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13 November 2012 @ 09:48 pm
A Warrior’s Desire part 6  

Title: A Warrior's Desire part 6
Author: tkeylasunset
Word Count: (this part) ~6000
36,500 total so far
Fandom: Hawaii Five-0 (AU)
Rating: PG (may go up)
Characters/Pairings: pre-slash Steve & Danny
Warnings None that I know of
Summary: Steve and Danny's plan to rest in the mines to recover from the blizzard doesn't go quite as planned.

Written for:  H50 Harlequin.

part 1
part 2

part 3
part 4 
part 5

Steve was talking to Tasef'e, one of the miners, who had decided to take the job as Steve’s tour guide. Steve was glad for the company, Tasef'e young at heart if not in body. She didn’t appear to be quite as old as Kym’kl, whom she did confide to him was the oldest of the miners. Steve quickly discovered that Tasef'e had a kind heart she hid behind a prickly exterior. None of the miners paid attention to her scolding or her unsolicited advice. They rolled their eyes behind her back where Steve could see but careful she couldn’t.

“And this worthless excuse of an Esri is On'ashi,” Tasef’e said when she and Steve reached a wide area in the cave. The walls were sparkling from the embedded crystals. It was one of the most beautiful sights Steve had ever seen and he wondered how much brighter they’d be with Dl’elda there.

On’ashi laughed at Tasef’e, looking up at Steve from under his hard hat. “So you’re Kir’rila’vor,” On’ashi said.

“Apparently I am,” Steve said, sitting on a convenient boulder so he didn’t tower over either dwarf. “These crystals are more beautiful than I expected.”

“You’d be able to hold one if some people were doing their jobs,” Tasef’e said, looking at On’ashi.

“Like these?” On’ashi asked, picking up a bucket filled to overflowing the crystals. He picked up a few that had fallen to the mine floor, watching as Steve helped collect them. Steve noticed one was warmer than the others and held onto it.

As he held the irregular shaped, translucent crystal, Steve thought it began to glow brighter than the ones in the bucket. He decided he’d just imagined the increased luminosity and moved to put it back with the others.

“Did you see that?” On’ashi asked Tasef’e, nudging her with his shoulder and smiling over at Steve.

“He’s Kir’rila’vor,” Tasef’e said in confirmation.

“What?” Steve asked, looking at the dwarves before looking back at the crystal he still held. It was definitely glowing more brightly than the rest.

“There are only a handful of Esri who can do that,” On’ashi said, pointing at the crystal.

“Oh,” Steve said, watching the crystal increase in brightness. “Is it going to… explode?”

The miners laughed, Tasef’e shaking her head. “Of course not.”

“Okay,” Steve said, extending his hand to return it. But the miners shook their heads.

“You must keep it,” On’ashi said. “It has chosen you.”

“Chosen me,” Steve repeated, looking at the crystal. As he watched, the glow turned from white to red to green to blue like a living rainbow.

“It won’t do that for anyone else. Except possibly Kir’rila. And maybe not him,” On’ashi explained.

“Oh. Will the others do it?” Steve asked, looking down at the crystals in the bucket.

“Try it and see,” On’ashi invited, placing the bucket by Steve’s bare foot.

Steve picked a crystal at random, holding it on his right palm. Nothing happened. He put it back and took another one. It began vibrating as soon as Steve touched it.

“That one is yours too,” On’ashi said with a pleased smile.

“Am I making them do that?” Steve asked.

“You’re allowing them to. You’re releasing their rerz-usks,” Tasef’e said warmly.

“Their rerz-usks,” Steve repeated.

“If they were Esri, it would be their kerz-kysks,” Tasef’e said. “Their souls.”

“Oh,” Steve said, looking at the bucket. “How many will respond to me?”

“Not many. Those chose to fall on the floor so you would select them,” On’ashi said, tipping over the bucket. The crystals scattered, three landing between Steve’s feet. “Those.”

Steve picked them up, the first one glowing bright orange. The second vibrated like the one still in Steve’s palm. The third didn’t change but the miners continued to watch it, waiting. “It doesn’t have a rerz-usk?”

“It chose you for a reason. You may not know what it is right now but you will,” Tasef’e assured him.

“You must keep them,” On’ashi agreed. He stood very still, tilting his head to one side before finally reaching up to pull Steve’s hand down to his level. “Do you hear that?” he said quietly, almost reverently, to Tasef’e.

“It can’t be,” she whispered, taking a step closer. “I’ve never…I thought it was only stories…. have you ever?”

“Never,” On’ashi said, shaking his head before looking up in wonder at Steve.

“What is it?” Steve asked. He wasn’t concerned exactly but something had definitely taken the attention of the dwarves.

“They are singing,” Tasef’e said softly. “They are singing for you.”

Steve focused on the crystals, hearing the soft humming he thought he’d only imagined. As he listened, it grew louder until there was a clear melody coming from the two crystals. “You’ve never heard it before?”

“Once in a generation,” On’ashi said, shaking his head. “You can’t still doubt you are Kir’rila’vor.”

“Seems like a foregone conclusion already,” Steve said with a smile. “Will they sing for Danny?”

“Possibly. They may sing only for you,” Tasef’e said. “They crystals guard their secrets.”

Steve nodded, looking down at them. “Will they be all right in these pockets?”

“Of course,” On’ashi said with a smile. “They are inanimate.”

“But they choose to glow, and to sing,” Steve said.

“It’s complicated,” Tasef’e acknowledged. “You can put them in your pocket. No harm will come to them. Or you.”

“They could harm me?” Steve asked with a frown.

“Only in self-defense. You are safe,” she assured him.

“And they won’t hurt Danny or Dl’elda?” Steve asked. But he was pretty sure he knew the answer.

“Never,” On’ashi said.

“Thank you,” Steve said. “I’d like to check on Danny.”

“Of course,” Tasef’e said.

Steve knew Danny was perfectly safe but it had been at least three hours since he’d left their chamber and it felt strange to be away from him for so long. He’d seen Dl’elda when they’d ended up in the same tunnel and she said she was going to take a nap. He figured she was still there with Danny.

He also wanted to make sure Danny ate lunch. They all needed extra food to make up for the energy they’d lost going through the blizzard. Tasef’e escorted Steve back to their chamber, Steve wondering if the miners ever got lost. The mines all looked so much the same to him he wasn’t entirely sure if he could have found his way back to Danny without help.

“Come to the dining chamber when you are ready. We will make sure you have plenty of food,” Tasef’e said as they stopped in front of the chamber door.

“Thank you,” Steve said with a nod. “Will I see you there?”

“Most likely. Many of us will be eating,” she agreed.

“Good,” Steve said, watching her go back down the tunnel before opening the door. She paused long enough to look over her shoulder at him one last time before disappearing around a curve. When Steve entered the chamber, Danny was talking to Dl’elda who was sitting on his upraised knees.

“Steve!” she said in excitement, flying over to him as though she had not seen him in days rather than an hour or so.

“Hi love,” Steve said, holding out his hand so she could land on it. He brought her over to the bed, sitting on the edge to study Danny. “How are you doing?”

“Okay,” Danny said with a one shoulder shrug. “I slept. My arm is less sore.”

“That’s good news,” Steve said. “What are you doing?” he asked with a laugh as Dl’elda flew down to his pocket.

“They’re calling to me,” she said, wiggling into his pocket. “Let me see.”

He stood, careful not to dump her off, reaching into his pocket for the five crystals. “They chose me,” he said, holding them on his flat hand. It sounded like a question as much as a statement because he still wasn’t sure he believed it. He was sure he didn’t understand it.

Danny nodded, reaching out for the quiet crystal. As soon as he touched it, it began to glow more brightly than the other two combined. “This one has a very strong rerz-usk,” Danny said, returning it to Steve. The glow was much more subdued when Steve held it but it was still brighter than it had been when he took it out.

“They are so pretty,” Dl’elda said, touching the crystals with a light hand. She smiled at the contact, their glow brighter. She gasped when the two crystals began to sing. “You make them sing.”

“Oh my,” Danny said, looking up at Steve like he was seeing him for the first time. “I’ve never known an Esri who had the power of qac-ll.”

“Qac-ll?” Steve asked, trying hard not to sigh at the new, strange word.

“You tune their music,” Dl’elda said in excitement. “You do that.”

“Do you have qac-ll?” Steve asked Danny.

Danny smiled up at him, not otherwise answering.

“Oh right. Kir’rila,” Steve acknowledged. “Do react like this for you?” Steve asked Dl’elda.

“They glow. But not so bright. They don’t sing for me,” Dl’elda said, shaking her head. “Have you heard that before?”

“Only once before,” Danny said. “They glow for Grace.”

“The miners said it’s because I’m Kir’rila’vor,” Steve said.

“Could be,” Danny said. “Could just be you and it’s confirmation that you are Kir’rila’vor. Cause and effect. Chicken and egg.”

“I never expected it,” Steve admitted.

“Did they ask you to stay in the mine so they could find more?” Danny asked.

“On’ashi said only the ones that chose me would glow. He and Tasef’e were amazed that they sang for me,” Steve said.

“It’s very, very rare,” Danny said. “But I’m not surprised you have qac-ll.”

“You’re not?” Steve said, frowning.

“No babe, I’m not. I can see you aren’t sure you believe me. Just go with it if you have to until you feel it to be true,” Danny advised.

Steve just nodded, carefully putting the crystals back in his pocket, feeling the vibrations of the ones singing.

“I’m hungry,” Dl’elda said, landing on Steve’s shoulder.

“Me too,” Danny agreed.

“That’s a good sign,” Steve said, looking over at the cabinet where a dark blue robe waited. The miners must have left it when they retrieved the tub. “Here,” Steve said, fetching the robe for Danny. “Tasef’e said there will plenty for us to eat in the dining chamber.”

“Sounds good,” Danny said, accepting Steve’s hand to carefully stand next to the bed.

“Okay?” Steve asked, watching him closely.

“Good,” Danny decided, putting his left arm into the sleeve and wrapping the rest of the robe around him and tying it securely over his right arm.

“Are you dizzy?” Steve asked, studying him.

“No. Stop hovering. I’m fine,” Danny said.

“You said you were wobbly,” Dl’elda said, making Danny frown at her.

“Wobbly?” Steve asked.

“Possibly woozy,” Danny said, waving it away. “I’m fine. I was still mostly asleep when I told her.”

“All right,” Steve said doubtfully. But he didn’t think there was much reason to continue to argue. He opened the door, waiting for Danny to leave before following him out and down the tunnel to the chamber where they first arrived. The round table was crowded with miners, the dozen chairs occupied. The miners greeted them heartily as they entered, Kym’kl standing and giving M’denon’s shoulder a gentle shove. He stood too, smiling over at Steve and Danny.

“Come. Sit,” Kym’kl said, waving at the suddenly empty chairs.

“You don’t have to… we can wait,” Danny said.

“We have eaten. Come and sit,” M’denon insisted.

Rather than refuse, Danny led the way over, sitting and looking up at Steve. “Sit.”

Steve looked down at the chair which barely reached his knees. “Will I destroy it?”

“Of course not,” Danny said. “Stop looming and sit.”

“Stop being so grouchy,” Steve said, lowering himself to the chair and scooting it as close as possible. His knees wouldn’t fit under the table but he arranged himself so he could reach without being in anyone else’s way.

As he was trying to settle himself, three of the miners brought out platters filled with food as well as huge plates for Steve and Danny. Steve served himself what looked like a steak, the first red meat he’d seen since he’d arrived. At Danny’s request, Steve served him one as well.

“Is this beef?” Steve asked Danny quietly.

“No,” Danny said.

“Do I want to know?” Steve whispered.

“Eat it,” Danny said without answering.

Steve nodded, making sure Danny had a serving of everything he wanted, including a mound of what seemed to be mashed potatoes. Dl’elda said she would eat from their plates, Steve surprised that it sounded so… unsurprising. Was there anything left that would surprise him?

Steve reached over to cut up Danny’s steak, Danny talking to two of the miners. Steve didn’t know if Danny was interested in the conversation or just didn’t want to acknowledge that Steve was having to cut his food for him. Not that Danny had any choice but still – it was odd.

Steve was about to turn back to his own plate when there was a tremendous bang from the direction of the main entrance to the mine. The miners stirred, some frowning, some going toward the sound. They didn’t make it very far before a whirlwind came down toward them.

“Oh my God,” Danny said, any color he had regained draining from his face. Steve felt Dl’elda dive into his empty pocket, shaking as she hid at the very bottom.

“Wha…?” Steve started to say, his question forestalled when the chamber entrance filled with whirling, swirling motion.

Danny’s chair slammed backward as he stood, rounding the table to stand at the opening to the tunnel. “Stop,” he commanded, his left hand up.

“You are in no position to tell me what to do.” Directly in front of Danny was a faery with brown hair that was caught up in the wind she had brought with her. Her complexion was like porcelain, her brown eyes wide and angry. She wore a dark green dress that was in constant motion around her, her luminous wings fluttering in agitation. Hovering near her were several faeries of various sizes, all of them buzzing in anger.

The miners were standing behind Danny, projecting anger and determination on his behalf.

“Let me guess,” Steve whispered to Kym’kl. “Rachel.”

“Exactly,” Kym’kl agreed, moving closer to Danny. “He is under our sovereignty,” he informed Rachel.

“You have no sovereignty except that which I grant to you,” Rachel told Kym’kl firmly, turning her frown on him. “Do not make the mistake of standing in my way.”

“Do not make the mistake of thinking you have dominion here,” Kym’kl retorted. “These are our mines. You are here only because we are allowing it.”

“You have no authority to keep me out,” Rachel said. “And you,” she said, pointing at Danny. “You were told to stay on your Human world.”

“And I told you that would never happen. I have as much right to be here as you. Maybe more. But you have no right to take my daughter from me.”

“She is not your daughter,” Rachel told him sternly. “She is our daughter to my everlasting regret. She is faery and belongs here.”

“She was raised Human. You left for Esri and I took on the responsibility to raise her. You cannot take her away from everything she’s ever known,” Danny said, his voice rising with his temper.

“I can and I have. It’s settled, Daniel. She is staying among her true people,” Rachel told him. The faeries fluttering around her buzzed with her reflected anger. Danny spared a glance at them, a couple of them calming their movements as though fearful of his reaction.

“It is not settled. We aren’t splitting her in half. And I’m not leaving here without her,” Danny said.

“Then you’ll have to stay here,” Rachel said, looking at the miners with something akin to contempt in her expression. “With them.”

“You won’t speak like that about the miners,” Danny warned, his tone getting her attention. She turned her focus on him, the miners moving as one closer to Danny. “These are their mines. You will not come here and disrespect them.”

“These are my mines,” Rachel said loudly.

“I don’t think that’s the main issue here,” Steve finally said, having enough of the shouting match.

“Oh,” Rachel said, fluttering up in order to look down at her nose at Steve. “You’re the Human nipping at Daniel’s heels like a small dog.”

Steve surprised her by laughing. “If that’s what you choose to believe.”

“I can see why he chose you,” Rachel said, sneering at him.

“Do tell,” Steve said in challenge, his posture rigid, his face a mask that betrayed nothing.

“You look the type. First you steal a faery then you befriend the second most powerful Esri,” she said.

“He didn’t steal anyone. And you are the second most powerful Esri,” Danny corrected, taking a menacing step closer. “You are about to cross a line you can’t return from.”

“Did he break your arm too? To make sure you remained dependent on him?” Rachel asked.

“How I broke my arm is not any of your concern,” Danny informed her.

“It is my concern when you plan to steal my daughter and entrust her to this Human,” Rachel said. “He’s already taken one faery. I’m not allowing him to take Grace as a second prize.”

“I did not steal anyone,” Steve corrected sternly. “I haven’t been to Faeryland. Not yet. My only interest is helping Danny reclaim his daughter.”

“So you are a thief and a liar,” Rachel said, sweeping Steve with a contemptuous gaze. “Unfortunate.”

“I am neither,” Steve said. “I did not steal the faery.”

“She’s gone. Taken by a Human. A tall Human with disgusting muscles,” Rachel said.

“He didn’t take me,” Dl’elda’s voice said from deep in Steve’s pocket. She slowly peeked her head out, looking up at Rachel, fear painted on her face. “He’s taking me home.”

“Oh my dear,” Rachel said, reaching a hand out for Dl’elda.

She shrunk down into Steve’s pocket, Steve taking a step back away from Rachel.

“Are you planning to call Dl’elda a liar as well?” Danny demanded.

“Faeries don’t lie,” Rachel said in an off-hand manner.

“Faery Queens do,” Danny shot back.

“So do Portal Keepers,” Rachel said too loudly.

“This is getting us nowhere,” Steve said firmly.

“You have no part in this, Human,” Rachel informed him.

“It is not your place to decide that, Rachel,” Danny said. “Steve is half Esri. And he’s Kir’rila’vor.”

Rachel laughed, a tight, ugly sound. “Don’t be ridiculous. He’s not Kir’rila’vor.”

Steve took two of the crystals out of his pocket, holding them on his palm. The rainbow crystal scattered its colors over the entire dining chamber as the second one sang to Steve, the music echoing off the walls. “Want to reconsider?” he asked Rachel as she stared at the crystals.

Her expression made it clear that she was not expecting the crystals to react to him at all much less for one of them to be singing. She instinctively flew back away from him, the other faeries increasing their distance from him as well. “That doesn’t mean you are Kir’rila’vor,” she said, her voice smaller and far less authoritative.

“Don’t lie to yourself, Rachel. It’s not a good look on you,” Danny said. “You know what it means that he has qac-ll. Even you don’t have it. You also know that we have what it takes to reclaim Grace.”

“His alchemy was insufficient to repair your arm,” Rachel tried. She glanced from Steve to Danny before returning to stare at Steve.

“That’s neither here nor there,” Danny informed her. “Don’t cross us. You won’t win.” It was a warning, one which clearly made an impression on Rachel. She seemed to shrink in size, the faeries nearly still in mid-air.

“Here is what’s going to happen,” Steve said, breaking the brittle silence. “I am coming to Faeryland. I am collecting Grace and returning with her here. We are then going back through the portal. You may visit whenever you wish. You will not steal her again. She will be under our protection which I advise you to heed.”

Rachel stared at him as though she wanted to protest. But she glanced at the two crystals and the words died on her lips. She turned to stare at Danny instead who simply looked back at her with a smug expression of satisfaction. “And if I refuse?” she finally said quietly.

Steve raised an eyebrow and continued to stare at her, unflinching, unyielding.

“I think you have your answer,” Danny said, trying hard not to gloat at her defeat.

“I will come with,” Kym’kl announced. “That will ensure Kir’rila’vor finds his way back here.”

“I will come as well,” In'kyn decided. Three other dwarves voiced the same decision, Rachel’s expression becoming less and less defiant.

“I will get your clothes,” Kym’kl said to Steve. “We will leave as soon as you are ready.”

Steve nodded, never taking his eyes off Rachel. She had shrunk in size, barely hovering at the level of Steve’s shoulders. “Leave now if you wish. We will be there as quickly as we can. We’ll allow you to prepare Grace for her return home. But I warn you – if you lie to her or prevent us from finding her, you will pay the price.”

She did not respond, turning around to fly silently back up the tunnel, her faery entourage following her.

“Well done,” Danny said in approval, looking up in admiration at Steve.

“You were married to her?” Steve asked in disbelief.

“We were young and thought we were in love. I know now what real love is,” Danny said, sounding like a confession.

Steve smiled a tiny smile, nodding. He opened the top of his pocket, turning his smile to Dl’elda. “You ready to go home, love?”

“Uh huh,” she said, flying up out of his pocket. “But I don’t want to say good bye to you and Danny.”

“You’ll see us again,” Danny promised, holding out his hand for her. “We’ll be back. And when you’re older, you can come through the portal and visit our home.”

“Really?” she asked, her eyes filled with unshed tears.

“Of course you can come,” Steve said.

She nodded trying to be brave as landed on Danny’s shoulder. “Thank you for rescuing me,” she said, fluttering up to kiss his cheek.

“It was our pleasure,” Danny assured her, turning to watch Kym’kl return.

“Your clothes and boots are in your chamber. We’re ready to leave when you’re dressed,” Kym’kl said.

Steve nodded, going with Danny to the chamber. “Wait with Kym’kl,” he said to Dl’elda.
“I’ll be back in just a minute.”

She nodded, flying over to the miner and watching as Steve and Danny disappeared into their chamber to close the door. “What did she mean – another tall Human with ridiculous muscles?” he asked Danny as he removed the robe.

Danny sat on the bed, gazing up at Steve with open admiration. Steve wasn’t sure he was planning to answer so stopped when he had his freshly washed polo pulled on over his head. “Danny,” he prompted.

Danny looked up at him, his expression guarded. “The SEAL – the first one.”

“You said he wasn’t here,” Steve said, anger beginning to tint his words.

“He isn’t here. He hasn’t gotten here yet.”

“You know that doesn’t make sense. If he took Dl’elda, he had to have been here,” Steve said firmly.

“I told you – time loops back on itself. He came through, accidentally ended up in Faeryland, and then Time sent him back.”

“Time sent him back,” Steve repeated. Just the words gave him a headache.

“Time isn’t sentient – not even like the rocks or the plains. But it isn’t purely theoretical either. The SEAL was interfering with the natural order of things. Unintentionally. If he’d been allowed to remain, it could have been disastrous.”

“Disastrous how?” Steve asked, looking down at Danny with a hardened expression.

“He isn’t part Esri. He should have never been able to swim through the portal. I still don’t know how it happened. But Time knew you were coming so it sent him back. We’ll seal the portal before he can swim through.”

“So I’ll be back in Hawaii before I left?” Steve asked.

“In a manner of speaking,” Danny confirmed. “Everyone will think you left. But we’ll swim back through right after you entered it. I’ll seal the portal and he’ll never swim through.”

“He swam through first,” Steve reminded him.

“Yes, I know,” Danny sighed. “You’re just going to have to trust me on this one, babe. He was here. But he hasn’t arrived yet. He took Dl’elda in a panic. He never intended to hurt her. Time prevented him from doing any further harm.”

Steve considered those words before picking up his cargo pants. He was relieved that the dwarves had managed to wash Danny’s blood out of them. Once he had them on, he studied Danny with a piercing gaze.

“Stop with the thousand yard SEAL death stare. You don’t scare me,” Danny informed him. “This isn’t the Human world. Things work differently here. And frankly being angry is neither useful nor productive.”

“I don’t know that I am angry. Bumfuzzled might be a better word for it,” Steve decided.

“And it’s such an unusual experience for you, you don’t know how to handle it,” Danny said with a warm smile that did a lot to melt Steve’s lingering discomfort.

“Yeah,” Steve had to admit.

“Take these,” Danny said, reaching into the robe for the crystals. Steve accepted them, putting them in a couple of his pockets.

“How long will we be gone?”

“You should be back before dinner,” Danny said, “We’ll start for the ocean in the morning.”

“More mor-eri and plains to attack us,” Steve said in resignation.

“Your alchemy is still growing. Otherwise the crystals wouldn’t sing for you. The trip back will be much easier,” Danny promised.

“I can’t imagine it being much harder,” Steve said. “And I promise no blizzards.”

Danny waved it away, standing to look up at him. “I know you’ll be careful,” Danny said.

“Of course I will. And I’ll be back before you know it,” Steve promised.

Danny nodded, reaching up to brush his lips against Steve’s. “There’s more where that came from when you get back.”

“I’ll hurry,” Steve promised with a laugh.

“When you get to Faeryland, tell Grace that her Danno loves her,” Danny requested.

“Danno?” Steve asked with a smile.

“Just go. And hurry back.”

“Roger that,” Steve agreed, leaving the chamber with Danny following. The dwarves were in the tunnel, waiting with torches, one of which Kym’kl handed to Steve. “Thank you. Are you ready?” he asked Dl’elda when she flew over to land on his shoulder.

“Yes,” she said bravely. She was silently crying when she looked over at Danny.

“None of that, love,” Danny said tenderly. “We’ll see each other again. This isn’t good-bye. It’s…”

“Aloha,” Steve said, providing Danny a word when he seemed to run out.

“Aloha?” Dl’elda asked, sniffing loudly. She may have used Steve’s collar to wipe her nose but he wasn’t going to say anything even if she had.

“It’s Hawaiian for hello, see you later, I love you,” Steve explained.

She nodded, looking at Danny less sadly. “Aloha, Danny.”

“Aloha, love,” he returned, kissing her lightly on the head.

“We will bring Grace to you,” Kym’kl promised Danny. The miners were careful not to pay too much attention to Dl’elda’s tears even though their eyes might have been a little misty as well.

“I know you will. And you will all be careful and return Dl’elda safely. Then you’ll come back to me,” Danny said. It sounded vaguely like an order, one to which they all agreed.

With a last look of promise to Danny, Steve followed the dwarves out and up a tunnel he had not seen before. There were three miners in front of him, two behind. He understood it was to ensure he did not get lost or misplaced in the curving, meandering tunnels they all knew so well. Although with Dl’elda perched on his shoulder, he seriously doubted he would get lost. But he still appreciated their consideration in watching out for them both.

The miners talked among themselves, occasionally asking Steve about his life on his side of the portal. He answered honestly, just as Danny had instructed. The miners appreciated learning more about what they considered an alien way of life. Dl’elda was also fascinated, comparing what Steve told her to what she already knew from Grace. She told Steve she thought it would be exciting to visit but she wasn’t ready to give up Faeryland. He agreed that home is where you are most comfortable.

Kym’kl called for a stop when they had been in the tunnels for just over an hour, according to Steve’s watch. Not that he could trust that it was correct. Maybe Time had decided he didn’t need to know and had made it slow down. Or speed up.

They sat down to rest and have some water and some fruit. “We’re over half way there,” On’ashi told Steve without being asked. Steve nodded, accepting another apple-like fruit. He cut off tiny pieces for Dl’elda, also making sure she got water. He had slipped her mug into his pocket, filling it and watching her to see that she drank enough.

“Are we ready?” Kym’kl asked when all of the fruit had been eaten. The miners agreed they were, looking up at Steve for his confirmation.

“Absolutely,” Steve agreed, taking up his torch and his position in the middle of the dwarves. “You ready?” he asked Dl’elda.

“I am,” she said, sounding more excited now that they were getting closer and closer to her home. She told Steve she had missed her mom and dad the most. And she knew that they had to be worried about her being gone. She hoped they wouldn’t be mad that she had left.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Steve reminded her.

“I guess. I tried to get away,” she said.

“Of course you did, love. He didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“He wanted to get home,” she agreed.

The tunnel began sloping up, at first gently then more steeply. Eventually they came to a staircase that disappeared before Steve could see where it ultimately led.

“There are 1877 steps,” On’ashi told Steve. “It’s not a concern, right?”

“No,” Steve said with a laugh. “I train by running up Koko Head and it’s over a 1000.”

“That’s what we figured,” A’akelkal said. “And we aren’t running up these.”

“Even better,” Steve agreed, following the miners as they began the climb, Dl’elda holding tight to his collar so she wouldn’t accidentally tilt off. Halfway up, Kym’kl called for a brief rest stop, the miners breathing much harder than they had earlier. Steve sat with them, accepting the canteen for some water as they passed it around. Dl’elda drank from her mug, asking Steve for another piece of fruit which he was happy to provide her.

“You could at least break a sweat,” In'kyn scolded him.

“I’m sorry,” Steve laughed.

“You know he’s a SEAL,” On’ashi said. “Even if he ran up them, he’d barely be winded.”

“He’s not the flipper kind of seal,” Dl’elda reminded them, everyone laughing with her.

“No I’m not,” Steve agreed. “And I would be winded if I ran up them. This is a lot of steps.”

“We don’t use this entrance very often,” Kym’kl confirmed. “The steps being the main reason.”

“Understandably,” Steve said with a nod, taking another drink of water. “Is Grace going to be able to handle them?”

The miners laughed, Dl’elda flying up to the level of his nose, laughing at him.

“Oh. Right. Faery. She’ll fly down,” Steve said, laughing at himself. He held his hand out to Dl’elda so she could land in his palm.

“She can’t fly in the Human world. Only here,” Kym’kl said.

“Danny said Rachel can fly at home,” Steve remarked.

“She’s full faery. Grace is only half,” Kym’kl explained.

“Does she miss it, do you think?” Steve asked ideally.

“I would imagine that she does,” Kym’kl said.

“She said she loves Kir’rila more than she loves flying,” Dl’elda said. “She’ll give up flying to be with him.”

Steve nodded like it made sense. Maybe it was beginning to. Like so many other things he’d experienced since swimming through the portal.

“We’re ready then?” Kym’kl asked once the canteens were stored and the torches retrieved.

They all agreed and began the hike up the remaining steps, these even stepper than the ones below. Steve hadn’t thought they were so far underground but he honestly had no way to judge.

As they came closer to the top of the stairs, the tunnel became brighter and brighter. By the time they reached the last step, the torches were unnecessary and the dwarves extinguished them, leaning them against the wall. Kym’kl unlocked the gates, bright light outlining it all the way around.

“Close your eyes,” Kym’kl advised Steve. “It’s going to be extremely bright.”

Steve nodded, doing it. He heard the gate creak open, bright white light leaking in around his tightly closed eyelids. He felt a hand on the small of his back, urging him forward. He followed the silent instruction, trusting them implicitly. He could feel the fresh air, moist and cool after being in the mine. He could hear Dl’elda fluttering close by.

“All right,” Kym’kl said, one hand on Steve’s arm. “Open them slowly.”

Steve did it, standing completely still. It was not possible that he was seeing what stretched out before him. They were standing on clouds. White, fluffy, luminous clouds. “No,” he said, certain he was hallucinating. Maybe it was oxygen deprivation from being underground.

“Yes,” Kym’kl said, a barely disguised laugh in his voice.

“We live in the clouds,” Dl’elda giggled, landing back on Steve’s shoulder. “Isn’t it pretty?

“It’s beautiful. Someone might have mentioned this earlier,” Steve muttered, looking around. As far as the eye could see, there were clouds, bright pillowy clouds.

“You wouldn’t have believed us,” Kym’kl said truthfully. “Doesn’t really matter anyway. We’re here now. We’ll take Dl’elda home, get Grace, then return to the mines.”

“Will they support my weight?” Steve asked, looking down at the closest clouds. There seemed to be a path of round, regular clouds leading away from the tunnel entrance.

“They will. You can’t fall through,” Dl’elda promised him, flying off and returning to him. “There’s the castle,” she said, pointing to a large luminous structure just on the horizon.

“That’s where we’ll find Grace,” Kym’kl confirmed.

“Where do you live?” Steve asked Dl’elda.

“Just beside it,” Dl’elda said. “Most faeries do.”

Steve could think of nothing to add to that, watching as the dwarves casually stepped onto the clouds, walking over them as easily as though they were still in the mines. Taking it on faith and acknowledging he had no choice, Steve stepped on the closest cloud, finding it surprisingly firm. It was the same sensation as walking on grass after a hard soaking rain – firm but springy.

“Okay?” Kym’kl asked with an amused expression.

“Sure,” Steve had to agree. It wasn’t as though he had any alternative. He automatically followed the dwarves when they started across the clouds, Dl’elda flying circles around all of them. It was clear she was thrilled to be back in the clouds and would soon be home with her family.

gyrigyri on November 14th, 2012 03:39 am (UTC)
Yay! I've been looking forward to this! I'm so curious about the rest!
Kathy: McDanno/interrogationkitmerlot1213 on November 14th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
The confrontation with Rachel was nice and dramatic and I can't wait for Danny and Grace to be reunited.

Keep up the great work on this fic :)
landrewslandrews on November 14th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
This has become utterly fascinating- One of the most imaginative fanfics I've ever read :-)
Nervous, Messed-Up Marionette: danny grabbing stevesuperbadgirl on November 15th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
Hey, just so you know - I do intend on reading this, but I shy away from WIPs until they're done. Once bitten, etc. ;)
Are 6 dogs too many?: beach chairtkeylasunset on November 16th, 2012 05:05 am (UTC)
Oh I totally understand!! I'm hoping that the next chapter will (finally) be the last! I'm ready to move on, as much as I love the story.