Timeline: April 9th, 2008
A couple of days after things calmed down after the attack on Eldon Well, Rey went looking for Jesse. She wanted to find out how her friend was doing, and to thank her for her help. It proved a lot more difficult that Rey thought it would be. She finally managed to locate the house Ann-Marie had rented and that Jesse had mentioned she was staying but no one was there. The door was locked and there was no answer and no lights on.
But there was still a lot of cleanup going on in the town and many folks had banded together in work crews to patch holes in people’s basements and streets and to help those who had fire damage. It was possible Jesse was out helping the community.
A day passed and although Rey had looked around town, she still hadn’t found Jesse. No one seemed to have seen her around. But then Jesse walked into the Blood and Brew a little after two in the afternoon. She was dressed nicely in something Rey hadn’t seen before. It looked new, but certainly outspoken and almost gaudy. The lacy thing was inspired by a deep blue teddy but covered much more skin and sported a medium length, black skirt. As was her style, Jesse’s make was as gothically inspired as ever. She sat down at a little table by herself and ordered a sandwich and soda, which Rose took care of (Rey had the late shift tonight).
“Jesse!” Rey said in delight. “I’ve been looking all over for you.” She smiled. “You look good. I like that new outfit.”
She smiled, pleased at the compliment. “Thanks! I haven’t been in town the last day or so. I was doing some work for Tara in Seattle.”
“That explains why I couldn’t find you,” Rey replied and chuckled. “May I join you?”
“Sure,” she replied. After Rey seated herself, she asked, “So how have things been here? Everyone seems like it back to business as usual.”
Rey shrugged. “Some people are better at hiding it than others.” She smiled. “I wanted to see how you were doing, if you were okay.”
Jesse smiled brightly. “Thanks, Rey! That’s really nice of you. Actually, everyone has be so very nice to me. I’m really surprised because, going to a small town from a big city I expected to be the outsider for a long time. But all the people here have been really nice. Tara is really cool, too. I still can’t believe what an awesome job I got with her. I’m like, always afraid something will happen and I’ll lose the job, like it’s too good to be true. It’s good for Ann-Marie, too. I made like three different contacts, people who might be interested in her art.”
Rey stifled a chuckle. “You think I grew up in a small town? I was born in New Orleans and grew up in Baltimore. But I know what you mean, about expecting to feel isolated. But, as fate would have it, I had friends here, and made more. Found myself a new family, I guess you could say.” She smiled. “I don’t expect everyone to be as fortunate as I am, but everyone needs a friend, right? And I’m so glad that you’ve got that job with Tara, and you’re doing well with those contacts. And Ann-Marie is a good artist too.” She lowered her voice. “Her drawing was good enough I was able to use it to put a whammy on the leader of those rats during the fight.”
She looked puzzled. “A whammy? You mean… didn’t you go with the others to fight them?”
Rey shook her head. “No, I didn’t. I’m just a human. There’s no way I could have survived a real fight with shapechangers. I did my part, putting a curse on the Witch Rat queen, then stayed behind were it was safe.” She looked at Jesse, her head cocked slightly to one side. “Why?”
“I thought you were one of them,” she said with a shrug. “I’m glad to know I’m not the only witch around here, though.”
“So am I,” Rey replied, shifting in her seat to make herself more comfortable. “Given the history of the town, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a whole bunch of us practicing our craft.” She paused for a moment, then continued. “And you weren’t completely wrong when you thought I was one of them. I know it’s weird, but I *am* one of them. Kind of. I don’t go furry or anything, but I’m part of the group. That’s why I tried to go. It’s not like they can do an “everyone but Rey” howl or anything.” She chuckled softly.
Jesse thought about that, but there was worry in her eyes. “Aren’t you afraid of being… infected?”
Rey shook her head. “With them, it doesn’t work that way. You’re either born one or you aren’t. It may work that way with other kinds, though.”
“With the rats it did. But honestly, Rey, how do you know for sure?” It was easy to understand her confusion. A giant monster the size of a horse and all teeth and claws looked, at a primal level, the same whether the base creature was a rat or a wolf. “Doctor Beckett had to give you a transfusion of blood from the lady… uh, Lyla I think her name was. And I know she’s a werewolf. I saw her. It looked like he just replaced one disease with another. I assumed the difference was that the werewolves around here don’t seem interested in terrorizing the rest of us.”
Rey looked at Jesse in surprise. “No, nobody told me about the blood transfusion. But I know I’m not going to turn into a werewolf. And if I was going to turn into a rat, it would have happened already.” She sat back in her chair and thought for a moment, wondering how much she could tell Jesse. “There are two kinds of werewolves, Jesse. You know the evil ones in the stories and movies, who go around slaughtering and terrorizing people? Those are the Pure. They basically think that anything other than them are a lower life form and are food. The other werewolves, like the ones here in Eldon Well, simply don’t give a damn about most humans. Oh, they’ll make friends with them, take some as lovers, but when it comes right down to it, they couldn’t care less whether we live or die. As long as humans leave them alone, they’ll leave the humans alone.
“But how do I know I’m not going to turn into a werewolf? Because I’ve learned about them, both from Grey and from Hamilton. Besides, if the exchange of bodily fluids was all that it took, I’ve have turned furry shortly after New Year’s Eve, when Grey and I became mates.”
She nodded and considered. “Isn’t it… dangerous to have relations with a shapeshifter like that? Or do they pretty much have complete control?”
“It can be dangerous,” Rey said with a nod. “Especially with those who have just come into their true nature. There are things to watch out for, things that you should and shouldn’t do, but if you keep those in mind, you’ll be okay.” She paused, then continued. “They’re very strong, even in their human forms. Things can get a bit rough when they’re enthusiastic, so you if you don’t like that, then being with one of them isn’t a good idea. Not that Grey’s ever done more than give me a small bruise,” she hastened to assure her friend.
“I think your very brave,” Jesse said. “I’d be terrified something bad would happen.”
“I’m not all that brave,” Rey said. “I believe everyone has choices to make, and that they have to live with the consequences of those choices. If I hadn’t at least tried to be with Grey, I’d have spent the rest of my life wondering what if. I’ve had enough regrets about my past about not doing something when I could have. I didn’t want to live with another, so I took the chance. Now, I’m not saying it’s been perfect, because it hasn’t. We’ve both hurt each other – emotionally, not physically – but if I had the chance, I wouldn’t change any of it.”
Rey smiled. “Sure, I would have liked certain things to have turned out differently, but if they had, I might not be here talking to you right now.”
“Sounds like you have something on your mind,” Jesse prompted.
“I always have something on my mind,” Rey said with a chuckle. “Grey often says I think too much.” Her face lost its smile. “I tried to find you after I got out of the hospital, but things kept happening. I was so worried about you, and when I couldn’t find you after everything had calmed down….” Rey felt embarrassed. “And now that I see that I shouldn’t have worried about you at all.”
“Well… but thanks,” she said with a sheepish smile. “After Ann-Marie nearly died and her brother took her away I didn’t know what to do. I sort of jumped at the first chance to do something I could, and Tara’s was the first distraction I had. It helped me get some perspective on things that I saw over the past couple weeks.
Rey snorted softly. “How typical. They rarely tell us mere mortals what’s going on. What things have you seen?” she asked with a curious look.
“Lots of naked people,” she said with a faint blush. “I guess shape-changing and fighting with teeth and claws and things are hard on clothes. I seen lots of those rat monsters, of course. I was at Ramiel’s house with Ann-Marie when the returned from a couple of their … whatever they were doing. Battles I guess? I just stayed out of the way. But I could tell almost everyone there was special in some way because I read auras.
“You can read auras? That’s neat. I can see spirits.” Rey’s voice dropped lower, so it didn’t carry much beyond the table. “It can be really annoying at times, because I can’t turn it off. And the spirits always seem to know I can see and hear them, so they rarely leave me alone if there’s something they want, or if they’re pissed off about something.” She sighed. “But yeah, shapeshifters end up pretty casual about nudity, for the most part. They go through clothes pretty fast.” She perked up. “What do you see when you look at me. My aura, I mean. Can you tell I’m a witch?”
“Nope,” Jesse said with a shake of her head. “You and I are human. Although I can read emotions from people really easy — not just humans, everyone. It’s the little extra something in the aura that picks people out. That’s how I knew what Ann-Marie was when we met. I thought it was really cool she was.. you know. I didn’t realize how dangerous that knowledge could be but she was very nice about it. So I generally keep what I see to myself now for self-preservation reasons.”
Rey nodded in agreement. “Can you tell by someone’s aura if they’re being possessed by something?”
“No. In such a case, as I understand it from what my Aunt taught me, the spirit completely hides within another being — body and spirit. So, as far as I know, it is impossible to tell in that case except by how a person acts.”
“I can’t tell either,” Rey admitted, “by looking at someone either. It can be really bad if someone’s possessed by a spirit for too long. And speaking of doing things for too long, I’d better stop talking so you can eat your lunch.” She grinned.
“See ya later!” Jesse replied.