pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq

Red liked a little cheese on his bones. I meant that literally. He liked peanut butter or cheese to be spread over his dog bones.

I was cracking open one of his bones with a knife. Just a dull butter knife. I was putting the tip under quite a bit of pressure and I slipped the knife up into my hand. I felt it slice my unprotected skin. I hadn't had my aura up. It was relaxed. I stared at the welts of blood which formed in the palm of my hand.

I was mortal. Just because Mother was gone and no longer haunted me didn't make that any less true. I could still die. And my aura…

I'd caught myself a tad unaware when that knife slipped. But my aura wasn't up all the time. I could be slain just as easily. In my sleep or any such nonsense.

You're only as vulnerable as the last time you were wounded.

And I'd just proved that I was pretty vulnerable. I finished cracking open the rawhide chew bone for Red and spread some spreadable cheese across the inside. I handed it to Red who took it gently from my hands and marched over to his bed in the living room of my house.

Ruby flinched at the sight of me when she saw me lick my palm and come away red.

"What did you do?" She demanded.

"Sliced myself. Cracking open Red's bone. It's nothing. Just a flesh wound."

"You didn't have your aura up?"

"I guess not." It surprised me too. To be fair, I still kept my semblance mostly charged just in case.

"Be more careful. I don't like seeing you in pain."

"I'm not in any real pain. Just a light stinging sensation."

"Do you… do you like it? I know there was some self harming in your past."

"This wasn't like that. Total accident. I swear."

"Okay. If you say so."

"I do," I informed her. And I did. This wasn't at all like me burning myself for pleasure. "It's just a reminder of my own mortality. I get to die. Endless life would be a curse not a blessing. It's my special privileged pleasure to die."

"Well… okay. Again if you say so."

"I am saying so. How are the kids?"

"All put to sleep. Soon it'll be our turn to lights out."

"I always thought sleep was kinda cookie."

"Wasn't that just… Salem?"

"A little. The fact we have to be unconscious for an indeterminate amount of time is weird. You'd think evolution would have weeded out those who slept but it must have incurred an decisive evolutionary advantage. All things more complicated than an Earthworm sleep. Why?"

"I don't know. Isn't it just because we need rest."

"But the Grimm don't rest. So why us?"

"Again I'd have to say I really don't know."

"Yeah it just has me thinking about the god of light and the god of darkness. So they must want us to be sleeping. But why though. That's the kicker. Why make us sleep. Be a good way of saving us. Downloading our brains for later use. Makes me think. You know?"

"Well there are always more mysteries."

"Yeah but sleep is like dying."

"A little," Weiss overheard and cut in. "But in other ways it's not. What about dreams?"

"Salem dreams still. I pick up on it sometimes."

"But she's not dead. She's just…" Ruby trailed off.

"Dismembered?" I supplied.

"Yeah." Ruby finished.

"What about Boltzmann brains?"

"What about what now?" Weiss demanded.

"Boltzmann brains. Just minds that come into and out of being through pure quantum randomness. That should happen sometimes. Especially if the universe is infinite. Which it could be. We should expect to, after we die, have near identical copies of ourselves flicker in and out of existence. Copies of us which we ourselves wouldn't be able to distinguish from ourselves. Just through the sheer time and space involved. Boltzmann dreams. You could say. We should go on dreaming after we die. Just chaotically."

"Cloud… just… okay?" Weiss managed.

"Okay," I agreed. "But we should expect to go on dreaming after we die. Down differing forks and rivers. And of course some physicists think the Boltzmann constant is too low for a fully functioning brain to appear even once with our entire observable universe's future and past history. But it has me thinking. The god of light isn't very nice."

"Go to bed. Cloud." Ruby decided.

"I will. Once I'm done contemplating my own mortality. Kids are in bed? All asleep?"

"Maybe. Nebel takes after you. He might still be awake and pacing. I've caught him a few times," Weiss admitted.

"That's not good. I wanted him to take after you in that regard," I confessed.

"Your worry comes from a good place," Weiss disagreed.

"Not always. It usually comes from an obsessive place."

"It's good. We don't want easy lives for our children. I'm glad Nebel takes after you," Ruby disagreed.

I hummed noncommittally. I didn't like it. I'd really rather my son not be the obsessive type.

pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq

I was driving my motorcycle down the road. It was crowded with lots of traffic. I kept my pace. Matching and exceeding any other vehicles. I leaned into traffic with a tired sigh. I'd made it back.

I'd beaten my Mother but I'd made it back.

Back to my wives. Back to my children. Back to the days in and days out of working at Beacon every day.

It was hard. There were still monsters in my world. Still kids who needed training. There was just not a big bad who needed slaying. And that was hard in its own right. There was no big bad to focus my attention on. And that made for a difficult life position for me to be in. I'd never been in this position before. Just with my wives. And my life which I felt was secondary. I'm sure my wives would disagree.

But for me it was new. As I bobbed and weaved in traffic. Some motorcycles rolled up on me. I accelerated. Not wanting to lose the race. I'd lost the race before. I'd been caught up on before. I was used to it. They caught up on me anyways.

I recognized the blonde drifting hair. This is what I'd been afraid of. This was it. This was the night. It was my night. My night when I died.

"Where's Mother, brother," the voice shouted out at me on the crowded street.

It was little Lily. My little Lily. I didn't know her power. She scared the shit out of me. Synesthesia rolled with it. I'd gotten used to not defending my mind from assault. I now saw that as a mistake with my sisters in the picture.

Lily flicked her ax into her hand. Just a small hatchet which looked mechashift. I swerved to avoid her and drew the titanic broadsword from my motorcycle. The compartment opening up to reveal several sets of swords for me to choose from. Like a buffet in which every morsel was tasty. I picked the broadsword from my selection.

"Where's Mother, brother?!"

A new voice from the other side. It was Iris. I didn't know her power either. I had no idea what they could do. I activated my semblance with a flex of thought into my soul.

Iris had a ball and chain which she easily swung over head at me. I deflected it easily enough but Lily encroached and I had to ward her off with the long, long edge of Crocea Mors. Or part of it at least. The rest was in my bike.

We bobbed through traffic easily enough. I found I couldn't press the issue, surrounded by civilians as we were. Instead I fought back on my bike as best as I was able. Iris's ball and chain looped around my weapon and held fast. I jerked to over power her with main strength but was forced to swerve to avoid Lily. My little Lily. She was allied against me. I had to remember that. Or else I would die. I would die tonight if I wasn't careful.

I ripped my weapon free and swung back against Lily. She was no match for me alone. But she wasn't alone. She had support. I didn't. I swung and my blade passed right through her body with a soft flare of blue light. Light the same color as her eyes. "Nuh uh," she shook her head and for a moment I was frozen in place and couldn't move an inch. This must be her power. Storing a little time away on contact with her body. Only it stored me instead of her. She buried her axe into my bike's front and I winced and could move again.

My bike managed to keep driving despite the wound in its surface. I tried to wrench the weapon from Lily's hand by swerving but she withdrew her weapon.

Cars honked in front of me and drew my eye. There was Saphron just standing in the road and waiting. A truck drove straight at her and that specter appeared around her. There was a bubble and the monster snapped it's fingers and a truck crashed into nothing but Saphron's will.

I summoned my own magic to work a spell. I waved my hand and sheet of hexagons appeared in front of me. Saphron didn't attack the countering scintilla but it didn't matter. The hexagons collapsed and there was a furious sparking which caught Saphron. It blew her off her feet at the same time the monster snapped it's fingers again and it was as though I had slammed into a wall head first on my bike. I rolled fifty feet down the street away from my wrecked bike. The speed and momentum I'd had had been enough to wrench my aura. I picked myself up and reclaimed my fallen broadsword. Or I tried to. Lily stepped on it after dismounting.

"Where's Mother, Brother?" She pressed hard.

I ripped my broadsword out from under her boot.

"You think I'll seriously tell you?" I wondered.

I leveled the broadsword at her. Saphron was slowly walking up on me with her ghost in tow. Iris stepped beside Lily. Dismounting her bike.

"I think, dear brother, you don't have a choice."

They assaulted my mind at the same time they attacked me physically. It's difficult to describe what that was like if you can't feel it for yourself. Suddenly the river I was on shifted and they were attempting to scan through my memories. I rebelled at once. I was strong with Limit. But I couldn't imagine spending it then facing their mental assault. I diverted them. I pulled up memories of my children and I clung to them.

Saphron snorted as she whipped her knife at my neck. I blocked it.

"I'll kill them," she whispered. "Your children and your wives. Where do you think the other four of us are?"

I flinched as though struck. They tried ripping my thoughts in the direction of the location I had buried Mother. I resisted and dodged an axe to the head. I had to get home. My wives were good but my sisters were more numerous and better. Even being maidens wouldn't necessarily turn the tide because my sisters had magic too.

A ball and chain wrapped around my throught then with a pulse of blue light the same colour as her eyes Iris ripped me to the ground. Saphron shot me in the back of the head and an ax came down on my neck.

Nebel had started training and had a training wheels blade but his semblance had yet to manifest. He wouldn't be able to help his mothers much and may only get in the way. I spent Limit on a whirlwind of attacks which hit all three of them hard.

Without Limit my thoughts throbbed and Saphron almost dug the location of Mother's grave out of my brain. They all approached me from different directions with their eyes closed in concentration and their arms outstretched at me. They focused the mental weight of the sky upon me and I fell to my knees. My hands clutched my head as I resisted the urge to think about where I had buried Mother's head. It was difficult. Have you ever tried to not think about something? Now imagine that but with a river pulling you in that direction.

"No!" I snapped. I brought my sword down on Saphron and she deflected with her small blade and slipped in and shot me point blank in the chest and head. My head snapped back from the fifty caliber bullet. I swung at Lily and she paused me in time and knocked me back to my knees.

Saphron stepped in a stroked my hair and looked me dead in the eyes. I felt their mental pressure. I couldn't keep this up.

I reversed my blade and dropped my aura. "No!" Saphron shouted. Too late. I stabbed myself through the heart. I died there in the street. I sent one final prayer for my family my chosen family. Then I passed on. I took the location of Mother's grave with me to mine.

The last thing I saw was Saphron turning on her heel back to her bike.

pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq pq

-WG