I would be lying if I said that the nauseating feel of me sinking my teeth deeply into the tender flesh of my best friend's neck didn't cause me a great deal of emotional turmoil. I felt the familiar, disgusting, 'squish'...tasting the acrid tang of his warm blood as it filled my mouth and dashed across my tongue, it's heated texture nearly burning my tastebuds with 'life'. Richie. My Richie. Please God....I hope I'm doing this right.
My mind did everything it could to stay focused on keeping its balance. Difficult, as I was trying to distract my thoughts enough to not fully realize that I was killing him.
I wasn't void of my morality....but the vampire instinct took a firm hold of me with the first spray of plasma. It trembled with delight...absorbing its flavor quickly. Trevor was right If I had been bloodthirsty and tapped Richie's main artery this way...I doubt that I could have stopped myself. I was dizzy with a lustful hunger for more. I know that I probably would have drained him dry. Every ounce. Even now, it was hard to keep my fangs from swallowing more than their fair share of his delicious existence. Even after feeding less than an hour ago, I found that I was still aroused by his taste. My senses were on fire. It was hard to concentrate. Hard to steady myself. I needed to slow down.
Maintain your humanity, Justin. Don't give in. It's just like Trevor said. You want to 'exchange' blood....not drain it. Come on...you can do this....
Even in his comatose state, I felt Richie's body twitch and spasm in pain beneath me. Almost as if he was lazily trying to fight his way back to consciousness and stop me. Anything to save his own life. The survival instinct never stops...whether you're awake or not. I had to work harder to hold him still, tilting his head further to the side, stretching the tensed muscles in his neck as my teeth sank in even deeper than before. I felt my head spinning, the dark red glow of my eyes reflecting off of his thin pale skin. As Richie's gentle convulsions got worse, more determined, I felt tears sliding softly from my eyes. I'm sorry, Richie. I'm sooooo sorry. Don't fight me. Hang in there. I'm not trying to hurt you. I'm gonna make you better, Richie. I'm gonna make you Superman.
I felt a flurry of vivid memories wash over me as something inside my body changed. Perhaps it was the act of biting Richie without actually feeding on him that triggered it...or maybe it was just the powerful imagery of the memories themselves...but after a minute or two of holding my position, I felt myself getting heavy. Not 'physically' heavy. No, it was more than that. Deeper. As though my very spirit was getting heavy. It was a fiercely emotional drain on me and it latched on to Richie without letting go. A bond. An almost erotic sense of union. And it was then...that my body tensed up all over, I got lightheaded, and my eyes transformed their crimson glow to something much much darker. It was almost like the moment just before orgasm...an endless moment of pure pleasure and beautful pain combined. Then....the release.
A thick, soupy, liquid discharged from the dagger sharp tips of my fangs...and entered Richie's blood supply. I couldn't even tell what it was. I couldn't see it at all, but I felt it as it flooded my best friend's system with the necessary toxins needed to finish him off. Hopefully...with the power to bring him back.
My body was instantly getting weaker. I had to fight to stand on my own two feet and keep my teeth in place as my balance was thrown off course. Richie's face frowned up in an agonizing grimace...almost as if his remaining blood supply was on fire as it raced through his veins. His legs began to kick, his fists balled up...both lightly banging against the side of the table. And then, almost as if I had been pulled into a dream against my will...the memories of us together blurred my vision, and it became the only thing my mind could experience at that moment.
"Hehehehe, watch it 'Freak'!" I said. Richie and I were playfully pushing and shoving one another out in front of Buckingham Fountain.
"You watch it! Quit bullying me, Mr. Two Inch Growth Spurt!" He smiled warmly. Who could have the heart to resist that playfully boyish smile? Richie's mom told us to stop horsing around already so she could take the picture, and instantly...my arm and Richie's went over one another's shoulder. As though it was such a natural part of our behavior. Not an awkward bump or misplaced movent of any kind. We looked forward and smiled at the camera...a cool mist spraying over us on that warm Summer day. And with a click...that one moment in time was captured forever.
I heard a loud bang, and notice Richie's feet kicking on the table even harder than before. The toxin was quick. It was definitely doing its job well. Did I give him too much? Am I hurting him? Is this supposed to happen....?
Another flashback took me to a night when Richie had a birthday party at some place across town. I was talking to him on the phone....I'll never forget how awful I felt that night, having to hear his voice.
"Where ARE you? What do you mean you can't come? Come on, Justin, you've GOTTA be at my party! You, of ALL people have to come! It won't be a party without you!"
Hearing those words from anybody back then...it was rare. It broke my heart. "I don't think I can find a way to get there." I told him.
"I thought your mom was bringing you?"
I turned my head to see my mother passed out on the couch next to an empty bottle of vodka...with a small mop bucket sitting nearby 'just in case'. "She's.....she's sick." I replied sadly. "I'm sorry, Richie. I just don't think I can come out. Don't hate me, ok?"
"Wait...hold on a sec..." He said, and after some mumbling in the background, Richie said, "Ok, get dressed up all spiffy like and wait outside! My mom's coming to get you!"
I said, "Really?"
"Hey, she can leave us alone for a half hour or so in this place. We're not THAT wild! Besides, the only time I ever get into any real trouble, it's because I'm with YOU! So she's assuming it's safe for now." I couldn't help but smile and wipe away a few stray tears from my eyes as I thanked him for the lift. "She's walking out the door now. My mom drives like a maniac, so she'll prolly be there in like ten minutes instead of fifteen! Hurry up and get here! K?"
"Um...yeah. Ok." Then I added, "Richie?"
"Thanks, ok? For...you know. Just....thanks. I mean it."
"You're my best friend in the world, Justin. I'd have to beat you up if you missed my birthday."
"Heh...like you could beat up anybody, pipsqueak."
"Hey!" He giggled. "I'll have you know that I've torn some shirts in my day! Or at least stretched the collars a little bit. So don't go thinking you're all badass, buster! I don't remember seeing YOU win a fight yet!"
"Dude, if you saw me in a fight and you didn't jump in and help me, I'd kick your ass myself." I said, and we both laughed about it for a moment before Richie told me...
"I'd miss you if you weren't here. Ok? Don't you ever leave me hanging." His voice was so tender when he said it. It only worked to choke me up even worse than before. I know he heard a sniffle or two from my end, but he never mentioned it. Not a word. "Just get here soon. I'll save you some cake."
I felt myself swooning a bit as my head started spinning even faster, Richie's blood coating my lips and dribbling down my neck and chest in excess. How long am I supposed to hold my fangs here? Do I just wait until it's done? Do I have some instinct that wil let me know when I'm finished? Ugh! I should have asked a lot more questions. I should have taken more time to learn about this stuff.
I'm still releasing toxins. I can feel it. The juices just kept gushing forth, and soon, Richie's involuntary defenses began to stop struggling. I was killing him. God help me...I was killing the one and only human friend that I had left.....
Richie's body was turning ice cold, his limbs stiffening up beneath my palms. I could taste the thickness of his blood as it cooled down and began to coagulate on the sides of my lips.
My mind lost track of its focus, and I was pulled back to a quiet night when I banged on Richie's door one afternoon after school. My father had blackened my eye...my lip was bleeding...and there were bruises on the sides of my neck from where he choked me with his bare hands. It's not like Richie didn't know what was going on, but I don't think he had ever seen me roughed up that badly before. The shock in his eyes...he couldn't hide it from me if he tried. But once he saw me lower my head from the shame of it all...he just opened the door wide, stepped aside, and welcomed me in. I made him promise to never tell. I made him SWEAR to me that he wouldn't try to help or go behind my back. I couldn't explain to him why not. I don't know what part of my severely battered ego made me think that things would turn around...and that they'd one day be 'ok'. But as much as it hurt him to see me in pain...he kept his promise. And just tried to be my crutch when I needed one most.
I sat at the foot of his bed and stared down at my feet. There was no lie that I could tell him. No excuse to be made for what was clearly my father's handiwork. But, as always, Richie didn't ask. He didn't push me to speak at all. He just sat right beside me, put an arm over my shoulder, and our foreheads touched as he just held me in silence for a while. I didn't hide my tears, and he never made an attempt to acknowledge them. It was just a time for us to be together. One of many....that I wasn't willing to give up.
I heard a few alarms go off, the machines by the table blaring with warning sirens as Richie finally flatlined. His eyes opened slightly...all the light within them was gone. His face was blank. The skin, chalky and cold. Almost unrecognizable. And as the blood went stale and stopped moving in his veins...the toxins being released from my fangs slowed to a halt as well. It felt as though every last bit of my essence had been put into that one bite. The fatigue was intoxicating.
By the time I had fully withdrawn my sharp fangs from Richie's throat...the exhaustion had become too much for me to handle. I suddenly fell hard to my knees, hoping to grab onto something before I fell over completely. But the table edge was covered in fresh blood, and my hands slipped on the smeared surface. I fell over, slamming the side of my face on the tile floor as my vision darkened...and in an instant, without a single spark of energy left within me to fight it any longer...everything went black.
I just pray that I did everything the way I was supposed to. I just want him to get better. You'll be ok now, Richie. I promise...you'll be ok....
The next time I had the strength to open my eyes, I was too disoriented to really figure out my surroundings at first. My head was aching a bit, and every movement was sluggish and clumsy. It took a minute or two to regain my memory as I fought to keep my eyes from rolling back up in my head. Jesus. I knew they said that turning somebody would be draining....but I had no idea that it would be that bad. It took me another ten minutes of laying there, weak and silent, before I even got the energy to think straight again. I noticed the lights above me, and remembered being in Jeremy's blood shack. My focus came back to me in pieces. Richie....shit. Richie. Did I do it right? Is he alright? Where is he? I used what little strength I had to tilt my aching body to the side, and I looked at the cold slab next to me.
There was a CORPSE on it!
Eyes wide open, a dull grayish color, and skin that had almost turned blue. Staring me in the face from less than two feet away!
With a gasp, I jumped back, and slid off of the other end of the table. I was so terrified that I had forgotten all about my trembling legs and I lost balance. I fell back on my butt, knocking over all kinds of metal bowls and morgue tools onto the floor. The ruckus rang in my ears for a full minute afterwards. Why the FUCK would they put me on the table next to a corpse! They KNOW I don't like corpses! Sons of bitches! Har har...very FUNNY!
"So I take this to mean you're a bit of an early riser too, huh?" I heard the voice, and snapped my head around to see Jeremy sitting in a corner of the room, his legs up on the counter, reading a book.
"What the....what happened?"
"You fell off the table, genius. What do you think happened?"
"You put me up here next to a....a..."
Jeremy raised his eyebrow with a smirk. "Sorry if you object to the cramped living space, kid. But our honeymoon suites were all filled up." He uncrossed his legs and sat up straight. "Be thankful. You're lucky I didn't chunk you in the freezer with the rest of the stiffs and forget about you."
"Forget about me...?" I asked. "How long was I asleep?"
"About four days." He replied, his eyes directed back at his book.
"Four days? Shit....SHIT..."
"Don't worry. Bryson knows where you are. They all do." Then he looked back over at me again. "They know what you did too. With Richie. Didn't seem too pleased about that."
"Richie! Omigod, how is he??? Is he...???"
"Shhhh...use your 'inside' voice. This is a morgue for crying out loud." Jeremy stood up to walk closer to me, playfully hopping up on the table next to the corpse and leaning back on it with his elbows. "Your friend seems fine, so far. To be honest, you did a lot better than I thought you woul on your first time out. But it'll be a while before we can predict how his crossover is really going to go. The toxin seems to have taken effect rather quickly, though. It's usually a good sign." He said. "Congrats on popping your vampire cherry, rookie."
"Thank God." I sighed, and Jeremy made a face as he saw me still sitting on the floor with my knees drawn up to my chest.
"If that's 'uncomfortable', you can sit up here with me, you know?" He said.
"No thanks. I'll take the other table if you don't mind." I stood up, and lazily walked back over to sit opposite him. I rubbed my eyes some more, trying to keep my head from spinning with confusion.
Jeremy was quiet for a moment, and he said. "You know, a lot of people wouldn't have done what you did for your friend back there. The rescue, the upkeep, the crossover...you must really care about this boy."
"Yeah. I do." I told him. "Let's just say that he was there for me....when nobody else thought to give a damn. He was something special to hold on to when I didn't have anything to believe in. I guess it's hard to explain."
"And yet, surprisingly easy to understand." He said. "Don't wory. I get it. And I can admire that. What I don't understand is why you decided to leave your life behind if you had something sweet like that to live for."
"Trust me....t's a long story, Jeremy."
"Try me." He said.
"Well..." I wasn't quite sure where to start. What he knew. What he didn't know. There was a time when the pain and the fear and the lonliness was the only thing I could think about. A time when it ruled over me and my life to the point where nothing existed outside of the sufering I was experiencing each and every day. But now? Looking back on it....and having to explain it to someone else...it seems like such a little thing. A temporary thing. I could feel a pinch of guilt even talking about it now.
To think...had I not met Taryn on Navy Pier that night...I might have thrown away everything over somethingthat seems so very insignificant now. My future....Richie's future...Taryn's future...maybe even the Vampire Dawn itself. I never would have guessed before now that my life had such value.
I knew that Jeremy was intrigued when he put the book down and leaned forward a bit more. I told him, "I don't want to make it seem like I'm whining or anything. It's just...when you're on the inside looking out of a situation like that...it's kinda hard to keep a healthy perspective, I suppose."
"I know what you mean." He replied. "But I always believed that, even if you go out and lie to the whole WORLD...ate least be 100% honest with yourself. There's too many people out there trying to avoid the mirror. They should examine their own reflections a lot more often. Maybe you could have gone a different route."
"Maybe." I said. "I just...I kept thinking that things would get better. That I would stop being so afraid all the time. If...if only the people around me could...'love' me just a little bit more. You know?"
"They didn't cause the fear, why should they be held responsible for bringing it to an end? That's not 'other people's' job, that's your job. Maybe YOU should have loved you just a little bit more for a change. Ever think of that?"
I gave Jeremy a smirk. "What, are you gonna lecture me on life now?"
"Noooo, no, I don't lecture. I hold up the mirror and let you do the lecturing on your own. I'm just trying to instruct you on how it works."
"Funny, does that mirror work for you too?"
"So what do you see when you're soul searching?" I asked.
"All good stuff. But then again, I'm sexy, I'm smart, I've got a good business...I basically kick ass in every category. It's kinda hard to find fault with a reflection that's SO good looking."
"Hehehe, well...hopefully you'll be lucky enough to get other people to share your perpesctive." I giggled.
But he simply replied, "When your perspective is honest, other people don't have any say in the matter." Jeremy gave me a sly smile and tilted his head slightly. "You know, for someone who claims to have had such a painful and miserable existence, you strike me as someone who is extremely lucky in more ways than he'll ever know."
I scoffed at the idea. "Psh! Right. How do you figure that?"
"Oh, come on. You can't be serious, Justin. I mean...you went through some tough shit, and I wouldn't wish that on anybody. I get it. I'm not saying your problems were unimportant or a total cake-walk, especially for someone your age. But you're not without options. Alternatives. The only person who seems to be hurting you now is you." He said. "You've got a good friend in the other room there, a BEST friend, actually...who loves and cares for you. Someone you'd be willing to risk your neck to protect at all costs. You've got a HOT boyfriend back at the lot who loves you with his whole heart, to the point where just seeing the two of you together is enough to put everyone else in a diabetic coma for a week. You've got good companions who take care of you, and stand by you despite all of your flaws and imperfections. You're undeniably cute. You've got one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen for a newblood, you can obviously handle yourself in a fight when you need to, and you've been blessed with a rare gift that vampires over the last six centuries would've KILLED for. Now, I know that life isn't perfect and everybody has been through SOME kind of painful shit in their lives...but despite it all, you seem to have the ability to come up with a bouquet of roses each and every time. If you don't see the luck and good fortune in that...well, I guess I'd feel pretty sorry for you. You don't know how lucky you are. If you throw it all away without realizing how good you've got it...I've got no sympathy for ya, man."
With that, Jeremy picked up his book again, and slid down from the table. I asked him, "Where are you going?"
"The night is young, but my 'customers' aren't gonna sleep forever. I might as well get my books ready. Make yourselfat home. I don't suggest you go out anywhere though. Your body is going to be pretty shot for the next day or two. You don't wanna cramp up and shut down in the middle of town somewhere. Not a good idea."
"You don't mind me staying here for a bit longer?"
Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Don't ask me if I mind it. Let's just say you can relax for now. Cool?"
"Thanks, Jeremy." I said, a sullen tone creeping into my voice. "I'll be out of your hair as soon as I get back on my feet. I uhh...I don't think that I'm going to be too welcome back at the lot anymore. I kinda screwed that up. Probably for the last time...."
Jeremy scoffed at the idea. "Dude, get over yourself. It's stupid theatrics like that that drag problems out for much longer than their worth worrying about. If you want to go home, then go home. Lift your eyes from the dirt, make whatever apologies you need to make, and accept the love and hugs you get in return. It's as easy as that. Stop acting like you're trying to win an Academy Award for the world's saddest bastard all the time. I'm not easily impressed by that shit, so don't waste my time." He said. "I work with corpses all day, Justin. You think YOU'VE got problems? Try asking one of them what other options they've got to work with." He started to walk out of the room, but he turned back and said, "He came to visit you three times since you've been asleep, you know?"
I wrinkled my forehead. "Who?"
"Don't be dense, dude." He said. "That boy loves you in a way that most people never get to experience. Even in a vampire's lifetime."
"Taryn was here? What did he say?"
"Ask him yourself the next time he stops by. God knows *I* can't get rid of him. You just remember to appreciate what you've got and stop taking it for granted before you end up losing it forever. Got it?"
I nodded slowly, and smiled. "Thanks, Jeremy. For being a friend."
"Whatever. Just clean up that mess you made and don't bother the stiffs. That includes your friend, Richie, in the back. Just chill out for a while. Read something. Better yet, get a broom or a rag and clean something. Earn your keep, slacker." Hehehe, he'll do anything to break the moment. I think Jeremy has a rel heart in there somewhere...even if hates to let anybody see it firsthand. Jeremy grabbed a few folders and paperwork off of one of the tables and got ready to start his work for the night. But as he walked around the table, he stopped for a moment and looked at me. "You're wrong, you know? About not having anywhere to go."
"I hope you're right."
"I am." He said. "You know...when my business was in shambles, when my home was destroyed, and I was really down and out....." His voice softened. "....There's a reason why Bryson's lot was the first place I went to for help. There's a lot of love in that abandoned car lot, Justin. Take advantage of it. Every chance you get." That said, he got behind the table with the dead body on it, and casually wheeled it into the freezer before leaving.
It certainly gave me something to think about for a while. Which I was thankful for, considering that Jeremy's blood shack was eerily quiet for that time of night. Early evening. I guess Jeremy's customers don't really 'rise and shine' like normal people. I couldn't really shake the sickening idea of there being a collection of human corpses just behind that freezer door. It spooked me out over the next hour or so. How does Jeremy just...overlook them like that? I can't even stand to LOOK at them, much less touch them or drain them of their blood supply for sale on the vampire market. Where does he even get these people from? Jesus....a guy could go crazy thinking about this.
I kept myself busy by actually finding a broom and sweeping up for him. I don't know, maybe I felt guilty just lounging around the place and not doing anything. I didn't want to go anywhere ater Jeremy's warning, but despite a few stomach cramps and a few random bouts of dizziness...I seemed to be ok. No big problems that I knew of. But it wasn't long before my eyes found themselves wandering back and forth towards the door to the back room. I know that Jeremy was just upstairs...and I know that he told me not to mess with the bodies...but Richie was back there. I mean...I just wanted to make sure that he was ok. That's all. Not chucked in a corner like the rest of Jeremy's 'product'. I mean...is he comfortable? Is he warm? Does he have some place nice to rest or is he just laying on a cold slab somewhere?
I'm not gonna do anything to him. Just a peek. A look to make sure he's being taken care of. I'll check really fast, and then I'll be done. I swear.
I leaned the broom up against a nearby wall, and wiped my hands off on my t-shirt as I moved towards the back door. I turned the knob, but took a deep breath before opening it all the way. I peeked my head in, but the room was dark. Couldn't see much of anything. So I reached my hand in and felt along the wall for a light switch. Couldn't find one. Shit...
I opened the door a bit wider, and stepped into the room. I never know what I'm gonna find when I turn a corner in this place...so I was a bit anxious to find a light and just get this over with so I could relax and stop thinking about it. Finally...feeling around a bit more, I found, what felt like, a light switch. And I flicked it on.
"What do you think you're doing?" Came a voice from behind me the second the lights came on. It nearly made me jump out of my fucking SKIN to hear somebody speaking to me after almost an hour of complete silence! Thank God, it was just Jeremy! If I was focused enough to activate one of my extras, he might have found himself in a world of pain, sneaking up on me like that!
"JESUS! You scared the SHIT out of me!!!" I said holding my chest while trying to catch my breath.
"It's probably because you're doing something you have no business doing. You deserved it." He replied.
"I was just...um...I mean..." I regained my focus and just told him, "I was just worried about Richie, ok? That's all."
"Worried about him how? It's been four days, junior. He's gonna be asleep for a while. You're crossing a vampire over to darkness, not baking a birthday cake. These things take time."
"I know. I know. Just...I wanted to check to make sure he was ok."
Jeremy wrinkled up his forehead, as if I was being overprotective for no reason. Who knows? Maybe I was. Then he said, "Well?"
"You wanted to check. So...check. He's right over there."
I turned to look into the room, and to m surprise it wasn't another big freezer full of corpses, or a slaughterhouse corridor full of hooks and dead meat. It was more like...a den of sorts. Small TV, a few bookcases, and an aquarium bubbling softly against the wall. Then, laying peacefully on a rather large sofa in the background....was Richie. Covered up with a fluffy comforter, his hospital clothes neatly stacked in a pile on thetable next to him. I could see that he wasn't breathing. I could see that his body was cold. Unliving. And yet undead. I was a bit surprised.
I whispered to myself, "He's ok. He's really ok." Then I turned to Jeremy. "You covered him up. Thanks."
"Of course I covered him up. What did you THINK I was gonna do with him? Put him on a rotisiree spit, ass to mouth, and roast him over an indoor barbecue pit? He's sleeping. Quit worrying so much, you're getting on my nerves now." He said as he turned off the light and lightly pushed me back out the door. "I took his clothes off of him because they hold moisture and I don't want him waking up with the shivers. But he's fine. It'll be another two or three week before you can even see any real signs of conscious life in there again. So unless you just like staring at something that's little more than an organic, larger-than-life, 'paperweight'...I suggest you chill out and just leave him alone while he sleeps it off. Can you do that for me, Sparky?"
"Hello?" Came another voice from the stairs, and I looked to see a young couple coming down into the basement to join us. A boy a litle older than me, maybe 16, and what appeared to be his girlfriend.
Jeremy shut the door and turned to his clients. "Sorry about that, folks. Slight delay, but nothing to worry about. Come on down, I'll go to the freezer and get you whatever you like."
they looked over at me, and I gav them a timid wave. The girl asked, "Who is he?"
But Jeremy just grabbed the broom off of the wall and handed it to me. "Don't mind him. He's just...the help. You know how it goes." Then he led them over to the freezer. "Now, I've got some great samples for you guys tonight. I've got a few packs that are a little bit more on the pricey side, but they are practically cholesterol free. We're talking healthy lifestyle, non-smokers, non-drinkers, vegetarians...you're gonna LOVE the taste. It's like drinking pure cane sugar!"
The couple looked at each other nervously, and the boy said, "I don't...I mean...the taste? Is that...really important, or...? I mean...it's still like a...blood taste, right?"
Jeremy narrowed his eyes a bit. "Let me guess...you two are new at this. Am I right?" They looked at each other again and then nodded slowly. "No problem. No problem at all. Popping vampire cherries in the blood game is my specialty. Come on, step into the freezer with me. I'll let you know how this works." Jeremy looked at me, and mouthed the words 'clean something' before taking his customers into his ice cold office. And then...I was alone again.
As long as Richi was ok...I guess I had no more reaon to worry. At least it was one heavy brick off of my shoulders. I can't IMAGINE what he's gonna say to me when he wakes up again. Will he be happy? Will he be furious? Will he even be aware of what's happened to him? So much to think about. So many variables. But for now...he's alive. Somewhat alive. And that's going to have to be good enough for now. I'll tackle the other problems as they come.
I walked around a few tables to find the little mound of dust that I had been pushing around with the broom and started sweeping up again. It was only a few minutes before a familiar voice spoke to me from the staircase with a bashful grin. "Bryson's not even around to hound you this time, and yet, here you are doing chores anyway."
When my eyes turned in his direction...I don't think I was ever so happy to see him. Taryn's emerald green eyes...staring back at me. Their radiant glow accentd by the dark reddish brown locks that curtained them on either side. My sweetheart. My angel. My brightest light in the darkness. Seeing a smile on those sweet pink lips of his...it made time stand still. Perhaps for both of us.
At that moment, Jeremy came out of the freezer with his two newest clients, and a bit of a frown on his face. But he tried to cover it up for the sake of being 'professional'.
The boy was apologizing over and over again, his girlfriend clutching to his arm and hiding her face.
Jeremy let out a bit of a sigh, and said, "No...no, it's ok. Shit happens, right? I mean...a LOT of newbloods get sick on their first time and...spew projectile vomit all over my floor and my tables and...my lab coat..." He rolled his eyes, then looked at me. "BUT...it's ok. Because that is what my assistant, Justin, is for! To clean that up and make it sparkle again. Isn't that right, Justin?" I frowned up right away, but he didn't seem to care. "Let's go back upstairs and talk numbers. Maybe I can find something more to your liking next time, huh?" Then he saw Taryn on the steps and made a few sarcastic gestures. "Oh gee...wow...Taryn...here to see his boyfriend...again. I'm 'shocked'. Excuse me." He gently pushed his way past him and took his business back upstairs, but Taryn and I could only smile at one another with relief. It was a feeling of tru connection that we hadn't really shared in a while. Not at length, anyway.
There was a slightly awkward silence betwen us. Not uncomfortable...but undoubtedly 'clumsy', as we attempted to figure out how to approach one another.
Taryn walked down to the bottom of the steps, and I leaned the broom back against the wall, and stepped forward. And then, as our eyes met up close, we traded a smile, and I held out my arms to gently pull Taryn into my tender embrace. My God...how I missed holding him this way.
I inhaled the scent of his hair, and kissed his forehead. "I missed you...." I sighed.
"I missed you too." Taryn's lips met mine, and it felt as though my whole body relaxed in that one endless moment. Every kiss with this boy is like my first time. Do you have any idea how amazing that is?
I held him close for as long as I could, before my guilty thought got the best of me, and I let him go. He seemed slightly confused at first, but one look at my eyes, and he could pretty much read me like an open book. "I guess I...made a pretty big mess of things, huh?" I said.
Taryn caressed my cheek and smiled. "It's nothing that you need to worry about. We're finding ways to...deal with it all. We're making some arrangements....you know....for Dylan."
"Arrangements?" I asked, and Taryn's eyes seemed slightly misted as he rubbed my cheek again. "What do you mean arrangements? Taryn....?"
He bit his bottom lip for a moment, and then said, "It's been almost a week now. His heart...um...we can't find a way to fix it. He's already starting to have starvation symptoms and hunger pains..." A tear slipped from his eye as he sniffled, "Dylan's chosen to have a sun quest, Justin. He doesn't want there to be any pain."
Heartbroken, I stepped back from Taryn, and leaned against the wall. This can't be happening. This can't be real. I kept thinking that I was going to wake up at any moment and this vicious circle would start all over again somehow. Dylan can't die. He just....he can't.
"Justin...babe? It wasn't your fault."
"I could have been stronger, Taryn. I could have beaten him. Then none of this would be happening."
"I was there, remember? You did everything you could. NONE of us would have made it out of that hospital alive if it wasn't for you."
My vision blurred slightly, and I said, "Dion's gonna hate me forever. He's never going to forive me for this."
"Justin? Sweetie, look at me, ok?" He held my face in his hands. Such a soft touch. "Dion knows that you didn't cause this. Dylan does too. We all know it. Baby, nobody expects you to be a god. You can possess all the powers in the world and you still wouldn't be able to save everybody. No matter HOW hard you try. Dylan was an accident, nothing more. If you want to make him happy....then come spend some time with him and the rest of us at his sun quest. Ok? He wants to see you there."
I sobbed quietly. "I can't. Taryn....I can't go to something like that. Not for Dylan, I...I just..."
I felt Taryn hug me around the neck, and we cried on each other's shoulders for a few moments before he tried to hold things together. "He'd be hurt if you didn't go. He asked for you specifically." He told me. "Come home with me, Justin. Come home."