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Cyroa

When the Cat's Away (IC)

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James tossed his coat down on his bed. He didn't really need a coat, not with his powers, but it'd be kind of odd to be seen wandering around a frigid season without one. He walked back down to the kitchen, pushing the answering machine button as he walked past. He opened the fridge, glad the service had restocked recently. He grabbed a leftover chinese food container and tossed it in the fridge as he listened.

Most were things he could happily ignore or he'd get to eventually. Then there were the various invitations to things (those he marked down) and the occassion finance report from his investment group. He had just started eating the leftover when Taylor's voice came on, asking him to stop by. Easy enough to do.

He quickly scarfed down the tasty remains and cleaned up. He turned, took a step and appeared outside Taylor's library. He knew it quite well obviously given the amount of time he spent there and could have 'ported right inside. Still, it was her Sanctum and privacy needed to be respected. Hence the hallway. He knocked politely on the door, waited a moment before entering.

"Hey Taylor. How's it going?"

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"Come on in, James" Taylor's voice was slightly muffled by the thick door. Inside the 'sanctum santorum', it was much the same as it usually was. The rest of the apartment had more Jack than Taylor in the stark, dark and certainly expensive decorations. The library, however, was all Taylor's choices, from the thick stuffed chairs next to the fire to the heavy antique desk that took up one corner of the room, piled high with books and scrolls. The walls were filled with inset shelves that were filled completely with ancient and priceless tomes. No silly knick-knacks took up space on those shelves.

Another antique curio cabinet was filled with the tools of the trade and as James knew from experience, under the expensive rug was a carefully etched circle filled and surrounded with delicate runes. As Taylor said, it saved time when you just had to kick back the rug rather than breaking out the chalk. Plus, a hurried circle risked errors. Which wasn't good for anyone involved.

The sorceress in question wasn't behind her desk for once. Instead, Taylor was curled into a chair. She'd been either reading or napping in front of the fire, but she shoved the lap blanket off onto the floor and stood up as James entered. Her usual frayed jeans and t-shirt had been traded for jeans so new that they still had that freshly creased look to them and a loose tunic top. She gave James a bright smile that dimpled her cheeks and waved him over, offering the other chair, "Please, have a seat?"

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James walked in, closing the door behind him. He noted the oddities but didn't mention anything. Everyone was entitled to their secrets after all. He walked over and grinned. "Uh oh. Asking me to sit down. This is gonna be one of those 'touchy' talks isn't it? Is this the 'you're a man now speech?' Or the 'boys and girls' one? I've heard them both but I'll be fascinated by your take on it, I'm sure," he said, voice full of humor. He dropped into the cushy chair easily. But just because he enjoyed having fun didn't mean he couldn't focus. "So, what's going on?"

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Taylor pulled a face at him and dropped back into her chair. Tucking her legs up under herself, she took her time setting her book off to the side and running her hand over the arm of the chair. She huffed a few times, "Well, you're not far off from the 'you're a man now' speech, I guess."

Before she could fray the chair with her fingertips, Taylor folded her hands together in her lap and gave him a direct look, "I'm afraid I may need to have your help with some - if not all - of my duties. The timing is abysmal as there is still so, so much left for you to learn but there is little other choice for me at the moment. I'm having a baby. And, yes, it's Jack's."

She fixed him with an expectant look as she weighted for him to work through the giant puddle of problems that was.

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James blinked. "Huh...I'd have said that's impossible but obviously it's not. I should have known better," he mumbled to himself. "Well, first things first." He stood up and moved over to Taylor. Bending down he gave her a hug. "Congratulation are in order," he said with a smile. He sat on the arm of his chair after leaning back. "Well...hmm. So, how far along are you? And I'm guessing it's going to mess with your powers a little too." He didn't mention the last bit, something she probably hadn't though of yet. The kid itself. Was going to grow up, mostly likely, as half a monster. That could do some rough things to one's emotional stability and self-image. James knew that one from personal experience.

But that was a long way off. For now they had more immediate problems. "Looks like all that work I've been doing will be paying off sooner than expected. You're going to have to go on 'sabbatical' or something. And even afterwords, you can't handle the same load as you did before. Not to mention having to be more careful and preventing this from getting out. Kids...a heck of a life changer. He smiled. "So...is it a girl or a boy?"

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Taylor leaned into the hug with a soft sigh. Not for the first time, she was thankful for the twist of fate that had crossed her path with the half demon. Not only could he understand the problems but he wouldn't give her that look of mingled horror and pity that those who knew of Jack's nature tended to have.

"It's a boy." Taylor said quietly, her eyes silently expressing her wordless thanks, "And you're right, we have to keep it quiet. Not only would the vampires be after my head but the hunters wouldn't be far behind. Once you're a bit more up to speed, we'll start slipping out of this world to ones that move a little faster to try and cut down on just how vulnerable I am right now. I am sorry to put this weight on your shoulders so suddenly. It was, well, clearly not planned."

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James smiled. "Maybe someone should have given you the 'birds and the bees' talk," he said jokingly despite knowing full well it wouldn't have meant anything. How do you plan for something that should have been impossible?

He waved away her apology. "No worries. My studies are rather far along as it is anyway. It's not much of a weight, least no more than I was expecting. Now I've got a valid excuse to blow off my homework," he grinned. Not that he'd ever needed one before, but still. Nice to know there was a legitimate option if he wanted it. "I'll step it up a notch though, just to make sure. So..." He paused. "My duties as a dimensional guardian don't include diaper changing right?" He grinned. "That was definitely not in the brochure. Anyway, I'm guessing you haven't told your family yet? Any idea how's that going to work? As far as they know, you're a regular girl. Mostly. Not to mention you just got married." He knew her family was kept in the dark about what she did, for their own safety. He supposed she could always do some kind of spell thing to 'fudge' the whole thing over and make them forget stuff.

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Taylor swatted at him half heartedly for the birds and bees comment although she was smiling, "I understand the mechanics just fine, thank you. Please don't tease Jack, he's not really alright with all of this."

She gestured down to her abdomen before sighing and answering his question, "It isn't going to be a pleasant conversation, no. My parents know I'm a super hero but really none of the rest of it. I had to come out about that after the wedding. They don't know Jack's a vampire. They're not going to be happy about a baby born four months after the wedding no matter how I spin it."

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James grinned as she hit him but nodded anyway. "Ok, ok. I'll be needle him about it. Too much anyway," he said, waggling his eyes. In truth, he probably wouldn't do it at all. Not 'cause he was afraid of Avenger. More like the guy was just wound a little too tight and this should be something to be happy about. Guy had enough on his mind.

He nodded. "Yeah, can't see it going smoothly. Either you fib a bit and say you were pregnant before, and just didn't realize it... That's kind of a stretch though. 'Course, the truth might be a bit worse on them honestly." Saying 'hi, my husband's a vampire drinks blood' probably would go worse than pretty much any option really now that he thought about it.

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"That would be easier if I hadn't sworn up and down to my mother that the hasty wedding wasn't because Jack and I were expecting. Not to mention I am supposed to be graduating college this summer. My parents think I just turned twenty-one and have enough concerns about the whirlwand romance." Taylor sighed and rubbed her fingertips accross her brow, "And I don't trust them to react well to the truth. Their rejection of Jack would hurt him and I don't want that. He doesn't have a family of his own. Well, other than me, of course."

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He winced at the revelation. "Ouch. Talk about coming back to bite you. You're definitely up the creek I think." He frowned, thinking. "Ok, this definitely goes against the whole 'good guy' and 'morally right' stuff, but given my heritage, it's totally up my alley to mention it. Not saying it's right, just an option or idea. You could always make them 'forget' a little. Not messing with free will, just adjusting a memory or two to make the acceptance of this whole thing a tad easier to swallow." Was it a heroic thing to do? Not likely. But James wasn't exactly the shining heroic beacon of goodness either. Even if he didn't agree with some ideas, it certainly didn't mean that he didn't have them.

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"I've considered it," Taylor admitted wryly, "With how I feel about my head being messed with, that's quite a statement. It's more complicated though, because we actually have a wedding licsence with the date on it and the baby will have a birth certificate with the date on that. Considering the hoops for the paperwork, it wouldn't work in the long run to mess with memories. Plus, it really would be wrong. But certainly easier."

Taylor made a face and shook her head, "No, I'll have to tell them. I'm just still trying to decide what and how to tell them and in the end, that's less important than making sure that we protect myself and the baby. Also in a way that makes it so that I don't have to kill a bunch of vampires. That would make Jack more than a little testy."

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James just nodded. "Well, good luck. I seriously doubt it's going to be a pleasant experience. Sooner rather than later might be best obviously." He nodded. He'd love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation though he felt bad for Taylor having to go through it.

He thought for a moment. "How's that going to work out anyway? The vamps are going to come looking for Jack anyway. That's kind of obvious from the wedding. They aren't likely to just let it drop. Beyond the fact that he's a teammate, he's also your husband. What are we going to do? Or are you guys taking an extended vacation in another realm to let them cool off?"

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"We can't risk being gone so long. Jack's the leader, more or less, of Freedom City's vampires. If he leaves, hill have a coup on his hand and a vampire coup doesn't leave survivors," Taylor said quietly, "Worse, if they find out that Jack's made a half-breed, his enemies may very well unite and come for his head, and mine and our son's. Dhampir are a pretty big 'do not create' when it comes to the vampires. We'll sneak off to worlds that move faster so I can get through the pregnancy as quickly as possible and be back in fighting shape.

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James nodded. "Which will create more problems for you too. Talk about being up the creek," he said ruefully. "Do we have a solution to deal with the Dragon's...interruptions?" He didn't particularly want to face Dracula but it'd be nice if the SOB would show up. Especially if they could arrange for the entire hero population to be there at one time. They would actually get rid of the thing for good finally. Not that he would do anything so direct. They just weren't that lucky.

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"No, not yet. In addition to his threat level and the vampire politics part of it, Jack's a direct descendent of Dracula. I think its his sire's sire but I might be missing a step in there." Taylor waved a hand, nose wrinkling up, "I have the worst inlaws. Not to mention Jack's sire is not fond of me. It makes me all sorts of tense that she hasn't waltzed in yet. We're just waiting for the shoe to drop. I hate that."

Talor sighed and tucked her hands in her lap, under the lap blanket. "She might be hiding since her childe's drawn the big bad's wrath and she doesn't want to die by association but I think she's just as likely to try and provide Jack's head on a platter to stem the outrage."

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James grimaced. "That seriously sucks. Like having Dracs isn't bad enough. I hate waiting." He didn't comment on her 'in-laws'. It was a weird enough situation as it was. Plus, they really were that bad.

"I don't suppose going on the offensive is possible? Dracs may be a seriously major baddy, but he's not invincible. If we could find out where he is, gather up all the hero types again and pay him a visit... Even if we don't take him out 'cause he escapes, it might convince him to step back from this. Given the sheer power level of the heroes, that's something that would make even him blanch at. Sending a message, with overkill." It wasn't an easy plan, a long shot really. But James preferred to be on the offensive than the defensive side of things.

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Taylor rolled her eyes at him, for the moment very much his teacher as she admonished, "James, you never ever fight a vampire in their layer. Most vampires, especially old ones, live in a nest with their childer, possibly even grand childer and then human defenses. They are mystical fortresses and often with mundane protections as well. Even Jack, who's very young as vampires go has a billion layers of protection here and he never even sleeps."

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James grinned. "Yeah, like I wanna go into Drac's house. I was more thinking we show up and knock or something. Then maybe warp a bomb in there or something," he said with a chuckle. "Seriously though. Not looking for something foolish, but there's always a way. Just a way to send a message that will sink in." He shrugged. "No one and nothing is unbeatable. Might be ridiculously hard, true. But that doesn't make it impossible. We've got lots of friends and connections that would help. Just need a workable plan is all."

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"Sometimes the enemy is unbeatable, but that doesn't mean its not worth fighting," Taylor disagreed quietly. She pushed up out of her chair and walked over to the wall, fingertips searching over the leather tomes with familiarity. There were books in all languages, most of them ancient but she pulled a slim, unmarked volume from the shelf.

"Dracula is too old to rush his hand and, for the moment, the timing to pick a fight is poor." Taylor walked back over and held the volume out to him. It didn't look so much like a spellbook as a journal. "I'd rather focus on your training than borrow trouble."

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James just nodded. "Yeah, I suppose. Still, it doesn't hurt to plan ahead and all that."

He took the book with an exaggerated sigh. "Ok, what am I supposed to be learning now?" he said with a joking smile. He was actually quite good at this thanks to all the effort he'd invested of late. But there was always more. And he didn't really mind the learning of it. But that didn't mean he couldn't act like it once in a while.

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"It's not a spell book," Taylor said with a faint smile, "It's a journal. My journal. I started keeping it when I first started. I hope it might prepare you for the... emotional ramifications of this job."

Taylor sat down again, folding her leg up under her. Her wedding band winked in the light as she gestured vaguely, "The fighting, that part is easy. When you know the person is bad, or out for personal gain. But sometimes it is a refugee who doesn't want to go back to a war torn world. Or worse."

Her lips flattened, memories etching lines around her full mouth before she shook off the thoughts.

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James sighed with a little frown. "A little light, fun reading then huh?"

He held the book thoughtfully for a long moment. He wasn't exactly a bastion of goodness and purity nor was he prone to guilt in the least. He just didn't generally feel bad about making those hard calls. But Taylor mentioning having to return refugees to a war torn, or worse, world made him think of Erin. And his guts clenched tighly at the thought of having to send her back. That was just........ Not going to happen. He believed in the job Phantom, and now he, did. But the idea of sending Erin away or back to the hell she cae from was just too painful to accept.

"Some of them, sure. But we don't send back or deny everyone. There are multiple exception to that one obvious. I've met a bunch of them. In some ways this world and dimension is like a safe harbor. So who gets to make the call as to who gets to stay and who gets kicked out? Us? And on what basis?"

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"Based on need versus danger versus gut instincts." Taylor said wearily, holding her hands up, fingers cupped, "Its like a scale. Even prime can't hold all refugees or even a fragment. Also, they might be needed on their world as personally unfair as that might be. So with every person who stays here, there's a little more 'weight'."

Here she dropped her hand, raising the other like a scale tipping out of balance. "Eventually, it causes the fabric to warp under the weight and then dimensional tears start to appear. Which makes it easier for more people to trickle through, which leads to more tearing. So you choose and you do your best to choose as well as you can."

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James listened and sat quietly for several moments; thinking and contemplating. "Geez. Talking about the short end of the stick. No pressure there, huh?" People's lives were not enough to hang in the balance. Now they were talking about the very fabirc of their reality. No pressure indeed.

"Hey...If there are an almost infinite number of worlds and dimensions out there along the spectrum, then there would also be an equal number of worlds where people never evolved here. Or dinasuars still roamed. I'm just kind of thinking, spitballing ideas here. But what about the possibility of 'lifeboat worlds' or something? A dying world and its people get a second chance. Just one obviously; can't keep ruining other people's chances. But it'd be a safe place to start over or something, right? It wouldn't really apply to the singular crossover person, at least not at first. But for larger groups or others whose worlds are dying?"

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