Mooning Over a Monster

Chapter Seven

Mahon’s chest is comfier than any pillow I’ve ever owned. My torso is propped over his as he lies, sprawled on his back across the cushioned platform I use in place of a couch. If I need to, I can fold my wings in tight enough to use seating with a back, but I’d rather give all my limbs room to stretch.

“More popcorn?” the bear asks.

In response, I open my mouth, which has him chuckling. The vibrations press directly against my scales, and I love the sensation. Sometimes, I forget how good it is to simply touch another living being.

Mahon reaches into the massive bowl at his side and hand-feeds me a few butter-covered kernels. Normally, I’d handle the job myself, but my fingers are busy on my gaming controller. 

After I puked for almost ten minutes straight, my stomach finally stopped heaving, and I collapsed in a quivering mess on the bathroom floor. Instead of retreating with a grossed-out expression, Mahon wiped my face clean with a washcloth, and then he picked me up and carried me to my living room, where he sat down and cradled me against his chest until the aftershocks of the spell eased.

“What would make you feel better?” he asked.

“Ginger ale and video games,” I mumbled back. 

His deep chuckle also helped my recovery.

An hour later, here we are, acting like a couple in my home, and I feel better than I did before I adhered that patch to my scales. Even though I’m the only one playing the game, the bear shifter doesn’t seem interested in switching up the activity. His eyes stay locked on the screen, watching as I direct a CGI cat to explore a post-apocalyptic city. He occasionally asks questions about the game while feeding me popcorn and holding the straw in my ginger ale up to my lips.

This is a certain kind of heaven.

“Have you ever gone to an all-mythics gathering in town? Like when the MacNamaras hold an only-in-the-know party at their house? Not using the human-looking spell, I mean.”

Since this question veers off from the video game, I press pause and meet his gaze. “No, I haven’t.” Not even with the patch.

“Do you just not wanna? Or is there something else?” There’s no judgment in the dip of his ginger brows. Just curiosity.

Levi has brought up this topic before too, trying to get me out of my house. As if I don’t want that myself. But having only mythics in the room doesn’t solve all my problems.

Still, I don’t get the urge to snap a response at Mahon like I have with Levi.
“When I was younger, my mother took me to a few mythics-only playdates. She wanted me to be able to interact with other kids my age.”

His kind face twists in a grimace. “Did those cubs bully you?”

Letting my chin rest on his belly, I shrug. “Not exactly. They just acted like kids. I was a strange-looking thing to them, so they poked me. Laughed. Ran away. It wasn’t fun, but that’s not what stuck with me.” When I have to force out the last few words, I realize I’m clenching my jaw. Taking a moment to relax, I keep going. “It was the parents. They were the ones who looked at me like I was scum. Like I was a toxic waste that could pollute the air and water around me. And”—I choke, clearing the angry blockage from my throat—“they insulted my mama. She was the sweetest woman. A gorgeous undine. Every move she made could have been a dance. And they said she was dirty. Told her giving birth to me was a mistake. Who says that to a person?” I’m not actually asking, just accusing the universe for putting that hatred near my family.

A soothing caress smooths over my skull, and I realize Mahon is petting along the scales that cover my head. Comforting me with his stroking.

“I’m so sorry, my Satine. So sorry.” His beard quivers in a rare frown. “Give me their names, and I will steal their tires.”

The absurd threat entices a giggle from my lips, and I bury my face in the warm cotton of his shirt, breathing in the grassy scent of him.

“Where are your parents?” The question is all hesitation, as if he already knows the answer will be sad.

“Mama died the year after I graduated college. Car crash when she was driving to Atlanta for a shopping trip. She loved nice shoes.” I wiggle my clawed toes. We’d have endless playful bickering about my insistence on only ever going barefoot or wearing slippers. “Dad … he was always a keep-to-himself kind of guy. Mom would get him to open up. When he lost her …” Even the memory of the vacant stare has me shuddering. “He couldn’t come back from it. One day, he decided to go beast. Live as a dragon.” Once a dragon shifts into their other form, they must stay that way for a few decades. “He’s in the Antarctic colony. Last I saw him was seven years ago.”

“You’ve been alone for a while.” Mahon’s heavy hand slides down to my neck, thick fingers pressing into the tense muscles.

“Yes.” No use denying it. 

I try, in small ways, to keep a connection to the world. Talking to people online. Inviting Levi over. Spying on the Folk Haven townsfolk when they aren’t aware I’m around.

But still, every night, I remember that I’m on my own.

As Mahon continues to stroke me, every cell in my body relaxes until I’m on the edge of sleep. Which is why I’m not sure if I dream the words he speaks.

“You’re not alone anymore.”