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  Book One of the Annwn Ryu Cycle
Interlude III
 I Know

She isn't sleeping.
I can hear her.
Feel her.
Against my ice.
A child.
Only a child, despite her - objections.
I feel my lips curve into a smile in the shadows despite myself.
She makes me feel - feel!
And now, I am not afraid.
I hear the soft hum of minds all around me.
Yet her's is still and deep.
It reminds me of a mountain stream - clear and simple on the surface, filled with complexities beneath.
I hear the solid rumble of my - brother's - sleep.
His feelings toward me are - complex.
I respect his privacy.
I hear her again, the sharp nothingless of a lost past.
What are you hiding, little one? I don't ask. I don't invade.
The floor is warm beneath my feet.
I grew up always cold.
Inside and out.
I hear the fragmented melodies of children's songs floating through her mind, sweet with innocence, bright with laughter.
Not songs she experienced, but songs she has made her own.
I move from room to room, listening, not invading.
Only listening.
I know.
I know her.
I hear her, laughing, dancing on the edge of my mind, taking my battered soul by the hand.
Wild as any creature born.
So strong, that presence.
So young.
Strength is there as well.
Fortitude. Determination.
These were traits of experience, not childhood.
I know.
I feel.
Her heart is beating, and I can sense her, staring deep into the shadows.
Protecting the father she loves so deeply I can feel the fire, so warm I feel the softness.
I pause, just sensing.
I am an outsider.
Cyclops and his wife sleep, safe in the shelter of one another's love.
Logan prowls the grounds, a silent guardian, and I can feel his senses detect me, if on another level.
The children sleep, safe in their dreams.
My brother's sleep is filled with turmoil, but I respect the distance that defines us.
For now.
Gambit and Rogue sleep in the same room, their love a beacon despite their physical distance.
Xavier is awake, working on forms.
Rafe, you not alone.
Her voice is half-sleeping, but I feel a gentle warmth wrap around me.
Loving me.
Accepting me not as I should be -
But as I am.
Nor or you, little one.
Don' you call me little!
The indignant thought lances through her half-sleeping mind before it could be half-considered, and I pause,
feeling the unfamiliar gentle curl of my lips.
Dis one time. Only! she grumbled, an air of a special concession about the words.
This once. But, you remain under my protection. For as long as I may, little one.
As long as I live.
And beyond.
There, the slight tremor in her mind.
A yawn.
She drowses fully.
I walk back to the library, settle into a chair, and lift a book from the nearest shelf to my hand.
A gentle warmth suffuses me.
I know who I am.
I must find myself as Rafe, as myself, not as a pale reflection of Apocalypse.
The Stryfe within me is dying.
Let it die.
I know who I am.
I know.


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