“Well?” Abigail looked across the bed Khait was laying in. “Can you…?”
“This magic…” Lykos was examining the sword hilt. “Not sure want to try.”
“Lykos.” Abigail reached down to put her hand on Khait’s.
“He can touch without it hurting.” Lykos set the hilt back down on Khait’s chest. “Is talisman but not talisman. Not like other one.” He lowered his head, staring at the hilt. “Wait for him wake up. See what Khait say.”
She nodded, then took Khait’s hand again. The strange woman, Anra, had treated is wounds before saying to let him rest. Some of his life force had dissipated before Daniel had gotten to him, and he would need time to recover. Abigail had asked if another orgy was needed, and Anra had assured her time would be sufficient. Somewhat to the dismay of Daniel and Coraline, Anra had then departed for whereabouts unknown. Abigail bent, and kissed Khait’s forehead. “You better be alright.”
Magda heard a shout of glee and turned to look. A moment later, a gorilla bounded through the room, Coraline clinging to its back. It leaped off the balcony, grabbed the chandelier to swing across to the other side, then shifted into a zebra before galloping down the hallway. Coraline was laughing as she urged her steed to go faster. “So…” She looked over at a laughing Lidia. “I take it Coraline has learned what Adam’s magic is?”
“She was very disappointed to learn he can’t do a triceratops.” Lidia nodded. She shrugged. “I admit to agreeing with her just a little on that front.” When Magda raised an eyebrow, Lidia waved a hand. “He has to have studied an accurate representation before he can take the form, or…” Her face darkened. “Have somebody familiar with the form force him into it the first time.” Her eyes narrowed. “He didn’t say outright, but I think that is an unpleasant process for him.”
“Not only can Stephan not do anything like that to him…” She put a hand on Lidia’s shoulder. “He wouldn’t even if he could. He’s a good man.”
“I…” Lidia took a slightly ragged breath. “I want to thank you all, for…” She wiped at her eyes. “For…” She shook her head before looking up at Magda. “You said Matthias was the only child you had left.”
“My…” She nodded. “My other children did not inherit the wolf. They were human and…” Magda looked away. “They’ve been gone a long time.”
“James has been gone almost four years and…” Lidia reached out to her, pulling Magda into a hug. “Sometimes it seems a lifetime, and sometimes it seems just yesterday I was handing him the keys to…” Magda returned the hug. “We aren’t supposed to outlive our children.”
Sean was opening the car door before the vehicle had even stopped moving. Stasya was only a half-heartbeat behind him. Michaels put it in park, then opened his own door. They were already at the base of the stairs before he and Matthias caught up with them. “Hey…” Michael put a hand on Sean’s shoulder, then pointed at the door on the other side of the house. “That way.”
“Sorry, I…” Sean started moving.
“We…” Stasya followed. “Sorry, it’s…”
“Nah.” Michaels kept pace with him. “I get it. We —”
There was a thudding sound, and Matthias yanked both of them back as an elephant of all things charged down the path, Coraline on its back. The elephant skidded to a halt, nearly sending the girl tumbling off. Then it slowly turned. It shifted, resuming human form. Adam let Coraline slide to the ground as he stared at them. “Dad?” His eyes flicked to Stasya. “Mama Bear?
“Oh, god.” Sean rushed forward, pulling both Adam and Coraline into a hug.
“Baby Bear.” Stasya choked a little, then wiped at her eyes. Adam reached a hand to her, and she moved forward to join the group hug.
“Fuck.” Matthias started shaking his head as he watched the scene.
“Yeah…” Michaels brushed a hand over his own face. “I think somebody’s chopping onions or something.”
Adele dodged just as the ostrich running toward her tried to skid to a halt. It stumbled and shifted form. Adam and Coraline landed in a heap on the rug, laughing. Coraline looked up at her, a wide grin on her face. “Ostriches corner better than hippos, but they can’t stop worth a damn.”
“Good to know.” Adele nodded.
“Coraline…” Jim stood. “May I have a word with your brother?”
“Sure.” Coraline climbed to her feet.
Jim met Adele’s eyes and gave her a small nod. “In private?”
“Coraline, why don’t you come with me to see how Christophe is doing?” Adele gestured toward the door. Coraline hesitated a moment before following.
They were halfway down the hall before Coraline looked back over her shoulder. “He’s still going to protect Adam, right?”
“He is.” She nodded. “I think that’s part of what he wants to talk to Adam about.” Adele led them to the room serving them as an infirmary. Abigail was once again laying next to Khait, and this time Adele thought the other woman might be asleep. At least, Christophe was keeping his voice down while talking to Lykos.
“Hey…” He smiled up at them, then made an oof sound when Coraline walked over to the bed and hugged him. “Hey.”
“Thanks.” Coraline smiled at them. “For helping save my doofus brother.”
“Boy is strong.” Lykos nodded. “Worth trouble.”
“The demon guy…” Coraline sat up. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Unicorn say news is grim…” Lykos sighed. Coraline’s eyes started to widen. “Unfortunate. Khait will make full recovery, be back to normal soon. Sadness.”
“There you go…” Christophe lay back on the bed as Coraline started glaring at Lykos. “Thinking you’re funny.”
Adam shifted a little as he stared at the other man. He felt a little like he was back in high school, being called into the principal’s office. “You’re, uh…” His mother had told him, he just wasn’t sure he believed it.
“You can call me Jim.” Jormun shrugged. “Makes it easier for some people.” He smiled before shifting his appearance. The big guy vanished, replaced by a man not much older than himself. A guy who looked like he could be Daniel’s older brother.
His eyes widened. “You…”
“You’re not the only shapeshifter in the world.” Even his voice was different. Younger and higher pitched. “Can you duplicate people?”
“No, uh…” Adam sat down. “I mean, I’ve only tried a little, but uh…” He shook his head. “I can do a werewolf, but it’s harder.”
“And you gain their powers when you transform?” Jim raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah.” Adam nodded. “Regeneration and strength and all that.” He chewed his lower lip. “I can’t do anything I’m not familiar with, so it’s got to be natural creatures or, well, you know. Existing stuff.”
“You encountered Anra. Does that mean you can do a unicorn now?” Jim shifted to fold one leg across the other as he leaned back in his chair.
“She, uh…” Adam frowned. “No. She wasn’t a unicorn when I met her, and well…” He exhaled, then started looking around the room. Jim didn’t exactly make him uncomfortable, but he was a strong reminder that his situation wasn’t entirely stable yet. “Supernatural things are more difficult. There is more to wrap my brain around, so I need focus. Wren, uh…” She’d tried to kill him. It should have hurt more than it did. “She had to force me into the werewolf form.”
“Shapeshifting does not exhaust you?”
“No.” Adam shook his head. “I mean, not straight shapeshifting. Stuff like shifting partially, so I can make poison without turning into a jellyfish. Or duplicating werewolf powers. That does. The rest, is uh…” He shrugged. “It’s like walking. If I’m not carrying a load or going uphill, I can do it all day.”
“Has anyone explained to you what nephilim means?” Jim folded his hands on his knee.
“Everyone seems to get really uncomfortable when the word gets mentioned around me, so…” Adam leaned back and mimicked Jim’s pose. “I’m guessing it’s fucked up.”
“Can’t argue with that.” Jim rolled his eyes. “Fucked up may be the lightest way to put it.” He sat up and raised his voice a little. “This would go more smoothly if you joined the conversation.” He glanced at the door.
His parents entered, both of them looking unhappy. “Can’t it wait?” Sean gave Jim a pleading look before coming to sit next to Adam. Lidia sat down next to him. Both of them put their arms around him.
“I fear it has waited too long already.” Jim shook his head. He took a deep breath. “To be blunt, Adam…” Jim met his eyes. “I am nephilim. As are you.”
“You…” Adam blinked. “You’re a dragon.”
“I am a half-dragon.” Jim put both his feet on the floor as he leaned forward. “That is what nephilim means.”
“No.” Adam shook his head. “No, you’ve made a mistake. My parents aren’t dragons. They can’t even do magic.”
“I can.” His father’s voice was soft. “Not at the level of you and Coraline, but…” Sean sighed. “I can.”
“But you’re not a dragon.” Adam turned to look at him.
“I’m not a dragon…” Sean gave him a pained look. “But Adam…” Tears filled his eyes. “I’m also not your father.”
He looked up to see a woman looking at him. It took him half a second to recognize her. “Stasya.”
“I just…” She nodded to Stephan. “I want to apologize again. For kicking you in head.”
“Water under the bridge.” Stephan smiled.
“Baby Bear says you protect him now.” Stasya gave a jerky nod, then exhaled. “You need gun, you call me. Any time. Any place. Call.” She held a business card out to him.
“I…” Stephan started to hold his hand up.
“Call.” Stasya pushed the card toward him again.
“Alright.” He took the card from her and tucked it into his wallet. They stood there a moment, staring at each other awkwardly. “Uh…” He jerked a head toward the room with the wet bar. “Drink?”
“Yes.” She nodded. “Please. Thank you.” She reached up to wipe at her eyes.
“You alright?” He led her into the next room.
“I am fine.” She nodded. “Someone was chopping onions.” She sat down on one of the stools as he moved behind the bar.
“Yeah.” He smiled. “Seems to be happening a lot today.”
She sat down on the edge of the roof, looking out over the view. From up here, she could just make out the glimmer of water that was the ocean. Laura exhaled, then put her hand atop Adam’s. “Nice view.”
“Sometimes I turn into a bird, just so I can see the world from on high.” Adam nodded. “It’s not the same. Birds don’t have the same kind of eyes that humans do, so I’m processing different data.” He took a deep breath. “I turned into this thing called a mantis shrimp once and gave myself a migraine from sensory overload.”
“Don’t they have like a dozen types of eye cones or something?” She glanced at him.
“Sixteen. Took me almost an hour before I could figure it out enough to be able to see. Flight and stuff, can wrap my brain around how it works. Humans can fly, just need equipment for it. It’s like having four hands. You can get the concept. But that…” Adam exhaled. “Humans don’t have words for it. Not even concepts to apply the words too.”
“And you’ve seen it.” She felt his hand tighten around hers.
“The part that frustrated me after was…” Adam shook his head. “I couldn’t figure out how to paint it. The colors don’t exist.” He sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” She blinked.
“I couldn’t protect your dad. I tried, but…” He swallowed. “I’m sorry he got hurt because of me.”
“He didn’t…” She narrowed her eyes and leaned toward him a little. “Get hurt because of you. He got hurt because Wren is a selfish, psychotic little overpowered narcissistic spoiled little brat with delusions of grandeur.”
“Wow.” Adam smiled at her. “Tell me how you really feel.”
“I feel…” She reached a hand up to touch his cheek. “Are you alright, Adam?”
“Michaels isn’t your father…” Adam nodded. “But he’s your dad. You’d have to be an idiot to not be able to see this.” He leaned forward to rest his forehead against hers. “Lidia and Sean aren’t my mother and father, but…” He swallowed. “They are my mom and dad. And Coraline is still my pain in the ass sister, and James…” His voice broke a little on the name. “He was my brother.”
“I like Coraline.” Laura smiled. “She’s a cool kid.”
“She’s, uh…” Adam drew back a little and smiled. “She’s only a year younger than you are.”
“I, uh…” Laura looked away, looking back at the distant glimmer of ocean. “I grew up fast.”
They sat there for a few minutes, looking out at the view. “Hey, Laura?”
“If I, uh…” He glanced at her. “If I asked you out to see a movie or something, would Michaels shoot me?”
“You pay your money…” She shrugged. “You take your chances.”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “He’s a damn good shot.”
“He is.” She nodded. “He shot a werewolf in the ass.”
“Ouch.” Adam winced. “Silver bullets?”
“Yep.” She grinned. “He was talking to Lykos about ammo a little bit ago.”
“Huh.” He went silent again for another minute. “Hey, Laura?”
“When this little mess is done, and we’ve rescued Gabriel…” He turned toward her. “Want to go see a movie or something?”
“I’d love to.” She grinned.