Black Sun 012: Trust (Original Draft)

Black Sun 012: Trust (Original Draft)

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“I love you,” she whispered, placing her hands against his cheeks. They were so warm. He nipped at the tips of her fingers, mouthing nonsense against her thumb, pressing a kiss to the center of her palm. “Be with me forever, Leo.”

“I will,” he promised. “God, I don’t want anything else. I’ll never want anyone else.”

She pulled away, her dark eyes turning darker. A drop of blood rolled down from between her eyelashes.

“Liar,” she called him, as her forehead caved in and crumbled into ashes in his arms. “You’ve killed me all over again.”

He was awake in an instant.

Normally, when Leo got up, he was up; he’d been like that even before his cousin decided to pull him into his stupid bullshit all those years ago. But this time he was taking a little while to get a bearings on what the hell had happened, where he was, what time it was…

Aaaand then it hit him.

Julian collapsing. Caleb and his pack showing up way too late to the party, just in time for Silvia to get her ass chewed out and for Big Bro to order one of the wolf kids to give Leo (and Julian the unconscious lump) a lift back to the Hollinger family home. He’d put Julian to bed, and then he’d planned on hoofing it back to the Hightower place. Except he didn’t remember doing that…

He blinked against the bright light of the sun that was filtering through the windows. It had to be noon at least. And he was… fuck.

He was still on Julian’s bed like a complete asshole creep. And she was right there next to him, the only difference being that she was under the covers and he was on top of them. What the fuck was wrong with him?

Maybe he could get out of there before she woke up.

“Stop moving.” she hissed in a barely audible mumble.

He was a few minutes too late.

Not that she was entirely conscious again. Moments prior she had awoken, plenty of confusion on how and when she got home and back in to bed. Then there was the confusion on how and why Leo was in her bed. She had been glad to see him there at first, and then was mentally cursing herself for it. Wanting to talk to him as soon as possible did not mean she should be having any ‘Oh, good!’ feelings about waking up with Leo. In the end she couldn’t bring herself to shove him out, though, and she dozed off again.

Now that he was moving about, it was becoming painfully obvious that she hurt all over. Falling in dance class and tumbling off a ladder was going to hurt enough by itself. Why, oh why, did she have to go running, walking, swinging candlesticks, punching werewolves, commanding ghosts and fighting witches. Why did she even think she could do all that.

Oh right. Because this stupid asshole said I could.

Julian finally blinked her eyes open, with a look that suggested she wasn’t a morning person and very liable to hit him if he DID move. She was laying on her side facing him, with one of her hands stuffed under her pillow and the other now tapping her fingers against the top side. Even her fingers hurt, why would- Right. Punched a werewolf.

“Did Silvia get home?”

So much for that plan.

“You’re the Alpha,” he told her automatically, shifting just enough that he wasn’t stuck where his arm was losing sensation. His eyes lifted to the ceiling, because. Yeah. He wasn’t fucking stupid; he knew he couldn’t look at her right now.

But he was fine, other than that.

Maybe yesterday he’d been acting all strung out, but that had been yesterday. Now that the blood moon was past, he wasn’t about to bite or fuck anything that moved and- even better- he didn’t have to give a shit about anything. Or anyone.

Leo wasn’t good at giving a shit about anyone. So he didn’t bother.

“Last time I saw the puppy, she was climbing all over her brother and ignoring that he was yelling at her.” He folded his hands behind hid head. “I’m pretty sure she’s fine, other than being grounded for life.”

Julian rolled her eyes. Of course he’d remember the alpha thing. Now he was going to bring that out whenever he was being a pain.

She tilted to look behind her, grimacing at the soreness, and then being surprised to see that it was only just past noon. She was not ready to be awake yet. …But this was probably for the best. She reached over to grab her phone off the nightstand. Yep. Dozens of messages from Angela. Most of them were just her name in caps. It was one lost in the middle that made her blink.

Margrit told the entire school that you’ve got yourself TWO boyfriends. Had yourself some fun last night, did you? >;]~

Groaning, she tossed her phone to the foot of the bed and dragged the covers up over her head.

“I have to talk to you.” she grumbled, her voice muffled under blankets. “I don’t know where to start yet. But for now just… thank you.”

“For what?” he demanded, before he could stop himself. He was glaring at her incredulously, his eyebrows furrowed and his head jerking up off the mattress.

Of all the stupid nonsense she could start spouting, this had to take the cake. What was wrong with this girl? She was so-

“Don’t you dare,” he told her. “I didn’t do jack shit to be thanked for last night, so don’t you start going on about how I somehow made it all better or whatever crap you’re going to say.”

Seriously? He was going to get pissy about a thank you? SHE was the only one that had the right to be pissy at the moment. Julian pulled the blanket off her head, tilting to glare at him.

“I don’t know, how about thanks for not chewing on me and then ditching me in the woods with a bunch of werewolves, ghosts, and witches saying ‘Sorry, Jules. Sink or swim.’?” And Michael. Julian didn’t even know where to start with Michael yet. She was going to have to get through Leo first and then talk to Angela before she could even begin to work out what she was feeling there.

“You did though. Make it better. Fuck me if I knew why. You spent half the time being WEIRD and don’t try to tell me it was all the Blood Moon, because that’s not it. You LIKE reminding me about how terrible you are. So why didn’t you tell me about Violet from the start? We would have saved so much time and maybe I would’ve had something better for Walter than a youtube video.”


He could still see her face if he-

“I dunno,” he heard himself say, felt his shoulders shrug. “I forgot. It was a long time ago. Can’t expect me to remember everyone I’ve killed.”

The kid was dead. No point in feeling sad about it. It wouldn’t bring her back. That was the whole point, wasn’t it? That Leo didn’t want that.

Michael, though… Somehow, someway, Leo would make sure that Michael paid. For last night AND for the night that the kid died.

Julian squinted at him. “I think I am getting better at telling when someone is lying to me.” she rose up on her elbows, tilting her head as she eyed him. “Or are you trying to shut down on me again?” That might be it. If that vision of him and Violet was any hint, that would be something to shut off.

She sighed and rolled her eyes again, finally sitting up all the way and then shifting to half lean, half climb over him to reach the small dresser that sat on his side. Julian pulled open a drawer and rummaged around in it’s contents until she pulled out a hidden chocolate bar. The dresser was closed with shove and she plopped back on her side to fight with the wrapper.

“I’m not going to let you do that anymore, by the way. You made the mistake of saying you were my friend yesterday. Now you’re stuck with me until I die.” A square of chocolate was popped in her mouth and then he received the most wicked of smiles. A very devious, very wicked smile. “We’ve already had a sleepover, now we get to talk about feelings and the people we want to punch in the face.”

Somewhere between Julian pretty much crawling over him and that smirk on her face, Leo’s brain shut off. It was the only explanation for what happened next.

“I want to kill your boyfriend,” he blurted. “Actually kill him.”

Michael wasn’t here. Leo could say whatever he damn well pleased. Or he should be able to, anyway. No, he could. Fuck Michael.

But kind of fuck her right now too. (She wasn’t doing anything wrong. Not really.) Why did she have to talk to him like he was-

“What do you think you want to know, Jules?” he asked, voice thick with frustration. His fingers were curling into fists around her comforter as he shoved himself into a more upright position, turning his head to face her. “What exactly do you want to ask the guy who hates your boyfriend’s guts and kills little girls? What feelings do you think I’ve got?”

“Finding out you want to kill my boyfriend is a good start.” It was hard to tell if that was sarcasm or sincerity. She definitely wasn’t too sure about it herself. There was a snap as she broke off another piece of chocolate and popped it in her mouth. Chewing it was a lot better than biting in to her cheek. Julian examined his face, as if looking for the answer to his question.

Finally she let out a sigh, plopping backwards against her pillow and glaring up at the ceiling. Her stare focused on the light fixture. She didn’t think she could talk about Michael with him, but now it was OUT THERE and she wasn’t going to see Angela for hours.

“I thought he killed her, you know. Not thought, really. Believed it was him. Not a single shadow of doubt that he was responsible. And I was wrong. And it’s stupid. It’s not like I’m disappointed or anything like that, I just- What else am I wrong about? You? Myself? I can’t even trust ME now.” The scowl was gone when she finally glanced at him again.

“I don’t like secrets and I don’t like lies. …and the two of you have pretty much spun me upside down in every way possible on that front. So maybe I’m asking because I need to know who to trust.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “You made yourself available first by fortune of passing out in my room like a dumbass.”

He wanted to tell her the truth, dammit. He’d wanted to tell her last night, when it happened. But of course the minute he tried, the words stuck in his throat like balls of cotton, making him swallow in reflex and really, really want a glass of water.

“You can’t tell her anything I’ve done. It’s my place to tell her. Do you understand, Leo?” Dark eyes sucking him in like black holes. That familiar sensation of drifting away from himself. “Don’t try to turn her against me. Don’t drag her into this.”

“Well Jules, you’ve got me where you want me. Fire away with your interrogation.” No point in trying to dodge it now. Let her ask. When he didn’t answer her, maybe she’d finally realize she was wasting her time. “Unless you’re too chicken to actually come out with it.”

“That’s funny, because I get the impression that you’re the one that’s scared. With your What do you want from me, Jules and your I’m an evil murderer, Jules. That might’ve actually worked if you weren’t so-” Funny? Entertaining? Fun? Goddamnit, these are not the words. “YOU all the time.”

Of course. She was also kinda WAS chicken. There she went chewing in to her lip again. The one question she did want to ask was the one question Michael TOLD her to ask, and that she knew Leo was not going to respond well to.

“Hrrm.” The indecision was all over her face. But she rose up to an elbow to catch his eyes with hers. “Don’t freak out. Or walk out. Or shutoff. But…” She took in a deep breath and just said it quickly.

“He told me to ask you about Sadie. That he wanted me to hear it from you.”


Leo pressed pause, taking a step back and looking at it logically before he could do something stupid.

It was the most obvious trap in Trapsville, for a start. But for the life of him, Leo could not put his finger on what Michael’s angle was here. Was he banking on Leo refusing to answer? Did he plan to contradict him and use it to undermine Leo’s cred with Julian? Was he just being a sadistic dickbag? Or did he think that showing Julian a bit of honesty would win her back over?

If it was that last one, boy could Leo make that backfire.


“Sadie was…” Fuck. That’s right. He’d forgotten that he didn’t talk about Sadie for a reason. “She was a girl dumb enough to fall in love with a vampire. And I was dumb enough to love her back.”

Julian blinked. And then she laughed. She SHOULDN’T have laughed and immediately she was wrangling that back under control and looking really sorry for it. There was a cough and a twist of her mouth, before she could breathe and speak.

“Sorry..! It’s just. Suddenly your lectures on life and love with vampires makes sense.” And she knew already it did not end well. Any last hints of amusement faded from her face. This was the one that messed up Leo in a big way. Michael’s biggest regret? Or was it his biggest mistake?

“So you were in love. Like how much in love? The sweet accident? The lusty obsession? The big destiny forever soulmates love?”

“I loved her enough to make her a vampire when she asked me to,” he told her shortly, fighting the stiffness that threatened to lock up all his muscles when Julian laughed.

He closed his eyes. That was easier.

“I met Sadie in 1943. That was the year they passed the Magnuson and started letting the Chinese back into the country. But she was…” He laughed. “Chinatown was full of bachelors. Not a whole lot of pretty Chinese girls to go around. So Sadie was smuggled in for one of the tongs, for the only reason anyone smuggles women anywhere. It was total chance that Michael and I were there that night. I found her hiding in a wardrobe; she was terrified until she found out I wasn’t the guy they’d sent her to. And I just… stole her out of there, like an idiot.

“I’ll give Michael that one,” he added, rubbing a hand over his face. “He told me I was an idiot for it as soon as he found out what I’d done, and he was right.”

Made her a vampire… Now there was a whole world of relationship complications in her head that she hadn’t yet considered.

“You absconded with a girl. You still seem to make a habit of that.” How amusing and very Leo. She could even easily imagine Michael giving the lecture, with his disapproving stare when he decides not to argue it, and you do exactly what he was hoping you wouldn’t choose.

“I don’t agree…” she mumbled. “It was probably exactly the right thing to do at the time. Despite all the circumstances.” Of course, she didn’t know how to explain that without sounding like a crazy psychic, or like a hopeless romantic. Both of which probably fell under silly dumb girl territory.

Julian gestured her hand for him to continue, and snapped off a piece of her chocolate to offer him.

He didn’t need to voice his Seriously? aloud. He just had to look at her, then at the chocolate- and then he sighed and took it anyway.

“It was… instant,” he said, when he’d finished chewing and swallowed. The chocolate tasted sickly sweet on the back of his tongue. “Love at first sight is bullshit, but chemistry isn’t. Sadie and I just fit. She came with us everywhere, but she was worried because… she was getting older, and I wasn’t. And she wanted to be able to protect herself so that I wouldn’t have to be there to keep her safe all the time. So she asked me to turn her. I… wasn’t supposed to.”

Without really thinking about it, he reached out and grabbed Julian’s hand, turning it over and rubbing his thumb over her wrist.

“Michael didn’t think I could control myself, let alone a newborn vampire,” he explained, a humorless grin flashing across his face. “But I broke the rules. Shocker, right?”

“You break the rules? I never would have guessed.” she almost laughed again, and even had to force back a grin. Sadie’s concerns were going to be her concerns one day. She would get older and Michael wouldn’t. After awhile it was bound to get awkward. Julian could barely handle being psychic, would she even consider being a vampire? Would Michael ask?

Julian wiggled her fingers until his thumb got close enough for her to snap the trap. Once she did, there was the faintest of victorious smirks. She held tight. He wasn’t going to get loose.

“I’m guessing things didn’t work out as planned. Was Michael right? Or was Michael mad.” She was having a hard time picturing him angry. In fact the only time she had ever seen him outside of mild disapproval or disappointment was last night. Even that night he met Walter he seemed to have everything in hand.

“Both,” he answered after a moment’s hesitation, glancing down at where she had straight-up kidnapped his hand and entertaining a moment of inner debate.

You should pull away.

But I don’t want to. It’s cool, no big deal. She started it.

Bullshit. It’s not cool.

I could probably freak her out enough to get her to stop. I could just…

Yeeeeah, that’s a terrible idea.

“Sadie took a little too well to being a vampire,” he finally managed to haul himself out of his incredibly stupid solo argument long enough to go on. “I thought I could get her to chill out, to go back to being the Sadie I knew. But Michael didn’t share my confidence about that. So… You know how Michael’s the one who turned me, and I turned Sadie? That’s kind of a thing with vampires; we literally have to do what our sires tell us, especially when we’re newer.”

He propped the elbow of his free arm up on the pillow, sitting up to look down at her. He smiled lopsidedly, more like he was baring his teeth than anything.

“Michael made me keep her still while he killed her.” And there it was. “Sire thralled me to sire thrall her. Neat trick.”

She froze still, squeezing his thumb even tighter as every single thought and reaction she had went screaming across her face. Sadie took too well to being a vampire? Lots of things could have gone wrong there. She may not have been the kind of person he thought. Or she could have just gotten lost and hadn’t found her way back to herself and died before ever getting the chance. Died by sire-thralling.

Sire thralling.

Something was clicking place. She gestured at Leo with his own hand, not even realizing how absurd that was. “He can sire thrall you whenever he wants? He could make you tell me what he wanted. Or make you not tell me.” HAD Michael recently sire thralled Leo? Was there a moment she missed? Where she was so preoccupied and distracted with everything else that she wasn’t noticing the little things?

That was pretty much every single moment of her life since she met them.

She was staring at his shirt now, her mouth twisting to the side in irritation. “That’s not gonna fly anymore either. I don’t- …I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it. But I almost figured out how to weaponize ghosts, I’ll think of something.”

“…and don’t lackadaisy grin about it. I’m surprised you haven’t found a way around it by now yourself. After Angela insisted you were so smart too.”

Goddamn, she really was far from stupid.

That was one reason he liked her.

This was a terrible idea. He was going to regret this no matter what happened in the next five minutes. But fuck if he wasn’t still all tied in knots even when he shouldn’t be anymore. He was supposed to be fine. …And she wasn’t supposed to be sitting here essentially promising to protect him from Michael.

Leo leaned down to speak right against her ear, his lips barely moving around a whisper. If anyone were listening, watching, they wouldn’t be able to tell what he said; the words were for Julian alone.

“I have. Don’t tell him.” He swallowed. “It doesn’t always work.”

The very first thing she did was smirk wide. Really, ridiculously wide. And once she realized it wasn’t just because he trusted her with something important, her cheeks flushed pink. Thankfully, he was not in a position to SEE these flitterings of emotion in her features.

I am in trouble, trouble, trouble.

“Good.” That was more breathy than breezy. Did she like Leo? Of course she did. She liked him from the start. But now she was thinking about kissing him right in the middle of discussing conspiracies about her boyfriend. What. is. happening. She couldn’t move. If she moved he’d know. That would be a disaster on a thousand levels.

Think of something horrible. Oh right, dead bodies, dead bodies. Ghost army. Walter.

That seemed to work enough that shifted away, but with one look at his face and blue eyes, that was it.

Whelp, I’m going to hell.

“After last night, I am pretty sure I can make anything work now.” she finally managed to get out. Still going to hell though. She was a terrible, horrible bad person.

“I could just be screwing with you,” he pointed out, stretching his legs and propping himself back at a still-not-entirely-respectable distance. He tilted his head, blinking slowly. “You know I wouldn’t hesitate to make Michael look bad, especially to you.”

The only thing that had made last night bearable had honestly been Julian’s no-touching rule. Watching Michael try to paw and kiss her had been fucking awful. …More than usual.

Leo was so screwed.

“You could be.” she admitted. Julian finally released his thumb to snap off another piece of chocolate. Breaking contact was good. A few confusing feels was normal, right? Everyone practically almost died last night, this was the first time she was having a complicated real person conversation with Leo, and she had some seriously low blood sugar to top it off. She was mixing up feelings of relief, gratitude and friendship with kissy things. Had to be.

“I’ll find out eventually. In the meantime I’ll have to make sure you don’t kill each other. Before I was dating vampires, taunting witches and talking to ghosts, I was keeping a pack of girls from destroying all of Silent Pines. The two of you will be easy.” Julian finally sat up fully and crawled to the edge of the bed to snatch back up her phone. Then she slipped off the mattress and on to her feet. And holy crap did she really hurt all over.

Once she crossed the room, she paused to lean against the door frame. “I’m taking a shower and then I have to go get food, because there’s nothing in this stupid house. So you’re free to escape. Maybe if you’re good I’ll tell you what happens with Michael.”

With a flash of a grin, she disappeared down the hall, only to return marching back in to the room a split second later with a peculiar look on her face. Julian shrugged off his jacket and tossed it over his face. “That’s yours!” Then she spun on her heels and was gone again, furiously shooting Angela a quick text.


A good two hours later Angela swerved in to an empty grocery store parking space. The blue Dodge Charger was practically vibrating from the maxed out volume of Ariana Grande’s kittenish voice and turned up bass. Her stereo system was the only new and working part of her damned car, and it took her three months of agonizing work experience at a mall kiosk to get it. Which was probably why she was sitting there enjoying the rest of her song, despite the fact she could see Julian waiting at the automatic doors getting increasingly impatient. Angela waited until Julian was stomping a foot and mouthing some pretty unladylike things at her before she snickered and finally cut the ignition.

Angela had to force shove her way out of the car and slam the door extra hard to get it back closed again. She leaned in threw the open window (it was stuck open forever until she got a new window crank) to grab her coat. She was just getting her second arm in when she met Julian at the doors.

“You took FOREVER.”

“You’re making me skip school for groceries? I had to sit through AP Chemistry II before I could ditch. Not that I’m complaining. I don’t know what asshole thought it was a good idea to stick me in with a bunch of stupid seniors, but I hope they choke on their holiday bonus. If I have to listen to Margrit attempt to explain stoichiometry to me one more time I’m going to stab her with one of her own gel pens.”

“Food doesn’t just magically appear in my fridge. And you knoooow that’s not why I need you!”

“It does in mine.” Angela paused long enough to give Julian a good look over. “You look like you finally got some sleep though. How’d THAT happen?” she pointed at Julian’s bruised hand.

Julian hid her hand behind her back, then turned to lead the way in to the store. She snatched up one of the bright red baskets. “That’s part of a really, really, really long story. I’m not sure where to start…”

“We’ll start with why Margrit’s telling everyone you have two boyfriends.”

“Uuughh, sometimes she’s the woooooorst.” Julian complained. At least it was the easiest thing to relay. She explained about running in to Leo, how Margrit kidnapped him like she does to EVERYONE, the agonizingly awkward silence, and her embarrassing but convenient fall off the ladder that finally got him talking to her again. Once she got to the part where she offered her home to Leo, Angela started cackling.

“Haa! So you invited a guy that’s not your boyfriend to spend the night with you? That’s nauuuughty, Julian. I’m so proud.”

“Not WITH me, damnit! Just THERE ’cause he needed a place to stay! He fell asleep on the couch!”

“Whatever, it’s still hilarious. So you made nice with Leo, and then what? Forgot he was there and socked him during your midnight gremlin snack binge?” Angela reached for what looked like a giant bag of marshmallows shaped like ghosts for Halloween. Julian paled and slapped her hand away from them. The blond pouted and rubbed her hand.

“No… I went to bed and dreamed like I always do. Then everything got freaking scary.”

Explaining the dream always took extra time. Angela liked to know every single detail, down to even the most minute and insignificant things. She didn’t let Julian move on until she was satisfied. Then things got INTERESTING. Julian was trying to explain about the TV flickers and Leo freaking out without actually saying what was happening. Angela finally rolled her eyes.

“You can SAY vampire. I know he is. Michael too, by the way, so you can stop worrying about it.”

“You do?”

“Uh huh. You and Leo both were pretty shitty at keeping that one a secret.” The look on Julian’s face was worth it. Julian couldn’t keep a secret to save her life. “Now let’s go over that again with vampire vision.”

And Julian did. From Leo looking ready to eat her, to Michael’s unexpected appearance and very hot kiss, to the boys trying to tear each other apart while she threatened them with a candlestick. The story was momentarily derailed when Angela wanted to argue that fruit was NOT a good substitution for cinnamon rolls, she didn’t want to come over to Julian’s house and gnaw on a damn pineapple.

“So a Blood Moon is pretty much just astrological ecstasy for vampires. Feeding, Fighting, Fucking. That’s good to know.” Angela finally said. She also won the pineapple battle. Cinnamon rolls went in to the basket. “Heheh. You know Michael was there to get laid, right? No wonder you’re freaking, your first boyfriend is on the fast track to sexville.”

Julian nearly stumbled and dropped her basket. “Uhm, actually…”


“He’s technically not my first boyfriend.”

Angela had a hard time believing this, and it was clear by the raise of her eyebrow and the way she leaned against the freezer while Julian tried to avoid making eye contact with her. “And when did you have time to have a secret boyfriend between hanging out with us, dance classes, color guard practice, and school?”

Julian’s gaze went to the ceiling and she almost cringed. “You know when Owen and I were always studying for that summer school class, and going jogging, and hanging out..”

“HOLY SHIT. WHAT. NOT OWEN DEWHITT!” The entire store heard Angela shout, and she didn’t even have the sense to look sorry about it. “Are you fucking kidding me! He has the personality of a box of slightly sweaty rocks. I SO woulda had something to say about that.”

“And that’s EXACTLY why I didn’t want to tell you.” Julian accused, looking offended on Owen’s behalf. “Or Margrit either for that matter! You both have opinions about EVERYTHING and have to get involved and it’s not like we were in love or anything. We were hanging out all the time, and it was comfortable, and one night we just sort of kissed and didn’t STOP kissing. A few weeks later we both realized it was fun, but not really US, I guess. By then Margrit was talking about going after him so I didn’t want to ruin something.”

Angela was STILL making terrible, grossed out faces. “I can’t believe the first time you surprise me it’s about OWEN. I was REALLY hoping for something more exciting than that.”

“Vampires aren’t surprising or exciting?”

“When I first met you, you were talking to a ghost. Come on at me with your supernatural bullshit, not gonna shock me a bit. BOYS, though. Yeeeees. That’s the good stuff.”

Now it was Julian looking dubious. Angela had no idea. “Funny you say that…”

They reached the ghost portion of the story. While they grabbed the last of her supplies and went through checkout, she told her about the ghosts trying to talk to her. About her frustration with Michael and the trashing of Leo’s car. They were shoving bags in to the backseat when Dylan came up. Angela cracked the obligatory joke about werewolves, and was as expected not surprised.

Then Julian was hesitating.

“Don’t get quiet about it now, Julian. Just keep spitting it out.”

“Caleb was there.”

Angela went dead silent. Staring frigid at Julian from over the roof of her car. “Caleb.”

“And he’s a werewolf.”

“…get in the fucking car.”

Julian instantly regretted telling her before they got back to her house. She barely got her seat belt on before Angela was tearing out of the parking lot at speeds that were definitely going to kill somebody. There was no way she could complain about it either, as the second she tried to open her mouth, Angela turned up the volume on her stereo even LOUDER. Julian didn’t even know it could GET that loud. She spent the ride watching Angela grind her teeth, and clench her hands so tight on the steering wheel that her knuckles were white. Angela even ran a red light, earning the finger from a pissed off guy in a truck.

Once they did reach Julian’s house, miraculously in one piece, Julian nearly fell out of the car trying to escape it. Angela still wasn’t speaking as they gathered up the bags out of the backseat. Not when they entered the house. And not when she was furiously helping to put things away and slamming every cabinet door she got her hands on.

Finally, she spoke, leaning forward with both her hands on the kitchen counter. She still wasn’t looking at Julian but at least she wasn’t grinding her teeth anymore. “Okay. Caleb is in town. And a werewolf. Continue.” I need a drink. Why there fuck is there no booze in this house.

Julian slid on to a stool across the counter from her, and leaned on her elbows. “I’m pretty sure it’s a family thing, the werewolf stuff. I spotted a couple of his cousins. And Silvia popped up. He’s a pack leader or something. Alpha wolf? She’s NOT a werewolf, by the way, but was running loose in the woods trying to get one of them to bite her. And none of them are supposed to be able to turn during a Blood Moon, so they were pretty confused.”

Angela’s fingers tapped on the counter. “Did he say anything about me?”

“No… The stuff going on last night was pretty big, we couldn’t talk about you. …I DID punch him in the face though.” Julian held up her bruised hand.

Angela blinked. The tension finally left her body and she melted on to the counter, clonking her head on to her arms. Once she finally looked up, she no longer had that murderous expression, and was giving Julian a chiding look. “You shouldn’t have. His jaw is made of steel, I imagine being a werewolf probably makes it even worse. You’re lucky you didn’t break something.”

“I don’t think his head even moved. He just stood there like a statue as I walked away trying not to cry about it.” she admitted. Julian tilted her head, casting a hazel-eyed squint. “…Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I will be. It is what it is. Alright, AFTER you so heroically punched my asshole exboyfriend, what happened?”

Julian let out a breath. The Angela-traumatizing part of the story was now out of the way. The rest would be slightly easier. How her impressions and feelings were getting stronger and coming easier, without her even having to think about it. Silvia’s adorable reappearance and chatterings about alpha stuff, which Angela found hilarious and commented that it explained everything about Silvia why she thought Margrit was so cool. Then Michael, Leo and Violet. What she expected, what actually happened. Every feeling and every detail, because this one was important.

Angela stayed quiet, seeming to mull it all over in her head. “That’s some crazy shit. And you thought it would be Michael, why?”

“I don’t know. Cues from them? Gut feeling? Michael was acting really weird about it the entire time. He really, honestly seemed scared to have me involved, and was hesitant to deal with the ghosts at all. I wouldn’t of been there at all if he had the choice. And Leo was taunting him every chance he got. Leo knew Michael didn’t want to talk to those ghosts. Then suddenly Leo is the one admitting he killed Violet? And I KNOW it was the truth, because it just was, and Violet sure didn’t say otherwise. But everything about it felt so wrong. Like I missed something important.”

“You probably did.” Angela replied, resting her chin in her palm, frowning with concern. “It’s not your fault, though, Julian. A lot of shit was happening. You’ve only been actively aware of psychic crap for a few weeks now.”

“I know. But now I’m not sure who or what to trust. They’re keeping all this shit from me and now I can’t even trust my feelings about people?”

Angela laughed so suddenly that Julian was both startled and offended. She started scowling, and Angela had to contain herself and apologize. “Oh hon, I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you. Well… not how you think I am. It’s just that I don’t think you have ever had to deal with complicated people, or liars, or actual real genuine assholes your ENTIRE life. None of us ever bother lying to you, cause we don’t have to. Me and Margrit are fucking shits sometimes and you handle it and you still love us. Even if we did, you’d end up figuring it all out before long anyway.”

“You’re losing your shit right now, because for the first time ever people are fucking with YOU. And you don’t know what to do about it. It’s the funniest shit.”

Julian didn’t find that funny herself. “No the hell it isn’t! I’m having an existential life crisis here! And it gets WORSE. That’s not even the end! Oh for fuck’s sake, stop laughing like a bitch.”

Getting cursed at just made Angela laugh even harder. Because there was nothing more awesome than Julian losing her cool and getting pissy. It took several rounds of giggling and trying not to crack again when Julian crossed her arms glaring before Angela simmered down. She had to shift away from the counter to get a glass of water. “Alright, alright, I’m done! How does it get worse, fearless alpha?”

Julian growled flung a roll of paper towels across the kitchen at her. Angela nearly started laughing all over again when she ducked.

“Fuuuuck yooou.” hissed Julian. She launched in to the next part of the story anyway. The realization that Silvia might be the one in danger. Her texting with Leo that made Angela’s eyebrow raise again. The vision of Violet and Leo, which had BOTH her eyebrows raising. Julian could see little wheels turning in Angela’s head at that point, but was glad the girl no longer looked ready to laugh. Her next vision and knowing Walter would be there. Their very clever plan of attack, and even more visions. Again, Angela wanted to know those in detail, leaning on the counter and sipping her water while she listened.

In fact, Julian waited until Angela was taking a swallow before mentioning the video clip and playing it for her.

Angela almost died from choking and it was so worth it.

The rest was a quick breeze of events. It took no time at all to tell her, but while it had all been happening it seemed like time was crawling. Battle of words with the witch and finding out who it was. All of the ghosts. Walter showing up. Their breaking the spell and maybe saving the day? Walter’s potential saving of Leo and the deal to walk away. It was all over when she passed out.

“Holy shit.” Angela said after a period of stunned silence. “Okay, I get why you’re being more neurotic than usual then. I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit, though. Those guys have been alive long enough to SURELY have done this shit before, but you took point and saved their asses like a straight up boss. No wonder Silvia is hero worshiping you.”

“I was horrified and ready to throw up. I’m surprised I didn’t, there was a lot of blood and every time I picture it I still get a little sick. And to top it all off, I think I owe Walter a favor now… I don’t know what Leo did to himself while trying to break that spell, but whatever it was Walter fixed it with a wiggle of his dirtbag fingers. Calling it a gesture of good faith was a load of crap. He could have hurt us if he wanted to.”

Angela agreed, but didn’t want to say it out loud to Julian. She was having a hard enough time as it was. “It’s over now, though. You’ve helped them find their missing friends, as shitty as it ended. You don’t have to be involved in what they do anymore. You can just focus on the boyfriend drama.” Julian mouth twisted up and Angela stared. “For fuck’s sake, there’s more? I thought you passed out!”

“I DID! But then I woke up with LEO in my bed.”

“What the fuuuuuuck. Do I have to kill him? Because I LIKE Leo, I really don’t want to kill him.”

So Julian explained her conversation with Leo. Everything about Sadie, which Julian was surprised to know Angela had a hint about. The sire thralling bit, minus Leo’s admission that he could fight it sometimes. That was a secret she needed to keep. Angela got that look again, puzzle pieces coming together in her head. But then Julian had to go and blurt out that for a split second she wanted to kiss Leo.

Angela laughed so hard she hit the floor rolling. Julian sat stiffly in her stool, staring up at the ceiling and wondering why she thought telling Angela was a good idea.

“Oh god! GOD! THIS IS PRICELESS. YOU ARE THE BEST THING EVER. Oh god, I’m dying. Julian I can’t breathe.”

“Good. I hope you die down there. I’m HORRIBLE.”

More laughter. Angela climbed back to her feet, trying to swallow and barely getting the words out. “You- …heee. Are you in LOVE with Michael?”

Julian looked confused. “Um… it’s kinda soon for that, isn’t it? I care about him.”

Angela grabbed her water and took a big swallow. She was smirking now. “Then you’re not horrible. It’s only been a couple weeks and there’s NOTHING wrong with having kissy thoughts about other people. Date them both.”

“That would be a TERRIBLE IDEA.”

Angela shrugged. “Yeah, okay. That would be bad with those two… But promise me that you’re going not to tether yourself to Michael forever because of some weird dumb girl fantasy of perfect love. You HAVE good instincts. You can trust yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, you can walk away. And if it turns out you might like someone with bright blue eyes and long pretty eyelashes theeeeen-”

“Stop that! And don’t meddle either. Don’t even say a word to him about it.”

“Whatever do you mean?” Angela smiled as sweetly as possible.

“You know what I mean. Promise me you won’t start any trouble.”

The blond shrugged her shoulders again. “Alright, I won’t start any trouble. I promise.” The trouble has already started, babe! It doesn’t need any help from me.

“Thaaaank you. Tonight I have to talk to Michael anyway. It’s gonna be… weird.” Julian huffed, falling over on to the counter top. “Things can’t be like they were. I don’t know what he’ll say. Maybe he’ll break up with ME.”

“If he broke up with you because you’re being a BADASS and not taking shit from anyone, then he’s a huge dick and you’d even be better off with Owen the lump of lifeless clay.”

Julian cast her a dirty look. “Would you leave Owen alone? I keep telling you there’s a lot to him if you talk to him.”

And that is when Angela gave the most wicked of grins. “I think I will. At the very least, I’m going to kiss him to see if that’s what makes him so interesting.”

“I feel like you’ve made that threat before…” Julian prayed for Owen’s safety. He would need it. One of these days Angela was actually going to DO it.

“If that’s IT and you have no more drama bombs to drop on me, I have an assload of new things to start looking up. Maybe an ex to send nasty texts to.” she circled around the counter and threw her arms around Julian to squeeze her until she started getting uncomfortable and began squirming. Angela laughed. “And don’t be so hard on yourself. You can do so much more than you think you can, and anybody that doesn’t realize that yet is going to feel a world of hurt. You’re an ALPHA.”

Angela dodged the swing of a slap and left the house cackling.

For the second time in less than twenty-four hours, Michael found himself knocking at Julian’s door.

This time, however, would not end in ruin. He was himself again, not… that. This time he would comport himself in the manner Julian deserved. The manner which Michael expected from himself, always… no exceptions.

With a touch of nerves, he fussed with the collar of his pale blue dress shirt, smoothing out the leaves (although they were perfect already; he knew they were). There were not many occasions left which could make Michael feel like an awkward teenager. But as he stood there, clutching a bouquet and waiting for Julian to answer… Well. It had been a long time since Michael had last needed to apologize to a lady.

And that was what he most certainly needed to do now.

There went the door. When Julian reached it to answer, she hesitated, pressing a hand against the wood instead of opening it. She was still dressed in the same clothes from earlier, a low cut maroon blouse with no sleeves, and basic pair of black jeans. Only now without a jacket and without any socks or shoes. Her hair was twisted up on her head in a messy pony tail. Glancing down at herself now, she wondered if she looked like she had her shit together. What do you even wear when you’re about to have a post-fight, potential breakup conversation? Did it even matter?

Of course not. This is procrastination at it’s finest.

Julian took in a deep breath. She could do this. Talking with Angela put a lot of things in to perspective. With everything she had done, she could handle a boyfriend. Things would be up to Michael now, and what he had to say would determine whether or not he stayed her boyfriend. …or if she was going to be calling Angela to come back and deal with her crying all night.

She finally slid her hand down to the knob and swung open the door.

Are you serious?

Julian had to bite her lip and twist her mouth not to laugh, which probably made her look like she WASN’T pleased to see him. It’s just that the old fashioned gentleman charm seemed to be a bit much for the situation. It was both amazing and silly.

“Hi.” she finally said, smoothing out her expression and stepping to the side with the door at her back to allow him in. “Placating an angry girl with flowers. How unexpected.” she teased. She couldn’t help it. And he was going to have to DEAL with it.

That hadn’t exactly been the reception Michael was anticipating. The teasing was… jarring, but he could be grateful that she was smiling at him.

“Old habits,” he said, with a strained smile of his own. He held out the offering of delicate white flowers, carefully maintaining just enough distance that she would still be able to reach it without stepping outside. It had taken an hour’s search and trying more than one florist for Michael to find a bouquet of Star of Bethlehem, but he refused to settle for anything less. Although he wondered if Julian would know the significance of the gift.

“May I come in?” asked Michael. Of course he didn’t need her permission, after the first time, but this was a matter of being politic and prudent. Even if she was stepping aside as if she expected it… he wanted her to feel that she was making the decisions here, not him.


“Maybe. I may still be a little annoyed.” She let him squirm for a bit, then with a sweep, she plucked the flowers out of his hands and he was rewarded with an ACTUAL smile and not just her being a pain in the ass. “Of course you can come in. I’m not going to let you stand outside being pitiful in the cold.”

Despite the gesture being even too old fashioned for her, Julian really did love receiving flowers. It was sweet and thoughtful. She left him at the door to close it himself, turning to walk backwards as she head towards the kitchen. “And for the record, you don’t have to walk on eggshells with me. I’m not actually that mad anymore.”

She turned back around to cross a threshold and paused, then cast a squinting look over her shoulder. “For now.” A flash of teeth and a cheeky grin.

Something had changed in Julian last night.

Michael had suspected as much from her actions then, but they had also been in the midst of a high-stakes situation. Of course Julian would act differently; of course Michael would see sides of her that he hadn’t previously had occasion to observe. But there was something in her comportment- the way she walked, the way she held her chin, the look in her eyes- that had been missing before. Something new? Or something old that had been brought roaring back to life?

He would dearly love to know precisely what had caused this transformation.

He followed her inside, his eyes automatically scanning the surroundings- although he knew Leo was long gone, waiting at home. Michael still hadn’t talked to him since the previous evening, and that was something he would have to do before much longer… but Julian took precedence this time.

“Julian, I’m sorry,” he told her, as they made their way into the kitchen. He’d wanted to wait until they were in place- seated somewhere, perhaps- but she’d opened the door on this conversation, and he didn’t think delaying it was wise. “Last night was… inexcusable.”

One didn’t have to be a psychic to know THAT was coming. Julian didn’t respond at first, though. She placed the flowers gently on the counter and then moved to a cabinet to pull out a clear vase. She took it too the sink to rinse and fill partially with water. Then it along with a pair of scissors were brought over to the counter. Ever so often she cast a glance at him. Examine his face with a thoughtful expression, or squint as she looked him up and down. It was pretty obvious she was trying to decide if he was being sincere.

She still hadn’t decided yet.

“I believe that you’re sorry. But I wonder what you’re sorry for, exactly. Yeah, last night was inexcusable. So which parts are YOU talking about?” Her tone wasn’t accusatory, just curious. Even while she very carefully took the flowers out of their wrappings, checked their ends to make sure they were snipped just right, and arranged them in the vase, she was still watching him and giving him that side eye.

“Every minute,” he breathed, leaning against the counter and gripping the edge tight. “Where do I even begin?”

He turned his face toward her. Some people might have averted their eyes, but Michael intended to maintain eye contact… or at least to stare her in the face. He was no coward.

“I’m sorry for scaring you,” Michael went on. “I’m sorry for acting belligerent, for letting myself be petty with Leo. For not protecting you the way I promised. For making you feel that you can’t trust me. For not preparing you for what was going to happen. Last night was the last way I wanted you to find out about any of that, Julian. I… I thought I had more time.”

Splaying his hand flat against the counter top, he swiveled to face her fully. His gaze searched for hers.

“I’m not trying to make excuses, Julian.” He took a deep breath. “But please let me try to explain. I want you to understand.”

“I understand more than you seem to think I do.” That sounded a little more harsh than she intended it. He kind of had the right idea and saying mostly the right things, but he hit in that confusing sore spot. He was basically just repeating things she had shouted at him last night, with a little bit of fear and insecurity sprinkled on top. And she felt terrible for making him feel that way… but it was also kind of pissing her off.

She finished arranging the flowers in the vase, then she folded her arms and leaned her hip against the counter. Julian’s mouth twist to the side in a grim sort of frown.

“I think I owe you an apology…” she started slowly, still kind of mulling over the words and trying to find the ones that reflected was she was feeling. “I’ve given you this impression that I’m fragile and scared and that I need to be protected. That you need to be careful with my feelings, and spare me from things because I might break or fall apart the second you’re not perfect or in control and handling things. That you need to be flawless. I guess maybe I even thought I would break too? You slipped in to this roll at just right time at just the right moment and I thought it was what I needed.”

“Last night was terrible. Everything that could have gone wrong did, and every single moment I was thinking I would die, or one of you would die, that I was an idiot for even thinking I could do any of it. But I did. It wasn’t well executed or all that impressive – but I did it.”

There was a hint of an unsure smile at the corners of her mouth, like she still wasn’t entirely certain of herself as she glanced over to the side. Julian shrugged her shoulders before bringing her gaze back to his. “All I need from you is your honesty. You don’t have to do or be anything else.”

“…I talked to Leo about Sadie.” she finally said softly.

“You don’t need to apologize for needing something, Julian.” He gave her a rueful smile. “I’m beginning to see you don’t need that now, but if you did before… I’m glad I could make you feel safe.”

She was much less fragile than he’d thought. That part was true. But at the same time, that need for him had been real and he didn’t doubt that for a second. Part of her still wanted security- but a security of a different kind. He could still give her that.

“That isn’t the only reason I kept things from you,” he admitted. “Part of it was selfish. When I’m with you, Julian, I can just be… yours. Many things in my life have been ugly. I wanted to keep what we had for as long as I could. I didn’t expect any of what happened last night. I was a fool.”

That part was the most galling. He should have seen it coming. He should have known.

“What did he tell you?” asked Michael, finally ready to touch on the topic of Sadie… or more importantly, of Leo.

She briefly looked surprised. Julian hadn’t considered that maybe he just wanted to be normal with her. Free from all the crazy freaky things for a little while. This was something she was quickly starting to understand very, very well. Keeping things from her wouldn’t have been intentionally malicious, just… really stupid. Her stance relaxed and she dropped her arms to place one hand on the counter and tap it gently.

But with Leo…

“I know that he loved her and turned her. That she didn’t handle being a vampire very well. I know that you killed her.” she paused, biting in to lip. Now was the crucial moment.

“And that you sire-thralled him to help you do it.”

Michael went very still.

“…I wasn’t sure if he would talk to you,” he confessed. “He never talks about her.”

For a moment, his mind was whirling with the implications. Not only did Leo talk to her, but it sounded as if he had talked to her at length.

When had they even found time?

“He’s never forgiven me.” He closed his eyes. “I doubt he ever will. He punishes me every day for what I did to her. To him. And I can hardly blame him. That isn’t the sort of thing one forgives.”

Julian was watching him very carefully again. That was a calculated risk on his part. To see if she would ask. To see if Leo would talk. To see what Leo would say. And if Leo wouldn’t talk to her, then he could keep saying it should come from Leo. He wouldn’t have to deal with what happened.

…He behaved the same way when it concerned Violet. He really did try so hard to keep control over everything, and when he didn’t have it, he found ways to have it. Which led to making terrible, stupid, awful choices. Michael was afraid.

She frowned, tapping her fingers a little harder on the counter.

“No, I don’t think he will ever forgive you. …Not unless you make a real and genuine effort to earn it. You can’t just say you’re sorry.” she gave him a pointed look. Michael was constantly saying he was sorry, but it didn’t mean anything if he wasn’t backing it up.

“I think you should let him go. I mean, I don’t really know how sire thralling works in detail, but if you’ve still been doing it – if you’ve done it recently – you have to stop. You can’t take his will from him. How could he ever forgive you if you’re doing that one thing that really screwed him over?”

“Julian…” He sighed. “I know you must think I’m a monster for doing that to him. But Leo hasn’t always been as harmless as he seems now. He still isn’t harmless. He would do anything if it meant getting to me, Julian. He can be violent. He can be dangerous.”

He stared at the kitchen wall. “I made him that way. He’s my responsibility. Anything he does… that’s on me.

I’ve known him my whole life. I know his grudges last forever. Everything I’ve done was to try and protect people from him… or protect him from himself. If you believe it will help make amends, Julian, I won’t do it again- I’ll handle anything he does another way- unless he tries to hurt you. If that happens I won’t hesitate to use any option I have. And if you hate me for that… so be it.”

She blinked in surprise, and nearly laughed. “I can promise, if he tries to hurt me, he’ll regret it before you even get to him.” Not simply because she would kick his stupid ass. Julian suspected he was a lot softer than he pretended to be. He might royally fuck up, but he felt bad about it. He felt terrible about Violet, he felt terrible about Sadie. How many other times had he hurt someone and then agonized over it? Enough that he liked flipping that switch off whenever he was having icky feelings.

So be it.” she mimicked the tone. “You’re very dramatic. I’m never going to hate you for caring about me.” Julian sighed and she tilted her head back to glare halfheartedly at the ceiling.

“If you’re hell bent on being responsible for protecting everyone, then I will help you do it.” she mumbled, shifting to frown at him again. “Leo is not your problem to deal with alone anymore. He’s my friend now too, and I have always made sure my friends are okay and not killing each other. Leo might be a lot more dangerous than a bunch of pissy girls, but you know what. I’m dangerous too.”

“Can you trust me?”

“You’re possibly the most trustworthy person I know.” A ghost of a smile reached his face. “My trust is running a little low after last night, but. If I can trust anyone, I believe that would be you.”

He turned his hand over, sliding it across the counter and leaving it open for her to take.

“I’ve been accused of worse than being dramatic. I take things too seriously, I suppose, sometimes.” Michael leaned in a little closer, taking in every subtle curve of her expression. He couldn’t read this wrong; not this time. “You still haven’t told me if I’m forgiven. Or what I can do to make it up to you.”

That was a very good question. Julian tilted her head and looked him over. There was still that sliver of doubt, but she couldn’t place where it was coming from other than the fact Angela was probably right. This was the first time people were challenging her and doing things outside of her comfort zone. It was scary.

But if she was willing to take a leap of faith on Leo, and she expected Michael to take a leap of faith with her – then she needed to believe in him too. That push of support went a long way.

“I think you are on the right track already.” Julian responded, reaching to take his hand. She stepped forward until she was close enough to slide her arm around his waist and curl her fingers in to his shirt, then she rest her forehead against his chest. She murmured a slightly muffled, You’re forgiven. before tilting her head back and grinning wide.

“Don’t make me regret it. I’m temperamental and not afraid punch the supernatural.”

“I’ve seen that.” He would have to talk with her later about the reasons why she should not be punching werewolves. For now, though…

His free hand went to her cheek, his thumb rubbing a small circle at the point where the line of her jaw met the curve of her neck. He needed to look at her up close, to touch her and hold her and know that he wasn’t about to mar her perfect skin with his own hands. Needed to prove that the urges he’d felt last night were because of the blood moon stripping him of his sense of self.

Very lightly, he pressed his lips to her temple.

Then to her cheek.

And finally, he moved to press them against her own.

Julian knew he was going to kiss her before he did it. That was pretty much obvious. What confused her was that subtle hesitation, or it might have been the look in his eyes? She found herself watching, where she might have otherwise started blushing and closing her eyes and just getting kissed. Was he afraid she’d reject him again?

Well. She could fix that easily.

When his mouth met hers, she raised herself up on her toes and gave him a REAL kiss. It wasn’t chaste, and it certainly wasn’t sweet. It was how she would have responded last night had circumstances not been completely insane. All the while, she kept her eyes open and she even had the audacity to nearly be grinning while she did it.

As soon as their lips parted for a split second, Michael broke away.

Julian.” He knew he sounded scandalized. It wasn’t as if he’d never been kissed like that before… but it was definitely an adjustment when it came to Julian Hollinger. He should know better; it was not a day and age where girls were shy about these things. “…I’m sorry. You just startled me. I didn’t think you-”

Michael cut himself off, shaking his head. He needed to stop talking.

So he kissed her again instead. The way she so clearly wanted him to.

His hand untangled from hers to drop to her waist, resting just above her hip and guiding her back against the edge of the counter. Michael was on high alert, listening to each breath and noting each tiny twitch of her muscles as he leaned into her.

He could work with this.

Victory! She very nearly started laughing at his response before he stopped talking and suddenly kissed her again. All of her amusement then fled, replaced by a sharp intake of breath. This was so much better than the soft and fleeting kisses they shared before. It had been nice and sweet for sure, but this was more.

Her eyes finally fell closed, and her body went pliable. She shifted for him without any effort. With her hand now free, it rose upwards to cling in to the fabric at his shoulder.

This was definitely better.

He slipped his arm around her, shifting so that it protected her back from the sharp edge of the counter. It wasn’t hard to accomplish now that she’d gone limp. He kissed her for a few moments longer, slow but with intent.

When he pulled back this time, it was only to lean in and kiss the smooth, soft expanse of skin at the hollow of her throat. He breathed in and then out, practically tasting her on the back of his tongue. A moment passed- and he kissed again in the same spot, a little more firmly. A surge of satisfaction and reassurance rolled over him; he’d done it. He hadn’t lost control.

“I should go,” he murmured, his mouth still close enough that his lips brushed against her when they moved. “As much as I would like to stay.”

Julian was nodding before she even realized what he was saying. Still in the middle of trying to catch her breath. Apparently he could be kinda hot when he wanted to be! She blinked at him with a wide, curious expression… until she realized she was staring a bit too long.

“Hrm.” Clearing her throat, she straightened and retracted her hands. Only to run her fingers over his shoulders and to fix the collar on his shirt. “You’re probably right.” That was breathless and she didn’t even care. She probably sounded and looked kiss-drunk. THAT hadn’t happened since she was rolling around with Owen DeWhitt.

Now she was grinning and she couldn’t stop. Julian ended up grabbing his face and giving him one quick last kiss. “I’m glad we talked.”

“I am too,” replied Michael.

Unfortunately he had another conversation to pursue… one which would not end so pleasantly.

“Fuck!” Leo swore, tossing the rubber hammer to the ground in disgust. It rolled through the grass and into the ditch… and fuck it, no, he wasn’t going to bother to retrieve it.

There was just no helping the hood of his car. It was completely buckled; even vampire superpowers weren’t going to get it straight again. What the hell was the point of super strength if he couldn’t do anything useful like fix his car?

Pushing his hands through his hair, he plopped down into the grass next to the detached, belly-up hood. His head tipped back against the Mustang’s front right wheel.

When he found the werewolf that did this to his baby, he was gonna murder them.

His cell phone buzzed in his pocket, rattling the screws from the hood. He fished it out and checked the incoming text.

First his brow furrowed. Then he was laughing.

Okay. If he couldn’t be productive, at least he could be entertained. That was almost as good of a distraction.

Where are you?

He texted back.

And how much have you had to drink?

Angela’s car was “parked” in one of the designated spaces nestled just inside the Silent Pines woods where wholesome families were supposed to be able to drive out and have barbecues, picnics and camping in a safe and quiet area away from the town bustle. It certainly wasn’t quiet now. Angela had the stereo up as high as it could go, singing along with the words HORRIBLY, with nothing to muffle the sound because now BOTH of her window cranks were broken and stuck forever in the down position. By the way the tire dreads curved in the dirt, it looked like she must have been drunk before she even got there, spun then wheel and slammed the breaks to stop.

When she spotted him she stopped singing to squeal his name, raising her hands up to throw them in the air. Which was a terrible idea, because one knuckle hit the roof and with the other she nearly cracking the mouth of her bottle.

“Sonofabitch. LEEEOOOOO.” She climbed up and leaned out her window instead of just opening the door. Angela waved her bottle at him. It was a stupidly large bottle of Jack Daniels and almost half of it was already gone.

“Started partying without me?” he asked, swiping the bottle out of her hand and hopping up on the hood of her car. He glanced at it, and then did a bit of a double-take. “Who the hell let you run a perfectly good ’69 Charger into the ground like this, Mercy?”

When she didn’t immediately get out of the car, he leaned around her and reached through the open window to unlock the door and yank it open.

“Okay, you got me here.” He opened his arms. “You wanna hug it out?”

“Pfffft. Hugs are for bitches.” Angela fell right out of the car once there was no longer a barrier. Maybe she was trying to climb out of it but just missed. Either way, now she was laughing and staggering back up to her feet. She shoved the door closed, or at least attempted to. The stupid thing didn’t ‘click’ so she had to open it back up and do it again with more force. The ‘force’ was just her ramming her whole body in to it.

“D’ya know what I HAVEN’T studied? Auto mechanics. They don offer it at school anymore cause everyone is too rich to fix their stupid computer cars.” Angela could barely hear herself talk. She popped her head through the open window, kicking her legs behind her as she reached for the stereo and fucked around with the volume. She almost got stuck that way.

Once she pulled herself out, she eyeballed Leo again. Then the pout started. …And then even though hugs were REALLY LAME she was throwing her arms around him and making the most pitiful whine.

“Leeeeeeeooo. My bestie is a psychic an muh exboyfriend is WEREWOLF. A STUPID WEREWOLF.”

“I’d offer to slug him, but your psychic bestie beat me to it. It was pretty cool, actually.” He grinned. “Even though she nearly broke her hand on his face.”

In one fell swoop, he plucked Angela up off her feet and deposited her onto the car hood beside him.

“Did Jules tell you one of your ex’s furry friends fucked up my car last night? I’m not a big fan of werewolves right now.” Leo leaned back onto his elbows, taking a swig of Jack. Part of him was glad that sharp little brain of hers was dulled by booze right now, seeing as he was sure she had all sorts of questions about last night that he so did not want to rehash this soon. Or ever. …But he didn’t think he wanted to deal with treating alcohol poisoning either, so he was going to keep this shit away from her. “Your dick of an ex owes me for replacement parts. This though, that’s easy. I can show you how to fix it up.”

“I woulda given ANYTHING to see that. Like aaaaaaaall of it. She downplays all the COOL shit and fusses about all the dumb stuff. Oooh nuuuuu dem scury ghosts. So fright. Much horrors.” Angela fell backwards on to the hood, throwing her arms up over her head. She blinked at the tree canopy above, where there was a few breaks through the branches showing a hint of the sky above.

“I KNEW he had a problem. HE knew I knew he had a problem. Angie I’mma wolf and I have bullshit wolf problems. Thas all he had to say. But no lets pull some teen drama bullshit because I’mma big furry dick.”

A big furry dick. Angela started cackling. “Oh gooood, does he get fluffy? I bet that sonofabitch is Disney Wolf handsome. Like why the fuck am I having uncomfortable feels about a cartoon wolf handsome.”

Her head tilted to stare at him. “I wanna drive out there and tell him he can go eat a bag of dicks, but I can’t without Jules. I’ll CRY, Leo. CRY. She stayed at my house for a week cause I jus cried and my poor dumb dad didn’t know what to do.”

“I’d go with you,” offered Leo. “There’s this dumb rule they’ve got about no other supernatural critters on their land, but I think all bets are off there after last night.”

He tilted his head, eyeing her.

“Oh right. I’m supposed to pretend I’m all shocked that you know about ghosts and werewolves.” He was mostly just shocked she’d held out this long. “How could you. At least my secret of being a vampire is still safe. You- What the shit are we listening to?”

Rolling over onto his stomach, he reached into her car and started fiddling with the radio until he hit something that wasn’t assaulting his ears.

“That’s better,” he said.

“Fuuuuuuck yooooou. You knew I knew. Julian couldn’t keep a secret to save a bucket of drowning puppies.” She rolled her eyes before she glared at him. “We’re not gonna let Michael know I know. As long as he dun know that I know, I can keep digging around and MAYBE save her from being a vampire slushie. Or like.. marrying him or somethin.”

He was reaching in to her car and he touched her radio.

That’s when Leo earned a very rough elbow in the side. She even sat up to make sure she could slam it down at wrestler-level accuracy. “Yousonofbitch, don’t touch my system! Nobody gets to touch the stereo!” To make sure he got the point, she was now reaching to paw, (slap? claw? swat?) at his face, at least until she realize he still had the Jack Daniels and she went grabbing for it instead.

“Give me that, I jus made myself sick!”

“Nooope, Jules will kill me if you die while I’m with you.” He held the bottle away and out of her reach. “You don’t want me to die, right?”

An image of Julian in a wedding dress next to Michael popped into his head, supplied by Angela’s suggestion, and now Leo was the one who felt sick. He downed a not-so-healthy portion of the bottle in one go.

“What the fuck do you mean, ‘digging around’?” he demanded, suddenly surly. “Mind your own business, Mercy, or you’re the one who’ll end up a slushie.”

Angela almost got her hands on the bottle when he took a swig, but the asshole had stupidly long arms. She lift a leg up with intentions to twist and kick him right off the hood of her car, but then she lost her balance and SHE went tumbling off the side. Landing on her ass with an oomph and then laughing.

That amusement disappeared when she crawled to her knees and leaned to rest her arms over the hood. Leo earned a glare. “YOU mind your own business, ya fuck! You meet a vampire, yer supposed to ask that asshole questions! How’d you get fucked up? How many peeps have you eaten. Have you ever buried a body. What happens when yer girlfriend is on her period. HAS she? NO.”

“She’s so fucking annoying.” Angela growled, setting her chin on the metal, now reaching to grab one of Leo’s legs with the intent to drag him off her car. “Have you see her MAD? She will wreck someone’s shit if they’re harassing any of us, but she so STUPIDLY PUTS UP WITH the most aaaaassssssinine shit when it’s her, cause omigawwww you dunno their inner goodness!”

“I dun like the way he talks to her.” She pointed a finger at Leo then, waving it around in a circle. “Yoooouuuuu. I like. You like ME. He haaaaaaaates me.”

He let her drag him down onto the grass, but he still didn’t give up the Jack.

Especially because now HE needed it.

“Fuck Michael,” he said, because what else COULD he say? Not a whole hell of a lot. Things would be so much easier if he could just tell people why Michael deserved to die in a fire. He tossed back another swig of whiskey. “Fuck everything.”

Flipping over onto his back, he threw an arm over his eyes. Drunk or not, Angela was way too damn perceptive. Or maybe just lucky. She was voicing all of Leo’s own inner complaints. …Well, most of them.

“If you want to know about vampires,” he told her, “you can ask me whatever.”

Angela plopped to sit crossed legged next to him, momentarily pausing her battle for the booze. If only because she had to rethink how she could wrestle it from him.

“You can’t tell me the stuff I waaaaant to know, and I know you can’t. I kiiiiiiinda had a few guesses already cause haaaa, the Silent Pines library has some seriously good shit hiding in the back, but Julian pretty much confirmed it.” Angela looked smug as hell about it too. There was a pile of useful books she might have technically stolen from the library because she wasn’t even supposed to have gotten in to those archives. She could thank Knucker Polk for helping her out with that one.

She started nudging at his side with her foot. “Is he going to FEED on her? Can he thrall her? If I have to kill one of you, what’s the best and fastest way to go about it? If you LIKE her so much, why don’t you just grab her flee the country?”

“I don’t like her,” he replied automatically, which was probably the worst thing he could have said at that moment.

“He doesn’t like to drink from humans.” Except when he does. But I’ll handle that when it happens. “And he can, but her psychic bullshit makes it a lot harder to do. He hasn’t done it if you’re wondering, that’s all her.Fire, beheading, or wooden stuff through the heart- doesn’t have to be a stake, but it does have to be wood, otherwise you’re just putting us to sleep until you remove it. It helps if you starve us ’til we dry up first but that can take a while and you don’t want to deal with an angry, thirsty vampire if we bust out early. There you go, vampire 101. Any more questions from the class?”

Hopefully that info-dump would derail any more queries about how much he LIKED Julian.

“Kay. Don’t starve the vampires unless you got a dungeon to keep them in. Keep lots of wood handy. …I bet I could put together a small crossbow… Hrrrrrm, need to work out the propulsion physics though.” Angela counted on her fingers, like she was trying to figure out the math right that moment. But she was too drunk to keep her place and ended up making annoyed faces.

Which meant, now she was using BOTH her feet to kick at him. “Hey. Leo. Leo Leo Leo. Hey. Heeeeeey.”

“I guess since you DON’T like her, there’s noooooooo reason to see her anymore. She did what you needed her for and now you can get back to- ….What the fuck do you even DO with your life?” It just occured to her that Leo was old as sin and now she was staring at him like he was some sort of science project. “Don’t you get BORED?”

Now that he was distracted, Angela lept for the bottle of Jack.

She was quick, but she was also smashed. And, hello, vampire. He managed to wrestle it away from her- and just to be spiteful, he dumped it out on the grass. (There wasn’t really a lot left, anyway.)

“I do get bored, as a matter of fact, so I harass dumb teenagers,” he told her brightly. “And you know, I have hobbies. Lurking. Being enigmatic. Other vampire crap.”

Leo handed her the empty bottle. You know, just to rub it in a little more.

“What the hell do you THINK I do? It’s not like there isn’t always something new to see or do, it’s not that bad. ‘Waah, I’m immortal and have to live forever.’ Give me a break. New music, new books, movies and TV. Food. Cars. I actually have time to finish those things in between my supernatural day job and you want me to complain?”

Angela held the bottle looking completely and utterly heartbroken at it.

Then she tried to BRAIN HIM WITH IT. Luckily her vision was blurry enough she would have missed even he hadn’t dodged out of the way. Now she was trying to grab his shirt and holding it up over her head threatening to try swinging it again.

“You ASS. Do you know how hard it is for me to get that stuff?” A fake out of swinging. “Can’t you jus let me drink and die in a ditch?! How am I s’posed to not think about Caleb when you keep dodging about Julian and not wailing about your dumb complicated life so I can laaaaugh at you and not think about Caleb.” She paused, realizing she pretty much said the same thing twice in one sentence.

And now her BOOZE was gone.

That bottle anyway.

The shit-eating grin that suddenly plastered all over her face was unmistakable. Angela shoved him and scrambled to her feet to go fetch the second bottle she had buried somewhere in the car.

Nope. Noooope. He knew what that look meant.

“Oh no you don’t.” Leo caught her around the waist and hauled her backward. “Look, fine, I’ll talk to you about whatever you want if you promise you won’t drink yourself to death.”

What the hell was he saying? What the fuck happened to his life?

What was WITH the girls in this town?

Angela went limp, turning to dead weight like a cat would. He could drag her or let her fall, it wouldn’t matter. It was a tactical escape maneuver. Despite the dead weight, one of her arms went up in victory. “YOU LIKE ME! Yer so easy you goddamned sucker.”

“You don’t stop wanting to bang somebody just because yer two thousand years old, riiiiiiiight? I’m sixteen and I neeeeeeeeed a boyfriend. I will be your WING BITCH. First we go to Julian’s ex’s house and I am gonna KISS HIM and find out why every fuckin girl at school thinks Owen De-fuck-Whitt is so hot. And then WE’RE GOING OUT. Since you dooooooon’t like Julian we’ll go to a bar and you can show me if you even know HOW to hit on a girl.” She snorted a laugh.

“TO THE CHARGER.” The only moving arm pointed at the car.

“One hundred and thirty six,” he corrected. “But it’s more like I’ve been sixteen for over a century. Hormones and all. So yeah, I’ve gotten some practice at getting laid, Mercy.”

Maybe that was his problem. Maybe if he got a little action, he wouldn’t be moping around like an idiot. Maybe Angela was onto something.

…But not today.

“Raincheck,” Leo told her, grimacing. “Michael wants to talk to me after he’s done at Julian’s.”

Fuck. Fuck. Now he was thinking about that.

Angela mimicked his expression without realizing it. She could already imagine how it was going to play out. Julian was pretty predictable. “Blech.” she muttered. She finally quit hanging around like a wet noodle to untangle herself from only to fall over face first on to the hood of her car.

“He’s gonna say sorry and she’s gonna FALL for it. I jus KNOW she is. UUUUGH. Can’t she be a jaded pessimist oooonce and tell someone to go fuck themselves! We have to do somethin. …but she’ll just be stubborn. Dammit.” Angela scowled, beating her hands against the hood. Then her eyes widened and that cat-like smile appeared.

Rising up on her elbows she cast Leo a wickedly devious look. “I could tell you something.”

Wait, no.

“…but I promised not to cause trouble. Why did I DO that?!”

‘Tell me something’?

Something clenched in Leo’s chest. It was the weirdest rush. He couldn’t quite figure out what that sensation was… annnd he decided he really didn’t want to, because it wasn’t going to lead anywhere good. He tamped it down fast.

No sense getting bent out of shape here.

“Let’s get you sobered up, Mercy.” He stooped to collect her from the ground again. “Maybe after that we can brainstorm ways to rain on the Michael-and-Julian-forever parade.”

Yep. Fact was, Michael and Julian were a real thing that neither of them could change. So Leo didn’t need to talk about whatever Angela thought he needed to talk about, because there was really nothing to talk about.


“You’re late.” It was the first thing that Leo heard when he walked through the door to the study. Michael was in his usual spot: at the desk, pulling his master-of-the-house crap. Leo could remember a time when it had been William Hightower looming behind that desk instead, giving Leo a foreboding scowl. He remembered when he’d thought the father was scary. Ha.

“You know me. I live to disappoint you.” Leo plopped down into the guest chair and propped his feet up right on top of Michael’s papers. He made sure to give Michael his best insolent smirk, just to put the cherry on the shit sundae. “Am I in trouble, daddy?”

It didn’t even garner a twitch in Michael’s features. Leo had really wanted to see him riled up, and he felt equal stabs of disappointment and fuck you when nothing happened.

“We need to talk, Leo. This isn’t funny anymore.”

Leo cocked his head to the side and wiggled his feet.

“Which part?” he asked, mock-innocent.

“Any of it.” There was the tiny tell-tale tone of irritation he’d been looking for. That was a nice little victory. “For once in your life, can’t you be an adult?”

Rage sliced through him like a burning hot knife.

“No,” he snarled, sitting bolt upright. His feet hit the floor so hard that the room shook. All hints of mockery and amusement had vanished from his face. “I can never be an adult. Whose fault do you think that is? Hmm, let me see if I remember. Hold on, it’s coming to me.”

“Are you really going to do this forever?” Michael demanded. Their eyes met across the desk, holding a mutually venomous stare. “Is it so difficult for you to believe that I might actually care about you?”

“Yes, you fucking psychopath. You don’t care about anything but yourself. You think you care, and that’s worse.” Words long suppressed were bubbling up to the surface. Things he’d wanted to say for years. It was like a stopper had been pulled and everything was just spiraling down the drain and he couldn’t stop. “I don’t know if you ever cared to begin with, but you definitely don’t now.”

“I know that’s always been your assessment-”

“I know that’s always been my experience,” Leo cut in. “Why the fuck do you think everyone runs away from you or hates you in the end?”

All of the air suddenly went out of the room.


“You knew,” Michael observed, once the silence had thickened to an unbearable point. “You knew that Tasha ran away. You knew she was never in danger.”

“She told me she needed to get away from you. I couldn’t exactly blame her.” He swallowed and tried to keep his voice level, casual. “She said you wouldn’t let her and Colby be together.”

“And you believed her.”

“Wasn’t it the truth?” His eyes lifted back to Michael’s face.

“…I disapproved because we didn’t know Colby well enough,” was Michael’s answer. “I worried he was influencing her decisions. Now I see that it was the other way around. I would have thought you would have picked up on her duplicity, as much time as you spent with Tasha… but now I see that you were too eager to paint me the villain again. You ate her story up, didn’t you?”

“Don’t you dare turn this around on me.” He leaned forward, maintaining eye contact. “It was easy to believe for a reason. If the shoe fits, right?”

“Ah, yes.” Michael shifted in his chair, examining Leo impassively. Leo hated when he did that; it made him feel like an insect in a glass case. “I heard that you told Julian about Sadie.”

“And she forgives you, I’m guessing.” Leo sneered. “So what’s the big deal? Didn’t you tell her to ask me?”

With a soft sigh, Michael rested his elbow on the top of the desk and flexed his fingers like he was trying to work out a cramp. God knows what he was actually doing; the guy didn’t work like an actual person.

“That’s true,” said Michael. “But I also never told you that you could answer.”

Just like that, with one short sentence, Leo’s stomach toppled through the floor.

Michael knew.

Okay. Time out. He could spin this. This wasn’t the end of the game.

“Uh… so?” he asked, making what he hoped was a convincing what-the-fuck-is-your-deal, why-are-you-being-dramatic face. He waved his hand. “She said you could tell me. And I distinctly remember your instructions that I wasn’t to speak to her about stuff until you said otherwise. Am I supposed to stick to the older order every time? It doesn’t work like that, Mike.”

“No it doesn’t,” murmured Michael. Leo thought he saw some of the tension go out of his shoulders, but it was hard to tell. Did Michael buy it?

“In any case…” Michael picked up the papers from the center of his desk, wiping away a smear of dirt and shuffling them into a nice, neat pile. Michael never could leave a mess alone; he had to fix it so it was just the way he liked. “Julian’s made it clear that I’m not to sire-thrall you again. She thinks I’ll never persuade you to trust me if I continue. I think she’s being foolish, but I’m willing to take that risk.”

Leo let out a startled laugh. “Bullshit.”

“I’m afraid not.” Michael gave him a grim smile. “You’re free to do whatever you like, Leo. I won’t stop you. Not like that. I’ll have to resort to other means, I’m afraid.”

“…’Other means’?” quipped Leo. “Is that supposed to frighten me?”

“Of course not, Leo.” Opening the top left drawer of the desk, Michael neatly tucked his papers away. “It’s merely a fact. I just want you to remember that your actions have consequences.”

“You’ll have to excuse me if I forget that. I’ve spent so much time watching you shift the blame onto other people, after all.” Leo’s smile was brittle and didn’t reach his eyes.

The remark hit its target; Michael closed his eyes briefly and stood up from his chair.

“I said nothing last night that wasn’t true.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” Leo retorted scathingly. “You’re a coward, Michael.”

There was no time for Leo to react. The next thing he knew, he was pinned to the chair by a hand at his throat. Michael stared down at him with cold, dead eyes.

“Leo,” he chided. “Provoking me will not make me into a scapegoat. I am not what you think I am, and you only hurt yourself with these tantrums. Tell Julian anything you want; I don’t need to hide. I’ve told her everything.”

“You’re lying,” hissed Leo. Michael had to be lying. He would never let himself look bad, especially not to Julian.

So why did he look so confident?

“Try her then.” Michael released him and stepped back, leaning his hip alongside the edge of the desk. “You’ll only look vindictive and sad. And I know you’ve come to value her opinion.”

“I don’t give a shit what she thinks.” No. No no no. This wasn’t happening.

He wasn’t sure which was more unexpected: being caught out by Michael, or the fist that collided with his jaw a moment later. Cursing, Leo crumpled over the side of his chair and clutched a hand over his mouth. Blood streamed down from between his fingers.

“Don’t insult me,” breathed Michael. “Your actions last night were plain enough. I know you spent the night at her home. I’m not even going to ask what you’ve done with your jacket, since you didn’t see fit to bring it into the house. I understand you forming an attachment to her, Leo. She’s easy to become attached to, I know. But I promise you this.”

He knelt down beside Leo, forcing his chin back. He didn’t flinch when Leo spat blood in his face.

“If you attempt to use Julian to get at me,” Michael told him, slowly and carefully, “I will put an end to you myself. By any means necessary. She is not a chess piece, Leo. She’s special. Special to me. Do you understand?”

Leo didn’t answer. He couldn’t.

“Good.” Michael straightened up. “I’m glad we had this talk.”

Without another word, he left Leo to bleed and consider all the implications of his warning.

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