It wasn’t difficult to find Wylie through the maze of towering shipping crates. The power radiating in the area was a beacon and any sorcerer in miles probably sensed it. Which made him wonder just what the fuck kind of idiot sorcerer would go through the trouble of protecting a crate and not mask his signature. It was just begging for a cocky bastard to come along and steal whatever was inside.

It wasn’t a sorcerer trying to get into the crate, Dorian soon discovered when he stepped up behind the gang of punks loaded down with weapons. No, it was some snot nosed amateur magic user and a bunch of gangsters, all of them human. They were camped out in front of the crate as if the thing was going to suddenly rear up and attack them. Seriously, what a bunch of idiots.

Although he wasn’t in a hurry to meet the arrogant sorcerer who spelled the canister, he sure as hell wasn’t going to let Wylie get caught up with the powerful stranger either. Any sorcerer who could raise such a spell would know the worth of a dragon shifter. It was dangerous shit.

Unfortunately, Wylie was in the crate and Dorian had to get past the idiots with guns first.

He pulled a cigarette free and lit it idly while taking in the formation of men. The weirdo in the green jumpsuit looked like he ran the show. Someone was bleeding, a guy about his own age, and a tougher guy stood over him with a gun. It seemed like a good place to start. Dorian walked forward without bothering to camouflage himself.

His choice was correct. Dorian picked up on Wylie’s scent the closer he got to the guy swaying on the ground. He turned his gaze towards the large metal crate and wondered what the hell was inside it. But people were shouting at him now and the sounds of hammers being cocked were surprisingly distracting.

“Who the fuck are you!” He dismissed the man covered in scars and tattoos, who was waving his gun like it was going to do shit. Dorian turned to the guy on the ground. He offered him a hand and helped him to his feet.

“You know Wylie?” Dorian finished his cigarette and dispersed it with a puff of smoke. That got the angry yelling to stop. The men around him grew tenser when they realized he wasn’t just some powerless teenager wandering in.

Beck nodded slowly in answer to his question. He watched as the beautiful stranger moved so he was between Beck and the many men with guns. Dorian touched his face and he jumped. Dorian just raised an eyebrow at his reaction and pressed fingers again to his cheek. Heat radiated from his touch and soothed away the pain throbbing in the bruises Diego gave him.

“He a friend of yours?” Dorian wanted to make sure he was helping the right guy. Probably. Beck was sweet looking and lacked the resolve to kill, unlike the hard-eyed men around them.

“Dating,” Beck muttered while he touched his face gingerly. When no pain came, he quickly wiped the remaining blood away. His hands were shaking, likely from having a gun at his head for so long.

“Ah.” Dorian didn’t know what to say to Wylie’s ex—or what, current? Had Wylie gone there just to get back together with the guy?

Well, fuck.

Dorian licked his teeth and tried to push the stab of jealousy away. There was a mini army of punks with guns and Wylie was in some crate with god only knew what. Now was not the time to start feeling sorry for himself.

“What’s in the box?” Dorian asked while inconspicuously studying Beck, who was pushing his hair from his face. He wasn’t bad looking beneath the bruises. He had a sweet face if not a bit innocent. Of course Wylie had been dating someone before he came to the Academy. Hell, maybe they were still dating. For all he knew, this guy was waiting patiently for Wylie to get his dragon form under control so the two could live happily ever after in their white-trash gangster ghetto.

Nope, he was totally bitter as fuck. Damn it.

Beck stared warily at the large metal crate and gave a shrug full of uncertainty. “Not sure. Something worth a lot of money but it’s supposed to be dangerous. Wylie went in there over ten minutes ago and he hasn’t come out. I don’t… I hope he’s okay.”

“You should mind your own business.” Adam walked over to the two and met Dorian’s gaze challengingly.

“Fuck off, Adam,” Beck snapped. “Go lick Roth’s boots like the little bitch you are.”

Adam folded his arms over his chest and continued to glare at Dorian. The kid was short with mousy brown hair and wide, frightened eyes. He had power but it wasn’t flowing properly, which meant he had no clue about what the fuck he was doing. Hardly a threat to someone like him.

“I’m here for my boy, Wylie. I really don’t give a fuck what’s going on.” Dorian turned and took in the array of gangsters still pointing guns at him. “Except, seeing as you all seem to be ready to go on a shooting spree aimed where my friend is, I might have to step in just to prevent that.”

“Maybe we can help each other out,” Roth spoke up with a fake smile plastered on his face.

Dorian watched as the weirdo in the green tracksuit approached. For someone with absolutely no magical power, he managed to look confident. “Oh?”

“Yes. Doe has gotten himself trapped in that crate over there and we can’t get through the magic locking him in.” Roth looked him over with an assessing gaze. Dorian’s eyes narrowed in response. “But you seem to have some power, kid. Either that or you’re really fucking brave. If you get that barrier down, we’ll be able to set Wylie free and the two of you can be on your way.”

Dorian wasn’t an idiot. If there were men more manipulative and terrifying than his own grandfather and father, he had yet to meet them. The poorly dressed gangster wasn’t even close to their league. Dorian glanced at Adam’s closed expression and then to Beck’s wide, fearful eyes.

“Don’t,” Beck pleaded under his breath. “They’re gonna kill him.”

A spark jumped off of Dorian’s fingers. Beck stared at him in shock but he didn’t notice. Dorian’s magic was bubbling up in response to the sudden emotion rising in him.

They were going to kill Wylie? Fucking kill him?

“Fuck,” Dorian growled. Two more sparks shot free while he struggled for control.

“Are you—oh!” His eyes wide, Beck stumbled back when Dorian grabbed him. He hauled the shorter boy to the crate. Dorian sliced his hand down, tore a temporary hole in the barrier and shoved Beck through before he could protest.

“What are you doing?” Beck pressed uselessly at the invisible barrier.

“Stay here. It might keep you alive. Wylie can shield some magic.” The barrier plus Wylie’s abilities might be enough. Maybe, if anything was ever enough.

It was getting hard to think. Dorian felt the magic surge up and try to take him over. It wanted blood and he, well, he wouldn’t mind killing these stupid, arrogant fuckers who thought they could just take Wylie away.

Wylie had left the Academy for these freaks. Had left him. No, fuck that.

Beck blanched from the expression on Dorian’s face. Jolts of light sparked across the sorcerer’s body while Dorian’s eyes changed. His once expressive hazel orbs turned black along with the whites of his eyes. It was creepy as fuck, somehow more so because he was so beautiful. Beck held his breath and was relieved when Dorian finally turned away.

Dorian hazily took in the gang of men. The shipping crates were stacked high around them and formed a bizarre metal canyon. It might be enough to contain his power. It might be enough to keep him from taking out more than just the area and the fuckers around him.

His eyes fell on Adam, who was so small and scrawny among the bulked and muscular gangsters. He smiled and felt his lips stretch in a more than psychotic way. “Are you looking to kill my Wylie too?” His voice was deceptively calm as he stepped towards Adam and more sparks flared from his skin. “Are you planning on skinning him? Stealing his fucking magic for some shit dark spells?”

Adam shook his head wildly and stumbled away from Dorian. He cringed when he saw the blackness of his eyes. “N-Never. I’m self-taught. I don’t know anything about magic except what I learned on the web. I’d never kill someone for a spell.”

Dorian’s smile grew. “Then you better get the fuck out cuz once I get started, this whole place is going down.”

Adam licked his lips nervously and glanced at Roth. If the gangster let him go, it would be riddled with bullets. But Dorian had damn monstrous power. If he were to choose between guns or the sorcerer, it would be Dorian. Adam slipped around the sparking sorcerer and headed to the crate Beck and Wylie were in. He swiftly moved down the length and ducked behind the makeshift shield.

“Do I give you creeps the same choice?” Dorian’s voice was unfamiliar in his own ear. It sounded smooth and controlled as he stalked forward. “You’re pointing guns at my guy.”

“Chill the fuck out, kid.” Roth hardly looked impressed with his power even though Dorian’s clothes were smoking and flames just started to lick up his shirt. “You’re getting worked up over nothing. The guns are for what’s in the crate, not Doe.”

“Wylie’s in the fucking crate!”

“Stupid kid.” Roth sighed resignedly and looked over at Diego. Diego raised his gun, pointed it at Dorian’s chest, and three bullets exploded out in succinct explosions.

Dorian didn’t bother moving. The bullets didn’t hit, not that Diego’s aim was off. They hovered in midair in front of the now flaming sorcerer where they were suspended inches from his body. Moments later, they fell with a metallic clatter.

“You guys might want to start running like the little bitches you are.” Dorian’s teeth bared in an expression he couldn’t comprehend. He felt wrong, twisted. It was the first time his power hadn’t immediately exploded outward and he wasn’t himself.

Roth glared back at his men who were staring at the sorcerer like they were facing the devil. “Come on, you pussies. It’s just a fucking kid. He can block one gun, but there’s no way he can block us all. Fucking shoot him!”

Dorian glared when two dozen guns immediately clicked in preparation to fire. Wow, they were really fucking stupid. What did he have to do, start flying for them to take him seriously? Fucktards.

A vicious smile twisted his lips. Let them shoot. They had no idea who they were fucking with.

The shooting grew louder. Wylie gasped when he got another centimeter open on the chain now coated in his blood. It was nearly done. With a growl he gave a final pull. He roared triumphantly when the chain snapped apart in his hands.

“Did you…?” Dante blinked back tears and whimpered as Wylie moved to untangle him. It was overwhelmingly loud after so much silence. Metal struck metal as each freed loop landed on the floor of the crate. Dante sat up unsteadily with Wylie’s help. The chain was wrapped so many times around him Wylie swore under his breath.

“You’re like a fucking mummy.” Wylie hissed when metal burned into the cuts on his hands. The chain gave a final ear piercing clatter and fell flat on the ground in a heap.

Wylie licked his palms to heal his bloody cuts. He let Dante sway in his sitting position and get used to being unbound.

“You’re really strong,” Dante finally whispered. His rail-thin body shook uncontrollably. “Are all dragon shifters like you?”

“No clue.” He held his hands out and Dante fumbled for them the instant he made contact. “Try not to be scared when you see me, okay? I’m covered in black scales and I’m sure I look scary as hell. Can you stand?”

Dante tried. He clutched Wylie’s hands when his knees gave out.

“Damn.” Wylie’s anger grew to see how weak he was. “How long have you been in this crate?”

“I… I’m not sure,” Dante whispered. “It’s so dark. I couldn’t tell the time. I… I got sick…” he trailed off and blushed when his hand brushed over his damp pants.

“Don’t worry about it. It’s not like they gave you a bathroom.” Wylie tugged his hand and Dante nearly fell again. “I’m going to carry you, okay? We might have to run really fast and I don’t want you to fall and get hurt.”

“Okay.” Dante let himself be lifted. He wrapped his arms around the back of Wylie’s neck as scaled arms engulfed him. “You’re really strong.”

Wylie couldn’t answer. His rage was too great. The kid was thin as a straw and weighed barely anything. Who the fuck would have chained a little boy up in the dark and thrown him in some fucking crate? He didn’t know but if he ever met the person, he was going to make sure they suffered even more than little Dante had.

“We’re going to get you home, Dante. First, I’ll take you to the place I live. There are lots of good people there, and they’ll protect you. Then we’re going to find your parents and get you home. Just remember, I’m not going to look like a normal guy when you first see me. I have lots of scales.”

“I know.” Dante’s breath was too cold against his neck. Wylie had a chilling fear that the kid might be losing the last of his energy while in his arms, even though he was now free of the chains. He quickened his pace and headed for the door to the container. Wylie stopped short when he caught sight of an arm framed in the narrow gap leading out. He breathed deep and his confusion only grew from the familiar scent.


Beck didn’t answer. He barely glanced at Wylie when he pushed his way out the door with Dante in his arms. “Holy fuck, Wy. Your new boyfriend is fucking awesome.”

“Boyfriend?” His gaze followed to where Beck was staring. Wylie almost dropped Dante when he saw Dorian. “What the hell? When did he get here?” Better yet, why was he there? After the bonfire incident, he could have sworn Dorian wanted nothing to do with him.

Wylie jerked when he realized the bursts of magic shooting off of Dorian were just powerful versions of the sparks he had a habit of letting loose around him. “Shit. B, I need you to watch Dante. Don’t let him out of your sight.”

He carefully lowered Dante to the ground. Dante was transfixed as he stared up at Wylie’s scaled form in wonder. “Who is he?” Beck asked when he finally noticed the kid.

“Roth’s fucking treasure,” Wylie growled bitterly. “Be gentle with him. He’s weak, and probably starving and thirsty. I need to help Dorian before he loses his shit.” Wylie went to leave but Dante’s hand suddenly clutched his.

“I don’t want you to go.”

Sighing, Wylie crouched down and smiled grimly. “Don’t be scared, okay? I’m going to be right back.”

“They have guns,” Dante whispered.

“It’s okay. I’m going to be fine. Beck’s a good guy and he’s going to watch you until I come back.”

Pursing his lips, Dante reluctantly released Wylie’s clawed hand. Beck held a hand out to the boy and smiled encouragingly until Dante tentatively took it and stepped closer.

Wylie could sense where Dorian previously sliced the barrier. He pushed through the thin tear faster and with much less pain than last time. Noise immediately roared around him when he crossed the threshold and Wylie was momentarily stunned. He hadn’t realized how the barrier muffled all the sound until on the other side.

Shaking himself, he headed towards the sorcerer alight with magic and fire. “Dorian! Stop!”

At the sound of his voice, Dorian whirled. “Wylie!”

Wylie couldn’t help but stop and stare. Dorian was backlit with orange and surrounded in flames. The wood around them had caught on fire from the sparks jumping off of his form. Peering closer, he found a pile of guns at his feet. Dorian had collected them one by one with simple flicks of his wrists.

He was fucking beautiful.

A smile lit his face and Wylie reached a hand out to Dorian. He’d taken on the entire fucking gang for him, and didn’t even break a sweat. Well, besides his burning clothes, anyways. Wylie’s dragon had stopped its aggressive stance just on seeing its mate’s amazing power.

“It’s not worth it, Dorian. They’re just a bunch of dumbass scum. Not worth the guilt you’ll feel if you lose control of your power. Not worth ending up in Daiker—”

Dorian’s eyes went wide. Gasping, Wylie stared down at his chest when he was pushed back a step. Two small, perfectly round holes dotted his flesh beneath shattered scales. Blood slowly trickled out of the wounds.

“Shit.” It didn’t hurt. Being shot was supposed to hurt. Wylie’s body shuddered and tilted sideways. Against his consent, he slammed down heavily to his knees. “Shit.” He lurched forward. His face hit the ground hard and everything went black.

Dorian couldn’t breathe. Wylie was bleeding out, with his blood thick and black as it poured down his beautiful scales. But for some reason he was the one who couldn’t breathe. He felt lightheaded and no longer attached to his body. All he could do was watch Wylie gasp for air on the ground.

There was an explosion as his magic reacted to another array of bullets. Dorian turned slowly and looked blankly at the men remaining. Twelve were left. Roth’s lime-green tracksuit was lost in the dark while his men formed a shield to keep him from being harmed. It didn’t matter. Once his magic finished its quickly spiraling climb, anyone within a mile would be dead.

The moment the thought hit, it was a dam breaking of the numb wall blocking his emotions. His shirt was char and the wind swept it away. Smoke billowed up with his power. Dorian raised his hands and spread them wide. He pulled his arms down in a sweeping motion and the men before him fell, pinned flat to the ground even as the fire continued to burn higher.

They could have been something. They could have been something amazing. It was why it was so fucking hard to let Wylie go. Wylie could have been his damn life if his fucking magic hadn’t gotten in the way of everything.

God, he hated it! Years a slave to his grandfather’s ideals just because he was born with magic. And once he found a way free—at the sacrifice of Alastor’s life—he allowed himself to forget. He chose his terrible, cursed magic over a real future. He picked power like his heartless family would have instead of the one he loved.

Now the option was gone. He had chosen wrong and there was no do-over.

“Just so you know, you’re all going to die.” Dorian’s voice was hoarse from the smoke. He stepped forward and stood over the closest of the men who struggled and failed to move. It was the one covered with tattoos who threatened to kill Wylie’s friend. No, Wylie’s boyfriend.

Sparks flew from his body. Dorian embraced the feeling of jealousy. It was easier to focus on than the hollowness threatening to consume his heart. Ever since the accident with Alastor, he did everything to keep his emotions in check. Now he was doing everything to let them flow free. He wanted them to die. He wanted to see everyone die and there was more than enough pain inside to make it happen.

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