Her brow was creased.
Jaxx shook his head. You didn’t want to make a kitsune angry. “What Ashe meant was that we are grateful to you too for bringing Cooper to justice. What will happen to him?”
“He’ll no longer be a problem. To you, or anyone.” There was steel in her words.
“Okay then. Akemi, it’s been lovely…”
He gave her a hug, and Ashe shook her hand.
“You’ll hear from me again.” She turned and strode back inside, leaving them alone with the driver.
Jaxx took one last look around the grounds, and up at the castle, glowing golden in the late afternoon sun. “Well, that happened.”
Ashe grinned and opened the car door for him like a real gentleman.
Jaxx pulled him inside, happy to see they had a privacy barrier between them and the driver. He pulled Ashe in for a kiss as the engine started.
Maybe they didn’t need to wait until they got home.