"Or perhaps they're afraid of your power, Miss Van Arkle. And yet, you have friends, allies. A fiance. Not all vampires fear and hate you," he looked to Aurelia, as if to make a point. "Or all humans, it seems," he said, though he wasn't entirely sure he'd classify Aurelia as human. She was a witch, born and bred. More than human, as was he, in a way. "There was a time when the demons sought to make a hybrid. A child born of a demon and an angel. They thought that child would be the most powerful being in Creation and wanted to use it to destroy the world and enslave humanity. Why fault the child for his or her parentage? It's not about you being an anomaly or even an aberration. It's about fear. They fear you, plain and simple. They fear what you could do to them, if you wanted to. They fear what they don't understand."
"I know." Lauren nodded as he spoke. "But a child should not be defined by what they are. No one should be defined by their race and held in unchanging regard because of that. I am very lucky to have made friends among a race that would like me dead; friends who chose not to see me as a danger, but as a person. It is a lesson many people could stand to learn. Don't you think?"
Rhys smiled - actually smiled - his grin just a little mischievous. "Except for demons," he admitted, though he had not heard of any that had survived since he and Nat had closed the Gates of Hell.
"I think it depends how you classify a demon," Lauren pointed out, but her own expression had relaxed into her bright smile once more. "And my name is Lauren, Mr. Bristol. No one calls me Miss Van Arkle."
Rhys mirrored that smile, far more relaxed now than he had been a few minutes earlier, and offered her a hand. "Rhys. No one calls me Mr. Bristol," he countered.
"Rhys, then." Lauren's hand wrapped to his, displaying none of the coolness he would associate with a vampire's touch. She'd given no proof of what she was, but he seemed to believe her regardless. It was a good start. "I'll leave you to do whatever it is you need to do. Thank you, both of you."
Aurelia smiled faintly, pouring out coffee for herself and Rhys. "You are welcome, Lauren."
Rhys didn't go so far as to say that, though he was grateful for the warning. Time would tell whether they became allies or not. He only nodded a farewell, not even bothering to remind her that she'd hear from him in a few days. He waited until he heard the sound of her motorcyle fading into the distance before he turned to Aurelia and reached for a mug.
"So, tell me your thoughts. I know you want to."
Aurelia snorted with laughter, thumping down into a seat at the kitchen table and gesturing for him to do the same. "My thoughts?" She considered this for a moment. "I think ... I think they can be trusted, but that they have not shared everything just yet. I also think we need to talk to Avalon about the inherent threat to your family, because if an example needs to be made, it should be a big one that no one will be able to misconstrue."
Rhys dropped into a seat beside her, the mug of coffee in his hand, a grim expression on his face now that it was just the two of them. There was no need to pretend, no need to lie to each other or themselves. "We definitely need to talk to Avalon and maybe send the children there for a while, until this is all over. Nat won't like it. She doesn't like to disrupt their lives, but if Lauren is telling the truth, we can't ignore the danger."
"That is true," Aurelia agreed. "But we can only take our children to Avalon. I do not know if we have permission, or can get permission, to take the Sparrowhawk children there, and if we remove our own, then they become the targets of choice."
"If it was only Joey, I think we might have managed it, but now that there's four of them, I'm not sure." Rhys frowned a moment in thought. It wasn't his place to share Adam's secret - that Avalon had recruited him, too. Still, that wasn't any guarantee that the Sparrowhawk children would be welcome in Avalon. He shrugged. "The worst they can say is no," he pointed out.
"True. And we are capable of defending all of the children together." Aurelia frowned thoughtfully. "What do you think of all this, Rhys? It is you who is at the center of it."
"Yeah, but not if they're scattered," Rhys reminded her. With some in school and daycare and home. If they wanted to protect the children, they'd either have to keep them in one place or become their shadows. "What do I think?" he asked, pausing to take a swallow of his coffee - at least, his third cup of the day. It was times like these when he thought the stuff was the only thing that kept him going. He didn't bother to tell her that if anyone dared hurt his children - or any children - he'd rip them limb from limb. No, she knew him well enough to know that already. "I think she's telling the truth," he said. He could have handed her his sword and let Caliburnus judge her for him, but he didn't think that was necessary.
"So what do you think happens next?" the witch asked him, half an ear on the sound of Nat, Ana, and Micah walking Amy home to the Sparrowhawks next door.
"I think we ensure the safety of our families, and then we talk to Tobias. See what he has to say," Rhys replied. In that order. The safety of his family - of all their families - came first, more important than anything else. "How many vampires do you think will want to give up their immortality, if given the choice?" he asked, changing the subject. If that was even possible.
"I do not know." Aurelia shrugged, taking a gulp of her coffee. "I know very little about vampirism. But I would think that having a cure for those who are turned unwillingly would be a good thing. Don't you?"
"I suppose," he admitted with a shrug of his own. "Would they start to age normally again then?" he asked, unsure how such a cure would work. "They'd be vulnerable to sickness, disease, aging again, but they'd be human. It's a trade-off, I guess. I'm not sure I'd want to trade everything it means to be human to live forever. Seems like it might become more like a curse, after a while."
"I think it depends on the circumstances," Aurelia said thoughtfully. "Elaine - the Lady - is exceptionally long-lived. She has not lost her humanity, but she seems so very weary sometimes. I think, after a point, life becomes a burden when the only guarantee is that the people you love will die."
"Unless you make them into monsters, like yourself," Rhys added. He was not talking about the Lady now, but those who were cursed to survive by drinking blood. And what about the wolves? Lauren had hinted about them, too. Rhys sighed, a worried frown on his face. "You know, I always knew they were out there. I always knew the threat was there, but I had bigger problems, and I thought I'd let well enough alone, so long as I didn't hear about any bodies drained of blood or ripped to shreds. I don't know what I was thinking. Champion of Avalon. Some Champion. While I've been doing the Lady's bidding, who's been looking after the rest of the world? Hunters? Feds? Agents of Avalon?" he asked, uncertainly. "I'm a hunter, too, Ree. I've been shirking my duty."