Hunter and I chatted and watched people; he was five and people looked at me like I was enabling a child who could walk all by himself.  I thought I heard people say something even as I looked at them, but their mouths never moved. Things were a little fucked up.  Hunter was giggling over some dog playing in the crashing waves. “Do you want to get down and play?”

The look of horror he gave me when I asked made me grin. “Okay then, I’ll hold you. You think you can hold on while I run back?”

“A piggy back ride?”

“As long as you don’t choke me.” I grinned at my son and his bright eyes.

He nodded. “I promise.”

Hunter clambered on to my back and I started to jog back to the beach house from the far end of the beach. That got more looks and a few stray comments too. But again I wasn’t sure I was actually hearing them – they were like echos and whispers of something else. 

_No fucking shot.  Fucking kid on his back._ I heard almost clear as day and when I looked around I didn’t see anyone who was looking at me.  But as I spun around I spied Griffin following me.  I watched as he jogged towards me.  I waited, and he seemed to understand. 

He was close and I threw up a veil around us that hid our voices but not so much us.  “I heard something.  No fucking idea how.”

“What they say?”  Griffin asked with condescension in his voice.

“No fucking shot.  Fucking kid on his back.”  I said with more annoyance than I had an anticipated.

He looked around.  “Alright.  You go home immediately.  Don’t stop for anyone.  I got this.  Sounds like my friend is back.”

I sighed but nodded. Hunter clung to my back and I ran home.  It wasn’t a fast run thanks to the sand but as fast as I could **humanly** muster.

We neared the house and I slowed down, not really wanting to join the fray of my family. Or the impromptu party Alex was planning. And I knew Alex; this wasn’t showing me off, this was staking a claim. And not just to the beach bunnies on the veranda, but the world – to my friends.

I could feel more magical energy in the beach house than when I left. Alex was throwing us a wedding reception. He couldn’t have planned it in advance – he hadn’t known we were coming. Except that Alex might have – for all I knew he had implanted the suggestion in my head and was just waiting for the right excuse to tell me.

I wasn’t angry, though for all the masks I wore that was not one I was prepared to wear on what was supposed to be a vacation.

Hunter let go and fell into the sand and darted for the patio rocks. He looked around with those big brown eyes and he smiled when I was the only one watching and the earth patterns around him sucked every last piece of sand from his skin and shoes and collected in his hand. With a simple weave of fire and then water to cool it a shimmering piece of glass lay in his hand. It looked like we were going to have a fine collection of glass shards by the end of the trip.

I sighed and walked up to the stone steps myself and sat down to stare out into the water. The beach was busy, the sand was dotted with umbrellas and towels and loads of families. 

“You okay?” A happy voice asked from behind me.

I didn’t turn around to see my best friend, he came and sat down next to me and pressed his leg against mine and leaned against me. I missed Sage. He was a life line in my life.  “I’m sorry about Dee.”

“It’s not her fault,” I said. “But I don’t think Alex will see it that way.”

Sage rested his head against my shoulder. “She’s in the hospital. Having a mental break down. The baby is not doing well.”

“Can I help?” I asked.

“Nothing you can do unless you can make the voices stop,” he said calmly though I knew Sage was anything but calm right then. “It was just me at first,now it’s everything. She is mad one second then crying the next. Gleeful than all out raging at me.”

“Did you ask her Dad about her history? Does mental break down run in the family.”

“He’s cryptic about it all. Said he thought he fixed it. Said some name I can’t even remember that sounded like something out of a fairy-tale cured her of the voices.”

“Phobeter?  I asked cautiously.

“That’s the name, how’d you know it?”

I sighed. “That’s the name of the demon that tortured me my whole life. Who she carried.”

Sage gasped, “That’s what happened to you? When Dee…  Wait, is that connected?”

I shrugged. “We can have Alex take a look at her dream self and see what he thinks, but my gut says her Dad made a deal with a demon and now the demon is dead. He fed on fear. If Dee is an empath and from the sounds of it she is, then she’d be the perfect siphon.”

“How can this help?” Sage begged.

“Teach her how to shield her ability. She should have learned at an early age, but she was like you, lost the parent that could teach her.”

“You think her Mom was an empath.”

“It’s hereditary.”

“So, my kids could be like me?”

I nodded. “Yeah, but they have you, Sage. And you are the best god damned technopath I know. You’ll be a great father and a great teacher.”

He shoved me with his hip at the sentimental talk. “Thanks. Do you think you and Alex could help her?”

“We’ll get your wife the help she needs. Alex might take some convincing.”

“Convincing to do what?” Alex asked behind me. “If I didn’t know any better Morgan I’d think you were cozying up to my boy to steal him.  Did you make those calls?”  He asked Sage.

Sage grinned and looked back at Alex. “I did, and I can’t steal him. He’s so lost down the Alex rabbit hole I could never reach him.” But his smile faded as he turned to do the original question asked, “I need help with Dee. Nox thinks the demon that had him was shielding her some how and now that its dead she’s feeling everyone again.”

“She’s an untaught empath.”

Alex sucked in a breath through his teeth. “I’ll do what I can when we get back home, but right now I gotta take care of my own.”

Alex sat down behind me and wrapped an arm around me as he leaned back against the railing. “Nox, you okay?”

I nodded, “Always with you, but Griffin’s looking into a strange voice I heard.”  I leaned back and kissed him. His arms wrapped around me and we sat in the awkward position while looking out at the water.

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