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The Perils of Witch Slaying (Or How Buffy Ended up in Dinoland)

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Buffy hates witches.

There were ‚buts‘ and ‚althoughs‘ attached to that statement once, terms and conditions, but she’s pretty much over those.

Nope, definitely. Make that definitely.

Totally and completely over those.

Buffy hates witches.

The guy she killed? The witch-guy in Portland? He was a bad guy. Using little kids for this potion type thing that was going to turn the girl he had a crush on into a mindless sex slave. He reminded her of Warren, except worse. So much worse.

He totally deserved that ax to the back of the head, okay? He did.

But he was still mostly human, still someone’s son, so Buffy went to see his mother, to feed her a story, give her some closure. Only Mommy turned out to be just like he darling baby boy and started telekinetically flinging kitchen knives the moment Buffy sat down. Then the good china, then a small cabinet and in the end, the ax that ended her son, ended her, too, but not before she could get out one last curse.

“You think you have the right? You think you are some predator with the right to judge who lives and dies?”

“Lady, that makes no sense,” Buffy argued, ducking an end-table and kicking aside a really ugly porcelain dog figure. Life sized. “Predators don’t judge. They just kill.”

The smile that got her was completely deranged. The old witch spat a mouthful of blood right in Buffy’s face, snarled viciously and then announced, “You’re going to be a predator forever!”

And died.

Which was good, because the china cabinet dropped abruptly before it smeared the slayer along the walls, but also bad, because apparently dying curses are not to be messed with.

At first, they thought it might be an immortality curse.

But Buffy still aged.

A sort of ‘blood and mayhem, never be happy’ thing, but life continued as it always has, bloody and dark, with laughter where they could catch it.

A ‘come back to life’ thing, which was hard to prove or disprove until Buffy actually died.

Which she did. Ripe age of thirty-one years old, dead by goddamn freaking car accident, in the end. At least, she figured as the lights went out, no demon could claim themselves a very good day.

Then it was over.

The slayer is dead. Long live the slayer.

+

A moment later, Buffy opened her eyes.

Opened her mouth, to call out, scream, cry. What emerged from her throat as a high-pitched warble. She slapped her hands to her throat, to find an injury that had to be there, and found she had no hands anymore.

Wings. She had wings.

She tried to speak again, warbled some more. Took a step forward and almost tripped out of the nest. Nest? Claws dug into soft down and other comfy debris, she held on. Claws? Wings? Nest?!?

Buffy was a bird.

A bird of prey, judging by the very sharp talons on her feet.

A predator.

Reincarnation. That was the damn curse. Reincarnation as a predator, but not a human one, no. That would have been kind. Buffy was an animal. Buffy was stuck, potentially forever, being reborn as animal after animal.

No rest. No heaven.

No goddamn opposable thumbs.

Fucking witches.

+

She hyperventilated a lot, that first time around, flapped and twisted and twitched and eventually, fell out of the nest and froze to death on the forest floor. She never even figured out what kind of bird she was.

Just died and blinked back to awareness as a tiny, furry baby bear.

A cub.

She made it longer in that life, in a body more similar to her human one than the bird had been. She survived until spring and the outside world, survived growing up and learning to hunt.

And hey, sushi was always a weakness for her, so the raw fish diet wasn’t actually that bad. She learned, too, that there was animal instinct in this new body of hers and if she relaxed, it took over. Like riding in the back of the bus, she could watch the scenery, but something else steered.

It was okay.

Boring and stressful at the same time, but okay. Food. Play. Sleep. After being the slayer for over a decade, it seemed like a vacation for the first year or two.

After that, the slayer part of her, the part that was a warrior, decided that enough was enough. Time to fix this.

She approached some campers first, with vague plans of maybe writing in the dirt, or signaling them, somehow.

Got shot for her troubles.

Tried again.

Got chased off.

Tried again.

Eventually, they sent out hunting parties after the rabid bear and the closest she got to interacting with a human in that life was the hunter who pressed one foot on her chest as he aimed for the kill shot, straight to the brain.

+

A cheetah, after that, far out in the savannah. She lived and died without ever seeing a single human, let instinct carry her through most of that life.

Forgot a few things about being human. Learned a few about being animal. Wondered if there was a way to break the curse herself. Pacifism, maybe. Vegetarianism. If she stopped being a predator…

+

A bird of prey again, which was vaguely familiar, in a world that definitely wasn’t. The sky was burnt orange and the people all spoke in tongues.

Not her world.

Not her dimension.

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A shark.

She got really, really sick of fish in that life.

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Something furred and large that never existed in her world.

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A tiger in a world like hers, but long, long ago.

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A lion. An owl. A snake.

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Another snake.

One bred in captivity, raised by human hands, sold to a guy in a Stetson and cowboy boots, who thought owning a snake made him cool.

She grew too fast, her habitat became too small. She broke out, found a pen and tried to write with it. It scared him.

Something about her, the way she didn’t behave like a proper snake, the way she used pens and pushed buttons, opened doors, terrified him. She was close to six feet by then and he was too proud to admit he was in over his head.

She starved, in that life, locked inside a cage she couldn’t escape from, hidden in the basement, where he didn’t have to look at her.

Fucking witches.

Fucking humans, too.

They kept freaking killing her.

+

She lost count of what and who and how many times. Some lives, she let instinct take over. Some lives she got killed despite keeping away from humans, just because her hide was pretty. Some lives she died of old age, had cubs or kittens or clutches.

There was never any rest between her lives, never any reprieve, except for the few times she woke up bird or reptile, inside an egg.

Buffy started liking egg time. It was peaceful.

Like sleeping.

Like heaven, in a way.

+

So when she wakes up after being put down in a zoo in a world where humans have three eyes, and finds herself warm and squished and breathing liquid, she’s almost happy.

There’s still some room in the egg, space to grow. A few weeks of rest and she settles in for a good nap.

A short time later, she hears him. The voice. Human voice. Human tongue. English. English. Speaking. To her, soft murmurs, a man. This voice belongs to a human male. She shifts around, excited, apprehensive, listens.

“—good girls, aren’t you? Doc Wu says a few more weeks and you’re ready to get out of there. I can’t wait to meet you, sweet girls, you’re going to be gorgeous, I can tell – “

It’s meaningless drivel, the way you talk to a baby, but it comes back the next day, the next, the next. Patient. Kind. Excited for her and the other eggs. He calls them her sisters. He calls himself Owen. He tells them that they are fierce warriors. That they are velociraptors.

Dinosaurs?

Seriously?

Buffy is a freaking dinosaur?

That witch better be glad she’s dead.

But Owen, Owen is nice. It’s kind of worrying how much he gives away with his babbling, about current events, where they are, what he feels and does and thinks, about what Buffy and her sisters are.

He doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who locks a dangerous animal away to starve because he’s scared. The opposite, really. Behavioral studies are mentioned. If anything, Owen will help, not hinder her.

So Buffy decides to forego her usual nap.

She hatches.

+

Blue isn’t Owen’s first raptor. But she is the first of this batch, the one that is immune to the flu strain that killed his first pack.

She’s early, too. A week ahead of schedule, she just decides she’s done waiting and with atypical efficiency, hatches. A single claw through the eggshell, then another one from the opposite hand. She pulls, the egg splits and she climbs out and immediately starts looking around.

“Whoa, there, pretty thing,” he coos as she almost goes ass over teakettle off the platform. He catches her on reflex and she stills in his palm, staring up at him. Licking at her claws.

Right. He scoops some of her egg-goop up and offers it to her with one finger. The last batch ate their eggs, shell and all. She sniffs his finger, gives a little croon and then digs in. Literally.

She’s barely the size of his palm, but her teeth are sharp. He yelps. She stills. Then she carefully withdraws her needle teeth and starts daintily licking at his finger instead.

He feed her the entire egg and contents by hand, cradling her to his chest the whole time. She doesn’t nip him again even once.

“You’re a lady, aren’t you, gorgeous?”

She sniffs.

+

He names her Blue, because of her unusual coloring and pretty much keeps her with him 24/7 until the other four eggs hatch.

Buffy decides she really, really likes Owen.

+

He names the others Charlie, Delta, Echo and Foxtrot.

It’s super cheesy and Buffy rolls her eyes at him, but when he tells her that he needs her help raising her sisters, she does lend a claw, so to speak. They’re tiny and also just animals and they’d probably be dead without her.

Besides, after a decade of herding mini slayers, how hard can four primordial killing machines be?

+

Blue helps him. She leads by example, mostly, showing her sisters what to do, and what not to do. When they fuck up, she gets them back in line with a snarl or a bark and Owen knows, before they’re even a month old, that she’s his beta.

She’s the one who draws his attention to Foxy when she gets sick. She climbs out of their little habitat, onto his arm, as she is wont to do, but instead of settling on his shoulder for a snooze, she snags his sleeve and starts pulling.

And pulling. And pulling.

Until he gives in to her and moves his arm. She leaps back into the terrarium and scampers to the farthest hideout. When he hesitates, she comes back and this time, she shreds his sleeve with her demand.

He moves around the glass construction and carefully sticks his hand into the piece of pipe the girls like to sleep in.

Out comes Foxtrot, eyes glassy, mewling weakly.

Blue chirps at him and damn if she doesn’t sound worried. He pets her in thanks, cradles Foxtrot and calls the vet.

It’s too late, though.

Two days later, Foxy is dead and the pack down to four. The other three search for their sister in the same places over and over, until Blue snaps them to order. Then they settle down in a pile and sleep fitfully. Blue herself scratches at the glass until Owen lifts her out. Then she scampers up his arm, settles herself into the crook of his neck and presses her tiny head against his.

It almost feels like comfort.

+

By the time the raptors are the size of small dogs, Owen is fully aware that Blue is more than her sisters.

She understands his commands without training, always seems to know when her siblings are doing something humans won’t like, and she can tell his moods.

He might put it down to raptor intelligence, but the others don’t do any of that. Oh, they’re quick learners, too, especially following Big Sister’s example, but they don’t come to snuggle when he’s feeling down, and they still chew on his boots whenever they can.

Blue is different.

Blue is clever. Frighteningly so, at times.

But she is also, always, firmly on his side. She enforces his commands and training to the others and never makes an aggressive move toward him. She bit him only that once, only minutes after she was born. Since then, she’s taken great pains to keep her teeth and claws away from him, even when they’re playing.

By the time they’re half a year old, he realizes she has call signs for her sisters. Not words, but sounds she uses, assigned to them. When Charlie acts out, it’s a high chirp, repeated twice, to draw her attention. When Delta is too slow during a drill, Blue calls to her with a single bark, followed by a whistle.

Echo is a whining sound, almost like a yawn.

Owen has a sign, too.

It’s a low rumble, a purr.

A happy sound.

He writes a five-page report on his beta’s ability to comprehend identity enough to assign individual call signs, to grasp the concept of self and other in a way only humans and a few breeds of apes have ever done before.

Then he deletes it all, suddenly afraid.

“Let’s keep thing between you and me, huh?” he tells her, scratching behind the hinges of her jaw. “People get scared of things they don’t understand.”

The look she gives him is the same as all her other looks, a reptilian face not very emotive at all, but they You’re the one who wrote a paper on it comes across loud and clear.

+

Buffy stops being careful around Owen – not that she ever really was – more and more. Lets him see. Lets him guess.

He never gets scared.

Never treats her differently.

Touches her, holds her, talks to her, like she’s a person instead of a dumb animal. He does it with the others, too, in a way. Different. More careful. But her, her, he touches without concern. He trusts her.

And she trusts him. Enough to wrangle a pen from his pocket one day. Enough to want to tell him, to want to –

- She’s forgotten how to write. Too many lives, too many languages, too many different bodies for muscle memory to still have a hold.

She snap-snarls, breaks the pen in her anger, lopes to the fence, where various vehicles park at all times. She can’t read the logos, the plates. Can guess that the big, blocky one that smells of antiseptic is the vet unit, but the words on the side of the truck escape her.

Her last means of communication, her last chance – but it wouldn’t have done any good anyway. This world has dinosaurs. It’s not hers. There is no magic here. No-one to reverse the curse, even if she could communicate it.

What could Owen do? He already treats her like way more than an animal, like a friend. Let her life in a house and eat at a table? She’s an animal, with animal instincts, an animal body.

This is as good as it’s going to get.

This life.

This life might be as good as it gets for the rest of eternity.

Or at least until she loses too much of her human self to remember more than instinct.

She cries that night, or as close as her reptile body can get. Her sisters pile in next to her to sleep, the way they haven’t since they got old enough to battle out the pecking order, to become wary of each other.

Owen settles on the other side of the fence, his brows drawn low, worried. He can tell something is wrong, but Buffy has no way to tell him what it is.

And now she knows she never will.

+

There is something wrong with Blue.

Ever since the day she playfully stole his pen and then suddenly ran off, she’s been not herself. Duller. Less.

Watching her with the others, he can barely tell her apart anymore by behavior alone. She acts like her sisters, and whatever set her apart from them before seems to have disappeared.

She’s all animal. It worries him.

He has the vet come out, check her over. He runs all her favorite drills and games, spends more than one night sleeping by the paddock. Nothing. No reaction. It’s like the lights are on but no-one’s home.

Which is an analogy one uses on humans.

Blue is not human.

So Owen decides to stop being a mother hen and agrees to go on a date with Claire. It’s a total bust, because he keeps wandering back to his girl in his head, can barely follow the conversation and gets snippy when she critiques his alcohol consumption. She’s right, but he’s pissy, and it ends in a disaster.

He gets even drunker and the next day, he gets stupid in the cage and almost gets his hand bitten off by Charlie.

Would, if Blue weren’t suddenly there, between then, snarling and barking and backing Owen up to the gate, shoving him through. She snaps her jaws at Charlie and, when that fails to put the other raptor off, she reaches back and actually presses the goddamn button, closing the gate.

Owen sits on his ass in the dirt, watching numbly as Blue whacks first Charlie and then Echo and Delta back into their proper places in the pack order. When she’s done and the other three have retreated, cowed and sullen, she turns to glare at him with one frightfully intelligent eye.

You’re being stupid, that eye communicates.

His gaze flicks to the remote for the gate and back to her.

She huffs.

Yeah, she knows what it’s for. So what?

He laughs. Helplessly, crashing from his adrenaline high, utterly confused and stupidly glad she’s back, he laughs. She shakes her head at him, impossibly fond for a freaking dinosaur, and pads off into the underbrush.

+

Sometimes, Owen lets her out.

It’s stupid, it’s suicidal, it could get people killed and him fired in a heartbeat, but sometimes, when there’s no-one else around and he’s had a long day, he lets her out. She’s over six feet tall at this point, hundreds of pounds of deadly intent, miles removed from the tiny little thing he carried around in his breast pocket.

He still lets her out.

Makes his way to the gate in the dead of night, finds her waiting for him there. Opens first the outer gate, then the inner one. She pads through, softly, silently. He closes both gates behind her and she follows him, like a shadow, to his house a five-minute-walk away.

He sleeps in his hammock, those nights, and she settles down next to it, her head on his stomach, right where his juicy, soft bits are, and dozes with her eyes half open. She purrs when he scratches at the hinges of her jaw.

By morning, she’s back in the cage without fail, opening and closing the doors with nimble fingers and sharp claws.

He never checks the cameras, never uses the intranet to check for incidents after those nights. He trusts her. Besides, there is never anything to report anyway. After he falls asleep, she just goes straight back home.

+

Indominus Fucking Rex.

Buffy was almost ready to be glad for the mad scientist guys running this place, because they gave her Owen, but fuck that noise.

Indominus Fucking Rex.

She hates that thing almost as much as she hates witches.

Almost.

Also? If she ever gets her claws on Doc Wu again, she’s going to bite him. Hoskins she’s just going to kill. Dead. Very dead.

When Owen returns to her cage, he’s drenched in fear-sweat-death-blood-panic stench and he has Claire with him. And two kids. One of them reminds her of Cordelia, grumpy and bitchy and terribly brave and the other is Willow all over and they are squishy and fragile and smell of fear so bad it makes her want to gag. You know, if dinosaurs had gag reflexes.

She hooks her sickle claws into the fence and barks until Owen comes closer. Throws her head, motions, hisses and snaps. Get them in here, she tells him, get them inside, the babies and the white lady, inside, you, too, we’ll keep you safe. Twenty foot walls and four raptors should be enough to deter that monster from some easy prey.

Owen smiles and reaches through the fence to stroke her head. He understands, at least some of it. “You’re amazing, girl, my baby Blue. Amazing. But you know I can’t do that.”

Of course she knows. Owen is the annoying hero type. The kind that has to make the sacrifice, always.

He reminds her of herself. He had nothing to do with creating the abomination she can smell on the breeze even now, but he’s going to help take it down anyway. If only to keep the three squishies behind him safe.

Speaking of. Claire gasps, “Owen!”

At the same time, the kids both call out, “Wicked!”

Owen chuckles, waves the boys over. Introduces them to her and her to them. The little one is all sunshine and innocence and she lets him pet her without moving a muscle, while his aunt has a minor coronary in the background. The older one, the sullen, protective one, him she flashes her teeth at before she lets him touch her. He chuckles. “You’ll take that thing down, won’t you?” He asks, finding the sweet spot immediately.

She purrs briefly, then cocks her head and Owen. Explain.

“We’re going hunting, Blue,” he tells her.

+

Hoskins, the ass, doesn’t come with them. Of course not. He hides his lily white, useless self away somewhere safe and lets the rest of them do the dirty work.

Buffy is tempted to take the ladies for a brief detour, but a) they’d get shot and b) they can’t leave Owen to fend for himself. Not surrounded by those meathead soldier boys.

So off to see the deadly monster made in a lab they go.

It’s even fun, for a bit, before she snarls at the Indo and she snarls back.

Demands obedience in their own tongue, their own words.

Raptor. There’s raptor in her, Buffy realizes even as Owen breathes the realization to the other humans. She roars demands in their faces and Buffy can feel the girls wavering in the face of a new, more powerful alpha.

But Buffy is a raptor, too, has been one longer than the Indo, and a dozen other things besides, including human. Including the kind of human who throws herself off a tower to save the people she loves.

She does love Owen. And she adores the boys waiting back at the cage, likes Claire, too, because she takes care of Owen in her own, cranky way.

And the girls.

The girls are hers, too.

So the Indominus Rex can roar at her all she wants, Buffy already has an alpha and she’s not going to let animal instinct override that.

No, she tells the bigger animal.

No.

The girls falter. Hesitate.

No, she tells them.

Behind her, Owen has his clicker in hand, reinforcing what she’s saying. Eyes on me.

Buffy lunges.

Delta and Echo follow, Charlie goes wide, attacks from the back. On her third assault, she gets slammed into a tree hard enough that Buffy can hear bone breaking. She doesn’t get back up.

Above them, human weapons whistle past, bringing firedeathdoom. Echo screams as the flames take her and Buffy is left with no choice but to place her left foot on her sister’s neck and press down. Ending her suffering.

She meets Owen’s gaze across the chaos, finds him already staring at her, wide-eyed.

She jerks her head at him. Go.

Mission failed.

Go.

Save the others.

Be safe.

Go.

She’ll see this through.

He lunges for his bike and blows out of there in less time than it takes her to find Delta and ready for another attack. Two of her sisters are dead. They weren’t Kendra, or Faith, or Vi, or Rona, not any of the girls from her first life, but they were sisters, still. And they followed her into battle without flinching. She roars in challenge. Delta echoes her.

They can buy Owen time, at the very least.

+

After watching Blue kill Echo, Owen goes numb. Not only because two of his girls are dead, but because this is proof, the last, final proof, if he ever needed it, that Blue is fully cognizant, fully aware.

Capable of understanding a mercy kill, a concept that escapes even some humans.

And he abandons her, drives off to leave her to battle the Indo on her own, with only Delta for backup.

He gets to Claire and the boys, and they race the giant killing machine back to the park proper. He thinks he catches a glimpse of bright eyes and long claws a time or two as they drive, but that might be wishful thinking.

And then, just as he thinks they might be safe, that freaking monster comes racing down Main, straight towards them and it’s all he can do to stuff the kids behind himself and hope it’ll buy them the time they need to run. Again.

Eventually, they’ll be out of space to run.

Blue appears, suddenly, out of nowhere, just slots in at his side, shoulder to shoulder, like she was always there.

Delta is nowhere in sight, and he doesn’t need to ask what happened. The way Blue glares at the bigger dinosaur is more than enough explanation.

“On my mark,” he tells Claire and the kids, “You run. We’ll distract her.”

He doesn’t give Claire time to protest, just shouts for them to go, throwing himself to the left, firing at the beast’s head. Blue goes right, leaping, clawing, snarling defiance.

It’s not enough. Even as he fires, reloads, fires, reloads, he knows it isn’t enough. Blue attacks time and again until, suddenly, with a howl, she is cut off, slammed into a wall, blood all over her front. Those terribly articulate arms got her, claws as sharp as razors.

Game over, then, Owen thinks, until, out of nowhere, another roar shakes the ground and –

Did Claire seriously just unleash the T-Rex on the I-Rex?

“Are you completely fucking mad?” he asks as he skids into a half-broken stall after her and the boys, eyes on the battle.

“We needed more teeth,” she tells him, blithely, trying to cover Gray’s eyes and hug him at the same time.

It’s over only moments later, the mosa having herself a nice snack, and then Sue, the T-Rex, takes off into the forest. Unlike the Indo, she still has her implant. Subduing and returning her to her paddock will be easy. That, and she’s not a hyper-aggressive tube-bred sociopath in animal form.

Owen waits for her heavy footsteps to fade away – barely – before launching himself out into the open, screaming for Blue.

Over the din of the fire and a few still collapsing buildings, he hears a weak bark.

Owen.

He finds her half buried under rubble, her belly sliced open, panting harshly. If he had equipment, had a trailer to move her with, more hands, more helpers, he could save her. But the island is empty and she weighs several hundred pounds.

There’s nothing he can do.

“Oh, Blue,” he whispers, dropping to his knees next to her, cradling her head in his lap. “You saved me, girl, you saved all of us.”

Zack is the first to drop down next to them, followed by Gray and their aunt. Everyone finds a place to touch the dying raptor, to stroke and pet and hold. Grateful. Sad.

And Blue, in pain, cornered, dying, that wild, untamable animal that everyone said would kill him one day, croons at them all, softly, like she’s telling them it’s okay.

Owen finds that spot behind her jaw, scratches. “You did good. Thank you.”

She whuffs, blowing air directly into his face, and he chuckles tearfully, because goddamit, he loves that dumb, clever beast.

He leans down, presses a kiss to her muzzle, brief and hard. A final farewell.

Only instead of dying, the velociraptor in his lap suddenly starts to shrink.

Shrink and change color, turn soft and pale and hairy and a moment later, all four of them are staring, dumbfounded, at the naked blonde lying between them.

Blue – that is Blue, isn’t it – gasps, coughs, wiggles her fingers in front of her face and then says, in a very rough, scratchy voice, “True love’s kiss. What the actual fuck. I hate witches.”

Then she passes out.

Right. Belly ripped open.

Only now, instead of half a ton, she weighs barely a hundred pounds. And she’s human. Owen grabs her up in his arms even as Claire strips her blouse from around her waist and throws it over the girl-woman-velociraptor and the boys start looking for a way through the debris that has become Main Street. There’s still a team of medics up at command.

+

Claire chases Larry out of the control room and deletes all footage of Blue turning human.

Zack and Gray pilfer their aunt’s apartment for clothes and pretend Blue is a friend, and that the clothes are hers.

Owen sits next to the cot the medics left her on, her hand in his, and stares.

And stares.

And stares.

Did she really say ‘true love’s kiss’ before she passed out? Did his raptor seriously just turn human and mutter about witches and magic?

By the time he’s come to the conclusion that, yes, on top of rampaging killer dinos, that really happened, the Mitchell/Dearing clan in back by his side. There won’t be any evacs until unrise, which is still a good six hours away.

The medics patched Blue up as well as they could, not really caring where she came from or why she was naked, and then wandered off to see to the few InGen soldiers that came stumbling in from the first fight with the Indo.

Which leaves the four of them alone with Blue. The human who was a velociraptor an hour ago.

“Do you think she was cursed?” Gray blurts after about five minutes of visibly containing himself. “Like, by a witch? And you saved her? Is she a princess?”

“Nah, kid,” that scratchy voice informs them, quiet and beat, but strong. “Not a princess.”

She has an accent, a strange way of wrapping her tongue around certain sounds. She coughs, clutching her belly. Afterwards, she brings her hands up to her face, studies them.

“Opposable thumbs,” she tells them, wiggling them. “Never underestimate how fantastic those are. I haven’t had any in lifetimes. Literally.”

She flexes her fingers that way she used to flex her claws, makes a little snuffling noise Owen knows all too well. Her toes start dancing next. She blinks, wiggles her hips. Flaps her elbows.

“I’m actually human again.” She grimaces, obviously experimenting with her facial muscles.

“Were you cursed?”

“Yeah, Zack, right?”

He nods.

“Yeah, I was. Killed a bad witch, a long, long time ago. Turned out his mom was even worse. Been doing the whole animal thing since. It’s been… a long time. I…,” she stops, sticks out her tongue, moves it around. “Language. I… Sorry. Been…,” she trails off.

Turns to stare up at Owen. “Thanks. For, you know.”

“Kissing you?” Claire asks. She, at least, seems to take this in stride. Owen always knew the woman was made of steel.

Blue nods. “I didn’t know you could break it. The curse. I thought… It’s been so long.” She shakes her head again. It’s an animal motion, as if to dislodge something.

“Do you have family?” Claire again.

“Long time,” Blue returns. “Centuries.”

Owen takes a deep breath. Releases it. Takes Blue’s hand in his again. Squeezes.

“What’s your name?” he asks her.

She smiles at him and it’s really more teeth than it should be. “I like Blue,” she answers. “You gave it to me.”

“I gave it to a raptor.”

She snaps her teeth. “I was animal too long,” she says. “Blue is good. I like it.”

Gray and Zack cackle, Claire won’t stop smirking and Owen blushes. Magic, curses, giant dinosaurs and now his pet raptor is flirting with him.

Life just got weirder.

+