"It means it reappears on the other side." Mercy thought about it. "If the blood bond hadn't been there between DarkRiver and SnowDancer?"
"Honestly," Sascha said, "I don't know. Could be we'd have ended up with the same result. You're both so dedicated to your packs - with changelings, such things seem to matter a great deal when it comes to the psychic plane."
Riley straightened his unbroken leg. "You want us to choose." A glance at Hawke, then back at Lucas.
"It's necessary," Hawke said, pale eyes intent.
Lucas nodded. "Your animals won't like not having a concrete answer. Plus, we need it for the stability of the pack structure."
Mercy turned to Riley and raised an eyebrow. "Okay?"
Nodding, he looked to Hawke. "I'll stay SnowDancer, she'll stay DarkRiver."
"There won't be a loyalty issue," Mercy said. "My loyalty is to my mate first, then my pack." It was how it had always been. Pack was built on the ties of family. And family began with mating. "Don't ask us to keep secrets from each other."
Lucas made a mock obeisance at her pointed reference. "As if we'd even try," he said, rising to his full height. "Mates come first."
Riley brushed his lips over Mercy's hair in a caress so tender, her toes curled. "It would also," he said, "make our domestic life easier if you two didn't declare war against each other anytime soon."
"Why would we do that when we now have the liaison team of our dreams?" Lucas was all but rubbing his hands. So, for that matter, was Hawke.
"I hate you both," Mercy said without heat.
Riley put his arm around her. "Me, too."
There was a celebration in the Pack Circle a week later, after Tamsyn and Lara had cleared both Mercy and Riley. It was a joint celebration - of the new life coming into the pack, and of Riley and Mercy's mating.
Bas thumped Riley on the back. "Look after her or I'll scalp you in your sleep." A smile so feral that if Mercy hadn't known better, she'd have thought her brother didn't even know what a suit was, much less a financial market.
"Judd said one day it would come back to bite me," Riley muttered, leaning on his crutches.
"He won't hurt you," Mercy teased. "If he does, I'll use his kitten defurring tools on him."
Bas showed her teeth. "I'm bigger than you. And I intend to cheat."
Laughing, she pulled him down for a kiss on the cheek, then pushed him into the dancers. "Go make some woman's night." And there were a lot of them giving Bas the eye.
Grinning, he blew her a kiss and merged into the dancers. Grey, she saw with a surge of warmth in her heart, was flirting outrageously with Mia, both of them none the worse for their short kidnapping. Sage was operating a camera somewhere, recording this for Keely's archival files.
"This is nice," she said, leaning into Riley's side as they stood with their backs against a large tree trunk. "Both our packs here."
"And everyone behaving." He nodded at the two groups of juveniles, one on either side of the Pack Circle. That the event was being held here was another step into trust. Changelings guarded their Pack Circles zealously. During Dorian's mating ceremony, certain wolves had been invited down, but it had been a limited number.
But with Riley and Mercy's mating, Lucas had decided it was time to extend the hand of friendship. Hawke had snarled, but he'd taken it. There was going to be another joint party up in the SnowDancer circle a month from now. However, the SnowDancer alpha had only made a fleeting appearance at this party - Mercy had a good inkling why.
"Hey, as long as they don't claw into each other," she said, putting the issue from her mind, "I don't care how much they glare."
"Poor Sascha," Riley said, a laugh in his voice. "She can't find a minute to herself."
Mercy glanced over to see Sascha being offered food, drink, a blanket, suggestions for baby names, and God knows what else. Changelings adored children, but their fertility rate wasn't as high as that of humans or Psy. As a result, any birth was cherished. And any pregnant woman was cosseted, petted, and generally driven out of her mind by the others in the pack - male and female.
As Mercy stood there, amused by the knowledge that Lucas would most certainly be getting a strip torn off his hide later tonight, she glimpsed Kit slipping off into the forest. That wasn't unusual. He was a twenty-year-old male, after all - a gorgeous one. What was unusual was the girl holding his hand. Sienna Lauren.
Mercy was about to go after the two - if only to stop an interpack incident, when Riley said, "Look at her."
She followed his gaze to find Brenna laughing up at Judd, her golden presence a stark contrast to her mate's quiet intensity - but no matter what he looked like, there was no doubting the bond between the two. "They're good together."
Riley hugged her to his side. "Yeah, they are." And for the first time, there were no shadows in his eyes when he looked at his sister. It was, Mercy thought, an excellent start. "God," he continued, "I can't believe I used to play horsie for her when she was a little bit." He shook his head. "What games did you play with your brothers?"
"I considered Bas my own personal doll. I used to dress him up in sentinel gear and take him on raids."
Riley laughed and it was such a rich, open sound that her leopard was enchanted. "Dance?" she asked.
He looked down at his cast. "If you don't mind staying in one place."
"If that's pasted up next to you, sounds about perfect to me."