Blood Moon 008: Bullets (Original Draft)

Blood Moon 008: Bullets (Original Draft)

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Julian really did love running errands for ghosts. Besides the warm fuzzy feelings, it was also a useful distraction. She found that things worked better for her when she wasn’t thinking too hard about it. If she wanted to fall in to the answers they all needed to tie their big Silent Pines Gates of Ghostland information, Julian needed to keep herself busy and not just sitting around brooding. Apparently her psychic mojo was temperamental if she pressed on the gas and breaks too hard or too fast.

Speaking of hitting the gas too hard, she wondered why she thought getting a ride from Leo and his deathmobile was a good idea. Her destination was all the way on the opposite side of town and Julian did not want to be wandering around on the streets after dark. Avoiding a grim death on silent streets wasn’t going to do her any good if Leo wrecked them in to a light pole.

On the bright side, he did drive worlds better than Angela. That was something.

“Oh! It’s that one!” she leaned to point towards one of the old buildings. With a large clock tower and made of sandy colored stone, it’s where the library used to make it’s home before they packed up and moved everything to the downtown building. Julian supposed it had something to do with the big gaping hole blasted out through the side. The place had been in “under reconstruction” limbo for as long as she could remember.

As soon as the car was parked, Julian was already out of her seat belt and shoving the door open.

The building wasn’t her destination though. Julian made a beeline right for a large sculptured water fountain in the middle of the front lawn. She rest her hands on her hips and scowled.

“It wasn’t supposed to still have water in it.” she muttered out loud. That was going to make this tricky.

Leo was only a few steps behind her. He hadn’t pressed Julian for the details on this little errand, surprisingly; he’d agreed the minute she’d asked for a ride. She could see him eyeing the fountain with curiosity now, though, as he came to a halt beside her and slipped his hands into his pockets.

Of course he’d thrown on his favorite jacket, but the clothes he was wearing underneath were just a little bit sharper than usual. He was actually wearing a button-up shirt, though he’d left the shirt-tails untucked and the collar unbuttoned. Julian hadn’t even known he owned a shirt with buttons. His dark jeans were fitted, the cuffs ending under the tops of what looked like new boots.

“So Jules,” he said, eyes sliding over to her. “Are you going to glare at that fountain all night, or what? What are we doing out here?”

“Crime.” she answered simply, twisting her mouth up as she tried mull over this unexpected kink in her plans.

With her fingers splayed at her sides, she wandered around the circular basin of the fountain, giving a full once over. Ever so often she lean over the stone to peer down at the pool of water and frown. There were bits of fall leaves floating in it and in the bottom she could see the faint shimmer of change people threw in for wishes.

She could just toss the toy in there too. But that felt like such a let down.

“…There really WASN’T supposed to still be water in it. They usually turn off the fountains by November so they don’t freeze.” she explained. Which really wasn’t much of a explanation at all, considering she still hadn’t told him what she was actually up to.

Julian plopped down on the edge of the fountain and kicked off her shoes. Now she was glad she opted for the simple slip on flats instead of her sneakers or boots. She bent over to start rolling up the legs of her pants.

“I have to take that-” she lift a hand to point behind her at the metal sculpture of a bird sitting on the very top of the tier, “and replace it. It should be pretty easy. That thing is always getting knocked off anyway.” Once she was done with the second pant leg, she bounced to her feet and stepped up on to the stone edge.


Leo lifted his hand, pressing his fingers to his temple and getting a misty look in his eye. With his other hand, he reached out toward her.

“I’m getting a vision,” he announced, in a voice so deadpan that she knew at once he couldn’t be serious. “Hang on, it’s coming to me now. I see it. It’s… It’s you. Slipping and falling on your ass in the fountain.”

Julian refused to laugh. Refused.

She planted her hands on her hips, casting the most imperious look possible, which was pretty effective considering she was now looking down at him by two feet. It even came with that twist of her head and lift of a shoulder.

“Is that so?” she responded, the corners of her mouth quirking up just a bit. “I happen to be very good at knowing where to put my feet. Whether it be climbing or jumping down to kick your ass.”

Her expression shifted to something wicked as she moved a hand to tap her fingers against her mouth. “Wanna bet?”

Julian leaned forward towards him, resting her hands against her legs.

“I bet you I can exchange that bird without falling. And when I dooooo, you have to… Hmm. Get me coffee. FOREVER.” she smiled at him, wide and toothy. All fake mocking trying to hide the real one threatening to slip through.

“Coffee, huh? Okay.” He stepped forward, his hands alighting on her newly-bared calves and stroking along her smooth skin. “If that’s what you want, I can arrange that… unless, you know, I’m right and you fall.”

He smiled right back up at her, blue eyes bright. If her smile was wicked, Leo’s was downright devilish.

“And what do I get if I win this little bet?” he inquired. “Do I get to pick my prize too? ‘Cause if so, I’ve got a few ideas.”

“It has to be GOOD coffee.” she warned. “No Fleetwood Mac on Angela’s work days coffee.”

Julian kind of really wanted to run her fingers through his hair. But she knew if she did, she was going to get all kinds of derailed. There was no such thing as a fleeting touch with Leo, especially when he had the sparkle blue-eyes going. Ghost errands came first.

Well. Ghost errands and a sure-thing bet.

“I guess it wouldn’t be any fun if you didn’t get to pick your own prize.” she mused out loud, straightening up so she wouldn’t be tempted to paw at him anyway. One hand went back to her hip, while the other gestured at him like he was her lowly servant and she was benevolent enough to grant him his request.

“Alright, what do you want? I’m almost regretting the cinnamon rolls rule, I’d let you have that one for free.”

“Blowjob,” he said gravely. “Definitely.”

Before she could actually say anything in return, he sighed and held up his hands in a pacifying gesture.

“Fine, fine,” he acquiesced, “I’m sorry, what was I thinking? What I meant to say was… blowjob and coffee.”

And that’s when she noticed him twirling the little plastic army soldier between his fingers the same way she’d seen street magicians flipping coins. Last Julian checked, the dirty green plastic bauble had been tucked safely away in her pocket. When had he even…?

Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh!

“Aren’t YOU creative.” she quipped.

…and then completely failed at not laughing. Julian tried turning around so she wouldn’t be looking at him, but it didn’t work. She still ended up tossing her hair back and cackling at the sky. When she turned back around she was still full on grinning and trying to swallow another giggle.

“Well. If that’s what you want. But you’re wasting a perfectly good prize. Not that it matters, because you’re not gonna win.”

Then as quick as could be, she was leaning to snatch her toy back out of his hands. She couldn’t replace the bird without it, after all.

He jerked his hand up and out of her reach. A moment later, he’d jumped up onto the ledge of the fountain and was dangling it over her head with a broad grin.

“I’m sorry, did you need this?” Leo taunted. “Oh, that’s too bad. I guess you should have worn taller shoes or something, Jules.”

The moment she made another grab, he was pulling back in a flash, somehow managing to keep from falling into the fountain himself. It was pretty clear from the look on his face that he wasn’t going to just give it back or let her take it without a fight.

“Oh no,” he sang, “Whatever will you do? With some poor ghost depending on you to help him achieve eternal peace. Probably shouldn’t have brought the asshole vampire. Guess you won’t be winning this bet if you don’t have the toy.”

“What are you, twelve?!”

Of course even as she said it, Julian was perfectly aware that she was taking the bait like a dumbass. The ledge was wide enough there was plenty of room to jump and reach without fear of slipping, but he was just tall enough to hold his hand out of reach. Worse, he had those vampire reflexes, which left Julian very nearly lifting up a foot to kick him off.

She didn’t though. Because she knew damn well he’d just grab her leg and tip her right over.

“It doesn’t count if I can’t even TRY, you cheating asshole.” she accused, giving her up jumping grabs for something a little easier. Julian grabbed his jacket and started pushing to get him off the ledge. She was fighting to keep that surly, tough look on her face and wasn’t succeeding too well.

“I can cheat too, you know. Melt your brain with visions of adorable kittens, or I’m pretty sure Francis is dying to launch someone across the parking lot!”

“Blowjobs and coffee are on the line, Jules, this is serious,” he shot right back, giving her the same earnest look he’d used on Tina. He used his free hand to grapple with her elbow, trying to crush her against his front so she wouldn’t have as much leverage- or maybe his plan was to bring her down with him.

Whatever he was thinking, it all went out the window within seconds.

She could pinpoint the exact moment he realized something was wrong, because his eyes went a little wider and lit up in alarm, and his grip tightened to the point it actually hurt. He opened his mouth like he had something to tell her.

Then he pushed her down into the fountain instead.

She might have thought he was just cheating again… Except that a split second later, something clattered hard against the sculpture right past where Julian had been standing and dropped into the pool with a soft splash. Julian caught a glimpse of a small metal object rolling across the stone bottom, glinting in the dim light.

It looked an awful lot like a bullet.

“What the hell!” she sputtered, splashing quickly to her feet. It wasn’t Leo she was shouting at though. On her ascent to her feet she snatched up the little piece of metal, or at least tried to. Even after it’s landing in to frosty fountain water the thing was warm enough to surprise her in to dropping it.

That was definitely a bullet though.

Julian scrambled for the fountain’s edge and hopped on to the stone to roll out, a small sense of panic trying to weasel it’s way in. She usually knew when something dangerous was about to happen to someone, didn’t she? There should’ve at least been that sudden feeling. For the first time since this whole mess started she was actually freaked out to NOT have a vision.

Leo noticed though. Julian didn’t know if that was vampire reflexes or him having a flash, but he did. Again she was glad for slip on shoes because they were on in a split second.

Leo.” It was just his name, but her tone and expression said the rest. That weird silent way she spoke without actually saying anything at all.

What the hell is happening! I can’t dodge bullets!

Leo had dropped to the ground right along with her, his back pressed flat against the ledge of the fountain. His expression was closed off, all hints of humor having gone up in smoke.

“Yeah, we need to go,” he breathed, grabbing her fingers and clasping tight. He started to climb to his feet.

Another bullet whizzed past his head. Leo managed to just barely avoid the projectile, cursing under his breath as he ducked down again.

“Fuck!” He glanced around haphazardly. His searching gaze landed on a low brick wall surrounding the courtyard that began roughly ten feet from their current hiding place. Turning back to Julian with a less-than-pleased look on his face, he shook his head.

“When I say run, I mean run,” he told her, jerking his head in the direction of the wall. “And keep your head down. I’ll be right behind you.”

She didn’t have any time at all to absorb that before he shoved at the small of her back.


No!” she hissed under her breath. It was supposed to be followed with a you idiot and a nice long lecture about how there was no way she was going to run off without him. But sense returned fast. Julian was a squishy human marshmallow, psychic mojo wasn’t going to do shit against bullets. Vampires were way more equipped for that sort of thing.

He knew she wasn’t going to argue when she made a soft growl, and at the second he gave the signal she took off running. Julian didn’t look back, even though the temptation was there. The wall was low enough that she only had to hop and roll over it in smooth motion. Her landing in the dirt and scrabbling back against the brick was not as graceful.

Squeezing her eyes shut she took in a few deep breaths. Once she opened her eyes she glanced down at the little shadow rolling next to her hand.

Julian huffed at it, shifting to see if she could peer over the wall’s edge.

The first thing Julian noticed was that Leo was nowhere to be seen.

The second was that there was a boy on top of the fountain.

He had jet black hair and tan skin, and was wearing a dark coat that reached nearly to his ankles. In his hand was a strange, old-fashioned-looking pistol; he held it pointed at the ground as he turned in a slow semi-circle. As he reached the right angle for Julian to get a front view- and be struck with the strangest sense that she’d seen him somewhere before- the lights around the fountain caught and reflected back off of a small, round bit of metal hanging from his neck. Whatever it was, it was polished enough to make her blink, momentarily blinded.

When her eyes opened again, he was gone. Like he’d never even been there.

A hand closed around her elbow.

Before she could react, fingers clamped down over her mouth and she was hit with the familiar scent of leather. Leo’s lips brushed her ear as he whispered to her.

“C’mon. Head for the car.”

She could see the Mustang from where they were crouching, parked at the edge of the lot. There was little to no cover along the way; they would be totally out in the open until they reached the car. When she looked over her shoulder at Leo, it was obvious he wasn’t psyched about this plan either. He actually almost looked like he was going to throw up.

“He’s not a ghost.” she stated, rather than asked. Ghost wasn’t quite what she meant either. He obviously wasn’t a ghost, but there was something she didn’t recognize. Not witch, not vampire, not wolf, not human. Something else.

Her eyes flickered over Leo’s face for the briefest of moments. There was a feeling she did recognize. A problem, urgency, and her own dumb instinct to say sentimentally heroic things that she probably couldn’t back up.

What else could there BE in Silent Pines?

That still didn’t throw her as much as that nagging feeling that she’d seen him before. Who the hell did she know that went around shooting guns at people in the middle of the night? If she weren’t careful she was going to fall in to her little psychic lalaland trying to figure it out, and this was the worst possible time to pass out on Leo. She was already hesitating too long.

Julian nodded and got to moving, subconsciously following the trail a shadow darted in front of her. All of her focus was set on just trying to be aware. Half because she was worried that all her questions were going to set her off in to some ill-timed flash, and half because she didn’t want to get caught by surprise if that guy came charging out with a hailstorm of bullets.

“We can talk about it later,” he said, urgently. Leo was right behind her, just like he’d promised. It was weird that he hadn’t passed her, actually, considering that he could run a lot faster than Julian could.

They were halfway to the car when she heard the first pop. The bullet dinged the side of the Mustang, leaving a dent before it dropped down into the grass. That was weird, too; didn’t bullets usually stick in things? Or go through? Julian didn’t have a whole lot of time to puzzle it out, though, because another popping noise preceded a burst of air that ruffled her hair and cooled her cheek, followed by Leo making a muffled sound behind her.

When Julian looked, he’d hit the dirt. He was down on his knees, his hand pressed to his chest- where a dark, damp patch was slowly blooming across the front of his fancy shirt. Leaning over to plant a hand on the ground, he hacked out a glob of blood onto the lawn.

He glanced up, staring for a moment with bloody lips parted- it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, really, but it felt longer- and then fished something out of his pocket and tossed it at her. Car keys.

Out of pure reflex she snatched the keys out of the air, and then she was teetering on her feet. At first she had this. Julian was relatively calm given the circumstances. A gunslinging not-human didn’t seem so far out of her capabilities to handle, right? Especially compared to crazy cult witches and her own boyfriend trying to kill her.

Then she saw the blood and it brought up that whole chest tightening feeling of him bled out of the floor and refusing to wake up. She couldn’t breathe.

No, no, no. We’re not doing that again.

“I CAN’T EVEN DRIVE.” Julian shouted at him, forcing the air in to her lungs as she turned away and sprinted towards she Mustang. She didn’t STOP shouting. If she did, those thoughts of panic would creep in and then she really would be useless.

“I swear GOD if you die, I’m going to send every Francis in the goddamned WORLD after you!” Her body collided with the car and she fumbled to get it unlocked.

Julian was still ranting (although now just to herself) even as she slid in to the passenger’s seat and leaned over to shove the key in to the ignition. With a twist the engine burst to life. “Stupid supernatural assholes, a girl can’t even go out and have a date with a ghost.”

As if being acknowledged was all it took to get them all riled up, a few shadows flittered past her field of vision. She squinted her eyes at them.

“Okay.” she whispered under her breath. “Okay, you want to help, so help.”

Through the windshield, Julian could see Leo hunkered down on the grass. She also could suddenly see the boy in the dark coat, because he was just there out of thin air, scarcely two feet away from Leo. He walked forward and crouched in front of Leo, lifting his gun and using it to shove Leo’s face up into view.

He might have said something, because Leo got a downright ornery look in his eyes and then spat blood back in the boy’s face.

As a reward, Leo got struck along the jaw with the barrel of the gun, knocking him off-balance. He caught himself with both palms against the earth. Meanwhile, the boy pressed the gun to Leo’s temple.

“Alright,” said the boy, his face impassive as he stared at Leo with dark eyes. “Let’s try that one more time.”

“Nope, still can go fuck yourself,” Leo rasped, mind whirling as he tried to consider his options. Unfortunately, it was difficult to break past that overwhelming nausea that was permeating every inch of his body, rendering his limbs useless and shaking and his brain sluggish.

Put simply, Leo was fucked.

He couldn’t bring himself to look in Julian’s direction. He had heard the engine rev, but no wheels, no sound of her doing the smart thing and taking off. Silently, he tried to will that to happen. Stupid goddamn sentimental psychics.

“Just leave her out of this,” he told the thing sitting in front of him. Begged, really, if he was honest. “She’s not…”

“Whoa, seriously?” There was a flicker of curiosity and disbelief in those eyes before they narrowed. “So you do care about something other than yourself. Good to know. So how about this: Answer my questions and I’ll make sure your girlfriend dies fast.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Leo saw a flicker of movement across the lawn. For one paralyzing split second he thought Julian had gotten back out of the car like a dumbass, but then his eyes found her still sitting in the parked Mustang.

What the fuck else was out here?!

Hey.” The gun pressed harder against his head, the old metal digging into his flesh. “Are you listening to me, you dead douchebag?”

“Like you’re one to talk,” wheezed Leo, trying to stall while he figured out whether it was something friendly or something not that was lurking out there in the dark. “Pot, meet kettle.”

A swatch of darkness flickered at the edge of his vision.

Julian was two seconds away from shoving open that door and going out there to kick somebody’s ass. She couldn’t tell what they were saying but she got the impression the guy wanted something more than shooting Leo’s face off, or he would’ve done it already. Which at least gave her a few seconds to think.

An eerily large cluster of her Francis companions were darting around outside like little sharks waiting for the opportunity to pounce. Julian would have found it hilarious if she weren’t on the edge of freaking out. She slide over to the driver’s side, her hands hovering as she tried to remember how the damn thing worked.

“Francis. Don’t kill anybody.” she warned, finally figuring out how to switch it out of park and in to drive. “Take his gun, throw him, I don’t care. Just get him out of the way.”

And just in case her shadows failed to listen, Julian was already stepping her foot to the gas and preparing run the guy over.

It all happened in a matter of seconds.

First, the gun went flying, knocked from the boy’s hand by an invisible force. The kid cursed and whirled around. He seemed to be grappling with something; his attention was entirely diverted, giving Leo an opportunity to drop low and roll away across the grass. He was tempted to go for the gun, but it wouldn’t do jack shit against the kid anyway and he might waste precious time trying to find it in the dark. Instead he focused on getting the hell out of range, because he finally heard tires squealing and he had a sneaking suspicion about which direction Julian was driving in.

A moment later, his hunch proved true when the Mustang came hurtling onto the lawn, headed straight for the kid who had dived for the gun after getting free of what Leo assumed must be Julian’s little shadow friends. Leo saw him fish it up out of the grass just as Leo’s car was closing in on him. The dark-haired kid straightened up, his face washed-out and deathly pale under the headlights.

In the blink of an eye, two large dark shapes loomed up behind the boy’s back. In the next instant, he was simply gone, the Mustang driving through empty space.

Leo struggled up onto his feet.

“Holy shit. Holy shit!

Julian slammed on the brakes, nearly hitting the steering wheel in the process. The guy just vanished. Which was great considering she didn’t want to actually run someone over, but not so great that he could just POOF out in to thin air and then just reappear whenever he felt like it.

Which meant she really shouldn’t be sitting there all wide-eyed and baffled.

Julian pried her hands off the steering wheel so she could shove open one of the doors.

Leo. Get in here and drive this stupid thing!”

“Gonna have to give me a minute, Jules.” He climbed into the passenger’s seat instead, one hand pressed to his chest. “Sorry. Try not to crash.”

As soon as he was sure she wouldn’t just sit there like an idiot, he was unbuttoning his blood-soaked shirt. When he got a few buttons down, his shirt fell open far enough for Julian to be able to get a good look at the gaping bullet hole a few inches from his heart. A little bit of the bullet was actually sticking out of him.

He tried to pry it out, grimacing when it tugged inside of him but remained firmly lodged.

“Christ,” he muttered, reaching into his pocket and getting blood all over his jeans in the process. He retrieved a pocket knife, flipping it open. He glanced over at Julian, his head lolling back against the seat. His hair was sticking to his face. “…Yeah, you probably don’t want to watch this.”

Julian gave a short hysterical laugh. Because her first thought was that he’d be better off asking Jesus to take the wheel, followed by the realization that she was already wiggling her fingers and hoping her Francises were as good at keeping a car from crashing as they were at smashing them. It was practically the same thing.

He received one long glance before she tore her eyes away. She had a pretty good idea where that knife was going, and she might not have been all queasy about blood, but she didn’t want to tempt fate.

Julian focused on what she was doing instead. Switching in to reverse and backing up was easy enough. Getting on to the parking lot and on to the street also wasn’t too bad. But it was pretty clear by the way she’d accelerate too fast and suddenly ride the brakes with a squeaked out sorry!! that it was probably the first time she’d ever actually been behind the wheel of a car.

Once she got on the actual street the ride was a lot smoother, and aside from her occasionally over compensating with the wheel, there wasn’t any more sudden jerking movements. She was obviously concentrating really hard to avoid those, because the last thing Julian wanted was to cause him to knife himself in the face.

“That didn’t count as a win.” she finally whispered, shooting him another quick glance, then sucking in a breath when she nearly swerved again.

“Nnng,” he answered, closing his fist around the recently-excavated bullet. He’d had to wait until she got onto the street to actually get it out; she’d been way too jerky with the car up until then. Not like a slip of the knife could kill him, but it sure wouldn’t be comfortable either. As it was, it still hurt like a bitch. “No blowjob then, huh? Damn.”

Now that the thing was out, his chest was actually closing up. They were also far enough away from that bullshit back there that Leo didn’t feel like he was about to puke his guts out. Altogether, he was feeling a lot better. Physically, anyway.

“Wooden bullets,” he told her, rolling the offending projectile in his palm. “With a metal jacket. Nasty. If it weren’t for the wood, they’d have popped right back out after a minute… What a fucking dick move.”

He dropped it to the floor and brought his fingers to his mouth, sucking some of the blood off before it dried all over his hand. He might have been worried he’d gross her out, but the last thing he needed right now was to waste more blood.

“So sorry, firefly, I guess you’ll have to wait for that blowjob.” There was a ghost of a smile playing at the corner of her mouth, but it didn’t stay for long. Her hands tightened on the wheel when her expression turned thoughtful.

“He had questions. He didn’t just want to kill you. You get sick around him?” Julian was stating the obvious, she knew. But she was trying to work it out. Not just by what she saw, but what she felt.

Jesus, driving SUCKED. She really wanted to look at him. She managed to steal another quick glance at him anyway without weaving them in to a ditch. He was pale and bloody and looked like shit. Julian frowned.

“I feel like I’ve seen him before. But I’m not sure where. And if I tell you that you could take a bite out of me if you need to, are you going to make all kinds of stupid faces at me?”

“…No,” he answered, when he could find words, “but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind for if that scenario came up again.”

He shifted in his seat, looking at her. She seemed to be holding up okay. Mostly she just looked like she was trying to think, which shouldn’t have made a bunch of sappy bullshit pop into his head. Especially not when he’d just been shot by an asshole dead kid and Julian was about to drive them right off the road.

“I’ll be fine. Remind me to teach you how to drive though,” Leo went on. “…Yeah, he had questions. He was definitely going to kill me once I answered him, so excuse me if I wasn’t exactly keen on being helpful.”

“I’m not sure if you’re the safest driving instructor.” There was a hint of humor in her voice, and that smile she still wouldn’t commit to. But she was too wrapped up in chewing on her lip and in to her cheek, searching for the answers she wanted. And then every time she needed to slow for a turn, or stop for a light she had to pause all of her thoughts and the most comical look of concentration would cross her features until the task was done. As if she thought she really would spiral them in to death somewhere.

“I wonder how Walter does this.” Julian finally said, sounding exasperated. “These are things a witchy overlord handles, right? Although I guess he’d just say Good riddance that there’s some not-dead gunslinging vampire slayer running around.” she muttered.

Falling silent, she tapped her fingers against the wheel. Like everything else, this was going to be something she had to deal with. Julian already knew she’d see him again, and that didn’t even need psychic mojo to figure out. She didn’t get sick like Leo did, which meant she could actually get close enough to him to ask what he wanted. IF he didn’t shoot her first. So it was really just a matter of trying to figure out who and what he was, and where to find him before he killed somebody.

What could one more strange problem on her ever growing to-do list hurt?

“What is he?” she asked suddenly. “And what do I do about him?”

“He’s what’s called an Augur.”

“The Carrion Eaters are what you should be worrying about, Leo. One day they’ll catch up to you, too.”

“Basically, he’s a suped-up ghost with a physical form and a vendetta against all things undead,” he continued. “Augurs have a whole bag of bullshit tricks they can pull even when they aren’t resorting to wooden ammo. Like the little disappearing act, for example.”

Leo drummed his fingers against the inside of the passenger’s-side door, peering out the window into the dark. He’d had a suspicion there was one of these spooky douchebags in town for a little while now. It was good to know he wasn’t losing it.


“As to what we can do about him… Well, it depends on how new and how successful his vamp-killing career is. See, Augurs are created when something undead kills a person and buries them in an unmarked grave, and then that person’s ghost is super pissed. Pissed enough to come back and do something about it. They get all those neat abilities in exchange for picking off vampires and other things that go bump in the night.”

He held up one finger.

“So, first way to get rid of an Augur forever is to cockblock him from killing anything for long enough for him to fade away. Not exactly sure how long that takes. Or…”

His second finger went up. He glanced at her.

“If we’re lucky,” he said, “whatever killed him is still kicking, because they’re the only thing that can kill him twice.”

Jesus christ, let’s not have visions while driving a deathmobile.

Carrion Eaters. Julian was glad that flash was quick and painless. Maybe it helped that there was a Francis practically in her lap and nudging her if she stopped focusing. She didn’t understand how something could be so frightening but also kind of adorable at the same time.

Of course, she was also okay with crushing on vampires, so clearly the issue was her being totally insane.

“So, we’re fucked.” she grumbled. “Hold him hostage until god knows when, or find a killer for a murder part two. Totally fucked.” Neither of those options sounded good to Julian. And now she was wrestling with that stupid annoying sense of empathy. The guy was murdered and left out somewhere lost and unfound. Ghosts were always lurking around wanting to resolve unfinished things, and this guy found a more active way to do it. Who could blame him?

It just wasn’t a good way. She couldn’t let him keep doing it.

Julian got that look on her face, the one Leo was probably starting to recognize as her I don’t want to hurt anybody and I’m about to say something really frustrating look.

“He is kind of still a ghost. I could talk to him. If he’s still a person maybe he won’t want to kill people who really don’t deserve it.”

Leo narrowed his eyes.

“Pull over,” he told her, in a voice that made it clear this wasn’t up for discussion.

Julian let out a huff after shooting him a questioning glance. Pulling over was quite fine by her, but she suspected this wasn’t because he wanted to take over driving.

Once she found a good place to pull off of the street, she hit the brake a little too suddenly and cringed in the process. Julian threw the car in to park and cut the ignition, then she was crossing her arms.

“You really don’t have to give me the everything is not unicorns and rainbows speech again. I know I can’t save everybody. But I still want to.”

“I know. You’re insane,” he informed her, reaching over to undo her seat belt. “Absolutely, completely nuts.

He grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her across the gear shift, straight into his lap, and kissed her.

Maybe it was the adrenaline from getting shot. Maybe it was because she just kept on spouting out nonsense that drove him up the wall, and he didn’t know what else to do about it. But the most likely explanation was that he was just absolutely, completely nuts about this girl, and he really just needed to make out with her in his car for a bit.

Maybe it was also that Julian driving his car was kind of hot, even if she was terrible at it.

Julian was prepared for a fight and discussion. Not for getting kissed stupid, which is exactly what happened. It explained why she kicked her feet a bit and squeaked against his mouth before all the tension melted out of her and he was left with a malleable psychic draped over his lap.

Why didn’t they do this fifteen minutes ago?

She kissed him until she couldn’t breathe, wordlessly telling him all those stupid things she wanted to blabber out but couldn’t in the middle of crazy chaos. All her worries and fear mixed in with relief and affection. Ridiculous, candid affection.

When she did break away to suck in a breath, she was still close enough for her lips to brush against his when she spoke.

“You might need to repeat that, firefly, I’m not sure if I’m in trouble or not.”

“Oh, sunshine,” he replied huskily, “believe me. You are in so much trouble.”

His thumbs brushed her cheeks. Leo was fairly sure now that one of these days, Julian was going to be the one to kill him rather than the other way around.

“…Well hey. At least we got one thing right tonight,” he said. “This right here is definitely what you’re supposed to do on a date.”

“Is that why you wore the fancy buttons? Stealing a ghost’s date?” Oh no. There went her heart. Lifted up and stolen away by butterflies. She ran her fingers down the open hems of his shirt, tapping against buttons when she found one and frowning with a tilt of her head at the stains of red. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he was serious. In this case, though, Julian decided it didn’t matter.

A sudden smile swept across her features as she lift her arms to curl them around his neck. “Lets go home, where the ghosts just knock stuff off counters and don’t swing around guns.”

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