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The One You Feed

 
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KhaoticBliss
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 12:18 pm    Post subject: The One You Feed Reply with quote

((Co-written with Amare ))

“What we want, what we really want,” he said, pushing a pen behind one of his ears as he looked at the projected screen of their calculations, “is an intuitive function. Objectives, needs, all of that is going to change depending on the situation and our unit needs to be able to have some way of incorporating that in better than she has.”

“No, that’ll just cloud some of the discerning features we spent… what, three years in development trying to make? It’s just better if she can perceive the current situation, be it a battle field or a conference room.”

Jefferies turned in his chair, smiling at the other, “You think? How’s the saying go? If we don’t learn from history we’re doomed to repeat it? I’m not saying that she needs to account for all previous variables, but that she should be able to extrapolate from previous information so that her ability to discern the present is better. Like I said, basically, intuition.”

His partner frowned, mulling it over. They discussed some of the other variables before he spoke on the topic again, “Maybe you’re just thinking too small.”

“An intuition function is thinking too small?”

“Yeah, it is. She needs to be able to connect with her targets and possible targets. It needs to be more than intuition, it needs to be knowing. They need to imprint on her and be an extension of her. Not to be dramatic, but people can be predictable, but we aren’t just talking about people. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of races with their own personal, religious, social and economic motives. Now we could bypass all of that if she was able to directly connect with whatever environment we put her in as a general function, not specific.”

Jefferies thought over what his partner said and spoke, slowly, as he looked at the fifth revision of the unit’s diagram, “That’s not intuition, that’s connectivity.”

“It’ll have to get close to be able to connect.”

“She,” he corrected, tilting his head to the side, “and she will.”

***

There was a feeling in her chest she couldn’t identify. It wasn’t that unusual an occurrence, honestly; even after nearly two years, she was still learning how to recognize and process the more complex emotions. Even so, this particular feeling nagged at her, driving her to restlessness. It was like there was a phone alarm going off at the very outermost edges of her hearing, too far away to accurately discern its origin but too close to block out or ignore.

The mercurial teen walked, trying to figure it out.

Whatever it was, it was too distant and undefined to have anything specific to do with Quinn, and anyway the green pattern on her left wrist -- the wolf phone, she and Hex jokingly called it -- was silent, unlit and still. It wasn’t about Hex. It wasn’t about Sabine. She thought about Jackie and then discarded that option as well, between Jackie and Des and Pharlen, there couldn’t be anything wrong there that the quirky trio wasn’t more than capable of fixing on their own.

Was it really something that was wrong, though? Saila couldn’t be sure. Something just felt …off.

If it had to do with someone she knew, there were only three more possibilities she had enough connection to --real or perceived-- to preoccupy her so thoroughly, and both options there seemed equally unlikely. Cane and Sal had become too distant, too remote. She almost never felt the telltale static of the warlock’s presence around town anymore, and she only ever seemed to find traces of the Spaniard’s vibrance after the fact. The only other candidate, though, was the only one of them she couldn’t feel at all, and the answer she kept coming back to accordingly.

The girl looked up suddenly, realizing that her absent wanderings had led her almost unerringly to that same answer, right to the very front door of a silent, empty, mostly anonymous looking mansion.

Amare.

Saila let herself inside with the key he’d left for her, walking to the lightswitch on the far wall out of memory, not that she particularly needed it. The ritual was mostly to prevent the neighbors from thinking the place had been abandoned-- she brought in the mail and any flyers that had been left on the mailbox or the doorstep, turned on some lights and turned off others. The place felt weirdly heavy without its owner, her gaze falling thoughtfully over the once treasured mannequin that had been discarded, forgotten, in the dining room.

She picked Mannique up and moved her to the kitchen. Maybe a change of scenery would do her some good.

The more she thought about it, the more that seemed like the only feasible answer. It had to be something to do with Amare. It had been more than a month since she saw the rabid wolf last, two moons so far. She couldn’t feel anything of him anywhere in the city, couldn’t see him anywhere in her mind no matter how hard she concentrated. He was just gone, which meant he had to be off plane somewhere, likely in America. She missed her Rabid ‘brother’, of course. She worried about him sometimes, sure. It was hard not to when she considered the state of mind he’d been in before he left, how unnaturally kind and thoughtful he was to her. How jarringly patient.

This was something more than missing him, though. Something beyond generalized concern. Saila found herself frowning as she climbed the stairs, turning off the lights she’d left on in the guest room before she moved down the hall to the master and turned those lights on instead.

She pulled her sparkly, jewel encrusted rainbow colored phone from her pocket, accessed the messaging program, scrolled down until she found the phrase Rabid Baby. Pulling up the contact, she typed the message quickly and pressed send before she could talk herself out of it.

Text to Amare: Hey, are you okay? I have this weird feeling and you know how much I hate feelings.

Text to Saila: I'm fine. You take care of the place? There's a small spark of adrenaline, maybe because the message concentrated her on where he was in America.

The buzzing of her phone just moments later startled her; she hadn't expected to hear back from him so quickly. Scanning the message, she sat on the edge of his bed and more or less immediately regretted it, getting back to her feet.

Text to Amare: I’m here right now. Mannique’s making dinner.

Text to Saila: Thanks Then it seemed the world got a little more quiet.

The teen frowned. Thanks? Amare said ‘thanks’? The tight feeling in her chest got tighter. She read the message one more time, then pulled up another contact on her phone. Text to Hex: Who do you know can get me off world? I need to go. Something’s wrong with Amare.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

((co-written with Hex, Shep))

Golden eyes were illuminated by the device's screen as he stared at that text message. Hex'd been sharing a few brews with Shep, reminiscing and catching up. Laughs shared, jabs thrown. But that joking shifted to confusion as those dark brows sloped dangerously low and those thumbs tapped at the screen like a fire had been lit under his ass all of a sudden.

Text to Saila: Well, Zver's out of business since he turned into a limp noodle but I could give a couple other connects a call. Where are you?

Saila was pacing Amare's bedroom, waiting on an answer. She could have just tracked the Big Guy down and showed up there, of course, but she didn't want to take a chance on doing that and interrupting something. The phone went off in her hand, and Saila was so preoccupied that it startled her, making her laugh a moment later when she realized what had given her that jolt.

Text to Hex: His house. Where are you? I'll come to you if you're free.

"What's goin' on, chief?" Shep's gruff voice was turned on Hex, reading the expression on the man's face.

"I can honestly say I don't have a **** clue," the Big Guy in question snickered, taking a swallow of his beer as he rose to his feet. "Saila needs to get to the States apparently," he raised his beer to his mouth to finish off the bottle with one large gulp before he tossed it to crash into the trash can.

"Dude, c'mon," Shep waved his hand, looking exasperatedly at Hex as he gestured to the trash. "Glass is recyclable.."

Hex's eyes locked onto Shep's nose, a tactic he'd learned with close friends that meant he could abandon the aviators and not make eye contact. "... Are you serious right now?"

The grizzly biker's brows soared. His head tilted as he stared down the guy who wasn't much bigger than him muscle wise, but had a good four inches of height on him. "....."

"Alright, you're serious," the Hellion grumbled, waving his hand as the return text from Saila made the phone buzz. "Go to prison, come back a humanitarian.." He muttered, shaking his head as he fished out the beer bottle with one arm and texted with one lone thumb this time, his speed only hindered slightly.

Text to Saila: I'm at the cabin with Shep. Depends on if you want extra company or not. I got Baby with me, take your pick.

With the text fired back the muse's way, Hex lifted bottle and shook it with his brows raised, mocking the blond biker before he tossed it in the labeled bin Shep had set up. "...Satisfied?"

Shep gave an approving, sage nod, returning to his slouched lean on the couch. "Atta boy, don't **** with Ol' Lady Nature," he crooned, going back to his beer.

Text to Hex: I'll come there. Being here is not helping me right now. See you in a few.

Text to Saila: I'll be right here, baby. See you soon.

It wasn't very often that Saila asked Hex for help with much of anything, and he was currently wracking his brain. After thinking out loud on accident, he regretted it.

"Who you gonna call?..."
"Shep..."
"Ghostbusters."
"Goddammit."

Of course Shep was concerned, at least for the fact something seemed to be going on with one of his best friend's old ladies. And the little bit of meeting Saila himself, he thought she was good people. But that didn't mean he wouldn't try to lighten the Big Guy's tension and ever-lasting bitchface with some light humor.

It was maybe fifteen minutes later that Saila knocked on the front door of the cabin once and then let herself in without waiting for anyone to answer. It was, technically speaking, her house too, and since Hex was there, in theory the biker wouldn't be naked.

She walked in and followed Hex's energy to the man himself, where she wrapped her arms around him more or less immediately. There was a smile on her face - she was legitimately glad to see him -- but concern for her so-called brother had tension singing in her veins all the same. "Hey you."

By the time Saila neared the cabin, Hex's eyes had locked onto the door. He felt her energy far quicker than he used to thanks to practice. When she entered and started for him? His arms were already on the ready to welcome her in the space of warmth before they enveloped her. He hadn't been hard to find, leaning against the kitchen counter. He was too restless to sit down at the moment. His head lowered to the heat that radiated from her scalp, pressing a kiss to the top of her head as he gave her a warm squeeze. "Hey yourself," he whispered, regardless of the situation, that dimpled smile she claimed to love so much was there to greet her as it always was.

Saila melted a little, the way she always did when he grinned at her like that. She lifted her fingers, raking her nails through black hair just above the shells of his ears, and then kissed him lightly on the mouth. Whatever her distress was, she was pretty much never too busy to spend a second loving on her man.

Shep's stormy hues watched the two, lips curling behind that grizzly beard into a mixture of pleased fondness, but his eyes twinkled with mischievous teasing that he was biting back. "Well, now that the floor ain't at threat of being grated to dust by biker boots..." He grunted, hands slapping his knees before he pushed himself up like an old man, groan and all. "I'm gonna go for a ride, hope whatever's got you on edge gets situated, toots," he tipped his chin to Saila before starting for the door with a look to Hex. Silent, but meaningful. If he was needed, Hex could call him.

She didn't leave the circle of his arms, though her strange gaze did shift to Shep. She smiled at the biker with a little lift of her shoulders. "Thanks. I'm sure it'll be okay, soon as I figure out what the **** my brother's gotten himself into. Sorry for busting up your guys' night." She laid her head against Hex's chest, though. She was genuine when she said she was sorry, but not sorry enough to wait.

Those golden pools that belonged to the Hellion closed to the feel of her fingers raking through that mousse-coated black hair, and there wasn't any hesitation with the light kiss that was returned. She seemed to take a breather from her distress for affection, and you wouldn't ever catch a complaint from that man about it.

His eyes opened to Shep announcing his leave, and there'd been a roll of his eyes to the remark about scuffing up the floorboards. "Sell out," he muttered, but the look shared between the men was understood by the one holding onto Saila. He gave a brief, short nod before snickering. "Can drink beer and talk **** any night, babe," he objected to her apology. Her head meeting his chest had his enveloping arms shifting so he could rake soothing fingers through her hair.

"He's right, you kinda saved him from a whole lotta **** I was gonna lay on him," the grizzly Sheppard grinned. "Talk about saved by the bell," he mused. "With any luck, it's not as big of a deal as it seems," he shrugged his mass of shoulders before giving the two a nod. "Catch ya around," he made his final departure note before seeing himself out. The heavy sounds of his steps on the other side of the door, and the roaring engine turned to life outside could be heard before it grew more distant from the cabin.

With Shep gone, Hex looked down to the woman in his arms, and a more intimate tone to his voice bled through. "You alright?" He asked, his fingertips massaging the back of her neck to try to ease some of that tension building. Then, "how do you know something’s wrong with Amare? I thought he... y'know..." He trailed off, knowing the subject of the wolf's leaving wasn't easily approached.
Her bizarre eyes slipped closed, but she didn't need to look to follow Shep's movements out onto the front porch, and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the motorcycle roar to life. She listened to it fading into the background and then lifted her head so she could meet Hex's concerned gaze.

"I've been feeling off all day, you know? Like I couldn't say what's wrong, just that something is." Saila's lashes fluttered a little as his fingers rolled over the coiled muscles of her neck. "Mm. That feels nice." The teen sighed. "Anyway, yeah. I was trying to figure out what the **** is up with that and found myself at his house -- you know how I wander sometimes -- so I checked the mail and everything and then I reached out to him."

Saila frowned then, the distress becoming more evident in her expression once more. Hex was one of maybe two people who had a chance in hell of understanding what she was about to say. "...Baby, he thanked me. Amare ****' Kellis said thank you."

Hex was quiet as she talked, perhaps trying to grasp the severity of the situation that had the muse so distressed. His lips pulled into a light smile when she mentioned the massage feeling nice, and he chuckled lightly. "Go on," he encouraged through a whisper, all the while, he kept up trying to fight that coiling muscle beneath his fingers. "Are you sure you're not just freaking out over nothing, babe? He's been gone a while and I'm sure you're--"

"....Excuse me?" His dark brows furrowed as that look came across her face and she expressed the real concern. It may have seemed completely outlandish to be concerned over two simple words, something so simple as verbal gratitude. And while he didn’t have a snowball's chance in hell of knowing that wolf to any perceivable closeness like she did, he knew enough to understand the strangeness of Amare saying 'thank you' for... anything. "Okay, so he said thank you," he raised his brows, trying to reason with her. "I'm not saying you shouldn't go find him and check it out, in fact I think you should," he sighed. "But panicking isn't gonna do either of you good. You gotta chill. Do you even know where he is?"

Relief washed over her expression when he seemed to get why that had caused her so much alarm. "I'm calm," she insisted, then relented. "Well. I think I'm calm. I just... I can't not check on him. If his goal was to keep me from looking for him, that was the wrong way to go about it."

She lifted one hand away from his waist to rake her fingers through her hair, taking a deep breath. She smiled a little, though, at his last question, and as she raised her hand again, she wiggled her fingers deliberately. "I know where he's from, and what was on his mind. I know where to start." Her smile spread subtly. "And there's almost no magic on earth, anyway. He'll be easy to track once I get there."
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drawn outside the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He looked at her skeptically when she objected, insisting on her calm nature. But he couldn't help the chuckle that came out when she relented a second later. "You might not be in hysterics, but tell that to the storm brewing in that belly and the snakes under your skin," he teased her lightly, crinkling his nose. The former mention had one arm releasing her to poke lightly at said belly. But he nodded in understanding, his hand turning to brush the backs of his knuckles over her stomach above her belly button. "I get it, you need to check on your brother," he smiled. "And I think we both know he's smarter than to make that kinda slip up if he didn't want you to...on some level." He agreed.

"Well, that's a lead," he chuckled, but didn't seem to agree too much on the subject of magic on Earth. But those thoughts were kept to himself - completely. "I don't doubt you'll find him," he assured her. "We just gotta get that ass to Earth, then." He might've emphasized that one word with a playful swat to her ass before his dimpled grin came out to play. "Why don't you...." He leaned his head forward to bump her nose with his. "Keep calm and drink some bourbon. I'll make some calls," he promised, smearing a kiss over her lips before he pulled his phone out of his pocket. He asked while scrolling through his contacts, "how many are we transporting? Quinn going with you?" His eyes were glued to the screen, narrowing on some before he continued on, pausing at others with consideration.
It was a relative term. There was some magic on earth, of course -- Coilin's pack lived there, and their forest was positively teeming with it. But compared to the twenty four/seven light show of Rhy'Din? There's a reason she said that the earth felt 'dark' -- like someone had put veils on all of the lights.

In comparison to Rhy'Din? No, Earth paled considerably. She was right there.

He teased her, poking at her concave tummy, and Saila made a face at him, sticking out of her tongue. "I'm just... worried. He's self destructive at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. I'm afraid of what he might do."

Saila wrinkled her nose, reading the skepticism in his eyes if not his exact thoughts. "Thanks for the vote of confidence," she quipped back at him. "But I will find him. I will." The teenager, at least, was sure of herself, or getting there.

Stepping away from him after he smacked her, she borrowed a page from his book by snapping her teeth at him, but went to the cabinet to retrieve the bourbon anyway. That had been an excellent idea. "Just me. Amare'll never forgive me for bringing 'Dad' down on him, unless it's an emergency."

"I get that, I do. But..." He crinkled his nose. He wanted to say he understood Amare on a completely different level than Saila, in the lone fact that he'd been there. He seemed about to object to something, but he let out a huff of laughter and shook his head. "What am I talkin' about? You pulled my sorry ass out of the fire on more than one occasion," he concluded. Hex didn't want to be the kind of guy to lecture his Ol' Lady, and something told him she didn't want to hear it. So he didn't touch it.

"Hey," he lifted his head, having a feeling she misread the skepticism - that was more on the amount of magic on Earth than her ability to wade through it to find the source she was looking for. "I don't doubt you for a second," he objected, narrowing his eyes at her, playfully so. "You're absolutely relentless when you want something," his lips slowly curled into a ****-eating grin. "It's one of the reasons why I'm into you so much," he mused, releasing her as she stepped away from him.

The snap of teeth had him shaking his head at her, muttering something about how she was going to pay for that another time. Don't tease the man! But, now was certainly not the time for that. Returning to his search, it didn't last long, those eyes snapped up as well as his head as he watched her. "You're going alone?" His tone was too even, too calm. She knew the kind of man he was, and the kind of man he wasn't. Never the kind to tell her a damn thing to do with her life. Give advice? Make a suggestion? Sure. But those were options, and nothing more. But the fact he wasn't too keen on the idea that Amare maybe-possibly in trouble, and she was stepping into the line of fire after him alone? No, he didn't like that. But he was reigning it in.

Saila held up one hand. "I know, I know. He wanted to be alone. So did you. He doesn't want his obnoxious sister trailing after him, neither did you. But Kokabiel was right to be worried and so am I." Saila shrugged. "I'm just gonna go... make sure he's okay. If I'm wrong, if he is? I'll be back in a heartbeat and feel better about it besides. If he's not, though... if he's done something completely stupid because he doesn't think he..." she trailed off, raising skinny shoulders with a shake of her head, letting her hand drop. "I'll never forgive myself if I don't go see."

Leaning in, she kissed him lightly on the nose before she stepped away. "Thank you for that," she said, and she meant for never doubting her, for not arguing even though she could tell he kinda wanted to. "Yeah, I'm going alone. There's nothing on earth I'm scared of." There was nothing anywhere she was scared of. A crooked grin cracked her lips as she found the bourbon bottle and opened it. "And anyway, I'm never actually alone. Nothing in the multiverse will keep Quinn from me if **** goes wrong, and I know your name."

He gave her an apologetic smile when she... just about summed up all the **** he didn't really want to say. Though he made a face when she mentioned his sister having the right to be worried. Honestly, he had been on a slippery slope when Saila found him. Hell, the very night Saila had met him, he had a gnarly gash on the side of his head from a scuffle at the Inn hours before that. But you wouldn't catch the Big Guy admitting it. Not even if Hell itself froze over. And damn well not about his pain in the ass sister.

Even still, he could understand where she was coming from. He couldn't say there weren't siblings that he'd go through the multiverse for just to check on them, destructive nature or not. That was plainly written all over his face when he sighed and gave a firm nod. "You gotta trust your gut. If your gut says go find him, go find him. Instincts are a pretty real thing," he crinkled that nose that was soon kissed. "I never know what you're thanking me for," he chuckled, shaking his head. "But you’re welcome all the same."

He did want to argue, but those two final points she made had any hint that he might fly out the window. He'd met Quinn, he knew enough about him - more importantly.... he knew what Quinn was. He knew wolves, thanks to his father. And if Quinn saw Saila as his daughter... there would be nothing in that man's way of getting to her that he couldn't go around, through or over. And she did know his name. His true name. The one that counted in that sort of situation. "Fine," he grunted, peering at her with those molten gold hues as the Immovable Mountain caved. "But you call one of us - both of us - whatever, if **** hits the fan." Realizing that it sounded more like a demand than a request, the scrunched face due to that realization made it look like he sucked on a lemon. "...Please," he amended, softly.

Saila just stared at him while he worked it through in his mind. She'd pulled the cork out of the bourbon bottle, but she didn't bother with glasses, drinking straight from its mouth. Her pale brows rose, a quirk of a smile on her lips fleetingly visible as she wiped her mouth on a sleeve.

That hint of a smile broke into the full blown measure when he added that last word. Grinning brightly, she stepped close again. The bottle was offered out to him, but she kissed him first with whisky stained lips. "Of course," she said cheerily. "Since you said 'please'."

There was an unvoiced apology in his eyes for his demanding tone previously, but he hoped she understood it had come from his concern for her. His eyes followed her approach and he smiled softly in return of hers shared with him. His head lowered to meet her kiss the same time his free hand found the neck of the bottle, her cheery response summoning a chuckle from him that vibrated both their lips. Lifting his head from the kiss, his tongue lashed over his bottom lip to savor the whiskey soaked kiss shared. "I can say it... now and then," he teased, letting out a slow sigh from his nose before he took a heady swallow of the whiskey himself, offering it back to her as his eyes found the phone's screen once more.

"Well, I guess it comes down to two people: my sister or.... Trypp," he crinkled his nose. "Take your pick." Both were weird in their own ways, one was annoying - to him, at least. But he trusted Saila's safety in both their hands.

Snickering quietly, she chased his mouth when he pulled away from that kiss, reconnecting them a few moments more. "I was just teasing you, Baby," she whispered, confessing as she bumped his nose playfully with her own. "I love you. And you might...never fully understand how much it means to me that you trust me to do what I need to do."

He might never understand it because she couldn't begin to articulate it accurately, the freedom she felt with him that made her that much more invested in coming back to him as soon as possible. Saila kissed him one more time then let him go, reclaiming the whiskey bottle when he returned it.

"Um, I mean. I like them both? Kokabiel's probably more moved to help me immediately, though. We can bond over brothers being dramatic." Her grin was playful, the ribbing gentle.

The cat and mouse game had him grinning through the kiss when she caught him, pressing his lips firmly to hers before giving her a couple more softer kisses through her comment. "I'm aware," he assured her, returning the playful nose bump with a quick motion of his head. "I love you, too. I could say the same to you," he whispered. It was no secret she'd been his rock, giving him space when he needed it,merely being there for him when he couldn't admit to needing that instead. Solid, yet giving him the space the grumpy bastard required at times.

Still holding the phone as she made her point of choice, his head tipped back in a, yes, dramatic groan. Just because she called him dramatic. "Just what I need, my girlfriend and my most obnoxious sister bonding," he emphasized the word as his head tipped down to give her a suspicious look. "I almost regret making her an option.." He grumbled at her, but the twinkle in his eyes hinted to his playful teasing.

Somewhat. Kokabiel had some stories on him that he dreaded Saila hearing.

He sighed, looking at his phone as he scrolled to the contact dubbed Babble Bitch. Such a loving brother, this one. "You're right though, she'd be more moved to help and she could get you there quicker."

The mercurial teen laughed lightly. "I promise not to ask her anything too damning?" She said lightly, helping herself to another healthy swig of bourbon while he accessed his phone contacts.

When she was done drinking, she set the bottle on the counter and slipped around behind him, the tips of her fingers easing into his pockets, her cheek against his back. Much as she needed to go check on Amare, she didn't relish being away from the big guy, wanted contact where she could get it for now.

"If only that was comforting," he teased her, but he barked a laugh, grinning with a light shake of his head. The problem with Kokabiel, was that he had a feeling she would volunteer the stories. Oh, you're Hex's lady... you've GOTTA hear about this one time… Bitch.

Bracing himself, he pressed that green button as he conveniently felt Saila's arms sliding around him. The pressure of her cheek to his back brought a soft smile to his face as his free hand caressed his fingers along the length of her forearm. The feeling was mutual, and he'd be lying if he wouldn't constantly be thinking about her while she was away, wondering if she was okay. Still, he accepted the moment as it was, and as the struggling battle of fighting Kokabiel's persistent ranting and raving about not hearing from him, and his counter battle to get her to shut up long enough to listen, he finally managed to tell her what was going on. Why he called her. What he needed her for. She seemed reluctant, inquisitive at first, but the moment he said Saila's brother was in possible danger, she was much more compliant.

By the end of the conversation, Hex was all too ready to hang up the phone. "Jesus, she never shuts up," he muttered, snickering as he stabbed the red button with his thumb. "She said to be ready in an hour, and she'll take you wherever you need to go. We're meeting her at her place." If only because he didn't really want Kokabiel to know the location of the cabin.
Saila never let him go throughout the course of the conversation. She wouldn't necessarily admit to being 'clingy', but she wasn't in any great hurry to be apart from him, either.

Because she was plastered to his back, the teen 'heard' most of his conversation. She laughed periodically, smiled at other times, but otherwise kept her silence until he was hanging up. "So... an hour, huh? That means we have at least thirty minutes, right?"

For the moment, Hex couldn't say he'd complain if she was being clingy. At least not in the moment. He wasn't happy about her leaving, either. But it was more circumstances that had him reluctant to let her go. Still, he trusted her and trusted her abilities. And she had promised to call upon him and Quinn if she got into a hairy situation.

Tossing his phone onto the counter with a clatter of plastic to wood, it was as if he was ridding himself of his sister's shrill voice. It really wasn't that shrill, but...brothers. He'd always claim she was the most shrill, annoying thing in the world. The crinkle in his nose smoothed out, one brow lifting as an easier smile graced his lips with the turn of his head to peer at the teen plastered to his back. "...Many things can get accomplished in thirty minutes," he informed her, those golden orbs lingering on the woman.
_________________
As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
drawn outside the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.



Last edited by KhaoticBliss on Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On automatic pilot, it seemed, as if driven by some unknown, unknowable compulsion, she’d stepped out of something called a taxi, paying for the service with the strange plastic card Quinn had given her that she’d never once had reason to use. SAILA DEFORTES, it said in shiny squared off letters, written in small print just underneath an incomprehensible string of numbers. She couldn’t have explained what she was doing for all the money in the world when her steps carried her to a particular rock in the garden, dropping into a crouch to pick it up. She turned it over in her hands with no real understanding of why, using her thumbs to push at a secret compartment that revealed an anonymous looking key. Plucking it out of the box hidden inside, she’d dropped the weird feeling rock and stood up again, letting herself in the front door.

An electronic noise, insistent and angry like some disgruntled alien sounded to her right. Reflex carried her to a number pad; she couldn’t have said what she’d pressed, only that the ugly noise stopped. Silence descended, heavy like a funeral shroud, and without looking at anything or turning on any lights, she’d stepped into the kitchen.


The New York Mansion was familiar in that it was similar to Amare’s because they were missing the same details. On the walls there were no photos of family, no trinkets on the bookshelves or coffee table which seemed like artifacts from a genuine experience. All of it felt staged, as if the home was on the precipice of having an open house. It was three stories tall and maintained like a monument.

Except that it wasn’t. There were long, dull sheets over the furniture, and though it seemed some groundskeeper kept the dust at bay, the air was stale. An old grandfather clock ticked in the hallway that lead to the kitchen. Its sound felt like a heartbeat in the main room. The walls were pristine and practically everything was white or near to it. The large, open kitchen had black and white marble counter tops, the sort that looked as if black lightning was ripping through a page.

“Henry, he is suspended, again,” she said, flattening her hand on the counter top as she looked at her husband. The boy was on his belly in the room that adjoined the kitchen, watching episodes of Full House as they talked.

“I’ll deal with him.”

Amare felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise, but he didn’t turn to look at them. It was a pivotal moment, Jesse in Full House was trying to explain to Michelle why he was leaving. He pushed the plastic button of the remote harder so that he could drown out the sound of his parents talking.

“You’ll deal with him? Is that your answer to everything? This will be his second suspension and that’s not even taking into account the calls I’ve been getting. He’s getting into fights a--”

On the TV, Michelle had her suitcase, ready to go with Jesse, except that she wasn’t. His eyebrows knit as Joey explained to the girl that he was leaving. It’s what men did when they were married and it was time to put on their bravest faces.

“--I can’t deal with this right now. I’m going to go to the grocery store.”

“Fine, I’ll talk with him about it.”

Twisting up from the television screen, he called, “Mom?”

“Yes, sweetie?” He could hear the heavy sound of her purse slipping over her shoulder. It sounded like a suitcase.

“Where are you going?”

“To the store, I’ll be right back.”

He put his hands to the floor and, doing a pushup, he climbed to his feet. He was only seven, but tall for it. With legs like that, and the way he cut through the world, he cleared the distance to her quickly, stopping at the kitchen counter so it was all that divided them. His father’s eyes were on him, his gaze heavy like marbles at the bottom of a lake. He cleared his throat, “I’ll go with you.”

“Honey, no, I just want to run to the store for a quick minute.” What she wanted to do was get away from them, what she wanted was a little space for her sanity.

“I won’t be any trouble, I’ll just ride a--”

His dad cut him off, “Just let your mother go, okay? She’ll be back, right away.”

Amare grabbed the nearest item to him that he could. It was a vase, something his mom had gotten from a friend or from his dad, or maybe it was just one of those cheap vases that came when you ordered flowers. He shoved it towards her, but no one could react in time to save it. The thin glass shattered immediately, but it didn’t have the bell-like sound he expected. The sound was more of a crunch, following by sputtering and something that sounded wet. Daffodils spread over the floor, looking haphazard and uncomfortable bright.

“What… I just…” she instinctively jumped back, one hand holding her purse and the other clutching her keys until her knuckles were white. She looked as though she might cry, but something scarlet crawled over her face and steeled her mouth. She spoke, and it sounded like blood, “I am going to go to the store, by myself, and then I will come back.” She blinked and looked as his father, who stood, paralyzed by the unexpected event, “And you and your father will talk about this.”

“Mom, I’m sorry just, wait, don--”

“I am leaving, and you will talk about this with your father.” Her eyes held his dad like she hoped her gaze could squeeze his throat. He flinched, once, and then frowned at her in a dismissive way. There was some war between them, some battle he didn’t entirely understand. All he knew was that he felt it, that he knew they were not a unified force. What he didn’t know was what they were fighting for.

“...Don’t… go. Please.” He hated how vulnerable it sounded. He hated how vulnerable it was.

Her smile softened, but she shook her head no. She left, anyway. He and his father stood perpendicular to one another at the bar top style counter of the kitchen. His father’s hands moved, gripping the edges of it. Taking in a breath, slowly, he began, “Why don’t we… sit down and get comfortable and ju--”

He ran. He ran like he was a professional, like there was a gold medal waiting for him at some invisible finish line. He cut past his father and cleared the steps of the white carpet staircase. Fast for a kid, he scrambled knowing that the steps behind him were not far away. Knowing that his father was not long behind him and that his mother was gone, at least for half an hour.

“Amare!” His father’s voice boomed, a nightmare that projected itself so far forward he thought he could feel breathing on the back of his neck.

Tonight, he got to the bathroom in time. Tonight, he locked the door and squirreled away the little half keys that allowed for it to be opened. His father yelled, his fists banging so hard on the door that the metal fixtures of it made a rattling jump. Amare didn’t always make it to the bathroom in time, he didn’t always know where to put the keys. What he knew, precisely, was the sound of a belt coming undone, the way its descent was muffled by the cloth of a pair of pants that pooled under it.

Somewhere, in the kitchen, black lightning was striking. It flashed, cold and impassive, under Saila’s hand. She lifted her fingers with a sudden, hissing intake of breath like she’d been burned.

She tasted something awful in the back of her throat as she stood there, shaking out her hands like a cat with wet paws. Bile. The word came to her unbidden, a fleeting memory picked up from air that was thick with dust and death and something far more sinister. Her stomach turned queasily, itself an utterly foreign feeling, and the kid found herself hugging herself, arms crossed tightly over her chest, shivering.

****

“So I had an idea,” Jefferies said, looking at Malcolm, “I was thinking about adding some bloodhound traits to her.”

They weren’t even in the lab, they were eating breakfast at the company cafeteria and already the discussion of work had come up again. Malcolm wiped his mouth with one hand, his other still posing his spoon over the bowl of cereal. If he didn’t speak quickly, his food would get soggy and useless, “Did you get dropped on your head?”

“What? It’s a good idea. Right now we’ve decided to equip her with a way of being intuitive and also to create bonds. What we haven’t done is help her find people she had no previous connection with. With something like a bloodhound ability, Project 624… she could track someone she had never known before.”

“Bloodhounds aren’t that effective.” He took another bite of his cereal.

“They used to use them to find dead bodies and missing people before we started putting chips in everybody.”

Malcolm was still chewing on his food and the discussion. He wasn’t sure if Jefferies was brilliant or stupid, but suspected that genius tended to walk that tightrope. That was the purpose behind him, anyway. He was supposed to be smart enough to keep up with him while also being more stable. If it was up to Jefferies they would have made a neon green transformer that occasionally spewed catch phrases. The man couldn’t always seem to focus.

When he finally did speak, it was as measured as he could manage, “You know that, statistically, hound dogs and blood hounds aren’t that impressive. They lose a scent if it goes into the city because of the concrete and all the other smells present. So we’re going to spend, I don’t know, a quarter of a million so that she can smell good on the off chance that someone decides that they’re going to go for a hike?”

Jefferies considered it, pushing a tater tot on his cafeteria tray. His face was solemn, the way a boy looked on the day that Santa became a myth. Finally, his eyes jumped up to Malcolm, “Yes. But better. I can make it better.”

“How much better?”

“Worth a quarter of a million, better. She’ll find targets she’s never met before. She’ll find ones she knows but are disguised. If she’s supposed to go into unknown territory and deal with assignments, isn’t this all the more valuable?”

He was trying not to think of the implications of that. Malcolm nodded, leaning back in the powder-blue plastic cafeteria chair. His cereal had gotten soggy, it felt like wet paper towels in his mouth. Wiping his mouth for a final time, he added, “Yeah.”

“Even better,” Jeffries said, excited now. “The breed I’m thinking of has an immunity to magic.”


***

Horrified, and at the same time filled with a deep sadness she couldn’t begin to articulate, Saila took a deep breath, swallowed thickly, closed her eyes. In her mind, she reached for him. The house was oppressively empty, its memories loud and awful, but so far none of them felt recent. She’d known all along that it would be just a starting point, but still, she had to see what else she could uncover. Without thinking about what she was doing, she left the kitchen, climbed the stairs, one question on her mind. Amare, where are you?
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That escalated quickly.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Up the white staircase, the hallway was open to the main room, and connected to a series of shut doors. Saila made a point not to trail her fingertips along the banner as she normally would while she climbed, her hands balled into loose fists at her sides. When she reached the landing, the teen was still for a moment, examining each of the doors in kind with the sound of shattering glass still echoing in her mind. The girl hadn’t been in enough houses yet to understand common layouts, so she chose a door at random and walked towards it. She shook her hands out as though trying to work a cramp loose before she touched it.

Upon turning the handle, a rectangle of light fell over a boy whose knees were bent to his chest, holding them in close as he sobbed.

A woman spoke, walking through Saila to kneel by the child. Her voice was a soft, gentle plea. “Hey, Amare... you know everyone has been looking for you for a couple of hours now.”

The heel of his small palm pushed into the give of his eye socket, and then over his cheek. He regarded her with the sort of bristling that kept her from edging any closer. His arms moved, his fingers gripping the knobs of his knees. The kid said nothing.

“You know,” from her kneel, she decided to take the risk and scooted one inch closer to him. He was almost within arm’s reach of her, now. “I was twenty when my mother passed away. Being twenty didn’t make it any easier, and not having her around made it seem like something was missing. But, did you know what? It gets better, and it’s not going to feel like this forever.”

The boy’s eyes narrowed on her, his lips pursing in thought. She looked like any teacher, wearing a long floral dress that was conservative and smelled like some generic perfume that came with it. It was mostly purple and pink, the splashes of yellow and white on it signifying the pollen and stamens of the flowers. Her hair was curled back in the way that people used to do in the eighties. Later on they called it a Farrah Fawcett, but at the time it was just the norm. Her brown hair curled away from her face like babysoft wings made of hair.

“You know,” she edged in closer to him, “that the first time anybody ever knows what it’s like to be loved comes from our parents. They bring us into this world and they hold us and teach us so mu--”

“My dad is hurting me.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t think that he means to do that. I think that grief affects everyone.”

“You’re not listening,” he sniffed, flattening one hand on the ground. “He’s hurting me, and it’s worse because she’s not here.”

“He’s just going through a rough time, and I know both of you are hurting but it’ll get better. Your dad…. Sweetie, he loves you so much. He’s been worried sick about you all day. Everyone’s been looking for you and you know what? No one is mad.”

“You’re so stupid.” His voice had the weight of adult venom.

“Amare, honey, I know you’re upset but you can’t talk like that to adults. I think it’ll be best if we just step outside the janitor’s closet, get you some ice cream and then get you home, okay? I’ll even write an excuse slip for your homework so you can just relax for the rest of the evening.”

He couldn’t say anything. He focused on what his hands looked like when he squeezed his knees. It seemed the bones could have popped through the back of his hands. After a few moments, he realized, his dad was on the other side of the door. He realized he was going home no matter what he said, no matter what he did.

***

Saila sucked in a ragged breath like someone drowning. She squeezed her eyes closed tight, and when she did she realized how wet her lashes were. Only then did she notice the tears that were streaming down her cheeks. Only then did she become aware that at some point she had sunk to her knees, mimicking this phantom memory of a woman from more years ago than Saila had even been alive.

The sensation of his childhood panic felt heavy in her chest, made it hard to breathe. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room, like she was going to suffocate on a betrayal deeper, darker and more terrible than any she’d ever before witnessed, secondhand or otherwise. Unable to stop herself from crying, the teen wiped hopelessly, helplessly at her cheeks, her skinny shoulders quaking in a strangled sob.

My dad is hurting me.

The information wasn’t new, but knowing something and feeling it were very different. Saila had no words to explain or describe the echo of trauma she was experiencing, but it was overwhelming and it left her disoriented, dizzy and sick to her stomach.

She couldn’t have said how long she sat there on her knees in that empty hallway full of the worst kinds of ghosts, her head bowed, her hands limp at her sides. The afternoon sun filtering in through the skylight at the top of the stairs grew gradually more dim and then faded altogether, leaving her alone in an alien world full of shadows.

There was a name on the tip of her tongue. Three syllables, familiar and at the same time foreign, and she could almost taste the sound of them in her mouth. But she hesitated, swallowing roughly, pushing her hands over her face once as she willed herself to get it together. Her mismatched eyes were bloodshot from her tears as she took a deep breath, lifted her chin, and forced herself to focus.


Amare was not in the closet. It was empty except for two boxes neatly pushed to the side, inconspicuous and boring. They were the sort of boxes that would likely harbor towels “just in case” someone needed to use them. There was no boy, no Amare, finding refuge in its confines.

He wasn’t in the closet. He wasn’t here anymore.

But he had been, recently. Now that she was making herself pay attention, Saila could see the smears of his energy that were left here, a fading glow that still pulsed more brightly than the walls at the edge of her consciousness. He had drawn his fingertips along the wall, down the hall to a door which lead to his childhood bedroom--she could see his fingerprint glinting dully on the cold metal of the doorknob. Closing her eyes, she breathed more deeply: The scent of his skin over the eggshell white paint was new, a vivid punch of life in a home that had been left alone for years. Maybe five.

Amare was not here, but he had been recently. Climbing to her feet, she swallowed thickly, cleared her throat. Forced herself to walk down the hallway, to gather more information no matter how deeply it wounded.

Somewhere on Earth, she would find Amare. She had to. Somewhere on Earth, he was dying.
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That escalated quickly.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jefferies tugged the cheap, round lollipop out of his mouth. It was like the kind you would get at a doctor’s office, except that it couldn’t be, not ever, that a person would pay money to have an off-brand Dum Dum. The lollipop was bright pink, the sharpness of its color seemed to be a brandishing of dye instead of behaving like a conductor’s wand. He was looking at his coworker when he spoke, ankles crossed on top of his desk, “You know what’s so difficult about all of this?”

“Everything?”

“Well, beyond everything.”

His coworker pushed his glasses off of his nose so that they perched on top of his head when he looked at him. “What’s beyond everything?”

“The fact that,” Jefferies bobbed his bright pink lollipop at him, “there has to be a way to process all this information and have it make sense. It’s more than just numbers. Well, I mean, it is mostly all numbers. What I mean to say is that the types of data coming in for her are going to be tremendous, and somehow there needs to be an algorithm that sorts out what’s more important, what warrants attention, etc.”

“Yeah, so?” His coworker wasn’t impressed.

He continued on, “She’ll need to know about landmarks, and maybe it isn’t the immediate task at hand which is a landmark.”

“Is this going to be a two hour discussion where you finally get to the point of what you’re trying to say?”

“You’re a heathen,” a point of his pink lollipop before he continued, “but I’ll concede. There will be guiding influences, important ones, beyond the moment she’s experiencing. I was thinking about how people used to tie strings to remind themselves.”

“...”

He stuck the lollipop back in his mouth, talking over it, “Not strings, but tattoos.


*************************

The tattoo on her left wrist lit up like a glow stick; the phosphorescent green of its luminescence cast a sickly pallor over her features. Frowning, Saila pulled her focus away from Amare’s bedroom door, shifting her meager weight from one booted foot to the other.

Carefully, she pulled back the veil in her mind that Cane had taught her to build, the iron curtain that blocked her thoughts from the outside world. The White Wolf’s radiating concern began to write itself across her consciousness in neon green graffiti scrawl. Where are you Are you okay How is he I am so worried If you don’t answer me I’m going to track you down so help me--. She dropped the barrier back into place with a little mental flexing, sent him an answering thought even as she squeezed her eyes shut. I’m fine. I’m closing in on him. Breathe, please.

Scrubbing at those strange orbs with the heels of her hands, the teenager wiped the crystalline tracks of dried tears from their corners, and took a resolute hold on the door handle.

***********

How did anyone know something was important? Somewhere along the lines were piano lessons and extracurricular activities. His life was in two pieces, one that existed from 6am to 7pm, then the one that existed from 11pm to 12am.

At first he had thought it was strange, how his father seemed to exist as two different people. One was a demanding parent who could never be pleased and was pissed that his mother was gone. The other was an abuser. That whole duality of existence quit seeming as strange when it became his own.

At school, someone had to pay for the fact that he was paying. At home, he paid. There was no sense of contradiction, only that there was an enormous tide which he could do nothing about. There would be piano lessons. He would play, he would play well. He would do well in soccer and Lacrosse, and he would take up the debate team.

And at fifteen? He’d become too much to **** with, and that, too, was the nature of the world. If your teeth were sharp enough, people didn’t **** with you too much. Not unless they thought they could convince you they were better, or actually had the teeth to back it up. There was his high school girlfriend who took it on all fours from his “best” friend, but most people had those sorts of sordid, coming-of-age stories when it came to partners and learning what love was. Teenagers were horny; dumb things happened when they drank.

Screw that noise. He didn’t have much, but what he had wasn’t cheap. It was everything. So screw the ones that spent too much time **** around.

“Amare?”

He was seventeen, his leather backpack hanging off his shoulder when the English teacher called his name. The sound was a request, not a command, so he paused at the doorway like he would make the effort of not being pissy. His teacher smiled at him, painfully, tucking his clipboard under one arm.

“You have a minute?”

“Sure.” He still had a shadow-walk bruise over his cheek from the fight. That was alright, though; his friend’s head had made a solid thunk when it hit the side of the urinal. Whenever he thought about feeling hurt, he thought about what it was like to connect that loser’s head to the porcelain. It was primitive, small, but carried the sort of satisfaction that sparked a hard-on.

“I was looking over your papers and,” his teacher blinked at him, the baffled reaction causing him to stumble over how he would continue the thought, “--your vocabulary, and what you write about, really is beyond your age group. There’s a test I would like you to take.”

“Yeah, no thanks.”

“It would only take up about… an hour of your time, and it could really open up some doors for you.”

“Nah, that’s whatever.”

“Look,” he cleared his throat, stepping closer so that he could speak more softly. Amare knew the voice, the posture. People did that when they wanted to sound vulnerable and sincere, especially when they were neither. His teacher continued on, “I really think you should reconsider.”

“Yeah, well, **** you.”

Detention for three weeks later didn’t give him much of a choice. Time to learn about the SATs. Time to learn about Mensa. Time to figure out how all of this got him the Hell out.

**************

This time it wasn’t a single, devastating memory, a scene playing out on the screen behind her eyes like the most horrific movie ever. This time it was a whole series of images, disjointed and out of order, rushing past like a speeding train. She caught the tail end of every fragment she could, snagging each one in kind for a quick scan and then letting it go again before it could drag her away on sheer momentum. It felt like some awful carnival ride, and it left her brain feeling scrambled, reeling.

Most of them were themes she already knew. The Mensa testing. The violence, both survived and perpetrated. The righteous indignation of betrayal. The endless piano lessons. The wounded, aching heart. It all came back to a single thought, a central location, a fixed point: the school. He was at the school.

********************

With no way to explain where the hell she was going, Saila didn’t bother with a taxi thing this time. She had only the loosest handle on what a school was and what you were supposed to do there, born mostly of her classes with Cane, with the Circus Arts School he’d created. She didn’t realize, couldn’t have known, that there was more than one, and Amare’s memories hadn’t given the place a name. She followed her instinct blindly, trusting it not to fail her as she walked the relatively empty streets in the dark.

Every now and then, she came across a smear of residual energy that unquestionably belonged to the wolf. It was on the bark of this tree, the edge of a flyer tacked to that light post. A lonely wind gust lifted vibrant violet locks off her shoulders from time to time, but she pressed on, burrowing more deeply into her hoodie as she walked.

All at once, her head snapped left. Drawn by the unmistakable energy signal of a werewolf, Saila focused and then she could see him, not just any werewolf but Amare. Her pace quickening, the more she closed in on him, the more she realized that the signature wasn’t nearly as strong as normal, it didn’t amp the way it should have here in this place of relatively little magic. A sense of dread filled her suddenly, chilling her to the core.

She broke into a run.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“You know what’s important about landmarks?” Jefferies looked up from the arm prototype. The moment was surreal in that a photograph of it would have made it seem that he was holding arm that had been severed at the elbow.

His colleague sighed, but knew better than to act as if he hadn’t heard him. Jefferies would just repeat himself, more loudly, until he responded. Tugging at the cords of his ear buds, he swiveled from his hunch over the desk to look at him, “What’s important about landmarks?” It felt like the line up for a joke except he knew that it wasn’t.

“They mean something. They’re significant.” Jefferies put the arm down, gripping the outer edges of it to peel back the synthetic skin as he spoke, “You care about landmarks. In the symbolic sense. You care about that video game you knew as a kid, or that song that came out when you had your first heart break.”

“So?”

“I’m just saying,” he frowned at the arm and then leaned back, grabbing one of his cheap lollipops and unwrapping it, “--connections aren’t a one way street. The more in tune she is, the more tied she is, the more…”

“She’ll care?” His colleague arched a brow, and for one second he wasn’t just pretending to be interested.

“Maybe. She should still go through her directives, but it means that she’ll carry every difficult goal, every hurt, with her always. What happens when someone dies? That’s...painful when you think about it.”

His colleague turned back to his desk, his exhale long and low as he breathed, “Yeah, sucks to be her. Just have her imprint on a sociopath, and then she won’t care.”

“Yeah… I mean… maybe.” He fell silent, leaned over the severed arm and adjusted the sensors. The arm was too responsive, the settings needed to be dialed down. Every input caused it to twitch, making the arm seem to have seizures during the trial run. Biologistics was the only way to go, they filtered the inputs of the world more efficiently than any robot ever. Once he had it the way he wanted it, he set the arm aside and reached for a fresh hypodermic. Peeling it from its plastic, Jeffries pushed the plunger in and then jabbed the needle into the spongy stopper of a glass bottle at the corner of the table.He pulled gently on the plunger, easing it back as the syringe filled with a bluish green liquid.

Turning his attention back to the arm, he ran a fingertip along the delicate framework of veins that had taken painstaking hours to build in the lab. Finding the one he wanted, he sank the needle in and jammed the plunger home. The fingers flared on their own as the muscles were infused with the injected liquid.

For but a fleeting second, a bright green image appeared in the middle of the pale white forearm, livid and glowing like the smashed end of a firefly. It fluoresced brightly under the overhead lights and then disappeared again.


**********

Saila hit the double doors at the old high school’s entrance at a sprint. It was good that it released, because it hadn’t even occurred to her that it wouldn’t. She turned at a quarter angle, putting her shoulder against the window and her forearm against the metal bar that depressed on impact. The long bar made that sound that nearly every child in America would equate with an institution of learning, the whooshing sound of a sudden decompression with the metal on metal thunk of the lock mechanism releasing.

It swung open with a squeal of its hinges, admitting her into climate controlled darkness.

************

“You’re going to your lessons, you’re going to stop dicking around in your classes and you are going to the university.”

Amare stood at the doorway of his home. Seventeen, and already his smile was a harsh stab when he made it. His eyebrows arched up, “Oh, really? I don’t see you being able to tell me what the **** to do anymore.”

“I’m still your legal guardian.”

“For five **** minutes.”

His father’s face was red, but he wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or rage. The old man had needed to take a step down with him once he was fifteen. Amare had gotten too tall, too strong with the extra curricular activities. Now he was on the precipice of being a legal adult, and he enjoyed the way his father’s eyes sank into the back of his head, realizing that the hold he had on him for so long would be gone.

It didn’t matter. He and his English teacher had started *** a few weeks ago, which was novel. It was the first time he ever opted to be with a man, and he was surprised at the level of kindness there. Also, the desire for abuse. His teacher, Stephen, had said that sometimes love was best when it was rough. That there was a saying, love hurts, and that he suspected Amare already knew everything about that. All of it had been quiet, he was a student, after all.

The situation with his dad, the stupid **** house and everything else, had become so temporary.

“Amare,” his father cleared his throat, “You’re going to do as I say.”

He laughed, his fingertips on the edge of the doorknob, “Or what? I don’t give a **** about anything. What are you going to do? Take away TV? Take away money? Boo-****-hoo. I don’t give a ****, so you can’t do ****.”

At that point his father’s smile turned deep. The desperation that had been there rolled into a black smugness, a knowing that made Amare’s smile stay only because he was too stubborn to show concern. His father spoke, “But that’s not true.”

“You’re hilarious.”

“Your mother’s necklace.”

His hand gripped the doorknob, “Excuse me?”

“It was in your dresser upstairs. I was making sure you hadn’t gotten into drugs. You want that to get lost, you want that to be gone?”

Amare didn’t say anything, his smile empty as he continued to look at his father.

“Finish your school, the right way. Finish your lessons, and when you bring me that diploma, you can have it back. You see, boy,” he father cleared his throat, his victorious smile making the corners of his eyes narrow in an oily wrinkle, “Everyone cares about something, and once you know that, they’ll comply.”

He shut the door, slowly, the latching sinking into place with a resigned click.

****************

“Sooo… where are you, huh?” He was in the Advanced English Classroom, sitting at the teacher’s desk, naked. In his hand was the bow saw, its metal teeth having worked through the flesh of his leg up to the femoral artery.

Stephen, the English teacher, was sitting in a student’s desk that faced him. He had died an hour or two ago, mostly because his guts had been pulled out of him and onto the desk. The moment hadn’t been thrilling, it had been like chasing a hamster that knew how to talk around a room. The part which had defined the moment was not the strangeness of meeting with Stephen after so many years, but at how little it mattered that he was dead. Often, people spoke of closure, but that was a ghost that never became real.

Stephen liked to talk of love hurting, and how their relationship needed to be quiet. He liked to teach safety words, and he liked to have other boyfriends. Everyone had an excuse, and it seemed that Stephen’s was full of poetry, of long verse and eloquent explanations based on previous literature, of romantic history, all of which amounted to a string of excuses that sounded pretty.

For the last hour, he had been sawing. It was difficult. His werewolf blood wanted to knit together the wound and send him on his way, but he didn’t let it. Everytime he seemed too still, too stitched together, he worked the saw again.

The blood loss was tremendous. A hot puddle of red spread out from under the wooden swivel chair. He gave the saw another jerk so that a blob of red pumped down the inside of his leg to the floor.

“You always show before I die… so… where are you now….”


One of his palms was speared by the edge of the metal bow saw as he waited. Blood drip-ticked the seconds passing, and briefly he wondered how many clocks were ticking. His other hand clutched an item, pressed into his palm with a delicate golden chain slipping between his fingers.

“Baby.”

His mother, younger than he was then, was sitting on the teacher’s desk next to him. Her face was serious, yet her tone still had a softness that implied she knew she was speaking to him. His head swiveled in her direction, and he cut a well-practiced smile for her, “Hey.”

“Hi,” She spoke gently.

He was feeling that the world spun, and was spinning more wildly. It was like being drunk, only that it hurt a lot more.

“What have you done?”

“I just… there’s this one, last thing,” his hand squeezed the necklace and then he leaned forward, “And I wanted you to know that you can stop worrying. You can stop being here, and you can stop holding my hand. I don’t need… anything, anymore.”

“... is that what you think?”

He tossed her necklace into the trash bin, “Yeah, that’s what I **** think.”

**************

A copper tang hung heavy in the air, thick and oppressive. It was something like trying to breathe through a blood soaked blanket. Her nose wrinkled and her stomach turned, not in revulsion, but a hunger so seldomly felt that it was strange and foreign. The memory of Amare’s father was receding, her brain painting in the bloody details that would come later.

His presence was powerful here. Weakened though he was, Amare stood out like neon, a signal flare, a search light. Drawn to it as inexorably as moth to flame, the taste of blood snaked its way down her throat as she got closer, and closer still. She swallowed, but her mouth kept watering.

Pushing the door to the dark classroom open, at this distance she could tell the dead blood from the living. Strange eyes squinted to focus as she took in the sight of the corpse, arranged in its seat like an eagerly expectant teacher’s pet with vacant milk-filmed eyes and a wide open mouth. Saila barely registered its presence -- a body without life was exceedingly hard for her to perceive -- her gaze swinging round to the larger desk at front.

There was her wayward almost-brother at last, and even the weak flicker of his wavering life essence seemed painfully bright here, by contrast. The flood of relief she felt at finding him alive was short lived, the tremble pulse of his thready heartbeat made it clear that whatever damage he’d done ran deep.

There was a woman next to him, looking every bit as solid as the injured wolf, her expression fixed in the deep lines of concern. Saila stared at her a long second, two, and then moved to Amare’s side, curling her fingers into his shoulder. “Hey,” she said, shaking him gently. ”Hey,” more insistently this time. “What the hell are you doing? Jesus ****, Amare, are you okay?”

Long fingers curled into the muscle, her strange eyes lighting up in the dark as she located the power source inside him, weaving herself into it.. A sharp inhale stole across her lips as a telltale heat she’d finally learned to recognize stole all the way up her arm, down her torso deep into her chest, only to rise again up the back of her neck. She gasped but held on as the image seared itself into her flesh, a brand new blood red light radiating from her throat.

It was like a chain had been imprinted into the skin just above all the other tattoos, the silhouette of a bird appearing line by line in the hollow of her collarbone. The perfect replica to the necklace dangling off the lip of the black plastic bin, its avian charm still swaying back and forth. Her breath shallow, she kept her grip on Amare, the fingers of her free hand moving over her neck, tracing the new outline. Her gaze lifted to the shade. “You’re his mother.” It wasn’t a question.
_________________
As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
drawn outside the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

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