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Taryn and I held hands as we took the short walk back to the lot from the rooftop a few blocks away. Daylight was rapidly approaching, but I didn't really feel the effects of it just yet. Not that I would be able to tell the difference between the sleep forced upon me by the brightening sunlight, and the heartfelt swoon that came over me whenever I held Taryn's hand in mine.
His skin was intoxicating. The feel of it was as close to warm silk as any human flesh could ever hope to imitate. And his smile...accompanied by the Summer green splendor of his beautiful eyes...something about the total package made you feel 'complete' inside. Like...this is what I was meant to do. This is who I was meant to be with. Taryn made fate a reality for me. And I didn't fight it. Who would want to?
The lot looked pretty empty from what I could see, but there were still a number of stragglers wandering around, looking for reasons to stay up as late as possible. Taryn stopped us outside the gate and we peeked into the lot from a nearby alley. He still walked with a bit of a limp, his legs still attempting to recover from the overexertion at the warehouse...but he made sure that he put on a strong front for my benefit. "It looks like Bryson is still keeping an eye out for us." He whispered. "Hold on a sec..."
Taryn focused on Gyro, who was sitting by himself on an old tire not far from the fence. He was already nodding off, and was probably only a minute or two from getting up and going to bed himself. That's when Taryn attempted to contact him, mentally. Whispering his name.
"Huh...?" Gyro said out loud, and Taryn was quick to tell him to keep quiet. He didn't need to speak. He just needed to think. "Taryn?"
"Yeah. Listen...I don't have a lot of time, but me and Justin need to get back to our trailer without any fuss. Can you do me a favor and run some interference for us?" Taryn asked.
"Interference? Like what? What happened? Did you guys get in trouble?"
"We'll tell you all about it tomorrow, ok? We just need a decent sleep cycle to heal up before Bryson goes all batshit crazy on us. Can you help us?"
Gyro peeked over at Bryson from where he was, and he thought to himself, "What the heck do you want me to do, Taryn? I can't exactly 'tap dance' for him without having him know that something is up."
"Just be resourceful, ok? Please? Think of something..."
"Ugh! Fine! Um...gimmee a minute." I saw Gyro's face twist up in a moment of deep concentration. But before getting up to his feet and dusting himself off, he asked Taryn, "Did Justin kick people's ass tonight? He kicked ass, didn't he? Dammit! I'm NEVER around to see Superman doing his ninja stuff!"
"Focus, Gyro! Ok? Tomorrow. We'll tell you tomorrow..."
"Alright. Alright. I'm going already. No need to get all prickly on me." Gyro walked over to where Bryson was, and put his plan into action as Taryn silently beckoned for me to follow him. Gyro asked Bryson, "Can you look at my nose for me? Is it straight yet? It got broke, and I can't go back to the clubs looking like this. People are gonna laugh at me."
Bryson said, "You look fine, Gyro. Nobody is going to notice."
"I noticed." He whined. "Seriously, take a look. Wait...come over here. Look at it in the light. Is this crooked? Like 'broken' crooked? Look..."
It was hardly an inspired distraction, but it was enough for Taryn and I to hurry through the front gate.
Bryson told him, "Gyro...like I said. Your nose is fine. It's not broken anymore. It's not crooked. Nobody can tell. Ok?" And then, just as Taryn and I were hurrying across the center of the lot and almost at our trailer door, Bryson called out to us without even turning around, saying, "GOODNIGHT, boys!" Ahhh, shit! "Nice try. We'll talk about this at sunset tomorrow."
Gyro shrugged his shoulders. "I tried..." He said. Not that we could blame him. Bryson was a pure bred bloodhound when it came to the members of his flock. I don't know why we tried to sneak by him at all at this point. Necessary evil only goes so far with him.
"G'night, Bryson..." Taryn said softly, giving me an embarrassed smile as we dropped the sneaky plan and just stood up straight to walk back to our trailer in peace. Bryson didn't yell at us. At least not yet. But we were sure to catch hell tomorrow for coming in so close to dawn. It wouldn't be that bad. It was just a formality that I had learned to deal with and even respect after the months I've spent living here with the others.
Before we could open the door and go inside for the night, I heard Dion angrily call out to us. "HEY!!!" He was quickly walking over to where we were, and from the speed of his steps and the look on his face, we were forced to step back with an intimidated shiver. "Did you kill him?" He asked me.
"Did I...? Did I what?" I replied.
"Did you KILL him??? Alec! Did you kill him or what?"
Dion was right on us now, and he grabbed a hold of my shirt, clutching it in his fist as he pushed me another step or two backwards. He had been using his extra to maintain some level of control before. I take it he turned it off. "Dion...I..."
"ANSWER ME!!!" He snarled. Jenna and Doc attempted to come closer but they knew they wouldn't be able to talk much sense into him at this point. Bryson and Gyro looked on, but weren't exactly sure how to approach the situation either.
Dion was staring me right in the eye. I've never had him look at me like that before. It almost reminded me of those nights when my father was really in the mood to give me a violent beating. It hurt my heart to have him stare me down like that. So I...I told him the truth. "I don't know, Dion. Honestly...I really don't."
"Good..." He said. "Good to know. Because I'm going to go out tomorrow, and I'm going to hunt him down, and I'm going to make him pay..."
"Dion...he's..." I said, but he roughly pushed my back up against the trailer in anger.
"He's DEAD!!! Do you hear me??? He's fucking DEAD!!! He took *EVERYTHING* from me!!! He stole the ONLY thing in the world that made my life worth ANYTHING at all!!!! And he's NOT going to get away with it!"
Taryn attempted to step in, and with tears in his eyes, he said, "Alec isn't like this! I don't know what happened to him, but I just need a chance to talk to him. Reason with him. Dion, please..."
"Save it!" Dion snapped. "Your little brother died the SECOND that fucking metal rod punctured the heart of the only boy that I've ever truly loved!" Dion snarled. "He ruined my life, Taryn. It's over. There's nothing left for me. In daylight OR in darkness. And before I leave this world, I swear to God almighty...I'm taking that fucking heartless son of a bitch with me! Fuck him! And fuck anybody who dares to defend him! I'm going to find him, Taryn. There's nowhere in this city that he can hide from me. And when I do...I'm going to show him the same mercy he showed Dylan! MY Dylan..." I could see tears flowing freely down Dion's face. And he was trying sooooo hard to manipulate his emotions with his extra, but the pain was just too much for him to handle. It boiled over. The anger. The sadness. The helplessness. His extra didn't have the strength to shut down all those emotions at once. I felt his grip tighten on my shirt, and he slammed me against the side of the trailer a few more times. "You were supposed to protect him! You could have fought harder! YOU were supposed to be able to stop this!!!" I couldn't look Dion in the eye. I couldn't. And I felt a pain in my chest as he slammed me against the trailer even harder. "Dylan is gone....he GONE!!!"
Taryn took a hold of Dion's arm. "Dion, please...don't do this..."
"Get off of me!"
"It's not Justin's fault..."
"I SAID GET THE FUCK OFF OF ME!!!!!!!!!" Dion lashed out and shoved Taryn hard enough that his already weakened legs gave way and he fell back into the dirt. I instantly stepped forward and shouted, "Dion! What the hell, man...???"
But before I could get the words out of my mouth, I felt the explosive impact of Dion's fist punching me right in the face! A blinding flash, and then I saw stars as I was sent reeling back on my heels until I fell on my ass about ten feet away from him. He didn't hold back at all. Dion hit me as though he didn't even know me. As though he NEVER knew me. And when I was able to shake my vision back into working order...all I could see in his eyes was hatred. A burning hatred that disconnected him from every warm and tender moment that we had ever shared together. The times we fought together. The times he gave me advice and guidance and a shoulder to cry on. The very first person to sneak me to get out of this lot and get back to the world after my crossover. He was my friend. He was someone that I truly loved and looked up to. How could he look at me that way? How?
"GET UP!!!" Dion shouted, and Bryson, Jenna, and Doc, did their best to calm him down, but he wouldn't let them get close to him. Instead, he rushed over, and I felt him kick me in the stomach while I was still down on the ground. "I SAID, GET THE FUCK *UP*!!!!"
It happened without me thinking. It was a random defense mechanism. As easily triggered as blinking when a foreign object approaches the human eye. I rolled back to my feet, took an aggressive stance, and opened my hand as a bright blue flame emerged from my palm and burned angrily at the ready. The sensation was almost pushing me to strike. My eyes turned a dark shade of red, my fangs instantly dropped from my gums...and as my boyfriend lay there in the dust, my face still sore from Dion's attack...I could feel the shadows taking control of me. Small rocks and debris began to float off of the ground, and the air became electrified with the surge of the unrestricted powers at my disposal. The fire in my hand got bigger, glowing brightly enough to illuminate everything around it. It was enough to do some serious damage if I dared to let it go. I knew it was. I could feel it.
But Dion didn't care.
"Do it..." He said. His face remained stoic, but despite his extra...tears poured out of his eyes anyway. "Go ahead. Do it. Give me some peace. You can fight me, but you let Dylan die? Is that what all your special gifts are good for? Huh? Come on. DO IT!!!" He pointed at his chest, the spot where his heart was. "Right here. Come on, Justin. Do it. I've got no further use for it anyway....DO IT!!!!"
Taryn looked at me with misty eyes, and the entire lot froze as that one moment lasted an eternity between us. Dion was soooooo hurt. So lost. But I was tired of simply 'reacting' to the pain. I needed to think. I can't lose control. I won't be able to stop it if I let it take hold of me. It was already too strong for me to contain.
So...once I realized what I was doing, when I finally had my wits about me again, I felt the flame in my palm fizzle out, and I felt a tear of my own roll down my cheek. I sniffled, and I sobbed, "....I loved Dylan too..."
"No. You didn't." Dion said. "Not like I did." He turned to look everyone In the eye, all of us grieving together as one. "Not a SINGLE one of you FUCKING loved him like *I* did!!!" Then he turned back to look at me, and he said, "You're nothing but a fucking coward! A burden on the rest of us! I wish Taryn had never brought you here at all..." And he began to break down into sobs before his extra kicked into high gear and his emotions were temporarily neutralized again. He told me, "Tell your little boyfriend to dig a hole. Because when I find Alec...it's 'game over' for him. Believe it." And he stormed off to go back to his truck and shut himself up inside until the next evening. Not even Napolean was quick enough to join him, and Gyro petted the whimpering hound in order to offer him refuge from the sunlight in his car instead. I saw Doc lift up his glasses to keep them from fogging up as he wiped tears away from his own eyes. And Jenna? Jenna had to leave. Just leave. The emotion was too much for her bear. As an empath...I don't think she would have been able to handle any part of what Dion was going through. As close as they were, this was something that she simply had to stay away from. For her own safety as well as his, I suppose.
I helped Taryn off of the ground, and he hugged me around my neck. "He doesn't mean it, Justin. He's just hurting. That's all. He's just hurting."
I had been exposed in front of everyone. They stared at me, and I couldn't figure out what they were thinking. Maybe it was better that I didn't try. I was a monster. A monster who let everybody down and allowed one of our own to be murdered by someone who meant that metal shard to be for MY heart. Not Dylan's.
Bryson slowly walked over to me, and he put a hand on my shoulder. With a sad tone, he said, "Dion's been exhausting his extra lately. It's become so overworked that sometimes...when he's forced to stop using his abilities, they can have a nasty backlash."
"It's fine. It's ok." I whimpered.
"Justin...you know that...well, I mean that none of us..."
"Bryson? Can I just...go back to my trailer now?" I looked up at him briefly with watery eyes. "Please?"
He didn't really have much of a choice. That sickening feeling of nausea was already beginning to build in the back of my throat as the surface of my skin started to rise in temperature. So he nodded his consent.
Defeated. Alone. Ashamed. Taryn and I helped one another back to our private spot of the lot. A place where we could 'hide' until the next sunset. As though the few brief hours of unconscious rest would bring us any closer to dealing with Dylan's death in any possible way. Dion's never going to forgive me for this. Not ever.
I think it was the knowledge of that fact that hurt more than the punch to the face itself...
Taryn and I were silent as we avoided each other's gaze, quietly undressing for bed. Taryn's sensitivity to the dawn was so quick sometimes. But he tried his best to wait for me to slide into bed beside him, where we instantly locked our arms in a warm embrace. Taryn lightly laid his head on my chest, and I could feel him tremble as the coolness of his stray tears wetted my skin. There was nothing I could say. Nothing I could do. All the power in the world and an eternal life...but I couldn't comfort my own boyfriend, not even while laying here in his arms.
"You know..." I said, just staring up at the ceiling. "...I was only 8 years old...the first time my father thought I was big enough to hit with a closed fist." The memory of it...it was so vivid. So clear. "He didn't kill me. Not with all the pain he put me through, month after month, year after year. But I'm always going to be 'odd' because of it. Always." Taryn's arms hugged me tighter, and I gave him a tender kiss on the top of his head. "Why would a prophecy...something so important...choose a worthless little boy like me to do anything? I've got nothing to offer. Nothing at all." I was just talking out of my head at the time, but the depression was crushing me under its weight. Even Dylan believed in me...all the way up to the end. I found it so hard to believe in myself. So hard.
"It's because of your heart, Justin." Taryn said softly. "Your heart is sooooo big. It's the only heart big enough to hold it." And at that moment, Taryn began to fade. I felt the warmth leaving his body, and I barely had enough time to give him one lingering kiss on the lips before he was dead to the world again.
I'm not going to lose anyone else. And I'm not going to give in to the darkness either. I know what has to be done. I'm not going to wait for more tragedy, more pain, to surround the people I love. I'm going to change it around. And the Jeweler is going to show me how.
As my body went cold, my brain came alive. A vampire dream, that could have been full of vibrant colors and an excess of detail...but instead, took on the form of darkness and misery. I found myself on a single bridge, no wider than my shoulders. A bottomless drop into a black chasm on either side. Stretching out into infinity both in front of me and behind me. One bridge. One path. With hardly any light at all to guide me in either direction. And then...as I began to step forward...following the narrow path provided me, I felt a tug at my awareness that I couldn't quite explain. A mystifying whisper to consciousness...but with no breath and no sound.
I couldn't comprehend why it felt so familiar. I couldn't figure out why this was a part of me...and yet it wouldn't show itself. At least not now. The more I tried to mentally capture it, the more it evaded my understanding.
And then...a sign.
Above me In the obsidian sky of dark clouds and painful memories...a light. A single ring that shimmered like pure gold. A circle.
As it hovered in mid air, my eyes fixed their stare on its beauty. The light emanating from it was so glorious, but void of any effort. Any arrogance. Any force. And as I watched it from my lonely spot on that dark bridge...it began to glow brighter. A brighter. And brighter still. The intensity was enough to cause me to put my arm up and attempt to shield my eyes from it.
My ears began to ring, and the circle spun faster...now exploding with a blaze that was almost frightening in its powerful display. Rays of light shot out in every direction...piercing the darkness...reaching to every corner of infinity...attempting to show me the answer.
And for all of my efforts...I just didn't understand.
That was the end of it. All I could remember. There was something inside of me, a presence unlike anything else, that was attempting to reveal itself. What is it trying to tell me? What is it that I NEED to know?
When Taryn awoke that evening, he rubbed his eyes and looked around the room with a bit of confusion. The bed and the floor were littered with crumpled up pieces of paper, and I was sitting on the edge of our mattress with a half empty notebook and a few pencils. Scribbling. Frantically scribbling.
"Justin?" He asked, groggily sitting up in bed. "Baby? What are you doing?"
"There's got to be something! Got to be something! I just...I can't find it. I don't know...I don't know how to find it..."
Taryn scooted forward to touch my shoulders, but I didn't pay it much attention. He took note of my frustration as I tore another wasted piece of paper out of the notebook and tossed it to the floor. "What is this...?"
"When I stayed at the Dash's sanctuary, there was this 'girl'. Kyra. She could....she could see things. Things that were about to happen. She could DRAW them." I felt Taryn's arms hold me from behind as he watched me start all over again from scratch. "Before the fight at the hospital...Dylan and I were sitting in the Laundromat together, and I drew...I drew what 'happened' without even knowing it. It's got to be in me somewhere. That ability has to BE somewhere in all of this mess. And I can't get it to work. I just...I'm trying to activate it, and I can't!"
My voice was trembling with determination as well as despair from one aggravated failure after another. Because every time I tried to let go and have my hand begin drawing...all I could make was circles. Circles...and circles...and circles! Dark rings that I scratched deeply into the page, over and over again...circles. Until Taryn gently took a hold of my hand to stop me. "Baby...shhhh...stop. Ok?"
"But...Taryn I...I can DO this! I KNOW I can!" I said, tearing up. "There's a pattern or a...a code...an omen! Something I missed. Something I can't see! Why can't I see it?" I started drawing again, but no matter what...all I got was more circles.
This time, Taryn took the pencil and the notebook, and I turned around to hold him close and cry quietly on his shoulder. I'm trying to be better. I'm trying. I just don't know how...
We stayed in that trailer for an entire hour together, and for the first time in forever...no one came knocking. No chores, no questions, not even Gyro came for the story we promised to tell him about the warehouse. I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If they wanted to leave me and Taryn alone...or if maybe they wanted to avoid the embarrassment of having to look us in the face again. It bothered me as I thought about it. Only Taryn's soft kisses on my lips helped me to eventually get dressed and emerge from the trailer on my own.
Everyone was present, but in an even more somber mood than last night. And once they saw Taryn and I step out into the lot...it was as if they all froze. They made an attempt to not make it so obvious, but I caught the vibe immediately, and hid my face as best as I could by lowering my eyes to the ground.
Keeping my promise, I made my way over to Doc first. He was already typing away at his keyboard in a slightly isolated corner of the lot. Not really working on anything important, but giving it all of his focus anyway. As soon as he saw Taryn and I walking towards him, he put his hand up. "No no...not so close. I can't afford to screw up this laptop with one of your...'mimic malfunctions'."
"Right." I kept a safe distance from him, but I gave him a heads up and tossed him the information that I got from Erick and Fallen at the warehouse. "He had to download it quickly and we had to get out of there in a hurry...but most of what you need to know should be on there. Or, that's what I'm guessing."
Doc's eyes lit up. "He found it? Did he figure out the design of the linguistic patterns?"
"I have no idea, Doc. All I know is that it's super dangerous to have a hold of this stuff. And if you download into your laptop, they're going to come looking for it. I'm assuming they won't ask for it nicely."
Doc was barely paying me any attention as he swiftly hooked everything together and started scrolling at the files. He broke through the encryption in seconds and began absorbing every bit of detail that he could from their findings. It was then that I noticed Bryson laying on the hood of his truck. Much to my surprise, he was bringing the metal of a small flask to his lips every thirty seconds or so. It was strange, seeing him not orchestrating the comings and goings of everyone else in the lot like he usually does. It was almost as if he had lost his will to care.
Taryn noticed that Jun was carrying what looked like a duffel bag full of clothes, and he was taking it over to Jenna, who was already wearing a backpack and wiping tears from her eyes. Taryn let go of my hand and asked her, "Jenna...what's going on? What are you doing?"
"I'm sorry, Taryn." She sniffled. "I have to leave for a little while. Until emotions calm down. I can't stand it here. Rain at least has a way to deal with the overwhelming input...but I don't."
"But...where will you go?"
Jun said that he knew of one of the local underground vampire nightclubs that can give up some limited space for a short stay. It was a bit cramped, but it was better than nothing. Jenna said, "I feel bad for having to leave you...but I'm pulling in so much pain. And I'm going to end up putting it right back out once I'm full. It's best for all of us if I stay away. Especially from Dion. His extra and mine...? They shouldn't be anywhere around each other right now." She hugged Taryn tightly around the neck, and then came to give me one as well. "I love you both soooo much! Please...take care of Dion for me. And look after Bryson. He's not doing to well..." Another wave of emotion hit Jenna out of nowhere, and it was so strong that she felt faint...dropping her duffel bag and covering her face with tears. "Oh God....oh GOD..."
Jun held on to her shoulders and said, "Jenna...we should go. Come on. It's getting worse." And he was right. Her emotions began to spill over into the rest of us, bringing a dark gloom to everyone within a 20 foot radius of her. I could feel it. Heartbreak. Complete and total heartbreak.
"I love you." She said. "Tell Max to keep up with Kid's feeding schedule, ok? It's important..."
Jun told her, "Everything will be fine. Let's just get you some place safe." And then...just like that...she was gone. I couldn't believe how badly...how quickly, we were all falling apart.
"Erick...you sly little devil..." Doc mumbled to himself with a grin as he scrolled through the many documents before him. "...I'll be damned. I don't believe he actually cracked the code. This is genius. Verzpertilio is still a functional language. And you stumbled upon the only known vampires in existence who are still using it. And it looks like this Jeweler guy really knows what he's talking about. He knows scripture facts that I've never even seen before. It's fascinating."
"Funny. That's what he said." I told him. "And now that you've got everything that you need...I need something from you, Doc."
"What is it?"
"I need to know the location the Jeweler gave you to meet up with me."
Doc didn't even look up from his screen. "Whoah...it's even got sound clips! Holy crap! The 'language of the shadows', hehehe....ooooh sounds creepy!"
"You know, back in the old days, if a human heard verzpertilio being whispered from the shadows, it was usually the last thing they ever heard. It pretty much meant they were on the lunch menu."
"No streetlights or anything either. There were an awful lot of shadows back then..."
"DOC! I'm serious!" I said. "I need that information."
Doc peeked up at me through his glasses. "Well...alright. I'll get it to you. Just, let me look through some of this stuff first. It make take me a few days, maybe a week, but Erick has definitely made decoding this language a heck of a lot easier..."
"I don't have a couple of days. Certainly not a week." I said, and Taryn stood by me, once again holding my hand. "I'm going to see the Jeweler, Doc. I'm going tonight."
"Whoah...whoah whoah...Justin, wait a minute. We don't know anything about this guy, other than he seems to be totally obsessed with you. I don't really think that counts as a point in his favor."
"His obsession is why I'm going. Doc, I can't let him find me here. I can't lead him or anybody he's affiliated with back to the lot. I need to make myself known, and fast."
Doc struggled with the idea. "I don't feel good about this. We should talk to Bryson..."
"You know what he's going to say..."
"Good!" Doc said. "Then you should know what I'm going to say too. I don't feel right about this at all. You're not thinking straight."
"Yes, I am." I stepped closer and told him, "You just said that he knows more about this mimic business than anyone else. Anyone we know of, at least. And every single day, every challenge I face, I find myself losing more of my control. I have to go, Doc. Please...let me go."
"You shouldn't. Jun isn't here to go with you, Jenna is emotionally unstable, and Dion...well...I can't send Dion with you to make sure you're alright."
"I can fight for myself. I can." I pleaded with Doc. Pleaded. "Give me the location, Doc. I need it. And I need it now."
He seemed so cornered by my request. But after a short silence, he said..."I'm sorry, Justin. But I can't. I just can't." And he spun his wheelchair around to roll away from us.
"Then I'm sorry too, Doc...you didn't give me a choice..." And as much as I hated myself for the violation, I reached out mentally and invaded Doc's thoughts for the answers I was searching for.
"Wh-What are you...doing...?" He asked.
I remembered his extra, his personal 'filing' system. The hexagonal patterns and methods of keeping his flawless memories separate and easily accessible. And in just a few cluttered moments...I found what I needed.
Doc looked so...so hurt that I would subject him to something so wrong. But all I could do was apologize, and prepare myself to leave before Bryson noticed that I was gone.
I started walking towards the gate with Taryn right behind me. "I'm coming with you."
"No, you're not. I need you here. I need you safe."
"I'll be safer with you." He said.
But I turned and I told him, "If you're coming with me...then I can't let you out of my sight. You understand? I can't put you in danger, I won't. You stay by my side at ALL times! Alright?" He promise me that he would, and I told him, "Look...before I go, I'm going to stop by Jeremy's place and check in on Richie to make sure he's ok. Then, as soon as I come back...you be ready to go. Ok?"
Taryn gave me a look, and he said, "You're coming back for me?"
"Yes. I'll come back for you."
"Promise me, Justin. Promise?"
I gently caressed the sides of Taryn's face, and gave him a deep kiss on the lips. "I promise. I'll come back. Just be ready to go. Ok?"
And with that...I walked out of the front gate, and I left the lot.
I was going to see Richie. That part was true. But I wasn't coming back. I can't protect Taryn. I can't protect anybody. Not yet. Hopefully this Jeweler has something good to tell me. Maybe he can solve the puzzles that I can't.
The death of the boy I love is a part of the circle that simply has to be broken.