“Sorry to be fussing, it’s just…” Magda sat down. “I thought I’d be used to benevolent possession with Erilon around.”
Ash smiled at her. He might have been a little annoyed by it, if he hadn’t seen her fussing just over everyone else as well, even Jormun and Gabriel included. He hesitated a moment before reaching out to take her hand. “Jormun…” He took a deep breath. “And Gabriel…” He shifted where he sat, feeling a bit awkward. “He said there is a chance this might have had some side effects on me and Michaels, but nothing bad.” He said the last three words quickly, before she could react to the rest. “I think it might even be good.”
She smiled at him. “What’s that?”
“They think we might have slowed, a bit like werewolves do after they change for the first time. Me more than Michaels, cause of…” He tilted his head. “Jormun was pretty surprised about Michaels, but Gabriel wasn’t.”
“You’ve got the bloodline, and you…” She looked out at where several of the others were on the porch. Michaels was playfully poking Gabriel in the arm. “Gabriel often knows a lot more than he lets on.”
“He knows the parts that make people good and strong.” Ash squeezed her hand. “Michaels is brave. Doesn’t matter how dangerous it is, if innocent people or the people he loves are in trouble, he’s going in and he’s going to fight for them with everything he has. That’s why Gabriel picked him as a partner.”
Magda nodded, then put her arm around him and held him to her. “I like the thought of having more time with you, Ash.”
“I can be your good boy for a long time.” He hugged her, then bent his head to kiss her.
“You’ll always be my good boy, Ash.” She stroked her fingers through his hair as she returned the kiss. “Ash?”
“Yes, Magda?” He began unbuttoning her blouse.
“Would you like to get married?” She touched his cheek.
“Only if it’s to you.” He grinned before pushing her back onto the bed.
Ted sighed. “I was hoping the art room might have been spared. Some of the kids put weeks into their projects.” He couldn’t think about Monica without tears coming to his eyes. Flowers, pictures, and other small offerings had been put on the remains of the porch in a small shrine to the woman who’d worked as his receptionist. He felt Gabriel’s hand on his shoulder. “Adele said Jormun owns a warehouse downtown. We are setting it up as a shelter. Not sure how Jormun got permits for that so fast, and uh…” He shrugged. “Not sure I want to.”
“At least the kids will have a place to go.” Gabriel nodded.
“They found a leg in the…” Ted rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s complicating the arson investigation.” When Gabriel raised an eyebrow, Ted sighed. “It apparently belongs to Matthias, but we can’t tell them that, because he currently has two.” He hesitated. “A couple of the kids saw Michaels shoot the cabal guys, but they’ve decided those guys were the terrorists that killed Monica…” His voice hitched a little on her name. “So, they don’t want to get him in trouble by saying anything.” He shook his head. “I’m going to ask Khait to alter their memories rather than risk…”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t save Monica.” Gabriel’s voice was soft. “She was a good woman.”
“I…” Ted blinked the tears back. “Focus on the lives you did save.” He reached up to run his fingers through Gabriel’s hair. “A lot more would be dead if not for you. Possibly most of the inhabitants of this city.” He nodded. “Focus on the lives you saved.”
“I…” Gabriel shook his head. “Didn’t save any. Some other being, one that occasionally wears my soul, did.” He exhaled, then looked back at the building. “I…”
“You saved Adam.” Ted caught his chin and turned his face back so their eyes met. “You saved Adam, and those Merlin would have forced him to hurt to get to you. And I know damn well Merlin wouldn’t have been able to take you prisoner at all if he hadn’t threated all of us to gain your cooperation.”
“I love you, Ted.” Gabriel bent to kiss him.
He heard the sound of a couple of the kids from his center cheering as he returned the kiss. “I love you too, Gabriel.”
“You are nervous?” Stasya raised an eyebrow.
Stephan shrugged. “I haven’t been on an actual date in a couple years now.” He leaned back, then twirled the coffee cup in his hand. “My last girlfriend turned out to be a psychotic alpha werewolf bitch who tried to use me as a hostage.”
“I…” Stasya opened her mouth, then sighed. “You know what happened with…” She reached up to touch her necklace.
“Patrick gave you that.” Stephan nodded at the pendant.
“Yes.” Stasya nodded. “Adam told you?” She raised an eyebrow.
“No. You touched it right before you shot Wren in the head.” Stephan smiled. “Wasn’t hard to put the pieces together.” He took a sip from his coffee. “I think Rogue One held true to the spirit of Star Wars.”
“Fighting the good fight, against impossible odds.” Stasya smiled. “Flinging a light into the future, so others can continue the fight even once you are gone. Yes. Is good movie.” She set her cup down. “What is your favorite dinosaur?”
“I have to pick one?” Stephan leaned back in his chair and frowned. “Tough decision. Ankylosaurus, though stegosaurus is a very close second.” He smiled when Stasya put her hand on top of his.
“You’ve got your collar back on.” Bridget smiled.
Father Williams looked up from where he was dusting off a podium. His hand went to the priest’s collar around his neck. “It…” He nodded. “Reminds me of who I choose to be.”
She nodded, then looked around. “You know, I’ve never really spent much time in a church before.” She shrugged. “Never really felt welcome, cause of…” She twitched her shoulder. “And that was before I became besties with an incubus.”
“If the likes of me are welcome within these walls…” He inclined his head toward her. “They should roll out the red carpet for the likes of you.”
“I just…” Bridget took a deep breath, then sat down in one of the pews. She waited until he sat down next to her. “I fought next to you, saw what you can do.” She saw his face darken a little. “I’m not here to ask why you’ve turned away from that kind of power. You don’t need to be reminded of that. But uh…” She nodded to him. “I thought you could stand to be reminded that there are thirty-seven million Christian churches in the world, and if you want to narrow it down a little, there are over twenty thousand Catholic parishes.” She put her hand atop his. “And of all the churches in all the world, Gabriel got left on the doorstep of yours.”
He was silent for a moment, then he gave her a small smile. “Perhaps Isis knew what she was doing, when she left Khait’s ring for you to find.”
“They are trouble.” Bridget grinned. “But worth it.”
“That they are.” He laughed.
He couldn’t believe how nervous he felt. It was like being ten years old and called into the principal’s office. He was mildly surprised that his knees weren’t shaking.
Patricia Williams set down the kitchen towel she’d been using to wipe off the counter, then slowly nodded. “And how long have you two been…” She raised an eyebrow.
“A couple years now.” Gabriel touched Ted’s shoulder.
“And when, exactly, did you get engaged?” She folded her arms.
“Just before I left for —”
Gabriel was cut off by Patricia poking him in the chest. “And you didn’t write or call me once while you were there. Not once.” She shook her head. “I had to learn you were back in the country from your Uncle Oliver.” She waved her hand at the table. “All the way to France and couldn’t even get me a souvenir. Not even a lousy postcard or T-shirt.”
“I…” Gabriel opened his mouth, then winced. “Shit.”
“Gabriel Williams.” Her eyes narrowed.
“Sorry, Mother.” He winced again.
“Am I at least the first to learn about…” She trailed off as they exchanged a look. Then she took a deep breath. “Mr. Mullins…”
“Ted.” He nodded to her.
“Mr. Mullins.” She repeated herself. “Sunday dinner is served precisely at 6pm. If you are not at the table at 6pm, you will wait until those who were respectful enough to be on time have eaten and can make yourself a plate from the leftovers. You are expected to be presentable, and I do not allow discussions of politics or any foul language at my table. Is that clear?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Sunday…” He blinked.
“The family traditionally dines together on Sunday.” She nodded to him, then went back to wiping off the counter. “If you want to bring a side dish, it is welcome, just let me know beforehand so we don’t double up.”
Ted smiled, then took Gabriel’s hand. “Yes, ma’am.”
She saw Jormun toss the phone onto the table. “I take it this means Tia isn’t on her way here to kick you out?”
He caught her and pulled her to him for a kiss. “Given recent events, the other dragons are choosing to give this city a very wide berth.” He shrugged. “She’s not happy, but she is also aware that events weren’t my fault.” He shook his head. “Though I would not want to be Ryuu right now.”
“Aren’t she and Ryuu…” When he nodded, she winced. “I hope that doesn’t become a problem for Adam.”
“Gabriel’s presence altered things.” Jormun sat down on edge of the hotel room’s bed, pulling her into his lap. “That all four potentially have earthly avatars alters things beyond…” He laughed softly. “No one planned for this. Adam is the least of their concerns right now.”
“Earthly avatars.” Adele slowly nodded. “The Four Horsemen have mortal hosts, all of whom are fond of Adam.” She tilted her head, then smiled. “And of you.”
“That thought…” He smiled. “Definitely crossed my mind.”
“Don’t get cocky.” She leaned in, narrowing her eyes. “This is not a license for you to go start trouble.”
“I could —”
“Don’t make me call Mbaba.” She raised a finger to his lips.
Jormun bent to kiss her finger. “I’ll behave.” He lifted his head. “Christophe says Gabriel knows about the sanctuary, and that he thinks the seal should be taken there.”
Adele swallowed. “That’s going to alter protocol.”
“I think that’s the point.” Jormun leaned back on the bed. “I’ve always thought of the seals as weapons, but…” He exhaled. “With it as a line of defense, the sanctuary can…”
Slowly, she shifted until she was straddling him. He lay back on the bed, smiling up at her. She bent to kiss him. “Bridget and I made appointments. So, we can —”
She sat up so quickly she would have fallen off the bed if he hadn’t caught her. “What?”
“I’m old fashioned.” He smiled before kissing her again.
“The temporary center…” Abigail looked around. “Isn’t bad.”
“Adele had me teleporting to every furniture store in a billion-mile radius to get all those beds.” Khait wrinkled his nose. “And then Ted had me teleport to a trillion more to get the sleeping bags.”
There were several areas partitioned off and filled with bunk beds. Most of the kids, however, were filling an area that contained a bunch of couches and chairs, watching classic 50s horror movies projected onto one of the walls. Stasya, of all people, was happily running a popcorn machine. “You did good, sweetheart.”
“Ted’s going to help us convert this into an oceanography center after his place gets rebuilt.” Adele walked over to them, followed by two men. One was a little taller than the other, with long brown hair and a neatly trimmed beard. The other was dark haired, and had his shirt buttoned incorrectly. “Abigail, Khait, these are…”
“You’re Poseidon’s boy.” Khait stared at the dark-haired young man.
Abigail blinked, then took another look at the young man. He slowly nodded. “Yalathanil.” He nodded to the man next to him. “My consort, Greg.” He tilted his head at Khait. “You knew my father?”
“I was sorrowed to learn of his passing.” Khait inclined his head.
Yalathanil returned the nod. Abigail hesitated a moment. “So, you…”
“He’s a mermaid.” Khait grinned at her.
“Merman.” Yalathanil and Greg said the word simultaneously. Yalathanil looked Khait over again. “You are one of the ones that fought Merlin?”
“I am.” Khait nodded.
Yalathanil held out his hand. Khait hesitated a moment before reaching out to take it. Yalathanil gripped his hand tightly, then covered it with his other one. “Know you are always welcome in my kingdom. You…” He inclined his head toward Abigail. “And your consort.”
“Wait…” Khait started to grin. “You’re the king of the sea.”
“Yes.” Yalathanil nodded to him. “That is…”
“Abigail…” Khait turned toward her. “Let’s skip Vegas. I have a better idea.”