Black Sun 008: Psychic Impressions (Original Draft)

Black Sun 008: Psychic Impressions (Original Draft)

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A few days later, Julian was FINALLY making her obligated appearance with her therapist. Sitting on the modern grey sofa with her hands on her knees, she chewed the inside of her cheek. For the past few days she was having a hard time sleeping. Relaxing. Focusing. Like she had tapped in to a well and now she couldn’t get the water to stop rushing out. Everywhere she went she was noticing things she had never noticed before. And because of the incident with Walter, she was relentlessly trying to make mental notes of weird feelings so she could find connections between them.

Maybe a little too relentlessly, because she wanted to lean back and doze on the couch. Then again, that was probably the only same-as-always reliable thing going on right now. Julian always found herself sleepy and dozy when she came in for her sessions. The whole room was just in boring shades of grey, white and brown. There was nothing interesting to look at or focus on. Julian supposed it was on purpose so patients would be calm and focused only on themselves.

“Here we go, darling. Your tea.” Ms. Lucinda Etheridge set down a porcelain cup and saucer on the table in front of Julian, and immediately the girl reached for it. It was the only thing in the room that was actually unique and colorful. Aside from Ms. Etheridge herself. Her therapist had bright red hair, piled haphazardly on her head. Her makeup and facial features were flawless. You knew she had to be much older than she actually looked just by the bone structure, but her skin was like porcelain. She wore a dark green blouse and slim fitting slacks. As well as several very large and bold looking gemstone rings. The rings were hard to miss. In fact Julian was staring at those while she took a sip of her tea.

“I haven’t seen you for quite some time, Julian. You realize that these sessions are required? If you don’t attend them you will not be able to continue living in your family home.” Lucinda started, picking up a clipboard from her desk and then taking a seat in a chair across from Julian.

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been… really distracted. I’m back in my dance class again. And I met a boy. He’s been really great.” Julian explained… using normal details only. There were a lot of things that would make this session really complicated if she let them slip.

“Hmm-hmm. Your social worker mentioned the boyfriend. Do you remember the things we discussed in our last session? Your friends are all very well meaning, but it is a bit over stimulating isn’t it. The more time you spend with people, the worse it gets. We don’t want you to say something that might cause alarm or draw too much attention to you. That is how people end up in our care. You can see why I am a little concerned for you. Have you had any more dreams, or strange feelings lately, Julian?”

Julian frowned, her hands wrapped around the cup. There were a lot of dreams and feelings. “No. Not anything stranger than usual.”


The girl sighed, looking uncomfortable as she set down her cup. “Yes. But I am trying to help Michael, so-“

“Michael?” Lucinda’s pen stopped writing and she glanced up from her clipboard.

“Michael Hightower. He’s my boyfriend. It’s not giving me any trouble, I’ve been learning a lot of-“

“Would he be one of the Founding Family Hightowers?”


“Hmmmmm.” Lucinda began scribbling again. “You know, darling, I believe you might be right. Your new associations have you looking so much more alive. Perhaps it’s a good idea to continue. But Julian.”

“Yes Ma’am?”

“I can’t help you if you lie to me. When you return, you will tell me all about what you have been doing with your new boyfriend. Do you understand?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Thank you. Now lets talk about what you’ve been dreaming.”

Julian pulled on her jacket and she left the therapist’s office and stepped outside. Stopped for a moment on the sidewalk to rub her temples. Ugh, between the sleepy decor and that awful super-clean clinicy smell Julian always had a bit of a headache once she got outside. Thank god for fresh air.

And Leo.

“No.” she pointed at him, just in case he didn’t know that was for him. Then she started walking. She did NOT want to deal with Leo today!

“Yes,” he countered in an all-too-pleased voice, sliding in one liquid motion off of the hood of his car and circling in front of her. He spread his arms to form a human (well, technically, vampire) roadblock in the middle of the sidewalk and planted his feet. Those obnoxious shades of his were back, but Julian knew him well enough by now to guess that his eyes were all crinkled up with laughter.

“What’s wrong, Jules? I thought you’d be all gung-ho about our next lesson and getting you one step closer to Jedi mind tricks after the other night.” Leo gave her a disarming smile and wiggled his fingers. “Come on. Come play.”

“You could have picked ANY day to ambush me or any NIGHT to crawl in my window being smarmy, but you have to choose right now?” Seriously, why was he always wearing those goofy sunglasses. Oh wait, sensitive vampire eyes. She was tiiiiired and she really didn’t want to deal with him being him.

Julian shoved him back towards his car. “AND, by the way I DO remember things from Angela’s dumb drinking game, and if you tell anybody I don’t like the dark, most especially Michael, I’m going to set YOU on fire.”

And then, because she clearly had the mentality of a six year old whenever Leo was around and because he started it by keeping his arms up and trying to block her exit, Julian faked trying to dash left only to skirt around him the other way.

Unfortunately for Julian, vampire reflexes were better than the average human’s. Her feint failed to throw Leo off. He lunged and caught her around the waist, lifting her straight up and letting her feet dangle a couple inches off the ground. If she was a six-year-old, he was twelve: twice as big and just as juvenile.

“Don’t be like that,” he admonished, grinning at her. His shades had gone slightly askew when he grabbed her, so now she could see those weirdly bright baby blues. “I swear I won’t take you anywhere dark or scary. Unless you’re afraid of shopping malls, in which case you really should stop watching 80’s B-movies. I’ll even buy you a stupid overpriced coffee so you can perk up.”

He was already stepping backwards towards his Mustang, not even bothering to watch where he was going. Or wait for her to agree.

“RrrrrAARGH! Hrrmhg. Fiiiiiiine.” Julian didn’t put up much of a fight before her head tilted back and she sighed as dramatically as possible. A few futile kicks and slapping at his arms at best. He was right – at least about her getting in the practice time. She wanted to know the next time Walter would pop up, and she still couldn’t seem to get anything working when and how she wanted to.

“For the coffee, and ONLY because of the coffee.” The swatting started up again when she wasn’t immediately back on her feet. “So you can put me down!”

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t have a cow.” He fished his keys out of his pocket with one hand to unlock the car.

And while he was doing that, he dropped her.

Except then he caught her within a second, crushing her back against him before she toppled over… and from the way he was laughing there was no mistaking it for an accident. She was eased down onto her toes with utmost delicacy before she could even open her mouth. Leo retreated to a safe distance, shoving the passenger door open and hopping in on his own side.

“Hurry up. We’ve only got a couple of hours before the mall clears out.” The car roared to life along with the radio, blaring rock music.

If her head wasn’t hurting so much, she might have found his pestering amusing. He was lucky he dashed out of the way, cause she had aimed a half-hearted kick in his direction. And he slid in to his seat before seeing the reluctant smirk twitching up at the corner of her mouth. It was gone when she dropped in to her own seat, replaced by a cringe as she reached out to turn down the music to a less murderous volume.

She loved that song though. Any other day she’d have the volume up and sing along to it.

“I know you’re ancient, but no one’s been to the mall since the 90s.” she muttered, pulling on her seat belt and leaning back in her seat. Her right hand rubbing in to her temple again.

“Wrong.” He adjusted his shades, slinging an arm back over the seat and switching into reverse. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t putting on his seat belt- or obeying speed limits as they shot out of the parking lot. “Annoying teenagers don’t go to the mall. Middle-school kids and stay-at-home moms are all about the mall. Which is good, because it gives you an opportunity to try your tricks on people outside of your peer group.”

She couldn’t see him looking at her, but he must have been, given the next thing out of his mouth:

“What’s wrong with your head? Did it shrink too much?”

Her head tilted back against the headrest and she closed her eyes. Watching him nearly careen them to their deaths would tense her all up. She gave a wry sort of grin though. Was that a stupid pun or an accident?

“Her office always gives me a headache. Everything in there is so sterile and chemically. And haven’t been sleeping a lot, which doesn’t help. Then this jerk showed up and ruined any chances I had of going home and taking a nap.” she grinned wider, turning her head to glanced at him. Did he actually NEED those sunglasses? Julian debated snatching them for herself.

“Is that going to interfere with your juju or whatever? Do I have to stop and get you pills?” A touch of exasperation laced through his words, and he drummed his thumbs on the wheel. “I mean, it’ll go away after a while, right?”

“It’ll never go away. I am going to be like this forever and I’ll never make a prediction again.” Julian responded somberly. “But lets check and make sure.”

Julian reached up and behind her, grasping on to the arm that was still draped behind the seats. “Green light. Sudden dog problems. Bad joke. …aaand these are mine now.” She released his arm and leaned over, reaching to pluck his sunglasses off and placed them on her own nose. Just in case he WAS sun sensitive and going to burst in to vampy flames, she pulled the sun visor down on his side. There. Her good deed of the day.

Then she resettled in her seat again. “It’ll go away. But how sweeeeeet of you to worry about me!” she teased, smirking again.

“Don’t flatter yourself. Only thing I care about is whether or not you can help me.” He shot her an annoyed glance. Halfway through, he started smirking right back at her. “Aaand making fun of you for looking like an alien in those glasses. But yeah. Mostly just whether you’re useful.”

Half a beat, and then he was talking again, reaching up to re-position the sun visor until it met his satisfaction.

“Comes with the whole vampire gig. If I don’t want to give a damn, I don’t have to. It’s a pretty sweet deal.”

“See, now you also have to buy me a pair of sunglasses. It’s a shame being a vampire doesn’t give you control over that mouth.” Julian was watching the light coming up, and instead of staying green or turning green, it went red and Leo was force to stop his speeding. Her mouth twisted in to a frown as she chewed in to her cheek.

“It’s not a light, it’s green something else.” she muttered to herself, tapping the spot where a ring would be on her pointer finger almost unconsciously. “That has nothing to do with you, nevermind that one. I guess headaches do kind of interfere.”

That was when someone at the corner shouted as a loose dog came barreling down the sidewalk with a leash trailing behind it and crashed on to them. Slobbering the poor guy with golden retriever kisses, while his female owner struggled to get a hold of his collar to pull him off the stranger.

“It can’t be interfering that much. You’ve got one out of two so far.” The light changed, and Leo peeled through with a sudden start. “All we need is a bad joke to break the tie.”

They were only a block away from the mall now. And true to Leo’s word, there were actually cars turning into the mall parking lot up ahead. It looked like the silver soccer mom van in front of them might be headed that way. (The van was also obeying the speed limit by a modest margin, a fact which Leo did not seem to appreciate. He weaved around to pass them.)

“Have you ever tried to read Michael?” Leo asked, eyes back on the road.

“A bad joke is inevitable where you’re concerned, so I’m not sure that is going to count for much either.” That poor lady in the van. Julian held on to her seat belt and if she could have, she might have shouted an apology to the woman as they sped past her.

Julian shook her head at his question. “I never TRY to read my friends, and definitely not my boyfriends. Not on purpose. It just… I dunno doesn’t seem very trustworthy. It’d be like snooping?” …but now the thought was in her head. She was always concerned about what Michael thought of her. If she was enough for someone who probably had a couple decades worth of girlfriends. Then she started wondering exactly what his life as a vampire was like. Things could not have been easy. There were moments that were very bad, for sure. Could she even look in to someone’s past like that?

This was NOT a good road to go down. If he wanted to tell her things, he would tell her when he was ready. She shouldn’t pry and definitely not like that.

“Would you want me reading you?” she asked pointedly, turning to give him a squinty look from behind his shades.

“I wasn’t making suggestions,” he pointed out, but he gave her a weird look. Like he was trying to decide how much he should say.

“Besides,” he pointed out. The hint of a smug smile returned to his face. “You already asked me everything you didn’t already know, right?”

Exactly. He wouldn’t like it if she tried plucking up all of HIS secrets, not that Julian had any interest in what made Leo all Leo. She was only tolerating him for his help, and maybe a little bit because he was fun when he wasn’t irritating.

She looked confused though at his last statement. Then as the realization dawned on her, she bristled. Apparently Julian didn’t always remember everything from Angela’s drinking games.

Julian hissed through her teeth, giving him a scathing sort of look. “And what DID I ask you, exactly?” Oh gods, it could have been anything. Julian knew letting Leo stay was a bad idea! She was never ever having a drink with Leo present ever again.

“Christ, relax.” He raised not one but both eyebrows at her reaction. “All you wanted to know was, and I quote, ‘Why do you piss me off?’ Angela and I figured you were too drunk to ask anything else. You passed out about a minute later.”

His speed demon tendencies finally waned as he maneuvered into the mall parking lot and squeezed into the space between an Explorer and a Suburban. The mom-and-dad-mobiles were definitely out in force today. The parking lot wasn’t jam-packed, but it was fuller than Julian had expected.

Of course HE didn’t get it. He wasn’t a teenage girl without an ounce of alcohol tolerance and an overly friendly drunk disposition. She could have said anything and then spent the rest of her life living in mortal embarrassment, with Leo pulling on that little string every time she forgot.

Why do you piss me off was a good question. Here she was wondering once again why she let him bother her. There wasn’t another person on the PLANET that irked her so much. Julian didn’t get wound up be people she got wound up by things.

“Relax.” She really DID need to relax. Julian let out of a huff and for a split second she might have looked apologetic. Then she was pushing his sunglasses up on top of her head and looking curiously at the cars in the parking lot. Wow, people really did go to the mall still?

“I just need coffee. What is the plan today? Lurk creepily behind moms and their kids”

“The plan is to work on compartmentalizing.” He jumped out of the car and looked at her expectantly. “Come on, Jules. Mush.”

“Okay,” he began, slurping on his enormous espresso drink and slinging an arm around her shoulders. “First question. Do you do better in crowds, or small spaces?”

Their first stop had been coffee. Immediately after, Leo had made a beeline for a glasses-laden mall cart and forced Julian to pick out a pair of shades… which he had put on himself as soon as money changed hands. Now they were bumming around by the central fountain and- supposedly- getting down to actual business.

Coffee was a blessed gift. In this case, a hot salted caramel gift that was currently working it’s magic as she sipped. Her headache was finally waning, leaving a tired, but gratefully less mind-throbbing psychic in it’s place.

He looked silly wearing her new sunglasses, but if this was how they were going to play it, she was up for the game. Hiding a smile behind her cup, she took another drink and gave a shrug of her shoulders.

“I don’t like lots of people. It kinda turns in to a bunch of white noise. Unless I’m with someone that drowns it all out.” Julian immediately thought of her friends. A bunch of very loud, very opinionated girls that all made sure they were the center of attention. For some reason she found this incredibly funny, and doubted they’d have the same thought.

“Yeah, that’s what I figured.” Leo pointed at the shop across the way, where posters for video games and the latest console plastered the store front windows. “Okay. Here’s the plan. We’re going to go in there and pretend to be browsing. You’re going to focus on reading just what’s inside the shop. Nothing else. And then we’re going to do the same thing for every shop in the mall.”

He was already steering Julian forward. A group of middle school girls passed them on their left, giggling; Leo smirked and gave them a little wave, which sent them squealing and scrambling by.

“Ugh.” she rolled her eyes both at him and the gaggle of giggling school girls. Julian put up a pretense of dragging her feet just to be difficult, but soon they were crossing the threshold in to the shop. It was dim with a lot of fancy colored lights here and there. Julian supposed they were going for the whole sci-fi tech theme. Taking one shop at a time should be a piece of cake.

“So basically, we’re spending the day window shopping.” she mused. Oh no, what is -this-. Julian smirked even wider, stopping by a shelf and plucking up a game case. She held it up with both hands to show Leo, barely containing hysterical snickering. The game was called Midnight Dusk, and looked pretty blatantly like some strange Twilight knockoff turned in to a dating simulator.

“I think he looks just like you.” Griiiiin.

He took one look at the cover and snorted.

“I’m not nearly brooding enough,” he told her, plucking the case from her fingers and turning it over. His finger ran over the back, pausing to underline a screenshot with a bit of dialogue. “And I’m not about to turn into some pathetic sap over a girl. Listen to this crap. ‘No… I can’t. I’m too dangerous.’ What a tool.

“This stuff is the real danger,” Leo continued, shaking the box. “I mean, not that I’m complaining, because it makes it easier for me to find a bite to eat. It’s amazing how many people fall for this.”

“I think it’s supposed to be romantic in that I love you so I don’t want to get you hurt kind of way.” Julian laughed, snatching it back out of his hands and replaced it on the shelf. She was still grinning and found it amusing that he almost seemed kind of offended by the whole thing.

“You’re right though. The WORST part about those stories is that ‘it’s too dangerous’ dance, when you’d think if it was really a do-or-die love they’d be fighting for it from the get-go.” Thus why Julian was so, SO glad Michael didn’t persist on denying them a chance. Yes it would be complicated, and hard, and dangerous, but loving someone shouldn’t be passive or safe.

She wasn’t going to say those thoughts out loud though. Julian had figured out bringing up Michael around Leo was a quick way to irritate the both of them.

Besides, today was be a psychic day not moon over the boyfriend day. Julian tried to focus on the small shop. It was pretty empty save for a cashier looking bored behind the counter, someone in the corner stocking new merchandise and a couple of kids testing out on of the game consoles. Julian held up her fingers and wiggled them, her ‘subtle’ signal she was trying to use her mojo.

“What am I supposed to be feeling out, anyway? Beyond desperate loneliness and someone’s very bitter feelings about their hot stepmom?”

“Anything you can. Auras. Echoes. Predictions.” Leo shrugged lazily, turning to flip through a rack of magazines. “Try one person at a time, if you think you can focus enough.”

There was a hint of a challenge there, in both his words and the insolent curve of his mouth as he looked over his shoulder at Julian. Then she got the back of his head again as he picked up a copy of Game Informer.

“Love isn’t safe,” he spoke again, quietly, just when it seemed he was finished talking. “And it isn’t something you can fight for. Love fucks you over whether you want it or not, and you either keep your head above water or you drown. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. Lust? That’s much safer. Wanting something is easy, especially if it’s something you can’t have. Like Mr. Hot-for-Stepmom. He’ll grow out of that, or he’ll find a healthier outlet, or he’ll actually get what he wants and be happy even if it ruins his life.”

Julian liked a challenge, so long as said challenge wasn’t underground and surrounded by dead bodies. Her hands rest on her hips and her head tilted back as she pretended to take great interest in what was lining the upper shelves. They were talking about Hot-For-Stepmom, so it was easy to latch on to that. It felt a bit awkward snooping around like that, without them knowing.

“You’re forgetting the millions of people who fall in love and don’t have their lives ruined, even despite all the risky stuff.” she commented, walking around the display racks until she paused on the opposite side. Placing her hands and her chin over the top to peer at Leo.

“Hot-for-Stepmom is going to fail this year because of it. But that’s okay cause he’s going to meet his future wife next year.” she grinned, as if that one little thing was proof she was right. “Is this what you and Angela have been so texty about? Because she pretty much says the exact same sort of things these days.”

“Angela? No, the deepest conversation we’ve had was about whether The Black Keys is a gimmick band or a legitimate return to classic blues rock.”

His hand stilled abruptly, halfway through turning a page, and he reached up to remove his (technically her) shades.

“Wait a sec. You don’t think-” Leo’s lips twitched, and then he was practically doubling over with laughter. “Holy shit. No. Back up. Tell me you don’t think Angela and I are going to be joining you and Michael for double date milkshakes at the Red Robin.”

“Who is full of themselves NOW?” Really? Angela and Leo as a thing might have crossed her mind ONCE when she first met him, but since then it has been a not even ever pairing. And not just because Julian thought it would be a rotten idea. If Angela was interested in chasing after Leo, Julian would be the first to know about it.

“I was just curious and I’d hate to find out you were being a bad influence and getting each other in to trouble.” She rolled her eyes, stepping around the rack to stop next to him. Her hands on her hips again. She wanted to laugh too, but didn’t want to encourage him. So instead she tapped her foot impatiently on the floor.

“Besides the last thing I want to do is be on a date with you. Now are you done giggling, or do we get to continue?”

“I don’t think we’re getting anything useful in here.” His shoulders were still shaking a little, and he was looking at her like he didn’t entirely believe her. Like somehow he suspected the thought had crossed her mind before. He tossed back the remainder of his espresso and waved at her to follow him. “Come on. Speaking of music, there’s a record/DVD shop two stores over. That should be more fun than a bunch of tweens thinking about Halo and their lack of girlfriends.”

As they exited the store, he launched his empty cup into a trash can from ten feet away without even looking. Goddamn vampires and their supernatural coordination. He’d also shoved Julian’s new sunglasses back onto his face like he was Horatio Caine.

Julian had to retrieve her empty cup from a shelf she carelessly left it on, and she was pursing her lips at his perfect tossing. Show off. Julian walked backwards, pulling down his sunglasses over her eyes and mimicking that smug look he liked to give. She dropped her cup in the trash as they passed it.

The magic wiggling fingers went up again as she paused in front of the music store and turned to walk inside. There was the hint of a grin at the corner of her mouth. She doubted she was pulling off that perfect asinine thing he had going on, but it was so much fun to try.

“This IS way more interesting.” she said first. Julian hadn’t taken a look around yet. Sunglasses inside didn’t exactly make easy to see what she was doing. There was just more here. She supposed it was because music tended to bring a lot more out of people. Songs always inspired memories or feelings. “What shall I divine for you? Same thing? Wait! I bet I can find your theme song…”

“My ‘theme song’? Are you for real?” He huffed, taking her by the elbows and spinning her in a circle like she was the blindfolded kid about to take a swing at the pinata. “Impress me, Jules. I’ve seen better cold reading from fake psychics than what you’ve gotten so far today.”

Slipping past her, he made a beeline for- of all things- the traditional pop section. It didn’t take him long to find whatever it was he was looking for; he held up the jewel case, squinting at it. A broad grin spread over his face.

“Here,” he said, and leaned over to punch numbers into a touch screen over the shelf. Leo picked up the attached headphones, dangling them at her. “I bet you can’t guess the song before you give it a listen.”

“Isn’t ‘guess next song’ one of those fake psychic tricks too?” Hmm. She eyed him and then took a look at all the CDs on display. She opened her mouth, thinking she had the answer but… nope! Grumbling under her breath, she snapped the headphones to pull over her head and give the first song a listen.

“Pfff. Not even a psychic would have guessed this one.” The song was old. She heard it plenty of times in movies or on the radio. It didn’t really seem like the Leo she knew, but she definitely knew this was one he liked and that it wasn’t just something chosen at random.

Julian gave him a curious look. “So was this one of your favorites back in the day? How old ARE you?”

“You don’t already know?” He tilted his head, leaning an elbow on the shelf and crossing his ankles. “I would have thought that would have come up by the second date. Did you know that I’m actually the younger cousin? By a couple months, anyway. Never reached my seventeenth birthday. This song came out a long time after I was already dead.”

A music store was probably a bad idea for getting Julian to focus on psychic practice, because she had a serious problem with dancing. In which all it took was a little beat and she was already swaying along.

“Next song is something something Cooler than me.” she remarked first Julian waited a moment and on finding herself correct cast a smug grin and a celebratory bounce. Dancing was inevitable now.

“We’ve haven’t talked about all that yet. YET. I was going to ask the next time we go out.” They spent a lot of time talking about everything but Michael. And Julian was okay with the fact that he didn’t seem comfortable talking about himself. She didn’t want to press things and upset him. But now that she was thinking about it, they couldn’t have an ACTUAL relationship if she didn’t get to know all of him. Past and present.

She hated when Leo’s snippy comments kind of bit her in the ass.

Muse is next. I LOVE this one.” That meant more dancing and worse, mouthing along with the lyrics of the song. She must have realized she was moments away from causing a scene, because she paused to take off the headphones and was glancing around the store to see if anyone was staring in their direction.

You like to talk about things, but don’t. I don’t think you can yet. Oh, here! You might like this.” She handed him the headphones and leaned over to press a few numbers in to the music box. For some reason the song made her think of Leo.

“I don’t like to-” His words died on his lips only a few bars into the song she’d selected. Something changed in his face, all of the laughter draining away. Julian had never seen him so still; Leo was always moving, talking with his hands, full of life. Now he was like a statue.

At least until he ripped the headphones off and shoved them into her hand.

Where their hands brushed, his touch was ice cold.

“Nobody asked you for a recommendation, Hollinger.” Voice flat. Bored. “Quit goofing off. We’re here for a reason.”

Julian realized instantly that she had plucked something personal, too personal, out of the ether and dropped it on him. This was something her friends were used to (or so they said), but Leo obviously hadn’t been prepared to be on the receiving end of her awkwardly ill-timed impressions. Nor had Julian been paying attention to what she was doing and who she was drawing from.

She was both sorry and not sorry at the same time, and it was frustrating that she wanted to apologize but also growl at him for being upset. She wanted to ask him what it was about. Why it was something to make him go from all hellfire and snark to icy cold. Julian hung the headphones back on their hook, and pushed his sunglasses back on top of her head. Her eyes examining him maybe a little too closely. He wasn’t upset with her. It wasn’t about her.

I shouldn’t be trying to read him at all.

Julian let out a slow breath. Trying to cut off or detach whatever it was that her linking directly to him. She set her sight on a middle-aged woman glowering at a bunch of dubstep albums. Probably trying to pick a gift for her kid. To focus on ANYTHING but Leo.

“We could be friends, you know. Actual friends. Talk about things other than how useful I can be.” she tilted her head in the direction of the woman. “Looking for a birthday present.”

“Why would I want to be friends with a cheeseburger?” he asked. The question was scathing, but he didn’t sound angry. He didn’t look angry, or upset. Or anything at all.

“Do the guy over by the romantic comedy Blu-rays.” He jerked his head toward a man who was thumbing through cases and muttering to himself. Mid-thirties, dressed in nice button-up. “What’s his story?”

Leo, meanwhile, slipped his hands into his pockets and made a show of perusing the nearby CDs. It might have convinced a casual observer, but to Julian it was obvious he wasn’t really looking at them.

“I don’t understand you,” he added after a moment of silence. “Do we need to be friends to complete your little soap opera family ensemble? You don’t even like me now; just wait until you get to know me. What are you trying to accomplish?”

She was going to ask him if he ACTUALLY thought of people as cheeseburgers, but decided that might lead down a road of no return. This must of been the switch he was talking about. Vampires could care or not care if they wanted… it was kind of scary. But she didn’t really believe he was switching off. Julian was trying really hard not to get frustrated and angry. It wasn’t entirely his fault. Or maybe it WAS. This act he was putting up… …And WHY was she still focusing on HIM?

Another deep breath. “He’s looking for a movie for his wife, but he likes them too. He’s not going to be in town this weekend, they’re going to watch it before he leaves. She’s going to have a baby soon — and why do you assume I am trying to create a little soap opera? Or that I don’t like you? Do you think I would put up with any of your crap if I didn’t? I wouldn’t. Not for Michael, not to learn, not for anything.”

“Why do you WANT me to hate you?”

“Because you should.”

He reached up and removed her new shades carefully from his face, folding the arms. The glasses rested in his supine hand. When she didn’t immediately move to take them, he reached out and pressed them into her palm, closing her fingers around them.

“Believe it or not, I’m not a nice person. I’m a murderer, Jules.” His eyes bore into hers. “I’ve killed before and I’ll do it again. Will you still want to be friends when I have our good buddy Walter’s blood all over my hands? Or… someone else’s?”

The whole time he’d been talking, Leo hadn’t let go of her hand. Bit by bit, warmth was seeping back in. Out of nowhere, he winced and turned his face away.

“This isn’t Midnight Dusk,” he said wryly. “Monsters don’t get redemption. They burn.”

You’re afraid. She could feel it, the longer she had physical contact, the stronger she could feel it. But before she could divine any further, the contact was broken. What could he possibly have to be afraid of? Julian knew she wouldn’t get a straight answer if she asked him.

He was pretty much admitting to murdering people. And for all she knew he could have done it without guilt or a care in the world. He said he was a monster, there was NO reason why she shouldn’t believe him. It just didn’t sit right.

“The great thing about this being real life is that we get to decide what we are.” she muttered. “You are what you want to be.” She pulled off his sunglasses, straightening her hair as she did it, then held them out for him.

“And I happen to be infuriatingly optimistic. SO. We’ll see, won’t we?”

Angela was kicked back on her living room sofa, a bowl of popcorn sitting on her lap and a Netflix movie paused on the screen. Right in the middle of a documentary of The Birth of Mankind Julian called, but if anyone asked what she was watching she’d swear it was Grey’s Anatomy.

“Uh huh? So she’s not being a total bitch about your friends anymore?” she asked, popping another piece in her mouth.

“She wasn’t being a bitch, she was just worried about my mental health. I guess. I don’t know. But yeah, she thinks it’s time for me to hang out with people again, and I’m kinda glad cause it’s really hard to say no to that woman.”

“Whatever, still think she’s a bitch. Like who the fuck tells this kid she SHOULDN’T lean on her friends for support? I dunno why you couldn’t be living here with me! My dad was totally okay with it.” Speaking of her Dad, he was gone for the night on some business trip. Angela kinda hoped he was out having some sort of wild affair and wasn’t stuck doing something lame and boring like sitting in his hotel room and ALSO watching documentaries on Netflix.

“Are you going to be mad about that forever?”

“Yeah. FOREVER. So then what happened?”

“LEO happened.”

Julian went on to explain in great detail about her adventure with Leo. All the while sounding more and more annoyed until her story ended with a cool and awkward drop off at her house. On the bright side, no one tried to kill them today, but on the other Julian was livid.

“You realize you call me to complain more about Leo than you do to talk about your ACTUAL boyfriend, right?” Angela asked, not bothering to keep the amusement out of her voice. She was rewarded with hearing Julian groan over the phone.

“That’s because my boyfriend isn’t actively driving me insane. I guess I do want to talk to him soon though. About him and about Leo and then maybe I can do something about whatever is wrong. We’re not going to be able to practice this psychic stuff if I blurt things out and Leo shuts down on me. You know I can’t tell when I’m doing it and it’s happening A LOT more now.”

“I know babe. Just give it some time. You’re a lot to take in when you’re bein’ all you. You’re probably freakin’ him out.”

“I’m freaking HIM out?”

“Uh, reading someone’s inner thoughts and dipping in to their probably deep dark and torrid past? Yeah, babe! You probably scare the shit out of him!”

Julian went silent for a moment. “So I’m actually scary? Is everyone afraid of me?”

Angela laughed, popping another few pieces of popcorn in her mouth. “No honey, we all KNOW you. We all know how you work. The only time you scare any of US is when you’re pissed off, and thank all the gods of all the nations in the world that you’re some kind of saint and that rarely happens. You really need to chill out sometimes, Jules.”

“Seeeeriously, do you have to call me Jules too?”

“It’s cute and I LIKE it! Are you feeling better now? You want me to come over or anything?”

“Naw, I’m okay. I’m gonna try to get some sleep. Enjoy your weird smart person show!”

“Damnit.” Angela hung up the phone with a scowl and settled back in to her couch grove. Julian really WAS scary. Couldn’t hide anything from that girl.

No sooner had she eased back onto the cushions, however, than there was a loud banging at the front door. Whoever it was, they weren’t being patient either; the knocking continued until Angela opened up.

Leo practically fell through the doorway.

“Jules says I should use the front door so I did,” he slurred, steadying a hand against the door frame. He gave Angela a wide, toothy smile. “Hey Mercy. ‘Sup.”

Put simply, Leo was a mess. His hair was sticking up at all angles, his clothes were rumpled, and he smelled like he’d taken a bath in a barrel of scotch. More horrifying was that his Mustang was parked halfway on Angela’s front lawn. He’d driven here.

What on earth is happening. Leo was the last person she was expecting to be banging on her door, and definitely not in a state like this. And most certainly not two seconds after she just got off the phone with Julian. Surprise, surprise that her friend’s name was the first thing out of his mouth. Her eyebrow quirked up and she scratched a hand through her hair.

“Lookit what the devil dropped on my doorstep. I knew you’d eventually succumb to my waiting arms.” She leaned glancing outside to see his car. Dad was going to be so pissed about his lawn.

Of course here was a golden opportunity.

“Before I invite you inside, did you bring me a present? I don’t let strange men in my house unless they come bearing gifts.”

“I brought me,” he replied, giving her a look that was probably supposed to be sultry. It might have been successful if he weren’t swaying and glassy-eyed. “And there’s- five or six more bottles of whatever in my trunk. How’s that for you?”

He started to take a step inside, but his foot stopped mid-stride. Like he’d suddenly had an attack of manners. Leo frowned, glancing down and then back up at Angela.

“You’re not much of a gift for me. For one, you’re drunk as shit.” she followed his glance downwards and she REALLY had to fight the smirk.

“Come on in, Leo. We’ll have a party while Dad’s away.” Angela stepped aside and let him stagger in, if he didn’t fall face first that is. Once he was safely through the threshold and not in the way of the door, she slammed it shut and locked it. She kinda preferred not having any OTHER late night guests if she could help it.

“First I have to ask why you have that much booze in your trunk.” she crossed the room and knelt down on the floor next to a cabinet. It was where her dad ‘hid’ the alcohol. The great thing about it was that he almost NEVER drank. So she could snatch bottles as she pleased and have them replaced long before he ever knew something was missing. She pulled out a bottle of bourbon and a couple glasses, then returned to the couch.

Angela plopped down back in her spot, nearly sending her popcorn tumbling all over the place. “…AND how much you’ve already drank. How much does it take to get a vampire drunk, anyway?”

“I drank… a liquor store.” He laughed and flopped down next to her on the couch. More popcorn went flying. “And then I brought the extra for when I got here.”

Leo rearranged himself, stretching out long limbs until he made himself comfortable. His feet ended up on her coffee table. Five seconds later he sat up and started wriggling out of his jacket.

“Fuck, it’s warm in here. Why is it so warm?” His head lolled back, tilting so he could glare at Angela as if she were personally responsible for the temperature. That didn’t last long, though, before he was grabbing a handful of popcorn and one of the shot glasses.

“What were you watching? Is it porn?” He tossed a piece of popcorn in the air and somehow- despite being drunk as shit- managed to catch it in his mouth.

“You drank a liquor store, that’s your blood vessels dilating to the point of exploding.” she remarked. She didn’t care about the extra mess, just glanced up at the TV where it was paused with some guy holding up a pitch fork and ready to rush some other dudes.

“As luck would have it, you didn’t catch me on porn night. …this would be some pretty shitty porn if it was.” she twist the lid off the bourbon and poured a generous helping in to his glass first, despite the fact he definitely didn’t need more. Then she poured a much more humble portion for herself. Angela snatched up the remote and hit play, making sure the volume was turned down low enough for conversation.

“What’s got you all pissy?” She didn’t bother to mention that she had some pretty good ideas. Angela just cast him a side-glance as she took a swallow from her glass and reached for a handful of popcorn.

“I’m not pissy, I’m pissed,” Leo replied smartly. “That’s British for wasted.”

The shot Angela had poured out for him quickly vanished down his throat. He slapped the glass back down and gestured for her to refill it.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” His eyes closed; when they opened, he was staring at Angela with a long-suffering, commiserating sort of expression. I know what you have to put up with, it seemed to say. “She thinks it’s so…

“What’s the word-” His hand waved in a little circle. “-easy. Because her little crush scenario is so romantic and perfect, she thinks it’s like that for everyone. That all you have to do is say and do the right things and try your best and everything is sunshine and rainbows forever.”

There we go. meat of the matter. Angela grabbed for the bottle to pour him some more, she went ahead and topped herself off while she was at it.

“The problem is that she knows exactly what she’s talking about, she just has no freaking idea what it’s like to actually have to DEAL with it.” Yeah, biiiiig swallow there. Angela had to refill one more time. If they were going to get through THIS kind of conversation she was gonna need it. She kept the bottle close by tucking it in between them in the couch cushions.

“She talks about the hard parts of relationships and getting through them like she’s been there before. But she HASN’T. I love her and I know she has the whole empathy thing going on sometimes so she gets the ‘feels’, but it’s not really the same is it?” she paused in the middle of her rant to look at him in confusion.

“What sort of weirdass conversation were you guys having? I thought you were supposed to be doing psychic voodoo?”

Even Leo looked kind of confused. His brows knit together, he tapped his fingers against the side of his shot glass and stared up at the ceiling.

“We were,” he answered, finally. “But we got sidetracked a couple times, because I don’t like seeing her waste her time on that bastard so I can’t keep my mouth shut. And then she had to go and stick her nose where it didn’t belong. I mean, I know she didn’t mean to. But of all the fucking things for her to pull out of thin air, it had to be Sadie.”

There was a certain weight in the way he said that name.

“Oh shit.” Angela said with both reverence and a surprising amount of compassion for two little words. “I’m sorry, babe. I bet that caught you right in the nuts.” He didn’t have to explain who Sadie was, she knew that was an ex just the tone of his voice and the context of conversation. Not just any ex, but THE ex. There was just this special sort of way people talked about THE ex.

“‘course, you’re a damn moron for not being prepared for this shit. I THOUGHT I gave you a good lesson the other day about how easily she chatters stuff out. But I guess I could have given you a more obvious warning to protect your own ass from it.” Angela shifted uncomfortably in her seat, pulling her legs up on the cushions and twisting so she was facing his direction. Now she had a scowl on her face and another shot of bourbon wasn’t wiping it off. “Not that you can. The more time you spend with her, the more she knows you. It’s kind of inevitable.” her hand ran through her hair to pull it back out of her face, and then her arm fell to rest on the back of the couch.

“Tells me yours and I’ll tell you mine.” she finally gave a half hearted smirk and leaned in close to whisper. “I almost told him I loved him. What a goddamned relief that I didn’t. Would have looked pretty damn stupid when he lied to me and took off.” she muttered in to her glass. “The whole thing seems kinda stupid now.”

Leo flicked her forehead.

“You are stupid,” he informed her, with a weird sort of reluctant affection. “Especially for someone so smart.”

His arm slipped up onto the back of the couch and insinuated around her shoulder, pulling her snug up against his side. He sighed and tipped his head back onto the cushions and for a few minutes, he was silent.


“She died.” All hints of Leo’s usual fire were gone. “I ruined her and then I- I got her killed.”

Angela had to resettle so she had easy access to the bourbon AND her bowl of popcorn, but curling up on the couch with him didn’t phase her a bit. She just grabbed her throw blanket to toss over her feet.

“You win. Mine’s just an ass.” Angela grimaced. Dead was pretty bad just by itself. But guilt piled on top of it was worse. She didn’t blame him for drinking an entire liquor store. From there it was a gloomy silence, filled only with the sounds of her show and the random moments she’d stuff a piece of popcorn in her mouth.

“I wasn’t there, so I can’t really know if it was your fault or not.” Angela finally said. “But you’ve got to get past it now don’t you. Or just tell Julian about it and get it over with. It would be easier, right? If you just threw it all out there and be done with it?”

Angela was treated to raised eyebrows and a snort for her suggestion. Leo polished off his shot before he answered, but just barely.

“She’d twist it around into proof of me being a good guy somehow. She’s already determined to do that as it is,” he complained. Annnd now he looked like a sulky cat. “She yelled at me because she wants to be friends. Why can’t she just leave me alone? When did I say I wanted to be her friend?”

Angela laughed out so hard that she nearly knocked her popcorn off her lap. “I taught her that, I am SO not even sorry!” She was still giggling even when she had to pick up piece of popcorn to drop back in to her bowl. Chuckling deep enough her shoulders were shaking.

“You need a friend, you stupid ass. Even super villains have -A- friend. And she makes such a good one, because she’ll take you as you are, even if you are the shittiest person on the planet. She even sticks up for Margrit, and I don’t know why ANYONE sticks up for Margrit.” The amusement died away after a moment though, a sad pout crossed her features.

“She’s going to trust the wrong person one day and it’s going to break her heart. There’s not gonna be anything we can do about it. Ugh. Having friends sucks, nevermind, you are totally right! It’s probably better to ditch now before you like her. …Y’know, more than you do already.” she dropped her head back, kind of annoyed and kind of amused. It was inevitable that Julian was going to learn the hard way that people were assholes. She found it funny that Leo was apparently learning that some people weren’t.

“I don’t like her,” protested Leo. “She’s annoying. And you already claimed being my one friend. So you’re the one who gets me showing up to drink on your couch.”

He started to refill his glass, but it slipped out of his fingers and rolled across the carpet. He stared for a long moment before shrugging and taking a swig straight from the bottle.

“…Don’t tell her I like her,” he muttered. “I can’t help it if she’s funny. When she’s not… being all not-her. That shit is gross.”

Angela sighed. The carpet was going to smell like booze, hopefully she’d have all this cleaned up and Leo out of the house before her Dad arrived home. As far as he was concerned, she was still his little angel. Having a drunk guy on their couch would NOT go over well.

“Oh gods, I know, right? She’s been weird for MONTHS and I know some of it’s the obvious stuff, but it’s still like… I don’t know what’s wrong with her.” Angela pried the bottle out of his fingers and passed him the bowl of popcorn. He REALLY didn’t need to drink any more. Even if he WAS a real vampire, surely they too had to have a limit somewhere.

“She’s been better since you guys got to town, in some ways at least. But she’s still kind of… off. Can psychics get bodysnatched? Possessed? …lets not ask her if she’s possessed though, she’d flip her shit.”

When she replaced his booze with popcorn, Leo made a face, but he shoved a handful of popcorn in his mouth anyway.

His reaction to Angela’s closing statement was a lot stronger.

“She is not better because of Michael,” he practically yelled, all indignant. “Not really. You just- watch. Watch them. You’ll see.”

“Don’t worry, babe. I’m already on the case.” Maybe not right that MOMENT, seeing as she was babysitting a drunk guy for the night. But it was Angela’s mission to make sure Julian’s life didn’t suck. Julian had Mama-Beared her for the first half of their lives, now it was Angela’s turn to return the favor. Maybe then she’d set her attention on Leo and fix his sadsack life too.

Angela settled back, resting a head on his shoulder. The bottle of booze was tucked out of his reach on the other side of the couch and hidden under a cushion. “You guys are so alike, it’s hilarious.” she muttered and leaned forward to grab her remote before settling back again. The TV’s volume was returned up to where it belonged.

“Take a nap. …and don’t throw up. We have to get you out of here by noon tomorrow, or Julian’s going to be YOUR responsibility.”

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