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Winds of Change 5: Simoom

Chapter Text

Calgary

June 11th, 2017

Magnus woke to a half-empty bed, the sheets on Alec's side already well on the way to cooling out.

There was no light filtering in through the curtains drawn before the window, nothing to suggest that dawn had arrived yet. A glance at the clock on his bedside table told him that it wasn't even five.

With a small sigh, he slid out of bed, throwing on a silk bathrobe and wrapping the belt loosely around himself. Even after all the things they had been through together in the last few months, he didn't need to run into any of their housemates stark naked.

Alec wasn't anywhere within their suite of rooms.

The downstairs training room was Magnus' next guess.

The way there took him down the hallway and through a larger, open area they had furnished with comfortable armchairs and a low table, along with a small counter that held a coffee maker and some other essentials. It was their own small meeting place, more private than the large living room downstairs where they would invite guests.

No one had bothered to draw the curtains closed here.

Cat eyes saw well in the dark, even when they were glamored to look human. Glancing outside, he spotted movement that quickly resolved into a familiar shape. Apparently, Alec had felt the need for more fresh air than an open window could provide.

The nights were cool in Calgary even in June. Alec didn't seem to care. He had put on a pair of track pants and nothing else. Barefoot and bare-chested, he was standing in the night, looking across the street and into the silent park.

What was he seeing out there?

Magnus shifted his own vision to bring the strands of magic into focus.

The park looked like always to him, shot through with veins of power that pulsed in a steady, even rhythm, guarded and controlled by David Gale.

*

Alec was staring at the web of green threads that stretched out before him, as if a net had been laid down to keep the fabric of the park together. His mind wasn't on what he was seeing, though.

Once again, he was running through the events of the last months in his mind, probing his memories to see if he could find any decision he could have made differently, anything that wouldn't have brought them to where they were now.

As always, he failed to find one. There hadn't been another outcome ever since they had set out on this path together. Most of the time, he accepted the knowledge and focused on continuing down that road to an unknown destination. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, the burden grew heavy.

Someone moved behind him, a second, silent presence breaking his solitude.

His lips twitched into a rueful smile, though he knew the newcomer wouldn't be able to see it from where he stood.

I didn't mean to wake you, he sent silently, through the new bond he shared with his parabatai. A month and a half after they had swapped runes for charms, changing and deepening their connection into something perfectly familiar and yet entirely new to them, it still felt strange to communicate in this way.

The impression of Jace in his mind wasn't much different from the one the runes had given him now. They kept the bond deliberately dampened most of the time, not wishing to end up in each other's heads in the most inopportune of moments. They valued their privacy – both their own and the other's. Still, a message sent directly would always get through.

I was awake already. Jace's mental voice seemed to come from just behind Alec's ear.

Liar.

There was a small rustling sound of bare feet in the grass as the other man closed the distance between them to put a hand on Alec's arm. Alec could feel Jace's mental shields open up a crack, extending an invitation for him to share what he wished.

Tell me we're doing the right thing and I'm not leading us all into disaster. Alec leaned into Jace's touch, both physical and mental. There was a familiarity and comfort there that he could only share with his siblings. He dropped a layer of his shields, allowing his brother to see the doubts, the worries and fears.

So much about their lives had changed in the last months. So much of what they had always thought they knew for certain had turned out to be half-truths only at best and outright lies at worst. The history of their people, their purpose, and the role of the very creatures that had created them… even after months of research, there were gaps in their knowledge, and they still weren't certain what to do with what they knew.

They were renegades now, outcasts, sought and wanted as deserters. There was no way back for them, and their entire group was looking at him to lead them through all this and out the other side, though they had no idea where that would be.

There was no way back ever since the first time we went through Ritual, Jace pointed out.

He was right, of course. They couldn't have ignored what they had felt that day when they had first joined the Gales in their unique manner of generating power. They had felt something trying to happen then, had felt their runes prevent it. Half a year later to the day, they had taken the drastic steps of removing the marks from their bodies, leaving behind only the charms the Gales had taught them to use.

The effect had been enlightening and terrifying at the same time. It was as if a barrier had been removed that had prevented them from properly tapping into the power of the world around them before.

Do you want to fly? Jace asked when Alec didn't return anything beyond wordless acceptance of his statement.

The Gales were rooted in Earth. In keeping with the fertility deity that was their legendary family ancestor, their males sported metaphysical racks of antlers when they channelled enough power – antlers that would solidify as the power increased.

With their origins in Air, rather than Earth, the Nephilim had come out of their first foray into full channelling with wings. Though they hadn't made the transfer from metaphysical to physical, they were perfectly capable of carrying them in flight, as they had found out since.

Alec shook his head.

"It's too early in the day to tire ourselves out like that," he said, out loud this time. "I should probably go inside and get dressed – and let you go back to sleep."

He didn't move from where he was standing, though. Neither did his brother.

*

"They're talking in their heads again."

Clary had come up next to him and was staring into the night as well.

"I can tell. Jace always tilts his head like that when he does."

Magnus nodded at that.

None of them had expected the way the bonds of the parabatai pairs had changed after they had replaced their runes with charms, blending the Nephilim ritual with one the older Gales had dug out of their family history. It had turned out to be a blessing quickly, when Alec had been kidnapped and held by a demon, since it had allowed them to stay in contact with him through Jace.

"Do you ever wonder if they're getting too close?"

Magnus turned at Clary's words, frowning. "What do you mean, Biscuit?"

She gestured vaguely at the two men outside. "Jace and Alec. Do you ever… Do you ever wonder if Alec still has enough space for you on top of Jace? Or if he's really thinking of him when he's talking to you?"

Centuries of experience allowed him to hold in his first reaction to that. Giving an incredulous laugh at the young woman's words surely wouldn't have done any good.

"No," he said simply. "Never."

"Just now…" Clary told him, "he woke up and started to leave. When I asked him where he was going, he said Alec couldn't sleep and he was going to check on him. In the middle of the night. What would you be thinking?"

"I'm thinking I'm really glad he has a brother he can rely on to do that even when he doesn't have the good sense to ask for it," Magnus said. "And I am certain that Alec would do the same if the situation was reversed. I'm glad to see they're actually there for each other these days. I remember when things were different."

She had to remember that, too – back in the early days of their acquaintance, when each of the Shadowhunters had been essentially fighting on his or her own, in spite of the family and parabatai bonds that connected them.

"Breaking with the Clave, leading you all to who knows what, knowing that if you're caught by the wrong people you'll probably be executed – its hard on Alec, Clary. He's keeping it from getting to him by staying busy during the day, but it's still there. I'm glad Jace won't let him hide."

"But shouldn't I be more important to Jace?" She wasn't looking at him, but still held her eyes fixed on the brothers down in the garden. "What if one day Alec has a nightmare or something and he's jumping up in the middle of … of …" She didn't finish her sentence.

Magnus schooled his features into a neutral expression, ruined only by one slightly raised eyebrow. "Biscuit, has Jace ever been distracted by Alec while you were getting intimate?"

"Well… no," she admitted. "But—"

"You know they keep their bond down when they engage in personal activities," Magnus interrupted her. "Neither of them wants to end up in his brother's head in that kind of moment. I'm sure either of them could break through with some effort, but they'd only do so in dire need – and if I'm any judge, not even then unless it was a matter of life or death."

She still didn't seem entirely convinced, though she didn't object to his words.

Magnus refrained from reminding her that the first thing those two had done after Alec had been retrieved and healed had been figuring out how to prevent the accidental slips of the first days without shutting down their bond entirely. 

"They are brothers, Clary," he said instead. "They'll always be special to each other. But that doesn’t mean they don't have the space for us to be special to them as well. A different kind of special, though."

She nodded wordlessly, just as the two slim figures out in the night turned as one to walk back towards the house.

"Come," Magnus continued, reaching out with one hand to touch Clary's arm. "Let's go downstairs and see if our special men want to have a cup of coffee and start the day early."

*

Sunday lunches along Macewan Glen Drive were meagre, restrained meals, with everyone making sure to leave plenty of space for dinners – because Sunday dinners on Mount Royal were epic.

In the course of Sunday afternoon, everyone who counted as a member of the Gale family in Calgary – be it by blood, adoption or association – and didn't have pressing needs to be elsewhere would gravitate towards the magnificent manor house with the large garden and pool, using the opportunity to relax, exchange news and simply enjoy pleasant company.

It never took very long before one or several of the children pulled Jace into the basement to where the piano stood, knowing that he was merely putting up a token protest, while Alec was quickly pressed into service to join the group of older teenagers and young adults around Elessar and Arwen, who were putting on an impromptu streetball match. The property was large, but not quite large enough to set up a full basketball field, after all.

Instead, they worked with chalk marks on the driveway and the street in front of the house, charms protecting what cars were parked there as well as the neighbors' properties. Just as always, the Seelie prince who called himself Elessar in the Midrealms tried to interest Alec to have a go at a professional sports career. He was joking, of course – or so Alec told himself as he declined, as always.

"Too bad," Elessar noted, a gleam in his eyes. "You'd be an asset, with your size and your reflexes."

"I don't have time for basketball," Alec insisted. "I have a revolution to plan." He could have sworn that some of those around them were silently mouthing their exchange along with them. Were they really that predictable?

They probably were, he had to admit.

Meliorn, the latest addition to their group of family, friends and associates, was sitting on the low garden wall, watching them. Though recovered from his recent ordeal and torture, he still preferred to limit himself to watching. Growing up at a Seelie court had left him with an ingrained respect for Seelie royalty, and no amount of insisting that he was merely a university student and semi-professional basketball player here in Alberta would make him agree to put himself into any situation where he might have ended up hurting the prince – no matter how unintentionally.

Clary and Izzy had taken the opportunity for a few laps in the pool – generous as pools went, and magically enlarged further for easier use by a large number of people and a dragon. Afterwards, they gravitated from group to group, talking and enjoying the company. Magnus wasn't anywhere to be seen. He had disappeared to join the kitchen crew almost as soon as they had arrived.

Their Shadowhunter friends had come over, too. Sebastian was probably down in the basement library, where he was helping Tomas Gale with the sorting and cataloguing of the books. Even more than seven years after taking over the property and its inventory from the sorcerer they had killed to save Calgary and, not least, the Half-Dragon Jack, the Gales were far from done with getting everything catalogued. Part of that surely was due to the fact that Tomas usually lived in Ontario, where he worked as a High School teacher. He came over most Sundays, brought by Charlie through the odd dimension they called the Wood, but it was still slow work and he appreciated the help he was getting.

Sebastian's parabatai Chris had found himself surrounded by a clutch of Gale Girls - most of them young women really. While quite a fertile family, the Gales had a unique gender ratio of six or seven girls to every boy. As a result, the unattached Shadowhunters found themselves under intense scrutiny quickly. Sebastian had gotten some slight reprieve when he had started to go out with Izzy, though since they hadn't made any progress beyond that and even their dates remained few and spaced apart quite widely, they didn't consider him entirely off-limits.

While always polite, Chris never took any of the more explicit offers. He never volunteered his reasons, and they didn't ask, keeping invitations open instead for him to take if he wished.

Both Sebastian and Christopher had come with them from a parallel timeline they had visited a few months ago. That dimension's counterpart to Clary's brother Jonathan, Chris had spent many years keeping what he called his demon powers suppressed and under control. While studying under Magnus now, losing control remained his greatest fear. It wasn't hard to guess why he continually refused to engage in any sort of activity that might occupy his mind to the point where he might forget to clamp down on his powers.

Among the Gales, Jack was the most sympathetic with him. Thanks to his dragon ancestry, he had been facing a similar issue during his first years as an adult Gale, though his marriage to Charlie the Bard was working out nicely for everyone involved.

Aline and Helen, who had turned into targets thanks to their friendship with the Lightwood siblings and had to flee from their assigned post to the safety of Gale-controlled Calgary, had been roped in by a few of the children insisting that they show them some of the flashier Shadowhunter combat moves.

Most of those children were clearly related, sporting the gray eyes of the younger Gales and the dark-blonde hair that most of the family shared. One face among them stood out: a dark-skinned, dark-haired girl of five, who didn't always use charms to do her magic. Madzie had been brought over to keep her safe when the power in New York had shifted and her foster mother had feared for the girl's continued well-being. It had taken only hours for her to become part of the family. Life with a brand-new older sister, two mothers and a father suited her. Having her former foster-mother Catarina Loss join them all less than two months ago had made her happiness complete.

Originally, Catarina had planned to return to New York at the earliest convenience. It had been weeks now since she had last mentioned it, though, and she had even started discussing the merits of working as a nurse again over actually being a doctor this time around. She certainly had the skills. Roland Gale, the family's lawyer, was merely waiting for her final decision so that he could prepare any documents she needed. As with many things, the Gale family's relationship to the principle of forging documents was a rather relaxed one.

As the afternoon neared its end, they gravitated inside, the adults gathering around the long tables set up in one of the large ground-floor rooms while those children old enough to eat unsupervised and unassisted had their own dinner in a separate room, where they didn't have to interrupt their play.

David, the Gale family's Anchor to the city and the magic of Calgary, had come to join them, taking the head of the table flanked by Auntie Gwen and Auntie Trisha. The other two Aunties' places remained unoccupied, as did two seats along the length of the table. During his first months and even years in his position, having the Aunties close to David had been a necessity, his change not always entirely under control in the presence of so many people and so much power. No one fancied suddenly having a fully grown stag galloping through the dining hall. These days, the man seemed comfortable enough in human skin again as he easily kept up multiple strands of conversation at once without forgetting to eat.

*

They had nearly finished the main course when Allie looked up, a smile on her face. "Katie and Hodge are coming back. They've just pulled into the driveway."

David's younger sister was his counterpart in anchoring the family, though in contrast to him, she didn't spend part of her life as a deer, and she didn't live in the park. She was never quite happy when the family wasn't all together in town, where she could have an eye on everyone's well-being, though, and as her latest pregnancy progressed, she was growing ever more nervous about having anyone out of her reach. The family, first among them her husband Graham and Charlie, had been keeping her busy and distracted while their cousin Katie and two of the Aunties – the older women who ran the Gale family and wielded the greatest power – had been gone along with one of the most recent adopted additions to their group.

Still, the relief at her announcement was almost palpable.

A few minutes later, the door opened to admit first the two older women and then a man and woman walking arm in arm, their posture and the look they exchanged just before they threw a general greeting into the room telling anyone who bothered to look that they were very much in love.

Katie had the signature Gale look and blended in perfectly with the many cousins already in the room. Hodge, though a Shadowhunter like Alec and his friends, fit the Gale pattern surprisingly well, down to his family name Starkweather which, as had been pointed out more than once, could be interpreted as being 'just another way to say gale' if one squinted at it a little. His presence was owed to Charlie's unique time-travelling skills, saving him from certain death and preserving his knowledge to help their Nephilim friends in their quest of shedding light on the truths of their history – both remote and recent.

They had healed his wounds, but even Gale charms couldn't bring back the hand he had lost to Jace's sword. That had been the purpose of the trip the four had taken: While acquiring a good prosthetic limb usually took a little more time and a lot more involvement of members of the medical profession, a combination of Gale Luck and the generous application of two Aunties who weren't above using their powers to smooth the way had done the trick easily.

The hand protruding from the left sleeve of the loose shirt he wore was made of white plastic and metal, the fingers curled in slightly in a relaxed position.

"How was the trip?" Izzy asked as soon as the two slid into the free seats across from her and her siblings. "Does the hand really work?"

*

Maybe the effect was exacerbated by two weeks of absence, but Hodge still found it jarring to look at the three young Nephilim he had trained for most of their lives and see them devoid of runes. He had found it much easier to get used to his own unmarked skin.

Then again, the restyling he had received at the hands of Katie and Charlie had left him perpetually surprised at the man who looked back at him from the mirror every morning anyway.

"It works," he said, opening and closing the fingers as proof.

The servos in the joints gave a low hum as they jumped into action. They were controlled using electrodes taped to the skin of his forearm beneath the prosthetic.

A plate generously filled with food kept hot via charmwork was passed his way. He hesitated, aware that all eyes were on him, or, more specifically, his hand right then. The temptation to continue making do with his right hand only, as he had before, was almost too much to resist.

He had spent the last week practicing use of the hand for hours every day, supervised by people whose job it was to make people like him whole again – or more so than they were when they arrived in any case. He was very much aware that it was less time than one usually got, and that only the presence of Bea and Carmen had prevented questions from being asked that he wouldn't have been able to answer.

He had the basics down, and had been confident that he could work on refining his skill on his own. He'd been feeding himself using two hands for days. Still, he was half convinced that he was going to embarrass himself now that everyone was watching.

Telling himself not to be ridiculous, he kept his eyes on the fork as he picked it up, relieved to find that he only needed one attempt to do so.

"Hodge ended up with quite a lot of driving practice, too," Katie was just saying, redirecting everyone's attention slightly.

He felt his lips twitch into a grin. "Kind of had to," he claimed. "It was that or letting Auntie Bea drive."

A chuckle ran around the table. All the Aunties had a reputation for reckless driving, relying on charms to keep them, their car and any other traffic participants safe. Even Bea didn't look particularly offended at the statement.

"It was all for the best, young man," she declared. "Really, those people who trained all of you left some gaping holes in your general life skills."

He couldn't even object to that statement. They were, of course, perfectly fine living among Nephilim in an Institute or in Idris, but becoming part of the Gales' extended network had shown him, just like the younger Nephilim, exactly how much of the mundane world they didn't have a clue of. He had learned the basics of driving cars from Katie at Alec and Izzy's recommendation, but he hadn't expected to actually use the skill until he had realized that it was either that or praying for everyone's safety while Bea navigated the city for him.

"Is it good for combat training?" Alec asked. "The hand, I mean," he added when Hodge needed a moment to react to the change of topic.

He shrugged. "Maybe. I don't think I'm going to risk it. I can't really expect everyone to drop what they're doing and help me get a replacement if I break it."

"Don't be ridiculous," Bea scoffed from her end of the table. "You're not going to stop and take off your hand first if you need to defend yourself somewhere. It'll be better if you know what you're doing then."

It took an effort of will not to sigh at that. Sometimes during the last two weeks, he could have sworn that the Aunties in general and Bea in particular simply enjoyed contradicting people. This wasn't doing anything at all to change that impression.

*

The first people had started to depart after dessert, returning to their own homes to enjoy the rest of their Sunday with their direct families, or to pursue their own pastimes. The remaining group had moved back outside, making use of the mild evening.

"I'll collect you in the morning," David told Izzy as he got ready to leave as well.

"Right," she told him. "I trust you'll make sure I won't embarrass myself."

David chuckled. "I'm sure no supervision will be needed for that, but I will be there."

With the loss of their Shadowhunter salaries and without access to their Clave funds, they had found themselves in need of securing some sort of income beyond the proceeds from the items they had previously spirited away from their possessions in Alicante to Calgary to be sold in Allie's magic and junk shop. Magnus, recently named High Warlock of Calgary, had offered them a share in the income generated from the possessions seized from the creature that had usurped the position before. They had played a big role in helping the local warlock community dispose of the ogre that had been stealing their magic and life force, after all.

Alec had declined, with a little regret but firmly. That procedure was far too close to the principle of spoils, and their position as Nephilim in formerly Shadowhunter-free Calgary far too precarious to risk it, even if they hadn't wanted to set themselves apart from anything connected to the Clave – present or past. The local residents from the ShadowWorld were just beginning to accept them as not entirely unworthy of all trust, and he wasn't going to risk that in exchange for a few dollars. Or even a lot of dollars.

As it was, they had had to secure jobs of some sort or another.

Magnus, at least, had a steady income from his magic and potions work, which he didn't intend to give up in spite of his position, and though the houses they lived in and were jokingly calling the Calgary Institute had been bought with his funds, they were registered in both his and Alec's names. They weren't going to find themselves suddenly facing homelessness due to being unable to make rent at least.

Still, living this close to the mundane world required mundane money.

Jace had found it the easiest among them to secure a modest but steady income: he had been helping out in Allie's store when he found the time before already, and with the inflow of more ShadowWorld items that remained unclaimed as the warlocks progressed in dividing the possessions of all those the being that had called itself Carlotta Cross had killed, Allie had been more than happy to give him regular hours.

Christopher had already been working with Jack and Graham in the newspaper some of the family ran, while Sebastian had become assistant librarian on Mount Royal, though Tomas wasn't quite ready to let him do any sorting or appraisal of books on his own just yet. His weekdays were mostly spent with refining the catalog of those shelves the older man had already been through, and roughly pre-sorting some of the boxes still stashed away to speed up their Sunday afternoon work.

A long-harbored interest in wards had given Helen the idea of combining Shadowhunter and Seelie knowledge with newly learned Gale skills. While studying under the warlocks to add to her repertoire, she had begun to sell warding work – a business that was starting up slowly, but promised to become successful.

That strange force the family called Gale Luck had long encompassed them, too, and was probably at fault for the art gallery just a little way down the street from the Emporium losing a long-planned exhibition due to a string of events that had caused the artist to happily retire and refuse to share his work with anyone else ever again. The gallery's manager had happened to run into Jace and Jack at the coffee shop just minutes after receiving the news,  and a heartfelt rant had turned into an opportunity for Clary and Aline to present some of their work in a professional environment. The two women had coordinated on a theme and were working hard to produce enough sellable pieces – paintings on Clary's end and sculptures on Aline's – in time to make everyone happy.

On top of that, and to the vast amusement of much of the ShadowWorld of Calgary, Clary and some of the others had secured jobs at the Silvan Diner, a place that catered to those whose homelands or ancestries was not entirely of this world, the undead and the shape changers. It had taken some small intervention on the side of Elessar's group of Seelie to let them try, but so far it had worked out without unfortunate incidents.

Now, David Gale, the part-time stag with a doctorate in criminology and prized consultant of the local investigative forces, had suggested that Isabelle use her skills in pathology to a similar end, and introduced her as a consultant for his most recent case – in which he, at least, heavily suspected Downworlder involvement.

"I've never autopsied a mundane before," Izzy mused as she watched David get into his car and pull out of the driveway.

"I hear they look the same inside as we do," Alec told her, just as Jace pointed out: "You operated on a live Seelie not too long ago. I'm sure you can cut up a dead mundane without accidents."

"Don't even remind me of that," she shot back. She was surprised she hadn't ended up with nightmares from the time she and Catarina had had to work on and inside the dying Meliorn. It had probably helped that their efforts had been successful.

"You'll do just fine, Iz," Alec assured her. He and Magnus were sharing one of the benches set up behind the manor, leaning into each other with their hands entwined. It seemed that a need for physical contact had been among the things they had absorbed from their Gale friends – or maybe it had always been there and they had merely refused to admit to it before.

Clary and Jace were similarly curled up together, and Hodge had settled in grass that was allowed to grow higher than was probably customary in this neighborhood, with Katie by his side, her head resting against his shoulder. His right arm was around her, the hand absent-mindedly stroking hers while his artificial left rested in his lap. The expression on his face suggested that the wonder of not only being free to go where he would and do what he liked, but finding himself the object of another person's desire – a feeling that was entirely reciprocal – still hadn't worn off entirely.

The scene was disturbed slightly as the Aunties emerged from the house, briskly crossing to where their group was sitting.

"We'll have that hand now," Bea announced with a look down at Hodge.

His expression darkened, confusion mixed with defiance moving across his features. "Excuse me?"

"Your hand," Bea repeated. "You'll get it back tomorrow. It needs some more work done."

"Work?" he repeated, shifting his arm as if to protect his hand from the Auntie's stare, while Katie was glaring up at the old woman, ready to intervene at need.

"You didn't think you'd be keeping it as it is?" Bea shot back. "You have an indestructible phone that never needs to be charged, but you were going to worry about your hand breaking in combat and hooking it up to the power socket every night? Where's the point in that?"

He blinked, considering that. Still…

"It's not a phone. What if anything goes wrong with that? Charging may be inconvenient, but at least it's working right now."

Bea did look a little offended at that. "Are you suggesting we might break it? I'll have you know that those are charms that have been tried and tested for years. The risk is minimal."

"Minimal," Katie repeated. "That's still existent."

"Don't be ridiculous." The old woman exchanged an exasperated look with her fellow Aunties, in the way they always did when the younger generation didn't do precisely what they expected of them. "You're—"

"And why don't we just avoid the issue by having Jack make a duplicate?" Allie interrupted her. Talking over an Auntie was not usually a recommended course of action, though her special position, along with the unusual amount of power she was able to hold and use, gave Allie a certain advantage. Her advanced pregnancy added to it. The Gales were rooted in the magic of a fertility deity after all.

Jack disentangled himself from Charlie and unfolded his long, lean frame. With only family and friends present, he hadn't bothered with a glamor for the day, showing off his non-human heritage in his golden eyes and the almost cat-like angles of his face. The old half-moon scar on one cheek looked the same as with his glamor, though the more deliberate looking line down the other side of his face was a lot more pronounced. A pattern suggesting golden scales was visible on his skin above the collar of his t-shirt.

Among the Gales, Jack came the closest to a warlock. He didn't need charms to practice his magic. Trained at a Seelie Court, his powers were unique among the family. He had never given them a full break-down of what he could or couldn't do, and in light of the family's general reluctance to accept those powers they called sorcery, he avoided casual use in the presence of most of them.

His ability to convert matter and duplicate any object he was handed had been known to them from the first day of his arrival in the world they called the MidRealms, however. That day, he had destroyed the interior of their car by producing clothes for himself after being sent to Nose Hill Park stark naked from his home in the UnderRealm. He had been an untrained thirteen-year-old boy then.

Now, seven years later, and thanks to an episode of time travel, he was approaching forty and had become a master of his craft.

"Do we really need to involve sorcery in this?" Bea asked, though both her tone and her eye-roll suggested she already knew the answer.

"So it would seem," Jack informed her as he crossed the distance to them. "Hodge? You'll have it back in a moment."

Still not entirely convinced of the wisdom of this course of action, the other man pushed back his sleeve to detach the prosthetic.

"Do not let it out of your hands," he cautioned as he handed it over to Jack.

"Won't," the Half-Dragon said with a smirk, his magic already probing the object.