Black Sun 002: Leo Through the Window (Original Draft)

Black Sun 002: Leo Through the Window (Original Draft)

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A week an a half later, her thoughts about Michael hadn’t changed. They were probably a million times worse. Julian couldn’t decide what she liked the most. The fact that he was so oldschool gentleman and didn’t jumped straight to the ‘hey baby wanna go out?’ or how smart he was about nearly everything. They settled on doing a paper about the historical buildings in downtown Silent Pines, and she doubted he had to read the books more than once to know the details. He could paint such a vivid picture about it that it was almost like he had been there in the original buildings himself.

“…and then I’m going to paint my tits orange and dance on the lunch tables in the school cafeteria.”

Julian nearly choked on her toothpaste before she spit in to the sink. “What?!”

The voice on the phone cackled. “That’s what I thought. Stop daydreaming, I want to know what you think!”

“Sorry, yeah, what were you saying?” Lame. Caught daydreaming about Michael. Julian crossed her eyes at her reflection in the mirror. She still had those dark circles under eyes and looked like she hadn’t slept for ages. Turning her body to the left and then to the right, she frowned a bit at how her tshirt felt a couple sizes too big and vaguely wondered why she bothered shaving her legs when she was just going to wear tights with her skirts anyway. Julian leaned over the sink to rinse out her mouth while Angela continued talking.

“I was saying, what about taking a dance class with me? You don’t wanna join Color Guard again, which is totally the right move cause the band is even WORSE this year, but a dance class would be cool right?”

Julian grimaced, running a brush through her hair. She thought about it, though. She did miss dancing and she did promise Angela she was going to start acting more like her normal self again. “I don’t know. Besides, you’re gonna want to quit in two weeks anyway and then I’ll be stuck going by myself.”

“No way, this is serious-face, no back out Angela talking. Take a class with me, and I promise I’ll stick it out for the whole season! I’ll even let you torture me and go to a ballet or something.”

Julian laughed, walking down the hall and back to her bedroom. She kicked the door closed with her foot and plopped into bed. “Fine, if you promise to go to EVERY class and actually practice with me. If you bail, it won’t be just one ballet, it’ll be EVERY ballet for the rest of your life.”

“Harsh! Cool, I’ll see what the signup dates are. Ciao!” Beep.

She was still laughing softly as she tossed her phone on to the nightstand and pulled up the covers. A dance class probably would be fun. Julian wondered if Michael could dance…

No sooner had Julian’s head touched her pillow than a sharp rapping punctured her reverie. It was, unmistakeably, the sound of something striking the glass of her bedroom window.

The first realization was that someone was knocking on the glass.

And then, that Julian’s room was on the second floor.

The person lurking around outside her window wasn’t exactly the first guy on Julian’s mind, but neither was he a random prowler. Oh no, rather than her dream come true or a nightmare waiting to happen, it was Leo– yes, that Leo, Michael’s cousin- of all people whose faces would be peering in through the glass pane. Since she’d neglected to turn out the light just yet, Julian could see his baby blues and the I-know-something-you-don’t-know smile all too clearly. His elbows were propped up on the outer sill, and he gave a little wave at her when he caught her eye.

Then he knocked again, one eyebrow arching and his lips pursing as if to say Well are you going to just sit there or what?

He was, apparently, disturbingly good at getting messages across non-verbally.

She was, apparently, just going to sit there. Dumbfounded and confused. Not quite sure if she had fallen asleep and was having one of those strange dreams again. Julian didn’t feel out of her skin, and it was all REAL enough.

…which meant Leo really was rapping on her second floor bedroom window at almost eleven pm. Not Michael, whom she would have loved to have show up at her house in a similar sort of romantic gesture, despite the fact she’d only known him for a week. How did he even get up the-

Holy crap he was gonna kill himself like this.

Julian threw off her blankets and rushed to the window. Flipping the locked and shoving it open in one swift swoop. “Get in here, you idiot! What’re you doing climbing up houses, are you insane?”

He’d swung himself up and inside so quickly that she could have blinked and missed it. Like he did this every day. For all Julian knew, he did.

Grinning at her, he slid up into a standing position, squeezed between her and the window frame. His hair and clothing was mussed like he’d been crawling around through bushes and he had the same sort of expression on his face that little boys tended to wear when they’d just put a frog in someone’s bed.

“Good to see you, too, Jules. Thanks for letting me drop in.”

He didn’t seem to be in any rush to explain himself, either, seeing as he was just leaning back against the raised window and folding his bare arms over his chest and looking at her. Despite the downright brisk air that was now leaking into Julian’s room, he was only wearing a thin black t-shirt and dark jeans. There was dirt caked on his elbows; it matched the smudge on his cheek.

While he stood there, blatantly leaning against her open window and looking at her, she stood there staring at him and waited for the explanation. Waited. Waited longer. Several long moments of silent, urging staring until she finally rolled her eyes and gave up. Prompted by the cold air that was giving her goosebumps to stalk forward and reach around him to shut the window closed again.

Once she stepped back, her arms were crossed too, though she didn’t carry the same humorous expression. “It’s Julian. Normal people use doors, y’know.” He was covered in dirt, which was kind of odd. Julian could only assume he was up to something. Probably nothing good if it was almost midnight and he was climbing in to a girl’s bedroom window.

…the thought to maybe have a weapon just in case crossed her mind.

“…So why are you here?” Slowly and as subtly as possible Julian eased away without turning her back to him, trying to think of the best thing in her room to use to clobber somebody. Maybe the lamp would work.

“I thought you’d never ask.” He stretched, long and languid like a cat, cracking his knuckles. The popping sounds were cringe-worthy. “You sure haven’t asked Michael about much of anything.”

He held up his hands a moment later, though, and gave her a knowing sidelong glance. “You can relax. I’m not here for nefarious purposes. I’ve just gotten a little bit sick of Michael’s crap, that’s all. He’s not spitting it out, so I’m doing it for him, and I needed to catch you while he’s not paying attention because he’d just get in my way. See, we need to ask you a favor.”

Leo straightened up, then, and there was something different about the way he was eyeing her. On anyone else, that look would have seemed businesslike.

“Michael’s been worried he’ll scare you off, see, but doing things his way will take- oh, forever– and funnily enough, this is one of the few instances I can say that we just don’t have that kind of time.” His lips twitched. “So here’s the deal, Jules. I’m going to explain some things, you’re not going to freak out, and we’ll actually get something done around here. Sound good?”

“And climbing up the side of my house and crawling in through the window late at night while you’re covered in dirt and look like you’ve been rolling around in the bushes is NOT going to scare me off?” It was kind of ludicrous. She wondered if he even realized how weird that was! At least she believed he wasn’t there for nefarious purposes, but that didn’t mean she trusted him.

Thus, Julian dropped the pretenses of trying to subtly find a weapon, and stalked across the room to pick up her phone. She could speed dial someone if there was trouble and they’d hear her tortured screaming.

“I’m also failing to see how this is supposed to NOT freak me out. What’s so important that you’ve gotta sneak here without Michael knowing? And I swear if this is about a birthday I am going to push you out the window.” …she was going to have to open the window again, but the threat still stood.

In spite of her threat, Leo laughed- an honest-to-god, shoulder-shaking, face-lighting-up laugh that made him look perfectly at ease- and picked at a bit of dirt on his elbow. It flaked off and landed on her carpet, but he didn’t seem to notice or feel properly sorry for it.

“You know, I think this might not be so bad. You’ve got spunk, or whatever it is teen heroines are full of these days.” He waved a hand as she picked up the phone, as if to say, Go right ahead. “Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase. The minutes we’ve got are ticking away as we speak. So, first off, do you remember what I said about the Six Families? About them being witches and other manners of weirdos? I wasn’t just pulling that out of my ass.

All six families,” he drawled, with emphasis. He held up six fingers, and then began to put them down one by one as he named names. “The Hightowers, the Laniers… Berkshires, Whelans, Polks… aaand…”

The last finger that remained, his index finger, did a little twirl in the air while he waited and quirked his eyebrows.

Well, she was glad he found the whole thing funny, Julian herself was just a little bit annoyed. Her arms crossed over her chest, and her thumb was brushing over the number pad of her phone. She had that urge to roll her eyes at him again, but maybe his laughing was a tiny bit charming and she wasn’t finding herself as annoyed as she really should be.

“Hollingers, I know.” Julian had the feeling he wasn’t here to convince her to change the subject of her school paper. Sighing, she wandered over to her bed and plopped down on the mattress with one leg tucked under her. She didn’t uncross her arms or put down her phone. Nor did she invite him to sit.

“What I don’t know is why this is so important you’re here in the middle of the night. …You’re not gonna try and convince me of some weird story and drag me out to a graveyard for a treasure map or something are you? Is Angela hiding somewhere downstairs?” She could totally see Angela being part of it and up to some adventure scheme. Bonus points if hot boys were involved to go along for the ride. Somehow, though, Julian didn’t think that was the case. He might have been laughing, but he didn’t seem to be joking.

Now why did that thought make her skin crawl? Warily she eyed him. “Okay, I’m listening.”

“Michael doesn’t want me talking to you about this,” Leo told her, bluntly. And yeah, he was definitely not kidding around. “Emphasis on me. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to swing by, and I have half an hour tops before he figures out that I should be back at the house by now.”

Before that potentially alarming statement could sink in, he was pointing at her with that long index finger.

“I hate to break it to you, Jules, but Michael didn’t bump into you on accident. He wants your help. I think he was hoping you were a little more clued in than it turned out, but it is what it is. And what it is involves people going missing, so forgive me if I’m a little impatient watching him take things at the pace of molasses. Let me ask you a question, here, Hollinger: Did your parents ever mention any skeletons in your family closet? Tell you that you were just a little bit different than your school pals? Maybe mention… oh, I don’t know, but just for the sake of argument let’s say… having freakish powers?”

“Yeeeeah, you’re getting out of my house now.” It was laughable. It should have been laughable. The guy was talking about powers, that was just insane. Yet, instead of laughing out right at what was the most ridiculous statement ever, Julian’s stomach was lurching. Did freaky dreams count as powers? No, she was falling in to this dumb joke set up.

Dropping her phone on the blankets, Julian was on her feet again, this time grabbing Leo by the arms to turn him around and start marching him towards the bedroom door. “Maybe, maybe I would have gotten on board with whatever weirdness you’re up to. BUT Michael has not been scheming to meet me and I don’t know, make me join his band of teen mutants, or whatever nonsense you’re getting at. If it was oh-so-important, why wait and not say anything? Why tell you not to say anything? That doesn’t make any sense.”

Julian paused in her shoving at him, to rest her hands on her hips and give him a curious look over. “…Are you jealous? He’s been hanging out a lot with me this week, I’m not trying to steal your cousin. I know you both used to be close.” At the moment she couldn’t remember if it was because of something Michael directly said, or if it was just something she picked up from the way they talked (or didn’t talk) about each other. She just knew it was true at some point.

Leo’s eyes flashed with something dark and unflinching.

“Oh, you are so far from being on the right track.” He smiled at her again, showing his teeth, but it wasn’t a nice sort of smile this time. “But I think I hit the jackpot a second ago. There’s something, isn’t there? You just don’t want to say it because you think it’s nuts. So what is it? Are you a really good guesser?”

He must have been digging in his heels, because he’d stopped budging before she’d stopped shoving. Now that she’d paused, he flicked his wrists to dislodge her grip on his arms.

“Michael doesn’t trust me or let me do much of anything because I’ve proven time and time again that I’m a very bad boy. And he’s afraid I’m going to scare you off and make you refuse to see him ever again. Which I could do, and probably would if I didn’t have an interest in getting you to agree. No, we’re not mutants or superheroes or anything that fun. You are the latest in a long line of psychics, and Michael and I… well.”

Julian was fairly certain that she hadn’t blinked, but quite suddenly, Leo wasn’t in front of her anymore.

“We’re something different.” His voice came from behind her, close enough that his breath ruffled her hair. “And maybe I do want to scare you, just a little.”

There was a reason Julian didn’t like horror movies. This was a prime example. She wanted to shriek bloody murder, but the sound was caught somewhere between her lungs and her throat. She stopped breathing and any moment now she was going to faint. Left unconscious on the floor to get murdered by… whatever he was supposed to be.

No. No, no, no, we can rationalize this. Don’t pass out like a total dumb girl. In reality, her panicked inner dialogue probably hadn’t lasted longer than a minute. It just felt like endless terror.

Julian sliiiinked more than stepped away from him. Her hands coming up to rub her arms quickly as she made no pretenses to hide the fact her skin was crawling. Her face was probably as pale as death too, but she’d be okay as long as she didn’t faint. If she could have these hypothetical conversations with Angela, she could fake her way through one with Leo while he was deliberately trying to freak her out.

“For wanting me to agree to whatever, you sure have a dick way to go about it!” Her voice was a little shrill. Julian took a deep breath to even it out and adjusted her posture so she looked a little less like she was about to run to the closet and hide. “IF… if it were true and I am a psychic, what would you even need me for. It’s not like I run around seeing the future and reading fortunes. I can’t actually do anything.”

She squinted her eyes at him, half expecting him to jump across the room again. She was really, really going to regret asking. “…and what are you?”

“It’s not my style to sugarcoat things.” He was watching her, eyes flicking between her face and her feet, but he didn’t try to get any closer. “I’m not a nice guy, and unlike Michael, I’m not going to try and make you feel warm and fuzzy and safe. Come on, you’re a big girl. You can deal with this.”

Leo tilted his head, catching her eye, and smirked. “We’ll get to me in a minute. Right now we’re talking about you and what makes you so special. See, Michael and I can do a lot, but there are certain things we just can’t do. One of which is compel you to do anything you don’t want to, so lucky you. But we also need a little help every now and then when we hit a dead end or go up against something… let’s call it more broadly gifted than we are. Right now, for instance, two of our friends have vanished. If you can do your mojo right, you can help us find them even if someone doesn’t want them found. You following?”

Whether she was or not, he was going to have to wait to find out, because his cell phone started to ring in his pocket. From the look on his face as he checked the screen, he recognized the caller, and he wasn’t happy about it.

“Whatever it is, I’m not interested,” he answered breezily. “…Jeez, keep your panties on. I- Well, okay, stalker boy. Real romantic.”

His thumb brushed across the phone, and Michael’s voice crackled roughly over the speaker.

“Julian? Are you alright?”

Julian had a few sarcastic words for Leo. He managed to get her insulted and flustered enough that she was forgetting how alarming all this was. Fuzzy, warm and safe? She didn’t need to be coddled and cuddled, not after living on her own for a year. And if he thought he could get away with not answering her questions and just throwing out vague references to stuff, he had another thing coming.

Hearing Michael’s voice on the phone threw her indignation out the window. Yes, she did want warm, fuzzy, and safe. She wanted to be rescued. She didn’t want to have creepy conversations in her bedroom in the middle of the night with someone that gladly admitted he was not a nice guy. Especially if it meant Michael was the one doing the rescuing. Hearing his voice was a huge relief and-

Urrrg! This is stupid! Michael was just as involved too, wasn’t he? SOME one was going to explain everything.

“I’m okay.” she admitted first. Leo was the lucky recipient of her wary, annoyed stare. “Leo is trying to explain to me about being a psychic and you both needing my help. I’m not sure what to believe and he’s freaking me out on purpose-” she hissed the words at Leo, to make sure he knew she still wasn’t happy about that, “and I just want to know the truth.”

“Would you please tell me what he’s talking about? I want the truth.”

“Julian, I’m sorry. I’ll explain everything, but just let me talk to you face to face. I need to see that you’re unharmed.” Concern was thick in Michael’s voice, mixed with a tightness that suggested he was rattled. “I’ll be right there. Please come to the door and let me in.”

“I was explaining just fine before you interrupted, Mike,” Leo retorted. His finger was tapping against the side of the phone like his finger was itching to hang up. “Like the lady’s asking for, I’m giving her the truth. The cold, hard facts.”

“What have you done, Leo?”

“Relax. I didn’t touch a hair on her pretty little head. What do you take me for, an idiot?”

“You certainly would be, if you thought I’d let you lay a finger on her.” Michael was quiet for a moment. “Julian, listen to me. I’m outside. Leo is going to hand the phone to you. Make sure he gives it to you before you come let me in, and don’t hang up. As far as I can see, Leo isn’t lying, but I need to know what he’s said to you. You can tell me on the way.”

Leo rolled his eyes, reaching over to take Julian’s hand and press the phone into her palm.

Michael was concerned about her safety, which really didn’t make her feel good about being alone there with Leo in her room. Not that she believed he was going to hurt her, it just made her uneasy. There was a sense of edginess, and some impending doom. Julian was sure she was over-dramatizing it, letting fear and uncertainty cloud her judgement.

She took the phone, turning the speaker off to press it against her ear. Her arm wrapped around her waist as she stepped out of the room and made her way downstairs. “He’s not really telling me a lot. Just about the six families really being witches and that I am a psychic. Which is weird but weirder that he’s not normal and neither are you? That you NEED me for something? To find missing people.”

Once downstairs and at the door she swung it open. Julian was both surprised and relieved to see him there. She hung up the phone, her hand dropping to her side. She cast him a pleading look, searching his face, hoping to find an actual answer and not more vague comments. “Did you run in to me on purpose, Michael? Just so I could help you?”

As soon as Julian opened the door, Michael felt most of the tension bleed out of his shoulders. She was here, safe and sound as promised, and though this was hardly how he’d planned for Julian Hollinger to be introduced into his world, it seemed that her fate had been taken out of his hands. It was time to seize back what threads he could.

“It’s true,” he told her, meeting her eyes. “I planned to seek you out even before I saw you in school, but that was before I spoke with you, Julian. You have to understand that I wasn’t even certain if you could help me. You didn’t seem to know of your potential, and I was afraid that you would only be frightened if I tried to tell you. I don’t want to frighten you. You are not simply a means to an end.”

There was a snort from behind her, and Michael’s gaze tore away from Julian to narrow on Leo. He’d followed Julian down from her room, of course. Michael dearly wanted to deal with his cousin’s disobedience, but he found his feet glued firm at the threshold of the Hollinger family home. His lips pressed into a thin line as he considered how best to broach the one subject that still remained unspoken…

“Stuck, are we?” Leo’s voice was laced with amusement as he caught up to speed on Michael’s thought process. “What’s the matter, Michael? Don’t want to tell your girlfriend here why you haven’t already swept her up in your big, strong arms? You’d better invite him in, Jules, unless you’re getting the same kick out of watching this that I am.”


But the warning word came too late.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that. It’s not like I told her that you’re a vampire.” A pause, and then Leo raised his fingers up to cover a feigned moue of surprise and chagrin. “Except I guess I just did! My bad.”

A vamp-! “Oh for Christ’s sake!” Julian turned to give Leo his phone back, which was less ‘giving’ and more slapping it against his chest and forcing him to take it. She prodded him out of the way before she reached through the threshold to take Michael’s arm and tug. “It’s okay, you can come in.” Once he did, she was closing the door, then leaning against it. If she didn’t she was going to pounce and cling on to Michael, and she wanted to prove she wasn’t frightened, nor did she need big strong arms. Wanted them, sooo bad, yes. But she didn’t need them!

“Witches and psychics aren’t enough, you need to toss in vampires too? I don’t believe you.” Because vampires would be ludicrous. At least the psychic stuff she could understand, since, well… she had a little bit of weird experience in the matter. But vampires? That was out there.

“You’re not. …Are you?” Impossible as it was, she was still casting a curious glance at Michael, as if now maybe she could see it where she hadn’t before. Maybe she could believe it about Leo, with his rolling in the dirt, crawling up in windows, and moving faster than a blink. But not Michael…

Michael’s dark eyes were imploring as he returned her gaze, clearly hesitant to answer. The confirmation was implicit in his silence, however, and it came back to Julian in that long moment that she’d never seen him walking in direct sunlight, that his words and manners hinted at an old-fashioned upbringing, that he’d not shared quite so much about himself as she had in their daily conversation…

As Julian was absorbing this, Michael was silently cursing his cousin.

“Julian, I’m sorry. You have to understand that I didn’t know how to tell you.” He kept his tone soft, placating. The last thing he needed was to spook her anew. Leo had undone so much of his work to earn her trust in just one sentence; this moment was critical. Carefully, he stepped forward, holding out his hand to her. “You don’t need to be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you, and I won’t allow you to be hurt. Have I done anything that led you to believe otherwise?”

His breath was caught in his throat. Would she accept his words, or reject him?

“A vampire.” she stated out loud. Vampires plural. Her gaze flicked back to Leo for a split second only to see that smug expression, then it was returned to Michael. Julian was almost waiting for that moment where they revealed the big joke, where they started to laugh and teased her for falling for it. But Michael was dead serious. He looked stiff and concerned, holding out his hand as if pleading her to take it.

Julian stared at his hand, hesitant and more than a little alarmed. Vampires. Wasn’t this the moment she was supposed to scream and run like any common sense person would do? Didn’t things always end up going horribly wrong? Of course, there was also the dramatic romances, but even those were soon followed by someone getting killed.

…and really, that could happen with anyone at any time. Michael hadn’t given her any reason to believe he was a bad person. Ignoring Leo’s bad idea of crawling in to her window and freaking her out, he hadn’t done anything to hurt her either. Did vampires deserve the benefit of the doubt? She would find out.

Gingerly she reached out and took his hand, but she didn’t step any closer. Julian held up a finger. “I am trusting you. I understand why you didn’t tell me. …but you have to tell me the whole truth if you want me to help you. No more secrets. Promise me?” She snuck another quick glance at Leo.

“..You promise me too. Especially you.”

“Of course, Julian. You have my word,” Michael answered gravely, thanking his lucky stars that she had chosen to have faith in him. He didn’t know what he would have done if she hadn’t.

His eyes slid past Julian to meet Leo’s with intent. The other vampire’s chin at first remained raised defiantly, but at Michael’s quirked eyebrow, he slowly looked down and away.

“Yeah, yeah, fine. I promise. I’ll tell you anything you want to know, Jules.”

There was something in those words that Michael found he did not care for, but Leo was always making his dissent known in one dramatic fashion or another. Michael could do nothing to curb that behavior… certainly not right now, anyway.

“This is all… very touching,” Leo suddenly drawled, gesturing back and forth from Michael to Julian. “Really, it is. But time’s a-wasting. If you two are done making doe eyes at one another, we might actually get something done tonight.”

Though Michael was loathe to admit it, Leo was correct that this was a time-sensitive matter. If he were to explain matters to Julian, he’d best catch her up to speed as soon as possible. There was only one question…

“…Where shall I begin?”

“You could start with the beginning, but I can settle for the most important parts first.” …They couldn’t have serious conversations standing around her front door, though. It was late and she was too tired and tense to be standing there staring back and forth between the two of them.

Tugging Michael’s hand gently, she led him forward, grabbing Leo’s arm to turn and less gently push and nudge him in to the living room. He might’ve promised to be honest with her, but she was still irked by his midnight calling.

Julian had both of them sit on the couch, or at the very least Michael. She didn’t care where Leo sat himself so long as he was going to behave now. Julian herself sat down on the coffee table, directly in front of Michael. If she sat on the sofa she’d fall asleep there, and that wasn’t what she wanted to do when there was something so important going on.

“Okay, now, I guess I would just like to know WHY you need my help? What could I even do for vampires?” Being a tasty snack came to mind, and the thought ran across her features for a split second. But she doubted that was the agenda, especially by Michael’s confessions.

“Unfortunately, psychic visions are not one of the perks of vampirism,” Leo chimed in before Michael could properly begin. He was half-seated on the arm of the sofa, drumming his fingers on his knee and giving Julian a cocky smirk. Michael did his best to studiously ignore this.

“No, they’re not,” he murmured, lacing his own fingers together and leaning forward to peer at Julian earnestly. “There are… limits to our abilities. Psychics such as yourself can learn things that we can’t, Julian. Psychic abilities can get around the usual methods of interference by witchcraft, for example. Which is what I suspect to be responsible for our inability to find our friends. Tasha and Colby disappeared a month ago and we haven’t had word from them since. That’s why we came here, to Silent Pines.”

It was the last place that they’d been seen. The trail went cold here, and Michael was firmly determined to learn why.

“Not that it’s the first time we’ve been here, is it, Mikey?” Leo cracked his knuckles. “Brings me back.”

Curiosity was begging her to ask Leo to elaborate. It explained why Michael had been so knowledgeable about the area. There were a lot of little signs and quirks that were coming to mind now. Stuff that wasn’t strange per se, but not exactly normal for a teenage guy. Everything sort of made sense now. She wondered when they had been there in the past…

Julian was getting a bit lost in her thoughts, which was far too easy to do when she was tired and now full of things to think about. She frowned just slightly, glancing back at Michael and giving a soft shake of her head.

“The psychic stuff. It’s not like I know what I’m doing or anything. Or even when I’m doing it. It just sorta happens sometimes while I’m sleeping. So I’m not sure how that’s going to be of any use.” Julian brushed her hair back behind her ears and then gripped the edge of the coffee table. She gave an apologetic shrug of her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to do it on purpose. Honestly I wish it never happened at all…”

“You can learn,” Michael told her confidently, his fingers drifting up to catch the tip of her chin and guide her to meet his gaze.

True, it was possible that the Hollinger gift had faded over time, as the bloodline mingled and mixed with more commonplace mortal families. Yet Michael did not think this was so. Julian’s ancestors had been so very powerful that even a diluted gift could not be so weak as this.

“You were never taught. Your parents never told you what they were, and perhaps they didn’t know themselves. But with guidance, Julian, I believe that you can control it.”

“Sadly, we’re just that desperate.” Leo snorted. “Although I’m not sure how you think we’re supposed to help her, Michael. You’re not exactly an expert.”

Michael turned his head slowly toward his cousin, eyes narrowing. “You are.”

For once, Michael was allowed the privilege of seeing Leo at a loss for words.

Julian was lost in warm dark eyes and the soft touch of his fingers. He may of been telling her that she could get him the moon, and she would have believed him. Which deep down she knew was utterly stupid and this entire story was completely insane. But she was crushing hard and no matter how much her inner voice complained that she was spending way too much time gazing in to his eyes and not listening to what he was actually asking from her, she still ignored it.

…and then the spell was broken by the statement that Leo was the psychic expert.

Leo would help her.

Leo who thought sneaking in to her room in the middle of the night and scaring the shit out of her was the ideal way to broach the subject of vampires and all things terrifying.

Julian leaned back slowly, tilting her head to stare at Leo with the same astonished looked he seemed to be sporting. Her nose and corner of her mouth twitched up. That couldn’t be a good idea.

“I… think maybe I need some sleep and we could talk about all of this tomorrow. Angela will probably have some good ideas, she’s pretty good at snooping.” Julian was already trying to think of the best way to bring it all up without her friend assuming she was drunk or lucid dreaming.

As Julian thoughtlessly mentioned Angela Mercy, Michael felt his shoulders tighten, his fingers falling to curl tightly atop his knee.

“Telling your friend is… unwise,” he began, as diplomatically as he could manage. Truthfully, he was disappointed that Julian hadn’t realized this herself. He’d thought that she had understood before. If he hadn’t easily revealed himself to Julian

“Jules, you really aren’t getting this whole ‘terrible, dark secret’ thing,” drawled Leo, evidently recovered from his shock. He uncrossed his legs and shifted on the arm of the couch like an impatient child. “On the other hand, dark and terrible secrets are for losers. I like being nice and direct. Do I get to break the news to the lucky lady? Please say yes.”

No,” Michael snapped, and then pursed his lips. Closing his eyes for a few moments, he collected himself, and then focused on Julian anew. “I don’t think that it is necessary to involve Angela. She’s not equipped to dealing with the supernatural and it would only put her at risk.”

Julian doubted that Leo’s way of breaking the news would be nice at all, and her glare at him said as much. She could imagine him zooming on over to Angela’s to pull that in-the-window stunt. Only Julian suspected Angela would have been cracking him over the head before he stepped a foot through the window sill.

She grinned wide at the thought. Quickly having to sober herself before Michael thought she wasn’t taking this seriously.

“I get it.” she stressed at Leo. But it was Michael she had to explain everything too, and it was he that she reached out to and rest her hands on his knees. He was tense, and she totally understood why. It was his secret and a BIG one. “I know it’s monumental and not my secret to tell. And that it’s probably dangerous. …But she is also my best friend, she knows when I’m keeping secrets. She’s the only person I have on the planet I can trust and talk to.”

“I can promise she won’t say a word to anyone?”

Michael swallowed his initial reply, choosing his words carefully.

“If you must,” he acquiesced, “but I would rather you didn’t. I’ll leave it up to your judgment, Julian.”

He stood, then, glancing askance at Leo. Leo, who was suspiciously quiet and tame this evening, for all that he’d frightened the wits out of Julian Hollinger. Eying the grubby clothes and scanning Leo’s face, he tried to suss out some clue at what was going through his cousin’s mind and drew a frustratingly incomplete picture.

But that was a small matter, and one he had no shortage of time to dissect.

“We’ll leave, as you asked, so that you have the opportunity to think. It’s late, after all. I will see you tomorrow at school, won’t I?” He smiled at her, close-mouthed so as not to remind her of his nature unnecessarily.

Looking petulant and bored, Leo followed Michael’s suit in abandoning his perch on the couch. The other vampire stretched as he straightened his spine, the bones cracking and popping, and directed an expression at Julian which Michael gathered was intended to convey that Leo was unimpressed with what he saw.

“Yeah, this has been a blast, believe me, but I’ve got better places to be than babysitting you while you decide if you want to do what we asked. And since Michael’s going to give me that disappointed broody stare of his if I use more effective methods of persuasion…”

The sentence dangled, unfinished and purposefully ominous. Leo had always had a flair for the dramatic.

Too quick for Julian’s eyes, Leo made a beeline for the front door. Michael could picture how it must seem to the mortal girl; one moment, Leo would be there, and the next he’d have blurred and vanished, the slamming of the door on his way out the only indication of his whereabouts.

The door slammed and Julian jumped. It took her a second to realize that was Leo leaving the house in a freaky blur. The entire thing pissed her off a little bit. He had been the one sneaking in, acting like a psycho and being completely unreasonable. She sure didn’t invite him over to ask for her help and babysit her. What was that even supposed to mean, babysitting her?!

Julian realized she must have been standing there glaring daggers at the door. She had to force herself to let out a breath. Brushing her hand through her hair as she stood and gave a much softer and understanding look to Michael. His cousin was a pain the ass.

“Thank you for thinking about me.” In contrast to Leo, Michael was being a lot more considerate of her feelings and well being. “I’ll definitely see you tomorrow.”

Everything would seem less crazy in the morning.

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