Gabriel finished his research for the day and put everything away where it belonged before he departed the Chamber to head to the cafe.

“Hi Gabe!” Mariah had just come in for her shift. “You’re early.” She was smiling at him while she clocked in on the register.

“Hello Mariah, I finished up earlier than I expected.” He pulled his wallet from inside his jacket.

“Want your regular, then? Or want to try something new?” Mariah asked while she looked over to the other barista’s order listing.

Looking at the selection Gabriel smiled, “How about some orange blossom tea with a touch of lemon and honey.” He held out the twenty and glanced around the shop, “Is Raudine here by chance?”

“Mmmm… haven’t seen him, but he might be coming up the back trail. That’s what he often does. So if you wait on the back patio, you might catch him before he gets inside. And it’s nice out today, in the 70’s is a lot better than it has been.”

“Sounds good, I’ll take my tea back there.” He smiled for her and walked to the patio not bothering to wait for his change. She knew he wouldn’t take it.

Sure enough, after about half an hour, Professeur Raudine aka Senias the dragon in a man’s body walked upward on the stairs that made up a part of the path up to the little hidden treasure from one of the city’s maintained walking and biking paths. He’d obviously stopped at his home along the way, for he was in cargo shorts and a t-shirt with old sneakers on his feet instead of the normal get-up.

“I took the liberty of ordering your usual. Mariah will see you out here and bring it by along with a bottle of water.” Gabriel had been enjoying his tea and had gotten comfortable while he waited by removing his coat and tie. With the top two buttons unfastened he looked about as casual as he normally got.

“I’m sure she will. It’s a beautiful day to meet up. Glad you could pull yourself away,” was actually in a very good mood. He’d been working like crazy and when Sebastian had told him to get going, he was happy to do so. “Closer to the deadline, are you okay?” Sen saw his order coming out the door and he waved at the girl. “Bea, over here!” he knew most of them by first name, but Mariah was his fave. Of course, this early in the evening, Mariah was also probably the barista on duty and very busy.

“So, what’s on the agenda?”

“Wrapping up loose ends and finishing off my preparations.” Gabriel sipped his tea and added, “Skinner paid me a visit and attempted to dissuade me from continuing with my presentation to the Council.”

“That mean he feels threatened. That’s both good and bad.” Senias pointed out. “Threats and secrets come next. Maybe … bribing.”

“He didn’t succeed but he did bring up something during the conversation that I want to ask you about.” Another drink of tea and Gabriel cleared his throat. “He insinuated that you had something to do with William’s death. Is that true?”

“So… secrets it is,” Senias looked down at his lavender tea latte. “Yes. It’s true.” He placed his elbows on his knees and held the cup in his hands before looking aside to Gabriel. “What do you want to know? I’ve always said I’d be honest with you, I just… I don’t know what to tell you. Looks like we have a subject to explore.”

“I am not holding it against you in the least. My father wasn’t a good man, but tell me what happened and why. This is the only time I’ll ask you about it.” Gabriel ran his finger over the delicate handle of his cup and listened..

“Your father, as you said, was never a good man. He knew Jonathan was dead and he tried to claim his birthright. He insinuated that he owned me and there was nothing I could do about it. I’m a man of action more than words. So I showed him that he was wrong. I never vowed to protect every Kennedy in the line. The heir to the mage is the one I have vowed to protect. Everyone else is protected through my choice alone. Your grandfather made clear to me that day he reintroduced us that you were his heir. So, when William tried to take you from me, I… shoved him through a portal, wrestled with him until I had him in my hands and tossed him off the building.”

“Take me from you? I’m sorry to sound naive, but how was he going to accomplish that?” Gabriel was surprised to hear the whole ordeal, but there was nothing to be done for William and frankly he deserved what he got as far as Gabriel was concerned.

“Yes, I said that right. He’d been using black magic to lessen your abilities and punished you for using them for years. All those times I or your grandfather came to help you out as a child? I don’t know if you remember it. But we had our suspicions. When you went away to military school, you never got sick. You thrived. It was because William was poisoning you. He’d made sure you didn’t like the idea of magic and had purposely done several things to be sure that when Jonathan was finally no longer an obstacle, you would cease being an obstacle as well. There was no doubt in my mind that, had I waited or tried to go through the course of reporting him, you would be placed in danger.”

That his father was capable of something so vile made Gabriel sick to his stomach. He’d been the one to clean up after his parents for years before their deaths. To hear that the man had been willing to actually cause him physical harm to obtain what he desired sadden Gabriel. To realize he really had meant nothing to the man stung.

“Gabriel, some people aren’t capable of seeing anything but themselves. Everything they do is based on how it will benefit them. They’re narcissists. Your father was one of them. He did everything in his life based on how it would affect him. He married to gain influence. Your mother loved and wanted you, but she was sucked into his black hole as well. I believe he may have helped cause her demise. Gods know he had another lover in Egypt so he didn’t dote on her like most Kennedy men doted on their wives.” Senias took a deep breath and watched Gabriel’s expressions. “You had people all around you that loved you and looked out for you, Gabriel. Please don’t be upset that this man wasn’t capable of it.” He sat up and reached over to grasp Gabe’s hand.

Gabriel gave a small smile to his lover as Sen took his hand in encouragement. “I always knew he was a terrible husband and father but I guess in some ways I held hope that he at least cared for me in some way. My mother showed me as best she could that she loved me, but..” Gabriel shrugged and pushed back the feelings it pulled forth. “I had my grandparents and my Aunt which helped me out a lot. Thank you for telling me what really happened with him.” He gave a low chuckle, “Knowing my father the way that I do, I wouldn’t be surprised if I have some unknown half siblings out there in Egypt and elsewhere.”

“You probably do. William may have seemed drunk to you and your memories, but he wasn’t. Not all the time. Only when he needed it. As…I use it?” Senias waited for Gabriel to catch on. “He just wasn’t a jolly drunk when he went into the stages. He was an asshole and the alcohol brought out the worst of that.”

“Well then, he was in that state every time he was in the house with us. Perhaps it was my mother and I that drove him to it.” Gabriel shrugged again, “Not that it matters now. As to any siblings I may have, if one shows up I guess I will sort out how to deal with it later.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you. But you wanted the truth from me, always, remember? I will not spare your feelings or my scales with anything less than the truth, now.” Senias let go his hand to take up his drink.

“I’ve never been to Egypt, but I hear that there are some wonderful sights to see and lots of research available I’ll have to advise their Council when we go.”Gabriel sipped his tea.

“We?” Senias asked.

“Yes, we. Because once the next session is over in the Council, you will be able to go anywhere you like with me. Unless you’d rather not go with me.” The way Gabriel gave a half smile showed his mischief side.

“I can’t wait. You’re very optimistic. Do you know how much you’re up against in trying this case for us?” Senias was referring to the case of removing dragons from the blacklist. No one had ever taken up their cause before. Not even people who knew dragons. Gabriel waas taking a huge gamble by doing this. It made Senias see him as brave. Gabriel might not have been a warrior, but yeah, he was damn brave.

“It’s going to be won. Your freedom.” Gabriel finished eating part of the croissant. “And then a trip. A vacation.”

“You’re in for it, you know? I’ll be taking you to all of the naughty places you’ve never been. And you’ll be wearing casual clothing, because we’ll be having fun, not working all of the time.” Senias winked before tearing his almond croissant in half.

Gabriel chuckled and actually took a small piece of the croissant to chew as he licked his lips. “I look forward to it.”

“Are you going to the welcome home party at Dante’s tonight?” Senias gave a wicked grin, “My Councilor expects me to be there with him. Seems some of the others we know and mingle with may be there.”

“It’s very possible. Dante has asked me if I’d show.” He smiled and chewed the small morsel. “If it’ll please you, I’ll make sure to make an appearance.”

Senias finished eating his half of the croissant and left the other there. He gulped the last of the coffee and got up. “It’d please me.” His eyes remained in Gabriel’s gaze a moment longer than normal before he turned to leave. He knew better than to stay out here for too long in the public eye.

“I won’t wear a suit – just to please you.” Gabriel picked up the other piece of the croissant and smiled as he enjoyed it while watching Sen walk away. It was turning out to be a good day after all.

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