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

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Halloween, Part 4

I kept my cool when I made it to Our Lady of Hope. I kept it still when I got to the desk. I lost it when they told me I wasn’t allowed to go back to see him. I lost it to the point where I unintentionally bent the metal laundry cart from my anger. When his doctor came out to see if there was any family and found me, I unloaded on him. I feel bad about it now, but I was desperate to see if he was okay. The Deputy I was with finally came in and ushered me back to see Ben after speaking with the administration staff.

As furious as I was, I was grateful I’d only mangled a laundry cart. My anger can make my talent go nuts sometimes. I once completely rearranged a car to look like an elephant because I was not in control. The Deputy, I still haven’t learned his name, led me to the little room where Ben was placed. I rushed in to the room and checked him over myself. I couldn’t see anything wrong with him, but he was still unconscious. I pressed a kiss for his forehead and his smell of brimstone and leather drifted into my nose. It almost caused me to start sniffling.

His doctor came in then and shuffled his feet a bit, before saying hello. I had a feeling I’d scared him and most of the hospital staff with my little trick and all the  yelling. I wasn’t sorry. I’m still not sorry. I was scared.

As I look at him now in our bed, I’m still scared.

He could have been taken away from me because of whomever left that nasty hex bag. I clinched my fists and looked down at him, listening to what the doctor had to say.

“So we’re just waiting for him to wake up.” The Doctor finished.

“I’m staying. I’m his and he’s mine. I’m staying. He’ll ask for me when he wakes.”

The Doctor didn’t bother trying to get me out of the room. He just nodded and left. It was nearly three hours before he woke up. I was curled in to a chair the nurses had brought for me. My hand was on his so that if he moved, I’d feel it. I didn’t feel a thing though, he was talking with the nurse when I finally came back to consciousness. They broke off when I murmured his name sleepily and looked up at him.

“Hey, Lowe.”

I didn’t say anything, I was just so happy he was awake I crawled in to the bed and hugged him tight. Then I burst in to tears. He was cuddling me when the Doctor came back. He took one look at me and shoved a box of tissues at Ben, then slowly backed out of the room. After everything I’d been through that day, it was funny to me to see a fully grown man that afraid of my emotions.

So I started giggling. They were watery giggles, but Ben realized why I was laughing and snickered.

“He’s afraid of you.”

“He should be, I trashed a metal laundry cart because they wouldn’t let me come back and see you. I was terrified of losing you and angry they were in my way.” I said looking up at him.

Ben blinked and said slowly, “you trashed a laundry cart?”

He stared at me when I nodded. He was still absorbing that information when the Doctor came back in. I slid off the bed so that he could look at Ben and stood off to the side, where I could see him. I wasn’t letting him out of my sight and Ben must have felt the same way, because He kept his eyes on mine. He nodded at the Doctor when he gave him instructions on not getting out of bed for the next couple of days. The Doctor noticed that Ben hadn’t looked at him through out the conversation and sighed.

“You two will be the death of me, I can tell. I’ll get you the instructions I have for you, but I mean it when I say no heavy exertions over the next few days.”

We both said “Yes, Doctor.” at the same time and missed when he rolled his eyes. He walked out of the room and I passed Ben the bag of clothing that Miles had put together while I was showering. I watched over him as he got dressed, made sure he didn’t fall over. When the Doctor came back in, he was surprised that Ben was dressed.

“I hope you got dressed by yourself.” He said as he eyed Ben.

“He did; I just watched.” I said and winked at Ben, which made him laugh.

“She didn’t help, Doc. If she had, I’m pretty sure she would have insisted I say over night.”

“Damn right I would have.”

The Doctor nodded at me and then went over all the instructions that he had for Ben over the next few days. Someone must have tipped him off as to what happened because he also left instructions on a good herbal tea that could be made in gallons, as well as cups.

“That’s everything. The Nurse will see you outside to your car.”

“We didn’t arrive in one. I arrived with the Deputy, but I’ll call Miles. He’ll come get us.” I said as I pulled out my cell phone and hit number two on my speed dial.

Twenty minutes later, Miles showed in the Thunderbird and helped me get Ben in to the back seat. He didn’t say a word until we’d gotten on the highway leading to our subdivision.

“So? What’s the word, little bird?”

“No heavy work for the next few days, he’s to rest as much as possible.”

“I assume you’ll put off opening the shop back up then.”

“Nope. If I’m at home I’ll fret and worry and we’ll just make each other mad because I’ll fuss. So I’ll open the shop back up and go to work. There’s more than enough business I haven’t gotten to in the last few weeks to keep me busy.”

“I approve of this plan.” Ben said from the back seat.

I looked back at him in the back seat and smiled. “Mark is still on bereavement. He’ll watch you and make sure you don’t sneak out of the house. I’ll give orders to the house not to let you out too. You’re stuck”

“I take it back. I do not like this plan. At all.”

“Too bad. You’re going to follow the doctors instructions.”

Ben sighed.

“Face it, Ben. She’s right. No one knows how tired you’re going to be because you changed out of cycle.”

“Speaking of changes, I need to call the Sheriff in the morning. See if he knows anything new.”

“He called Ben’s phone before I left. He was checking in. There’s nothing new.”

I swore. Ben lips twitched because I used one of his favorites.

“First Max, now Ben. Who’s next? You?” I said to Miles.

He shrugged. “I don’t know, but it could be anyone in the town.”

“When they turn you in to the bobcat you are, I’m taking video of you chasing a laser pointer.”

Ben started laughing in the backseat and Miles stuck his tongue out at me as he pulled in to the driveway.

It was good to be home.

-Marlowe

Halloween, Part 3

I spent most of the day with Ben after Mark dropped off the blanket and things. He wouldn’t let me get up for longer than a few minutes it would take to go to the bathroom and come back. Even then, he was usually pacing the floor or twitching his tail nervously. It was late in the afternoon when the Sheriff arrived to check on us and by that time, I pretty much had it worked out that I was going to be stuck in the great hall for the night. Ben was showing no signs of changing back.

“Marlowe, I hate to ask you this..”

I took my attention away from my book and looked up at him standing at the gate. I sighed when I spotted the small army of officers behind him.

“Let me guess, you want to place him under 24 hour guard?”

He looked a little startled. “Um, no. You’ve already gotten him calmed down enough. He’ll be okay for the evening. What I want is permission to search the house.”

Ben growled and I placed a hand on his muzzle. He quieted down. “Why do you want to search the house?”

“The other dragon’s homes had hex bags. That’s what was causing them to change out of cycle.”

“So you think there’s one here?” I looked up at Ben, who nodded. “Okay. Be my guest. You just can’t come in here.”

The Sheriff nodded. “I understand. We’ll search the rest of the house first. If we don’t find it there, it’ll have to be that room.”

“Then I’ll have to search for it because he won’t let you come in here. He wouldn’t even let Mark bring me lunch. He’s scared, Eric.”

The Sheriff sighed. “Okay. Search the room. If you find it, burn it right away.”

I nodded and got up out of the nest I’d made in between Ben’s front legs. He rumbled in his chest, so I patted his muzzle.

“Now Ben, I need to find it so you’ll turn back. You can’t stay like this forever. I was kind of hoping we could finish what we started this morning.”

He huffed out a breath that smelled of sulfur and nuzzled my midsection gently. I smiled and scratched his chin.

“Help me search? Will you pick up the heavy furniture?”

Ben nodded and picked up the couch so I could examine underneath. No hex bag. It was the same for every place that I looked in the hall. Even with Ben’s help and lifting me to the high places to look, there was no hex bag to be found anywhere.

“No bag, Eric. Anywhere. Ben and I looked” I said when I saw the Sheriff come back to the gate.

“Well that’s okay. It’s a big castle, we’ll find it.” He said, then he looked up at Ben. “Where was he when he first started to change?”

“The Master suite. Bedroom and bathroom.” I said, blushing a little.

The Sheriff didn’t say anything, just gestured for the deputies with him to go upstairs. Miles followed to show them the way.

“You two aren’t planning on children anytime soon, yes?”

The question for me came out of no where. I was confused at first, but then I realized why he was asking.

“No, we haven’t discussed it yet. Or marriage. The houses moved us in together this morning.” I said as Ben nuzzled my back. His other self knew I was worried.

The Sheriff sighed. “I’m glad you’re not miffed at me. You know why we keep the dragons under careful watch.”

“I know. If they’re not at home after the change where they can calm down, they end up like George.” When the Sheriff looked puzzled I gestured to Ben. “He explained what happened shortly after the scarecrow incident.”

Sheriff Stiers nodded. “Well, at least he told you what’s going on.” There was a smile on his face suddenly. “So when are you two getting married? There’s a pool going around that says it’ll be next year. I’m down for New Years Eve.”

I let out a startled laugh. “How much?”

“How much what?”

“How much is in the pot?”

The Sheriff scratched his chin. “Well, I’d say there’s around five grand in the pot right now. I’m in for a hundred.”

I smiled and made my way over to the chair where my bag ended up. Plucking the wallet from inside, I pulled out a fifty and handed it to the Sheriff, who looked at me funny.

“I know Ben. I’ve got fifty says he proposes on Thanksgiving.”

Sheriff Stiers looked from me to the fifty and grinned. “You’re going to say yes, aren’t you?”

“I dunno, I guess I’ll make that decision when he asks.”

“Not very helpful, are you?”

“You’ve already made your bet, moving the date based on insider information wouldn’t be professional, would it?” I said with a grin.

Before he could answer back, a shout came from upstairs. I tossed my wallet into my bag and trotted over to the gate. Ben made a keening noise so I didn’t step outside, but rather pulled the gate closed. Just in case. I watched Miles come running down the stairs wearing a pair of gloves and holding a bag.

“Where was it found?”

“Bathroom, just behind the towels.”

“How could someone have gotten it in there? with out us knowing?”

“Well, we’ll ask Ben if he’s had any unusual visitors lately after you burn this.” The Sheriff said as he passed me a pair of gloves. “Make sure Ben doesn’t set fire to it himself.”

I pulled on the latex gloves and took the bag from him, running over to the fireplace, I started a fire and threw the bag in to it as soon as the flames got high enough. I heard Ben growl from behind me, then start lashing his tail. For the first time since that morning, I was scared.

“Come here, Marlowe.” Miles called and I jogged over to the gates again.

Ben made another keening noise and I stopped just shy of the gates. Turning back to him, I watched Ben move very slowly and very deliberately in my direction. He looked like a wounded animal in need of help. I couldn’t leave him. I met him halfway and knelt down to put my face even with his as he laid down in the middle of the room. I scratched his chin and heard Miles and the Sheriff curse at me for staying.

“I’m not leaving, Eric. I’m staying here with him.”

“He’ll eat you.”

“No he won’t. He’s in too much pain.”

I watched Ben keep from the transformation and slowly his wings retracted in to his body. His eyes were glazed over. Now I understood why he always changed after falling asleep. No one would want to be awake for this torture. I rubbed my hands over his muzzle and head, singing his lullaby softly as he changed. Looking up at the clock that was still on the mantle over the fire-place, I marked time.

“Marlowe? How’s he doing?” The Sheriff asked me after a half hour had passed.

“Pain, that’s all he feels right now, but I can see his toes and fingers turning back now.” I rubbed Ben’s muzzle more, leaning my head down on to his.

I could see his chest collapsing inward so that it was more human shaped and flinched when he moaned deeply. Wiggling my fingers at the blanket I was wrapped in earlier, with my talent I forced it to come to me. The edges were stitched with gold thread and I wasn’t sure that it would work, but I was happy that it did. I can control most metals. They also talk to me, tell me stories and the lives of the people who’ve touched them. Right then I was profoundly grateful for my weird ass talent.

“Marlowe? I didn’t know that worked on blankets.”

“Gold thread on the edges.” I replied as I wrapped Ben’s lower half in the blanket.

“Oh, but aren’t those precious metals?”

“Still metal, Miles.” I didn’t bother saying anything else, Ben’s head and shoulders were beginning to turn back to their original form.

I had to close my eyes. Hearing it was bad enough, I didn’t need to see the bones in Ben’s face reshape themselves. After nearly two hours of changing, Ben was finally back to himself again. His head was in my lap and I rubbed my hands over his back and shoulders. He sighed and passed completely out.

“He’s out, Eric. You can come in now.” I heard the gate open behind me and the shuffling of feet.

“I need you to step back, Marlowe.”

I shook my head and stayed right where I was. I wasn’t leaving him. I heard the Sheriff sigh and motioned for the two EMTs that arrived while Ben was changing, to check him over.

“Sheep?” Miles said as he knelt next to me.

“Yeah, Wool?”

“I think you should let them take him to the hospital. You don’t know what damage could have been done to him because he changed outside the cycle.” Miles said as he put a hand on my shoulder.

I almost shrugged it off, but I could hear real concern in Mile’s voice. Before I could answer, Mark knelt next to me too and echoed Miles’s concern. I gave in. Anything to make sure Ben wasn’t harmed.

“Eric?” I said as I watched the EMTs take Ben out the door.

“Yeah, Marlowe?”

“I want you to find the bastard that did this to Ben. I want them to pay for hurting him. If you don’t, I will.”

Sheriff Stiers just nodded. There wasn’t much he could say that would calm me down. I was angrier than I’d been in my life. Not even when Timothy would hurt me was I this angry. I turned on my heel and stormed up the steps to shower and change before going to the hospital. I had to give myself enough time to calm down or other wise I’d freak out over seeing him on a hospital gurney. That wouldn’t do anyone any good.

I made my way back downstairs thirty minutes later to discover that the Sheriff had left a Deputy behind to take me to the hospital. I was grateful, because I was still too angry to drive.

-Marlowe

Halloween, Part 2

So Ben and I had gotten to the fun with the soap part of our shower when I noticed that his skin was starting to get a little, well, scaly on his back.

“Ben?”

“Yes, Lowe?”

“You have scales. Yellow ones.”

“You sure? It’s the wrong time of the month for my scales.”

I ran my hand over his back and felt the scales forming. “Oh yeah, these are scales.”

Ben swore. “I never shift out of cycle, what the hell Marlowe?”

“I don’t know, but your tail is showing.” I watched as it grew out of the base of his spine. My eyes widened when it turned green.

Ben was swearing as he shut the taps off. I stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel and dried off as fast as I could. I was wrapping my towel around myself when Ben stared out of the bathroom, naked and tail wagging. I pushed my thumbs in to the upper corners of my eyes because I could feel a headache forming as I ran to the closet and pulled on clothes as fast as I could. I ran out of the closet in jeans and a vintage concert t-shirt that my father had been to before I was born. I took the steps down two at a time and ran by Miles who was standing in the hallway, stunned.

“Was he-?”

“Yes!” I shouted over my shoulder.

Miles ran after me. “He was naked. I saw everything. No wonder you’re so happy.”

I snorted. Miles missed the tail, figures. “You missed the tail.”

“No, I did not, but I’ve been dying to see that man in his natural state for years and he just ran by me.”

I laughed. “Mine. No touchy.”

“Like I could get him interested in me.”

We made it to the great hall and found a half-formed Ben on the floor.

“He’s not going to make it to the dungeon. He’s too big to fit down the steps now.” I panicked a little and looked around the great hall for something to keep him locked in the hall.

“Marlowe, ask the house for gates.”

“What?”

“Ask the house for gates! Hurry! He’s almost done and he’s grumpy when he’s fresh from the change before he can gain control of his other form.”

I would have done anything for Ben at the moment. I looked over at him, never taking my eyes off of him. “I need gates on the great hall to keep him in there, please.”

The house shuddered and bucked under my feet. I took my eyes off Ben for a minute and watched the gates form along the inside and the outside walls, over the glass. A small, human sized gate that I didn’t asked for appeared in the main doorway.

“Thank you.” I said and felt the house rumble under my feet in appreciation.

“Hmmm.. the houses really like you.”

“They’d better, after the mess they’ve made combining themselves together this morning.” I said as I moved to the gate to watch Ben.

He was shaking his head, using one paw to scratch at something on his face. I couldn’t see anything but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t there. I was tempted to call out to him, to see if he was okay, but I held back. I wasn’t sure how he’d react. I couldn’t watch him anymore and stand there helpless. I turned and searched for my bag that I remembered tossing at the base of the steps before I went upstairs to my bedroom the evening before. I could only hope that the houses left it where I put it when they combined.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for my purse. I need my cell. Gotta call the Sheriff. This isn’t normal.”

“Oh. I saw it on the chair in the hall.”

I let my head rest on the wall in front of me and sighed. “Which hall?”

Miles shifted his feet. “Uh, the great hall?”

I hit my forehead against the wall gently. This was not going well. I heard Ben roar in the great hall and remembered his cell phone is always on the kitchen counter and took off running through the maze of hallways to the kitchen. I mentally cursed the fact that there was no land line in the castle. I entered the kitchen and groaned at the mess I saw. The house had tried to combine her Gothic cottage with his hardwood castle. Paint was everywhere on the walls like someone had thrown water balloons at the walls to paint instead of using a brush. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, reminding myself why I was there. I was there for Ben’s phone.

“Where are you, little thing?” I said to myself as I searched for it on the counters. They were piled with stuff from both kitchens and I finally found it under a bag of rice in the pantry. I dialed the Sheriff’s line and waited until he picked up.

“Marlowe? Is this important because I have a mess on my hands.”

“Ben changed out of cycle. He’s one unhappy dragon. Do you still have the tranquilizers?”

I heard the Sheriff sigh on the other end of the line. “Damn it, he’s the fifth one today. All the dragons were forced to change. Did you manage to keep him in the house?”

“The house helped me lock in him the great hall. Bars on all the windows.”

“Good. Keep him there. I can’t get there because Violet changed and she was outside with her children, at Milton’s Market. We can’t find her.”

“Okay. I’ll do my best.”

“Marlowe?”

“Yes, Sheriff?”

“Sing to him. He likes that damn lullaby from Lady and the Tramp.”

I was startled for a second and blurted out the first song that came in to my head. “La La Lu?”

The Sheriff laughed. “Yeah, that’s the one. Damnedest thing, too. When we figured it out it startled the hell out of all of us. Miss Maggie started singing it to him.”

“Okay. I’ll try it. Thanks Sheriff.”

“You’re welcome, Marlowe. Bye.”

I bid him goodbye and rang off the line. I tucked the phone into my back pocket and jogged down the hallway. I met Miles who was standing at the gate and clinching his fists.

“That stupid dragon just ate my 200-year old footstool!”

I smacked the back of his head. “Watch it. That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about.”

“Well I hope you plan on replacing that ottoman.”

“Nope, sure don’t.” I said as I pushed past him and walked up to the gate. I started singing the song the Sheriff suggested and the damned dragon that was my boyfriend threw a chair at the bars. Annoyed, I kept singing softly.

“Is that going to work?” Miles whispered as Ben threw more furniture.

“The Sheriff said it would.” I replied and went back to singing. On the ninth round through the song, Ben finally settled down and was nodding his head along with the song.

“That’s the freakiest thing I’ve seen.”

“You live in Blueville, I know that’s a lie.” I said as I opened the gate and walked in to the room. Now that I knew he was calm, I wasn’t going to worry about him eating me.

“Marlowe, you’re going to catch death if you go in there.”

“I already know him like a friend. We’ll have tea.” I shot back as I walked over to Ben. He picked up his head and made rumbling  noises at me. I assumed that he was happy to see me. It was confirmed when Ben picked me up and tucked me in between his front legs again. I reached up and scratched his chin after I settled in and made myself comfortable.

“I take it back. That’s the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Lie. You live in Blueville.” Mark said as he came down the steps and walked over to where Miles was standing at the gate. “When did that happen?”

“About an hour ago.”

“And the house?”

“Last night. You slept like the dead.” Miles tossed off the joke without realizing it, but I heard it and sucked in a breath.

I looked from Miles to Mark and watched carefully as Mark felt the words hit him and then something weird happened- he smiled.

“I was tired. I spent time over at my place yesterday. I guess it wore on me harder that I expected.”

I let out the breath that I had sucked in and Ben made what sounded like a comforting noise. I went back to scratching his chin.

“Marlowe? Do I have a safe place if I change like he did?” Mark asked as he looked over Ben. I could see the worry on his face.

“Yeah, the dungeon in the basement has a damn good sturdy door. I don’t think you will change though. It seems to be affecting only dragons.” I said as I scratched Ben. I looked over at Mark. “The Sheriff told me when I called to report Ben’s change. I figured he would know what to do.”

“Good idea. I feel better though, knowing I won’t change though.” Mark said as he watched us from the gate. “Are you going to be comfortable there?”

“I could use a pillow, blanket and maybe the book from my bedside table.”

Mark nodded and trotted off to get the things. Miles stayed behind and looked over at me.

“So, is this how you crazy kids do the whole romance thing now?”

I threw a pillow at him.

-Marlowe

Waxing Gibbous

So after I ran out of the house after Winston, I realized just how much of a dumbass I could be.

I might have actually said out loud, “Stupid! This is like the first five minutes of those TV shows you watch or the beginning of every horror movie!”

Stupid might have been my mantra as I was running for safety.

By that point I was in front of Ben’s place and Winston had caught on that I was following him and stopped chasing Miles in favor of chasing after me. He seemed to think it was great fun. It was not fun for me and so I took off for Ben’s place, hoping I could get inside before Winston caught up with me. I know he still thinks it’s a game, but he’s a very big, whatever he is, during the full moon.  I manged to make it inside after losing part of the other intact pant leg.

after throwing the bolt on Ben’s front door and slamming the bar down to hold it in place, I found the nearest chair to sit and take a breather. It was in a corner, so I figured I was okay there for a few minutes.  I heard the low, keening noises coming from the basement dungeons then. I’d missed them over my breathlessness, but I stayed right where I was. I was unsure if going down there was going to end my life or not and I liked my life right now.

I sat in that chair for what felt like an hour before giving in to my curiosity. Don’t yell at me, I already know I was being stupid for the second time. Grabbing a short sword from a wall display of them I found the door to the dungeons and descended downward.

Of course the staircase was a spiral and of course I couldn’t see around the corner, so I spent the whole trip down thinking that I was going to die at the bottom of the stairs. When it came to a door with nothing at the bottom of the stairs, I let out a little sigh. The keening stopped then and a large, scaly green nose poked itself to where the bars were on the door. It was sniffing the air and apparently, it liked what it smelled because it started scratching at the door and keening wildly then. I scrambled back up the stairs and only made it around the corner before the low wail started. That’s when I remembered, the nose on the other side of the door was Ben. Cursing, I ran back down the steps and opened the door. In the back of my mind, I was really hoping that I hadn’t just made a big mistake.

I had no time to think about closing the door though, because Ben reached in an grabbed me with a large, green paw that was attached to very large claws. The scream I was about to unleash died when I got a really good look at just what Ben turned in to.

He was a dragon. A very large dragon.

At that point a nasty thought ran through my head, that he could be the one responsible for the egg in my fireplace. It didn’t make me feel very good and my heart sank in to my stomach.

Ben made a low, contented rumble in his throat and knocked me out of my thoughts, as he walked us back over to where there was a rather large nest. He curled in to it with me and set me down between his front legs. before I could get up or even make myself comfortable, there was a blanket handed to me and Ben curled around me. He dropped his head on his fore-paws and closed his eyes, letting out a huff of breath that smelled faintly of sulfur.

“Shit.” I muttered under my breath as I watched his breathing even out. He was a asleep with in minutes of settling down with me.

With no other options left to me, I sighed and wiggled until I was mostly comfortable laying on one of his arms and tucked the blanket around myself. It took me awhile to fall asleep, but I promised myself that on the next full moon, I’d be bringing a book. Now that I knew he wouldn’t kill me, this was a much better way to spend my late night than trying to deal with my weird ass dog.

I woke up the next morning with a very human Ben wrapped around me and something very hard and insistent poking my back. I snickered. I couldn’t help it, it was like the opening to every bad romantic scene in a fantasy story. Girl makes dumb decision to go see changed boyfriend. Girl finds changed boyfriend, who doesn’t want to kill her, but instead snuggles with her. Girl wakes up to very human boyfriend with a bad case of the morning blues. Usually, sex happens at that point.

I admit, the choice to come down here was pretty dumb, but at least I understood why he locked himself in the dungeon. I pulled the blanket off myself and tucked in Ben. I was no fantasy story heroine. This was one monster who was going to bathe before I’d take him upstairs. He stank of sulfur and brimstone. I had made it to the edge of the nest when I heard Ben shift in his sleep. Praying that he hadn’t woken up, I looked over my shoulder to find him staring at me, mouth slack-jawed.

“Don’t say it. Just don’t. I already know it was stupid to come down here.”

Ben blushed. “I was actually going to ask if I made any um, advances toward you.”

“Well, you snuggled me.” Ben looked relieved. This made me curious. “Why? What does your other self usually do?”

Ben blushed harder. “The last time I had a girlfriend my other self proposed. She dumped me the next day, saying that it was way too weird to have a dragon ask her to marry him while putting a flower crown on her head.”

I was stunned for a few seconds before I started laughing. “Well, your other self must have learned something from that because he only snuggled me.”

“Well, at least he learned something.” Ben said as he got up and threw the blanket over his shoulder as he crawled to the edge of the nest where I was.

When he got there, he pulled me and kissed me. When we parted, he nuzzled my neck. “You have entirely too many clothes on and I need to shower. Want to join me?”

“I was already thinking I needed to bathe. I probably smell.”

Ben sniffed my neck and laughed. “Yeah, like home.”

Before I could respond to that, he slipped over the side of the nest and tugged me after him. Scooping me up, he took me upstairs. It was about mid-afternoon before I got around to telling him about Winston and Mark.

We shouldn’t have worried though. Mark was still sound asleep when we got down to open up the basement. There were claw marks over everything though. Winston was pretty easy to find too. He came strolling out of the forest looking pleased with himself at dusk. I don’t know what he rolled in, but it stank and it took both of us three hours to get him smelling like a dog again.

He was very unhappy with us and slunk off to hide under the dining room table after we’d released from the bathroom. By the time night fell and the snow had started again, my window had been boarded up, I was curled up in bed with Ben over at his place and Mark was awake and eating everything in my kitchen before we left.

We’ve been giving him more space lately. He says he’s not ready to live by himself yet, so we’re waiting. It’s only been a week or two. Things like this take time and Ben and I have two homes we can split our time between, so it’s not really that big of a deal. For now at least, we’re all pretty content with the arrangement.

-Marlowe

Blizzard

The blizzard rolled in to town a couple of days ago, so everything got put on hold. I’ll be frank, I did not enjoy the boredom of being stuck inside the house for the last couple of days. Especially not with a house full of people and the emotions that were flowing through the house.

The good news is that with all the people in the house, it decided to open up more rooms Thursday night. As it stands now, instead of my small two bedroom cottage, I have five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a new office in the fully converted attic with its own widow’s walk, a full library (with books, don’t ask me how that happened, I don’t know), and a much bigger kitchen with attached dining room. All of this is now packed in to four floors.

All of this has made me re-think the idea of having someone come in and clean the whole place, top to bottom, at least once every two weeks. That’s a lot of room for me. Well, I guess it’s not just me now. Mark has agreed to move in for a while, just until he’s gotten his feet back under him after last weekend. I’m a little afraid of him being alone right now. He loved Max so much and they were so happy together.

He spends most of his days up in his new rooms, writing in that journal of his. I’m giving him his space for now. He goes back to work on Monday though. I can’t imagine what that’s going to be like for him. He’s a CPA and his office faced Max’s, who was a real estate attorney on the same floor. I have a feeling he’s going to take Gibbs with him for support. I can’t imagine anyone is going to tell me he can’t have his puppy with him.

The Sheriff came and took Mark to identify Max’s body at the morgue now that the blizzard is over and the roads have cleared. He came back looking pretty destroyed. The part of me that was never really around relatives when something like this happens means that I don’t know how to really handle it when it happens to family I do care about. Normally I was the family member that was notified the night before the funeral and wasn’t really expected to show up. Anyway, Mark went straight up to his rooms after grabbing a bottle from my cabinet and I didn’t bother to stop him. The last week has shown me just how unprepared I would be if Ben or Miles ever died. I think that’s why I want Mark close by for now.

Ben showed up shortly before dark with the dogs in tow. They were all covered in snow which meant that Ben had outside appointments. After clean up and filling Ben in on what happened, he managed to coax Mark out of his rooms to watch the football games in the living room. I went up to my office until Ben came up to tell me that Mark had gone to bed early. We went out to dinner instead of staying home. Don’t worry, we made sure to bring home food for Mark. Grandmama Murphy wouldn’t have let us forget him. Though, she did send home enough to feed an army. I’m pretty sure that woman knows more than she’s letting on about things. Even after we filled her in on Mark, she just nodded and advised us to keep doing what we’ve been doing for now. She also reminded us not to over crowd him. Which won’t be a problem. Ben and I have been trying our best not to try to force him to spend time with us.

After bidding Grandmama Murphy goodbye, Ben and I went home. We separated in my driveway, him to his house and me to mine. It’s been six months since I moved to Blueville. I’m still finding this town weird. Why? Because when I turned back to wave to Ben, I caught sight of George who was flying over head. I still have her egg in my fireplace, which did not make me feel comfortable with her flying so close over head. Ben keeps assuring me that she gave the egg freely as a gift and that there are no repercussions from accepting the egg and keeping it safe in the fireplace.

I’m not entirely convinced though and I don’t think that I’m going to sleep very well tonight.

-Marlowe

It’s Over

Ben came in with the news tonight as I was sitting on the kitchen table, trying to avoid the puppy-vs-dog play battle that was going on underneath said table. He got one look at me and laughed.

The rat.

It’s his fault I have two dogs and a dragon egg in my fireplace. He separated the two combatants, dumping Gibbs in Mark’s lap as he was watching some movie on the TV. Winston immediately sighed and went off to find a place to nap.

“You know, it’s not good for him to play so much that you’ve retreated to the top of the kitchen table.”

“I’m up here because they’ve spilled my beer four times and I’m trying to balance my books for the shop.”

Ben leaned in and stole a kiss before I remembered that I was mad at him for the puppy.

“Gibbs ate your tie, by the way. The red one that we used on Friday night.” I said as I watched him take off his coat.

Ben groaned and I got a little satisfaction from the noise. After all, it was his favorite tie.

“How much did he eat?”

“Enough to have me feeding him pumpkin.”

Ben dropped his head to the door frame he was standing in and tapped it lightly over and over again. I couldn’t help it, I laughed. That made him scowl at me.

“You find this funny do you?”

“I find this about as funny as you do. Especially since he ate my only good pair of white heels yesterday night, while we were all asleep.” I put the laptop I was working on down and tugged Ben over to me by his blue tie. “Looks like I’ll have to go buy another pair. Wanna go shopping with me when all this mess dies down?”

Ben leaned and kissed me, before murmuring in my ear, “only if you wear the skirt.”

“I think I can do that.”

“Oh please, why don’t the two of you just get a room already?” Miles said as he walked in to the room. Mark followed.

“They do, we’re invading it.” Mark said.

Miles rolled his eyes. “You’re not helping.”

Mark just shrugged.

“What are you doing here, Miles?”

“The word around town is that Ben here saw the finale to the ritual as he was checking on George.”

“Who’s George?” I asked.

“The dragon behind camp ground. The locals named him George last year.” Ben said as he tugged me off the kitchen table and plopped us both into one of the chairs.

“Oh. I thought it was a she?”

“She is a she. Her name is George.” Mark said, sitting at the table.

“Anyway, yes I did see the end. They were leaving as the worst of the storm hit. The Priestess looked a little worse for wear and the Sheriff had all available ambulances there for the survivors.”

“Max?” “Mark asked quietly.

Ben shook his head. “I didn’t see him walk out, but the Sheriff said he’d be calling the survivor’s families as soon as they’d been checked out.”

“Do we know who did this yet?” Miles asked.

Apparently his little network was failing him.

“Not that the Sheriff is saying.” Ben said.

Before I could ask a question, Marks phone rang from where it was on the side table. I watched Mark lunge for it and held my breath as he answered. He walked to the windows at the front of the living room. We could barely hear anything from the kitchen. I reached for Ben’s hand and gripped it tight as we waited. When Miles reached for my other hand, I gladly obliged and gripped his hand tightly.

Mark finally hung the phone up and turned back to us. His eyes were filled with tears and grief and my heart shattered for him. I was so hoping that he would survive this and come home. I pushed myself out of Ben’s lap and walked over to Mark, wrapping him tightly in a hug.

“He’s gone.” Mark whispered.

I couldn’t say anything, I just held on as he started crying. I started to cry too and when I looked over, I saw that Ben and Miles were both crying as well. We’d lost a friend, but that was nothing compared to what Mark had lost and there’s nothing that we could have said or done to make it better.

“You’ll stay here.” I murmured to Mark. “Stay here until you’re ready to go back home.”

Mark nodded and kissed my temple.

It’s funny, friends can mean more than family when they care for you like family.

-Marlowe.