Raze Warfare Special Extra:
-The Blood of the Covenant-
Raze must come to terms with the fact that the Wolf has stolen time and precious parts of his mind from him. He goes to the one person who truly understands what it is to forget, and how to survive it.
“My Raze, why are you sitting out there alone?”
A feather-light voice wisped out from the window behind Dom.
He swivelled ever so slowly on the cold grating of the stairwell. Half because he didn’t want to startle the sweet lady that Kiddo had said was Dom’s nanna, and half because he really didn’t know how to deal with having a surprise adopted family member.
It had been a bloody long night.
A bloody, long night.
Necks cracking and skulls clacking.
Then a damned long morning.
A damning kind of morning.
And that was the norm.
How could someone like him have a nanna?
“Sweetheart,” she uttered shakily. Tenderly. “You know you can always come right in.” She tilted her head, with genuine fondness twinkling in her rheumy eyes. “I never remember to lock the window.”
Miss Dorris was a tiny doll. A stooped, fragile thing. She looked like she might blow over if she stepped out into the autumn wind. Her dark face was crinkled in all the jolliest places. She wore something between a tea cosy and a crocheted beanie over her powder-puff of white hair. Her jumper matched the hat, with a glittering brooch pinned over her heart. And all of this at once softened something that was usually impenetrable and guarded inside Dom.
“You should be careful,” Dom warned her with a frown, feeling a growing sense of protectiveness. “That’s not safe. And you shouldn’t let strangers in.”
Not all monsters wore fang-mouthed masks. Not all monsters looked the part.
Miss Dorris chuckled on a wavery breath of air. She shuffled to reach over the windowsill, leaning to cup his cheek.
“I might be forgetful my darling one,” Miss Dorris answered him warmly. “I might forget your name or even that you are my family now. But you’ll never feel like a stranger.”
Her fingers felt as brittle and soft as tissue paper against his face, and yet her touch was a completely grounding one. Wholesome.
Nothing like the Wolf’s touch. So possessive and controlling.
“You think that, even if you were to forget me,” Dom swallowed. “Deep down …”
“Deep down my loved ones will stay in my heart,” Miss Dorris answered faithfully. “My heart will recognise its love for you, even if my mind does not.” She lowered her hand wistfully. “We never forget our beloved ones. Not really.”
Dom considered this.
Flickers of unexpected images sometimes came to him these days, along with other things that must have been embedded into his brain long before the Wolf had attacked it.
Like the fact that Dom somehow knew that he should skip certain steps that were alarmed outside Hato’s base. And just last night he had automatically reached for the green tea jar when he’d slipped in to find Kiddo awake and staring vacantly at the long since boiled kettle. He had itched to rub Kid’s neck – instinctively concerned to find Kiddo, alone and blankly holding an empty, waiting mug.
Was he just phasing out after a hard day, or was he close to an episode? How did Dom even know that those were two possibilities to watch out for with Kid?
He’d taken the mug and guided Kiddo to lean against the bench, relieved to see Kid’s attention at once coming back to the present. Kid had watched Dom fix the tea with the same amount of warmth in his eyes as Miss Dorris’ had as they regarded Dom right now too. Kiddo had accepted that Dom had kept a little distance between them, accepted Dom’s ministrations. Been so very different to the roughness, the coolness and the hunger of the Wolf.
“How did I get so lucky, to become one of your beloved ones?” Dom asked Miss Dorris curiously.
Kiddo had told Dom some things about Miss Dorris a couple of nights ago, when Dom had first witnessed Kid collapsing before a funeral. Despite the circumstances of the telling, it had made for a nice story – yet a story that was so incongruous to what Dom knew of himself.
When Dom had last had an older, adored ‘Miss’ in his life, the way he’d got into that formidable Miss Lotus’ heart was to scour all of Tokyo so that he could bring her the heads of her enemies.
“Well…” Miss Dorris’ gaze trailed to the grey sky as she tried to remember how she and her Raze had come together.
“I don’t quite recall how it started,” she admitted vaguely. “But I know that there is a note on my fridge with your name on it, and that ever since that note appeared there, and since your face started appearing in my life, I have not felt alone.”
Dom bit his lip.
He had a nanna?
“Um … Miss Dorris …” he asked tentatively.
Her cloudy eyes refocused on him.
“Could I give you a hug?”
“Oh, I wish you would,” she confided. “It’s chilly talking to you by the window. Please come in.”
She beamed as he swung his legs over the windowsill and slid into her apartment.
She half sagged into him as she doddered forward, and then Dom was wrapped in the most maternal hug he had ever felt in his life.
He blinked down at the top of her tea cosy hat with wonder. His past, forgotten self had sure got some things right.
He had a nanna.
“I’ll boil the kettle,” Miss Dorris glowed with satisfaction as she leaned on, and guided him across to her kitchen. “Don’t worry about the window,” she commented as he glanced back over his shoulder. “The angry blonde one sometimes uses it, or the beautiful one. Never the giant one, though,” she explained.
“The giant one?” Dom asked in surprise, taking a seat. “Angry and beautiful?”
Miss Dorris shuffled to the kettle to fill it with water.
“The giant one can’t fit through the window, so he and his police lady always use the front door. Even that’s a bit tight.”
Dom tried to keep his jaw from hitting the table top.
Hato and Seethe came here to check on his ‘nanna’?
Hato had even introduced his partner to this unofficial grandmother of the Raze gang.
And the beautiful one…
“Don’t they tell you to lock the window?” Dom asked, while Miss Dorris contentedly lit the gas stove and placed the kettle over the flame.
Rain had begun to fall outside, lightly hitting the cold stair grating he’d hesitated on for so long.
“Enough that I do recall them saying it,” Miss Dorris gave a dainty cough after blowing out her match. “But they are your family. My heart recognises them. So it’s alright to forget the lock if good can come of it.”
Dom sat back in the rickety wooden chair with eyebrows raised.
“Most of the time I forget things I’d rather remember, and remember things I wouldn’t mind to forget,” Miss Dorris sighed. “The window isn’t too much of a worry to get muddled over.”
Dom rubbed the back of his neck.
“I’ve forgotten some things recently myself,” he confessed. “I hardly remember the family I introduced you to.”
Miss Dorris peered at him sadly.
“I don’t think age addled your memories,” she commented softly as the kettle began to sing.
There was one of those flickers. A flash of those images. But this time his mind’s eye was scarred with the recollection of masked figures and bestial, fanged humans pressing in. They were crushing his face against the pavement, their knees digging into his shoulder blades and wrists, their boots grinding down on his legs. Tiny stones ground against his skin, cutting little rivets out of him as he tried to move. Then the Wolf. And the electric shocks. Forks of lightning cutting zig zagged, jagged lines through his brain. Burning and searing.
“Did it, dear?”
Dom was silent for a few moments as the call of the kettle became higher and more urgent.
“Some people hurt me,” he admitted.
They were still hurting him.
He was in the Wolf’s den every night. Crawling in snatchers and hunters, and their king. All thinking he was safely theirs.
They didn’t realise he was already quietly hurting them right back.
Taking one claw at a time. One fang at a time.
He kept his face impassive as Miss Dorris’ most jolly wrinkles curved downward with sorrow.
“There are enough bad people around that you really should remember to lock that window,” Dom finished gently.
The kettle whistled in a shrill call now, and Miss Dorris coughed again as she turned to lift it from the flame, switching the stove off.
“That is one reason I like to remember to forget to lock my window. So you or your family can get in here and stay safe if you need to.”
“Hopefully you and I really will always be able to work out which of the strangers around here are ‘family’ or not,” Dom grimaced.
Miss Dorris took unsteady steps to a glass cabinet, where a beautiful china teapot sat waiting.
Dom quickly rose to help her with it, and lifted the full kettle to pour the water into her prized pot.
“You made that family for yourself Raze,” she said seriously. Her voice full of clarity. “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Your heart knows more than your head does. And I can remember enough for you. The big one and angry one are your brothers. The beautiful one makes you calm and whole, and the Glitter one makes you joyful.”
“Glitter?” Dom quirked an eyebrow as Miss Dorris set the tea leaves to steep.
“Mmm?” she asked. “Glitter, or Sparkles, was it…?” she petered off, swaying away to the refrigerator to take out a carton of milk.
Dom would have smiled as he saw her aiming for a fancy porcelain milk jug – going all out for their tea time. But a cold finger had run down his spine as he’d registered that she’d been referring to the mechanic-ess. Sparks.
Dom had pin-pointed the Raze techie, Jingle’s location. A particularly precious claw to soon be pulled from the Wolf’s clutches. But Dom had to keep working to find the others that the Raze gang were missing.
That Dom himself was missing.
If Dom couldn’t find Sparks in time, she might always stay as an enigmatic, missing piece in his life. At least he wouldn’t really know what he was missing. But what might her loss do to Kid?
“Do you ever feel afraid, when you realise you have gaps where there should be faces and events?” Dom asked casually as he brought the teapot over to join Miss Dorris’ milk jug on the table.
“I get a fright sometimes, when I realise something has slipped away, and that I can’t remember what,” Miss Dorris answered serenely, far from seeming frightened at the present.
She placed three exquisite cups and saucers on the table. “But for now I remember enough to go on with life, and the important things come to my attention when they need to. The really important things won’t let themselves be forgotten.”
There was the rattling sound of someone climbing the stairwell outside; their footsteps hurrying in the rain.
“Miss Dorris? Are you in?” a breathless voice called from below as the person ascended.
Dom froze in his seat.
“Come right in out of the wet!” Miss Dorris chided the newcomer with a peaceful smile.
A lithe young man hardly paused as he got to her level and swung himself in.
“You forgot to lock your window,” Kiddo was saying as he closed it and used his shirt to wipe the water from his eyes and face.
“I had a feeling someone like you might check it for me,” Miss Dorris filled the three teacups. “My darling Raze’s …”
“Kiddo,” Kid reminded her, turning and then freezing himself.
“Raze’s Kiddo,” Dom gave a slight smirk.
“Did you forget an umbrella dear?” Miss Dorris questioned blithely. “Why were you out in the weather?”
Kiddo collected himself.
He fished something out from his back pocket and approached the table almost cautiously.
“One of your Choir Birds called Narkon’s food trucks to say you missed your singing practice today,” Kid explained. “And Dalee told me you needed your next script filled. So I thought I’d bring your pills, and check if you were ok.”
“Ohh, my pills?” Miss Dorris ruminated dimly, no recognition on her face for a moment as Kiddo placed the bottle before her.
“For your cough,” Kiddo agreed.
“My cough…” she thought about it. “I don’t really have one right now.”
Kiddo nodded patiently. “That’s right. We’ve nearly got rid of it.”
Miss Dorris gave a tiny shrug toward Dom. Things might slip her mind, but the most important ones always had a way of becoming clear.
The most important things wouldn’t let themselves be forgotten. They would plant themselves right in front of your nose if they had to.
Dom watched Kiddo, planted there right under Dom’s nose, as Miss Dorris slid a butterfly and flower covered cup across to him.
Kiddo warmed his hands around the cup, but didn’t lift it. His knee jumped ever so slightly as he cast a glance at Dom.
Kiddo had a way of sitting right back in his chair, legs out, as if he were lounging. And yet, to someone really paying attention, it seemed more like he was trying to push himself right back out of the spotlight without withdrawing too far from everyone else around him. Reserved, but connected and watchful. Energy running high beneath the cool surface.
“Good to see you here,” Kiddo murmured after a moment. “With your nan.”
Kid knew how hard it was for Dom to digest what big parts of his life had been forgotten. And Kiddo seemed relieved that Dom was going out of his way to try to digest some of those parts anyway.
Dom winked over the delicate, wafer thin rim of his teacup.
Miss Dorris lifted herself to her feet with an effort. “This visit calls for a packet of biscuits,” she announced decidedly.
Her pantry door creaked as she began rifling through the shelves.
Dom finished his cup in a swallow and reached for Kiddo’s. His fingers brushed Kid’s before he withdrew, and emptied Kid’s cup for him, too.
It wasn’t green tea.
Kiddo’s mouth quirked in a grateful smile as he opened his hands to accept the returned cup. But Dom frowned and reached for Kid instead.
“You get in a fight on the way here?” Dom whispered. Tension returning to his shoulders.
Kiddo’s knuckles were red, and one was raw and bleeding. His palm was grazed.
Perhaps the patches of blood had been washed away in the wet before now, but the splotchy bleeding was resurfacing.
Kiddo let Dom examine him, his touch sending goosebumps over Kid’s chilled arms.
Dom was scarcely breathing.
“We always try to be extra vigilant around this area before we come in,” Kiddo explained quietly. “Don’t want to lead anyone here. It was a precautionary scuffle – not someone intentionally watching Miss Dorris.”
“You know Yorak’s got keen eyes on you at the moment. Counting down to your supposed procedure date,” Dom muttered back furiously. “You shouldn’t be out and about alone.”
Kiddo smothered a grin. “But Rue was busy with her lessons.”
Dom huffed. “I’ll go with you when you leave.”
“Alright, Hato,” Kid teased. “But that’s not the kind of date I had in mind when I decided I’d try to woo you.”
Dom didn’t immediately release Kiddo’s hand when Miss Dorris triumphantly returned with a jar of sugar for the tea, having forgotten that she’d set out for biscuits.
Kiddo’s eyes crinkled with affection. “I’ll grab the notepad and draw you up a tick sheet for these pills,” he told Miss Dorris.
She was delighted to watch him divide the page into days of the week, split in two with a sun for the morning medication to be ticked each day, and a moon for the night. She seemed to think it was a lovely, novel idea, though the tick sheet on the fridge behind her, filled with shaky ticks, suggested Kiddo had done this before.
Next to the old tick sheet, in pride of place, was a note that Dom had apparently written quite a while ago.
Where his name had been signed off, and a smiley face drawn, there were the signs of regular touch marks. As if light fingertips had traced the note each day since the note had been left there.
Dom shook his head to himself.
He had a nanna.
And he had ‘the beautiful one’.
His heart knew them both.
Shelley Cass is an Australian author.
She is the author of the LGBTQ+ romance action series, Raze Warfare. She is the mother of the epic fantasy trilogy, 'A Fairy's Tale', and has penned eroticas, dystopian futures ... and Sleep Sweet children's books.
For information on her novels, visit BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS!