Chapter 6. // Birthday Presents
It took a while for Taj to calm down; kept relapsing for some unknown reason. “I know why.” Val quipped, answering her own question of, “What is so funny?”
Grey looked to her best friend with a knowing smile on her face. “Why?” she asked jokingly, chuckling at Val’s growing grin, the corners of her mouth curling up like the Grinch. “Because, he’s a jackass. A little shit-eating baboon.” A passing employee who was sipping on coffee choked, then snickered as they walked away.
Grey chuckled as the cousin glared at each other. “The only shit-eating baboon here is the woman with white hair and pink nails, and looks like something an ogre would shit out.” Taj said, before his eyes snapped to Grey and his gaze softened. “No offence to you, Grey. You look absolutely beautiful with that hair colour.” Grey snorted and covered her mouth with her hand as Val made a sound of disbelief when Taj winked at her.
“You’re so lucky I’m at work, but don’t think I won’t nail you to the wall with a stapler.” Val growled lowly, her hand inching towards the stapler on her desk as their glaring intensified; Grey cut in before it could actually happen. “Taj! Do you want to help me with work today?” his eyes snapped to her again and he nodded, returning his glare to Val. They glared at each other for a few seconds longer, then Taj walked into Grey’s office, grumbling to himself, oblivious to Val poking her tongue out at his back.
Shaking her head, Grey followed, shutting the door behind her as he stood there angrily, still having an argument that she couldn’t hear.
It hit her so suddenly. The unease; she knew that aura anywhere.
Taj had stiffened; his nose raised and he sniffed the air, then growled, but Grey could feel his confusion. She knew that his companions could sense the danger, but they didn’t know what it was.
Clutching the handle of her door, she reached out to the dirt and sand coloured cords and they flared to life, the worried voices of those it led to filling her head. “Grey, what’s wrong?” they asked simultaneously, not bothering to ask why she could communicate with them in this way.
“Scavengers in the building. Get here, now!”
No sooner than she gave the order, a growl rippled through her chest, the unease growing stronger. She knew that there were about ten of them, scouring for their Master. Once they found what they were looking for, the Retrievers came to collect.
Looking towards a shell-shocked Taj, Grey went into Guardian mode, locking her anxieties away and steeling herself for whatever was to come. “Get Raphael and Valentina in my office, now.”
The harsh tone of her voice shook Taj out of his daze, and he immediately complied, using his heightened speed to zoom out of the office and back in, dragging Val and Raphael in by their elbows. Grey marched towards the back of her office, completely missing her desk where the cake and boxes lay, and pushed aside her filing cabinet to reveal a hole in the wall, where she hid weapons for this very instance.
Blindly grabbing a katana and a Kodachi while kicking off the high heels Val forced her to wear, Grey spoke, her voice void of any emotion. “Valentina, remember when I told you that there are some things I couldn’t tell you yet?” she waited for a few seconds, and Val stuttered a reply, but she already began again, turning around and securing her hair with a rubber band that lay atop the cabinet.
“This is one of those things. What’s out there are demons, scouring for you three. I need you to stay in here, and do not come out under any circumstance. Understood?” the three hybrids nodded mutely, their eyes wide. Confusion, fear, and awe rolled off of them.
Grey sealed the conjoining door to Raphael’s office, the warmth of her magic doing nothing to ease her. Val, Raphael and Taj were at a loss for words. They watched the conjoining door glow with an electric blue light, and a sigil flashed then faded into the wood. They watched her stride out the office, rigid and ready to spring into action; the door slammed behind her, and the same electric blue light and sigil pulsed through the wood of the door.
Their shock subsided as the last of the light disappeared, and they pounded uselessly on the door, their demands to be let out ignored by Grey.
Grey gripped the blades tightly as she stood before Val’s work station, grounding her feet and spreading her senses out. Being on the top floor, the only way was downwards and across. She focused solely on the raging demonic auras, as a few of the supernatural carried faint ones of their own.
Her head snapped towards Raphael’s office, the loud bang echoing through the deathly silent hall. She sprinted towards the door and kicked it off its hinges; the door slammed into an undulating, humanoid mass of darkness, sending it flying into the glass window that splintered under its weight. There were three more in the office: one was tearing through the clothes in Raphael’s closet, another was shattering everything in the bathroom, and the last one was trying to open the conjoining door. The door flared, and shot a beam of light at the demon, who flew across the room, out through the open door, and into the parking lot, screeching. The scent of sulphur and rotting flesh wafted in, and Grey scrunched up her nose, returning her attention to the other three demons.
The one pinned by the door flew it aside, the conjoining door shooting another beam of light and sending it sailing across the room before it broke apart, sending splinters everywhere. The undulating mass of darkness lunged at her with a hiss, swiping at Grey with its venomous claws. She ducked, and expertly slashed at the back of its legs, earning a screech and more vigorous swipes. She continued to dodge, jumping backwards on the tips of her toes, and ignoring the splinters that breeched her feet.
Grey ducked as bear claws swiped at her from behind. She thrust her blades outwards, piercing their chest cavities, then sprang up to decapitate them in one smooth swing of her Kodachi. Her ears itched as the demons screeched, folding in on themselves and leaving the sulphur and rotting flesh scent behind. Before they could wink out of existence, the last demon attacked, swiping wildly at her. She danced backwards, towards the conjoining door, swinging her katana in an arc and severing the venomous bear claws that swiped at her. The demon continued to swing, sending its viscous black blood flying with each swing. She felt a light sting as a few drops landed on the sleeves of her dress. She lunged at the demon, her katana piercing the chest cavity, and launched herself around the demon in an arc, using her Kodachi to pierce the head. As she landed on her feet, the undulating humanoid mass landed on its back with a thud, screeching as it folded in on itself with the blades still piercing it, and leaving its horrid scent behind.
Grey grabbed her blades again, just as a horrified scream echoed through the office, and she sprinted outside towards it. She was thankful the all the conference rooms had transparent glass. Second on the left, a group of workers occupied the room, huddled together in a corner, yelling and crying as a blonde woman was in the hands of a demon, being shaken like a ragdoll. Uncaring, Grey burst through the glass, and it nicked at the exposed skin of her legs and cut through the material of her dress. The door was blocked with the desk and chairs, but that was of no use, as the demons could easily slip through the shadows.
The demon’s attention snapped to Grey, and it grinned wickedly, its razor sharp teeth circling in its mouth. The blonde woman was thrown aside, and hit one of the monitors, both she and the monitor landing on the ground with a sickening crack and thud. The screams and cries of the other employees grew. The demon opened its mouth again, a harsh whistle exiting. Grey balanced on her feet, waiting for an attack; she could see the mouth shaping out a word as the whistle and clicking continued to fill the room, causing everyone but her to shield their ears and eyes as the glass shattered at the high pitch. Then she heard it.
“Obscura. Obscura. Save me.”
Grey froze, her blades nearly clattering to the ground. The demon grinned wickedly again, shaking its head like a wet dog, then it lunged at her with a screech. She threw herself to the side, kicking her leg out and landing a kick to its abdomen, sending it back a few paces. She landed on the glass, which now littered the floor like discarded diamonds, and rolled along her shoulders, positioning herself on one knee. She sprung, blades outwards, and pierced the demon in the chest cavity and head, taking a scratch from its venomous claws across her abdomen. Hissing at the pain, Grey sunk the blades deeper as the screeches, and sulphur mixed with rotting flesh scent filled the room.
She dropped to the ground on her knees, wincing slightly as glass dug into her flesh. The blades were still sunken in the demon’s tough skin as it folded in on itself. Before it winked out of existence, a whisper echoed through the room, amidst the sound of the vortex, sucking the demon back to its home dimension. “Thank you, Obscura.”
She stared at the spot where the demon disappeared, her mind racing.
Scavengers can’t talk.
How was this one able to speak?
What the fuck is going on?
Her breaths came out in heavy pants, chest burning as she sucked in oxygen; she could feel the venom making its slow trek through her veins. Grey rose to her feet, picking up her blades again, and turned towards the other employees, still huddled up in the corner of the room. “Is everyone else okay?” they nodded simultaneously, staring at her in awe with quivering bodies and wet cheeks, as a tall, skinny man who had a glamour over his blue-green scales rose to his feet, seaweed coloured eyes shining with recognition. “You- you’re Obscura. The Obscura. Holy shit this- this is the best day of my life holy-“the young merman fainted, and Grey winced, hoping he didn’t land on any glass.
“You forgot you had a rep, Katty.” Sidra said, a laugh in her voice.
“I guess I did.” Grey murmured out loud, then nodded firmly, seeing that everyone else didn’t have any life-threatening injuries. Some crawled over to the overturned monitor, pushing it off the blonde woman and crying over her crushed form. She turned away quickly, tears threatening to prick her eyes, then crouched quickly as the elevator arrived. Her grip on her blades tightened as she took a deep breath and peeked over the desk. A sigh of relief made her grow limp when she saw Sam step out of the elevator, but as her mother and siblings stepped out behind him, she perked up and sprinted towards them, ignoring the glass that buried deeper into her feet. Tears pricked her eyes as she flung herself at her twin brother, sending them both crashing to the ground.
Ash chuckled and squeezed his sister back, and sobs wracked her body. His hand slowly ran up and down her back in an attempt to sooth her. “Hey, it’s alright Kat. Please don’t cry.” Grey sniffed, bringing her head from his shoulder and shaking her head. “I’m happy, Ash. I’m so happy you’re here.”
He grinned and hugged his twin tightly, then pulled them both off the ground. She faced her family, then gasped as she saw Azula leaning against her twin, Cyan, and Jett. “Zula! You’re hurt!” the azure haired girl chuckled, before breaking into a fit of coughs, the viscous black demon blood splattering on the floor at her feet. “I could say the same for you, G.” she rasped out, then broke into another fit of coughs.
“What happened?” Grey asked, taking a few steps towards her younger sister to cup her face. “She bit it.” Cyan said, adjusting his grip on his twin sister, and the girl winced slightly.
“You bit it?” Grey repeated in disbelief, and Azula shot back, “It bit me first!”
Sam and Violet broke into laughter, and Grey shook her head at her sister, chuckling as she walked to her office door, and retracted the seal. The magic eased her now as the threat was eliminated, for now. As soon as she pushed the door open to usher everyone inside, a figure shot out of the office and made for Azula, pinning her to the wall. Cyan roared, and was about to attack, but Sage and Jett held him back when they realized that Azula wasn’t being hurt. Her injured leg was hooked around the figure’s waist, who Grey finally recognized as Taj. He snarled at Cyan, then returned his attention to Azula, his murmur heard as clear as day. “Mate, you are hurt. Who was it? I’ll kill them.”
Azula chuckled lightly. “I already did that, don’t worry about it.” Taj grunted, then buried his face in the crook of her neck. Azula lay her head atop his and sniffed his hair, both of them making soft sounds of content.
Grey squeaked when a pair of arms wrapped around her, and lifted her bodily into the air. “You’re hurt.” Raphael murmured, breaking off from the group to carry Grey into his mostly ruined office. She let her blades clatter to the ground as he carried her bridal style, his grip tight. She turned her head, and caught sight of Sage and Val in a tight embrace, her face against his chest and his atop her head, a content smile on his face. Her mother shot her a warm smile she barely had time to return.
Turning back to face Raphael, his blue eyes swirled with canary yellow and blood red, eliciting a soft gasp from Grey. She wanted to touch his face, but thought better of it and curled her hands into a fist.
Raphael set her down gently on the couch in the corner of the office, the only thing that wasn’t ruined by the demon blood or their claws. His shoulders slumped as he quickly surveyed the room, then walked into the bathroom, shaking off the broken glass on the first aid kit that lay unopened on the ground. He walked back towards her, eyes still a swirl of colours, and kneeled in front of her, picking the glass and wooden splinters out of her feet.
The other occupants of his body were angry with themselves, not only for allowing her to get hurt, but because they knew there was nothing they could have done about it. Even when they used all their strength, they couldn’t break down the door and rush to her aid. He worked silently, kicking himself more each time Grey hissed or winced in pain.
She didn’t want to rush him, but she could feel the venom getting closer to it destinations: her brain, and her heart. Grey let him work, Sidra and Cassandra purring softly at his touch. She only now registered her presence.
“Cass. How are you feeling?”
Grey chuckled softly, shaking her head. The others were silent, more reserved. But they were awake, of that she was sure.
Raphael worked his way up, cleaning the wounds and bandaging the deeper cuts. He left the slash across her abdomen alone per her request. He finished his work, and Grey lay horizontally on the couch as a sage haired boy and a golden haired woman entered the room, giving him soft, warm smiles that he returned. Theresa held out a hand. “Mr. Rossellini, I’m Grey’s mom; Theresa Augustine.” Raphael shook her hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Mrs. Augustine.”
They kneeled in front of her, and Raphael watched with keen interest as their hands gained a soft yellow glow, and they hovered over the wound, which was growing sickly green around the edges and ichor was seeping into her dress.
Sage focused on the venom, drawing it out of Grey’s system. He latched onto it, and began to pull, rising to his feet and taking a few steps backwards as he continued to draw the venom out of her. Grey let out soft groans of pain as the venom tried latching onto her to remain in her system, but Sage had perfected the process, and let some more magic flow through him. He gave a sharp tug, then the stream of venom was out. He manoeuvred his hands, rolling the venom into a ball, and created a shield around it, his hands losing its yellow glow. Within the little yellow ball, the undulating venom tried striking at the shield, but nothing happened. It continued to strike vigorously, then, the shield pulsed, giving off an electric shock that struck the venom. It evaporated slowly, and the shield disappeared once all the venom had gone.
Theresa, Grey’s mother, focused on stabilizing and healing the wound. Once Sage had the venom out of her system, Theresa focused her magic on sealing the wound. She moved her hands to and fro, as if softly kneading dough, until the skin stitched together and her skin lost the sickly green colour it was beginning to take on. Grey sighed softly, and Theresa ran her fingers through her hair, rubbing her head. “Thank you, mama.” Grey murmured, and Theresa smiled at her. “You’re welcome, sweetheart.”
She and Sage left the room, glancing behind them as Raphael drew closer to Grey, kneeling before her again. “Are you okay now?” he asked, pulling her up gently, and she nodded tiredly. “I’ll be fine; I heal quickly.”
Nodding, Raphael picked her up again, then set her down at the conjoining door, where she retracted the seal, her magic coursing through her giving her energy and speeding up her healing. Her family was littered about her office, all talking softly to someone next to them.
Azula was curled up against Taj, who ran his hand up and down her arm as they spoke in hushed voices. Val and Sage sat cross legged on the floor, holding hands as Val spoke excitedly, and Sage listened. Ash sat in her swivel chair at her desk, on his phone, Cyan stared moodily at the wall, Sam and Theresa were conversing in a corner of the room, and Violet, Jett and Raven were around her desk, staring at a white rose within a glass cloche.
Grey sucked in a breath, and tiptoed towards her desk, crouching next to Raven in front of it. Turning her attention to her older sister, Raven smiled, and wrapped an arm around Grey’s shoulders. “Happy birthday, sis.” She smiled, hugging her sister’s side. “Thanks, Rae. Any idea where this came from?”
Raven shrugged. “It was here when we came in.”
Ash picked up the two black velvet boxes that laid next to the cloche and shook them. “These too.” The twins stared at each other, then Ash handed Grey a box, and held the other. Raphael was silent.
The twins flipped open the lids, and both gasped.
Grey’s fingertips ran along the stem of a simple rose-gold, rose necklace, a smile growing on her lips. Something inside her, no doubt Sidra or Cassandra, wanted her to secure the necklace around her neck and never take it off. Raven was one step ahead, and gently tugged the necklace out of its box, then clasped the necklace around her neck. “Thanks, Rae.” Raven grinned, “You’re welcome.” she replied, releasing Grey’s hair from its rubber band confines.
Ash turned his box around to face Grey. “Whoever it is, they have a major crush on you.” In the box, three charm bracelets: one silver, one gold, and the last rose-gold, lay there, glinting in the fluorescent light.
Val grinned, and Taj smirked at Raphael, who glanced away, clearing his throat. He could feel their eyes snap to him, and he returned his gaze to them. “Oh, hey. He is hot.” Raphael knew the voice, and he could see the stark similarity between him and Grey; it couldn’t be anyone else but her twin brother. A raven haired girl leaned over the desk towards him, whispering, “I told you so.”
Grey smacked her hand to her forehead, groaning. A boy with jet black hair, much more similar to the raven haired girl spoke. “I’m Jett. The only normal one in this family.” The others nodded in agreement after some contemplation, then introduced themselves as well. Raphael came to the realization that Grey’s parents simply named their children based on their hair colours, but, “Why do you all have different hair and eye colours?” he asked after the introductions were done. They glanced at each other, then Grey, who sighed, and was about to respond if it wasn’t for the sound of an arriving elevator.
Both she and Val peeked outside, and Val snickered at the delivery man who was struggling under the weight of a giant teddy bear, before walking up to him. “Sir? May I help you?” he turned to the sound of the voice. “Uh, yeah. I have a delivery for a Katherina Augustine.”
Grey raised an eyebrow, as did Taj to his brother, who merely shrugged. Walking towards Val and the man, under her feet felt numb. She signed the clipboard, and the man left, tipping his hat as Grey thanked him. She snuggled the plushy black bear, happily murmuring, “Hi friend.”
Val chuckled as they re-entered the office, then spoke once she was standing next to Sage. “We should get on with our plans for the day.”
“Shouldn’t we make sure people aren’t, you know, traumatized?” Taj cut in, and Grey nodded in agreement, still hugging the plush toy. “I know there are supernatural kind here, but we still have humans. We should make sure they’re okay; maybe wipe their memory.”
“I have the powder.” Cyan said quietly, glaring at Taj. Raphael spoke up, glancing between Cyan, Taj and Azula. “Don’t worry about it. I have a Siren who knows what to do.” With furrowed eyebrows, Grey turned to Raphael. “Olivia?” she asked, and he nodded, holding out a hand to her. The memory tried to resurface again, but she pushed it down, and placed her hand in his with less hesitation. The teddy bear was discarded to a spot near her desk, and they silently filed out of the office, and into separate vehicles, then drove out of the building.
Grey sat in the front seat of Raphael’s car with her mother, her twin and Violet in the back seat. Val, Sage, Azula and Taj were in Val’s car; and Sam, Jett, Raven and a fuming Cyan, left in Sam’s car.
All three cars were silent, save for the music playing from the radio. As they drove, Raphael simply couldn’t stop glancing at Grey; her cloudy gray hair whipping around her, fingers lightly drumming to the beat of the music as she hummed along, smiling softly. He gulped, returning his attention to the road.
“I have a lot of explaining to do.” Grey said quietly, glancing at Raphael from the corner of her eye. He nodded, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. “We have all day.” He responded, sparing her yet another glance.
The car grew comfortably silent for the rest of the drive to their destination.