Part I: When We Pretend That We’re Dead
Months had passed since Yunomi and Reaper had made their Union, and they were often absent from the Dark Side
on business of their own. As predicted, their relationship was tempestuous, the back wall of Casino el Camino
sporting a patched hole where Yunomi had thrown a beer pitcher at Reaper. Sandia heard about the incident shortly
after it happened, and went to Yunomi’s loft to see if she was all right. When she got there, Yunomi was happily
cleaning an old bookcase she had found. Sandia pressed her friend about the fight, but Yunomi only shrugged and
said “Sometimes he just pisses me off.”
Sandia and Kane, in contrast, had an almost blissful existence. Kane had made not one, but two rings out
of the three silver Demon rings he had won, and he and Sandia each wore one. When Kane had become restless and
bored after a few weeks, Sandia took him to the Borderlands to hunt Demons. The Lords of Hell and the Light
Realm apparently believed Yunomi was dead, and Demon incursions into the Dark Side had picked up. It gave
Kane a chance to kick some Demon ass, and he and Sandia found out how good they were as a fighting team.
Reaper and Kane rarely crossed paths, although Sandia was still close to Yunomi. One night the two
women had been partying hard, having been apart for some time. Kane had tagged along, enjoying their company.
They wound up in the pool room at el Camino, and partied late into the night. Sandia looked up from her game
with a friend and froze. Reaper was standing at the top of the stairs, and Yunomi was asleep on the couch with her
head in Kane’s lap. Reaper said “Hello, Sandia,” and walked straight to the couch. He nodded cordially to Kane
and quietly said “Yunomi.” She snapped awake and sat up. She took Reaper’s offered hand, and he pulled her up
off the couch. They left the bar, Yunomi still holding Reaper’s hand, waving goodbye drunkenly with the
Kane and Sandia looked at each other in disbelief. “He’s gonna take her out and kill her for sure,” Sandia
“I don’t think so. Their relationship is different now. There’s more respect.” Kane observed.
“They fight like Orcs.”
“Because neither one will back down. Believe me, if he was going to kill her, she’d be dead.”
“Yeah, you’re right. But why was he civil to us?”
Kane shook his head. “Who knows? He has his reasons for everything.”
When they left the bar a short time later, they were surprised to see Reaper and Yunomi sitting on the curb
out front. Reaper had his arm around Yunomi, and their heads were pressed together. Sandia thought Yunomi was
crying, and angrily started toward them. Kane held her back, recognizing that the pair were deep in mindspeak.
Reaper and Yunomi looked up as one, and Sandia was struck by the uncanny way they mirrored each other. It’s
all or nothing with them, she thought. They either flow with perfect synchronicity, or they’re trying to kill
Reaper and Yunomi stood up. “We need to speak with you both,” he said. “Let’s go to Yunomi’s, it’s
more private.” Kane and Sandia looked at each other in surprise, but agreed to go. The four of them headed down
the alley to Yunomi’s loft. Once inside, Reaper helped himself to a beer, and offered one to Kane, who accepted it.
Sandia was plainly uneasy, not having been on good terms with Reaper since Yunomi’s death. Reaper motioned for
them to have a seat at the big marble topped table, but Yunomi had curled up on the futon and was drifting off to
sleep again. He shot her a look, and again quietly said “Yunomi.” She roused off the futon and moved to the table
sleepily. Reaper sat next to her.
“My sources have brought me rumors,” he began. “Carnivean is getting bold. He believes Yunomi is
dead, and that in my grief I am neglecting the Dark Side . He is beginning to rebuild the Thirteen.”
Reaper continued, “I know that you and Sandia have been in the Borderlands, gathering information. If we
shared our resources, we would have a better chance of defeating him. I’ve heard that you two are a good
Kane nodded again, Sandia sat speechless, and Yunomi was drifting off again. Reaper looked at her and
sighed. “Sandia, would you mind putting her to bed? She’s not being much help.”
“Of course.” Sandia helped Yunomi to the futon, undressed her, and covered her with a comforter.
The brothers fell into mindspeak, leaving the women out of the loop. Sandia finished with Yunomi, and
went back to the table to sit by Kane. He put his arm around her and mindspoke privately. “What do you
“I don’t know. He makes me uneasy.”
Kane agreed. “This seems to have come out of nowhere. I wish Yunomi was in on this, I trust her.”
Sandia frowned. “She’s become a lot more like him lately. It’s scary.”
Reaper spoke again. “You don’t have to give me your answer tonight, but think about it. Let’s talk again
when Yunomi’s sober. I didn’t choose a good time to put this forward, but we need to move soon.”
Kane rose and extended his hand to his brother. “We’ll be in touch,” he sent.
Reaper hesitated for an instant, then shook Kane’s hand. Kane and Sandia returned to their house, mulling
about Reaper’s overture. Reaper undressed and quietly slipped into Yunomi’s bed.
Yunomi awoke late. She yawned, stretched and turned over, coming face to face with Reaper, awake and
staring. “Aahh!” she flinched, startled.
“Made you jump,” Reaper laughed.
“Asshole,” Yunomi muttered, got up and limped to the kitchen to make coffee.
Reaper sat up. “I bet you don’t remember a thing I told you last night.”
“Do too,” she mumbled, thinking not really.
“Do you remember Kane and Sandia being here?”
“Vaguely. I assume everything was okay, since the furniture’s still intact.” She poured two cups of coffee
and sat at the table. “Okay, I give up. No, I don’t remember what you told me, or why Kane and Sandia were here.
Reaper moved to the table and claimed his coffee. “Carnivean’s rebuilding the Thirteen. I thought an
alliance with Kane would be a good idea.”
“What did Kane say?”
“Nothing. Sandia seemed opposed. I talked to Kane alone, but he was noncommittal.”
“Yeah, well, Sandia trusts you about as far as she can throw you. I wonder sometimes if she trusts me
“Kane trusts you. He wants to hear what you have to say.”
“What about you? Are you going to be able to deal with Kane on a rational basis? And I know how
terribly fond you are of Sandia.”
Reaper sighed. “Hell, I don’t know. But it’s worth a try. Our Union has at least opened me to the
“All right then. I’ll talk to them. Does Carnivean know I’m alive?”
“No. That’s why he’s being so bold now. Keep a low profile, we don’t want him to find out.” They
finished their coffee and prepared to go on their separate errands.
Sandia and Kane lounged on the couch at her house, drinking coffee and recovering from the night before.
Kane was a moderate drinker, having seen what alcohol had done to Yunomi, but Sandia nursed a hangover.
“So was that weird last night or what?” Sandia sent. “I thought we were all in trouble.”
Kane was pensive. “There’s something very different about both of them. I think they’re in Union.”
“What?” Sandia looked up.
“Union,” Kane repeated. “It’s a very ancient and dangerous ritual. A soul melding. But the two souls
must have unconditional acceptance of each other, or the ritual will destroy them.”
“Yunomi has always loved Reaper. What’s different now?”
“No, not love, acceptance. I think her death and the realization that she is the Storm Child had something
to do with her being able to accept him as he is. You’ve seen how they move together, as one mind.”
“Yeah, and a couple of weeks ago I saw him take a swing at her. How can one soul fight itself?”
“I’m not sure. But when they’re focused, it’s like dealing with one person. They’re in sync.”
“Hmm. I bet the sex is good.”
“Sandia!” Kane still wasn’t used to her habit of discussing other’s sex lives.
“I’m sorry.” Sandia was falsely contrite. “But what does them being in Union have to do with Reaper’s
“As you noticed, they’re more like each other now. That means Reaper can be trusted more, but Yunomi
can be trusted less. They both want vengeance on Carnivean very much, as do I. I think an alliance may be worth a
Sandia was silent. She wanted nothing to do with the Lord of Darkness. He had kept her as a virtual slave,
imprisoned and scarred her lover, and sent her best friend to her death. “Kane, I don’t know. He’s caused us both
so much pain, and now it’s like he’s absorbing Yunomi. I’ll never be able to trust him.”
Kane took Sandia’s face in his hands and locked eyes with her. “Sandia, what Yunomi and I went through
has bound us together in a way I can’t explain. If she asks me to do this, I won’t refuse. Your choice is your own.
I won’t hold your decision against you, but you must understand what mine will be.”
Sandia rubbed her eyes. “I’ll wait and hear what Yunomi has to say. I still trust her.”
Yunomi walked along the street, muttering to herself. “Low profile, eh? That’s no fun.” She had not
carried her sword since she had been back in Dark Side. She felt like that, along with her changed appearance, was
enough to keep her undercover. But Carnivean’s spies were everywhere, and she had been carousing a bit much
lately. She turned up the street towards Sandia’s place.
As Yunomi approached the door, she sent out “Kane, are you guys home?” She and Sandia had never
established a mind link.
“Come on in, Lady.” came the reply.
Sandia was in her usual place, curled up on the couch smoking a joint. She had dispensed with the
headphones, since Kane tolerated her music at a reasonable level. Today they were listening to Led Zeppelin. Kane
was reading a huge book of indeterminate subject matter. It struck Yunomi that she had never seen a book in
Sandia’s house until Kane moved in. Now there was even a small book case. “Hey.” Sandia greeted Yunomi and
moved her feet to clear a space on the couch, then passed her the joint. Yunomi took a hit and passed it on to Kane.
He had found, like Sandia had, that it helped to relieve the boredom.
“So I hear I missed the meeting last night. Sorry about that, it was a surprise to me, too,” Yunomi
“It certainly wasn’t what I expected,” Sandia put in.
Yunomi regarded her friend as she took another hit. “Sandia, I’m pretty sure I know how you feel about
this, and I can’t blame you. But whatever information you and Kane have would be invaluable to us. I think the
four of us would be a great team.”
“So you think Reaper’s on the level,” Sandia said doubtfully.
“Yes, I do. Carnivean has become too bold, and must be put in his place. It would be great to have some
backup on our side.”
“I don’t know, there’s a lot of bad blood between me and him.”
“Sandia, he knew you and Kane were together before we left on the quest, and he let it go. He’s sworn not
to interfere with Kane again.”
“So what’s he doing now?” Sandia asked bitterly.
“Asking for your help. It’s going to be a tough fight, we need you,” Yunomi pleaded.
Sandia studied her friend’s face. It was the same, but not the same. Sometimes Yunomi looked so much
like Reaper in expression and body language that it was frightening. She moved with the same easy grace and had
the same flashes of anger and cruelty in her eyes. Sandia shook her head. “I can’t,” she said simply.
Yunomi looked at Kane. “I’ll help you, Lady, but only for your sake.”
“Thanks, Kane. We’ll kick ass together.” She saw the stricken expression on Sandia’s face, and with
genuine regret said “Sandia, I’m sorry.”
Sandia lowered her voice dangerously. “You’ll be a whole lot sorrier if anything happens to Kane.”
Angry lightning flashed in Yunomi’s eyes for an instant, and then she smiled broadly. “Don’t worry,
we’ve done this before.” She turned to Kane. “Come by my place around midnight, we’ll talk.”
Sandia stared hatefully after Yunomi as she left. Kane moved over to put his arms around Sandia, but she
pushed him away. “Don’t even talk to me, just leave me alone for a while.” She stalked to the bedroom and
slammed the door.
Yunomi was upset that Sandia’s threat had ruined a perfectly good buzz. She resisted the temptation to go
by el Camino and start it up again. Reaper didn’t like her smoking herb, he said it made her stupid. She pondered
Sandia’s change in attitude toward her. She loved Sandia as much as she loved Kane. Sandia had been Reaper’s
minion for years before Yunomi came to the Dark Side. In fact, Yunomi had lived with her for a while after she
first arrived. She hated seeing their friendship erode, but didn’t understand the cause. Finding herself at the stairs
to her loft, Yunomi decided to go home and sleep until Reaper returned. Her hip injury had been bothering her, and
sleeping alone so she could stretch out seemed to help.
At mid-evening, Reaper appeared and gently woke Yunomi. He knew when she was in pain and it
bothered him that he could do nothing.
“I learned something that may interest you,” he said.
Yunomi smiled and stroked his hair. “What, Beloved?”
“I heard that there is a memorial in the City of Light to the two Seraphim who died bringing you to justice.
They believe you are dead.”
Yunomi laughed wickedly. “Oh, good. It will be that much worse when I re-appear. I have news, too.
Kane has agreed to join us.”
“And Sandia?” Reaper asked.
“No,” Yunomi frowned. “I don’t know what’s wrong there. I thought she trusted me, that our friendship
“Yunomi,” Reaper put his hand on her shoulder. “Sandia and I had words when you died. She blamed me,
and I didn’t deny it. I’m sure Kane has not spoken kindly of me either. She resents her years of servitude to me.
I’m afraid only Kane can persuade her to join us.”
Yunomi shrugged. “Whatever. Kane is coming over around midnight.”
“Good. We need to start making a plan. I don’t want Carnivean making another alliance with Iuvart.”
Yunomi stretched and sat up, then winced. “Damn it! I am so freaking tired of this!” she cried, rubbing
her hip joint.
Reaper touched her hip, then said “Let me try something.” He picked her up and carried her to the big
table. Laying her on it, he felt her joint for the exact source of her pain. “All right, let me know how this
Yunomi felt a deep warmth spreading through her aching hip. “Oh, yeah, that’s good. What are you
“It’s a pain killing spell. I’m trying to set it with a tattoo. If it works, your pain will be greatly
“Well, so far it feels really good.”
Reaper continued working for a while, and when he was finished, Yunomi had a tattoo of a winged,
flaming skull on her hip. “How’s that?” he asked.
Yunomi flexed her hip, and then sat up. The pain was indeed much less. “Good,” she said. “I can deal
“Remember, you’re not healed. The spell only masks the pain, so be careful not to re-injure
Yunomi threw her arms around Reaper’s neck. “You’re so good to me.”
“Not really. I’m just tired of you bitching every time we have sex.”
Yunomi pulled back and smacked him on the side of the head with her open palm. “Jerk.” She swung her
legs off the table. “I’ve got to get dressed. Kane is on his way over.”
Reaper laughed to himself. He loved getting a rise out of her. Yunomi dressed and straightened up the
loft, then heard Kane coming up the stairs. She opened the door, and was surprised to see that Sandia was with
“I changed my mind,” Sandia said. “I go where Kane goes.”
“Okay, come on in,” Yunomi offered. She passed out beers as Kane sat across the table from
“Yunomi, could I have a word with you?” Sandia asked.
“Sure, come in the front room.” The women moved into the dojo.
Kane stared across the table at Reaper. “You have a question,” Reaper stated.
Kane cocked his head at his brother. “You are in Union with Yunomi.”
“Yes. She told you?”
Reaper shook his head. “It’s that obvious?”
“To another Lord. That was a dangerous risk, brother. You both could have been destroyed.”
“She was ready, and I’ve been ready for a long time. I knew she was the one when I found her.”
“And you never doubted?”
“Only when she died.”
“Not when Carnivean kidnapped her? Or when she was drinking so much?”
“I knew some catalyst would pull her through each challenge. I just didn’t know it would be you, brother.
It seems I had some accepting of my own to do.” Reaper looked at Kane for some sign that he was getting through
to him. Not finding one, he continued. “You’ve changed a great deal, Kane.”
“I had a lot of time to think about it.” Kane sent in a flat tone.
Reaper pulled in a deep breath. “I was wrong.”
Kane cocked his head again. He knew this was as close to an apology as he would ever get. “I got over
it,” Kane sent.
A slight smile crossed Reaper’s face, and he lifted his beer bottle to his brother. Kane returned the gesture,
and they drank together.
Yunomi had built an extension on the right hand windowsill so she could sit and watch the street below. It
was also out of sight of the men in the kitchen. She and Sandia sat there to talk.
“You wanna see my new tattoo?” Yunomi asked before Sandia could say anything.
Sandia sighed. “Sure.”
Yunomi pulled her jeans down and showed Sandia the tattoo on her hip. “It locks in a pain killing spell.
Isn’t that cool? Reaper did it for me a little while ago.”
“So is it working?”
“Yeah, it feels pretty good, just a twinge now and again.”
“Yunomi, please sit down and talk to me. I want us to stay friends, but I don’t understand what’s going on
with you. Kane thinks you and Reaper did some sort of soul melding thing...”
“Union.” Yunomi interrupted.
“Whatever. But sometimes you act really creepy and it sort of scares me.” Sandia looked into her friend’s
face, half expecting to see Reaper’s angry, flashing eyes. Instead she saw the smiling eyes of an old friend.
“I think a lot of your problem with me comes from your mistrust of Reaper,” Yunomi mused. “You were
his minion for years, you of all people should know what he is. He’s treated you and Kane badly in the
“And now he’s willing to make amends because he wants something from us.”
“True. But defeating Carnivean would benefit you and Kane, too. Carny’s bound to try and get control of
Kane again, and you’re not too popular in Hell, either.”
Sandia was thoughtful. “You’re right, a lot of my anger with you is because of Reaper. He sent you to die,
and when you came back, you were more like him. What is this ‘Union’ thing? Is that why you’re so weird
“Sandia, Union is unexplainable. It’s more than sharing souls, it’s...it’s having one mind, one way of
being...I don’t know, I can’t explain it.” Yunomi seemed far away.
“But you two fight worse than you ever did. I saw him try to punch you out, and I saw the hole you put in
el Camino’s wall. How can you be one and fight like that?”
Yunomi laughed. “It’s like that old song-’We’re one, but we’re not the same’. We have complete
acceptance of each other, not complete agreement. And there’s no fear, so we don’t hold back.”
“Just one more question,” Sandia couldn’t resist. “How’s the sex?”
A slow, wicked smile crossed Yunomi’s face. “Transcendent.”
Sandia grinned. “I suspected as much. Well, that’s something, anyway.”
“So we’re still friends?”
“As long as I see more of Yunomi in you than of Reaper.”
“But you’ll see me in him, too.”
“That’s a scary thought, Yunomi.”
Yunomi stared out the window at the street below. “That Goblin’s been down there since we sat here,” she
Sandia looked, too. “Yeah, it has,” she agreed. “Maybe we should check it out.”