Black Sun 024: War Council (Original Draft)

Black Sun 024: War Council (Original Draft)

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Angela found that trying to dodge Caleb was a hell of a lot more difficult than she anticipated, but luck was with her so far. She only saw him twice. Once when he and his wolves arrived at the graveyard and she had to quickly explain the few useless details she actually knew. He didn’t even respond directly to her, he just barked (haaa) an order at Tanner to take her. Angela might’ve put up a fuss about it had Julian not told her leave. If Julian wanted her far away, Angela definitely didn’t want to test the reasons why.

The second time she saw Caleb was when they all arrived to the Whelan homestead. By then Angela borrowed the only dress of Silvia’s she could fit in to. (And even so, if she bent over everyone was going to get a good look at her underwear.) Julian was all white as a sheet and stony-faced, while apparently Leo showed up at some point as was getting hauled around like a bloody sack of meat because he got his ass majorly kicked.

After that, the Whelan farmhouse was a flurry of activity. Angela never realized how big Caleb’s extended family was. They weren’t all Whelans, and she was pretty sure they weren’t all blood relatives either. She also knew that these people didn’t all LIVE there. This was some emergency summoning of the pack, and they were ready at the drop of a dime for Julian’s call because they were already organized for something. Here and there she’d catch brief quiet conversations. Curious theories passed between each other all wondering if tonight’s mess was related to whatever their wolf business was. Angela found it fascinating, but there wasn’t any time to go snooping.

Leo was dropped on to a bed in a guest room, using more care than Angela suspected they wanted to give a vampire. With the way Julian was on their heels, squeezing that knife of hers and looking like some sort of pissed off modern day Xena, they probably thought she’d start stabbing people.

Angela was kind of worried about that herself.

That’s why, for once, she was really glad for Silvia.

“They’re TALKING and I’m not allowed, so now I’m stuck on babysitting duty which is SO LAME. That’s what the KIDS are supposed to do.” huffed Silvia when she strolled through the door with a box in her arms. “Whoa, look at all this blood!”

Angela was trying really hard to look at anything BUT all the blood. Every time she caught a glimpse of it, she got a little queasy. She ran her fingers through her hair, then shifted to take Julian gently by the arm. “Hey… You need to sit down. How about you give me that kni-”

“No. I need it to find Walter.”

Angela scowled. “You’re not going to do that right this second, so you can give it to me for a few minutes, okay?” She carefully took Julian’s hand, and though it took a little bit of prying she finally got it away from her. Angela set it down on the bedside dresser.

“We gotta do something about her hand. She’s still bleeding.” Silvia mentioned. The box she brought in to the room got placed at the foot of the bed, then she turned away to dash over to a corner and retrieve a chair. She held it up, tilting her head in a wordlessly query of where she should put it.

Angela examined Julian’s face then shot a glance towards the unconscious vampire. She pointed to a spot next to the bed. Silvia did as instructed and soon Angela was ushering Julian to have a seat.

The hazel-eyed girl was now staring at her open bloodied palm with a pained expression. “I don’t think he swallowed any of it. Maybe I shouldn’t have used Walter’s knife. He poisons them… would that even matter? I don’t know how fast they heal or if David did something. If there’s a spell I need a witch and Walter’s gone.” Julian paused suddenly, grabbing at her shirt over her chest and leaning forward in her seat with a choked gasp.

“Is she okay?” Silvia asked, her voice in a startled pitch.

“Just a panic attack. Did you get what I asked for?” Angela knelt down on the floor, pushing Julian back by the shoulder enough to where she could catch her eyes. “Look at me now. Who is the cutest person in this room? It’s me! I dare you to deny it.”

“I can’t breathe.” Julian responded, squeezing her eyes shut.

“Just slow down and take a big deep breath. I need you to look at me, okay?” Angela turned and held out her hand, Silvia handed her a bottle of cheap wine. “…Seriously?”

Silvia turned a bit red. “It’s all I could find in the kitchen. The liquor cabinet is locked.”

“Good enough I guess.” Angela popped the cork, grabbed Julian’s not-bloody hand and thrust the bottle in to it. “Take a biiiiiig swallow of this and another deep breath. You need to open your eyes, though, and look at me still.”

Julian hesitated with the bottle but she at least opened her eyes. Angela had to ‘help’ her lift the bottle and take a few swallows. Once she did, Angela set the bottle on the dresser.

“Is that the normal first aid for panic attacks?” Silvia questioned curiously.

“Nope, just Julian. She’s like… psychic crashing or something. Isn’t that right, babe? Got all wound up trying to load too much at once and crashed your processor.”

“I don’t even know what that means.” mumbled Julian, furrowing her brows and giving Angela a confused and bewildered look.

Angela just flashed her a wide cheeky grin. “Silvia is gonna take care of your hand. Have you talked to Michael?”

Once Angela scooted over on the floor, Silvia pulled a kit out of her box along with a damp washrag and a couple of dry towels. Babysitting duty apparently also included nursing. Angela supposed a bunch of werewolves were constantly ending up with scrapes, claw marks and bites.

Julian shook her head, casting Silvia a wary look and nearly turning to glance at the bed before Angela snapped her fingers in her face to draw her attention again. “My phone died.” she muttered.

“I’ll send him a message in a little bit, once you tell me everything that happened. All the details. You know how I like it.”

“Caleb is gonna want to know too.” Silvia piped in. Most of the blood was cleared from Julian’s hand and now she was applying a weird looking ointment. It must’ve burned a bit, because Julian hissed under her breath and tried to snatch her hand back.

“Caleb can fucking wait.” announced Angela. “And not just because I don’t want to look at him. They’re going to want more than she can give right now.”

“I can talk to Caleb, it’s fine.” Julian insisted.

“I know you can, babe. But just… give yourself a few minutes to settle and process all this first. You’ve been going at full speed since we hit the graveyard. If you burn out you’re not gonna be able to do what you’re wanting to do. Understand?”

Julian’s mouth twisted to the side and she looked ready to argue about it. But finally, she just nodded her head. While Silvia wrapped her hand with a little gauze and a small bandage, Julian explained to Angela what happened from the moment of barging in to the mausoleum. She was having a hard time wrapping her head around David Hightower – all of it. Julian was kicking herself for not recognizing witch vibes, or at least getting something. It took a little convincing from Angela to get her to realize that if David was really such a big bad witch, he probably knew how to block her psychic mojo.

Reconciling her most recent sleeping vision with events was incredibly useful for Angela. Julian’s premonitions were eerily spot on – if you could figure out all the symbolism involved. Thanks to Walter and tonight’s scuffling, Angela had a few more context clues.

What Julian could not seem to get past was Leo. That required another good swig from the wine bottle to make sure she didn’t start freaking out and launching in to some sort of witch hunting quest. NOBODY was ready for that yet. Angela didn’t want to find out what happens when an upset god tier psychic raises up all the ghosts in Silent Pines and starts rampaging through town. By the sounds of her altercation with David and her helpful little shadows, that was a very likely scenario.

By the time they reached the end of events, Silvia was done cleaning up Leo too. Silvia didn’t know why they had to bother with that, since he was a vampire and all and could just go take a bath when he woke up, but it seemed to make Julian feel better. Once she was done she placed a sticker on the back of his hand. It was a little cartoon wolf puppy barking YOU TRIED! and she thought it was perfect.

“How about you sit here and nap for a while. I’ll text Michael and go tell Caleb everything. I need to message my Dad too and make sure he isn’t harassing the Polks and looking for my dead body in ditches all over town.” She snatched up a blanket from another chair in the corner to toss over Julian, then motioned her head for Silvia to come along.

Once they were out in the hall with the door closed behind them, Silvia paused and rocked on her heels looking a bit perplexed. “What do you think she’ll do if he dies? I think she really likes him and we JUST got her back.”

“It wouldn’t be good, that’s for sure. She hasn’t tried to fight through your family and go chasing after Walter, though, so I think it’s gonna be okay.” Angela started down the hall and Silvia fell in to step beside her. Her hand reached in to her bra to pluck out her cellphone. It was the only place she could put it with this dumb tiny dress of Silvia’s. The first thing she did was thumb a text to her dad.

Dadi! Spending the night at Julian’s and we’re watching a horror marathon. Sorry I forgot to tell you, I only just now remembered. ILU <3

He texted back in a record 0.5 seconds. Angela grinned. With that out of the way, she swiped through her contacts to text Michael.

“I guess you’re still alive.”

Angela’s head jerked up. As she and Silvia walked in to the family den, there was Lexi Ryan sitting on a stool looking like she was queen of the damn castle.

Or maybe it was Grand Bitch of the Wolf Pack. That sounded more appropriate to Angela.

“Yes, I am, thank you.” she responded carefully. Lexi might have kind of apologized right after she tried to strangle her, but Angela really didn’t want to tempt fate with a round two. Especially right here in Caleb’s fucking house.

Silvia, with a lot more grace than anyone expected out of her, popped in between them. “I’m SO glad all my friends are finally hanging out! Lexi is really, really good at being a wolf and she’s showing me all KINDS of things even though I was born in to this and know a lot of stuff she still doesn’t know. And Angela is… uhm.” she stalled trying to think of something.

“Really good at getting mauled by vampires and wolves.” Angela supplied, looking a bit put out. “Where’s Caleb?”

“Right here,” he spoke up, stepping through the doorway on the opposite side of the room. He leaned his huge goddamn football-player shoulder against the frame. He was staring right at her, his expression guarded.

Thankfully, he’d managed to find some clothes: a pair of jeans and his favorite t-shirt, the tan one with the white tree on it. There was a large scratch running down the length of his arm that looked like it was trying to close up even as she watched.

“How are…” he paused. “…those two?”

Angela swallowed. She hadn’t anticipated how hard it was going to be to just look at him. There wasn’t crazy shit going on to be distracted with. Now it was just her and all those things she felt and never got to say.

Oh and his new bitch. That was a thing. Angela didn’t know if that were actually true, but with the rumors flying around about Lexi Ryan and the way the girl snapped at her the other day, Angela wouldn’t think it was impossible. And she didn’t give a fuck enough to ask Silvia about it.

Her arms crossed over her chest and rotated her phone around in her hand as she stared him down. May as well be bold and straight forward. Power through the conversation until she can retreat.

“If you mean Julian and Vampire Boyfriend Number Two, I don’t think we should let her leave if she pops out of that room.” she started. “This one is messing with her head and I don’t know what she’s gonna do.”

“I don’t know why we had to go out there at her command in the first place.” Lexi blurted out. “She isn’t a wolf, right? She isn’t anyone important.”

Angela felt that irritation welling up real quick. Her posture stiffened and she counted to ten in her head. This girl was aggressive and stupid and didn’t know what the fuck she was talking about.

“Why don’t you stop your barking and shut the hell up. Julian is worth a thousand of you and you don’t have a clue of what’s fucking going on. You’d be doing yourself a favor if you LISTENED to her advice.” she snapped, despite her brain screaming at her not to.

Lexi slid off her stool, holding her fists tight at her sides. “You better watch your mouth Angela Mercy, I’ll break your neck before she saves you a second time!”

“Lexi, sit down.” And hoooly shit, that was alpha voice, no mistaking it. The room seemed to resonate with the timbre of Caleb’s order, and Angela wasn’t even a werewolf.

There was something brewing in Caleb’s expression as he glanced between Lexi and Angela. Abruptly, he shook his head.

“Angela,” he began. “Can we talk?”

There was something in his expression that radiated Get Out to the other occupants of the room, but he held up his hand before anyone actually made for the exits.

“Not here. …My room.”

Lexi gave immediate pause, but hesitated before she sat down. When she did finally slid back on to her seat she looked like she just swallowed a whole mouthful of bees. Even Angela wanted to sit her ass down, and she wasn’t even the one ordered to.

Only Silvia didn’t look perturbed in the slightest. She was just grinning now, rocking back and forth on her heels. She opened her mouth to say something, but a single look from her brother had her clamping her mouth shut and pouting instead.

“Yeeeep, whatever.” Angela finally responded. Lexi earned a glare as she crossed the room, and Silvia received a cursory glance. She marched her way through the threshold, not bothering to wait for Caleb. She didn’t even speak until she stomped in to his room.

Gods, she remembered the last time she was here. That felt like years and years ago, even though it was so much more recent than that.

“Thanks for coming to Julian’s rescue. You’re still an asshole, though.”

He slipped in behind her and shut the door, leaning back to rest his back against it. He looked… tense. Like he was itching for a fight or something.

“…I know,” he said, finally. He lifted one hand to touch his jaw, fingertips tracing a particular spot. Angela didn’t see anything there, but an explanation swiftly arrived: “If I didn’t already, I’d have gotten the message when Julian punched me.”

Angela almost laughed. She had to purse her lips and swallow it, so she looked like she had just sucked on a lemon. He seemed so bewildered by getting socked in the face, and Angela didn’t blame him. NO ONE did that. No one ever wanted to cross Caleb. Julian was the only person on the planet dumb enough to go one step beyond and punch him.

Her phone disappeared in to her bra again and she rest her hands on her hips.

“And you deserved it. I would have done it myself, but your ass dropped off the face of the planet. I can’t believe you just left. No, wait, that I can believe. What I can’t believe is that you didn’t think I would understand all of this! All you had to do was fucking talk to me! I mean SERIOUSLY. You now have the STUPIDEST girl in Silent Pines in your wolf posse, but you couldn’t even tell ME what was going on?! Because why? You can’t trust me? I’m not WOLF enough?”

Fucking fuck. This was so not the cool way she wanted to have this discussion. With her perfect quips and nonchalant hair flipping. That would have been way better. Especially since somewhere in the middle of that tirade her voice start cracking and now she was furiously brushing the heels of her palms against her face to get rid of tears. Of course she would cry.

Throughout her tirade, his muscles wound tighter and tighter. His jaw twitched. Little tiny ticking time bomb warnings that Angela willfully ignored, until…

“I didn’t want you getting hurt!” he blurted. Yelled, really. He turned away, slamming his hands against his bedroom door, and let his forehead drop against the painted wood. He took a deep breath. “Don’t you get that?”

Another deep breath.

“My dad is gone,” he went on. “My mother’s been gone. Silvia is still a child. I had to stop being human, Angela.”

“UGH! Why are ALL of you like this?!” she shouted right back, her hands digging in to her hair and pulling.

“You don’t want me to get hurt. She doesn’t want him to get hurt. And he doesn’t want HER to get hurt. You’re all self sacrificing martyrs and it’s really starting to PISS ME OFF. The only one that seems to say fuck it and does what he really wants is freaking MICHAEL HIGHTOWER and he’s the hugest douchebag on the planet!” Gods, how screwed up was all of this when Michael was the one that had it all figured out.

Angela clamped her mouth shut. Glaring at his back until the pounding in her chest stopped. He was just… It sucked how much she wanted to go to him and pull him in to bed and cuddle him until he felt better. It was the dumbest urge.

“Pfffffft.” She rubbed at her eyes again, her anger faded away just as quickly as it came. And she caved. Growling a curse at him, she stomped across the floor and threw her arms around his waist. Her forehead dropped against his back.

“I get it, Caleb.” she muttered softly. “I just… That’s all you had to tell me. You could have just told me it was too much. I’d have been mad but I would’ve understood. I would’ve waited for as long as you needed me to wait.”

“I didn’t think you’d believe me,” he choked. “I thought- I thought you’d try to be involved. And now you are anyway, and I..”

Shuddering, he shifted around to face her, and then Angela was the one being scooped up in huge tan arms and pulled tight against his chest. She could feel his face pressing against her hair.

“I’m sorry.” He was actually shaking. “I’m so sorry. Everyone counts on me to make all of these decisions now, and I. I… I miss my dad.

Caleb had always been her friend’s cool, mysterious, freakishly tall and strong big brother. He’d been like that even before he’d become a werewolf, like he was born to be an alpha. (Which, it turned out, he probably was.) He was the one who kicked the ass of the first boy to ever make Angela cry. The only time she’d ever seen him lose his cool was… never.

In less than a minute, now that she had him alone and behind closed doors, Angela watched him fall completely to pieces.

“Ah, honey…” she breathed out, and that was it. Everything she was ever mad about was gone. She couldn’t be mad about this. He was a big soft puppy just like his crazy sister. Worse, he was exactly like Julian. Trying to carry the weight of the entire world on his shoulders all by himself and crumbling under the pressure of it. Why did all the people she cared about most in the world have to be the burdened heroes?

Angela slid her arms around him and held him tight. Her fingers brushing softly through the hair at the nape of his neck. Then she laughed. It was a shaky, light laugh where her breath fell warm against his ear.

“You know, this is why I loved you so much. You are always so strong for everyone. …I just wish you would have let me be there for you. I don’t know why you thought you had to do it all alone.”

She pulled back to take his face in her hands and brush away the tears with her thumbs. “I miss my mom too. You don’t have to be strong and know what to do all the time. It’s okay to be upset and let somebody else pick up the pieces.”

Blinking, he swallowed. She could tell he was embarrassed to be seen like this, even just by her; he was biting his lip to stay quiet (so hard that his lip was turning grey) and not quite meeting her eyes. He slid down to the floor, taking her with him until they were both cuddled up in front of his door with Angela halfway on his lap. His long legs sprawled out across the carpet.

“You want to be that person?” he rasped. “You deserve better.”

Still, he wasn’t letting go.

“I can’t go back out there like this.” He let his head tip back, sucking in another rattling breath. “But I won’t ask you to stay.”

“I DO deserve better.” she agreed. But she was settling on his lap as if they had never broken up in the first place. She kept one arm circled around his shoulder and left her hand free to catch any tears that tried to escape. Ever so often she’d brush her hand through his hair or rake her knuckles against his cheek.

“I still love you.” Angela admitted after a moment of silence. “But we can’t go backwards. There’s only forwards. And that-” she let out a world weary sigh, leaning rest her forehead against his temple, “is probably not gonna work for us, huh? You’re the big bad Alpha of the Whelan wolfpack, and I’m Sexy-Giles of Team Psychic.” That was pretty much the gist of it. Angela would love to have this again. It was so easy to just sit here with him, touching and hoping and wanting more. Now that she knew the truth, they could actually be even better than before. But he clearly had his hands full with his wolf stuff, and if she were honest with herself, she knew that her being around would only make it worse for him. He couldn’t be the man he needed to be right now if he had to worry about her.

It hurt. It sucked. Why did these dumbasses keep doing the self sacrifice thing? This feeling was the worst.

She suddenly grinned, though. A wicked, so completely Angela grin. “But hey, if you wanna jump in bed for one last hot hurrah and a little fooling around, I won’t tell anybody if you won’t.”

Julian walked through the Devil’s Wood, turning slowly on her heel as she glanced at all the trees and the fog. The sky above was grey with dark clouds.

She was looking for something. No. Someone.

In the distance she could see him. Crouched low to the forest floor and his head hanging forward. She could only see the back of him. The dark leather jacket and the old jeans he wore.

She started walking towards him and it began to rain.

But something blocked her way. Clear and buzzing. When she rose her hand to touch it, it rippled. On pushing her hand through it, it felt like a curtain of water. And on the other side? Somewhere else.

All she had to do was step through it. All she had to do was–

Julian woke with a start. Her arm had slipped off the bedside table when she shifted and she nearly took a tumble on to the floor. She fell asleep? It couldn’t have been for very long though. Outside the window it was still pitch black and she didn’t feel like she had slept at all.

Leo was still there, lying in bed and not having moved even a hair of an inch. Julian leaned forward to reach and brush her fingers over the sticker Silvia left on his hand. That was cute. He felt so cold, though. THAT was not so cute. That was so uncharacteristically Leo that she felt sick to her stomach.

When she shifted back in to her seat a crumpling sound caught her attention. She slid her hand in to her pocket and pulled out the envelope. Did this count as him not coming back? It counted enough, she decided.

Very carefully she opened up the envelope and unfolded the letter inside.

The paper was fancy stationary, and Julian got the awful suspicion that she’d seen the pad it was taken from on Michael’s desk.

It was covered in Leo’s handwriting, back and front, the indents from his pen strokes showing through from the other side. Unlike his usual silly post-it notes, there were no doodles or other embellishments. Just a straight-forward letter. The kind he’d probably learned to write long before Julian’s parents were even born.

Like all good letters, it started off with a greeting.

Hey Jules.

If you’re reading this, well, it’s probably pretty fucking obvious why. If I haven’t croaked, I’m gone. Out of your life for good, because I’m a coward who couldn’t say this shit to you in person.

But there are things you need to know. I want to tell you in person, and I really hope to God you never actually read this garbage and that I end up chucking it in the fire before it ever sees the light of day. But since we both know I’m way more likely to fuck it up somehow, this is my insurance policy. This is me finally doing the right thing.

When I first met you, I never expected to like you. I never expected you to even matter. I used you, Jules. Michael snatched you up like a shiny new bauble and I rolled with it. I pushed him at you, even, because I didn’t realize what you would mean to either of us. I just didn’t want him looking too hard for Tasha. And then… well, suddenly, you mattered. You mattered a lot.

So this is it, Jules. This is my confession. All the things you deserve to know. I’ve already told you that I’ve done some pretty awful things. I’ve killed people. Worse, I’ve been playing this stupid game of chess with people as pieces against Michael for so long that I don’t even know how to fucking stop. Tasha, Colby, you, and so many others… All that’s on me as much as him. Don’t think I don’t know that.

And here’s another thing you don’t know. You know my off switch, the one that lets me shut down and just… not feel things? Yeah, well. Nice idea… in theory. Mine’s always been broken. Worn out. I can’t really ever fully shut it all out, and God knows I’ve tried. And I think that makes it worse, because there’s no easy little scapegoat for me to say “Oh, I didn’t know what I was doing, that wasn’t REALLY me.” I’ve been there every step of the way. It was always me.

I wasn’t even a vampire when I killed my parents. It doesn’t matter that it was an accident. They would be alive if it weren’t for me. Like Sadie. Like Violet.

It was me in there, the day I killed Violet. I loved her, you know that? We were both just dumb kids, but I think one day we might have been, you know. More. I don’t know. Maybe not, but I do know this: I loved that girl.

You know that I killed her, but. That’s not the whole story, Jules. Michael told me that he’s told you everything, but… well, call me an optimistic idiot, but I can’t believe you really would forgive him that easy if you really knew.

I didn’t do it.

Or rather, I had to do it. It was the right choice.

When Michael turned, he was fucking batshit. You’d never believe me if I told you what he was like, because you’ve only ever known him since he turned into a control freak. He turned me after I told him not to, after I tried to get away. And when I wouldn’t eat, he got desperate.

Michael. Well. He basically set it up so that I had two options for what would become of Violet Whelan. I chose the one that broke my heart less.

And I’m not telling you this as some last-ditch smear campaign against him, okay? I just want you, of all people, to know what really happened to her. Because if I don’t remember what she suffered, someone has to. And I want it to be you. I want you to make him tell you what he did to her.

And I want you to promise me something about Michael, too.

You have to save him.

I won’t ever retract my opinion that Michael is a grade-A asshole. He is. What he’s done to me? I can’t ever forgive him for that. But the person he is now… That’s not who he was, Jules. And if you see something good in him, well, maybe that means that somewhere deep, deep down, my friend is still in there. And if he is, maybe you’re the one who can bring him back. Because I never could.

I’ll never get the chance to keep trying.

Jesus Christ, Jules, what have you done to me? I never meant to die an honest man, you know.

Look. I know you’re probably going nuts trying to think of ways to save me or bring me back or whatever the status of the situation would require, but… Let me go, alright? I died a long, long time ago. I’ve been running on borrowed time for over 100 years. I’ve used up all my nine lives and all my second chances.

There’s no cure for me. There’s no way to “save” me. You’re too smart for that crap.

Just promise me one thing…

Don’t die.

Julian read. And then read it again. She went over the damn thing five times before her hands dropped in to her lap, the paper getting crumpled up in to a tight little ball.

“You SON of a BITCH.”

Did he actually think he could get away with this? Write her a letter spilling his guts and then just take off to god knows where? That she wouldn’t read this and then immediately go find him and kick his sorry ass?

And worse, did he really believe she would just let him die.

“I can’t BELIEVE you! You freaking idiot.” Growling, she stood up from her chair and shrugged off her jacket. The poor thing got tossed down with all the fury she wanted to aim directly at Leo. Julian pushed the sleeves up of her shirt past her elbows, then she started unwinding the bandage and peeling the bit of bloody gauze off the palm of her hand.

Julian flexed her fingers hard. The wound had stopped bleeding, but it reopened quickly with the furious movement. There wasn’t quite enough blood, though. He didn’t even swallow enough the first time she tried, not really. She needed to make sure he actually took it. Retrieving the knife off the nightstand, she pressed the tip to her skin again. With a deep breath, she drug it hard and deep against the wound. This time it hurt like hell right away. She made a little mrrphing sound of pain and flexed her fingers again.

Yeah. That was lots of blood.

Julian climbed on to the bed and on top of him, grabbing his jaw roughly and covering his mouth with his bleeding hand. If he woke up and was so determined to die that he tried to fight her, she’d have him pinned. Maybe she’d even hit him. If she needed to force feed him every drop of blood in her body just to get him back to life, she would. And then she’d HAUNT him for the rest of his vampire life!

Don’t die. YOU don’t die, you stupid ass!”

As soon as she’d gotten his mouth open wide enough for her to bleed into it… and waited long enough for the blood to actually start sliding down his throat… he coughed again. This time though, with the angle his head was at on the bed, there was nowhere for it to go but right back down. His second cough ended in a spluttering gurgle.

After a moment, he jerked like he was trying to turn his head away. Blood smeared across his chin and dribbled down to stain the nice white pillowcase on Caleb’s guest bed. But Julian’s hand was still over his mouth, and he was still getting a dose of unfiltered Hollinger.

Like a switch had been flipped, he went hot underneath her. Color started to rush back into his face- the places where it wasn’t black and peeling, anyway. Like a fitful sleeper, he stirred.

“Mn,” he groaned. He tried to turn his face away again and hissed in pain when he mashed his burnt cheek into the pillow.

“I’m GLAD it hurts! That’s going to feel like tickles when I’m done with you!” Julian hissed through her teeth. When he tried to turn his head away, she pressed her hand down harder to pin his head in place against the pillow.

This probably looked and sounded absolutely crazy. But Julian didn’t care.

“Go on, drink it. You don’t get to tell ME what to do, Leo Lanier. No way to save you, my ass. I can do what ever I want to do. I’ll raise your dumb corpse out of HELL.” Presently, whatever she wanted to do meant shouting at a half dead vampire. Julian grabbed on to his jacket with her other hand. If she could shake the hell out of him and still feed him at the same time she would. Instead she was making sure she had enough weight on him to keep him still.

“-I’ll raise your dumb corpse out of HELL.”

That was about the point that Leo became vaguely aware of his surroundings.

The back of his head felt like it had been carved out with an ice cream scoop. His throat was raw and stinging, and he couldn’t feel part of his face- until all of a sudden he could, a little too well. Meanwhile there was a solid weight on top of him, pressing him down and-

Oh, fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

“What the fuck are you doing?” he tried to say. Between his completely fucked windpipe and the palm covering his mouth, it didn’t really come out with any clarity. His hand flying up to clutch at her wrist probably got the message across, though.

Involuntarily, his body drew breath. He soaked in her scent, all iron tang and fury and fabric softener and shampoo and other things he didn’t know how to define but which filled his head with fog again even as he struggled to crawl back out of the depths of unconsciousness. His heart started to beat again, way too loud and way too fast.

Another drop of her blood landed, viscous and sweet, on the back of his tongue.

Making an absolutely wrecked noise, he sank his fangs into her palm and lapped at the open wound.


His eyes stayed firmly shut. He didn’t know what he’d do if he had to see her face at that moment.

Ow.” she said it so deadpan and deliberate. The way you would say it to a cat that was nipping too hard. It did hurt though. In a weird, fuzzy sort of way. If she weren’t so damn furious, she’d be perplexed by the whole thing.

But no. She was still angry.

“Yeah, you just go ahead and close your eyes, that’s not going to spare you!” Julian flexed her fingers. They felt ever so slightly numb now. But she wasn’t going to stop until she could see him good and healed.

“You thought you could just write me a letter and disappear? Well I got news for you, dumbass, I’ll find you. I don’t care if you run to another continent or you’re swimming the river Styx. You don’t get to just leave and not say goodbye.”

Leo was barely listening to a word she was saying.

His ears were full of the rushing sound of blood leaving her body, of her heart beating steady in her chest (and his own, still hammering away like a jackhammer on the fritz), the slightest change in her breathing. His throat was clogged with blood. He could literally feel himself draining the life out of her.

The worst part was how much he liked it.

He could also feel his wounds knitting together and fading away. Fast, too fast, that meant he was taking too much. He needed to stop or he was going to leave her all used up and empty on the floor.

Leo had had this nightmare before.

With a low growl, he tried to squirm away- but with his current strength, even a scrawny-ass teenage girl could out-muster him. It was like her hand followed him, pumping more blood into his mouth. He couldn’t get his fangs to retract, couldn’t stop.

Growing more desperate, he squeezed and yanked at her wrist, trying to force distance. It wasn’t the best plan, but his head was full of red, red, everywhere red.

“You’re not done. I’m not letting go until you’re fixed.”

He was starting to panic and somehow, that was what pushed through the wake of her anger. The heat and volume faded from her voice. The scowl melted away, replaced by a look of concern. But she couldn’t stop. There was still a bit of the burns on his face, and he couldn’t even squeeze her wrist hard enough to drag her hand away. He needed this.

“It’s not too much.” she responded, not even known what she was responding to. “You can take it all, I don’t care.”

That suggestion, funnily enough, was what finally gave Leo the strength to wrest her hand away from his lips.

His eyes snapped open. Not that he gave a shit at the moment, but he must have looked a picture: pupils totally blown, blood drying around the corners of his mouth, hair matted down with sweat on his forehead. Part of his cheek was still raw and red like he’d taken a hot iron to the face.

The first thing he saw was her open palm, still gushing blood- more slowly, now, which wasn’t a good sign. Transfixed for a few seconds, he shuddered and watched her clotting blood trickle down her forearm.

Then his gaze traveled up.

Quick as a coiled snake, he sat bolt upright. His hands settled like perching insects on either side of her face, not quite holding but just barely present. He was so close to her now that their noses brushed.

“Not going to hurt you,” he babbled, more to himself than to her. “Not going to hurt you, not going to hurt you.”

Part of him was ready to strike. He was all too aware that her jugular was right there, that all he had to do was tilt his head and take exactly what she was offering. But he couldn’t, he couldn’t, he needed to-

He lurched forward.

His lips came crashing down on hers like a freight train, headed way off the rails and going too fast to stop.

I know you’re not.

Was what she was going to say.

But those words died in a flurry of fire. It was instant. Like a switch getting flipped, a match being lit. Her hands went from being raised and ready to shove him back down if he wanted to fight, to now sliding up his neck and brushing her thumbs against his jaw. She pressed forward, leaning in to his mouth hard enough to tilt him backwards.

Somewhere in the back of her head something was insisting this was wrong. He was weak and now delirious with blood. She was taking advantage of someone for something she shouldn’t be allowed to want.

But she couldn’t stop. Not when she grazed his mouth with her teeth. Not when she could taste her own blood on his lips. He made the world dizzy and crystal clear all at the same.

She didn’t want to stop.

She was kissing him back.

Leo’s brain shut off.

When she pushed forward, he dropped back against the mattress like a stone- but he dragged her right down with him. His hands found her waist, thumbs digging into her hips. One of his fingers slipped up under the hem of her shirt, curling against her skin. Hesitant. Hardly daring to let himself believe that this was really happening, that he was actually allowed to touch her.

A nagging voice tried to tell him that he wasn’t. He shouldn’t.

He told that voice to go to hell.

His nerves felt like they were on fire. He was all too aware that she was straddling him, that they’d already been in an overly intimate position even before he’d woken up. And yeah, fuck, there went his brain again, except now it was mentally subtracting several layers of clothing and about to get him in a shitton of trouble.

Leo knew he could try and blame it on the blood or on the suggestive contact or on whatever the fuck else he wanted, and it would still be a load of crap. The truth was that just a brush of lips was all it took for him to completely lose his head. He’d tried so hard to avoid ending up here, but now all he could think was Why the fuck did I wait so long?

Damn. She was going to hell.

But she was going to take him with her.

Because Julian wasn’t hesitant. She wasn’t shy or bashful. All thoughts and misgivings were gone the second she fell on top of him. She kissed him like she was thirsty and he was the only thing she could drink. Her bloody hand slid behind his head, both to brace her weight and to curl her fingers in to his hair. The other moved down his neck to grip the collar of his jacket and pull. She missed his coat, but kinda right now, fuck this coat. It was in her way and thus it got pushed over his shoulder.

She couldn’t breathe and it was the best kind of breathlessness. He didn’t know what he did. How she felt his heart beating. How just a tiny touch against her skin was kind of sparky. And there was no way to tell him, as she had every intent to make as breathless as she was.

Leo shifted restlessly on the bed, of two minds about this situation. Instinct was telling him to roll her over and pin her to the sheets; his more human side was whispering at him to sit still and enjoy the ride.

Once it became clear that Julian wasn’t about to slam on the breaks, Leo’s reservations went right out the window. His hand slid all the way up under her shirt, his fingers exploring across her stomach and then around to splay against the curve of her lower back. It was kind of electric, the way her skin went hot at his touch.

He was still licking his way into her mouth like he was an addict and kisses were his fix. Which probably wasn’t far off from the truth.

Good thing he didn’t really need to breathe, because he wasn’t about to come up for air.

Meanwhile, his other hand was slipping out of the shallow of her hip and down over her jean-clad curves until his fingertips trailed along her inner thigh.

“Oh hell.” she whispered against his mouth. He could set a room on fire just with a look, and he could melt her whole body with a touch. And yet she still shivered. Goosebumps running up and down her flesh. Clothing was now the bane of her existence. Julian ran her hands down his chest until her fingers curled in to the edges of his shirt. She pushed it upwards, dragging her thumbnails against his skin. Her head dipped to capture his mouth again.

Then the bedroom door slammed shut. Julian hadn’t even heard it open in the first place.

“That’s great. YOU GUYS get the hot makeout sex and all I get are the let’s just be friends snuggles. How do you even have the energy for this?” Angela asked, resting her hands on her hips and trying to suppress the hugest fucking Cheshire grin.

Julian froze, raising herself up on her hands above Leo. He was kissed-smitten. All blue eyes and bloody. Ice cold reality came crashing in. This was bad. She was a terrible bad horrible person. Shit. Shit shit shit. Julian went rolling off the bed and leapt to her feet. Once she was standing, she nearly wavered and toppled over. Between bloodloss and losing her MIND there wasn’t much left to feed her brain.

“Honey, you got something right about aaahh, here.” Angela gestured a pointer finger at her mouth.

Julian wiped her face quickly with her sleeve and went scurrying towards the door. She needed to get as far away from Leo as humanly possible. Before she went and did something colossally stupid. Like shove Angela out of the room, lock the door, and jump right back in to bed.

But Angela caught her around the waist and pushed her back to the center of the room.

“Whoa whoa, no way, sweetie. You’re a tasty human treat covered in blood in a house full of newbie werewolves. You’re not leaving this room yet.” She tilted her head, casting a sugar sweet smile at Leo. “And if Caleb finds out you were nibbling and kissing on his favorite not-sister, he’s going to rip your head off.”

Leo swore.

The second that Julian had jumped away as if she’d been burned, he had also scrambled upward into something resembling a sitting position. And grabbed the pillow, hugging it strategically in front of him because… yeah. Awkward.

Not as awkward as the fact that Julian looked like she wanted to be anywhere but here, though. But really, he ought to have expected that.

Ignoring the clenching in his chest cavity, he wiped at his face and turned his head to stare down the bedroom wall.

What the hell was he even supposed to say?

“Don’t you know how to knock? Fucking Christ,” was probably not it.

“I’m sorry, the last I checked, you were out cold and she was so out of her mind worried about you that I had to take her knife away before she stabbed somebody.” she tapped her fingers against her chin, the most amused expression on her features. “I guess I shouldn’t have left it in here, cause obviously she DID. BY THE WAY will you do something about all that blood, because I really want to see the horrified look on both your faces, but you’re making me queasy as fuck.”

Julian would have paled even if she wasn’t already color-drained. How did this get so out of control. Why did he have to kiss her. Why couldn’t he have just waited until they were home to do it.

Holy shit. She has a boyfriend. And that boyfriend was not Leo.

She moved over to Silvia’s box of first aid fix-its, hovering like she was some sort of undead specter. Out came a towel that she wrapped around her hand. Julian struggled to get her own expression under control. She wasn’t looking horrified. She was just a little… confused. Startled. Unbelievably out of her mind.

“He needed the blood. I was only saving his stupid life so I could kill him again and he KNOWS why.”

“Kill him all succubus style, huh. Niiiiice. Just suck the life right out of him through his-”

“Oh my god.”

Angela laughed. “You guys are so dumb and cute, I love it. Do you want me to leave, because I could totes let you finish.”

He dropped his forehead against the headboard with a bang.

“Get the fuck out,” he said. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “And take her with you. I’m not going to die anymore, no need to dangle a steak covered in A1 sauce in front of my face. Not unless you’re cool with your best friend being a lifeless husk on the floor, anyway. Real clever move, slicing open her hand and shoving it down a starving vampire’s throat. Brilliant.”

His mouth had already gotten him in enough trouble today, but it was like he couldn’t stop, because if he stopped his stream of tedious bullshit for five seconds, all he would get was overwhelming and unbearable silence.

“Hey! Fuck you! She did that to herself.” Angela rest her hands on her hips and tapped her fingers angrily. “Honestly, I’m glad she got all handsy instead of stomping out of here to go rescue Walter to fix you. She’s not exactly working on the mortal plane right now.”

“I’m standing RIGHT HERE.” Julian announced. “And I know exactly what I’m doing.”

Angela’s eyebrow quirked up. “Molesting Leo in Caleb’s guest room?”

Julian squeaked under her breath, just the faintest twinge of pink hitting her cheeks. Once she took in a deep breath, the expression completely changed from slap-in-the-face embarrassment to this straight-backed royal and haughty sort of glare that Angela couldn’t remember seeing before. With her hands clenched at her sides, she stalked forward.

“Yes, I did.” Julian paused next to Angela, “And I liked it.” she said with a hiss and a stomp of her foot. Then she went marching out the door to disappear around the corner. She didn’t escape far though. Julian only got a bit down the hall before she leaned against a wall and slid down to the floor. She knocked her head against the wall a few times and dug her hands to her hair. This was the hugest mess! What did she do!

Angela turned to watch Julian leave, baffled and slack-jawed. Pointing her finger at the door before turning to face to Leo. “That’s frightening. What did you DO? I was only gone for like, twenty minutes!”

“And I liked it.”

Leo’s shoulders stiffened. He twisted back around, his legs swinging over the side of the bed, and smoothed a hand across his chin. Dumbly, he blinked after Julian’s retreating- okay, yeah, he was staring at her ass. Whoops.

“I didn’t do shit,” he objected. There was a weird sort of half-smile, half-grimace creeping across his face. “She was driving.”

“Really?” she asked, sounding a little stunned. Her mouthed pursed in doubt. “Hmmyeah, maybe. I guess she has had kissing on the brain for a couple weeks now.” She made an over-exaggerated gasping sound and covered her mouth with her hand. “Oop! But you didn’t hear that from meeee-eeee~!”

Angela crossed the room, picking up an offending bloody towel between two fingers and tossing it in to a box. Whew. Gone. If these idiots were going to start getting in to bloody kinds of adventures she would need to find a way to get over that ill feeling.

“You oughta wipe that grin off your face though, because she’s gonna realize she has a boyfriend. And our Jules is not very good at keeping secrets. She’s gonna tell him what happened.”

And what was this? Angela stooped to pick up a crumbled piece of paper. She used her nails to loosen the ball and straighten it out.

“‘Hey Jules. If you’re reading this,’” she read out loud.

“Oh. I know,” said Leo calmly. “He’s going to kill me. And that’s not hyperbole, in case you’re wondering.”

At least, he was calm until she started to orate from that letter. In an instant he was on his feet, crossing the room to snatch it out of her hands.

“That’s not for you,” he bit out.

And then he realized that if it was here, and not in Julian’s pocket…

“Fuck,” he swore. He dug the heel of his palm into his eye. “Fuck.

“Let me guess. That’s what pissed her off.” she stated, watching him and trying not to laugh about the entire thing. He was so totally fucked over right now. There were a million different ways he could’ve won over Julian and it not be a total freaking disaster. And today was not one of those ways. She didn’t even need to know the details to realize that.

Ooooh, but she wanted those details.

“You might as well let me read it, because she’s gonna tell me about it anyway!” she chirped, being incapable of hiding the mirth in her voice. Angela reached out to snatch it back. “I’m pretty sure I got a glimpse of If I haven’t croaked and I bet THAT went over real well after she threatened to maim David Hightower and leave his body in the crypt if he hurt you. …Fuck I really wish I could have seen that.”

“Did she kiss you first after she saved your dumb life? Or were you just so glad to see her, you couldn’t help yourself? Teeeell me!”

“She wasn’t supposed to read it unless I actually died.” He refused to let go of the letter. For good measure, he stuffed it inside of his jacket. Fuck that; Julian could recap it all she wanted, but this thing was going in the fireplace or the shredder the moment that Leo got opportunity.

“I kissed her.” He rubbed his face, wincing a little as he did; part of it was still a bit raw. “I kissed her because I was half-dead and I thought I would accidentally kill her if I didn’t, okay? It’s the opposite of romantic. It’s fucking awful. So just… fuck off and let me figure out how I’m going to fix this.”

“Uh huh. You’re not so great at fixing things. I guess Angela Mercy – Romantic Sexpert will have to intervene once again.” She gave a world weary sigh, rolling her eyes as she strode for the door.

“For the record, though, I think you’re an idiot and there’s one super easy way to fix everything if you’d just do it.” she flashed him a grin and gave him a wiggly wave of her fingers before she let herself out.

It only took a few steps down the hall to find Julian still sitting on the floor, now with her head resting on her knees.

“Didn’t get very far, didja.”

“I’m really, really dizzy.” muttered Julian, lifting her head up just a fraction. “Dizzy and stupid and… just so stupid.”

Angela dropped down to the floor and took a seat next to Julian. “So how exactly did you get from taking a nice harmless nap, to bleeding yourself to death, to super hot makeouts? Because I poured a lot of booze down your throat, but I didn’t give you that much.”

Julian shifted uncomfortably. “He wrote this stupid letter. He kissed me and like an asshole I just. I shouldn’t have. He was delirious and freaked out and I just shouldn’t have.”

“Has it occurred to you that he might have actually wanted to kiss you?”

“He doesn’t. He wouldn’t have done it if he weren’t all messed up. I knew this and I kissed him anyway and it was sparky and I liked it and I want to do it again and I’m a horrible person. How am I even supposed to talk to him now? I don’t want him to leave and now he’s definitely going to leave. And Michael! What am I supposed to tell Michael? How can I be mad at him and then go turn around and be an asshole too!” Julian groaned, tilting over until her head dropped against Angela’s arm.

Angela reached up to pat her affectionately against the cheek. “Forget Michael and run away with Leo. Problem solved.”

“I can’t.” she mumbled softly. “I’m going to die just like Violet and Sadie and he’s going to think it’s his fault. He’s finally figuring stuff out. He should have something better than a girl that’s going to die before he even gets to enjoy being with someone.”

“You probably should have considered that before you went bleeding yourself to save him. I doubt he would have been too happy accidentally killing you.”

“Oh jesus! I didn’t even- I am so dumb!”

“Yep. C’mon, dummy. Lets wrap that hand up again before you become a wolfsnack too.” Angela picked herself up on the floor, then reached down to grab Julian’s hands and pull her up. “Then maybe we can go home.”

Julian shook her head. “I have to do something about Walter. And Michael… I think Michael will be in trouble too. Have you called him?”

“Damn. I knew I forgot something.”

Michael didn’t answer his phone.

He didn’t answer his texts, either, and that was not typical for him at all. Even when he was too busy to pick up the phone, he was prompt about answering messages. And the guy didn’t sleep; the only time Julian knew he had ever been unconscious was after catching Walter’s poisoned knife.

It seemed like everything was determined to mess with her head tonight. Halloween weirdness, David Hightower, Leo… And now Julian was adding extreme amounts of guilt on top of it. Because of course she’d be getting her hands all over Leo while something was going terribly wrong with her actual boyfriend.

At first she thought maybe he was just ignoring Angela. But even when she got her phone charged up enough to send a message, there was nothing. Michael never ever failed to respond. Never.

She was freaking out.

Julian held her phone in her now re-bandaged hand, gesturing with frustration at it with the other. “He should answer. He doesn’t ignore me. He-”

Superimposed, she saw David waiting alone in the crypt, his face clear under the light of a freshly-lit torch. He pulled something out of his pocket: a cell phone in a silver case. Across the cemetery, Buchanan’s car pulled up.

That- That was hours ago. She missed that detail before when she took off to rescue Leo. Michael never asked Leo to meet him at the graveyard, that was David. Which meant all this time she was sitting around being stupid she really, really should have been hunting down David.

“David has Michael’s phone, and he has Walter and he probably has Michael and he’s casting a spell and probably kill everybody in Silent Pines!”

“Julian. You need to breathe. You’re two seconds away from a meltdown.” Angela very carefully plucked the phone out of Julian’s hand. “Am I gonna kiss a hot guy in college?”

“Um- Yes.”

“Then he’s not going to kill everybody in Silent Pines. Now do you want wolf backup or vampire backup?”

Julian just gave a pitiful sort of look.

“Vampire AND wolf it is!” Angela decided, grabbing Julian’s wrist and dragging her along. “Where’s those two pointy-teethed assbags!”

“So you’re telling me we have a witch out there powerful enough to block psychic girl’s readings, trick two vampires, and take down this guy Walter- who was taking on like six other witches at once last I saw- and he has some powerful spell in the works that involves the Big Six and some kind of old Silent Pines witchy secret society? And we have no idea where he is,” summarized Tanner Bones, looking around at the rest of the pack with furrowed eyebrows.

“Yeah. Thanks for the two-minute recap of this conversation, furball.” Leo had been unusually quiet since Angela had managed to drag him out of the guest bedroom and into the den, but apparently his snark had made a full recovery at last. “Glad you could contribute to this think-tank.”

Tanner took a step forward, cracking his knuckles, but all Caleb had to do was look at him and he relaxed- though not without putting on a sulky face.

“Julian,” Caleb spoke up. “Are you still having trouble getting a vision?”

“She’s tired,” Leo cut in again. “Maybe someone else could do something around here for a change? Give her a break.”

“We are so doing something,” Kyle Cooper- the youngest in the pack, unless you counted Silvia, which no one did- replied, defensively. “Dylan and Harper are out there right now-”

“Oh yeah, Dylan. I remember that kid. Isn’t he the one who faceplanted into a wall a couple hours ago? Does he do that with glass doors too?”

“I don’t see YOU doing anything to help!”

“Right.” Leo’s expression blackened. “Don’t mind me, I’m just recovering from mortal injuries and betrayal over here. It’s not like it’s my cousin that’s going to probably be sacrificed in wacky cult rituals or anything.”

“I know he’s not going to die?” Julian offered, aware that it wasn’t exactly useful knowledge when there were plenty of things worse than dying. After all, Angela gave her that lecture hours ago. Everyone was putting up a big fuss about her, and it was starting to get embarrassing. She was fine. Maybe she was a little tired and all that concentrating was making this weird spot at the back of her head hurt, but she was fine.

Silvia suddenly handed her a juice box from her lunch stuff. The straw was even already poked in it. Julian just sighed, obediently taking the silly thing. “I’m having a hard time getting anything other than nonsense. I now know what soap Walter has been using. Michael fussed about a book Angela didn’t put back on the shelf yesterday. And someone in here threw Tanner’s shoes in the lake last week.”

“Wasn’t me this time.” blinked Silvia, the picture of innocence.

Angela tapped her fingers against her elbows, her head tilted to the side as she ran everything through her head. “Leo’s right though, Julian can’t do the Psychic Signal-”

“I can,” insisted Julian. “I just need to try harder.”

Angela shot her a look. “I was trying to say that you can’t do it EASILY right now. Even if you didn’t look like one of your damn ghosts and was on top of your game, David doesn’t want to be found. He was blocking things pretty good when he thought it was just Walter. Now he knows you’re involved and he’s got more smarts than both Michael and Leo combined to have pulled this shit off right under their noses.”

“We could just send the whole pack around town to sniff them out? Dylan is super dumb and Harper by himself can’t get around fast enough.” Silvia offered. “I bet everyone got a good whiff of Walter and David. I can find Michael! I smell him all the time.”

“Dylan’s not that dumb,” said Caleb, though he looked like he knew how much of a ringing endorsement that was. “He’s a good tracker.”

“Oh my god.” Leo snorted. “That kid is your beta, isn’t he.”

Caleb didn’t answer, scowling so hard that there was basically a storm front rolling in across his brow. He glanced at Julian.

“Keep trying, if you’re up for it,” he told her. His eyes flicked briefly over to Angela, then away again. “Meanwhile we’ll wait for those two to come back and keep planning. Leo, what can you tell us about David?”

An incredibly uncooperative look stole across Leo’s face, his mouth twisting. He folded his arms over his chest and leaned back against the wall, though he stayed perched on the arm of the couch.

“He’s Michael’s great-great-whatever and a lying son of a bitch,” he quipped succinctly.

Julian looked confused for a second, then leaned close to Silvia to whisper. “What’s a beta?” Silvia just giggled under her breath, then hid her mouth with her hand to whisper directly in Julian’s ear. Everyone in the room with super-hearing could hear Caleb’s little b-i-t-c-h. Because she was too silly to actually say the curse word.

“A nephew, to get specific.” added Angela. “He’s been to a few of the fancy events Margrit’s family hosts. But not all that often. The dude never actually DID anything. And obviously Leo wasn’t paying enough attention to the guy.”

“That’s not fair. I never noticed anything off about David either.” mumbled Julian.

“Whatever. We’ll make more progress trying to throw down on any info we know about that cult. The sun symbol, that was a thing, right?” Angela shifted to ask Julian, who nodded in response. “Right. Walter called it the Golden Sun. And I’ve got a bunch of research shit talking about a Black Sun cult. Anything could be useful and something might trigger up Jean Grey here.”

“Cousin, not nephew,” Leo corrected. He still had a stubborn turn to his mouth, like he wasn’t sure he wanted to say what he was thinking. “Nephew was just the least-weird way we could find to simplify the relationship. Michael was an only child. David is descended from his cousin. Not my cousin, though. I think the kid was named Roscoe or some shit like that.”

“How does that help?” Kyle asked, still frowning- but now it was the perplexed sort of frown, rather than the hostile kind.

“Family history,” muttered Leo, biting his lip. His features were clearing up, the emotion fading away and replaced with the obvious calculation that popped up whenever he set his mind to a problem. He drummed his fingers on the arm of the couch. “This whole thing… it keeps boiling down to family history. What exactly did Walter say about the Golden Sun? And those other two. The Iron Star and Argent Moon.”

“Finally! Glad to see you’ve turned your brains back on.” Angela pestered with a smirk. “It’s three different orders, and was originally headed by Three Bloodlines. Whelan is probably Argent Moon. I can only guess that Hightower and Lanier are the other two based on the bullshit going on, but don’t quote me on that. For all we know he’s already been kidnapping people from the other Big Six and it’s a big game of mix and match.” Angela twisted in her seat, twisting the skirt edge of her borrowed dress in her hands, and completely forgetting just how much leg she was exposing to the room.

“Family is definitely a big deal though.” she continued. “Family, duty and power. The Iron Star is the highest Order, and Walter is the big badass that gets to boss around all the other witches.”

“David said he told Tasha all about her family. Her family was from here.” Julian added. “He also said Walter wasn’t the Iron Star. They kept saying it like it was a single person and not a group of people, it was weird.”

Angela frowned. “Power politics, then. But David didn’t seem to give a shit about who the boss was, he said his duty was to his family. His only family is Michael, and then Leo by extension. But we’ve seen how much he just loooooves Leo.”

Silvia watched this back and forth with interest, finally leaning close to Julian who was sipping from her juice box and looking rather annoyed with herself.

“Angela sounding all smart is really weird. Did she get possessed in the graveyard?” she asked quietly.

Julian choked. Angela glared.

“Okay.” Leo was clearly suppressing a smirk. After a moment, though, he was all business again. “So I’m willing to bet that Angela’s right on the money. ‘Silver moon’ is like, kiddy-grade werewolf symbolism, and we already know the Whelans have been turning into wolves for centuries.”

“My father never told me anything about that,” said Caleb.

“Maybe he couldn’t.” Jumping off the couch, Leo started to pace the room. “Maybe you weren’t old enough, or maybe he just didn’t know. We haven’t seen any hint of that group other than present company- which, you know, I’m not even going to ask why none of you are adults. But I’d wager the answer to why we’re stuck in an episode of Teen Wolf might have something to do with the so-called Argent Moon not being around anymore.”

Swiveling to look at Angela, he held up his hands- one finger raised apiece.

“That leaves us with the Golden Sun and Iron Star, right? Now I guess the other two orders could be a mishmash of families, but… the Polk kid is here and fine, and he and Margrit Berkshire are probably the least supernatural people in this entire godforsaken town. Plus, if something happened to Margrit it’d be all over Facebook right now. She threw a party tonight, lots of guests. Staying-the-night-type guests. And Jules seems to have been almost entirely off David’s radar, not to mention that our good buddy Walter didn’t mention anything to her about her family being involved. Meanwhile, who do we know has been fucked with tonight? Michael’s gone, and David used his phone to get me to show up at the graveyard.”

He brought his fingers together like a pair of magnets and held them aloft, raising an eyebrow at his audience.

“Ergo,” he went on, “Hightowers and Laniers are the targets. Makes sense. Michael and I were both witches before we died; David’s a witch too. It sounded kind of like David sent Tasha after us, or maybe he just contacted her because of her connection to us. Pretty much just leaves the question of which is which. There was a sun symbol in the Hightower crypt, so I’m guessing that pretty much settles it.”

Angela lift her hands to give a slow golf clap. “Now with that in mind,” she gave a flourish with her hands. “where do we find our Hightower witch? The first big spell riled up Violet Whelan and it’s safe to say Tasha probably had her hands on Whelan bones.”

“I still have the skull!” chirped out Silvia. Julian gave her one of those that’s creepy looks.

So did Angela.

“…Anyway. She got bones, she had blood, there was a big celestial event for a bonus, and she cast her spell at that huge fucking old tree not far from where Violet died. In my witch-shit research there’s tons of stuff about places of power. One is places of death or tragedy. It leaves a mark on the location or some bullshit like that. And the other is about connecting lines of power. Leylines. It could be either of those types of places, or even both considering Tasha’s spot.”

“David already has his bones and his blood, so he’s got to be setting up for his spell now in a place like that.”

“David’s a historian,” said Leo, running his fingers through his hair. “He works at the museum. If anyone would be able to pick those locations out of a bag, it’d be him. Which would be really useful for us if he weren’t a backstabbing piece of shit and the one we’re trying to find.”

The front door opened, and stomping feet heralded the arrival of their search party even before Dylan came bouncing into the den with Harper Evans in tow.

“We couldn’t get the scent! It’s like all traces went up in smoke along with them,” he blurted, “But. I totally got something anyway!”

“Dylan. What is it?” Caleb glared at him.

“It’s good, is what it is.” A broad grin spread across his face. “Well. TWO things. First. That wacko stalker witch guy that Julian is now friends with for some reason totally left his car unlocked. We raided it. Got some papers that looked important.”

He pulled them out of his pocket. They were slightly damp and bore a few new suspicious holes, but they were definitely the pages that Walter had pulled out of his glove compartment earlier. The ones with info about the three orders.

Leo stalked over and snatched them out of his hand. Dylan’s mouth fell open, but he stopped short of actually saying anything after Caleb shook his head.

“…The other thing! We went to the Hightower house and sniffed around. The place is empty. Has been for hours. But all of the witches had been there recently, except that one who was dead when we got there. Plus? The vampire was there about the same time, still alive. …Ish. Still not sure how that whole thing works. Anyway, wherever they’re doing their witch shit, it’s somewhere else. So all we have to do is figure out where else they’d go.”

“Wait, so you basically didn’t find anything?” cried Kyle. “Dude! What the hell!”

“No,” said Caleb. “That’s actually good.”

“He’s right. If it’s not Hightower Manor, that narrows it down.” Leo tapped his foot, skimming through Walter’s papers. “It has to be somewhere with a close connection to one of our families, somewhere where something bad happened-”

He abruptly fell quiet. His complexion went a bit green.

About the time Leo fell silent, Julian’s eyes went wide and wild. She sucked in a gasp and just… stopped breathing. The sudden look she shot Angela spoke volumes.

Angela jumped out of her seat, aiming a hand at Julian and lifting a finger. “Breathe.” Her stare went to Leo though. “I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume this means the school. And that might have some… complications.” She tilted her head almost imperceptibly in Julian’s direction. She couldn’t exactly blurt it out for the room, but Leo would remember their secret pow-wow. The school was the first place Julian ever died in a vision.

“If that’s where we’re going, we have to be really, really careful.”

“What happened at the school?” Silvia asked. Everybody was suddenly getting real tense. The body language was crazy.

“The school is built on the old Lanier land.” Angela responded slowly. “That’s where Leo’s house burned down and his family died.”

Leo made this horrible sound that might have been a laugh. It was hard to tell.

The wolves, meanwhile, were all trading glances. Most of them wound up turning to Caleb with expectant eyes; none of them actually broke the uneasy silence.

Until Caleb held up a hand and broke it for them.

“That’s our best guess,” he stressed. “But is there any way to be sure? Julian?”

Julian was as still as a statue, her eyes still blinking wide. There was a slight twitch at her jaw where she must’ve been grinding her teeth. After an intense moment of silence, she finally let out that breath. Her entire demeanor changed. She stood up, limbs loose again as she tugged down her shirt sleeves and straightened her hem.

“Oh, that’s definitely the right place. I’ve had plenty of visions involving the school, this makes sense.” Her tone was nonchalant and if it weren’t for how pale she looked, she would’ve looked as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as the rest of them. “We need to get there soon, though. I don’t think we have much time left.”

Angela frowned. “I’m not sure you should go. You’ve done a lot tonight. There’s Caleb and all these wolves and Leo. That is enough.”

Julian grinned and gave a shrug of her shoulder. “They’ll need me. Leo doesn’t have such a great track record on these things. Besides, I owe David Hightower a huge asskicking.”

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