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Family Shines Brightest

Title: Family Shines Brightest
Author: Kat Lee
Fandoms: Golden Girls/Modern Family
Character/Pairing: Manny, Sophia, Dorothy, Miles/Rose, Jay/Gloria, Blanche, Coco
Rating: Soft PG-13/T
Challenge/Prompt: whatif_au 7: Supernatural AU; fffc: October 2017 Special: Horror & Sex Tropes; 1_million_words Bingo: Witch; and faerie_wish13 October Word Challenge: Broomstick, Magic, Moon, Pie (Cheesecake), and Spell
Warning(s): Character Deaths, AU
Word Count: 7,793
Date Written: 18 October 2017
Summary:
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, none of whom are the author, and are used without permission.







Dorothy groans at all the delicious aromas wafting around her. “What are you cooking?” she asks, peering intently over at Sophia’s bubbling cauldron on the counter. Her mother immediately whacks her with the wooden spoon she’s using to stir. “Ma!” Dorothy cries, rubbing the back of her pale hand.

“Never you mind what I’m cooking, Dorothy,” Sophia states, brandishing the spoon at her. “You know you can’t have it!”

Dorothy sighs, still rubbing her delicate hand. “Sometimes I think that’s what I miss the most about our lives before.”

Sophia shrugs. “You’re the one who chose a Vampire to take you to prom. I warned you about that boy.”

Blanche sighs as she drops in at the kitchen table in a flurry of silk robes. “Ah still don’t know why you had to go an’ stake him last week, Dorothy. Vampires are so virile -- “

“You didn’t want that one,” Dorothy snaps. “He wasn’t that virile, and he was vile. Besides, I did it before I realized what I was doing. He never should have made me mad when we were at that exhibit. It was just too easy -- “

“And too hard for you to control your temper. What have I told you about that, Pussycat? You were lucky nobody saw you!”

“Oh, Ma, get off my back!” Dorothy sniffs in the cauldron’s direction again. “Are you going to tell me what you’re cooking or not?”

“This isn’t dinner, Dorothy,” Sophia snaps, stirring her cauldron again. “The mortal stew’s on the stove, and besides, you know damn well you have to get your dinner out of a bag -- “

“Or a neck,” Blanche remarks, her Southern drawl becoming longer and more sensual. “Ah don’t know why ya don’t just go for th’ fresh blood, Dorothy. It’s so much more enticin’!”

“Letting guys get fresh with her is how she ended up this way in the first place, Slut Puppy! She doesn’t need any advice from you! One of these days, I’m going to manage to spay you yet!” Sophia waves her wooden spoon at Blanche.

“Oh, lay off it, you old crone,” Blanche drawls, waving her away. “If Ah wanted to, Ah could have yoah daughter jumpin’ hoops an’ whinin’ mah name, an’ there’s not a darn thing you could do about it!”

“I’m still in the room!” Dorothy cries, heat rushing to her face. “And I’m not some kind of dog or a bone for either of you!”

Another groan penetrates the air. The one steady male presence in their lives comes almost dragging into the kitchen. He rubs his head. “What are you girls complaining about now?”

“Blanche just said she could have me jumping hoops and whining her name!” Dorothy protests.

“She is a succubus, Dorothy,” Coco reminds her gently. “You can not deny that they have certain powers over those of you who admire the female gender.”

Dorothy cuts eyes at him. “One of these days, I’m going to find a male succubus to sic on you.”

“If only they made such creatures, darling.” Coco grins at the idea, but he still looks exhausted. He manages to pull out a chair and drops into it. His head falls onto the table. He whimpers softly and just lays there.

Blanche pulls herself from her own seat, sashays over, and pours him a bowl of Sophia’s piping hot mortal stew. She places it in front of him with a spoon before moving to the refrigerator to pour herself a nice, cold bottle of red wine. “Another rough full moon night last night, sweetheart?”

“Yes.” Coco whines, still not lifting his head, but he begins to sniff the warm aroma drafting off of the bowl of soup in front of him. “Thank God it’s over for another month.”

Blanche grins. “Ah know that feeling.”

“Blanche! He wasn’t talking about -- “

“Oh, hush up, Dorothy, and drink your blood!” Blanche throws a plastic bag of blood at the Vampiress. Dorothy snatches it up but still glowers as she rips into it with her fangs.

The door to the outside opens and shuts swiftly. All four roommates turn to look at their fifth, who is panting hard with her back pressed against the door. “Something’s wrong out there tonight!” Rose cries, her face pale. Coco’s pointy ears flick back and forth as he hears the pounding of the Witch’s heartbeat.

“Oh, hush up, Rose! There’s nothing wrong that refusin’ to deal with those mortals you insist on bein’ involved with wouldn’t fix! You work all day at a grief center, an’ then you come home every night paranoid -- “

The shrill ring of the phone on the wall cuts off Blanche’s words. Rose looks at the phone with wide eyes, her hand still on the doorknob and her heart still pounding. Blanche stares at the phone, her eyes widening. She licks her lips. “You’re just bein’ paranoid -- “ she starts again.

“Then answer the phone, Blanche!”

“I’ll answer the stupid phone!” Dorothy exclaims, jumping to her feet. She walks over to the phone and picks up the receiver without hesitation. “Hello?” she snaps into the phone, fangs bared. She listens for just a moment before lifting the receiver from her ear. “It’s for you, Rose. It’s Miles.”

“Oh,” Rose says, the fear fleeing from her. Maybe Blanche is right, and she is being silly. The caller is just Miles, her Miles. She brightens, color once more flushing her rosy cheeks. “Oh!” She hurries over to the phone and picks it up. “Yes, sweetheart?” The color that’s been refilling her face instantly rushes from it again. “M-Miles?”

“Somebody’s after me, Rose! He’s some kind of hunter! I don’t want to involve you, dear, but maybe you can send that roommate of yours! I need help! I’m at the junction of -- of -- ARRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”

Terrified, Rose drops the phone. Everybody looks at her. Dorothy and Blanche rush to her side as she starts to cry. “I-It’s Miles! There’s a Slayer after him!” Her hands shake. Blanche grabs one while Dorothy rubs her shoulder. She tries to push them both off. “I need to write a spell!”

“Not you,” Sophia cuts in, “not with your spells and their probabilities of not working!” Shaking her head, she lays down her wooden spoon. “Every time I get in a good crafting mood, something happens! Come on!” She cracks the oven door open, mutters a few words in a dead language, and blows a powdery substance into the oven. The inside of the oven begins to glow.

“Sophia?” Coco asks worriedly.

“Oh, don’t get spooked on me now, wolf boy! It’s just floo powder with extra strength and an additional spell. Just think of Miles when you go through, and you’ll come out wherever he is.”

“Sophia!” Blanche cries in protest. “Ah -- We can’t possibly fit through there!”

“It’s bigger than it looks.”

“I don’t care!” Rose sobs and breaks free of her best friend’s gentle hands. “Miles needs me!” She runs at the oven, dives into its open face, and disappears from sight.

“If she can do it -- “ Coco shrugs and follows suits, also quickly vanishing within the oven.

Blanche cuts eyes at Sophia. “If Ah don’t come back from this, you old Witch, Ah’m gonna come back as a ghost an’ haunt you an’ yoah daughter!”

“Oh, shut up and run for it, Slut Puppy. If Rose is actually right for a change, we can’t afford to waste time arguing!”

Blanche growls, rolls her eyes, and mutters something in ancient Latin about argumentative, old women. She sashays over to the open oven door and bends down to look inside it. Sophia pushes her rear end, and Blanche hollers as she flies through the oven and the glowing doorway just inside it.

“Ma -- “ Dorothy starts.

Sophia holds out her hand. A wooden broom that looks almost as old as she does flies straight into her hand. “Like I told the Slut Puppy,” she orders Dorothy, “there’s no time to argue, and you know I’ve got to be last to close the portal behind me. We don’t want to risk the hunter finding our home!” She waves her broom at Dorothy, who starts to climb into the oven. Sophia smacks her in the butt with her broom’s bristles and jumps in behind her just as Dorothy vanishes from sight. The oven door slams shut behind them.

Sophia lands on top of Dorothy in an alleyway. Using her broom for support, she stands and looks around. It takes her only half a moment to spot the mortal boy whose throat is held tightly in Coco’s dark hands. She gasps in surprise. “Dorothy! Isn’t that -- “

“Coco,” Dorothy snarls, “drop that child!”

“He’s not a child, Dorothy,” Coco snarls back, dangling the human by his throat, “and he was trying to kill Miles!”

“He was! He was!” Rose cries from where she’s holding fast to Miles. She has a jacket pressed against a wound on his chest, but thankfully, it’s not in his heart. “He shot him with a silver bullet!” she cries, tears streaming down her face.

Miles grips her hand. “My dearest Rose, I’m going to . . . “ He grimaces in pain. “ . . . be okay. The boy . . . may be knowledgeable in what we are, but . . . thankfully . . . he’s a bad aim . . . “

“I don’t care if he’s a bad aim, a good aim, or a great aim or how knowledgeable he is about us! Let him go!!” Dorothy commands, throwing herself at Coco and clawing at the hands gripping the Slayer’s throat. “He’s Manny Delgado! He was my student!”

“Wait a minute,” Blanche drawls. “Th’ boy th’ stupid government tried to deport because o’ his father, th’ same father who kidnapped him from his mother, and later got rich by marryin’ that old guy an’ left the country?”

“She didn’t leave the country. She just left Miami. Now. Let. Him. Go!” Dorothy’s sharp fingernails finally succeed in breaking Coco’s grip.

“Fine, fine.” Coco growls, dark fur quickly covering his Italian skin. “But if he makes a move to kill any of us again, he’s dead.”

“Oh, go shed somewhere else!” Dorothy snaps. She bends down next to Manny, who’s gasping for breath. “Manny -- “ she starts to coax him, reaching out for him, but the boy, who he is now a young man, snatches away from her.

“Don’t touch me!” he cries. “You’re one of them!”

Dorothy pulls her hand away. She looks at him as he rolls away from her and forces himself to stand. His back against the alley way, he stares at them all in disbelief. “You’re all one of them!”

It’s Sophia who breaks the news with surprising gentility. “We always were, kid.”

“That didn’t keep us from carin’ about you an’ yoah mother,” Blanche remarks softly.

“What do you know about my mother?!”

“Manny, what are you talking about?” questions Dorothy. “You know us! You know we know your mother, and you know how! We were there for you before, before when your parents divorced, when your father kidnapped you, when they tried to deport you! Our testimonies were what convinced the court not to send you away with your father! I know it’s been a long time, but you couldn’t have forgotten us!”

“I didn’t forget you,” Manny admits, “but you weren’t . . . this,” he waves at them, “when I knew you before! You couldn’t have been!”

“Why? Because we cared about you? Ma’s right. We already were all of these things! Manny, I’ve been a Vampire since my prom date turned me back in 1920!”

“But . . . then . . . Then how are you old?!”

“A spell,” Sophia cuts in. “It makes us both seem to age the way we would normally. That way people like you don’t try to kill us.”

“But why were you trying to kill Miles?” Rose demands, silent tears still streaking down her wrinkled cheeks as she holds to her lycanthrope boyfriend. “That doesn’t seem like the sweet child we knew before, the boy we helped!”

“Something’s happened to his mother,” Sophia remarks, carefully watching Manny. “My guess is she’s been turned. He can’t fight her, so he goes around killing everybody us who’s like her.”

Manny stares at the old Witch. “If you didn’t turn her,” he demands, “how do you know?”

“Because I’ve seen it before. A perfectly, normal child has to be put down because his prejudices won’t allow other living beings to exist in peace, and those prejudices in turn are caused by wicked members of our own species who took lives they didn’t have to and fed on good people instead of the wicked.” She glances at Dorothy. “That’s why I’ve always insisted on buying our meat from the prison. Their corpses might not taste as sweet and fresh naturally, but with the right herbs and other concoctions, it comes out just fine.”

Standing next to Dorothy, ready to attack again to protect his pack at the slightest provocation, Coco’s ears swivel back and forward as Manny’s stomach makes a sickening sound. “You eat people!” the boy accuses.

“You eat living beings too!” Rose protests. “Your mother never had a problem butchering her own food!”

Dorothy sighs. “Enough of this!” she snaps to everyone gathered. Then her focus moves to Manny. “Manny,” she says, gazing intently at him from where she still kneels on the pavement, “if Ma’s right, if Gloria has been turned, we can help.”

“Nobody can help her!” Manny wails. “I tried killing the thing that killed her, but it was too late!”

“It’s never too late,” Sophia speaks with the voice of wisdom. “No matter how old we are, we can still learn. There just has to be a reason for her to want to, and I’m looking at that reason.”

Manny shakes his head, tears beginning to fill his dark eyes. “I’m not enough!” he all but sobs. “I tried begging her! It didn’t do any good! After that woman killed Jay -- “

“Ah.” Blanche’s sigh seems almost to whistle through the alley way. “That’s what happened. A tragic love affair.”

“No, it wasn’t a love affair! DeDe wanted Jay back! She was willing to do anything to make it happen, but he loved my mother! Even when she became a Vampire and tried to use her hypnotic powers on him, it didn’t work! So she killed him! Her lover was supposed to kill Mom! He turned her instead!”

“And you killed him,” Sophia surmises sagely, “but it was too late, because your mother had already used her Vampire powers to kill DeDe.”

Manny nods, tears now streaming down his face.

“Ma?” Dorothy asks uncertainly, looking at her mother for advice.

Sophia nods. “We can still help. But you have to trust us, Manny. You have to let us help you if we’re going to save your mother, and you’re going to have to face her again. It’s the only way.”

“Will . . . Will it work?”

“Nothing else will.”

Slowly, Dorothy stands and walks toward Manny. She holds out a hand. His own hand shakes as he accepts her offered hand. Then he rushes to her, tears pouring down his face. In a way, the years seem to fall away; he remembers again how she, and how they all except for the Werewolf he shot, were there for him before when he and his mother had had no one else to help them. He buries his face into her chest and sobs. Dorothy strokes his short, dark hair and holds him as he cries.

As Manny releases all his pent up anguish into tears, Sophia, once more using her broomstick as a walking staff, crosses the alley to stand beside Rose and Miles. She props her hands on the top of her broomstick’s handle and rests her pointy chin on top of her hands. Looking down at them, she asks, “What are you doing?”

“What’s it look like I’m doing?” Rose retorts. “I’m trying to heal him!” She sighs and drops her hands from where they had hovered, glowing with a warmth, above Miles’ chest wound. “And it’s not working.”

“Of course it’s not working!” Sophia snaps. “You’re growing a freaking flower inside his chest!”

“Sophia . . . “ Miles groans.

“I’m coming, old boy. Just let me get this ditz off!” Her broom rises into the air, as though it has a life of its own, and shoos Rose away from Miles. It backs her up against the wall as Sophia moves her hands in circular motions above Miles’ wound. She begins to chant once more in words of ancient Latin, her eyes turning white and rolling back in her head. The flower breaks in two and emerges first from Miles’ wound. Then the bullet itself zips out of the wound.

Coco yelps and ducks as the bullet whizzes through the alley way. He hits the pavement. The bullet smacks into the stone wall behind him. “SOPHIA!” he yells, but Sophia continues to chant, ignoring him as she works to heal Miles.

Her broomstick comes back to rest at her side. Rose creeps toward Miles and Sophia and watches in wide-eyed amazement as Miles’ skin sews itself back together. Only when the last piece of the man is fused back together does Sophia stop chanting. Her eyes roll back to face the front again. She stumbles, but before she can fall, Blanche is beside her, lifting her up and propping her against her supple side.

Sophia groans. “I’m getting too old for this.”

Miles grins up at her and rolls to his feet. Even his white mustache seems to suddenly have more spring in it. “Thank you, Sophia! I feel better than I have in years!”

Sophia groans again and stumbles against Blanche’s side. Blanche wraps a protective arm around her slim shoulders. “One down,” Sophia quips, “one to go. I swear being a mother to this tribe is endless work!”

“You make it all look so effortless -- “ Rose starts.

“Rose!”

“Well, she does! I wish I was half the Witch she is!”

“Sweetheart, the best thing you can do is not to do any spell at all,” Blanche drawls gently.

“Don’t I know it? I screw up everything!”

“Your heart’s always in the right place -- “ Blanche starts.

“It is,” Miles agrees, lifting Rose’s hand and kissing its back. He makes her blush and ends her complaints before they can really begin.

“Now, Manny,” Sophia questions, turning back to the boy and her own daughter, “where’s your mother these days?”

“Sophia, you can’t -- “

“Hush up, Slush Puppy! I’m leading this ride!”

“Ma!” Dorothy cries.

Just then, Sophia slumps against Blanche. Miles swoops her up into his arms and holds her high against his chest. Dorothy looks at Manny. As gently as she can, she explains, “She’s done too much, and we don’t dare use Rose’s magic.”

“But I can do it!”

“No,” Blanche snaps, “you can’t!”

“If she tries it,” Dorothy explains, “we’ll be doing good not to end up in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or, worse, in the Bermuda Triangle. Let Ma rest a little bit, and then we’ll go fix your ma.”

“You promise?” Manny asks, still doubtful.

Dorothy hugs him tight; she can see so much of the little boy she once loved so dearly in this young, fearful man. “Yes, Manny,” she swears, “I promise we’re going to save your mother.”

It takes the rest of the night and most of the next day before Sophia opens her eyes again. Even then she does so with a groan that has all three of the women gathered around her sitting up and taking notice. “Ma?” Dorothy asks, grasping and squeezing her hand.

“I’m fine, Pussy Cat. We got one more ass to whip this time, right?”

Rose nods. “We have to save Gloria, Sophia. If you teach me the spell -- “

“No.”

“But -- “

“No. Give me three more hours. Then I’ll be ready. Blanche, come out into the moonlight with me. Dorothy, go see about your boy, and Rose, go see about your big boy.”

“My big boy?” Rose repeats in obvious confusion.

“Miles, shugah,” Blanche says, patting Rose’s hand. “She means Miles.”


“He’s with Coco. They’ve been keeping an eye on Manny.”

“What?!” Dorothy shrieks, jumping to her feet. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“Coco still wants to kill him, but Miles won’t let him.” Rose beams proudly and joyously, her eyes misting in the look of a woman clearly in love. “That’s the kind of man my Miles is.”

Dorothy makes a sound in the back of her throat, her unspoken question as to why her mother wanted Blanche to join her in the moonlight as she gathered her strength completely forgotten in her concern for Manny. She rushes from the room and finds Manny on the lanai, looking up at the stars. “There’s so many of them,” Manny whispers as Dorothy wordlessly sits down next to him. “They look so beautiful to us. People sing about them, write about them . . . Prophets used to use them to tell the future.”

“They still do,” Dorothy whispers.

“But they’re really just giant balls of gas. I don’t get it.” He frowns, finally lowering his gaze from the night sky to look at Dorothy. “But I guess it’s kind of like your people, and like mine.”

“What do you mean?” Dorothy asks, remembering suddenly that the boy has always seemed so much smarter than his actual, physical years in this lifetime.

He shrugs. “We look at each other, and we see different things. The peoples from South America -- whether we’re Colombian, Latin, Mexican, Spanish, Brazilian, Guatemalan, whatever we are, we’re looked down upon by most of the whites. They think we’re lazy or just hooked on drugs and sex. They don’t see the hard-working people I grew up around. Yes, my father was a jerk -- I can admit that now --, but even he worked hard at trying to become the top crime boss in Miami.”

“My mother worked two, sometimes three, jobs to support me until Jay came into our lives. Even as much as he loved her -- and I know he did --, he was always quick to make judgements about our people. He was the first one to say that we did things wrong. He didn’t mean it in a bad way. He never wanted to hurt me or my Mom, but he still thought it and, the way Jay was, if he thought, he said it.”

Thinking of her own roommates, specifically Blanche and Rose, Dorothy inclines her head in a thoughtful nod. “A lot of people are like that,” she admits. “They group all of one type of people together, and if they know some of them do a bad thing, they think they all do whatever it is that they feel is wrong.”

Manny nods this time. “Myself included,” he murmurs. “I should have known better. I should have been able to see the difference.” He sighs, a heavy sound that makes Dorothy realize just how deep his conscience is. “I’ve even killed children, Miss Dorothy. Little monsters was the way I thought of them. I was stopping them from becoming big monsters and killing more people. But you’re monsters,” he whispers, tears welling in his eyes. “Or, at least, that is, you’re different than regular humans.” He dares to look up at her. “You have different powers, different abilities, different vulnerabilities -- But if you’re the same now as you were when I first met you, you’re more human, or more of what a human is supposed to be, than most of the people I’ve known my entire life!”

Dorothy nods slowly. “I am the same,” she whispers.

He shakes his head. “Which makes me wonder how many lives I’ve taken who were innocent, how many people did I kill because they were different than me, because they were what I mistakenly thought were monsters.”

Dorothy reaches out, wraps her arms around the boy, and brings him close in a hug. “You were blinded, Manny,” she whispers to him, tears stinging her own eyes, “not just by prejudice and fear but by pain. It was Vampires who took your father -- and you can’t tell me you didn’t love Jay, that he didn’t become like a father to you, more of a father really than your own birth father. I know he did.”

“How?”

“Because I know you, and,” she admits, “because Blanche and I stayed in contact with Gloria up until about a half a year ago when her letters just stopped. I’ve written her since then. I’ve tried calling her. I should have known something was wrong! But even if I had, I would never have dreamed it could be -- be what really has happened!”

“You tried hard, Manny,” she continues, “so, so very hard to make right what destroyed your life, but I think maybe even a part of you realized that you couldn’t do it all on your own. Maybe that’s why you came back to Miami.”

It’s his turn to make an admission of the truth, and he does so in an emotional whisper, “I was kind of hoping I might run into you. You were always so smart.”

Dorothy ruffles his hair. “Not nearly as smart as you, mi pequeño Einstein.”

Manny’s face darkens. “I was never that smart -- “ he starts to protest, but Dorothy shakes her grey head.

“Manny, most children could never have figured out what you already have, not just about what happened to Jay and your mother, but that we are indeed like the stars, all of us. We’re different than what people see. They assume that we are one thing when sometimes we’re something completely different, but that doesn’t mean we’re not good people.”

“I know.” He hugs her again. “You’re some of the best people I’ve ever known.”

She hugs him more tightly. “We’re not going to let you down,” she promises again. “We’re going to save Gloria.”

“I know. I only wish I had come to you sooner. Maybe then, . . . maybe I wouldn’t have so much death on my hands.”

“You did what you thought was right,” she says, hugging him. “We’ll never condemn you for that.”

“Coco did,” Manny tells her. “He tried to kill me while you were in there with Missus Sophia, but Miles stopped him. After I almost killed Miles, he saved my life.”

“That’s what a good person does,” Dorothy explains with a warm smile and a silent reminder to herself to thank Miles for protecting her dear friend for Manny is still very dear to her after all this time. “They forgive, and they help where they can, and they never, ever judge because of what a person is on the outside, how they were born, or what they have done in the past. They only judge based on who that person is presently inside, and you, Manny, have always had a beautiful soul.”

He lowers his head and blushes again. “Thank you,” he whispers, a tear trailing down his face, “for believing in me.”

She wipes his tear away. “Always,” she promises but then looks up as her mother and Blanche move onto the lanai. “Ma?” Dorothy calls. She clears her throat before asking, “I was going to ask why you asked for Blanche’s help instead of mine?”

“You’re all my daughters, Pussy Cat,” Sophia says, walking over and fondly patting Dorothy’s wrinkled cheek, “even the Slut Puppy over there.” She jerks a thumb back at Blanche.

“Sophia,” Blanche whines, “if Ah’m goin’ to help you, you’ve got to stop callin’ me that!”

“You’re going to help me,” Sophia counters knowingly, “for Gloria and this boy, . . . Blanche.”

Blanche smiles. Manny stands. Dorothy looks at her mother and stands more slowly. “It’s nothing personal, Dorothy,” Sophia tells her blood daughter. “It’s just that, as a succubus, Blanche has more strength than you, and I need all the strength I can get if we’re going to pull this off.” She looks at Manny. “And we’re gonna do it, kid.”

Manny slowly shakes his head. “I’m not,” he admits. “I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but you’re going to. I have complete faith in you. You’re going to get me my mother back!”

“Dang straight we are, shugah.” Blanche winks. “Now you run on inside an’ help Rose with that cheesecake while Sophia an’ Ah do what we need to do.”

Dorothy groans. “Cheesecake! That’s the thing I miss the most about not being able to eat human food.”

Manny, hearing her remark, decides right then and there that he’s going to find a way for Vampires to eat regular food. Not only will it be a wonderful first step toward repaying Dorothy for everything she, her family, and friends are doing for him, but it might even save some lives along the way. He pushes to the idea to the back of his mind for now, however, for right now, the only thing he needs to focus on is getting his mother back.

Manny and Dorothy slip back into the house while Sophia and Blanche sit together on an ancient, stone bench that had been in the Grisanti family for centuries. “Take whatevah you need from me, Sophia,” Blanche offers willingly, giving the older woman her hands. She gasps as she feels Sophia begin to absorb some of her strength and power. Her head throws back in a passionate cry that also sends Manny and Dorothy hurrying along.

Manny goes straight to the kitchen to help Rose with the cheesecake. Finding Coco there as well, he hesitates in the doorway. “He’ll leave you alone,” Rose calls to him. “Won’t you, Coco?”


“He most certainly will, sweetheart,” Miles speaks up from directly behind Manny. “If I can forgive the boy for almost ending my life, I’m sure Coco can find it in his heart to do so as well.”

Coco glowers at them both. “You’re the closest thing I’ve ever had to a brother, Miles Webber, and we’re supposed to protect our packs.”

“We are protecting our pack, Coco, our first pack. Forget about the other Werewolves in Miami,” Miles instructs, edging into the kitchen with Manny and Dorothy following behind him. “We’re protecting our most important pack: our family, your sisters, the love of my life,” he continues, placing a quick peck on Rose’s smiling cheek, “and her sisters too.”

“How are we -- “ Coco starts to growl, but Miles cuts him off with a soft, solid voice and a warm smile.

“It’s simple really,” he answers. “Manny’s been a part of their family since he was a child.”

“Have I?” Manny speaks up, looking between Dorothy and Rose.

Dorothy hugs him again. “Of course you have,” she says. “Miles is only stating what we’ve always felt.”

Rose bobs her head in an agreeing nod and gestures for him to join her in mixing the dough. Manny nervously slips by Coco and starts helping Rose.

“Precisely,” Miles says with a determined nod. “So, you see, Coco, this is a pack emergency. This is all part of protecting our top pack.”

“But he almost killed you!”

Miles shrugs. “Family members fight all the time, and in packs like ours, almost killing each other is nothing uncommon. I still remember when you thought I was falling for Blanche instead of Rose and how quick you were to make me understand that she only has room in her life for one Werewolf. And I remember how defensive you were of my Rose when you thought I was lying to her about my true identity on purpose.”

“Wait,” Manny interjects, looking up. “What?”


“I was under protection,” Miles explains, “from the paranormal mob in Chicago. The PDS gave me a new life and a new identity here in Miami.”

“So . . . your real name isn’t Miles Webber?”

“No. It’s actually Nicholas Carbone,” Miles smiles and adjusts his collar in a show of pride, “a rather good name for a wolf, don’t you think?”


Manny laughs suddenly. Miles frowns. “What?” Rose asks.

“Nothing.” He shakes his head. “It’s just that your family’s almost as crazy as mine.”

“That’s part of the reason,” Dorothy comments gently, “we’re all part of the same pack.” She looks over to Rose’s boyfriend in admiration for the first time. “Thank you, Miles . . . Nicholas.”

“We’ll keep it to Miles,” he answers quickly and nods, “and you’re quite welcome.” Standing beside her, he drops his voice to a hushed whisper, “And thank you, in fact, for letting me become a part of your pack.”

Dorothy just smiles and watches as Manny and Rose whisk the cheesecake into submission. Even Coco falls silent, taking a chair and watching every move Manny makes but not making another advance on him.

The next three hours pass swiftly. Miles, Rose, Manny, and Coco are just finishing one of the cheesecakes, and Dorothy is watching them with unbridled desire, when Sophia and Blanche walk into the room. Sophia is gliding, her feet barely touching the floor, while Blanche is the one who looks ready to pass out. Coco springs up and to his adopted sister’s side instantly. “What did you do to her?” he snaps. “Is she going to be all right?”

“Ah’ll be fine, Coco. Ah gave willingly. Just help me to the table an’ to some cheesecake.”

“Of course, sis,” he murmurs and, wrapping one of her arms around his muscular shoulders, leads her to the table. She sinks into her chair even as Rose hurriedly cuts her a slice of cheesecake and places it in front of her. Blanche sighs as she takes a bite and relishes every morsel.

Manny looks to Sophia, but his words catch in the lump in his throat. Dorothy reaches over and places her hand comfortingly over Manny’s before looking back to her mother. “Ma?” she asks softly. “Are we ready?”

Sophia nods. “Not everybody’s coming.”

“Ma!” Dorothy protests.

“Hush your whining, Pussy Cat. You’re coming. Rose, you can come. Miles, you too, and of course Manny. He’s going to be the key to this whole thing. But Coco, I want you staying here and protecting Blanche.” And not bothering the boy, goes unsaid amongst the pack.

Coco nods and swallows his last bite of cheesecake. “Yes, ma’am,” he says, surprising them all by his lack of argument, “I’m on it.”

“Good.” Sophia holds out her hand, and her broomstick flies into it. She marches over to the stove, opens the door, and blows a puff of floo powder into it. Once more, she says the same words from before only slightly different. “Manny,” she says, reaching out for the boy who’s right behind her, “you’ll go first this time. You’ll be the one leading the way.”

Manny’s seen a lot of strange things in the last year, but he knows better than to argue with Sophia and learned to trust these women years ago. “Yes, ma’am.” He nods and makes the jump.

Dorothy’s right behind him followed by Miles and then Rose, whose shoes skid when they hit the floor of the Pritchett household. She grabs at the walls and manages to tear down three framed photos before collapsing onto the floor. Sophia, stepping into view behind her, scowls down at her. “Ruin the element of surprise, why don’t you?”

“Sorry,” Rose murmurs as Miles helps her to her feet.

“It’s okay, dear.”

“Manny, where is she?” Dorothy asks, turning to her young friend.

“I . . . I think she’s still asleep.”

“Good.” Sophia smiles,and shivers crawl across Manny’s, Rose’s, and Miles’ skin. “Then we still have the element of surprise. Lead the way, Manny.”

They creep through the large house on quiet feet. Even Rose tries her hardest to be as silent as possible as they slide through Manny’s home. Manny leads the way to his parents’ bedroom, trying not to let his memories overrule his common sense with every step. The house still feels like his home, even though he hasn’t been here in months. Every inch holds memories that near and dear to him, but there are the painful ones too. He can still hear his mother’s scream when she found Jay dead, all his blood mysteriously drained. He can still hear DeDe’s wicked laughter, too, and the cruel laugh that he ended with a stake thrust into her heart, but not before it was too late to save his beloved parents.

Dorothy reaches up and places a hand on his shoulder, squeezing him briefly before letting go. It’s just a quick embrace to remind him that he is not alone and that he never has to be alone again. Manny takes a deep breath as they reach his parents’ bedroom and then swings the door open.

He barely has time to register that his mother is not in the bed and the curtains are black now and drawn tightly shut before he hears her voice come screeching down on top of them. “YOU INTRUDE MY HOME LIKE FILTHY VERMIN?! AY YI YI, I SHOULD KILL YOU ALL NOW!”

Manny drops to the floor, his hands covering his head. Dorothy pounces on top of him, placing herself between Manny and his mother. Miles, changing swiftly, leaps pass Sophia, Dorothy, and Manny and slashes at Gloria. The impact sends her spiraling backwards through her own lair with another screech.

Sophia raises her broom, which is now glowing. “STOP!” she commands. “SHE HAS TO SEE THE BOY! SHE HAS TO UNDERSTAND!”

“I HAVE TO UNDERSTAND NOTHING! AND WHAT BOY?! WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! THE ONLY BOY I EVER CARED ABOUT IS DEAD!”

“NO!” Sophia pulls her daughter back, her hand clenching her shoulder. Manny stands where he can be seen, his hands balling into fists. “NO, I’M NOT DEAD, MOM!”

Gloria drops from the wall to a standing position on the floor. “Manny?” she asks, her voice cracking.

“Yes, it’s me, Mom! Do you . . . Do you know who I am?” Should he have stayed? he wonders for the first time. She had been completely out of her mind when he had left, trying to bite him at every opportunity.

“Of course I know who you are!” Gloria hisses suddenly and shakes her head. “Or who you pretend to be! It’s a trick, some kind of foul trick and you will pay for this -- “ Screeching, she launches herself again at the intruders in her home.

“No,” Sophia orders as Miles starts to launch a defensive counter.

“But -- “

“No.”

“She’ll kill the boy!”

“No. He has to stand his ground. She has to know he’s real.”

“Ma -- “

“No. Nobody moves.”

“But, Sophia -- “ Rose tries.

“No!”

“It’s okay,” Manny says, walking forward to meet his attacking mother and placing himself between the women and Miles. “You came here all this way to help me free her. If she has to know, I’m real, then I’ll -- “

His words are stopped abruptly by the long, sharp fingernails that scratch his face. They tear at his face, bringing blood whose scent permeates the room. Dorothy cries out and hides her face in Rose’s shoulder. Miles starts to leap forward to help the boy, but Sophia strikes him in his chest with her broomstick, stopping him immediately.

The smell of Manny Delgado’s blood seems almost to resonate suddenly in the room. It fills the air, making Miles’ skin itch to grow fur and Dorothy and Sophia both hunger. Gloria’s own hunger roars inside of her, but her whole world simultaneously seems to come to a crashing stop as she stares at her son.

Her baby.

Her Manny.

After all this time, . . . He’s still alive! “H-How?” she whispers as tears begin to pour down her face.

“They killed Jay,” he says, “not me! I was there, but you -- You didn’t seem to see me! You never seemed to see me any more after Carlo turned you! If you saw me at all, you just wanted to eat me!”

“Nononononononononononononono!!!” Sobbing, Gloria drops to the ground and carries on in a flourishing torrent of Spanish.

Manny steps closer to her. Dorothy leans forward, yearning to throw herself between them, but Sophia hits her with her glowing broomstick. “It’s me, Mom,” Manny says softly, coming still closer to Gloria. “It’s me!”

Gloria looks up at him, tears streaming from her red eyes. Her fangs gnash.

“He’s going to get himself killed!” Dorothy struggles against her own mother.

“You’ve got to let him try to reach her!” Sophia keeps hitting her with her broom.

Miles growls but doesn’t try to intercept the broom or stop Manny, who was inching closer to his mother until her fangs gnashed. “M-Mom?” he whispers now instead, seemingly frozen to the spot.

“She’s in there, Manny!” Sophia calls to him. “Keep talking to her!”

“Mom, I’m here! Please see me! Please know I’m here!” Manny trembles as he cries. The only thing he still wants in this world is for his mother to remain herself enough that she still loves him! “Mom?”

“M-Manny?” Gloria whispers.

Rose whoops aloud, causing Sophia, Dorothy, and even Miles to cut eyes at her.

“M-Manny?” Gloria whispers again. “My Manny?” Her voice breaks.

Manny’s crying too by now. “Yes! Yes, Mom! It’s me!” He drops down to his knees in front of her.

“D-Do . . . y-you remember me? Do you see me? Do you know who I am?”

“Oh, of course, baby boy, I know who you are!” Gloria cries, and as she starts off in their mother tongue again, she reaches out, grasps him, and pulls him to her. Hugging him tightly to her, she strokes his head and presses it against her breast, cradling him like she hasn’t done since he was just a child. “I have you! I love you, Manny! I love you! ¡Te amo, mi querido niño! ¡Te amo!”

“Well, it’s about damn time!” exclaims a new voice, which has both Gloria and Manny looking up through their tears.

Sophia brandishes her broomstick at the glowing ghost. “You’d better be Jay!” she snaps.

Miles growls again behind her as Dorothy and Rose, hugging each other, look on in surprise.

“Put a leash on your mutt,” the ghost snaps as the phantom dog by his feet yips. “Of course I’m Jay, damn it! And it’s about time you two got this together!”

“J-Jay!” Gloria cries. “But . . . But you’re dead!”

“Yeah, and you’re a Vampire!”

“A Vampire who can control her hunger,” Manny mutters, shaking his dark head in amazement. “That easily -- “

“No,” Sophia tells the boy, “it wasn’t easy, not for your mother. She fought a battle inside herself, but because of you, she was able to win it. She was able to let her heart, not her hunger, control her. That’s what makes all the difference in our people.”

Gloria turns from trying, and failing, to touch Jay to look at Sophia and the three gathered behind her. “That’s what makes all the difference in all people,” she says. “We have to lead by our hearts, not our anger or our hunger or even our passions -- “

Behind her, Jay is trying to touch her back, but his hands just keep passing through her. Still, he can be seen and heard by his family.

“Ay yi yi,” Gloria cries, shaking her head and starting toward the group in the doorway to her bedroom. “You gave me back my boy and my husband!”

“I’ve been here this whole time, trying all the while,” Jay remarks, “to make you see me! But you were so lost in grief you didn’t see me! You didn’t see anybody until you saw Manny!” He grins at his son. “And you really did turn out to be a real slugger, didn’t you, boy?”


Manny shakes his head but grins up at him. “Jay.” He wipes at the tears flooding down his face. “It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too, kid.” Again, Jay tries to touch somebody, but his arm just passes through Manny instead of wrapping around the young man’s shoulders.

“Keep trying,” Sophia tells him. “You’ll get the hang of it.”

“You gave us back our family!” Gloria speaks tearfully. “How can we ever repay you?!”


“Money’s always nice,” Sophia quips.

“MA!” Dorothy scolds instantly.

Sophia shrugs. “I had to try, Pussy Cat.”

Dorothy walks pass her mother, glowering at the broom who moves as though to smack her of its own accord. It quickly changes its mind and ducks behind Sophia, trembling, as Dorothy takes Gloria’s hands in hers. “You already have,” she tells her, “a long time ago when you let us keep Manny while the Judge wouldn’t let you be with him. He became a part of our family back then. He always will be, and so will you.”

Sophia nods her approval, despite the fact she now knows she’s not getting paid. “A family looks after their own,” she says. Rose and Miles also nod their agreement as they embrace behind Sophia.

“Si. Si!” Gloria beams and pulls Dorothy into a hug.

“Damn straight we do!” Jay agrees. “Now,” he asks, peering at the strangers as he hovers behind Manny, “what can you people do about a redheaded Werewolf?”

Rose beams at her lycanthrope boyfriend. “I think we can find a way to help him,” she remarks as Sophia peers questioningly over at Manny.

“Just how screwed up is your family?” the old Witch asks the boy.

He grins. “About as screwed up as yours.”

“Of course they are!” Gloria agrees. “We’re all one big, happy family now!” She walks back over and hugs Manny tightly to her again. Over his head, she blows a kiss up at Jay, who longs all the more to be able to touch her. Stella yips and runs circles around his legs. Gloria makes a face as he picks up the dog, but at least he can touch her right now. He will not, however, stop trying until he finds a way to touch his beloved wife and son again too, and that includes the Werewolf in the proverbial closet, or as Cam would call it, dungeon of their family.

“We’ll help you,” Miles vows softly. Beaming at him, Rose leans up and kisses his cheek proudly.

Dorothy slips behind her mother, wraps her arms around her from behind, hugs her, and smiles as she watches her family grow. Maybe it’s not just a joke any more; maybe they are all crazy now. Regardless, however, and regardless, too, of whatever species they may be, they are like the stars: Separated, they are different, full of fire, danger, and trouble, but together, they shine brightly. Manny catches her eye, and they exchange a secret smile, knowing their family will always shine brightest together.



The End

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