29 January 5193 (Earth Standard Date)
Somewhere on Earth
Henry watched as the sun rose, floating on his back, exhaustion making what small movements he did perform to keep from going under sluggish and fairly ineffective.
When he’d resurrected, it had been daylight, but he’d been able to make out the Moon against the blue of the sky. It had been with a sense of relief that he’d appeared back on Earth, even if he hadn’t known where he was, and there hadn’t been any land in sight.
Then he’d promptly panicked.
It wasn’t about being in an unknown place. It had occurred enough times in his long life that it was almost old hat, even though he’d hadn’t died in centuries this time around.
No, it had been about his mate, and son, and the fact that they were still up on the Moon, in a house with a murderer in it.
Henry had absolutely no doubt that it had been the same person who’d killed Sabrina. He couldn’t have said why, only that he was positive that he’d struck them in their own home, with a weapon that could kill both Rowena and Abraham. That thought had sent him into a frenzy of swimming before he gathered his wits back together and told himself that going off in a random direction wouldn’t be a good idea at all.
Still, his heart wouldn’t stop hammering in his chest as he worried about his family.
He didn’t think the assailant would have been able to take on two dragons. So far, he’d only struck individually. How long had the man been in wait? He and his mate had come home early, so chances were they hadn’t been expected so soon. Had the killer been waiting for Abraham? Their son had been due back that day, so that was very possible.
But how had the murderer known that Abraham was coming home? Or had it all been a fluke, and he’d been waiting for whatever dragon had come home first? Would he have taken them all out, one at a time, as they entered the house?
Henry could have lost his entire family, if he hadn’t taken the blow meant for his mate.
Hopefully his death had given Rowena enough warning. Still, he could hear her roar in his head, so full of fury he had no doubt that she would have tried to make her own strike against the intruder that had succeeded in killing her mate.
By the time night came, Henry had become considerably calmer. He’d been in what most people would have called ‘survival mode’, but being immortal meant he hadn’t needed to worry about the actual survival part. No, what he was more afraid of was of getting eaten by a shark which, while yes, he was immortal, would have still been extremely painful.
He’d been attacked by a shark before, so he knew that first-hand. It was certainly something he didn’t care to repeat.
At least it was warm, which meant he was most likely in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, so he didn’t have to worry about death by hypothermia. To be honest, he hadn’t yet died that way, and he had no wish to experience it. There was also the danger of sunstroke, but he felt fairly confident that he’d live through that, he’d just be very uncomfortable. Salt water and sunburn didn’t mix all that well.
So, to save his strength, Henry had simply floated, staring up at the sky as the stars appeared, him being somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere confirmed from the constellations overhead, a large swath of the Milky Way cutting through the darkness.
Pacific Ocean, most likely.
He didn’t dare doze. The one time he did, he got a mouth and nose full of salt water, and that hadn’t been pleasant at all. The only problem was, that left him with his thoughts for company, and those circled around his family and what had happened to them.
Surely, if they’d been injured – and Henry flatly refused to consider the alternative – they would have been found by now. Jack and Ianto would have been summoned from Throneworld, and the hunt would be on for him. All Henry had to do was wait, and stay calm, and someone would be coming. How they would know where to look, he didn’t know, but he trusted his family not to give up until they’d found him.
If they didn’t locate him soon, though, he would also start having to worry about dehydration…not at all something he wanted die from, either. As he’d once been a medical doctor, he’d learned all the statistics of dehydration and there was no way he wanted to go through any of that.
And so, after a long night alone, the sun began to rise, and Henry was still floating, his exhaustion heavy in his bones and the light beginning to dazzle.
Henry had no idea how long he’d been in the water when a strange humming noise penetrated the haze that had settled into his mind.
Blinking, the immortal tried to clear his vision; he was very nearly blinded by the glare on the water. The sound was growing louder, almost an insect-like buzzing that reminded him of a hive full of bees.
Henry paddled a little, to get his head up out of the water, glancing about for the source of what he was hearing. Off in the distance, he could just make out a metallic glint in the sky, circling in what Henry figured out was a search grid pattern.
They really were looking for him. Not that he doubted it, of course.
Treading water with one hand, he raised the other, waving it wildly, hoping to get whoever was using the drone – for that was what it was – to do their searching would see him down in the water. At first, he wasn’t certain they had, but then the drone began to bob toward him, joined by a second that hovered just above the surface of the ocean.
Henry couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt this depth of relief.
The drones approached. One of them came to a halt right above Henry’s head; the second only stopped for a few seconds, and then was gone in the direction it had come from, most likely back to whoever had sent them out.
The immortal couldn’t help but smile at the tiny metal sphere. “I have never been so glad to see anything in my entire life,” he said to it, his voice gravelly from lack of fresh water and from getting salt water down his oesophagus. He was exaggerating, but in that moment he didn’t care.
The drone bobbed once, as if reacting to his comment.
Henry lost track of time, but the drone stayed with him. He was aware that he was growing even more tired, so he leaned back and continued floating listlessly. The sun beat down on him, and the immortal had to wonder just how much of a sunburn he was going to have once rescue finally arrived.
At some point, the drone bobbed once more, and Henry went back to treading water, squinting against the glare reflecting into his eyes. He didn’t see any sort of boat or shuttle…but there was something coming toward him, and he had to laugh because it looked as if a person was walking on the surface of the ocean.
No, he wasn’t seeing things.
An actual person was walking on the water.
Apparently, the sun hadn’t driven away all of his wits. It had just seemed that way for a short while.
Henry’s heart did a leap in his chest when he made out that the person approaching him was Samara.
Of course. That now made sense.
Samara, as the Friend of Water, could control that very element in many ways. Henry had actually seen her walk across the lake at Ddraig Llyn at least once. And now, his grandmother-by-mating was coming to rescue him.
Henry had to laugh. It sounded just a little bit hysterical.
“Well,” Samara said once she was close enough, “fancy meeting you here.”
Henry wanted to roll his eyes, but he was far too tired for that. “How are Rowena and Abraham?” he asked urgently, voice rough, needing to know his family was safe.
Samara knelt down, and her smile was encouraging. “Rowena was hurt, but Gareth has assured us she’s going to be fine. Abraham got off a shot with his flame, but unfortunately he missed.”
The immortal sighed in sheer relief.
“Here.” Samara held out a bottle that looked to have water in it. “You need this.”
She put the bottle to his lips so Henry wouldn’t have to quit trying to keep his head above the surface. The water was cool, and was possibly the best tasting thing he’d had in a while. He thanked her for the drink once the bottle was empty.
“You are quite possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” he gushed sincerely, his words a little less harsh after the water had moistened his throat.
And she was, with the sun glittering in her silver-blonde hair, breeze whipping strands across her face. She was dressed in her familiar wetsuit, her feet bare, still in top shape for a woman well over one hundred.
Samara laughed. “I won’t say anything to Rowena about that admission, alright?”
“That might be a good idea, yes.”
“It’s only going to be a few more seconds,” she assured him, “and then we’ll get you out of here. Nathan’s on his way for a pick-up.”
Henry frowned. “Why isn’t there a boat or a shuttle of something like that?”
“There’s a boat, but it’s a far distance off yet, and we couldn’t wait. Nathan flew me out a ways, until I was close enough to walk out to you. He’s the best hoverer in the family, so we thought it would be best if he came to give us a lift.”
A shadow drifted overhead, and Henry glanced upward to see Nathan’s unmistakable dragon shape blocking out the sun, his scales so dark they seemed to be sucking in the light. The enormous antlers he had in this form were glowing slightly with the magic that allowed a wingless dragon to fly, and Samara was correct: he really was the best hoverer in the entire family, with only Carys matching him for ability.
“Hey, Uncle Henry,” Nathan greeted, looking down at the pair of them in the water, his eyes bright with pleasure. “Let’s get you out of here, shall we?”
Henry thought that was a brilliant suggestion.