I tenderly reached up a soft hand to lightly run a finger over his bruised eye, that porcelain white skin now turned shades of red and purple from my outburst at the lot. I jumped as, with a deep inhalation, Taryn winced at the touch. He tried not to make it look like it hurt so much, but deep down I knew that it did. Just knowing that it hurt, made me wince right along with him. "Ohhh...baby, I'm so damn sorry. I'll NEVER forgive myself! I can't believe I fucking hit you..."
"It's ok, Justin. Really. It looks a lot worse than it is. It'll be gone in another sleep cycle or two. I'm fine." I reached for it again, but this time he quickly leaned away from me. "I didn't say you could 'PLAY' with it! I said I was fine!" He giggled.
I shot him a genuine smile of my own, but the guilt inside didn't hide too well behind my grin. Despite the unbelieveable joy in seeing him here next to me again. "How did you find me?" I asked.
"Last night before I came in for the night...you were going through one of our drawers. You left a hand drawn map sitting out next to the bed. It was the only clue I had of where you might go to. So...I took a chance and...here you are."
"Does...does Bryson know?" I asked timidly, and Taryn gently shook his head. "Any of the others?"
"No. I didn't tell them anything. I promise."
Feeling that ice cold lump of guilt in my stomach, I lowered my eyes to the floor and asked, just above a whisper, "Are they...are they ok?"
Taryn sighed, "Well...Max is still healing up. It may take a few days. Dion and Jenna have a few scrapes and bruises, but it's nothing major." My head dropped even lower, but Taryn used a finger to lift my chin. "Hey...they're ok. You just...you caught them by surprise, that's all."
He put a hand on the back of my head and brought it softly to his shoulder, where I felt a few painful tears escape my eyes. Nothing hurt me more than the fact that I could never take back those few angry moments. That I could never make it right. Then, as he gave me a few soft strokes of my blond hair, I noticed a brief silence that rose up between us. A silence where Taryn looked like he was struggling to say something and yet didn't quite know how.
He lifted me up and looked me in the eye, our gazes melting into one another momentarily, as he silently brushed some of his silken hair back to tuck it behind his ear. "I...I didn't mean it. You know? I just...I couldn't stop myself..." Taryn nodded, but I had to make sure he really understood. "Seriously...I would NEVER put my hands on you...on ANY of you."
"Yeah...yeah, Justin. I know." He said....then there was another uncomfortable pause, and I began to sense his stress levels rise slightly as he smiled at me again. A smile that was used more as a mask than anything else. Somehow...I knew that the hard questions were coming. He tried to lighten the mood a bit at first by saying "Geez...and here I thought that you were the one always getting beat up in school?" An artificial giggle escaped his lips. He knew something was wrong, and that me hiding it from him any longer would be bad for the both of us. "Doesn't look like you would have had any trouble defending yourself to me."
"Um....I guess...I guess Dion taught me a few tricks. Here and there." Don't do this, Justin. Just...TELL him! Stop pushing and pulling the truth in order to make things easy. This is TARYN here! We can tell him! We CAN!
"That was 'more' than just a few tricks, Justin." He wanted the truth. He NEEDED the truth. And for some STUPID reason, the words just got caught up in my throat and absolutely refused to come out! "Honey..." He started, an almost pained look on his face. "...For the last...well...a long time now...I've turned my head to a lot of things concerning you. Your crossover, your extra, your sudden disappearances from the lot...and everything that went with it. And I KNOW you have your secrets, and I have mine, and...I'm trying reaaallly hard to respect that, ok?" He put his hand on my knee, and gave it a squeeze as his eyes focused on me with even more intensity. His contacts began to glow as his eyes became wet with the beginning of more tears. "But, Justin, this is seriously starting to worry me. I never know where you are, or what you're thinking, or why. I feel like you're in some kind of trouble and that you need me to be there...but I CAN'T. I can't because you won't let me in." Tell him, Justin. He's right here. RIGHT HERE! And he's opening his soul to you in a way that no one else ever has. In a way that no one else ever could. "Justin...I can't help you like this. I'm trying to give you enough space to find your own path, I really am. But I'm so far outside of your life right now that I can't seem to get a straight answer from you anymore. And it's killing me inside to be kept at arms length all the time. I just...I want to help you, hon. Can't you see that? We all do." He held my face in his hands gently, his tender fingertips landing lovingly up at my ears. "I don't want to pry into or intrude on any place where I don't belong. But...." He stopped for a second, and then said, "...I wanna 'belong' everywhere, Justin. I want to be a part of you again."
"And I KNOW what you're gonna say, Justin, and I KNOW it's probably none of my business, and I KNOW that I should be patient and wait for you to tell me all about the little things that I seem to be missing...but...I want to start. Right now. Right here. Tonight." The first tear had fallen, leaving a trail of silver from his black eye down to his softened cheek. "We keep saying that we'll make time to talk again, that we'll come clean with each other and not hold back anymore. But between you always being busy, and chores around the lot, and Gyro's visit, and Bryson trying to keep us distanced while you learn and get trained...we never get the chance."
He was right. He was absolutely right. We had fooled around a bit, kissed and hugged, had mindblowing sexual interludes, and plenty of laughs in between. But it had been an extremely long time since the two of us had just gotten a few seconds to sit down and 'talk'. To just look into his eyes and really dig deep into my own soul to show him who I really was. Some of that connection that we had discovered that first night when he rescued me from my biggest mistake...had vanished. I had busied myself with every offbeat character and quest for information that I could find, trying to get a better understanding of who I am and what was expected of me in this new life of mine. But in the meantime, I had forgotten what made this new life so very important. What made it possible. And what made it beautiful. A huge part of that distance between Taryn and I...came from secrets. Too many damn secrets. And it was all my fault.
"I never meant to push you aside, Taryn. Never. I'm so sorry if I...if I..." I felt tears streaking my face, and Taryn reached out to hug me. The choked back sobs in my throat freed themselves a bit, and I let go. "I've been such an idiot..."
"Shhh...It's ok, hon. It's ok. I just....I need you. And I need you to need me back."
"I do need you, Taryn. I really do." It was then that I felt Taryn move back a bit, and his baby soft lips touched mine in the sweetest caress. We kissed sensually, and I was instantly lost in him all over again. The very taste of him filled me up from the inside. His scent left me breathless with its perfumed aroma. His touch tingled every nerve that he ran across with the smoothness of his palm. As he leaned forward to kiss me more deeply, I could feel the tender strands of his hair glide forward and lightly brush against my cheeks. His love was the light that pierced through every dark corner of my mind. As long as I granted him access. It was something that was long overdue. With a quiet pop, Taryn broke the kiss. And, with a teary smile, he rubbed the tip of his nose lovingly against mine in the cutest way.
We stared at one another, reconnecting. Feeling our hearts and desires entangling themselves into one entity all over again. All the time, trying to remember that we were in a church, and that certain 'activities' should probably wait until later. I was almost ready to go in for another passionate kiss when we heard a few restrained giggles coming from the doorway of the room. We looked over, and some of the sanctuary's younger children had crowded around the door to watch us make out. Once caught, they couldn't hold back their playful snickers any longer and burst out laughing at us. We couldn't help but laugh ourselves at the situation. "You guys like that, huh?" Taryn smirked.
"Boys don't kiss boys!" One of the little boys said, wrinkling his nose up as though we were just being silly.
"Who him?" I said. "He's not a boy! This is a big ol' GIRL!" Taryn elbowed me in the side at the comment.
"Yes he is! I know 'cause I can see his 'thingie'!" One girl said while pointing down to the tent in Taryn's pants. Taryn strategically turned away with a blush.
"Get outta here!" I said, playfully tossing one of the pillows on at them. With another burst of screams and giggles, the kids scattered to both sides of the door, running off down the hall to play elsewhere. All except for one. The smile disappeared slowly from my face, as I saw Kyra standing outside watching me. Her face was void of all emotion, and her fingers were dyed different colors from the crayons she had been holding recently. Then, she turned slowly and walked away without saying a single word. Again...the little girl struck me as odd, maybe even creepy, but Taryn was my focus for the time being.
"Listen...why don't we go out to the lake tonight. We can talk, really talk, and we can get some privacy...It'll be great." Taryn said.
"Will I get to see your 'thingie' too?" I smiled.
"Hehehe, not if you keep calling me a GIRL, you won't." He leaned in to give me another quick peck on the lips before standing up. "I missed you. ALL of you. I want it to be like it was in the beginning. Ok? Just for tonight?"
"It'll be even better than in the beginning. I promise."
"Cool...then let's head out." He began walking, but stopped momentarily. "Wait...what do we have to do to get 'out' of this place, exactly? I doubt that they would let us just walk in and out as we please?"
"Actually, I think we can. I've just gotta get Dash to show me how to open up all those damn locks." I grinned, and Taryn grinned right along with me as he put an arm over my shoulder. We walked out into the dark hallway as I kissed him sweetly on his cheek, again and again. I could feel myself being filled up with that endless sense of joy again. He brought it back to my life the instant he had crossed my vision, and if Dash says I needed faith in something to guide me...I'd choose Taryn's love in an instant.
However, something caught my eye as we exited the room. I noticed a small crayon drawing hanging low on the wall, attached by a single piece of see-through tape, just outside of the room. I picked up a corner and peeled it from the wall to give it a look. It was a child's drawing, obviously. This time not much more than a few stick figures with faces on them. But I knew it was Kyra's doing. I could 'feel' it, as though her essence was radiating from the page itself. Looking closer, I saw myself, a blond stick figure, in the middle of the paper. And around me? Other stick figures. At least TEN. And they all had frowns on their faces, surrounding me and trapping me in a corner. I wasn't quite sure what it meant, if anything. But it was apparently trying to tell me something. What, exactly, is anybody's guess. But SOMETHING. Then...looking down to the lower right corner of the page, I realized that there were two more figures that didn't seem to be at all involved with the others. They were apart from everything else. Simply added to the picture without necessity, it seemed....except for the fact that one of them was circled. With a red ring and a line through it. It almost felt like...like...I don't know...a warning. Especially for that one figure in the red circle. A negative vibe surrounded the image, and my senses picked up on it somehow. That particular image, that figure, was dangerous. Perhaps...even deadly.
"What's that?" Taryn asked.
"Oh....it's...it's nothing. One of the children here drew it for me." I smiled at Taryn, putting the picture back inside the room for safe keeping, but making sure to keep the image from wandering too far from my mind. If Kyra could spontaneously draw the Beast effortlessly like she had earlier, and if her predictions were as precise as Dash said they were, I should probably be on the lookout for something like that. Hopefully, it won't come anytime soon. "Come on. Let's get out of here." I said, and Taryn and I headed out of the sanctuary and on to our favorite spot. Once again...we were joined together on a level that no one else could ever touch. A level that only those who know true love can reach. The very evening wind itself seemed to applaud us being so attached to one another. If you've ever had that feeling...you know what it's like. Absolutely untouchable.
Taryn and I held hands unashamed that night as we walked out towards Navy Pier. It was closed down already for the night, empty with the exception of a few security guards and late night janitors. I wasn't sure if they had seen Taryn out there enough to know not to ask us to leave, or if they just didn't care. But either way, they let us spend the time alone with no hassle. Left in peace at long last, Taryn guided me out to the huge black anchor that stood so firm at the end of the dock. The place where my life both ended and began anew. The place that I knew we would be coming to for however many centuries that we were allowed to spend together. Despite what was going through our heads that fateful night when we met for the first time, just sitting in the shadow of that anchor felt like home.
The cold concrete beneath me gave my body a slight chill when I sat down. But Taryn was quick to toss his arm over my shoulder and hold me close to share some of his inviting body heat. I could feel myself melting into his shoulder as he delicately kissed the top of my blond locks and gave me a squeeze. I let my arms worm their way around his slim waist and hold him tight as I placed an angel's kiss on the side of his neck. "You know...even though we've never really been that far apart...." I started.
"....I really missed you, Taryn." I tilted my head to kiss him once more, before resting my head back on his shoulder. "Not just since last night. I mean...just being around you. You know...without the distractions."
"Yeah. I missed you too." He whispered. "It won't be much longer. I think Bryson is doing his best to trust you to find your own way. It's just...it's difficult at first for most vampires to adjust, you know? Without some kind of guidance or structure, things can go pretty wild in a short time. He knows what he's doing."
"I know. And I understand Bryson wanting me to grow and learn and ALL of that, but....I need you, Taryn. I need you by my side more than anything. And I hate it that so much gets in the way of us being together."
"When your crossover is complete...when you've been taught enough to stand on some kind of stable foundation concerning the life you're going to have to lead from now on...then he'll ease up a bit. He just doesn't want anything to happen to you. And neither do I." I gave Taryn a tighter squeeze, and we stayed like that for a while. The sound of our unified heartbeats seemingly controlling the rolling waves in front of us. It was beautiful.
We kissed for quite a while, just enjoying the coolness of the wind, and the warmth of our embrace. The hypnotic sound of the tide was more soothing than you can possibly imagine at that moment. We were inspired to just lean back and stare out into the darkness in surrounding us. For me, it was just an opportunity to see out into the seemingly infinite lake as it touched the sky at edge of the horizon. But to Taryn...there was much more meaning to it. I could feel it in his embrace. It was as if he was still waiting for that beautiful sunrise to suddenly leap out of the lake and bathe us in its light once again. And it saddened him more and more by the minute. He missed the sun. I didn't need any special abilities to realize that. It would glow with agonizing intensity from behind his eyes. Sometimes he dulled it down with one of his passionate smiles, and I'd be so in love that the misery inside of him would seem to fade away. But without that cute little mask of his, his inner emotions would flood to the surface...and it was heartbreaking. "You still miss it. Don't you?" I asked softly. "The sun?"
He paused for a second, and then sighed to himself. "Yeah....sometimes, I do." He said. "It was the one thing that I had....that let me know that everything was going to be alright. You know?" I held him tighter, and he held back a sniffle. "Ten years...ten long years. It's so hard to believe that my entire life in daylight, only exists in my memory. It seems so distant now, like I have to ty harder and harder to remember certain details, faces, voices. It almost seems like a dream. An old fantasy that I can't even prove ever existed, much less re-emerge myself into it. It almost...feels like some bedtime fairy tale that I tell myself before I go to bed in order to sleep at night. I can't believe it's been that long." I could say nothing to comfort him. I could only hold him closer to me, changing positions just enough to lean against the metal of the old anchor while letting Taryn's head slide down to lay warmly on my lap. He snuggled in deeply, and I used one arm to caress his shoulder. The other hand I used to quietly pet his hair, letting the silken strands pass through my fingers delicately. There's nothing more sensually pleasing, than running your fingers through your lover's hair in silence. I had hoped that it would give him some comfort from his thoughts. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn't. I wasn't sure, but it was all I could do. "You know....my dad...he used to work nights. And he'd never come home until early in the morning." Taryn said, after a few moments of silence. "He'd tell me...
'Taryn...just remember that when you look out towards the lake, and see the sun rising out of the water...you'll know that Daddy's coming home, and that he'll never leave you. As long as you remember that, I'll always be looking out for you, kid. No matter what.'
Taryn's chest started to tremble slightly as tears dripped from his eyes, each droplet filled with the memories of a brighter time. "It's been soooo long, Justin. So incredibly long. And now...it feels like he can't find me anymore."
I had nothing to say, no comfort to give him. After all he had given me, I was helpless to bring back what he needed most. Loving him with all my heart was satisfying, but it was a house built on what I now see as a broken foundation. One that could never be fixed again. "If he loves you even half as much as I do...he can find you anywhere." I kissed him on the top of his head.
"Sometimes, I can't be so sure." He said. "It took a long time for me to dettach myself from it all. My dad, my mom, my brother Alec...it took years for it to stop hurting. Even now, I don't know if the pain has lessened over time, or if I've just gotten used to it."
"I know. Sometimes, as awful as it was, I think I miss my life too." I whispered. Taryn sat up for a second to look directly at me.
"You know....that night, when you were going to jump..." He said, "...I had NEVER been so scared of losing someone. Never." His eyes were watery but intense in their stare. "I would have done anything to help you. You know that, right?"
"I just...I fell in love with you, Justin. And I tried not to, I really did. I was wrestling with my feelings every single night, hoping that I wouldn't fall for you. But...you were cute, and you were special, and...it just felt like your sul was reaching out for something. Out of all the humans I had come across in the past decade of darkness, you were the first one that seemed to personify everything that I am. Everything that I wanted to be. And...just like me...seeing you walk out here night after night...it seemed like you had your light stolen from you too."
I thought back to the memory, it still a vivid picture in my mind. "You know...you really did scare the hell out of me that night. You were so 'weird'."
He smiled a bit. "I'm still weird. But now you get to be weird with me." Then his smile faded, and he took another deep look into me. "It was Dion that told me to talk to you for the first night. I kept telling him that I was scared, that I wouldn't know what to say, that I never had a chance of being with a...human. But I think he knew that you were the only chance I had at ever being happy again. He saw me spiraling downwards pretty fast, I suppose. So I did..."
"And you turned out to be everything I knew you would be. And more." He inhaled and looked down towards the ground. "I got...caught up in you Justin. And...I wanted you with me. I wanted...I wanted you to stay with me." He looked back up into my eyes, as though he were trying to make me realize what he was saying. "I never meant to bring you into all of this darkness. I wanted you to go back to your life and appreciate all of the little things that I had given up for a chance at some unknown treasure that I had never found until you came along. But...when I think about it, REALLY think about it...I would have done anything to keep you, Justin. Even if it meant...an eternity without the sun."
I think I was beginning to see what he was gettng at. "Taryn...I chose to be with you. You DO know that right?"
"I just...I can't help but feel that...in some small way...I tricked you into being here. That somewhere deep down, I knew I wasn't going to let you go." I slowly leaned over, and hugged him tight against me, kissing him on the cheek.
"I wasn't going to let you go either, Taryn. And don't you ever think that making that decision wasn't one of the best things I've ever done." I felt more tears crawl over my cheeks as I squeezed him tighter. "I can't breathe without you, baby. I can't breathe. I am so happy that you brought me to your world."
But he could only whisper, "I wish you could have brought me back to yours, Justin. I miss being 'blinded' by everything. Being led around about what I'm supposed to do and who I'm supposed to be. I miss it. I'd give anything to be blind again."
We held our embrace until our emotions balanced out again, until the tears stopped pouring and only the warmth of our love was left to comfort us both. I don't know what my life would have been if Taryn hadn't been here to stop me from jumping that night. Or if I'd even HAVE a life for that matter. But I didn't regret this choice, I didn't regret the love in my heart. And despite the consequences and the ordeals I've faced...with all of the dillemmas and all the harsh realities I've had to face...Taryn was the center that made it all worthwhile. And when it came down to it, I didn't regret a thing. We spent the next hour just talking. Not really diving into anything deep like I had expected, but warming up to it by getting in touch with one another all over again. It felt good. Damn it felt good. For that one hour...our souls became delightfully united again. And I wanted it to last forever.
"Taryn!" The shouted voice came from further down the pier, and got louder as they ran closer to the end to meet us. I looked out from behind the anchor and saw Jun and Dion speeding our way. They pretty much knew that Taryn would be there. But me? I think I surprised them.
"Taryn, I..." But Dion stopped when he saw me there with him. It was only a moment's pause, but it was enough to remind me of what I had done. Ashamed, I let my gaze drop down to the concrete, and I didn't look up again. "...Taryn...we need your help."
"Need my help? For what?" Taryn sat up, wondering why they were both in such a rush.
"It's Gyro...he's in trouble." Jun said. "BIG trouble! We were looking for him at the club, and we found him for a few seconds but lost sight of him..."
Dion stepped in, "He left with somebody, Taryn. And some people think they overheard him talking about 'spice'." Taryn's face dropped instantly, and he got up on his feet.
"No...no way. Gyro doesn't mess around with that shit."
"I know that he never has before. But there were witnesses that were there, and they're all basically saying the same thing. He left with some guy and they were half drunk and talking about getting twisted out of their minds tonight." Dion looked back over at me, but still hadn't said a word in my direction. Then he took a deep breath, and he said, "Taryn...we need to find the flophouse where Gyro is located. We need to know where to start looking. I....I know you can help us."
I looked up for a quick second, and a very quiet Taryn looked back at me. "Why would Taryn know how to find a flophouse?" I asked, but they didn't answer. None of them answered. And I was beginning to wonder if this was one of the parts of our in depth conversation that we were going to be building up to that night.
"Come on. If this guy was local...I think I know where he might be." Taryn said, and he held out his hand to help me to my feet. He just gave me a loving look, his hand brushing the side of my face, and he whispered, "We'll come back to this later. All of this. And we'll talk about the important stuff next time. I've got...I've got a lot more to tell you."
I nodded my head in agreement. "Later then."
"Pinky promise?" He said, holding up his pinky with a slight smile.
I eased a slight smile on my own face and made the appropiate gesture. "Pinky promise."
"Come on! We've gotta find him and get him home before daylight!" Jun said, and we took off to find our friend. No matter what condition he may be in.