“See, I told you they’d love you,” I said as Goose and I came back in the house. “Nothing to worry about.”
He trailed off and I grinned. “Boyfriend?” I offered and he flushed. “They love you,” I assured him, which of course they did. Goose and I had been dating for five weeks now and official for three. They had been some amazing weeks and finally I informed my family who my new ‘significant other’ was. Naturally Lumie knew, and they all had met Goose before but they all loved him (well pretty sure my dad liked him, his grumping ‘hmphs’ sounded like his ‘cheerful’ ones and not his angry ones… according to Pa, at least) and they had been very accepting, even of his supernatural state which he had been worried about no matter how often I reminded him that they liked supernaturals (they adopted one, dad worked with them, Pa used to be one!).
“I wish you could meet more of my family,” he mumbled.
I reached down to take his hand. “It’s all right, maybe one day I can,” I said, knowing most likely I wouldn’t. I had met his mother and father just once but for the most part I wouldn’t be meeting his family. Kinda sucked, but oh well.
A noise brought my attention to the hallway. Max, in cat form, peered out at us. “Hey Max,” I said and he just disappeared into the darkness with a wave of his tail. I frowned, wanting to go after him. It’d be useless though. He had been getting more and more quiet recently to the point of barely ever talking to either of us. I knew he talked to Gladdy a lot since she had mentioned it today but when I asked about what they talked about she refused to answer, stating it was Max’s privacy.
However, I suspected the reason. I felt stupid–incredibly stupid–for not realizing it before but I had just dismissed it constantly because I hadn’t been sure of my own feelings towards guys and it never occurred that Max liked guys too. I figured his jealousy had to do with his cat nature (after all he seemed jealous of anyone around Grams and Glados and Pa, the other people he really cared about). But now I knew, or at least suspected… it made some sense but a teensy part of me still clung to the hope that he just had jealousy issues of anyone he cared about… but I knew, deep down, the truth.
And I wasn’t sure, but I vaguely liked Max back. But I couldn’t be sure of my feelings, and I didn’t even want to because I felt very strongly about Goose. As soon as Goose and I kissed I felt this huge… swoop of right going through me. Almost the same feeling I had when Davy and I first got together, although a bit of a different way. It felt like fate had just brought us together. I liked him so much. In fact, I sometimes wondered if I loved him. Every time I wondered about Max my feelings for Goose just outshone my slim, possible feelings for Max. Maybe if Goose hadn’t been around and I had realized Max liked me… maybe… but I had Goose. And I didn’t want anyone else.
But I did not want to lose Max as a friend. He seemed semi-fine during my relationships with Lucja and Davy, so why such the strangeness with Goose? I needed to talk to him, but he just mostly stayed in cat form no matter how much I begged.
I felt lips on my temple and I jumped slightly then laughed, hugging Goose. “Talking to Lumie?” he asked and I shook my head. “Thinking about Max, then,” he sighed and this time I nodded. One other reason I really liked Goose had to do with the fact he really seemed aware of me and it sometimes felt like he could read my thoughts.
>Considering some of your thoughts about wanting lack of clothing on him, let’s hope he can’t,< Lumie said and I rolled my eyes.
“I need to talk to Max, I think,” I said.
Did he know? It was very possible he knew. Davy had known but unlike her, Goose didn’t seem too worried about Max being around. “I will later.” I kissed him then kissed again, pulling him down onto the couch with me for a heavy make out session. I’d much rather do this than try and talk to a sullen, jealous cat anyway.
Politics seemed to be everywhere, and all anyone could talk about. While I tried to figure out how to talk to Max a huge, shocking, bad thing happened: a family of werewolves had been found in Moonlight Falls and were going to be going on trial. When I heard the words ‘werewolves’ ‘Moonlight Falls’ and ‘trial’ I immediately thought of Vilkas but no, the family had nothing to do with his clan. Of course it didn’t make it any easier seeing people torn over how to feel. Some people sided with the anti-supernatural laws forming. But more people than I expected actually started declaring ‘let them live in peace’.
When I had been a very young child there had been many hunters. Hunters who could go around killing supernaturals without any problem. Ghosts, vampires, other strange beings I didn’t know much about, weres of course… but now some newspapers were beginning to state that groups that sympathize with the supernaturals were demanding justice against the hunters, and against those who kill supes without need. It grew across the nation and pretty much became the topic of all the papers and news programs. Anti-supernatural or pro-supernatural. Which one were you?
“…need to remember these ‘things’ are not human like you or me. They’re monsters. You look at the stories and they’re always the monsters, and that’s because they are…” “…they don’t have feelings, they cannot feel. They are as incapable of emotion as a rock! They’re not even animals. They’re just killing machines who want to destroy us all…” “…unable to understand why people think they’re fine. Half of them are technically dead. Vampires and ghosts. You can’t kill what’s already dead. And the others are just animals. A rabid dog gets loose, you put’m down. Simple as that…”
I couldn’t tear myself away from these shows even if I wanted to. I mostly sat there in numbed silence, a hand over my mouth. All the hatred, how could it come to the point where people talked about my beloved brother being a rabid dog that needed put down? Vilkas never hurt anyone. Hell, I had hurt more people than he had.
As Halloween grew closer it felt like the world might just explode. Most society couldn’t feel safe. There was talk of locking up every known supernatural, if not killing them. Some people even decided that Halloween should be canceled! A lot of towns and neighborhoods refused to participate in trick-or-treat and stuff like that. Halloween parties were being banned left and right. But in Midnight Hollow, at least, things proceeded as normal. Midnight Hollow was a spooky place and Halloween held a special place in all the townspeople’s hearts.
“I won’t shift,” he promised quietly.
I eyed him, feeling guilty we hadn’t talked yet even though weeks had gone by since I realized the problem between us. “Any news from… you know?” I inquired and he shook his head. It had been a while since I had an attack. We were all waiting for the shoe to drop and now I wondered if maybe something had happened to the leader or group. Maybe all the political problems had worked in my favor. Maybe one of the supes mentioned killed or arrested had been the person wanting to hurt or kidnap me… Surely the supernatural world had bigger problems in hand than a stupid prophecy about me?
I pulled out of my thoughts, seeing Max looking really upset. “You all right?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He shrugged and slumped back, looking at the wall. “Um, can we talk about something kinda important?”
“What… do you mean?” I asked, blinking.
“Well, she needs some stuff done overseas,” he mumbled. “And I offered to do them for her. So I’ll be leaving.”
“In a we–uh, week or two? I’ll be leaving? Don’t worry, I’ve arranged for someone to, uh, come help protect you. An old friend, he’s uh, he can help. He–“
“I–I’m leaving…” he squeaked. “I’m going. Overseas. For a while. I d-don’t know how long, but…” His voice dropped really low and I barely made out the next words but I still made them out.
“What do you mean ‘doesn’t matter’ of course it matters!”
“Let go of me!”
“I’ll flip you!”
“Go ahead and try!”
We began struggling at that and I knew I had the upper hand or assumed I did. Max shifted into a cat and jumped away as I somehow managed to stop myself from falling into the wall. Max shifted back human on the other side of the room, still not looking at me. I regained my balance and took a few deep breaths. Stay calm.
“Yeah well, does it really matter who your bodyguard is?” he demanded. “You don’t need me. My friend can guard you just as well as I can–“
“Guard? It has nothing to do with guarding!” I spat out. “You’re one of my best friends! It matters to me if you’re just running off. Will it be one week? Two?” He remained silent and I folded my arms. “Answer me, please!”
“I don’t know!” he snarled. “However long it takes to–to–to–“
I sucked on my teeth, anger bubbling up inside of me. “What pain?” I asked, as calmly as I could. Though it didn’t come out too terribly calmly.
Max finally looked up at me and I saw his eyes glistening just very slightly. Before I knew it he crossed the room, grabbing hold of me and kissing me.
Then he let go of me, eyes full of tears and me just gaping at him. “That pain,” he croaked out before turning his back to me. “I love you.” I just continued to gape. “W-with Lucja and Davy it didn’t b-bother me as much. I f-f-felt jealous but not in p-pain because they were girls and you liked girls not guys. B-b-but then you said you liked guys and I felt so happy and hopeful and you j-just went on right away t-t-to say you liked Goose and now you’re w-with him and I–I’m not–I c–can’t… it hurts so much…” He doubled over, hugging himself, a few tears splashing onto the floor. “I c-can’t deal with this pain anymore, I can’t stay. I’m sorry. B-but I know you… love him, Zaid. I know you do. And as much as it hurts it’s not me that’s okay, because I j-just want you ha-a-apppyyyy….!!” He collapsed down, sobbing loudly.
“N-no,” he whimpered. “Please don’t. It’s too hard for me. I’m sorry. I love you, Zaid. You’re my best friend, the only real friend I’ve had in a long time. And th-the only person I’ve loved in a l-long time. I finally understand th-that I… I just can’t stay here because I’ll g-get in the way of things. I have to go. It w-would be better for us all. And you and G-Goose can be together.”
I opened and closed my mouth a few times then stepped back, no clue what to even say.
Max sniffled then pushed himself to his feet, wiping his eyes. “With Lucja and Davy my jealousy just stayed jealousy because I knew we couldn’t ever be together. Now it’s ch-changed. It’s painful. But I know that… I just need you to be happy. And he makes you happy. Doesn’t he?”
Max seemed to deflate just slightly but then he straightened up. “I’m glad. I r-really am. And… I’ve finally realized your happiness is m-more important to me than being together.” He came over to me, briefly touching my cheek. “I guess th-that’s what love is, eh? Maybe if I had fought at the beginning… but now… it’s too late and I know that. So it’s better for us all if I go.”
“I don’t want you to go,” I managed to say.
He withdrew his hand, backing up now. “I know. I d-don’t want to go either but… I can’t live with this pain anymore, Zaidy-boy. And I shouldn’t be here getting in the way of you and Goose. So you two can… be all lovey-dovey together and I can maybe try and… feel less… absolute misery…”
“You’ll be back though… won’t you?”
It felt like weights pressing in on all sides. I fell to my knees, hardly able to breathe. Someone had kicked my chest with a steel boot or something. A jolt of electricity piercing my heart. No. He couldn’t just go away for forever.
It’s selfish of me to ask him to stay, but I don’t want him to leave… I need him, he’s my best friend, he’s… Max…
Max put his hands on my arms, hauling me to my feet. “It’ll be all right, we can… write and stuff and I’ll call when I can and… please understand, Zaid. Please?”
No, I can’t, I won’t. “I understand,” I said, lying now. Okay part of me understood. But most of me didn’t want to. I wanted to be selfish–but Watcher how wrong that would be! Here he was, my happiness more important to him than his feelings. And I wanted to basically say my feelings were more important than his happiness. I was a shitty person. I didn’t deserve Max as a friend, or Goose as a lover. I didn’t deserve anything. I was a bad, horrible, selfish person.
His lips pressed against my forehead. “Good luck, Zaidy-boy. Keep up the training.”
“You’re leaving now?! I thought you said–weeks–“
Max frowned. “Yeah, I did but now no, I can’t. No. After all this? No. I have to go now. Better exit for me, in any case. More dramatic. I’d have smoke swirling around me if I could and an orchestra playing epic music. Ohhhh! I know!” He took off running and I left my room, feeling dazed. After a moment the main theme to ‘Jurassic Park’ began blasting through the house. Max appeared before me again, a tragic look on his face. The mood really had broken for me at this point for the most part, but I still felt numb, sick, and angry. Max… leaving… and not knowing if I’d ever see him again?
The music got to the stirring bit and Max looked over his shoulder at me and as the music intensified he threw open the door and left. I stood in the hall with the music filling my ears and pain filling my body. Max just… left? What happened? I went over the events, trying to make sense of them and failing. Max is gone.
I went to the door, hoping maybe he would be standing there on the front step laughing. But no. No Max. He’s gone, he’s gone. I shut the door, stumbling back. He’s gone. And probably not coming back.
Rage surged through, sweeping away all other emotions. I went to my room, grabbing the CD player and hurling it onto the floor. The music stopped as bits of CD player went flying everywhere. I screamed at nothing and began stomping at the CD player, needing to get my fury out. I screamed obscenities and nonsense. I wanted to run after Max but knew it’d be the wrong thing to do. I couldn’t force him to stay in unhappiness.
Soon my voice grew hoarse and collapsed into a heap of anger and despair. For six years now we had been such great friends and now… now… he’s gone…
I kept hoping he’d be back. All day I waited, calling in sick for work and waiting for Max to come back. I shouted out the door a few times that I had tuna… hoping to see him galloping back all excited and happy.
“Max is gone,” I somehow said and threw myself into Goose’s arms, pressing my face against his chest. I then told Goose everything, because I had to. He just held onto me tightly, rubbing my back and waiting for me to finish.
Once I did he pushed my hair from my face and said, “I’m so sorry, Zaid. I know this is really hard. But it sounds like it might be best for Max.”
“I know… but it hurts…”
“I know.” He pulled me close again, nuzzling my neck. “Life can be so hard and painful sometimes but you’re so strong, and so is Max. He just needs some time to himself to calm down and be all right. He’ll be back eventually.”
“What if he isn’t?” I asked miserably then realized what I was saying. “I’m such a jerk, talking about this to you…”
“Why?” Goose inquired, confused.
“You’re my boyfriend and I’m standing here complaining about some other person confessing their love to me and how much it hurts they’re gone.” I cupped my hands around his face, looking into his eyes. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t.”
He smiled, reaching up to put his hands over mine. “It’s fine, Zaid. I figured he had feelings for you, and he’s your best friend. It’s going to hurt that he’s gone.”
He kissed back then pushed my face away, finger on my lip. “One question though. You said that he asked if I make you happy. And you said you told him…?” I darkened at that, as Goose and I had not said the ‘l’ word to one another yet. And here I had confessed it inadvertently. Before I could respond he kissed me once more and said, “I love you too, you know.”
“Why don’t we get some food. Knowing you, you haven’t eaten all day since this happened.” I just stumbled along with him as he pulled me into the kitchen and began working on something for us to eat. I slumped down at the island counter, burying my face in my arms. I still felt selfish and awful for telling Goose everything, and for wanting Max back. But I couldn’t help it–especially the latter. What was I supposed to do without him?
Jay pressed herself against the floor, ear against the crack along the bottom of the door. Outside the faerie spoke to someone about the project. Jay only heard snippets but she knew what those snippets meant.
“…done in one month… nally bring an end to… power completely in the hands… will no longer be needing…”
Jay stood up, brushing herself off as she went to the door to the bedroom, where her brother remained most of the time. She had no need to listen to anymore. ‘No longer be needing’, she had not heard the rest but knew that the faerie meant her and Kay. ‘No longer be needing’. Once the project finished, the faerie would kill her and her brother.
Kay looked up as she came into the room. “Hey,” he said before going back to his work on the computer. Jay wondered if he still kept up contact with the annoying Danevbie brat, the sole reason her brother’s life was in so much danger. Ever since the brat settled down in Midnight Hollow and announced his location there seemed to be no reason for Kay to e-mail him any longer.
There seemed to be no reason for Kay at all. The faerie knew Jay could finish the project on her own. Kay had provided the assistance and research at the beginning but now the project sat squarely on Jay’s shoulders. They could kill Kaleb now. Only they knew Jay would not be finishing the project for them if that happened. One month. They expected the project to be completed around New Years.
We shall have to change that, Jay decided.
She remembered first meeting the faerie. It had been many years ago, when Jay had been dragging Kay all over for a miracle cure–to heal his legs. This faerie found out and approached them, promising an agreement. If Jay and Kay helped complete a project of theirs, they would give Kay the ability to walk again.
Naturally Jay agreed. Kay did not like it but Jay assumed she had made the best decision for him. Apparently not… though at first she did not realize this. They spent a few years together doing failed experiments for the… the…
The only good word for it would be ‘conductor’. A mash up of science and magic. Built to collect and store an incredible amount of magical energy then release it into someone. All that magic would most definitely kill whoever took it but that part did not concern Jay. She just needed to help build the conductor.
The conductor that almost reached completion. They had finished the final outline a year ago and since then Jay worked more or less by herself to complete this… ‘magical machine’. Four and a half weeks, and it would be done. Four and a half weeks, and she would no longer be needed.
“It will not happen,” she said out loud. Kay glanced her way and she went over, hugging him close. He hugged back, a bit startled as she rarely showed physical affection anymore. His arms went around her and he clung to her. She put her head against his shoulder and clung back, though not quite in the needful way he did. “I won’t let them kill you,” she whispered into his shoulder.
“You… c-can’t stop…”
“No. You are right, I cannot do anything. They will release us once the conductor is finished,” she said, knowing most likely the faerie could hear everything being said or at least their words were recorded.
Only, there is a flaw in the conductor. One we did not anticipate. In three nights’ time, the conductor will blow up. It is such a volatile thing. Delicate. Machinery and magic used together in such a way, of course there are problems we did not anticipate.
The next day she did her work, being watched by the faerie. She smoothly tweaked and programmed and adjusted, doing things that the faerie did not understand–did not want to understand. The faerie lived so much in magic she disliked machines and science. But she trusted that Jay had everything under control. She did not suspect her prisoner would ever be smart enough to sabotage the conductor.
Jay smiled to herself as she worked. Normally she despised being underestimated but this time it worked to her advantage.
A couple nights later the conductor exploded, destroying half the lab. The faerie dragged Jay to the room demanding to know what happened. Jay made up lies about how there must have been an error, and then went on about coding. She knew she could just say a bunch of nonsense words strung together and the faerie wouldn’t be any the wiser. But as the conductor exploded in the middle of the night with nobody around… the ‘error’ was accepted as the reason.
Jay went back to her room and lay down on the bed with Kay, holding onto him tightly. “I’ve bought us another couple of years,” she whispered. “I’ll get you out of here somehow. I promise. I will die before I let them hurt you, brother.”
But at the back of her brain sat the nagging worry that as smart, strong, and powerful as she was… only so much could be done against a faerie she could not touch or get near. The magical shackles prevented it. She did not know how she could end their imprisonment, but she would somehow find a way or die protecting her brother.