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

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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 ┬ánoises 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