This dream-story was pretty obviously inspired by American Horror Story: Coven. The characters looked different, mostly, although sometimes not (it being a dream). Strangely, one person in the dream version looked like Jensen Ackles. I don't exactly disapprove, but I watch nothing he's on, and I wonder how he wandered on set, as it were. Another influence would have been Tanya Huff's Gale Girls novels. There was one line of dialogue that I remembered that I unfortunately had to leave out, because they reason I remembered it in the morning was because it was nearly a direct quote from Enchantment Emporium: "Glancing down at a tanned forearm that screamed don't even fucking think about it to anyone with the sight...."
There was also slightly more to it than what I have written here, but this is the part that made enough sense to be written down the next day.
Scarlet pushed my door open, gently knocking as she did. “Rafael. Will, and his family, are here to see you.”
There were quite a few things Scarlet could have had to speak to me. Even two-thirds drained, my magic was needed. There were too few of us left, and I’d proven myself trustworthy to her and the other leaders. There was even talk of admitting me to their number, despite my lack of magic and age. I doubted anything would come of that, but Scarlet popped in often to ask for my thoughts on our current rebuilding efforts.
So, as I said, there were several things I expected her to say, but that wasn’t one of them. “I have nothing to say to him.”
She smiled. “Right. But, as I said, his family is with him. I don’t know if you’ve met his parents, but Angela is here. Do you want to turn them away too?”
“Hell,” I said. I looked down, running a hand through my hair to avoid her eyes. “Do you know what they want?”
“I am guessing they want to say goodbye. Will and Angela, I mean. All four of them are moving to Virginia later this week. His mom put it for a transfer to ship duty, and it looks like someone got it fast-tracked.” It was remarkable that she in no way betrayed the smugness I knew she had to be feeling. “They thought the change of location might be best for all of us.”
“Yeah, I can see that.” I eventually looked back up to say, “I guess I can do that.”
“I think you should,” she admitted. “It’ll be better for you later, I think. See me after though. You might need that, too.”
I nodded, getting to my feet. As I passed her on the way out, I gently squeezed her shoulder. “Thanks, Scarlet,” not being specific on what I was thanking her for.
When I entered this little academy, we had been under a siege. A group of hunters, led by a fully trained mage had decided we needed to die. Aided by a traitor within, Scarlet’s husband and fellow teacher, in fact, they were picking us off one by one, students and staff alike. And at that, it was still safer for me inside than out, because initiates outside the house were being killed or enslaved by our enemy at an even faster rate. In an effort to protect himself, Will had used a rare talent of his to drain magic on one of his fellow students. Unfortunately, he had not used it well, and had accidentally killed her. That added a new dimension to the threat, and everyone increased their guard. The danger was still there, so Will had to pick his next target carefully, and finally picked the newest student, so new to magic that he didn’t even know what it was supposed to feel like, let alone see it. Me.
Of course, getting to know me well enough to place a draining mark on me had consequences he didn’t foresee, but that was later, after he’d already raped my magic. But that change in feeling was enough to make him step up to the mob, leading us students to hold them off during their final attack as the teachers dealt with both traitor and the hunter’s leader. Thanks to him, we survived. Most of us anyways. But he’d almost drained me dry to do it, and it was obvious during the aftermath what he’d done to me. So instead of the acclimation of a hero, or the death sentence of a murderer, the council split the difference, declared him graduated from the school, and told him to get the hell out of town, or else. It seemed his family had believed them.
I actually had met Will’s parents before, a couple of times. His mom, Camilla, who everybody addressed as “Chief” instead of “Ma’am,” was a well-built tall woman, who did not smile often but did not go out of her way to be intimidating. His mother Mika was much more delicate and fine-boned, with the gift for smoothing awkward moments away. It was pretty clear which woman had birthed which child, Angela was taller than all of them and verged on burly, while Will was deceptively nearly as delicate as his mother. The way they all acted though, it was never a question that they saw themselves as a family, and both parents had been kind to me. I would miss them.
“Rafael,” Chief said, nodding a greeting.
“Chief, Ms. Wu,” I replied back, with my own nod to each. “Angela,” she got smile, and she pulled me into a brief but bruising hug. “Will,” I said at last to the last. I gave myself points for keeping my tone even.
He took both of my hands in his. “Rafa.” He looked like he wanted to say more. So did I, I would imagine. Neither of us spoke.
Chief eventually spoke up, “I’m sure Ms. Florentine already told you, but we’re moving out of state on Friday. I put in for ship duty, now that we’re free to move around, and Mika and the kids decided to follow me.”
“They were making us move anyways,” Angela explained, “to free up our house for the new chief that was taking Mom’s slot here. Since we’re moving at all, may as well move to her new homeport.”
“It’s the way it goes when you marry into the fleet,” Mika said. “At least she was able to avoid ship duty while the kids were young. They’re both old enough to decide their own minds.”
They faltered. It wasn’t like they could say, “Keep in touch,” or “don’t be a stranger, we’re keeping our cell phone numbers,” because I wouldn’t keep in touch and wouldn’t keep their numbers, whatever they said, and they knew it.
And the reason for that was still holding my hands, trying to lock his gaze with mine. “Can we talk, Rafa? Just the two of us.”
I pulled my hands away from him. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Somewhere, Scarlet was probably annoyed at me, but I really didn’t think it was a good idea. Just the two of us, out of range of any help… it wasn’t happening. I genuinely believed him when he said he regretted his actions, but I was not sure that regret would stop him from finishing the job. Nor would the threat of Scarlet’s vengeance deter him from draining me fully dry; it never had before.
He seemed to realize my distrust. “Rafa, I don’t know how to say how sorry I am.”
“I get it. I do,” I said. “You were doing what you had to do. It didn’t look like any of us would survive, and what did you owe me? Or Shannon? And, ultimately, using up my power in ways I flat didn’t have the knowledge to use it myself is what saved the day. But Shannon is still dead. And you nearly killed me. I can understand what you did and why you did it, but I don’t know if I can forgive it.” Emotion was creeping in, finally, as I looked him straight in the eye. I don’t know why he needed privacy, in that moment no one else existed anyways. “I will never forget it, either.”
There wasn’t much to say after that. We talked a bit anyways, Mika saying she would try to find a teaching position out there. “Maybe even on base; they hire civilians when they need them.” Angela looked forward to dominating a whole new volleyball team, and did not think it would hurt her chances of a scholarship. I nodded along and murmured some polite words, but spoke as little as I could, and said nothing about my new duties. Will said nothing at all.
After about ten minutes, the Chief made a show of looking at her watch, and suggested, “We should probably get moving.” They all stood and began to walk away. I kept motionless watch from the porch. But halfway down the path, Will suddenly spun back around and swooped in to try and capture my lips with his. But I turned my face away, and he got my cheek instead. “I love you, Rafael.”
“I would have loved you too,” I said. He closed his eyes, in pain or ecstasy, I refused to guess, and he went to catch up to his family.
Scarlet was waiting for me just inside, sitting by the window with a clear view of the porch. She clearly felt no need to pretend she hadn’t heard the whole thing, not that I was surprised. “You okay?” She said.
“I will be. After you remove the marks he put on me.” She raised an eyebrow. “One on the back of each of my hands,” I said, rubbing the spots in question. “And one on my face,” I pointed to where he had kissed me. “I can feel them now. I must be getting better at this, because I couldn’t feel them even last week. They just felt like a part of me.”
“I can do that,” she said, still obviously concerned, and enunciating carefully to show it. “But are you sure you want me to?”
“Of course I do!” I shook my head, letting the small pull of hair tossing around help keep me focused. “Whatever my feelings about him, I can’t trust him again. His magic on mine makes my skin crawl, now that I know what he’s capable of doing.”
“I can understand that. Does that mean you want me to remove the rest of the marks he placed on you?”
“Rest? I thought you all removed them already.”
“No, only the ones he used to drain you. Most of them we left alone.” She let her expression relax into a searching look. “I know you can’t see magic like I can, but you really can’t even feel the others?”
“Just these new ones.”
“Rafa, Will practically has you covered in his marks. Low powered ones, things he didn’t need to drain you or anyone else to pull off, but dozens of them all over your body, enough that they almost looks like clothing to me. He must have been applying them any time he touched your skin.”
I thought through the implications of what she was saying. “So, if you can see them, and the other teachers can see magic too…?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, it was immediately obvious when you two started sleeping together. That great big mark saying ‘Piss off,’ to anything with the sight made that pretty clear.”
“I am never going to be able to look Mrs. Featherstone in the eye again.”
Scarlet laughed. “Oh, but it’s cute. He’s hardly the first to do that, you know.” Her smile slipped away. “He’s hardly the first to do any of what he did.”
My expression must have looked thunderous, because she made me take her seat as she stood. “Will was wrong. He did a terrible thing to you and Shannon, and it got Shannon killed. But in the end, he chose to save you before himself.”
“Even if it half killed me to ‘save’ me.”
“I didn’t tell you to forgive him. But remember this. There are reasons, good reasons sometimes, for the wrong things we do. You don’t need to forget the wrongs, but also remember the reasons.”
“Fuck his reasons.”
Scarlet knelt down, and took my hands just like Will had. “Don’t make the same mistakes I made. Remember the reasons, because if you assume evil is going to be obviously evil, you won’t recognize it when it’s in your arms at night. We both missed it,” she admitted. “Let’s not miss it in the future.