Walker took the paper from me and saw the contact information and the times. He asked me, “Why did you want the times and dates?”
“We can use it to pinpoint events that coincide. See what else The Dragon is up to other than robbing banks.”
“That’s a wide birth of things to cover.” Walker frowned.
“That’s what Scrin are for. We’ll drop it off with Dae’lin and let them do their job. They’ll have something for us in the morning. I have a birthday to finish celebrating.” I smiled at him.
“Sorry, I made you work on the one day off we get.” Walker said, “Why don’t you let me buy you a drink.”
“I have a date with a little dragon and some cake. You can join me.” I offered.
“I’ll let you do your thing. I still don’t know why you care so much about all these supernaturals. But hey whatever gets you off.” Walker held the door for me as we walked into the AU building for the last time today. “I’ll see you first thing tomorrow, Nox.”
“I’ll see you at 10:30. I have an appointment at 9:30, I won’t miss.” Therapy was that important. I did not miss it – ever.
Walker nodded and headed for the elevator. I joined him and he smiled. “You don’t have to be brave for me.” He joked.
I couldn’t help but smile at the jab he was taking. “I told you I got a hot date.”
“Cake and dragon. I remember.”
Several people got on with us and when we reached HQ, Walker got off. “I’ll take this to Dae’lin. Enjoy your night.”
I nodded my thanks and got off on the Academy floor with a few other parents. It was an odd feeling thinking I was a parent. I didn’t feel any different from before. It was then I remembered I had a dinner date with Treec on Monday. Great. More dealing with people when I’d rather be talking and hanging with Sage. I don’t know why he was top of my mind but his bright blue eyes were never far from my thoughts.
I waited with the other toddler aged parents in the waiting room. Each kid running to their parent or parents with arms wide open and smiles. It made me wince when a small hand reached up and took mine. I looked down to see Drake curling his fingers around my index finger. “Hey little man. You snuck up on me.”
He grinned up and nodded. “Nox.” A woman called from behind me and I turned around.
“Yes, ma’am?” I didn’t recognize the woman, but she knew me well enough to call me by my first name.
“I’m Lita. Drake’s teacher. I understand you adopted him. I need to let you know he’s already sparked. We’ve had a few fires today, and he seems to have mastered veiling already. He enjoys hide and seek.”
I grinned and offered Lita my hand. “I will keep that in mind. And we’ll have a talk tonight about when veils are appropriate and when they aren’t.”
Lita frowned, “We will have to assign him a fire-starter teacher soon.”
“Does it have to be official? He’s not Venatori. I can train him to control his gift.”
Lita nodded, “He’ll need an official teacher. However, since I know your history, I think if you can get him to control his gift without a fire-starter teacher in say a week or two, I will refrain from the recommendation.”
“You’d do that for me?” I asked.
She smiled. “You were the youngest Cesari. Everyone knows there is dragon blood in Cesari. So who better to teach him than you – he will probably be closest to Cesari, anyway.”
I nodded. “I get two weeks?”
She nodded. “I’ll give you two weeks. And if you have luck with him, I might need you to teach a whole class of would be fire-starters.”
“You have a class full of them?” I asked.
“Potentially. They are showing signs.” She smiled at me and waved at Drake. “You take care of Nox now. He’s a special person. And he’s afraid of many things.”
I grinned at her analysis of me and laughed when she stuck her tongue out. She giggled, “Treec says you have a date?”
I smiled. “You are friends with Treec?”
She nodded, and I returned the affirmative. “Yeah.”
Lita asked, “It’s not a pity date is it?”
I shook my head. “For her or for me?”
Lita laughed, “She might pity you. We all do.” She stuck her tongue out at me again. “Don’t hurt her.”
I sighed, “Lita, I’m not looking for a mate, just a mother for my children. If she wants more I’m not that man. I got my eyes on someone else for the role of life partner.”
“Oh really? Why isn’t she your baby mama then?” She asked almost playfully but I could hear the disdain in her voice.
“Because he can’t have babies anymore than I can.” Lita blushed at my response. “Good luck with that. Just be honest with Treec. I won’t hurt you if you do that.” I grinned, “Deal.” I looked down at Drake and smiled. “You ready to go home?”
Drake nodded and pulled me towards the door.
I followed dutifully behind the little dragon and when we went for the elevator I happily followed him. Before the doors closed, I picked up the boy and held him on my hip as I leaned against the glass wall trying my best not to freak out in front of him. “I went by your old house and picked up a few things. They are waiting back in my apartment.”
Drake lit up. “Snoopy? Blankie?”
I grinned and nuzzled his cheek, “Yeah, I think I got them both.”
He wrapped his arms around my neck and squeezed. “Tank you.”
“You are welcome buddy.” I hugged the little dragon and couldn’t help the deep breath I took with him so close. I chuckled to myself as I noticed Drake doing the same thing. The scent of safety seemed to be a common thing. The little boy smelled of burning sugar – caramel would be the best description but it wasn’t quite it either.
I carried Drake down the hall to my room and unlocked the door with the little dragon. Footsteps fell behind me and a giggle from a baby which wasn’t in my arms turned my attention to find Mia and Naya standing there watching me do my balancing act. Mia grinned. “See, I told you, you’d be a natural.”
“Not yet anyway. But I’m learning.” I opened the door and let Mia enter before me. I set Drake down on the floor and motioned to his bag on the couch. “Go see if I got what you wanted. I can go back again if you need me too.”
Drake smiled and drug the bag from the couch and sat on the floor between the coffee table and the couch. Mia grinned and set down a small box on my counter and handed me a bag. “Jace would have brought them by but he’s stuck with a kid after school. Parents are late. One’s your birthday present, the other is a welcome to parenthood present.”
“Is that a rumor now?” I asked.
Mia shook her head. “No. Dorian told Jace. And I bought the present downstairs, figuring you’d need it.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek and held Naya up to get her own kiss from me. “We need to get home. We’ll check in on you tomorrow after your first night. Good luck, Nox.” She called out to Drake. “We’ll see you again soon, Drake. Soon you and Nox will come stay with us.”
Drake waved, but he was he pulled things out of his bag tossing them behind him. I took a deep breath and let it go for the moment. I distracted myself from the mess by opening the birthday present first.
Comic strips wrapped around the box as per Jace’s tradition. His main goal in life was making me laugh when I was a kid. This had done the job on many birthdays. I removed the tape so I could read them later without having to decipher the text. Inside the box was a coffee mug with different lines measuring out when was safe to talk to me. I set it down on the counter with a wry grin. Jace bought me the same mug last year and the year before that. He either forgot what he bought me or he was being lazy. Both seemed plausible.
The other present was a book wrapped in only a ribbon. It was an old edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Not age appropriate, but considering what Drake and I were it was spot on. I didn’t have books appropriate for children in my apartment. Drake caught eye of the book and was hopping up and down at my feet. “Read?”
I smiled and picked him up. “Let’s clean up the mess first, take a bath and get ready for bed and then we’ll read. But I think we have cake to eat first. And then dinner. Okay?”
Drake nodded at me with wide eyes. Cake before dinner was impressive.
I opened the box Mia placed on my counter. It was the same thing she ordered for me every year. A chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and an orange balloon drawn on top. It was simple and sweet and the only time I ate cake.
I cut the small cake into fourths and set one on a napkin for Drake to eat. Then lifted the little man to the bar stool and pushed him in. Cake wasn’t complete without a glass of milk. I poured two and Drake looked at me with concern. “Wrong cup?”
I smiled. “A straw work? It’s all I got.”
Drake nodded. The straws were kept for strange occasions all revolving around Jace visiting. I plopped a bendy rainbow straw into Drake’s milk and he grinned before he took a long sip of the cold milk. I’d have to buy some plastic cups with straws to make life easier. I didn’t want Drake to break the few glasses I had, or to hurt himself when he dropped them.
We ate cake and drank our milk while I pulled out the makings of dinner. Drake watched with big orange eyes and frowned at the vegetables on the counter. “Hey. You had cake first, least you can do is try them.”
He frowned, but he nodded his acceptance of the situation. This might be harder than it looked. Drake had finished his cake and the glass of milk was empty. “Can you clean up the clothes mess you made? Put them back in the bag? Please?”
Drake nodded. “Yes, sir.” I helped the little one down and he scurried around the couch to pick things up.
I cooked and Drake finished with his clothes – I hoped by the time I finished making a small plate of salad with grilled chicken and a homemade dressing on it. I hoped the apples and grapes would make it more fun for him to eat, but I didn’t have high hopes.
I’d been wrong as Drake finished his food and a glass of water. It wasn’t late. I’d eaten sooner than I’d planned, and there was little else to do in my studio apartment. Drake was playing with Snoopy and a few matchbox cars he’d found in his bag. The cars were driving over the glass coffee table and the magazines on top of it. I watched him for a while before he sat down in my lap and curled up. “Tired.”
I smiled. “I don’t have a bathtub. The sink might be too small.” We had a dilemma. I grabbed a pair of swim trunks from my drawer and a change of clothes for Drake. The easiest way was to just jump in with him and get wet.
Drake thought it was funny when I stepped into the shower with the colorful swim trunks on. The water was warm, and I sat down against the wall once the water was warm enough and let Drake dance in the rain of the shower head. We washed and rinsed and splashed. I was grateful the shower door and walls went from floor to ceiling or we’d probably have had a big mess by the time we were done.
Drake was yawning, and it was making me sleepy. It was still way to early for me to sleep but Drake was curling up in my arms as I carried him to bed. I laid down in my favorite spot near the middle of the bed and set Drake down on the wall side and he curled up on the pillow and blinked at me as I got up to grab the book.
I laid back down with my phone and Drake looked up at it with a smile. I flipped the camera on and took a sleepy selfie of Drake curled up against my shoulder. I texted the picture to Sage.
Me and a little dragon. Drake says hi.
I set the phone down next to my head and pulled the book up so Drake could see the words. I started to read, “In olden times, when wishing still did some good, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful…”
My phone rang with a new Skype call. I was concerned since I hadn’t installed it, or created an account but it was Skype on my phone. I saw the name of the call and grinned and answered it with a big grin, “Did you hack my phone?”
Sage laughed. “No, I borrowed it when you weren’t looking.”
“You picked my pocket then?”
Sage grinned at me lying in his own bed. “It wasn’t hard.”
“I’m sure not, with you grabbing my ass all the time.”
Sage snorted. “I want to meet Drake? Can I?”
I nodded. “Sure. I pointed the phone at Drake and smiled.”Drake, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend, Sage. Sage this is Drake. He’s gonna be staying with me a while.”
Drake blinked up at the phone with a smile. “Pweasure to meet you. Nox was weading a story. You want to wisten?”
“I’d love to listen.” Sage said with great pleasure.
I propped the phone up on the other side of Drake so Sage could see us both and I could see him and still read. And I started again from the beginning with The Frog King.
I finished the Frog King and read Cat and Mouse in Partnership and finished with Mary’s Child before Drake’s eyes closed and his breathing deepened into sleep. He’d since abandoned my shoulder and was curled around a pillow – my pillow, but that was alright, I had more. No reason he couldn’t have that one. They weren’t all identical, but I’d buy a replacement. I knew scent was a big safety net for myself and I wouldn’t deprive Drake of it either.
I reached across him and grabbed my phone and pulled the blankets up over his shoulder and crawled out of bed. I flipped off the lights and went into the bathroom and sat down on the floor near the sink and smiled at Sage in the bright lights of my bathroom. Sage laughed at me, “Already sneaking away from the kids.”
“I didn’t want to wake him up, but I wasn’t ready to hang up with you either.” I smiled at him.
Sage was still chuckling at me, but he was being quiet about it. “You called me your boyfriend.”
I shrugged. “Lack of a better word. It fits.”
“Boyfriend implies that there is more than just a hook up in mind.” Sage teased.
“Yeah and?” I smiled at him wanting to stick my tongue out at him but I didn’t.
“I’ve never liked those terms. I prefer partner or lover or something more generic and grown up.” Sage was serious, but he was making fun of me too.
“We aren’t lovers yet and I don’t feel comfortable with partners since Walker is my partner right now.” I grinned at him.
“I see your dilemma. I suppose boyfriend will do.” He frowned.
“I will refrain from calling you my boyfriend too much.” I said sweetly.
“Thanks. You have a good day?” Sage asked.
“I had chocolate cake to start dinner and we’ll finish it for breakfast.”
“You had cake? For dinner?” Sage laughed.
“Before dinner. I think it impressed Drake. Though it set a bad precedent.” I frowned.
“How’s the job going?” I asked.
“Too busy. Really annoying. My brain is fried.”
I wanted to see Sage, but I didn’t have much to say, thankfully Sage gave me a run down on the unclassified jobs he was working. Apparently he had classified ones too he was not at liberty to discuss.
Sage was regaling the tale of his current job when there was a knock on front door. “One sec, Sage. Someone’s at my door I don’t want them to wake Drake.”
I got up with my phone held to my chest and I heard Sage chuckling on the other side. I opened the door quietly and looked through the crack and smiled. “It’s Dorian.”
Dorian looked at me with a concerned look. I turned the phone around and showed him who I was talking to. “Drake’s sleeping.” I made sure the door was unlocked as I slipped into the hall way to talk to Dorian.
He handed me an envelope. “Official paperwork and a birthday present,” Dorian said.
“Thanks.” I opened the envelope to see the final documents and the pay increase for adopting a child. It didn’t raise my residency rate, but that’s okay I’d build a loft above my bed for Drake when he was stable enough to climb the ladder by himself at night. Or I could move up into the loft myself. We’d see.
Inside the same envelope was a ring. I pulled it out and Dorian explained its meaning. “His mother wanted him to have it. It’s a family heirloom. To be passed down to his life mate. She won’t be able to give it to him, so she asked that you do it.”
“All right. But I don’t have any place safe to keep it.” I said.
Sage spoke up from the other end. “We can get you a safe deposit box at the bank downstairs.”
Dorian nodded. “I can hold on to it for you. When you can get that box downstairs you can put it in there. I know it’s not something you can do until this Dragon thing is taken care of though.”
I sighed. “It’s much more than a dragon thing now I think. But right now we are dealing with the dragons.”
Sage asked, “The wolves too?”
I nodded but Sage was still pointed at Dorian on the phone. I turned it as I spoke, “And the vampires too. It’s bigger than we know.”
Dorian nodded. “Be careful, Nox. War will happen regardless of your actions, possibly because of your actions.”
“I know. I’ll be careful.”
Dorian smiled. “I know you will. I will let you get back inside. Have a good night, Nox. If you need help with the boy, let me know. I have experience with wayward sons.”
I grinned. “Thanks, Dorian. I will. Night.”
Dorian waved at Sage on the phone, “Night, Sage. Don’t keep him up too long.”
Sage chuckled, “I won’t, sir.”
Dorian laughed. “I hope he rubs off on you.”
I stuck my tongue out at Dorian. He laughed as he walked down the hallway towards his room. He wasn’t too far away, but he had a much bigger apartment. He was older and held more status despite not completing his fathering duty.
I opened the door and shut it behind me and sat down at the bar in the darkness of my apartment while Drake slept.
“I should go to bed. I don’t want to wake him up and I’ll be back up soon, anyway.” I sighed.
Sage frowned at me through the phone. “Call me if you wake up, Nox.”
“I don’t want to wake you up.”
Sage adjusted the phone and whispered, “Please. I ask that you call me. I can’t be there to help, so let me at least help calm you down. Please.”
I frowned. “It’ll be 4am.”
Sage smiled, “I know and I’m okay with that. You aren’t alone. I want to help you.”
“All right,” I agreed. “I will call you when I wake from my nightmares.”
Sage smiled. “Good. I will hope not to hear from you, but I know I will.”
“Night, Sage.” I blew him a kiss, and he laughed but returned the gesture. I hung up the video call and put my phone on the counter to charge for the night.
I changed then crawled into bed grabbing a pillow from across the bed and closed my eyes. I thought of Sage’s blue eyes, the scent of jasmine and lavender but the only thing I could smell was burnt cookies which made me smile as I placed my hand on top of the little dragon’s head and ran my fingers through his hair. This wasn’t going to be easy, but I was looking forward to it.