The ‘basement’ that Ferris had suggested, resembled more of a cave, but with some lighting installed. It was mostly clear and level, spanning about half the size of the actual house. There were some large boulders scattered around the room, most with moss and small plants growing from them. Oscar had decided to follow them downstairs, she guessed because they were all still a little wary of her.
“You realize you’re the guys with the creepy basement, right? You don’t have to be jumpy around me.” she remarked snidely, fluttering her hand towards the cave around them. They did react to that a little guiltily. Well, Doug and Oscar did, Ferris let out a snort.
“If you’re uncomfortable we can leave immediately, but this is an easy place to talk about whatever it is you need to talk about.” Doug told her calmly. He sat down on a medium sized boulder, and, out of habit, place his hand on it, allowing flowers to begin swirling out of the minimal ground and bloom right before Zoey’s eyes. She wasn’t even gobsmacked at this moment.
“Okay, right there, let’s start with that. And Ferris had that rock wall earlier. Explain all of that jazz… Also where are your parents?” Zoey demanded, pointing at the lily that had just opened up beside him.
Doug seemed to realize what he had been doing, and stopped calling forth the flowers, “parents, that’s an easy question; away from us. None of us have anything to do with our parents and they consider us all dead. They gave us up to the scientists in the first place, knowing they would be testing on us. What I was doing was related to what I am, I am part plant dragon, and so, all my powers are plant related. Earlier, I tied that guy up who was threatening you with vines. Oscar here does electricity magic and Ferris does rock magic, etcetera, etcetera.” He was watching her carefully as if he was afraid to freak her out with too much information, but he didn’t seem to be holding anything back either.
Zoey liked this, she liked getting answers from him, he was easy to talk to and wasn’t snarky like Ferris. He also wasn’t giving her too much information at once. “Is that why Tim got shocked in English class today? Was that you Oscar?” she asked, remembering earlier. He gave her a little half smile as a response. “I… guess thank you? You didn’t have to do that, though.”
“I know, but those kids wouldn’t lay off, and I figured I’d just distract them a bit,” Oscar mumbled, looking at the floor.
Zoey had assumed that Ferris and Doug were up to date on the latest buzz around school, but they were giving both her and Oscar confused looks. Ferris gave a more disinterested look than Doug, but she figured Doug was too polite to ask and Ferris knew that too. He sighed and looked at her, still waiting a minute before asking, “Who the heck is Tim?”
Oscar let out a groan of frustration and spun to look at Ferris, “Okay, I’m going to ignore the fact that you lack the tact to instead point out that Tim is in your Physics class.”
Ferris scoffed again, replying, “That doesn’t make me care about who he is more, I mean why should you be zapping him?” This made Oscar slam his mouth shut again in a grim line, his eye twitching slightly.
Zoey was pretty thankful that Oscar wasn’t going to spill everything right then and there, but she felt like she should be honest with them, because Doug was looking so concerned and she didn’t want him to think it was something dire, considering what they had been dealing with. It was her turn to sigh, and she began to speak.
“Tim is just a guy that I tried to ask to the dance. He turned me down, and everyone thought it was funny. Really, considering what’s been happening in the 24 hours since then, I’m actually over it. Just the school isn’t yet, I guess,” she finished, and then looked off to the side. She could tell Doug and Oscar were shooting glares at Ferris.
“Well then, that gives me even less reason to care about him, if he’s someone who takes joy in acting like that… then he isn’t worth anyone’s time,” Ferris decided, scratching the side of his nose. Doug gave a swift nod in agreement but didn’t comment any further.
Oscar headed upstairs, after that, saying, “she seems a lot better now, I’ll let you guys talk.” She figured he didn’t want her prying so much, as she had seen him twitch a little when she started asking about parents and such earlier. Or, maybe he just didn’t want to be the one to talk about it.
“What do you eat?” she asked, narrowing her eyes, ready to get back to the matter at hand.
“We eat like humans. There are some of us from the trials who prefer to live as dragons and I suspect they eat deer and large animals. You shouldn’t have to run into any of them around here, however.” Doug added, shuffling his feet.
“How do they do that, wouldn’t people notice dragons flying around? I mean you guys blend in,” countered Zoey, scrunching her face in confusion.
“Do you notice the real, honest to goodness dragons flying around? That’s because they live in isolation for the most part,” interjected Ferris, rolling his eyes. He still managed to sound tired of the questions even though she felt he should have expected them.
She paused for a moment letting that sink in.
“Real dragons?” she asked uncertainly. She didn’t believe he was one for joking around, and especially not with her, but she couldn’t quite wrap her head around that. How would nobody have ever noticed a species of giant winged beasts flying around?
He gave a quick nod, “where do you think they got the DNA to mess with first before trying to make us? That company had way too much fun toying with and destroying our lives.” Ferris spat these words with such force, his grimace twisting. Zoey decided to ask him a question totally different from that, in order to break his concentration.
“Where do your clothes go when you change and how do you get them back when you change back?” she asked, remembering overhearing Blythe say something earlier about enchanted items but not quite understanding.
“Like the real dragons, there is a lot of magic in this world. We just go get people who know that magic, to enchant our clothing. Otherwise, we’d be either naked all the time or ripping through everything we own,” Ferris replied, sighing, back to his old glum self, “listen, I’m going to go upstairs, you can chat with Doug here and he’ll answer your weird questions.” He started back up the stairs. When he was gone, Zoey turned back to Doug.
“Sorry, I thought I was asking okay questions,” she said, a little confused by how tired Ferris had looked when he left.
“That’s not your fault, it’s okay. I will tell you about that later, just know that what they’ve done to us all makes him very upset. I’ll answer your questions,” Doug told her, sounding a little sad for his friend. He turned back from where Ferris had left and looked at her patiently.
“Change into a dragon,” she asked, not knowing if he’d actually do it. To her surprise, he did, and it was just as quick as before. His scales were more of a moss green than the others. He lay down on the ground, one eye watching her, not daring to move. She watched him for a little while, steeling herself. Part of her was a little surprised he had obliged so quickly, but he seemed open to answering her questions so maybe it was from the guilt of dragging her into this situation.
“You can come closer. It’s not as if it’s a different brain piloting this body. Think of my brain as a mixture between human and dragon at all times,” he told her. She jumped when she heard him speak.
“You can talk?” she asked, taking a step forward.
“Yes, and I can also communicate with actual dragons as well. I prefer to talk to humans, however,” he replied. She thought she almost saw him smile a bit.
She took a few more steps forward, and reached her hand out, touching his side. “You aren’t slimy!” she told him.
He paused for a second. He actually looked puzzled. “Have you never touched a reptile or are you making a joke?” he asked, looking directly at her.
She looked to the side, and bit the inside of her cheek. “Uh, I feel like I should say that was a joke?” she told him, glancing at him to check his reaction. She thought she saw him laugh silently, as he turned his head away from her instead of responding.
“Alright! Alright! Stop laughing and stretch out your wing, please,” she asked, mostly to distract him but also out of curiosity. He did as she asked, and saw that his wings were similar to those of bats, except for they were missing the thumbs.
“Can you fly?” she asked, realizing she sounded a little wondrous.
“Yes, and quite fast too. It comes in handy,” Doug replied. His tail moved closer to her, and she grabbed it, smirking.
“Do you ever end up chasing this?” she asked, trying not to laugh.
“No!! I’m not part dog as well as dragon!” he mock exclaimed. She laughed, letting it go. She walked over to where his head was, hoping to remain as calm as she was now. He’d done a good job of keeping his head away from her for the most part, probably because he realized how frightening it might be.
His face had more horns and sharp teeth than she was used to, but she was glad he seemed level headed. She reached out and touched his nose. It was harder than expected, more like a beak, right on the end. He just continued to watch her, although giving her a strange look.
“Can I see your teeth? I don’t think you will bite me,” she asked.
“I know I won’t bite you,” he told her, before opening his mouth. The teeth were mostly carnivorous looking, long fangs with sharp points. Just to prove she could, she touched one, then another one, way in the back. With some difficulty, since he couldn’t move his mouth all that much, he asked, “why do you have your whole arm inside my mouth?”
She pulled her arm out, a little embarrassed. Deep down, he was a person and that was pretty strange behaviour. She decided she was done prodding at him, and sat down next to him. He put his head between his fore claws, looking up at her.
“So… how are you doing?” she asked, stretching her feet out, not quite sure what to say.
“Well, the past few days have fallen under the category of ‘nervous wreck’,” he told her, sighing.
“That’s about the same for me. Screaming helps, if you wanted to try?” she offered.
“No, that’s alright, I don’t think I’m at that point yet,” he murmured, almost smiling. She wasn’t sure if it would be reassuring to see him smile, or if it would be frightening because of all those teeth. She decided since she would have nothing to fear, it would be reassuring. Perhaps she was being optimistic, however. This was a bit of a surprising revelation. She hadn’t thought that she had decided how safe she was, but with Doug, it was okay.
“I don’t think I’m there anymore. I think it’s going to get better,” she said, abruptly. He lifted his head, and gave her a ponderous look, but said nothing. “How much magic is in this world, is it as much as Ferris said there is?” she asked.
“There is, but also a lot of technology and things that you would consider ‘normal’ too. I know quite often it seems as if technology and magic are battling it out, but to be honest, our powers came from both of those things combined… I’m sure it could be a good thing if it had been in the right hands, but it wasn’t,” Doug explained, looking down nervously.
She wasn’t sure where he wanted to go with this conversation or if he was just getting off his chest this pain he had been carrying around. She leaned over, and put a hand on his claw, just in case it was the second option. He changed back into a human, and smiled at her. She felt a little embarrassed that her hand was still over his, and moved it after a minute, thinking that she had been right in assuming she was not the only one upset.
“What is with the cave?” she asked, looking around.
Doug smirked, “I swear it’s not because I want to terrify people. The dragon DNA that affects my brain, and the others’ as well, has an affinity for caves and gemstones and stuff like that.” He paused for a moment, thinking. “To be honest, that is how we can afford to each have our own homes and live on our own. In our dragon forms, we can fly of course, but we also have almost a radar for gems. If I were to land in a cave, I could easily find gemstones if there were any there. We keep some, and we sell others. It’s weird,” he stated.
That was something she didn’t expect to hear, not that she knew much about dragons before this. Thinking back, she guessed that she had heard about dragons having stores of treasures, and she hadn’t been sure of where they got them from. She tucked that fact away for now.
“What kinds of flowers can you make grow?” she asked, remembering what he was doing earlier.
“Anything from tiny moss, like what I like to keep alive down here, to giant trees, those just take a little more time,” he mused, making a row of tulips sprout up, then having them regress into the soil again.
“Why did you do that?” she wondered out loud.
“They wouldn’t have survived down here, it would need more soil and sunlight,” he replied.
Ferris came back down at this moment, looking unimpressed. “You two should join us, we’re talking upstairs about what’s been going on and our plan,” he informed them, turning on his heel and heading back up without another word, his braided hair swaying behind him. Doug stood up, and offered her a hand.
She began to take it, but then asked, “One more question. Why is he your best friend?” she meant for it to sound joking, and she was glad when Doug smiled.
“Ferris isn’t half as bad as he pretends to be. I’d trust him with my life, and he would trust me with his. You’ll get to know everyone and their quirks, as time goes by… I-I mean if you continue to hang out with us,” he added, sounding a bit nervous. They headed upstairs, and Zoey was surprised to see how many people were in the living room on various chairs and sofas.
She took a spot next to Doug, and looked around the room. Everyone was chattering amongst themselves waiting for the meeting to start, Doug told her all of their names, some of whom she recognized from school.
Closest to Zoey was Melanie. She was blonde and bubbly and she sat next to Ben, whose black hair looked as if he had just finished with swim practice. His hair was plastered to his scalp, little drops of water occasionally trickled down his face and neck.
Oscar sat beside them, his dark hair oddly the opposite of Ben’s. It was sticking off in sharp, messy angles. Zoey thought back about what Doug had said about his powers and wondered if that was connected to his electricity powers. Near his feet sat his girlfriend, Lynda, who Zoey knew of vaguely. Her first language was Spanish but she knew English fluently, as she had moved here almost four years ago. Zoey realized that she was sitting on the floor in order to be closer to the small table in front of the couch, which was covered in brightly coloured beads of many shapes and sizes. She was stringing the beads along at a quick pace, a colour scheme already solidified in her mind. Zoey was surprised by the number of bracelets the girl was already wearing, and the complexities of some of the designs, despite their childish looking nature.
After tying off the bracelet she had been working on, Lynda stood up and raced over and presented her with a simple, bright green, pale blue, and pearly coloured bracelet. Zoey took it from her gratefully, giving the girl a small yet confused smile.
“I give everyone friendship bracelets when I meet them. This means we’re friends now,” she informed Zoey, returning to her makeshift workshop before Zoey had a chance to respond. She slid the bracelet on over her wrist, a little surprised at the youthful gesture but also quite touched by the sweetness of it at the same time.
On another couch sat Blythe, looking poised despite her regular ponytail hairdo looking more sporty than business, and Atlas, looking cheery but hulking beside her.
Beside them sat the dark haired Sullivan, who was dressed a little strangely, with a lot of dark tones and a floor length cape. Zoey wasn’t surprised when Doug told her he was a dragon of darkness. She was surprised, when a very fashionable girl in business wear, named Tarian, joined him, and perhaps a little more surprised that his older brother dressed rather normally. Skyler, his brother, was a dragon of light, and she guessed he didn’t feel the need to dress the part.
Next to Skyler perched Misae, who had a head full of curls and nothing but smiles for them when they walked in. They were almost as short as Lynda, who was probably the shortest person there. Misae and Tarian spoke quietly to each other while everyone began to settle down. Ferris sat by himself in a large arm chair, and finally, in two other chairs sat Brinly, a girl with pitch black hair and almond eyes, as well as her boyfriend, Calder. Both of them were in their grade, and Zoey knew that Calder was on the track team. She thought Brinly might have played either basketball or baseball a few years ago, but couldn’t be sure. She wasn’t sure if many of them were involved in sports, as it kind of left them open to an attack by being in the same place routinely, and not with someone from their group.
Zoey wished she could ask Doug which people were dragons and what kind, other than the ones he had already told her, but the chatter had died down, and the meeting commenced. They began with explaining what had happened recently regarding Zoey. She felt their eyes on her, but thankfully, not for long as they began to discuss it at length.
“Do you think we need to ask for help?” asked Tarian, showing concern. Her hands flitted on her lap with an impeccable manicure and natural grace.
“I highly doubt it. When we stepped in today that probably solidified Zoey’s alliance with us, unfortunately for her, but because it seemed so unprepared I doubt they will try something again soon. They do have other subjects to worry about,” replied Ferris dryly.
Sullivan nodded, agreeing with him, but Doug added, “We should still be careful, just in case. You said yourself earlier it was probably a scare tactic, and we don’t want one isolated if that should happen again.”
“True enough,” agreed Brinly, absentmindedly braiding her hair. She turned to Lynda, asking, “have you noticed anything new around in your classes? You’re also rather isolated due to the age gap.”
“Nothing, nobody’s been lurking around my classes,” Lynda replied, not looking up from her beading.
As Brinly asked the question, Oscar had noticeably paled, as if he hadn’t thought of that concern. He was very much reassured by Lynda’s confidence in her answer, and continued by saying, “perhaps we should plan more events as a group, just for added safety precautions.”
“That could be a possibility,” Ferris decided, although he didn’t sound very excited about it. Maybe it was the term ‘events’ that threw him off. It did make them sound like a club or something.
Zoey raised her hand, having thought of a question. This earned her a few odd looks, and she decided that this council must not run like school. They did quiet down so she could speak however. She took a shallow breath, a little bit nervous since they were all so familiar with one another and she was not. “I have a maybe strange question, but will my friends be in any danger? Like Zabrina, or Aisha, or Brie? I hang out with them, Zabrina the most, and I know you guys always have each other’s backs, but…” she trailed off, a little nervous at what their answer might be. She knew, as she wasn’t really ‘inside’ the group, that they were already stretching their numbers to keep her safe. She heard a deep sigh, and looked up.
“That is a possibility I hadn’t thought of,” Skyler replied, sounding troubled by the question. “Usually these things don’t happen so quickly. You were kind of thrown into this whole thing.” He was obviously the paternal figure for this whole group, being the oldest. Doug had also mentioned that he was a lawyer, so she figured he had to be considering everything very carefully.
“We for certain don’t want to tell your friends anything, no offence to them, but it’s a bit of a risk. However, I couldn’t stand the thought that they would be in harm’s way,” Misae continued for him. They thought about it for a moment, and then smiled a little too happily at Ferris, who glared in return. “Ferris,” they sang his name, “could you do a little light watching, for a few days, just to make sure they aren’t targets? It wouldn’t have to be a lot, since Zoey is with them as well, and can easily text us if something goes wrong. You have our numbers, correct?” The last part was directed towards Zoey. She nodded. Ferris rolled his shoulders and then nodded.
“I’ll check in on them every once in a while, okay?” He looked over at Zoey, “you all are going to make me out to be such a creep.”
For some reason, Zoey felt relieved at this. She knew he would take this duty very seriously, and that he would report back to her if anything was not going well. Was this what Doug had been talking about? That Ferris wasn’t as terrible as he seemed?
The meeting began to break up shortly after that, and they separated out into groups to talk. She motioned to Doug that they should actually work on their project, and returned to that for the rest of the afternoon. When she was starting to feel that the project was coming together really well, she looked at the bracelet on her wrist, and questioned what she had said earlier about not being included in their group. She was starting to like some of these people, and was open to having new friends, despite these strange circumstances. Decidedly, she turned to Doug, asking, “Can we have a movie night here sometime in the next few days? I want to do something normal.”
“Sure, was there any movie you were thinking of?” he asked, and then lowered his voice. “Also who do you want to invite? Like everyone or just the people you really know?” he didn’t seem to care either way. “Nobody is going to feel awkward if they aren’t invited, they have lives too” he added.
“Anyone who can come, I guess. And could I invite Zabrina? I haven’t seen her outside of classes other than on our drives to school over the past few days,” she responded. He nodded, and she sent a quick text to her friend, asking when she was free next. The text she received next told her tomorrow, and once she had confirmed with Doug they set about planning for the evening.