As I walked out to the living room, Emma’s wolf ran ahead of me. It swerved around Fumiko, who had apparently gotten up to show off her outfit, and leapt over the back of the couch, making Megan squawk in surprise. Emma and Fumiko were oblivious to it’s antics, of course, but when Fumiko looked around for the source of Megan’s outburst she spotted me coming.
“Abby!” Fumiko said excitedly. “Check it out! I can do magic. Sort of.” She stepped to the side so that the couch didn’t obscure her from view and made a slow twirl so I could see what she had done. Her outfit — which had been disheveled, torn, and damp from her attempts at cleaning the blood out — looked like it was brand new. “How cool is this?” Fumiko gushed. “I mean, I know I’m going to have to redo the whole thing so I have it for real, but still! And I’m totally making a tail next. What do you think: neko tail, or should I go for one of those spade-tipped demon ones? Oh!” She turned toward Jamie. “Do you think we could do something with Bishoujo sparkles? Or on-demand sakura petals in wind?” She laughed delightedly. “I bet glamours are all the rage in Hollywood, aren’t they? Having a familiar must be a special effects technician’s wet dream.”
“Woah,” Jamie said. He held up his hands, palms out in a universal gesture of ‘slow down.’ “Actually, not so much. One of the big limitations of glamours these days is that they don’t translate well to being recorded — so they tend not to show up on camera. They affect the people directly observing them, but since machines don’t have minds to affect… Well, most of the time it just makes them break, or ruins the image, or just doesn’t show up or something. If Hollywood wanted to make literal ‘movie magic,’ they’d have to dump some serious effort into it — like, changeling levels of essence for every glamour.” He grinned wryly. “But yeah, we can totally rig up some personal special effects for you. As long as you aren’t depending on them for an acting career or something.”
Fumiko frowned slightly. “Well, I guess for sparkles that’s okay — but it kind of sucks for the rest. Half the payoff for cosplay is when people ask to take your picture… Alright! So you’re going to help me conjure up the right outfits, but we’ll just use those as guides while I make real ones. And then just use glamours for touch ups and emergencies, if necessary. That’s more fair to the other designers, anyway.” She looked over to Megan. “Deal?”
“Sure,” Megan agreed amiably. “It’s still good practice for me, right? And it’ll help you know for sure what fabrics and things you want to order.”
Fumiko nodded. I, for my part, sort of stumbled over to the couch and sat down. I was still reeling from the conversation’s implications. I’d gone from terrified that random security cameras now had me naked on film to light headed with relief that I’d probably just broken them all to horrified that any serial psychopath could’ve snuck in to the hotel or the apartment comunity and done anything while the illusory clothes Sebastian and Megan had given me had been screwing with the cameras’ understanding of reality and no one would be any the wiser as to how they’d pulled it off and it would be my fault that they got away with it.
Of course, with all the other magic crap going on around those places, maybe it wouldn’t just have been on me?
Okay, given my utter lack of a wardrobe these days not wearing glamours was probably not really an option. But at the very least I was going to take a page out of Hans’ book and invest in a lot of jeans and tee shirts to wear under them. Or at least fucking real bras and underwear!
Oh, and I was going to kill Sebas for letting me walk around like that yesterday evening. At least Megan hadn’t known any better when she’d sent me off wearing nothing but a smile and an illusion. But Sebastian was so dead.
“So,” I finally mumbled. I cleared my throat and spoke up a little louder. “I got a hold of Cassie. She’s still up and I told her to expect us. The apartments are right by the campus gate, so if you two wanted to go back to the kingdom afterward, that’d be easy… I’m going to see if I can stay with Cassie, though. I want to be there when Hans wakes up, and I have to make sure Daniel is taken care of.”
“I guess I’ll drive, then.” Fumiko chimed in. “If you can give directions?”
“Oh, I’d appreciate that,” Megan said. “I think my car has been stuck in an impound somewhere.”
I winced. “Sorry,” I said. But I was just as glad we wouldn’t be stuck trying to convince me to get in a taxi. “I appreciate it, too, Fumiko.”
Emma started re-bagging the fast food, but kept one burger out, which she unwrapped and ate while I looked up directions to the apartments on my phone. Then I handed that over to Fumiko so she could look them over, and we got up to depart. Emma’s wolf wove in-between everyone’s legs excitedly: I think it knew we were going somewhere.
Emma and I got in the back seats, letting Megan take the front passenger seat. Her wolf piled in with us. Then, when Fumiko started driving, it got up in Emma’s lap and stuck it’s head out through the window. Emma perked up as the wind ruffled it’s fur. The wolf’s tail started wagging and Emma laughed and looked at me. “It’s doing something, isn’t it,” she asked.
“Stuck it’s head out the window,” I confirmed, and Emma laughed louder.
For a moment I smiled at her, and kept watching when she turned away to watch the buildings go by along with her wolf. Damn, she’s cute, too. I already knew she was incredibly sexy when she wanted to be, but seeing her sharing in her wolf’s excitement; looking all soft and bright eyed…. It was still kind of mind boggling to me that Emma wanted to be with me. I mean, even ignoring all of the crazy ass supernatural shit, I just wasn’t that big of a catch.
Hush you, Megan thought at me abruptly. You’re a sweetheart, you’re pretty, and anyone would be lucky to have you interested in them.
I blushed, hard. Had I been thinking that loudly? You weren’t sharing any of that, were you?
No, Megan thought back. Although I’m pretty sure Emma’s aware of your insecurity.
I grimaced internally. Yeah… I may have shared some of that when we exchanged blood before. Of course, Emma had pretty severe insecurity issues, too. So I guess we made a pretty good match?
I felt the mental equivalent of a scoff from Megan. You two are good for each other not because you both suffer from insecurities, sweetie, but because you both care about other people so much that you’ll be sure to take care of each other, and support each other when each of you needs to take care of someone else.
I felt warm all the way to the tips of my ears. Desperate to change the topic of thoughtversation, I focused on the first thing I could come up with. Megan, I’m worried about something.
Just one thing? Megan thought back teasingly. But she sobered her thoughts almost immediately. What is it? You know I’ll help if I can.
That’s just it, I thought back. I don’t know if it’s something either of us can do anything about. But it does still pertain to you. You know?
Well, I will once we get around this poor abused bush, Megan thought back. I’m a big girl, sweetie. Lay it on me.
I blushed a little harder. Because, honestly: Megan was so much better equipped emotionally to handle this kind of relationship shit that it was a little ridiculous how much I was hemming and hawing. It’s about Melvin, I started.
Almost immediately a palpable surge of relief rushed into me from Megan’s leyline. I met it with inarticulate confusion. I was worried you were having second thoughts about having two girlfriends, Megan sent. But it’s about Melvin? You mean: Jack? What’s wrong?
I… What? No! I mentally sputtered, trying to wrap my head around the idea that Megan was even a little bit insecure in the relationship she, Emma and I had sort of put together somehow. But then again, on reflection I’d been a lot more intimate with Emma than with Megan even though all three of us had been together in that bed, and… Okay, I sent as I pulled my thoughts together. I can admit that I’ve been a little hesitant because I’m not entirely sure how things are supposed to change between us now. But I’m not having second thoughts already! We haven’t even… oh, shoot. I need to take you out on a date to make it official, don’t I? And, um, make out more. Those were the criteria I’d laid out to Hans and Emma for ‘dating,’ anyway. I’m sorry! I haven’t been thinking… I’ve been so preoccupied… They were weak, pathetic excuses. A more real one would be that I was too intimidated: Megan had starred in enough of my fantasies — usually taking the place that would’ve been me if I weren’t so bleh — that it was hard for me to even imagine I could keep her interest. Even though I knew better, because she’d apparently been crushing on me for ages.
I really needed to reevaluate my opinion of how attractive I was, didn’t I? I’d always thought I was just kind of scrawny and bland. And objectively speaking….
…that was an entirely accurate assessment of my physical appearance.
Well, it was! Hans was into me because of of his misunderstandings about my personality, Ben because of my blood, Megan because of my soul, and Emma… okay, Emma had started hitting on me before she knew me well enough to be going off of anything other than my looks, but even then: I’d been all done up as a gothic pornerina and Megan had definitely boosted my attractiveness by handling all of my makeup and stuff. Even Melvin, insofar as he was ‘into me’ was actually just into freaking me out because he liked the way my soul smelled when I was scared or some creepy, predatory bullshit.
So, more importantly than reevaluating my opinion of whether or not I was attractive: I needed to figure out what to do about taking Megan on a date. She liked to go clubbing and do social stuff! I couldn’t even get through dinner in a nice restaurant with Hans without flipping out and running away!
Abby, breathe, Megan interrupted my panic spiral. It’s okay. I’d love to go on a date with you, but we don’t have to go anywhere. I’ll be perfectly happy staying in and snuggling through a movie. I can always hit Club L with Emma if I feel like being wild and extroverted — you don’t have to force yourself through something uncomfortable for my sake.
I took a deep breath. Megan was right. Emma probably would love all that ‘out in public’ stuff that made me freak out — and it wasn’t like Megan and Emma weren’t dating, too. Abruptly, I realized that maybe dating bunches of people all at once wasn’t such a crazy idea: not if it meant that none of us had to be responsible for the stuff that we were crap at. Actually, that made much more sense to me than two people pairing up and trying to be each other’s everything.
Who could live up to that kind of pressure? Not me, that was for certain.
I felt Megan’s bemusement. It isn’t quite as easy as that, from what Emma’s told me, she thought. We’re all going to have to be very open with each other, and make sure no one starts to feel neglected or jealous — and to address it if someone does. But that isn’t something you need to work yourself up over, sweetie. I’m in a pretty unique position to keep an eye on everyone’s emotional wellbeing. So I’ll bring it up if it starts to become an issue. Now, what was it that was worrying you about Jack?
Right. Melvin. I didn’t even know how to start.
He has a crush on you. Like, he thinks he’s in love. But he’s really seriously creepy and I think he might have replaced Zane just so he could get closer to you — so I think you should know about it, because that’s totally stalker/murderer behaviour and the last person who had a secret crush on you was freaking Salvatore, and that was a nightmare.
Huh. Actually, that pretty much summed it up.
It was a moment before Megan reacted. When she did, it caught me off guard.
I know, Megan thought. About the crush, at least. Abby, I’m full fae. I was reading emotions well before I even knew it… and the leyline between Jack and I is quite wide. I’ve been aware for a while now… I was even a little worried, when I thought that you were jealous of Orlina, that you would wind up being jealous of me.
Me? Jealous of Orlina? I am not jealous of Orlina! I protested. Then I took a mental step back. Well, okay: vampire-mode Abby is really possessive. And I think I kind of want to keep Melvin when I’m like that so either I can kill him at some point when I’m starving, or because I’m a sadomasochist, with vampire-me being the sadist and normal-me being the masochist. But don’t tell him that! He would be all over screwing with me while I was sated — I mean: more than he already is — and I’ve already been having a hard enough time getting blood out of him when I’m thirsty. But when I’m really me? I don’t trust him. I don’t want to be with him like that! And yeah, he’s kind of dark and scary and handsome and those are all things I like but also he’s creepy and pushy and when I try to get him to stop he just keeps pushing and it freaks me out, and I think he gets off on making me uncomfortable or something and just… He isn’t Hans.
That last thought summed up almost my entire problem with Melvin, actually. Melvin and Hans were both dangerous figures, and really good looking in their own ways. But while Hans could scare me in that way that left me wonderfully breathless and made my whole body tingle with anticipation — the difference was that when I needed Hans to stop, he stopped. Hans respected my choices, my decisions… my autonomy, rather than acting like some ingrained reaction to a sexy body and devilish accent and dangerous man that I didn’t even have any control over was what actually defined what I wanted. Hans teased the parts of me that were all awkward, inexperienced sexuality — but respected me as a whole person. Melvin was a walking, talking, teleporting and sometimes invisible example of rape culture and patriarchal entitlement.
Oh, and I knew that Melvin had at some point done away with the real Zane, somehow. And Melvin had admitted on multiple occasions that in his youth he would have been perfectly happy ‘tearing me asunder’ or some horrifying and presumably violent bullshit, which I totally believed since he’d also implied that he may or may not have been Jack the fucking Ripper. Hans was only murderous once a month, usually, and even then I probably didn’t actually have to worry about it now that I’d enthralled his wolf.
I could feel Megan’s scowl in her reply. A quick glance at the rearview mirror showed her lips twisting downward angrily, too. Is that so? I’ll talk to him about that, love.
I felt my eyes widen slightly in response to Megan’s vehemence. Suddenly I was a lot less worried about Megan — and for some bizarre reason, I found I was abruptly much, much more worried for Melvin, instead.