Chapter 34

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“Why don’t you want me to say it?” I asked.
We were in the living room of Alex’s apartment, sitting in the loveseat, watching Castle.
“It’s not that I don’t want you to say it, it’s just…” Alex sighed. “Things are moving so fast. I–I’m afraid it might get too… complicated.”
“Complicated? How?”
“For one thing, I get the feeling your dad would not approve of our relationship.”
“You mean because you’re a Pagan?”
“Among other reasons.” He sighed. “I don’t want you to have to choose between me and your family, but… I really don’t think they’d accept me.”
“You’re probably right.” I looked down. “My dad wouldn’t be happy with me dating anyone unless God personally told him it was okay.”
Alex hesitated. “Is that an exaggeration, or do you really think he’d need a divine message to accept that his daughter is dating?”
“He–he would. Even if he really liked whoever I was dating. Angels aren’t supposed to love anyone except God.” I looked up at Alex. “Have you not heard that before?”
He shook his head. “I haven’t really spent much time with other angels. There’s probably a lot I don’t know about the culture.”
“Right. You told me you were adopted…” I remembered his crazy story of being found in a cave and rescued by a dragon. “I don’t think you told me where you grew up.”
“Here. My parents worked at The Lab. And… it was their job to study me.”
“Study you?”
“Phoenixes are… unusual creatures,” he said slowly, “Of great scientific value. When they found my egg, and realized what I was… they weren’t going to pass up that opportunity.”
“Is–is that why they adopted you? Just to–to study you?”
“I–I think so.”
“I… I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like.” Raised as a lab rat? A rare specimen, poked and prodded with needles?
“It was fine.” He forced a shrug. “It may have been a bit… unconventional, but The Lab took excellent care of me. Moral responsibilities aside, they couldn’t afford to lose me.”
“Still… what about privacy? They must’ve run all sorts of invasive tests on you, and you were too young to give consent.”
“Guess you’re right about that. But a lot of the tests were necessary just to get essential info on phoenix biology so they’d know what to feed me, whether medicated bandages interfere with my natural healing, and why the hell I was laying eggs.”
“Okay, but–wait, laying eggs?” I stared at him. Males… should not do that.
“Phoenixes are weird.” He shrugged. “We’re still not entirely clear on why, but… apparently male phoenixes lay eggs. Unfertilized, of course. But tasty.”
“…” Okay, I really had no clue how to respond to that.
“I’ll make you an omelet next time I lay one.”
I laughed. Shook my head. “You certainly are one of kind.”
“Mm-hmm.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “As are you.”
“I kinda meant it as a euphemism.”
“I know.” He pulled me in closer. “But I meant it in the good way.” He kissed me.
“I thought you said you wanted to take it slow.”
“I said we should take it slow. But it’s kinda hard to resist.”
“If you’re worried about my dad, don’t be. I–I don’t care what he thinks about us.”
“I really wish it were that simple. What I’m really afraid of is what you’ll think if you–when you–” He sighed. “Would you still love me if… if I was… oh, let’s say, a dragon? Just as an example.”
“It’s a pretty ridiculous example.”
“Yeah. Heh heh. Crazy, right? But.. um… just…”
“I’d really rather you just tell me.” I sighed. “Whatever it is, I’m sure we can work it out.”
“Good. But… um… could you answer the question directly? If I was a–”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, if by some ridiculous twist you turned out to be a dragon, we could… find a castle and you could lock me in a tower and guard me or something.” Ridiculous questions deserve ridiculous answers.
“Okay, then.” He shrugged. “If that’s not a deal-breaker, then… I guess we’re good.”

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