I wish I had something interesting to tell you but I literally don’t.
We made contact with Billy Ace, they arranged a meeting, we’ve been in contact with a bunch of our more extended allies. Beverly, Cooper, Celeste and all the rest are flying out to Reno to meet Ace and his people (there was some discussion as to whether it is wise to meet them on their turf, but Cooper, with a glance at Celeste, reminded everyone that Ace’s people are outgunned no matter what they do or where we go, so we should be okay)
And what are we doing?
Driving. Beverly UNINVITED US.
Hang on I gotta back up a little bit.
Everyone sort of came to the realization that the crux of the issues we’re all facing right now is an uncertain future in which not everyone feels like they have adequate power over their circumstances.
We’d been going around in circles about how to make the existence of powerful covens palatable to a bunch of people who are afraid of magic, when Celeste finally said, impatiently,
“Listen, we’re scared, okay? The covens are just as scared as any of these new hunters are. More so. We know how bad things might get.”
And something shifted in the room. I was in the corner, doodling, but I felt the realization spark across the room.
“So… that’s what we say, right?” Paul said. “We ignore this Billy Ace guy, and we talk directly to his followers — we tell them that we know they’re afraid, and we’re afraid, too, but we have some skills and knowledge and we’re willing to share it.”
It felt good to hear that, and that’s how I knew it could work.
“If we add that we acknowledge that we haven’t done a good job of welcoming people into the fold, and that we want to hear their ideas and solutions…” Julian said, thoughtfully, plucking at his lip.
“It’s a bit manipulative,” Jasper said. “Bit oversimplified. Might work.”
And just like that we had a platform, and it felt like motion was suddenly happening. It was time to get on the road — we reached out to Billy Ace, negotiated a meeting, and started packing.
And then the kicker: Beverly asked for a private word with the boys after dinner. We all knew it was unlikely to be a conversation we enjoyed because of the way everyone side-eyed us on their way out.
“Alright, let’s hear it,” Neal said the moment we were alone.
“You can’t come tomorrow,” she said, and then before Neal could put words to his expression, she added, “All of them likely still think Julian is dead, and the last time they saw you, you were murdering Merl Allen.”
And then, as Neal was getting ready to rampage, Beverly held up her hands.
“No, I know, and I’m with you,” Beverly said. “You know I’m with you, fuck Merl Allen, I’m glad he’s fucking dead. But from their perspective they did nothing wrong — and they have a pretty fucking strong stake in keeping that belief, because if they admit that Julian isn’t a monster, they’re murderers. We’re trying to bring these people onto our side. If our side is telling them they’re murderers, they’ll stick with Billy Ace just to cope.”
Which is super solid logic actually, but not what Neal wanted to hear.
“I think if I can come to the table and try to negotiate with these people, they can, too,” he said and Beverly rolled his eyes onto him.
“You don’t even really think that,” she said. “You just don’t like being told what to do. I could have finessed you into deciding to stay on your own, and if I need to do that in the future, I absolutely will. But I’d much prefer to talk to you like an adult, since after all you literally are the one who put me in this position of power.”
And then before Neal could properly organize his thoughts to argue, she added, “also, if you come, you’re going to have to explain how Julian got back from the dead.”
And then she gave him a self satisfied smile because she knew there was no arguing with her, and went on: “Speaking of which, people have questions about what happened to Julian and why. And I’m not saying you have to tell everyone now, but they’re going to find out what you’re capable of eventually, so if I were you, I’d start coming up with a way to —”
“Alright!” Neal finally said. “Alright, yikes, we’ll stay.”
So we’re staying.
Except, we’re not really staying, are we. Of course not. We’re driving out to meet them because sitting at the hospital was never really an option. Like… I mean, if you’ve been reading this you already know that.
So we’re driving that direction, just to be there in case things go to shit, just in case they need us.
I can’t say I regret it. I mean I actually have really enjoyed the time I’ve spent at Hedgewood Hospital — I’ve felt, for the most part, very safe here, and I mean aesthetically they fucking nailed this place lol, it’s like walking around a movie set.
But there’s just something about being on the road with the windows down and music playing, laying in the back seat with my feet out the window while Neal scrolls through memes on his phone and Julian hums absentmindedly along to the music.
Julian is alive. Whatever power I have, whatever these witches can see coming off me, no one in this car can see it. Sometimes I catch Neal watching me weird, like he’s looking at me and seeing someone else, but for the most part things feel… normal. It’s springtime. We’re on the road again. I bet I know what song you’re singing in your head rn 😌