Cassie invited us back in after Fumiko knocked. After we came in I hastily excused myself to the hallway to call John. I couldn’t keep putting off calling him and getting food for Daniel. Squick or not, it needed to get done. And if Daniel could stomach his now anthropophagic tendencies, I could make myself stomach another trip to Mister Kallaher’s funeral home.
“So,” Fumiko asked as I left her behind and pulled up John’s number on my new phone. “Has anyone gotten a hold of Katherine yet?”
The answers were mostly lost to the phone ringing in my ear. Even though the sound was muted since I was calling out and it was ringing on the other end, since I was also specifically listening to the earpiece each ring blasted through my supernatural senses as though it were of vital importance or an immediate sign of imminent danger. “…since yesterday,” Emma complained between rings. I cringed with each trill and counted them off out of habit. It probably didn’t help that you just can’t tell the difference between a phone ringing and an alarm going off anymore, too.
“…wait until morning?” Megan suggested somewhere in between the next two rings.
Then I lost focus on their conversation entirely as John finally, blessedly, answered. “This is John. Abigail? What’s up?” It didn’t sound like I’d woken him, but I could hear other people in the background. So maybe I was interrupting something, in which case I supposed I could forgive him for letting it ring so long. Maybe.
“John! What took you so long to answer?” I asked accusingly — and despite myself. Jeeze, I shouldn’t sound so frazzled. It’s not like there’s another Director in town already who might’ve been in the process of kidnapping him while I called. “I was starting to worry another Director was in town and he’d kidnapped you,” I immediately contradicted myself by claiming.
“What?” John blurted in surprise. It sounded like he was getting ready to protest — or maybe just to reassure me that he was okay. It didn’t matter. My autopilot relentlessly rolled over whatever he had to say.
“It’s okay,” I informed him. “I will forgive you for making me worry as long as you help me steal a corpse.”
“What?” John asked again, but this time he didn’t even sound shocked.
“Oh, right,” I heard Valerie say from somewhere in the background. It sounded like she’d just remembered something she’d forgotten to tell him. “After Mister Stuessy went feral he wound up being incapacitated, shifting back to human, reanimating as a ghoul, and finally being de-animated.” Well, clearly this isn’t a private conversation, I thought. “He’ll need something to eat when he awakens at sunrise.”
“Oh,” John said away from the phone. “Thanks.” His voice got louder as he turned back to the mouthpiece. “Sure, I can do that.”
Then someone else on the other end of the phone — a masculine voice — suddenly interrupted. “Wait. That’s Abigail? The chick who brought me back from the dead? What’s she need? I’m coming with to help.”
“Us,” a girl piped in angrily. “She brought us back. And I’m not letting you anywhere near her, Jacob,” she added even more angrily. “I’ll go.”
“‘Taya,” another girl tried to protest — or maybe just to soothe. I wasn’t sure which, but I recognized this voice as the girl who’d told the church to torch me.
“None of you are going anywhere,” I heard Fiore snap from even further in the background.
“Try and stop me,” Jacob growled at the same time as Taya said: “You can’t detain us! We have rights!” Underneath both their snarls I heard an ominous creaking of bone.
“Stop!” I yelled into the phone. “John, tell them to calm down, now.” John repeated me, but I suspected almost everyone had been able to hear me just fine. A guy and a girl, determined to come ‘help’ me? Those two had to be the two nearly-dead werewolves from the church. Shit shit shit. I’d enthralled them. Or rather, I’d enthralled their wolves — and in the process I’d probably torn up the barrier that kept their wolves separate from their mortal souls. I could remember tasting the guy’s personality, at the very least. And it was a full moon still.
“They’re worked up because I enthralled their wolves,” I said. John wasn’t listening to the phone — he was still trying to calm the two proto-werewolves down — but I knew Fiore, and Valerie, for that matter, could hear me. “And it’s still the full moon, and their auras are damaged from being fed on. If you antagonize them, Matt, they will shift.” Actually, now that I thought about it, why didn’t Valerie have a warlock keeping them unconscious until moonset like she was Jeremy? “And if one of them goes, they probably all will,” I theorized. Hans and Daniel had chainreactioned like that, after all. “Do you really want to deal with three werewolves in your hotel room? I hope you gave the concierge a credit card to cover incidentals and damages, Matt,” I added sarcastically.
“So, what do you propose,” Matteo Fiore asked. I could hear an answering sneer in his voice. “We just found them and got them to a secure location, and now you want to let them go traipsing about on their own recognizance?”
God, Matteo irked the hell out of me. “Yes,” my autopilot snapped — specifically to peeve him off, I was sure. Dammit! So much for my hope of sending John to Kallaher’s without me. There was no way I was actually letting two of Hans’ wolfcubs run around without supervision, and since I was the one who’d enthralled them I was the only one who could reign them in if they started to go over the edge. Unless enthralling people worked like geasing people? In which case maybe Megan could compel them, too? I had been starving when I’d taken their blood, which was when my aura was most like Megan’s — when the shard of her soul that sustained me was at it’s most exposed. I yanked my thoughts off that track and back to the conversation.
“Except for the part about letting them out on their own,” I added. “Their wolves are enthralled by me. I can keep them under control if they threaten to shift — hell, they’ll probably listen to me even more if they actually do shift. John? I’m changing the plan a little. I’m going to come to the hotel. If I can’t convince Hans’ new pack mates that I don’t need them following me around, I’ll let them tag along while we run our errand.” I’d do a lot more than that to keep any one of Hans’ wolves from going feral. Even knowing it was going to happen once a month anyway; even knowing that by tomorrow they probably wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to: I knew what it was like to lose control to a monster inside of you. And I didn’t want to put anyone through that more than they had to be. And maybe if they got a chance to talk to Hans first, he’d be able to help them cope, somehow? Give them some technique to make the transition hurt less or keep the wolf more placid while it had control or help them come to terms with it when they turned back?
They were kids. I had to do that much for them, right?
“Are you sure about this, Abby?” John asked.
No. “Yes,” I answered. Maybe when I get there I can convince them that they don’t actually need to do anything but keep calm for the rest of the night.
“Alright,” John said. “I’ll see you soon, sis.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. I hung up before I could start blathering about anything else, and then I stared at my phone. What the hell did I just sign myself up for? Well, whatever. Matteo was a dick. I wasn’t leaving potentially volatile were-pups to his tender mercies. He’d shoot them in the head. How would I explain that to Hans?
I lowered my phone and looked toward the living room. Conversation had stopped. Something seemed almost awkward about the silence that was left behind. Or maybe, I thought as I walked back into the living room, that’s just me.
“Fumiko,” I said awkwardly as I approached the couch, “Do you think I could get another ride from you? I need to go meet up with John.” I felt bad about leaning on her so much — not just for the emotional stuff, but now for logistics, too. “After that I’m sure I can figure something else out,” I hastily reassured her.
“Sure,” Fumiko agreed easily. She stood and dug her keys out of her purse. Jamie slid into place at her side.
My answering smile was weak despite the intensity of the gratitude I was feeling. Fuck it, I thought. “Thank you,” I said. I felt the weave picking at my leyline to Fumiko, enforcing a little more obligation from my side to hers. Fumiko just shrugged.
“No problem,” she said. “I mean, I was planning on hanging out with you and Megan tonight anyway. That’s just being postponed a bit. Until tomorrow, maybe? I figure you’re going to want to stick around here to keep an eye on Hans and Mister Stuessy.”
I immediately felt both guilty and relieved. Guilty that I was messing up everyone’s plans; relieved that Fumiko was actually okay with it. I can’t believe I have such good friends, I thought. “I’m supposed to take Emma on a date tomorrow,” I said absently. I’d been distracted and my autopilot was in charge of talking again.
Enthralled. The two proto-wolves had gotten all worked up over me because I’d enthralled them. But they weren’t the only people who’s blood I’d had. Emma was resistant to being enthralled because she’d been through it before. Megan and other fae didn’t seem to be susceptable at all.
But I’d tasted Fumiko’s blood, too.
Oh god: was that why she was suddenly so open with me? Was that the actual reason she was treating me like she was really my friend and not putting up with me for Megan’s sake? Was…
Abby, you’re starting to panic again, Megan sent. Her thoughts were a calming balm that was totally out of place in my head. What’s wrong?
I tried to think nothing! but I was too busy thinking all of the thoughts about how the only way it made sense for Fumiko to open up to me like that was because I’d subjected her to mystical emotional slavery, and just fuck me for being a horrible…
Abby, Megan interrupted sharply. Stop. Calm down. You didn’t: if anyone did, I did, when I first met her. Fumiko is just as immune to being enthralled as you are. I fed on the two of you for years without knowing it.
I stopped. Megan’s thoughts had started out calming, and then become authoritative — but they’d ended in guilt. It… It’s okay, I sent back to her.
Is it? Megan asked. I felt the doubt in her, even though I couldn’t see it in her face or posture. Would either of you — or Emma, or anyone be with me if I hadn’t screwed with their minds, first? I fumbled for an answer, but Megan didn’t let me form one. No, she thought, and the thought felt exhausted. That was a rhetorical question — it wouldn’t be remotely fair of me to ask you to answer it. The only point I meant to make was: If Fumiko is opening up about things now, she’s doing it of her own free will. Just like if you and Emma are with me now, you’re doing it by your own choice. That’s what matters, I think.
Of course, while that exchange took place the rest of the world kept going, too. “Actually,” Cassie interrupted the verbal conversation — and her eyes were huge — “If Miss Abigail is coming back here for the evening, why don’t you all stay? You can still, um, hang out? I don’t mind.”
And that distracted me from Megan’s thoughts — my paranoia was reassured about Fumiko, and I agreed with Megan about the rest. But Cassie’s reaction… Oh. Cassie’s eyes were huge because she was vaguely — or maybe very specifically — terrified of the prospect of being left alone in a house with a vampire, a ghoul, a feral werewolf, and whatever fae happened to visit me. Yeah, that made sense.
“That would be wonderful,” Megan answered for us. “Fumiko, you can still work on the outfits — we’ll just have to make designs with glamours tonight. How about it?” She turned to Emma. “Emma? Would you mind?”
“Sure,” Fumiko agreed. “But next weekend we are getting together at my place so I can work on the physical copies.”
“I’m okay with it,” Emma agreed. “As long as you don’t mind me crashing your girl’s night in.” She sounded a little sulky, and when she looked at me I caught a flash of guilt through our leyline. “Um, Abby… About before: I’m sorry. I haven’t been able to get a hold of Linda, and no one seems to have seen her since she left Anna and Terry with the new girl to watch my aura.” Emma actually sounded really upset, but I was just confused. What was she apologizing for?
“But don’t worry about it,” Emma hastened to reassure me. “It’s late, and she’s probably just asleep or something stupid like that. Tomorrow Megan and I will wait around on campus until we get to talk to her. I’ll make sure she knows she needs to tell you what really happened back then, just in case any fae try to mislead you. I promise!”
I nodded. I felt like I was two or three steps behind the social interaction train: I was just catching on to what was going on after it was over. Emma was apologizing because she hadn’t been able to get Linda’s account of Archarel’s last invasion already? That didn’t even make sense! It wasn’t like she had any control over where Linda was.
She still feels like she hasn’t been helping, Megan reminded me. She’s chaffing about not having done anything for the last few days, and she’s worried about you. Like Fumiko was. We’re all here for you to lean on in our own ways, Abby.
“Thanks,” I breathed to Emma. “I appreciate it,” I added more quickly. Thank you, I sent to Megan, too. For always being ready to explain people to me when I get lost. “We should get going, though. I… I want to get this over with, so we can just hang out and not be freaking out about supernatural stuff for the rest of the night. Girl’s night in. That would really be fantastic.”
I snagged Fumiko’s arm and started to drag her toward the door. Part of it was actually wanting to get Daniel’s breakfast errand over with. A larger part was that my eyes were threatening to water up again. I didn’t know what I’d ever done to deserve so many people who were so determined to be so good to me. “Lots to do,” I babbled. “I’ll be back in a bit,” I added over my shoulder as the door closed behind us.
Fortunately, neither Fumiko nor Jamie said anything as I continued to tug Fumiko toward her car. I did catch Fumiko smiling at me bemusedly, though, but then I ignored it in favor of trying to sort out the newest jumble in my head. I blinked away the tears that had threatened to slip free of my eyes and let out a tiny sigh of relief that I’d at least managed to avert that minor crisis.
It wasn’t until I was actually in the back of Fumiko’s car, though, that I unjumbled my thoughts enough to isolate the really important one that I’d somehow overlooked. I sat bolt upright. “God dammit!” I yelped.
Somehow I’d been too distracted to get changed into my real clothes, again.
“Abby?” Fumiko asked with an intensity of interest that served her as ‘alarm’ without being even the least bit alarmed.
I sighed glumly and turned to watch the flickering cityscape pass by. “I need a new butler,” I answered her glumly. Because I am totally going to kill Sebas if I spend one more fucking minute running around naked under this glamour!