A/N/: A bit of explanation for this is probably needed. Basically, we did a challenge where you had to rewrite a story so that it had BMT characters in the main roles. This was my attempt, which was originally only meant to be a small example as a precursor to a longer fic about something else. Suddenly though this one turned into a mammoth thing and I couldn't stop writing…And it's really, really long.
WARNING: Slash (M/M) pairings, a bit of violence (sort of) and TWILIGHT (oh yes, that's the story, heheheh).
I had never imagined being scarred. I had never imagined that a hurt that pierced me to my core could also be written on my skin.
But there they are, three wide, slashing lines that cross my cheek and jaw, stretching from underneath my ear to stop just before they reach my mouth. Three lines. Three strikes. Out.
Or he should be, anyway.
But I can forgive him, because I always can. There's no one else.
We pulled up to the house with the pouring rain lashing at the windows of our small estate, and all three of us sprinted headlong to the front door. Everything looked drab and miserable, overshadowed by the heavy sky. But hey, it's Washington, I thought to myself unhappily. No Jersey sun here.
We were in La Push, Washington, a thousand miles from the little world I'd known all my life. Two weeks ago, when my parents had finally ended the long legal battle that was their messy divorce, we'd been living in a small town in Jersey. Life was not too fast, but not too slow either. We had a big circle of friends and mum's family lived close; our life was happy. And the weather was great. That is, until the fights started. It had been two years when mum and dad decided they couldn't take it anymore, and filed for a divorce. They couldn't agree peacefully on what was going to happen to all the assets, though, so it ended up being a long and bitter legal battle. My mum won the house, but Dad won custody of my sister and me. Dad decided that we'd move far away, back to where our grandpa lived in Washington. He called up my grandpa and got him to find a place for us, and within the week a house had magically appeared. Grandpa got the real estate agents (friends of his, apparently) to rush the documents through and then we were suddenly going. And now here I was on the whole other side of the country, about to start a new life in a place where it rained most days of the year, and where I knew absolutely nobody.
The house was good, kinda small, but cosy. My sister decided she wanted the back room, with a view onto to the forest, so I got the second biggest room. Its bay window looked out through the storm clouds to the rolling ocean, the rough cliffs towering over the tiny bay that was La Push. I dumped my bag on the bed and looked around. I think I might be able to do something with this, I mused to myself. Perhaps things wouldn't be too bad.
My sister bounced into my room, looking happy. "The view from my room is great, and I love the shape! I'm so going to make this room special; it's going to be something I'll be really proud of!" she gushed. I nodded mutely. Her smile faded slightly. "What's up, Lorlen? Aren't you happy?"
"I'm fine, Ellie," I sighed. "Just…you know."
Ellian smiled sympathetically. She and I understood each other. "I know," she whispered. "I miss mum, too." I nodded again, and she darted over to give me a quick hug before bouncing away again towards the door, throwing back over her shoulder, "We're having pizza, so you'd better get your butt down here!"
I grinned and shoved my hands in my pockets, sloping down the stairs. Dad was bustling around, shoving things from various boxes into drawers, already unpacking. I looked around. "Pizza, dad?"
"Your grandpa's bringing it over," he muttered, distracted. "Now, Ellie, where do you think I should put this?"
"Over there," Ellie pointed one long graceful finger from her seat on the countertop, "and you should hang all the scooping utensils on that rack."
Dad looked confused. "Why?"
Ellie sighed. "Because that's where they go, of course!"
I chuckled and sat down at the kitchen table. I hoped grandpa would turn up soon; I'd been starving all day.
I liked my grandpa, Terran. He was a wizened old man, but he loved to organise parties and reminisce about his younger life. He could tell the best old stories, not just from his days, but the Quileute legends too. His voice would always take on a strange timbre, a majestic air, and you tell from the fire in his eyes that he was fiercely proud of his heritage. He was a full blooded Quileute, but my grandmother, who had passed about three years ago, had been from the local town of Forks, a mile or two to the east. My dad was half-Quileute, and had moved to Jersey when he was twenty, which was where he met mum. So technically Ellie and I were both a quarter Quileute, but I couldn't see it in me. Sure, I had the dark eyes and dark mahogany hair, but my skin was pale and I didn't have the Indian 'look' that my dad and grandpa had. Ellie looked more Quileute, with black hair and brilliant black eyes, and tan skin. She flashed a smile at me from the counter. Guys had drooled over her back in Jersey, and I was sure I'd have to watch the guys here just as carefully. She sometimes shouted at me for being 'a stupid, squid-brained, overprotective older brother!', but usually she appreciated it.
We all heard the front door open, and an old voice call, "Hey, it's me!"
"Hi Grandpa!" Ellie answered, jumping down from the counter and running to the hallway. She reappeared a few seconds later, carrying pizza boxes. "These smell good!" she chirped as she set them down on the table. Grandpa Terran appeared in the doorway, smiling from ear to ear. He strode over and hugged dad. "Hey, Alex. How are you doing?"
"I'm okay, Dad," my father replied, hugging him tightly.
"And here's my Lorlen," grandpa's grin widened impossibly, and he caught me in a hug that was surprisingly strong for someone his age.
"Hey, grandpa," I said.
"Now," he sat himself down in one of the chairs, "who wants some pizza?"
We all tucked into pizza, and grandpa plied us with all sorts of questions while we ate. I tried to answer as truthfully as possible, but questions like, 'And do you go to wild parties, Lorlen?' were usually best brushed off with a grin and a joking white lie.
When we'd finished, grandpa and dad went off out into the garden to 'talk'. It had stopped raining and the night was fairly clear. Deciding to leave them to it, I helped Ellie to load the dishwasher then spent a good ten minutes working out how to turn it on. Damn crappy old thing! I thought as I kicked the machine. But it worked eventually, at which point I decided to flop in front of the TV whilst Ellie disappeared upstairs to call her friends. I flicked through various channels until a wave of tiredness washed over me, and I felt my eyes close.
I woke up later when Dad poked me. "Hhhh…What?"
"You fell asleep on the sofa, Lorlen."
"Oh." I looked about. "Really? Guess I was tired…Where's Grandpa?"
"He went home."
"Oh, okay. Well," I pulled myself up and stretched, "I guess I'll go to bed. You coming, dad?"
"Yeah, sure." I noticed that Dad looked exhausted. "How long were you and grandpa talking, Dad?"
"He just left," Dad sighed.
I looked round at the wall clock that Ellie had hung up that evening. "It's two in the morning!"
"I know." Dad looked at me pleadingly. "Don't look at me like that, Lorlen. There was a lot for us to talk about."
I sighed, then hugged him. "Whatever. He's a crazy old man. Come on, bedtime. You get a job yet?"
Dad nodded as we walked upstairs. "Yeah, over in Port Angeles. Great firm, looking for new talent, apparently. Don't know that forty is exactly new, but they were desperate to have me." Dad was a lawyer, quite high flying, but never so that he was too involved with work. He earned himself a good salary, and people said he was good at what he did.
I left him at his door and waved goodnight, then collapsed on my own bed. It would be Dad's first day of work tomorrow, but it would also be my first day in my new high school. Luckily I'd moved just before starting work for final exams, so my school career wouldn't be too disrupted. I felt my stomach turn over at the thought of being the new kid. Nothing as interesting as a new kid had happened here in La Push for probably just about forever, so it was sure to be an interesting day.
I woke up late. I was prepared to grab anything and run out the door, but I found a set of clothes, carefully picked and styled, lying on my dresser. I shrugged and pulled them on, rushing downstairs to where Ellie was making breakfast. "I hope you like your outfit," she sniffed as she stirred her porridge.
I looked up at her while I grabbed out my cereal. "You laid it out for me?"
"I knew you'd be late, so I took the liberty of making sure I wasn't embarrassed by my brother's sense in fashion."
I shrugged, slightly annoyed. "Whatever."
We rushed out the door and jumped into the car, which I insisted I drove. "I can drive just as well!" Ellie protested.
"Yeah, but I'm older, and actually have my license," I sighed, exasperated. Ellie folded her arms and sulked as we pulled out of the driveway.
We only lived about a mile from the school, but if we'd tried walking we would have been very late, and I wasn't about to start my first day at school in trouble. Pulling into the student parking lot, I checked the time on the dash clock. Well, we were on time at least. I jumped out and slammed the door, then waited for Ellie to huff and drag herself sulkily out of the car before I could lock it. "Come on Ellie," I sighed. She just glared and walked ahead of me. We walked together towards the reception, her coming out of her sulk to toss her head and smile delightedly at all the staring hordes of students making their way to classes. I walked behind her, trying to get lost in her shadow, but failing miserably. It's not that I'm very shy, or anti-social; I just don't like being stared at like a fish in an aquarium.
Ellie sailed through the double doors to the reception, and she treated the receptionist to one of her glowing smiles, saying happily, "Hello, nice to meet you. I'm Ellian Haren, and this is my brother Lorlen. We're the new pupils. You've probably had a call from our dad, Alexen Haren."
The receptionist blinked, then smiled nervously. "Yes, I did. You're enrolling as a freshman?" Ellie nodded. "And you're a junior, right?" she asked me. I nodded too. "Okay." She clicked a couple of times and the printer began to whirr. "Here are your schedules for the week, and a map each." She grinned as she handed us the sheets. "Have a nice day! Come back here and tell us how it went at the end of school."
Ellie grinned as she took the sheets. "Sure!" As we walked out she stuffed mine into my hands and skipped off, calling, "I'll see you back here at the end of the day, loser!"
I sighed and shrugged. Ellie was always different at school, like she had something to prove, and I'd gotten used to it by now. I checked the timetable for my first class. History. I wandered around, trying to decipher the map I was holding. Just when it seemed to be the right way up, I'd turn and find that the school buildings didn't match up. Frustrated, I sat down on a bench and tried to figure out the confusing mess of lines.
"I'd give up if I were you, that map's hopeless."
I looked up to see one of the Reservation kids smiling down at me. "Oh…but I don't have anything else…"
"Nonsense!" The boy took my hand and pulled me up to standing. "You have me! Where're you going?"
"History," I said, slightly taken aback by his forwardness.
"Awesome!" the guy grinned, "that's my lesson too. I'm Yikmo, by the way."
"Lorlen," I mumbled, still staring.
Yikmo led me to a building I'd already passed by twice, and breezed through the door into a small bright room full of dark kids. The teacher was messing about with the board, obviously preparing to begin. "Ah, Yikmo, you're here finally," he caught sight of me hiding slightly behind my saviour. "Oh, you found the new boy. Your name's Lorlen, am I right?"
"Yes sir," I said, moving forward to stand by his desk.
The teacher frowned at a list and made a small mark. "Ah, there we go, you're marked in. There are a few spare spaces…"
I felt someone grab my hand, and Yikmo pulled me to the back. "There's a spot here, Mr. Bevan!"
"Alright, thank you," Mr. Bevan straightened his tie, then called for quiet. As the lesson began, I felt like someone was staring at me. I looked away from the board to find myself the centre of attention for many pairs of eyes. I felt myself flush, and I fixed my eyes on the board again.
When History finished, Yikmo walked me to my Math set before saying he'd meet me at the door when class ended. We spent break talking, and I found myself easing up in his presence. He was happy-go-lucky and bouncy like a puppy, and I couldn't help but laugh at his silly jokes and pranks. I still seemed to be the most interesting thing in school, though, and had people constantly coming over to introduce themselves. I smiled and said hi to everyone, secretly feeling more nervous than I ever had on a first day.
At lunch time Yikmo bounded ahead of me into the cafeteria, choosing his lunch with lighting speed and recommending countless meal choices to me. I stuck with a tuna sandwich, onion soup and some salad with an apple to finish. Damn me if my parents hadn't raised me healthy. We sat down on a table filled with other guys and a few girls, who all stopped their conversations to stare curiously but not hostilely at me. "This is the new guy, Lorlen," Yikmo announced. "Be nice." I laughed, trying to quell the uneasy feeling in my stomach.
I needn't have worried. On the table were Indria, Dorrien, Osen and a hell of a lot of others whose names I couldn't remember. Those three were the ones who chatted to me and didn't continue another conversation, though, so I guess that's why their names stuck.
"Why did you decide to move here, Lorlen? Are some of your family Quileute?" Indria asked.
I nodded. "Yeah, my granddad's all Quileute, and my dad's half, but my grandma and my mum weren't. You couldn't tell it looking at me, right?" I laughed, then sobered. "My parents finalized their divorce a few weeks ago, so Dad decided he wanted to move here to be close to Grandpa."
They all looked uncomfortable. "That must have been hard," Dorrien said quietly.
I shrugged, trying to shake off the awkwardness. "It's okay, you guys didn't know." I smiled.
"You got any brothers or sisters?" Osen asked, moving the conversation back to comfortable ground.
"Yeah, one sister, Ellian. She's over there," I indicated to where Ellie was sitting with a group of pretty freshman girls. Straight into the inner clique, I saw.
Osen nodded. "Huh. The new freshman causing a stir. I guess you're not as wild as her?" He gave me a rogue-ish grin.
I laughed. "Something like that."
His grin widened, though that seemed impossible, and I found myself oddly charmed. Before I could think about it, the bell rang. "Time for class!" Yikmo said brightly, jumping up.
Osen rolled his eyes at me before getting up too. I snorted. "What've you got next, Lorlen?" he asked.
I fished out my timetable as we walked to our homeroom. "Social Studies," I grimaced.
Osen mimicked my expression. "Awful. Sit at the back by me?"
I grinned. "Sure."
From then on, I'd had firm friends at the Reservation school. We'd gotten to know each other well over the past three months, and I liked none of them as much as Osen. We had nearly all the same classes, we liked many of the same things, shared a similar music taste…I had suddenly found the best friend I'd ever had, all in the space of a day. Only, he wasn't quite just a friend. I'd also found myself attracted to him, with his bright smile and easy laugh, and he wasn't exactly hard on the eyes either. I kept it deeply hidden and promised myself nothing would come of it.
Of course, Ellie had fallen in with her usual crowd and spent many of her nights at some girlfriend's house chatting and doing general girl things, or out in one of the big cities doing whatever. She never came home obviously drunk, in fact she was usually sensible, so I didn't rat her in or anything. As for my own friends, we hung out at each other's houses, had days on the beach, sometimes even went hiking (a new experience for me, at least). I showed off my surfing, and Osen and the others showed me cliff diving.
While I spent most of my time at the Reservation, I did sometimes go into Forks, the next town over. It had better stores, and a petrol station. It also had a hospital, which was where I found myself on the night I met Akkarin.
Dad was chopping vegetables, talking to grandpa about something or other, doing his best to make us a healthy dinner. However, knives and my dad do not mix, something which was proved when he cut the end of his finger off.
"Ow! My god! Oh…oh my god!"
Grandpa had jumped up to see what was wrong, and I'd muted the TV. "What's up Dad?"
Grandpa's voice had quivered. "Lorlen, can you get the car?"
I'd frowned and jumped up off the sofa, rushing to see what had happened. Dad was sheet white and gaping at his hand, with Grandpa obviously fighting not to be sick beside him. There was blood everywhere. Ellie, who'd heard the commotion, came downstairs. "What…oh god! There's blood…"
I'd squared my shoulders. "Grandpa, go get the car, you need air. Ellie, find something to wrap Dad's finger in." They'd mutely jumped into action, while I'd left the worst job for myself. I'd grimaced as I'd searched around in the mess of bloody vegetables for the severed end of the finger. Ew, yuck. There it was. I'd pulled it out and hidden it in a cloth. We were soon on the highway, speeding towards the hospital. They'd taken him straight in, nodding sympathetically when I'd discreetly passed them the cloth wrapped bundle.
The three of us sat in the waiting room for about an hour, though it felt like a lifetime. Eventually I'd had to move. "I'm going to go get a drink." I'd jumped up and walked off to find a can dispenser, and shoved a few coins from my back pocket into it when I noticed some kind of presence behind me. I'd jumped a little and turned.
The first thing I noticed was how pale he was. Literally, like snow or paper, or marble or something. Seriously white. This was complete contrast to his hair, which was pitch dark. And then I noticed the eyes, which freaked me out slightly. How could someone have gold eyes?
I'd shifted nervously, remembering that it was rude to stare, and turned away to grab the Mountain Dew that the dispenser had spat out.
"You live down on the Reservation, right?" a quiet voice asked.
I'd turned to find this strange guy staring at me, which was disquieting. I hadn't noticed at first, but he was totally gorgeous. And his voice was rich and musical, low and soft. His stare was burning, and it was all I could do not to gape like a fish. "Um, yeah," I'd forced out.
"Forgive me, but…you don't look like a Quileute."
I'd shaken my head numbly. "No, I'm only quarter…"
He'd nodded as if something was confirmed. "Oh. Well, I'm Akkarin, Doctor Edwards' son."
Doctor Edwards. Oh right, the guy who was treating my dad. "Hi," I'd ground out, "Lorlen. I'm Lorlen. My dad's the one with half his finger missing."
Akkarin had smiled slightly, which just made him more breathtaking. "Oh, he'll be fine," he said reassuringly. "My father has done plenty of those."
I had just nodded. There was something about this guy that scared me, put me off him, and yet I was equally drawn to that warm smile. At that moment Ellie had bounced around the corner and yelled happily that Dad was fine, before spotting Akkarin and gaping. He'd smiled. "Well, that means home time for me," he'd looked at me again, his gaze intense. "I hope we meet again, Lorlen."
I'd nodded mutely and been silent the whole car ride home.
The next day, I'd asked Grandpa about the Edwards. He'd looked shifty. "Well…" he'd paused and cleared his throat, "not to say they're bad people, but…people down here on the reservation don't like them so much."
I'd pressed him, but he gave no details. Osen had loped in through the door about fifteen minutes later, and was awed at the grisly sight of Dad's hand. "Ew. Rough," he'd commented with a disgusted grin. We'd sat around the kitchen table, alone since the rest of my family had left minutes earlier, and I'd mentioned meeting Akkarin. Osen had shrugged. "I've never met him, but Doctor Edwards is a good guy." He huffed an exasperated sigh. "Can't see why everyone round here dislikes them so much." But, again, when pressed, he wouldn't, or perhaps couldn't say why anyone hated them.
The next day at school, I found Osen wasn't in. I didn't worry. It wasn't like we were totally dependent on each other or anything. But when three days past and he still hadn't showed, I gave his house a ring.
His mum's tone was tense. "Sorry, he's got a bad illness. Stomach flu."
She rang off quickly and abruptly, and I was left staring at the phone. Was it me, or had she seemed far too worried over something as curable as stomach flu? I mean sure, it's not like it's the most insignificant disease in the world, but he's not going to die.
I decided to pop round to visit when he still didn't show on Friday, but there was no one home. It was odd. He hadn't even called…I bit my lip. Maybe he was seriously ill.
I didn't hear anything over the weekend, and when I got to school on Monday both Yikmo and Dorrien were absent. When none of them had reappeared by Wednesday, I talked to Indria about it.
She nodded. "I'm worried about them," she said quietly. "I haven't heard from anyone, not them or their parents. You'd think they'd at least call, wouldn't you?"
I leaned in and lowered my voice. "I went round to Osen's house on Friday," I said under my breath, "There was no one home."
Indria's eyes widened. "There must be something seriously wrong!" she breathed.
I ran an exasperated hand through my hair. "I know. But I don't know what to do." I breathed a heavy sigh. "It's like they just disappeared."
Later, when I got home, I sat on the bench in our covered porch and thought. There must be something I can do. Like a comedy light bulb pinging on over my head, the idea came. Surely, if something was seriously wrong, they would have been taken to a doctor.
I visited the Reservation doctor right away. "I'm sorry, but I haven't seen them or their families for a while," the perky looking reception girl said. Her face became troubled. "In fact, I haven't even seen any of them around lately, and my mum said Osen's mum didn't go to the community meeting this week. She's the chair. Why would she miss it?" She frowned, worried.
I smiled at her. "Don't worry. If I find out anything, I'll let you know."
She gave me a grin. "Okay, thanks. Here's my number. I'm Chrisia, by the way."
I accepted the piece of paper she gave me and slipped it into my back pocket. "Lorlen. I moved here about three months ago."
She nodded. "The lawyer's son? Yeah, I remember. My little sister is friends with yours."
I grinned again. "Oh, really? That's funny. Well, I'd best be going. I'll call you if I find anything."
I waved and headed out the door. When I got to the car, I sat for a minute in the driver's seat, listening to a light rainfall hitting the metal roof. So, they hadn't been to the Reservation doctor's. What if they'd gone straight to hospital?
I put the car in gear and started the engine. The drive over was full of my own tension, jittery and alone with my dour thoughts, and the rain that had been light turned steadily into a pour.
The receptionist, a middle aged, suspicious looking woman, gave me a cold look over her glasses. "And why would you want to know something like that? We don't just hand out information about patients to anybody, you know."
I frowned. "I haven't seen them for almost two weeks. Osen's mum said he was ill, but they weren't home. I'm worried about them."
She eyed me for a minute more, then checked her database. "Well, they're not listed," she drawled. At my anguished look, she relented a little and said, "If you're really desperate, why don't you ask Dr. Edwards if he's made any house calls recently? He'd been the person to see. He would also know if anyone came in who didn't wish to be registered."
I thanked her sincerely and followed her directions to a door marked with the Doctor's name. I knocked and a soft voice told me to come in.
The office was neat and sparsely furnished, with only a few pictures set on the desk to hint at the identity of the owner. Dr. Edwards was sitting by the window, a pile of papers spread on his lap, seemingly forgotten. His eyes lit with interest when he saw me. "Lorlen Haren. A surprising visitor. How can I help you?"
I swallowed, trying to push down the irrational nerves I felt in his presence. "The receptionist told me you were the person to see about unregistered patients or private house calls."
Dr. Edwards nodded. "Yes, I am. Do you know the name of the person who may have made or requested such a thing?"
I nodded. "I have three." His eyes grew intense, and I suppressed a shiver and carried on; "Osen, Yikmo and Dorrien. Have they or their families come in at all in the last few days?"
Dr. Edwards was leaning forwards now, his attention completely fixed on me. "I'm sorry, I haven't had any of them here in the last few days, nor have I made any house calls beside my regular ones." He looked at my disappointed and worried face concernedly, and said quietly, "Lorlen, if you don't mind my asking, why did you want to know?"
I breathed in. "They haven't been in school. Yikmo and Dorrien for a week, Osen for two. Osen's mum told me he was ill, but no one was home on Friday and they haven't been to the local doctor's surgery…" I trailed off, the full situation suddenly hitting me. My best friends were missing, and I couldn't find anything. Anything.
Dr. Edwards looked more than concerned. He looked deeply troubled. "That does not bode well," he murmured, almost to himself. I was about to ask what he meant, but he suddenly looked up and asked, "Lorlen, do you know if all three of your friends were full-blooded Quileute's?"
My eyes widened and I struggled to form an answer, thrown off balance by the strange question. "As far as I know, yes."
He nodded, as if something was confirmed. "Hmm. Well, if I hear anything, you'll be the first to know." He stood up and walked over to me, putting a hand on my shoulder. "If you can, drop by their houses or call. Talk to their neighbours, their friends. See what the situation is."
I nodded. "Thank you," I managed to whisper.
He saw me to the door. "Oh, and Lorlen?" he said as I was almost out.
I turned. "Yes?"
He smiled. "Akkarin was going to call. You don't mind if I tell him about this, do you?"
I shook my head. "Oh no, its fine, Dr. Edwards."
His smiled became warmer. "Please, call me Balkan."
I smiled a little too. "Okay, thank you."
He nodded and I went back to my car. Sitting in it, I tried to push down the panic. Where on earth were they?
After a harrowing time at school the next day, I got a phone call. "Hello?"
"Hello. It's me. I think my father told you I would call?"
Akkarin didn't need to introduce himself; I could recognize his voice instantly. "Oh, hi. Yeah, he did."
"He told me about your friends," Akkarin's voice was concerned, "Did you find anything yet?"
I sighed. "Nothing. I haven't seen them."
He was silent for a minute. "I'm sorry," he said after the pause, "I'm sure they'll turn up." There was an uncomfortable silence for a minute more until he started; "We're all going down to the beach on Sunday; would you like to come?"
I was startled. "Wow, okay, sure. Where you going?"
"There's a great surfing beach down the coast. It'll probably be raining, but hey, we live in Washington, right? We're not scared of the rain!" Akkarin laughed and the sound was shimmering, like chiming bells.
I laughed too, genuinely. I hadn't expected to be so open to being friendly with him, but something about our exchange had put me at ease instantly. "Yeah, okay, sounds fun! Should I meet you or something?"
"Sure, come up to the house at around…nine? You know where we live?" I answered no and he gave me some directions, then I rang off with a cheerful goodbye. Even though Osen and the others were missing, I couldn't help looking forward to going to the beach, even if it was with an unknown group of people.
The next day, I wandered over to where we usually sat every morning to find Indria talking to two very familiar people. I felt a smile of relief cross my face. "Yikmo! Dorrien! Honestly, where have you guys been?"
They both looked up, and their expressions were surprisingly wary. "Ill," Yikmo said bluntly.
Indria growled. "You're so rude!" she yelled suddenly. "We've been here worried sick about you for a whole week – two in Osen's case, and he's not even back yet – and all you have to say for yourself is 'I was ill'? And to top it off you're abrupt, cold and unfriendly!" She huffed and stood, grabbing my arm. "Come on, Lorlen. I don't want to sit here anymore."
Yikmo stood too. "No, wait, Indria, we still need to talk…" He gave her this odd, almost desperate look. "I have so much to tell you…"
Indria paused, then shook her head. "Well, you can tell me when you've learned how to speak to your friends! Come on, Lorlen."
We sat down in one of the school halls, and Indria sighed heavily, looking off into the distance, her expression clearly expressing an inner turmoil. I put my hand on her shoulder. "Hey, what's up?"
Her lip quivered, then she suddenly began to cry. I put an arm around her shoulder and hugged her tight. "It's-it's just-I was so worried-" her speech was broken by sobs, and she constantly wiped away tears, "and then-then-so rude-honestly-I-I hate him!" She covered her face with her hands and began to cry in earnest, and I floundered uncertainly. What was I supposed to do? Luckily a few girls who Indria was friendly with came down the hall at that moment, and upon seeing her sitting there crying instantly gathered into a protective huddle around her, cooing questions and making soothing noises. I was left to sit on the outside and receive 'We'll have the whole story from you later' glares from the gaggle of females.
When the bell for homeroom rang the girls offered to take Indria to the office, but she insisted she was fine. She smiled at them and wiped away the last of her tears, walking into our homeroom and taking her usual seat by the window. The girls glanced at her a little more and treated me to a few more warning glares. There would be explaining to do at break.
A minute later Dorrien came through the door, looking oddly worried, and Yikmo trailed through after him. I noticed the way his eyes shot straight to Indria and didn't look away, even while sitting down and adjusting his desk. She pointedly ignored him.
The first lesson blessedly didn't have either Dorrien or Yikmo in it, so I was free from worry for an hour. Though what that worry was, I couldn't say. They were my friends, it shouldn't feel odd. Yet, something about them seemed…changed. I wished I could talk to them.
In the next lesson I got my chance. We had set seats and partners for Biology, and Yikmo shuffled awkwardly into place next to me. When our experiment started, I opened my mouth to speak, but he beat me to it.
"I really messed up, didn't I?" His voice was so bleak that I couldn't help but feel for him.
"Well, you did make her cry. A lot."
His eyes were haunted when he looked back at me. "She was…crying?"
I nodded. "Yeah. And she said she hated you."
Yikmo transferred his head to his hands. "I am the world's most pathetic excuse for a human being. Please, just kill me now so she doesn't have to suffer from me anymore."
I patted his back lightly. "I don't think it's that bad, Yikmo. She'd probably forgive you if you said sorry to her. Sincerely. And told her where the hell you've been. She's been worried sick."
This did nothing to make him feel better, it seemed. In fact, he almost seemed worse. "I made her worry…I made her cry…I hate myself…I should curl up and die now…"
I frowned, starting to get worried. "Honestly, Yikmo, you just had a little argument. It's nothing to cry over."
He looked at me, suddenly angry. "But I'm useless and worthless!" he cried, making the whole room go quiet.
The teacher coughed. "Forgive me, Yikmo, but this is neither the time nor the place to be sorting out personal feelings. Please get on with your experiment."
We got on quietly for a minute before Yikmo whispered, "Do you think she really hates me?"
I shook my head. "No, she was just angry."
When the bell rang, Yikmo rushed to the door of Indria's class. She'd slipped away, though, and he ended up sitting moodily on a low wall, kicking loose stones. I stood in front of him and placed my hands on my hips. "Yikmo." No response. "Yikmo." A glance. I sighed. "Just go and find her."
"What if she runs away?" he whispered, "What if she screams at me?"
"That is what's called 'taking a chance'. Now come on." I frogmarched him around with me, looking for Indria. We found her ensconced within a crowd of girls, all cooing and awing and listening intently as she told them her story. Needless to say, Yikmo's arrival was not greeted with great pleasure. He stared at her helplessly, and I poked him in the side. "Say something, you idiot," I hissed.
"Um…Indria, can I…talk to you, for a minute…please?"
The girl's glares hardened, but Indria's face remained quite impassive. "Yes." She rose, cold and queen-like, and followed us as I steered Yikmo around a corner to a secluded spot. Honestly, the guy was hopeless.
Indria sniffed. "What?"
Yikmo gazed, puppy-dog-like, at her. I sighed and gave him another poke. He coughed. "I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice low, broken and heart-rending.
Indria passed a hand over her face. "I'm such a softie," she moaned, "but you look so cute." She grinned. Yikmo grinned too, and pulled her into a big hug. Indria looked taken aback slightly. "Hey, wait, I didn't…" She then realized Yikmo was far too happy to listen, so she just went with it.
I smiled happily, then burst into shocked giggles when Yikmo went and kissed her. Indria pushed him away and flushed bright red. "Yikmo! What the hell!"
I laughed, then disappeared around the corner. Obviously I wasn't needed anymore…
The next day was a Saturday, so I slept in. When I went downstairs Ellie and her friends were chatting and giggling around the kitchen table, and took barely any notice of me as I made coffee and left the house.
Though I'd only intended to sit on the step outside, I found myself wandering towards the beach. Deep in thought, I walked along the edge of the ocean, watching the waves wash up onto the shore by my feet. So far, I'd only solved half the problem. Yikmo seemed to be happy, and yet Dorrien wasn't, and Osen was still missing. And I still didn't know where they'd been all that time. I sat and rested my head on my hands, thinking hard, so I didn't notice someone walking up to me until they scuffed one foot in the sand in an obvious attempt to get my attention. I looked up.
"Hi." Osen looked guilty, but eager. He gave me a hesitant grin. "I'm back."
I looked at him, and despite my heart leaping with joy, I kept my tone level. "Yes, you are."
He sighed, then sat down next to me. "I know, I didn't call, I didn't tell anyone where I was, and I made you all worry your socks off." He grimaced apologetically. "I'm really sorry, Lorlen, but I…I just can't explain yet…"
I frowned at him. "What do you mean, 'you can't explain yet'? Is this some kind of surprise or something?"
Osen shrugged. "Sort of. It's important though. Don't worry," he said hurriedly as my frown became a scowl, "you'll know soon. Promise. Just not…right now." He looked away.
I quirked my lips. "Fine. But you have to swear you'll tell me soon."
I had meant it more as a joke, but he looked back at me, deadly serious. "I swear it," he whispered.
There was a quiet silence. "Okay," I matched his whisper, "I'll look forward to it."
He grinned. "Cool. Well, it's nice to be back, anyway." He lay back on the sand and looked at the clouds scudding overhead, and we sat in silence for a minute. I felt strangely uncomfortable in his presence suddenly. It was the way he'd looked at me, like he was in agony… "You think it'll rain tomorrow?"
I jumped, then focused on the question. "I hope not. I'm going to the beach."
He gave me an odd look. "You can walk to the beach in two minutes. Why does it sound like such an occasion?"
I smiled, remembering how excited I'd been. "Oh, I'm going down to that surfing beach a few towns over, you know the one."
Osen nodded. "On your own? Is it a family outing or something?"
"Oh, no. The Edwards invited me. Akkarin said they're all really into surfing."
For some reason, Osen looked horrified. "The Edwards…as in Dr. Edwards and his family?"
I gave him an incredulous smile. "What, you coming down with that whole superstitious thing? The Edwards are nice. Even you said Dr. Edwards was a good guy."
Anger suddenly clouded his face. "A good guy?" he hissed, "When the hell did I say that? They're not-if you knew-if you knew what we-" He struggled to get the words out, then spat, "You can't go."
I frowned at him, hurt. "What are you talking about? When the hell did you get to decide?"
"Lorlen." Suddenly Osen was right by me, almost sitting in my lap, clutching my hands and looking straight into my eyes. My heart leapt into my mouth at his close proximity. His expression was frighteningly desperate. "Please, don't go with them."
I pulled back just a bit, slightly scared. "What are you talking about?" I whispered. "What's wrong with them?"
His face scrunched up in an expression of agony. "I can't…I'm not allowed to tell you."
I stared at him, and felt the anger I'd hidden for the past two weeks rising like a storm-driven tide. "Who the hell are you to tell me who I should see and who I should know?" I yelled, jumping to my feet and throwing his hands off in one motion. "It's not like you've ever met them! And you can't even give me an answer as to why you think I shouldn't see them!"
Osen had jumped up too, and he raised his hands pleadingly. "Wait, Lorlen, just let me-"
"What?" I spat, "Tell me where you've been over the last two weeks? Tell me why you're hiding things from me?" I fought back a sudden sob, aghast at how cut up I felt about him. I had told myself that I didn't like him like that, for god's sake! "You know what, don't bother! Just go and talk to someone who does understand." I ran back to my house, hating myself and ignoring his anguished cries. I stormed through the door and ignored my dad's concerned voice, stomping upstairs and throwing myself onto my bed, remembering to slam the blot home on the door lock. I looked up at the ceiling and tried to hold back tears. Damn it, I hadn't cried since we'd left Jersey. How the hell had he made me feel this way?
I lay for a long while, considering various options. I could go round, say sorry. I wanted to say sorry. I could call off going to the beach tomorrow. But something in me rebelled. Why should I refuse Akkarin's offer? Just because Osen suddenly didn't like them, didn't mean I was bound to hatred of them. I would go, because I liked Akkarin and Dr. Edwards and wanted the chance to meet the rest of the family, consequences with Osen be damned.
The resolve was hard to hold onto, but I did it anyway, waving a cheery goodbye to Ellie and Dad the next morning and pointedly not looking left or right on my way out of town. I'd strapped the surf board to the roof, and though it was cloudy today, the wind was breezy and the weather was warm. A perfect day for surfing.
I turned off down a narrow drive and eventually came upon a beautiful house in a secluded clearing in the forest. It was all pale greens and blues with lots of windows and a big front porch. Akkarin met me at the door, grinning, and it hit me again how strangely beautiful he was. "Nice to see you," he said, showing me inside, "It's a great day, right?"
I nodded. "Perfect. You must have the gift of foresight!"
He laughed, something odd in his eyes. He shook it off and waved towards the centre of the room. "Come meet my family."
A group of people had gathered who all resembled Akkarin only in the fact that they were as pale and breathtakingly beautiful as him. Dr. Edwards I already knew, and he stood beside a woman with fiery red hair who smiled warmly at me. "This is my mother, Vinara."
She nodded and her smile grew slightly. "It's so nice to meet you."
Akkarin indicated a tall, dark haired man who I guessed was a little older than we were. "This is Dannyl," Dannyl gave me a warm grin, "and this is Tayend," Akkarin indicated the bright-looking guy with shaggy gold hair standing next to Dannyl, who grinned and waved happily. "And this is Sonea," Akkarin finished, and a petite girl with closely cropped dark brown hair stood forward and smiled.
"Well, now we're all introduced, we should get going!" Tayend said happily, and we all agreed. We piled into two cars, both expensive and fast, and zoomed off towards the beach. I rode in the back in a car with Akkarin, Dannyl and Tayend, and immediately found myself feeling at home. They gave out a welcoming atmosphere, similar to the one at home on the Reservation, but different somehow. More like being welcomed into a secret club than being accepted into a wide community.
The beach was wide and beautiful despite the overcast sky, and the waves were huge. Balkan and Vinara sat on the beach, reading, while we all dived into the waves. Any awkwardness that could have marred our first meeting evaporated in the thrill of catching waves, the exhilaration of the sport. When we'd all had enough, we coasted back to the beach and built a fire from the huge stacks of driftwood that littered the high water line, then roasted sausages on spits. We laughed and chatted about lots of different topics, and the feeling of easiness grew. I found myself enjoying every minute, and I was sad when I had to leave.
"Come back soon, won't you?" Vinara asked as she kissed my cheek.
I almost flinched at how cold she was, but I put it down to spending the whole day on the beach. "Of course, I'd love to."
"We'll see you soon!" Tayend called as they waved at me from the porch. I waved back happily and drove away.
I pulled into my drive and hauled the long board back into the garage, stowing it safely beside Ellie's. When I got inside, both my dad and my grandpa were in the kitchen, looking like they were waiting for something. "You're back," Grandpa said. His voice was surprisingly dark.
I looked at him warily. "Nice to see you too Grandpa."
Grandpa's face was like thunder. "You've been out today?" he asked acidly.
I glanced at him mildly from where I was making myself ham sandwiches. "Yeah, I did. I had a good time."
Grandpa gave me a look of daggers, then finally got to the point. "You went with the Edwards."
I shrugged. "Yeah. So?"
"So…" Grandpa struggled not to yell, "So, people around here hate them."
I frowned at him. "So what?"
"Lorlen, do you have any idea how much people hate them?" I shook my head. "Well, it's a lot, and you hanging around with them reflects badly on us."
I huffed exasperatedly. "Honestly, first Osen and now you. What the hell is so wrong with the Edwards? They're all really nice, friendly people! I can't believe you would be so prejudiced!"
My dad stepped in. "Now, I don't know which one of you is right," he said carefully, "but for the moment, Dad, I am prepared to let Lorlen socialise with whomever he chooses. If that should reflect badly on him, then obviously we will have to rethink it."
Grandpa looked sullen, but he nodded. I sighed and stomped huffily up the stairs. Grandparents. Honestly. I flicked my laptop on and started munching up the sandwiches, suddenly ravenous. I checked my mail and found the usual quick and brisk missive from mum, and a few cheerful emails from old friends back in Jersey. I became so engrossed in replying that I jumped out of my skin when I heard the knock.
I jumped up to open the door, then realized it had come from the window. I turned and stared, then cautiously went over and opened the curtains.
Osen was sitting in the tree outside my bedroom window, mere inches from the glass. He smiled and waved, motioning for me to open up. I did, then yelled at him, "What the hell are you doing? Do you know how dangerous that is?"
He grinned. "It's nothing," he waved an airy hand, "Can I come in?"
I looked at the drop outside. "Couldn't you have just come in through the door?"
"Now where would be the fun in that?" He stood on the thick branch, "Stand back a bit."
I retreated to the opposite side of the room, my heart in my mouth. He cocked his head, judging the distance, then cleared it with a graceful leap, somehow managing to land on my windowsill and then leap down to the carpet in the same movement. I noted that he was also barefoot, and wore no shirt.
He looked me over, almost as if checking me for injury, then crossed the space between us within a heartbeat and pulled me suddenly close. "I'm so glad you're alright," he whispered in my ear.
My spine tingled. I have no trouble admitting that I play for the other team, and, okay, so I'd been fighting this attraction to him for ages now, I'll admit it. But really, what was he doing?
I pulled away awkwardly and sniffed. "Do you really feel the need to wander around with no top on?"
His eyes widened. "Does it bother you?" he asked, concerned.
I glanced at his chest, then away. So it did bother me. But I wasn't attracted to my best friend; I'd promised myself that. "No, it just looks rather," I waved a haughty hand, "you know."
He scuffed a toe against the carpet. "Sorry," he mumbled. I couldn't think of anything to say, so I stayed silent. "Not just for that…" he continued, "but for…you know. Being an idiot…and stuff."
He gave me that stupid kicked puppy look, and I felt myself melting. Damn him, damn him. I sighed. "It's okay, I guess. Now even my grandpa's been telling me to stay away from them."
Osen looked surprised. "He did?"
"Yeah. Said it, 'Reflected badly on me' or something. Hell, I don't care. They were nice, really friendly." I saw his expression darken slightly, so I breezed on, "Well, let's not talk about that. Instead, let me pound you into a pulp for doing something as idiotic as climbing through my window!"
Osen grinned slyly. "Well, I thought it was quite romantic."
The comment caught me off guard, and I tried to keep my voice steady as I replied, "Why the hell do you think I'd care? Go climb through the window of someone who might actually be won over by that kind of thing."
He pouted mockingly. "Are you not?"
I shook my head. "No. It's stupid."
He smiled, and moved closer. I had to concentrate hard on his face when he placed a hand on my shoulder, then harder when he moved it up to my cheek. I tried and failed to hold back a shiver. "What would you do," Osen whispered quietly, "if I did something…irrational?"
I was lost for words, still concentrating on that hand on my face. "I don't…I don't know."
He considered my expression, softly rubbing his thumb against my cheek, then said quietly, "Well, we'll just have to see then."
And he kissed me.
No, really. He did. Right then. I was so shocked I couldn't even think. He pulled away and looked at me, and I gaped at him, dimly aware that I was opening and closing my mouth like a fish. "Uhhhmm," was all I could manage.
He looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry…I guess I made the wrong assumption…."
I grabbed his wrist as he made to move away. "No, wait. You didn't…" I looked at him, and he looked at me, and then I sighed and kissed him again. Damn him, I thought, my lips smiling against his, damn him, damn him, damn him.
From then on it was quite usual for him to pop into my room late at night. I'd asked him worriedly if he'd just be sensible and use the door, but he'd always laughed and kissed the end of my nose, saying, "Honestly, Lorlen, I knew you found it romantic." And it was quite romantic, but it was also dangerous.
For some reason, the others all seemed to know. They didn't bat an eyelid when Osen hugged me and pressed a discreet kiss into my hair, and even joked about 'my boyfriend' when they thought Osen needed winding up. Now Yikmo and Indria were an item too, Dorrien had ample opportunity to make fun of both of us.
We happily got on with life, even though deep down I was slightly nervous. I'd never really told my dad about my 'coming out', and I wondered how he'd take it. Ellie had been the first person I told, and she'd grinned and hugged me when I'd sloped into her room one night to inform her of my current 'taken' status.
Everything was peaceful bliss for about three weeks. I'd been focusing on schoolwork for our upcoming end of term papers, and I was still studying late one night when a light thump informed me of Osen's arrival. "Hey. Did you finish these questions? All the equations are making my head spin."
There was no answer, and I turned and looked at him. He was standing in the shadows at the other side of the room, and it could have been me, but I would have sworn he was shuddering or shaking violently. "Osen? Are you okay?"
"Did you see him?" Osen asked in a tight voice.
I stood, frowning. "What? Who? Osen, what's wrong?"
"Him," Osen spat, "You know…Edwards." He hissed the name, like it was some kind of sin.
I sighed, feeling a prickling anger settle over my skin. This was still a point of contention between us. I'd seen Akkarin the day before, but really, we'd only been chatting at a petrol pump. "Listen, Osen, who I see and who I associate with is not really any business of yours. There's honestly nothing wrong with Akkarin Edwards, or his family. I don't see what-"
"No, you don't see, do you!" he yelled, and his form seemed to jump slightly. "You don't see it! I can't believe you can't even sense something…" He growled quietly. "You don't think they're even a little odd?"
Now, this I had to admit to. There were some strange things about Akkarin and his family, namely their intense beauty, strange eyes and constantly freezing skin. "Maybe," I said warily, "but that doesn't mean I should avoid them."
"It does!" I took a step back, slightly worried; I'd never heard Osen get this angry before. "It does matter! You should focus on the difference, focus on it, you-" He suddenly seemed to choke, as if he couldn't get any more words out. "You should listen to the stories!" he yelled helplessly.
I frowned. "Osen, are you feeling okay? You're being a little weird…" I walked towards him, holding out a hand.
He flinched. "Wait, don't-"
I stopped, giving him a hurt look. "Why are you being so distant?" I asked, quiet and hurt.
His face spasmed in pain. "Lorlen, I…I… I'm just worried about you…."
I sighed. "Or being overbearing."
I wasn't prepared for what happened next. I could see Osen's eyes almost glow in the dark, only a few paces from me, and suddenly something seemed to explode. In the blink of an eye, Osen was gone, and a huge, growling, snarling wolf, over a metre high at the shoulder, was squeezed into my room. I gaped, and the wolf snarled, tossing itself from side to side, looking pinned and panicked. It began slashing out with its thick claws, ripping up anything in sight, searching for a way out…
I was in the way.
I guess it was lucky that the claws only caught my cheek. They said later it could have been so much worse, my nose or my ear, my eyes…
But that didn't make it hurt any less.
I howled along with the wolf as I dropped, struck by a wildly flailing paw, feeling the lines of fire burning on my cheek. I sobbed, clutching at my face, desperately trying to get away from the monstrous creature that howled and snapped and snarled.
It spun and suddenly stopped, as if it had spotted me. I whimpered in terror, imagining it ripping me to shreds, but it just stood there, and if I had thought it capable of human emotions I would have said looked horrified. It paused for a few seconds, looking at me, then turned and wriggled itself out of the window, scratching up the paint and creating deep furrows in the wood, landing hard and with a yelp on the ground below.
The door burst open a second later, my dad running in and skidding to a halt as he took me in. "Lorlen!" he howled, dropping to the ground next to me. He looked terrified, his hands fluttering over my face. "Oh god, so much blood…Cuts…Ellie!" he called, desperate, tears beginning to fall.
Ellie was already there, dropping slowly to her knees, gazing at me in shock. "Lorlen…your face…"
I could feel a long sticky trail of blood tracking its way down my face and neck and soaking into my t-shirt. I tried to speak, tried to convey something to them, but I found I couldn't move my lips, couldn't move at all, couldn't do anything but slip away into the blackness…
I woke up in a hospital bed, someone clinging to my hand. I could hear Ellie crying. I opened my eyes and saw her, tears running freely down her face. I turned my head laboriously and saw Dad and Grandpa. Grandpa looked worried, and he was pacing.
My dad's expression was numb. He was the one holding my hand, and he stared at my face, completely in another world.
Oh, god. My face.
Ellie sniffed. "Lorlen? Are you awake?"
I groaned. "Yeah, I'm here. I'm in hospital, right?"
"Thank god," I heard Grandpa mutter.
Ellie took my other hand. "Yeah, you're here in hospital. Don't worry, you're okay." Her eyes welled up, and a few more tears spilled down her face. "You're okay," she repeated, almost to herself rather than me. "You're okay, Lorlen, you're okay."
Dr. Edwards came to see me later, and he explained. "Lorlen, we think what attacked you was a wolf," he said, looking at me intensely. I nodded. "Well, it's left some deep cuts, but we got you here in time that we were able to heal and stitch it up well. If you're careful, there's almost no chance of infection. However, the scars…" He paused, sighed, then continued, "You're going to have them, Lorlen, whatever we do. We might be able to reduce them slightly, but they'll be there. There's no doubt."
I looked down and it was silent for a minute. "How big are they?"
Dr. Edwards frowned. "Well, from about under your jaw, across your cheek to just before your mouth. As far as I can tell, your general face structure shouldn't be too affected, though some mouth expressions may look a little odd."
I nodded, then sat up straight. "Thank you for explaining it to me, doctor," I said, looking him in the eye.
He looked at me appraisingly. "You're being very mature about this, Lorlen. Usually people cry when they're told they'll have scars."
Lorlen shrugged. "It's just a scar, I guess. I'm lucky that's all I got."
Dr. Edwards smiled. "I like your positive attitude, Lorlen. Keep your chin up. You should be out of hospital in a week, then you'll have to wear the bandage for about a month. After that you'll be rubbing cream on it for about two months, and it should have healed. Of course, you'll be coming in to see me every three days, so we can adjust time periods according to how well your wounds seem to be healing."
I nodded, and he smiled, and left me to it.
Later that night, I lay awake, thinking. I'd taken it all in with an eerie calm, but inside I was in turmoil. The scars I could handle. The fact that my boyfriend had turned into a wolf, however, was less easy to deal with.
I jumped as I heard something padding towards me on soft feet. It came quietly down the corridor and stopped at my door. There was silence for a second, before the door opened quietly.
And there he was. Speak of the devil and so he shall appear.
We stared at each other for a long moment. I looked at all of him, trying to find some sign that would indicate a tendency to turn into a furry, monstrous creature. His eyes never left the bandage on my cheek.
Then he sobbed, and broke down crying. I was still, shocked, and he mumbled, "I promised myself I wouldn't-but when I looked at that-what I did-"
"Osen…" I held a hand out to him. "Come here."
He walked over warily and sat on the end of the bed, still furiously wiping away the tears. I motioned towards my cheek. "Just tell me what the hell is going on," I begged.
Nodding, he drew his legs up and sat cross legged. "You remember those stories, about how the tribesmen became able to turn into wolves?" he started. I nodded. "Well, it's true. All of it. The spirit warrior thing, the spirit wolf thing, the cold ones…All of it is true."
I was silent for a second. "And you're saying you've inherited it?" He nodded unhappily. "Well, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I would have said that's the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard, but now…"
"Lorlen," Osen stopped and swallowed, then said, "I don't know…I don't know what happened," he breathed, his voice full of so much pain and agony that I almost started crying. "One minute I was just arguing…Then it happened, and I was so confused…the light is so different in wolf form, and it's almost like a different mind, and suddenly all I wanted was to get out…" I said nothing, and he looked down. "Well, I'm not making excuses, anyway. I just thought you should know why, and everything."
We sat in silence for a long time, before a noticed something on his arm. "What are those lines, Osen? They look like…"
"Cuts?" Osen asked bitterly. "I've been…slightly unhappy."
That rocked me, rocked my standing on everything. God, Osen had tried to kill himself? I grabbed his arm. "What the hell were you thinking?" I yelled, turning his arm the other way up to inspect the damage. All I could see were three faded lines.
He shrugged dejectedly. "How could I live with myself?"
I hit him on the arm hard. "And how do you think I could live without you!"
He glanced at me, obviously trying to reign in hope. "I thought you would hate me…"
I looked down. "Quite honestly, Osen…I thought I would hate you too. I mean, I know you and I both know you could have handled this better. You could have told me about the wolf thing."
He grasped my arm. "I wanted to, Lorlen, I really did," he breathed, "but Dorrien said no."
I raised an eyebrow. "And what, you follow his orders now?"
Osen sighed. "It's a wolf thing. Dorrien is, you know, the alpha. The leader of the pack. When he gives an order, something he really means, we can't not do it."
"Really?" I asked, slightly horrified.
He nodded. "Please believe me, he doesn't abuse it. He just thought we should think about it before telling anyone. Only very few people know."
I nodded slowly. "Well, I guess it makes sense. His ancestors were the chiefs of the tribe, right?" Osen nodded. I sat in silence, before whispering, "Osen, I thought I would hate you. I thought I would never forgive you. But then, when you came in, it was like something inside me knew I'd already forgiven you, like you didn't even have to say anything. And that scares me, Osen; it scares me so badly that I could be so dependent on someone after only a few weeks."
Osen breathed in deeply through his nose. "You remember the story about the third wife?" he asked quietly. I nodded. "You remember how they said that she was Taka Aki's 'spirit wife'? One that he was devoted to above all others?" I nodded again. "Well, wolves discovered over time that if there was someone who was meant to be in your life forever, someone who would make you happy forever, then something happened to…the wolf's spirit, I guess. It's like…" he paused, searching for the right words, "It's like the gravity that's holding you down on the earth shifts, and suddenly it's not gravity holding you down anymore; it's that person." He smiled at me, sudden and bright. "You're that person, Lorlen."
I stared at him, speechless. "I'm like…gravity? Holding you…on the earth?"
His arms wrapped themselves around me and he pulled me close. "You're my everything, Lorlen. I couldn't live without you. I can barely live with myself knowing I've hurt you. I'd rather die a thousand deaths than see you hurt in any way…"
He didn't need to say anything else. The fear was gone. I pulled away only far enough to kiss him wildly, and he returned it in kind.
Sunlight streamed in through the thin hospital curtains, and I could hear growling. I wondered at that for a second. Quite an odd noise for a hospital. I levered myself up on the bed and looked around.
By my feet, Osen was in a half crouch, his upper lip pulled back over his teeth. I stared at him for a second before looking at what he was looking at.
On the other side of the room, by the door, was Akkarin, looking livid. "What," he snapped icily, "are you doing here, dog?"
"I could ask the same of you," Osen growled.
"I'm the concerned friend. You, if I remember correctly, are the one who put him in hospital."
I stared at him. How did he know that? A slight shiver ran down Osen's spine. "I've told him all about it," he spat. "More than you, leech."
Akkarin glared. "And what," he turned to me, "you forgave him?"
I frowned, upset. "I don't understand," I cringed at how whiney my voice sounded, "Akkarin, Osen, what are you doing?"
"He hasn't told you," Osen sniffed, "And he says I put you in danger."
My frown deepened, and I looked at Akkarin. "What haven't you told me?"
Akkarin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You want me to tell him?" he asked Osen quietly.
"Prove you have nothing to hide. Prove it," Osen spat.
"Fine," Akkarin snapped back, "just get out of here."
Osen hesitated, then turned and leapt out the window, throwing one lingering glance back at me before he disappeared.
Akkarin didn't move. "You forgave him?" he repeated quietly.
"It's different to how you think," I said stiffly.
He laughed bitterly. "Don't worry, Lorlen, I know all about the werewolves." He sighed and walked over, sitting down on the end of my bed. He didn't speak.
"You have something to tell me?" I prompted.
He drew another heavy sigh. "I won't beat about the bush, Lorlen. Your friends aren't the only supernatural creatures around here. My family and I are vampires."
I stared at him, then laughed. "Seriously, you're kidding right? That's insane."
He picked up the stainless steel tray that my dinner had come in last night, and crushed it into a ball as casually as I could have screwed up paper. He held it out to me, and dropped it into my dumbfounded palm. "Still believe I'm human?" he asked in a whisper.
"But…but…If you're a vampire, that means you drink…"
"Animal blood," Akkarin clarified, "Animal blood. Big animals, moose and mountain lion. Why do you think we live so far out in the wild?"
I gaped at him. "You're not kidding. You're actually a vampire." He nodded. "And the others too?" Another nod. "But…why do you hate Osen?"
He laughed humourlessly. "Do you not remember the story of the cold ones, Lorlen?" he asked bitterly.
I stared. "But that's…Well, I could say it's just a story, but after all the things that are 'just a story' have suddenly been proved…"
Akkarin nodded. "The whole reason your friends have been turned into werewolves is because we came back to town."
I tipped my head questioningly. "You've been here before?"
"Many years ago, we made a treaty with Dorrien's great-grandfather. He let us live in peace in our area, while we let them get on with their lives in theirs. That's why we never go to the Reservation."
"And yet the wolves can still come to Forks?"
"Forks is neutral. Anyone can go there."
"So the wolves…they're a defence against vampires?" I asked.
He nodded. "Yes. They hunted down many when we were first here."
I frowned. "Which was when, exactly?"
"Oh, about…eighty years ago?"
I started. "Eighty years? How old are you?"
He laughed, smiling. "You know, it's rude to ask people that, Lorlen." He grinned at my worried expression. "I'm about a hundred and ten," he said quietly.
"Wow…" I gulped. "I guess that makes vampires…immortal?"
He nodded. "Immortal and indestructible. Well, almost."
"How do you…" I paused, nervous, then asked, "How do you…you know. Become…"
"A vampire?" He shrugged. "You get bitten. Three days of agony later, and you're a vampire. Simple."
I shuddered. "Sounds…nasty." I looked away and sighed.
Akkarin stood smoothly. "Well, you're definitely on your way to recovery. I'll see myself out."
I held out a hand. "Wait, Akkarin…" He turned. I swallowed awkwardly. "Just because…just because I hang out with the wolves, that doesn't mean we won't see each other anymore, right?"
He smiled sadly. "Even though I think you're an idiot to be around them, when they're so dangerous," he said, "I would still like to have your company, yes."
I grinned. "Then I would still like to give you my company."
He looked surprised. "Really? Even when you know…about us?"
I shrugged. "I already hang out with werewolves," I winked, "How much more dangerous are you, really? You're far more mature than them."
He laughed, startled. "Well, yes I am." He grinned. "Your boyfriend might not be too happy about it though…"
I frowned exasperatedly at the way he said that like it was a good thing. "We all make compromises in a relationship," I said slyly.
He laughed again, then ghosted to the door. "I'll be in touch," he said quietly over his shoulder as he went out.
I sighed and lay back down on the pillows. I was just about nodding off when I heard loud voices in the corridor. They sounded sort of familiar….
The door to my room burst open and several people walked in at once, all arguing. I sat up hastily and my mouth fell open. Along with Dad, Ellie and Grandpa, there was my mother, yelling at dad as usual. She stopped when she saw me though. "Oh, Lorlen, look at you!" she cried, hurrying over to sit by my bed. She took my hand and caressed my good cheek. "Oh baby, I've been so worried, I couldn't not come up here…"
I sighed and gave her a smile. She might not show it, she might be cold and distant, she might have given us both up and let Dad take us, but deep down under the cold businesswoman front my mother really did care, and I had missed her. "Hey, mum. I'm glad you're here."
She smiled, tears welling in her eyes. "It's so good to see you again," she sighed, pulling me into a hug. I inhaled her scent deeply, remembering being hugged when I was a child, when I passed a test, when it was my birthday. My mother may have been the highflying businesswoman, but she'd made sure to make time for me.
My dad coughed. "Alyssa, didn't you want to say something?"
Mum pulled away. "Not to Lorlen," she said stiffly.
Ellie frowned. "If you want to take him back with you, you have to tell him."
Mum shook her head. "I didn't mean that, Ellie. I said it on the spur of the moment, when I was angry and shocked. That would totally mess up his education, anyway."
I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. My heart had begun pounding at Ellie's words. Mum turned to me. "I just needed to come see Lorlen," she smiled. "Now, Lorlen, tell me all about everything. It's such a gift to be able to talk to you in person…"
I was out of the hospital after a week, as Dr. Edwards had promised, and the bandage came off after about a month. Mum had returned home after the first week, and I'd seen her off at the airport. She'd promised that I could come and visit her soon.
I was rubbing cream into the long lines again, tracing their paths with my fingers. It was quite late, and I was mostly ready for bed, and expecting a telltale thump from near the window any minute. I had left it open like always, and warm August air floated in, bringing with it the soft sighs of the sea.
I traced the long lines over again with my finger, looking at them. The truth was, I'd grown used to them, despite the short amount of time that they'd been there. They had made some of my facial expressions a little screwy, but everyone had assured me that it didn't really make much difference. They'd also assured me that they didn't make me look ugly, either, and though I knew that they detracted from my appearance, I didn't really care. It's not like I had any need to be attractive anymore.
The light, expected and beautifully welcome thump echoed behind me. I smiled and turned away from the mirror to face Osen, who was shaking rain from his hair. When he looked up his smile faltered slightly at the sight of the cream, and I sighed. "It's nothing, Osen, really," I whispered, just like every other time he made a fuss.
He crossed the space between us lightly and kneeled before me. He wound his arms around my waist and rested his forehead against mine with a sigh. "Don't say that, Lorlen," he begged. "Don't push it off."
I pushed him back and looked him in the eye. "How many times have I told you? I don't care. All I care about is you," I poked him in the chest, "and that you're always here for me. And that's all I'll ever care about."
He smiled, then kissed me softly. "I love you," he whispered against my neck.
My spine gave a happy shiver. "I love you," I whispered back, letting him pick me up and carry me to bed. I laughed as he set me down, then pouted. "Do you have to go?" I asked.
He grinned, leaned in and kissed me again. "I'll be back to hold you while you sleep," he whispered against my lips, then disappeared like a ghost. The curtains fluttered, and a second later I heard a howl. I grinned, touching my lips and sighing contently, then lay down and turned out the light, waiting patiently for my wolf to return.