After lying down in bed and blankly staring at the ceiling long enough to get bored, Jake sat up and made his way to the bathroom. He watched as the strange orange flame flickered over his body and shifted. It was unnerving, watching his small and very human shape contort into something larger and bigger. When the last of the flames vanished, he was left staring at a dragon.
The outer scales were bright red, shining dimly under the yellow bathroom light. The underbelly was a pale yellow. Gangly limbs and wings, knocking into the bathroom walls anytime he moved. He winced when he saw one of his claws sink into the bathroom tiles and tried his best not to scratch up any more. The chest protruded out compared to the rest of the body, reminding him of a pigeon, absurdly. There, same as on his real form, there was a scarring on his abdomen. It looked like yellow underbelly scales were shattered around the scarring, revealing a softer, pinker flesh.
Curiously he pricked the area with his claws, it still stung when he touched the area but it was feeling much better and he no longer felt like throwing up at seeing it. He didn't expect the claws to sink into the skin so easily. Same as his real form, he bled red. Feeling a bit overwhelmed from the absurdity of seeing a dragon cramped up into a very human bathroom, he changed back to his real form.
His arms and feet moved at his commands instead of clumsily bumping into everything, like his dragon form did. G did mention how he would need to train and all that stuff. He felt a bit more groggy and tired, but he attributed that to transforming. It didn't feel like his reflexes had become faster, or he could see in the dark, he just felt like Jake.
"I guess I'm a dragon now." He watched his lips move to shape the words. Then shrugged, that was it. It seemed like he had gotten over the initial shock of everything- that he was a dragon, he was from a bloodline of dragons, that he almost died. Sure, he knew that the whole dying thing was a trauma waiting to happen, but for now, he felt completely done with the situation and wanted to wash his hands of it.
What was he going to do next? Besides all the sudden 'American Dragon' stuff, he really didn't expect much changes in his life. And visiting G as some sort of weird extra circular activity, but it wasn't like he had actually ever been in a club in the first place. There was the whole Huntsclan thing, but they didn't know about his real face, so he was probably safe from them. As long as he was careful and didn't do stupid things- he had a life outside of being stupid, shut up Haley- everything would go back to normal. Of course he still wanted to tell Spud and Trixie, but G had advised against it.
Who was he kidding, he had to tell them, he was terrible at secrets, he couldn't even keep Spud's surprise birthday party a secret. Well, he wasn't really the type to follow instructions anyways. If somehow they miraculously learned about dragons, completely free of his meddling, then that was it. Turning into a dragon and 'accidently' letting them see, and then you know 'not' talking about it. Sometimes people just know things.
They had a no secrecy policy going on and all three of them were pretty good at communication, Trixie was a little too good at it in fact. Some would argue that banging on the noisy neighbor's door at midnight was aggressive and dangerous, but Trixie would argue it was being proactive and direct.
Of course, being a dragon had to be a little, tiny bit cool. Fire-breathing, flying, and claws. What was not to like? Unfortunately, he couldn't go around shouting he was a dragon at school, nobody would believe him and he would end up dead. Well, Spud would find it pretty cool. He'd go around cooing much like his mother did earlier about how 'cute' he looked. The guy had weird tastes in everything, he'd probably wear a clown costume at his own funeral. Trixie would probably take it without batting an eye and probably would tease him like; 'I kind of don't want to skate to school, fly me there' or 'Jake I'll owe ya big if you light Stephany on fire'.
While thinking he didn't notice the front door closing as his mother called out, "We're home!"
"So does Haley know?" He immediately went after his mother into the kitchen as soon as she returned home with his little sister. The girl passed him as she went upstairs, probably intent on doing homework, sticking her tongue out as they made eye contact. So she was still a little sore from whichever thousands of things he had done earlier this year to piss her off. "You know, the little family secret."
"No, she doesn't." His mother sighed. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to tell her."
"Tell me what?" The menace popped into the kitchen, like some sort of cursed genie. "About Jake's skating 'accident'? Because I don't believe it."
"You told her I had a skating accident?" Gaped Jake, all thoughts of secrecy flying out of the window. He was a genius at skating, all the other skaters wept at his tricks, to say that he had a skating accident? Heresy, absurdity! "Really? A skating accident?!"
"You be quiet." Grimaced Susan. The problem with the Long family was that they were too loose-lipped for their own good and even noisier than a gaggle of geese. It was honestly a surprise that the dragon secret hadn't already been exposed. And multiple times at that. "Alright, I guess I'm telling Haley now."
Jake shirked from her glare but shrugged, "Haley would have probably figured it out anyways. She's always going around saying she's got, like, 500 IQ or something."
"First of all, it's 137 IQ, and second of all-one does not go missing for three days from a simple skating 'accident'." She said in her most stuck-up voice, giving a little huff of arrogance. "I'm not stupid, that's you."
"Third, I don't care about your IQ, and I'm not stupid-you are." Jake retorted lamely. The look he got in return showed how deeply impressed Haley was by his response, which was not very. "Whatever."
"So what's this big secret?" Haley turned to look up at her mother with wide eyes of fake innocence. "I should at least know why Jake went missing for three days. Did he go to the hospital or something? But then you guys wouldn't lie about it, so it has to be something very big."
"What, mom, you're not going to tell her-about that-you know." Jake licked his lips nervously, feeling suddenly nauseous. "I don't think it's such a good idea. Um, mom?"
Susan glanced at Jake's rapidly paling face and at Haley's eagerness. The semi-permeant stress lines came back on her face, and this time Jake felt it on his own face. Like it did ever-so-often, the scar throbbed. It was irritating and he wished it would stop, but it probably wouldn't go away for awhile. It was probably a stupid thing, but he didn't want Haley to find out. It was hard to tell where the feeling was coming from, was it shame? No, not exactly. But it made him want to curl up and pretend the world didn't exist for a good year.
"I won't go into the details. It'll be okay, Jake. Calm down." Susan knelt and settled a hand on his shoulder as her son sucked in a breath. She stared into her son's eyes, trying to convey calmness to his sudden panic. "Just calm down, you look like you're going to throw up. Is the fever coming back?"
"Nah, it's really nothing." He smiled tightly, not feeling alright at all. Shaking off her grip he flashed another uneasy grin while his mother watched, concerned. "I think I'll go to my room for a bit."
Susan watched as her son practically ran up the stairs and slam the door shut. Haley had watched the whole interaction with shrewd eyes, and turned to stare at her mother with great suspicion. The girl was far too preceptive and clever to keep anything from anyways. With a sigh, Susan made sure that her husband wasn't going to suddenly come early with a text and turned to Haley with a grim look.
. . .
"So we're dragons?" Haley stared at her mother. "Um, do you have any proof? That sounds ridiculous."
"I know it sounds a bit silly, but I can assure you, everything I'm telling is the truth." Susan responded, giving her daughter a cup of green tea. Haley narrowed her eyes at the cup of tea before her, her mother only made tea when she was seriously stressed. "You can ask grandfather about it tomorrow."
"Grandfather's coming over? But, I thought he only visited during New Years?"
"Well he's here now, and he's here to stay for good." The two sat in silence for awhile, the awkwardness heavy between them, drinking from their own cups of tea. Jake's absence of three days was heavy over their heads. Susan had wanted to avoid the topic for a bit longer, but with Jake throwing off any semblance of a cover, she would have to deal with it. Not too surprising, as her son was too honest for his own good.
"This is about Jake isn't it? Whatever happened the other day, that's what brought grandpa over here too, isn't it?" Susan didn't respond, looking like she was searching for the right words and not finding them. "It's okay mom, I believe you, the dragon thing I mean."
"Really?" Susan couldn't help the amused tone from leaking into her words. "That easily?"
"You wouldn't lie to me, that's such a Jake thing to do." Haley wrinkled her nose. Susan didn't reply, her good mood dimming at the mention of her son.
"Mom, about Jake." Haley frowned, it was the first time she had seen her cocky and half-witted brother so scared and nervous. She couldn't ever recall a time when her brother had looked that somber before. It was different from his usual sadness and anger, there was something she couldn't quite recognize on his face. "What happened? He was really weird earlier."
Susan sighed, feeling something like a headache coming up. Having been a normal human and living a mostly normal life, she had never experienced dragon life. How dangerous it was being a dragon, that was something she never really thought about-until she had rushed into Lao Shi's shop and saw her son half-dead. Her father was always confident and strong, nothing ever put him down for long, but it was completely different for Jake. Jake was still vulnerable and unshaped by experience, and having been almost killed as his first experience. . . It was a cold and heavy thing, realizing that even if she was safe from that world, her children weren't, and they never would be.
When she had done crying and screaming, she had to return home and pretend everything was fine. As if she hadn't see her own son hurt and almost dead-her husband had immediately noticed something was wrong. Even when she couldn't tell him, he still held her as she cried and spoke soft comforting words. Jonathan was such a kind man, he never pushed and he was always there, even though the words would always catch on her tongue she loved him. Haley had also known something was wrong, her eyes held that hint of hard disbelief, but didn't prod that day. Distantly she heard something shatter and there was a wetness on her hand.
Sure, she had been envious and guilty about never breaking out of shift, but that day was the day she was so regretful she had never broken out of shift. If she could become a dragon she would rip all those who DARED TO HURT HER SON-
"Mom?" Haley's light voice shook her out of her rage. The little girl's voice was weak, and when Susan looked down, the broken shards of pottery were all over the floor. "Are you okay? That looks like it hurts."
"No, no, I'm fine." The woman sighed as she shook off the liquid from her hand. It wasn't like herself to fall into anger, she had always maintained perfect calm and severity as the Long matriarch, knowing that her family was depending on her. With a bit of shame she shook off the tea and smiled at her daughter. "Even though I can't change into a dragon, I've always had high heat-resistance."
Haley's eyes held a bit of concern but had managed to hold back her words. The damage had been done, and Susan knew that she couldn't force the words from her daughter, so she let it go. Grabbing the dustpan and paper towels, she cleaned the mess she had made. Pity, the mug had been a business trip gift from Jonathan. Instead of making her daughter do the prompting this time, Susan decided to speak up. She could practically feel the demand for answers from Haley's stare.
"There are humans who hunt dragons." Susan started, watching realization come over Haley like a lighting bolt. "They are called the Huntsclan."
"Jake ran into them." Summarized Haley. She looked troubled by the idea, but still not quite grasping the concept. That's right, they had all lived soft and protected lives till this point, the concept of pain and death must be so foreign to her children. Even though she had know about dragons since she was a toddler, she too didn't understand the dangers of dragon life until much later. She had fought with her father long and hard about it too. "And then he got hurt."
"Yes, he did." Susan stood up, putting away the dustpan and throwing away the paper towels. "That's why it's important for you to know, you have to keep this a secret at all costs."
"Okay." And that was all, Haley accepted her mother's words at face value. With a tired, but pleased smile, she pet her daughter's head. "But what about dad? Is he also a dragon?"
"No, your father doesn't know."
"But why not?" Haley asked lightly. "Do you not trust him?"
Susan stiffened, flashing her daughter a tense smile at her innocuous question. Haley tilted her head at her mother's reaction but hid her obvious confusion well. "I do trust him, of course I do."
"Then why? If there are people who want to kill us running around, then obvious dad has got to know, right?" It was straightforward logic and completely practical.
"Yes, but not now. I will tell him, but not now." There was an edge in her words, one that Haley immediately caught onto. The look on Haley's face darkened, before she shrugged and jumped off the chair, grabbing the finished teamug to put into the sink.
"Okay. That wasn't that big of a secret, I guess. Could be worse, like a divorce."
"Haley." Scolded Susan, but felt something heavy on her shoulders. A divorce. "Don't say something like that!"
"I'm sorry mom, I didn't mean it." She did look genuinely remorseful and upset. Despite all her perfect grades and prestigious awards, she was still a child. Consideration was a learned thing, regardless of how mature the child acted.
"I accept your apology, just remember that isn't a very nice thing to say." Jake had been much more troublesome than Haley had been at her age, albeit in different ways.
"I'll go do my art project now." Watching her daughter clamber up the stairs, she was left alone to stew in her own thoughts.
If Jonathan reacted badly, then divorce was the last thing she would have to worry about. It was less of her husband exposing the secret, and more of what the Dragon Council would do to him. Not that she had to worry-she wasn't going to tell him for his own sake, and not because she didn't trust him. There was so much to lose, this many years into the marriage, and too little to gain from telling him. Should he know, what would change? Even as she repeated her own thoughts, Susan knew there was something brittle to them. Like always she shoved the thoughts away, there were much pressing matters.
With that, she knocked against the windowsill. The face of a haetae reflected against the window. It was blue furred, with white tusks, large yellow eyes, and a red nose. It's face was similar to the shape of a lions, with large white furred eyebrows.
"How is everything?" She asked. At first she thought that hiring something as expensive as the haetaes was too much, but she later withdrew her compliant. They were creatures of protection and great power, both which would be needed as the future drew closer. They were comparatively the most powerful and cheapest help out there, especially with the discount they would give to the former-Chinese Dragon. "Has there been any sign of danger?"
"There's nothing Long-si. Nobody lingering too long near this street, or people spying at your house." Grinned the haetae in accented English. Then, the mythical creature gave her a meaningful look, "But there has been stirring around the neighbor. I'd say there are new people moving in town."
"Do you think they are Huntsclan?"
"I cannot tell, they are too far for me to sense their intentions." The haetae reported. "But! If you give me that lovely Ming dynasty vase the former-Chinese dragon has, I'd be more than glad to scout! Even without it though, I will do my job perfectly."
Susan gave the creature a flat look. They were both aware of how much the old man treasured that vase. "Lives are at stake."
"It is give and take, Long-si. But, I can tell you to watch out for new people, especially of beautiful flowers." Haetae hummed cheerfully, deliberately ignoring how ominous the message was. Perhaps it was the creature's way of confirming that the new guests were indeed the Huntsclan, but it was still to vague and had too much room to accurately pin. Beautiful flowers? As in beautiful people? "If that is all, I will continue to keep watch."
"Thank you." Susan gave the creature a little nod. She knows enough that warnings from creatures like the haetae aren't to be ignored, but much like most prophecies from magical creatures- it was something you only understood when everything is over. With that ominous slip of knowledge, she makes her way upstairs to check up on her son. She catches the boy coming out of the bathroom, his face still holding onto the pallor from earlier.
"Hey." He mutters out unenthusiastically. "What does she know?"
"She knows about dragons and the Huntsclan."
"What about my encounter?" There's that hint of desperation that doesn't fit his grimacing smile. It's much too hunted and heart-wrenching to see.
"No details, only that it occurred." She watches as he breathes and in and out heavily, something unsatisfied and uncomfortable in his expression.
"Do you want me to give you space?"
"Yeah, sorry mom, just need some time. I'm just a little overwhelmed I guess?" He sighs shakily with a shrug. "I think I'll be fine before dinner."
"Alright." He nods and goes back into his room.
Susan checks her phone, seeing the usual chirpy response from Jonathan. She stares at it for a long time instead of responding immediately as per usual. With a sigh she turns off her phone and paces around the bedroom. Everything will be fine, her grandfather is here, there is help from the haetae, everything will be fine. All they have to do is keep away strangers, and whatever 'beautiful flowers' far away. The fracture of a perfectly human family, but they had never been normal anyways.
You don't have problems if you don't acknowledge them, am I right? I wrote from Susan's perspective. I feel like a lot of the fics don't really go into Jonathan's or Susan's side of things, so I hope this is refreshing to read.
I am going to characterize Jake as a gen-xer. Completely done and ready to fight.
Sando- Thank you for the review! Hopefully I will give the characters more depth, especially the side characters. I really want to do something with wizards and about Spud's maybe talent with magic .
Kaci- Nice! I love worldbuilding and American Dragon has good potential, but it doesn't go very far. I don't plan too much plot deviation, but more filler I guess? Season 1 has a lot of leeway, season 2 was the only season with plot. And yes, I am not going to write slang unless I remember it~
Reviews are appreciated!