He saw Laura sitting on the couch, then tossed the shopping bag onto her lap. “Picked you up a new jacket.” Michaels headed toward the kitchen, then grabbed a soda out of the fridge.
Laura took the jacket out of the bag, then made a squealing sound before trying it on. The jacket was hooded, with straps in the front and a sort of corset tie in the back. Erilon assured him it was very fashionable at the moment. “Oh my god, I love it!” She spun around, making the tails of the jacket swirl out like a skirt. Then she came to a stop, and started shifting nervously.
“Laura?” Michaels raised an eyebrow. “Something wrong.”
“No.” Her voice was soft, then she brightened a little. “Oh, Diana called. She said if you don’t mind, she’s free this weekend. I told her to drop on by.”
It was possible having his reporter girlfriend over right now wasn’t the best possible idea, but then again, he didn’t get to spend anywhere near as much time with her as he liked. Plus Laura still needed a couple things for the trip and she and Diana loved going shopping together. “I’ll pick up some wine.” When Laura didn’t respond, he looked up at her again. “Laura…”
“Michaels I…” She swallowed. “Okay, this is weird and it’s weird but I want to try something, okay, just to…” She took a deep breath. “Can I try something? I just want to see, okay, if…” She trailed off again.
“Okay.” Michaels slowly nodded. He shrugged. “What is it you want to —”
“I like the coat.” She took a deep breath, then looked up at him. “Thanks, Dad.”
The drink fell out of his hand. They’d done the formal adoption to ease the process of getting her into the university, but… “Laura…” His throat wouldn’t quite let him form any more words.
“It’s okay, right?” She stared at him, blinking back tears. “Cause it felt good but I…” She wiped at her eyes. “It’s okay, right?”
“Yeah.” He spread his arms, then grunted as she threw herself into them for a hug. “Yeah, it’s okay.” He hugged her tightly until he felt her breathing go back to normal. “You know this means I get to break out the no daughter of mine is leaving the house dressed like —” He grunted when he felt her fist lightly connect with his ribs.
“Fine, but I’m breaking out the ‘you’re old’ card.” She grinned up at him.
“You mean more than you already do?” He tugged one of her braids.
“Thanks for the coat, Dad.” She went up on her toes kiss his cheek, then grabbed the bag and headed toward her room.
Michaels swallowed, then went into the next room to grab a towel for the spilled drink. He saw Gabriel entering. Gabriel blinked at him, then raised an eyebrow. Michaels swallowed again, then wiped at his eyes. “Laura called me ‘Dad’.”
Gabriel’s face broke into a wide smile.
Matthias entered to find an unfamiliar woman sitting at Ted’s kitchen table, talking with Laura. She was lovely, dressed in a sharp and flattering suit with a gorgeous scarf. It clicked a moment later. Michaels had mentioned his girlfriend would be in down. “Diana?” He raised an eyebrow at Laura.
“Diana Valerio, investigative reporter.” Laura nodded. “Diana, this is Matthias. Matthias, this is Diana.”
“Nice to meet you.” He inclined his head.
“Can I see?” She leaned forward, grinning up at him.
“Uh…” He blinked.
“The wolf thing.” She smiled. “Can I see it?”
“Wait…” He turned to stare at Laura. “Didn’t you say she’s a reporter?”
“She knew who you were the moment she learned your name, we didn’t tell her.” Laura laughed.
“I…” Diana raised her chin. “Am a very good investigative reporter.” She took a drink, then giggled. “Though I’ve been unable to undercover the true identities of those dashing local superheros, the Crimson Crusaders.”
“I know.” Laura snickered. “Who was that masked man you were making out with on the patio last night?”
“Alas, we may never uncover this mystery…” Diana put a hand over her heart and made a swooning gesture before taking another drink.
“Right…” He slowly nodded.
“So…” She set her drink back down. “Can I see it?”
“I, uh…” He shrugged. “Yeah, but you’re going to have to come into the living room.”
“Why?” She stood up.
“The ceiling in here isn’t tall enough.” Laura stood to follow.
Diana turned toward Laura. “Seriously?”
“See how big he is as a human?” Laura gestured at him. “Werewolves keep proportion to their human size.”
“It doesn’t quite work that way, mostly.” Matthias chuckled. “I’m —”
“An alpha.” Diana nodded. When he raised an eyebrow at her again, she chuckled. “Once Michaels realized I already knew, he filled in some of the details.” She took a deep breath, then nodded. “Okay. And I promise I have no recording devices.”
“Right.” He shifted, letting the were form take over his body. Diana’s eyes immediately went wide, and she broke into a huge grin before grabbing his arm. “What…”
“It really does feel like wolf fur…” She held his arm toward Laura, who reached her own hand out to pet him. Then Diana petted him again. It was a little disconcerting. “Can you see in the dark? What’s your sense of smell like?” She leaned forward to sniff at him. “You even smell canine, wow.”
“Uh…” Matthias looked over his shoulder to see Daniel and Michaels entering. Daniel snickered. “Should I be concerned about this?”
“Oh, and check out the claws…” Diana actually grabbed hold of his fingers to get a closer look. “They are more like a bear than a wolf.”
“Michaels, your girlfriend is creeping me out a little.” Matthias sighed, then resumed his human form. Diana actually made a disappointed sound. “How much does she know?”
“She may actually know more than we do.” Michaels shrugged.
“But I can’t tell you…” Diana nodded up at him. “Or a dragon might eat me.”
“I’ve been looking into the Cabal for a while now…” Diana looked over the notes Stephan had given her. “But there is a lot of overlap here.”
“We’ve a few more names now.” Stephan was going over the notes she’d given him, comparing them to what he had.
“Alright.” She exhaled. “I really wish I could justify going with you, but let me know what you need put in the press. With a bit of luck, I can get it to go viral.”
“Odds are they’ll dismiss whatever you publish as a hoax.” Magda shook her head.
“Well, yeah, if I play the supernatural angle.” Diana chuckled. “But the money laundering and politician buying? That I can totally work with.”
“The Cabal will take it down. They’ve got press people of their own.” Father Williams sighed.
“It’s a new world, Padre.” She chuckled, then took a deep breath. If it was important enough, she could get in touch with a couple of her contacts. She wasn’t entirely sure how much control Tobias and Zeke had over the Internet, but they’d already proved they could manipulate it with a fair amount of ease. And fucking over corrupt politicians was right up their alley. “And don’t worry. I’ll keep you out of the story.”
“Fairly sure that particular ship has sailed. However, the Cabal seems reluctant to return to this town.” Father Williams sat down.
“Well, they did get their asses royally handed to them last time they were here.” Laura chuckled, then her face became serious. “But you can cover for him, right?”
“Yeah.” Diana nodded. “I’ve already laid the groundwork. Adam’s information came to you via me.”
“Won’t that put you in danger?” Magda frowned.
“I’m…” She touched the scarf, then shrugged. “Owed a favor. Since I’m not a direct threat, that should be enough to keep me out of the line of fire.”
“Doesn’t mean we aren’t going to worry.” Michaels put an arm around her.
She leaned into him. “Once they are blown, any attempts at cleanup will just legitimize the press against them. You all do your jobs right…” She smiled, then kissed his cheek. “They won’t dare go after me.”
“Darle-vouz English?” Magda stared at Laura. Laura blinked. “I did it wrong, didn’t I?” Magda slowly nodded. “Ugh.”
“On the bright side, pretty much everyone we interact with will speak English, so…” Michaels shrugged. “The fact that I flunked my high school French class shouldn’t be too big an issue.”
“Matthias and Magda can do most of the talking.” Stephan was frowning at his bag, rummaging through it.
“Matthias is really only fluent in the type of French you shouldn’t speak in polite company.” Magda chuckled. “Abigail and Professor Kravitz are also both fluent in French, plus Erilon and Khait apparently have enough latent mind reading talent that they effectively speak all languages, so Erilon can translate in a pinch.” Magda set the suitcase into the truck. “Abigail, Bridget, and Khait are at the site.”
“Already?” Michaels blinked.
“Well, they uh…” Magda shrugged. “Apparently Khait can stamp passports.”
“I can too.”
“So…” Michaels shook his head. “Why are we bothering with the ship?”
“Because we are traveling with the students, and trying not to raise suspicion.” Magda rolled her eyes at him.
“Alright.” Daniel shut the back of the truck. “I think we’ve got everything.”
She followed his gaze up to where Sister Doris and Anna were on Ted’s patio. Sister Margaret was over by the other truck, fussing over a bemused Matthias and trying to fit still more food in the cooler. Gabriel and Ted had apparently gone to have a private goodbye, and Ash was sitting on the dock, enjoying his last chance to fish for some time. She reached over and rubbed Daniel’s shoulder. “All set?”
“Yeah, just need to say goodbye to Anna.”
Ted held Gabriel close, kissing him. “I should have got you a ring.”
“I don’t need a ring, Ted.” Gabriel touched the side of his face.
“Just something to let the world know you are mine.” Ted chuckled.
“I think the bite mark you left on my ass does a good job.” Gabriel smiled at him. “I’m only a phone call away.” He kissed Ted again. “You know Aunt Margaret is going to make a lot of high pitched noises when we tell her.”
“Just sort of hoping your uncle doesn’t turn me into an ice cube for not telling him first.” Ted sighed. “I’m going to miss you, Gabriel.” He swallowed. “Come back to me.”
“Always.” Gabriel touched his forehead to Ted’s.
“One more word, and I will drive this truck off the first cliff I come to.” Michaels gritted his teeth.
“Normally that’s my line.” Matthias shrugged.
“I think they are criticizing our singing.” Laura glanced at Daniel.
Daniel grinned back. “Maybe we are just singing the wrong song.”
“We could do the Time Warp again.” Laura shrugged.
“Can I change places with one of you at the next stop?” Gabriel spoke up from where he was sitting between Daniel and Laura.
“No.” Matthias and Michaels responded simultaneously. After a moment, Michaels amended the statement by adding the word, “sorry.”
“But you do have the best chance at survival.” Matthias started looking for his noise canceling headphones before remembering he’d packed them in his carry-on. “Just four more hours.”
“Oh, I know…” Laura sat up straighter, then started belting out the tune from Grease. “I got chills, they’re multiplying, and I’m losing control…”
“Daniel, I swear if you start in I will delete every single episode of My Little Pony off your laptop.” Matthias gritted his teeth.
“…Cause the power, you’re supplying…” Laura glanced at Daniel, who winced and gave her an apologetic look. She glared. “It’s electrifying.” Daniel winced again.
“Better shape up…” Gabriel shrugged. “Cause I need a man.” Laura started giggling as Gabriel continued singing the Olivia Newton John portion. When the two men in the front seat turned to glare at him, Gabriel just raised his voice and sang louder. “And my heart is set on you…”
Daniel smiled at the man waiting near the storage container. “You must be Professor Kravitz.”
“Red hair.” The man nodded. “You must be a Weasley.”
He laughed. “Daniel McNamara.” He gestured at Matthias. “This is Matthias, the leader of your new security team.”
A student near the professor had her eyes go wide. “He is the security team.”
“Run along, Olivia. Double check that everyone has their passports.” The professor turned back toward them after the young woman headed off, then smiled. “Laura.” He nodded. “Gabriel, good to see you again.”
“The others are about fifteen minutes behind us, Professor.” Laura gestured. “Gabriel and Matthias can get everything loaded while we are waiting for them.”
“I, uh…” Professor Kravitz shrugged. “Don’t doubt that.” He exhaled. “Bridget called just a short time ago. Everything at the site looks to be in good order, so there shouldn’t be any actual security needs to distract you.” He turned back toward Daniel. “Laura mentioned you were a paramedic?”
“Yes.” Daniel nodded. “But, uh, I’m also a healer.”
“I’m not certain I understand the distinction.” The professor raised an eyebrow.
“He’s a witch, professor. He is capable of healing anything short of death with a touch, using magic.”
“Oh my very dears you…” The professor started smiling. “You know, there is the possibility someone like you may have been the basis for some of the mythology surrounding Avalon?”
“Really?” Daniel blinked.
“Indeed. Since learning of the existence of actual magic I’ve been going through so many of the old myths and legends. And Khait has been very helpful in that regard.” Professor Kravitz leaned forward. “Isis is actually a dragon, as are several other mythological figures including none other than Merlin, which suggests King Arthur may have actually existed and waits to be reborn in the time of need.”
“That’s…” Daniel trailed off. He tilted his head, then slowly nodded. “That’s actually kinda cool. I mean, we already met one dragon who was a figure in Japanese mythology, and who knows how many other stories got influenced.” He tilted his head the other way. “Hey Erilon, are you in any myths?”
“I don’t —”
“Khait said Erilon gave rise to quite a few figures of Celtic mythos, those that weren’t in fact actually fey.” Professor Kravitz started nodding. “And suggested she may have influenced some of the stories regarding the Delphic oracles.”
“Khait doesn’t know how to shut up.” Erilon made a grumbling noise. “He’s not here, is he?”
“No, he is with Bridget and Abigail in France.” The professor shook his head.
“Good. I want to minimize his access to my people.”
“Do you have an actual reason for that, or is it just because you think he’s a big doodoo head?” Daniel snickered.
“Khait has proved himself to be irresponsible regarding witches in the past, getting several killed in the Inquisition as he manipulated them for his own doings, and you are vulnerable to his machinations.” Erilon made a growling sound. “I am trying to protect you. All of you. I only allowed Matthias near him because a single werewolf provides minimal temptation, and Michaels was there to provide me a stepping point. I prefer if Khait keeps far away from mine.”
“I…” Daniel swallowed. “Oh.”
“Well…” Professor Kravitz slowly nodded. “Bridget and Abigail are aware of your concerns, and will keep him contained.