I dug around in the pile of storage boxes I had sequestered into the weird alcove corner a support beam in my room provided me. One box looked promising. I hadn’t gotten into it from five years ago. I shifted some papers and random shirts off the top and found the black fabric I was after.
“You want our help, but you don’t want us touching you? What gives, boss? It’s what we do. We’re Providentia. What good are we if we aren’t buffing?” Paul demanded. I tossed my prototype trench coat at him. He caught it, perplexed, and shook it out. “What’s this for?”
Aurelia’s little one wiggled and moaned in frustration. She tried to hold onto him, but he was determined to get away. “Momma, I want to play with Astrum!” Rain demanded. Aurelia sighed and set him down. Abby and Sam were peeking in from the hallway to see what all the fuss was about. “Go play, but be careful about the stairs. Solis, make sure he gets down okay and doesn’t eat anything around Clavis’s station!” Aurelia directed.
“Yes, ma’am.” Sam held out his hand for Abby and Rain.
“I promise I’ll get you back to your son.” I handed her the trench coat Vestitor had finished for Sanctus. I had commissioned the piece to give him on Persephone’s Feast day, which I had missed due to my unconscious state.
“What’s with the trench coats?” Aurelia pulled it on. The hem fell all the way to her ankles, and the sleeves were too long. It was too tight for her figure, refusing to button over her hips or bust.
I slid onto my bed to regard the two quietly. The wound in my side was hot and throbbing again, but the coagulant had done its job sealing it. They glanced at each other nervously. I rubbed at the bandaging in hopes of relieving the pain. “Tell me if you don’t want to do this. Okay? I’ll find another way. There are always other ways. This just seemed to be one idea that might work.”
“Boss?” Paul swallowed.
“You remember the Angelus soldiers, right? The ones that gathered you all up in the town square, yeah?” I asked. They nodded. “You remember ever hearing about Sweepers?” I pressed. Aurelia shook her head. Paul nodded. “Sweepers are Providentia. I’d stake my life on that claim at this point. They were Angelus military and were used to ferret out Ustor. You three were some kind of mutation that didn’t get picked up by the military. Outliers. You remember the news about me, right?” I asked.
“Sure, the Lamia of the Hades Purge. It was all over the radios they insisted on playing in the detention camps. Wipes out an entire city worth of buildings. Lots of people died. Blast radius didn’t pick up everything, reason we’re alive, but it did a lot of damage.” Paul answered.
“I had never exhibited any symptoms until your brother touched me,” I told him. He blinked, his brows furrowing. “Honestly, and I haven’t told more than Mater, Cortex, and Tempestatis this, so I don’t need it leaving this room: I don’t think I can do that level of damage again unless a Providentia is touching me. I think I did that much damage because Sanctus grabbed my hand when he went for my gun, and you two were clinging to him.”
“You think you were more powerful because all of us were boosting you?” Aurelia asked.
“Maybe? I know from what Medicus said when I passed out, I still exploded with enough force to take down a building. Tempestatis said I left a depression in the street, and there were scorch marks four buildings over. I’m still pretty destructive, but not like what got me thrown in here. Sanctus shared his power a couple times with me when we rescued you from Mercurius, but it was never a lot, or for long.”
“If we’re going up against Gemma, isn’t that more reason for us to be there, to buff you?” Paul demanded.
“Let’s not go decimating a building on top of us, shall we?” I retorted.
A dawning light reached his eyes. “Oh. Oh…yeah, no, let’s not buff you. I’d like to keep living.”
“Exactly. What I need from you two is to be there, at my side and to take commands without hesitation until Gemma is dead. No balking, no squawking. Those coats are blast-proof, at least the one I gave Aurelia is. You got my old test coat, Paul. It should hold up, maybe? I only used it a couple times before Vestitor found me some other materials for the one I have on now.”
“Why the trench? This is too tight for me by the way. It’s nice, but I can’t breath with all this crap in it.” Aurelia buried her fingers into the shearling wool sewn into the lapels of the brown and black strapped leather before pulling it off and handing it back to me. Inner layers of aramid and metal plating fit into steel boning, lending structure to the design. Sanctus’s eye for detail was all over it. Rivets, buckles, pockets and zippers. His fingers had been in it without knowing it was for him. Vestitor had kept my name anonymous on the receipts. It had taken me three months to save for the piece after our war with Mercurius. I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out.
I fretted with the cuff and contemplated Aurelia. I pulled my regular trench off and handed it over to her. She pulled it over her shoulders. It was wide enough to button fully, though it dragged on the floor. A couple safety pins fixed that problem.“You’re going in with one of these on. Gemma is a sadistic psycho. She hurts Sanctus to get more power out of him. He’s a toy to her, not even quite a pet. She’s the type that would take the heads off dolls and pull teeth from dogs. I hate it, but she doesn’t understand common reason. I’m going in with the goal of playing her game her way to get in close.”
“Go in with two shiny new pet Providentia and show her you can tame them faster than she can?” Aurelia touched her lip in contemplation. I nodded.
“You’re hoping she’ll drop her guard?” Paul asked.
“Main goal is to get Sanctus away from her. Secondary goal is to burn her people to the ground. She’s being overprotective because of the siege. I have one chance in, and currently my co-leader and right-hand men are all nixed out of the party arrangements. She won’t let me in with any of my regular crew. She never said anything about bringing along a pair of Sancti, though. Right now, I’m in no shape to exchange much more than sharp wit with the woman.” I leaned back, waiting for another sharp jab of pain to stop its stranglehold on my lung.
“I don’t want Gemma having him. So don’t get me wrong, here, but, why are you so interested in getting him back?” Paul asked.
I swallowed nervously at the question. Paul’s grey eyes wouldn’t let me look away. “If I said I wanted to ask him to join me in being a father to Sam and Abby, would that make sense?” I asked.
He cocked his head and frowned. “You want him to help you parent?”
“I don’t think that’s what he means, Paul.” Aurelia had grasped my meaning.
“I’m not following, Aura.” Paul pulled his trench off and laid it over his arm.
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you, Lunam?” she asked gently. My teeth locked up. Did I have to admit this to his siblings? I swallowed and nodded.
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