Blood Moon 009: High School Problems (Original Draft)

Blood Moon 009: High School Problems (Original Draft)

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School was school. Unless witches were taking it over and sacrificing people to elder gods, Silent Pines High School was the most boring place on the planet. Angela was DYING. There were hundreds of better, more interesting things she could be doing with her time. Better things to research and write papers on, even. Angela already finished the book Anderson assigned class AND written her paper. Which meant she was trapped silent in this boring ass class room with nothing to do, because she couldn’t exactly whip out a stolen library text about witch cults in the middle of American Literature.

Like, it was totally relevant, but. Not an approved academic study.

Grumping to herself and dropping her chin in her hands, she glanced over at Julian. The girl was unconscious. No surprise there. Julian never slept these days, on top of running around being a mutant psychic. Falling asleep after lunch was now the daily ritual. Ugh. If Angela could fall asleep that easy, she’d be napping too.

A better idea came to mind.

“Ffffft! Ffft!” she made a soft little noise, trying to catch Leo’s attention. When he didn’t immediately look up, she tossed a crumpled piece of paper at him. As soon as she caught his eye, her face lit up in to a wide, terrible grin.

Watch this! she mouthed silently at him.

Angela picked up her English book and shot a quick glance up at the front to make sure Anderson wasn’t watching. When the coast was clear, she raised the book up over her head and then as hard as she could, slammed it down on the floor between her desk and Julian’s.

Julian shot up from her seat in an instant and shouted. Her pencil was clutched in her hand like she was about to stake someone. “Uhm forty-eight!” She seemed to recognize quickly this was English class and corrected herself. “H.G. Wells…!”

Then the girl realized no one had actually asked her a question.

Julian dropped down quickly back to her seat, that caught red-handed look all over her face as Angela struggled to keep from laughing out loud.

If Mr. Anderson hadn’t been paying attention before, he sure was now.

“I’m sorry,” he said, setting down his dry erase marker and putting his hands on his hips. That was a thing he did sometimes; Angela had heard some of the girls call him Clark Kent behind his back. The nerdboy glasses probably didn’t help matters. “Are we keeping you up, Julian?”

Uh oh. That was his teacher voice.

“If you can’t stay awake for the rest of my lesson, you can always catch up on sleep in detention.”

On the other side of Julian, meanwhile, Leo was giving the poor girl a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin. It was probably a safe bet that this little trick would get a repeat at some point.

“Sorry Jules,” he whispered just barely loud enough for Angela to hear, nudging Julian’s foot with the toe of his boot. “I’ll make sure you sleep better tonight. Can’t land you in detention again, can I?”

“Nope, I’m good, I’m awake, sorry!” Julian apologized immediately, and with it came a little salute. A why-did-I-do-that grimace followed. It didn’t help that Leo’s commentary had Angela snorting behind her hand (along with several other students in class, goddammit), leaving Julian tinging red and very seriously considering taking that detention just so she could knock them out a window.

Julian couldn’t glare at both Leo and Angela at the same time, so she lowered her arms at her sides and flipped them a finger each. Having the two of them together was a lot of fun most of the time. But for some reason Anderson’s class was a black hole of boredom. Or maybe it was simply the perfect storm of opportunity. Julian stuck in the middle and a teacher that everyone felt a little too comfortable with.

Poor Mr. Anderson, he had a classroom full of assholes.

That didn’t stop Julian from sweeping her foot out and kicking Angela’s book across the room when the girl leaned over to retrieve it. It slid over the floor and came to a slow stop right under Anderson’s desk. Angela’s nose wrinkled up and she huffed.

For Leo it was simply flashing a smirk. Somewhere between suggestive flirting and threatening promise. She lift a hand and curled her fingers in to a fist, then pointed at it with her other hand.

You.” Julian whispered. Pow! she mouthed next, motioning an explosion with her hands. The only question was where she wanted to hit him the most.

It was probably a good thing that Michael was skipping today. He wouldn’t have fared well witnessing this little scene, and he certainly wouldn’t have liked Leo mouthing Don’t threaten me with a good time.

“Eyes up here, Leo,” Mr. Anderson cut in, reminding them that oh yeah, they were all still in class. Leo just grinned.

“Sure, teach,” he replied, leaning back in his seat. “My bad.”

The three of them were saved from almost certain (and well-deserved) punishment when the bell rang a moment later. Leo leapt onto his feet at once, slinging his backpack over his shoulder and giving Mr. Anderson a little salute that was suspiciously reminiscent of the one Julian had given him a minute ago. He strolled right up to Anderson’s desk to retrieve Angela’s textbook, hardly glancing at the teacher as he did so. Mr. Anderson’s eyes had an odd, resigned light in them as the boy headed out into the hall.

“Uh, EXCUSE YOU.” Angela shouted just as Leo crossed through the threshold. The bell had already rung, so it’s not she was going to get in trouble NOW. She very quickly shoved her papers in to her ginormous purse and leapt to her feet.

“You can just get it back later.” Julian commented. She wasn’t nearly as much in a rush, but she also spent most of the class dozing off, so the only thing sitting on her desk was her book.

“That was my other English book. I was trying to get a head start on my Gothic Lit!” Angela sounded like she was going to explain more, but she was already dodging around other students to chase after Leo. Julian could hear her shouting Stop, asshole! down the hall.

On passing Mr. Anderson’s desk, Julian tugged a couple of soft peppermints from her pocket and set them on the corner. “I am so, so sorry.” she apologized again, giving her best don’t-punish-me smile. That was becoming a ritual itself. If they were going to be jerks in his class, the least she could do was give him some candy.

When Julian caught up to Angela, her best friend was threatening to beat her not-boyfriend with a giant purse.

“You don’t think I’ll do it? I will!” Angela hissed, shaking the bit of Leo’s jacket she had clutched firmly in one hand. Her other was holding her purse well up above her head, ready to swing down at a moment’s notice.

Julian suppressed a smile as she leaned against the lockers. “I don’t think she’ll do it.”

“Stay out of this Julian! This is between me and Leo!”

“Yeah, this is between me and Angela,” said Leo. He was holding the book aloft in one hand and looked utterly unperturbed by all of the blonde’s twisting and tugging. “What do you need this class for anyway? You know who takes this class? Michael. Michael and a bunch of other dweebs who sit around sighing about how romantic the past was. I was there, Angela, it wasn’t that romantic.”

“Uh, NO.” Angela released his jacket and dropped her purse-threatening in an instant. The strap got shoved up on to her shoulder before both her hands came up, each with her pointer finger and thumbs out.

“Oh damn, this is a two handed lecture.” exclaimed Julian.

“Settle down mother fucker and let me educate you on the glorious world of Gothic Lit!” Angela started.

Julian suddenly grinned, shifting her book under her arm and stepping just slightly out of Angela’s vision. Her hands went up too and as Angela started ranting she was mimicking the motions, even mouthing along with the speech.

“…and thus only a fourteen year old teenage girl thinks it’s all romantic. Gothic Lit is filled with subtle horror and creepy ass shit and monsters and a is bazillion times mor-” she cut off suddenly, freezing mid-gesture before she shot a glare over her shoulder.

Julian had already quickly hugged her book again and just shrugged her shoulders at her. “It’d be easier on us all if you just went and borrowed Michael’s.” she offered.

A sudden sly look crossed Angela’s features. “Now THAT is a fantastic idea. Leeeeeeo. You can eat a dick.”

The minute Angela had started going off on her little tirade, the corner of Leo’s mouth had twitched suspiciously.

“My bad, Professor,” he told her when she’d wrapped up, tapping her nose with the spine of the book. “You sure corrected my total ignorance on this matter.”

The text was shoved into her hand as he passed her by, his prey abandoned in favor of wrapping an arm around Julian.

“Alright. I’ve got to go sit through a lecture on heat transfer. At least I hope that’s what’s happening today and not another episode of Dateline: Cougar Teacher Edition.”

If Julian still had plans to sock him, they certainly weren’t going to happen now. A little teasing in Anderson’s room was a worthy exchange for getting moments like this where she could slide her arms up under his jacket and hug him for two seconds in between classes. It was kind of sappy thinking about hugs and snuggles like a dumb girl, but then half the time she was also considering dragging him in to the girl’s bathroom and seeing what they could get away with.

“Hey, if Ms. Mandeville molests you, it’s your own fault, wearing your badboy leather jacket and those grab-my-ass jeans.” Angela chided, wagging her book to gesture at his clothes.

Julian pulled away just enough to nod seriously. “Yeah, you should stop dressing like such a slut.”

“Exactly. I know you can’t help being so pretty, but a woman can’t control herself when you’re flaunting the come-hither eyelashes.” Angela flashed him her best of wide, dazzling smiles. “You’re asking for it.”

“Please. You know it would be criminal not to show this off,” Leo shot back with a wink, waving a hand up and down along his torso. He tilted his head, giving Julian a teasing smile. “You’ll just have to live with the fact that all the other ladies want a piece too. Poor Ms. Mandeville just isn’t my type.”

He ducked in for a quick kiss.

“School is significantly less exciting without Michael to babysit,” he admitted after a beat. “We’re going to have to find ways to keep things interesting.”

“Why don’t you just go makeout under one of the stairwells like everybody else?” Angela commented. She couldn’t seem to decide if she were about to smirk or make faces. In the end she went with the smarmy grinning. “If Julian won’t, I will.”

“Absolutely not.” Julian stated firmly, pulling away from Leo.

Angela gave her best wide-eyed innocent Margrit impression. Complete with a heavy gasp and her hand going up to her chest. “Why ever not! You’re not the jealous type are you?”

“I am.” Julian confirmed with a nod. “You think I’m going to share MY hot blond with this asshole?”

Before Angela could utter a what or utter a great comeback, Julian threw her arms around her making the kissy-faces. Angela knew this tactic well, since it was her favorite game to play with Margrit. But it wasn’t so awesome being on the receiving end when she knew full well that Julian wasn’t afraid to actually kiss, lick, or whatever matter of super-gross thing she was threatening to do.

“No. Naaooo!” Angela snatched Julian’s own book to use as a shield. “Go stick your tongue in somebody else’s face! This hot blond is reserved for Seniors and guys with huge bank accounts!”

Julian giggled, but that was cut short when Angela stiffened up and nudged her side.

“Ms. Hollinger. Ms. Mercy.”

The source of the voice stopped a few paces away, a faint amused smile trying to curve it’s way at the corner of her lips. She looked young at a first glance, with rich red hair braided elegantly over one shoulder and flawless skin, but there was something about her that hinted she was much older. The slight wrinkle at the corners of her eyes. How her clothes were trendy, (though in a modest almost matronly style) but her jewelry was quite old fashioned. She wore even more jewelry than Angela.

Oh shit.

“Lucinda, I am so, so, SO sorry!” Julian immediately blurted out. When was her last appointment? She couldn’t even remember what day it was supposed to be, but she was pretty sure she missed it AND another appointment with Tina on top of it which meant she was super screwed. If she had to go to another-

“Hmm, take a breath, darling. You’re not in trouble.” Lucinda shifted a stack of manila folders in her arms, giving an easy laugh. “I am actually here by request of the school. There seems to be a few unfortunate circumstances involving the current counselor and I will be stepping in until they hire a replacement.”

Just as Julian let out a sigh of relief, Lucinda spoke again.

“Although, seeing as you have difficulties in keeping appointments these days, this will make it a bit easier on both of us, will it not?” she smiled with a tilt of her head, then gestured towards Leo. “Who is this?”

“That’s Leo.” Angela interjected. All of her stiffness had faded and her weight shifted on to one foot. Everything about her posture screamed, ew, an adult, laaaame. From the rolling of her eyes, to the way she held Julian’s book at her side and twirled a piece of her hair with her free hand. “I think he’s an idiot, but y’know, can’t tell Julian who she’s friends with.”

There it was. That hint of something biting.

Despite Julian giving Angela that cut it out stare, Lucinda did not seem to notice Angela’s tone.

“Aaah, Leo. I have heard interesting things about you.”

There went Julian’s expression. The flush of pink at her cheeks as her eyes went to the ceiling and she pressed the backs of her fingers against her mouth in an attempt to hide what was probably the stupidest grin on the planet.

Leo might’ve spent a little time paying attention to that adorable face and wondered what sort of self-incriminating shit Julian had been saying to her therapist about him.

Might have. If her therapist weren’t a fucking witch.

There was no mistaking that sickly sweet, faintly smoky smell. Like incense, almost, but nothing you’d find on earth quite matched up. And incense didn’t usually smell like dinner.

He did a hasty mental rundown. When was Julian’s last session? Did Lucinda know Michael and Julian had split? And what were the odds that Julian’s equally witchy social worker had mentioned Leo to the therapist after her visit?

How should he play this?

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” he said, sticking out his hand. “I’m sure Jules has exaggerated.”

The second her fingers curled around his, ice shot down his spine. Leo blinked, carefully clinging to his chosen expression of I’m-a-bored-teenager.

Lucinda examined Leo curiously, but shook his hand with relaxed ease before releasing it and turning her glance towards Julian.

“Aggravating jackass, I believe were the words?” she asked with a hint of humor. “Ms. Abernathy certainly had a different impression.”

If Julian’s face could get redder, it probably would have right about there. This was quite possibly the most awkwardly weird moment in the history of moments, and she opened her mouth twice trying to speak before she was finally able to spit something out.

“That’s actually a really… uh, funny story, I think. But-”

“How about we go have a chat now? I do need to speak with you.” Though her demeanor was still friendly, her tone suggested it wasn’t a request. She sounded just like one of the teachers using their teacher-to-student voices. Julian grimaced, but nodded, holding out her hand so Angela could pass her book back.

“By the way, Ms. Mercy, I owe you an apology.” Lucinda suddenly announced, drawing a curious glance from Julian and completely blowing Angela’s cool exterior.

Angela shifted on her feet, crossing her arms over her chest in the process. “What for?” she asked carefully.

“I did not feel you were a healthy influence for Julian when we first met. You have to understand, my priority was making sure Julian was in a safe environment. But I have recently realized that assessment was a huge mistake, especially after this summer and seeing how much happier she’s been since spending time with you again. I hope there are no hard feelings?” Lucinda explained with an earnest smile.

That was gratifying. Angela didn’t bother to hide the surge of satisfaction. She pretty much hated Lucinda’s guts for exactly that reason and it was GOOD to hear the woman knew she was wrong.

Of course, it didn’t mean Angela liked her any better or trusted her at all. She was still the worst therapist ever. For real, who the hell told a teenage girl to avoid her friends for awhile? There was no way Angela was going to let that go.

“Thanks, Lucinda! I missed my best friend.” The blond responded with a wide cheeky grin, anyway.

“Well, then, shall we?” Lucinda, gestured towards the hall and held out a hand to usher Julian along. Julian cast a quick glance over her shoulder and waved her fingers at the pair.

Angela waited until they were well out of earshot before she turned to Leo.

“Am I an asshole for still wanting to run that woman over with my car? Cause, seriously, if Jules is gonna have a therapist, it should be someone who doesn’t massively suck. Like, I am totes cool if she hates me and all, but I am pretty sure she needs to be sued for malpractice or something.”

Leo, in turn, grabbed Angela by the hand and started to pull her down the hallway.

“I need you to tell me everything you know about that woman,” he said, all business. “And about Jules going to therapy. Screw class, we’re skipping.”

Angela was usually all about skipping classes. This wasn’t going to be the fun kind, and now she had a huge knot of dread twisting up in her stomach. Sure, she didn’t like Lucinda, but Angela never thought the woman was dangerous. Now Leo had that we got a problem voice going on, and Angela just KNEW that meant she was going to have to add another bubble to her Supernatural Silent Pines wall.

Just once she wished it could be something cute and harmless. Unicorns and kittens. Not Julian in the middle of something bad. Was that girl a magnet for this shit?

The class bell rang just as they passed through in to one of the stairwell exits. That’s when Angela finally piped in.

“Please do NOT tell me she’s another vampire because I don’t even know if I can handle that right now!”

“Nope,” Leo answered, leading her past the stairs and shouldering open the door to the school grounds. He glanced up at the sky, thankful for another dreary day. “Not a vampire. I kinda wish she were, because I could definitely handle that.”

He drew Angela over to a bench and hopped up onto the back of it, tossing his bookbag down into the grass. He folded his hands and fixed her with a sober stare.

“That woman,” he said, “is a witch. Julian’s social worker is a witch. And I get the feeling that’s not a coincidence. So I want to know everything.”

“When I suggested you spend more time with Leo, I wasn’t expecting this result. You seemed to be very infatuated with Michael.” Lucinda laughed under her breath, stopping at the counseling office door to unlock it.

Julian blew her hair out of her face through the side of her mouth. Discussing her romantic drama was still mortifying, but at least now it wasn’t with Leo standing right there. “Right, you were the only person on the planet who didn’t suspect I had a huge crush on Leo. Kinda makes that whole, ‘hey, hang out with this guy that’s not your boyfriend’ thing a little weird.”

“Sarcasm, darling? It’s been a while since I’ve heard that from you.” she chided gently, with the hint of a smile. Lucinda pushed the door open and stepped aside to let Julian pass.

“Sorry.” Julian flushed again, stepping quickly past Lucinda in to the office. “My whole thing with Michael and Leo has just been REALLY weird.” Then she paused, blinking a bit in confusion. This was… Okay, this was not normal. She’d been in here before and it never felt like this. It did feel familiar though and that left Julian squinting her eyes and glancing around.

Lucinda pulled the door closed as she entered, quietly turning the lock. Her collection of manila folders were dropped off on along shelf before she circled around to a table where her she had obviously tried to set up her coffee and tea service as best she could with the tiny space. Predictable as ever, she immediately set to work flipping on the electric water kettle and preparing a cup of tea.

“I admit I suspected you may have had feelings about Michael’s cousin. You seem to form unusually strong bonds with the old families of Silent Pines very quickly. It’s actually quite interesting to watch. And now a Lanier. You have somehow managed to find the last Lanier son and he is the one you choose.” Lucinda paused long enough to glance over her shoulder. “…he is the one you chose, isn’t he?”

“He kinda makes me want to rearrange the stars just for him.” Julian murmured. Because she was so consumed with searching the room, it took her a few moments to realize Lucinda’s comments were really fucking weird. Turning on her heels slowly, she eyed Lucinda with that same scrutiny she gave the room.

“How did you know that.”

“Know what, darling?”

“Leo’s last name. I don’t think I ever actually told you.”

Lucinda just laughed breezily. “How do I know the last name of a student at the school I just began working at?” She gestured towards the stack of folders across the room. “That’s the entire eleventh grade student class records. Ms. Farrar was working on next semester’s schedule recommendations before she vanished, which unfortunately now falls to me. His placement scores are quite impressive.”

“Oh.” Crap. Okay, that made sense. Maybe she was just getting all paranoid because she couldn’t shake that odd feeling. “…but no, the last Lanier stuff. That’s not normal, that’s weird, it’s not anything you-”

“Julian, stop.”

And she did. Just like that. Froze in place with her hands up in that weird way she did when she was trying to think, and that wide eyed perplexed look on her face.

Lucinda retracted her own outstretched hand, twisting the large green emerald ring on her finger. “Relax please, and have a seat.” she instructed.

Julian shifted, still looking a little confused as she moved towards the chair. But then she stopped, sucking in a sudden breath.

“No. No. This isn’t right, this is weird.” she whirled around, much to Lucinda’s surprise. Julian pointed at Lucinda’s ring, and then it all seemed to rush in quickly. “Green light.” she stated first, throwing up her hand towards the wall. “That thing is MAGIC. David used that to hide the library so no one could mojo their way to it.” There was a small, nearly imperceptible water-like stain on the wall where she was furiously pointing. “That- …there’s one in YOUR office. I saw it. You’re a WITCH. You’re DOING something to me. I-”

Just as quickly as it started that sudden panic melted away with a hiss of her breath. The light dimmed just a bit as Julian’s eyes narrowed. She took a step towards Lucinda.

Before she could get any closer Lucinda shouted something Julian couldn’t quite understand and gestured both her hands in a sharp motion. The girl’s body went lax and she slipped to the floor out cold, leaving Lucinda standing there looking bewildered.

“You are not supposed to be THIS strong.” Lucinda took a good look around the room, trying to find the source. But with Julian unconscious and room back to it’s usual brightness, there really was no other explanation. “Hmm. …but then maybe you are supposed to be. Perhaps that was their problem all along.”

Lucinda turned back to the cup of tea she had brewing. She gave it a questioning looking, then shook her head. Out of her pocket she pulled out a gold cigarette case, but instead of being cigarettes inside there were a few strange bits and pieces. She pulled out a sewing needle and pricked the tip of her finger. The drop of blood she squeezed in to the cup. After stirring the contents she brought the cup over to the girl on the floor. Once she made sure Julian swallowed all of it, she set the cup aside, taking her golden case out again and from it a small piece of thread. Like their last session, she took a few strands of hair, bound it with the thread and tucked it away inside the hidden compartment of her ring. This time she pricked Julian’s thumb with her needle, adding a few drops of the girl’s blood to seal it.

“Let’s try this again.” she whispered, waving her ringed hand next to Julian’s head, then helped her sit up as she slowly regained consciousness. “Are you listening, seer?” When Julian nodded, Lucinda smiled. “Good. When you entered this room and saw the sigil, you realized I was a witch. When you panicked, I explained. I do not know David nor am I associated with him. This is the truth. That symbol is advanced craft for those who do not want to be found. Your friend Walter no doubt uses similar tricks, ask him if you wish. I am not trying to harm you and you trust me. But I do not trust Tina Abernathy and I fear she has been trying to manipulate you. She behaves oddly, doesn’t she? And she keeps secrets from me. This is what you will remember. This is what you will say.”

Rising up to her feet, Lucinda grasped Julian’s hands to help her up off the floor.

“Now, darling. Tell me about the Hightower and Lanier.”

Julian missed her entire fifth period, which was perfectly fine with her since Sociology was one of those classes she got stuck with because she couldn’t decide on anything else. Now as she headed down the hall, cringing at the fluorescent lights, she kinda wished she could skip her last class of the day too. On arriving at her locker, she didn’t even get through finishing the combination before she squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her forehead against the cool metal. With the noise from chatter and slamming lockers mixed in with all the impressions of things, it was making her head hurt to the point of feeling nauseous.

“Jules.” Warm hands grasped her shoulders, pulling her upright and turning her around. When she opened her eyes, it was to find Leo’s searching her face. “You don’t look so hot.”

One of his hands slid up into her hair, fingertips combing across her scalp. She could tell from the look on his face that he knew something was up.

“…The fuck did she do to you?” he asked. His eyes narrowed.

“What?” There was a brief moment of hazy confusion until Julian realized the who he was talking about. She shook her head, which turned out to be a rotten idea. Getting a headache after seeing Lucinda was a normal thing, but this time it was particularly bad. Julian was pretty sure it was because she was stuck in the middle of school instead of getting her nice quiet walk where it’d fade by the time she got home.

She probably should have been explaining this out loud. When she realized she wasn’t, she let out a sigh and tilted until she could rest her head against his chest and curl her arms up under his jacket.

“Everyone in Silent Pines is a witch.” Julian finally muttered in to his shirt. “Paranoid witches too. I always thought her office felt weird, and this time I noticed cause it’s not hers. But she did that same thing to it. A snoop proof box that apparently I’m allergic too.” That might’ve been her worse explanation of something yet, but Julian had just discovered listening to his heart beating was a surprisingly effective way to ease the tension at the base of her skull.

“Allergic to- …Bullshit,” Leo objected at once, hugging her tighter. He didn’t miss her little wince when she shook her head, and a lead weight dropped into his stomach as something clicked. “What are you talking about? Another headache? Do you get those every time you go to therapy?”

Fuck. Fuck. What the fuck was Julian thinking? She wasn’t this stupid.

“Jules,” he went on, slowly, “you didn’t get a headache from any of David’s anti-spying measures. Or Walter’s. Why the hell would you think your therapist’s spell is the reason you’re sick right now?”

“Was half dead after all that David nonsense, everything hurt. …and Walter does something slightly different?” she answered softly. It did seem a little strange when he said it like that, but it still seemed like such a natural thing to happen. The whole spell was to block everything outside those walls. Of course Julian, with all her over-active psychic mojo, would end up feeling smothered if she spent too long in there and then overwhelmed when she finally left.

“It does happen every time, it’s really not that bad.” Underplaying how much her head hurt was a lie, and she knew he wasn’t likely to buy it. But he sounded like he was about to freak out over this. There were so many things for them to worry about, her feeling a little sick after seeing her therapist wasn’t worth the concern.

Julian pulled away just enough so she could explain. “I flipped out as soon as I got through the door and I think I scared her a little bit? She’s not trying to do anything to do me. …she’s actually kind of worried that Tina is though.” That didn’t quite sit well with Julian, but when she thought about it, the last time she saw Tina the woman did things that were just a little strange. At the time Julian had just been too panicked over learning she was a witch to even notice.

He didn’t look convinced in the slightest.

“She gives me the creeps,” he told her bluntly, staring. “Chills, even. She’s bad news. Angela told me how she cut you off from everyone. And isn’t it convenient she’s telling you all this now after you freak out? She knew you’re psychic, she sure as hell probably knows I’m a vampire and so is Michael, but she didn’t tell you until just now that she’s a fucking witch? Or that she’s worried about Tina? Why? If she’s so worried, she could have given you a heads-up.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.

“Look, I don’t know if I trust Tina either, since she’s skulking around pretending not to be a witch too. But Tina didn’t send up a dozen red flags and it’s not Tina giving you monster migraines. Why do you believe her?”

He wasn’t sure why he was so surprised. After all, the girl had buddied up to Walter real fast and was even trying to make nice with newbie-vamp David now. But somehow, Leo trusted her instinct on those. Mostly.

This he didn’t trust at all.

“I don’t know.” she admitted. “I just do.”

This was making her head hurt worse. Because Leo wasn’t stupid. He did that blue-eyed genius thing, didn’t make snap judgements, and lately was doing super weird psychic things too. He listened to her CRAZY impressions about people she was constantly learning terrible things about. Not without complaining, or telling her to be careful, but he accepted it. So why was this one different?

“She… she’s not going to hurt me. I KNOW she’s not.” Julian said this with absolute certainty. That was a down in her gut feeling. Lucinda really did want her safe and sound. The feelings were almost similar to the ones she had about Michael. Hurting her was not the agenda. She was confident that Lucinda wasn’t going to try and kill her or anything like that.

“…I trust her.” This statement she sounded less convinced over. Julian believed it, but it didn’t come with the solid, no second-guessing as the other. In fact when she tried to recall all the reasons why, nothing came to mind and it made that little spot between her eyes thump. Frustrated, she lift a hand to press her palm against the spot.

“So there is another creepy witch roaming around. It doesn’t really matter, does it? You did want something to make school a little more interesting.” Not the greatest joke in the world, but she did manage a half grin. “What do you want to do, go shake answers out of her? You’ll have to hold her down. I’m sure I can scare her with Francis.”

“…No,” Leo answered, pressing his lips into a thin line. He shifted his gaze up and away, turning all the pieces over in his head. “Not yet. If she’s up to something, I don’t think she’s going to scare that easy.”

He touched a hand to her cheek. He glanced at her, but it was almost like he was looking right through her.

“Okay. New plan. Plan I fucking hate, but it’s the best one.” He grimaced. “I think you should keep going to therapy like everything is normal, but you should tell her that her juju is making you sick. And we’re going to find a different spell from Walter that you’re going to ask her to use instead. If that’s all it is, your headaches should stop. And if she really wants to help you, she’ll switch spells. Right?”

“Not nearly as exciting as jumping her in her office, but probably a much better idea.” It was simple and didn’t involve trying to kill someone and that was a bonus in Julian’s book. And since she needed to hunt down Walter anyway, adding one more request wouldn’t be a big deal. He might even actually know something about Lucinda and Tina.

Poor Walter, she was going to enjoy bothering him.

Julian smiled, raising up on her toes to give a kiss that was supposed to be quick, but ended up lingering because she had the sudden thought to blurt out words she wasn’t ready for him to hear. At least now when she had those instant, inexplicable urges to kiss him, she could, which ended up making her grin even wider.

“Since I’m battling scary ladies today, you want me to tell Ms. Mandeville to back off? Or I could tell her you love it when she gets handsy, that might be fun too.”

“I’ll handle the teacher who likes to play grabass. You focus on getting through the rest of the school day.” He flicked her forehead- mind you, much gentler than he would have normally. “And how about I’ll drive you to dance class later so you don’t collapse on the sidewalk somewhere.”

Leo still couldn’t swallow whatever fucked up pill Julian was taking that made her trust Lucinda, but if she wasn’t going to listen to him… well, he’d just have to prove the woman wasn’t worth trusting. Leo had gotten a lot of practice at that particular game.

And if she thought she could fuck with Julian and get away with it… she sure had a big surprise waiting for her.

Because Leo wasn’t a nice boy.

Julian’s weird and exhausting day carried over in to her dance class. Maybe because instead of the usual evening of having the instructor working with the room on whatever their theme of the week was, Margrit had the studio booked so she could micromanage all the people she talked in to performing in the dance portion of her Showcase. By now Julian had forgotten exactly what the showcase was for, and every week she was less and less confident her participation was a good idea. Most people seemed to have issues rising to Margrit’s high expectations, but that was something Julian could handle. The difficult part would be having a huge crowd of people staring at her and she was already trying to come up with excuses to drop out. Unfortunately Margrit was really good at getting her way. She had the perfect answer for everything Julian tried, then when she ran out of comebacks, she used guilt. Julian’s greatest weakness.

“Julian, you have to SMILE with your whole body. You look like you’re trying to do battle.” Margrit barked out, resting her hands on her hips as she circled around them like a tiny hornet. It didn’t help that she looked the part with her black and yellow ensemble, and she was even carrying around this weird pointer thing Julian was sure she’d seen Margrit use when doing presentations. Today she was using it poke them whenever they did something wrong.

“To be fair, I’ve dropped her three times now. If you’d make up your mind about the music we might actually get the transitions right.” Paolo defended. Normally Paolo was one of those take it in stride sort of guys. He wasn’t the best dancer, but he was still everyone’s favorite to get paired with because he didn’t take things too seriously, yet always put in the effort. It might’ve also helped that he was a shameless flirt and managed to entangle at least half the class in some kind of drama. Now even he was starting to lose patience with Margrit’s directions.

“Hand goes on the shoulder blade, Paolo, this isn’t one of your heathen manwhore dances! The Viennese Waltz is supposed to be a conservative display of romantic intentions.” For his insubordination, he got more than a poke. Margrit smacked his had with her evil little weapon hard enough that he snatched his hand away from Julian to shake it out. It even made Julian jump.

NOW Julian was smiling, though. She mouthed you’re in trouble! at him.

“The music selection has to be PERFECT. I’ve got it narrowed down to five songs, not that it matters. The transitions aren’t where you’re both utterly failing with. I swear it’s like neither of you understand technical quality at all!”

“I’m betting we put Leo to sleep two hours ago. I doubt you dropping me on my ass will be enough to keep a whole crowd awake.” Julian mused out loud to her partner.

Paolo guided her in to a spin. “We should go with Delilah and actually do a battle theme. Would be ten million times better than this Tchaikovsky bullshit.”

“No, no, NO. The two of you are NOT making the selections here. You’ll do MY choreography and MY song.” Margrit slapped her pointer in her hand. As far as she was concerned, that should of been the end of the conversation. This must’ve been the last straw for Paolo because in one graceful movement he released Julian, turned three times and suddenly it was Margrit in his arms getting turned about the room.

It sure as hell wasn’t a waltz either.

“Let me show you the dance of my people!” Paolo sang. Margrit had such a fit, she couldn’t even sputter out words.

Julian just started laughing. “Does this mean I can leave now?”

“Looks like you lost your dance partner, Jules.”

Evidently Leo was still awake after all. Last she’d seen him, he’d been lying down across several of the guest chairs at the side of the studio, but now he was looping his arms around Julian’s waist from behind and tugging her back against his chest. Her feet kissed the floor goodbye.

“Need a stand-in?” he asked playfully. That was all the warning she got before he swung her around in a circle.

Julian couldn’t decide if it were better to put up a fuss or laugh, which was probably why her squealed complaint of staaahp lasted only about two seconds before she erupted in to giggling.

Didn’t stop the sass, though, even when she was dropping her head back against his shoulder and trying to look upset as possible.

“Where were you an hour ago when I was thrown across the room?”

“You SLID across the room and Margrit told me to do it.” Paolo explained brightly. Margrit decided this was an opportunity to instill some proper waltz technique in to him and had taken over leading. Any time he tried to goad her in to a samba she thwacked his ankle with the pointy heel of her shoe. It turned out to be surprisingly effective, for the most part.

“I TOLD you, she’ll be at least ten pounds heavier by the showcase just so I can make sure you don’t KILL her.”

“I’ll WHAT?”

“Can Leo even dance?” Margrit quickly deflected, casting a look over her shoulder as she brushed past with Paolo. “I have to say I was surprised with his class schedule. What other surprises do you have for me?” The red-head practically purred.

Leo grinned wide.

“You looked like you were having fun. Besides, I’ve told you I’m not always going to be around to save your ass, you might as well learn.” He peered down at Julian, and how the fuck did he always seem to be able to look at her through his eyelashes from over her head?

“Jules, can I dance? You’d be the one who could vouch for it,” was his answer to Margrit’s inquiry.

“Aaaahm, hold on, I need to think about this.” Julian stated, and then went her thinking face if a little more exaggerated than usual.

Margrit rolled her eyes, only momentarily distracted when she had to slap the side of Paolo’s head because the hand at her back was roaming far too low. “Your yapping strumpet isn’t here to entertain with the theatrics, Julian! Just spit it out!”

“No, seriously, I am really trying to think hard about this one! I know Leo can’t drive but that’s the wrong d-word, hmm.” she lift a hand to tap her chin and as she gave it even more consideration.

“…who even says strumpet?” asked Paolo. “What happened to the ass licking skank that you called her ear-HNRG.”

Margrit gave him a sharp kick to the shin.

That’s when Julian snapped her fingers. “Oh I remember! Leo is the worst dancer EVER. Terrible bad. Worse than Angela, even. I’m pretty sure he learned to dance in the eighteen-nineties.”

“Well there you have it.” Leo waved his hand. “Lady says I can’t dance, so it must be true.”

She probably thought she was antagonizing him. That was adorable. Leo was more than happy to play along with pretty much whatever digs she directed his way.

Besides, seriously. She was really just saving him from getting conscripted into more of Margrit’s bullshit. He should be thanking her. God knew if the little redhead thought he was any good, he’d be victimteered to be part of this dumb showcase.

“That’s why I’m on the sidelines today. Gotta leave it to the pros.”

That must have been exactly what Julian was thinking, because when she finally got back to her feet and turned around, she had that smug little grin on her face. The one that said you owe me a reward. In fact, it was clear she already had one in mind, as she tugged gently at the bottom hem of his shirt then tapped her mouth with her finger.

“That is an absolute shame. MY partner suddenly decided to drop classes and now I have to look for someone new.” Margrit gave a pointed glare at Paolo, who tried to seemed picture of innocence, but ended up just looking even more devilish instead.

“I didn’t know that woman was his mom. If you can’t handle your hot mom getting on with your bros, don’t bring her to your classes, c’mon man.”

That was finally enough for Margrit, who groaned and shoved the boy away. “With that DISGUSTING image still seared in to my brain, this is why we now have a No Paolo Bait policy at the studio. Sadly, that includes bringing your sexy blue eyed boyfriend to practices if he can’t be useful to me.”

“But he’s not my boyfriend.” Julian deadpanned. Her reward kiss could wait just a second, as she pulled away to cross one arm around her waist and use the other to hold up a finger. It was a deliberate mocking of Margrit’s favorite way to correct people.

Margrit didn’t buy this for a second. Both her hands went to her hips. “OH REALLY?”

“Ahm hum. Unless punching a guy makes him your boyfriend. And if that’s the case I probably have six other boyfriends, Paolo included.”

Leo’s mouth opened automatically, a witty comeback already half-formed in his mind.

Then he blinked, and it went out of his head completely, because something was seriously wrong with him. A twisting, sharp, stabbing feeling in his chest that made absolutely no sense. He knew what it was, obviously, he wasn’t fucking stupid. He just didn’t understand why it was there.

“Yeah,” he heard himself say with a straight face, slipping his hands into his pockets. “That’s right.”

“See. He is a not-boyfriend!” Julian chimed.

“If punching is all it takes, I’m not getting any good shit from this relationship.” Paolo complained, and even looked annoyed by it. “We’re about three years over due for some serious making out.”

“And you’ll probably be waiting another twenty.” quipped Julian back, with a wide cheeky grin.

This was an interesting situation for Margrit, as Julian only recently started publicly dating. Since September the number of love interests were stacking up at a surprising rate. The girl obviously had NO idea how to conduct her romantic life, and this was the perfect opportunity to see if she could draw out a few more confessions.

Obviously the bit about Leo was a complete and utter lie, considering the two had been all over each other even before the stupid girl broke up with Michael Hightower, but Margrit played the game.

“You’re collecting a lot of names, Julian. Owen, Michael, Leo… Well, apparently not Leo. I hope you can handle all of these boys.”

Julian shifted on her feet, shrugging a single shoulder when she shot a teasing grin to Margrit. “Maybe I am trying the Margrit Berkshire Method of Unexclusiveness. Buuuut that is none of your business and you’re not gonna trick me in to giving you any sordid details.”

This was retarded. The terminology was retarded. Leo had never once in his life cared what anyone called him, and he sure had never aspired to be called anything as cringeworthy and loaded with teenage sentimentality as boyfriend. He’d been glad that they weren’t putting any labels on it, because labels didn’t matter.

At least they hadn’t until Julian started telling the whole world that Leo didn’t rate as boyfriend material, when Michael sure had. Jesus, she’d been practically married to Michael as far as the teenagers of Silent Pines were concerned.

What the hell is my problem? She’s giving Margrit shit, is all.

Except… he’d never heard her say they were together to anyone, had he? He’d been waiting for it, maybe, so he could complain about not wanting to get tied up in romantic notions. Tell her it was just really good sex and not to get all mushy on him.

…Shit. How long had he been standing there with his jaw clenched shut like an idiot?

“Have we finished the actual practice portion of the evening and moved on to the gossipy bullshit portion? Because if so, I might dip out and let one of you drive Jules home instead. A guy can only handle so much absolutely fascinating conversation, you know.” Leo took a step back.

Julian realized something wasn’t quite right when he took a step away from her. But she wasn’t being all creepy with the shadows, and he’d been fine with the annoying amounts of Michael gossip while at school, so she couldn’t figure out what the hell just happened.


Margrit caught Julian’s hand before she could turn around say anything else. “Actually, this is as much as we can do before Julian gets all wispy and starts taking naps.”

“Thank god, I need to call Chad’s Mom.” Paolo looked relieved.

“Paolo, get out.”

He grimaced, shuffling his feet towards the chairs grab his stuff and make an exit. “Yeah, yeah, No Paolo After Hours rule. It’s not like we’re gonna fuck around in the studio twice, damn.”

“Ugh, major gross. Anyway, Julian, I need my clip back.” Margrit went ahead with pulling Julian’s head close enough, especially considering the clip really wasn’t hers at all. She angled her arm’s around Julian’s head so she could snatch the clip out of her hair, fluff it out and whisper in to her ear.

Dylan, FWB SNMG.

Julian didn’t get it at first, since the first Dylan that came to mind was Dylan McLean and he had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Then she realized with bemusement that this was girlcode. Which left Julian struggling to recall the last time Margrit had even used her silly made up code, and what this one actually meant. When it finally clicked in to place her eyes went wide. Character. Movie. Trope. ‘She’s not my girlfriend.’ This was Leo they were talking about, that’d be ridiculous.

“Seriously? No.” she muttered in disbelief, shaking her head.

Margrit only gave her look, moving away as she clipped the clip in to her own hair. As she passed Leo and turned to walk backwards, she pointed her stupid metal pointer thing at Julian. “Ten pounds! You need to actually EAT dinner. Not cereal and coffee. And if I find out from Leo that you’re not eating real food, we’re all going on a dinner date. Don’t forget to lock the door.”

Now it was Julian making the grimacing face, watching as Margrit made a show of click-clocking in her heels across the studio and then proceed to linger unnecessarily. She supposed Margrit was waiting to see if Julian really did need a ride home.

“You’re being weird.” she just went ahead and threw it out there, squinting at him in the process. “I CAN get a ride with Margrit, but you know I’m just going to follow you and be annoying instead.”

“You mean, what you always do?” he shot back, avoiding those big hazel eyes that always seemed to get him in trouble. He turned on his heel and headed for the door of the studio without looking to see if she was, in fact, following.

He didn’t need to look.

“Why is it weird that I don’t feel like bumming around while you and Margrit and what’s-his-face discuss the latest developments in Fast Times at Silent Pines High? I keep telling you and Angela that I give zero shits about your teen drama and your whirlwind love lives. In fact it’d be great if we could implement a Leo doesn’t want to hear the word ‘dating’ rule.”

Leo shouldered open the door, a little harder than was necessary. The hinge groaned in protest.

Julian paused just inside the door, throwing her arms up when it closed and remembering she still had to grab her things.

“What is happening!?” She exclaimed in exasperation and scuttled quickly over to a set of chairs to snatch up her jacket and her bag.

“Tooold yooou.” Margrit sing-songed. “Hurt your boyfriend’s feelings with absolute saaaavaaaagery.”

Julian groaned, rolling her eyes and still having a hard time swallowing that assessment. Still, she was out the door fast, running down the sidewalk to catch up to Leo before he got much farther. If she had to, she would psychic mojo trail him all across town, but holding him down now seemed like the better option.

With her bag hooked over her head and one shoulder, and only one arm stuffed in to her jacket, Julian managed to grab his wrist, then skirt in front of him to get in the way. She found out a while back that having a hold on him was a surprisingly effective way to get him to be still for a few minutes.

“I think it’s weird you’re getting pissy about it now when we’ve heard a LOT worse at school.” she started, then as expected she tried to catch his eyes. Because she wasn’t going to let him get away with that either. “If you want me to start knocking people out every time the boyfriend topic comes up, I could, but that’s probably going to land me in jail.”

She tilted her head examining his face. “That IS it isn’t it? The taboo word?”

“What are you, twelve? It’s not ‘taboo’, you over-dramatic dweeb, I just don’t want to try and keep up with who you’re dating or not dating or what the fuck ever.” Why. Why the fuck did it always work when she grabbed him like that? It’s not like she could physically overpower him. It had to be psychological. And right now, Leo wasn’t particularly in the mood to be grabbed at and mentally pinned down. He twisted his wrist out of her grasp.

He wasn’t able to keep from meeting her gaze, though. He stared down at her, struggling to keep down the bewildered sort of scowl that was threatening to break out across his features.

“You can never let anything drop, can you? Always have to hug it out. You’re not entitled to know everything going on in my head all the time.”


“Holy shit. Are you serious?”

At first she had almost shouted that HE was being the over-dramatic dweeb. Because when it came to teenage drama, Leo was usually the one having the fits about it with the snarky comments and pissing her off. Julian tended to keep hers reserved for freaking out over creepy witches.

Yet this was… was Margrit actually right? Julian still couldn’t wrap her mind around it. But then, it took her punching him in the face to get him to realize the whole concept of THEM being a real and possible thing. Not once had they ever actually talked about it.

Maybe because being with Leo was like breathing. It was the most second nature thing.

Julian held up her hands, gesturing with them twice in a dumbfounded, silent motion of trying to draw out the right words.

“I want to kiss you.” she said first, sounded utterly dazed by it. Even though this was completely crazy, for some reason it was also cute and adorable and Julian couldn’t fathom how he didn’t already know he was it. “I want to kiss you but I don’t want to reward you for being a stupid asshole.”

She let out a breath. “Okay, idiot. The last time someone called you my boyfriend you had a snit, which of course you did, because you weren’t. You’re also so very anti-teenage nonsense, and that’s cool with me because it’s not anybody’s business how much I want to drag you in to every dark corner for any dirty thing I can think of. And I definitely didn’t want to go blabbering my mouth and that be the day Michael decides he’s not so cool with this, and forcing me to head off attempted murder.”

“But if you want me to clarify this so you don’t have to keep track…” she muttered, digging in to her jacket to pull out her phone. “I’ll just go ahead and announce on Facebook that Leo Lanier is my boyfriend, whether he likes it or not. Pretty sure that’ll reach everyone we know in about two minutes flat.” Julian was already swiping the screen looking for the app.

“Holy shit, no,” was Leo’s first thought, which of course meant it was the first thing to come out of his mouth too. He made a mad grab for her phone.

In the process he managed to mostly just grab a hold of Julian, and their noses wound up practically bumping together, and goddammit why did this stupid girl have to go and be so unbearably beautiful all the time. It made him stupid. That was the only explanation for what was happening right now.

He stared at her, his pulse pounding in his ears.

“…The last time I had a girlfriend was the year Nazi Germany surrendered, Jules!” he yelled. “I only ever had the one. I have no fucking idea how to even be someone’s boyfriend. And I spent the better part of the last two months not even being allowed to touch you.”

It wasn’t like him to spill his guts like this. Never mind they were standing in the middle of the parking lot, where anyone could have probably heard them. Leo wasn’t exactly keeping his voice down. But fuck, maybe this had just been simmering under the surface a little too long.

Maybe he just wanted to say it out loud.

There went her heart again. Skipping a beat and tripping over itself. Just like the words on the tip of her tongue that she was trying so desperately not to let tumble out. He needed them and she wanted to give them, but Julian knew now wasn’t a good time. Not with Michael being unpredictable. Not with the mountains of unanswered questions that kept piling up. Not when any moment could be the one where she died. If she told him she loved him and then dropped dead, it could be another hundred years before he took the chance on someone again.

Julian was determined to make sure Leo’s century of bad luck was OVER.

Still, it was impossible not to have that stupid look on her face. The soft expression and faint smile, as if she were staring at the only other person on the planet and couldn’t make up her mind if she were going to laugh or kiss him.

“You don’t have to be a boyfriend.” she meant to yell back at him, or at least TRY to sound firm and tough. Or at the very least not like she was about to kiss him. But that would have went up in smoke anyway when she grasped the edges of his jacket, tugging as she stepped a little closer. It also didn’t help that when she spoke again, her head was tilted just enough so that her mouth brushed feather light against his cheek.

“You just have to be a Leo. That’s my favorite thing anyway.”

Heat surged up in Leo’s chest. He made a frustrated, almost agonized sort of noise; a split second later, he’d hoisted her up by her thighs and flipped her atop the hood of the nearest car. He followed her down, his mouth on hers before she was even laid out flat, his fingers quickly making a mess of her hair. The parking lot, the studio behind him, the sounds of evening in downtown all filtered away into nothing. There was just Julian.

He didn’t understand how she always seemed to say the worst and best thing at the same time, every time. It was uncanny. He was constantly losing his shit around Julian because she was forever catching him off guard like this. She shouldn’t be allowed to just say things like that. People didn’t just say things like that. Leo’s fingers curled and uncurled against the hood to either side of Julian, knuckles turning white as they clenched up.

Just like that, he felt all the tension wring out of his muscles like water out of a sponge. And then he was laughing into her mouth, because this was absolutely not his car that they were making out on top of, and he didn’t give a flying fuck.

He pulled back long enough to say the only thing that mattered. As soon as he was finished outlining her bottom lip with his tongue; that took some persuading himself to abandon.

“I’m going to screw your brains out when we get home,” he informed her.

She must have squealed or sighed or laughed in that split second she went from being on her feet to tumbling on to what Julian was pretty sure was Margrit’s car. Probably all three happened. Considering the girl would be out there any minute, Julian definitely shouldn’t have thrown her arms around him. Or her legs. Definitely shouldn’t have kissed him with enough tongue and enough heat to suggest she was totally fine defiling yet another person’s vehicle if he wanted to subtract a couple layers of clothing right then and there.

It was his own fault, though. There was a distinctly different way he kissed her when it was just quick pecks and affection, compared to this, where he got the sparky blue-eyes and she could even feel it when he put the world on pause. Who could even do that in real life? And how could he spit out the most terrible of lines and that nonsense actually work?

“You know, firefly, I think it might be the other way around, this time.” she murmured, in between nibbling kisses and trying to push herself up on her elbows high enough so she could stash her phone back in her pocket and finally shove her other arm in to her jacket. They needed to get off that car.

They should, anyway. Julian found that harder to do now that she could slide both her hands in to his hair.

This. This right here was why Leo let himself get wound up like a complete moron, was why he kept finding himself actually trying to be a halfway decent person for the first time in a long, long time.

The two of them just… clicked together. Made a crazy kind of sense.

He grazed his mouth across her jaw, minding his teeth, and pressed his tongue to where he could feel her heartbeat fluttering in her throat. She tasted like salt and just a hint of something flowery.

“Tell you what, gorgeous,” he started in, voice husky and full of promise. “I’m game if you are.”

He dove back in for another kiss. His hand had just made it’s way up to the curve of her ass when the shrill screams of a none-too-pleased redhead interrupted the increasingly hot-and-heavy moment.

It still took another thirty seconds for them to break apart.

Margrit didn’t speak to either of them for a week.

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