I was hyperventilating. I couldn’t make myself stop, even when I made myself stop breathing entirely. It just started back up again a second later. The ghost wolf in front of me — Emma’s ghost wolf — continued to growl warily. Emma’s eyes narrowed. “Abby,” she asked sharply, “What’s wrong?”
I swallowed and jerked my eyes up from the wolf and to Emma’s face. “Don’t panic,” I said. Hans and Daniel hadn’t shifted despite the fullness of the moon until they’d gotten agitated. But what was I thinking? Nothing was more likely to panic someone than telling them not to panic. I didn’t know what I was saying.
But that didn’t stop the words from coming out.
“Don’t panic,” I repeated, “But I think I messed up. Remember when I almost killed you by drinking too much blood and then I drew life from Hans and pushed it into you so you wouldn’t die, and then the vampire curse ate all that while trying to infect you and we all thought you might turn into a ghoul?”
Emma nodded warily. In the kitchen, all movement had stopped: Fumiko and Megan were watching me and listening intently.
“Well,” I said, “That was Hans’ aura. I took it from him and pushed to you, so I wouldn’t just vamp out and drain you again.” I swallowed. “I think we screwed up. I think some of why that aura disappeared so fast wasn’t that my curse was eating it up trying to infect you…. I think some of it was that it was Hans’ curse, trying to infect you, too. And. Um. And you have a wolf, Emma.”
Emma looked at me. She was very, very still. Her werewolf was as well. It had stopped growling, and was looking around anxiously.
“What?” Emma asked.
I swallowed. “I think…. I think maybe you’re a werewolf,” I said.
For long, excruciating seconds everyone stared at me. The apartment was silent other than the thundering of heartbeats that I could only hear because my supernatural senses were amped up on adrenaline and going nuts looking for a threat to focus on. But at least Emma wasn’t panicking. She hadn’t shape shifted into an uncontrollable killing machine. And Fumiko hadn’t been forced to snap her neck or choke her out or fucking tackle a wolf.
Of course, I could only take everyone calmly staring at me like I was a crazy person for so long. Because even if no one else realized how big a deal this was, I did. I mean: Emma was a werewolf. And it was my fault. And holy fuck: Emma was a werewolf!
Why isn’t anyone else freaking out?! I freaked out. On instinct I reached for my leylines to find the answer.
Fumiko’s aura was as clam as ever, so who knew whether or not she was worried. Maybe she was and maybe she wasn’t, but I would never know either way — and from my recently improved understanding of her, I suspected she might not, either. but she would choose to be concerned, because that was what a good friend would do.
Megan’s aura was so vast I sort of suspected that I wouldn’t ever find anything in it that she didn’t want to show me — but I could see her concern. Rather than reacting on the outside, though, Megan was sharing her concern with Emma — and with myself once I noticed — and pushing a steady stream of reassurance and confidence to Emma through the massively wide leyline that bound them together.
And underneath that? Emma was freaking out. Hard core. She was just being quiet about it, and keeping herself together — because freaking out uncontrollably isn’t exactly helpful, ever. And because, on a certain level teeny, tiny level, she was a little excited about it, too. Because it meant she would be able to do things.
Like, I realized sickly, be a more effective donor for me.
But regardless of that: it wasn’t that no one else was worried. It was just that I was the only one without a filter.
I tried to follow suit and get a grip. Whatever we did, it didn’t need to be about taking care of my inability to keep myself from going crazy. It needed to be about taking care of Emma. Whatever it was that she needed. A basement to hide in? Did Mrs. Butterson have a basement? Or silver handcuffs?
Oh god, I did not want to think about why Mrs. Butterson would have sparkly silver jewellery handcuffs.
But still, maybe I should ask her where she got her stuff? Because a pair of those would be really handy right about now. Just to make sure Emma couldn’t shift. Oh, god: and now I knew why Mrs. Butterson would have silver handcuffs.
Ew. Seriously, Mrs. Butterson? And I thought I had messed up kinks.
So, while I mentally melted down at the dual prospects of: my girlfriend is a werewolf and Mrs. Butterson is a witch who likes kinky sex with werewolves who are out of control because she’s handcuffed them to her bed in silver, allowing the whole ‘kill, eat,’ and especially ‘fuck’ part to take over while preventing them from turning into wolves, Fumiko slipped around the kitchen counter and back into the living area. She went to Emma’s side and placed a hand on Emma’s shoulder.
“Are you alright?” Fumiko asked calmly. “How are you feeling?”
I tensed unconsciously. Fumiko sounded concerned, with just the right amount of supportive. I wondered how quickly she could shift that grip into a stranglehold. Emma’s wolf whined nervously, then twisted around and got on the couch where it could keep Emma between Fumiko and itself. Even pseudo-ghost wolves recognize who’s really dangerous in this room, I thought. It was like Fumiko was putting out a wall of ‘do not fuck with me’ that only the wolf could sense. Or maybe a wall of ‘Hello, My name is Fumiko. I think breaking supernatural monsters is fun. Would you like to play?’
Actually, given how auras were supposed to be emotional essences that people broadcast into the world as their souls overflowed, maybe Fumiko was?
“Uh,” Emma said nervously. “I have a headache?” she repeated. “But otherwise, I’m fine. And… really nervous for some reason? Um, can you step back please?” Emma almost looked sick. I didn’t know what her wolf was picking up off of Fumiko’s aura, but it had to be a seriously dangerous vibe. I couldn’t ‘see’ the auras that people put off, though — I could just look into them once I found the right leyline. And peering down Fumiko’s ley line sort of skipped past that part of her soul. “I don’t want to, you know,” Emma said as she squirmed and her wolf cowered, “go crazy and bite you or something.”
Fumiko laughed. “Eh,” she said. “I’m not worried.” She took her hand off Emma’s shoulder and flopped down on the couch. Then she opened the bag of chips she’d brought with her from the kitchen. She glanced up when she realized everyone was staring at her. Then she grinned.
“What?” Fumiko asked with a light chuckle. “She’s been running around town for how long now without turning into a ravenous beast? I mean, seriously people: The girl has a headache. I’ve seen Hans shift, you know. I’m pretty sure ‘a headache’ does not describe the start of that process.”
I gaped at her. Fumiko nonchalantly popped a chip in her mouth and crunched.
And Emma laughed. It was almost incredulous, at first, but turned real before it was done. I took a wild guess that whatever intention Fumiko had been putting off when she was thinking she might have to take Emma down was gone — if that was what Emma’s wolf had been reacting to in the first place. Mostly because the wolf had stood back up and stretched it’s neck past Emma’s lap to sniff at Fumiko in confusion.
But Fumiko’s absolute unconcern seemed to be at least as effective at cutting the legs out from under Emma’s worry as the stream of confidence and reassurance Megan provided was at suppressing it. Emma sank down onto the couch beside Fumiko and covered her face with her hands. Then she rubbed her temples. “Oh god,” Emma said — her voice was still bemused, though slightly muffled from coming behind her palms. And was she blushing? I squinted at her. She was! Of course, the start of the process was usually Hans getting naked, so I could understand that. But seriously? This was not the time for weird sex fantasies! “No, I don’t think it does.”
Megan hastened out of the kitchen to join them. “Of course not!” She exclaimed. While I tried to stop thinking about silver handcuffs. Megan gave me a reproachful glance, but there was no heat behind it. “Because you aren’t a werewolf,” she assured Emma. “Abby is making some kind of a mistake.”
I was flabbergast. I opened my mouth. I closed it. I opened it again. That time words got out. “But wolf,” I protested with maximum eloquence, pointing at the offending spectre in question. “Megan, can’t you see it? Hasn’t Melvin explained to you how to look into that space between worlds yet?”
Megan looked at the spot on the couch where I was pointing. Emma’s wolf seemed to have calmed down after Fumiko sat — or maybe it had just gotten distracted from Emma being mad at me. How much of it was independent of her, and how much was just aspects of her distilled and shaped behind a certain lens, like my vampire side was just another aspect of me, now? Had Emma been mad at me because the wolf made her angry, or had the wolf been growling at me because Emma was mad at me?
In any event, it had stopped sniffing Fumiko. Now it was sitting up at an attention that I thought I could see mirrored in Emma. Even if Emma was still hiding behind her hands, she was clearly listening closely.
“Jack?” Megan asked as she went to stand on the other side of Emma. She didn’t sit, though: instead she turned to address me. The wolf, in turn, looked up at her and cocked its head to the side. “Of course he did. Sort of. I mean, he explained about how fae could hang out sort of between worlds and that I should be able to, too — and be able to tell if anyone is there, as well. But he wanted that to be a lesson leading up to stepping between worlds and we were behind wards because we didn’t want Archarel to find me, and…” She flushed a little. “All I’ve practiced so far are glamours,” Megan admitted. “But I know the theory. I think.” She stepped back and squinted at her couch for a moment. Eventually, a tiny frown puckered her lips.
Um, I thought at her hard enough for her to startle. Like this. I grabbed the opening of our leyline and dragged it over to the part of me that was focusing on the world just above reality.
Megan blinked a few times and looked at me. I don’t think I… How did you do that to your essence?
I flushed. What? I protested. Like that! I focused on how I was focusing, just to emphasize it down the leyline.
Abby, Megan thought with a mental chuckle, That’s a sort of like a contortionist tying themselves into a knot before the audience shows up. And then saying ‘look what I can do!’ when they arrive. I can see how your essence is shaped to raise your awareness, but I have no idea how you got it to do that.
Oh, I thought. Just a second.
“Bon… Jamie,” I asked aloud. “Can you step between worlds for a moment?”
Jamie glanced to Fumiko, who nodded at him and crunched on another potato chip. “Okay,” Jamie said. Then he faded out of view — and reappeared as a semi-transparent shade in my otherworldly vision.
I squeezed my eyes shut for a second and shook my head to clear my focus. When I opened them again I couldn’t see Jamie — or Emma’s wolf — at all. Okay, I thought at Megan. I directed our leyline to where my connection to Jamie’s was. This is how I figured it out the first time. Sort of. I was at it for a long time before it clicked. But can you see how I’m focusing on finding Jamie? Even though he’s not in this world right now? If I just do this everything shifts a little and there he is. I demonstrated using my ley line to pull my vision up into the space between worlds. After I did that a few times I realized I could see more than just the faerie I was focusing on — they all sort of share this plane of existence, or whatever. And then I realized that if that was the case, I could just focus on this layer of reality instead of on someone that I knew was in it. I guess it’s mostly a matter of practice after that.
It is, Jamie agreed. I yelped in surprise: either he was pushing his thoughts to both Megan and I, or she was sharing them out to everyone again. Actually, no: since he was responding to me and I wasn’t thinking at him, it had to be that Megan was playing operator again. And it’s practice that you should both get in the practice of, he added. If only so you can tell who’s using that plane to lurk about.
Since that was my opinion on the matter exactly, I added my wholehearted agreement to the sentiment. Jamie seemed briefly startled, perhaps by where the agreement was coming from — or perhaps by it’s vehemence. He recovered quickly, though. So, he asked Megan, can you see me? And the wolf?
Megan blinked twice and looked away from Jamie; toward the couch. Then her mouth opened in surprise. Oh my god, she thought.
Seriously? Emma’s worried thought piped in. What’s going on? I do not feel like I’m about to turn into a monster and try to kill people!
There’s a wolf on my couch, Megan thought at her.
Emma’s eyes went wide. Megan, she suddenly thought, whatever you’re doing, can I do that? I need to see.
I… I don’t know, Megan said. I’m not sure if it’s even possible for normal people. I think this is a faerie thing. But maybe if I shape something and push it to you…. Damn, I wish I were better at this.
You have the right idea, Jamie chimed in. That’s how most people were enchanted, back when that was a more common practice. Tie a bit of glamour into their soul, or graft on a bit of experience, or whatever. It’ll be easier eventually since your her familiar, lady Megan. You’ll have a stronger connection to work through. But she’ll still have to be able to pull the enchantment through, and her aura looks pretty shaky still. It’ll probably be a while before it’s healthy enough to host an enchantment like that. But at least the two of you are in tune enough to manage it: I could share things like that with Kelson, if I had to, but Fumiko and I aren’t even able to share thoughts yet. I even have to actively recharge and re-bind those ears she’s so fond of, he concluded bemusedly.
Actually, I interjected, I think that might be something she could learn. I mean: I met this witch today who can see ghosts and things apparently, and she could see Hans’ wolf, too.
Wait, Jamie said. Do you mean Cassie? I think Kels knows her — or at least of her. Her friend Curtis hangs out at the club some weekends. He could probably help you get a hold of her again, if you needed to.
Yeah, I agreed. That’s her. Except I wasn’t up for seeing Kelson again. He had to be so freaking mad at me for enthralling his night staff. But don’t worry, I’ve got her phone number already. And she’s probably still awake. God knew I wouldn’t be falling asleep in her place. Not if I had a dead body and a werewolf in my basement — not to mention the faeries I’d left in her house. I can call her. I should really go over there — actually, we all should. We can take over one of the other apartment houses. I mean, that way Emma can have some place secure to wait. You know: just in case.
Just in case she shifts, you mean? Jamie asked. I guess that can’t hurt, but I wouldn’t be too worried about it. I mean… from how you described it… was she actually bitten by a werewolf at some point? Am I just missing something there? Because from what I can see of how they’re joined it isn’t the same as how Curtis is bound to his wolf.
Um. I thought. Well, no, I admitted. She wasn’t bitten exactly. But I really did take a bunch of life force from Hans and pushed it into Emma so that she wouldn’t, you know, die! And I found out today that when I drain life from a werewolf in his human form, I’m drawing it from the wolf side of the soul and vice versa. So I totally did dump a huge chunk of ‘wolf’ right in Emma’s soul!
Oh, Jamie said. Well then, there you go. Lady Megan is right: Emma’s not a werewolf.
A gaped at him. But… but: Wolf! I mentally shouted, pointing again.
Yeah, Jamie agreed. So? C’mon: something as big as lycanthropy — something that actually physically transforms someone into an animal, and isn’t just throwing a glamour over them, and is bound by all sorts of arbitrary and arcane rules? — that has to be driven by the weave, and probably tapping into it for the power to rewrite reality. And the weave is shaped by the truths that everyone believes in. I mean: it basically is all the ley lines that ever were or currently are cast through the world, interacting. And everyone knows that the way you become a werewolf is to be bitten by another werewolf. But Emma wasn’t bitten. So, therefore ergo etcetera: she isn’t a werewolf. The criteria to create one weren’t met, and so there’s no reason for the weave to enforce those rules on her or her wolf.
I continued to stare at him. That…. that….
That makes sense, Emma thought. Sort of. So I’m a ghoul after all?
I recoiled and spun to look at her in horror. What? What?!
Not a ghoul ghoul, Emma hastily clarified for me. But I’m like a ghoul. I mean: John got a dose of the vampire curse because he was born of a vampire’s bloodline. But he didn’t get it the way vampires are ‘supposed’ to be made, so the result is something totally different than being a vampire, even if there are some superficial similarities. I got a dose of Hans’ curse, but not the way I was ‘supposed’ to. So that makes me the werewolf equivalent of a ghoul. I dunno: A wereghoulf?
No, I thought absently while I turned Emma’s speculation around in my head. Daniel is a wereghoulf. Oh, crap: Daniel. I still had to get him a corpse to wake up next to in the morning. Uh, I thought, snapping away from that and back to the topic at hand. I’m sorry. I got distracted. I meant: ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ I don’t know what the term for it would be, though.
Me neither, Emma admitted. Linda’s library focused more on the fae than on earthly supernaturals. I’ve never heard of anything like this before. But maybe she’ll know more?
Or Hans might, Megan chimed in. We can ask him in the morning, too.
Yeah, that’s a good idea, Emma agreed. She seemed a lot more relaxed now — her wolf was sitting on her lap, looking back and forth between the three of us, depending on who was talking. Jamie, Emma added, you’ve helped so much. I hesitate to ask for more, but… can you think of anything else I can do to find out more or figure this out?
Jamie thought it over a moment. Well, he finally offered, you could ask a shaman about it. Or anyone else who deals with spirit animals, really. I think some new agers and wiccan practitioners do, and some traditions of witch and warlock. Anyway, they might have some ideas that would apply. But if you want my opinion, you shouldn’t.
I shouldn’t? Emma repeated in surprise. Why not?
Because, Jamie said, as far as anyone who knows about this right now is concerned, this is something new, right? Not a spirit animal, exactly, but a twisted version of the werewolf curse. So why should you let anyone else define and shape it? If anyone is going to determine how your relationship with this curse works, it really should be you. I mean, you might not get that option entirely. If nothing else, I’m sure the wolf itself will have some influence on the matter, as well as your own expectations given the knowledge that it comes from lycanthropy at it’s base…. But it isn’t outside the realms of possibility for you to exert some control over how this develops now that you’re aware of it. Especially if you can keep it bound up internally to yourself, where the weave and other people’s thoughts and beliefs have less sway.
Is anything outside the realms of possibility? I asked. There may have been some snark in the question. If there was, I hadn’t intended to put it there: it just leaked out. ‘Impossible’ had been pretty much my modus operandi for the past week, and I was sort of curious — and sort of terrified — to find out what Jamie thought I should do next. Especially if his advice to Emma really was ‘take the primal forces of a werewolf’s curse and make it your own.’
But whether my thought came out snarky or not, Jamie didn’t seem to notice. He frowned thoughtfully. Having met you, Jamie finally opined, I’m going to have to go with a hard ‘no’ on that one, Abigail. Just: No.