They came for me at the end of January. The month had been, up till now, quiet and freezing with heavy snowstorms. At one point the power went out so Goose and I climbed into bed together to stay warm… not that either of us were really complaining about it, though we were too cold to really do anything. Which we had started back in November. It felt so different from being with a woman, but I enjoyed it just as much. Plus Goose… well, he was amazing. Very amazing. And after the snowstorm he pretty much moved into my room anyway.
Anyway, on January thirtieth–three days after I turned twenty-three–there came a knocking at my door. Heavy, loud, insistent knocking. I looked at the door then at Goose who gave me a wide-eyed shrug.
Simba had come to us a day after Max disappeared. I hated him right away because he meant Max had indeed left. He didn’t seem to care that I hated him, he just wanted to do what he had promised Max he’d do: guard me. He moved into Max’s room and left us alone for the most part. Eventually I calmed down and got to know him. He had been born into a shifting family, his original name long gone because after his family realized he shifted into a lion they just started calling him Simba and that’s the name that stuck.
Sometimes it felt super weird and frightening walking into the house and finding a lion sprawled lazily on the couch.
Simba had told me he wasn’t immortal, like Max. He had recently turned forty but felt as young as ever. He also informed me–quite openly–that his friendship with Max had been more than friendship twenty years before. “Friends with benefits, not really boyfriends,” he explained tapping the side of his nose. They remained friends to this day though he didn’t know where Max had gone any more than I did.
I had only heard from Max once. A letter in December, wishing me the best of holidays. Gretchen had no clue where he went and said that she had no business overseas; Max had just made that up as an excuse to leave. But Gretchen didn’t seem too worried. Max could take care of himself. That didn’t make it any easier on me, and I missed him terribly. Nobody could replace him.
But regardless, now I had Simba. He moved to the door, opening it with confidence. “Can I help you…?” he asked, sounding a bit startled.
“We need to speak to Zaid Danevbie,” replied an authoritative voice. “If you do not cooperate we have full authority to enter the premises.”
I swallowed, looking at Goose. ‘Go’ I mouthed. If they were the type of people to legally do that, I did not want them seeing Goose and his pointy ears. Goose scrambled away, going to the bedroom we now shared. Seconds later Simba stepped back and a couple of people walked in, wearing suits and looking stern. I rose to my feet. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am,” I said, trying not to sound nervous. “I’ll ask again, can I help you?”
They flashed badges at me before the woman continued with, “We’re from the department of P.A.S. and we need to speak with you about some things recently discovered.”
P.A.S. As in, Protection Against Supernaturals. A new department just made in November to ‘investigate possible security issues’. They made me feel so sick and I felt sick now as the three ‘investigators’ stood before me. In my living room. “What can I do for you?” I asked, trying to keep my tone civil. Is this about Vilkas? Goose? Grams? Dad, and the facility he runs…? Is Dad under investigation!?
“We are here to speak to you about some information recently discovered about the supernatural community,” one of the men said, adjusting his sunglasses. “It seems many supernaturals believe there is a… prophecy about the end of magic.” A chill went down my spine and suddenly a new theory came into my head: the government using me to destroy magic. That hadn’t been something that occurred to me before. “It seems the supernaturals are…” He pulled a bit of paper from his pocket. “…87 percent in agreement it is you who will be ending magic.”
Simba raised his eyebrows as I pressed my lips tightly together. “Hmm, interesting,” I finally muttered. “Soooo what’s this about?”
“As you must be well aware of, the supernaturals are becoming increasingly more dangerous,” the woman said. “It would be in humanity’s best interest if we were to… find a way to… rid our innocent civilians of such a threat. The P.A.S. department would like to cooperate with you to find a way to end magic, thereby eliminating these threats.”
“Mr. Danevbie, of course you are being given a choice!” the first man spoke, his voice full of fake sweetness. “But you must agree it would be in our best interest to end such a threat. So many innocent lives lost to those… monsters.”
Not monsters, I nearly said but kept my opinion to myself. “If you want to get rid of the supernaturals why not just round them up and kill them all? Isn’t there a word for things like that? Concentration camp, perhaps?”
All three of them looked stunned while Simba covered his mouth, trying not to laugh. “Mr. D-Danevbie,” said the woman hesitantly, “I do not think… that is quite the same thing. We are talking about human lives on the line here. These monsters are not human. They are… nothing more than animals with dangerous, fatal diseases. Or else they are no longer alive. Dead humans who wish to kill other humans.”
“What are the rates of murder of supernaturals killing humans, compared to the rates of murder of humans killing supernaturals?” I asked, not able to stop myself.
Again, the three looked stunned. “Unfortunately we are unable to collect such data, as there are numerous deaths of humans by supernatural means that we do not know about,” the first man said and I tried not to snort. “I do not understand. If you wish to end magic, why are you sounding so… against the protection of your own kind?”
“Do you not wish to keep your family safe?” asked the woman.
My father runs a home for supernaturals, my father was a supernatural, my brother is a supernatural, and hell technically my sister and I could probably be considered supernaturals, I thought.
>Yeah, we could,< Lumie put in, as I hadn’t thought about the barriers in a while. >Tell those creeps to shove off.<
>Oh yeah and get myself under suspicion? I don’t want to risk them knowing about Goose, or Ma–uh, Grams, or Dad, or anything!< “I want my entire family safe,” I settled on, including Goose, Max, and Grams in on that.
“Then you will work with us,” the second man finally spoke and it sounded more threatening than questioning. “Tell us, how are you going to do be destroying magic? It will destroy all magical beings?”
I blinked a few times, trying not to panic. “I don’t know. And I don’t know if I’ll work with you. I don’t find all supernaturals to be evil. If you’ve done your research you will know I have a brother who is a supernatural.” They had to know about Vilkas and the looks they got confirmed it. “Give me time to think about this.”
“They’ve been with us as long as we’ve been around. I think another few days won’t bring around the end of the world,” I said, jutting my chin out. “It’s kinda a big decision so uh, give me some time–“
“If you’re going to end magic anyway, then why not join us and you will receive… wealth and honors,” the first man said and then he gave me a business card. “Call us as soon as you make the decision. I hope it is in time.”
We all shook hands and then the three of them left. As soon as the door shut I wiped my hand off on my jeans and swore. “They’re going to pretty much force you to help them,” Simba said. “Maybe the prophecy was right…”
He gave me another glance over then smiled. “I know. Don’t worry. I have faith in you, since Max does. But what are you going to do?”
I shook my head, going back to the bedroom where Goose sat nervously on his bed. He got up, rushing over to me, grabbing hold of my arms, wanting to know what happened. I told him everything the P.A.S. members had said as well as my own thoughts. Goose held onto me and gave me a light kiss once I finished. He rubbed my arms, giving me words of comfort but I just felt so sick. If I refused would I have the government after me as well as some supernaturals?
A huge snowstorm hit the next day so I didn’t need to go to work. Goose and I spent most our time in bed together. He wanted to talk about the problem but I just wanted to forget about that for a little while. I kissed up his arm, onto his shoulder, his neck, sucking lightly until he gave up talking and pulled me on top of him, laughing.
As wonderful as the day went, spent in bed with him, I felt awful when night hit. I had some of those nightmares again and these were mixed in with non-supernatural nightmares involving a bunch of government goons coming after me. I got out of bed and padded around the house, staring out the windows at the snow-covered world. A few snowflakes drifted down as I thought about what I could do to get out of this.
What would Max say? I couldn’t help but wonder. I missed him so much, and angry at him still. Ohh I understood, but the anger wouldn’t go away. Who else could I talk to? I didn’t want to burden Goose more than what he already had (with his fears of being one of the hunted), I wasn’t sure how much to put on Noah though I’d rather talk to him than Simba.
Settled on my decision, the next day I called Noah up. He wanted to visit to talk about it since it seemed so important so the day after that he showed up. We made our pleasantries and he chatted for a bit about his tech job, complaining at great length about stupid people who couldn’t understand why the internet wouldn’t work when the power went out. I commiserated with him and then began talking about what had happened. As I spoke paranoia struck me. Someone had obviously been monitoring Uncle Kay. The government? But that had been ages ago, and the government didn’t show any interest in me before… or had they just been biding their time…?
“I don’t know. I–I really don’t know. Like, we could fight off the golems and crap that were coming after me but how am I supposed to fight off the government?” Then more paranoia came as I wondered if the government had tapped my cellphone or something. “They’ll force me.”
“Yeah, they will,” he said without hesitation. I made a face but really couldn’t argue even though I really had hoped he would argue it. “So we need a way to counteract what they might do. Hmmmmm.”
“Hey, the P.A.S. is new and doesn’t have much of a foothold,” Noah pointed out. “Even though they’re part of the government. And a lot of people are paying attention to what’s going on… so if people knew something was going down…”
“What, tell the citizens that the P.A.S. wants to use me?” I snorted.
“They kidnap me and nobody knows I’m with them,” I cut him off. “Not going to work.” Although an idea began forming in my head. No matter what the government would use me, so why not make it as public as possible? “Whoa. Noah, bro, you gave me a great idea. Seriously! It won’t help with the government thing but… it could help stop a lot of the supernaturals that want me dead. Not the group that wants to kidnap me but the rest of them… It might work…”
I talked with him about what had come to me and he agree that it would probably help with the supernaturals. He helped iron everything out and by the time Goose got home I felt a bit hopeful about the plan. It wouldn’t help with everything, but it would probably help quite a bit. And there was every chance it would even help get the government off my back–though that wasn’t very likely.
“No, darling,” I said, giving him a reassuring kiss. “It will cut back the danger. I mean, either way the government will probably be after me, but this will definitely–well, should help fix the uh, the majority of the supernatural problems.” I rubbed his arms then hugged him tightly, enjoying the feel of him in my arms.
“I love you too,” I promised. “And when I come back we’ll have a super romantic time together. Candles and chocolate-covered strawberries and a bubble bath together, yeah?” He nodded, a slight smile twitching at the corner of his mouth. I didn’t want to tell him how scared I felt, but then wondered why. To be brave? Put on a brave face? “I’m–I’m frightened,” I confessed.
He pushed his glasses up, giving me a smile now. “You don’t look it. Don’t worry.” He began buttoning up the last buttons on my jacket and then brushing off non-existent lint. “Nobody else will know.”
Goose grinned now. “You might have, but ah, I d-don’t mind hearing it again.” He finished with fixing my shirt. “I’ll be watching.”
“I’ll be back later. I–I… I’ll be back.” I wanted to say ‘I promise’ but how could I promise? Goose gave my butt a swat as I turned to leave and I laughed, heading out of the house and immediately wanting to vomit. Simba followed me outside, hopping uncomfortably in the snow. “You sure you want to come with?” I unlocked the car and opened the door so he could get in.
“I’m sure,” I replied, though pppft, no way I felt sure. I spent the entirety of the drive trying to keep down my lunch. I had spent about five days planning this, but every inch of me felt completely un-ready.
We arrived at the building where I’d be making the announcement. The P.A.S. had tried to get City Hall to rent a room for this ‘historical’ moment but Midnight Hollow had zero interest in furthering the hatred against supernaturals. So the P.A.S. had to settle for a rentable venue where the press had already gathered. Simba hung around near the back while I went towards the front. The P.A.S. trio looked vaguely excited to see me. I was pulled aside and given a quick going over from a young lady who combed my hair and put a bit of makeup on my face. The woman from the P.A.S. needed to know if I required aid in my speech but I shook my head, promising it had been worked out.
I had contacted the P.A.S., insisting I had made my decision. I never told them what the decision was… but asked to make a public speech about it. Of course they wanted the press conference and all the good publicity at a ‘strong and handsome’ citizen backing them. They had no idea I wouldn’t be backing them and doing the complete opposite, actually.
The woman, whose name I knew to be Jones but I didn’t really care, made the introductory speech about how they found someone with the ability to end the war before it started. Someone who could end magic. Yes, that’s right, end magic. All the supernaturals would be stripped of their power and the world would be a safer place.
I stepped up to the podium, sweating heavily. I had thought it’d not be a big ordeal but I realized a lot of the reporters watching me, pointing their cameras at me–they were from big time news stations. This wasn’t being broadcast live locally, it was being broadcast live all over the nation. Oh. Shii…
“Hello,” I said, trying to sound confident and failing. “My name is Zaid Danevbie. There’s been a prophecy around for a long time, circling the supernatural world. About how there would be someone to end or destroy magic. Some believe this means what the Protection Against Supernaturals said, that powers would be stripped. Others believe that it means anyone with magic in them would die…” I swallowed and lifted my chin. “However I want to say it doesn’t matter. Because I will not be that person!” The sound of cameras clicking increased and the reporters began murmuring while someone to the left of me gave a sharp hiss. One of the P.A.S. members.
“I believe those who have magic are no different from those who do. Witches and wizards, werewolves and vampires, faeries and shapeshifters and ghosts–all of them and more, they’re only a little different from us! And obviously nobody pays attention to history because we’re just repeating it, over and over! A group of people who are different being attacked because they’re different… it’s not–right! It’s disgusting that people are legally allowed to hunt down and MURDER innocent people–I’M NOT HELPING END MAGIC!” I began shouting as the P.A.S. men came forward to pull me away from the podium. I grabbed onto the podium, struggling against them. “I WANT TO HELP PROTECT THOSE WITH MAGIC! I SWEAR TO YOU! ANYONE WHO BELIEVES THE PROPHECY PLEASE UNDERSTAND! I WILL DO EVERYTHING I CAN TO MAKE SURE–SUPERNATURALS–ARE–SAFE—!”
I was shoved into a back room so hard I nearly fell. I stumbled forward then stood at full height, shoulders back. Jones and the two men (Smith and Williams, I felt fairly sure none of those were their true surnames) all stared at me as the reporters banged on the door demanding to talk to me. I gulped and said, “Go ahead and kill me, it wouldn’t look suspicious at all.”
“I promised no such thing, I merely told you I made my decision,” I said, straightening up only to be punched again this one knocking the wind out of me.
Jones came over, grabbing me by the hair and jerking my head back. “We were going to end this,” she said, voice cracking as she tried not to yell. “End the war before–and you–you just–fueled it!”
“What war?!” I snarled. “They are innocent people! Sure some of them are awful but you get that with non-magic people too!” I managed to pull away, rubbing my scalp. “Murderers, rapists, pedophiles–you don’t need magic to cause so much pain! Murdering supernaturals is the same as murdering anyone else.”
“They want us dead,” Smith said.
“Why? What would that do? Some of them probably do but how many humans want supernaturals to be dead?” I backed up a bit since he looked like he might punch me again. “Have you talked to any supernaturals? Not tortured but talk?”
“There have been so many attacks–” Smith began but I cut him off with, “HOW many? How many humans have they killed in the last year compared to how many supernaturals have humans killed? All these ‘attacks’? Not really in the newspapers. And to be honest with a little information given, I have the feeling a lot of these attacks are just blamed on the supernaturals because hey, easy targets and nobody wanting to fact check to make sure. It’s just history repeating itself. And people like you love it because it gives you an excuse to kill people without repercussion.”
Between Dad and Pa, and Vilkas, I was able to make bail. Dad and Pa picked me up from jail, neither of them obviously angry at their kid being arrested thankfully. Also thankfully, things never went to trial. After a month the P.A.S. dropped the charges. A large part of that had to do with the fact a lot of the public liked me. As much as the P.A.S. and the media tried to skew things, a looooot of people didn’t mind supernaturals. So my arrest had been given a lot of bad publicity. The charges were dropped (publicly very publicly) and they claimed it had been a misunderstanding. I went on record for saying it was a misunderstanding, too. Because if I didn’t then I was worried new charges might be found…
Grams chewed me out for my stunt but after lecturing me for an hour she reluctantly admitted my announcement did help. Over the month she and Blair had kept their ears open, listening to the grapevine. What they heard seemed very positive. A lot of the supernaturals who had been worried about me or afraid of me changed their mind. If I wanted to destroy magic why wouldn’t I join up with the government who wanted to destroy magic too? Not everyone believed my plea but enough did that I suspected the only danger I’d have from here on out would be from whoever wanted to kidnap me, the one that sent the golems.
And boy did golems come! I wondered if my speech stirred them into more hatred or need to capture me. A golem came about every four days practically. Simba and I dispatched them all though not with ease. We weren’t as in sync as I had been with Max, but we did well enough that the only injuries I really suffered was a broken arm in March.
Goose fussed over me and my injury as I healed and boosted me full of elvish healing magic every day so it didn’t take too long for my broken bones to heal. My doctor seemed a bit suspicious but when I cheerfully told her magic had aided me, she grunted and mumbled something about not being sure if I had been honest on the TV in February. After a bit more talking I found out she had been born to a wizard though she and her mother weren’t magical at all, her sister had some magic in her.
“It always surprises me to find out how many supernaturals there are in the world,” I said to Goose that night. “I don’t just mean like, types I never knew existed–like elves–but I mean just the sheer number of supernaturals. I always thought there were so many because of the Rag, where Dad works. But I never really thought of many beyond the Rag. But there are… like, so many.”
Goose chuckled, stroking my inner arm gently. “There are. It surprises me too. To be honest, I didn’t know a ton about the world beyond the elves. You had a lot more exposure than me as a young child.”
“You pervert!” he growled, giving my arm a swat as I just cackled. “You’re a pervert!”
“I know…” I bent in, nuzzling at his cheek. “But you love me anyway.”
He gave me a joking push away. “Not if you’re going to be arrogant like this–nope! No! No use giving me those eyes!” He wriggled free and hopped away, giving me a ‘come get me’ look. I quickly dove for him but he danced easily out of the way. A chase commenced that ended outside in wet grass, me pinning him down easily.
We kissed over and over, and I felt a little thrill at snogging outside. We were behind our house so nobody could really see us. I wondered vaguely what it’d be like to make love outside, and wondered if Goose’d be open for such a thing. Now that was something to think about… and what a nice thing to think about.
“Mmmmmm…” We continued kissing, rolling over so he straddled me, my hands on his hips, enjoying this greatly when suddenly there was a loud roaring sound and a lion whizzed past us. I jerked in surprise then sat up, staring at Simba as he ran into the woods.
Goose slithered off of me, kneeling in the mud, looking as confused as me. There was a roaring sound and a snarling sound, and more animal sounds. I got off the ground, pulling Goose up with my good arm. My other arm had been out of a cast and sling for a while but it still ached. It made fighting a difficult, painful thing to do and I hoped that Simba had just run off being a weird cat. Unfortunately, nope.
He came barreling out of the woods, blood trailing behind him. He shifted into a human as he ran, collapsing down in a weakened heap of pain and blood, yelling a warning at me but as a bear came chasing him out no warning was needed. I pushed Goose towards the house, all the hair on my body standing on end. How the hell was I supposed to fight a bear?! Davy Crockett, I wasn’t!
The bear turned human. A large woman with rippling muscles and blood trickling down her chin. She wiped the blood off and grinned at me. “Zaid,” she said. “I have a proposition for you… that would be in your best interest to agree to.”
I looked at where she stood–right at the property line. She couldn’t come across because of the spells. “What proposition is that?” I asked, blocking Goose and Simba in case she somehow got through. Goose whispered something under his breath, a constant whispering that I figured out enhanced the protection spells.
“Come with me and your friends here will live.” She nodded her chin to indicate Goose and Simba. “Refuse, and they die.”
“You’ll have to kill me first,” I said without hesitation, meaning it for Goose with every inch of my being. Plus I knew she couldn’t cross the–
She stepped over the property line and Goose gave a gasp, as if he had been hit. I felt him stagger back but didn’t dare take my eyes off the bear woman. I felt very helpless all of a sudden… especially since Simba had been so hurt. The woman just laughed at us, coming closer though she moved slowly as if she were walking through something heavy. I hissed at Goose to get in the house then stooped down, picking up a rock and charging forward. The woman looked surprised and I easily knocked her off-balance.
We both fell to the ground and I tried bashing her head with the rock but she easily evaded my attempts, grabbing hold of my sore arm and twisting. I cried out as the bone shattered again but continued tried bashing her with my other hand. Goose shouted something but I just yelled for him to get in the house NOW.
The woman rolled over, pinning me to the ground painfully. Her knee dug into my chest and she loomed over me, grinning. Up went her hand and then CRAA-A-A–ACK!!! Her face went slack and she fell forward, hitting the ground. I pulled myself away, getting to my feet, looking at my rescuer.
Pa lowered the tire iron, looking rather surprised at what he had just done. “Are you okay, baby?” He dropped the iron and rushed over, examining my arm. “We need to get you to the ER right now. Oh thank Watcher your dad and I were coming over! How did she get through the spells? Oh, never mind, let’s go now.”
I obediently let Pa pull me off to the car, trying not to laugh hysterically at the thought of my 5’2 father bashing in the brains of the 7′ bear shapeshifter.
Author’s Note: Thank you to DustofSims for letting me use Simba!