Flash Fic Friday, Serial

Flash Fic Friday

**I swear I just set out to write a one shot. But y’all aren’t mad it’s a whole-ass thing now, are you? Here’s part three of Gareth and Owen. Part four will be up next week. I don’t have any idea how long it will go. Enjoy!**

Owen padded barefoot into the room, freshly showered with damp hair, and wearing my clothes. He was bigger than me—taller and broader—so they didn’t quite fit. The sweatpants were definitely too short, riding up his ankles. But I certainly didn’t mind the tight fit of the T-shirt across his chest and straining at his biceps. It made for a great picture. And I had a weird flutter of pleasure at seeing him dressed in my clothes.

Which was strange, because that hadn’t ever been something that particularly appealed to me before. But right now, looking at him, it absolutely appealed in every way possible.

Owen smirked, as if he knew where my thoughts had gone. And then it occurred to me that he probably did, considering he’d be able to discern a lot from my scent. Hormones and pheromones were absolutely a thing, even if human noses weren’t sensitive enough to detect them. Other shifters I’d known had said horniness and attraction was one of the easiest scents to pick up and recognize. Was Owen picking up on that from me now?

I cleared my throat, not letting my mind wander down that path. Yes, he was a beautiful man, but he was so much younger than I was. And my familiar. That gave me a certain amount of control over him, and the power imbalance inherent in that made anything sexual between us unconscionable.

Though he had used the term mate.

But maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it did. Even if I had never heard a shifter use it for anything except their partner. I had only known a few shifters in my life, and none of them were werewolves. Witches were a rather insular community—which was a shame and something I was trying to change—so I hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to mingle with other supernatural beings. Maybe it was different for wolves? Maybe Owen and his family used the term to describe their relationship with their bonded witch?

It was something we needed to talk about.

“Where’d your mind just go?” Owen’s voice was soft, inquisitive and gentle. But I shook my head. We’d get to that in a minute.

“I, uh, made food. Not sure what you liked or what you wanted, but I figured protein and carbs.” I lifted my shoulder in an awkward half-shrug. “Couldn’t go wrong with that.”

Owen glanced at the table, but then focused back on me, a smiling playing on his lips. “It looks and smells great. I love meatball subs.”

“I mean, it was frozen and I just heated it up, but it should be all right and replenish calories. I can do better tomorrow for sure. Breakfast can be a whole affair. I’m good at breakfast. Anything you want. But I didn’t want you to go to sleep hungry, and I just figured—”

“Gareth, breathe.” Owen smiled softly and stepped closer. The moment he put his hand on my neck, I let out an explosive breath that made him chuckle quietly. “That’s better. There’s no need to be nervous. We’ll find our footing.”

I laughed but it sounded strained. “How are you so damn calm about this whole thing?”

Owen squeezed my neck and stepped around me to take a seat at the table. He pulled the plate closer to him. “I’ve known this was a possibility my whole life, and had an inkling of it a year ago. I’ve had time to adjust to the idea. I know it’s new for you. But don’t worry. We’ll get there.”

And that gave me the opening I needed. “About what you said in the car…”

He glance up, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. And when I didn’t continue, he asked playfully, “Which part?”

I rolled my eyes, because we both knew which part. But he was going to make me say it. “The mates part. Because I’ve only heard it used in one way with shifters but you can’t possibly mean—”

“I mean exactly that.”

I gaped like a fish, which made him chuckle. But instead of elaborating, he waggled his eyebrows and took a big bite of food. I had to laugh as well, some of the tension leaving me. He wasn’t worried or concerned, clearly, and I needed relax some as well.

He cocked his head as he chewed, and when he swallowed his bite, and asked, “Is that a problem?”

“No!” The hint of insecurity in his voice had me answering fast and too loud. I took a breath. “I mean, no. Of course not. I’m just…surprised. It’s unexpected.”

“Don’t worry, Gareth. I’m not going to jump your bones and mate with you tonight. We’ll get there. But it’s always been an equal exchange of—” His head snapped up, and he dropped his sandwich to his plate with a splat, some of the sauce leaking out the side. “Someone’s here.”

I waved a hand in dismissal. “It’s probably just Aeron.”

“It’s not. Though…” He inhaled deeply, stood and walked toward the door, then breathed in again. “Definitely someone familial, and there’s a bird. Not the cockatoo.”

My entire body went tense. “Can you tell if it’s an African Grey or a duck?”

Another quick intake of breath. “It’s not waterfowl.”

“Crap.”

Owen was at my side in a second, his speed on display. He touched me again, and I felt our bond surge. Aeron had described the bond to me too many times to count, so I knew that as it solidified over the coming weeks, we’d both feel things more strongly until it settled.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s my mother,” I said with a tired sigh. I patted his hand where it rested on my shoulder, then stood and crossed to the door. I barely acknowledged her as I opened it to admit her and her parrot, Jolene, perched on her shoulder.

“Mother, please let me introduce you to my familiar, Owen.” I made a sweeping gesture toward him, where he stood in a ready stance, his muscles coiled tightly. “Owen, this is my mother, Bianca.”

Mother ignored Owen entirely, which wasn’t a surprise but got my hackles up. She stared at me, her blue gaze piercing, and her nose turned up.

“Gareth, what is the meaning of this?” Her voice was ice cold. I wasn’t surprised by her anger or her outrage. She’d thought I was an abomination since the first time I’d failed to call a familiar. I opened my mouth to respond, but she didn’t give me the chance. “This is unacceptable. Your behavior is reprehensible. You will come with me now to the council headquarters and I will strip you of this bond—”

She gasped as Owen grabbed my arm and pulled me behind him. He took up a fighting stance, his fingernails lengthening into claws. Jolene gave a squawk as Mother brought up a shield. And just that fast, there was a stand off in my entryway.

Owen growled, long and low. I touched his back. He ignored me.

“You will not take him from me.” The distortion in Owen’s words was from more than just the rumble of his voice. It sounded like he had a mouth full of fangs.

Mother’s magic sparked, her eyes flaring with power. I had to de escalate this quickly. I wrapped an arm around Owen’s middle, and he backed up, forcing me farther away from my mother. I was more than happy to go.

“Owen.” I kept my voice soft, speaking in his hair. “My mother holds a seat on the council. She represents our coven and has considerable power—”

“I don’t give a bloody fuck if she’s the supreme ruler of the universe.” Owen was talking to me, but his gaze never left my mother. “She can get the fuck out of this house.”

The threshold ward flared and pulsed, and my mother gasped as it pushed her right out the front door. In seconds, she was on the porch, staring in, rage shining through her eyes. And I knew I should be worried about that, and I knew I would be when I could process it, but right that moment, I was stuck on the fact that the threshold ward had responded to Owen’s command. If I’d had any doubt about our growing bond—which I hadn’t—that right there would have sealed it.

“The council will come for you,” she spat out, and Jolene hurled her own bigoted insult my way. Mother rubbed Jolene’s chest feathers. “I will see to it you are stripped of your bond, of your power, and cast out.”

With that, Bianca turned on her heel and marched away. She threw a spell behind her, but it hit the wards and dissipated. I wasn’t worried about whatever she’d tried. Areon had helped me set the wards and they were the strongest anyone had seen. Our powers combined could protect a military forward operating base.

Owen breathed heavily, not letting go of his defensive pose, until the car pulled away with a squeal. Then he made an effort to shift the parts that had…shifted. Gods, I needed to learn the correct phrasing and terms. Otherwise, I’d sound like an idiot. The thought caused a slightly hysterical sounding laugh to escape my throat.

Owen whipped around and hauled me into his arms. He held me tightly and pushed his face against my neck. I hugged him back, needing the grounding. For a couple of moments, we just breathed. Then he pulled back just far enough to see my face.

“You okay?”

I nodded.

Owen blew out a breath and didn’t let me go. “How worried do we need to be right now?”

“On a scale of one to ten? About seventeen.” That near-hysterical laugh burst out of me again.

Lost in thought, Owen pulled me in again. He hummed, kissed the side of my head, then let me go. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.” He glanced at me to make sure I was paying attention, then continued. “You’re gonna call your brother, because he’s on your side right?”

“Right,” I agreed, calming just a little.

“Good.” Then he waggled his brows. “And I’m gonna eat my sandwich.”

Another laugh escaped me, but this time, it sounded far more normal. Owen’s shoulders relaxed, and his endearing grin bloomed on his lips. He draped an arm around my waist and led me back into the kitchen.

“Hey, I have my priorities.”

I nodded, still chuckling a little. My adrenaline was crashing and I started to shake. Owen sat me in a chair, then took the one next to me, sliding as close as possible before he reached once again for his sandwich. He did need to eat, and not just because he was hungry. He had to replace calories if he was to be at full strength.

I sighed and slumped against him, liking the pleased sound he made. “Tonight has not turned out at all like I thought it would.”

Owen went still. “Do you regret it?”

I heard the hesitancy and insecurity in his tone. I turned my head to give him a grin. “Not even a little bit.”

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

***By request, here’s part two. Check out last week for the first part. Enjoy!**

Sitting next to a naked man on the tailgate of my SUV was not how I planned to spend the evening. Okay, so Owen was no longer naked, since he’d wrapped the plaid blanket I always kept back there around himself.

Owen. A werewolf. A red wolf sometimes, and sometimes a man. And my familiar.

I already felt the bond growing between us, since that first glimpse of it when I’d called for my familiar and he finally appeared. It had thrown everyone into a tizzy. Aeron, with Remy, of course, were still here, though he stood some feet away and kept shooting us looks. The High Mage was having a conniption and communing with the rest of the Witches Council high coven. The other witches and their new familiars had been dismissed. I was trying not to freak out, and failing. Having this kind of bond with a human was unthinkable. Okay, technically he wasn’t human, he was a were, but still. Human sometimes.

The only one not freaking out in any way was Owen. He was swinging his feet and looking for all the world like no big thing was happening.

“Hey Gareth,” Owen finally said, his voice soft and a little tentative. We’d exchanged names before being banished to my SUV while the High Mage did her thing. “You wouldn’t happen to have any water, would you? Or a snack?”

Before I could answer, Aeron spoke up. “I have some stuff. I’ll be right back.”

I didn’t have food, but I did have several bottles of water, because I always had them in the car. Sometimes working magic made me thirsty. I retrieved one and handed it over. No doubt Aeron would bring back some as well, but I didn’t want Owen to have to wait when I could provide him with at least that. I nodded at his soft thanks.

“I’m sorry I’m not better prepared. I know you need to replenish calories after a shift but, well, I really didn’t expect this.”

Owen gave me that lopsided grin again. That quickly, and I already found that little quirk endearing as all get out.

“I gathered.” He drank some water, wiped off his chin, then turned to look at me fully. “But it’s the kind of thing that happens to some wolves in my family.”

I couldn’t help the gasp or the wide eyes. “Really?”

Owen cocked his head, looking like a puppy. “Really. I have several extended family members bonded to witches. Is it…not common here?”

I shook my head, and would have commented on that, but seriously, he looked like a confused puppy and I just had to know. Carefully, as tactfully as I could, I asked, “Owen, exactly how old are you?”

He laughed, the sound free, and his eyes twinkled with merriment. “Twenty-one. Almost twenty-two. I know I look younger.” He chortled again, and shook his head. Then his expression turned more serious. “I thought I felt something last year, and I definitely had the drive to shift and head this way. But I wasn’t of age yet, so…” He shrugged.

So young, but as he said, definitely of age. But then his words sunk in and my heart started to pound. I couldn’t quite catch my breath.

Owen’s gentle touch to my arm soothed me more quickly than anything ever had before. I breathed deeply and Owen started petting. I had the fleeting thought that I should tell him to stop. But I didn’t want to.

“You okay?” His voice was such a sweet sound, light and airy, but still with some depth of tone. “What just happened?”

“I’ve been, uh…” I cleared my throat. “I’ve been trying to call a familiar for several years now, but no animal came. This was my last chance. If it didn’t work this time, the Witches Council was going to strip me of my magic. Everyone thought I was broken.”

Aeron cleared his throat, shot me a meaningful look, and handed Owen a little packet of nuts, cheese and pretzels.

“Everyone but my brother,” I amended. And then, because of the squawk, added, “And Remy, of course.”

“Better.” Aeron shot Owen a smile. “Sorry it’s not much, but that should tide you over until you can get out of here and Gareth can feed you.”

“Thanks.” Owen offered up a grin, and then turned to me. “And obviously you weren’t broken. You couldn’t get your familiar until I was old enough to join you.”

“Which is highly unusual and circumspect.” The High Mage was a stately woman with formidable power, and we hadn’t heard her walk over. At least Aeron and I hadn’t, judging by the way we both jolted. Owen must have though, because he started eating his snack and gave her his full attention. Though his eyes had lost the warmth of a moment ago. The High Mage couldn’t care less.

“I’m not sure what you’re implying by that—”

“I’m not implying anything,” she interrupted. “I’m stating fully. Bonding to a human is forbidden, even someone who is only partially human, as it impinges on their agency. If this bond even, in fact, does exist.”

The outrage I felt wasn’t all mine. “Excuse me?”

“You will both present yourselves before the Witches Council for a thorough mental and magical evaluation. Until such time, Gareth and Owen, you will have no contact with each other and—”

“No.” 

Owen’s voice was firm, though polite, even though his eyes blazed with anger.

The high mage narrowed her eyes. “You don’t have a choice.”

“That’s the beautiful thing about agency, your high mageness.” The derision that dripped off Owen’s tone was impressive. “I can do whatever I want. And I will not have you, or anyone else, judge my bond with my witch. We’ve only just met, and it will take time for it to fully solidify. I will not let anyone muck around with that.”

The High Mage opened her mouth, but she never got the chance to speak. Owen beat her to it. “Gareth, get up, please. Let’s go. I need to eat, and probably find some clothes. And get your address so my family knows where to send my things.”

I hastened to do what he said, ignoring the High Mage and her ferret familiar who’d deigned to poke his head out of her robes and stare scornfully at us. He chittered to her, but she didn’t react. I had half a worry that she would cast a spell to keep us there, even though magic used in such a way would go against the Acadia Accords.

Besides, Aeron had my back. Like always.

I slammed the lift gate closed, and by the time I made it to the drivers seat, Owen was already settled in the passenger side. As soon as I shut the door, Owen breathed a sigh of relief and put his hands on me. It was just a soft touch to the neck, and then he leaned in to scent me there, before relaxing back against the seat.

“I’m sorry about that.” He shook his head. “Kinda. But you should know, wolves are possessive. I’m possessive. And you’re mine. They can’t take you from me.”

I nodded. “I don’t want that either. But they are powerful, and you’ve just opened a can of worms.”

Owen waved that off and gave me that lopsided grin I was coming to adore. “And we’ll face it when it comes. Until then, I need food and clothes, and time with my mate.”

I nodded again and put the SUV in gear. A moment later, I saw headlights behind me, which I recognized as Aeron’s car.

It was only three miles later, and five miles from home, when I finally realized what Owen had said.

Mate?

Flash Fic Friday

Flash Fic Friday

*It’s been a bit but here we go. Another flash for you! What do you think? Should there be a part 2? Enjoy!*

“You got this, Gareth. No stress.”

I nodded, thankful for the support, even if I didn’t believe my brother in the slightest. At least, if the ravenous horde of butterflies beating under my ribs was any indication. This was a big deal. A huge deal. And my last chance.

I was the oldest person in the summoning circle, and I’d had four failed attempts already. Most witches were able to summon their animal familiar by the time they turned twenty-one. My brother, Aeron, who was arguably more powerful than I was, had accidentally summoned his cockatoo at sixteen. I was thirty. I hadn’t reached my full power until I was twenty-five, which was also later than normal.

I was definitely a disappointment. My entire family was made up of witches, on both sides, and all had managed to summon a familiar to steady their powers by the time they reached their early twenties. Most of the animal familiars were birds too. The only person who hadn’t written me off was Aeron, convinced there was a reason for the delay. Most of my extended family barely talked to me, and my parents only did because, well, they were my parents.

But Aeron, and his cockatoo Remy, were by my side. Both in the everyday and here, tonight, the night of the Harvest Moon, they stood outside the circle to support me. waiting for the moment when they high mage began the ceremony and the witches gathered worked the spell that would hopefully bring them an animal familiar.

Going through the ceremony a time or two without calling a familiar wasn’t so unusual. Only witches who have reached the right threshold power were even allowed to attempt the ritual. But I was the anomaly. No one in written or oral history had done it as many times as I had and still failed.

The Witches Council had ruled that this was my last chance. I thought that was unfair, but there was nothing I could do about it. The decision was final. And if I didn’t manage it this time, my innate power would be taken from me. For my own safety and that of others. Without a familiar, with the level of magic I had, and no familiar to anchor me, I would end up going mad. And possibly hurt others.

It had happened before. 

So this was it. My final chance. And as I stared at the clear sky, the stars and moon shining down and lighting the clearing and the summoning circle, panic and fear began to build. When Remy flew over and landed on my shoulder, rubbing his beak on my cheek, I knew it had to be bleeding into my aura. Aeron was Remy’s favorite thing in the world, and even though the bird enjoyed me a great deal, he never left my brother’s shoulder when Aeron was around.

I tried to calm down. I was unsuccessful.

The High Mage stepped into the center of the circle and raised her hands to the sky, calling to Gaia, as hush fell over the crowd. Remy preened my hair for a second, then flew off. Aeron squeezed the back of my neck and then nudged me forward, as he stepped farther back.

The High Mage completed her rite, and now it was the gathered witches turn. I waited, doing my best to keep the panic under control, trying to focus as witch after witch stepped to the center, completed their rite, and familiars came flocking to their witch. Mostly cats and dogs, a few birds, even a squirrel or two. One by one, every witch successfully completed the spell and welcomed their familiar.

And then it was my turn.

The silence grew oppressive, but I did my best to ignore it. I tried to focus on the fact that whatever happened, happened, and it was out of my control. I stepped to the middle at the High Mage’s beckoning, and closed my eyes. Three deep breaths, focusing on the exhale and letting my worry and panic go with each exhale. I knew I had the power, the ability. The only thing left up to question was if it would work this time.

Centered now, I opened my eyes and lifted them to the sky. Another slow, deep even breath, and I was ready. I made sure my voice was clear and strong as I said, “Dewch ataf, o ffrind. I fod yn gefnogaeth ac yn angor I mi. Tyngaf i’r dduwies y byddaf yn eich anrhydeddu am bopeth yr ydych.”

For a fraught second, nothing happened. And then I felt it, faint at first but growing. A tether, the beginning of a bond, a glowing thread that connected to my soul to something else. Someone else. 

Out of the dark, between the trees, a canine trotted forward. It had a wide head with a broad muzzle, tall pointed ears, and long slender legs with large feet. The coat was a startling red with white and grey patches underneath the chin and on the belly. 

A red wolf. Beautiful and breathtaking. The closer it—he—got the tighter in my soul. I had to control my breathing because I feared I would hyperventilate. It worked! Finally, after all this time, it had finally worked. And the wolf was majestic and amazing. I already could feel it.

The wolf stopped a foot or so away, and I couldn’t help falling to my knees and reaching out. The wolf froze, staring at me with piercing amber eyes. He sat on his haunches, stared for a moment longer, and then, with a sigh, began to shift.

It took less than a moment, though it felt longer because I couldn’t draw a breath. But then a man knelt before me. His hair was the same sort of red of his fur, his eyes now brown. He was slender but leanly muscled, also echoing his wolf form. He looked to be in his early twenties, probably, but the lopsided grin made me wonder if he was younger.

“Well,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Didn’t expect that. So, you’re my witch, huh?”