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Angela definitely wanted to live in a place just like this. Okay, maybe not with the super antique decor and the weird room arrangement that made her feel like she was prancing around in a haunted house when all the lights were out. But it was huge and elegant and like a castle.
And Angela was Queen for the weekend.
Maybe the only reason she got away with it was because she was the only member of Team Psychic still functioning like a conscious rational person. While everyone else apparently got their asses kicked in ten billion different ways, she remained stuck in Leo’s car reading the tarot book Julian left in it weeks ago. Ever so often some douchebag wolf would pop up in one of the windows to snarl or growl or bark and scare the shit out of her. The son of a bitch must’ve been put on guard duty and thought that was the best way to entertain himself while checking to see if she was still alive.
When Angela found out who it was, vengeance would be slow and sweet.
And after that..? Three unconscious dumbasses, one nearly unconscious witch overlord, and Julian who probably only managed to stay awake out of god tier level willpower. All of them were covered in just ridiculous amounts of blood, which had Angela fighting the urge to hurl so she could at least pry enough useful information out of Julian to know what happened and make sure everyone got to where they needed to be. Caleb was so fucking amazing in helping to get it all under control, he nearly had Angela throwing her whole ‘we’ll just be friends’ shtick out the window. She could be his wolf queen and have his wolf babies. That would be a delightful future.
But no, bah. Julian’s dumb moral habits were rubbing off on her. That’s probably why she was there in the Hightower Castle playing babysitter to a bunch of idiots. With a Wolf Royal Guard, of course, but still. Babysitter. No romancing the werewolf, or hitting on the witch overlord. Instead, she was poking her head in to one of the guest bedrooms to see if there were any new signs of life from Princess Poltergeist.
Not a word, not a movement.
Angela snorted and crossed the room. Once she reached the bed, she hopped up on the mattress and crawled to where her bestie was still curled up being totally useless. “Julian are you still alive?” In response, Julian scowled and rolled to face the other direction.
Oh ho. A faker.
“I have strawberry candy. The cream and chocolate kind.”
“You told him.”
“I may have told him vital information necessary to help him understand your visions so he could protect you and Michael. You wanna fight about it?” To make sure she wouldn’t, a promised piece of that candy was set gently on to Julian’s temple.
Julian snatched the candy before she pulled up her blanket and her head disappeared under the pillow.
“He saved me, and then he healed me with his blood, and now I can still feel his heart beating and I saw his SOUL.” came a muffled reply after a few crinkling sounds of a candy wrapper.
Angela plopped down beside her, propping herself up against the headboard with a few extra pillows. Bright blue eyes went wide and curious. “Dude, really? I guess that makes sense though. Lots of magical bullshit goes on with blood stuff. And there’s some texts about seers and divination using blood. I wonder if he got any fun side effects too. He did take a good drink out of you first.”
The blanket got shoved away as Julian bolted upright. Then she winced, leaning back and rubbing her hand over her ribs. “Oh god. I don’t know. He just- And I- …how many times can you kiss a guy in one night before it counts as cheating on your boyfriend?” she asked hopelessly, flopping back against her pillow.
“Christ, you did it more than once?” Angela responded in surprise.
“Three times, but the first time might count as like… five.” When Angela burst in to laughter, Julian groaned and threw an arm over her face. “This is so messed up, I have so royally fucked everyone over right in the middle of people getting KILLED and there’s no fixing it and I really should have just DIED.”
“Okay drama queen, you clearly need an intervention. Why don’t we start with the simple stuff. Physically, how do you feel? You slept for a longass time, people are getting worried. I found your hand completely healed up while I was changing out the bandage, but you just winced a second ago. So.”
Julian remain silent for a moment, squirming slightly as she tested out various limbs. Everything seemed to all be in order with nothing wrong beyond a little stiffness. Until she tried sitting up again. That still hurt a little. She pulled her shirt up to find massive greenish purple bruises across her lower ribs. “Oh hell. That’s bad.” she whispered.
“No, it’s looking mostly healed now. It was bad, though. With that much bruising still left even after everything else has healed over. How’d that one happen?”
Julian pulled her shirt down, then she shifted to turn and throw her arm around Angela. She rest her head against her stomach and resettled but refused to say another word. Angela adjusted her position against the headboard so she could set an arm around Julian’s shoulders, then softly stroked her hair back from her face. Angela frowned. This didn’t happen often, usually it was the other way around.
“You should talk about it.” Angela murmured quietly. “That’s what YOU tell everyone. You’ve got to talk about it until you feel better. You know you’re safe now, right? A person would have to get through twenty dudes before they could even get to you.”
“Mr. Cragg tried to crush me to death with a bunch of lockers. Everything happened almost exactly like the vision. Running from someone. The flickering lights. A flash of light and the weight and not being able to breathe. I was supposed to die there.” she finally replied, sounding weirdly matter-of-fact about it.
“Your Geometry teacher?!” Angela yelped in dubious surprise. Once that wore off, her nose wrinkled up. “I guess you weren’t kidding about that guy hating you.”
“I did bite him, knee his nuts, and then kick him in the face. So I guess he thought I had it coming.” Julian fell silent. When she spoke again, her voice was soft enough to almost be a whisper. “Leo killed him.”
Angela squeezed Julian’s shoulders, then tugged gently at her hair. “You feel guilty. That asshole tried to kill you first, Julian. And it looks like he almost succeeded too. Would you have gone back to school and sat in class with the guy that tried to murder you?”
“I don’t think I’m ever going back to school.”
Oh damn. Wait. Nevermind. Angela would deal with the going to school problem later. Chances were, the school was going to be closed for a week anyway once somebody realized the place was the scene of an attempted massacre. Unless Walter or Caleb had contact with some supernatural cleaning crews, she doubted that mess was going to get cleaned up by Monday. Boy, THAT was gonna cause some crazy rumors.
“Okay, but. Everything is all right now. You didn’t die, Julian. And now that vision is officially moot. We know the fire comes from the past and the Lanier house. Your search for someone was the present – weeks ago when you started looking for your parents and when two vampires asked you to find their witch. And the future you predicted is now over and done. You didn’t die.”
Julian just shook her head, as best she could while laying on Angela’s stomach anyway. “I die in all the others too though. In other ways and places. It’s going to keep happening. I’m supposed to.”
“Did it ever occur to you that you’re having psychic dreams about dying because you’re NOT supposed to? Because it’s giving you a chance to change a future that’s NOT supposed to happen? You started having those visions about the time those two dickbags got to town. I might be spinning wild assumptions here, but just maaaaybe it’s not all about you helping them. It’s about them protecting you too.”
Julian stilled suddenly. When she sat up, she stared Angela in the face, looking confused and thoughtful. “Like we were meant to meet. Like we are all meant to be together.”
“Yeah like- Wait, what?” Now it was Angela’s turn to get confused. Where the hell did Julian get ‘meant to be together’?
Julian was already settling back in to a sitting position, her hands going in to her hair as her knees scooted up towards her chest. “Oh my gooooood, I am so stupid. SO STUPID.”
“You wanna catch me up, here, babe?”
“Why do I always get everything wrong?”
“Julian, for fuck’s sake.”
“Uuugh.” Julian fell on to her back, spreading her arms wide. One hand lay limp over the side of the mattress while the other fell on to Angela’s lap. “I touched him and I knew we were supposed to meet, and that he would be important to me. I thought it was kismet. That it meant soulmates and love and- God I am such an asshole. I pushed him and rushed him and got everything I wanted because I’m a fucking idiot who can’t tell the difference between psychic vibes and actual feelings. Then I go and actually CARE for him only to get a crush on his stupid cousin too!”
“Whoa honey! Are you seriously considering Michael the victim in all this? You can’t possibly think getting a little carried away with thoughts of romance about a cute boy is a BAD thing. He was totally on board with dating you, Julian. You didn’t MAKE him do anything.” Angela scowled, pointing an angry finger at her. “If anything, HE is the one that’s been manipulating YOU. He’s done nothing but lie to you since the day you met.”
Julian hissed under her breath, rolling off the bed and jumping up to her feet only to turn back and glare at the blonde. “Yeah, well, I guess that’s karma. I chained him to me only to spend half our whole relationship thinking about fucking Leo.”
“That-” Angela’s retort died on her lips, because the phrasing was just so wrong but so perfectly accurate. “Nice Freudian slip there, Jules.”
“FUCK. YOU. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEANT.”
“Shh! Stop shouting, you’re going to freak out the wolf pack. It’s fine. At least you finally figured it all out-”
“Yeah, I get it. You’re a million times smarter than me and you had it all figured out weeks ago. Well I don’t think that fast. I don’t KNOW what’s psychic stuff and what’s my feelings, or Michael thoughts, or ghosts, or Leo, or the freaking universe using my head like a satellite dish. Why can’t you just let me work things through at my pace and at my level and just mind your own damn business.”
Both girls fell quiet. Julian standing straight as a board with nails digging in to her palms, while Angela sat there looking wide-eyed and stunned. Angela was the first to take in a breath and open her mouth. “Jul-”
“I have things to do.” Julian’s quiet dismissal cut her short. Then without another word she marched across the room, flung open the door and slammed it behind her.
“…shit. Shit.” Angela remained glued to her seat, staring at the door bewildered and feeling just a little bit wounded. “Holy shit.” With her hands shaking, she fumbled to pull her phone out of her bra and thumb a text. She wasn’t sure if the jerk was even conscious yet. And maybe she would have it all worked out by the time he was. But she needed her best friend, and right now all she had was a understudy.
I think Julian just broke up with me.
“Normal people use the door,” a voice spoke up just as Julian managed to unfasten the window latch.
Uh oh. Apparently the empty guest bedroom wasn’t so empty.
The bedside lamp illuminated the room with a soft click. It had been about nine in the morning by the time Julian was ushered inside of Hightower Manor, but she’d definitely been out for a while; it was already dark outside. She hadn’t noticed Walter lying on the bed when she’d chosen this method of escaping her somewhat-literal watchdogs.
He looked better. Someone had found him some clean clothes, so he’d gotten out of that ridiculous Giles costume and into something more comfortable. She couldn’t see if his shoulder was still messed up under his shirt, but the color was back in his face and he looked alert (if still bedridden).
“It’s probably not a good time to be taking a stroll,” he went on, leaning back against the headboard and still somehow managing to look down his nose at her. “The eclipse might be over, but I tend to think we haven’t gotten all the ripples out of the pond.”
Julian’s head tilted back as she let out a sigh. Of course.
“I don’t know, Walter. Out of a bunch of vampires and witches, I seem to be the only one still walking around ready to kick somebody’s ass.”
She shoved she window open, glad to find there wasn’t a screen in the way. Julian poked her head out to see how far down the ground was, and whether or not there was anything easy to climb down. There was a ledge she could get out of the window and step on to. If she inched far enough, she could roll down the second floor roof. Then it’d be a bit of a jump. Not impossible, but she’d need to time it right. The chances of her breaking her neck were pretty slim, maybe?
“Besides,” she continued when she stood up straight again. “You’re supposed to be the big witchy boss guy protecting Silent Pines. There’s no we. I tried to help and every last one of you nearly died anyway. So I’mma go out this window and go to CANADA where I’m not going to screw everything up, and some other asshole math teacher can fulfill his destiny of killing me.”
“I’m sorry, my translation of angsty teenager is rusty.” Whereas anyone else in the house would probably have physically gotten up and pulled her away from the window by now, Walter just sat there. “But it sounds like you saying a bunch of stupid shit and feeling sorry for yourself. In which case, by all means, go snivelling away to Canada so no one has to deal with you.”
“I guess I’m supposed to be all offended because you’re just fine with me fucking off. I don’t care what you think about about me, Walter.” Julian scowled, resting her hands on her hips and tapping her fingers in annoyance. She leaned to glance out the window again.
“I’m only waiting cause there’s a fuzzball prowling around outside and I don’t want him seeing me climb out the window.” Her whole plan would be shot if someone caught her and then shooed her back inside. Although as she glanced down at her hand, barely lifting her fingers to take a look at Silvia’s silver wolf ring, Julian wondered why she didn’t just march through the front doors and socked anyone in the face if they tried to stop her.
She was kind of thinking about just socking Walter right now.
“Besides, if anyone is a huge pain in the ass to deal with it’s YOU. You’re the one that got strung up as the damsel in distress. I’m pretty sure if you had actually shared your Witchy Overlord theories before we faced off with David in that mausoleum we could have avoided a whole lot of dumb shit!”
“You’re not supposed to be anything, Jules. Other than psychic, which is what I would have to be to know it was David Hightower or that what he was doing was related to the Golden Sun. Hindsight is all very well, but fuck you.” He stared at her, folding his arms over his chest. “I’m guessing this little tantrum is because you’re not used to dealing with life-or-death situations. Might I remind you that almost dying isn’t the same as dying? I’m honestly astonished that we made it without any real casualties. If you hadn’t been there, Thing 1 and Thing 2 would both be dead for sure.”
“I see dead people all the time. I can see their little shadows now, lurking under your bed and clinging to the window sill because they think I’m going to psychic space-out or something and accidentally hurt myself. I can DEAL with life and death and spirits and dying, and almost dying. It’s not like I have a choice.”
The wolf was still in sight from her position at the window, leaving Julian to scowl even more. Huffing, she shifted backwards and hopped up to sit on a dresser where she still had a good vantage to look out the window while she wasted her time arguing with Walter.
“I have other issues, none of which I intend to talk to YOU about because you’re just going to make fun of me for having teenage girl problems. Not that I think you’d have any useful to say, seeing as you’re old as Satan and just the absolute worst at talking to people. Do you even remember being sixteen?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. That’s what this is about?” Walter grimaced. “Yes, I remember being sixteen. When I was sixteen, romantic woes were the last thing on my mind.”
He tossed off the covers and straightened up, sitting cross-legged on the bed. His shirt and pants were loose in odd places, obviously borrowed. They might have been David’s.
“You shouldn’t be dating vampires in the first place,” he told her. “But I know that’s useless to say to a generation that loves Twilight, so I won’t bother with that lecture. I’m betting you’re more concerned with stupid shit like ‘wahhh, which one do I choose’. What I wonder is if either of them asked you to choose, or if this is all your own little melodrama.”
Julian’s face flushed crimson. She wasn’t sure what was worse, getting compared to a Twilight drama for the ten millionth time or the fact that it actually bothered her when she wasn’t supposed to care about what he thought.
“It’s not- I’m not- …ugh! You know this is what keeps getting you in trouble, right? You make too many assumptions!” Julian tilted to catch another look out the window. The wolf was gone. Another minute and she’d have her chance. In the meantime, Walter needed a serious set down.
“Of course no one asked me to make a choice. I don’t HAVE to choose. If I wanted, I could probably have both! Or neither! Or every boy in Silent Pines willing to die for me as you’ve already so thoughtfully pointed out yesterday. That’s not the problem.”
She huffed, rubbing at her temple with the heel of her hand. “The psychic stuff gets in the way. I don’t know what’s mine and what’s something else. When it’s impressions from another person or when it’s me. It’s all blurring together. The only time I’m not confused is when I’m talking to DEAD people. Probably because I don’t belong here. I belong with those shadows.”
“…and for the record, sixteen without romance sounds like a pretty shitty childhood, Walter. I don’t know why it’s so wrong for me to want to enjoy what I can get before I die.”
“You don’t seem much like you’re enjoying it,” he pointed out.
He rolled his eyes and scratched at the side of his face.
“Look,” he said. “I might be able to help you learn to shut it off. But only if you get your shit together and stop running away like an idiot.”
“Well. My boyfriend is an asshole and I can’t stop kissing his cousin. I never said I was good at this romance thing.” she muttered, shifted uncomfortably on the dresser, giving him a dubious once over.
“…and I was going to come back. Eventually.” Her arms crossed over her chest and she leaned backwards until her back hit the wall. “Angela has been trying to help me. …Um. Sort of. Just not so much as trying to control it as getting me to try all kinds of weird things to see what I can do.”
Ugh. Angela. She really shouldn’t have walked out and slammed the door on her. That wasn’t fair and none of this was really her fault. Now Julian was going to have to fix that too. At this rate she might as well just go shatter the hearts of all her friends, and then roll herself in to a fresh grave at the cemetery.
“You do owe me a million favors now.” she finally said, still sounding a little unsure at the prospect. “Add in a new bag of your mints and I promise I won’t run off without a good reason.”
Julian was starting to like Walter.
Maybe that was an inevitable fate, considering the kind of people that surrounded her inner circle. The loud and bawdy. The rude and blunt. The silent and strong. A bunch of bitchy assholes with short tempers and first instincts always defaulting to kill it now then ask questions later. But always, always a passionate loyalty for what they considered theirs.
If a person were the sum of their closest friends, Julian kind of wondered what that said about her.
In any case, Walter helped by accident. She still had that itching desire to climb out the nearest window and escape, but at least now she wasn’t freaking out. Things were a little out of her control, but she wasn’t alone. All she had to do was push through the panic and ask for help when she needed it. That’s always what she told everyone else to do, wasn’t it?
Of course that made her feel a million times worse about yelling at Angela. Once Julian ate and downed two cups of over-sugared tea, that mortifying feeling of stupidity kicked in again. On her climb back up the stairs, she fully intended to go see Angela first and foremost, but she was just so embarrassed by the whole damn thing she couldn’t figure out what to say beyond just begging for forgiveness. That really wasn’t good enough.
Julian ended up taking a turn down the hall towards her other most pressing problem. She didn’t know what to say to Michael either. But unlike a small fight with her forever bestie, things with Michael couldn’t be procrastinated without making it all a million times worse.
The absurdity of the Guardians of the Door nearly made her laugh. Julian understood the necessity for watching over a wild vampire, but it still felt a little surreal. Ghost armies and now Wolf Sentries. She shooed them aside without receiving too much protest. She supposed they either felt Michael was ‘safe enough’ or that she was scarier than he was.
Julian slipped through the door, quietly closing it behind her. She leaned against the wood, biting in to her lip as she gave a quick, wary perusal of the room. A silvery blank canvas, with his treasures locked away in boxes and buried under curtain. The history painted over and replaced with new things. Strange, how it almost felt like the perfect reflection of who he was.
“Hello, Julian,” Michael answered.
He shut his book and set it down beside him on the bedspread. He’d been conscious for hours, but his bedroom had not been decorated with spending long periods of consciousness there in mind; the bed was the only seating. At present, however, Michael had not yet been allowed outside of its confines. He’d had to make do.
Glancing down at himself, he checked to be sure once more that he’d managed to scrub off the grime and blood. That was the last thing Julian needed to see right now. A cursory glance proved satisfactory, but he was all too aware of the strange, curlicued rash on his wrists.
His knuckles bumped into something ceramic. With a start, he realized he’d grabbed without thinking for the mug on his bedside table. It was empty and had long since cooled to the touch, but he gave in and wrapped his fingers around it anyway, his index finger tracing around the rim. Little rust-red flakes came loose at his touch.
Michael shut his eyes.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
She grinned immediately. “I would say a little crazy, but under the circumstances, that’s probably nothing compared to yours.”
Maybe the gentle teasing was inappropriate, and it was weird that for some reason that made her smile. It was just that despite the calm words and simple movements, he looked on the cusp of breaking down. Like the surface was just a mask over a mess of something else. Really, he always seemed that way. But tonight it just felt so much closer to the surface. This was something she felt a lot of empathy for. No one wanted to feel like they were losing it.
Julian braced against the door, shifting to take off her shoes and only then realizing she wasn’t wearing them. Probably for the best she didn’t succeed in climbing out a window, that wouldn’t have been a very comfortable escape.
She pushed away from the door, crossing the room in a few brief steps. Uninvited and without reservations she climbed on to the bed next to Michael. She made herself comfortable by him, with her body facing his direction and legs curled to the side. Julian leaned on her hand, chewing in to her lip as she looked him over.
The cheeky grin faded, but there was still the faint hint of it at the corner of her mouth.
“I bet you’re thinking twice now about telling me not to jump in and save people.”
His eyes popped back open and his eyebrows rose. That hadn’t been the opening he was expecting.
“Did we go through the same set of circumstances?” Michael asked slowly. “I know my memory is spotty, but I didn’t think it was that skewed. Julian, I almost killed you.”
He drew his mug in closer to himself, picking at the crust that coated the inside. He could hear her heart beating, a loud drumming sound that filled his head. Despite himself, Michael took a deep breath.
And that was when his shoulders tightened.
“…Julian.” His gaze skipped down from her throat to her entire frame, looking for clues as to why. If an offended note slipped into his voice, he couldn’t help it. “They didn’t tell me you were… hurt. What happened?”
In the back of Michael’s mind, something pushed from the other side of the wall. Michael firmly set his weight against it and held fast.
“A lot of people almost killed me last night. At least you were considerate about it, you did ask me to run.” There was a wry grin playing at the corner of her mouth again, but she managed to keep it subdued.
Her head tilted, watching as his fidgeted with his mug, almost like he was using it as a shield or a talisman. She knew that feeling too. Julian reached out to lay her hand over his wrist, covering where he still had a hint of binding abrasion on his skin to still the movements. Her thumb brushed softly on the underside.
“I kind of almost died, but so did you and everyone else. I’m on the very bottom of the list of who had the worst night and most painful near death experience. You, on the other hand, actually worry me.”
“I’m fine now,” he told her. He’d had… plenty to drink. He was in control of his mental faculties again. He wasn’t starving, so there was no reason for anyone to be alarmed. If there had been, no one would have let Julian through that door- least of all Michael.
There was obviously something she wanted to discuss in particular, and now that Michael had picked up on- certain events- there was certainly a discussion that needed to unfold. She didn’t seem to be steering too hard, however, so Michael took it upon himself.
“That wasn’t exactly how I planned to see you again after the way we last parted, though.”
“No, I imagine not. It seems kind of weird now having to talk about relationship stuff right after barely getting out of a witch’s ghost apocalypse in one piece.” All of that amusement was fading. The hesitation and uncertainty was starting to weasel it’s way in. She needed this conversation. They both did. Julian just didn’t know why it was always so hard to initiate them with Michael, when she didn’t have this problem with anyone else.
He brought it up, though and now there was no backing out. Julian decided to take a page out of Angela’s book and try to just be bold and upfront as possible. She shouldn’t be afraid to be honest. Honesty was the entire problem.
“You lie to me.” she murmured softly, almost looking sorry that she had to say it at first. Julian shook her head, putting on a more stern and earnest expression. “You lie to me and you manipulate situations to steer me around where you want me. You leave details out or misdirect me so I will think what you want me to think and feel what you want me to feel. And you kept doing even after I asked you not to.”
Julian turned her head away, frowning down at the hand she leaned on and curling her fingers in to the fabric. “I want to be pissed off about it.” she admitted. “But then I catch glimpses of things and I start to understand why you do it.”
She laughed suddenly, a nervous simple sound as she tilted back to glance at the ceiling. “Do you have any idea how confusing that is? To be so completely furious with someone but also kind of get them? And that’s just the start!”
“You… dismiss me,” Michael answered stiffly. “Leo undermines everything I say, and Angela jumps at the chance to contradict me. I don’t want to hurt you, Julian, and I don’t want to argue with you. Sometimes you don’t listen.”
Even this much of an argument was unsettling. Distasteful. But Julian was already upset, and this couldn’t be avoided no matter how much Michael wished he could avoid it.
“I realize that I’m not perfect,” he went on, “and I realize I’ve hurt you anyway. I warned you that pursuing this relationship wasn’t good for you.”
There it was, that instant surge of her temper. The one where she couldn’t quite figure out why and what was setting her off.
Julian retracted her hand from his wrist, only to place it directly over the center of his chest. Her fingers splayed and the touch firm, but without any pressing behind it. Part of her wanted to shove him and start shouting, while the other wanted to comfort him and ease his fears. This was a middle ground.
“You’re wrong.” she stated slowly catching his eyes, deliberately stressing the word. “You’re trying to defend yourself when there was no reason to do it in the first place. Why do you keep accusing me of not listening to you, but then believe I’m hanging on to every word Leo and Angela feed me?”
Her gaze fell to his chest and her hand shifted. She touched her finger to a spot just under the curve of his collarbone. “I see you. Right there. A dim, faded little star in the middle of a deep pool of black. I’m always afraid if I wipe my thumb over it,” and she did then, brushing her thumb very carefully over the spot, “that when I pull my hand away it’ll be gone.” Her expression turned bewildered, like she was staring at something very very far away and right through him. Even her tone sounded awed. “You’re the first person I’ve ever seen and it’s always there. No one else seems to notice.”
She shook her head again, that frown and her senses returning. “I listen. But you don’t believe me. You don’t trust me. Then you do stupid things trying to control how I perceive you and end up becoming all of the things you didn’t want me to think about you. What did you even want from me Michael? Why did you even choose this if you were going to always hold me at a distance? Or are you going to tell me I made you do this? That I am so powerful I can force a vampire to be my boyfriend against his will?”
He smiled, as much as the expression came out strained.
“You’ve already made up your mind about me.” He lifted a hand to pry her fingers from his chest. “About how you want this conversation to go. No, Julian, you didn’t force me. I chose to try and make you happy, because I believed that I could. But as you say, I was wrong, wasn’t I.”
His grip loosened. He set her hand down to gently rest on her knee.
“From the moment I saw you,” he told her, “I knew you were something special. But your eyes were so sad. That didn’t seem right. I wanted to see you light up. I wanted you to have whatever you wanted.”
“You’re doing it again. You’re completely twisting everything up. I haven’t made any decisions about you yet, that’s the whole point of this stupid conversation! I want to know how you feel and instead you keep telling me all these assumptions you’ve made about me and what you wanted to do for me. You don’t ever answer the question, you just deflect and push me in some other direction.”
Now she was getting angry and frustrated again. Enough that she snatched both her hands up and waved them at him as if she were going to grab him and shake him. “You don’t even like me to touch you! Touch you. A kind of important aspect of the whole boyfriend-girlfriend dynamic!”
She paused, a heartbroken expression falling across her features. She pulled her hands back to curl them in to the fabric of her own shoulders. “…and I can even understand that too. For so many reasons. I don’t want to push myself at you. Not emotionally or physically or in any way. Not if you don’t want me to.”
“Yet you still won’t tell me what you actually want. And all I can think now is that you want to put me in one of your glass boxes and take me out when you want to play pretend at being a couple. Like I’m a pet to play with and not a person who is trying so, so hard to be someone you can connect with.”
“What do you want me to say?” he asked wearily. “I’ve told you how I feel. I want to be in your life, Julian. I care about you. I feel this… pull.”
He laced their fingers together.
“But I don’t really understand it,” Michael told her. “And I don’t understand you. I think I know you, and then you go and do something so out of character. Can you blame me for worrying that the people around you are influencing your behavior? You’re very loyal. And I know you pick up more impressions or feelings from people than you realize, sometimes.”
He stroked his thumb over the heel of her palm, looking down at the bedspread. He frowned.
“I’m not stupid, either.” He set the mug on the nightstand. “I’ve been noticing that you’ve been distracted. I thought it was Owen for a moment, but I suppose I should have seen it sooner. It’s obvious. And now you two have… crossed a line I wasn’t willing to cross with you, ever. I’m not particularly happy about that. If it hadn’t likely been the only way to save you, I would kill him.”
Finally, he was telling her something real and honest about himself. Or at least he was trying to.
Then he had to go and follow it up by saying he knew and he would kill Leo if circumstances were different.
She paled, squeezing his hand in the process, and for a moment she thought that meant he knew about the kissing. But no. He was talking about the annoyingly necessary exchange of blood. Not that it made much of a difference – he was still headed in the right direction. Maybe a few days ago she could have fussed and denied it, but not after last night. Leo was now a thing. A very confusing, very difficult thing.
Would Michael actually kill him? Julian hesitated to believe that was true. Michael had Leo. That’s all he had. He held viciously tight. Enough that when he became a vampire, he took Leo with him. They spent a hundred years fighting each other, and surely somewhere at some point one of them would have succeeded killing the other if they really wanted to do it.
“Don’t blame Leo.” she finally said, reaching out to grasp his other hand now that it was free and she felt like she was allowed to touch. “I – ” Julian bit in to her lip, struggling to her thoughts in order and put it all in to words. “You are right about me? I get the impressions and feelings. I get things wrong and all mixed up. …and sometimes maybe I push them out on to you. On to both of you.”
Taking in a deep breath, she sighed and looked up towards the ceiling again. “I feel a pull to you too. Something strong and magnetic and important. I thought it was because we should be together.” She laughed softly, shrugging a shoulder and trying very hard not look awkward about the whole thing. “Because I’m sixteen and believe in destiny and you make me feel safe. Granted, not in that way where I don’t think you won’t accidentally kill me one day,” she teased with a sheepish smile. “But I believe you when you say you want me in your life. I know you don’t want to hurt me and I know you won’t let someone else hurt me.”
“I don’t think we were supposed to be together like this.” Her tone fell hushed and soft. “I don’t believe you feel for me that way. Not anymore. And I-” Julian hesitated. She demanded honesty from him, she couldn’t go through this conversation and not give full disclosure herself. He was going to hate her. He’d never trust her again. This was probably going to wreck his entire relationship with Leo after she had been trying so hard to help them mend it. But she had to.
“…and I kissed him. That’s probably not the greatest sign.” she whispered. “I shouldn’t have and I can’t just do that and be with you.”
The thing on the other side of the wall slammed into it, hard.
Michael jerked his hands out of Julian’s grasp and sat back. Of all the eventualities he’d considered, that hadn’t been one of them. And it wasn’t the action of the kind of person he’d thought Julian to be.
Did this change things?
“…You’re right,” he told her slowly. “Maybe I should… reconsider what I want. And you should take time to do the same. Please leave.”
Well what was she expecting it to feel like? She betrayed his trust and she was lucky a stony dismissal was all she got. A slap in the face would have hurt less, though. But she just couldn’t leave it like this.
Julian sucked in a breath, swallowing the sudden ache in her throat. “That is it then? You won’t talk to me about it or ask why, or how, or when? You can talk to me, Michael. I won’t ever lie to you! You can yell at me too! Curse at me, tell me to go to hell.” she pleaded, almost reaching out to grab his hands again, but pulled back quickly to wrap around herself.
“Anything. I can take it. As long as you talk to me.”
“I’m not angry, Julian,” he said carefully. “Disappointed, shocked, not angry. I might even be happy for you, eventually. I… care about you both very much. But if you don’t leave me alone, I am going to get angry. And that’s not something I want to be.”
Michael wasn’t going to be the kind of person who lashed out just because something upset him. He was better than that. Being above such things was the one thing he still had, the last shred of his identity left tonight, and he clung to it with every last one of his claws.
“I will talk to you about it later,” Michael told her. “I promise. But right now I can’t.”
He needed to be angry. He should be angry. She wanted him to be angry. Then they could get past the angry part to the next, where things were weird and awkward but at least healing. This wasn’t good. This hurt.
But at least she knew now it wasn’t just psychic mojo dictating all of her feelings. They were real ones. As mixed up and complicated as they were, they were REAL and HERS. She’d hurt him and now she hurt.
Julian was officially the queen of monumentally fucking everything up today.
“Okay.” she acquiesced softly. He promised, that was enough for now. She shifted to slip off the bed and then stiffly make her way across the room. Once Julian reached the door she paused with her hand on the handle.
“You told me before that you wouldn’t stop caring for me. That if I wanted you out of my life, that you wouldn’t agree to it. Well, I am telling you the same thing now. I don’t have to be your girlfriend, but I will always be your friend.”
With that last statement (if only because her breath caught and she couldn’t say another word without crying) she swung open the door to let herself out. It closed with a click behind her.
The next day Julian was back in her own house. The music was loud. Loud enough that it could he heard through the front door.
Almost as loud was Julian’s shouting.
“If you don’t like it, CHANGE it.”
“I don’t care if you don’t have fingers.”
“FUCK YOU TOO, FRANCIS. No one asked you to be here!”
A thocking sound followed. She squeaked and cursed again.
Julian was lying on the kitchen floor wearing nothing but a faded tshirt and an old pair of boxer shorts, surrounded by wrappers of candy, empty bags of crackers and an insane amount of crumbs from now indistinguishable snacks. She had just narrowly rolled to the side and avoided an ice cream carton dropping off the side of the counter. But unfortunately not the spray of half melted ice cream as she was trying to wipe it off her face with the edge of her shirt.
Maybe it hadn’t so much as fell as it was shoved off, because there was a damning trail of chocolate evidence in a perfect travel line over the counter-top.
Except no one was there to do the shoving. At least no one visible.
“Would you just leave me ALONE.”
Leo froze in the doorway. His face felt like it was trying to form a smile, but wasn’t quite sure it wanted to commit to that reaction.
“Is this a bad time?” he asked, holding up his hands and prepared to backpedal right back out the front door. Not just because of Julian’s apparent squabbling with a ghost (who she was on first-name terms with). He also hadn’t exactly intended on seeing her just yet. He just… hadn’t wanted to spend another minute in that house.
“I mean, far be it from me to break up… whatever the fuck you’re doing. But I can come back later if that’s going to be a problem for you.”
The music shut off suddenly with a click and a cassette popped out of an old tape player to clatter on the counter. Leaving Julian to raise up on her elbows to cast the most vicious glare she could muster in it’s direction.
“I’m not thanking you for that.” she hissed in it’s general direction. Then she fell back on the floor, throwing her arm on the floor above her head. Her other hand fumbled on the floor until it found a can of whipped cream. She immediately sprayed a bit in to her mouth, and for a moment it seemed like she was too annoyed to answer him at all.
The tenseness faded from her body quick, though. Julian shifted her knees to the side and gestured to the spot next to her.
“Stay. You’re a bigger target for Francis.”
He hesitated for a second or two before plopping down cross-legged beside her. He braced his palms against the carpet and gave her a once-over.
“So,” he started. “Since when do you have a roommate? I haven’t been gone that long and you’re replacing me already?”
He studied her face while he was giving her shit, noticing the bags under her eyes and the general lack of giving a fuck she was exhibiting at the moment. He blinked. Had she been crying? Her eyes weren’t just baggy, they were red.
“Don’t worry, you’re my favorite couch crasher.” she quipped. She didn’t look at him, though. Her eyes were following something that was moving along the ceiling. Still nothing could be seen by him though.
Julian offered him the can of whipped cream.
“The shadows won’t go away now. I told them I was fine, but they’re hanging around anyway. I slipped down one stair and I’m not going to kill myself with cookies. It’s ridiculous.”
She went silent again, finally tilting her head to examine him. From the top of his head, to twisting her body to see his shoes.
“You’re okay and alive as a dead guy can be, though? No side effects of evil spells or poltergeists or bodily harm from your livid cousin?”
“Oh, please. The only reason I wasn’t peachy keen at the end of the night was that the universe designated me the night’s public blood bank. After a little rest and a couple of Michael’s nasty blood bags to boost my reserves, I was good as new.” It was true, more or less. He’d triggered some nasty witch trap by touching that shard of bone, but the effects seemed to have been short-lived. And Michael had been too senseless to score any real blows.
He glanced down at himself to try and figure out what she was staring at, but couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Same old outfit, same old everything. And he healed fast; did she think he was still going to look beat up after all this time?
“What about you? You holding up okay, other than the extra house guests?”
“I’m fine.” she lied.
Francis, apparently, did not agree with that answer. A spoon got slapped right off the counter, forcing Julian to roll and dodge it too.
“Uuuuugh! Okay!” she growled, sighing a she went limp again. This time on her stomach and resting her head on her arm. With this angle she pretty much only had a good view of Leo’s legs, and that was just fine for her.
“I might be a little not okay.” Julian muttered. It seemed like she was going to leave it at just that, but something scraped on the counter again. She let out a huff and squeezed her eyes shut.
“He hates me. I told him everything and now he hates me.”
Leo felt a cold knot of dread settle into his stomach.
“What exactly did you tell him?” he asked, keeping his tone casual. He could have played it off like he didn’t know who she was talking about, maybe, but what was the point? That ruse would last about five seconds. “I doubt he hates you. What did you do, wear black socks with brown shoes? Just when I was forgetting this was a teen drama. No offense, Jules, but this sounds more like something you should talk to Angela about.”
Julian tapped her fingers on the floor. Of course Francis would be silent NOW. Just when she could use something distracting and annoying to focus on.
She scoffed. “First I told him he was a liar and I didn’t like him pulling my strings. But I understood why he did it, so I couldn’t really be mad. Then I yelled at him, because he always deflects and defends and never talks to me about stuff. Cause you know, I can’t control my temper anymore than I can control psychic mojo. I told him him that too, by the way. That I feel too many things, and I push things, and I get things wrong. That I know we’re supposed to be together but not together and I’m pretty sure he already knew that.”
Julian rolled over on her back again, drawing her knees up and pressing the heels of her hands to her eyes.
“Then I told him I kissed you and of course he didn’t want to talk about THAT. So. …so he hates me. He definitely hates me. He’s never going to trust me again.” she muttered, dropping her arms to her side and staring up at the ceiling with suspiciously watery eyes.
“And I don’t know why it even matters to me. We weren’t going last much longer and it’s not like I’m going live past Highschool anyway.”
Leo sat in silence for nearly thirty seconds. He counted, all the way to 27.
Then he laughed.
“Seriously, Jules? Is that what this is about?” He rolled his eyes. “I mean, I’m not going to tell you to go make up with Michael because dating him was a stupid idea in the first place, but that’s a pretty dumb reason to break up with your boyfriend. You don’t have to feel guilty, dumbass. Those circumstances were pretty exculpatory.”
Seriously? He was going LAUGH?
Julian shoved herself up to her knees, resting her hands on the floor as she leaned forward and just glared at him. Glared. A wooden spoon inched closer to the counter’s edge above, she shot IT a glare before returning her stare back to Leo.
“He told ME to get out. We might not have broken up at all if he actually TALKED to me. And what do you even know, anyway?! I knew you were blood drunk and bled out, I didn’t have to kiss you back. I sure as hell didn’t have to kiss you again. But you had to go and look at me with the sparkle-blueyes and I couldn’t not do it.”
Oh shit, she really shouldn’t have said that out loud. Where the hell was her filter?
“Tch.” she clamped her mouth shut and focused her stare on a spot behind him. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. I pretty much fucked everyone over yesterday, except maybe Caleb. But I can always give him a call later and check him off the list too.”
We might not have broken up at all.
If that didn’t confirm that Leo was making the right choice, he didn’t know what did.
“Okay, Jules, lesson time,” he drawled. “I didn’t ever think to mention this because I didn’t exactly plan for it to come up, but feeding on vampire blood or being fed on can have some interesting side effects on humans. Especially hormonal teenagers. And what was happening right before both of those times? Hang on, I think I remember.”
He flicked her lightly on the forehead.
“So there you go. And what the fuck are you talking about, you didn’t fuck me over.”
“Oh is THAT what happened.” There was the tilt of her head as she rolled her eyes. “I had no idea what I was doing. Cause, you know, dumb teenager girl, cosmic phenomenal over blown psychic powers, a little vampire ecstasy. A perfect storm of unaccountability.”
Yeah, no. She was dumb, but she wasn’t THAT dumb. Julian wanted to kiss him. She had wanted to kiss him for weeks. She knew exactly what she did, especially now in broad daylight and far away from murder witches and crazy ghosts.
Minus Francis who was eerily silent.
“Just shut up and let it be my fault, okay? It doesn’t have to be yours. He doesn’t have to be mad at you. Let me take this one.”
“Why would he be mad at me?” Leo shrugged. “I didn’t do shit.”
Subconsciously, he rubbed a hand against the side of his jaw.
“It’s not like it’s going to happen again,” he said. “So stop freaking out about it.”
Leo knew damn well why, and look on her face said as much. But fine. She wasn’t going to freak out about it. She would resume rolling on the floor, eating cookies, and let whatever was to happen just happen. If they tried to kill each other, it was out of her hands. FINE.
“Yep, not again. That’s part of the new house rules too. No kissing. No sleeping on the couch, only in BEDS. No knocking shit off the counters just because no one is paying attention to you. That all sounds reasonable, right?”
The wooden spoon tilted precariously off the edge of the counter. Julian pointed a threatening finger at it.
“Francis, I swear to god I’ll put you in Leo and punch the BOTH of you.”
“Oh, no, no kissing.” He made a face. “Whatever will I do. My hopes for constant making out are shattered.”
He stood up, brushing invisible dirt off of his jeans. He cast a dubious look in the general direction of “Francis”.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m not interested in wooing a cheeseburger. Sorry if that crushes your delicate girl feelings. But your house rules are fine by me.”
Part of him really hoped that she punched him. The other part was already deciding the best excuse for leaving the room.
This son of a bitch. He was so completely full of shit, that when she got up off the floor, she really was intending to just swing her fist as hard as she could.
But wait. If he wanted to be a pain in the ass and play this it-didn’t-happen-like-you-think-it-happened game, then that was fine too. There were about several weeks of incidents where he harassed the hell out of her. He wanted to be Mister Nonchalant, she could do it too.
It would probably be a lot better than spending all her time shouting at ghosts.
“You sound a little scared. Worried I’m going to seduce you with promises of bedtime snuggles?” she retorted, shaking crumbs out of her hair.
Julian stepped past him, poking him in a strange spot on his chest as she did. She stopped to turned around and cast him a wide cheeky grin. “Don’t be afraid, firefly. I won’t even try to touch you. You’ll be safe from wandering hands in my house.” She held up her hands and wiggled her fingers as she backed towards the door.
“You’re stupid,” was the first thing that popped out of his mouth.
Not the smartest thing to say, for sure. Leo was afraid he was talking to himself, not her. Because he felt the oddest sensation when she called him firefly and prodded him, like deja vu. Except deja vu didn’t usually go hand-in-hand with wanting to grab someone and kiss them.
Someone used to call him that, didn’t they…? No, not firefly, but something close. It was on the tip of his tongue.
“I need to go out for a bit,” he said. “I was just bringing the car over. See you later.”
Giving himself a hard mental shake, Leo brushed past her and headed for the front door without a second glance. As soon as he stepped outside, he took a deep breath and leaned back against the side of the house.
Maybe he should have left town after all. This was going to be hell. But with David as a newbie vamp, with Michael being… Michael, and a few too many loose ends untied, there was no way he could just take off. They couldn’t even really be sure Julian was out of the woods yet as far as her vision of her impending death.
Bad things happen when you mess with fate.
Leo looked up at the sky. It was daylight, no sign of any more celestial shenanigans. The sky was overcast and gloomy, but that wasn’t unusual for a Pennsylvania November. Lucky for him. It looked like it might rain, though, so if he wanted to stay dry he’d need to get his jacket out of the Mustang.
Jolting, he spun around, but there was no one in sight. The voice had been faint, just a whisper on the breeze, but he knew what he’d heard.
“Alright, what gives? Who’s there?” he demanded. “I don’t have time for hide-and-seek bullshit.”
“Leo,” the voice answered. It was a sad, soft voice. The kind that belonged to the heroine of some tragic old gothic novel. “Did you forget me?”
Leo’s blood turned cold.
“…Sadie?” he whispered back.
The house was too confining. He needed to get out.
Michael paced the span of his room, back and forth and back and forth. He glanced down at his watch. It had been twenty minutes since he’d asked his unwelcome guard to allow him out for a walk. Allow him. To leave his own room. This was absurd.
Dogs are taken out for walks, he thought. Not me.
Surely even the wolves had to be bored by now. It had been two days. He was fine, or at least he wasn’t starving. Michael had, in fact, just finished off the most recent mug of reheated blood they’d brought him.
He glanced down at it. His fingers tapped against the side of the mug.
He set it down.
His phone’s text message alert went off, as if triggered by the motion. Michael stalked over to swipe his phone off of the nightstand.
But it wasn’t Julian. Of course it wasn’t.
You still hanging in there? Have your watchdogs peed on the carpet yet?
Michael’s face hardened. He dropped the phone back onto the wooden stand with a clatter, not deigning to reply. He didn’t need Leo of all people checking up on him. Feeling sorry for him.
Michael wasn’t someone to pity.
“Enough,” he muttered. “I’ve had enough.”
There may still have been a werewolf at his door, but Michael knew they had lightened up on patrolling the perimeter of the house. All he needed to do was make an exit.
And as a vampire, climbing out the window onto the roof and shimmying down the side of the manor was child’s play. Even more so for someone who’d done it as an actual child.
His feet hit the grassy ground with a soft, almost inaudible thud. Michael threw back his head and inhaled a lungful of fresh, crisp night air. Immediately he was overwhelmed by the smells. Inside his room, he’d been insulated. It smelled of old wood and old cloth and musty drywall, of books and metal (and lately, of wolf). Outside was a whole different story. The wind carried wafts of everything. He could smell the feathery dander of birds sleeping in their nest in the tree overhead. He could smell the dampness of the earth, the dead fox decaying and roiling with maggots down the street, the sickly perfume of honeysuckle bushes in the backyard.
He shook his head. This was nothing new. It was simply the sudden shock, after having been shut up for days on end. He would grow accustomed again with time.
It felt good to stretch his legs. Without any real sense of purpose, Michael strolled off into the woods behind his house. The Devil’s Wood, as the locals called it, had an offshoot here that looped around the edge of the Hightower property, granting a modicum of privacy. It had thinned some since Michael was a boy, but he was glad some remnants of it still stood.
From far off, Michael heard laughter bounce through the trees. His head turned toward the sound.
Was it one of the pack, perhaps? Or some other late-night trespasser?
It must have been curiosity that drove Michael to pursue the sound, padding quietly through the woods, his already quiet footsteps rendered utterly silent by the carpet of pine needles below. Before long, he caught the scent: two people, up ahead. Human.
Likely local children out wandering for fun, he decided. Perhaps on a date.
Closer inspection supported this theory. As he drew nearer, sticking to the shadows so as not to alarm them, he caught sight of one of them running through a patch of moonlight. It was a teenage boy with black hair and a broad grin, dressed in a grubby t-shirt and jeans. He was barefoot- and apparently unbothered by that fact, given his fleetness of foot.
“Rebecca, wait!” the boy called out. He even spoke like he was smiling. “I’m sorry! I think Hello Kitty is cute, really.”
“Leave me alone!” the girl called back from somewhere unseen. “Jerk!”
Michael started to slip back. This was nothing he needed to see; better leave them to their precious and fleeting moment.
The wind shifted.
Michael swallowed. He could hear footsteps… no. That was… a heartbeat. In his mind’s eye, he saw the boy’s heart, red and pumping warm blood through his veins.
In the wall at the back of his mind, something curled its claws into a crack and pulled.
A door opened.
The last thing that Michael would remember was a flash of something silver and round like a coin dangling from around the boy’s neck.
need it need it MINE GIVE IT NOW
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- Black Sun 001: His Name is Michael (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 002: Leo Through the Window (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 003: The Crypt (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 004: The Seventh Star (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 005: DJ Got Us Falling in Love (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 006: Dance Class (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 007: A Real First Date (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 008: Psychic Impressions (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 009: Angela’s Confirmation (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 010: Margrit’s Little Helpers (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 011: Blood Moon (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 012: Trust (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 013: Reconnecting (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 014: Angela’s Bad Date (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 015: Hide and Seek (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 016: A Chat with Mr. Anderson (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 017: Michael’s Birthday (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 018: Vampires and Laundry (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 019: Angela’s Supernatural Silent Pines Flowchart (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 020: Mysterious Ms. Abernathy (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 021: Ride Home (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 022: Ghosts and Festival (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 023: Halloween (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 024: War Council (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 025: All Saint’s Day (Original Draft)
- Black Sun 026: Not Meant to be Together (Original Draft)