We're seated around the break table. I take a big breath and begin. No going back now.
"Ok, well I guess I start with my first memory. But if you need to leave let me know and I'll stop or gloss over it." I say looking at both of them. They look confused but nod. "Ok well, my first memory was being beaten. I can't remember why but I found out later on in life there was no reason. It wasn't my fault but at the time I thought I deserved it. I came from a family of monsters. Real monsters. My birth parents would regularly beat and starve me. I have the scars to prove it." I see Nevan's hands shake and his knuckles turn white. "That was my life until I was ten. That's when Papa Shadow found me. I was hiding in the backyard my birth parents had brought over some 'friends' to play with me. Turns out ten was old enough to have grown up friends." Porter gets up his chair screeching against the floor and starts pacing fists clenched at his sides."It was going to be my birthday party. But Papa Shadow found me just in time and offered me a home. I had been living with awful people my whole life surely a Shadowman would be better than what I had. It was the best decision I've ever made. We changed my name and homeschooled me and went to therapy and I had the love of an actual family. A mom, and three dads, not everyone has understood the poly relationship of my parents either."
"Where did you used to live?" Nevan asks through clenched teeth.
"My family took care of my birth parents a long time ago. It was messy." I say with a smile.
"Good." They both say together.
"Now that you understand what I survived you may have a more open mind to why a ten year old human girl chose to live with a Banshee, a Shadowman, an Incubus and a Lamia instead." I say watching every flinch they try to hide. I get it. Most supes are raised to believe my family are the monsters among monsters but they aren't. Not even close. "And if someone brings up the words Stockholm Syndrome I will not hesitate to break bones. Mate or not. Understood?" I say firmly. They look a little unsure about that threat. After all I'm just a tiny little human woman against a big strong supe. They don't know I've been trained by a Lamia. The nightmares of warriors and soldiers.
"I understand a lot more than I did." Nevan says. "You're happy and safe there?"
"I am safer and happier in my home with my family than I am anywhere else I have ever been." I say with certainty.
"Then that's all that really matters." Nevan says with a smile. I smile in relief. I look at Porter who doesn't look well.
"You ok Porter?" I ask.
"Did you say Incubus?" He says. I laugh and nod. He leans in to Nevan and whispers. "Good work," I can't hold back my laugh. I'm so relieved I don't have to choose between them.
"Do you still want to pick me up?" I ask.
"Absolutely." Nevan says without hesitation.
"Do you want me to bring anything?" I ask with a smile.
"Do you have any food that you've already made?" He asks.
"I might. I made muffins the other day but they don't usually last long. How about I'll make us something?" I suggest.
"Deal." He smiles.
I give Nevan my address and Porter gives me a big hug.
"See you later short stuff." He says as I get into my car and drive home.
I walk through my front door and into the Spanish Inquisition. All four of my parents are standing there staring at me expectantly.
"Hello everyone." I say a bit nervous.
"Don't hello us! How was your date?!" Mama chides.
"Well it wasn't a date because his brother was there. But it will be a date in a couple of hours. Also, apparently I have a mate." I say trying to squeeze past to no avail.
"ARE YOU SURE?!"
"I'M SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!"
I laugh at their reactions.
"His name is Nevan. He's picking me up in a couple hours. He's taking me rock climbing." I inform them. I feel Papa Shadow smile.
"You told him about us?" He asks excitedly.
"I... kind of told him all of it." I say quietly. I know its a big deal. Only Gemma knows it all. All four of them look at me again.
"All of it? The before?" Asks Papa Luca.
"Yep. All of it." I confirm. "I promised to make us something for our date." I say trying to move to the kitchen but I'm trapped in hugs and love and scales and shadows.
"We're so proud of you!"
"Mouse. You are so brave letting that out."
"So proud sweetie."
"We love you so much."
I smile and enjoy the group hug.
"Thanks guys. I love you too." I say. They release me and I head to the kitchen to panic about what to cook.
I end up making savory scones with cheese and sausage and spinach. I go up to check on Gemma and find her in my room watching TV. Some trash show where they lock strangers in a house and hope they don't kill eachother.
"Where were you today?" She asks.
"I went to get my car fixed." I say vaguely.
"That's bullshit! I heard everything! You have a mate!" She shouts. I smile. "Who is he?!"
"How much of last night do you remember?" I ask. She grimaces. "There was a guy I was sitting and talking with. Big guy. Tattoos?" She looks guilty.
"I have no idea." She admits and I shake my head. "Oh well I'll meet him later. So you told him huh?" Turning serious.
"Ya I did." I admit.
"Good. I'm proud of you." She says leaning over to hug me. I soak up the love before swatting her away.
"Enough of this sap! I need to get dressed for my date!" I get dressed into my workout gear leggings, sports bra and tank top. I don't usually like showing my shoulders because of my scars. But he knows. And pit stains are a potential problem.
The knock on the door turns everyone's heads. Oh jeez. I'm so nervous. I go to answer the door but feel four gazes on me.
"Go do something!" I whisper yell at them. Papa Ezra chuckles and ushers everyone away with a wink. Thank god!
I open the door and see Nevan looking nervous too. I smile at him when he looks up.
"Found you." He says sending more warm fuzziness to my chest.
"Hey, come on in." I say smiling and let him in. We head to the kitchen where everyone is gathered. "Nevan, this is my family. This is my Mama, Sorscha." She stands and gives him a hug.
"Hello, Nevan. Welcome." She says warmly. I see Nevan relax and hug her back. I relax too.
"This is my Papa Shadow" I motion to Papa Shadow who stands and offers his dark smokey hand which Nevan takes without pause.
"And Papa Ezra." They shake hands too and Papa Ezra winks at him which makes him go pink. I laugh. "Stop teasing. And this is my Papa Luca." Papa Luca slithers closer and shakes Nevan's hand firmly testing his mettle. Just like he taught me. Nevan seems to have passed because Papa Luca nods in approval. "And Gemma is upstairs hiding from the sun. But she says hello." He laughs.
"Hi everyone it's nice meeting you. I'm very fond of your daughter. May I take her out rock climbing?" He asks like a gentleman.
"Of course. You guys have a good time." Papa Luca says. He wraps me up in a hug arms and tail I hug back. I hear a sharp intake of breath from Nevan. But I kiss Papa Luca on the cheek and he releases me.
"Mouse, remember?" He asks.
"I know, aim for the soft tissue. Love you guys!" I grab the scones and my bag and we head to the door.
"What about soft tissue?" Nevan asks nervously.
"Quickest way to incapacitate an assailant." I say with ease as we head to his truck. We both climb in and set off towards our date. Which apparently is an indoor rock wall. Awesome.
"Have you done this before?" He asks.
"No but I've always wanted to try." I say eagerly.
"Well lets go get our harnesses." He says and we stop at a counter and gear up. We each have instructors holding our ropes as we make our way up the wall. I make my way to the top and call out like im supposed to and leap down in short bursts. This is so much fun! I'm on the ground before Nevan. My arms and hands have a good workout warmth to them. He arrives at the ground behind me. I smile at him but his brows are furrowed.
"What's that on your back?" He asks. He must have seen the scars.
"Oh those are from before. Before my adoption." I say quietly. If looks could kill someone would definitely be dead. Something shifts behind his eyes. I put my hand on his arm in comfort like I've seen Mama do countless times to calm down my Papas. "It's ok. They aren't around anymore." He nods but theres a tick in his jaw. "Did you want to do another climb or get out of here? I still have those treats for us."
"Do you mind if we leave? I'm not sure I should be around people right now." He says honestly.
"If I minded I wouldn't have suggested it." I say gently. I grab his hand and hold it all the way to the truck only stopping to get out of our harnesses. We hop in the truck and I take his hand again.
He drives until we're out at the edge of a forest at a trail entrance. I grab the food and we walk in silence until we get to a clearing.
"Wait here. Ok?" He asks gently. I nod and sit myself on a big rock.
"Ok. Do what you need to do." I say with a small understanding smile. I know supes blow off steam differently and I still don't know what he is. I may be finding out soon.
I watch as he paces the clearing running his hands through his hair. If this is his reaction from a few cigarette burns he's going to be in for a surprise. Maybe this is too much... maybe I'm too much. No! Rowena! You are worth having happiness. I repeat the mantra I was taught in therapy. I deserve to be happy.
I sense movement in front of me and look up to see a friggin dragon! I get up off the rock and slowly make my way forward. I see beautiful amber eyes and know that this is Nevan. He's beautiful with black scales that have a gold sheen in the light.
"Nevan, you're beautiful." I say I put my hand out then stop. "May I touch you?" Nevan dips his massive head. I continue reaching for him and touch the scales on his neck. He closes his eyes as I run my hands down his hard scales. He has horns on his head I run a finger up one and feel him shudder. Smiling I continue my tour of him. I touch a tooth and he stills and I work my way to the spikes on the back of his neck.
"I should warn you. I have more scars. A lot more." He growls. "Do you want to see them?" I ask. "this might be the best spot for you to see them." He closes his eyes and nods his giant head. I take my tank top off and turn to show him my back and the scars and burns that mar it. I hear a growl and feel movement.
Then two warm human arms are wrapping around me. His head on my shoulder kissing my back. I turn to see him on his knees. Tears sneak out of my eyes. I hold his face in my hands and press my lips to his gently.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you upset. I just needed you to see where you could deal with it in your own way." I say quietly.
"Don't apologize. Not for this. Thank you for trusting me with this." He says kissing a scar on my stomach.
"Always." I say stroking my hand through his hair. It's so easy to be with him. "Are you hungry after a shift?" I ask. He smiles.
"Always. What did you make? It smelled amazing when I picked you up." I put my shirt back on and run to my bag where I left it by the rock.
I run back and hand him a big round scone as I sit beside him on the grass. His eyes widen and then close as he takes his first bite and hums his enjoyment.
"These are amazing! You need to have these at your shop." He says between moans.
"I'll keep that in mind." I say smiling. "I made a whole batch so you can bring the rest home and share with the rest of your family. How big is your family anyway?" I ask.
"It's just me and Porter actually. When I was little there were some hunters and they took my parents. Porter raised me." He confesses. I lean into him and just hold him.
"I'm so sorry." I say against his neck. He wraps his arms around me and we just hold each other for a while. No one saying anything. I notice it's starting to get dark.
"Do you want to head back? It's going to be hard for me to see in a bit." I admit.
"Oh, of course. Ya let's head out." He says holding my hand as we walk back to the truck.