...there is something to save.
Eryn's standing in his bedroom when he comes in, hair dripping and clothes soaking the carpet below her feet.
There's no surprise in his light eyes when he sees her, though they hesitate a fraction on her torn leather wings, glittering scales and sharpened nails.
The man pauses at the threshold.
"Where is he?" Eryn asks, forcing down the growl itching her throat. It'll make her words incomprensible and she doesn't think she can stand to repeat herself right now.
Fortunately, the man doesn't bother to take Eryn for an idiot, either.
"Living room. I picked him up after work and we went out for drinks. The rain came down so we were just hanging out at my place until it stopped." The man stares at her, bright eyes glimmering with something Eryn can't identify, but makes her bristle regardless. "That's not a problem, is it?"
Eryn says, "it's not."
But there's a residual buzz beneath her skin, the part of her that can't take Kal's safety by word of mouth. She has to see him, to feel him, to make absolute sure that he's unharmed and whole.
Their ears pick up on chatter coming towards them, directed at the man.
"...ok if you can't find it. I can always-Eryn?"
Kal stands next to the man in the doorway, eyebrows scrunched into a light furrow, mouth pulled awkwardly to the side.
Eryn's heart finally slows down.
"You weren't home," she says in the way of an explanation.
"Oh," Kal rubs the back of his head with a sheepish grin, glancing at the man before looking away quickly when their eyes meet. "I went out with Noel, is everything-oof!"
Eryn holds him up when he staggers under her weight, one hand around his waist, another catching in the short locks at the nape of his neck. Kal doesn't hesitate to return to hug even though she's slightly damp. He doesn't protest when Eryn rubs her hand and cheek all over his face and neck, scenting him thoroughly while maintaining eye contact with the bastard behind them.
His eyes have lost that shitty indiscipherable look.
"I'm going home," Eryn mutters, reluctantly dragging away from Kal, ruffling his hair just to hear him squawk in protest.
She grins, too smug and with too many teeth.
"I'll be there soon," Kal says, "I just have a few errands to run first."
"Okay. Bye." Eryn goes over to the balcony door and pulls it open.
Noel is frowning.
It was locked before she got here.
Eryn spreads her wings and flies back home.
There's a lot on her mind, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow, because tonight is hot chili night and nothing is going to ruin it.
Kal comes home an hour later.
They cook hot chili together, and Eryn laughs when Kal gets pepper juice in his eye. He nearly falls off his stool cackling when Eryn almost cuts her hand off yelling at the TV, so she calls it even.
Over dinner, Eryn tentatively brings up buying a cell phone.
Kal nearly bursts from glee, and starts going over all the best makes and models, but Eryn is soon overwhelmed enough that she makes him stop.
He promises to help her pick one out, as well as a case and screen protector.
After dinner, Eryn washes the dishes and Kal dries them.
They watch television until nine, take turns showering, and by ten Kal is snoring away on the couch in a way that cannot be good for his back.
Eryn idly wonders if she has enough money for both a mattress and a phone.
They buy the phone the very next day at Kal's break.
It matches Kal's own, and won't need much upkeep, even if Eryn is bad at remembering it.
Eryn grossly underestimates the cost of the phone.
Kal pays the difference with a full understanding that he will be compensated in full.
The argument only lasts ten minutes.
Eryn calls it a tentative win.
There's one contact in her phone.
It's labelled 'Kal' with a snowflake next to it that Kal doesn't question.
Eryn doesn't mention it either.
The thing between remains unsaid, even with the bite of ice that follows him wherever he goes.
Sometimes Eryn can even smell it on her shirts too.
Eryn honestly, genuinely, isn't sure how she ends up here.
Not here, as in the alleyway next to the flower shop she works at because she had been cleaning and needed to throw some trash out, but here, in this moment, witnessing what looks like...a robbery?
(Gunman with a gun? Check. Victim begging for his life? Double check.)
Yes, a robbery. There's a robbery in progress, and neither man has noticed her as the thief demands all the valuables.
Eryn is tempted to leave, but her feet won't move.
She thinks of Kal, and how he saved her without hesitation, and how he would save this person the same way, even if it meant sporting a matching bullet wound.
Eryn is the more durable of the two, and if it means that Kal won't ever run into this asshole...
"Hey," both men whip around to focus on Eryn, the would be thief frowning in obvious annoyance while the victim looks hopelessly relieved. Now that they're both watching her though, Eryn has nothing to say.
Then again, she never has anything to say.
So Eryn acts.
One second she's at the foot of the alley and the next she's hand to face with the thief, slamming his head into the concrete wall.
He crumples to the floor, unconscious.
There's blood on the wall.
"Call the police," Eryn says to the wide eyed victim. She eyes the puddle forming beneath the thief's head and grimaces faintly. "And the ambulance."
The man nods.
Eryn leaves the alley and goes back to work.
She tells her boss she found a cat in the dumpster and tried to pet it, but it ran away.
Carol lectures her on rabies while pulling weeds.
The day continues as normal, and Eryn forgets all about the incident.
At dinner that night Kal jokes about that being the start of her hero career.
Eryn doesn't respond with anything but a quiet smile.
It happens again, three days later.
Eryn is at the grocery store, trying to figure out which face mask would be better for Kal, who's fallen ill and doesn't want to get Eryn sick too.
Eryn can't get sick. Kal won't listen to reason.
The grocery store isn't big or overly crowded, which is why when there's a hushed but sharp "Leave me alone!" down the aisle, Eryn hears it loud and clear.
In a corner, away from cameras or people, is a woman. She's being crushed against the fridge by some degenerate of a man, who looks to have his hand-
Eryn doesn't bother to think this time.
In a fraction of a second her hand closes around the back of his shirt and yanks him back, getting a clear shot to slam her fist into his face. The crunch beneath her knuckles is satisfying.
The woman is saying something-thanks, probably-but Eryn is barely paying attention as she drags the struggling man through the aisle up to the front.
"Manager," she growls at the cashier, and he flies off to the back.
When the molester tries to pry her hand off she whirls around and snarls at him, flashing her eyes. Her hold on him tightens, nails pressing into the delicate skin of his neck.
The scent of urine fills the air, but by then the cashier returns with the manager and Eryn is done.
"Hold him," Eryn hands the shaking man to the bewildered manager. "And get some fucking cameras back there."
"You," she turns to the victim, "tell them everything."
She glares one last time at the man, then leaves.
It's halfway home that she realises the only mask she has is the one on her own face.
Eryn forgets to tell Kal that night, because she's too busy watching his temperature fluctuate and wiping down his sweaty chest to think about unimportant things.
He's sweating but there's a chill in the room, so strong even Eryn feels it. Frost creeps up the window pane and table, on the porcelain sink all the way in the bathroom.
Eryn keeps her temperature high and mops the wet spots when his sleep becomes deeper.
He mumbles too, cries out in pain and with words Eryn knows she isn't meant to hear, but she holds onto them selfishly because he won't tell her and she respects that.
Still, the dark cloud over her heart grows with every plea at something she can't see and can't fight, and she knows that as long as Kal is alive, it won't ever disappear.
His fever breaks at about four in the morning and Eryn's knees give in her relief.
Naturally, that means Eryn gets sick the next day.
Eryn can't really remember the last time she caught a contagious disease, nevermind one as simple as the common cold, but when she sneezes and a plume of smoke bursts from her nostrils, she knows it won't be a good day.
Kal laughs her all the way back into bed, ignoring her grumbling that she's fine and it'll burn out in fifteen minutes anyway, and all she needs is a nap.
He makes her tea, and she almost singes his eyebrows right off.
It becomes slightly less funny after that.
Kal calls in a favour, and the voice over the other line makes Eryn snarl. Internally, because her chest is congested and that's disgusting.
He hangs up and turns to Eryn, who's been sitting on the couch with her arms folded.
"Are you pouting?"
"No." She might be.
"Cold or not, I can still kill you." She lies, sneering.
Kal ignores her (and that's so normal Eryn doesn't even blink anymore) and grabs his keys from the coffee table.
"C'mon, Noel says he has a gas mask he can lend you for the time being."
Eryn hesitates, but gets up eventually without protest.
She's keeping the stupid mask.
Somehow, there's a child on her shoulders and a kite in her hands.
Eryn just gives up trying to understand how she gets in these situations. It's probably her newly awakened conscience or Kal's conscience influencing her.
Packs are fucking weird.
"Mask woman, the police station is right there!" The girl on top of her head points to the sign up the road that does indeed read police station, in big blue lettering.
Eryn reaches up and ruffles the girl's hair. "Very good, youngling."
She sets the girl down in front the station and hands her the kite. It has a tear in it, but the kid didn't want to leave it, so Eryn had climbed a tree to get it back.
Not the most embarrassing situation to be in. Eryn is rather good at climbing trees.
"Remember what I said?" Eryn asks, kneeling down, hands on the child's shoulders.
She nods seriously. "Tell the officer that I am lost, and tell them my mommys names, and wait for them."
Eryn smiles, small but genuine under her gas mask, and stands.
"Good. Farewell, young one."
"Bye mask lady!"
Eryn watches the little girl run into the station, and two women inside rush to her, wrapping her in a warm hug and sobbing tears of relief.
Her smile doesn't leave until she gets home.
Eryn gets better the next day.
She keeps the gas mask.
"You're on the news." Kal says the minute Eryn picks up the phone.
"You're on the news!" Kal repeats, but it doesn't help Eryn understand any clearer. Thankfully this time he continues. "Well, not you exactly, but somebody connected the robbery and molestation prevention to a young person with long ginger hair and a mask. And you didn't tell me you helped out a kid! But whatever. It's obviously you, but the public doesn't know what you look like exactly. They're calling you a superhero or a vigilante or something!"
Huh. That's unexpected. Eryn says as much.
Kal laughs. "Not really. You did something nice for the community and they're thanking you for it. That's a selfless thing to do."
It's really not, because Eryn is a dragon at heart and dragons are notoriously selfish. She's only doing this so Kal doesn't have to, so she can guarantee his safety in a world that won't mind its own business and leave him alone.
It's purely selfish.
But she won't tell him that.
Instead she says: "Uh huh. Can you pick up some curry? I used the last of it last night for dinner."
"Ah okay." Eryn waits, because Kal's breath has hitched, like he wants to say something but doesn't know how to word it. "You're...okay with it right? Like, to you it probably wouldn't be a big deal, but I'm still worried it'll be troublesome for you at work and-"
"Kal," Eryn interrupts, a small smile gracing her features. It isn't as strained as it would have been months prior. "This isn't my first rodeo; I'll be okay. It's not like I go running into danger on purpose anyway."
So of course that's exactly when the shockwave hits her.
Eryn's half expecting aliens. To her brief but immense disappointment, it's just an explosion.
Her actual conscience catches up a minute later.
Eryn's not sure what to do. It's clear that the fire is not natural; it stinks of sulfur, magic and incompetency in a way that makes her nose wrinkle. The fire department won't be able to do anything to it, and it's spreading fast. It's nothing compared to a dragon flame, but it's dangerous enough to level every house on the block.
On the other hand, Eryn doesn't have a mask. The gas mask she borrowed (stole) from that man is at home, and she doesn't want to leave in case it gets any worse.
Her anonymity is the deal breaker.
Eryn isn't a hero, nor does she want the praise for one.
She's only doing this for Kal.
Logically, she knows that Kal can't do anything against the inferno.
Realistically, Eryn knows he'll try anyways.
It's never really been a debate afterall, huh?
Eryn sprints to one of the firetrucks parked on the curb and grabs a firefighter nobody will miss.
It's easy to knock her out with a pinch at the right pressure points, and even easier to just take her head cover and put it on.
The world is narrowed into a straight path, and the helmet part is heavy, but Eryn feels a bit more comfortable with what she's about to do.
Basically out herself to the entire community, supernatural or not.
Noel probably isn't going to be happy.
Eryn grins, and she's glad nobody can see the expression on her face as she raises her arms and activates her magic.
It's been a long time since Eryn's felt this.
It aches at first, in the way older athletes do after not using their muscles for a while. The body still remembers, it just needs a little warming up, so Eryn turns on the heat.
Veins pulsing orange, core beating out fire slowly, more cautiously than she's done in forever. Every cell in her body responds. Every broken piece of her soul sings.
Eryn breathes, and steam curls from her lips.
Her fire-fed soul feels like volcanoes and magma, hot stone and geysers and blackened earth. Something volatile, but not bad. Not evil. Her soul feels like hers, like her, like he who it burns to protect.
The fire in front of her is like a campfire gone wrong, wild embers flickering off to a place untouched, curious things invading in spaces it should not have been and raining destruction as a consequence.
It's not bad, just a mistake. Just not right for this situation.
Eryn's dealt with things like this before. She's known fire and flame before she could identify the words, before she opened her eyes and knew the world, before she knew self she knew flame, and she's never lived a day without it. There's never been a flame she couldn't control; there's never been a fire that refused to bend to her will.
So when her fire-hungry soul calls, sings like it has never stopped, the only answer is obedience.
On the outside, it looks a lot like this:
Eryn stands, palms raised, and calls to the fire.
The flames bunch and coil together like great snakes before surrounding her body and slowly disappearing.
Eryn is left standing in the middle of the sidewalk with significantly more draconian features and significantly less clothing.
At least the mask stays on.
In the end, Eryn doesn't regret it, because she saves countless lives, and stops Kal from being stupid.
She's proud of herself.
Predictably, that's when everything goes to shit.
Stay tuned for part 3. Thanks for reading!