As it turned out, Cassie was both awake and right next to her phone. She answered before the second ring.
“Hello. Cassandra speaking,” Cassie answered.
“Oh, thank god you’re awake,” I immediately blurted out. I winced at my own desperate relief. It didn’t help me feel less stupid that most of my relief that I hadn’t woken Cassie up with the phone stemmed from the fact that mom had drilled it into my head that it was unforgivably rude to call anyone after ten because proper, decent folk would let other people sleep in peace — and not because Cassie being awake might mean we’d possibly have some help figuring out what to do about Emma and the ghost wolf currently resting it’s head across my lap.
Cassandra didn’t say anything. A second ticked by. Then two. Then she said: “Wait. Miss Abigail?”
“Um,” I answered because I’m totally not awkward. “Yes? Hi.” I hesitated again before mentally kicking myself into talking. It wasn’t like she’d magically know why I called if I didn’t tell her! Would she? She was a witch… and damn, but that would be a convenient way to not have a conversation. But it probably wouldn’t work like that. Life, I’d learned during my brief one, didn’t like being easy.
“I just wanted to see if you were still up,” I forced out. “I was hoping I could come over to keep an eye on Hans without disturbing you.”
“Oh,” Cassie said. “Sure. I mean: of course. I’m planning on being up a while, anyway: at least until Curtis gets back. So if you come over I’ll be available to invite you in.”
I hadn’t even been thinking about getting an invitation! Stupid being a vampire… But while I mentally berrated myself for forgetting about such an obvious concern, my autopilot kept rambling.
“Curtis isn’t with you?” I asked. “Oh, right: did he go over to the hotel to talk with the new weres? Shoot,” I babbled, “I was hoping to talk to him about something. Oh. And to you. I think maybe you might have some insight on a matter pertaining to ghosts?” Mental face palm: of course she did! Why did I have to sound like an awkward idiot, just because I was talking to someone I didn’t already know really well?
“I might,” Cassie agreed, and I thought I heard something that might have been wry amusement in her tone.
I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath. Bad ass vampires don’t freak out because they’re making a phone call to a stranger. Nor do they start phrasing all their statements like questions because they’re nervous, I told myself firmly. Get it together already, Abby!
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be over in a little while with a couple of friends.” I started to thank her, but caught myself. “I appreciate your making time for us,” I said instead.
“Sure thing,” Cassie said. “See you then.”
I ended the call then and leaned back against the door frame more fully, tilting my head to stare at the ceiling. For a moment I tried to just relax. There weren’t any emergencies. I could afford to just breathe. More unconsciously than not I reached down to scratch Emma’s wolf on the top of its head while listening to everyone chatter in the living room.
“That’s the weird thing,” Emma was saying. “It isn’t like having another familiar, which is what I probably would’ve guessed it would be like if this were just some ‘what if’ scenario. Like: I can sense you, Megan. But I have to focus on it, and I’m not getting anything from you except when you’re pushing emotions or thoughts. With the wolf, though, there isn’t that separation. I mean: there is separation, but not like that. Its more like… Now that I know what’s going on, I know that’s not my desire to pig out. But I don’t have to focus on what the wolf is feeling or thinking to bring it up: it’s just there.”
“Huh,” said Fumiko. “So, are you going to be upset if I steal this? Because I totally skipped dinner to go wolf hunting.”
Emma laughed. “Go for it. I am stuffed.” There was a pause, during which wrappers crinkled.
“But what I want to know,” Emma then continued, “is if this means I’ll develop a stronger aura, like a normal werewolf’s. I know Abby thought my being cursed was a bad thing, and so far it’s turned out to just be weird — but maybe it’ll turn out to be a good thing, if I can be an effective donor for Abby after all.”
“Ohhh no,” Megan interrupted. “You are not even going to speculate about that until your aura has recovered, Missy. Got it?”
Emma sighed. “Yes, mom,” she answered with exaggerated reluctance.
Megan laughed. “Good,” she said. “Especially since if your aura does grow then you should probably revisit learning witchcraft before you start offering up blood. After all, wasn’t the whole reason you became a donor in the first place because you couldn’t do enough with magic? But now maybe you’ll be able to do more.”
“Well,” Emma said thoughtfully, “yes and no. I wasn’t a very good witch, but that was more a matter of focus than power. I mean: my aura was in decent shape for a newbie. But I couldn’t do much with it, because whenever I tried influencing the weave all of the symbolism and ritual always started seeming really silly to me, and then I wouldn’t be able to put the right intent behind it and the aura I pushed out would go wherever.”
Emma’s voice had gotten more somber as she discussed her shortcomings with witchcraft. “But I think maybe part of that was that I didn’t have anything really serious to keep me from feeling silly,” she continued. Then she paused to sigh. “I think… I think maybe I have better reasons now,” she said quietly. “I should see if Linda would be willing to take me back into the sorority and teach me again.”
Wait,” Jamie interrupted. “Is there any reason you’re not having Megan do the shaping for you?”
“What?” Emma and Megan asked on top of each other.
There was a pause. Then Jaime said: “Oh! This is one of those basic things that you don’t know about yet, isn’t it, Megan? Okay, it’s like this: you’re a faerie. Your magic isn’t just limited to glamours. And you’re also a familiar, so you’re connected to Emma, there. And that means you can push essence to her –and she can pull it, like you were told last night.”
“Right,” Megan agreed. “And I know there’s more stuff, like talking mind to mind — we figured that one out on our own.”
“Yes,” Jamie said. “Well, one of those things is that you can push shaped essence. It’s like when you craft a glamour: you put it together within your mind, where the weave can’t pull it apart while you’re building it up. And then you push it out into reality. Same sort of thing, except you’d build up the framework of the glamour or ward or curse or enchantment or whatever, and then push it to your wizard. Er… witch. Anyway, then she’d push it into the world instead of you, so it would be tied to her, fueled predominately with her essence, and responcive to her will.”
There was another pause. Then Jamie, for some reason sounding equal parts bashful and apologetic said: “Um. That’s how those ears lady Fumiko is wearing works. I put the glamour together, but she pushed it onto her headband so it would respond to her direction. Now all I’m doing with it is pushing a little essence through our leyline to reinforce it when it needs it. And if she were a trained witch I wouldn’t even need to do that: she’d be able to maintain it on her own.”
Silence again. For a moment.
Then Fumiko broke it. “Emma,” she said, “when you ask your mentor to take you back, I’m coming with.”
I smiled. Fumiko sounded genuinely excited — probably because of the potential to further expand her cosplay options. Does this make her literally a magical girl? Or is Jamie going to have to take on the form of a cute fuzzy animal, first? Oh my god: I could totally see Fumiko putting together the glamours for an actual magical girl transformation sequence to go along with her costumes.
“You didn’t realize that was what we were doing?” I heard Jamie ask in surprise. “I thought I explained it… I had you envision the result you wanted!”
“Well, yeah,” Fumiko answered. “But I thought you were doing something like what Megan did when she tried to read my emotions while crafting a glamour, so that she could match her work to my mental image by reading my reactions until she got it right.”
“Oh,” said Jamie. “Yeah, no: I asked you to envision how you wanted them to behave so that the glamour I’d pushed to you would manifest to your desires specifically.”
“Wait!” Fumiko abruptly said, her voice sharpening with sudden excitement. “You mean I made these?”
“Well, I provided the framework,” Jamie said. “But you’re the one who gave it all the details from there.”
Again, a momentary silence. And then Fumiko squealed excitedly. “Can I make something else? Now? Just to fix, you know, this? Please?”
I smiled a little wider and covered my mouth to keep from giggling. Nothing got Fumiko as enthusiastic as her hobby. Emma’s wolf raised it’s head and peered in the direction of the door. It’s tail thumped against the floor: apparently Emma was interested in this development, too.
“Sure,” Jamie said. “Just focus like before. Keep it in mind, and once I’ve pushed the framework to you that intent should fill it and express it out from your aura.”
A moment later, Fumiko laughed triumphantly.
“That is too cool,” Emma blurted in response. “I could never… Wait! Jamie, were you trying to say that Megan and I can do that, too? Seriously?! Megan, can we try?” The tail of Emma’s wolf thumped louder, and it tried to lick my face. I squawked and tried to fend it off, which didn’t work so well since it could just phase through my arms.
“I don’t know,” Megan said uncertainly — though she was rarely, in my experience, the super cautious one. Fortunately, Megan’s restraint seemed to curb Emma’s enthusiasm enough that her wolf stopped trying lick me.
Strange but true: ghost wolf slobber only exists while the ghost wolf is actively slobbering on your face.
“Megan likes your Emma a lot,” I confided my observation to Emma’s wolf with a grin.
The spectral wolf looked at me and sidled a little closer. It stretched up to sniff at my face, but it’s tongue stayed in its mouth.
“Okay,” I conceded. “We’ll give them a little more time to goof around and unwind, and then we’ll go see Cassie and Hans.” And honestly, I could use a moment more to pull myself together — plus I was curious. Megan had pushed essence to me before. So had a lot of fae. So, was this something I could do? Or, if I were dormant, was the shard of Megan’s soul that I possessed enough to craft a glamour or something that I could then push on to someone else, so they could ‘fuel’ it off their aura and push it into reality? I wasn’t sure when — or if — that would be helpful. But maybe it would be a way to keep in contact with people while I was physically ‘dead?’
Although, now I had to wonder if Megan could just do her mind-to-mind sharing while I was dormant. That would actually be handier. And probably more straightforward.
“Jamie,” Megan’s question distracted me from my speculation, “would it strain her aura or anything if Emma tried to cast a glamour like that?”
The wolf’s tail started twitching again as Emma’s excited anticipation grew — I could feel it through her leyline. Which is another reason not to interrupt, I thought. I didn’t want to remind them that I was all doom and panic when they were actually being able to enjoy themselves.
“Well, it shouldn’t,” Jamie hedged.
“It shouldn’t,” Megan said darkly, “but…?”
“But your aura is already kind of torn up, Emma,” Jamie answered to Emma instead of Megan. He sounded almost apologetic. “Letting some of it split off to form and fill a glamour won’t help that mend faster. Um. I guess what I mean, Megan, is that it shouldn’t strain her aura — not as long as you ease the unformed construct along your leyline. I imagine you have a pretty good grasp of what she can handle, if you’ve been pushing essence to her to keep her aura full in the presence of all those tears. But it would probably slow her full recovery down. By an hour or two, maybe? Depending on how much she put into it.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Emma said — but I felt a flare of worry from Megan’s leyline and Emma’s tone abruptly turned defensive. “But I know better than to push it,” she concluded. “Although, Megan, as soon as I have a clean bill of health we are going to try this out, okay?”
Megan’s worry dissolved into relief, followed by a share of her own excitement on Emma’s behalf. “Deal,” she agreed. “And in the meantime, I’ll see if I can get some practice on my end of things, so we don’t go at it totally blind when you are ready. Jamie, would it be alright if I asked you for some more pointers sometime?”
“I… I guess,” Jamie replied. “As long as Fumiko doesn’t mind.”
“Pffft,” Fumiko scoffed. “Mind? Okay amended plan: when you come over tomorrow, Megan, you and Jamie are going to practice passing unformed glamours over to me until I’m satisfied that I’ve got the perfect outfit conjured up for everyone going to the convention next month. At least. Got it?”
Megan laughed delightedly. “I’d planned to try conjuring up costume examples from your descriptions,” she said, “but it probably will be more effective if you get to imagine them directly, yourself.”
Oh boy. Fumiko, with an infinitely customizable illusory wardrobe? And we just lost her forever, now. But it still made me smile. It was good to know that not everything having to do with magic was horrifying. It was… it was a huge relief, actually. Even if I was still, you know: dead — and just generally pretty fucked up from all the stuff that I wasn’t going to slip up and start thinking about now, at least my friends would bounce back from everything for the better.
“But that’s still my cue to interrupt,” I told Emma’s wolf. “Or Fumiko is going to end up deciding she doesn’t want to wait for tomorrow.” I pushed myself up and Emma’s wolf — excited because I was moving, or because Emma was excited about doing magic with Megan, or for some unknown wolf reason, or all three — pranced in a circle around my feet and then darted through the door to Megan’s living room ahead of me.
I shook my head in bemusement. Then I opened the door and followed.