CHAPTER 2

Ian's fist hurt like hell.

"That wasn't very nice," the shifter chastened with a grumble. He rubbed at his chest, as though the impact had actually hurt him. Ian was willing to bet the PS3 he'd left at home that he wasn't. "I just wanted to see if you were okay."

Ian clenched and unclenched his fist, hissing. "You mean I should be lucky my knuckles aren't broken?"

"Hey now," the shifter said. "It was your own fault, you know."

Ian leaned away. "Leave us alone," he said sharply, eyeing him with distaste.

The shifter scowled at him, dropping his hand. He was fairly average-sized, dark-skinned and dark-haired. Overall, different from the paleness of Ian's father, but no less striking in height. "Look. You're not exactly Mr. Popular with my packmates right now, man. According to them, you deserve to have your ass kicked and laundered."

Ian glanced over; already, the beginning of dawn was breaking through the darkness and gaps of the trees. Maybe it would've been beautiful if it hadn't still been freezing.

He looked away when one of the shifters in the group caught his eye. "And according to you?"

The shifter shrugged. "Sympathetic at first, not like it seems to matter to you." He almost would've looked human had it not been for the way his head tilted as he studied Ian, eyes golden in tint. He didn't raise his voice; didn't need to. "Heard from Ross that you're all the way from the beaches, right? That's far. We don't get much sun here."

"Who are you?" Emmie wanted to know, before Ian could tell him to mind his own business. She pushed herself out of his arms and half-crawled on all fours until the momentum allowed her to stand up. It meant Ian had to stand up too if he didn't want to look like an idiot.

"Zeke," the shifter told her, before his eyes flashed back up at Ian. He crouched slowly down to her eye-level. "I'm a friendly to those that deserve it," he added, tone was noticeably nicer. "But you knew that."

"I'm Emmie." To Ian's horror, she pressed their cheeks together.

"Emmie—"

"You smell different from my Ba Ba," Emmie said, withdrawing in surprise.

"I should," Zeke agreed pleasantly. He bent down a little more for her inspection without complaint, head hanging a little lower from his strong shoulders. "I'm not your pack."

Right. Werewolves liked cubs. They had different boundaries.

Emmie traced the bridge of his nose with her fingers. "Do you turn into a wolf too?"

"Sure I do." Zeke smiled down at her. "Not now, obviously."

"Really?" She pressed her fingers over his eyebrows, under his eyes, and tugged up his lip to squint at his teeth. "You don't look like you could change." She grabbed his cheeks next.

"Don't need to, kiddo." Zeke didn't fight or stop here. Instead, he closed his eyes, seemingly content to have his face tilted this way and that, like he'd been doing it his entire life. "This suits me just fine."

"Ian said shifters are werewolves," Emmie said. "How come there's two words?"

"Werewolves are a type of shifter, that's all. I'm surprised about your dad being one, though. Usually Asia has weretigers."

Ian could tell the exact moment Zeke noticed; his mouth opened slightly and his eyebrows furrowed. Being that close meant he already had caught her scent enough to know, but he had likely attributed the smell to Ian and his mother at first.

"Go Go?" Emmie tilted her head suddenly, sniffing the air.

"What?"

She sniffed again, and then turned to face him. Both her hands still rest on the sides of Zeke's face. "Zeke smells like a curse."

Goosebumps rose up the back of Ian's spine.

"Emmie," he said sharply. "Come here."

She frowned as she pulled back. Her head tilted curiously. "Why?"

"Come here right now."

"But-"

"Curses stain souls permanently." Zeke said, before Ian could even think about formulating an answer. When Emmie turned curiously back to look at him, he gave her a small smile. It was different than it had been before. Before had been indulgent, kind. This one was almost brotherly. "If you meet someone else with one, sometimes bad things will start happening to the people around you."

Ian bristled. "Look," he began, before he stopped.

Zeke's smile turned into a smirk. "Calm down."

Ian hated it. Fuck him. He didn't know Ian's life, or his family's. "How about you mind your own business?" he demanded, resisting the urge to throw another fist at him. Knowing Ian's luck, he'd break it this time.

The shifter rolled his shoulders back, allowing the material of his hoodie to bunch up around his waist. "It's okay, man," he told Ian. "My roommate had one of the worst ones I've ever seen, but he's lived three hundred years since he's gotten it. Plus, he moved out last Thursday. The effects'll be gone in two days."

This is why Ian hated shifters. It shouldn't have upset him so much, but it did.

"No," he snapped, feeling his face go red. "It's not okay. Don't talk like you know shit about magic."

Zeke stood up, and his amusement fast disappearing. At his full height, he wasn't a giant, but he was certainly more intimidating than he'd been at Emmie's height. "It's not that bad. Everyone at our place has one or two. Not as bad as Ty's but-"

"It is bad, you asshole."

"Ty cleaned up after himself, if that's what you're being so prissy about. Cleansing ritual, all that." Zeke scowled. "You have a problem with that too?"

"Shut up." Ian reached forward and grabbed Emmie by the wrist. Fingers digging into her skin, he hauling her behind him so fast that she yelped, almost tripping. "We came here just so what happened to my mom wouldn't happen again, and now you're telling me this town's infested with it?!"

When he'd been smiling at Emmie, Zeke had looked handsome. At 'infested', Zeke's lip had curled back in anger and disgust. "You don't have to stay if you don't like it, witch boy."

"Yeah," he spat out. "Yeah, you'd like that a lot, wouldn't you, me gone. You and your kind."

Zeke looked pissed. He took a step forward threateningly. "What the hell is your problem?"

Ian sneered at him. "What, you can't handle th-"

"Wai Jan."

Ian stiffened. He turned his head to see his father and the group of shifters, all standing a few ways from them. Fuck. He'd forgotten that they were still all here. His face reddened despite the cold.

"Your manners," his father growled. "Attend to them. Ah Mei," he told Emmie, voice no less loud, but certainly not as full of bite. "Come here."

"Manners," Ian repeated, incredulously. He watched his sister pull at his hand, feeling bitter the moment hers slipped out. His own felt cold now. Empty. One of the she-wolves took Emmie to her side. "You can't force me to like this place."

"I can't," his father agreed coldly. "But should you continue, you will no longer be any son of mine."

Ian laughed at him. That was it? "That's ironic, considering Ma Ma doesn't even want your family name."

He barely flinched when his father stepped close enough to breathe down on him, eyes flashing red, and gripped him by the front of his shirt. "Wai Jan."

"Careful there," he sneered, casting a glance down at his mother. "You're going to crush your wife."

It wasn't like she would feel it if she was; she was now nothing more than a lump of flesh that knew nothing until the next sun set past the horizon. The dead couldn't live in the sun, that was the rule. But Ian knew exactly how little his own father knew about this kind of magic, and they all knew what little it would take to lose her forever.

"I have tolerated this enough," his father snapped. He picked Ian up like he weighed nothing and shook him, while the other arm was still wrapped carefully around the corpse of Ian's mother.

"What have you tolerated?" Ian demanded. He gripped his father's hand, trying to claw it off, but to no avail. "Did you even think about anybody but yourself when you brought us here to live with monsters?!" He tugged. "Next time, it isn't even going to be just Ma Ma who this shitfest affects."

He didn't expect to be dropped on the ground. It was on grass, but it still was a fall on his spine.

Ian grit his teeth, shutting his eyes for a moment, trying to block off the pain.

When he opened his eyes, his father was towering over him, eyes completely red. His form was huge normally, and he was always physically intimidating. But now, Ian found himself frozen stiff, breath caught in his throat. He watched before him as his father's face jerked and shifted, fur growing, teeth elongating, snapping, snarling-

"Ba Ba." It was Emmie's voice, but it shouldn't have been so loud.

His father's face jerked suddenly back to how it'd been before the shift. The shifters around him were standing with their bodies tensed up.

Ian felt like he'd forgotten to breathe.

"I am sorry about the human boy," his father said. Every word came out pained, like it took great effort.

Sorry? He was sorry about Pike?

Pike, sobbing, leg torn off, choking on the blood in his throat. Pike, left on the floor of that room, the marks scratched up on his wrists and throat. Pike, who had been big and strong and healthy, now probably in ICU.

He wanted to laugh, but ended up choking instead.

His father continued: "You must understand that you are no longer any part of the other world. Your life is here now."

Ian sat up, clenching his teeth. His legs were shaking. He couldn't look at him. Emmie had hidden her face into one of the she-wolves's legs, hand clenched tightly around hers. Was it because she couldn't handle seeing this, or was it because she knew Ian had almost died?

With shaky fingers, Ian ran them through his hair. He wished Emmie wasn't halfway across the clearing.

His father turned away. Ian watched as the man reached out and hefted up a tearful Emmie with his other arm, murmuring bits of Cantonese into her ear. At first, she tensed, her eyes flickering from Ian to him. She settled down after a bit; her shoulders slackened from their tension, and she lay her head on his chest.

"So what?" Ian spoke up at last, because he didn't want to see this. He already knew who his father cared more about anyway. "Just because-"

"There are cursebreakers who live here," his father said.

Ian felt sick. "And you think they can reverse what happened to Ma Ma? You think she can walk again, be alive again?" He knew where his father was coming from. He wanted to see that, now, more than ever. But cursebreakers? "What do you think she was doing the night she became that thing?"

On the other side of the clearing, Emmie stilled, motionless. His father didn't answer.

Ian stood up, trying to swallow past the bile in his throat. He brushed the grass from his knees with more bravado than he had. His hands shook.

Cursebreakers, of all reasons, he thought bitterly. As if they'd do any better than his mother had. They weren't better witches; just more specialized, with more experience with different kinds of curses because that was all they did. And it wasn't like any of them wouldn't ask for a-

He stopped, mind sorting through the possibilities before it settled down to one. It wasn't a pleasant realization.

"For whatever magic you do, you need to give up something of equal value."

His father didn't look at him.

"Ba Ba." Not even the honorific made him so much as blink. Ian felt his throat close up. "What are you giving them, in exchange for this?"

He knew before his father even spoke.

"You."


Nervous wave!

Hey guys! I wanna thank the three people who reviewed earlier for chapter 1 (I have no idea how you're supposed to reply to reviews):

LadyHazellyn: I'M GLAD YOU THINK IT'S AWESOME THIS MAKES ME REALLY HAPPY TO KNOW

AnonymousProclamations: Sorry, it wasn't Pike! He won't be appearing in the story for a while. Also, don't worry about the supernatural world! Mostly, I'm taking stuff as I go here and there, and hoping it works out for the best. I'm a bit worried about the pacing for this chapter (really appreciated the crit you left for the first one!), so here's to crossed fingers! (MxM coming soon whoop).

V is for the 5th: Thank you for the interest! There's a lot of backstory to uncover, so I'm trying to write it as if things are already established and try to see if I can reveal without spilling everything at once (such as the Ian and Pike story, etc). I might not be too good at that, seeing as usually I write in present tense (but this story is in past so I can practice).

Hope you guys enjoyed the chapter!