She-Wolf Rising

3

The days of his recovery were a blur to Nathaniel.

Following his conversation with Jane, he had relapsed into unconsciousness and had developed a fever shortly after. For days he laid in bed, waking erratically for brief moments before falling back asleep. Often, he was conscious only long enough for Jane to force some soup and water down his rough throat while he shivered uncontrollably. His reality seemed to be comprised of a blur of color, sound, and pain.

He dreamt often during his illness, mostly of Kitty and Bartimaeus and whenever he was capable of coherent thought he found himself thinking of them often (particularly Kitty). He wondered if Bartimaeus had recovered in the Other Place yet and whether the djinni was declared officially dead in the magicians' records or not; Nathaniel hoped he had been, the demon deserved to rest after the shoddy way he'd treated him. As for Kitty, well... Does her visit to the Other Place still effect her looks... or is she young again now? Do her eyes still shine with the light of what she saw?

And when neither Kitty nor Bartimaeus occupied his mind, he thought about his current situation. Jane had summoned demons to assist her, he knew that much. Though his contacts had been removed he found that he could sense when a demon was near and even discern its level when it came into sight; whether this sixth sense was a remnant of his temporary possession by Bartimaeus or a side effect of the werewolf condition he was uncertain. It seemed Jane was genuinely laying low, however. The few demons she now had in her employ were mere imps and a couple of lower level djinn. Most of the time, the imps remained outside as sentries in the guise of squirrels and birds (to Nathaniel and Jane's disgust, one even disguised itself as a deplorable rat) while the djinn sulked about the house as an elderly couple.

Nathaniel disliked those chosen disguises immensely. Particularly because the one dressed as an old woman took to sitting at his bedside; he woke several times to find the djinni stroking his forehead and carding the arthritic fingers of the old hag through his hair.

On the eighth day since he had first woken, Nathaniel came to without a fever. He was still weak and when he stood up his legs were shaky, but Jane declared him recovered enough to leave his room to his relief. With the spare help of the djinni in the form of the woman, he washed and dressed in the casual clothing Jane had procured for him: a pair of dark blue jeans, a red polo shirt, and a dark grey hooded jacket. Once he was satisfied with his hygiene, he entered the kitchen to find Jane waiting for him. To his surprise, she was also dressed casually in blue jeans, a striped blouse, and a red sweater. Over the back of her chair hung a beige overcoat and on the chair opposite her was a black coat Nathaniel assumed was for him.

Jane waited until he had settled down before gesturing to one of the djinn to fetch them their dinner. As he ate, Nathaniel felt her eyes on him but didn't deign to meet her gaze, preferring to wait til she spoke what was on her mind. Jane didn't last long. "The commoners have allied with what magicians were left and set up a government."

Nathaniel hummed thoughtfully. "It's a commoner government, Mandrake. Everything we feared."

He looked up at her finally, "I would think that would be a secondary concern, after all that's happened."

Jane huffed, "That's settled, the demons are gone— "

"— We let them out, Farrar," he spat, "It wasn't the Resistance or even the war that nearly destroyed everything. It. Was. Us. Magicians."

She flushed. "And you think the commoners are going to do any better?! They have no training, no education!"

"And all the training helped us, did it?" Nathaniel retorted. He felt wild, for the first time in his life he was speaking his mind — his true mind — without restraint or fear. What would Kitty think if she could see me now?

Jane was breathing hard, her brows were furrowed into a mirrored set of harsh angles over her darkened eyes. "So this... is what you think? Truly?"

Unrepentant, Nathaniel nodded firmly. She sat back, canted her head to the side and licked her lush lips. There was something unbelievably seductive in the motion to Nathaniel. "You do know that if they find you now, alive, they won't let you have power now that they've tasted it for themselves?" she asked, her expression hooded. There was something distasteful about that notion even now. Nathaniel couldn't lie to himself about it, he wanted power, he always had. For his entire life the pursuit of it had been his only goal, his only concern. Doubtless had Nouda not happened, it still would've been his main concern no matter how he'd felt about Kitty and what she'd done for him.

Jane saw his answer in his pensive expression and smiled softly. "We aren't so different, you and I." Nathaniel glanced at her and she met his glare through lowered lashes, "You were the only one I thought I could like."

They were silent for a few moments, the fussing of the djinn the only noise in the house, before Jane spoke again, "The full moon's tomorrow."

He sighed, "...I thought that didn't influence your — our transformation."

"It doesn't, not normally. But it's the deadline for your first change after you're bitten. The first full moon after the bite is the only transformation you haven't a choice in. After tomorrow, you'll be able to pick when you shift even on nights with the full moon," she explained and Nathaniel could've sworn there was sympathy in her voice.

"So I really don't have a choice do I?" He paused and when he next spoke he sounded his age for once. "Is it going to hurt?"

Jane looked at her small hands, folded on the table. "It always hurts. But... I'll be there with you."