Blood Moon 002: The Monster Inside (Original Draft)

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The first day back at school was dismal.

The rain was coming down in sheets; evidently, even the heavens wept that the unprecedented break was over. Apparently, it had taken the whole two weeks to clean up from the mess on Halloween- a fact that made most of the Silent Pines High School student body highly suspicious of the official (and vague) explanation of “vandalism”. Someone had actually snapped a cell phone photo of the local crime scene cleaner company’s van idling in the school parking lot, and the image had been going around on Facebook like wildfire.

As Julian and Angela headed through the front doors on the way to class. they passed a very flustered-looking Knucker Polk. It was easy to figure out why he was suddenly the center of attention, since his dad was the sheriff.

“Is it true that people DIED? Is there a serial killer loose?” one girl- a girl they both recognized from the school newspaper team- was asking, pushing her way to the front of the mob.

“I- I really don’t know anything!” Knucker stammered, backing up against the lockers and clutching his umbrella across his chest like a talisman against evil. It looked like they might have to jump in and rescue him… but Lexi Ryan got there first. The redhead grabbed Knucker and hauled him out of there by the back of his jacket, giving the crowd a dirty look.

The halls were full of murmurs and whispers and whining about the weather and the return to school. Despite the complaints, it had been a while since the school had been so alive. It was a stark contrast to the empty, echoing halls of All Saint’s Day morning.

Only Julian saw it, but the halls themselves also seemed a little… different. But oddly enough, they felt warm. Peaceful. Every now and then she’d catch a glimpse of something silver-blue flitting around a corner.

None of their other friends had ended up in their homeroom this year. Until Michael came along, it had been just Angela and Julian. Michael was there of course, when they arrived; obviously he was punctual as ever. Instead of his usual seat behind Julian, he’d grabbed one at the back of the class. He was still wearing those sunglasses from the day before, which was even weirder given the weather, the fact that they were inside, and that he had his nose buried in a book.

Julian was antsy. With perfectly good reason. She wasn’t sure what to expect when she returned to school and things were… well. Not what she was expecting. People would steel glances at her and whisper, because apparently she was the student body’s number one suspect for after school shenanigans. And it was awful because they had no idea how right and how wrong they really were.

The school itself felt different. Julian didn’t know if this was better or not. She was glad it felt peaceful and safe, but she wasn’t sure if it really was safe. She had a hard time trusting her impressions of things. Especially now that she kept seeing stuff. Ghosts were one thing, she was used to ghosts. All of this new stuff…

Then there was Michael. He would talk to her after school, but that didn’t make the fact he was sitting in the back of the room very obviously avoiding her any easier. Julian peered over her shoulder, about to wiggle her fingers at him to see if she could catch his attention when Angela’s sudden cursing caught her attention.

“These fuckers, I’m going to hunt and kill every last one of them.” she muttered.

“What’s the matter now?” Julian asked curiously.

“It’s bad enough people can’t stop gossiping about YOU, but apparently everyone is saying I’m Margrit’s new girlfriend just because she bought me some clothes. How would they even know?”

Julian looked confused. “Didn’t you post a dozen facebook pictures yesterday calling Margrit your sweet sugar mama?”

“…shit. Why did I do that.” Angela fumbled through her phone apps to get those pics off the internet as fast as she could.

Julian couldn’t help herself, she laughed.

As she was giggling at Angela’s dismay and outrage, someone settled down into the empty seat on Julian’s other side.

“What are we laughing at?” they inquired.

Julian knew that voice.

When she turned, it was to meet disturbingly bright blue eyes. His hair was slightly damp and plastered to his forehead, little drops of rain shining on the shoulders of his leather jacket. He had one elbow propped on the desk, his chin in his hand and a smug little smirk plastered on his face.

“Hi,” said Leo. He nudged Julian’s foot with the toe of his sneaker.


Julian stared at him. Blinking wide-eyed and confused, then turning to glance around the classroom. Was she dreaming? This was probably a very weird dream. Or the start of an odd premonition. Waking vision, more likely. Any moment now things were going to start getting fuzzy and surreal.

“The fuck are you doing here?” asked Angela sounding just as surprised, but at least she met his smirk with one of her own. “Don’t they put the troubled boys in special classes?”

Oh hell, is this real?

Julian leaned over the isle and hissed at him. “You are not coming to school. Get out of here!”

He just smiled at her. It was that same weirdly angelic, innocent smile he’d used on Tina.

“But I’m all enrolled,” he said. He pointed down at the floor, where a black book bag was leaning at a crazy angle between their desks. “Look, I have a backpack and everything. I’m good to go.”

From behind them came the screech of a chair being pushed back from a desk. Leo’s gaze momentarily slid away to follow Michael as his cousin stomped out of the classroom. There was a particularly calculating, calm look in Leo’s eye as he tracked Michael’s progress.

Julian gestured towards the door with a point of her finger. “That is a real good reason for you not to be here.”

“Actually, it kinda is-”

“Is there even anything IN that bag?” Julian cut off Angela, while waving her hand at her to get her to shut up. This was not going to be up for debate. Leo didn’t belong in a High School, definitely not hers. SHE didn’t even want to be here. There were a million things wrong with this.

“You’re not going to like it. You’re going to get bored and then you’re going to be annoying and distracting.”

“Hey. Hey Leo. Will you be my new boyfriend so everyone will drop shipping me with Margrit?” Angela chirped.

“Oh god.” groaned Julian, leaning backwards over her chair. Dangling her hair and her arms and giving the ceiling a why me look. “The both of you together trapped in a school. How am I supposed to save all these people? I’m one person!”

Angela’s grin went cheeky. “Isn’t she cute when she’s dramatic?”

Julian huffed, pushing her chair back with her feet before she sat up straight again. “I’m going to talk to Michael now.”

Leo caught her by the arm before she could take a step.

“Hey,” he said, his expression suddenly dead serious… and just a little bit angry. “Stop and think for ten seconds. Do you really think I signed up to be bored for six and a half hours every day just to annoy you? And did you ever think maybe ‘that’ is exactly one of the reasons I’m here?”

He let go of her, settling back in his chair, and made it very clear from his posture that he wasn’t going to be getting back up.

“You’re not the only person I’m keeping an eye on, Jules,” Leo told her. “Deal with it.”

Yeah. That was enough to make her sit her ass back down. Of course Leo wasn’t just there to be a pain. He never seemed to do stuff without having a reason for it. Assuming it was all about her pretty much just made her the biggest idiot on the planet.

“Fine.” was the only word she could spit out. Her cheeks tinged the slightest shade of pink. Julian reached for her pencil and found great interest in twizzling it between her fingers.

“With that out of the way…” Angela broke the awkward silence. “Man, I hope you choose GOOD classes. Please say you’re in all of mine? Or at least half of them? Class will be a bazillion times more interesting with you in it.”

Julian sank lower in her seat and muttered. “The two of you are going to end up suspended by the end of the week.”

Julian spent most of the day being all too aware of where Leo was located in the school building. Classes were like a game of Russian Roulette. Would he be in her next class or not? Geometry, French, and even Mr. Anderson’s Literature class were all a confirmed Yes. At least she took solace in the fact Mr. Anderson seemed as awkward about it as she did.

During lunch Julian took refuge at Margrit’s table, much to Angela’s complaining. The conversation was safe and vampire boyfriend free. No one asked her about Michael and no one brought up Leo being at school. Margrit had all kinds of plans for her Showcase that she was happy to share. Julian and Owen talked about the latest track races. Silvia bickered with Angela over which boy band was going to be the next big thing. It was so eerily normal that it was almost unsettling.

“I don’t know if I hate this or if I like this and I think it’s driving me insane.” Julian announced, leaning against the lockers next to Angela who was busy trading out her books for the next class.

Angela flashed her a grin. “Yeah? Why’s that?”

Julian grimaced. “It’s so stupid. I like that he’s here and I hate that I do. I’ve been so wound up about knowing where he’s at, I haven’t worried about the psychic stuff. Which I guess is great, but then I also can’t concentrate on my damn classwork which was the whole point of you assholes insisting I come back in the first place. And on top of it, every time I see Michael I feel guilty and there’s nothing I can do to make it better.”

Her friend laughed which just made Julian scowl more. “It’s not funny. I think I’d rather spend all day talking to ghosts and shadows than dealing with BOYS.”

“It IS funny. You talk to ghosts, punch werewolves, fight witches, boss around vampires, and yet you can’t deal with breaking up with the guy you’re only fond of in favor of the guy you have intense feelings of sexual frustration with. It’s fucking hilarious.”

Julian went crimson and knocked her forehead against the locker. “Oh god, please don’t. Just don’t bring that up. This is bad enough without all THAT.”

“Gasp! That wasn’t outright denial! We’re making progress, hurray! Next step is actually telling Leo you want his hot foxy s-”

“Angela, god damnit.”

Angela cackled. “Calm your tits. I promised I’d let you work it out at your pace. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to merciless tease you the entire way.”

Julian sighed, resigned to this fate. That was the price she paid for being best friends with Angela Mercy. “Yeah, okay. But can we stop talking about boys for awhile? No boys, no romance, no kissing, no sex. I’ll even talk about homework.”

“Damn girl, you ARE done with boys, huh?” Angela giggled, slamming the door of her locker closed and sliding the strap of her giant purse up on her shoulder. “I talked to the Counselor this morning about switching from French back to Latin. I just have to take a test to prove I know the content from the first semester, which is totes going to be a piece of cake.”

“I take it back, schoolwork is boring.”

Both girls were laughing when they headed down the hall and wove their way through the crowd of students. Julian side-stepped someone who was animatedly flailing their hands in some sort of heated discussing about chess. In the process she bumped shoulders with another girl. A very short little redhead in a cream colored dress. Julian mumbled a quick apology, but didn’t get farther than a few steps before she stopped suddenly in the hall.

The other girl stopped too. Her back stiff and straight.

“It is MINE. My power. No one will ever take this from me. No one will ever make me feel that way again.”

Six trees burned. The seventh was missing.

“This is your crime, Hollinger. You allowed this to happen.”

Dark green robes draped over a slender form, raising her hands over a black marble table smeared with blood.

“The Enchantress of the veil…”

Wide eyes stared up at her. His hands were raised, pleading for her to stop. “We can still save you. Let us save you.”

Burning, burning, fire everywhere. Licking at her skin, searing her flesh. Her screams filled the air as the flames licked higher.

“You believed I was a monster from the day I was born. I will show you what a true monster looks like.”

Bodies lay left and right, blood dripped from her hands as she peered down at the last. They stared at each other in silence. One with eyes hollow and empty. The other’s filled with pain and regret.

“I will help you. But it comes with a price. Are you prepared to pay it?”


The flashes came so quickly, so suddenly. A searing pain in her head so sharp that she felt something snap. A drop of blood slipped from her nose as Julian crumbled. Angela barely had time to reach out and grab her to ease her down to the floor.

“Julian?! Hey, baby, come on now. Holy shit-!”

While a few curious spectators began to circle the red haired girl cast a horrified look over her shoulder. Several lockers popped open, spilling their contents out on to the floor and few surprised students. The girl pushed through the bodies and escaped down the hall.

For some reason he didn’t understand, Leo’s head snapped up just in time to watch Julian collapse from his vantage point several rows of lockers down.

He barely kept himself from zipping over to them at vampire speed, instead hustling at a nonetheless hasty run down the hallway. He skidded to a stop, dropping to his knees next to Julian and Angela.

“What the fuck just happened?” he asked, putting a hand to Julian’s cheek. She was clammy to the touch and her nose was still dripping blood.

As he glanced up at Angela, something else caught his eye.

Michael was standing across the hall, his face white as a sheet. He didn’t even seem to notice Leo watching him, his eyes fixed on Julian’s still form. A moment later he clapped his hand over his mouth and turned away, elbowing a hapless bystander out of his path in his rush to hightail it.

Well, shit. Leo grimaced and returned his focus to the more immediate challenge of trying to decide whether to rouse Julian or just cart her off.

“I don’t know. She’s been fine all day. She just stopped in the middle of the hall and spaced and then dropped.” Angela was three degrees from FREAKING OUT. Julian was bleeding, pale as a sheet, and as far as Angela was concerned she looked DEAD. If it weren’t for the fact Angela could see Julian breathing and feel her pulse beating at her wrist, she would have believed the worse.

Suddenly the whole Julian dying bit no longer felt like this abstract concept and a puzzle she needed to solve. Before Angela never actually saw the really bad stuff happening to Julian. She could only imagine what happened and what it was like. But now here she was with best friend unconscious on the floor for NO FUCKING REASON. Angela didn’t know what to do. Her whole brain wiped out.

“Fix her!” she begged suddenly. “Fix her, fix her.” she continued to hiss through her teeth, shaking her hands like a crazy person to point at Leo and then down at Julian. Some subconscious part of her was trying to reign in the panic, so at least she wasn’t out right screaming. But they were still making one hell of a scene.

“Nurses office!” Angela finally spat out, an actually sane thought popping in to her head.

“Right, yeah, okay, where the hell is that again?”

Fuck. Leo had known Angela was a marshmallow but he’d never actually gotten the opportunity to see her melt down completely when shit hit the fan.

Leo pressed pause and took a moment to get his thoughts together.

He had to keep rational about this and not let Angela’s panic be contagious; they didn’t know what was happening yet, so there was no reason to jump to conclusions. For all they knew, Julian was fine. She’d fainted, probably. The first priority was to make sure she was physically okay; after that, they could worry about figuring out the cause and how to proceed. Ergo, they needed to move.


He scooped Julian up off the floor. Again. This really was getting to be an all-too-frequent occurrence.

Mercy. Get your shit together! I need you to show me where to go.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Angela whispered under her breath. She might not have actually been talking to him, but she WAS snatching up her bag and Julian’s books then pushing herself up off the floor.

Angela pointed down the hall and started marching, shoving a couple of students out of the way to clear a path for Leo. That was pretty startling enough for curious spectators, because no one could recall Angela shoving anybody although everyone had at least one clear memory of her threatening violence. The rest were just overly interested in the gossip.

The Nurse’s office was the next hall over and Angela shoved her way inside like she was ready to do battle. Except no one was IN there. “Sonofabitch! That whore calls in absent more than she actually shows up! Argh!” Angela bounced nervously on her feet, dropping her bag and Julian’s books in to a chair. “Should I call an ambulance? Oh fuck, is she even still breathing? What if it’s an aneurysm! How many visions can a psychic have before her brain explodes?!”

“Calm down,” Leo told her as he laid Julian out on the cot in the corner. “Let me check her over. Worst case scenario, I have to bleed a little, remember? It’s fine.”

Probably. He wasn’t sure vampire blood would do jack for psychic damage.

First things first, he made sure she was still breathing and checked her pulse. He didn’t give a shit if he’d seen Angela do the same thing, he didn’t trust her mental faculties just now. Once he was satisfied with Julian’s vital signs, he sat down beside her on the cot and brushed a hand over her face.

“Jules,” he started. “Jules, you in there? Earth to Jules.”

He glanced up at Angela. “Grab some water from the sink. We’re gonna splash her face and see what happens. It looks like the nosebleed’s stopped, so I don’t think we have to worry too much.”

“Right, exactly. The whole vampy blood thing. Okay, cool. This is no big. This is just like that stupid snake incident at the worst summer camp in the history of the world. Passing out is not worse than her getting bit by a snake. Yes.”

Way to go Mercy. All those smarts are going to waste.

It looks BAD. This is going to get worse.

We got back up. She’s going to be okay.

What the fuck.

Her inner dialogue was going nuts, but she still made it over to the sink and snatched up one of the plastic cups to fill with water. Once she had it, she scurried over to Julian’s side and nearly just tipped the thing out over her face.

Wait, fuck.

Sense was finally kicking back in again. Last thing Julian needed was to wake up feeling like she was drowning. Angela dipped her fingers in to the water instead, then reached down to flick it at Julian’s face. When the first time didn’t work, she tried a second and a third.

Relief filled her when Julian started to stir. Like, holy shit. Angela was about to pass out now. Her ass dropped hard in to a chair. Which wasn’t so comfortable because she just sat on her own purse.

Julian muttered an ow under her breath, turning away from whatever it was trying throw stuff at her. When she managed to blink her eyes open everything was a great big blur. Except for one little glowy spot.

“Hmm, what’s up, firefly?” she mumbled, lifting an arm to rub those annoying drips of water off her forehead.

Something coiled tight in Leo’s chest.

“You, thankfully, dumbass,” he informed Julian, sitting back when he realized exactly how much he was leaning over her. The girl probably needed some room to breathe. “You gave us a bit of a scare. I think Angela wet herself.”

Gently, he prodded her right on the tip of her nose.

“So start talking. Why did you just go nuclear in the middle of the hallway, huh?”

“What?! I didn’t wet myself, fuck you!” Angela shot back. She shifted the stuff around in the chair and was now fanning herself with a book though.

Julian grabbed his hand to pull it away from her nose, and then she didn’t let it go. She blinked owlishly at him and then turned her head again to peruse the room. Confusion set in to her features, but she only shrugged a shoulder lightly. Then winced. Holy crap, her neck and shoulders were wound tight.

“Hum. Don’t really remember all that.” she responded softly.

Burning, burning, searing her flesh.

Julian sucked in a breath, her free hand reaching out to grasp his shoulder as she squeezed her eyes shut and hissed out a few more ows. She remembered it now. The terror, the pain. The surge of something strong and out of control and familiar. The more she tried to think about it, the more it came flooding in. The more it HURT.

The girl felt too much. Now Julian did and Julian could already feel herself slipping again.

“Oh no you don’t.” Leo squeezed her hand, tight. He shifted on the edge of the cot to yank Julian up into a sitting position beside him, then reached over to snatch the cup of water away from Angela and shove it into Julian’s grasp.

“Drink up,” he told her. “It may have had Angela’s grubby fingers in it, but I think you’ll live.”

“You want me to drink Angela’s fingered water..?” Julian asked wearily and baffled. Holy crap, why did he have to pull her up. The room was spinning and her hands were shaking. It was taking an insane amount of thought to try and force herself to actually hold the cup and not let it slip through her finger tips. Julian felt like she didn’t have skin left.

Fingered water.” Angela at least was starting to sound normal again, because that one phrase was the most hilarious thing she had ever heard. “Fuck both of you guys! Next time one of you is in trouble, I’m totes gonna bail.”

Julian managed to get the cup to her mouth without spilling anything and swallowed. Thankfully it didn’t taste like grubby fingers, and it did kind of help a little bit to simmer down that burning feeling. Now she was just aware of being stared at with the worried-eyes.


She brushed her hand against her nose, grimacing at the spot of red.

“‘m fine now. …honestly not really sure what happened, though.” she admitted, stealing a look at Leo. “It just went off all at once.”

“Do you remember anything at all?” he prompted, not deterred in the slightest. “Because I’d really rather not have to scrape you off the floor again, if we can find out what triggered it and avoid that.”

Without thinking, he reached over and wiped his thumb across the top of her lip, brushing away the last of the blood. When he realized what he’d done, he quickly wiped it on his jeans and tried to push it out of his mind. And act like he’d totally not done anything weird as fuck.

“What’s the matter, firefly? First day of school turning out a little more exciting than you were expecting?” What did he look so awkward about? She was the one that had her brain trying to leak out her nose. The whole school was going to have a field day with all this new gossip. Satanists, romances, passed out girls, new kids at school.

New girl.

Ow, ow. There it went again. Julian winced and pressed the palm of her head against her temple. Every time she tried to draw the flashes back up again, it felt like trying to drag it through a solid wall. Little bits and pieces were slipping through, but most of them were just feelings. Very little of it was visual.

“Witch stuff, I think. I don’t know. I bumped in to that girl and just-” she made the little mind blown motion with her hand.

Angela was watching them and tapping her hands on the armrest of her chair. “I’ve never seen her before. She’s new.”

“New girl,” Leo repeated. Wheels started turning.

He didn’t think it was right, but he figured he should at least bring it up.

“Is it possible she’s related to your other vision?” he asked, tapping his fingers against his knee. “There was a girl you didn’t know in that one, wasn’t there?”

One asking me to save her.

Julian was watching him again, and it was strange because it wasn’t like looking directly at him. She was looking at something else entirely. “Both old and both new. A raven black nightmare and a fire red dream. One for me and one for you.”

“Please tell me you did that bad rhymey shit on purpose, because that was kind of creepy.” Angela interjected, shifting in her seat.

“Yeah, no, that was an accident. That’s literally just what they feel like. I’m not trying to wax poetic.” Great, she was going lose her mind and bleed her brain and now start rhyming out prophecies like a crazy old seer. That was more embarrassing than passing out at school.

Julian tilted until she was leaning far enough to hide her face against and just behind Leo’s arm. She was so DONE with today!

“You assholes should have just let me stay home. I told you school was a bad idea.”

“Where the fuck are you?” Angela shouted through the phone. Angela tended to shout a lot, but very rarely was it ever directed at Julian in that kind of tone. The girl was freaked out and kind of pissed.

Julian was only slightly unnerved by it. “You knew I was meeting Michael after school.” she explained, switching her phone to her other ear as she quickly dashed across a quiet street to head towards the Silent Pines Public Park trails.

“Yeah, but I thought you were meeting him AT school. Where, you know, you’re not alone god fuck knows where, with hello, your pissed off ex boyfriend who is a recently cracked out vampire. And RIGHT after you passed out in the middle of school because your brain was trying to bleed through your face. And are you even remembering the whole bitten to death dream? You shouldn’t be going places ALONE.”

“Technically I’m not really alone? There’s at least a dozen Francises with me.” Julian offered with a hopeful lit to her voice. The girl on the other side cursed in three different languages and Julian had to bite back a laugh. “Listen, I have rose oil in my pocket. If something is weird, I’ll fight and run, okay? I’m aware of the dangers, but I’m not going to stop talking to everybody with teeth, either. I just- I really need to talk to Michael and I can’t do that with people hovering around.”

“Knowing you’re surrounded by those weird shadows doesn’t make me feel any better.” Angela spat out. “What if you go nuclear again and pass out somewhere? I’m scared for you, okay? You really freaked me out today and I’m worried about you.”

“Angela…” Julian sighed. She hadn’t considered that this stuff was going to start weighing heavily on Angela. Julian was getting so used to all the scary stuff and the death and her resignation that doom was the ultimate out-come, that she forget how it would affect everyone else. What was going to happen with Angela when she died? She always assumed Angela would bounce back and be fine. Would she?

“I’ve just stepped on to the trail towards Bayer Bridge. As soon as we’re done talking I’ll text you and I’ll text you again when I get home. Will that make you feel better?”

“Yeah… yeah. Okay. I mean, I’d feel better knowing you weren’t out there by yourself, but you can kick ass. I guess. Don’t forget to text me or I swear to god I’ll text the whole school this picture of you and Leo snuggling.”

“Wait, what!?” she could hear Angela laughing on the other end, but before she got her answer, the girl hung up on her.

“Jesus.” Julian muttered, scowling at her phone before she slid it in to pocket of her jacket. That had to be a bluff. Julian was HOPING that was a bluff.

She made her way down the trail, keeping her hands stuffed in to her pockets. Her favorite jacket had been stained blood red beyond any kind of repair, so now she sported her second favorite. Black leather that now reminded her a little TOO much of Leo’s. Which left Julian wondering if she should go shopping for something new.

Once she reached the bridge and verified there was no couples hanging out or making out, she hopped up on to the side railing to sit and wait. Trying to piece together in her head the best way to apologize for being such an asshole and explain to Michael what happened. Maybe even get them to a point where they could be okay.

She was only waiting for a few brief moments before a hand gripped her elbow, just a little tighter than was polite.

“Julian,” said Michael, “Are you alright?”

Holy shit, where had he even come from?!

At least his grip was firm enough that she wasn’t in any danger of toppling backward into the water. Maybe that was why he’d grabbed her first. He was right beside her, when she’d definitely been alone just seconds before; he must have been nearby when she’d arrived and decided to zip on over.

“I… heard what happened at school,” he went on. He was still wearing those obnoxiously opaque sunglasses, but a muscle in his jaw twitched when he brought up her collapse.


He scared the hell out of her. With the way she jumped she might have tumbled backwards in to the stream belong if he wasn’t holding on so tight. Out of reflex, she grabbed on to his arm with her free hand.

“Michael.” she breathed a sigh of relief.

Her expression turned sheepish and she turned an embarrassed gaze skyward towards the break in the treetops. The torrents of rain stopped a couple hours ago, but the sky was still a dismal grey.

“It wasn’t as bad as it looked.” she explained. “I’m still not really sure what happened other than some kind of psychic overload. All of stuff hit me at once and I guess I just couldn’t handle it and I passed out. Angela is a lot more freaked out than I am.”

When she finally tilted her eyes back to him and examined his face, she found that she really couldn’t read his features very well. Probably because the entire day he wore those sunglasses. They were so… not Michael.

“Are you alright? I meant it when I said I missed you. I’ve worried about you.” Julian needed to SEE him. She reached up gently to try and remove those glasses.

He let go of her and stepped back out of reach before she got the chance.

“I’m alright,” he said, but he didn’t sound nearly as convincing as he usually did. “Well, that isn’t to say… I’m better.”

He crossed his arms and leaned back against the opposite railing. At least he looked collected, his clothes and hair neat and his posture relaxed. He stared at her for a moment, his head tilted just ever so slightly to the side.

“…I don’t know what Angela told you,” Michael began, “but I don’t hate you. I’m sorry I threw you out that night, but I needed time to think.”

He shirked away from her so quickly that it hurt her feelings, and then she just felt worse because she wasn’t ALLOWED to have her feelings hurt. She didn’t get to feel that way, she was the one that screwed up.

Julian stayed seated on the railing, dropping her hands to the wood and metal and curling her fingers around the edge. He was putting up a wall between them. Physically with the sunglasses and the gap of space, mentally with something else that she couldn’t explain and didn’t want to invade his space to understand.

Since she couldn’t stare him in the eyes, her gaze drifted downwards to his feet and stayed there.

“I’m the one that’s supposed to be apologizing.” she started. “I wanted to explain what happened as fast as I could, not that it excuses what I did. I don’t blame you for wanting me to leave. I wouldn’t blame you if you did hate me. I just wanted to be honest with you.”

She turned her head, watching the wind try fruitlessly to catch damp leaves piled against the corner of a bridge post. “He says it’s the blood exchange that did it. That it messes with a human’s head a bit. So when he went all vampy and lost control and kissed me, it was just the blood making everything all confusing and that is why I kissed him too.”

“But that’s not what happened.” she went on quickly. “I was thinking about him long before that. Even though I was with you. Even though I tried not to, and I didn’t want to and I refused to admit that I was. And I’m sorry. I should have said something from the start, but I just- …I don’t know what I was thinking.”

“That’s what he told you?” Michael asked… quietly, almost like he was talking to himself. He unfolded his arms and placed his hands on the railing to other side of him in what must have been an unintentional mirror of Julian’s movements. “…Well. What he said is true, Julian, so it isn’t something you should dismiss entirely. I don’t mean that in an attempt to dissuade you of your feelings. It makes things… make more sense, really, if you had unaddressed- feelings, that him feeding from you would bring those to the surface.”

He turned his head to the side.

“Not that I’m excusing what you did, either,” he remarked. And that was new, Michael not coddling her. “But it makes it easier to understand, given what I know of you.”

“Everything was really intense. Just hours of nonstop intense everything. And I don’t know. I want to think that if things hadn’t been all life and death crazy emotional that maybe common sense would have kicked in somewhere and I wouldn’t have reacted the way I did.” she shrugged her shoulders, but then shook her head.

“…but I don’t think it’s true. Even innocent situations were all strange and sparky and it’s like… He gets under my skin. It’s so annoying and frustrating, but there he is.”

This was kind of weird, talking to him like this. Especially under the circumstances. But at the same time it actually felt relieving. It felt EASY. They’d known each other for months and this was the first time talking to him wasn’t a struggle.

“Not that any of it matters because we’re NOT going to be a thing. You and Leo both deserve someone who isn’t me. Someone who isn’t going to-” she cut off, biting in to her lip. That little secret had already been spilled enough. Then again who was she kidding? He was going to find out. “Someone that isn’t going to twist your heart all up and then die.”

“…Going to what?” Michael repeated, the words brittle and biting.

Something changed.

She felt it the second his hands closed around her upper arms, yanking her down from her perch on the railing and gripping hard. His face was inches from hers, their noses almost touching and her reflection staring back at her from the silver of his shades. His breath was warm on her face. All of him was suddenly warm, too warm, uncomfortably warm. Little licks of flame lapping at Julian’s skin and eating away.

She’d felt something like this with him once before, only once.

“Am I the last person to know?” he demanded, shaking her by her shoulders. “Am I?! How long have you known?

Holy hell!

Julian didn’t know if this was frightening or stunning. Granted, it was probably both. She blinked at him, wide-eyed and baffled. Trying to see his eyes past his shades and finding herself frustrated when she couldn’t. Her body tensed just slightly and she lift a hand to press against his chest. But Julian made no move to squirm and escape.

Maybe it was because she was more surprised than she was scared. This was new to her. This was something he never showed her before.

“I wouldn’t say the last to know. You are just the third to know.” she defended, unable to suppress that bit of wryness in her voice. Julian stamped it down real quick. Michael was upset, of course he wasn’t going to find any sort of humor in her dying. No one else did either. She was the only one with any sort of acceptance about it.

“I started having the dreams just before I met you.” Julian explained softly. “I didn’t think- I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. You have so many things going wrong for you already, and I’m not that important in the bigger picture?”

She tilted her head back to stare at the sky again. There was no point in trying to find his eyes as long as he wore those blasted sunglasses, and maybe she was just a little bit guilty for keeping it from him for so long. “I might be realizing now that it wasn’t such a good idea to keep it secret.”

“The whole time,” he said, like he couldn’t believe it. “The whole time? And you didn’t tell me.”

His hands moved to her face, forcing her chin down until she was facing him again. His nostrils flared; he was breathing hard, like he’d just run a marathon.

He kissed her.

It wasn’t like the slow, coaxing kisses she’d come to expect from Michael, the ones that started off sweet and careful before they got sultry. This was hard, desperate and clawing, so rough that it was probably going to bruise her lips. Possessive. It felt like… like he was trying to tell her something.

She made a muffled sound, her fingers curling in to a fist and tangled with the fabric of his shirt. Her other hand fell against his shoulder, almost pushing but not quite. It was trapped there as she went still with startled confusion. He was angry with her, but she sure as hell didn’t expect him to kiss her because of it. Not after what she did to him, and not even if she hadn’t done it at all.

Worst of all, it was mixing things up in her head again. About how he felt. How she felt. This was too sudden to process, and it kind of hurt.

Once the shock wore off, she finally squirmed enough to wretch her mouth away. She still couldn’t even examine his eyes to know what to think so her gaze dropped to that little spot on his chest.

“I’m sorry,” she managed to gasp out between catching her breath. If anything at least she knew THAT. Not telling him was a mistake. “I’m sorry. I should have told you.”

The once-weak little light was burning bright red.

“You should be,” he hissed. “You should have. You-”

All at once, he let her go and stumbled backwards, his hands up in the air as if he didn’t know where to put them.

“I’m sorry,” he choked, as they finally slipped into his hair and yanked at the short strands in the back. The color drained out of his face, but his breathing was slowing down again to a normal rate, the tension bleeding out of his shoulders. “I… shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry, Julian, I don’t know what came over me.”

He turned his back to her, leaning heavily on the railing of the bridge.

Julian stood there, dumbfounded and at loss for words. Slowly, she inched forward to take residence next to him. Close enough that her arm brushed against his as she leaned against the railing too. She watched the current of the murky water below carry bits of leaves and twigs down stream. Probably all washed in from the rain.

“I’m scared.” she murmured softly, breaking the silence. “I’ve had this feeling hanging over me, like something isn’t right in the world. Like I shouldn’t exist or that I don’t belong here? Then I have these dreams where I die and I think that’s fate’s way of putting it right again. I didn’t want to tell anyone.”

Biting in to her lip, she turned her head to steal a glance at him. “Then Leo changed it and I didn’t die. And since then I’ve been- I’ve been worse. I don’t know where I am sometimes and I see weird things all over the place. The scariest part is that it feels like it’s taking me over. That everything I am and who I wanted to be is getting swallowed up by this… this kind of monster, I guess.”

“I don’t know what to do.” she whispered. “And I keep making things worse. You probably understand that more than anyone else does.”

Michael’s back went rigid.

“…No one else has ever seen it like I do,” he said. “Leo thinks I should let the monster win.”

He turned his head toward her, then, slowly. Shades still in place.

“Be careful, Julian,” he told her. “I want you to live, and I don’t believe you’re meant to die. That… isn’t how your powers seem to work. It’s strange. I’ve never met a psychic who gets visions like yours, let alone one whose visions even can be averted. But Leo… He doesn’t think. He is capable of doing terrible things for the people he loves, Julian. There was a reason I gave you warning about him.”

Michael sighed.

“I won’t pretend I’m alright with whatever is going on between the two of you,” he went on, “but if… if you are to be with anyone but me, part of me is glad that it’s another person I care for.”

“It’s nice to know that if I do lose my mind and go kissing him again that I have your not-quite-enthusiastic blessing.” she teased gently, leaning bump her shoulder softly against his. Julian stole a glance at him, reaching over to rest her hand over his arm and squeeze.

“When is the last time you and Leo actually spent time together as real people?” she asked curiously. “Without you doing the sire thralling or just bossing him around. Without him showing up to be a sassy douchebag and deliberately trying to ruin your day. Do you ever just sit and have conversations that don’t involve lecturing each other?”

She tilted her head to see his face better, almost giving in to temptation of snatching those sunglasses off his face to toss in the stream. She resisted.

“He misses his best friend. The guy he loved and cared about before you got all twisted up and lost in there.” she reached up to gently poke his chest. “And I know you need him too. He’s not all terrible, he’s just hurt and has been for a long time.”

“I know I royally fucked us over, but I can make up for it by bringing you back to Leo. If you want me to.”

Michael didn’t immediately answer.

“…That bridge was burned long ago,” he said at last. “I’ve tried, you know. He refuses every hand I extend him. I don’t think he’ll take kindly to your meddling, either.”

He straightened up, smoothing a hand across the railing and shying away from her touch again.

“This is an old argument between us by now, but you ought to be more careful and less trusting, Julian. We were lucky, on All Saint’s Day, that no one died. Witches, vampires… They’re not the most reliable of allies. At best… they’ll disappoint you.”

After a slight pause, he leaned toward her. His lips brushed her cheek.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered against her skin.

In the blink of an eye, he was gone.

“I’m walking down the driveway. Aaaaaannd now up the steps. I’m reaching for the front door. Reeeaching, oh god! I can’t reach it! They’re killing me, kiiiilling me!”

“STOP THAT! Shit, Julian. That’s not funny right now.”

There was a jangle of keys as Julian giggled. “I’m unlocking the door right now. You didn’t have to CALL me and stay on the phone the whole time. Everything is okay now.”

“Shut up and let me Mamabear you for awhile damnit! It’s my coping mechanism. Is- oh shit Dad’s home and he’s got a box of veggies, this is gonna be bad. LATER!”

Julian did not want to know what sort of disaster could happen with Angela, her Dad, and vegetables. Besides, she had her own home disaster to head off.

Once she stepped through the door and closed it behind her, Julian went through the usual routine. She set her bag down near the door and hung her keys up. Pulled off her jacket to drape on the hook too. Next she slipped off her shoes and kicked them aside. Julian knelt down next to her bag and rummaged around until she plucked out a scribbled on piece of notebook paper.

Off she went to the kitchen where the paper was arranged neatly on the fridge and held in place by a few magnets. Julian stepped back to admire her handiwork, resting her hands on her hips and grinning. If Leo was insisting on going to school too, a few extra rules were needed.

Julian’s Updated House Rules

Was scrawled across the very top.


1. The first one awake makes the coffee.

2. No sleeping on the couch.

3. No kissing allowed.

4. Stop knocking shit off the counter, Francis.

5. Stay out of Julian’s cereal.

6. Cinnamon rolls are not dinner.

They sounded like reasonable rules to her.

“I see you aren’t dead.” She hadn’t heard him come into the kitchen, but when did she ever? “So that’s a good sign.”

Leo slipped around her, leaning an elbow against the fridge and squinting at her list of rules. His eyebrow went up almost immediately, his lips twitching.

“Who eats cinnamon rolls for dinner?” he asked. “Cinnamon rolls are clearly a breakfast item.”

The question may have been rhetorical, because he didn’t wait before turning back around to look at Julian. He’d shed his leather jacket- and god only knows where the bookbag was- and his shoes. Clearly he’d been home for a while. Maybe it should have been weird, how comfortable he was just lounging around in her house.

“Well, how’d it go? Did you two kiss and make up?”

“Angela does and soon you’ll discover what other weird things she hides here so her Dad won’t find them.”

Julian was still looking a little smug about her rules, even giving him a wide cheeky grin. Speaking of breakfast items for dinner though, she moved away to fetch #5’s cereal out of a cabinet.

“Yes. Yes we did.” she answered, without bothering to explain the finer details. Because, yeah… kiss and makeup. How spot on was that. Julian brushed her fingers against her mouth subconsciously and reached in to a second cabinet to fetch her favorite bowl. She didn’t consider that kiss a makeup one, though. Julian really wasn’t sure what it was yet.

“It should have been kind of awkward, but it wasn’t. Um, I guess it had it’s moments, but that was a surprisingly easy conversation to have.” she finally explained, giving a shrug of her shoulders.

She shifted, waving her hands at him to shoo him away from the fridge.

“He’s not exactly happy, but he did say if I was going to go kissing somebody, at least it was you.” Julian suddenly smiled. A flash of teeth and a wicked teasing. “Too bad kissing is against the house rules.”

He was staring at her when she turned back around, his brows furrowed.

“…Did you literally kiss him?” he asked. His head tilted to one side. Those baby blues of his were so intent that it was like he was trying to peer inside of her skull. “You did. Careful, Jules, you’re going to give the poor guy whiplash if you keep changing up the directions on him.”

His expression was strange. He wasn’t quite smiling anymore, and after a moment he sidestepped to let her past him and clear the fridge. His eyes likewise slid off to the side, like he was examining a puzzle piece somewhere far off to her left and trying to decide where it belonged.

“Ugh! That’s not what happened.” she groaned, tilting her head back in frustration for a second, then swinging the fridge door open.

“I apologized and I explained the whole kissing you thing. Obviously he wasn’t happy about that, but of course he had to go and agree with your whole dumb opinion about it. But that was all fine.” Julian snatched the milk carton out of the fridge and closed the door. But instead of wandering over to her bowl, she just hugged the carton to her her chest and clonked her head against the fridge.

“He didn’t get upset until mentioned those stupid visions. Then he angry kissed me. That was really the only awkward part, and I’m pretty sure it freaked HIM out way more than it did me. I think. In any case it’s okay for the time being. It’s better for us this way.”

She tilted her head and frowned. “Though, now I have to admit you’re right about not dating vampires. So that kinda sucks.”

Leo’s mouth opened, and then shut again so fast that Julian heard his teeth click.

A few seconds of heavy silence ticked by.

“Did he seem… weird to you?” he asked, finally. “You know. Off.”

He had that look on his face. The one he got when he was brainstorming with Angela or sometimes just in general when he thought she wasn’t looking.

She blinked, casting a dubious expression. Did he realize that was a bit of a tricky question to ask the crazy psychic about a guy she just broke up with right after a night of mayhem?

“Weird how? My version of weird and your version of weird are very different.” Julian put some thought in to it though. Off was the correct word to describe it. Especially since Julian couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

“He does seem a little strange.” she admitted. “He’s always been tightly polished. And now it’s like that but so rigid that he looks as if he’s going to shatter the second he bends.”

Julian finally pushed away from the fridge to return to her bowl, but instead of pouring herself some cereal she just took a sip of milk straight from the carton. Her head tilted again and she continued to voice her thoughts out loud.

“Angry kissing me actually felt more normal than anything else, which I guess is super strange and makes me a lunatic. But he never wants to argue or get angry about things, and I always feel like he needs to. Bottling it all up isn’t good for anyone. Then, of course, he immediately buried it again because he can’t handle getting upset, I guess. He had every right to get mad and he wouldn’t.”

“But he did,” breathed Leo. “For a minute, he did.”

He shook his head, rubbing a hand over his face.

“There’s something going on with him,” he told her. “And it’s not your breakup. No offense. I’d been noticing it before, but I wasn’t sure until now. I think… Well. I’ve got a couple of theories. One of which isn’t a good thing, so it’s probably the more likely. Either Michael’s heart grew three times that day, Cindy Lou, or he’s not doing so well with being back off the wagon.”

Julian’s feelings were hurt just a little tiny bit, which was annoying because she didn’t have the right to be hurt by it. Michael not being upset over her would be the good thing, wouldn’t it? They weren’t working, this was better for both of them.

…but then, if he was having trouble with a post feeding meltdown, that definitely was NOT the better option. Breakup drama was preferable to Michael slowly losing his mind. It put some of their conversation in to a new context.

She set the milk on the counter and crossed her arms, leaning her hip against the counter’s edge. “If that’s true, he should be spending more time with us. People are a good support system, aren’t they? … Except I am not so sure he’s willing to. I offered to help him with you and he refused to believe that was even a possibility. Um… I doubt he’ll trust me anymore either.”

“I’m sorry, you did what?” Leo’s voice went flat. “Michael doesn’t need help with me.”

He was across the kitchen in a blink- not vampire speed, just his normal long-legged stride carrying him quickly where he wanted to go. His arms hemmed her in on either side, trapping her between him and the counter, as he ducked his head to meet her eyes.

“I mean,” he drawled, “I know I’m just such a handful, since I’m a precocious little scamp, but don’t worry. I respond well to treats and rolled up newspapers, or you can threaten to take away my favorite toy. Always worked for him. I’m sure he doesn’t need any pointers from you.”

Precocious little scamp? The corner of her mouth twitched just a little bit. Julian suppressed it. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

“You don’t have to get all feisty about it. I have every intention of helping you with him too.” She leaned backwards, her fingers gripping the edge of the counter. “You’re both completely incapable of having normal conversations. And I get it, a hundred years of torturing each other and all that.”

Julian tapped her fingers and frowned. “If you want to save him, you have to do things differently. I know I’m not a part of the blue-eyed genius club, but I do know that what you’ve been doing doesn’t work. It’s time to try something else now.”

“Or I could swat you with a newspaper and give you a treat.” she grinned cheekily. “But only if you’re a good little firefly.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Leo informed her, “or I’d be real mad at you right now.”

His gaze flicked over her, from her head to her toes, and his mouth pressed into a thin line for a moment. His grip shifted on the edge of the counter.

“I’m less worried about saving Michael than I am about saving everyone else from Michael, Jules. I know ‘what I’ve been doing’ hasn’t been working, because everything I do banks on him giving a damn. And he doesn’t. He thinks he does, but he doesn’t. And that’s why I gave up a long time ago on a lost cause.”

He bit his lip, cocking his head to the side. His eyes were suddenly far away, staring right through her.

“I was never enough,” he said. “It was okay to hurt me. I’d think maybe it’s that you’re different, for some reason, but I don’t buy that. I’ve seen him before when the blood goes to his head, and… it never lasts.”

Julian didn’t like this look. It made her want to hug him and kiss him, and not even for the dirty reasons. Just to make him feel better and try to ease all those years of him being resigned to a shitty, awful life.

“Maybe you weren’t ever enough. But you’re not doing this by yourself anymore. You don’t have to throw yourself under the bus for him or for anyone else. Mostly because I’m not going to let you do it all alone.”

She shifted lower, trying to catch his eyes and get him back to looking at her instead of just through her. “Okay? We’ll deal with it. Whatever murder and mayhem that follows. We’ll save him and protect everyone else too. And when you can’t handle any more I’ll take over for you. I won’t give up hope.”

He laughed, but the light came back into his eyes in bits and pieces.

“Sorry, Jules,” he said, casually. “Am I scaring you?”

He reached up, almost like he was going to touch her face… but at the last second his index finger tapped her in the dead center of the tip of her nose.

Without another word, he straightened up and turned to walk away.

Julian reached up to rub her nose, scowling at his retreating back.

“Don’t starting thinking poking me on the nose is a magic button! Because it’s not!”

She leaned, pointing a finger at him despite the fact he wasn’t even looking at her. “And I know where you sleep! You’re going to get my help, and you’re going to like it.”

They were both going to get her help, whether they wanted it or not.

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