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This continues a re-telling of my Homelands series. I’m proud of the original versions but don’t feel that they lived up to their full potential. This time around, you can expect a slower pace, stronger characterization, and a less grandiose plot. This is no longer an epic fantasy, with a huge battle between good and evil waiting at the end. If you read the original versions, you should feel as though you’re revisiting old friends, but you shouldn’t assume that you know how their story ends. If you haven’t, there is no need to do so. This re-telling is meant to stand on its own and is my preferred version of the tale.
When Frank stepped out of the passenger car, he forgot to let his feet touch the ground. Leaves swirled around him like water going down the drain and the air was shimmering.
Then he saw that not everyone had waited him and Noreen to finish up.
Nat confirmed that Dom and their mother had lost patience and decided to head towards the house by themselves. Liz had tried to convince them to stay, but Grandpa Dick had said there was no reason for them to. He was probably even right about that. On some level, Frank knew he had no right to be disappointed in his mother. If he didn’t get to share his initial exploration of Autumn with her, that was his fault. Yet a needier side of him, one Frank only wished he could silence, wished he could turn back the clock. As great as the sex with his grandmother had been, to say nothing of all that energy, the price was too steep.
What if the tour their mother gave Dom ended in her bedroom? Or his, for all the difference that would make. Knowing her appetite, and his brother’s not-so-reluctance to satiate it, the odds were good that neither would be seen again until morning, save perhaps for a trip down to the kitchen to grab some food that could easily have been summoned.
“Maybe if the three minutes you’d asked for hadn’t lasted fifteen,” Todd said, leaving it to Frank to fill in the rest of the sentence. He then elbowed Nat in the side, as if to inform their sister that his comment was more than witty enough to laugh at, seeing as she hadn’t noticed that on her own. “Shit, I’d be on my way too, if I had any idea how to get there.”
That even Todd could tell he wasn’t welcome to join the expedition party told Frank everything he needed to know about what would happen after it arrived at Orwin Manor.
“That’s okay,” Noreen said, sounding a bit up-in-the-clouds still herself.
A quick glance at her confirmed that Frank wasn’t the real reason the air was shimmering. Had he drank his full and then some? Sure. He’d given plenty back, though, and when a Libido the size of his grandmother’s was pushed to the absolute limit like that, an overabundance of energy causing it to strain and swell, even the physical world took notice.
Well, okay, it always did to some degree. But there was something of a difference between causing air particles to follow a path that wasn’t quite natural and looking like a human bonfire. Shit, there were even sparks raining down around her, if not many of them. A Libido that wasn’t in duress still caused slight disturbances, but they were so minor that Frank’s siblings claimed they couldn’t even see them. He wasn’t sure whether that meant he possessed a talent they did not or if they just needed to try harder, but no one could miss the impact their grandmother was currently having on her surroundings.
Or, rather, the worldly manifestations of energy seeping through cracks in her Libido. That was what he was witnessing. She wasn’t just at capacity; she was past it. Frank had given his grandmother more than she could take. The woman certainly hadn’t complained about that—quite the opposite—but he’d literally been too much for her.
The same was true in reverse, of course, but that wouldn’t surprise anyone. Even his sister had poured more energy into his Libido than it could possibly contain, if not with the same regularity their mother had. It was easy to make Frank overflow. Noreen, though?
When was the last time Grandpa Dick had managed that?
“In fact, I think we should remain in small groups,” Noreen continued. Her voice had returned to normal, but she was still leaking. The others had noticed, too, because how could they not? At any moment, she was going to start a forest fire. She didn’t seem to care that some of them were gawking at her, though. If anything, she amused by it. “Let’s all pair up with someone different, though.” The arm looped through Frank’s fell away and she favored his younger brother with a grin that was simultaneously menacing and yet deeply arousing. “If this is your first time in Autumn, find someone who’s been here before.”
Todd didn’t say a word as she led him down the steps from the concrete slab that served as a makeshift train station. A crisp suit, reminiscent of a military uniform but without the insignia, replaced his scarecrow costume bursa eskort bayan and he somehow managed to make it look as though he was escorting their grandmother rather than the other way around.
Brie gave Bobby a hip check. “How about it, big guy? Mind showing me around?”
Her words might have been for their uncle, but her eyes went from Frank to her mother then returned to glower at him. And not because his eyes were glued to their grandmother’s posterior, which looked surprisingly full in the diaphanous green gown she’d changed into.
He was hardly opposed to the idea of letting Liz show him around, but part of him still resented the way her daughter kept forcing the issue. Was Brianna right that Frank and his mom weren’t meant for each other? Perhaps; he wasn’t even sure he believed in that sort of thing, however much he might like to. Either way, that was for Frank and his mother to work out on their own. There was no need for his cousin to play matchmaker.
And how fair was that to her mother? Liz was—
—giving him a shy smile. Followed by a nervous little wave.
He smiled back, starting towards her.
“What would you like to see first?” Grandpa Dick asked Natalie, planting his hand just above her bubble butt. “The house or the orchards?”
When his sister replied that she loved picking apples, without a hint or sarcasm or an obvious double entendre, Frank decided that he didn’t know her anymore. Though he supposed that was touching, in a way. For a moment, Nat was the same girl who used to liked to help their father rake leaves because he’d let her gather them all into a pile at the end and jump in it before he stuffed them in a trash bag. Would her tour of the manor and its properties end with their grandfather’s fat cock stretching both her holes? Probably. The girl would have plenty of wholesome fun before that, though, and might even deserve it. She was as fond of fall as Frank was, and more outdoorsy besides.
“It looks like you drew the short straw again,” Liz said, running a hand through her hair.
“How do you figure?” Frank asked as he looked over her new outfit. She now wore a brown dress with dark leggings, a thick belt in still another shade of brown, a sensible pair of boots that came to mid-calf. A knitted scarf was wrapped around her shoulders, offering just a splash of color. Orange, as it happened, though she wasn’t brave enough to make her lips match. Those remained red, which would probably earn her a lecture from her daughter later on about the importance of matching one’s makeup to their outfit. In Frank’s humble opinion, though, she pulled it off. “You’re taller than anyone but Nat,” he added, “and if those boots had the sort of chunky heels she loves so much, even she’d be the same height.”
His aunt seemed too distracted by his vest to manage a response to that, though. Not that Frank could blame her; it was a bit louder than anything he usually wore. Granted, he didn’t usually wear anything above the waist, and still didn’t have an actual shirt on, but he didn’t think it was his swollen pecs or toned abs that had caught Liz’s attention.
Lest there be any doubt, she reached out to touch a red leaf. “May I?”
Frank nodded, trying not to comment on her use of the correct verb.
“I wouldn’t have thought you were big on embroidery,” she said.
“It’s not like I made it myself,” Frank replied. “Well, I guess I did, but not the old-fashioned way,” he added when she gave him a flat look. Her older sister was the more crafsty of the two, at least according to Frank’s mother, but he’d have been willing to believe she’d knitted that scarf by hand if he hadn’t watched her conjure it out of thin air.
“Aren’t you cold?” she asked, flicking his abs lightly with one nail before letting her hand fall to her waist. He definitely didn’t tighten them up even further as she did that.
“Why, do you feel a breeze?” Frank asked.
So, of course, that was when one picked up, wresting leaves from the branches above.
Without a word, and only the smallest of grins, his aunt grabbed an elbow and led him down off the platform to where the woods had swallowed the other couples.
“Miss Orwin, where are you taking us?” Frank asked, trying to sound like an adolescent.
She slapped his forearm with her free hand. “I used a different name over there.”
“I know.” He wasn’t sure why his mother got to raise her kids under the name of Owens, which wasn’t too far off, while her sister had to go by Lowfeld, but figured he could guess. Dom would probably do the same thing to him when their time came.
“Jim?” Liz called out. She gave a sharp clap, the sort used to summon servants in movies. At that, a scarecrow that Frank hadn’t realized was sitting with its back against the concrete got to its feet, bowed, and swept his straw hat off his burlap sack.
When he rose again, Frank saw that “Jim” had black buttons for eyes bursa merkez escort and half a carrot stuck through a hole where his nose should be. A line of stitches served as a mouth. They stretched into a smile, but it didn’t seem like the thing could speak.
Pointing with a gloved finger, the scarecrow directed them around to the side of the platform, where their ride awaited them. It was the sort of wagon used to take kids on Harvest hayrides. The wheels, driver’s perch, and undercarriage were unfinished oak, though the rest was painted in the vibrant colors of the leaves that surrounded them. A pair of wooden horses were harnessed together in front, because of course they were. One stamped the ground and shook its head, letting out a silent whinny.
“No actual beasts of burden?” Frank asked. “Brianna would approve.”
Liz grinned. “There’s no forced labor here, for any species.”
“Except scarecrows,” he said, making it sound serious.
“I don’t think that counts,” his aunt said with an uncertain look. Belatedly, she realized he’d only been teasing her, despite the tone, and smacked his forearm.
Resisting the urge to give her ass a retaliatory smack as she climbed into the back of the wagon was even harder than not cursing in the classroom, and not just because it was so big and round. Which it really was. That dress fit as loosely as Frank had come to expect everything she wore to, but some things just couldn’t be hidden.
“So are these public sector?”
“They’re not controlled by the Governing Council, if that’s what you meant,” Liz replied, making room for him on the bench beside her. “If you start asking about tax rates…”
Frank laughed put his hand down on the other side of his aunt, so that his arm rested against her back. Purely to keep her from falling off once the wagon started moving, though. “I was only wondering whether this Jim belongs to us or is Court-owned.”
“Any immortal can avail themselves of any scarecrow’s services.” Liz frowned. “I’ve heard some allege that they respond more quickly to the major houses, but I don’t know if I believe that. There’s a lot of resentment towards us that I don’t think is justified.”
“Do elites ever think otherwise?” Frank asked as the wagon jolted forward.
His aunt scowled.
“So tell me about this legislative body,” he said. “I take it the seats are all held by the major houses, of which Orwin is one?” Was that his grandmother’s idea of a democracy?
“Did you and my mom not have enough time to cover all the details?”
“I don’t know how much she’d have told me even if we hadn’t gotten physical,” Frank said. “I might even go so far as to say that she was trying to distract me.” He wouldn’t have said that if he was talking to his mother. To her ear, questioning whether a woman had any but the most prurient of reasons for having sex with him would sound insecure. Frank didn’t think his aunt was a member of the Cult of Confidence, though.
She raised an eyebrow at him. “That sounds a little paranoid.” If it’s not one thing, it’s another, Frank suppose. “Besides, I can’t imagine that she doesn’t find you attractive,” Liz added. Then her cheeks started to color and she rushed to add, “You’re exactly her type.”
Apparently, he was supposed to wonder whether the same held true for his aunt. Given the love triangle he’d picked up on between her, Noreen, and Bobby, however, there wasn’t much room for doubt. At first, it had made Frank uncomfortable that his uncle embodied the same vision of masculinity as he did, but now that just seemed like something he could use to guess what his aunt thought of his physique. Not that he really needed further indication. She wasn’t as brazen with her staring as the others, but Frank still got more attention from her brown orbs than either of his brothers did. That his personality would appeal to her more than theirs was obvious, but it seemed pretty clear that his body did too.
“Whether she was deliberately withholding information or not, your mother didn’t tell me much. So I’m asking you to fill in the gaps.” He flashed his pearly whites. “Please?”
With a frown, Liz said, “I don’t know, Frank. If she really is keeping you in the dark, then I shouldn’t say anything.” She sighed. “You might be disappointed at how poor my understanding of our electoral system is anyway. I wasn’t that into politics in the mortal world, where everything felt less personal. Here, I’ve met just about all the movers and shakers, and I don’t dislike any of them nearly as much I should. I’m not even sure Mom does, which makes rather strange that I feel guilty for not hating your father. Most Americans—”
“Wait, what about my dad?” he asked, ignoring the part where she’d called it the mortal world, rather than an echo thereof. Even English teachers sometimes worded things poorly.
Her frown deepened. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“But you did.”
“I bursa sınırsız escort bayan suggest you ask your mother.” She turned and looked over her shoulder at the fields of corn that had replaced the polychromatic forest. “I had nothing to do with that.”
It was tempting to ask what, exactly, she’d had nothing to do with, but Frank didn’t bother. He was making her uncomfortable and had no desire to continue doing so.
“My point is that, come election day, everyone in the United States has a choice,” his aunt continued. “Those choices are heavily influenced by people’s families, religions, and occupations, but they’re still theirs to make.” Her voice grew a little softer and he almost couldn’t hear the next part over the clopping of wooden hooves against packed dirt and the creaking of wagon wheels. “I only wish I could say the same held true here.”
“Would she have had your vote if she wasn’t your mom?”
“No, it’s not like that,” Liz said with a huff. “This is so frustrating; I can’t explain, but you’ll draw the wrong conclusion if I don’t.” She folded her arms beneath her breasts and fumed. Small puffs of steam might actually have escaped her nostrils.
Both wanting to drop the subject and yet keep it alive, Frank felt her frustration.
Suddenly, his aunt flapped her hands in exasperation. “Oh, dang it all! We don’t `vote’ here. At least you and I don’t.” She’d probably upbraid herself later for saying too much, but doing so seemed to bring a measure of relief for the nonce. “Council seats are allocated by family size. We don’t have money here, so no one fights about government spending, but they care enough about the rest that they try to control who’ll win the next election by telling people whether they’re allowed to have children.”
It took a while for that to sink in. When it did, Frank was aghast. “It’s like abortion, birth control, voting rights, and gerrymandering all rolled into one,” he observed.
There was also foreign policy, apparently. To hear his grandmother tell it, that was the issue. If economic issues were off the table, how could anything trump reproductive rights?
Unless, of course, there really was a war on the horizon. With the powers their kind wielded, nuclear weapons might look like slingshots by the time that was over.
“Wait, you said they try to control elections that way. If no one gets to vote, and it all just comes down to how big each family is, why wouldn’t that work?”
Frank could almost hear his aunt ask herself whether it would hurt anything to answer that question, given what she’d already said. Apparently, it would not. “The minor houses still have to decide who to support. They don’t get to to do that individually, of course—someone decided that nothing would tear families apart faster than having brother and sister vote for different parties in the afternoon and then climb into the same bed at night—but it’s not a foregone conclusion where that support goes, the way it is with the major houses.”
“We vote for ourselves by default?” Frank guessed.
“How does depriving a brother and sister of the right to make their voice heard solve that problem?” Frank asked. “People are always going to disagree about politics, even with those they love. Let their grandparents speak for them and you only make things worse.”
“I don’t make the rules,” his aunt replied.
Of course not. “Okay, forget that side of things.” Putting two and two together, Frank guessed, “My father’s family backs a different party—the one that controls the presidency.”
“Your paternal grandmother is your maternal one’s successor.”
Some strange magic, more powerful than any Frank could command, put his head back together after it asploded. “So theirs was a political marriage?” he said after recovering.
“The only way your mother and I could both have children was if one of us reached across the aisle,” Liz confirmed. “I said I didn’t mind. Don’t tell your cousin this, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to be a mother anyway.” Something told Frank that Brianna could handle hearing that. “Remind me again what your degree was going to be in?” his aunt finished.
Chortling, Frank said, “Everything political science got right they stole from us.”
“If you say so.”
He stared out at amber waves of grain, finding it hard to believe they were in another world, discussing its equally petty politics. “So do we count in the next election? And for which house?” he asked, though he knew the answer to that. The letter had been addressed to Frank Orwin, after all. What Grandma Kaitlin had gotten out of the deal was unclear, but it obviously wasn’t his allegiance or that of his siblings.
“Offspring follow the mother, customarily,” Liz said. “If all parties consent, they can renounce her name and join their father’s house. My mother wouldn’t allow that, though.”
It didn’t matter whether Noreen would object—not for one instant would Frank consider disowning his mother. The same probably even held for his siblings, though Nat and Todd might not be as loyal. If either one of them chose to defect, the other would follow, and his sister had always been a bit of a daddy’s girl.
“They had to know she wouldn’t.”
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