Blood Bonds Pt. 02byphoenixphair©
Author's Note: Sorry this took so long. Thanks to everyone who wrote in with such positive and insightful emails and comments! A few of you noted that the timeline was a bit confusing, and I agree that I was overly subtle, so I'll be putting in time markers as chapter headings. All dates are based from the first day in Part One (i.e. the main characters' first interaction would be "Day one" and the first chapter in this installment would be "Eight months.") I'll try to have the next part out soon.
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*** Eight Months ***
"Hey, I'll catch up to you guys later, ok?" Kevin said, waving the girls on, giving Sarah a thumbs-up. He waited until they were out of sight before walking over to the shadows at the side of one of the buildings.
He shook his head slightly as he cut through the early evening crowds of students heading back from labs and late classes, catching the increasingly obvious stares, the not so discreet pointing at him and the girls. Someone on campus had discovered Talera's open secret and rumors were beginning to reach a fever pitch. She had pointed out that humans had such short attention spans, when she showed no signs of being anything supernatural, most would lose interest in her quickly. While he understood her stance on the whole issue, he was having a hard time believing it wasn't getting to her at all. When someone had decided to baptize the front door of the girls' suite with blood (pig's blood, she assured them) she had seemed only mildly concerned, and even then only for the well-being of her roommates. As far as he knew, she'd done nothing in retaliation, but then again, no one had dared pull a similar stunt since. Some part of him was enjoying the notoriety, but it was distracting and more than a little disconcerting. He had been walking with her across the lower quad one afternoon when a small band of ornately dressed Goths had approached them, bowed before her and asked to be made into Chosen. She had explained in a surprisingly polite tone that she wasn't accepting applications at the time, but would keep them in mind, carefully removing the hand of one particularly brave girl from her forearm. The incident had amused her highly, but Kevin found it disquieting that the general public was so willing to believe what they read about her on the internet. He shook his head, smiling grimly to himself.
"Jobias," he said, stopping next to the Hunter who waited patiently for him in the swath of darkness.
"Can we talk, kid?" the older man said, cocking his salt and pepper head to the side, indicating the little wooded park behind the dorms.
"Yeah, sure," Kevin said, leading the way.
"Listen," the Hunter said, kneeling in front of Kevin after he sat on a bench, his lean frame, though aged, still like an overwound music box, his movements graceful but overly sharp and a little too fast. "It's come to our attention that you have a new friend. A unique friend at that. Do I need to tell you that every Hunter in Creation has his sights set on her?"
"I don't think that's really a problem."
"It IS a problem, and it's not going to get any better. She's dangerous. You know that."
"She hasn't done ANYthing. Hasn't even shown an interest in upsetting any balances."
"You can't control her."
"You don't know that. She listens to me."
"You've only known her for eight months. How much do you really know about her? Do you know where she was last week? "
"I didn't ask," Kevin said with a shrug, a flutter of dread quivering in his stomach. He had seen her briefly earlier in the night after she'd vanished for nearly a week. Her eyes had dark circles under them, her expression wild, eyes not completely focused on the physical. She'd waved a little coldly at him, then disappeared into her room, closing the door after her.
"She found them."
"The men who offed her family. They were in California. Up to their old tricks. As far as we know, she broke a promise she made to Council that she'd leave them be, even if they were found, until she was Turned, when they could handle the situation better. She killed them."
"So?" he said, crossing his arms and leaning back against the seat, feigning nonchalance. "They created her. It was on their heads."
"No, not like that, it wasn't. She... I've never seen anything like it, kid. She...shredded them. Alive....That thing inside her is pure evil."
"Jobias, she IS the thing inside her. Talk to her for five minutes, you'll see she's not evil."
"I can't, you know that. I shouldn't even be talking to you."
"What does that mean? Why did you really come here tonight? I know it's not out of the goodness of your heart. Your concern for my well-being."
"Son, you know I love you like my own," the Hunter sighed, sinking down onto the bench next to the larger young man. "You're a Born Hunter. I wanted you to think about joining my crew one day."
"You're no longer an Innocent."
Kev raised his eyebrows. "Is that official?"
"Yeah. There was a meeting of the big organizations yesterday about her and her acquaintances. I tried to turn the vote, but there was nothing I could do. You're in too deep now."
"If you're not with us, you're against us, huh?"
"Yeah. In this business, it's the only way it can be."
"Kevin, this is serious. Do you get that? We see you as Theirs now. I can't protect you if something goes down. It's out of my hands."
"It was never in your hands, Job," the boy said with a smile. "Alright, since we're down to, uh, brass tacks here, let me say this: Those girls are Innocents. If anything threatens them, nothing I or Ash can do will stop her from eliminating that threat. Nor would I even try. Leave them out of it. For your own sakes'."
"Is that a threat?" the old Hunter said, surprise on his face.
Kevin bowed his head, eyes closed, and whispered her name into the night breeze before answering.
"Just a warning. I don't want this turning into a war, but if anything happens to those girls, even a thought of it, she's going to know. And she's not holding back. Clear?"
"Clear," the man said, standing again. "You're in love with her."
Kevin stood, shaking his head. "That's no secret."
"Kid, seriously. Please be careful. I don't want to see you hurt. Or worse."
"That won't happen," the boy said, his voice conveying a confidence that he himself was beginning to doubt.
Jobias looked down at his feet, shaking his head with a sigh. He started when he looked back up, hand going to the holster hidden under his coat.
Talera stood beside Kevin, green eyes peering steadily at him, expression unreadable. The Hunter moved his hand away slowly, but stayed on high alert. Never having seen her face to face, he took the opportunity to study her intently, knowing she did the same to him, though she made no sign of it.
"Job," Kevin said, taking her hand and squeezing it, making it clear where his loyalties lay. "You really don't need all four of them watching us. You know where we'll be."
Jobias cleared his throat, giving the boy a grudging smile, then made a motion with his hand. Four men slipped silently onto the path all around them, looking a bit sheepish.
"Hey, Tolbert," Kevin said as one very large blonde man.
"You're real good, kid," he said in a voice like sandpaper. "Just wish you were on the right side."
"I'll take my chances."
Jobias kept his eyes on Talera as his men filed past him off campus. She was impossible to read, but her overall manner was calm, though she looked exhausted, distant.
"Take care, son," the Hunter said eyeing Talera one last time, then nodding to the boy before turning and following his men out of the park.
"Did you get anything from her?" Jobias asked Tolbert once they were out of earshot, though she could probably still hear them.
The big man shrugged. "Her thought process is so chaotic I don't know how she functions, so reading her surface thoughts is out of the question. I don't dare do more than scratch the surface, because right under all that chaos is...a minefield. Doors to different planes, her Elemental powers. Underneath it all just... a black hole. I can't even look on it without it, uh, feeling things."
He shuddered, pausing a moment before continuing.
"But as far as emotions, she knew I was reading her, but did nothing to stop me. And she could have easily. I didn't sense any aggression. No outstanding anger except for a few lingering echoes from the other night. No fear. No lapses in consciousness. She is unstable, but she knows it. Guards against it. Knows what her triggers are. Overall she was pretty cool. Watches that boy like a hawk. Nothing was going to get to him. Considering what she did last week, I think her emotions ran away with her. I think once she saw those three and they were right in front of her, she had what to anyone else would have been a normal reaction. Simple rage. But in her... rage is deadly. I don't think she feels remorse for her actions, but she does regret losing control like she did."
"Could she be masking herself."
"She could be, but I don't think so. What I did get seemed genuine."
Jobias sighed, shaking his head.
"Something is going to happen. I don't know how or when, but someone is going to get tired of waiting, terrified that she's going to snap, and take preventative measures. I hate to see that kid get caught in the crossfire..."
"Did you hear all that?" Kevin asked her, taking a step away from her, releasing her hand. His face was stony, eyes avoiding hers.
She sighed raggedly, shaking her head.
"No. Why did you call me?"
"He was telling me about your... adventures last week."
"What about them?" she asked, crossing her arms over her chest, cocking her head to the side, soft lips set in an uncharacteristically hard line.
"Said you, uh, 'shredded' those guys. He was genuinely spooked, and you can't imagine the shit he's seen over the years."
"I'm sorry," she sneered, lips curling, fangs flashing. "Did I need to get your approval first? It was my revenge to take."
"Listen, Kevin," she said, cutting him off, shaking her head once. "I know fully well that part of what makes me so appealing to you and the girls is that everyone says I'm so dangerous. It's cool. Kind of a rush. Who ever thought you'd meet a creature like me? But I seem so nice. Sure, I'm aloof sometimes, and I have some serious quirks, but I don't seem deadly. Don't seem all that bad. How could I be all that stuff they say I am?"
"Okay," he conceded, shrugging, though his face remained unchanged. "I'll give you that."
"I have tried my damnedest to be as honest as I can with all of you. Especially you more than any other. It's not easy for me, and I know it's not easy for any of you. There are things about me that are private, and I try to keep them that way for a reason. I don't expect you to understand or even accept the darkness in me. I do, however, expect you to realize that it is there. And I don't just mean as an academic conceit. I need you to understand it. I don't apologize for what I am. I hate that it scares you, but it's who and what I am and there's nothing I can do about it. The only assurance I can give you is that I do love you, and I'd never hurt you."
He sank down onto the bench, leaning forward, dropping his head into his hands heavily.
"I grew up around Hunters, so it's not like I'm not used to killers. People who have a psychotic bent. It's just one thing to know it and another to KNOW it."
"We have a word for that. It translates to 'fatal truth,'" she said quietly, looking down at him, arms still crossed, but face softening slightly.
"Because one way or another something dies when you realize for the first time the real... terror of what we are. Whether it's you, or one of us, or our relationship or your innocence, something is always lost."
He lifted his head, peering up at her, lips pursed, eyes still narrowed.
"I think what bothers me the most is that I found out from a Hunter. Not from you- Wait! Let me finish," he stopped her, holding up a hand when she opened her mouth to respond. "I understand why you haven't told me. I even appreciate the thought, trying to preserve my innocence. But that's a moot point now. Whether you like it or not, what you do affects me. Maybe you shouldn't have let me get so close... I don't know. Doesn't matter. I'm glad you did..."
She sighed again, uncrossing her arms, expression sad, still hurt.
"I'm tired. I'm going to Georgetown. If you want to talk, I'll be there. Not that your mind will be anywhere else, but just think on... everything, okay? It's not too late for me to let all of you be. You're not in that deep yet."
Before he could respond, she vanished in a blur of darkness and a rush of wind. Letting out a staccato growl, he rubbed his eyes with his palms. He sat there for a minute, trying vainly to collect his thoughts, then stood abruptly and stalked back off to the dorms
*** One year ***
Sarah snickered at Taylor's expression as Nel put on the CD and the tiny girl's highly enthusiastic dance music began to blast into the apartment. She downed her drink in one gulp, pouring another, which Sarah noted was nearly all vodka. She went back to chopping vegetables, expertly using the sharp knife, though she glanced skeptically at the cookbook on the table between them.
"You'd think you'd be used to her shitty taste in music after a year," Sarah muttered to her friend under her breath.
Taylor flashed a smile, but said nothing.
"How much more of this do you need?" she asked, pulling another head of bok choy out of the fridge, downing another drink. Sarah marveled at her constitution. Four glasses like that so far, god only knew how much alcohol, and her cheeks were barely rosy, speech perfectly fine.
"Keep drinking like that, Ginsu Girl and you'll be missing a finger," the dark-skinned girl said pointedly. "That should be enough, throw it in the wok there and give it a good toss."
"Uh, you should know I can't make toast," the other said, grinning sheepishly. "The only thing I can mix is drinks."
"You wield a knife like one of those Benihana guys, but you can't cook?"
"Never have been able to cook for shit. Besides, my training with knives wasn't really geared towards chopping vegetables."
Taylor just shrugged, smiling, and pushed the shreds of cabbage into the wok, picking up a spatula and holding it as if she'd never seen one before.
"Oh, give me that!" Sarah exclaimed, snatching it out of her hand and laughing.
Taylor snickered and vaulted over the counter from a standing position, clearing it effortlessly to land gracefully on the other side, next to Ana, who caught her around the waist, spinning her around. The two ground together for a moment to the music, Taylor's hips moving smoothly in syncopated circles before she spun away, tossing her long hair in its ponytail around her body, hips still moving in that entrancing rhythm.
Ana was looking down at the hand that had glanced her friend's bare skin, rubbing her fingers together as if she'd been shocked. Sarah lowered her head, smiling down into their dinner at the memory of her own encounter with Taylor's bare skin.
"How do you do that?" Ana asked, trying with comic effect to imitate the movement. Talera grinned and started to come forward, hand out towards Ana's hips, then seemed to reconsider.
"What's the matter?" Ana aksed, confused. "You ca n mack all over Kevin but you can't touch any of us?"
"I can't- the part of me that- I don't have the control to turn it off- I- dammit-" she stuttered, for the first time looking embarrassed about her condition, muttering something in a melodic language.
"That was eloquent," Ana teased. "Speak English."
Taylor let out an explosive sigh.
"I talk about this stuff and I can just hear how bizarre it sounds coming out of my mouth."
"Whatever, say it anyway. We all think you're bizarre. So what? So is Sarah. I mean look at her shirt. What normal human would wear that color?"
Sarah gave her a dirty look.
"You saw me the night we went to Volition-"
"No we saw a blur," Nel cut in.
"Okay, yes. But that's a good thing. At least I had the sense to move quickly. Anyway, I mean overall. I'm a succubus. Any touch from almost anyone and it... does things. Your hand is still tingling, right, imagine if I touched your... face."
"Oh, I can attest!" Sarah piped up, grinning from ear to ear.
"What?" Ana asked, scandalized.
"I already got a dance lesson. And the earth-shattering orgasm that comes with it."
"What?" Now Nel and Ana exclaimed in unison. Taylor just clapped her hands over her face, shaking her head, though they heard muffled laughter.
"Jesus, Sarah," she groaned. "Someone change the subject, please."
"No-no-no-no-no," Ana said, waving a finger at her. "I want to hear all about this little ability."
"Honey, now is not the time."
"Oh, really? When will be the time?" the Asian persisted, tossing her long black hair over her shoulder.
"Okay!" Nel interrupted both of them, ignoring Ana, and turning to Taylor. "Speaking of Kevin. What's up with you and him? For the past few months, you two have barely spoken. I know the honeymoon has to end sometime, but what happened?"
"It's complicated-" Taylor began, looking towards the door suddenly. "Speak of the devil."
Kevin stood in the doorway, arms crossed, eyebrow cocked at Nel, though he had a smile on his face.
"I mean, yeah, she's already married but, uh, she-" Nel stuttered, cheeks coloring. She cleared her throat, and ducking her head moved past him to help Sarah at the stove, watching him through her hair.
He came towards Taylor, holding out his hand, which she took gently, eyes meeting his.
"He can touch her!" Ana whined, looking offended. "How come he can touch her without getting zapped?"
Kevin just gave her a look, and Taylor shook her head.
"I'll get you fixed one day," the demon said, though she kept her eyes locked on Kevin's.
"What's that mean?" the other responded, eyes wide.
"Ana! Shut up already!" Sarah hissed at her, giving her the evil eye.
Finally realizing she was interrupting a significant moment, the Asian girl blushed and muttering something incoherent, sat down on the couch, feigning interest in the muted television.
Kevin quirked an eyebrow at Talera, to which she nodded, and he pulled her towards the door, telling the girls they'd return soon.
Once outside, she held him tightly, resting her head against his chest for a moment, then in a roar of wind and silky darkness, she swept them off the ground. When he cracked his eyes open again, he found himself on the roof of one of the downtown skyscrapers, the city spread out far below them, traffic on the highways twinkling like strands of red and white Christmas lights.
He stepped over to the edge of the building and looked out at the city lights for a long moment before turning to face her again, leaning back against the low wall behind him. She returned his gaze serenely, her face unreadable, though he knew her well enough by now to know she was putting on a mask to hide her tension.
"I've been thinking about what you said," he stated, waving her over to him.
"And?" she prompted, coming over to his side, footsteps crunching on the gravelled rooftop. She stopped just out of his reach, cocking her head slightly to the side.
"We're both right and we're both wrong."
"Ok. I assume you're going to explain."
"I am. Come here, please."
He settled back, sitting on the cold stones behind him. Behind her, against the muted backdrop of city lights he could see the phantom shadows of her wings rustle as she stepped into his embrace, looking down into his eyes solemnly.