The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 3 Pt 1



Official Report
Tondzaosha Regional Airport
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Agent Carter Rathdrum of AEGIS looked out across the horizon and pressed his lips together. He stood at the end of the ramp and shook his head.

“What a shit hole.” He said under his breath.

The clatter and clank of feet on the metal ramp sounded behind him and he shuffled out of the way to allow those still exiting the plane free passage. He peered back, eying the walkway and those descending it. At last, Van den Broeke stepped into view, and he turned to make eye contact, looking into a pair of brilliant emerald-green eyes.

Though Amelia van den Broeke’s name was Dutch, he suspected she may have some Mediterranean ancestry as evidence by her olive skin and shock of raven-black hair. Tall and voluptuous, the special agent in charge was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever met. He might have wondered why someone with her looks worked for AEGIS if he didn’t know a little about her past.

“So,” he said slipping both hands back into his pockets and peering from side to side. “How’s it feel to be home after all this time?”

She regarded him, a faint trace of a frown touching her lips and shook her head. “Tondzaosha hasn’t been home for a long time.”

She slipped past him without another word. Rathdrum sighed. He followed her, his lips creased in a frown, but remained silent. Though not lose to Van den Broeke, he’d known her for a few years and was on good speaking terms with her. He’d never seen her so uncommunicative. He didn’t know what put her into her current mood, but he believed it must have something to do with her homecoming.

Though he knew little of her history before she’d come to AEGIS, she was said to have faced a lot of heat for being both a transwoman and an exemplar. He saw no reason to doubt it, he’d worked in law enforcement for more than a decade both as an officer for the Los Angeles Police Department and with the agency, and saw a lot of hostility directed at both groups.

He studied her face, allowing himself to marvel at how much she’d changed since he’d first become aquainted with her. Not so much her personality, but in the physical sense. He would have been surprised learning, even before the change, that she was a transwoman. Back then she was tall and skinny, but pretty nonetheless. Since that business with Chemosh in New Hebron several months back things changed. She lost a few inches in height, but gained a figure that would make any man do a double-take. Amelia possessed the kind of beauty you only saw on the big screen or in the center-fold of dirty magazines, even if she didn’t quite seem to be aware of that fact.

He couldn’t say what had invoked the change, but he damn well noticed it. As with all things her change had gotten the rumor mill whirling, but he’d taken little stock in the gossip save for one aspect. A few folks had put it forward that because of her change that she was no longer a transwoman and capable of bearing a child. The term being bandied about the office was ciswoman, but he wasn’t sure if it was the right one.

“Rathdrum, you read the report. What do you think?” Van den Broeke asked glancing back at him arching an eyebrow.

Rathdrum moved forward stepping in sync with her and glanced about making sure none of the disembarked passengers were in earshot. “Sounds like a wild goose chase if you ask me. A sword that burns anyone who touches it? Sounds like somebody’s idea of a bad practical joke.”

Amelia pursed her lips. “What about the girl?”

He shrugged. “Probably, another nut job. ”

“Still, it’s a little odd the witness’s name was redacted on the copy of the report sent to AEGIS, don’t you think?” Amy asked her lips pursed.

“Weird, but I don’t see how that changes anything.” He shrugged.

Van den Broeke nodded, but didn’t say a word. She was the Special Agent in Charge of their unit. New to the job, Amelia was the youngest SAC in AEGIS history. He had no idea what had prompted her promotion, but it had something to do with the Chemosh debacle. Whatever she’d done it impressed Director Malcolm enough to elevate her on the spot. She was inexperienced, but already seemed to have a better handle on the job than most in her position would have.

If Rathdrum had been a more ambitious man, he might have resented her advancement, but he’d spent too much time in the field to be doing anything else. Leadership came with too many headaches, and as a Special Agent he already had enough of those with which to contend. Better to let those better suited to the demands of leadership fill that need.

Despite her youth Rathdrum thought Van den Broeke a good fit. She still needed to grow into the position a bit, but he had no doubt she’d be fine. She possessed enough smarts to make use of her underlings knowledge and experience which was more than he could say for some other SACs he’d worked under and… as a bonus was a fair bit easier on the eyes.

It was unusual as it was seeing a SAC out in the field, let alone in a out of the way town like Tondzaosha. Why they’d sent Van den Broeke at all was a question, he was still trying to puzzle out. One thing was certain, she didn’t seem too happy about it.

“Tell me if you spot any of the local PD,” Van den Broeke muttered as they made their way across the tarmac.

Rathdrum nodded. “Little surprised a town like this has an airport, doesn’t seem to be much here.”

Amelia glanced back at him. “The airport is part of an industrial park. It’s used for business for the most part.”

Rathdrum nodded peering about the tarmac one final time. He’d visited a fair number of smaller airports and there wasn’t usually much to them. This one was no exception. It didn’t even seem to possess a jetway.

When they stepped inside the main building, Rathdrum swore he’d stepped back in time. The airport’s interior hadn’t been updated since the seventies. He took one glance at the orange-padded chairs and let out a soft chuckle. Despite their age, they seemed to be in good shape. If nothing else, the place was clean and well maintained. There were large sections of the airport that were unlit, probably to conserve power, and save for the passengers who’d disembarked and the airport staff there didn’t seem to be anyone around.

“Van den Broeke?” A voice asked from out of the darkness, and a slender young deputy stepped out from an unlit portion of the building almost seeming to materialize from nowhere.

He focused all his attention on Rathdrum and the agent bit back a response. Van den Broeke needed to be the one to correct the officer. She did so, glancing at Rathdrum out of the corner of her eyes, then stepped forward and held her hand out. “I am Special Agent In Charge Amelia van den Broeke.”

The officer lurched forward accepting her hand and smiling. “Sorry, ’bout that. The chief only told me your last name. Figured since your friend was a little older that he’d be the one running the show.”

His eyes grew wide and he eyed Rathdrum throwing his hands out. “Not that I think your old or anything, I just—”

Rathdrum laughed and shook his head. Small-town police. “Forget about it. My name’s Special Agent Carter Rathdrum.”

“Right, right nice to meet you both. I’m Deputy Thomas Shanderly at your service,” he said grabbing Rathdrum’s hand and shaking it vigorously. “Kinda surprised you folks flew in from Cali, the Chief said the closest field office is in Salt Lake.”

“We’re part of a specialized unit, dealing with very specific cases,” Amelia offered in explanation. “We operate out of New Hebron, California, but the nature of our work takes us all over the country.”

“What sort of work would that be, agent?” Shanderly asked tilting his head like a dog.

“That’s not something I’m at liberty to discuss,” Van den Broeke answered frowning at the officer. “Suffice it to say, we have very specific expertise that may be beneficial in this case.”

Though Shanderly hid it well, Rathdrum could see his confusion mirrored in his eyes and why wouldn’t he be confused? The Agent would feel the same way if he’d just had that bullshit explanation doled out to him. Specific expertise? For a nut job with a sword? Still, there was no help for it, Van den Broeke hadn’t been lying when she’d said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss their unit’s purpose.

Shanderly didn’t press the matter, but Rathdrum sensed that she hadn’t put the matter to rest. They needed the local PD to cooperate, if they didn’t want to be bumping heads with them everywhere, they went sooner or later she’d have to throw them a bone.

“Right,” Shanderly smiled and threw a thumb over his shoulder. “I got a squad car waiting out front with all the materials you requested, if you want to get underway.”

Van den Broeke frowned, glanced at Rathdrum before letting out a long breath of air and nodded.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 3 Pt 2



Official Report
State Hospital South
Grove City, Idaho

Reesha. The name came to Kruhl from out of the darkness resounding through her mind with such intensity that she shivered. She still wafted through the blankness, numb and with almost no awareness of her surroundings. Then the name repeated itself and the darkness receded…

Pale torchlight splashed against the wall, bathing the stonework with splotches of angry reds and oranges. Kruhl King of Eirdon, paced the corridors his massive hands balled into fists.

He stopped, placing an open palm on a section of the wall. Less than a year ago, his workers at last completed Wurdanhom for which his father first laid the groundwork. The wall belonged to an older part of the keep constructed before he’d been born. It was his father Wurdan, who united the Canti, the Andeli, and the Gelba tribes under his banner and begun construction of the keep and castle walls, but he’d died before it was completed. Kruhl walked in the shadow of his father. Though his accomplishments surpassed those of Wurdan’s, he stood upon his predecessors shoulders and all he achieved was a mirror of what his father accomplished.

Kruhl united the remaining tribes against the growing threat of the Sorcerer Odalrik’s armies. Victory came at a steep price, less than a third of his forces survived, and Leoffa his bride to be was among the fallen.

He peered down at his open palm and clenched it shut. Her blood was on his hands. The Sorcerer Odalrik was most skilled in the art of illusion, making others see that which was not there. Waldere, though a powerful magic artifact proved useless against such power.

Though Kruhl trained himself against Odalrik’s trickery, on the night of her death he had not seen past the magic. He impaled Leoffa on his sword believing her to be the Sorcerer, and by the time he realized the truth it was too late. Tears stung his eyes, though it had been over five years, he still remembered the look of betrayal in her eyes.

Were it not for Reesha, Odalrik’s former apprentice, they might have all died. Years before she betrayed her master and allied herself with Kruhl. On that fateful night, she alone saw past the illusions, and struck at the Sorcerer dispelling the mirages and by doing so allowed Kruhl to regain his senses. United they overcame the last of his guards, and when they at last cornered Odalrik, Reesha summoned the spell of banishment to cast him into the Nether Realm.

The spell was a powerful one and had it not been for the protections of Resha’s magics they too would have been pulled into the maelstrom of converging energies. Even Leoffa’s fallen form disappeared into the portal.

Perhaps it would have been different if the Sorceress remained allied with him. There was unrest amongst the human slaves, and as yet Kruhl could not quell their dissent. After her former master’s death, Reesha betrayed Kruhl attempting to seize Odalrik’s domain for her own, but Kruhl defeated her, sparing her life because she’d been so instrumenta’ in stopping their enemy. His decision haunted him to that day as Reesha, though he’d not seen her in years, had been a thorn in his side ever since.

A group of rebellious slaves, discontent under Odalrik’s rein and doubly so under Kruhl’s propped Reesha up as their would-be champion. Despite her long absence, he did not doubt she was behind their movement. She preferred to work in the shadows, never revealing herself until certain she could come out on the winning side. With the dissent growing, he believed it only a matter of time before she showed herself again.

He roared and pounded a fist into the wall. The blow would have been powerful enough to down a human, but nowhere near his full strength. He brought his hand away, his knuckles throbbing in pain and flexed his hand. He hadn’t broken his fingers, but his hand would, no doubt, be sore for several days.

“Troubled, milord?” A feminine voice asked, and a weight pressed into his side.

It was Gylda, his bride to be, the lioness who would one day bear his children. He did not turn to face her, instead he lowered his eyes and shook his head. She rarely spoke to him these days. Not unless she wanted something from him.

“The uprisings grow more frequent,” he replied, unable to keep the anger from his voice.

“These humans are mercurial creatures, milord, when winter settles in they will forget all about their silly little uprisings,” she said pressing her breasts against his chest.

Again, Kruhl did not respond. Gylda, though full grown, was young and inexperienced and until becoming his betrothed spent little time around humans. She’d been raised in Angol where the Assar, their people, outnumbered humans by more than ten to one.

There in the isle of Eirdon humans were three times more populous than the Assar. His people were overlords just like in Angol, but there was cause for concern. Though he did not doubt his people’s physical superiority he was no fool, his warriors were too few to quelch a full-blown rebellion.

He glanced at his betrothed then. Her coat was an almost perfect snow white, and he studied her features breath caught in his throat. She was highborn like himself, but where he had been more or less raised upon the battlefield, her upbringing had been within a palace. Every need and want she’d ever had or imagined was tended to by servants and courtiers alike. An only daughter, of a powerful king, her father doted on her shamelessly. She was as willful as she was arrogant, and when she had come to live in Eirdon it had been a harsh adjustment. Though he was King, he saw no need for servants or sycophants. She developed a measure of self-reliance as a result, but it had been hard won and she resented him for it.

They came from very different worlds, and most of the time she barely hid her contempt for his unrefined barbarian ways. Yet, there was an attraction. Her soft curves would turn the head of any Assar male, and though he was well into his fourth decade his battle-honed body would catch the eye of many a female. Though often drawn to each other’s beds, they would never love one another, nor did he believe they would ever come to respect each other. Their upbringings would never allow for it.

“Come, milord,” she said purring as her fingers slid down his crotch, a smile stretching across her muzzled face.

She pulled on his arm, and he let her guide him down the corridor toward his bedchambers. Though his heart yearned for Leoffa, and likely would until the day he died, he could not resist his betrothed’s beauty.

That proved his undoing.

Once, inside the chambers, he caught a flash of steel, just before Gylda surged forward. Her weapon thrust at his chest. She moved quick and caught him off-guard, and he barely deflected the blow. His arm swept down, and she dived out of the way, coming around again, with the weapon, this time plunging it into his side. He roared as a stabbing-hot pain erupted, almost blinding him, he swiped out striking her across the chest and sent his bride to be sprawling into the opposite wall.

The warrior king reached for Waldere strapped across his back, but his hand froze in place. Kruhl grunted and heaved, his fingers grasping at the open air, but they remained suspended in place.

Pale green light flared across the room illuminating a slender form. She bore a long gnarled staff, atop which a jagged emerald luminesced. She wore no hood, and Kruhl felt his breath catch in his chest as his eyes took in her beautiful countenance. Though, he did not experience sexual attraction toward humans, he could appreciate their beauty in the same way he might that of a majestic buck, or a bright-plumed songbird. In the time he’d known her she fended off many would be suitors, but she’d shown no interest in their attempts to court her.

“Reesha,” he spoke the name, his blood running cold. Her face had not changed, as if she’d remained untouched by the ravages of time.

Gylda rose to her feet, a low moan escaping her muzzle. Reesha moved forward, and his betrothed shuffled behind her as if shielding herself from the other Assar. It was an odd display considering that Gylda towered over the diminutive sorceress, but Kruhl was no fool. Reesha possessed more power in her tiny human frame than any Assar could ever hope to conjure.

“Well,” Reesha spoke a sneer curling across her lips. “I step away for a few years, and look at the mess you make for yourself, Kruhl.”

Kruhl did not speak, instead, concentrating his energy on breaking through Reesha’s spell. Magic though powerful, was not without its weaknesses. Given enough time, one could overcome its effects.

She must have sensed what he was doing, the sorceress turned her head and called over her shoulder. Six humans, five male and one female emerged from the shadows, each equipped with a different weapon.

“You need not speak, Kruhl,” she paused after saying his name and scowled. “I will keep this short and simple. You have been a thoughtless and cruel overlord. Your human slaves are no longer content to live under your shadow. They have selected me to take your place and rule as a more benevolent queen. Your reign is over, Kruhl son of Wurdan.”

Broken free from her hold Kruhl roared, unsheathed Waldere and struck at the nearest of the warriors downing two with a single swing of the great sword. The warrior king rounded on the other three, but their weapons were ready, the two men surged forward, one with a curved sword of a type he did not recognize and the other bearing a spiked cudgel. He tossed the first aside without even glancing at him and drove his blade into the chest of the second. By the time he rounded on the woman, she struck, her long slender sword slicing open a gash in the side of his head, a strike which would have carved open his chest had he remained where he stood.

“Enough!” Reesha screamed out, the light from her staff flaring so brightly that Kruhl was blinded.

When his vision cleared, Reesha thrust her staff out sending him careening into the stone wall behind him. “There will be no escape!”

Again, he fought to break free so that he might summon the power of the sword against the sorceress, but she was too fast for him.

Reesha, held the staff out before her, her free hand weaving patterns in the open air. “Kruhl son of Wurdan, King of Eirdon, for your crimes you’ve committed against these my people I banish you from this realm and into the Nether Realm from which there is no return.”

Reesha’s staff flared one final time, the barbarian king’s stomach lurched and… a sweat drenched Kruhl awoke sitting bolt upright hands cupped over her soft human face.

The Fall of Kruhl | Ch 3 Pt 3



Official Report
Tondzaosha Regional Airport
Tondzaosha, Idaho

Amelia van den Broeke shuddered and peered about her eyes roving the parking lot outside of the airport her face a mask of casual disinterest. On the inside, however, a tide of emotions washed over her. Her stomach was roiling, and in her mind she’d reverted to that young child who’d fought so hard to come to terms with her gender identity. She was angry and more than a little frightened and wanted nothing more than to turn right back around and take the next flight out of town. She had a job to do, however, and she would not back away.

It was this very airport she’d flown out of when she’d first left Tondzaosha and it had changed little in the intervening years. She felt much the same as she had then, but her current apprehension was of a different sort. Before she had worried over the prospect of going to live with an aunt she barely knew, but now it was over the possibility of running into people who had known her before her transition, most prominent among them her parents, that dominated her thinking.

Shanderly led them to a squad car parked along the outermost edge of the parking lot away from any of the other vehicles. “She’s a beaut, ain’t she?” He asked grinning from ear to ear and patted the roof. “The city finally started replacing some of the older cars. Since mine was the oldest, they swapped mine out first.”

Amelia eyed the vehicle without a word, and aside from the city logo on the side she’d seen dozens just like it and wasn’t impressed. Rathdrum, on the other hand, moved past his superior and leaned in to get a better look. “I drove an old Sovereign Rosalia when I was with the LAPD, the thing was a clunker, but somehow it kept chugging along. I tell you if I’d been cruising around in one of these, I’d have given some serious thought to staying on the force.”

Amelia sighed and rolled her eyes. Boys and their toys. Even before her transition she’d never understood the male fascination with cars, but since she worked in such a male-dominated profession, she’d become accustomed to it. Rathdrum, having either sensed her discomfort, or he’d heard her sigh, glanced back at Amy and cleared his throat. “I’d love to talk cars but, um… that’s not why we’re here. We’ve had a long flight and Van den Broeke and I have a long day ahead of us tomorrow—”

“Say no more.” Shanderly waved his hands back and forth in front of his chest. “Jet lag’s a real killer. Hop in and we can get underway,” he said swinging the rear driver’s side door open and moving around back to pop the trunk. He retrieved their luggage and tossed it inside.

Rathdrum moved forward, into the open door and closed it behind him. Amelia sighed and slipped around the car. As the subordinate agent, Carter had taken the back seat, as expected of him, but she wished it was she who’d taken up residency in the back. Other agents might have opened the passenger side door for her, but Rathdrum knew better. Shanderly attempted to step in to do just that, but Amelia waved him off.

When they were all seated inside the squad car, Shanderly retrieved a stack of file folders stuffed between the seats and passed them over to Van den Broeke. “This is everything on the case, and those other files you requested.”

Amelia accepted them, muttered a quick thanks and set them in her lap. She would take time to look over them after when she was a little more clear headed.

“I know a few Van den Broekes,” Shanderly said, glancing at her before turning the ignition. “You have any relatives in these parts?”

And there it was… Amy bowed her head and clenched her eyes shut. She considered lying, but discarded the idea. Though she’d long distanced herself from her past, she would not hide from it. “A few,” she answered, turning to regard him with a set of brilliant green eyes. “But I haven’t spoken to them in years.”

The deputy made eye contact with her, pressed his lips together then returned his attention to the road. Amy didn’t know if he’d seen something in her face or if he’d picked up on some cue from her tone of voice, but he didn’t bring it up again.

“So…” Rathdrum said speaking up from the back seat. “What’s the plan for tomorrow?”

“I’d like to see that sword, then speak with the girl and the witness mentioned in the report and see where that leads us,” Amelia craned her neck back and nodded at her subordinate grateful for the change in subject. The question and her answer was more for Shanderly’s benefit, they’d already discussed their plans at length.

She paused wondering if she should ask the deputy about the inked-out name, but pressed her lips. She had the strangest feeling that she didn’t want to know who the woman was who’d found the girl, but why would that be?

“Well the chief has put me at your disposal,” Shanderly added oblivious to Amelia’s ruminations. “I’m here to assist you in whatever way I can.”

Amy peered at him, swallowed, and let the matter drop. Tomorrow she’d inquire about it. There would be time enough to get to the bottom of it then. It wasn’t like her to procrastinate and it disturbed her more than she’d let on.

“Have there been any unusual occurrences in town since the girl first appeared?” Rathdrum peered forward leaning close to the barrier separating the front seat from the back. Snapped out of her reverie, Amy craned her neck back and glanced at him.

“Nothing, that we’ve been able to connect to the girl or the sword.” The young deputy frowned and sighed as the light ahead turned red.

That raised Amy’s eyebrows and she peered back at the young man. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned while working for AEGIS, is that when you investigate strange happenings, events that might seem unrelated have a way of connecting. If there is anything unusual, it may be worth investigating.”

The car came to a stop and Shanderly eyed her, before nodding and turning his attention back to the road. “The night the girl turned up, we received a tip about a fire in Ammon Park. There were reports of some weird flashes of light and a cloaked figure lurking about. We investigated it, but didn’t turn up anything. All that being said, I gotta admit it looked a little strange.”

“What do you mean?” Rathdrum asked from the back seat.

“Well…” He trailed off glancing at each of them before continuing. “The scorch marks on the ground formed an almost perfect circle, about seven-feet around. The weird thing is, there was no damage to any of the trees or playground equipment in the circle, just the grass.”

“Did you run any grass or soil samples through the lab? Maybe there was a—” Van den Broeke started, but the deputy waved her off.

“You guys probably do things differently in the big city, but here in a small town like Tondzaosha we don’t make a big fuss over what so far has been an isolated incident. The damage to the park was minimal and the cost of investigating is just a /tad/ more than the price of a little sod. It was probably the work of some dumb teenagers in any case.”

Amelia nodded, and bit the inside of her cheek. What Shanderly said made a fair bit of sense, but if there was any connection with either the girl or the sword to what had happened in the park, they would have missed an important clue. Regardless of the deputies thoughts on the matter she would take a visit to Ammon Park soon.

They spent the rest of the car ride trading inane chatter, and the deputy soon dropped them off at their hotel. They traded phone numbers, and Shanderly sped away his squad car disappearing down the roadway in seconds.

Amelia watch him depart, her green eyes lingering long after he’d departed. She experienced a a vague sense of uneasiness. She kept telling herself it was because she’d returned to the hell of her early childhood, but that wasn’t it at all. Her instinct told her that something was very wrong. Only time would tell what that might be.


Amelia sighed, closing the hotel room door behind her and slipped her blazer off, tossing it on the dresser beside the case files. Slipping her shoes off, she dropped onto the bed, spread eagle and closed her eyes emitting a contented breath of air. She began to slip into the dark realm of slumber, but she forced her eyes open. Slowly, lazily they complied and she found herself looking up at the ceiling. She would have liked to get some sleep, but it was not a luxury she could afford to indulge in just yet. The agent had a promise to keep.

She reached out with her mind, a familiar presence touching her consciousness. “Liv,” she whispered her pet name for Sapphira out loud. For a brief time Sapphira Olivia Scott and Amy had shared an empathic bond. Though it had faded away after their short-lived joining of body and mind, a connection lingered. All it took was for one of them to reach out and their minds would again connect. When that happened the bond was stronger than it ever had been before. They could share more than emotions, but thoughts and impressions. They could even project images into each other’s minds.

“Amy,” the other’s voice rang through her mind and the agent lurched to her feet so she could stand face to face with the phantom of her life partner.

Sapphira was tall and dark, a beautiful woman by any standard, but the one feature which Amelia found most mesmerizing were her sapphire-blue eyes which stood out in stark contrast to her chocolate brown skin. She hadn’t always looked that way, when they’d first met she had been an old man, living in the past and angry at the world. The power which she inherited from a being known as Ashtar transformed her into the woman whose image stood before her and helped her overcome her hatreds and create a new life for herself.

Sapphira was infatuated with Amelia from the start, but the agent, knowing who she was and the prejudices she held, was repulsed. It had been quite the shock to Sapphira when she learned Amy was a transwoman, and it had seemed, for a time, that the agent would no longer have to fend off the other’s unwanted advances.

Eventually they joined forces to overcome Chemosh, an ancient and powerful alien entity, merging into a single form and gaining an insight into one another’s minds they could have never achieved before. When they split back to their individual forms, Amy was transformed and the pair, as a result of the connection, fell in love.

Upon seeing Sapphira, Amy sprang forward embracing the other and locked lips with her. Though she was hundreds of miles away and the form that stood before her was an illusion, the kiss and her illusory body seemed as real as if she were flesh and blood. She swore she could even taste the raspberry lip gloss her lover wore.

“How’s it going?” Sapphira asked placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Fine,” she lied, resting her head on Sapphira’s shoulder, surprised that it supported her weight, but glad that it did. She closed her eyes letting out a contented sigh.

“You’re lying,” her partner said and Amy’s eyes snapped back open.

A gentle smile touched the corner of Sapphira’s lips, as she slid her arms out to cup the other’s face in her hands. Amy pulled away, sprawling back first onto the bed.

“I hate being back here, Liv,” she said, propping herself up with her shoulder peering back up at her. “I’ve spent the last fifteen years trying to put my life here behind me, and now I feel like I’m fifteen again, still trying to come to grips with my gender identity.”

Sapphira slipped beside Amelia, wrapped her arm around the other woman and sighed. “They should have never asked you to go back.”

Amy almost laughed, but when she turned to look in her lover’s eyes and saw the concern mirrored in them she stopped herself.

“Just hold me.” She slipped her head into Sapphira’s lap and closed her eyes, just letting herself drift away…