Valerian is finally safe. After years on the run, then being kidnapped, he’s found a home, and if he has anything to say about it, he’s never leaving it. The dragon shifters have welcomed him, and Cooper is with him, which is all he needs.
Cooper has been dead for a few years now, and he’s getting used to it. Falling in love with Valerian probably wasn’t a good idea, but there’s nothing Cooper can do to change his feelings, and he isn’t sure he wants to change them. He has his brother back, something he hadn’t thought possible, and Valerian is finally safe.
What more could he want?
Valerian isn’t just a psychic. His father was a mage, and so is Valerian. The mix of both abilities is interesting, mostly because he can make Cooper and other ghosts corporeal. Can he do so permanently? What will it take for him and Cooper to be together?
And what are the cockatrices and Curt up to?
Valerian stared at the door. He wasn’t a prisoner anymore, but he might as well be, since he was stuck in bed. He wanted out but wasn’t sure his body would go along with the program. He should give himself more time, but his skin itched, and he needed to know for sure that he wasn’t locked up in here like he’d been for so long with the cockatrices.
So even though he knew it was stupid, he swung his legs to the side of the bed and sat up.
“What are you doing?” Cooper asked, immediately there.
Valerian had to resist the urge to roll his eyes. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“You need to stay in bed. You heard the healer.”
“He said I’ll be fine.”
“He also said you needed to rest and that your body went through a lot.”
Cooper reached for Valerian, but he didn’t touch him. Valerian wondered why and whether Cooper was freaked out by the fact that when they touched, he became corporeal. That shouldn’t have been the case, since Cooper was a ghost and had been dead for a while. Valerian had been surprised that it happened the first time, too. Now, he was just happy he could give this to Cooper, yet at the same time, he wished Cooper would leave him alone and do something that wasn’t hovering over him, like finding his brother.
“I know better than anyone what my body went through,” Valerian answered, trying not to get angry. “And I also know I’m going to go nuts if I stay here.”
Cooper’s expression told Valerian he knew why Valerian felt that way. That wouldn’t be difficult, since he’d stuck by Valerian’s side most of the time Valerian had been a prisoner. He’d found him only a week or so after Valerian had been taken, and he was still here, keeping him company.
Valerian knew how lucky he was. He’d thought things were over for him when he'd been kidnapped. The cockatrices hadn’t hurt him initially, but kidnapping him meant they needed him for something and were planning to use him, and he hadn’t been keen on finding out how. He still wasn’t, even though he was curious.
But after he’d been taken, he’d known things would end there for him. He didn’t have anyone who would look for him and worry about him—anyone who would realize he was gone.
That was when Cooper entered the scene. He’d been confused in the beginning, having wandered in the area since he’d died without anyone being able to see him. He’d wanted to know what Valerian was doing there and why he didn’t leave, and Valerian had told him what he knew, which wasn’t a lot. It still wasn’t, which made him anxious, but he wasn’t about to go back to the cockatrices and ask them what the fuck they’d been thinking.
Cooper had been his rock in the storm, the only thing that had kept him sane during the weeks of his captivity, and Valerian didn’t want to lose him. He wouldn’t lose him, especially not now that they were both safe.
Cooper sighed and sat next to Valerian on the bed. Their clothes brushed against each other, but Cooper still didn’t touch Valerian. It was as if he was afraid to become corporeal. But he was a ghost—why wouldn’t he want to be corporeal?
“I know why you feel that way, but is it better to stay in bed and be uncomfortable or fall down the stairs because your legs can’t carry you?”
Valerian scowled. “I’m not that weak.”
“You kind of are, but that’s okay.”
“It’s not. I’m an adult man. Even though I was kept a prisoner, no one did anything to me.” Valerian had worried for the first few days after he was taken, but eventually, he’d realized they wouldn’t hurt him—not too much, anyway.
Cooper scowled. “I was there when that prick beat you up, remember?”
“I remember.” Valerian sighed. “I know I'm not a prisoner anymore, but it scares me to be stuck here.”
“I understand that, and I don't think I'm the only one. Do you want me to ask York to come and stay with you? He can keep you company.”
Valerian shook his head, pressed his palms against the mattress, and pushed himself to his feet. Cooper scrambled to his feet, but Valerian wasn’t going to wait for him. He put a foot forward, turned to grin at Cooper, then took another step.
His legs buckled.
He felt himself fall and tried to reach for the bed, but he was too far. He knew this would hurt, so he steeled himself. He never hit the floor. Strong arms wrapped around him from behind and hauled him up, and he found himself pressed against Cooper’s chest.
A very corporeal Cooper.
Even though Valerian was angry, he allowed himself to lean against Cooper. Cooper had his back, but then, he always did. They’d become close during Valerian’s captivity, and Valerian never wanted to lose him.
“I understand why you need to get out of this room,” Cooper murmured as he guided Valerian back toward the bed. “But it’s not a good idea for you to try to walk. You’re still too weak.”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
“Why doesn’t it? Curt hit and starved you. What did you expect? To rebound from that without worry? You need more food and rest, and I’ll make sure you get it.”
Even though Valerian was angry, it wasn’t at Cooper. He chuckled at Cooper’s words and turned to look at his friend. “That sounded like a threat.”
Cooper helped him get back under the sheets. “It was. Don’t you dare get up from the bed again.”
“What if I have to use the toilet?”
“Then you call me, and I’ll help you.”