I don’t know how long I slept. I do know it was sleep, however, because I wasn’t dormant. I wasn’t aware of anything going on around me. In fact, my mind was blissfully, peacefully empty. It wasn’t until after I had woken up that I realized I’d even fallen asleep to begin with.
Immediately after I realized I had woken up, the thing that had woken me up registered again: a polite knocking at the door. I blinked blearily and looked around. Where was I again?
It came back in a rush. The big bed was an equally big reminder. Emma, naked and curled up next to me, was an even bigger one. I sat up abruptly, and Emma’s arm flopped down into my lap. She mumbled something sleepy and upset sounding that wasn’t really words. Megan, who was sitting up against the headboard next to me, smiled. “I couldn’t sleep, so I did some redecorating,” she explained quietly.
Someone knocked at the door again and my attention snapped to it. I immediately saw some of what Megan meant: there was a door in front of the archway we had originally entered her room through. In fact, if the walls I saw instead of the arch were any indication, she had enclosed it in its own mini-room.
Then I realized: I’m naked, in my girlfriend’s bedroom, and someone else is trying to get in.
Panic was immediate and total. I thrashed around, yelping: “Clothes! Where?!”
Megan laughed. She caught my hands and rolled out of bed, then pulled me out on her side. Emma whimpered and tried to clutch at me, but she didn’t find much purchase due to my lack of clothes.
The stranger at the door knocked again.
Oh god, I thought, three women sleeping in one bed together, two of them naked and all of them obviously lesbian to some degree or another and someone is trying to get into the room with them and shit shit shit shit shit: this is how horror movies start!
I squeaked when the psychopath at the door knocked again, and I tried to pull away from Megan so that I could dive in the direction I was hoping Emma had dropped my top and pants from the other night. I didn’t want to be murdered naked. But if someone barged in on post-sex bedhead-me I’d probably die of embarrassment before they even got to the stabbings.
Megan didn’t let go of me, though, and it was only after I unsuccessfully tried to tug away again that I realized she’d taken care of the naked part of the problem.
Somehow I was wearing blue, teal, and white plaid flannel body armor form head to ankle. Also, big fuzzy slippers. I froze, slightly aghast at the wardrobe change. On the one hand: full body flannel pajamas were my nightwear of choice. On the other, they were a glamour so technically I was still naked. Also, Megan — who had never gotten undressed at all — was for some reason in a lacy black nightgown, now.
Then the bed grew four posters and curtains, giving a still sleeping Emma privacy without making her wear anything at all.
Another knock at the door distracted me from asking Megan why pajamas?! when what we needed was kevlar and those chain guns from Fumiko’s shooter video games. “Miss?” Sebas quietly called through it. “Miss Abigail, I hate to intrude but this is quite important.”
Oh my god, I thought. The butler did it… Of course the butler did it! Fae are probably suckers for that kind of cliche crap, what with their being super into ‘traditions.’ Murdered by Sebas. In my imaginary pajamas. I was never going to live that down.
Abby, relax, Megan thought at me. You’re the next best thing to invincible, and I’m sort of omnipotent around here. We’re not going to get murdered. And it’s pajamas because if it isn’t important then we are totally crawling back into bed after your butler leaves.
I hesitated. Okay, I admitted. You’ve got a point. Except: But how much do you want to bet that’s what Archarel said, too? I added darkly. Then I reconsidered. I mean, minus the part about going back to bed. I didn’t want to think about that. Since it had been Archarel’s wedding that I’d murdered him at, ‘going back to bed’ probably would’ve involved Orlina and honeymooning — and imagining that around Megan seemed a little… rude? I mean, they weren’t biologically related, but there was still something going on there, right?
Also, dammit, now I was thinking about it. And it was creepy as fuck, because Archarel was not a good person.
The fae seem to think so, Megan thought. Thankfully, it gave me something to focus on other than my imagination, which was trying to go somewhere a lot less happy than my usual mostly-semi non-con fantasies. Possibly because it was too close to reality? She’s generally considered my adoptive sister, I think. Out loud Megan said: “Come in.”
The door opened and an immaculate Sebastian came in. He folded his hands in front of himself and bowed briefly to Megan before turning to me. “Miss Abigail,” he said. “It is truly unfortunate that I must disturb your rest. However…”
I tuned him out and tried to see if I could find the outline of his knife under the folds of his jacket. I couldn’t. Of course not, stupid, I berated myself. He was probably just going to materialize it as he stabbed. I wonder how many murders where they never found the weapon were actually pulled off by changelings and doppelgangers? Damn, that was creepy. Also, when did he start saying ‘miss’ instead of ‘my lady?’ Although, ‘miss’ did seem more butlery. Sebastian was really throwing himself into his role. He must be one of those method murderers.
Then my super hearing brought a sleepy whimper to my ears. Emma. Was she having a bad dream now that everyone had left her? I wanted to go back and snuggle her. Maybe if Sebastian got the stabbings over with quickly I’d be able to heal back up and climb into bed before Emma woke up and thought she’d actually been abandoned.
“Miss,” Sebastian said sharply. It yanked my sleepy brain back to attention.
“Yes? No! I mean: I’m paying attention,” I blathered in a rush.
“So I hear,” Sebastian dryly observed. “And yet, I feared I may not have been conveying the importance of my message with sufficient gravity to assure it received enough of your attention.”
I flushed and ducked my head. Were butlers supposed to be able to scold the people they butled for? If not, I really needed to know so I could tell Sebas.
“I have news regarding your suitor, Hans’, quest,” Sebastian began again. “I fear it is not good news.”
I swallowed. Sebastian had my full attention now. I had no idea what time it was in the real world, so my brain went immediately into ‘worst case scenario’ mode.
Which was obviously that they hadn’t found Jeremy. And also, that they had stayed out so late looking that Hans had shifted again and wounded someone else. And also also that Jeremy had turned a bunch of people, too. And also also also, that since I had fallen asleep in faerie land I had succumbed to some sort of Rip Van Winklian temporal anomaly and it was now thousands of years later and everyone I had ever known outside of this room were all dead anyway and the world was now a post-apocalyptic wasteland of ruined cities, scheming fae, and overpopulated with swarms of rabid, feral werewolf and it was all my fault that the last remnants of humanity lived a hunted, primitive existence, barely clinging to survival as they desperately battled the supernatural elements that had plunged them into the second, final, eternal dark age.
Fuck me. The only way I could have fucked up worse would have been to fall for my cousin Linda’s plans to kick off the zombie apocalypse.
And then I realized that Sebastian had stopped talking. Instead, he was patiently waiting for me to actually pay attention to him again. I rallied myself and tried to focus. I didn’t want to — I wanted so badly to climb back into bed and hide under the covers, now — but letting Sebastian tell me what had happened while I’d been asleep was the only way I’d be able to find out how bad it really was.
“We were unable to locate Jeremy using the links between himself and Hans,” Sebastian confirmed. Worst case scenario step one: check.
“The leylines involved were at too many steps removed, and too tentative, to be found and followed. However, Mister Dolcet’s liaison was able to track down the missing Daniel Stuessy,” he continued. I felt a brief spike of panic: Pips and Daniel?! There was no way that could have ended well for anyone involved!
“Because of his history with Mister Stuessy,” Sebastian said, “Mister Dolcet’s liaison remained behind when Hans and the others spoke with him. I attempted to follow the leyline from Mister Stuessy to Jeremy in Pips’ stead. However, despite the fact that Mister Stuessy knew the boy Jeremy personally, I was only able to confirm that Jeremy was in a warded place — as too was Mister Stuessy’s liaison, who I left to continue monitoring the leyline in case Jeremy ventured forth from his sanctuary.”
I looked at Sebastian and wondered if he realized what he was doing to me by telling me they’d failed to find Jeremy, then that they might’ve found him with Daniel, then that they’d failed to find him after all. Was he trying to torture me?!
“In the process of that investigation, however,” Sebastian said without addressing whether or not he was deliberately screwing with my hope for the future — or the present, if we were still on my ‘worst case scenario’ track — “We uncovered other alarming, yet pertinent information. It seems that Mister Stuessy contracted the werewolf curse while he was still, technically, a living mortal: when Hans shifted and fled from the vampire Lewellan, just prior to Mister Stuessy’s descent into death and ghouldom. A medium, the lady Cassie, confirmed that Mister Stuessy is possessed off a symbiotic wolf spirit, as is every werewolf she has had the experience to observe.”
I felt my mouth slowly slip open. I clicked it shut and tried to swallow, but my throat was dry. What. I couldn’t make myself comprehend what that meant. What?!
Megan wrapped her arms around one of mine and hugged it close. I could feel her own confusion and uncertainty through our leyline even as she tried to comfort me. I felt like I had to be in a dream. I reevaluated my worst case scenario. Now the post-apocalyptic wasteland was overpopulated with rabid wereghoulf cannibals.
Oh. Oh, fuck me: this is so much worse than the zombie apocalypse thing now. And Sebastian wasn’t even done.
“In light of the lack of additional leads and the approach of night,” Sebastian said, “Hans has been forced to forfeit the remainder of his search for Jeremy. Instead, he and Mister Stuessy are en-route to a former holding of Hans’ pack, where they will be able to safely wait out the night after transforming into beasts. Miss Abigail, I was tasked with finding any fae who might be strong enough to penetrate the wards preventing us from discerning Jeremy’s location. I found Reid and his man Thaddeus waiting for your return to the mortal realm, and dispatched them to aid Hans. However, those others who remain are significantly weaker than Thaddeus, currently — and after coming here to find others, I have determined that the condition of the gates, as they stand, is such that any reinforcement of fae from this realm would arrive too late to find the boy before night falls. Thus, I then took it upon myself to ensure you were aware of this situation, in case other options were available to you.”
He subtly glanced toward Megan. I only picked it up because of my supernaturally acute eyesight. Megan just figured it out on her own.
“I can go,” Megan said. “I’m ‘native’ to Earth so I can actually cross the boundary from this world to Earth from anywhere — just like most fae can cross from Earth to Faerie from anywhere. I don’t have to wait through a portal’s transferal. And if it’s power you need, then you won’t really find a fae with more available than me.”
“No way,” I protested. “You need to stay here with Emma!”
“Who is also a mortal from Earth,” Megan pointed out. “I think that since she has a real, physical body she can’t just step across the veil wherever — but if we take her to a portal she should be able to cross without waiting through a transfer period like a fae would. Not for a trip to Earth, anyway.”
I hesitated. I needed to go help Hans. That was obvious. But I wasn’t willing to risk Megan. Except, in the end, it wouldn’t really be my call. It wasn’t like I could stop her. But if there was any good reason for her not to risk herself — and Emma — like that, then I had to bring it up because I cared about her.
“But on Earth, wouldn’t you be separated from drawing off of your kingdom?” I asked. “I mean: I’ve noticed that when fae travel back to this world, the leyline I have connecting them to me thins. And I’m pretty sure that impacts how much transferal can be done along it.”
Now Megan hesitated. “I could just draw in a lot of power before we leave,” she proposed.
“Okay,” I said. “But if you manage to break through whatever wards are around Jeremy you’d still have to travel along his leyline to find out where he was. And Emma does have a physical body, so she wouldn’t be able to follow. So the line between the two of you would thin — won’t that be a problem? Since you need to keep providing essence to her until her aura mends fully?”
Megan frowned. She bit the corner of her lower lip and started chewing anxiously, but she didn’t answer.
“We need something else,” I said. “Or someone else…” I had an idea, but I couldn’t quite grasp it. Something about it made me uneasy. Sebastian stood impassively. He’d given me a hint at who he thought we needed, but clearly he wasn’t going to overstep and actually weigh in on the debate. If only there were other fae who had their strength back on Earth — if only I hadn’t been so damn greedy when feeding!
Then it clicked. “We need Melvin,” I said weakly. “He’s stronger than most of the fae I know: he managed to sate me with just a couple drops of blood, once, and I was a wreck at the time. And he’s Zane’s doppelganger, so he has a connection to Earth that probably means he can get back faster than a normal faerie, too.” That freaked me out to remember: at some point I was going to have to find out what had happened to the real Zane, and I was afraid of what that point would bring. “And Melvin told me that he knows how to do this kind of tracking,” I finished.
When I’d been trying to figure out how to track someone myself, I’d asked Melvin what he would do to find someone. His answer had been to travel the line, find out where they were, and come back to tell me. And then, just today: he’d said he could track Jeremy down for Hans, except that Hans would have fought him on it if he tried to access Hans’ aura.
But we weren’t going to track anyone through Hans, now. We were going to track someone through Daniel.
Megan nodded immediately. “Jack,” she called out to the open air. Almost instantly Melvin appeared between Megan and myself.
He took one look at Megan in her silk, lacy black nightie and jumped. I almost laughed when he looked around as though to check for the hidden camera. But then he spotted me and stopped looking startled and started looking mischievous, instead.
“Oh dear,” Melvin exclaimed. “I seem to be overdressed for this slumber party.” Abruptly his suit flowed away, leaving him leaning on his cane and wearing only a pair of shiny, deep blue silk boxers and some black dress socks.
And his top hat.
“Now,” Melvin said with a laugh hiding in his tone and a leer he pointed specifically at me. “How may I attend you, my dear ladies?”