“Happy fortieth birthday!” all of our many friends cheered at Desmond as he walked through the front door.
Party favors were buzzing, balloons were falling, and everyone was smiling and laughing. Desmond got a huge grin on his face and started shaking his head as he chuckled to himself. For being forty, Desmond looked good; I suspected because of the beast inside him as much as the daily four mile runs. Shapeshifters have much stronger bodies than most folks and they don’t get sick as much as normal folks. They also tend to live longer. I didn’t think Des would make it as long as I eventually would, but I bet he’d get a solid hundred years without slowing down too much until the last fifteen or so. It was no where near enough time for me to spend with him, but I would have to be happy with whatever time I did get with Desmond. Since he had come back to me from the Denarians every day was a gift, and I cherished each one more than the last.
“Happy birthday, old man,” I said as I kissed him on the cheek and gave him a big hug.
“Wizards and their scheming,” he smiled back as he kissed me on the lips and started to mingle with the entirety of our collected friends.
Friends who we’d gained over nearly a decade together. Friends I would die for, and who would die for me. And maybe who would have to when the looming war came to a head. When the Black Council decided to make its move it wasn’t going to waste its years of secrecy on anything small. I knew that they could possibly threaten the entire world and that people I loved and cared for would be in danger. Maybe they would die, though I prayed to God that would not be so. Regardless, I would need all of their help before the end.
But at the celebration of a life, my favorite life, it wasn’t time for worry; it was time for love and fun and joy. Kevin was the first to start play punching Desmond while making ‘old people’ jokes, even as his ‘not so young anymore’ kids flitted around Sheron and him. Sheron gave me a warm smile even as she did her best to keep one eye on her daughter, Tina, who was over talking to Kyle. Tina was attending UB herself these days, and Kyle was chatting her up and down about classes (and maybe looking at her boobs here and there when he wasn’t looking at Trina’s).
Of course, Hannah made sure her own boobs were well in view of Desmond as much as they possibly could be. Hannah could have had any guy she wanted, but she would always have a soft spot for Des, and how could I blame her a tiny crush? I had a big one on Desmond myself.
Hannah and Kyle were doing well. Both college graduates and both full wizards, they could have gone and done anything in the world, but they’d decided to stay close to Des and I, and I couldn’t have been happier to have them around. Kyle was working part time at the Inkwell while doing his best to work on art commissions when he could. Trina had even helped a few of his more impressive pieces get some art gallery time. Trina helped Hannah out too by getting her a Physical Therapist job with the Buffalo Sabers. Turns out with her mother’s untimely death Trina had inherited (through a long list of shadow owners) full control of the Bills and Sabers. She insisted she was trying her best at championships, but one can only have so much hope. Either way, Hannah and Kyle were both happy, and that was enough for me.
Trina was doing well in her new position and she was keeping good tabs on the city when she could. Baron Wojchinski (I will never spell Mike’s name right as long as I live) was giving her and I the space we deserved, so things in Buffalo were as calm as they had ever been. Even old assholes can turn over a new leaf. Rafe was naturally enjoying free reign of the mansion and as much time with Trina as he could handle. As the two of them ribbed Desmond and handed him too many gifts I couldn’t help but smile at them. Rafe and Trina were ‘monsters’ in flesh, but they were anything but in mind and spirit. I loved both of them so much, and I knew we were blessed they were in our lives.
CoCo even made a short visit (making sure to let me know that Joransidhe would not approve and then smiling even wider when stating ‘what daddy doesn’t know won’t hurt him’). She stayed out of nearly everyone sight with her powerful glamors, but did end up wishing Desmond a happy birthday personally, and assured him that she hadn’t gotten him anything for his birthday, as he would owe her a favor if she had bought him something. Then she left, and we found three dozen boxes of Paula’s donuts that were most certainly not left as a gift by any fae ladies. I guess Des and I did right by the girl, and I hoped she’d remember us in all her infinite nights of life. I know I’d always have a warm spot for Corlaconsidhe, Sidhe Lady of the Autumn Court, my little CoCo.
Dizzy eventually made his way to the house with quite a few guys from Sentinel. Desmond instilled loyalty like no one I’d ever met. Sure, Sentinel was a good job for these guys, but Desmond cared about them and that made them care about him. Sentinel had about fifty guys on payroll and was expanding everyday in one way or another. Of those fifty Desmond and I had hand picked twelve of them to promote to ‘special field operations’, which was another way of saying we let them in on the supernatural world hiding behind the bed covers. Most of the guys were skeptical at first, but when your boss turns into a giant black dog and his wife conjures flame right in front of you it’s kind of hard to ignore the truth. Though some of the guys sure tried to. Neither Des nor I really wanted to involve more people in our world than necessary, but I knew that war was brewing, and it was a war I intended to win. So we taught, and trained, and had ourselves a small team of warriors we could count on when shit really hit the fan. Maybe the SFO guys wouldn’t make much of a difference when it came down to it, but maybe they’d be the straw that broke the Black Council’s back.
As Dizzy and Desmond got caught up in talking music with Ceasar, Lopez, and Raul I found myself chatting with John Noble and his expectant wife, Kate. The two had finally decided it was baby time, and it hadn’t taken them long to put one in the oven. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous, but my happiness for them won out. I couldn’t wait to have another little one in my life to call me Aunt Connie.
Speaking of, little Desie Ivory was getting not so little anymore at around two years old, and his parents swore he was a little monster at home. I didn’t believe it myself. At least once a week he spent a night with Des and I and he never acted up around us. Maybe it was because I made all kinds pretty lights and colors appear out of thin air, or because Uncle Desmond did the best doggie impression ever. Or maybe it was just all the junk food we let him eat (don’t tell Sarah). Whatever the reason, Desie was never trouble for the Waters, except that he was putting thoughts in Desmond’s head.
I knew the chances of me having a child were slim to none, but Desmond didn’t have such a realist look at the world. He truly believed that if we hoped enough, if we wanted it enough, and with only a little luck, that we could have a baby of our own. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the heartache of trying for a baby and not getting one all over again, especially at my age, but the gleam in his eyes when he talked about a baby of our own was too bright for me to tell him no. So we tried. A lot. So much so that I started to think that he had really concocted a secret plan for more ‘alone time’ with me. Except, things were different somehow. When Daniel and I had tried so long ago we faced pregnancy after pregnancy, all of which ended in a miscarriage shortly after they even began. Hell, the same had happened to Des and I a few times in the past, on accident. But recently there were no false pregnancies, no heartbreak, just a lot of. . .well, not nothing, but it seemed that way. Two months of trying and nothing physical, but every time we’d make love I’d find that little flame that had started burning during the blood moon grow a little bigger. In fact, it wasn’t so little anymore, especially after my feeding my magic with it over the past year or so. My period started to come regularly and not as powerfully, more subdued like your average woman would have. Bit by bit that fire inside me grew, and I hoped with all my heart that one day I’d awake to find the fire gone, and in its place a little person.
The future was a darkness to me, a great unknown. I didn’t know if a war would come that would consume all of the lives of my loved ones, and me with them. I didn’t know if a child was possible, or even smart, to try for. I didn’t know a lot of things, but I knew what mattered.
The people around me.
People who meant the world to me. People who were there for Desmond and I during good times, bad times, and every time in between. They were all far from normal. They were vampires and skin changers. They were Knights and psychics. They were faeries and wizards. Some were once the outcasts of society, and some of them still were in some ways. Some were normal people trying to fight against a world they barely understood, and live in another that would never believe them. They were all of them flawed to some degree or another. They were all scarred. They were all once lost on the path of life. Desmond and I very much included. But somehow, together, we had all found our own path, our own way. It wasn’t the path most people walked, but it was ours, and it was a much higher and harder path than most. I’d trade a thousand ‘normal’ people for even one of the wonderfully beautiful folks I called my friends. My family.
Whatever the future held, whatever came across our path, we would walk against it, together. Even if that meant we’d have to die to do it. I would fight til my last breath against the dying of the light, but if my flame had to go out there were no better people to find my end among. But for now, we would live, we would love, and we would fight no matter the odds, no matter the enemy.
The party went long into the night, filled with such laughter and joy. And I decided that for a group of misfits, we had all turned out pretty alright.
That somehow I had turned out alright. And that made me feel almost as good as snuggling up to my husband, and falling away into dreams of warmth, sunshine, and happiness.