On a mountain range on an undisclosed planet...
Madeline tilted her head back and looked up the nearly sheer face of rock above. She adjusted her clawed climbing gloves and rolled her shoulders. In these areas, she usually took the higher position. Logan had no need for the climbing gloves. Plus, her slipping and falling would not take them both down. She shifted her feet then began to scale this portion of the cliff face. Logan waited until she was a body length or two above him before starting up after her.

They had come here to explore and see. There were not too many places left like this on Earth, and those were jealously guarded. They both understood that, which is why they took great pains to disturb as little as possible on these other worlds. The climb was challenging, at least for Madeline, and she was sweating by the time she reached the top despite the cool air. She was tucking away the clawed part of her climbing gloves as Logan pulled himself up beside her.

Once he was standing next to her, she said, "It's beautiful up here."

"It is," he agreed, sliding an arm around her waist.

"Might be nice to acquire several thousand acres here."

"Several thousand?"

"Yes. Several thousand and leave it primarily untouched. Let it retain its natural beauty."

"That sounds nice."

They fell into silence after that, simply soaking in the amazing vistas spread out before them. Their quiet reverie was interrupted by a flash of light in the cloudless sky. With puzzled expressions, they both turned toward it. Logan's eyes were narrowed and focused on the distant phenomenon, and he listened closely. Madeline squinted as well with her own less accurate eyesight.

"Anything?" she asked just before a blinding pain hit her between the eyes and brought her to her knees with a strangled cry.

Logan dropped to his knees beside her. "Madeline?"

Before she could answer, the mountaintop beneath them suddenly erupted in a shower of shale, throwing them in opposite directions. Logan managed to catch himself and clawed his way around to the other side, but not quickly enough. Madeline was already many feet below in free fall. She was watching for him though, not particularly wanting to see the ground rushing up at her.

"Come scrape me up —"

She called out to him, but her voice was cut off mid-sentence as she vanished into another flash of light. Logan roared in frustration and propelled himself from the mountain side and toward the last place he had seen her.


He felt the briefest touch from Rene. We're trying...

He only had a moment to consider it before sharp pains slashed through his chest and abdomen. A quick glance down showed him deep crisscrossing gashes, but not their origin. More slashes cut across his back and he spun in midair to defend himself... only there was no foe to be seen or touched. The one-sided fight continued until he crashed into the ground, bursting organs not already cut open...


I wake with a start. And I wake up alone.

It's been more than three decades since I last woke up alone. And that had been right after Pablo died... before he'd gotten the hang of being a Spirit and staying corporeal for more than an hour or two.

It isn't that I can't feel them. Both Pablo and Rene are...

Why do I have this crushingly ringing pain in my head?

...they're both with Logan.

Oh, fuck. After all these years — when either one of them dies — the experience tends to resonate back to me when they go through the process of healing from their death. At least it's not the damn itching... but the fracking goose bumps aren't a whole lot better.


Where the fuck is Maddie?

Even when they die, I can still feel them... how can I not? They're part of me, I'm part of them. The five of us are One.

Pablo? Rene?

I'm staying with Logan, love. Rene's looking for Madeline. I haven't heard the kind of hesitation in my husband's voice that I'm hearing now since... well, since before our children were born.

Pablo... what is it? What the hell's going on? I can't feel her anywhere.

That's the problem, Andi... Madeline's disappeared. Cat is flipping out. Rene, Cat and I tried following her, and we bounced — hard — off some sort of barrier. We haven't had a chance to investigate it... I'm waiting for our Brother to wake up and maybe give us some idea of what happened.

Bear shambles across the porch of the lodge where I've been staying while Maddie and Logan are out enjoying the wilderness. Give me a fast vehicle, and I'm in my element. Give me a sheer cliff to climb... well, I'll cheat and use the gifts I received from Pablo when he died. After the first time I flew up to the top of the plateau, a dozen or more years ago, my Sister and Brother gave me identical looks of disgust when they got to the top. And found that I was reading an e-book.

"You know you could stay at the lodge and do that," Maddie had said.

I remember grinning at her and saying, "Don't mind if I do."

Yeah, I still go on Walkabout with them. But I like to hike and meet the wildlife. I leave the crazy climbing to the two of them.

Warrior, we have all searched for your sister. It is as if she has gone to a place that does not exist.

I look at the largest of my guardian Spirits. "You sure she didn't get dragged into one of the dimensions you guys just can't get to? That bitch of Tezcatlipoca kept trying to pull Pablo out of our dimension until we put a permanent stop to that bullshit."

We're certain, Warrior. We would know that she was taken elsewhere, just as we knew where your Mate was taken. But she is not in any of the worlds.

"Then where the hell is she?"

Bear just shakes its head. Yeah, that's helpful.

Andi, Logan's starting to heal... but it seems to be taking a lot longer than it should. I think you should get over here.


About four miles north-northeast. Hurry, love.

I had been hiking in that general direction earlier in the week. There were some game trails I could follow. When weird shit is happening, I prefer to be as close to Mother as possible... Her energies are easier to channel than Father's.

On my way.

I'm sure I startled more than a few large animals, and more small ones than I can count on my run toward Logan. As I break from the trees and underbrush at the base of the cliff, I can see Pablo kneeling beside Logan. I've seen my Brother looking worse, but I can't remember ever seeing him heal so slowly. He's sprawled on his back, eyes closed, his gut sliced open and pooling with blood.

He's alive, barely... because his spirit is resisting going back into his body.


He manages to get that much information to me before the inevitable pull of his body starts to drag his spirit home. Damn, he's fighting it so hard. I've never seen either of them fight so hard not to get back in their bodies, no matter how much it was going hurt. I know I've never bothered fighting it... well, not after the first time I fought against it.

"Pablo, go back to the lodge and bring me rags or towels or whatever you can find. A bucket of water. Go, go... hurry." I kneel beside Logan.

I feel more than see Pablo almost instantaneously move from our Brother's other side to a distance far enough away that I assume it's the lodge.

Madeline... where?

"We don't know." Dear gods, how it hurts to say that. I bend down to kiss his lips; cold, they're so cold. "Don't die, Logan," I whisper. "My Sister would never forgive me."

He finally stops fighting and allows his spirit to fall fully back into his body.

I have that moment of vertigo that always seems to come when one of us dies, and then heals enough to bring body and soul back together.

Ain't goin' nowhere.

Pablo returns with a bucket of clean water and just about every towel from the lodge and sets them down before kneeling across from me.

"We need to clean the wound; he said it was poison. Looks like that's what's slowing down his healing factor."

He nods and begins working swiftly, but carefully and gently.

I take one of Logan's hands between mine, his lao gong point aligned between mine, and slowly start to feed him energy. I've gotten pretty damn good at this energy sharing thing, but because Logan is an Elder, it's always been a lot harder. Every little bit helps, though.

"We're going to find her, Logan."

I don't think it's necessary to mention that the rest of the Pentad is not going to survive very well without Maddie. I think we all grok that.

"Andi, all I can do here is basic first aid," Pablo murmurs. "Whatever this poison he got hit with is very nearly stopping his healing factor."

"Damn it."

Logan looks like hell. I've never seen him look this bad for more than a couple of minutes. And it's going on five now. I take a close, deep look at his qi and meridians.


"You know, you only swear that much when you're about to go full out Ninja on us," Rene remarks laconically.

"It could happen," I snap at him. "I don't know who's behind this, but that poison looks like it's nearly tailor-made for him, for his specific DNA. Anyone else with a healing factor like ours could get hit by it and shake it off as if it was nothing, even Em." I pause, memories passing through my mind like a breeze, although they're not my memories. "Maybe it would affect a sibling, a parent would be iffy.

"Damn it, at this rate, he's going to need a blood transfusion and some serious lavage of his wounds, at the very least."

"Or a healer," Pablo says helpfully.

"Do you see a healer here, Pablo?" I'm pretty sure my eyes are flashing golden again. It's been a while since I've been this pissed, but it's impossible to forget the telltale haze in my peripheral vision.

He looks up from his careful work on Logan's wounds, eyes filled with pain. Sometimes I forget Pablo loves Logan and Rene and Maddie as much as I do. "The kids are on their way."

Before I can open my mouth to say anything else, Rene adds, "And Vin will break every law of physics if necessary to get here as soon as possible." He pauses for a moment as though listening to something. "Less than an hour."

I close my eyes and take several calming breaths, then nod. "Sorry," I say to no one in particular... and to everyone. Logan won't die... well, Logan won't stay dead... but he sure isn't going to get any better with the poison soaking into every cell in his body. From the sheen of sweat on Logan's face, it's gotta hurt like hell. I wish there were something I could do to help.

But I know there isn't, so I do the only thing I can. I open my eyes and look down into the eyes of my Elder Brother, my friend, my sometimes lover. I lean down and press my cheek against his.

"Hold on, my friend. Help is on the way... then we'll go find Maddie."

Andi, he's getting worse. It's almost as if the poison is trying to tear his blood cells apart.

I can feel it, Pablito. I'm pouring qi through his meridians almost as fast as this dear planet can give it to me. All it's doing it slowing the poison down. Rene, how much longer?

Our Spirit Brother seems to listen for something — the children, no doubt — before answering.

Ten, maybe fifteen minutes.


Logan begins growling.

"Oh, no, you will NOT!" I say sharply, looking him in the eyes. He's well on his way to Feral, but after a hundred and fifty years, even he knows damn well what my now very brightly glowing eyes mean. "You are just going to rein that right in, and you're going to do it NOW, bub."

His claws snikt out, the three from his hand beside me slicing through my leg — hurting like hell, but ultimately merely a nuisance — the other three stabbing the space where Pablo has gone insubstantial. I lean over him, ripping my leg more in the process, and pin both wrists to the ground. In his condition, I'm actually stronger than he is. That's a first. What do you want to bet it never happens again, either?

"Oh, suck it up, Logan!"

"Uh oh," say Rene and Pablo in unison.

I look up at them. "You two shut the fuck up." I look back down at Logan. "You listen to me, and you listen good. I am not going to tell your kids when they get here that you're a dead blob under a tree somewhere. You know why I'm not going to do that, Logan? It's because you're going to hold your shit together and stay right where you are until Maria gets here to suck that poison out." I squeeze his wrists. "You understand me, darlin'?"

Oh, yeah... I've gotten him good and pissed. But he's pissed and focused, which is better than pissed and not focused.

"Ninja's a bitch," he says through gritted teeth.

"Yeah, you know it, buddy. And you can try to beat the crap out of me later. But you wanna take your fucking claws out of my leg now?"

He doesn't really want to, I can see that. He's a hot mess, and my daughter can't get here soon enough for my liking. We hold our odd tableau for two, maybe three minutes. He's really playing chicken with me? Seriously? The only woman in the universe as stubborn as his Mate? I'm not going to bleed out before the kids get here... I have a whole planet of qi here. I just smile my famous Ninja smile at him.

Another minute or two passes by before he growls — less Feral and more his normal Elder speak — and retracts his claws.

"Owe you," he manages to grunt.

"Yeah, yeah... I love you, too, sweetheart."

I think maybe — just maybe, if he didn't hurt so much, if he had any strength left — he might have laughed at that one.

Unfortunately, Cat chooses this moment to appear.

"I can't get to her, Warrior! What are we going to do? We need to find her!" The Spirit seems to have put itself on auto-repeat.

Oh, and it's also bouncing around the clearing, refusing to hold still. Imagine a couple of cats chasing one another around your small house, literally bouncing off walls to make turns around corners, moving faster than you thought possible... and one of them is invisible. That's a bit like what Cat's doing, except there's no invisible anything chasing it. This insanity is all self-induced. Well, okay... induced by the fact that it can't get to Maddie.

"Cat," I say through clenched teeth," I'm trying to keep an Elder alive... and not just alive, but not Feral. You. Are. Not. Helping."

Cat stops so fast and suddenly that Pablo chuckles. Rene reaches over and slaps his Spirit Brother on the back of the head. "Mon Dieu! After more than a hundred and fifty years of marriage, you still snicker when your wife has gone Ninja?" Pablo just shrugs unapologetically.

I glare at all three Spirits, then look back down at Logan. "Yeah, I hear it, too. The fucking whine of the damn Bird as it plummets through the atmosphere kind of drives a spike through my head, too. Gods damn it, Logan, look at me! There ya go, look at the crazy woman who's got you pinned on the ground. I'm gonna savor this memory, dear Brother. I'm gonna be thinking about it every time you kick my ass. Now, just hold it together for a couple more minutes, okay?"

I pause and listen for my children. Oh, just fucking great.

"I am so not kidding, Logan. Paul's got his I'm kind of worried about Em feel to him, and you know as well as anyone that means she's close to losing it. You're the adult, damn it, now pull yourself together!"

I don't love how I'm verbally abusing him, but keeping him off balance or angry — preferably both — is all that's going to keep him from going over the edge. And even I don't want to be around a nearly dead Feral and his fully Feral and extremely healthy daughter. No, no, no... I might be a crazy woman, but I'm not stupid.

I just grit my teeth through the sounds of the Blackbird landing, never taking my eyes from Logan's face while I wait for Maria.

Logan grinds his teeth together and nods. His survival instincts push him to toss the annoying woman away and run and hide, wounded animal that he is. That wounded animal also cries out for its missing Mate. The human side of him knows he will heal from this eventually, maybe, but not soon enough. Madeline is out there somewhere, alone. Certainly he knows she can take of herself, but that is hardly the point.

© Kelly Naylor and ividia kt