I may have sat and hyperventilated about Melvin for a little while. But then, right about when I was freaking out over how the last semi-imortal supernatural man who’d been obsessed with Megan had planned to murder her and turn her into his undead bride, I stopped. I had to stop breathing entirely just to stop hyperventilating, but I did it. And then I did something that I used to do all the time when I was freaking out. Something that I felt like I hadn’t been able to do for ages — though it had actually only been a few days.
Unless you counted the unknown ages I’d spent stuck in frozen time, that is. Which I totally would have, if I weren’t still doing my best not to think about it, ever. Except that now I was and now I wanted to curl up in a ball or puke or something… and I had to stop breathing again because somehow I’d started hyperventilating once more.
I wasn’t going to think about that right now. I wasn’t. I wasn’t thinking about it. No.
Anyway, the point was: once I’d gotten a grip on myself and stopped trembling uncontrollably over… all of that stuff I wasn’t going to remember right now… I shakily dug out the phone Ben had given me. And then I did something to help with my anxiety that I hadn’t done in days. Days. That was all. Just days.
I dialed Megan.
Megan was always good for me when I was panicking, or coming down from panicking, or just being my usual neurotically weird self. Even if she couldn’t just eat the emotions I was spazzing out about anymore, I knew Megan could help me calm down. So if she was back in this world with Emma, then I wanted to be with them. At least until I was up to dealing with shit again.
Like werewolves and nephilim and fucking sadistic stalker elves.
Megan answered in the middle of the second ring.
“Hello?” She asked uncertainly — and I remembered that she’d never seen this number before.
“Megan!” I exclaimed. “It’s me. Abby. I’m sorry, Ben got me a new phone because my old one was smashed the other day. Are you and Emma still in this world?” I mentally face palmed. Of course they were: I really doubted that they’d have trans-dimensional phone service. Although, if anyone had gotten an upgrade by merit of traveling with a time traveling physician it was probably Megan.
Megan laughed. It was relaxed and beautiful, and I felt some of my tension unwind on hearing it. “We are,” she said. “We’re about to head home. To my place. Is everything okay? Did Jack get there in time to help?”
The mention of Jack — Melvin — immediately wound me up again. “Yeah,” I said. “Everything is okay. Valerie is taking care of wrapping everything up. I… Is it okay if I come over?” I didn’t mention that I was freaking out and felt like I’d fall apart at any moment.
Megan probably got the message, anyway. She knew me.
“Of course,” Megan said softly. “Emma and I would be happy if you could join us.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “Oh god,” I blurted, “how angry is Emma with me?”
Megan laughed again, but this time it was a little less relaxed. Still beautiful. “Um… okay. Maybe a little. But I think if you come over and tell us everything that’ll help. And if she gets to have dinner,” Megan added with a more real chuckle. “We’re still waiting on our orders, but we got them to go and should be home in another ten minutes or so.”
“Okay,” I said. “It’ll take me longer than that to get there. Er. Let Emma know I’m coming over, and I’ll see the two of you in a bit.”
“All right,” Megan agreed. “Be safe, babe.”
I blinked a couple times. Had Megan just called me… Oh right. We’re dating. Megan liked pet names for her boyfriends. And I guessed her girlfriends. I inadvertently thought about Melvin, and wondered if that was a faerie thing. Maybe. Names are awfully important to them. It’s probably a lot easier on a relationship if you aren’t risking accidentally geasing each other right out the gate.
Weirdly, as much as I hated it when Melvin compared me to some sort of dessert, I kind of liked it when Megan used a pet name for me. Even if it was ‘babe.’ It still felt… nice.
I was blushing when I answered. “You too,” was all I managed to mumble. Then I reiterated: “See you soon,” and ended the call. I put away my phone and got up to leave the limousine. I could hear Fumiko outside, and I wanted to talk to her before I left.
Actually, I wanted to see if she would give me a ride. It was dark, so I didn’t need the limo’s tinted windows — and I really didn’t want to bring along an entourage when I went to fall apart on my girlfriends.
Holy crap, I have girlfriends. Plural! And, if you counted Ben, boyfriends, also plural. How the fuck..?! I let that thought trail off. I was pretty sure if I examined it too much everything would unravel.
I guess I liked having girlfriends and boyfriends, because apparently I wanted to keep them — at least, I wanted it enough not to jinx it by thinking about it too much.
When I got outside, it looked like most of the people from inside the church had come out. Fumiko and the two girls were talking with Valerie — the one who had been unconscious was on her feet now, so that was a relief. She looked weak, but nothing was sticking out of her throat anymore, so that was good.
Juice Box was clearly trying to be by himself, but Benny was hovering next to him, trying to talk while Juice Box glared at everyone. I squinted at Benny. Remembering what Melvin had said about his union with an angel being sort of like a were’s union with a wolf, I pushed myself into that mental zone where my vision could pick up ghosts.
Sure enough, that let me see it: wings. Benny had wings. They were gossamer things of shimmering gold and red light, like a bird’s but far more articulate and seeming to consist entirely of long, ghostly feathers that ruffled and shifted in a breeze that didn’t exist on this world. One was wrapped around Benny like a protective cloak — the other had extended and hooked slightly around Juice Box. At Juice Box’s feet a faded wolf hunched and glared at the wing uncertainly.
I blinked a couple times to clear my vision. Yeah: Nope, I thought. I was not going to deal with figuring that out right now. No way in hell.
At that moment the paramedics exited the church wheeling out someone else on a gurney, which fortunately gave me something else to look at. Given that the gurney was wrapped up in silver chains, I guessed that was Jeremy. Fiore waved them toward him, and I could see that he was overseeing Jeremy’s transfer into the back of his solocks’ van. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
While I moved to join Fumiko, I peered closer at Jeremy. I wanted to see who exactly it was that we’d been running around after this whole time. He was clearly young, but I didn’t think he was younger than Benny or Juice Box. Kids. Daniel was going to have a field day with that: his packmates were literally kids. Jeremy was also a mess: someone had cleaned him up a little, but he’d clearly shifted while clothed, and now he was covered in the tattered, blood-stained remains of those clothes. I winced. He was going to hurt when he woke up — and no one was going to speed-heal him by biting him, because if he woke up before he was somewhere safe he was probably going to wolf out again.
I really didn’t want to have to deal with that right now, either, but I was going to have to check with Valerie on where they were taking him. Hopefully the whole batch of kids were being moved to Hans’ apartments or something, just in case someone else shifted. Or Jeremy woke up.
When I reached Fumiko, Valerie, and the two girls, the girl who’d sicced the church wards on me was describing her account of Fumiko’s fight with Jeremy’s wolf.
“…and then she did some kind of ninja attack,” the girl said. “Right before the wolf could leap after Benny again.”
“Actually,” Fumiko commented, “it was a sweep kick.” Valerie looked at her incredulously and she shrugged. “What? I had to knock it off-balance before it could jump. People, wolves: it’s the same basic principle. If you don’t want them to move, you take out their legs. Then I went for the tackle.”
“You,” I said slowly, as I joined them, “Tackled. A. Werewolf?!”
Fumiko’s expression didn’t change. From her leyline, I got the impression that she was secretly very pleased with herself — and with the opportunity to downplay her involvement, knowing that everyone else would have to mentally fill in the details that made her out to be the badass she obviously had to have been. And also, that on a certain level she didn’t actually think it had been that big of a deal, because the fight hadn’t been as hard as she expected and if people wanted to make a big deal about it, that was on them — she wasn’t going to encourage it. “It was the only way to pin its jaws shut,” Fumiko said. “Plus it got me in position to snap its neck.”
I stared. I’d been worried about Matteo shooting Jeremy in the head, and here Fumiko had snapped his neck?!
“What?” Fumiko asked. “He was dangerous. And it would’ve fixed itself when the body turned back into a human. But anyway, I didn’t have to do that because he passed out while I had him in the choke lock.”
I opened my mouth. Then I closed it again. I didn’t want to ask if she’d actually known Jeremy’s spine would heal when he reverted back to his natural form, or if she’d only thought about that possibility after the fact. I could already tell from her leyline that she didn’t really care either way — she was just disappointed that he’d actually gone down more easily than she’d expected.
“Right,” I said. “Um. Valerie, can I ask what’s going on? I shouldn’t’ve dumped all the cleanup on you and Fiore, but…” I couldn’t come up with a good excuse. I just shrugged instead.
“We’ll be securing everyone who was bitten at the hotel,” Valerie answered. “At least for tonight. And their friends — apparently one of them had heard screaming and come to investigate, and then Benny told him to run. He’d gone back downstairs to get the others to escape, too. So any plan for letting them keep their disbelief is pretty much out the window.” She shrugged. “But at the hotel they’ll be safe behind wards and we can answer any questions they have, and give them a basic run down on this side of reality. Maybe get them some temporary mentors out of our partners, to help them adjust. In the morning we’ll get Hans and Daniel out to meet with the new werewolves.”
“Okay,” I said. “Um. What about the parents?”
“Benny’s uncle knows about the supernatural community — apparently, that’s how Benny himself picked up on bits of it,” Valerie answered. “He’s going to explain tonight’s sequestering as a sort of impromptu religious retreat — he’ll be showing up as well, to make sure the kids are being taken care of, so that might even be accurate on a certain level, since he’s the local pastor. Anyway, that’ll do for the moment, and we’ll approach individual parents on a case-by-case basis.”
“Alright,” I said. “I guess that’s all good, then. Um. Go ahead and take the limo for that. It’ll let the kids stay together — I imagine they’ll appreciate that. I’m… I think I’m going to go meet up with Megan and Emma for a little bit, and then probably go wait for Hans to change back. If I can get a ride?” I added the last bit as a question to Fumiko, who smiled. Her cat ears perked up slightly. That was going to take some getting used to.
“Sure,” Fumiko answered. “I can make sure they know we’re still on for tomorrow. I spent today sun-proofing the apartment, you know. At least, until Kelson called to see if Jamie could find this church.”
I nodded. Kelson. Crap, I was probably going to have to spend time at the club now, wasn’t I? I didn’t want all of his employees to go despondent because I’d disappeared on them, like Emma had when Salvatore abandoned her. Dammit!
Well, at least that would make Megan happy. And I could smile at that thought. And maybe hide in a booth with Emma, and find out where we were going that night when Katherine interrupted us.
Okay, maybe Club Luminescence wasn’t the worst possible place to hang out for a while anymore. Assuming Emma was still talking to me after I’d left her behind to hunt down Jeremy.
The girl with the wounded leg shifted uncertainly. Fumiko noticed it too, and nodded at her. “Before we go,” Fumiko said, “Abby: this is Janiqua. You saved her sister Shantaya’s life. Janiqua, Shantaya: this is Abigail. She’s a vampire. You can call her Abby.”
I breathed a soft sigh of relief that Fumiko had handled the introductions. I wondered if she was developing the habit of doing that with everyone now, thanks to Jamie. It probably wasn’t a bad idea. “Um,” I said. I didn’t really want to talk to either of them right now, but especially not Janiqua. I could still feel the wards ripping me apart, in a phantom-limb-pain sort of a way. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Janiqua said uncertainly. She hobbled forward an awkward step. “I… uh… I wanted to apologize. For freaking out about you biting ‘Taya,” she said.
“Don’t!” I hastily interrupted. Had she actually apologized there? Technically not. I checked our leyline and relaxed just a bit: technicalities mattered to faerie laws, and there wasn’t anything new binding her to me by an admission of debt. “I mean: don’t apologize,” I hastily explained. Janiqua looked wounded, like I’d refused her apology because I thought she was a bad person or something. “I appreciate that you want to, but apologies can be used as an admission of debt. Among certain supernaturals, that can be turned against you; used to trap you in a geas — a compulsion,” I hastily explained. Melvin’s words echoed in my head: I think you might be better at trapping people in geases than I am. “I don’t want that.”
“Oh,” Janiqua said. “That’s… Um. Then I…”
“Don’t worry about it,” I interrupted her. “You did what you thought you had to do to protect your sister. Trust me, I’ve been there. Not toward my sister: I don’t have one. But being terrified while standing up to something I know crap about in order to protect someone I care about. I’ve been there, too.”
I tried to smile, but I was too busy starting to feel sick. I recognized the sensation. It was time to flee. If I stuck around, I was going to start babbling on autopilot, and a bunch of new werewolves did not need to hear my theories on cannibal Canadian lumberjack raping unicorn-chupacabra-moose crossbreeds. Or that I had possibly created one and let it loose on the world. Or anything about aliens and/or bacon. Really, anything I might start saying was probably bad. I caught Fumiko. “Let’s go,” I hissed urgently. “Now.” Since she knew me, she just smirked a little, then nodded goodbye to everyone else and started walking.
“You can call me if you need me for anything,” I called back to Valerie as Fumiko led the way to her car. “I mean, after spending some time with Megan and Emma, I’m just going to be hanging out with Cassie and Curtis until morning, I guess. Oh! No, I’ll ask Curtis to head over to the hotel. I can take over watching Hans for the evening, and he can probably talk to the people who got bitten.”
“As long as he thinks that’s a good idea,” Valerie countered. Thanks to shared super-hearing, we didn’t have to shout even though I was on my way down the street. “These weres might not react well to him, since he’s not a part of their pack.”
I grimaced. I hadn’t thought of that. “Yeah,” I said. “Okay.” Then I got into the passenger side of Fumiko’s car and closed my eyes. Done, I thought. Now I wasn’t going to have to think about any of this for at least a couple of hours while I spent time with my friend and my girlfriends. And that was an enormous relief.
“Let’s go,” I told Fumiko — and we went.