Blood Moon 006: Slipping (Original Draft)

Blood Moon 006: Slipping (Original Draft)

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School was a lot easier to get through when you actually slept like a normal person.

But not so easy to get through when you had your smirking best friend on one side and your equally as smirky not-boyfriend on the other. Julian was pretty sure Angela hadn’t assaulted Leo for a play-by-play rundown of what happened over the weekend yet, but during Mr. Anderson’s class, she was certain the two were having a psychic conversation about it. Right there with her sitting in the middle and trying desperately not to turn red. She could even hear their voices. From the Did you make her scream? to the Wouldn’t you like to know, Mercy.

Besides that, though, school was fine.

The only curiosity was that Michael wasn’t there. When she asked Angela, the girl muttered something about missing school being the exact OPPOSITE of what they discussed and that she’d marched over there to kick his ass if she didn’t have to work. Julian guessed that was reassuring, but decided maybe she should pay him a visit.

After all she had something to ask him.

When the last bell rang and everyone was speeding down the halls, Julian was lagging behind as she thumbed out a few texts. The first one for Michael, letting him know she was coming to see him. A second went to Angela to tell her where she was going, just because Angela was apparently now her MOM and needed to know where she was at every second of the day.

The last was for Leo and she was hesitating on what to thumb out. Julian couldn’t decide between being a sass and telling him to have dinner ready for her like a good house-vampire, or texting him one of those stupid heart emojis just to see what kind of snark he’d throw back.

An arm looped around her waist before she ever made up her mind.

“Hey,” spoke the devil himself, resting his chin on top of her head. “What are you telling me?”

It wasn’t the first time Leo had been affectionate in public by far, but it was the first time since he “officially” became her not-boyfriend. And it had been a while, if Julian thought about it. Even before the whole business on Halloween.

“Are you sending me sexy texts?” he asked. “Because if so, I’m totally cool with that.”

Julian didn’t even try not to giggle. She did and she wasn’t even the least bit sorry about it.

“I guess sexy texts are better than what I had in mind. Hold on.”

She quickly typed out a message, despite the fact he was standing right there and could read the whole thing.

u + me + mr wolferson’s closet = ???


At the little sent ping, she spun around, clasping her phone behind her back as she grinned at him. “I was actually just going to tell you I’m off to see Michael. He went and picked the one day I’m actually brave enough to talk to him to not show up at school. And if I don’t tell five different people where I’m at, Angela’s going to have a cow.”

Leo tried and failed not to grimace a little, his sly smile fading fast.

“That might not be such a good idea, Jules,” he pointed out. “Michael’s kind of not got his shit together right now. And you, well… you’re you.”

Straightening up, he let his hand slide down to her lower back where it came to rest just above her hips. He frowned, tilting his head and glancing around at the lingering students in the hall.

“I could go with you,” he suggested, in the same tone of voice one used to say I could go gargle drain cleaner, “but it might be awkward as fuck at best and end with my head getting separated from my body at worst.”

“Which me are you worried about? The getting mad and taking a swing at people me, or the spacing out and walking right in to a lake me?” she asked first, her eyes going a bit wide. At least she didn’t sound offended. Those were actually legitimate concerns to have.

Julian reached out to grip the open hems of his jacket and straightened them just a bit. She paid no mind to who was still hanging out in the halls, nor did she care what the newest gossip was going to be. Being called a boyfriend collector was way better than those way-too-close to the truth cult theories. The sooner there was something else to blabber about, the better.

“I have no intention of getting myself killed today, so you don’t need to worry about it. I’ve got on my ass kicking shoes and my pockets are full of potential weapons.” she flashed him a grin, and before she could think twice about it she rose up on her toes to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Don’t forget, I am the biggest badass in town. Besides, it’ll probably just be a whole lot talking about absolutely nothing.”

For once in his life, Leo actually had the decency to feel the slightest bit embarrassed. He probably should have said something to her before now, but… yeah.

“…Okay, look,” he said wryly, his eyes turning upward to stare at the boring-as-fuck white tile of the ceiling. He lowered his voice. “Here’s the thing. Do you remember when you asked me once if vampires and werewolves and what-the-fuck-ever would be able to tell you were psychic and I told you no?”

Yeah. This definitely should have come up earlier.

“That’s technically true, but we can tell by scent if someone is a witch or something. Like with your social worker. You smell… kind of similar. Except…”

If he would have brought this up a month ago, Julian would’ve been freaking out. The last thing she wanted to know was that she stood out, and that anybody with claws or fangs could zero in on her.

But now it was different. Now, getting noticed did not seem like such a big deal in comparison to all the other crazy things that happened and were still going on. She wasn’t afraid anymore.

“I smell like a tasty Julian-snack.” she answered for him with a sigh. “So I’ll be extra careful? Angela already warned me that Michael is kinda edgy, and I am definitely not going to let anyone take a bite out of me without a fight first.”

She tilted her head, her mouth turning up to a wicked, flirty grin. “Unless someone asks me very, very nicely.”

“You smell like sex wrapped in bacon,” Leo told her, voice flat and humorless. “So yeah, I might be a bit concerned.”

That offer, though… His mouth went dry. Now that he didn’t have to worry anymore about certain boundaries being crossed, there was really no reason he couldn’t, barring Julian’s permission. He’d proven once before that even when he was hungry and out of it, he had enough self-control to keep from going too far.

So why was he still sort of terrified?

…But interested. Hell fucking yes, he was interested. And trying real hard not to be obvious about checking her out now.

“Alright, fine, Buffy,” he said. “But you text me if your vampire-staking-heels aren’t working out for you and you need backup.”

“Sex wrapped in bacon.” Julian repeated and then laughed, probably louder than was necessary. “You might be spending way too much time with Angela.” Outside of the hilarious phrasing, she really wasn’t sure what to think about that description. It probably didn’t matter much beyond being one of the hundred and one ways Julian Hollinger was weird.

Of course, now he was eyeing her and she was having the damnedest time trying not to smirk wide. Or to say something really dirty. Or drag him in to an empty classroom and get herself suspended.

She knew having Leo at school was going to be a never ending distraction.

“Text you and send up a flare and call in the entire supernatural Silent Pines cavalry the very second I run out of things to maim people with.” she finally agreed, giving a cheeky grin.

“I- hm.” And then, because she nearly blurted out the one thing she really couldn’t tell him yet, she bounced up on her toes to plant a quick kiss over his mouth. “I’ll be home shouting at Francis soon enough.” she mumbled instead.

He rolled his eyes at her.

“Give me a little credit, dumbass, I know you can handle your shit most of the time.” He hesitated, and then leaned in to press a kiss to her cheek in return. “Just… be careful, alright? I’ve got things to do. Can’t always be dropping everything at a moment’s notice to save scrawny teenage girls.”

He spun her around and gave her shoulders a little push.

“Get out of here before I start taking you up on things you’re not ready for,” he couldn’t resist calling after her.

“I’m ready for anything and everything!” she said, turning around to walk backwards. “A whole new world even. Are you?” There went that toothy grin again as she dropped the vague Aladdin reference. It was particularly funny because of their first psychic lessons adventure, and the fact he had no idea just how serious she was. She gave a last mysterious smile as she left down the hall.

Julian made the conscious decision NOT to meet Michael at Bayer Bridge. The bridge was for kissing, breaking up and having serious conversations. Today was none of those things. Granted, she DID want to check up on him and maybe talk about Operation: Angela’s Dumb Codename, but it was mostly just because she missed him. Realizing she was head over heels for his stupid cousin didn’t just automatically turn off how she felt about Michael. She might not love him, but she still cared. He was now just as important as all the other weirdos she was attached to.

Meeting at Fleetwood was also a terrible idea. Although it sounded like Angela had finally won over Michael (or was it the other way around? Angela was a little dodgy about that whole conversation.), Julian didn’t want to play referee before she knew how things stood with Michael. Especially when the inevitable topic of Leo came up. Extra especially considering she was having to adjust the colorful scarf she had wrapped around her neck to hide the still visible evidence revealing she and Leo were doing the exact opposite of taking things slow.

Julian ended up choosing the downtown park at the newly rebuilt gazebo. It was a nice public area where she wouldn’t get herself in trouble. The ponds weren’t deep enough to drown her, she was far enough away from the busy street, and as far as she could tell, no ghosts or murder witches were out there ready to ambush her.

Plopping down in one of the seats, she glanced around the inside of the gazebo, wondering if that ghost ever found his boyfriend.

He’d thought he’d been ready for this.

He’d been mistaken.

Michael stared at Julian’s back for a moment, his eyes drawn to the colorful scarf around her neck. Even if he hadn’t been clever enough to deduce the obvious, he would have known. She smelled like him. Like Leo, and just a faint hint of what they’d gotten up to since last he’d seen them. Now Michael understood why Leo hadn’t shown up the day before.

He didn’t like this. At all. Acknowledging that Leo and Julian had feelings was one thing; being confronted with evidence of them becoming physical was another. Michael pressed his lips tightly together as he combed over her for every little detail, checking to see if she had any other marks. He’d be having a talk with Leo about this. He may have given his blessing, but he still expected something… better.

Julian’s well-being was still very much Michael’s concern. He’d made that clear, he thought.

Mine, a voice hissed from the other side of the wall, as something scratched like a cat begging to be let in. Michael’s eyes snapped shut as the backs of his eyelids painted themselves in viscous red. He drew breath and imagined himself wedging his back against that door, counting to ten.

The next thing he knew, Michael was standing just inside the shade of the gazebo. His blood went cold when he realized he couldn’t recall how he’d gotten there.

“Julian,” he greeted her in a voice like taught wire, as his eyes found her again on the bench. Once again, he was thankful that he’d declined Angela’s demands that he discard his sunglasses. “I hear you had an eventful weekend.”

“Eventful might be the understatement of the year.” she responded, tilting her head just slightly as she looked him over. Even though she knew what to expect thanks to Angela, she was still surprised to see that undercurrent of… something… still there. He was still just as rigid as he was the last time she saw him.

She really needed to fix this.

“Hi.” she said, shoving her hands in to her jacket pocket and she rose to her feet. Then she was stuck. All of the things she wanted to say were gone, leaving her with an empty head and the single solitary urge to hug him. Hugs were her go-to plan for helping people feel better.

…and that was absolutely not the right thing for Michael right now.

“I guess she’s already explained the two hundred ways I’ve accidentally almost killed myself.” she finally said, with an air of humor. “It’s actually kind of embarrassing knowing I need a babysitter.”

“At least you’ve no shortage of those,” he pointed out. “Between the wolves, the girls, and Leo.”

Calm, he reminded himself. Calm and collected, that’s what he needed to be. That’s what he ought to be. There was nothing to get bent out of shape about here. Michael was in control.

“Is that why I’m here?” he asked, putting his hand on the railing of the gazebo. “Is it my turn?”

Julian suddenly smiled wide. She hopped up from her seat on the bench to sit on the railing beside him.

“Nope! In fact, both Leo and Angela didn’t think it was such a great idea, because it seems you are just as broken as I am. As far as I’m concerned that makes you the BEST person to hang out with. You’re the only one not staring at me waiting for me to do something weird.”

She leaned closer to poke the very corner of his glasses. “…at least I don’t think you are. It’s hard to tell.”

Julian didn’t take his glasses, though she was tempted. Angela told her specifically to leave those alone. Curiosity was a killer, but Julian would behave.

“Not to mention I miss you, and you’re my friend, and you didn’t come to school suddenly so I was worried. I did have a question, though.” She shifted, unzipping her jacket so she could pull on a long silver chain. With the stone pendant in her palm she held it out for him to see.

“I found this in my mailbox. Is it from you?”

Michael’s eyebrows drew together. He reached out to touch the pendant, running his thumb over the stone surface.

“No,” he told her, “It isn’t. But I’ve seen it before.”

A woman with hazel eyes stood over Michael. To a young boy she seemed impossibly tall, even when she knelt and placed a hand softly atop his curls. He stared up at her, solemn and wide-eyed.

“Are you lost, child?” she asked.

“…Pretty,” he answered in a whisper. He lifted a hand to snatch at the stone necklace hanging around her neck.

The woman smiled and wrapped her fingers around it, laying it flat on his outstretched palm.

“Do you like pretty things?” she prompted. “That’s nice. You can look, but you can’t keep it, understand? This is special. Special to me. You know what special means?”

Yes, Michael knew what special meant. Leo was special. The feathers he collected from the dead raven outside his father’s window were special. No one else was allowed to take special things. Michael nodded to show that he understood.

But he still ran his little fingers longingly over the stone. It was blue, with bluer bands running through it in little waves like water. It was set in a silver frame shaped like an upside-down teardrop, with a perfectly round, smaller stone sitting at the top where it was strung from its chain.

“Blue lace agate,” he whispered.

She let out a startled laugh.

“That’s right! You’re a very smart little boy, aren’t you? You know about gemstones? What’s your name?”

“Michael!” the loud voice snarled. “What are you doing? Get inside this instant.”

“No.” Still at whisper’s volume. Michael let go of the shiny pendant and covered his ears. The necklace bounced back against the woman’s breast as she leaned backward and scrambled to her feet. “NonononoNO.”

“…Blue lace agate,” Michael told Julian, letting go of the pendant like it had burned him. “And rose quartz. It’s a Hollinger heirloom. You said it was in your mailbox?”

Julian blinked. It took her a second to register what he was saying. The flash wasn’t disorienting so much as… strange. Seeing Michael before Michael was a vampire was like seeing a completely different person. The familiarity was there, things she knew were distinctly Michael. But still, so different from the person she was presently sitting next to.

“Agate.” she repeated. Julian hadn’t even thought to find out what sort of stone it was.

“Yeah, it was in a little box all wrapped up and stuffed in with tons of mail. I kinda forgot all about checking the box, so I’m really not sure how long it was there. And it didn’t come with a note or address.” she wrapped her hand around the pendant, and fidgeted with the silver chain as she explained.

“I recognized it when I saw it though. …sort of. I knew it was mine. Or supposed to be mine? Of course, it helped that I saw it in a picture of a relative too.”

“I would tell you to be more careful, but I imagine you wouldn’t appreciate that,” Michael remarked in a resigned voice. He sighed. “I think you’re right, regardless. It’s meant to be yours. You never saw it as a child?”

He tried to summon up everything he could recall about the pendant from his own childhood, but there wasn’t much. Only that it was passed down through the female Hollinger line, and that it was more than likely tied to their psychic gifts.

“I’d very much like to know who sent it,” he muttered, turning to stare out at the park as if the answers lurked behind some bit of vegetation. There were far too many unsolved questions in this town as it was…

“Angela already yelled at me for putting it on before even knowing who sent it.” she responded with a cheeky grin. “So that’s been covered already.”

While he put on his thoughtful face (or at least the half she could see, there was always that ever so slight tightening in his jaw) Julian kicked her feet back and forth, clonking her heels against the wood of the railings.

“I never saw it. Actually, if it’s supposed to belong to Hollinger girls, I guess that’d be why. There hasn’t been a girl in the family for a long time. At least long enough that my grandpa used to call me a little changeling baby because he wanted a grandson.” Granted the nickname was all in good fun. At least, it seemed like it. These days Julian didn’t know what to expect when it concerned her family.

Julian tilted backwards until she could get a good look at his face, mostly just so he could see HER. “At first I thought you sent it to me. You’re the only person that would think to find something so special. I guess now I need to go harass Walter and see if he did it. Otherwise… I don’t know. It’s weird for it to show up in the mailbox like that.”

“It is strange,” murmured Michael. There was something important here, he was sure of it. Something that linked to the other goings-on of late. A Hollinger heirloom appearing, so soon after a ritual involving Hightowers and Laniers and the old Orders of Silent Pines… That was no coincidence.

He glanced down at her, fingers gripping tighter on the railing.

“Walter might be able to tell you more about it, either way. I haven’t seen him since he left my house, so I’m not sure where he is or what he’s doing lately.” He paused, then asked, “…What did Leo have to say about it?”

Now Julian was going to have to hunt down Walter. That was going to get tricky. How do you find a paranoid witch overlord? It’s not like she could call him on the phone.

“Leo-” Julian cut off suddenly with a blink of realization. She let out a sigh, her eyes glancing upwards at the inner ceiling of the gazebo. “Oh damn. I completely forgot to mention it to Leo.” Julian pressed the heel of her palm against her cheek, as if that was going to rub away the tinge of pink in her skin. Last night she was distracted with snuggles, so that was totally his fault. But she’d been wearing the thing all day at school and it didn’t occur to her even once to bring it up to him.

“I guess I was so worried about you today, I didn’t think about it.” she finally just shrugged her shoulders. “I can just tell him about it later. In the meantime, do you want to have an adventure with me? Angela refuses to go on ghost errands, and I bet you could use an afternoon of fun. …As fun as doing weird things for dead people can be, anyway.”

She’d assumed Michael left her the gift, and she’d asked Michael about it first. She’d been so focused on his absence from school that she hadn’t even mentioned the pendant to Leo. That…

That made a small smile tug at Michael’s lips.

If Julian wanted to spend time with him even now… Michael decided he wouldn’t turn her down. He would make certain that every precaution was taken, that she was safe with him. Why wouldn’t she be? Julian was special to him, something precious. Michael would never let harm befall her, even if it meant saving her from himself.

“You do remember that vampires are easy targets for possession?” he pointed out nonetheless. “Or is that your plan?”

“I-” Oh crap. By the look on her face, it was clear she hadn’t remembered the vampire possession thing either. She twist her mouth up and slid off the railing, looking apologetic and embarrassed about that now too.

“I didn’t remember. I don’t… really have a plan either.” With a sheepish shrug of her shoulders and a display of her hands, she stepped backwards to lead the way.

“And now that we’ve established that I’m an idiot, I DO promise I won’t let anything happen to you! No ghosts are going to get past me. We probably won’t even see any. There’s a check list of things they asked for, so I was just going to run around and see what I could actually do.”

She paused glancing at the ceiling again with a grimace. “…this sounds completely insane saying it out loud.”

“That’s alright,” Michael soothed. Slowly, he reached out to twine their fingers together. “I’ll go with you.”

“-He’s insane, I’m telling you. That boy needs to be committed.”

“It’s not his fault! His good-for-nothing cousin is the one who keeps dragging him into trouble-“

“Where do we start?” he asked.

“Hmm.” Her head tilted as she glanced down at their entwined fingers. The temptation to push and pull was there again. To learn more and see what she was missing.

But Julian didn’t want to be that person. She didn’t want to be the kind of person that took whatever she wanted when she wanted it. Especially without their permission.

So instead she smiled. A smile that warned Michael she wasn’t kidding about having an adventure.

The best way to start was with the closest thing she could find. In this case they didn’t even have to leave the park for her first request. Julian kicked over a rock nestled under one of the bigger trees, and then toed at the dirt until a little plastic army man was uncovered. She cheerfully told Michael the story of it’s owner and where the toy needed to go – but later. It disappeared in to one of her pockets and then she was grabbing Michael’s hand to lead the way again.

In fact all of her tasks were fairly simple like this. She fed change in to a parking meter. She bought lilacs at a flower shop and then left them at someone’s doorstep. They stopped at a bar where she made quick work of whispering in someone’s ear, then escaping with Michael before the guy could realize what just happened. A thank you card got dropped in to a mailbox, and she peeped in to the windows of an old folk’s home to make sure an old woman was still okay. When she could, she’d tell Michael the story and when she couldn’t all she could do was shrug her shoulders and say I just need to.

And she loved every moment of it. All of the scary stuff she had to deal with was worth it in those moments she knew there was a ghost that could finally go to sleep.

It was an hour to sundown when Julian lead Michael in to a parking lot filled with expensive looking cars. Incidentally they were right outside of Glissando, that upscale restaurant Michael took her to for their date. Now she was standing there chewing in to her bottom lip and glancing around at all of the cars.

“This is going to be a little tricky.” Julian admitted, taking a quick look at him. “This is crime, and I probably shouldn’t, but they do deserve it so I don’t really feel that bad. I think.” She completely neglected to mention what kind of crime, but it was obviously going to involve one of the vehicles, because she was tugging him through the maze of cars occasionally reaching a hand out to hover near one before she’d snatch it back again.

That explanation neither sat well nor sufficed with Michael. Julian was going to have to do better than that.

“What crime?” he asked. When she didn’t answer straightaway, he dug in his heels and tugged her around to face him. “Julian. Who deserves what?

He’d let many things slide today at face value, but this was something he at least needed to be briefed on. Michael was no stranger to crime- you didn’t get to be a century-plus vampire without a little illegality involved- but he didn’t care to walk blindly into potentially dangerous situations. Who knew what sort of nonsense the ghost had put her up to? Michael wasn’t taking another step without further information.

No sooner had he asked, though, than a pair of customers walked out of Glissando‘s doors toward the parking lot. Michael tugged Julian between cars and mostly out of sight, putting his back to the pair and leaning in. From this angle, he imagined they’d simply look like a young couple waxing romantic to the passers-by.

“What are you up to?” he asked again, lowering his voice.

How romantic. The thought was a giggle in her head, and if this had been literally anyone else she would’ve been cracking a flirty joke. But that would be the hugest asshole thing to do to the guy she just recently broke up with, and Michael probably wouldn’t appreciate the humor in it.

Didn’t stop her grinning though. Julian was enjoying their adventure, and the best part was that Michael was now in the role SHE usually played when Angela and Margrit got up to things.

“I’m NOT going to steal it.” she replied in a whisper. But the way she replied and how she glanced down and to the side suggested it wasn’t Michael she was responding too.

Once she glanced back up at Michael, she was chewing in to her lip again and thinking it over. “Vandalism. Just a little though. They are, uuuhm..” Julian tilted her head again looking upwards and around them with her brows furrowed. “A ‘no good pretentious soul sucking vampire that killed my baby’ except I don’t think they mean literal baby, he’s mad about a car.”

“…there are a surprising amount of ghosts mad about cars.” she finally stated, blinking at the realization.

“I take it they don’t mean a literal vampire, either,” he remarked drily. His expression, though, wasn’t terribly amused. “…Do you know what I would do to someone if I caught them keying my car, Julian?”

That was one thing Michael and Leo very much had in common, at least since the automobile was invented. They had rather disparate tastes in make and model, but both of them loved their cars. Leo was a bit more hands-on with the maintenance than Michael, but Michael certainly knew how to do basic care and repairs, and his Aston Martin was always spotless. He couldn’t remember the last time that it had so much as a scratch or dent.

“It’s not that surprising,” he said, frowning at her.

“You’re as bad as Angela and Leo. She calls her car Precious when she’s not yelling at it.” Julian was trying really hard not to laugh or roll her eyes. Which left her looking like a six year old kid trying not to giggle at a bad word.

“It’s a good thing we’re not going after yours.” she leaned forward to confess with that impish expression.

Once the couple had gotten in to their own car and exited the parking lot, Julian let go of Michael’s hand to inch backwards. Wiggling her fingers in a way that could be a signal of psychic mojo afoot, but more likely just meant she was about to get her naughty fingers all over a poor schmucks prized possession.

It only took a few more rows of cars to find it. To Julian’s perspective, it just looked like any other expensive car. Black, sleek, and some kind of sports convertible. The license plate was what stood out the most for her.


“Whoa.” she pointed at the plate, trying to swallow another burst of laughter. “Not a literal vampire, but pretentious is a yes.”

Julian circled around the car once before poking it with a finger. When no alarm system went off, she cupped her hands against the glass window and tried to peer inside.

“How do we get in to this thing? …Francis.” she whispered the name and knocked on the glass. “Francis, unlock the door.”

“‘Francis’?” Michael probably oughtn’t have asked, and he wasn’t at all expecting an answer. He sighed and gently nudged Julian aside, kneeling down on the asphalt beside the car and reaching for his shoelaces.

This was, much as he hated to admit it, not the first time Michael had broken into a vehicle.

“I’m going to help you,” he told Julian in a hushed tone, “but only because I want this over with so we can leave before someone catches you. This is silly, Julian.”

Meanwhile, he’d gotten one of his shoelaces free of his boot and was tying a small loop (that incidentally looked an awful lot like a tiny noose) right in the middle.

Francis did not unlock the door like she asked, but now Julian was far more interested in watching what Michael was doing to care. With one hand resting against the hood, she casually glanced around the parking lot. If anyone were watching, they’d look innocent enough. Having a hushed conversation by a vehicle that totally could’ve been theirs. As long as the actual owner didn’t walk out, they were fine.

“You don’t know about Francis?” she asked, sounding surprised. “I thought Angela and Leo would have complained about it by now. It’s just shadows. A bunch of shadows. I call them all Francis because I’ll sound crazy if I say I’m talking to shadows.”

Julian paused and frowned, leaning her hip against the car while she crossed her arms. “…I suppose I sound crazy anyway. They’ve both called me creepy now for talking to things they can’t see. But I can’t really help it, they’re everywhere and won’t leave me alone.”

Michael glanced up at her sharply.

“Shadows,” he repeated. He furrowed his eyebrows. “…No, they didn’t mention that. Angela has been more focused on the future, and Leo… Leo and I haven’t spoken much lately.”

He took a look around before climbing back onto his feet and waiting for Julian to angle herself to where she was blocking him from view. Michael grasped the shoelace at either end and pulled it taught, then slipped it up against the top corner of the door, near the roof. After a few seconds of sawing motion, it slid in under the corner and down until Michael could drape the loop over the top of the lock. When it was in place, he pulled just a little more… and the loop tightened.

One swift upward tug, and the lock popped open. Michael released the ends of the lace and reached for the door handle.

Julian watched with silent curiosity and when the lock popped up, her awe was written all over her face in the way her eyes went wide and the corner of her mouth twitched up in one of those hand in the cookie jar smiles. As far as she was concerned, he just did magic. For something so simple it was incredibly neat.

Once he opened up the door, Julian skittered around him and plopped in to the driver’s seat. She placed her hands on the wheel just out of reflex as she glanced around in the interior. Someone else probably would’ve been admiring how nice it was. Julian was just trying to think of what to do next.

“They’re not really anything to worry about.” she commented, leaning back in the seat. “A few of them have figured out they can do things, which is a bit annoying, but aside from that the worst they do is just cluster around getting on my nerves.”

Okay, now what? She was absolutely not going to steal the thing, but Julian really didn’t want to do something too awful either. After a second she started digging around in the pockets of her jacket until she found a few pieces of candy. She unwrapped a piece of soft caramel, licked it a few times and then leaned forward to reach down and try to stick it to the gas pedal.

“You should hang out with me during lunch at school. I think if I’m not allowed to quit school, you shouldn’t either. At least then we could both complain about how much we don’t want to be there and keep ourselves entertained.”

He didn’t want to know what she was doing with the gas pedal. Instead of watching her (because he simply couldn’t, not without cringing), Michael kept a lookout, one eye on the restaurant door and his elbow propped on the roof of the car.

“Hang out with you and who else?” he asked. None of the possibilities were particularly appealing. Angela was… Michael wasn’t sure what to think of Angela anymore, but he did know that he didn’t like the unfortunate effect she had on him. Lunchtime with her present wouldn’t be comfortable. Neither did he particularly wish to spend mealtime with the DeWhitt boy or the little wolf girl.

And then there was his dear cousin, who had-

Michael’s vision burned white hot as the door at the back of his mind rattled on its hinges.

Julian looked all too pleased with herself. Especially when she had an even better idea. She ripped up the candy wrapper in to as many tiny pieces as she could, then went to work trying to stuff them in the air conditioning vents. Another piece of candy got popped in to her mouth just so she could make some more paper confetti.

“Me and Angela and Leo. I know you’re frustrated with me and maybe angry with Leo right now too. But I’ll take awkward lunches and people potentially throwing punches over never getting to see you.”

She straightened up in the seat again, casting him another curious yet slightly embarrassed glance. “…and I kind of hate the thought of you being alone. Not that I think you wouldn’t be okay, but… I don’t want you to have to be alone? Leo isn’t there, and David is kind of crazy right now. Angela’s been around, but she is also at work half the time too.”

“Everyone keeps fussing about me but I keep wondering who is going to drag you out for coffee and shopping and NOT stealing cars.”

“I don’t need to be fussed over. And there are likely better arenas for any spat I’d have with Leo.” Michael relentlessly pressed his fingernails into his palm until his vision returned to normal, frowning at himself. He couldn’t do this right now. He shouldn’t be doing this at all, but certainly not right now.

Before he could voice his next thought, which was to do with arranging a “visit” with David, Michael heard a shout. Inwardly, he cursed. His little fit had been just long enough for him to lose track of the traffic going in and out of Glissando‘s doors. Ducking down, he reached into the car to haul Julian out by her elbow. She’d done enough already, he was sure.

Then he took off with Julian in tow, headed away from the parking lot and down the street towards where they’d left his car.

Oh crap! Julian shot a glance over her shoulder back at the car.

“Wait, I just have to-”

Before she could even get the sentence out, one of the windows shattered. That. THAT was what she was talking about. Little shadows trying to be helpful and then choosing the WORST possible ways to do it. That’s not what she wanted to do AT ALL.

“Francis, no.” she hissed out, suddenly having zero problems in keeping up with Michael. “They’re going to CSI Miami my DNA!” The rest squeaked out in a breathless rush. On the bright side, the window breaking provided the perfect get-away distraction. They got a fair amount of distance from the parking lot before any eyes started looking around for the culprits.

Once they reached Michael’s car, Julian’s hand was over her mouth and she was locked between being completely horrified at the thought of getting arrested, but also being three seconds away from erupting in to laughter.

“I’m so sorry, Michael.” she managed to choke out from behind her fingers. Laughter was winning and Julian was trying so hard to swallow it.

He noticed right away regardless.

“How can you be laughing?” Michael demanded in an icy tone, his hands wrapping around her shoulders in a vice grip and giving her a good hard shake. “I shouldn’t have indulged you. You could have been in serious trouble, Julian, do you realize that? You can’t just do this sort of reckless, irresponsible-”

His eyes fell to her neck, where her scarf had slid out of place and was hanging by the flimsiest of knots. He’d known the bruises were there… but knowing was one thing, seeing was another. Michael’s nostrils flared, and he was hit by a cloud of Julian’s scent, mingled with Leo, Leo, Leo all over her.

From Julian’s perspective, it was difficult to tell what the hell was going on, thanks to those damn shades.

One minute, Michael was scolding her. Scary scolding her, almost, as if getting in trouble with the police were somehow worse than punching a werewolf or going after a bunch of cultist witches. The next minute he went stock still, right down to stopping breathing (no, he didn’t need to breathe, but it sure looked unsettling when he didn’t). And then he just sort of… sat there, face utterly blank. After a moment or two, he sucked in a great gulp of air… and shoved Julian with enough force to knock her backwards against the car.

Julian could handle him being angry and shaking her. Even while he was practically shouting at her she was trying to stamp out the last of that laughter so she could properly apologize. It WAS reckless and irresponsible. She dragged him in to something crazy despite knowing Michael wasn’t exactly a go with the flow kind of person. He had every right to be a little mad. They were safe, though. She could soothe this over.

Except he went still and Julian swore she felt the second the atmosphere changed. Before she could utter a word, her back was against the car and her hands flew up. Maybe to grab him to throw him and knee him or something, she wasn’t sure. That fight or flight instinct kick in, tensing her up and getting her breath caught in her throat.

She blinked at him, eyes wide with surprise and all hints of amusement gone. It’s not like it hurt or anything, she was just stunned. …and it took all of three seconds for her to realize this was more than just Michael getting frustrated.

“…okay. Okay, hey.” Julian reached a hand out towards him, fingers splayed and ready to grip on to his shirt or arm. She hesitated, though, pausing just a hair away. Instead, she bent her knees so she could slide down a few inches against the car and catch his eyes.

“Look at me?” she said gently. “We’re okay. Don’t go somewhere scary that you don’t want me to follow. I have a flashlight, I will chase you.” The soft statement was half silly nonsense just to catch his attention, and the rest pure seriousness. Their afternoon of ridiculous ghost errands might’ve been a fun distraction, but Julian hadn’t forgotten there was a bigger picture. Michael had problems, and she was going to help.

“Shut your filthy mouth, you stupid slut,” snarled Michael.

He clamped a hand over his mouth a moment later, fingers curling until his nails dug white spots into the flesh of his cheek. She heard him breathe deep again, and then watched as a thick drop of crimson rolled down his chin from behind his hand, dangling precariously for a split second before plummeting to the pavement at their feet.

Michael took three steps backward. He turned his head to the side, for all appearances staring very intently at a pipe creeping up the side of the building beside them.

“You’ve been holding that back for awhile, haven’t you.” she said dryly.

Julian realized quickly that even though she felt guilty, certainly deserved it, and even asked him weeks ago to get pissed off at her and call her names… that she definitely was not the kind of person who’d let someone get away with talking to her like that. She knew it in the way her fingers curled up and she very nearly popped him right in the face. The only thing that held her in check was the worried voices of Angela and Leo warning her to be careful.

Michael was not himself right now. He was fighting something. If she wasn’t careful, she’d trigger that whole stupid vision just because she couldn’t stop acting on the impulse to HIT people. This required thinking. Finesse. Things that everyone ELSE seemed to be super awesome with. She knew what to do for teenage drama, not vampire problems!

Julian pushed away from the car and stood up straight. There was probably still that hint of being pissy on her face, she never was good at hiding what she was thinking, but before long her mouth twist up as she chewed in to her cheek and furrowed her brows.

“I’m NOT a slut, so you don’t get to say that again.” she said first, because damnit, she couldn’t help it. “But you can tell me what you’re thinking. You can tell me anything. I’m not going to get mad and I’m not going to be scared. Ask me anything you want and I’ll tell you, too. Just breathe and talk to me?”

He didn’t answer her, but he did lower his hand. There was still a bit of fresh, dark blood seeping out of his mouth; she couldn’t be sure what exactly he’d bitten, but he’d definitely done some damage. He splayed his fingers, turning over his palm. There was a smear of cruor across the inside.

He looked at her. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she could feel them.

Quick as a snake, he reached over and seized the pipe he’d been eyeing. An entire section came away in his hands with a horrible screech. Clutching it tight enough for his knuckles to go pale, he stepped forward and swung.

The end of the pipe came down full force on the hood of Michael’s Aston Martin. The metal crumpled and caved.

Michael hovered there for a brief moment, panting.

And then again, the pipe went up. This time it went straight through the windshield, sending glass shards cascading down over either side of the car.

Julian shrieked and cringed – and she didn’t know why she just stood there instead of trying to dodge a swinging pipe. Maybe she knew it wasn’t aimed at her. She wished whatever instinct that was could’ve prevented her from screaming like an idiot too. Her hands shot up to her mouth, stifling a second scream when the window shattered.

She lied. She lied when she said she wouldn’t be scared. This was scary. Julian didn’t know what to do. How did she kept ending up in these weird situations? There needed to be a handbook for this!

Stop!” she finally choked out, leaping forward to grab on to his arm and pull. They were just talking about how precious his car was not fifteen minutes ago. He was going to regret the hell out of this.

“I said TELL me what you’re thinking, not show it to me! We – we could have smashed someone else’s car!”

With a low growl, he dropped the pipe- only to halfway tackle Julian against the side of the building. His elbow crushed her arm into the brick.

“It’s mine to break,” he said, finally, from between bloodstained lips. His nose was so close to hers that the tips bumped when he spoke. “Stop telling me what to do.”

His hand slid up and went to her throat. It was a little hard to tell if it was a caress or he was trying to choke her; his thumb was pressing a little too hard, just hard enough to be uncomfortable. A muscle twitched in his jaw.

For a minute it kind of looked like he was going to kiss her again.

Then he gasped, face bleaching white, and planted a hand against the wall. A moment later he doubled over and threw up all over her shoes, pink-tinged puke splashing on the asphalt. He started to lift his head, making a noise like the start of a sentence- and promptly gagged again, choking.

She was so completely out of her depth. Dozens of different curse words she didn’t know she even knew were running through her head. She was three seconds away from freaking out, she could already feel her lungs trying to seize up on her.

But she didn’t, she couldn’t.

“Michael.” Julian grabbed his head so she could catch his eyes again, making sure to hold him far enough away to shift him suddenly in case he was going to start throwing up all over again.

“I can’t take a vampire to the hospital, right? I can’t even drive anyway. You have to tell me what’s going on, and if you can’t speak you have to THINK it at me and I’ll know. And I’m going to call Leo because I have no idea what I’m doing, but I promise I will kick your ass if you come at me, okay?” she blabbered out loud. It was the only way she could work it out, her head was still ranting off curse words and she was trying to feel her way through it. She was a goddamned psychic, she could figure it out if she didn’t panic, right?

“I’ve got this, okay? I’ve got you.”

Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Breathe and think.

Michael scrubbed at his mouth with the back of his hand, wiping away a thin sheen of blood and vomit. A string of saliva came away with his hand, but soon snapped of its own accord. He shook his head.

“Need to get out of here,” he said. “I can’t-”

His head dropped to her shoulder. Julian felt his face turn in toward her neck, felt his breath on her skin.

“Probably shouldn’t have swung a pipe at your ride out.”

She shouldn’t be cracking jokes right now.

She also shouldn’t hug the crazy vampire. Why were her first thoughts always so wrong? Hug him, hit him, hug him, hit him. Maybe this was something that ran in their family. She wanted to kiss and hit Leo all the time, apparently it was going to be hug and hit for Michael.

Why was she still thinking about this.

“If you want to bite me,” she finally said, a little higher in pitch than she wanted to, “rethink that? You have to ask me nicely first and not look like you’re gonna kill me in the process.” Another wildly inappropriate joke, why did she DO that? Julian let go of him and tilted backwards to stuff her hands in her pockets and grab for her phone.

She officially needed backup.

“You gonna be mad if I say I told you so?”

He was waiting for her when she came back from her shower, sitting on the floor in the middle of the hallway with his legs stretched out in front of him and his back against the wall. He’d kicked off his shoes and lost his jacket somewhere along the way from the front door to here, and he looked maybe the most relaxed she’d ever seen him in this house.

“Because I did tell you so,” he added brightly, giving her a wide smile. Oh, and there it was, just the tiniest tightness about the corners of his eyes that meant he wasn’t entirely at ease. Leo wasn’t exactly an open book, but Julian had been around him long enough now to start recognizing the little things.

Taking a whole shower probably wasn’t necessary, but Julian was glad she did. Hot water and a few minutes of isolation had her simmered down to just being frayed at the edges instead of on the edge of a panic attack. It was a huge step up from the last time Michael was in trouble and she passed out the second they got back to the house. Or the time before that where she auto-piloted her way through tea and then wound up drunk on the living room floor.

She couldn’t argue with Angela’s methods though. Right now she could do with a drink. Or a cinnamon roll.

Dressed back in her blouse, jeans and that pendant, Julian stepped over Leo’s legs. Then she bent forward to rest her hands on her knees and smiled nose to nose with him. “You’re right! You did. Would you like a cookie?” The smile dropped in an instant and her voice went dead pan. “Or do you want me to kick your ass.”

She didn’t wait for an answer, she already straightened and was shoving at him with a bare foot. No kicking and nothing rough, just enough to prod at him in random places as she fussed.

“Do you know what I’m good at? Talking! Do you know what I’m NOT good at? Crazy supernatural bullshit! Why did I think I could do this! I was going to hug him better, Leo. Hug him better.

“Well, we always knew you were crazy, Jules,” Leo replied calmly. He caught her foot and rubbed his thumb along the arch, then up toward her ankle, pushing in small circles into the muscle tissue. When he got up to the tendon he let go and reached up to tug her down onto his lap by her calves.

“You can’t fix what’s wrong with Michael with hugs,” he went on, once she was curled on top of him comfortably. “You can’t fix him at all. The only person who can fix Michael is Michael, and that’ll be a cold day in Hell.”

His fingertips were creeping up her back now, stopping now and then to work absolute magic on knots Julian hadn’t even known she’d had. When one was vanquished, he moved right on to the next.

“…You still haven’t really explained what happened before he went psycho on the Bondmobile and lost his lunch on you.”

“I can fix it. I can fix everything.” she insisted, the cross look she tried to give him looked more like a surly pout. Being angry and frustrated in general was getting hard to hold up with his hands all over her. Julian was so used to getting knocked around, to just ignore it and keep going whether it was dancing or having a weird fight with vampires and witches, that she never really noticed just how banged up she was. Now she was sitting still, just as tense and wincing when he found places she didn’t even remember getting bruised.

She could’ve died. AGAIN.

Julian let out a breath, brushing her still damp hair behind her ears as she found a spot on the carpet to glare at. Well, not a spot. A shadow. They sure didn’t help tonight at all.

“Everything was okay. It was actually a lot of fun. He went with me to run ghost errands and it was all totally cool until I needed to mess with this car. I wasn’t going to do anything really bad, I put caramel on the gas pedal and paper in the vents. And someone almost saw us and then good old Francis here thought breaking the windows was a great idea.”

She squinted and glared harder at the carpet. When that wasn’t enough she flipped it the finger. Julian felt the tiniest bit better. She finally turned to look at Leo.

“It was kind of funny. Michael didn’t think so, and I get it. He was worried I’d get in trouble, so he was pissed and I was trying REALLY hard not to laugh which made it so much worse. And then… I don’t know?” Julian held up her hands, gesturing them and wiggling her fingers in different ways, like she was trying to use them to explain what it was. All she got was looking more and more confused. “Silence. And then whoooosh. Anger and fear and panic and chaos.”

“And all I could do was crack stupid jokes.” she sighed. “Because that’s TOTALLY how you solve a problem.”

Leo was quiet while Julian explained. When she got to the part about Michael’s blowup, he got that look on his face. The I’m-thinking look.

“You felt all that from him,” he said, finally. “Not just saw that in his reaction, you felt it.”

He wiggled his fingers in a mockery of Julian’s little tic, eyes meeting hers. There was a strange light in his eyes, something like desperation. And suddenly it was very clear that what Leo was asking was important.

“Jules.” His fingers smoothed across her neck, stopping at a point where he dug in just enough for her to realize it was on top of a bruise. “Do you think he saw this? Your scarf was loose when I got there.”

Julian’s hand went up to cover his. Damn. She forgot all about that. Now Angela was going to give her the I-told-you-so speech too.

“Well. I guess that’d explain why he called me a slut.” There was that tone again. Julian still kind of wanted to hit Michael for it, even after everything that followed. She sighed and glanced upwards towards the ceiling.

“It did get worse from there. I said he could talk to me about it, and instead of talking I got car smashing. I grabbed him when I stopped shrieking like dumb girl, and then we ended up in this weird.. uhm..” She was gesturing with her hands again, staring through his shoulder trying to work out the right words.

“Kind of like the bridge with the angry kissing, except he didn’t do that. I think he would have rather just bit me. But I don’t think he really wanted to do that either. And then he threw up, so you know, I guess that puts a damper on attempted murder and Julian snacking.”

She suddenly had the very annoying urge to start crying, which she supposed was just out of delayed frustration. That always seemed to be the deal for her these days. Get through the chaos in one piece and then cry later when no one was looking. Julian sure as hell didn’t want to do it now while sitting on Leo’s lap. He’d already had enough of her crazy nonsense for one week.

“After that was okay.” she muttered, swallowing that urge for tears and shifting to drop her forehead against his shoulder. “Just standing there trying to breathe and not freaking out so he wouldn’t freak out. I think it helped? Maybe? I don’t know. He didn’t talk and I just rambled off what I was going to do with the toy I dug up until you got there.”

There was a lull while Leo propped his chin on top of her head and rubbed her back. The silence didn’t last long, though, and she could tell it was coming by how tense he felt, even before he pushed her back so they were face-to-face again.

“I need to tell you something,” he said, grimacing. “But I need you to promise you’re not going to do anything stupid, because you’re not going to like it. And you’re going to probably be pissed.”

He wasn’t entirely meeting her eye.

“In my defense,” he said, “I couldn’t tell you, not at first.”

Oh no. She was probably going to want to hit somebody. Again. And it had to be bad, because he wasn’t grabbing her head and making her do the fishy face when he wanted her to shut up for a second and listen.

“I promise I won’t do anything stupid.” she said carefully. That was the best she could promise, because Julian was pretty sure she had zero control of her temper these days. If he thought she was going to get pissed, he was probably also expecting her to try and kill somebody too.

There went that knot of dread in her stomach. Julian squeezed her eyes shut and waved her hands near her head. “Okay, just say it fast and then duck or something. Spit it out.”

“…Michael doesn’t have feelings,” said Leo.

“That’s not me using whiny hyperbole because I think he’s a dick.” He held up a hand to stop her short before she could get started. “I mean… He has feelings, but not real feelings. He can get angry or annoyed, but he doesn’t lose his temper. He can feel pleased, but he isn’t happy. He can pity but he doesn’t empathize, he isn’t actually sad for you. All that polished surface… that’s because nothing’s underneath. There hasn’t been for a long time.”

Leo took a deep breath, then forged ahead.

“Michael pressed his off button about a century ago when he decided he could be perfect that way.”

Okay. Okay, that was not as bad as she was expecting. Michael had a permanent hold on his off button. That explained so much about him.

Then she thought about. Really thought about it.

Her initial expression of is that all? faded to a narrowing of her eyes. She pursed her mouth like she was going to ask a question, but just got stuck there. Because now her little wheels were turning way, way too fast.

A century. He had no real feelings for a century? It wasn’t a complete switch off, though, they obviously didn’t become robots and some things still slipped through. But she understood what Leo meant by not ‘real’. It explained everything about how she saw Michael with her weird Julian vision. How he seemed to be made of glass and easily broken. Why his soul was drowning in the black. He was smothering himself.

So of course everything he’d done with Leo was heartless and cold. He legitimately couldn’t understand the pain he was causing. Naturally he’d think he was just doing what was in everyone’s best interest. …but that didn’t seem to fit. He had a hold on that button but there was still some feelings. Things she could see and feel and the entire reason why she felt like she could connect with him in the first place.

Right about there she realized their whole relationship really was just a puppet play. Michael didn’t want her, he didn’t care about her… so why? Why did he let her crush? Why did he KISS her? What was the point of any of that?! Because she was special? She was unique. Interesting. She was just like Leo. He liked to keep precious things. Keep them close, keep then in boxes. And she already knew this, didn’t she. Had those thoughts and impressions but didn’t want to believe it would actually be true.

“It’s mine to break.”

That one fucking sentence. She pressed the heels of her hands against her temples. Pissed was such an understatement. And it wasn’t even because of the crap Michael pulled with her. Leo was his, and he had thrown Leo under the bus how many times over a hundred years? His to break. He actually thought that was OKAY? Even Leo was so messed up now that he believed it was excusable simply because it was just himself. Leo thought he deserved this. This was not okay. NOT OKAY.

The room visibly dimmed and Julian had to squeeze her eyes shut. “Francis, don’t.” she whispered, pulling her knees up to rest her forehead against and throwing her arms over her head. Because she was so angry, she didn’t know what to do. And that’s precisely when over-zealous shadows liked to try doing things for her. She promised not to do something stupid, and that included THEM.

Leo shifted beneath her like he was trying to touch her as little as possible. That was probably exactly what he was doing, actually.

“…Jules, I’m sorry.” He sounded calm, but Julian knew better than to blindly trust his tone. “I should have told you, but I wasn’t allowed, and then when I was… things were already kind of past no return.”

Slowly, he started to slide his legs out from under her.

Don’t move.” she squeaked out, but it wasn’t for Leo. Julian was desperately trying to wrangle herself back in. Hoping that if she could reach some sort of idea or conclusion fast enough, that those shadows wouldn’t go skittering down the hall and acting on the impulses that were just as bad as the things she was pissed off about.

Because she could MAKE Michael feel, couldn’t she. She could make him feel all the things he had done and he’d learn very quickly that hurting people was wrong.

But THAT was wrong. That was the worst possible way to do things. That’d put her right there in the corner with Michael and even David who seemed to have the right intentions, but chose a terrible way to solve the problem.

Julian sucked in a shaky breath, shifting her arms to rest on her knees before she took a chance at peering up. They weren’t going anywhere. She exhaled slowly, and with it went that manic feeling. She didn’t know what to do yet, but she did know what NOT to do.

About that moment she realized Leo was trying to extract himself from what was probably a frightening little space bubble of horror.


“So much for me not being scary.” She tried to sound light and airy about it, but it didn’t quite make it. Which was why she couldn’t dare to steal a glance at him and focused her stare on the foot of a hallway table instead.

She was left to it for about thirty seconds before Leo’s hands were on her cheeks, tilting her face back towards his.

“Look at me,” he said, blue eyes wide and fast on hers. His mouth had pressed into a thin, determined line. “Do I look scared?”

Before she could answer, he picked up one of her hands and pressed her palm flat against his chest. She could feel his heartbeat, slow and steady, pumping away.

“Do I feel scared?” he asked, a little quieter. His thumb brushed over her cheek. “If you need more convincing, I can kiss you. That usually has pretty good results.”

Again without waiting, he leaned in. The kiss somehow managed to be unhurried and comforting at the same time as it was scorching hot. Leo’s pulse picked up the pace almost at once. It didn’t stop jackhammering even when he pulled away, brushing his lips lightly over her jaw.

“I don’t have a lot of good memories in this house, you know,” he told her. “Maybe sometime you can help me make some.”

How did he do that. How did he do it every time? Maybe it was part of his super secret potential-psychic stuff. Because all it ever took was the blue-eyes and she was settled down, lit up, upside down, or whatever it was he asked for in that one moment.

All at once the tension just dropped and Julian’s bones melted in to noodles. There was just enough in her to stay sitting up, curling her hand tight in to his shirt as she dropped her head against his shoulder.

“I’m not mad at you.” she finally muttered. “I’m not even mad at him. I’m just-”

Stupid. Confused. Lost.

“Just really going to have to rethink Operation Bridge Building.” she grumbled, sitting up again just because… yeah. Leo was better than booze and sugar. Julian brushed her fingers against his cheek. She was the one who was supposed to be fixing everything for him now. Knowing this about Michael didn’t change those plans. It was just going to change how she went about it.

Julian sighed and cringed just a bit. “…I wanted to talk to David tonight but now I just want to eat a whole box of cinnamon rolls and go to bed. With you.”

His eyes flashed with definite interest, but he made a face and sat back within the minute. He ran his fingers through his hair.

“That sounds good,” he said, “but… We need to talk at least a little bit about the fact that Michael is apparently having feelings, according to your psychic vibe-o-meter or whatever the fuck.”

Sighing, he slipped his arm under her knees and scooped her up, setting her down on her bare feet once he’d gotten his own sock-clad ones back up and under him. He took her hand and tugged, jerking his head to indicate which way they were headed.

“Sometimes it happens,” continued Leo, “generally when he’s snacking on stuff he normally doesn’t snack on. So that’s that confirmed. But I’ve never seen him throw a tantrum and fuck up his stuff like this when he’s strung out on blood, so something else is going on. …I doubt it’ll last though. Never does.”

That last part was muttered darkly, almost like he was arguing with something Julian hadn’t even said. Or was he arguing with himself?

Her head was swimming, made more obvious once she was on her feet and following. All of the up and down up and down emotion stuff was rough on it’s own, but apparently trying to hold on to shadows actually required effort. Julian subtly brushed the back of her hand under her nose to check for blood.

Nothing. Good. Heaven forbid she add bleeding in the vampire den on to this shit sandwich.

“I’m trying to catch up. I can’t think that fast.” she warned, squeezing his head. Julian had only just yesterday jumped on this pro-active smart person train, and now she was having re-evaluate everything she knew about Michael.

“And now it’s all backwards on me. It’s not normal that he does feel things, when he usually doesn’t? …but he NEEDS to, and he hasn’t for too long. It’s like… like he’s been smothering his own soul for a hundred years. That can’t be good or healthy. What if he broke it?”

She paused, biting in her lip. “Hmm. He didn’t though, it’s in there. But still. It’s good if he IS feeling things again, even if the cause of it is bad… maybe. I don’t know. A lot of things have been weird since Halloween, including me and shadows. There is this whole unlocking of things that-should-not-be-locked theme going on all over the place and it’s distracting. How am I supposed to figure out what is going on and FIX it if all this stuff keeps popping out?”

“It would just figure that after years of doing everything I can think of to piss him off, you manage to do it without even trying.” There was a bit of bite to Leo’s voice. “But yeah, sure, Tinman needs a heart. Problem is this Tinman is sneaking off and biting people and not saying anything about it, which is a really bad sign.”

He stopped, his steps faltering, and tore at his hair.

“Just… fucking figures,” he breathed. “But I’m sure he’ll be back to regular Michael doucheville in no time, once we figure it out, because god forbid the bastard spend a day of his life with a conscience. As soon as he’s fine again he’ll fuck off back to jamming his finger down on that button for all it’s worth.”


The moment he stopped, she eased around him, never letting go of his hand and kind of swinging it between them. Michael was secretly eating people, and that was plenty good reason to be freaking out. Julian probably would – but later. She could only focus on one thing at a time, and she was still hung up on the current bit.

“He won’t go back.” She stated simply, eyes wide and shaking her head. “Because,” Julian lift a hand to point at herself. “…I was kind of already on a mission. I didn’t know it was going to be THIS complicated, but bringing Michael back to you was pretty much part of the big plan. The fix what Michael broke, put away what David unleashed, and make Leo happy plan.”

Only for a split second did she look unsure about it. All confusion aside, this was still what she intended to do. “I won’t let him go back. It’s bad for him and for you. And I figured, if I’m going to have phenomenal cosmic powers and am really good at getting what I want anyway, who is gonna stop me? He’ll put up a fight, but I’m stubborn and I don’t know when to shut up.”

“…You really don’t,” he agreed with her. “I think you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, Jules, but you do you.”

Leo reeled her in again, drawing her up close to his chest and draping his arm around her waist. He frowned at her, his expression closed off and equally stubborn. The way he always looked when this subject came up, except he wasn’t yelling at her or being a dickhead and trying to scare her.

“Fuck Michael,” he breathed, glancing briefly up at the ceiling. His hand slipped into Julian’s back pocket. “And fuck David too. I don’t want to deal with any more of their shit today. You know what, we can talk about Michael’s many problems later. I’d rather just take you back to my room.”

Julian slid her arms around him and locked her hands together behind his back. It was okay that Leo didn’t believe her. She pulled sunshine out of the dark abyss for him. He was going to get it, even if she had to solve all the mysteries in Silent Pines while simultaneously juggling a bunch crazy vampires just to do it. Maybe she wasn’t the most impressive psychic, or the genius, or great under pressure. But she WAS persistent, and she would keep trying no matter what new weird shit she found out. The only thing that could stop her was death.

And Julian doubted that’d stop her either. She’d be the scariest ghost.

Which was what was going to happen if she didn’t solve her current problem.

“Aren’t you gonna be surprised when you really do get everything you thought you couldn’t have.” she responded with an impish smile. “But I hope your room has food in it. If not, I’m gonna bite you. Not the fun biting either! The scary kind where all the other vampires are going to make fun of you for getting chewed on by a teenage girl.”

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