Jess shifted position so Jaisan could lean against him more comfortably, and surveyed the living room.
Everyone was there, all more or less recovered from the battle a few days before, though magically speaking it was going to be some time before anyone was up to normal levels. Mandisa had taken care of the wounds of the demon-wolves and Evaline, which would heal, and treated Kevin's brush with hypothermia; exactly what she'd said to the two healers while checking them, having banished everyone else, they kept to themselves. Time would take care of all the rest. All three cats had found welcoming laps and obliging hands, and Gwyn lay sprawled next to Naomi.
“Well,” Evaline said. “Looks like life can now get back to normal.”
“Or become something like normal,” Jaisan countered.
“So. What are you, meaning Aindry and Jess and Jaisan, going to do now?”
“Find a home and a job,” Aindry said. “Maybe someone to teach me more about cars, that seems to be one of my stronger talents.”
“You have a home,” Cynthia said.
“Will there be room?”
“I'm in no hurry to leave my mom,” Flynn said. “This house has plenty of room, it'll just take some time to fix up the parts that are in the worst shape. You guys might need to share or something for a bit while we get that done, but ultimately, we'll all fit. Stay here.”
“I can't really argue. There were some people who've been very kind to us, too. I'd like to make sure they know why we couldn't stay and couldn't explain and that we're okay.”
“That should be easy enough to do, and I'm sure it'll make them happy. And I bet if we visit the garage, there'll be a job just opening up.”
“I think I'd like to go back to high school,” Jaisan said slowly. “After that, we can see what happens.” He snuggled against his twin. “As long as we're together. I think I'll get used to having lots of friends again.”
“Can be done,” Lori judged. “Jess?”
He thought that over. “I don't know. Maybe in September I'll go back to school with Jais. It would be really cool to see if we can make us and Sam exist legally again.”
“We can call one of Haven's very own lawyers and ask what we can do,” Cynthia said. “We can track down birth certificates and such, and get your name changed back to what it should be, and whatever else.”
“My uncle is one of them,” Evaline said. “He'll tell us for free.”
“And I'm wondering if it's too late to bring someone up on abuse charges. I didn't realize until that demon looked like him, but... I think I'd be able to leave it behind better. Not that he isn't a hotshot lawyer himself, and he'll probably get off...”
“That's how it goes,” Shaine said dryly. “Hit the hookers and the street kids hard and heavy, let the rich sons of...” He stopped, switched phrases. “Bastards walk away after fucking with innocent lives.”
“But just knowing I tried might help.”
“We'll look into that too,” Cynthia promised. “And you're quite right, we should at least do our best. Anything else?”
“Long-term? Maybe find a way to help the kids still on the streets who don't have demon-luck and awesome friends to bail them out. But I have to get myself sorted out first, so for right now I'm going to just stick with working at the Brewery, if Tomas doesn't fire me.”
“All of us,” Sonja sighed. “I bet we have to work serious overtime for a while. Maybe he'll put that on hold until after exams.”
“This time,” Kevin said, nestled between Deanna and Flynn—he said he still couldn't quite get warm, and he spent all the time he could cuddling with anyone willing, “nobody forget Jess is around, okay?”
That got a variety of winces and chuckles.
“We could also,” Aindry said, “get word out about Mom, if we aren't trying to hide. We might not ever know what happened, or if she's alive or dead, but we have to try.”
“Definitely,” Naomi agreed.
“Sam?” Liam said. “This sets you free, too. What about you?”
Silence for a moment. “After so long of it always being in the back of my mind that I'd failed and that I had to watch for any survivors... I'm really not sure. All the ghosts in Unity can rest now. Maybe if some of the misinformation and prejudice about demons has been shaken enough, I'll see if I can find anyone interested in learning my kind of magic, since as far as I know I'm the only one left in this part of the world who knows it.”
“You can,” Nick and Cynthia said in perfect synch, and looked at each other, and laughed.
Sam smiled. “Otherwise... if I'm not so worried about keeping secrets, it might be nice just to relax and live.”
“And come party with us,” Lori said. “We've been inviting you long enough.” She smiled. “And maybe other stuff.”
“Shaine?” Kevin said. “What are you going to do now? You don't have to feel responsible for Jess anymore.”
Shaine regarded him quietly. “I could just disappear.”
“You could, but we'd miss you.”
“True,” Sam said softly. “We would.”
“You won't find anywhere you belong better than right here with us,” Caitryn seconded.
“Besides, without you, who'll yell at me when I'm being stupid?” Jess asked. “And I might need you to tell a judge you saw lots of bruises. And I think you and Kev and Lori are going to have an awesome time messing around with fire and water magic. And...”
Shaine held up both hands, palm out—for once making no effort at all to hide the delicate webbing between his fingers. “Enough already. So I'll spend a lot of time in the lake but I'll make sure I come visit.”
“Lots,” Gisela said.
“All right, visit lots.”
“Good,” Bane said, satisfied. “Then as soon as we get dominance order worked out more permanently, it would seem we have a wolf-pack of seven—which is the biggest one I know of. And everything will now work out wonderfully, and we can all live happily ever after.”
“Demon-luck...” Jaisan said hesitantly.
“It'll keep life from getting boring,” Kevin said.
“I'd love some boredom,” Bryan said wistfully. “Not forever, just for a while.”
Alfari, coiled on his lap, purred agreement.
“Know something?” Deanna said. “We've been long overdue for a party. We have a whole long list of reasons.”
“You're absolutely right,” Nick laughed. “Now sound like a good time?”
Jess groaned. “Oh, god, not another party...”
“You always survive,” Liam teased.
While plans were formed for a run to the store and other tasks, Jaisan glanced up at him and smiled. “It's going to be good to have a home again,” he murmured.
“Jess!” Deanna called across the room. “Go raid music collections, would you? I have to keep an eye on Kev... no way, phoenix, you don't do anything in that kitchen without someone keeping an eye on you!” She darted after the elvenmage, and Jess rolled his eyes.
“Yeah,” Jess said softly. “It's good to know where you belong. And this is it. Come on, let me up, we've got a party to get going.”