"Excellent, Lt. Horner," Dr. Weisman says, and Jack snaps suddenly to attention at his name, "You are in excellent mental condition."
"We're done?" Jack asks, feeling like he'd just gotten here. He's never quite gotten the point of these monthly psych evaluations the company makes him do, he just shows up, chats a little with the doctor and before he knows it, the hour is up in what feels like minutes. He doesn't even know what they talk about, really, but it couldn't be important if it can''t remember the conversation right after it's over.
"It was a very productive session," the doctor says with a tight smile, "See you next month."
"I have Weisman's report," Peridot says, interrupting what looks like some serious daydreaming.
"Yes?" Geoffrey says, turning from his window to face her.
There it is again, Peridot thinks, suppressing a frown as her glance falls to the book, ancient, huge, and sealed with a lock. What is it? she wonders, why does he always have it with him?
"It's a journal, of sorts," Geoffrey says, answering her unspoken question, "Written by one of my ancestors. The language is archaic, and very difficult to translate, but I've learned a lot from it."
"About?" The book looks medieval, and Peridot can't imagine what knowledge a modern man with the intelligence Geoffrey possesses could get from that ignorant, superstitious era.
"Love. Loss. And slaying dragons," Geoffrey answers with an elusive smile.
Peridot shrugs, her curiosity about the book at least partially satisfied. She knows what it is, but understanding Geoffrey...Remembering the news she came to deliver, Peridot walks past the book to stand closer to him.
"Our mole in the Brannon's shop brought us something really interesting this time. Bowman paid a visit, and has asked their help in retrieving a dragon's tooth from one of our storehouses in Aurora Skies. Shadow and Iola will be accompanying Delaney and Bowman on this mission."
"If he's asking for a Hawksquill's aid, he must be looking for a very particular tooth, " Geoffrey muses, "I wonder which one, and why now?"
Peridot frowns, wishing he would focus. "Who cares what they want or why. They'll be on our territory. We've never had a better chance to take them."
"No," Geoffrey shakes his head, "We're going to let them take what they want."
"These ancient relics we keep locked away...they're nothing to us, now. No one even believes in dragons anymore. The tourists that come to the museum in Aurora Skies scoff at the tooth we have on display there. Most believe it's a fake, or a dinosaur's tooth. I would guess this particular tooth Bowman is looking to steal belonged to a dragon in his own family, and he means to return it to his relations. It's only right that he does so. My family established its reputation and wealth as dragonslayers, once upon a time. I sometimes wonder how different things might have been if we'd know what they truly were. Knowing what we know now, keeping those trophies seems somewhat barbaric."
"So you're just going to let them infiltrate our storehouse and take what they want?" Peridot demands, cutting him off before he goes too far off on one of his philosophical tangent's.
"Yes," Geoffrey says decisively. "I want you to fly out there ASAP, deliver this book to the museum, tell them I want it placed prominently on display. Also, Bluewater has a base in Aurora Skies, I want Horner's unit deployed there for training."
"You're hoping Horner will run into Delaney, then he can get us inside information," Peridot says, "But why do you want your precious book put in the museum?"
Geoffrey smiles at her unconscious tell, the derisive way she speaks of the medieval journal, jealous of the time he's spent with it. "The Landgraab who wrote it is a distant ancestor of mine, but I do believe he was Shadow's grandfather. And his sons, having the Hawksquill gift along with their Brannon ancestry, will have much more to learn from this tome than I ever could."
"You want them to steal it, too," Peridot frowns, not understanding his motives at all.
The Landgraab castle in Aurora Skies, one of the many castles once owned by the large and prosperous family, has been converted into a museum, preserving and displaying the glory of the Landgraab family during its rise to power. Most tourists visit the town for the hot springs and scenic landscapes, but inevitably tour the museum, as it's the only other attraction available.
"The Landgraab family established their name as dragonslayers early in the medieval era," the docent says, leading a small tour group through the old castle's main hall, "Here we have an actual tooth taken from a dragon as a trophy by Reinier Landgraab himself. The Landgraab family had many dragonslayers, both before and after Reinier, but none were quite so famous as he. Reinier Landgraab was instrumental in extending and consolidating Landgraab power through the continent."
"You don't expect us to believe this dragon slaying nonsense?" one of the tourists pipes up, "That has to be a fake. There's no such thing as dragons."
The docent smiles, used to this reaction. "Of course there are no dragons," he says, "But the people at the time believed in them. While Landgraab name was established based on 'dragonslaying', their power came from the strengt of their armies, and the men who led them."
Iola catches Delaneys eye, shakes he head slightly. She doesn't have to touch this tooth to feel its history. It's not the tooth they've come for.
The docent turns the group's attention to the chairs displayed on the dais, speaking lovingly of the dragon carvings on the arms and back, the care and craftsmanship that went into their construction. Delaney wanders off, pretending to be engrossed by a suit of armor propped up by the wall. Rory stands by her, pretending to be paying close attention to the docent. "That's not it," Delaney says, her voice low.
"They have vaults under the castle, in what used to be the dungeon," Rory says, "That's what we have to break into."
Shadow grips Iola's hand, supporting her. Everything in this room is old and well used, touched by so many, imbued with their histories, and al of it rushes at her, demanding her attention. Is all she can to gather the threads and lock them away in her own mental museum, to sort out later, one memory at a time.
"This place is a shrine to your grandfather," she whispers, "Everything here belonged to him, was used by him. This tooth," she sighs, stopping there. It isn't the tooth they were looking for, but a dragon died in pain for Reinier to get this trophy, and though he's long dead, the agony rolls off the tooth as fresh as if the dragon were giving his last death cry.
"Now, if I could have your attention," the docent calls, "We have something very special for you today. This ancient tome was only just delivered to us yesterday, directly from the Landgraab family's private collection. This is the journal kept by Reinier Landgraab himself, written in his own hand. Imagine what he'd have to say about his life, the stories that must be contained withn it. Alas, the language he wrote in is too antiquated for any but scholars of the time to read," The docent says, smiling proudly at the new acquisition.
"You think he tells where he got his fake dragon teeth from?" the skeptical tourist asks.
Iola stands engrossed by the old journal. She'd be able to read its contents without knowing the language it was written in, if only she could get her hands on it.
After their tour is over, their group splits up, Iola and Shadow returning to the bed and breakfast they're staying at, Rory going off on his own to case the security situation at h museum, to formulate a plan for breaking into the vaults beneath it, leaving Delaney to wander the town on her own. Without much else to do, she stops into a local cafe for a drink.
"Do they make you wear that hat?" Delaney wonders. The cat eared cap seems like an odd choice for a work uniform, "I wore a cap like that to my high school graduation," she remembers out loud.
"Hot blonde at 6 o'clock," Adam says, walking casually away from the pool table to stand by his friends.
"Concentrate on your game," Jack says.
"Just because you're eternally faithful doesn't mean the rest of us have to play dead," Jessie quips.
"I saw her first," Adam says.
"Winner takes all," Jessie says, pointing to the pool table with his stick.
Jack starts to laugh, then turns suddenly at the sound of the voice ordering pastries behind him. She turned away from him, but there's no mistaking Delaney.
"Baby, it's you," he says, grabbing her from behind.
Delaney's hand reaches behind her instinctively, ready to throw her assailant to the ground, but as she recognizes him, her grab becomes a caress. "What are you doing here?" she asks.
Questions and answers can wait. Jack turns Delaney around for a deep kiss.
"Woo, Horner, Horner!" the guys chant his name behind the couple.
"I guess I should introduce you to my unit," Jack sighs, presenting Delaney proudly to Jessie and Adam. "I told you guys, I'm the luckiest man in the world, right?"
"It can't be a coincidence," Shadow says, holding Iola's had while she strokes his hair, "My grandfather's journal showing up just in time for us to see it. It must be a sign, something the universe wants us to see."
"Or the Landgraabs know we're here and put that book there," Iola counters.
"But they don't know we're here. We're traveling under fake names. And the fairies have put a strong glamour on us to protect us," Shadow says, trying to comfort her. "Besides, if they knew we were here, why would they put Reiner's journal out for us to see? No, they'd be coming after us."
"I suppose you're right," Iola says, "It just feels wrong."
Jack follows Delaney back to her room, where she can explain in private how she happens to be in this same town.
"I thought you quit the business," Jack says when she tells him she's here to do a job with Cole.
"I did. But he asked for my help on this, as a favor."
"I don't suppose I want to know what the job is," Jack says with a laugh, and Delaney shakes her head.
"Best not," she she answers.
"Strange how your job and mine both brought us out to the middle of nowhere at the same time," Jack observes.
"You didn't tell me you were being deployed overseas," Delaney says.
"It's just training," Jack says, "And it happened so fast, we got our orders and shipped out right away."
"And your training involves hanging around cafes playing pool?" Delaney laughs,
"We have a couple of day's leave. There's shit all to do here, and the guys were hoping to meet some girls." Delaney gives him a look, and Jack laughs, "Hey, not me, You know I don't want anyone but you."
Delaney smiles, "I know. I feel the same."
Jack doesn't respond, but he looks away from her for just a second. Putting her hand on his cheek, she forces him to look her in the eyes, "You don't believe me," she says.
"Laney," he sighs, "I want to get past that..."
"But you can't, if you still think I might cheat on you," she finishes for him, "You've always been the only one, Jack. I know that's hard to believe, since I did cheat on you. But, that wasn't about me wanting Ian. That night was my first real job, Jack, and you know how the adrenaline flows through you on a job, you come out all amped up. And I liked that feeling, I wanted to have that al the time. I wanted in on your team, Jack, and I knew you would try to stop me, I knew you wanted out of that life. So I did what I thought I had to do to get myself in, and keep you in. I never wanted Ian, Jack. Even when I was with him, I was thinking of you."
"Laney, please," Jack begs, "I don't want to know this."
"You have to know, Jack," she insists, guiding toward the bed, "What I did was stupid, and wrong. I've held you back in so many ways, and I don't deserve you. But I know you love me, and you need to know how much I love you, how much I've always loved you."
He'd never thought about it that way, that she'd been holding him back. But, it's kind of true, he realizes, he got expelled from high school protecting her, he got involved in crime to make money so he could take care of her and Jace, he'd gotten thrown jail by her father. And now she's telling him she slept with Ian as way to get herself more deeply involved with Cole's racket, which kept him involved in it even while he wanted a way out. It's all true, but none of it matters, knowing it doesn't make him love her any less. He'd do it all again, just to be with her here, now, making love on this creaky bed.
"There's something else I have to tell you," she whispers before he drifts off into sleep.
"Can it wait?" jack asks wearily, not ready for another confession.
"No, I don't want to have any more secrets from you," she ays, "Do you remember that time I went to stay at Cole's place?"
Jack groans. That was when Ian told him about him and Laney, while trying to warn him about what might be going on between her and their boss. "You told me nothing happened," he says, "Did you lie to me?"
"No," Laney says, "No, I've never slept with Cole. We've never been remotely romantic. What I have to tell you is much bigger than that. The reason Cole wanted to see me was...well, he wanted to tell me that he's a dragon. And that I'm one too." Delaney look up into hi eyes, to gauge his reaction before she proceeds, and is surprised to see not disbelief, but mild confusion in his expression.
"That's what you were telling me in the dream," he says, his eyes growing distant as he looks back into his memory, "I didn't think anything of it, I thought it was just some childish story. But that's what you said, that you just learned your friend was a dragon."
"Now you've lost me," Delaney says.
"That day Ian told me, you know, about you, I went off to get drunk. But Shadow came into the bar and convinced me to let him do dream work, he called it. He said he could help direct my sprit to yours in dreams. And I did dream that night, that saw you. And you told me about your friend being a dragon. When I woke up, I figured it was just a dream. Like, my subconscious telling me I needed to get past you. But maybe it was real."