The Gifted Realm: Academy - Volume 1

Chapter 45 - A Matter of Degrees

Author's Note - This will be the last Gifted Academy chapter of 2017. Chapters will start back January 10, 2018.


Gall inched up Dan’s spine with every step he made away from Katherine Bryant. He spun back. “Never forget, Katherine, I used to be the Chief of Elite Iodex and I’m still the best damn detective in this Realm or any other. I believe you and Wilshire saw just a few of my skills recently,” he sneered, “so I don’t need you to tell me why two students were fighting. I’ll figure it out.”

“You let me know when you have all of your figuring done, Chief Vindico.” She slammed the door to her classroom.

Dan considered everything Katherine Bryant had just admitted. Despite her illicit affair with a doting lover, she didn’t believe herself to be anywhere near as attractive as Fionna, and was admittedly jealous of Dan and Fionna’s relationship. She and Wilshire had concerns about Dan coming to work at the Academy. His reputation as a detective had certainly preceded him, and as so often happens, the rats with the most to hide were the first to scurry when the cats landed on the ship.

“She all right?” Governor Vindico asked when Dan returned to his office.

“Oh, she’s just fine,” Dan huffed.

The Governor’s brow furrowed as he turned back to Kellan. “Their fathers are on the way. We’ll be seeing Mr. Quentin and Mr. Morris in two weeks where they will be working for me after school each day from then until Christmas break.”

Not wanting to make it appear that he disagreed with his father’s decision, Dan nodded his understanding. He’d wanted a chance to interview the boys separately, to find out what the fight was about. It definitely wasn’t over a girl. That much had been obvious when they’d leapt on the excuse at almost the same moment.

Kellan’s father knocked on the door looking vicious as he glared at his son not a full minute later. 

Dan returned to his office to grab his things for his first class.

“Mentor Vindico?” Jeff followed after him.

“Yeah?” Dan settled at his desk as Jeff took a seat.

“I know we were working on the affair thing first but Logan and I had a little time at work yesterday, so I showed him a few of the websites those tests were being posted on. I swear I thought they were exams from year’s past the mentors were giving out to help us study.”

“I believe you, Jeff,” Dan assured him.

Relief melted the apprehension on Jeff’s features. “Anyway, Logan and I found these other websites where the exams are actually being sold and they have the answer keys with them. I’ve never used one like that. I’ve only ever studied the exams, looking up the answers and stuff.” He continued to will Dan to believe he was a good person which was woefully unnecessary.

“Jeff,” Dan held up his hands to stop him. “If I’d had any access at all to final exams to study with when I was here, believe me, I would have been all over that. Please stop apologizing.”

“That makes me feel much better, but we were looking at them at work yesterday. We didn’t buy any, obviously. When this breaks, I still need to graduate and I know how easy it will be to link the students that bought tests. Anyway I showed Bec the stuff we’d found when I got home last night. ‘Cause, you know, she kind of thinks it’s cool or whatever,” he admitted sheepishly.

Dan tried to hide his chuckle. “Showing off for your wife is also completely acceptable.” Jeff laughed and stared at the ground for a moment. “When I was showing Becca last night after work, I saw that a bunch of new tests had been posted. I mean like tons of them. Just yesterday afternoon.”

“Okay, Fi and I have birthing class tonight. Do you think you and Becca and Logan and Adeline could come over tomorrow and show me all of this? I’ll grill burgers. I still don’t want Fionna doing anything too much.”

“Sure, I think so,” Jeff allowed.

“Great, now, I have to make a phone call and then get to class.”

 Jeff edged towards the office door. “Hey, tomorrow do you think you could tell me what birthing class is?” Jeff asked as they rushed down the corridor.

“I will let you know as soon as I know myself,” he admitted. Dan lifted his cell phone and checked the time.

“Medstar Georgetown Hospital, this is Caden speaking. How may I direct your call?”

The fact that Caden had referred to the hospital as Medstar Georgetown meant he was not Gifted. Gifted people called it Georgetown and nothing else. Dan slightly altered his request. “If you’d transfer me to obstetrics. I need to speak with Doctor Haydenshire, please.”

“Yes, sir.”

He worked his way through the switch boards until he reached Adeline’s office, expecting to leave a message. He was shocked when she answered. “Hey, Dan, it’s Adeline. I have five minutes before my next appointment.”

“Then I’ll talk fast. Fi’s not making much sense. Is she on bedrest or does she need to be?”

Adeline laughed. “She probably isn’t making much sense because I keep amending my plans with her. She doesn’t need to be on bedrest but she does need to take it easy. Really, she needs to go back to Kauai but she and the baby also need your energy. I know it’s complicated. You can't just take off from the Academy right now.  Honestly, I think, she might just need a few reminders of her homeland, some stability so to speak. I just let her know that I’m taking her off of pelvic rest. I’m readily admitting that I overreacted to the bleeding. The gunshot wound scares me. The scar tissue is agitated but I think some time alone with you might help balance her rhythms until your trip in a few weeks. I got second, third, and fourth opinions from some colleagues and we all agree as long as she takes it easy and you take it easy her rhythms are most likely faltering from not being in contact with her shield. Lots of casting, and all of the other ways you get your energy into her. But remember the key words here are take it easy.”

A dozen images of his wife naked in his arms immediately glowed in his mind. The words, oh fuck yes almost fell out of his mouth. Clearing his throat, he tried to remember whom he was speaking to. “I’ll, uh, always take care of her. You know that.”

“I know, Dan. I need you both to really tap into her rhythms and let her body and the baby’s rhythms guide you. Her blood pressure has stabilized but do remember that she's taking on all of the stress you're carrying from your job and your family. My mistake was that I forgot she can't turn that off. She needs your shield to help her deal with it all. The contractions, though more frequent than I like, don’t seem to be enflaming the scar tissue like they were, and Fionna desperately needs to enjoy her last few months of pregnancy instead of worrying constantly.”

“Focus on the good, leave the stress at work, and lots of sex. I can do that.”

“I figured you were the man for the job. In fact, when it comes to Fionna, you’re the only shield for her.”

“Damn straight.”

“Call me if you need me. Try to get her out of the house a little.”

“We have birthing class tonight.”

“Good. Being with other couples going through this will be good for her.”

“As long as no one’s energy is more than she can deal with.”

“She is the strongest Receiver of our time.”

“I know she is. And I’m the strongest shield. I’ve got this.”

Adeline chuckled. “Careful there, Dan, you almost sound like your old self. Call me if anything feels off to her. Monitor those rhythms. Let her tell you what she wants and what she needs. And I’ll see both next week for another ultrasound.”

She ended the call and he still had several minutes before his next class. Flipping to a locked folder of photographs he kept on his phone, he entered in the key code he’d invented and indulged in a few pictures he’d made over the summer of Fionna in Kauai making love with him. It had just been so long. He called himself an ass for doing that at work, shut the images down, and headed to his next class. Tonight, he’d take excellent care of his wife.

Much to his delight, Fionna was standing outside of his classroom at the end of his last class.

“Well, hey there, baby doll.” His face pulled into a delighted grin.

“Hi,” she tittered excitedly. “Your dad called me and asked if he and your mom could pick Aida up from school because the trial he was supposed to hear was settled out of court this morning. Then Adeline called and said she thought I needed to let my rhythms guide me and not be so stringent. So, I thought maybe we could have lunch and hang out or maybe go register for all of Halia’s stuff. The Angels want to have my shower before we go to Kauai and then your mom’s throwing that one at the Senate. I feel good and I want to celebrate it.”

“Sounds like a plan to me.” He held out his hand. As soon as she took it, he drew from her and ciphered through all of her rhythms. They were indeed stronger. Things were definitely looking up.

At that moment, Katherine Bryant released her class and followed them out of the room. With a dramatic eye roll, she took in Dan and Fionna.

Dan moved closer to his wife, staring into her eyes. “I’m about to kiss you and I want you to really get into it,” he urged under his breath.

Delight lit her eyes as she nodded. He leaned and began slowly. Her taste then the energy on her tongue. Her flavors when he pressed his tongue to the seam of her mouth and she opened all for him.

He laced his hand through her hair and pulled her closer.

“Daniel!” he heard his father huff.

Jerking back, Dan’s eyes snapped open.

“Do you think you could refrain from making out with your wife in the corridor? The students really don’t need any encouragement.”

“Sorry, Dad. She’s gorgeous and I had a score I needed to settle.”

“I suddenly feel very used,” Fionna goaded, making her father-in-law laugh.

“Why don’t you two take that on home?” Governor Vindico decreed. “Or at least to your office.”

“We’re leaving. Thanks for getting Aida. She’ll be thrilled,” Dan vowed.

“Not as thrilled as I am. Thought maybe Gramps could swing her by the toy store before we head home.” He laughed in delight over spoiling his granddaughter.

“Between you and Daddy, she’s going to rot,” Fionna giggled.

“That’s my job,” Governor Vindico explained.

Dan walked Fionna to the Ferrari ecstatic to be spending the afternoon with his wife away from Venton. “You sure you’re up to lunch before our class?”

“I promise. And if I get tired in between we can always go home and rest. I like this feeling my way through this pregnancy. Feeling my way through life has worked pretty well for me. I sort of forgot I had that power.”

“I like this, too. I’ve missed us.”

“Me too. And Halia’s been moving and she’s feels good. She’s so big now, I can read her rhythms almost as well I read yours. She’s happy.”

“Well, what was looking like a horrible day just took a dramatic turn for the better,” he allowed.

“You mean, your wife showing up outside of your last class didn’t do that?”

Dan was thrilled she was in such a good mood and that he was going to have hours to spend with her and Halia.

He lifted her hand to his mouth, brushing a kiss her knuckles. “Definitely, baby, but you just iced the delicious cake with the fact that my littlest princess is just as perfect as her mama.”

When her left eyebrow lifted, Dan knew she had something up her sleeve. “When your dad called about picking up Aida, he mentioned that there is a formal next Friday night.” Her mischievous giggle did wicked things to his groin. He reminded himself that he had to go for the next several hours before he could take her bed.

“You know, I would have thought having my dad at school when I was a student would have been bad but it’s not really any better now.” He delighted in her hysterical laughter. “All right,” Dan released her hand, watching her brow furrow as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “We have to do this right.” He changed lanes to avoid a car broken down on the side of the road.

Still cracking up, Fionna answered her phone when it began ringing in her purse. Steven Tyler belted out, It feels so Good and Dan guffawed. “Very nice.” He waggled his eyebrows at his ringtone on her phone.

“Uh, hello?” she huffed into the phone.

“Oh uh,” he cleared his throat for effect, “Is Fionna there?”

She lowered her phone. “Are you calling me for a date?” she whispered.

“Obviously,” Dan teased.

Nodding, she held the phone out and in a perfect imitation of her father’s unusual Spanish and Hawaiian dialect, she called, “Maylea, zhere is a boy on the phone. I don’t like boys calling you. Why he calling? You tell him you no old enough to date,” she quoted. Dan howled with laughter.

“Daddy,” Fionna hissed. “Stop yelling into the phone,” she feigned embarrassment to perfection.

“Boys are bad, Maylea,” she vowed. “I know, Daddy,” she switched back to her own voice. Dan was still howling with laughter. “Uh, hello this is Fionna.” She played her role to perfection.

Trying to breathe, Dan cleared his throat again. “Uh, hey, Fionna. This is Dan Vindico from Creative Writing.”

Giggling momentarily, Fionna put her game face back on. “Oh, okay, uh… which one are you again?”

Dan shook his head at her. “Ouch,” he mouthed.

“I sit a couple of rows behind you,” he informed her.

“Oh right. Okay, yeah, you’re the cute one who’s always doing Ioses homework instead of Creative Writing, right?” Fionna feigned realization.

Dan beamed. “That’s me. So, I was just wondering if you’d like to go to the Fall Formal with me Friday night? You know, if you don’t have other plans,” Dan pretended to stammer nervously.

“Well, let me check my calendar,” Fionna hemmed, cracking Dan up again.

“You know, I could probably drive my Ferrari,” he added hopefully.

“A Ferrari. Wow. Okay,” Fionna agreed instantly. “But my dad’s kind of a pain. My curfew is ten.”

“Ten? That sucks.”

“I know, but, if you can hang out for a few in my driveway, I can sneak back out,” she informed him with a great deal of sass.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, and you know, then I can stay out all night,” she purred.

Dan groaned in the phone. “All night, huh?”

“Um hmm.”

“You know, I have my own place. If you want to come over after you sneak back out.”

“That sounds interesting.”

“Yeah, you can stay as long as you want.”

“What if I never want to leave?” she drawled.

“That would make my whole life, baby.”

“Guess I’ll see you Friday night then.”

“I’ll pick you up at six,” Dan vowed hanging up his phone as they both began laughing again. “I love you,” he gushed.

“Wow! We haven’t even been on our date yet,” she giggled.

“Yeah, well, that’s about how quickly I knew. Now, where would the lady like to dine this afternoon?”

“Halia wants Granddaddy to make her a chicken salad sandwich,” Fionna beamed at him. “And we could ask them about Friday night.”

“I love your parent’s bakery. You know that. And now that your dad seems to almost like me on occasion I don’t mind eating there.”

Fionna leaned and kissed his cheek. She grunted as she fell back into the seat. “Ugh, I’m too fat to lean across the car and kiss you,” she whimpered.

Chuckling, Dan pulled to a stop light and kissed Fionna’s cheek. “Then I’ll kiss you until my baby lets you have your stomach back.”

Rolling her eyes, she rubbed her hands over her bump that was expanding each and every day. “Remember when I leaned across the car and did a little more than kiss you?”

Already sporting a semi, his trousers tightened instantly. Dan gave her a cocky smirk. “Oh yeah, baby. I still don’t know how I managed to drive the car home that night.” Dan glanced back at her discreetly as he turned into Styler’s bakery. The time she’d given him a blow job while he drove her home was the night he’d gotten her pregnant the first time. At least, that was the approximate timing.

Fionna would occasionally recall a few of the terrifying, lonely weeks when she knew she was pregnant but was afraid to tell him and had sunk into a depression so badly it consumed her, they’d never discussed the awe-inspiring sex they’d had that night.

“Don’t tell Gretta we’re going to register,” Fionna pled as Dan opened the door for her.

“Okay.” Dan locked the pain away for the moment and remembered Adeline’s advice. Fionna needed to enjoy this and he needed to rejoice in the life she’d given him. “I can tell she wishes that she knew more about babies so she could help me. I don’t want her to feel worse.”

“There’s my Maylea,” Mr. Styler’s entire face lit when Fionna entered the bakery just as it always did.

“Hey, Daddy.” They embraced and then Mr. Styler immediately demanded that she sit and relax. “Chicken salad my sweet Maylea?”

Mr. Styler used to offer his delectable Hawaiian chicken salad with chucks of pineapple and cranberries on one of his freshly baked croissants on Thursdays. But he’d begun making the sandwiches everyday just in case Fionna stopped by.

“Dan.” Gretta moved out from the kitchen and hugged them both.

“Chicken salad as well, man who married my daughter even though he didn’t ask?” Mr. Styler huffed.

“Daddy,” Fionna warned.

“Chicken salad’s great, Mr. Styler. Thanks.” Dan seated himself across from his wife.

The Stylers went to make their sandwiches and help the steady flow of customers coming into the bakery.

“So,” Fionna leaned as best as she was able towards Dan. “Want to tell me why we were putting on a show for Katherine Bryant? I had a weird dream last night and she was in it.”

“Tell me about this dream,” Dan ordered. Fionna’s pregnancy dreams were occasionally quite humorous. At other times, she would wake up trembling and gasping for breath from nightmares so vivid Dan would have to cast her to get her back to sleep. She’d dreamt repeatedly that something was happening to Emily and Rainer was unable to save her when the Lawsons had been on their honeymoon and were being filmed unknowingly.

She’d often dreamed about the terrifying trip to Paris and the Fitzroy’s home being attacked while they were inside. She had dreams of her moments of consciousness from when she’d been shot.

She often dreamt of her mother. Those made her sob so fiercely Dan’s heart would ache physically as he held her and tried desperately to soothe his precious Maylea.

But she also had dreams about Supernova getting it on with his hot pink assistant Wavelength from Aida’s favorite cartoon. So, Dan had learned to the dreams with a grain of salt.

But her all-encompassing powers as a Receiver coupled with her added hormones and Halia’s energies sometimes meant her mind was trying to warn her something was wrong.

“It was crazy-weird. All of my dreams have been weird lately. A couple of nights ago, I dreamed that Chloe started dating Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins and Garrett finally got jealous and proposed. Chloe broke up with Dick because she said she didn’t like the way he kept jumping to the side and clicking his heels together.”

Dan bit his lips together to keep from laughing at her outright.

“In this one, Mentor Bryant kept yelling at people, only she sounded like she was far away. Then you were there and you kept taking students to Felsink Prison. I kept crying. It was vivid but very weird.”

Unable to even begin interpreting, Dan explained what had happened with the fight that morning and then what had spewed from Bryant’s mouth when he’d been sent to check on her and his response.

Fionna beamed as her father supplied their sandwiches with his phenomenal sweet potato chips, a pile of tiny sweet pickles, and two Dr. Peppers, just the way they preferred. “Thank, Daddy.” Fionna kissed his cheek.

“Anything for my Maylea and my mo’opuna,” he assured.

Dan’s brow furrowed and Fionna smiled. “Grandbaby,” she whispered when her father returned to the cash register.

They inhaled their lunch and discussed what they wanted to do that afternoon. “I’m kind of nervous about class tonight,” she confessed.

“Don’t be nervous, sweetheart. It’s for new parents. We’re not supposed to know whatever they’re teaching us yet.”

“I know. I usually try not to think about how much pain I’m going to be in.”

Dan didn’t like to think about that either. Part of the reason he was so anxious to attend the Gifted birthing classes, was to learn how to cast Fionna and take on however much of the pain his body could acquire. He hoped to be able to take on more than half, although he knew that was difficult to do.

“Do you think we’ll hurt everyone’s feelings if we don’t let them in the delivery room?” she fussed a minute later.

“No,” Dan assured her. “We’ll do whatever you want. Everyone will understand that.”

“When Amber had her baby she had all of the Angels in there cheering her on, but I really just want you.”

“Then it will just be me, and probably Adeline, and a few nurses. I do know how to deliver a baby but I really don’t want to deliver my own.”

“How do you know how to deliver a baby?” she demanded suddenly.

“Part of basic training for an Iodex officer. Entire time I was on the force, I never put the knowledge to use so I would definitely not be of much help.”

“You mean Garrett knows how to deliver babies, too?”

Laughing, Dan nodded. When he swallowed down the last of his Dr. Pepper. His mother-in-law immediately supplied him with another. “The service in this bakery is phenomenal,” he teased delighting Gretta. She kissed his cheek.

“Garrett delivered one,” Dan informed Fionna.

“You’re kidding me.”

“I’m not. He got called out to a car accident. No one was seriously hurt, thank goodness, but the woman was in labor. Her husband was flying to the hospital when he rear ended another car. Garrett ended up delivering the baby or helping deliver it in the back of an ambulance.”

“I wonder if he was freaking out or if he didn’t think much of it because his mom has had so many babies.”

“Hey, Garrett’s a helluva officer. If something needs to be done, he gets it done. I do think he might’ve called his dad to talk him through it though.” Dan smirked.

“I’d really rather the staff at Georgetown deliver Halia and not Iodex. I’d never be able to look your old officers in the face again after that.”

“Hey, no one but Adeline gets to see what’s all for me, even if my kid’s coming out of there.”

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