Small victories

My anger collapsed in on itself around day four after they managed to clear the spell that I was under. The dregs that were left dragged my mood down and beat it with a stick until it was twitching. I tried to keep up with the kids, Jude, and Murphy; but I got tired easily in the days that followed the collapse. Ben has been supportive to the point where I get frustrated with him.

I am not an invalid, though I feel that way when people keep doing things for me that I would normally do myself. I try to explain to them that I need to do these things to feel better, but they’re determined to do it for me. It makes me frustrated to the point of tears most days. I am not the person that I was before the spell took hold of my body and mind.

So when Murphy showed up at my bedroom door on the second Saturday in April, I was thrilled to get out of the house with her.

“Get up. Get dressed. We’re going out,” she said as she flipped the curtains open.

I hissed at her and flicked a hand, drawing them back over the windows by their metal hangers. She put her hands on her hips and stared me down.

“You’re not going to get better if you don’t get out of this house, child.”

I pulled the pillow off my head and glared at her.

“Says the woman who won’t let me do things for myself. What’s your deal? First it’s ‘Marlowe don’t do that, I’ll get it for you,’ Now it’s ‘get your arse out of bed.’ Will you make up your mind?” I ranted.

Murphy smiled at me, but there was something about the way her lips twisted that made me shove my head back under the pillow.

“Girl you were trying to climb a ladder to get something off a top shelf. I stopped you because it’s heights and you’re not dealing with them well right now.”

“Semantics,” I shouted from under the pillow. A cold draft let me know she had pulled the covers off me. As I searched for them with one hand, Murphy lifted the pillow off my head.

“It’s not and you know it,” she said softly. “Come on, Marlowe. We’re all worried about you right now and a fresh air would do you some good.”

I laid there for a few minutes while considering my options. It was a pretty nice day outside and I had been stuck inside for weeks. It would be good to get out of the house for a little while. I looked up at Murphy and sighed.

“Fine. I’m getting up, but I need to shower and dress.”

“Take your time. I’ll be downstairs,” she said as she walked to the door. “I love you, Marlowe. I hope you know that.”

She slipped out before I could answer. I sat on the bed, staring out the window. The tears started before I could stop them. I was so frustrated with being depressed. I knew it wasn’t my fault, it was the spell, but there was still some anger left in me over what happened. It depressed me further, to the point where I just wanted to crawl back in to bed.

The baby chose that moment to kick and surprise me. I laid a hand on my belly, sitting there and feeling the life inside me move around. The tears that came while I was getting up to shower were good ones.

It takes me awhile to shower now, so I wasn’t surprised when a half an hour went by between getting in and coming back out so I could dress. Picking out clothing was harder than I imagined, the feelings of annoyance with jeans that were hard to button threatened to bring me to tears again. I pushed my feet into a pair of slides and made my way downstairs, smiling a little bit as I heard my boys and their shouts drift up from the Great Hall.

As I hit the bottom step, my reluctance to go any further in the house swamped me. I loved my children, but I did not want to deal with them at that moment. I made a move for my phone, hitting the speed dial for Ben. He picked up after the first ring.

“Baby? What is it? Is it the baby? Are you okay?”

I sniffled at his tone, he cared so much. “You’re right. I’ll see the therapist.”

I heard Ben sigh. “I’ll make the appointment for you. You’ll like her, ‘Lowe.”

“I’ll see her, Ben. Then make up my own mind.”

Ben let out a huff and a little chuckle. “You’re still you, even though you’re sad right now. I love you.”

“I love you too. I’ll see you tonight. Text me with the appointment.”

“Will do. Be safe.”

I hung up the phone and sat in the chair outside the dungeon door. I was still there with the phone in my hand when Murphy came into the hall way.

“Good. You’re dressed. Now grab your damn coat and let’s go before you chicken out again.”

I smiled a little and Murphy patted my cheek.

“You’ll be all right dear.”

I nodded and put my coat on, before getting up to follow her out to the car. Maybe getting out of the house wouldn’t be so bad at all.

Or maybe it would.

It’s dangerous business, going out your door.

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Arrivals

I pulled the car in to our drive and stopped at the end. The house had outdone itself, the pine trees had been replaced by large oaks and while everyone was out of the house, it had changed from a two-story castle to three and added a turret. Everything had been edged in multi-colored lights. I started laughing.

“Ben.” I said as I nudged him so he’d stop checking on the boys in the back seat. “Look.”

Ben turned around and his eyes went wide. “I guess no one’s home then.”

I snickered and took my foot off the brake pedal. The car moved forward and we made our way down the drive and went right in to the garage after pushing the button. Ben and I got out of the car. I went to the backdoor and before I could reach in for Alphonse, he was already up and in my arms. I smiled down at him.

“It’s okay, luv. You’re home now.” I said and tucked him under the cloak with me.

I’d have to do something soon about his clothing situation soon. I looked over the car at Ben, who had Logan. He grinned at me and I shook my head, smiling at him. I started toward the house with Alphonse and Ben caught up with me, taking my hand in his.

“You still sure?” Ben asked.

“We’re home. I’m sure. Now let’s go in.” I said and gave his hand a tug.

I gave Ben my keys so he could open up the door for myself and Alphonse, Logan had wrapped himself around Ben and hung on. As soon as we got inside, Logan took off, chirruping and flying through the house.

“Well, it looks like someone is happy to be home.” I said with a smile.

I walked in with Alphonse and Ben helped me take off my cloak. I tried to set Alphonse down, but he clung to my neck tightly. There was no way Alphie was going to let go of me yet.

“My darling, I have to make dinner, it’s my turn so you have to sit down. Would you like to sit down in the kitchen with me, where you can see?”

Alphonse nodded and finally let go when I pulled out a stool for him to sit at the table. Alphonse climbed on to the stool and sat, staring at me.

“I wish I could hear him.” I said to Ben softly.

“You will.” Ben said.

“Dinner ideas?” I said, wanting to change the subject. It hurt not hearing Logan or Alphonse.

“Pancakes?” Ben said.

“Is that coming from your or Alphie?” I asked as I opened the fridge.

“Me. He wants waffles. I can’t trust a kid who likes waffles better.”

“I knew I liked him.” I said as I winked at Alphonse. “Waffles it is.”

“You wound me, woman.” Ben said, dragging the words out in to a whine.

Alphonse giggled and I looked over at him and smiled.

“What should we have with the waffles? Berries? Bananas? Lots of syrup?”

“Alphonse wants Bananas and syrup. I want the berries in that sauce you make.”

“All right, but I need a favor from you.”

“Anything.” Ben said.

“I need you to go find Mark and Miles so they know what’s for dinner. You’ll also need to tell them about Alphie.” I said.

“What about my translating?” Ben asked.

Well well just have to deal until-” I was cut off by the backdoor opening and Mark walking in, stomping his boots off.

“You would not believe the amount of epic sh- ah, crap that is going on out there.” Mark said. He got a good look at Alphonse and then at me and Ben. “Did I miss something?”

I smiled over at Mark. “This is Alphonse.”

Mark looked at me, then back at Ben again, his mouth opening and closing like a big fish. Alphonse giggled at Mark. I looked over at Ben.

“He says Mark looks like on of the fish from the tank at the hospital.”

I laughed. “I thought the same thing, Poppet.”

“Hospital? But you- I mean, how could you- you’ve only been seeing each other for six months!”

I burst out laughing. “Mark! We’re adopting him. I didn’t give birth that fast!”

Ben started laughing and scooped up Alphonse, setting him on his lap. “This little one hatched a month before Logan. He needed parents. We’re adopting him.”

Mark looked at all of us. “You people are crazy.”

“Ben take Alphonse in to the Great Hall with Logan.” I said as I went over to Mark and led him to the table.

Mark dropped his bags and sat down as Ben and Alphonse left the room.

“There’s something out there, causing this much havoc and you want to adopt a child? Ben almost died!”

“I know better than anyone how it feels to lose someone, but life doesn’t stop going on just because they’re dead. Ben and I made the decision together,” I said. “we’re going to try to keep living our lives, Mark. Even with all this mess going on. Alphonse needs a family. We just happen to be building one.”

“Yes, but what about if one of you dies? What’s going to happen then?”

“I imagine that either one of us will find a way to keep living, even if it’s just for the kids at first.” I said. I placed my hands over his. “You’re over thinking things. It’s over for now. Let’s just take the quiet as it comes and hope that it stays that way for a good long while.”

“I want to accept that. I do, but I can’t help thinking that the two of you have made a huge mistake.” Mark said as he looked down at my hands.

“If it is a mistake, then it’s our mistake and you can blame us for it later. For now, I’m going to make waffles for my family. That includes you, if you’re interested.” I said as I got up from the table.

Mark shook his head and picked up his things. “I’m going up to shower. Don’t hold dinner for me.”

I watched him walk out and sighed. That hadn’t gone well and I made a note to sit down with him and Ben later to air everything out between the three of us. I was pulling out my stand mixer when Miles came bounding through the door, covered in snow and looking furious. I put my hands on my hips and frowned at him.

“My kitchen is not a place for an abominable snow beast. Go back outside and brush yourself off.”

“But I have news!” Miles said as he shed his outerwear and plopped down on to the stool that Mark had just vacated.

“What kind of news?” I asked because he was clearly not going to listen to me.

“They found a trace of magic left at the site that could lead them back to whomever is doing all the nasty business in town!”

That got my attention away from the waffles. “Go on.”

“That it, that’s all I’ve got.” Miles said.

I sighed. “You didn’t get any information from Eric?”

“No and he told me to tell you to keep your nose out of it.” Miles said.

I laughed. “That sounds like him.”

“The FBI was there too, including that man.” Miles said.

“Come off it, I know you’re still attracted to him.”

“Attracted, yes. In love? No. The jackass broke my heart.” Miles pouted.

I shook my head. “As it happens, I have news too.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. You’re an Uncle.” I said.

I watched the emotions play across his face.

“You’re pregnant? Already?” Miles asked and then let out a whoop, picking me up and spinning me around.

“No you great loon! Let me go.” I said, laughing.

“Then how am I an Uncle?” Miles looked perplexed.

I snickered. “Ben and I are adopting a little boy from the hospital. He’s in the Great Hall with Ben and Logan now.”

Miles set me down and looked at my face. “You’re serious?”

“Yes. His name is Alphonse.”

“Who saddled the kid with that name?” Miles said with a wrinkle to his nose.

“He chose it. We’re not saying at word, understand? He likes it and that’s that.” I said firmly.

“Can I call him Alphie?”

“We already do. Go say hi.” I said as I started pulling out the ingredients for the waffles. I turned around and he was gone.

Shaking my head, I started making the batter on auto-pilot, letting my mind drift. I made up lists of things Alphonse would need that he didn’t have and sighed.

“What’s up, habibi?” Ben asked as he came back in to the room.

“Alphie. I’m going to need to go shopping tomorrow with him. You too, if you feel up to it.” I said as I finished up the batter and set it back in to the fridge to chill.

“He’s going to need quite a lot of stuff, isn’t he?”

“Including a better coat than the one he has now. It’s too thin.” I said as I stepped in to his arms.

“A lot to take in.” Ben said.

“Yeah; but we can handle it, can’t we?”

“We can handle anything.” Ben said.

I really hoped that was true.

-Marlowe

Family Goes, Trouble Stays: Part 4

I woke up the next morning with a dragonet breathing in my face and a foot shoved in to my side. Raising my head, I looked down at where the foot was coming from. I saw the dogs crammed into one side of the bed. I looked over and saw that Logan had taken over the majority of the bed with his wings and tail. Eyeing him, I realized that he’d grown again.

I pushed myself up and sighed. He was getting too big to sleep in the same bed as the two of us. Ben would have to talk with him when he was well enough. I wiggled out of the bed and made my way to the bathroom. Thirty minutes later I was getting dressed and pulling my boots on to head back to the hospital. I was about to pull my coat on and head out the door when Logan chirruped from behind me and landed on my back.

“Logan!” I shouted as he wrapped his tail around my waist and his wings folded down around my shoulders.

His front and back legs were hooked in before I could stop him and he chirruped again. I looked back and found him looking at me, eyes wide and innocent looking.

“Oh, no. You are not going to the hospital with me.” I said.

I got a growl in response.

“Not going to happen.”

Another growl. I sighed.

“Fine. Just keep your head down and don’t let anyone know you’re under my coat.”

A happy chirrup and he settled down, drawing himself tighter around me. I decided then to trade my coat for a cloak. Flinging it over my shoulders I hauled the both of us out the backdoor and to the car. We drove together in silence to the hospital.

Walking in to the front doors, I quickly signed in and made my way up to Ben’s room. In the elevator though, Logan was getting antsy and chirruped from under my cloak.

“Hush. We’re almost there.” I said to him, silently thanking the gods that we were alone.

The doors opened and I met the Sheriff.

“Uh, Hi!” I said. It sounded a little too bright and I cursed under my breath.

“Hi.” Eric replied. He eyed my cloak and newly acquired hump. “Brought Logan with you?”

“Damn it, how did you know?”

“He is sticking his nose out.” Eric said with a chuckle.

“Logan, you’ve got to listen to Mommy and stay under the cloak.” I whispered. The nose disappeared.

“Don’t let the Nurses see him.” Eric said as he got on the elevator. “Ben’s fine, slept through the night. No trouble.”

“Thanks, Eric.” I said.

“You’re welcome.” He said and the doors slid closed.

I turned and made my way to Ben’s room, closing the door behind me.

“There’s trouble.” He said and I turned around with a gasp.

“Don’t scare me like that!”

Ben laughed. Hearing Ben’s voice made Logan chirrup and stick his nose out again.

“Is that who I think it is?”

“He wouldn’t let me leave the house without him.” I replied and took off the cloak.

Logan gave another happy chirrup and spread his wings out. Ben laughed.

“He’s so pleased with himself.” Ben said.

“I’m glad he’s pleased, tell me why he’s pretending to give me wings?” I said as I made my way over to the bed.

“He says you need your own.”

“Tell him I have my own. I have yours.”

“He says that doesn’t count. You need your own.”

“Stubborn.” I replied and Ben chuckled.

“He’s Max’s kid, you expected different?”

I sighed. The thought of Max still made me sad that he would never see Logan grow up. Logan felt my change in mood and started rubbing his nose against my cheek.

“He doesn’t want you to be sad.” Ben said he reached out for my hand and I slid mine in to his. “I don’t either.”

Logan slid off of my back and on to the bed between Ben and I. He crammed his head under my chin and chirruped.

“He’s sorry.”

I sighed and scratched his chin. “It’s okay. I miss my friend and your dad. I’m sad he won’t get to see you.”

Ben looked at both of us and sighed. “I try not to think about it. Max would think it was hilarious. Especially the part where he thinks your his Mom.”

I smiled. “He would have made all kinds of jokes by now about how we were supposed to wait for the wedding before having kids.”

Ben laughed. “I would have probably been honor bound to beat the hell out of him for making some kind of joke about how you and he had some great big affair.”

I started laughing. “That would be him. He would have done that.”

My eyes filled with tears suddenly and I looked up at Ben.

“Oh, habibi. I miss him too.”

I crawled on to the bed and tucked myself in to Ben’s arms. “He needed to be here for this.”

Logan crooned and wiggled until he was wedged between us, his head resting on Ben’s chest.

“He’s sad that he made us sad.”

“You did tell him this wasn’t his fault, right?”

“Yes. He doesn’t believe me though.”

“It’s not your fault, Logan.” I said to him. I got nuzzled in return.

We were still laying that way when the doctor came in to the room. Logan chirruped and stuck his head over my shoulder before I could stop him.

“I’m not even going to bother asking.” The Doctor said.

“My son.” I said.

“I don’t want to know. I’m not interested in knowing. I don’t see him here. Understand?”

“Perfectly.” I turned to Logan and said. “You’re not here, be invisible.”

I waited for him to catch on and sat up, turning my back to him. Logan latched on the way he did before and tucked his head down. I watched the doctor shake his head.

“Families.”

“Now Greg.” Ben said.

“That’s Doctor to you right now, you’re still my patient, not my colleague.” The Doctor said. He moved to Ben’s chart and I hopped off the bed and tossed the cloak over Logan and myself in case any nurses showed up. “Now, your tests came back fine. You slept through the day and night, but that was expected.”

“When can I go home?” Ben asked.

“In a few hours. We want to observe you a little while longer, to make sure there are no side effects we’re missing. If you do well at lunch and keep that down, I’ll send you home.” The Doctor said. “With light work. I know the kind of work load you keep.”

“I’m the only vet in town that deals with the Other, you know that.” Ben said.

“I know and you might want to think about taking on a partner this Spring. You’re going to be ass deep and satyrs.”

“Everyone keeps saying that, but I haven’t been able to get in to the archives to look at what’s going to happen.”

“You still don’t have a key? Even I have a key.”

“but you deal with the Other in their human form.” I said from where I was sitting with Logan on a chair. “That’s more important apparently.”

“Fair enough. Vets aren’t usually taken seriously.”

Ben grumbled under his breath. I missed what he said, but Greg the doctor laughed.

“Yeah, it is harder than Yale.” Greg said.

I smiled and looked over at Ben. I mouthed ‘I love you’ to him. He mouthed it back. Greg rolled his eyes.

“You two are hopeless. Congratulations, by the way.” He said.

“Thanks.” I said with a smile.

“I’ll leave  you now, check in on you later. Keep Logan out of sight if you can. I don’t want the whole floor in an uproar because there’s a pocket dragon on the floor.” Greg said as he mad his way to the door. He stopped and turned around. “Wait. I got a better idea. Let me get a wheelchair.”

Greg stepped out of the room and Ben chuckled.

“What?” I asked.

“He’s going to take us down to the children’s wing.”

I started laughing. “Oh, that’s the best place for us to hide.”

“The kids will get a kick out of Logan.”

“If he goes through the Change on the full moon, which Eric thinks he will, He’ll be one of them soon.” I said. Logan chirruped from under the cloak and made us laugh.

“That’s right, you are special.” Ben said.

Greg came back in then and helped Ben into the chair. Ben grumbled about how he wasn’t an invalid.

“You are in my hospital. Stay in the chair or I’m not releasing you.” Greg said.

Ben went quiet and Logan chirruped from under my cloak. I snickered and got a glare from Ben. I choked back a laugh and tried to look innocent as Greg wheeled Ben out, laughing. He nodded to the nurse before continuing our way down to the children’s ward. When we stepped out of the elevator, Greg told me to remove the cloak.

“It’s okay, down here. People are coming in and out with their Other out all day long. It helps the kids feel more normal, like they’re not odd.” Greg said.

I pulled off the cloak and Logan chirruped and flipped his wings out. It startled a nurse as she came out of a room.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Greg you could warn a body when you’re bringing someone with wings that big down here.” She scolded Greg.

I started laughing and Logan poked his head out from behind me and started making his happy noises. She yelped and dropped her clipboard.

“Oh my gods. Is that?” She looked over at Greg, who nodded. “I’ve never seen one that young before. How long has it been out of shell?”

“About a week, I think.”

“That’s about right.” Ben said.

“So big, so fast.” She said and stepped over the clipboard to look at Logan.

I smiled and turned around so she could see him better. Logan was preening and chirruping in my ear. I smiled and scratched his chin.

“Are you the birth Mom?” She asked me.

“No, his adoptive Mom.” I replied.

That got me a sharp chirp from Logan. Ben laughed.

“He says you’re Mom. Nothing else.”

I smiled. “Okay, baby.”

Logan chirped and nuzzled my cheek.

“Well, I’ll say. That’s good news for us here.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We deal with the Other down here, honey. Especially the dragon kin that are just hatched and turned. I’m glad to see he’s doing okay.” the Nurse said. She turned to Ben. “you’d be the vet then. The one that can talk to animals.”

“I am.”

“Good I have use for you. Bring him this way.” She motioned to Greg.

I followed them, folding my cloak and tucking my arms around it. She led us around the nurses station. Ever occupant stared at me and Logan, who happily did his own form of talking at me and to anyone who would pay him attention. I smiled at him and he nuzzled my cheek again while fanning his wings. We were led to a room at the opposite end of the ward and she motioned for us to stop.

“James Keegan changed this morning. We can’t get him to change back. He’s frantic and scared.” she said while looking at Ben. “He’s a gryphon. The only one in town and we don’t know why he changed, but I need you to calm him down.”

“I can try, but I can already tell he’s frantic. He doesn’t understand why he’s here or why he’s in his ‘Moon form’ already.” Ben said.

“He’s here because of a broken wrist he got from that blasted Jim Baker.” the Nurse said.

Greg’s face drew tight. “Again? I warned him if he hurt another kid he’d be sent here to us for safe keeping.”

“You can’t expect a Minotaur child to understand why he can’t play normally with other kids. They’re not as smart as some of the other species.” she scolded.

“I can’t allow a danger outside of the hospital. He’ll have to come here until he can understand why he can’t do things the way other kids can.” Greg flushed.

Ben sighed. “You needed to come to me sooner. I’d have helped.”

“Well you’re here now. Talk to James.” The nurse said. She looked up at me and Logan. “You come with me and I’ll take that. You’ll be too busy in a minute.”

I handed my cloak over to the nurse and smiled. “What’s you’re name?”

“Elsie Gibbons. Come with me. I have some kids who need to see Logan.” She said as she led the way down the hall to a play area.

“I’m Marlowe.” I said to her.

“Well Marlowe, I hope you like loud noises.”

We stepped in to the loud room and the whole place went silent. I smiled.

“Hello.” I said.

“Lady, do you know you have wings?” one of the kids asked.

I laughed. “I don’t just have wings, I have a whole dragon.”

Logan popped his head back over my shoulder, where he had retreated from the noise. He chirped. The kids gasped.

“No way! He’s awesome.” said a little boy with a cat tail.

“He certainly is. We’re just waiting for him to turn in to one of you so he can be even more awesome.” I said.

“Why?”

“Well, I’d like to be able to talk to him without having to use his Papa to translate.”

“His Papa can talk to him while he’s like that?” a little girl with wings asked.

“He certainly can.” I replied.

“What can you do?” Another boy, this time with a couple extra tentacles, asked.

I smiled and pulled out my car keys from my pocket. I made them levitate and another gasp went through the room.

“That is so cool.” the boy with the tail whispered.

I laughed. “I think so too.”

The nurse left me there with the kids and I spent the day answering questions. When Logan slid off my back and bounded towards a little boy in the corner who wasn’t talking or interacting at all. I watched carefully as Logan sprang up and put his paws on his legs. He started talking in his own way and pushed at the little boy’s legs. I waited. I knew he wasn’t going to hurt the little boy, but I still wanted to be sure.

I smiled when the little boy reached out and scratched Logan’s eye ridges. I watched them interact for a few minutes longer before going back to answering the kids questions. The asked everything from my job, to why I had Logan. They quizzed me on my ability and laughed when I made a metal spaceship fly around the room.

When Greg finally came in to the room with Ben, the kids had lost interest in me and where playing nicely with Logan. He was having the time of his life and had managed to pull the little boy in the corner out to play. I smiled and reached over for Ben’s hand, tangling my fingers with his. I looked over at him.

“How’s James?”

“Much calmer. He’s sleeping now.”

“I knew you could do it.” I said. “Now, can you tell me why Logan has taken a shine to that little boy?”

“Sure. He’s a dragon too.” Ben said.

“He hatched a month before Logan. We don’t know where the egg came from. I found him on my way to work on the morning after the full moon. He was filthy, naked and wandering the road way out by Blue Arrow.” Greg said.

“Well.. Sh-uh, crap.” I said, mindful of where I was.

“Crap indeed. He’s got no family.” Greg said, looking at me.

“Oh no. Really?” I said looking at the both of them.

“Now, Marlowe.” Ben said.

I pointed a finger at him. “This is not like bringing home a dog, Ben. It’s a little boy.”

“Who has no one.” Ben said.

I narrowed my eyes at him, then looked over at the boy playing with Logan. He looked up at me and his lavender eyes stared in to mine. I couldn’t help it, my heart melted a little.

“Crap.”

Greg laughed. “You gave in faster than I thought you would. Ben went on and on about how stubborn you were.”

“Does he have a name?”

“Alphonse.” Ben said.

I sighed. “Who saddled the kid with that name?”

“He did. He likes it.” Ben said.

“I’m assuming you are already listening to him?” I said.

“Yes. Marlowe I know it’s not like a dog, but he needs a home. Family. You said yourself the other night that we were building one. What do you say about starting with Alphie?”

I looked from Ben to Greg to Alphonse and sighed. “Okay. I give in. We’ll take him home with us.”

“I’ll get his discharge papers and yours, Ben. There’s nothing wrong with him, I just didn’t want to release him. He has nowhere to go but an orphanage and I didn’t want him leaving Blueville.” Greg said before he stepped out.

I looked over at Ben. “You do realize that this means the Castle is going to bud new rooms, the dogs are going to go nuts and Miles and Mark  are going to tell us we’re nuts, right?”

“Yep.”

“Ben?”

“Yes?”

“You bring another animal home from your practice and I’ll bury you in the backyard. Alive.”

“Now, habibi.”

“No, Ben. We’ve got too much on our plate now. No more animals. We’ve got two kids, two dogs, two roommates, and a fire-breathing bearded dragon.”

Ben went silent. “Okay. No more pets for a while.”

“A long while.” I said and called over to Logan.

He ran over with his tail wrapped around Alphonse’s wrist.

“Honey you’ve got to let Alphonse go. He can’t run as fast as you can on all fours.” I said to Logan.

Logan chirruped at me and looked up at Ben, who nodded. Logan let go of Alphonse and climbed into Ben’s lap. Ben looked at Alphonse and suddenly, my lap was full of crying child. I held Alphonse as he cried, rocking him back and forth and rubbing his back.

“I take it he’s happy?” I said to Ben.

Ben nodded. I sighed and cuddled Alphonse. When Greg came back in with the papers, I signed my name without thinking twice.

“Two kids.” I said to Ben as we walked out of the hospital. “I come for my Dragon with one in tow and walk out with two.”

“I like big families.” Ben said to me.

“You also like silence, which you’re not going to get anymore.” I warned.

“We’ll make it work.” Ben said as he kissed me.

We got to the car and I managed to convince Alphonse to sit in the back with Logan, who was talking happily to his new brother.

“Can they understand each other?”

“Yes.” Ben said as he went around to the other side and got in.

“Interesting.” I said.

“I’m getting to you. Pretty soon you’ll be helping me in the field.”

I shook my head and got into the car. I started the car and headed for home with my newly expanded family in tow.

“Miles is going to freak out.” I said.

“I know, isn’t it great?”

I laughed.

-Marlowe

Family Goes, Trouble Stays: Part 3

There’s one good thing about losing your shit in a hospital over being separated from your love one:

The next time you have to go to that hospital, they are far less likely to stand in your way the next time you have to come in with a half-frozen loved one.

I ran in with the EMTs who had Ben, frantic that he was too cold. The nurses and doctors all gave me a very wide berth. The only time I was asked to step back was when they were working on him. I stood outside the room, backed up against the nurse’s station, watching Ben.

“Marlowe, he’s going to be okay.” One of the doctors said.

“I know, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying.”

“Worry all you want, just don’t get in the way.”

“Fix him. I need him back, safe and whole.” I said as I looked up in to the face of a doctor who couldn’t have been more than twenty-five.

He nodded and went in to the room with Ben. I knew somewhere in the back of my head I was worrying over nothing, that he was going to be fine, but with whomever was doing this to us still out there; I needed to see him open his eyes again.

When they finally let me go in to see him he was breathing normally and his color was back in his face. I leaned down and kissed his forehead, then waited. I don’t know how long I sat there, watching him until he coughed and started coming around.

“You’re not allowed to go where I can’t follow.” I whispered in to his ear.

“I have no plan on leaving you behind.” Ben replied. His voice was hoarse.

“That’s good because I have no intention of letting you.” I said. I gave in and kissed him.

“What happened?”

“The jerk who’s doing all of this forced your change again.” I replied.

Ben groaned and tried to sit up. I pushed him back down.

“No. You’re staying until they say you can go. No sitting up. You spent the entire night as your other self chained to a cliff.”

“The whole night? How did I survive?”

“Blankets, a couple of bonfires and a lot of praying on my part.” I replied.

“You never pray.” Ben said looking up at me.

“I did for you.” I replied. “This was the closest I’ve gotten to losing you. I don’t care for it.”

“I don’t care for being a guinea pig either.” Ben sighed. “I think whatever she’s doing, she’s building up to something.”

I saw Ben rub his eyes. “Go back to sleep. They’re going to keep you here for the day and possibly over night.”

“You’ll be here?”

“Yeah. I’m not going anywhere.”

Ben nodded and closed his eyes. He was asleep before I could look up at the clock.

“Asleep then?” The doctor asked as he walked in to the room.

“Yes. He woke up though.”

“That’s good.” He said as he checked Ben over. “I’m going to assume you’re staying with him?”

“Yes.” I said as I gripped Ben’s hand tightly.

“Okay then. We’re going to move him upstairs in a little while. Keep him over night for observation.”

“I figured. When will he get to come home?”

“Possibly tomorrow. I want to check and make sure there’s no damage from being out there all night.”

I nodded and looked down at Ben. “I’m going to assume you’ll want me to go home and get some sleep at some point?”

“You’re smart. I’m sure they Sheriff will send someone to watch over him, but you’ll do yourself harm if you stay here all night with no sleep.” The Doctor said as he checked me over after checking Ben. “It’s almost five now. You’ve been here all day. Visitor’s hours are over at nine tonight. You will go home and sleep.”

I looked from Ben to the Doctor. “Provided he has protection, I will go home and sleep. I do not like the fact that I’m leaving him here.”

“I know you don’t, but you have to do what’s best for you.” The doctor said with a smile. “You being here and pacing half the night, worrying yourself sick is not going to help either one of you right now.”

I looked up at him and nodded. “Just this once, I’ll go home. If anything happens while I’m gone, you’ll never get me out of this hospital again while he’s here.”

“Fair enough. I’ll take it.” He  said as he stepped out of the door. “Go home. Sleep. Those are doctor’s orders.”

“At closing time.” I said and turned back to watching over Ben.

The Doctor came back in at nine, after they’d moved him upstairs and gave me a pointed look. “Go. Home.”

“Is the detail here yet?” I asked.

“I am here.” The Sheriff said as he came in to Ben’s room.

“You’re going to watch over him?” I asked. I was a little startled to see Eric there.

“You wouldn’t trust anyone else enough to go home and get any kind of sleep.” The Sheriff replied. “I’ll stay and watch over Ben.”

I slid out of my chair, walked over and gave Eric a huge hug. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now go home. Get some sleep. I’ll go over everything with you in the morning.”

I nodded and pulled my coat on. The Doctor walked me out and to Duke, who was waiting with a car to take me home. I don’t really remember the ride, getting home or going upstairs. I do remember showering, crawling in to pajamas and then in to bed with the dogs and Logan, who chittered at me until midnight. We all finally fell asleep at about one am.

 

-Marlowe

Family Goes, Trouble Stays: Part 2

We ran out of blankets first. Then firewood.

We were still two hours from dawn when the priestess finally showed up. The cars around the site where Ben was chained creaked and groaned from being near me. They finally moved them to the other side of the road, but I could still hear them.

“She’s strong.” The woman said.

“She’s pissed.” The Sheriff replied.

“I would be too. Can she move the chains?”

“Not without hurting herself.”

“Pity. She’d be a big help if she could.”

“I think whomever did this, knew about her and planned for it.”

“Might be. Can we move her away from him?”

“Never. They’re mated.”

“That complicates things.”

“You don’t know the half of it, Lady. Just fix it so I don’t have a heart-broken metalmancer on my hands if he dies.”

“Really? I smell the earth on her.”

“Earth?” I heard the Sheriff swear and smiled. “That’s all I fucking need. You’re sure?”

“I smell it wafting off of her like a stench. She’s the opposite of my air.”

“Could it be because she came here?”

“Yes. She probably wouldn’t have developed beyond metals if she had stayed away.”

“What about the dragon? Can you force him back?”

“No, but I can keep him alive, just as she’s doing.”

“Just help them. I need the both of them alive to keep this town sane.”

“Who’s the dragon to you?”

“The town Vet.”

I heard the woman swear.

“and her?”

“The only mechanic I’d trust my car with.”

“Well at least she was smart enough not to go against her nature.”

“Stupid is not a word I’d use to describe Marlowe. Stubborn, pig-headed and a little rash, but not stupid.”

“You like her.”

“She’s a good friend and I’d trust my kids with her.”

“You like her a lot, then. All right. Don’t worry. I’ll help her keep the dragon alive.”

I heard rustling and the smell of lilacs drifted under my nose. I smiled.

“You’re not my first Priestess, but you’re the strongest I’ve ever smelled.” I said over my shoulder as I rubbed Ben’s nose. He chuffed into my hand.

“What do I smell like to an Earth?”

“To me? Lilacs.”

“That’s a compliment, coming from my opposite.”

“I tend not to let a little thing like opposite signs get to me. Just because you’re an opposite, doesn’t mean you’re a jerk.”

“You’ve had good experiences, then.”

“College was good for me.”

“Ah. Lover?”

“Friend.”

“Even better.”

“I think so.” I looked down at Ben then and smiled.

“You love your dragon.”

“Yes.”

“You’ve ridden?”

“Not yet.”

“Pity. You should if he survives the night.”

“Will. He will survive or I’m tearing this town apart until I find out who did this to him.”

“You’ll do that anyway.”

“I’ll be nicer about it when he lives.”

“Oh, I like you.” She said with a laugh.

I smiled. “I’m starting to like you too.”

“I take it you don’t trust very many people?”

“Not many. I try to follow my instincts and my instincts right now are undecided about you.”

“Well considering my nature, I’ll take what I can get. You’re very honest.”

“Cuts down on bullshit.”

A startled laugh broke out and I found myself laughing with her. It would have been absurd, but I could feel her magic helping Ben while we talked. She never touched him, for that I was grateful, because if she had I would have lost my control. Ben was mine.  I wasn’t letting anyone else touch him until I knew he could take care of himself.

“Dawn comes soon. Will you help me remove his chain?”

“I can’t. It sends a spear through my mind like a hot poker.”

She swore. “The evil bitch who did this is clever.”

“You’re sure it’s a female?”

“Oh yes. Can’t you smell her? She smells of roses.”

“I only smell lilacs and day lilies.”

“Day lilies?”

I nodded and hummed to Ben who chuffed and rumbled back at me. I smiled and rubbed his nose, scratching under his chin and then up to his eye ridges. The Priestess watched us.

“So that’s what it looks like.” She said.

I smiled. “Yes. Feels better, too.”

“I wouldn’t know.” She said as she looked up and at the horizon. The first colors of dawn were peeking over the trees. “Here it comes.”

“Good. He’ll start the change soon. He always does after sunrise.” I said as I watched Ben closely.

“I hope that’s what happens. I’d hate to see him stuck like this.”

“If he is, I’m going to be mightily pissed.” I replied.

Ben gave a groan then and his head disappeared under the blankets. I got up and stepped back. I didn’t know what would happen.

“Is he supposed to be shrinking like that?” She asked as the blankets got progressively smaller.

“Yes. It’s fits and spurts sometimes.” I said.

We watched the pile shrink until you could only see the outline of the chain and collar. I sighed. The chains didn’t shrink with him. That was good. I made my way over to the pile and started digging through it until I found him at the bottom. He was cold, but nothing looked like it was touched with frost.

“Cold.” Ben mumbled. “So cold.”

“I know. There’s an ambulance. They’re going to take you to the hospital.” I said.

“Kay. Go with?” Ben mumbled as he shivered.

“Yes.” I said.

“Kay.” Ben passed out cold then and I waved the paramedics to come get him.

“She probably didn’t expect him to last the night, that’s why the chains didn’t shrink with him. Dead dragons don’t change back.”

“She’s in for a world of hurt if I get my hands on her first.”

“I’m sure she would be, but you’re going to stay out of this.”

“This is the third attack on my family.” I said.

“Three? I thought there had been only two?”

“I consider Max family. He died in October.”

“Oh. That. Yes I can see why it would be three, then.”

“Find her. Kill her or bind her. I’m going to the hospital with Ben.” I stormed off and left her there with the Sheriff.

As I climbed in to the ambulance, I knew this wouldn’t be over. I just prayed it was over for now.

We all needed a breather.

-Marlowe

Family Goes, Trouble Stays

We all do things for love that we don’t intend to do. Which is why on a Wednesday morning I was on my way home from seeing that Ben’s mum made it to the airport safely. I returned her car and was waiting to be picked up by Ben. He was late. I checked my phone again for the seventh time in twenty minutes and found no call or text from Ben, I was certain that there something wrong. So I called the Sheriff.

“Ben was supposed to pick me up but hasn’t called. I’m worried. Have you heard from him?”

“No, but I can tell you where he is.” The Sheriff said with a sigh.

“Eric, please. I’m terrified.”

“He was forced in to the change again. He’s currently out of his mind and chained to a rock in the middle of Strauss National Forest.”

My heart dropped and I froze. “No,” I whispered.

“Yes. He was caught outside. Thank the stars that Miles was with him. They were shopping for your ring in  Serene Harbor.”

“You know, I never understood why they named that town the way that they did. There’s no harbor anywhere near there.”

“Focus, Marlowe. You’re panicking and it’s making your attention drift.” Eric said with a sharp tone to his voice.

Now that I’d focused back on him, I could feel the panic creep up in to my chest.

“I need to be with him. He’ll calm down for me.”

“We’ve already sent a car. You’re still at the rental place?”

“Yes. I don’t plan on moving.”

“Smart. They’ll be there in ten to pick you up, I sent them over forty minutes ago.”

“Oh good. I’ll be waiting.” I paused for a second. “Oh and Sheriff?”

“Yes?”

“The son of a bitch that keeps doing this to us? I’m going to kill him.”

“Her. We now know the person who’s doing this is female and at this point, I just might let you.”

“See you soon.” I said and hung up.

I waited in the lobby of the car rental place until the sheriffs car showed up. Inside was Pete, who I had met at Thanksgiving.

“Hey Pete.” I said as I popped inside the car and settled in. “Miles already knows I’m on my way, so does the Sheriff. Floor it.”

“Nice to see you too, Marlowe.”

I flinched at his dry tone. “Sorry. I’m worried about Ben.”

“He’s okay. Last I saw him he was trying to roast the Mayor, who was shouting that the ‘dangerous creature’ needed to be put down.”

I seethed. “Dangerous creature? He knows very well that’s Ben inside that skin.” I growled out. The force of my anger made the car shimmy on an already slick road.

“Marlowe! Calm down! You’ll make me crash the car!” Pete shouted.

I immediately checked my power and gave Pete a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, just watch it. I’m starting to see why they Mayor says the things he says about you, though.”

“Oh? What does the little weasel say?”

“That you can’t control yourself. That you and Ben together are dangerous and that the safety of the community isn’t as sturdy as everyone thinks.” Pete said.

“I can control it, Pete. The Mayor just wants me out-of-town on a rail because he thinks it’ll get his son off the hook.”

“That’s part of it, I think. Seeing what you did now, I’m sure that he’s legitimately concerned that you’re going to kill us all.”

I huffed out a breath. I could see where Pete was coming from, but there was no way I was giving up Ben. Not after everything I’d been through to find a place where I felt at home.

“I’m not leaving, Pete. He can do as he likes, but I’m not leaving.”

Pete sighed. “I really wish you hadn’t said that.”

I was about to ask what he meant by that when suddenly the car veered off the road and sailed off the side of the hill we were currently traveling up. I screamed and immediately reached out with my power to hold up the car. I was not dying because some lackey decided I needed to go. I was going to live, damn it.

Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. I’d never lifted anything that heavy for that long before. As I maneuvered the car back on to the road, I saw the faces of some of the people passing by. They were in shock to see a flying police car. I would have laughed, because it was kind of funny, but I was too busy trying keep myself alive.

As I set the car down, I heard a click from Pete’s service gun.

“Don’t even think about it.” I said as I reached out with my gift and plucked it from his hands. “You’ve caused more than enough trouble already.”

“P-p-please don’t kill me. I’m only following orders.”

“I’m not going to kill you, but you are going to get in the back seat.” I waited with the gun hovering in midair until Pete had moved himself from the front seat and around to the back. I got out and used my gift to pull the rest of the metal off his person. I dumped everything in the trunk and got into the driver’s side.

“Don’t take me back, She’ll kill me.”

“Then that’s on her, but I’m taking you to the station.” I said.

Pete started crying and I tuned him out. I was pissed and tired and wasn’t sure that I was going to make it back to the station in one piece. I got out my cell phone and called the Sheriff. Pete’s crying from the backseat got louder as I explained what happened.

“I’ll have a deputy that I trust meet you at the station. I’m sorry, Marlowe. I thought he was on our side.”

“You’ll have to explain to me what the hell is going on. I’ve only been gone for three hours, Eric.”

“Yeah and as soon as you crossed the border, shit hit the fan.”

I could hear how tired he was. “What else happened?”

“Every single shifter has changed. Every one. Magic is going haywire and I’m not sure that anything can be done to fix it.”

I thought about it for a second. “I’m coming home. I’ll call you when I get to the station. Take care of my Fiance, Eric. I want him back in one piece.”

“Will do. See you soon.”

I dropped the phone in to my back and started us back to Blueville. I stopped paying attention to Pete’s babbling and crying somewhere around the thirty minute mark. I knew I still had twenty minutes left in this damn car and I was annoyed. I wanted to be there.

I kept my cool though and finished the drive in to town. I didn’t dare go any further than that, because I didn’t know where Ben was. I was shaking with exhaustion by the time the Sheriff met me at the station. Jack and Harry watched over me. I knew I could trust them. They had siblings who were apart of the special side of the community.

“Marlowe! Thank stars.” Eric said when he saw me.

“Thank stars is right. Pete’s in a cell. He forgot to turn off the dash cam. It was all caught on audio.” I said.

Jack and Harry nodded to confirm what I said. The Sheriff looked up at the two hovering over me.

“Go see to it that none of it is erased, then I want to two of you to do a mind by mind search of the whole department. Anyone who’s had anything to do with our mystery woman and the Mayor goes in a cell. I’m done playing his game.”

The two cops nodded and left without a word. I’m pretty sure that the only reason why the orders were issued out loud was because I was here.

“Made your decision, then?”

“I’m on board with taking him down. No one tampers with my department or my town.”

I nodded. “Lets go get Ben. I need him to be steady again.”

The Sheriff helped me up from the chair just as the Mayor stormed in to the station.

“Higgins!” The Sheriff shouted.

“Sir?” Higgins answered.

“See to it that the Mayor has a guard on him at all times while he’s in my station. He’s to go no where alone. Pull in reserves if you have to.”

“Yes, Sir!” Higgins said with a salute and he went to help the Mayor, who was clearly determined to get to the Sheriff. He drew back and his mouth flopped open when he saw that I was still alive. Apparently, no one had told him.

I flashed a smile at the Mayor as Eric escorted me out.

“One of these days, the amount of sass you possess is going to get someone hurt.”

“When that day comes, I’ll sass Death to keep him at bay.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“I know. Now let’s go get Ben.”

The Sheriff stared at me as I climbed in to his four by four and then shook his head and climbed in after me. He took me out to Ben and I was not prepared for what I saw. My proud dragon was chained to the side of a mountain, shivering and curled up against the cold. I waiting until the Sheriff pulled to a stop and I shoved my way out of the truck and ran for Ben, shouting his name.

His head picked up and he roared, breathing fire at anyone who tried to stop me from reaching him. As soon as I got close he picked me up and tucked me in to my usual spot. He was ice-cold to the touch and I shouted for more blankets as I rubbed his nose. Ben paid no attention to anyone who came close now. He was too busy rumbling at me. While I rubbed his nose and kept him calm, I checked out the shackles that were around his neck and limbs. There were no holes where a key would go.

“Sheriff!” I shouted. I waited till her came closer and then told him. “These are not normal. They’re magical. There’s no lock holes.”

“We figured that when they appeared out of no where and chained him to that rock.” He said. “Is there anything that you can do?”

I reached out and touched them with my fingers and got a nasty shock. I yelped and rubbed my hand.

“No. They’re warded.”

The Sheriff swore. “I’ll get someone out here to help.”

“You have to hurry, he’s not going to make it out of here if he’s chained here much longer.” I said.

The entire dragon shuddered and Ben keened lowly.

“More blankets. He needs more blankets and try building a fire.” I shouted.

It was going to be a long night.

-Marlowe.

An Unexpected Event, Part 2

So after breakfast and keeping the Twins from freaking out over the arrival of Logan, the Sheriff arrived. I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t happy about Logan. I thought for a second that it would be because it’s another dragon in his district, but he soon put my mind to ease about that one.

“No, Marlowe. I’m not upset it’s another dragon. I’m upset because he latched on to you and Ben. He’s going to have to be with Mark.”

I nodded and looked over at Ben, who spoke up:

“We weren’t expecting him to hatch so soon. If we had a little warning, we would have moved him in to Mark’s rooms.”

“Breaking his connection to the two of you is going to be hard, but he cannot stay attached.”

“George gave the egg to Ben for a reason.”

Ben sighed. “She gave me the egg because it wasn’t going to be one of hers.”

The Sheriff looked at Ben with a frown. “I think it’s time you explained how you know these things.”

“I can talk to animals. Any animal. I can also hear the thoughts of some people, but not others.” Ben said with a sigh in his voice.

“Why only some people?” I asked. It was something I’d always wanted to know, but didn’t know how to ask.

“The more extraordinary, the less of a chance I have of hearing you. I have no idea why, but I have trouble hearing the thoughts of people who have that something extra.”

“But you can hear mine.” I said.

“I’m around you all the time. I have more practice listening for you.”

I thought about it for a second and thought it was a little strange, but I couldn’t throw stones. I can control metals.

“Our children are going to be pretty weird.” I said.

Ben started laughing. “No weirder than anything else in this town.”

I looked up at the Sheriff and smiled. “Who had December 1st in the pool?”

The Sheriffs jaw dropped open. “Murphy. I knew she was up to something when she bought in on Thanksgiving.”

I started laughing. “Nothing gets by Grandma.”

“Well, a new dragon in the house won’t. We’re going to have to give them their space you know.” Ben said.

I sighed. I’d grown attached to Logan, but Ben was right. He wasn’t ours to keep.

“House?” I said looking up. I heard a rumble in response.

“Okay, that’s just freaky.” The Sheriff said.

“We need an apartment above the garage, please. I also need three lifts inside the garage if you please.”

The house rumbled in response to me.

“Well, let’s go find Mark and tell him.” Ben said.

“Kitchen. Mark was trying to get Logan to eat.” I said.

“Kitchen it is, then.” Ben said as he took my hand and we walked together with the Sheriff in to the kitchen.

As soon as I stepped in to the room, Logan chirruped and bounded off the table to come settle on my waist. I sighed. This was going to be hard. I scratched his neck ridges as I sat at the kitchen table.

“He’s been a ball of energy all until you walked in.” Mark said. “I couldn’t get him to eat anything.”

“He’s chittering and calling her mom.” Ben said quietly to the Sheriff. They were standing behind me.

“He might be too attached to be able to break the connection.” The Sheriff whispered back.

“What’s going on?” Mark asked.

“Logan is yours. You were married to Max when he died. Max has no other family, which means you’re Logan’s father.”

“No. I never knew about the egg. I just knew that he’d gotten out a few years ago.” Mark said with a shake of his head.

“Years? That egg has been incubating for years?” I asked him, then looked up at Ben.

“At least ten that I know of.” Mark said.

“Don’t you want Logan?” I asked him.

“I don’t know. Part of me wants to say yes, but the part that’s still grieving says no.” Mark replied.

The room went silent, except for Logan’s chirruping.

“You all need to make the decision today as to who he’s going to call his parent or parents. When the full moon hits, whatever growing he’s done will be the age he changes in to once the moon rises.” The Sheriff said as he looked around the room.

“Just how many of these have you gone through?” I asked the Sheriff.

“Ten. We lost most of the dragons over the years due to various accidents or in a couple of isolated cases, murder.”

“What usually happens?”

“Well, after the change? It’s just like having a child instead of a dragon. They change monthly with the moon just like an adult.” The Sheriff said as he sat down next to me. “Really, it’s no different from adopting. You get a child and have to help him or her to catch up with everything else.”

I looked up at Ben and found him staring off in to space. “Ben?”

“Hmm?” He said as he turned his attention back to me.

“Wanna join us?”

“Sorry.” He said looking a little sheepish. “I was talking to Logan.”

“What’s up?” I asked.

“He wants to know why we’re thinking about making him stay with Mark over the garage.”

Mark made some noises in the back of his throat like he was about to protest. I patted his hand.

“We love you. You know we do, but if you’re going to keep Logan, you’ll need your own space to get to know each other.” I said.

Mark turned his hand over and smiled. “You’d do that for us? Even though I know you want to keep him?”

“Yes. He’s yours. It was wrong of me to think I could keep him.” Even saying the words hurt, but I tried not to let it show. I’d grown irrationally attached to the dragonet.

“Not wrong. Ben did give the egg to you months ago. The only reason why I thought it was Max’s was because of the color.”

“Well, it is possible to get egg variations in different color parents that aren’t that parent’s original color. Unlikely, but possible.” The Sheriff said.

“I’m assuming there’s all kinds of information about this down at the station?” Ben asked.

“Yeah. The archives from when the town was first founded. A Council decision I won’t fight, says that everything that has to do with the unusual gets recorded. Dragon births, how to raise them, what to expect.” The Sheriff looked apologetic. “I’m sorry. I’ve been meaning to have this conversation with you since the Council approved your key.”

“They approved me? I didn’t know I needed their approval.” Ben snorted.

“Well since you’re the town’s only vet who handles the unusual cases, they’ve approved you to have a key. You’re going to need it. The seven-year span on the satyrs not breeding is coming to an end.”

Ben sat down heavily at the table. “I thought something was odd about that.”

“There’s other things coming as well, but that’s the first one. It starts next month.” The Sheriff said. “I wouldn’t be alone after dark next month. Male or female.”

I started laughing and that woke up Logan who chirruped unhappily.

“So about Logan?” I said.

“I can’t take him.” Mark said.

I was stunned. I was certain that he wanted Logan.

“Why?”

“He belongs in this house. With everyone. Not above some garage with me alone.”

“What if that means Logan becomes attached to Ben and I more than you? You do have rights as his real father. You were married to Max.”

“I’m no more his real father than anyone else in this house, just because of who I was married to.” Mark said. “You have to admit, we all made a good team when it comes to The Twins. What could be so hard about raising Logan that way?”

“Well it’s definitely unusual.” The Sheriff said.

“So’s the town.” Mark said. “I didn’t grow up here, I grew up in a Main Street USA kind of town. I’m here now. I’m staying here. That means Logan is too.”

I looked over at Ben, then down at Logan who was asleep in my arms again.

“Okay. We’ll give it a shot.” Ben said.

The Sheriff shook his head and got up from the table. “I need to go check on the road conditions and see my kids. I assume they’re with Miles?”

I nodded. “Yeah. He’s in the Great Hall with them. They’re playing some Zelda game on the Wii.”

The Sheriff nodded. “I need a word with the two of you, alone.”

I nodded and got up from the table.

“Don’t. I’ll take Logan and go check on Miles.” Mark said as he eased Logan out of my arms and in to his. Logan chirruped sleepily and settled back in once he realized who had him.

I sad back down at the table with Ben.

“What’s up, Eric?”

“The Priestess who we brought in for the October killings? She says there’s going to be another event soon and she wants us all to be careful. So I’ve thought about it and spoken to The Twins aunt.” The Sheriff said as he sat back down. “If something happens to me over this mess, I want the two of you to take The Twins.”

I gripped Ben’s hand tight. “But Eric, They have family.”

“Who wants nothing to do with them and I don’t have family left alive. I was an only child.” He said.

I looked up at Ben, who nodded.

“Okay.” Ben said.

“I thought it would be harder than that.” Eric said.

“Eric, you’re a great friend to both Ben and myself. You’re family to me,” I said, then corrected myself when Ben nudged me. “to us. Of course we’d take The Twins if something happened.”

“Six months ago I’d never thought I’d ask a newbie to take my kids, but you’ve proven yourself.” Eric said to me.

“I hope it never comes to it, but I’d be happy to take them.” I said. “Even if I’ve only been here six months, you’ve known everyone else longer than that and I’m sure you’ve asked them about me.”

“Oh, I did a background check too.” Eric said with a laugh.

I laughed and looked up at Ben. “You owe me twenty.”

Ben frowned. “Damn it, I was sure you’d let it go this time and wouldn’t do it to another newbie.”

“Gotta protect my town.” The Sheriff replied with a grin. He got up and walked out of the room to check on his kids.

“We’re so fucked, aren’t we?” I said when he left.

“Do you want to be anything else?” Ben replied.

I thought about all that I’d gone through in the last two years and shook my head.

“No. I’m much better off than I was two years ago. Happier, too.”

“Speaking of happier; you need a ring.” Ben said.

“I do need a ring.” I said.

“Wanna go shopping with me next week?”

“Nope. You’re going with Mark and Miles.” I said with a grin.

“Gonna make me stick to tradition?”

“Damn right.” I said. I slid in to his arms and kissed him.

“You’re worth everything I have and more. What do I get you?”

“I’m going to go with that old ‘You’ll know it when you see it.’ phrase.” I replied.

“I hate that phrase.”

I laughed. I hated it too, but I trusted Ben. I said so.

“Best thing that’s ever been said to me.”

“I thought that was last night, when I told you your ass looked great naked.”

“That was the best part of my life till now.”

“Oh, I do love you.”

“I love you too.”

“Come on, let’s go check on everyone.”

“Sure. By the way? Your ass looks hot in those pants.”

I was laughing as I walked to the Great Hall with him. So far, this month was turning out great.

-Marlowe