The witch stares down at the coffee mug with an inscrutable expression.

The vampire pushes zir fingers together “Do you not like it? You said witches were allowed to receive gifts.”

“So your first thought was to give me a ‘World’s best father’ novelty coffee cup?” the witch asks, picking up the cup with a delicate hand. Xe sniffs it, holds it to the light.

“Well!” the vampire squeaks “They don’t really make gender neutral ones. Or ones that say ‘Worlds best witch mentor that helped me turn into a vampire without dying or killing anyone and then gave me a job’. So,you know. And I thought this was better than ‘World’s best mother’ because those ones have glitter on them and you said you aren’t a fan of glitter-”

“Right.” interrupts the witch “It’s fine,” xe says, voice a little thick with emotion “Thanks.”

“We are pack, pack, pack; we hunt as one; we are one; many dogs, many bodies, one home, one pack” signs the alpha rapidly “We are wolves, we are family.”

“But I’m not a werewolf.” says the vampire “Obviously, I mean. Because- you know what I mean. And [Witch] isn’t a werewolf.”

“We are pack.” the alpha frowns, waves a hand expressively before returning to sign “Pack is many dogs. You are my dogs, too. Teethy dog and tea dog.”

“Uh,” says the witch upon entering the shop.

The alpha werewolf pokes eir head out of the pile of dogs excitedly.

“Witch!” ey signs happily “Home! You’re home! We have dogs.”

“Yep,” agrees the witch, putting the bag of yarn down gently “Sure do. About sixty of them. Where’s my apprentice?”

The alpha point to where the mass of dogs is the densest “Cuddles.” signs the alpha solemnly.

“I’m going to eat it.” signs the alpha werewolf.

“Uh-” says the vampire “No? [Witch] told me to bury it underneath the roses.”

They’re talking about the latest corpse left on the witch’s door, of course. And because they can’t call the cops, and [Witch] is busy, [Vampire] and [Alpha] have been left to clean it up.

“It’s fine.” signs the alpha “Meat. Food.”

“Flower food! I’ll make you a sandwich or something later, dude.”

“You’re telling me,” starts [Villain] “That whoever disrupted my weapons drop, that destroyed my warehouses, that murdered my best security team– is some 100 pound twink who can’t talk or look people in the eye?”

“Uh,” says the henchman. Says, not squeaks. “Yes?”

“Sounds interesting. I want to speak to xir.” says the villain “Bring xir here. And a translator!”

Breathe. Feel the air in your lungs. Feel the feathers under your skin. You are star-dust and cosmic grit. Inhale. Exhale.

You are the wind in the lungs of young lovers. You are the dirt through which green things grow. You are the sounds of a thousand crickets chirping in the darkness. Inhale. Exhale.

This is magick, witchling. Inhale. Breathe in the pattern of a thousand knitted hats. Breathe out the pain of a thousand embroidery needle pokes. This is magick, this is Craft. This is the art passed from a thousand witches to a thousand children.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the sunlight on your burned skin. Feel the rain drip on sodden hope. There is kindness here. There is pain. There is balance. There is focus.

There is me, and there is you. Inhale. Exhale.

The softness of a wolf’s fur. The gaze of a gecko’s eye. The sound of a heart ceasing to beat. This is magick. This is you.

“You’re not real,” ey moans painfully “No, no. You’re not real.”

“What happened to eir?” whisper the vampire, horrified “What’s going on?”

Ey’s a human kid from nearby that fell into the clutches of the vampire who turned [Vampire]. But the witch can’t tell zir that in any way that won’t hurt.

“Well,” starts the witch because xe is not kind “What do you remember of the night you were turned?”

“Okay, so i have a question,” asks the vampire. The witch is currently wrist deep in gecko tails and entirely unable to escape the vampires newfound ‘questioning things’ phase.

“Yep.” xe responds “What’s up?”

“How the fuck do you turn a profit? Last week someone gave you a tray of cupcakes in exchange for five pounds of gingko biloba. And I don’t even pay rent!”

“They were really good cupcakes!” xe defends “Help me sort these tails, if you’re going to chatter at me.”

The vampire scrunches up zir nose, but pulls on a pair of nitrile gloves anyway.

“I’m a witch. I’m a balance. I don’t pay for anything.” xe says “This building is owned by someone else, and everything I sell I either get through trade or donation, or I make it myself. As a balance, it’s against the rules for me to turn a profit.”

“But…”

“You can think of a witch shopkeeper as a figure similar to a priest- you’re catholic, right? We run community centers. We’re sources of knowledge. We’re a place of refuge.”

“Hello, alpha.” says the witch. The alpha is curled up under a weighted blanket, whimpering. A combination of autism induced hypersensivity and the enhanced senses of a werewolf has never been a good combination.

It’s easy to help- all xe needs is to diffuse a special tincture of herbs into the air, to relax the alpha and weaken eir senses. Simple magicks, but magicks none the less- xe can’t simply give the werewolves a potion to use; it must be activated by the witch beforehand.

The werewolves have come to rely on xir in a way they never did under the previous alpha. A partnership in which the witch actually holds some of the cards.

In the thirty seconds before the witch stirs, [Vampire] genuinely believe that ze’s killed xir.

It had been an accident- [Witch] had been goading zir, demanding ze drink human (or whatever witches were) blood straight from the vein before allowing zir any kind of supplement. [Vampire] didn’t want this! Ze didn’t even know monsters were real yesterday! And now-

And now the witch is laying on the floorboards, moving like drunk, blood tacky and rich one the vampires lips.

“What have I done,” ze whispers “Oh god!”

“Don’ go calling the gods, now.” Witch slurs dreamily “Get us both in trouble, you will. Help m’ up.”